Status Report

Berrimilla Down Under Mars Status Report 28 April 2008

By SpaceRef Editor
May 1, 2008
Filed under , ,
Berrimilla Down Under Mars Status Report 28 April 2008


Comms 0411.26 16250.25

A Rubaiyat night. Fluffies, 1st mag stars, halfish moon, dinos going off with abandon. Sooooo nice to be free of the freckleclenching anticipation of the next joust with Vlad the Impaler – for a short time anyway.

A word or two of explanation to reinforce McQ. We do not use satellite communications from the boat for this blog. Way way beyond my tiny budget. Instead we use a fantastic, almost free system called sailmail – and worth a look – that uses stone age technology (HF radio)and some sophisticated digitals to transmit to and from earth stations, which then put our messages into the email system on the internet. At the ranges we are working, transmissions can be desperately desperately slow – 200 characters per minute sometimes – and we are only allowed 10 minutes connect time each day as it is a shared system. If we time transmissions to the best radio propagation times we can just manage the volumes we need to send and receive but, of course, other people are trying to use the same frequencies at the same time and it’s not always easy. Our last download took me 4 tries and used almost all our daily allowance. Fortunately, it is averaged.

The purpose of the exercise is to get our stuff on to the website. Receiving your stuff is a privilege but not essential. Both depend absolutely on a clever and gentle soul called David Speed, our web dude as McQ calls him. He volunteered to do what he is doing, which he does as well as having to feed his cat, run a business, cut his lawn and get harassed by his bank manager, so we have to look after him too. Among other things, he edits and pastes your stuff into a single message that he sends us each day.

So – the golden rules – please keep it short, about 5 lines max, and not every day – around once or twice a week as a guide. I know that’s a dismally long time for facebookers, but hey, that’s how this thing works. If you must go longer, Speedy will be the arbiter of what we actually get to see. At this end, we have to limit what we write as well – about half a screen is our guide at the mo.

All of which said, it’s always great to get your messages.


noon 0510.37 16307.20

dtd 3920 dmg 109 so McQ wins today’s sweepstake.

DMG since we started about 1900 miles, so about a third of the way.

Thanks Kimbra – spot on so far. Could you please do a series of potential waypoints from the equator to Dutch starting at about 164 E using your wx files? I’ll stick them into the laptop and we can chase them.

Wind has just died. Damn!

Some news from the waterfront, so to speak. I swapped watermakers after expenditure of buckets of sweat and the backup seems to have the correct output – close to 4 ltrs/hr – so will give us more water for the bang. Or the buck. Or the diesel. And Whizzy Lizzie will actually cover the watermaker’s 4-5 amps as long as we have breeze, so no need for the engine. Wood firmly touched, of course.

Caroline – cool and froody – glad you like HHGTTG. The Vortex is THE place to be – Berri’s cockpit to a T. And isn’t ‘smalls’ a knicker euphemism?

Carla – yay! thanks for both messages – prob too much crap around to see the ISS this time but you never know. The best passes are the high elevation ones – gets a bit murky towards the horizon. And I LOVED the delicate irony of ‘applicable’. Keep em crossed! Wind just hanging in at the mo, and 600 to go to the trades – minimum 6 days of keepin’ ’em crossed. Cd get uncomfortable but -hey! its in a good cause. Don’t know how to sms you back and anyway v expensive, so we’ll keep going this way? Perhaps you could let Speed know about the passes as well and perhaps put the link to the predictor on the website? Love ya too!(Speed having a think about this – Ed)

Later – was transmitting this very slowly and hit by huge squall, unexpected. Rushed on deck, 40 minutes of intense sweaty work dousing furler, re running preventers, tweaking main, hand steering, slowly abated and back down again. Tx aborted so time to add a bit. Been an interesting day. 2 reefs early to accommodate big squall, left them in. Mod to furler to sort drum problem, tweaker on the jib sheet to avoid having to move the car every time we take a bit on or out, watermakers swapped, first attempt at starvation rations (not really, but reduced anyway) indicates that if, as a survivor, I work this hard, I’ll be the first to be eaten when the others get hungry. Raging thirst already and made a cup of tea. Think I’ve earned it.

