Status Report

Berrimilla Down Under Mars Status Report 30 May 2008

By SpaceRef Editor
May 30, 2008
Filed under , ,
Berrimilla Down Under Mars Status Report 30 May 2008

FRIDAY, 30 MAY 2008

Water now brown…

We’re 73 miles from my waypoint. Grib says that the wind goes north tomorrow morning with some attitude (therefore potentially wind over tide so opportunity for renewed pearshapedness), we have flood tide tomorrow morning, we are due there around 0100 ADT – iff I’ve got the time right – I’m juggling with UTC, Speedy time (UTC + 1) Kimbra time for tides (UTC -10) and ADT (UTC – 8) and my cheesebrain gets confused. But it does look as if we have one good chance of pushing through early tomorrow AGW. Every appendage crossed please, applicable or no! Still no worthwhile wind and I’m playing the tiny bit there is for all its worth to squeeze inches out of it. Motor just above half revs from the feel and sound and I hope being very frugal while keeping 4 knots clicking over. McQ just off watch and asleep so can’t ask re BAPTO.

Water sludge brown – must be the edge of the tidal flow from the Bering. Still lots of kelp around. Woolly overcast, patches of light on the water, long rolled almost tubes of fluff SE to NW, rain cloud to the west. Thin dark line of cloud on the horizon to port that wishful thinking tries to make into Amchitka Island but cheesebrain knows that we won’t be able to see it from 60 miles.

Have spoken to Lacy Plummer, Harbourmaster at Adak – we have permission to enter from US Customs – yeehaa. Apparently there are 2 sailboats (when in Rome!) in Adak from Australia. Amazing.

MJC – of course! How could I have forgotten!

Speeds – agree absolutely about some aspects of sailing engineering. There’s also the ego side that shaves tolerances in order to win…

I’ll try to keep these updated but it may get busy, particularly in the pass.


Thar she blows!

Whales, weed, phosphorescence. nukes, krill, trench, terns, acclimatisation..quick, dash below checklist for this blog.

Too hairy to sit down here while on watch – more on this later. Down in the big trough between two wavest I looked up and saw a dark column silhouetted against the sky out on the port bow about 300 metres away – odd – it disappeared, then another – yesss! whale spouts – huge plumes of vapour and spray, perhaps 20 ft high and cylindrical – then they were white against the sea, from the top of a wave – perhaps 4 or 5 animals, going our way, only the briefest glimpse of one – long back, small fin, very Finwhale. And then – and then there was a black shape beside the boat, perhaps 10 metres away – I now think it might have been the tip of a pectoral fin – and a HUGE black shape surfaced – no spout, just massive presence, no apparent velocity – and then dived and turned towards us as it did – enormous swirl of water, longer than the boat. I had a Moby Dick shiver, but it did not reappear. I could not see any detail – just black.

McQ’s weed is kelp – enormously long fronds of the stuff with stems like tree trunks all longer then the boat and highly dangerous if it gets into the prop – hence not being down here blogging. We hit one – big bump and I could see a long sinuous line in the phosphorescence astern – took me a few seconds to work it out and reach for the throttle and it was gone. Lucky,

Phosphorescence – astonishing, amazing, I’ve never seen it like this. Berri’s path through the water is a silver green arrow with brilliant surges from the bow and a long undulating shaft stretching astern as far as you can see. It is bright enough to light up the sails and, believe it or not, the terns milling around the masthead as well. It’s they who are making the chirrups I mentioned earlier as the try to land on the masthead. I photographed one in daylight. I went and sat in the pulpit looking aft and just bathed in the raw beauty of it all – like the most subtle firework display, but cold and fierce as well. It seemed, too, as if we were going through a shoal of tiny fish or perhaps krill in terabytes. I wonder if it’s all a left over from the nuclear tests at Amchitka!

We’re now over the Aleutian Trench – up to 7500 metes deep – it would take me half an hour to run that these days. I wonder how long it would take for – say – a coke bottle to reach the bottom. And I’m deliberately trying to sit out there slightly underdressed to get used to the cold – and the damp. I like McQ’s blurky. Needs cold and wet somehow as well.


