Roaring Forties (16,120nm)

I was pretty far from my original waypoint off Easter Island. I underestimated just how far west the SE trades were going to push me. I’m so glad to be out of those southeast headwinds! The good news is I’m still on schedule, and should be rounding the horn by mid-January (or earlier). The climate is changing in a hurry. The temperature has been down to the low 50s at night and I’ve been having days with that grey featureless sky and steady rain. I even had a bit of fog which I thought was pretty funny. After the Arctic, fog has become a joke. The water has also gotten cold. I regularly take saltwater showers. Well, I guess it’s a shower. I dump a couple of buckets of saltwater over my head, lather up with soap and shampoo, then dump a few more buckets on myself and call it a day. I did it a few days ago and was shocked by how quickly the water has changed temperature.

I’ve officially given up on fishing in the Pacific Ocean. I’ve lost too many lures to sharks. About a two weeks ago I watched a shark bite right threw my wire leader and run off with my lure. I’ve had several hard plastic lures get bit in half, other lures with hooks ripped off. I use 350lbs test and relatively small lures, so it takes a big fish to steal my lure but it’s happened so many times in the Pacific that I’ve decided to quit fishing until I get into the Atlantic. There are less sharks in the open Atlantic, the open Pacific seems to be full of Oceanic white tip sharks. At least I’ve run into a few of them. I don’t think about sharks very often, as long as I’m above the water line they don’t really matter. At this point sharks are the least of my concerns.

I still have plenty of shelf reliance freeze dried food. I’ve also gained back most of the weight I lost in the Arctic. Between a healthy diet, pulling on lines and pumping my water maker, I’m in great shape physically. Although between pumping my water maker and wrestling with my sails 24/7 my hands have become pretty chewed up. It hurts to make a fist. I’d say I’m doing pretty good considering I’ve been underway for 184 days strait. I have been craving chicken wings lately, or a fat slice of cheesecake, or a pint of Guinness. Ok I lied, several pints of Guinness. Anything unhealthy sounds awfully nice. Then again I never get tired of my shelf reliance food.
I crossed into the roaring forties with the winds blowing 30kts. I thought that was an appropriate introduction. I imagine I’ll see much stronger winds before I get to the horn. It’s hard to say what’s going to happen. It’s really up to Poseidon; all I can do is give it my best. Whatever happens, I doubt it’s going to be boring.
FORTITUDINE VINCIMUS

Posted in Uncategorized | 17 Comments

South Pacific

So, I was 15 miles from land the other day. I never saw Ducie Island but I wasn’t far from it. Apparently it’s uninhabited and teeming with Galapagos sharks. Not a place to spend your honeymoon. The idea of land seems very foreign to me. I haven’t seen any other ships in some time and not much marine life. It’s just me, the clouds, sky and water. Every day the same thing. Although at night the stars are incredible. I’ve been spending a lot of time working on the boat the last week or so. I thought I did everything but then I sat down and made a new list. On a boat there is always something that needs to be done. It’s a good way to spend a day of light winds. At the end of the day you feel good because you’ve been productive. I remember seeing a commercial right before I left advertising an anti-depressant you take on top of another anti-depressant (it might lead to suicidal thoughts). The idea that a pill will solve your problems is insanity. I took Prozac from 13 to 16. I just stopped taking it one day when I was 16 and didn’t feel any different. Back then they were feeding me all sorts of pills. Anyway my point is, productivity is the world’s greatest anti-depressant. If you feel like you’re doing something with your life, then you’re happy. It’s when you feel like you’re not going anywhere in life that depression takes over.

Today is the first time in 41 days that I had the wind and waves aft of the beam. Man is it nice to have some following seas again! I’ll have good northerly winds tomorrow followed by three more days of head winds, and then I should finally be done with these stupid southeasterly winds. The westerlies are coming. I’ve also set a couple new personal records, I was on the same tack for 21 days and I’ve been barefoot for 53 days strait. I did finally wash all my dirty socks from the Arctic, they were wicked. I’ve also been trying to improve my grammar, I don’t know if you guys can notice.

I’ve been thinking about the Americas a lot lately. Historically speaking it wasn’t that long ago that the Americas were considered Terra Incognita. If only I could go back in time and tell Ptolemy all the things I have seen and done. I would have to learn ancient Greek first. It’s interesting to think about how philosophical and technological advancements have moved in a westerly direction throughout history. Starting with one of the oldest cities we know of, Babylon. First through the Arab world (the Arabs invented the rudder and many other things) then to the Persians (who were much more advanced than the western world gives them credit for). The Greeks borrowed much of their understanding from these two cultures and also created entirely new ways of thinking (Athens was the first democracy). The Romans borrowed much of their understanding from the Greeks and built upon that foundation a great empire. Europe took a step backwards during the dark ages but that was only temporary. The Florentines, Genoese, Franks, Holy roman empire, Castilians, Portuguese, English all built upon the philosophical and technological legacy left by the Romans. Then moving west again across the Atlantic where a new form of democracy was born with a legislative, Judicial, and Executive branch, ultimately ending the power of the monarchy within the lands to the east. The original inhabitants of the Americas had the advanced cultures of the Maya, Aztec, Inca, ect, but they didn’t have the benefit of learning from the Arabs, Persians, Greeks and Romans. So when (Imperialist) Europeans finally arrived, the inhabitants of Terra Incognita were at a great disadvantage. Now this has absolutely nothing to do with sailing but has everything to do with where my mind is. Although my body is stuck on a boat in the middle of the ocean my mind travels through time and history trying to make sense of this planet we live in. Being lost in thought helps me keep my mind healthy.
FORTITUDINE VINCIMUS

