Monday, April 14, 2014

Stern lights in the sky

At sea when there are other ships around at night they all display
navigation lights, depending on which angle you are looking at them, you
will see different colored lights, but they are distinctive so that you can
ascertain whether they are heading towards you, passing you, or going away.
Even far off the coast, in the middle of the ocean there is always a chance
of not only seeing other ships, but also of being hit by a ship. Based on
your height of eye on a sailing yacht, you can only see the horizon about 9
nautical miles away. So if you are traveling at 7 knots, and a ship is
coming towards you at say 15 knots, then you have a closing speed of 22
knots, which means that from not seeing anything on the horizon within 20 to
25 minutes you could be run over, hmmm hence why we always have someone on
watch, sensible don't you think ?
Tonight is a full moon night here in the North Atlantic, and a clam smooth
night it is. For days as we have headed north from Brazil's Fernando De
Noronha, crossed the equator, slipped out of the crippling calms of the
Doldrums and are now north of 20 degrees.
The days are now getting longer as we head into northern hemisphere spring
time, the waters are now getting cooler again, instead of the tropical
blue's with bath water temperatures of 33 degree's Celsius, we are now back
at the still pleasant mid 20's. Day times are still wonderfully warm, and
the evenings are a beautiful cool, but not cold, well for some onboard !
(compared to Antarctic climates)

With every passage there is wear an tear along the way, which is to be
expected, unfortunately on this leg north the only breakage has been a
running back stay block, this for non sailors is part of the mast rigging,
and needs to be tensioned and changed each time we make a substantial course
alteration when the wind changes from one side of the yacht to the other.
Well dear Vincent was the very unlucky one to find this out the other day
when we tacked. In applying the needed tension to the running backstay, the
deck turning block that the rope runs through exploded. I was near by doing
the main sail, when it happened, Vincent went quiet as I reached over to
check on him. Luckily, but unfortunately he was hit on the side of the head,
the blood that was coming from his head was not large, but I was concerned.
Audrey and I grabbed the medical kits after our initial examination of his
head, and as Vincent has said he is a very lucky "Black cat". The wound
needed two stitches, and this Vincent managed without local anesthetics and
my initial slightly shaky hand (stitching sails are not as stressful).
Now two days later we removed the first dressing and inspected the wound,
not too bad a job if I say so myself, and certainly Vincent is back in his
normal form.
So tonight's full moon party at sun set had "cheers all round" as Credence
Clear Water Revival was playing Bad moon a rising in the back ground. The
stars are all out, and eventhough I am not so familiar with these northern
sparkling lights, they do remind me of ships that have safely passed us by,
because from that aspect you can only see one small white light.
Safe sailing, 1,106 nautical miles to the Azores. Stephen

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Bra............zillian

2,400 nautical miles may seem to you all like a long way to go for a
relaxing drink, yes that's nearly 5,000 kilometers, but our passage north
from Uruguay has taken just over 13 days with some superb sailing, positive
inshore currents to help along the way, warm weather and great fishing.
Remote Brazilian islands there are not a large amount of, but Fernando de
Noranah is one of their jewels. Located about 200 nautical miles off the
coast to the north east it is a lovely volcanic tropical island with a
wonderful array of wild life, on shore and in the sea.
Very popular for surfers, wild life enthusiasts and wedding honeymoon
couples, there is also a healthy stream of visiting yachts heading either
north or south in the Atlantic's as a stopping destination.
But being Brazil, it holds the essence of their culture is so many ways,
their foods, drinks, music and their people.
Now men being men, and women being women, having even an average eyesight is
very rewarding when visiting Fernando de Noronah, because the women there
they have some amazing, outstanding features which makes me wonder why the
letters BRA is the start of the country name ?? because they just don't
seems to be needed.
Now the second part of the countries name I have also found out why it is,
eventhough this is my third stop at Fernando de Noranah (yes for the
wildlife and relaxing atmosphere of course) Brazil has over the last few
years become a very very expensive country, their currency is now at about 2
to 1 to the US$ so its just as well that for spectator sports that you get
your moneys worth ! which of course we did, but with World Cup happening
very shortly if your going to be a visitor then come well armed with cash
because that's why the second part of the country name comes from the word
Zillions.
We have departed Fernando de Noronah today, heading due north to the Azores,
with a spectacular display of Dorado fish jumping 3 meters into the sky as
they endeavored to catch flying fish, we all on board can honestly say that
we were impressed and astounded by what we saw there in our time at this
picture perfect location.

