Attrition and Black Boxes


On the first attempt last year the challenges I had to continuing were mainly mechanical: loss of battens from the sail, damaged staysail furling, extensive damage to the end of the boom. These I repaired and felt comfortable they would not be show stoppers.  However it was the failure of the fixtures that hold the shrouds that support the mast that caused the alarm. Farr Yacht Design said they were unsafe and that I had to quit – soon all team members agreed and so I put in to Cape Town.

This time it’s the electronics that are taking a toll. I have two sets of winds instruments atop the mast. They give both wind speed and true wind direction. One set has failed and I am on the second set – so soon. Next I have three auto pilots and now one, the primary Auto Pilot has given up the ghost. Let’s hope I have seen the last of my electronics problems, but I fear not.

The autopilot did not quietly into the night. Once it failed it simply would not turn off at the breaker on the electrical panel and kept sending out load beeps every seven seconds. Then for no reason at all, perhaps I was being too calm about it all, the dying Auto decided to sound the Man Overboard alarm which really screeches.  When I finally figured out to turn it off, it found another way of coming on. Eventually however it totally died and I had peace and quiet.

My Project Manager Steve Pettengill said “Look after the boat and it will look after you.” Believe me Steve, I am doing my best but while I am somewhat mechanical, electronics are just a black box to me.


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Tenth Day Post Bermuda


North of Brazil ten days since after sailing for six days from St. Augustine, I rounded Bermuda to begin the challenge on Dodge Morgan’s 150 day solo circumnavigation from Bermuda to Bermuda. On my first attempt last year, I was dogged with weak winds so that at the 5th day I was already two days behind him. This time there has been plenty of wind but unfortunately most of it on the nose. A sailing boat cannot go straight into the wind. The best they can do is around 30-50 degrees off depending on the design and sea state. So I have had to tack back and forth adding many miles to the route. It’s been a struggle but I am pleased that as of noon today, on the tenth day I am 197 miles ahead of Dodge Morgan. Since he averaged 174 miles a day for the voyage I am just a little over a day ahead of him. Of course its early days but a better start than last time.


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Sargassum, Water Ballast and an Uncomfortable Night

From St. Augustine to round Bermuda took six days. Alarm rang every hour and my first job was to clean the two hydro generators from masses of sargassum that was clogging then up.  No sooner would I lower the first and start on the second it would often clog again. I just could not generate the power I needed.  The batteries steadily declined from 100% when leaving St. Augustine to 20% rounding Bermuda. This meant no hot water, no refrigeration, freezer sealed shut but still the battery power dropped. Rounding Bermuda that all began to change, less sargassum and power has started to build again.

I was feeling good but as the wind gained strength I needed to fill my water ballast tank on the upwind side as without water in it (or crew to sit on the rail) and with winds of 22-28 knots the boat heeled over to some 50 degrees instead of say 20 degrees with full ballast tank. Problem, the pump that fills the tanks refused to cooperate.  Emails were sent to my team, instructions came back as to how to dismantle the pump and clean it out. I decided I could not do it at night in a rough sea, pounding off waves and anything unsecured taking flight.  Besides the autopilot was acting up and had “let go” three times during the day causing me to have to jump to the helm and get things settled down before turning it over to autopilot again. It was a sleepless and uncomfortable night.

The job went well but it was not sargassum that I found, but rather a metal chard the size of my thumb nail that was fouling the pump.  That and some other fine filings removed and I put it all back together.  I crossed my fingers and – sweet joy it worked. As I filled the windward tanks with the equivalent of eight husky men on the rails, the boat came more upright and gathered more speed as now it captured more wind.

With the power up, boat stable it seemed time for my first hot shower in ten days, do I feel good. Tomorrow, I tackle the primary autopilot.  The next day – oh yes there will be something.



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Bermuda Rounded and On My Way for the Existing Records

After six and a half days I crossed the 900+ miles to Bermuda and at 1:46 pm EST I crossed the start line with a strong breeze. Bermuda radio which directs all shipping traffic were most cooperative logging start time etc. I am also being monitored by the World Sailing Speed Record Council (WSSRC) which has a transmitter on board. I also hit the yellow brick messenger sending up a location point as I crossed the line and before bearing off onto my new course – southeast to the Caribbean and points beyond. Click on the yellow brick link on my home page.

