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The Delivery Guy
John delivers new catamarans mostly from Cape Town, South Africa, to various destinations around the world - follow his next trip from London, United Kingdom to Fort Lauderdale, USA.
Radio Propagation and Other Things
John
30/12/2008

Oceans Dream is equipped with an SSB radio via which we have been sending and receiving our email. Unfortunately, radio propagation is so poor at the moment that we have been struggling to connect to the email server, located in Durban. So, this blog update is being sent via Iridium satellite telephone.

Not only is radio propagation down in the dumps, the fine electrical contractors that did the wiring, connections and set-up of Oceans Dream did not bother to install any ferrite suppressors on the wiring as they were supposed to. What happens each time we transmit on the SSB/HF radio, is that RF travels all around the boat via the electrical wiring and we loose our autopilot and other electronic navigation equipment. We also have LED indicator lights on the main switchboard light up when the circuits are off and RF interference on other equipment such as the battery charger and solar panel control unit. Not very nice when you need the systems to be reliable.

Since Christmas day we have been sailing during daylight hours under spinnaker, and doing reasonable mileage. However, at night we have been making very slow progress under genoa alone. The winds are really very light and are constant at around 8 to 12 knots only.

We have changed time zones twice so far and are now on GMT or UTC. There are no further time zone changes until a few days after we depart St Helena. And talking of St Helena, we calculated that at our present daily runs of 135 nautical miles, we would arrive during the night of 31 December and 1 January. We discussed this and have decided to go very slow during the next two nights which will result in us making landfall on the morning of 1 January 2009 so that all aboard can view the island from the sea during daylight hours, rather than making landfall at night and not having the opportunity to view the island as we make our approach in the dark.

As I type this I am on watch and every and I is pitch dark outside. I have been monitoring everything around us and we have had no visual shipping seen for the last few days. When I came on watch I switched on the radar and note that there is another small boat about 10 nautical miles on our starboard beam. I will pass this knowledge on to Luke when he comes on watch at midnight and he will in turn pass it on with each watch change through the remainder of the night. If the boat is still there in the morning, I will get a position and give it a call.

Today we had a magnificent display of a huge pod of dolphin come bouncing past us. They were obviously busy catching their dinner and did not come and investigate us and give us a personal show - pity, as we have not had much sea life around us for a few days. We have had a whale next to the boat but the bird life has all but disappeared. Lets hope we get some more sea-life as we get closer to St Helena.

Thanks for taking the time to read my notes and thanks to Shaun, ZS1RA, for sending the comments on to me. Until the next posting, regards from Adrian, Jackie, Luke and myself, John.

Happy Christmas
John
25/12/2008

To all family, friends and armchair sailors - Seasons Greetings from all aboard Oceans Dream.

Today is not only Christmas day but we also crossed the 07 deg. 30 minute east meridian in the early hours of this morning, which means that at 6pm tonight we put our clocks back one hour and it magically becomes 5pm again - we have a double happy hour! This also puts us on the GMT or UTC time zone.

Over the past two days we have had a fair breeze out of the south east, indicating that we are in the trade winds and that what we have now (15 to 20 knot out of the SE) will remain for most of the leg to St Helena.

The day is overcast and looks set to remain this way for the remainder of the day. Thankfully it is not raining! The outside temperature is in the mid 20 deg. C range and the sea temperature is 22 deg. C.

Our lunch today will be tuna salad and biscuits - the tuna will not be out of a can! Tonight we plan a meal of roast lamb cutlets served with fresh vegetables and baked potatoes. This to be followed with fruit salad and custard. Not bad for a Christmas dinner in the mid-Atlantic on a 40 foot sailing boat. We also have a brandy-laced rich fruit cake for afternoon tea.

Well, we are about half way to St Helena and maybe need to put up our spinnaker later today to try and get a few extra miles on the log for the next day. Hopefully we will make the island on the 31st but we need to increase our daily runs a bit to achieve this. More on our progress in the next few days.

So, with Adrian and Jackie happily celebrating at the helm (above), we all bid you well until the next blog post.

Observations
John
23/12/2008

We are under sail and have been since Sunday afternoon after motoring for the previous twenty four hours. Normally we should have winds out of the south or southeast where we are but it has been out of the west. Wherever the winds come from, I am not complaining - as long as we have wind that we can sail with.