Stephen

Friday, March 21, 2014

Murky

Ah the murky river waves that stain the shores of the water way.
They're three giants to blame, with great South American fame.
They empty their bowels non stop day and night, a relentless stream of brown
disgrace
These giants of the River Plate, have different personalities from their
home land states.
They gorge and they spew the soils and fluids of their lands, from fertile
field, to barren slate.
Thousands of years these giants cease to abate, ever changing the channels
and lanes.
Standing still, when its calm you really feel, this grand expanse is a
desert plane.
If Casablanca was near there'd be camels roaming free with nomads in chase.
Its a water desert that's here, mighty river streams coming quite free.
Feed the giants and let them continue to snort, from Uruguay, Paraguay and
Argentina, they're really having sport !

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Step No 1 Frog legs and snails

To every voyage there is a start, a middle and an end, our journey to France started in Ushuaia with 7,500 miles to travel. Step No 1 is nearly completed with news that Tierra del Fuego has been covered early with heavy snow, strong winds and very very wintery.
As we glide up the coast of Mar del Plata the iridescent phosforecence that wafts off the side of Xplore is more like driving through massive milky jelly fish, their rims catching the moon light rays over the calm oily waters.
The passage north has been good, the team, very well balanced, and the sailing tremendous. The change into shorts and tee shirts came all so fast, and the change of meals from hearty stews and soups into summer cuisine is stretching our imaginations after so many months down in the Antarctic
freezer.
We left at the right time, and have made good time, our first pit stop is Punta del Este on the South east shores of Uruguay, a few days there to dry out and to prepare for step No.2 will hopefully be relaxed and productive.
Stephen

Monday, March 10, 2014

Xplore definative famliy names on board

Spend long enough time anywhere and with anyone or thing and you start to really understand and see their strengths, weaknesses and character, for the good or bad.
Over the seven years with Xplore we have seen our fair share of ups and downs, literally ! so its not surprising that just like with people we have had to deal with the maintenance on a regular basis, there are breakage's and replacement of so many items and parts along the way.
For a yacht to have sailed now 90,000 nautical miles we have developed a lot of faith and trust in some key components on board and these parts we have fondly given names to, to add a touch of character to items and equipment that we rely on every single day, it's sometimes easier to understand why something breaks or falls apart when they have a name, because you can say to them 'hey sorry, I haven't looked at you or given you some attention for quite some time" no wonder you're complaining !

The definitive Xplore on board family names list:

Andy : Andy is the type that just grabs you in such a firm sort of way when you first meet him, when he's out and about he's right up front on Xplore. Andy's pretty handy when you want to stop somewhere, he loves diving and playing around on the sea floor, and that's because he's our anchor.

Larry : Strong chap, controls the anchor winch and chain, lives up front, so he is a quiet slightly reclusive type, made by Lewmar, hence the name Larry

Yolly : Well there are the twin sisters Yolly, No1 and No 2 and they are our primary head sails which are called Yankee's, both only wear short skirts, as they like to have a bit of "wind up their kilts" so to speak, but its really because they don't like getting their dresses wet.

Ziggy : Ziggy is a trooper and was named because he loves zooming around nice and fast, he is our Zodiac that takes everyone on Xplore to shore at the amazing places we visit.

Stewart : Now Stewart loves to sail, he's happy at any time of the day as long as he can play in the wind, even though he's done so many miles, he's very young at heart (personally he thinks he's invincible) that's because he was made with just a splash of super strong vectran, Stewart is our Staysail.

Peter and Percy : Funny name for gay Greek boys, bronzed so black from the sun you can see them stick out like sore thumbs with all their gold bracelets, they just lie around in the sun on deck all day, but when the wind comes from behind, as quick as a flash they are up there ! out they go
proud as punch they love being show offs, whether it's the spinnakers or poling out Yolly they're out there bar hard. made out of carbon fiber and kevlar and they are our spinnaker poles.

