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Thu Nov 13 1:00:00 EST 2008

Earlier I mentioned AIS (Automated Identification System). This is a relatively new standard that involves ships transmitting name, position, course and speed information automatically. All ships over 300 tons are now required to have AIS transmitters. This basically means all cargo ships, but only the largest fishing vessels.

We installed an AIS receiver in the Canaries. I bought the only one available there at the time, called an "AIS Radar" by the vendor, NASA Marine Ltd (a UK marine electronics company). The name is misleading, it has absolutely nothing to do with radar.

On the screen, the cross in the centre is the receiver (my boat). North is up. The circle with a line behind it is the ship detailed on the right, the HEBEI INNOVATOR. The direction the line attached to the circle comes from gives you some visual idea of how close the ship will come to you. On the right you can see the course over the ground (COG), heading, speed, position and range (distance away) of HEBEI INNOVATOR.

There is an alarm that sounds (usually) when a ship comes into range. Occasionally the unit will display a target, but never sound the alarm. It is not clear from the minimal instructions that came with the unit why the alarm does not always sound. Despite that, as long as you periodically have a look at the screen when in poor visibility, it does a great job of alerting you to the presence of ships. We usually are alerted by the AIS before we see the ships--typically they show up on the AIS when 12-16 miles away (mostly because the antenna is mounted fairly high up).

Thu Nov 13 20:01:41 EST 2008 | George Conk
Interesting - because both Bernard Stamm and Alex Thomson (Vendee Globe racers) have been in collisions in that past three weeks.
Thomson (Hugo Boss) has now retired. Stamm had to return to port to repalce is boswpirt.
Picture update
Mon Nov 10 3:00:00 EST 2008

This is the picture I meant to include with the previous post (Another Pleasant Day Offshore).

Another Pleasant Day Offshore
Mon Nov 10 2:00:00 EST 2008

We've had nice tailwinds for the last few days. The breeze is dying out now (the picture is from yesterday), but it has been a nice stretch of pleasant, relaxing sailing in very nice conditions. We are expecting mostly light conditions (ie, often not enough wind to sail in) over the next few days.

Heading Towards Argentina
Fri Nov 7 9:20:00 EST 2008

We are heading towards Buenos Aires, Argentina.

We looked into going to Brazil, which was closer. Brazil had visa issues (we need visas for Brazil and don't have them), and it doesn't have as good facilities for working on boats as Argentina does. We might have been allowed into Brazil without visas on the grounds of needing repairs, but at this point, I've worked around the broken furler in all the wind conditions I expect we will see coming into Buenos Aires (which is not nearly as windy as South Africa, where we were originally going), so can't really say we would need to go into Brazil for repairs. We still have a long way to go (about 1050 miles), but we are looking forward to Buenos Aires.

I say we are heading 'towards' Buenos Aires, rather than 'to', because the sea has absolutely no respect for plans, and frequently causes changes in them. So it is best not to tempt fate by being too definitive about where the next destination will be.

We motored yesterday in a flat calm, and now have a great wind from the port side pushing us along nicely in small seas, warm temperatures, and somewhat sunny skies.

Sun Nov 9 14:26:06 EST 2008 | Peter
Richard, Quo Vadis? Tried your address but message bounced back. Don't hesitate to contact me if I can be of any assistance. Peter
Tue Nov 4 2:00:00 EST 2008

We see a fair number of birds, even hundreds of miles offshore. I am not sure what kind of bird this is, but they fly close to and around us often.

We are in the Variable belt of winds and, true to their name, they are being very variable. Going has been slow for the last few days--wind direction has varied a lot, and wind speed has been 5 to 30 knots. We've been raising and lowering the fore-staysail (the sail with the broken furler) as necessary (hardly ever), and that has been working out well.

Changed Plan
Thu Oct 30 13:25:00 EDT 2008

One of the important things about making long sailing trips is to be flexible about many things, including the course and destination :).

Today we changed course. We were heading towards South Africa, and are now heading towards South America. This was a result of the roller-furler (device that rolls up the sails when you don't want to use them) for the trinquette (fore-staysail) failing. There are three roller-furlers on this boat. One roller-furler failed in the Canaries and was replaced. At the time, I tried to replace all three furlers, but the supplier only had one in stock, and there were problems and delays getting them delivered to the Canaries. I was in the process of ordering two new furlers for delivery to South Africa when this one failed.

Because we are currently much closer to South America than Africa, and because the sail which this furler handles is the sail used most for heavy-weather (the farther south you get into the Southern Ocean, the windier it gets), it seemed best to head for South America, rather than continuing with the original plan to South Africa.

Exactly where in South America we are headed now is still under investigation. It depends on things like wind, repair facilities, parts availability and visa requirements.

The Plan
Thu Oct 30 9:15:00 EDT 2008

For those who have been wondering why we have been taking the route that we have, this picture shows the planned route from Cape Verde. The route is long, and indirect, as it is planned around weather systems, not the shortest distance. The idea was to cross the ITCZ (doldrums) where it was relatively narrow, get as far south as possible using the SE Tradewinds, then go south through the Variables, and then go east with the Westerlies.

Getting all the south in on the western side of the South Atlantic avoids having to beat directly into the SE Tradewinds on the eastern side of the South Atlantic (which extend further south than on the western side). Avoiding the South Atlantic High was a key point to the route chosen, as inside the high, there is very little wind, so it is much faster (unless you have a lot of fuel to motor with) to sail around the high, where there are much better winds.

BTW, my access to this blog while I am at sea is limited to posting updates. I am not able to see comments on the blog until I get to somewhere with an internet cafe. So if you have posted a comment, thanks very much, I will read it after reaching shore. Email to my regular (non-satellite) email address also does not get to me at sea, and will be read ashore.

Tue Oct 28 10:15:00 EDT 2008

As we get further south, we get more wind, so faster sailing conditions (though you can't see it from this picture, which was taken a few days ago).

Out of the Tropics
Sun Oct 26 18:55:00 EDT 2008

We have now sailed far enough south to no longer be in the tropics (by sailing south of 23 degrees 27 minutes south latitude).

It is still hot.

We left the trade winds yesterday, and are now in the variable wind belt. True to their name, the winds have been variable so far, mostly very light amd favorable.

Mon Oct 27 8:11:26 EDT 2008 | Blaine
Great to hear you're making progress and doing well! Fill us on in the plans for the future - are you heading to Brazil or doing down and around the cape? Are you still going to head north towards Nova Scotia?

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