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Day 1533
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Ships Blog: Sailing Solo Across the Atlantic

Feb 19

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2/19/2013 7:35 AM  RssIcon

Feb. 13 - I left the Simon’s Town marina at 12:00 noon yesterday. It was shocking how high my nerves were running. My good friends from s/v Estrallita came to tend my lines and the goodbyes are always difficult. This was a big one. I am putting a years miles between myself and most of my cruising friends in just five to six weeks of sailing. I don’t know when I’ll see these friends again.

The weather was beautiful with a light southerly breeze. Motor-sailing I made my way South to the Cape of Good Hope. There I cut the engine, tacked to the West, and spent the rest of the days light watching the infamous cape drop slowly below the horizon.

Today my body is tired with the effort of preparing for this Atlantic crossing. The boat is moving well and my body is taking advantage by lying still, reading, and napping. My morning coffee didn’t happen until nearly two in the afternoon. No problem. I’ve plenty of time to settle into this run. The wind is coming in at between 8 - 15 knots from the West. That is pushing me further to the North than I want to go, but with weeks of sailing ahead it doesn’t really matter. If the wind continues to push me North I’ll look at making a stop in St. Helena. If it clocks back to the South then I’ll most likely carry on to the Antilles. I’ll let the wind decide for me.

Feb. - 15 I am a little uneasy at sea this time. Nothing is wrong per se, but I can’t seem to get settled in and comfortable. Two problems showed themselves almost immediately. The electric bilge pump, working on the dock, quit two days out. Jargo doesn’t make much water, but not having a bilge pump is one key recipe for disaster if anything were to go wrong. My first step was to check the manual bilge pump. Frighteningly, it had failed as well.

Looking closely at the rubbers on the manual everything looked fine. When I actuated the pump I could see air squirting from around the seal. Sure enough, an old hose clamp had failed. Luckily I was able to find a few spares and patch together a clamp long enough to fit around the seal. That done, I at least had one working bilge pump, even if it was manual. The problem there is that if I am fighting to find a leak there will be no time to pump simultaneously to inspecting the various leak points. Next step, haul the electric system out of the bilge. Sometime in the first two days at sea a wire had corroded through and separated. It was quick work to add new leads and get power pack to the pump. Both primary and back up systems are good again.

On top of that I am struggling with a dying battery bank. Running wing on wing down wind in 12 foot seas the autopilot is working hard steering the boat. That action combined with the sailing instruments and navigation lights are draining my batteries to zero overnight. Not much I can do about it out here, but it does mean that little pleasures like the stereo and occasional movie won’t be happing much. As long as the batteries hold out and keep the autopilot going all is well. If not, I may be looking at a small fortune to get a few replacements in St. Helena. Hand steering would be no fun. It is chilly and the seas are running. I haven’t yet hit my groove at sea, but I know it will come. The HF radio is having difficulty connecting to the station in Africa so weather is sparse and I don’t know if I’ll be able to send email or blog updates in. If you are not hearing from me, all is well, the radio just can’t reach its stations this far out already. Things should get more comfortable, sunnier, and warmer as I head further North.

Feb. 16 - It is a funny thing how it happens. One day you wake up and life on passage feels normal. The lethargy leaves and motivation to cook a nice meal, watch the waves, drink coffee, and tinker with the boat all comes back. There is something about getting past the three day mark. Sea legs return and suddenly life is good on board. Sure, the batteries are still going flat and the HF doesn’t want to download weather, but in the grand scheme these are not huge problems. It is even warming up a little.

To date, 580 miles down. To St. Helena that leaves ~ 1100 miles. If I skip that it is only ~ 5030 miles to St. Martin. I honestly still don’t know where I’ll stop next.