Bubble and Squeak : Well not everyone likes talking about these two, but the reality is that they are used by everyone , every day, hail rain or shine and they are our two toilets in the bath rooms. They too have personalities, and unless you learn their quirks pretty fast then life on Xplore can be a tad messy, Bubble lives on the right side of Xplore and Squeak is on the left side. Bubbles always burps a bit after being used, where as Squeak just chats away as she is being used.

Victor : He's a beefy chap that hangs out with Baz (coming) Victor is a very proper sort of a guy who takes his job very seriously, whether it's just for a bit of support for Baz, or if its to pull him into line Victor is always someone that you can count on. Victor is our boom vang.

Barry : Baz as known to his mates is no light weight puppy at about 150 Kg's, Baz is a bit of a whipper snapper, hence why we have to keep Victor with him to keep him into line, Baz is fondly attached to Malcolm (coming also) and is the boom for the main sail. Now you should see Baz get into a right old flap when he's been left with too much main sail up, he rattles and wiggles like a cut snake.

Malcolm : Fine up standing person who gives a lot of grace and elegance to Xplore, couldn't be with out him and his fine balance of lines and cables that allows us to fly through the waves with our sails, Malcolm is our mast.

Mikie : Crikie Mikie we call him, as he is a big tall guy that when he stretches he almost reaches the sky, in 4 sections he goes up and up the full length of Malcolm, as a sail he is a power house in light winds, and that's what he really likes and prefers, because over 30 knots he just falls apart at the seams, so we put him away when its really windy and save him for another day, Mikie is our main sail.

Mr Perkins : Some days we don't have any wind and that's when Mr Perkins comes in, a steady personality he happily sings away with a sturdy deep voice that you would expect of someone who carries a great responsibility. To get us in and out of port, or to get us into a tight anchorage when it's blowing a gale we couldn't live without he and his reliable nature. Mr Perkins is our main engine.

Mrs Perkins : Now don't get us wrong, Mrs Perkins is a gem, BUT...... there have been times when you just can't quite work her out, reliable, Yes, a bit of a loud voice, Yes had a few medical problems over the years, Yes, do we still love her, Yes,. for all her faults we think she's a gem, Mrs Perkins is our generator and charges our batteries, drives the high pressure pump and heats the water so we can have lovely showers, how could you not love her, even with her temperamental hiccups.

Ernie and Errol : Bloody hot heads are these two twins, they have a drinking problem, and that probably comes from their German descent, its the dam diesel that they cant get enough of and add that to a bit of electricity and well they just go off ! huffing and puffing away they produce so much heat so quickly that we have to take their booze away pretty fast. You have to love them though because in the depths of Antarctica they keep us so snug and warm, Ernie and Errol are our two heaters made by Eberspacher.

Wendy : She's a bit of a slurper herself, drinking problem as well, but at least it's only water, with a nice warm sea she can produce 160 liters of fresh clean water per hour, she's a bit of a connoisseur of fresh water and doesn't like the salt so she spits that out over the side, Wendy is out Aquafresh water maker that allows us to sail thousands of miles without having to take water.

Frieda : Now Frieda only joined the family two years ago, we weren't quite sure if she would fit in, but she finally found her place, at first we all thought she was a cold bitch but our hearts opened up to her skills and talents, and when the day ends and we pull out a cold beer or wine, prepare a nice fresh salad then we all say cheers to Frieda our portable fridge / freezer.

Wilma : Wilma has been Wilma since day one, she's the one that keeps everyone on the straight and narrow, takes us through the tough bits, but as so many girls are like she does love to have a spin and a twirl when she's in the mood, Wilma is our steering wheel, the helm of the Xplore.

Arnie : What can I say, all brawn and not a lot of brains ~! but there is not one person who comes on Xplore that doesn't love him, 24 / 7 he's knocking the miles out in some of the most horrendous conditions. Poor guy, he's locked up in a tiny compartment, hardly ever gets looked at or touched,
sure he grumbles a bit when it blows but you can't blame him for that. When its - 20 c outside, ice all over the deck, snow coming down and blowing a gale he still choofs along and does his job, Arnie is our very strong auto pilot hydraulic pump pack.

