Sailing from Namibia to St Helena, Day 2

Sunday, March 2nd, 2019, 2:30am on the midnight shift

The wind has backed and is now on our back port quarter. The mainsail is still reefed but the genoa is completely out. We are now averaging about 5 knots and it’s cold out here. I put socks on! I rarely put socks on! The motor is still running but we are strictly under sail. The motor is running for battery purposes and for making water with our water maker (desalinator).

The reason why I left the reefs in the mainsail and just let out the genoa is because it’s much easier to let out the furling genoa than to set and shake out the reefs on the mainsail. Typically, we reef the mainsail at night before it gets dark so that nobody has to mess with it by themselves in the dark.
Someone recommended I read a book called Adrift: Seventy-Six Days Lost At Sea by Steven Callahan. He is on a small cruising boat and single handling it from Spain to the Caribbean. He just finished sailing it to England from the US, so he knows it’s sea-worthy, but something happens and she sank and he had to get out of her quickly and into the life-raft.

Although it’s really well written and very interesting, I’m not sure this is the best book to be reading as I begin my own journey across the Atlantic. As he discusses his journey, I become highly aware of the fact that we have a water maker on board but no bottles of water. Why would we need water if we can make all the water we need? Well, obviously, if we needed to get off this boat in a hurry, we would need to take water with us. And food. We do have a couple of grab bags, but they only have a few days food in them and very little water. They are only meant for shorter voyages in the life raft. Definitely not 76 days! But then again, this guy only had time to grab one of his bags before becoming separated from his sinking boat, never to return to it again. He had water and food he could have/should have grabbed, but he didn’t have time. The sea state was too rough, and the boat was sinking too quickly. It really makes me think about the kinds of things I should have in one of my wet bags, ready to go at all times.
So even though I feel poorly prepared for such an emergency, it’s good to read this and think about what I need to have ready. It makes me start piecing together the things I’m going to put in a wet bag tomorrow. It also freaks me out a little that he suspects he was hit by a whale and he goes on to tell several stories of other people whose boats have been hit and sunk by whales.

Update: I checked with my shipmates about the water situation and was told that in one of the grab bags is a portable desalinator. I’m not sure of its output but that makes me feel a lot better about survival should we need to leave the boat. Also, I finished that book and I highly recommend it. It’s a great story of survival and self-analysis. His connection to the fish he had to kill to survive was also beautiful.

I just realized I missed my brother’s birthday, yesterday. I’m not really the best at remembering birthdays and I am kind of an all-holiday scrooge in general. But I am not opposed to well wishes on birthdays. Happy Birthday, James Ray! Technically, since he lives in Arizona, it’s still his birthday, so I didn’t miss it! The fact that this blog post won’t happen until Monday, my time, is besides the point. And don’t even talk to me about how I forget Marianne’s birthday every year, and just about everybody else in my family. I wish I could just wish a happy birthday for eternity and be done with it.

Sunday March 2nd, 2019, Daytime
Trodding along today, still doing 5 and 6 knots. Being the first time back on night watches we are all a little tired. One thing we are looking forward to? Warmer water and weather. Did I mention I had to wear socks last night? Every mile we sail is heading in a north-westerly direction which puts us closer to the equator, inch by inch. Today has mostly been gloomy all day. The sun pops out from behind a cloud every once in a while, but for the most part its been grey and overcast. The wind is coming in on our beam or perpendicular to the boat. This is a nice point of sail but the wind is also bringing waves with it, all hitting us on our side, which makes a bumpy ride sometimes.

8pm shift on Sunday March 2nd
Well it appears we are having battery problems in earnest now. We have been suspecting some battery issues but haven’t been able to pin them down. We just ran the motor for the last 24 hours with the purpose of charging the batteries and making water. This afternoon we turned off the motor, expecting nothing but juice city, and the plotter started restarting itself which is a symptom of low battery.

So, we started off this shift by turning off all non-essential power consumers such as lights and the plotter, which sucks power. You may remember from past posts that the plotter is basically the boat’s GPS. We have the auto-pilot on the last course the plotter gave us towards our destination. We also turned off our AIS and VHF Radio, which work together with the plotter to determine if there are any boats around us and warn us if one of them gets too close. Basically, we are traveling by eyeball tonight. Luckily, we are in the middle of the Atlantic and there haven’t been a lot of ships, but it requires more attention on watch, looking out for other ships. The AIS typically shows ships on the plotter when they come within 20 miles. When these are off, we can’t see the ships until they are 1-2 miles away. If a ship is traveling towards us at 12-13 knots and we’re traveling towards it at 6 knots, there isn’t a lot of time to avoid them if we are on a collision course, so it’s a little more harrowing, not knowing they are out there when they are 20 miles away.

For some reason I am having a hard time staying awake tonight. This is usually the easier shift to stay awake on. I was standing in the companionway, on the stairs that lead down to the saloon of the boat, trying to wake myself up when I hear a “thwaapp” right next to my head. A flying fish just flew up and hit the dodger! I could hear its ongoing struggle on the deck as it tries to extricate itself from the position its flying put itself in. I went up on deck and gave it a helping hand, tossing it overboard, and sitting there I looked down at the water and saw what looked like stars splashing in the wake of our boat. bio-luminescent plankton were lighting up the water as we passed through it. Then I took a moment and looked up and I could see the entire Milky Way stretched out across the sky. It was interesting to go from seeing stars in the water to millions of stars in the sky. And out here in the middle of the Atlantic it is unbelievable how many stars you can see out right now. We are 200 miles from Africa and 1000 miles from our destination. Even more so since we have also turned off all lights on the boat save for the navigation lights. Mind blowing stars! All of a sudden, I am wide awake!

Thanks for following along on my journey. Don’t forget to subscribe in the email below or find and like my Facebook page, Living Large by Living Little. You can also find me the same way on Instagram and Twitter. Let me know if you have any questions about sailing or my journey in the comments below.

4 thoughts on “Sailing from Namibia to St Helena, Day 2

  1. The comment about socks made me laugh, too. I am a soul of cold feet and hands who appreciates warm socks, so felt super cozy for you. We do our own wandering but don’t follow the same path, so I love living vicariously through you, Matt. 😍

    Liked by 1 person

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