Feb. 17 - Two ham steaks seared golden brown, two scrambled eggs with lots of salt pepper and tobasco, two hot buttered slices of toast, and a cup of strong black coffee. That is how I started the day at sea this morning. The wind has died down to a very gentle breeze and Jargo is barely ghosting along at 3.8 knots. To put that in perspective if I was sailing in a large mall the morning speed walkers would be out pacing me. It is slow progress, but it is not unpleasant. I could motor and add another two or three knots, but I need to save the fuel for the equatorial crossing. The dreaded doldrums await and I will need every drop of fuel I can conserve between now and then to get across and back into the trade winds in the northern hemisphere.

The light breeze, gentle waves, and overcast sky make it feel like a lazy day. Not so lazy really. It has been a day to clean the boat a bit, make nice food, drink tea and coffee, read my favorite book (Steinbeck’s East of Eden - thanks Amanda!), and pull out the guitar I swore I’d learn how to play. The fingers vaguely remember the chords, but the muscles don’t have the memory to make the shapes on command. I’ve lots of time and with no one around to hear it is pleasing to make a bit of noise. No one would call it music yet. I can feel myself settling back into the rhythm of the sea.

Feb. 18 - My hands are cold with the cool evening wind. The sun set behind a ridge of clouds that only enhanced the beauty of the giant orb setting below the horizon. The bank of white cotton balls collected the red light and reflected it across the sky. The red wine in my hand caresses the back of my tongue and I can only believe the sun gives the same feeling to the clouds as it warms them from behind and below. Wrapped warmly in the fading sunlight and the envelope of retrospection from the wine I can’t help but think of my final destination.

First, it is hard to imagine a day more picture perfect for sailing. From the dawn the winds have blown steady on the beam at 10 knots. Strong enough to enliven Jargo to crash through the small swell at five to six knots, but not so strong as to disrupt an easy life on board. Day dreams linger and take on more detail than their nocturnal counterparts. Retracing my steps through adolescence I wonder what it means to return to the town I left at 18. Are there demons I left behind still lingering, waiting for my attention when I return? Will they recognize as I have that I am no longer the man, or boy, I was when I left? So much has lingered in a mind moved to other times. Returning now, some twenty years later, what balance must be struck between an old home, old memories, and the return of man who lived there as a boy?

Feb. 19 - The first week and 1000 miles lay under Jargo’s keel. The days are starting to blend together like the blurred blue line that barely separates the sea and sky on a distant horizon. The cabin smells of the simmering goodness of a ham hock with red beans, onion, beets, and carrots. Jargo rolls on her belly from side to side through the vast blue water while the wind pushes us from directly behind. This has become a pleasant passage.

I’ll continue to try and update the blog weekly, but I am quickly running out of range of my relay station. It could be a week or two before I sail into range of the next one in the Americas.

Location: Blogs Parent Separator Ship's Log

4 comment(s) so far...


Re: Ships Blog: Sailing Solo Across the Atlantic

Hey Lee
Enjoying your log since leaving CT.
Enjoying your thoughts too... somehow they are faintly familiar to me..
Thinking back in time to go forward to the past.. Interesting..
It all makes for a good read.
May the wind be with you!
Cheers - Zane - Ed's sister.

By Zane on   2/21/2013 12:07 PM

Re: Ships Blog: Sailing Solo Across the Atlantic


I came across your video on YouTube of your crossing from Texas to Isla Mujeres about 18 months ago and have been following your blog ever since. Thank you for blogging of this life altering adventure you've taken. Through your words you've have helped keep my sailing dream alive. Know that there is a cold beer waiting in Springfield Mo for you if you ever have the time!


By Jason Wells on   3/1/2013 7:09 AM

Re: Ships Blog: Sailing Solo Across the Atlantic

Well the good thing about having a trasnponder is that people can follow your progress. The bad thing is that people can follow your progress. Your last transponder report was 2/11/13. That is a long time ago now. I hope you are ok, you might want to check your transponder

By terry on   3/18/2013 1:55 PM

Re: Ships Blog: Sailing Solo Across the Atlantic


Hope everything is well on the passage. Been following your blog quietly for years now. Haven't seen a spot location or a post for a month now. Let us know you're safe.

By Mike on   3/26/2013 11:31 AM

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