Wednesday, June 27, 2012

NBL Final Scores South Pacific Series

The National Boat Landing scores for the South Pacific are as follows.

Tasmnaia to Nelson New Zealand 7 days 1348 nautical miles average speed 8.02 knots
Nelson New Zealand to Gisbourne New Zealand 2 days 449 nautical miles average speed 9.35 knots
New Zealand to Pitcairn Island 16 days 2,958 nautical miles average speed 7.46 knots
Pitcairn to Gambier Island 1.5 days 340 nautical miles average speed 9.44 knots
Gambier Islands to Easter Island 8 days 1,468 nautical miles average speed 7.6 knots
Easter Island to Valdivia Chile 11 days 2,301 nautical miles average speed 8.71 knots

South Pacific grand final totals = 8,864 nautical miles 45.5 days average speed 8.11 knots

Stephen, The Fat English Girl, Alexis and Cris

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Wilma took the fat English girl for a spin

Every once in a while some things just need a bit of explanation, and for Xplore there are many characters that make up this boat. There of course is the actual people who are on Xplore, and there are the others who are a part of Xplore.
Yes yes, I know your probably saying, right, Stephen needs his head read, but the reality is (or imagination is probably a better word) is that there are so many components to Xplore as a boat, and which are so important to the ongoing running of the boat, so that each major part deserves a little pet name, just like the nick names that people give to their cars. So that when its playing up, misbehaving or broken, then we can talk to this item and try to ascertain what their little problem is, make it all better, and then life continues as normal. Sounds pretty logical, now doesn't it.

We have digressed, so let's back to Wilma and the fat English girl, well Wilma is the wheel that we steer Xplore with, well actually Xplore is fondly referred to as the Fat English girl, and that is because when "she" (in English we refer to boats as being She's) was designed 22 years ago, she was quite radical, in that her beam (width of the boat) is quite wide and that width is carried well aft (back towards the rear of the boat) giving her a quite wide stern or transom ( that's the fat ass bit) then not only was she designed by an English man of repute, but she was also built at the royal dock yards in Plymouth, so now you can put together the whole thing, Fat and English (no slight at all on English women)

So as you know we have been travelling back across the South Pacific to Chile, "We" I mean the crew, myself, Alexis and Cris, Australian, Corsican and Argentinean (now that would make a story in itself)

Since leaving Gambier islands we have had excellent sailing, and some pretty fast going if I do say so myself, even now in the last 7 days we have averaged 210 nautical miles every day since leaving Easter Island. And in boat talk that's pretty fast, as a comparison for land folk, that would be like driving a solar powered car at 140 kilometres per hour continuously for a week, and to do that with the Fat English girl you need quite a bit of wind as she is 38 tons ! (external wind as opposed to internal wind)

So there we are zooming across the Pacific, alls fine and dandy and then in Easter Island "It" happened. Well it's really is about "Who" happened.

We charge our house batteries (Boris and his 5 other mates) once or twice a day, and this is done with the alternator (Allan) which is driven by the generator (Mrs Perkins, she's a good girl but getting on a bit, went through menopause the other year so we took her to the doctor and had her all sorted out, much happier now) or from Mr Perkins (main engine, very stoic and strong, reliable and very English) when there is low, or no wind.

Well, as we have left the warmth of the sub-tropics and have been heading a little further south, Boris and his mates have been playing up and are just not having this cooler temperature, it's like they have gone into winter hibernation, or a union meeting, anyone would think they are bears, but they just want to play ball and won't hold a charge for long at all (right little buggers, because they are only 3 years old and are meant to be the best)

What that means is that we have been having to run Mrs Perkins much more to charge Boris and his mates, and that also means that Allan has a lot more work to do. So in Easter Islands whilst on anchor, Allan spits the dummy and just stops, had enough. I scratch my head and go "dam" have to get Allan's twin brother out (Alex) before we leave the next day.

So at first light, we change Allan for Alex and off we go, problem is that even though Alex is meant to be identical twins to Allan, he's actually not half the match (must have come out of the factory late in the day on a Friday) as he is only putting out half the power that his twin brother does when he's working.

Now how does this all effect us and fit in with Wilma and the Fat English girl ? So here we are, we have 1940 nautical miles to travel to Chile and we have crap batteries (Boris and his mates) and Alex isn't putting out. We have calculated how much fuel we are going to need in normal circumstances,
but this new development may just leave us a bit short.

So that means that me and the crew (Alexis and Cris) will have to hand steer a lot so as not to use too much power, and that is where Wilma comes in.

Let me tell you a little bit about Wilma, she's a round and robust sort of a girl (quite a size) but she loves being played with, ( I recon she must be a reincarnation of a 1970's gypsy surfy chick that took too many drugs, but always dreamt of travelling the world) she can also be turned around by Arnie (that's short for Arnold Schwarzenegger our auto pilot, who is very big and strong) but she doesn't like that so much as he's a bit too mechanical and German like, you know left, right, left right, never stops, but has no real feeling. Wilma prefers the soft, but firm human touch.

Power, well electricity consumption is the bain of every sailing yacht, we need power for so many things on board, the navigation electronics, the lights, stereo for a bit of music and of course for Freida ( she's the reincarnated ex girl friend of a mate of mine called Simon, he gave her to us because he thought she would be of better use to us than to him, she's a cold bitch, quite pretty, uses a bit of energy and is only good for sticking your meat in her, yep she's the freezer)

For the last 7 days we have been hand steering for 90% of the time some great days and great miles, and all in all, life on board has been very good. But yesterday was the zenith of the weather system that was driving us and we knew that there was going to be some fairly windy conditions.

