And Drifted

Where Next?
Bob Williams
Mon 25 Feb 2013 03:00
1930 Position: 39 22.2 S 144 15.8 E
Course: Drifting
Wind: Light and variable
Sea: slight Swell: East 1 meter
Weather: overcast, mild
Day's run: 45 Nm (60 miles sailed)

The winds have been very disappointing. I was expecting them to be fickle during the night and that early this morning a mild southerly change would blow through and carry us to Melbourne. But that has not happened. We had the hint of a southerly at 5 AM, to which I promptly set all sail to run before, rubbing my hands with glee and saying to myself, "At last, at last!", expecting the wind to freshen to a steady twelve knots of so. Instead, as the old square riggers used to say, the winds have remained light and baffling. We have managed to work what little breeze there has been to make good a total of 45 miles in roughly the right direction. Now the wind has abandoned us once more, I have dropped all sail, and Sylph wallows in the residual confused swells.
We have about 65 miles to go to Port Phillip Heads and at this rate it will take us about three days to get there. Meanwhile a sailing acquaintance of mine, Sean Langman, has just broken the record for sailing from Sydney to Hobart in just over a day at an average speed of thirty knots, compared to Sylph's average this leg of 2.1 knots. Oh well, as Sean once said, a fast boat can make any sailor look good, though, as he was an Olympic sailor, I suspect he is being just a little modest.
And talking about Sean, the light winds have revealed a problem with the headsail furler (Sean's yard replaced my rigging in Sydney). When I looked around this morning after sunrise there were brown stains all over the bow and side deck. My initial reaction was to think they were caused by some mud on left on the anchor but on closer inspection it looks like an oily powder emanating from the bottom of the furler. I suspect that one of the bearings is not right, so it looks like I will be having to pay him a visit soon. I would rather it were on more pleasant circumstances. Not to worry, he is an honest bloke, and if the problem is due to faulty workmanship I know he will look after me.
Just got the latest prognosis in off the weather fax - it looks like we are going to be drifting around out here for quite a while. It is a good thing I have plenty of books to read.
And talking of books, I am currently reading an interesting and rather unusual book, which, from memory, I picked up at that rather wonderful bookstore in Annapolis, and I have only now gotten around to reading. It is written by Robert Cushman Murphy, its title "Logbook for Grace." It is his account of a voyage one of the last whaling voyages undertaken on a whaling ship under sail, in 1914. The vessel's name is rather inappropriately named "Daisy". Murphy had just obtained his bachelors degree in Zoology and was shortly thereafter offered the Darwinian like passage, which involved being away for over twelve months. His fiancée, Grace, perhaps a little ambitious on his behalf, persuaded him that they should get married straight away and that he should grab the opportunity. This logbook, published many years later, is the result of a sort of extended love letter to his new bride while he was away on the voyage. As an observant naturalist and an intelligent and often quite romantic young man he has a unique perspective on the voyage, in contrast to Melville's almost gothic account of the whaling voyage in "Moby Dick." I have recently finished reading Murphy's account as part of a boat crew that captured a "40 barrel" bull Sperm whale. The nine hour struggle with the whale is dramatic, exciting, and not a little disturbing. Maybe I will share more with you tomorrow, but for now it looks like a sailing breeze has sprung up.
All is well.