Odyssey Log

Atlantic Odyssey 2: Penny Lane Day 7

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The mystery of our wacky GPS positions has been solved, with help from Pascal and the Cornell Sailing crew.


What was happening was that our Iridium GO sat phone, fixed to the wall next to our chart table, was sending our position automatically, as scheduled every 4 hours. However with no view of the sky it was sending wrong positions, and this was making it appear that we were diving left and right all over the north Atlantic, speeding up to crazy paces, down to a sedate plod, and generally sailing like erratic idiots. The positions being sent automatically by the phone, and imported into the Cornell web site by a clever script written by their programmers, no one was noticing our crazy positions, apart from our mothers who were almost having kittens.

I imagine that the plot of our progress would be quite funny – if someone could take a screen shot of it before it is eradicated I’d be very grateful, we can keep it for posterity. In fact Pascal messaged me to say that one of our positions the GPS altitude put us 18,000 feet under the sea, now that would be a sail!

So the auto-tracking feature has been disabled and we revert to the Cornell tracker device which we manually enable at 8am, 4pm and midnight. Hopefully our truly methodical and consistent course setting abilities will now become apparent, and our mothers worry a little less.
In fact without access to the Cornell web site and its Google map, I’ve reverted to the old ways, and plotted the positions of the fleet on an old weather routing chart of the North Atlantic. (It wouldn’t work with a bigger fleet). The graceful sweep of the fleet down and then across the Atlantic looks fantastic, like the first corner of a motor race with everyone screaming into the first bend together. But you can see that on the Google map of course can’t you.

Atlantic sunrise, 30 deg west, 16th Jan, Penny Lane

So the mystery of our positioning having been solved we must return to the task of sailing the ship, and eating. Anna is making Guacamole from the half-ton of avocados purchased in la Palma. Oscar has taken to singing, and Sam back on the Minecraft computer. We’ve also been reading – rather slowly – the book Jonathan Livingstone Seagull which was a present to Sam from my father, and which relates quite well to things like crossing the Atlantic, and is well worth a read for anyone who hasn’t enjoyed it yet. It is also very short.

My brother also sent us the real words of the “Lonely Sea and the Sky” poem, thanks Ants, in about 10 SMS messages which I have concatenated, possibly even in the correct order, but who knows.….

I must go down to the sea again,
to the lonely sea and the sky.
And all I ask is a tall ship,
and a star to steer her by.
I must go down to the sea again,
for the call of the running tide,
is a wild call and a clear call,
that may not be denied.
And all I ask is a windy day
with the white clouds flying,
and the flung spray and the blown spume,
and the sea-gulls crying.
I must go down to the seas again,
to the vagrant gypsy life,
to the gull’s way and the whale’s way,
where the winds like a whetted knife.

And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song,
and the white sails shaking,
and a grey mist on the sea’s face,
and a grey dawn breaking.

And that quite well sums up, for those who have been asking, what its like sailing on the Atlantic. I think this poem must have rather inspired Sir Francis Chichester, because he called his book “The lonely sea and the sky”, and that is what made me think of it.

Perhaps the most common phrase used on board is: “That’s a big wave”, usually followed by: “And THAT’s a big one”. This game seems to keep people entertained for hours, because most of the waves are, by Mediterranean and Channel standards, quite big. The beauty of it all is this vessel, 24 years old and designed by a feller called Colin Dixon, busily done up by us over the last year or so, and how she takes it all in her stride. The wave comes along, piling up like a wall behind you, and looking like it will flood down and over. But the stern lifts, the boat picks up, and another wave comes scudding by underneath you. No problems, no dramas, she just keeps tramping on and on competently and calmly over Poseidon’s vast domain.

Incidentally I must thank the Cornell team, not only for their help in resolving the tracker issue, but with all the support given while we were working to get ready. The Marina as well, very kindly giving us additional free berthage as a compensation for the slop, the box of fruit and wine to each yacht was a very nice gesture too. In fact the whole welcome in La Palma could not have been bettered.

A trip like this is an undertaking supported by a lot of people. And the trades guys and marine engineers that have helped Anna and I get the boat ready have been a real support, and we literally couldn’t have done it without them. So to Steve the rigger in Palma, Chris in Almerimar, Matt in Gibraltar, the welder chap in La Palma who made the bits I was asking for in my non-existent Spanish, and all the rest of you – you know who you are, who have helped us get this show on the road.

Plus of course Tasos, her old owner from Athens, who treasured her as “Xadi” (Greek for Caress) for 23 years and hoped to find her a good home when he finally felt too old to keep her on. I hope you like this Tasos, she’s at 20°N, 31°W, heading west south west for Martinique, with a new name, a new main, new rigging wire and a water-maker. I wish you were here to see it.
Must go, Guacamole is ready.

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