In the last blog posting I mentioned the AIS system we have on board. The system lets us see ships from just over the horizon and each ship transmits its name, radio callsign, position, course, speed, destination and a host of other information. It is really a brilliant bit of electronic gadgetry. However, one thing I have noticed over the past few days, AIS aside, is the amount of shipping on our route. Normally on this route to St Helena we see a few ships the first day out of Cape Town and maybe one or two all the way to St Helena. The piracy off Somalia must be forcing many ships to use the Cape of Good Hope route which is the only reason I can think of for the shipping we are seeing.

This morning I noticed another thing I have never seen before. Next to the boat we have been passing little greyish floating blobs - thousands of them! On closer inspection I noticed that they in actual fact little crabs with huge pincers. They range from about an inch across to about five inches in diameter. Now, up to yesterday we had birds around the boat - and no crabs. Today we have thousands of these floating crabs and no birds. If those albatross only knew of the great delight just a day north, there would be a huge pre-Christmas bird feast going on!

Talking of Christmas, we are still considering what to cook for Christmas day. I think Luke has just solved the problem by hooking our second Tuna, a decent sized longfin as seen in the picture above.

So folks, from all aboard we send you greetings until the next post. John.

It's Sunday!
John
21/12/2008

Not too sure if we are happy with it being Sunday or not as we have no wind! But, we have two loaves of fresh bread about to go into the oven to eat with our fresh longfin Tuna that is going to be served as a Tuna salad in an hour or two - not bad for a Sunday morning.

In the early hours of this morning we had the ship "Canelo Arrow" pass us at a great turn of knots. As I type this she is motionless up ahead of us with apparent engine failure. I am sure her engineers have been working overtime to get the main engine up and running again. Not such a nice job when things go wrong. We have not spoken to her via the radio but are monitoring all the shipping passing us via the AIS (Automated Identification System) which is fitted to our vessel. It is quite a brilliant system as it gives us the name of vessels near us, their course and speed as well as a host of other data about it such as next port of call and ETA. Ah, the marvel of modern electronic gadgets.

As there are four of us on board, we are running a three hour watch system and thus each of us have a day off from doing a day watch each four days. Today is my day off and thus I am also the baker and lunch food maker.

Our diesel tanks are holding well and we have no leakage. However, there is still quite a strong smell of diesel in the starboard hull and in the one saloon locker. Adrian and Luke will be giving the area another wash down later today and hopefully, by the time we reach St Helena, we will have eradicated the smell completely. Jackie also appears to be over her queasiness and has found her sea legs.

So, from a slow moving, diesel powered sailing boat in the South Atlantic, greetings until the next post form all aboard - John

On the High Seas - Eventually!
The Crew
20/12/2008

Well, we departed the Elliot Basin in Cape Town during the morning of 18 December and proceeded to the fuel dock where we took on about 600 litres of diesel. Then we cast off our lines and headed out of the port with our next intended stop being St Helena Island. It was not to be! Luke reported the smell of diesel in the boat and we soon discovered that our main diesel tank had split with the liquid gold finding its way into the starboard hull. About turn and with workmen working furiously back in the Elliot Basin, the next morning we had two new Vetus tanks installed and at noon on the 19th we were back at the fuel dock to start the process of fuelling up again.

Now we have the wonderful aroma of diesel in the boat, which does not bode well for anybody that has not found their sea legs yet. Although none of us were feeling too good last night, only Jackie is still feeling a bit queasy, which we all hope passes soon.

During the last night we had a large amount of shipping passing us which has been keeping all of us on our toes - we had to change course twice during the night for ships that just did not bother to give us our right of way.

We did get some good sailing in but at about 04:00 this morning the engines were started and we have been motor-sailing since. Alistair (ZS5MU), who we communicate with each day, reported earlier that our wind should change this evening from WNW to SW and then South during the night as a small frontal system passes us.

We put out one of our fishing lines this morning and had a strike within the hour but lost a good sized tuna as quickly as it took the lure. Fortunately we still have the lure! Then to put a dampener on our fishing attempts, we had to take the line in at about noon due to a seal persistently following us - and the sod is still out there as I type up this report. As you may have guessed, we cannot put the line back until the fellow has stopped following us or else he will take the line and also chase away any fish near us.

So, there you have it - we are eventually on our way and heading for St Helena. I will post another update in a day or two but must report that radio comm's is not great.

Regards from all on board - Jackie, Adrian, Luke and myself, John.

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