Back in the 1970′s Bermuda was home to me. I moved from Boston, bought a 120 guest hotel and 28 acres. As owner/manager, I turned the hotel into a health resort complete with nutritious menus, exercise, yoga, hiking, a health and beauty spa and a medical and physical therapy clinic. Sports included swimming, tennis and yes we had five small Sunfish yachts. Bermuda is only one and a half hours from my interests in Boston and so I did not feel I had left America. I would spend the mornings in the clinic and the afternoon and early evenings in the hotel. Yesterday it was fun to round her coral protected shoreline and to remember the beautiful pink sand beaches and diving amongst the reefs often to retrieve edible clams. For a moment I thought of pulling into St. Georges Harbour for a cool draft beer – but that would have broken the rules.

My wife said the first blog was fine but there was no mention of her. So after that last sentence I guess I am covered it this time!


Loving Husband of Catherine

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Leg One to Bermuda

The wind is down to 9 knots (10 mph) blowing just east of north while I struggle to the northeast to round Bermuda placing it on my starboard (right) side. I move at 7 knots and at this speed I will not make the start line in Bermuda until 9:00 pm or later Friday night. This is not good. Rounding a reef enclosed island and having to within a mile of the shore and half a mile from reefs with uncertain winds behind the island is not something I shall attempt at night. I will no doubt heave to and drift the night away so as to approach on Saturday morning.

I have been at sea now for only four days on this the first leg of a solo circumnavigation beginning in St. Augustine to set a new record but restarting without stopping in Bermuda to challenge the existing 150 day 6 hour record set by Dodge Morgan in 1986. It’s going to be a long voyage.  No serious problems as of yet but its early days.

The send-off from St. Augustine was at 10:00 am Sunday, November 9th and as requested much smaller than last time.  Towed to the start, my son Alan and project manager Steve Pettengill were both on board to assist in getting sails launched and so I could wave to those taking photos.  Both Alan and Steve are circumnavigators. Short of the start Towboat US held my bow  to the wind, the mainsail was then hoisted and I began to sail to the start line, a line due south of the Sea Buoy.  Alan and Steve jumped off onto the Towboat as it came along side and I let fly the large genoa. I crossed to line and was soon doing 12 knots – the fastest so far on this voyage.

Tomorrow Bermuda.

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10:00 am Departure, Sunday November 9th

Departure from City Dock is confirmed for 10:00 am Sunday.  It’s a go and all is ready. Kiwi Spirit is chomping at the bit almost ripping out her dock lines! Tomorrow morning she will move to the city dock where she will stay till 10:00 am Sunday.  Tow Boat US will tow her out as engines are sealed and the bow-thruster has been removed. We are to go green again and no extra weight. My son Alan, a circumnavigator in his own right, has flown in from New Zealand for the occasion and will be on board for the tow out and sail hoisting. He will then jump off to a Tow Boat US boat before I cross the official start line. The official start of the voyage, monitored by the World Sailing Speed Record Council will be from the outer buoy about one mile offshore.  At that point the tow will be released and the bow pointed to Bermuda, the first leg of the non-stop solo voyage. Kiwi Spirit is ready and so am I. To all who follow this voyage I know you wish me well. Be assured I intend not to disappoint.

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On the Road Again – Sunday, November 9th at 10:00 am

With respect to Willie Nelson I am to be “on the road again.”

Three international offshore yacht races, two of which I gained line honors (first to finish) and a third in which I was the first two handed home, left me feeling confident personally and about the boat’s ability. But it was not to be. Fifty days into the solo circumnavigation and the boat had developed too many breakages – some of my responsibility but the most major being a under specking of the pins that attached the rigging to the deck. All has been repaired and corrected. Additional winches installed, latest chart plotter, more safety hand grips and a better sense of the challenge leave me feeling more confident that we (the boat and I) are ready but aware that unlike in running a marathon where success is say 95% up to the runner, in my case it may be only 20-30% up to me as the boat and luck will play a big hand. I am aware that only one attempt in three have succeeded and that this is my second and final attempt. Final because life is short and Google only gives me 9.2 more years.

Once again I must point out that I am going solo which means me alone, no crew.  It is also to be non-stop by which is meant I cannot go to port and re-supply – everything I need, food, spare parts, repair materials must be on board. Any help, even a newspaper or cookie would disqualify me. Those are the rules. Also I have added the challenge of wishing to be the first to do it green – and by green means that I shall not use any diesel or gasoline, propane or butane. I shall only use electrical power generated from solar, wind and water.

In just finishing non-stop I will at 77 years be the oldest to have done so. Hopefully I will break the Bermuda and back to Bermuda record of 150 days set by Dodge Morgan at age 56 in 1986, and will have set a St. Augustine to St. Augustine record in the process as well as broke the now fastest record of Yuan Chang from China back to China which he did last year in137 days.

Projected departure from St. Augustine, Sunday, November 9th at 10:00 am. Stay tuned and follow my progress on Yellow Brick from my web page at www.stanleyparis.com.

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