Status Report

Berrimilla Down Under Mars Status Report 28 May 2008

By SpaceRef Editor
May 29, 2008
Filed under , ,
Berrimilla Down Under Mars Status Report 28 May 2008


Blonk:4723.44 17608.40 @ 0200 Wed 28/05/2008 17:20

Soft, woolly darkness – a bit like reading under the bedclothes with a fading torch as a kid – there’s almost no light from above so the sky is only just grey – uniform, dark, dull grey and the horizon merges into it so there is almost no frame of reference either – the boat’s movements seem randoom and you can’t anticipate and brace. Gyrations subdued in a fairly gentle sea but difficult nonetheless. Thick, dense overcast, base almost at sea level and we’re in and out of misty low cloud all the time – vis from perhaps 1/2 mile out to maybe three at best so constant vigilance needed. Berri’s masthead is a little platform about 6 inches wide and 9 long. It has the tricolour light at the aft end with the windex behind it, the VHF stub aerial in front to the right and the lightning conductor to the left and the anemometer sticks out ahead of the mast. In the mist, the effect is eerie – the tricolour streams its green, red and white sectors which reflect from the mist, and each bit of equipment casts its own shadow, so we seem to be sailing along under a glowing set of spokes and coloured lights. Very good check too, that the tricolor sectors are properly aligned. Looking up, I saw a ghostly glimpse of a big bird – unexpected and surprising – and there are the very occasional but very bright dino sparkles out to the sides in the surge – we’re doing 6 knots and long may it last!

All quite soft and gentle, but Lizzie makes it seem a whole lot more serious – she whizzes and whirrs and howls down at the back and it sounds just like quite strong wind in the rig so I’m always slightly edgy until I’ve got the different sounds isolated and sorted. Berri would be almost silently slipping along just now but for out tame banshee!

Given all this, I must get the raincatcher radar reflector up into the rig in daylight – I have already checked that all the christmas tree lights on the mast are working in case we get into a close encounter and we need to advertise with attitude.

The grib ain’t so rosy – the low is deepening and we need to get through that pass by Friday evening or we may have to sit it out this side. Not really much better the other side either, but the passage through is critical. Then Adak or Dutch depending on conditions and our diesel reserves.

Thanks to everyone who has sent us information on Adak and tides – Chris, H, Mjc, Speeds – and I’ll try to contact various authorities tomorrow ADT

Ann – assume you meant N Pacific – Dutch is on N side of island, so must pass through Aleutian chain to get to it. 3 passes close to it are all very dangerous for small boats – google Unimak, Akutan – so approaching through a less dangerous one – originally intended Amukta but current & wind have pushed us way west and Amchitka beckons. Sort of.

Australia operates 2 massively powerful transmitters, VMW @ Wiluna and VMC @ Charleville to coordinate distress, safety snd wx info- they have to put them on the edge of the desert s they doon’t fry all the local sheep. I was listening to VMC loud and clear and undistorted on 4149 earlier this evening. Must be nearly 6000 miles away. We’re now closer to Belgium sailmail stn than NSW.


lift off and excuses for our course!!! Wed 28/05/2008 13:10

We have lift!!! Its now 2100 Sydney time and the wind has come further round behind us than expected at all for now- thank you wind gods!! Long may it continue and fingers crossed that the weather gods aren’t just toying with us and we will get a battering of some sort from them over the next few days- now, if everyone can concentrate on sending them good and happy vibes, so they remain nice to us, that would be great!!

Also neglected to draw attention to the fact, in my last witterings, that we are not actually useless sailors but the reason our angles are so bad relative to the wind is current!!! (is true, is true) So whilst we might reasonably sail 045 in a strong E wind and a bit of a sea, what that actually gives us (currently, (haha)) is around 020 over the ground- not good. On the upside, unlike the entire length of most of the Pacific, this current was expected (think it might even be called the Aluetian Current) and we can be pretty sure we are in it since the water pretty quickly changed from 18C to 8C. brrrrrr!!!

Whatever happens,all appendages, as Whitters would say, crossed for the SSE breeze to last, well forever, round here would be nice!!!!

Much love again


4654.19 17525.17 Change of vegetable Wed 28/05/2008 10:53

The time has come, the Walrus said, to speak of other things: of shoes and ships and sealing wax, of mushy peas and kings…

As I write, there’s a can of mushies sitting on top of the cooling engine (yes!)getting its preliminary charge of heat before I stand it in hot water too really get it hot. Then it gets slipped into a polar fleece sock and down to the end of my bunk and – magic really – warm feet.

JG, thanks for camera advice – problem is that when you half press, it locks the focus and when you don’t know the distance or if its further than a boat length, it gets tricky. My albatross in the sun was about 50 metres away and there’s nothing that far out to focus on…bummer.

And if I’d had my brain in gear for the last few days I’d have realised that we have the phone number for US Customs in Dutch in the digital chart info. I will call them first thing tomorrow ADT and ask about Adak entry and they might even know about credit card facilities. There’s no Adak data in the chart.

McQ’s lift arrived and we’re sailing reasonably above our required track for the barn door. As McQ says though, the Examiner has a real chance to get fancy with us if she plays fast and loose with the big low forming ahead. We’ll see, I guess. It’s all grind from here.


McQ: Whether the weather be…and, of course, my feet!!

