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The Quest to Sail Around the World Solo on a 40ft Monohull

Skipper's Logs Archive: Transat 2004



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Thank Bobblehead Jesus for Autopilot
June 7, 2004

A busy day out here as we finally rounded the top of this big low pressure system that has caused us to pound dead to windward for days on end and very far north. As the winds rotate counter-clockwise around the low pressure, the challenge is to get around the top without being sucked into the windless center, while hopefully not sailing too many extra miles to the north and west. I'm not sure if I did it perfectly, but I did avoid any calms. Since once over the top I have been in strong Northeasterlies on the west side of the system. Happy days - flying along at 12 to 22 knots in front of 30 knots from behind us. These conditions are much better than pounding to windward in a beamy boat designed for reaching.

So life on board is mixed with a couple of hours on deck changing sails or maneuvering, and then many hours below deck at the nav "sofa" where I can look up through the skylights in the cabin top to check sail trim and monitor all the instruments - making micro-adjustments from the warmth of the cabin. By far the MVP of this trip has been the Raymarine autopilots which are able to steer the boat from either the apparent wind angle for upwind or the true wind angle for downwind. This is incredibly helpful when the wind is constantly shifting as you would not be steering the fastest course if you just set the pilot to a compass course and left it. These pilots are constantly adjusting to achieve your desired wind angle and keep the boat performing optimally. I hate to admit it, but downwind, the autopilots steer better than 9 out of 10 pretty decent human helmsmen! For a solo sailor, having an extremely sophisticated and efficient autopilot basically removes the burden of steering the boat unless you want to. The performance drop-off between the machine and man is negligible. With temperatures in the forties, and constant waves and spray across the deck, driving the boat from the exposed cockpit for any length of time becomes pretty unpleasant. Thank god for these awesome Raymarine machines!

Otherwise, my fatigue level seems to be okay, although I am getting less sleep on this trip than on others because it has been so rough. Catnaps of 10 minutes are common and if I'm really tired I will string a bunch of 10-minute naps together until I feel okay again. It's pretty interesting as it would not seem to be enough sleep. I am talking to some new friends who came on board the other day and seem very nice but other than that the hallucinations have been minimal!

I'm across the halfway mark and roaring for the barn at the moment. Soon my mind will begin to focus on that first real meal on land - what will it be? Sailors can spend days on this topic. I have to thank my friends at work at New Boston Fund who gave me some very thoughtful gifts to take with me in the form of a bobbing, plastic dashboard Jesus (I don't care if it rains or freezes, long as I've got my plastic Jesus sittin' on the dashboard of my car...), and I also have a very lovely blow up sheep who hangs from the port bunk and provides commentary on the days activities. Who says solo sailing is boring?

Back to the chores and riding this red rocket around the Flemish Cap off the southern tip of Newfoundland (remember "The Perfect Storm"?). Ciao for now.



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