The sails that we had out weren't much, Baz and Max (the boom and main sail) were all put to bed, we didn't need the extra power as we were consistently doing 8.5 to 10 knots and Max is getting a bit tired these days after a long but eventful life, that only left Yuri and Stan out (Yankee headsail and
Staysail) and even then with Yuri poled out we only had 80% of it flying, great sailing.

As the watches have been broken into two, myself on one watch and Alexis and Cris on the other we have only been having short conversations between us at the change over times, but we all have agreed that the boat is going well even with the larger seas which are now around the 5 to 7 meter mark.
I was doing the early morning "dog" watch in blustery running conditions, 3 to 7am is a traditional watch where the crew tend to get very sleepy about half way through just before the dawn light starts to creep in, and there was no exception this morning, even with the stonky conditions we were having (fast speeds and strong winds)

So I was a bit dozy and not probably watching things closely enough, because all of a sudden Wilma gives a little wiggle and points the fat English girl straight down this wave face ! she had obviously been looking out of the corner of her eye and spotted this one coming in from the rear, and with her
reincarnated "Surfy Chick" previous life she just couldn't resist.

Well off we went like a bat out of hell, it was like sitting at the top of a hill and someone puts a skate board under your ass. What was a normal 8 to 9 knots suddenly became 9 to 10, then 11's, 12 and I couldn't believe it when we hit 13.1 knots, it just sat there surfing away for what seemed like ages
and then at the end we peaked with grand total of 13.2 knots. There were rooster tails of water squirting off the bow as we plunged head first down into the dark wave chasm, poor old Larry must have taken a right old fright seeing all those tons of water rush past his head (Larry's the anchor winch up on the bow)

The feeling of getting a heavy displacement yacht up to surfing speed would be in comparison to a Bungee jumper tying extra concrete blocks to your legs so as to increase the adrenalin rush with extra velocity when you first step off the platform to plunge hundreds of feet down.

And this is not the first time that Wilma has gone off surfing before, once in the Falkland islands her and Arnie collaborated, and when we all went down below decks as we were sailing along, she picked up a small wave assisted by a nice gust of wind and took off as well, bloody hit 17.5 knots
that time. And even the watch before I came on, Cris had mentioned also that she was looking for some waves as she had done a similar thing to him. Dam cheeky wench she is, but you have to love her spirit.

As you can see we have been having a right old time for many reasons, and overall we have had some superb sailing, and there is not much left to go as we are only 659 nautical miles from Valdivia on the Chilean coast.

But I do think it is important that all of you readers do get familiar with the "gang" which makes up Xplore, because when you next come sailing you will feel right at home, and know everyone that we have been talking about, but most importantly you won't be confused when you hear myself and the crew talking.

Can you just imagine standing down below decks when you hear me say "Oh I'll give Alexis a break, best I take over and turn Arnie on" now anyone not knowing what I was saying would think that we are all gay boys shagging this bloke called Arnie.


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Boats are for birds

Sailing boats at sea and birds are definitely there for each other. We marvel at how they fly with grace, speed and agility. They wonder about how we use our vertical wings, but never leave the water.

The ocean birds of the sea, the Wandering albatross, the Gannets, the Giant petrels, the Boobies, Sheer waters, Cape petrels and the S\torm petrels are just a few of those birds of a feather, so to speak.

They know when its time to fly, they are travelers like us, and cover thousands of miles as the transit the globe from nesting grounds to breeding grounds.

For them they use the winds like we as well, over 15 knots and they get lift and speed, over 35 knots they know its getting a bit too tough and its time to pack it in for the day, like sailors, there is a time and a place to have fun.

But in their quest to travel, they also have a need for amusement, and for that there is nothing better than a sail boat. Like a 10 year old in Disney land, its all fun, fun fun with boats.

They come in real close when they know its OK, they fly to the mast head and try to touch the mechanical bird perched at the top (our wind direction indicator) even try to bit and attack it, they roll off the wind drafts that the sails create and give them turbulence that hones their maneuvering skills.

It doesn't always go that well for birds and boats though, in recent years we have seen some funny, yet alarming sights. One bird in a venture to do aerobatics on the leeward side of our boat, was caught in a mid upside down barrel roll, and half way through the turn was hit by the back draft from the sails which catapulted him with no grace at all into the sea. Shell shocked we saw him recover from the swim.

On route from New Zealand this year we had a Petrel of medium size who obviously need glasses fly directly into the center of the main sail as we were choofing along at about 9 or 10 knots on a beam reach. The poor little bugger hit the sail and then bounced off onto the aft quarter deck of the
boat, up side down and stunned, he flipped and flapped and then rolled off the edge of the boat into the water, hard to tell if he was all right, but he was floating with a bit of a strange demeanor.

Our South Pacific crossing is nearing and end, with 1400 nautical miles left to travel to Valdivia, Chile we should hopefully be there in 8 or 9 days time.


Wednesday, June 6, 2012



You hardly feel like you're doing it


Because its comes so naturally

As your pulse quickens, you feel the instant response


With pain, it comes in sharp gasp's


On your pillow, it whispers softly in your ears


It's a matter life of death


Real deep, then you will smell the roses


As the stress and strain increases, breathe for relief


It never asks for too much, it's always there


Every day of our life, we live and let breathe