Sally : Everyone has their place and needs, and well Sally just is a dirty girl, it's her character and something that's not going to change, she loves a good pumping every day, but other wise she just lays around in the bilge waiting for the next shower, fill her up a bit too much and she burps and
farts, oh boy, such a nasty way, but keep her well looked after and she smells like roses, Sally is our grey water tank on Xplore.

Well there you have it, "The Team" and an insight into their characters that has really taken a lot of years to evolve that I can write in so much detail, but each and every part has its role and can't be ignored. Just like the "people people" we have on Xplore who equally play a vital role if you want to go ocean sailing and exploring the remote wonders of the world.

Stephen

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Ocean hell cities

Many times I have sailed the coast of eastern South America, the continental shelf extends far off shore and connects to the Falklands or Malvinas as they are know to Argentineans.
It is also a plentiful fishing grounds that fleet factory fishing ship visit from all around the world, some legally and some..... well not so legal. the licenses to fish here are large, but the bounties are high.
As the day light dawns and another day of sailing comes to an end, the oceans can be calm or wildly blustery, it makes no difference, it seems like there is no other person or ship on the planet, but that's until it gets dark.
Darkness engulfs the water world and then the hell cities emerge, strangely from no where they arrive like an invasion from outer earth. They are the factory ships, the squid ships that light up the night. They sit dormant all day, on deep anchors as the continental shelf is only 100 to 150 meters deep, but when the night falls they creep into the night sky with their powerful flood lights that attract the creatures of the deep, the squid.
All night they beam their powerful rays of light deep into the murky shallow waters luring the sea life to the surface to their death.
The loom of their lights shine for many many miles, so any navigator in these waters can see the warning signs, its not just one or two, its 10's 20's and more of these monster ships that are in location for prime time fishing.
The aerie feeling on a cloudy night, with layers of strato cumulous capturing the reflected light makes for quite a sight, in lines they seem to be, like a freeway of connecting cities.
But life on board these boats isn't so nice, to see these ships is a designers disgust, how ugly could a ship be, with large over hangs for the jiggers to work from the hull and to support the powerful downwards spot lights is more like an ancient aircraft carrier. The black stained hull sides streaked from deck to waters edge with squid ink is just a day time reminder of their nightly slaughter.
Last year when in the Straits of Magellan, we encountered nine of these vessels at anchor close to the shore and city of Punta Arenas, we had just arrived back from expedition in the depths of Tierra Del Fuego when we received an emergency message that a crew member from a ship had been lost over board, we were close, and proceeded to the area to join in the search.
For three hours we drove and searched the waters of the Magellan along with port rescue craft and helicopters, we did find a jacket and an Asian packet of cigarettes floating with no owner to them, a sadness extreme came over all of us, as even in summer the water temperature is grim.
We learned after that it was actually four sailors from one of these squid ships that had taken the chance of being close to shore and had tried to swim the distance, three bodies were found, but nothing of the fourth ? maybe they made it ? god only knows.
But fishing has been a part of life for thousands of years and any mariner knows its a tough game, how tough I don't think any of us really want to know.
Stephen

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Life in 2 yellow boxes

Five days in port can be hell, five days to get ready for international ocean passage is just plain busy, crazy busy, but luckily good.
When the boat is all packed, stowed and arranged, its amazing how everything just disappears into spaces, maybe to never be discovered for a long time ? hopefully this is the case with the wide range of spares that Xplore carries.
But I look at my cabin and my life on Xplore and it all revolves around two bright yellow boxes, these are the boxes that have my clothes, socks and thermals in, its the only space I have for them, you may think that this is pretty grim to only have 2 boxes, they only measure 400mm x 350mm x 300.
But as a sailor and being very accustomed to life at sea, this is more than plenty for a warm and comfortable life, even in Antarctica, why have more if you don't need more ?
We untied our dock lines at 1030am this morning in Ushuaia Argentina, and now we are heading east along the Beagle Channel to open seas, the South Atlantic to be exact, and from there we turn north for 7,500 nautical miles to the shores of France.
We have a good team on Xplore, just 4, Jane, John and Vincent and myself. days and weeks of open wide oceans await us, I long for those silent nights where we slip along on a calm breeze and bathe in the moon light.
The time for adventure is always very real on Xplore, and we know that our future is very bright, of ideas, of dreams and of very apparent projects that lie at our door step.
See you soon in Europe, Stephen