Love yez all.


McQ: 04o52’45S 163o03’35E Nearing the Pink Neon Sign…

Hey everyone… not far to go now to the equator- less than 300miles, so thats 3 days, at least, but not far in the big scheme of things!!! Then another 300 after that to some steady trades apparently- thats only one hobart/fastnet, which of course is a good way of measuring ocean distances (unless of course you are doing the hobart or fastnet!!!)

I have completely forgotten what I was about to say, oh yes, this will be my fifth equator crossing (at sea level) 3 by sail and one crossing we swam cause there was no wind!!! mental!! In alex’s case there have been two by sail and (nonchalantly) ‘4 or 5 by aircraft carrier’ so fortunately neither of us will need to be subjected to a Neptune ceremony… been there done that. Of course though, we must not forget neptune and as is traditional we must give him a gift or two as we pass. I wonder too whether the pink neon sign that lights up and says in giant letters ‘you are now crossing the equator’ will still be there??? It has always always been up in the past (Its true!!!), but funnily enough, just won’t seem to photograph!!!

So we must think of a pressie for Neptune… It is supposed to be something important to you, so the remains of that last pack of cigs that I left in Sydney would have been ideal, except they probably would have got smoked by now or gone to Neptune by way of water damage by now!!! So, what else? we finished the gin already. We could give him a beer but we might not have been abstemious enough for that!!! Diesel, is pretty precious but I don’t think the idea is to assist in polluting all his wee fish and their friends!!! Water now, perhaps, but that might just be silly, as would passports. I have no money so can’t give him dollars!!! I think I am going to have to settle for a few snakes and a tim tam- lets hope Neptune has a sweet tooth, indeed!!! Any other suggestions welcome!!!

Am marginally distracted cause can see big momma of a squall out the window so will be back in a bit but best go standby on deck ready for some activity (and prepare to get very wet too!!!)…

Lots of love



ps. If anyone wants to write directly (via our web dude) to us but not to be posted on website that is fine; click on the contact link but please keep it to text only and 5ish lines max as that is all our system can really cope with. much appreciated, cheers.


stuff 0524.20 16310.16

Izz – Cortes’ men would have said the same, but in spanish, unless I’ve got him mixed with one of the others – pizzaro perhaps. One of them slogged across the isthmus from the carribean to the pacific midst much hardship. didn’t some DWM like tennyson write a poem ‘alone on a peak in darien’ or something similar?
Malcom – tks for purse seiner – that’s what it was for sure. But I thought they hunted in pairs for some reason. Also for colour of lightning. Question – we’ve had a 25 deg difference between hdg and course over grnd as if east current 2-3 kts – is it so?
Mind games 1: played this in the atlantic too – if every ship that had ever been in this patch were here now, all around us, what would we see? Lots of WW2 warships, including Jack Kennedy in PT 109 perhaps, some early explorers – chinese junks, portugese carracks, other SE asian craft…not much modern shipping passes here, I expect, and, of course, the fishermen. A bit out of the way for the polynesians too.

mind games 2: I sometimes occupy the neuron with silly sums in the small hours, just to keep it awake and not hallucinating. My best marathon time was a bit under 2.42, or about 9 knots in round terms if I’ve done the conversion right. That means i was running about 30% faster than we’re sailing now. Looked at at night, the water rushing past always seems to go faster but it still seems awful fast. Today, of course, I’d find it hard to keep up with berri.

We’ve been moving all night – about 6 kts in 12-13 kts easterly with occasional softish squalls. Havent run the engine significantly yet so no news there. more sums – there should be about 150 ltrs of water in the tank – so if no watermaker, we’re on 2 ltrs/day each to Dutch. Grim. Am going to practise – mug of tea for breakfast, powdered milk, 4 sugar lumps, perhaps half a litre. 750ml Con at noon with liferaft rations, and a litre of water at night with more rations. Already feeling thirsty.

Huge squall just took my entire day’s sweat ration to get sail in, reefs done etc. Furlers are great but they do have their idiosyncrasies.

And we have another purse seiner with us. This one has a helicopter on the upper deck.


SpaceRef staff editor.