Mad McQ: in new knicks

Its getting dark. We are a bit out time wise, would have been more appropriate to change clocks in a couple of stages- say 3 today and 3 more hours in a few days time, but bit confusing really to do that and apoart from the fact it will be quite dark till about 9am for a bit, and its midnight and jsut getting dark now!! makes no odds to us really in the big scheme of things- on watch is on watch whatever time of day or night!!! (which hopefully answers a question I often get asked: do you anchor at night and go to sleep? (No)) I have clean knickers on, you’ll all be relieved to hear- so can sleep easy now- perhaps a rash decision given we may well go to Adak and have the opportunity of a shower- we shall see, but had to be done nevertheless.

AW saw whales on his watch. I haven’t seen any on my watch yet. boo! Up until this watch I haven’t spoken to myself (never mind the walrus) except to recite the Ancient Mariner out loud, which I think is acceptable in society, and doesn’t count as talking to yourself. This watch,however, I have been talking nonsense to the whales…chat that goes along the lines of ‘whalefish whalefish whalefish’ Fortunately, i know that there is one person out there that would believe I haven’t gone more mad!!! (Its a song, sort of) but I guessed anyone with their satellite trained in on me from space would think i was mad, hopping about the cockpit to keep warm and muttering ramblings about whalefish to myself!!! And still no sign of any real whales come to say hello!!! Well, all I really wanted to tell you in this blog was that I have new knicks on, but I said that already in the subject.

Am I going barmy, who knows???


McQ and other McQ and other McQ


PS: i’ve just invented a new word, ‘BLURKY’ Its not quite black and not just murky- its that smudgy, fuzzy darkness where there’s no discernable horizon but just faint wavy boundary lines in the clouds distinguishing between different shades of dark grey. Its a blurky night out there tonight. Now if everyone could incorporate ‘blurky’ into everyday usage, eventually I might get my own entry in the OED- cool!!!


4939.31 17832.19 @ 2245 ADT (Z – 8) Fri 30/05/2008 07:48

We’re about 140 miles south of my waypoint in the shallowest part of Amchitka Pass. AGW, we should get there on Saturday around midday local, on a flooding tide so – again AGW – we might just have a go at it. But in this little gig, that’s far too far ahead and extra tempting for Herself in the patents with stockwhip. Just idle speculation! Between here and there lies the Aleutian Trench, 7000+ metres deep and only 40 miles or so across – presumably where the two plates are interacting. The shallowest sounding I can find in the pass is 88 metres over a spike in the middle. We’ll see. Would be a fascinating place to cruise in the right boat – insulated, heated, big engine, space for wet gear – a proper Boot Room in fact. We’re a bit exposed in Berri.

Not much else to report – I wonder at the fortitude of Cook, his crew and all the other early explorers who sailed so far into this and beyond. Without a satphone or polar fleece or ‘technical’ yachtie kit. What does technical actually mean?

We should cross the international date line about half way to the waypoint on present progress, but that will change. Unless the wind changes, we will probably have to tack to get there.

Will keep this open…4 hours later…Somehow I’ve deleted the exciting bit so here goes again – where complacency took over and I sat down here writing this and looked up through the window and saw a huge container ship heading towards us. Grabbed vhf command mike, set it up, raced on deck, decided he was actually coming to investigate dayglo orange trisail, still in track tho not set, below main, thinking it might be a distress signal. Tried calling him – no answer, so rolled out the headsail to indicate business as usual and started to bring in the trisail. He turned away and was gone over the horizon in about 20 minutes. Grateful he bothered, but slightly unnerved that I didn’t see him first. He was heading along the line of the outside of the islands, so great circling from China to Vancouver or Seattle perhaps.

We have about 60 litres of diesel in the tank and 60 in jerries – decision time very soon. Not enough wind to sail, doing 5 kts almost all vmg motor sailing so very efficient use if the stuff but…125 nm to go to Amchitka – should bo ok to use 60 getting there and through if necessary, but will need careful judgement.


McQ: See Weed!!!

Just saw seaweed!!! Which is very exciting- means one of two things- either we are in the Sargasso Sea and thus lost or, or we are nearing land!!! How exciting!!! How exciting!!!

Theres a big lolloping swell about too- lake district size perhaps (as opposed to Himalayas), big undulating rollers. Notalota wind but headsail out and making good progress motor-sailing. All good.

Cold outside and its that time of the afternoon where its getting that way inside too, despite the engine. Probably too late in the day for a knicker change- means peeling off lots of layers to get to them, definitely a warmest-point-of-the-day job at this latitude (49 33N- woo hoo!!!) The sea is a general sort of grey colour with a kinda greeny-browny tinge to it all over, shiny though and clear and bright, so not an unpleasant muddy colour, more slightly metallic, dull chrome, in need of polishing, sort of colour, maybe. Sky is pretty much 8/8 cloudy with a twinge of blue occasionally. mostly white with long layers of low grey lines out towards the horizon.

