The past two and a half days have been very disappointing. My average speed is only 4.42 knots and not all of those miles in the right direction. Yesterday for two hours there was a breath of wind. I dropped sails as the slamming and banging of windless sails and halyards was intense and potentially damaging to the gear. But now some wind. The ghost of Dodge Morgan is at 523 miles and I am at 315 miles, and for the first time gaining on him. Cold meals last night, refrigerator and freezer off, unwashed dishes in the sink, no BBC radio. All of these and more are the actions I took to save power which bottomed at 23% and is now at 30.4%. I am getting at 24 volts 9 amps from solar, 3 from wind and 14 from the hydro generators. I would be getting more from solar, but the winds are from the south east heeling my boat and its panels away from the sun.
Had a surprise call from wife, Catherine. “You’ve got wind,” she explained, and I thought how nice she was to call to share my excitement. Then, “the housekeeper must have changed the TV clicker and I can’t get the TV to work.” I smiled – I am being missed. “On the grey one push TV, now push 03,” I responded. There were screams of joy. For a moment I was home.
All I need is more wind. Yes, not something I would say in polite circles, but none the less wind is what I need to get this vessel moving. At two days into the event and doing about 144 miles a day, the ghost of Dodge Morgan is almost a full day ahead of me, as he was averaging 171 miles a day! I am not on the beach reading a newspaper, I am sea and need wind to fill those sails. The forecast is looking only a little better, but you can help. If you take in a deep breath, turn to the east, or even south east, and breath out forcibly then the collective sum of your efforts will eventually arrive here and propel me forward!! Thank you.
The lack of wind also means that I am getting very little power into the boat. Nothing from the wind generators, as they don’t kick in till I have at least 10 knots (11 mph) of wind. The hydros are not doing much either since I am going too slow to make water power. And now, once again, its overcast weather and thus the solar panels are nonoperational. So now, with the batteries at only 40% charge, I have shut down most of the power including refrigerator, which I will not even open now, electronic displays and soon the freezer. No cooking, etc. I will steer much of today, thus saving power the autopilot would be using. I knew this would not be a dream cruise but this challenge was not expected in these latitudes where the wind is usually strong and steady.
On Saturday, December 7th at 1415 Zulu (International time based on Greenwich, England and also known as GMT and UTC), or 9:15am back home in St. Augustine, I crossed the line 0.8 nm due east of St. David’s Lighthouse to begin my challenge on the 150 day, 6 hour record, as well as to become the oldest and the first ever green. Bermuda Radio tracked the start and the “black box” issued by the World Sailing Speed Record Council was also monitoring. In addition, I forced an update on my Yellow Brick, which can be seen on my website. Yes, I was a little emotional but it soon passed, and I got on with changing my course to bear away from a group of coral reefs that were fast approaching. The start was as Dodge Morgan, the record holder set it, one mile from the Lighthouse. However, I noted only this morning that on his return he was three miles off shore when he re-crossed the line to finish. I shall follow suit, especially should I come in at night.
The voyage from St. Augustine was uneventful, and the time of five days and two hours was my best to date.
I see that the winds for the next few days will be light and so I expect to fall behind Dodge Morgan’s average of 171.84 miles a day. Tomorrow I will get out a spinnaker (light air sail) and see if I can go faster. But for now, I am enjoying the moment. Four years of planning and execution…its game on.
The send-off from St. Augustine was incredible and it is hard not to be affected. The escort was by the Coast Guard, police and the yacht club, while Billy Black, renowned yacht photojournalist, weaved in and out of the traffic. It was quite something. A loyal crowd on the dock and more on the bridge. Makes me really humble. Now approaching the real start line on the existing record, I do not expect much attention and my focus will be on safely rounding the shoals and reefs north of Bermuda, and crossing the line due east and within one mile of St. David’s Light, where Dodge Morgan, on his yacht American Promise, began his 150 day, 6 hour and 1 minute odyssey. I shall begin mine on Kiwi Spirit.
The first person to sail solo non-stop and non-assisted was Sir Robin Knox-Johnson, who did it in 313 days. He is incidentally still alive and is younger than me! Oh well, perhaps I am a late starter. He wrote in a recent editorial that of all would be solo circumnavigators, non-stop and non-assisted ones are less than 50% likely to make it and that less than 100 have made it so far. Some 600 have been into space and more than 100 have climbed Mt. Everest each year. These are, of course, just numbers, but then again I was very proud in 1985 to have finished 946th out of 1,200 in the Kona Ironman Triathlon (2.4 mile swim, 112 miles on a bike and the full 26.2 marathon run) and then the following year I swam the English Channel twice, and on the second swim I became only the 300th to have done so.
Day Three: 264 miles achieved. All is well and the winds are steady from the south. I am north, and now heading due east to Bermuda with an ETA (estimated time of arrival) offshore Bermuda at around noon on Saturday. Eating well and keeping my log, personal journal and another log on my mental and emotional status put together by Jack and Karen Merwin of St. Augustine Psychological Services. Dodge did something similar. Jack read the book and updated the approach. Could be interesting. Taking some photos. Glorious sunsets which last so much longer than sunrises. Sleeping well.