From our the latest grib we have, it seems there is a bit of a low low forming (might already have formed, but outside of area grib shows?)to the SW of us. In the grib for 10pm this evening (Sydney time) we can just see the easterlies on the edge of the page. Over here where we are we should have easterlies, or with a bit of good luck, SE, and thus a bit of a lift, at about 15knots. Grib for the next 24 hours shows low arc’ing northeast- up towards the Aluetians and where we will potentially be, will be in strong (20+knots) E wind- so we try and make as much easting as we can now, as it is likely we will be forced north, (and to the left of Amchitka) tomorrow. Though, its too early to say, and the gribs change all the time, but the outlook for friday 10pm (72 hours grib) show the low moving NE still and even stronger Easterlies, but just below, as you would expect, moderate S/SW around lat 49…which we may or may not be north of, depending!!

So, now listen up wind and weather gods, this is what is going to happen: we’ll have a wee lift tonight and tomorrow then the low is going to move a teensy wee bit quicker so in a couple of days we shall barely have a chance to think about where strong E winds are forcing us and soon enough we shall be swept up by S/SW winds straight up to the Aluetians, through Amchitka pass- the low will continue to pass over the top of us and S winds will veer SW then W then NW: all of which will have us stonking East and in to Dutch!!!! My ETA is the 5th now!!! Now, where’s this afternoon’s lift, so we can turn the engine off…??? hmmm!!

We’ll see what the next grib says, but there is also the possibility that the low will go under us and in a few days we will be stonking along east in a northerly wind but unable to make any northing!!

Of course, if things don’t go quite according to my plan and we have to deal with full on easterlies then, I guess we make our way north towards the islands and then at some point, either sit out the easterlies or tack back and forth to try and make our way to the east, which will be close to soul-destroying in a strong E wind (we’d be pointing SE or worse on port tack !!!) but then again, that’s sailing for you- a certain proportion of the time your destination is inevitably close to where the wind is coming from!!! It’s all part of the challenge and thats why we love it!! Lots of love to everyone,

ps forgot to mention my feet!!!

pps: kimbra, please may I have a ski mask and balaclava too, if you have room- was just thinking such thoughts during the chilly night watches!! Thank you. x


noon 4624.15 17503.44 Wed 28/05/2008 05:00

dtd 852 dmg 96 – still going sideways relative to Dutch. 136 to Alaskan waters.

From this rather uncomfortable, cold and damp little grot behind the Cone, things ain’t so good. IFF we can climb high enough to make it through Amchitka without having to park and wait, we’re about 9 days from Dutch. If we get lucky, that is!

Real headbang stuff. Engine running, heady now rolled in, boat set up to just slide the swell rather that pound into it and stop with every third wave. So we’re still 10 deg. below the direct track required of 028. Small chance from the grib that we will get a lift tonight and then again a couple of days out off the big low but it will be a close run thing. We have about 120 litres of diesel so in deep conservation mode. That is about 70 litres for distance and the rest for contingency – 70 litres is about 150 miles if we get the right conditions and we’re 400 from the other side of the pass, so Adak is looking like a definite if they will allow us to enter. And if we can pay by credit card – all our $US is waiting for us in Dutch. Been trying to contact our local friend but no luck – would be a real help if someone could please let us know if Adak has credit card facilities, so that we know whether we can burn diesel to get there.

Pearshapedness looms large! All applicable appendages crossed for the next week or so please.

I’ve taken the punt and rolled out the headsail, cranked it right on with the autopilot following the windvane to chase every lift and 33 deg off the wind with the engine running. We’re getting 015 – 025 with 5+ knots so while it doesn’t get us uphill far enough, it’s a lot more efficient than before and I hope we’ll get the lift tonight and be able to climb far enough under sail to make the pass. Iff all goes well, we’ll be in Alaska sometime late tomorrow with 220 odd to go to Amchitka.


4609.28 17453.50 and pearshaped Tue 27/05/2008 23:30

Seems that pearshapedness prevails, at least as far as Amchitka goes. To hit the centre of the barn door, we need to track 030M but current, wind and sea state only allow us about 015 – 020M. This means we will make landfall some 70 – 90 miles west of the pass and have to fight our way into the teeth of the easterlies in front of the low developing to the west. Poo! I have the engine running, full sail just at the point of stall, squeezing every inch of height we can get while the wind is soft. We may well have to do a Cook and park while it all blows through. No word from anyone re Adak entry yet, but we may well need to go in there for fuel.

Kimbra – agree with you, Tom and the other naysayers. We’ll go without a rifle – you can carry the oxo cubes and I’ll push the wheelbarrow with the pepper spray, McQ can be the advance Party – did I really say that?. And yes, ski masks (3 better than 1) but better still windsurfer helmets with visor – unlikely in Anchorage! May be a fisho equivalent in Dutch – will advise. Cd you please buy 3 metal half litre camping water bottles for hotties, hand warmers etc – they’ll need reasonably heatproof tops and the wider the top the better for dekettling into. Thanks re fleece.

Carla – thanks – thought it must be ice! And it certainly looked like bushfire smoke. We must be in some sort of propagation hole unless there’s a bug in the calculator – unheard of in Jim Corenman’s stuff, so I’ll go for the hole. The whole thing went red as we crossed 43 degrees.

Pascal – probably too late but if you do ring our satphone, please keep ringing back until someone answers. The person who hears it first will be in their bunk, the phone is sequestered in driest possible spot and awkward to get at …. but someone will get there eventually. Don’t leave a voice message – we’ll never get it. I’ll try your cell after this. We’re not in Dutch yet – I’d say about 10 days from here, all things considered.


SpaceRef staff editor.