Can’t quite believe we’ve been at sea for 50 days!! That’s five-zero!! mental!! That’s a long time.

Wondering really whether a knicker change is in order- its a bit like hoping that you’ll have your best knickers on if you get run over by a bus- imagine if something happened and we are close enough to civilisation now to be rescued and I got rescued wearing 50 day-old (slight exaggeration!!) knickers?? would be a wee tad embarrassing!!! Right, have decided- knicker change at watch change!!

Lots of love,

(Soon to be wearing clean knickers) McQueen xxx


4923.06 17802.55 @1800 ADT, noon tomoz sydney

Thanks very much to everyone offering help and advice. The plan – as it stands – is to motor into the Examiner’s latest little zephyr coming precisely from where we are trying to go – for as long as we can manage given our diesel reserve, keep some in hand for the pass and for the 100 miles or so in the other side to Adak, assuming Customs allow us in for an emergency fuel stop. If they do, we have to stay on the boat and depart once refuelled. Pity, but them’s the breaks – I rather expected as much. I took heart in hand and put the main up again with 2 reefs, having braced the other shroud as well, and we’re trickling along. I thought, earlier on, that things could be worse, it could be raining and the Examiner head me – cold, sleety rain for a bit. The grib – I relented, couldn’t resist it – is not too favourable but AGW’ we’ll make it as far as the pass in the next 2-3 days.

Huge, southern ocean type swell from the NE – not quite losing a cathedral in the hollow standard, but pretty big, and it’s not helping. Kimbra, I assume the Gary in Seattle is Gary Ramos – I’ll call him and maybe take or send the shroud there if no riggers in Anchorage, as seems likely. And we’ve raided the goody bag – randomness prevails – and decided that the occasion demanded that we open one of Hilary’s rummy cakes. Rather nice – and it will get us to Dutch.xx I wonder whether, if we do go to Andak, we will be the very first boat – or veeehicle – in the history of the world to travel directly from Sydney to Andak – or, for that matter, to Dutch. A little warm fuzzy for the mighty Berri if so. Certainly seems possible.

We’ve officially changed from Sydney time to Alaska daylight as well – as we are now well and truly here. It’s now 1535 yesterday for all you caffeinators Down There. Old time noon position is now out 1800 position.


McQ: and Whitters, time travellers (to yesterday!!)

Crikey, its all very confusing. Today it is four o’clock yesterday (instead of 10 in the morning today, or indeed midnight, tooday) Not a worm hole or Large Hadron Collider to be seen and we have decided it is yesterday!!! We haven’t got to the date line yet, just seemed wise to go to Alaska time as it was broad daylight at 3am last night and for local tide info etcit makes sense and when communicating with people on land, it stops the probloem that we might be satphone at antisocial hours!!! Fortunately my rather fab pink (to match my thermals) watch has a button you press and the top left hand corner changes from ‘SYD’ to ‘ANC’ (Anchorage I guess, its the right time anyway!!) Our noon position is now 6pm pos though!!

So all is well this arvo- even the sun came up out of the sea and is shining bright… we have more sail up, tacked too- so motorsailing upwind on port making about 060 ish, COG same on the tack- darn typical!! still easting no bad thing. going faster too!!

Boiled eggs for brekkie (lunch)- pretty mushy by now tho’!!! And Hilary, amazing cake thank you, we broke into the first this morning and pretty confident that if all else fails, this cake will keep our spirits up and bellies and brains nourished all the way to Dutch!!!

Also broke out my heavyduty norwegian hat that Marten gave me (well, I borrowed then refused to give back) during the Hobart…thank you Marten!! It is the best hat in the world. Thick and fleecy and perfectly snug and now staying firmly on my head!!! the turquoise o’neill is nice and fluffy but not quite adequate during the chilly nights anymore (has become my bedhat!!) Notalot else to report. still on v11 of AM, but recite aloud on deck regularly so know them pretty well, indeed am getting a touch bored of the first 11verses- looking forward to finding out what happens next!!!

Think Adak (approx 51ishN) is roughly in line with Cork- must be Cork week quite soon???

Now my fingers and nose are nicely warmed up, back to deck i go!!

Lots and lots of love




SpaceRef staff editor.