Last night I had to hail a cargo ship that was getting awfully close. My AIS (Automatic Identification Service) and radar showed we were on a collision course. At a half mile apart, I put on my strobe light at the mast head (my idea to install it) and made radio contact. Immediately he turned to his port and passed behind me. Were they on watch? Was I on their radar? Did they see my AIS? What would they have done if I had not called? That’s why I sleep no more than 30 to 45 minutes at a time. Safer to sleep during the day when I can be seen a little better. My radar and AIS picks up ships at about 12 to 20 miles – some 30 minutes away.
A maddening day yesterday with only 119 miles covered – one of my worst ever. For some six hours there was no wind and the boat wallowed on the left over waves while sails slapped aloft. I furled the genoa away just to stop her slapping. Finally wind, and right now I am purring along at 10 knots (11 miles per hour) and have the batteries charging up again.
I am in the western side of the Sargasso Sea and seaweed is everywhere, along with debris consisting of twine, buoys and some plastic. Cleaning seaweed off the hydro generators was a routine task yesterday.
Sleeping 30 minutes at a time and doing well. Had first cup of coffee today – strange how when at sea I lose interest in this staple. I heard from my wife Catherine that my departure was on the front page of the “St. Augustine Record” and said, I believe, Bon Voyage Stanley. Nice!
To all those that are following this voyage at www.stanleyparis.com, go to the Yellow Brick symbol to see my progress. And, yes, thank you for your interest.
Rough seas with ten foot high waves caused Tow Boat US, which will tow Kiwi Spirit to the start line since the engine is now sealed off, to advise the delay. Though much higher waves will be expected on the voyage, these ten foot waves over shallow water on the inlet could cause the boat to slam down on the hard inlet sand with devastating results to the integrity of the vessel. There was no other choice. Of course I am frustrated and disappointed, especially for those who have come to see me off and had to leave to catch their flights. My departure is now scheduled for 4:30 pm today, Sunday.
It’s now just 48 hours, and I am still relaxed and ready. Some last minute shopping for green bananas and avocados, fresh bread and other perishables will be done tomorrow.
The hydraulic leaks have been fixed, all the new lines installed – ready. The weather forecast is not the best, with wind east north east, which is on the nose as I head for Bermuda. Consequently, I will head a little south till I get across the Gulf Stream, as two days the voyage winds go to the north and a Gulf Stream crossing would be very rough with wind against the current.
Television, newspapers and now a film company wanting a consultant – and I have not done anything much as of yet. One TV interviewer said “you look so relaxed” to which I replied: “do you want me to look frenetic?” But I am relaxed. It has been a three year plan to get to this stage and I have had great support from Farr Yacht Design and Lyman Morse the builders. None the less, I know we will have forgotten something, but I am sure I am well prepared and probably more so than was Dodge Morgan who admitted to not being ready when he set sail. I do have a great boat and she has proved that in the three international offshore races that I took part in and gained line honors (first to finish) in two of them.
I passed my medical for a relay swim on the English Channel next year (my third) and have had a battery of psychological tests with one more to go. I asked not to know the results until after I return. Even had some balance tests from our university and these shall be repeated on my return.
This will be my last blog before I leave. Once I settle in there shall be more. Best wishes and thank you for your interest. Now let’s see if I can break those records, but most important of all is to return home safely and that I shall do. Stay tuned.
Commanders Weather, who will be providing me with weather and routing services, have two other boats out there at present. One is David Resnick, who is in the South Atlantic but is making multiple stops. The other was David Liano, who unfortunately had to return to Acapulco due to medical problems.
The reason I have chosen to leave in late November is that it will place me in the Southern Oceans in the summer time where it will be a little warmer and the days will be much longer. Both are important, though the southern spring and fall are calmer weather-wise than the summer.
There is another race underway, the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race. This event was organized by Sir Robin Knox-Johnson, who was the first person to complete a non-stop voyage. He took 313 days and I hope to do it in 130 – such are technological and design advances. Incidentally, Sir Robin even now is still younger than me!
The Clipper fleet is multi-crewed, has multiple stops and has been experiencing rough weather, including 100 knot winds (110 mph). There are twelve boats in that event and they are at present in the Indian Ocean between South Africa and Australia – some of the roughest seas. It will be interesting to see how my boat and I manage such winds. I do expect to be knocked on my side at least twice. To that end I have safety nets, as well as lash on point for my harness. During extreme weather I will be wearing a padded vest and a climber’s helmet. However, I am not likely to say “bring it on.” Let’s hope I get lucky.
There is no question of the time and date of my departure. By contrast sailing records, such as a transatlantic bid, are usually weather dependent. The crew and support crew have the boat fully ready but wait for the most favorable conditions to attempt the speed record. But I shall be out there for some 130-140 days and possibly more, and so the weather on day one is of little consequence. When Dodge Morgan set out (his is the record of 150 days that I am after) there was no wind for several hours and he just lulled around waiting for a breeze. He was maddened by the many boats filled with well wishes and tried to wave them goodbye, wanting them to leave him to his frustration. Hopefully I will have a favorable breeze, but regardless I shall be leaving on time. Only very strong winds making an exit out through the narrow channel to the sea, which has dangerous shoals on each side of the cut, could possibly delay the start. I will delay for safety and safety reasons only.