Posted in Uncategorized | 13 Comments

Happy Thanksgiving

15 12.088 South
I had a nice thanksgiving. I ate the last of my salt cured pork, I broke out the sun oven and baked some brownies. I even had some whiskey that I set aside for the holidays. Shelf Reliance gave me the brownie mix, the sun oven doesn’t get too hot so it takes about 5 hours to bake a batch, but man are they good! I have a lot to be thankful for, I’m thankful for butter powder, my windvane, for the fact that fiberglass is stronger then it looks. To be honest it doesn’t feel much like thanksgiving when your alone.
I’m happy to have made it through the “crazy latitudes”. I call it that because it’s a infamous area, known to make sailors lose their mind. For me it started at around 9 north and continued until 3 south. That’s roughly 720 miles of thunderstorms, light winds, and opposing currents. The French have a word for the doldrums that roughly translates into “terrible miserable darkness”. I’d say that sums it up nicely. It felt like I was trying to sail through the twilight zone, I’m no crazier then when I left. The ocean can kill me, but it can’t break me. Speaking of going crazy, theres a good documentary about Donald Crowhurst and the effects of being alone at sea for to long, called Deep Water. If you have Netflix you can watch it instantly. I highly recommend it. One good thing came out of my trip through the doldrums. I was able to get a huge amount of repairs done to the boat, and I also did some much needed laundry. I’m about as ready as I can be for the horn.

Since 3 south its been head winds, head winds, headwinds. I’m just slowly beating into the seas trying not to beat my boat to death. No matter how much I reduce sail I still pound from time to time. St Brendan is getting pretty beat up. Even though the westerlies to the south of me are going to be dangerously strong, i’d rather deal with that then this southeasterly slugfest. My mast has been making a unsettling grinding noise. It started at around 35 north and has gotten louder since the equator. It might be no more then a bad noise or the aluminum mast could be grinding against the stainless mast step. Over time the stainless would win that fight. I don’t know. I prefer a keel stepped mast. I couldn’t be picky under the circumstances. All it all the Albin Vega is a great boat for its size and affordability, but theres not much room. I’ve still got a long way to go and some nasty water ahead, I’m trying to keep St Brendan in one piece. This boats been through a lot already, not to mention it’s 40 years old. Hopefully I’m out of these SE winds in 7-10 days, I could be longer. Theres only one way back home – south.
“We are all things that make and pass, striving upon a difficult mission, out to the open sea.” – H.G. Wells
FORTITUDINE VINCIMUS

Posted in Uncategorized | 17 Comments

Equator

Day 152, 13,334 miles

Don Backe used to be the head of a school until one day (25 years ago) he got into a bad car accident and became paralyzed. They didn’t have the jaws of life back then so it took several hours to get him out of his vehicle. In the mean time his spine was swelling. He could see the rescue helicopter sitting there but he was stuck. Most people including myself would have a very hard time being paralyzed but Don has a level of optimism that few people have. He was able to move on with his life without being depressed and saying “woe is me”. (His troubles are far from over he has been bed-ridden for the last 28 weeks and is just now getting better.) After the accident he got together with another guy and started C.R.A.B. You see the thing is, anyone of us could become disabled. Thats why I think C.R.A.B is a good origination – you’re not promised tomorrow, sometimes life can be incredibly hard especially if your dealing with a debilitating disability. An organization like C.R.A.B can make a big difference to those who are dealing with extra ordinarily tough situations.

I entered the East Northeast trades, which blew hard enough to keep me down to my second reef point for six days. It was a bit annoying having 6-8 foot seas hitting St Brendan’s beam, over and over, day after day. I have such low freeboard that my deck was awash the entire time. Shes a wet ride! You should hear the sounds this boat makes. It cracks and creaks, moans and groans like an old pirate ship. The Vikings used to say a boat should flex for speed. Well this boat flexes alright. The fiberglass is always flexing under the pressure of the sea but the wood inside doesn’t like to flex so it complains all the time. This is nothing new, it’s been like this since I left the Chesapeake bay. I’ve never sailed such a loaded boat. I couldn’t even think about fishing in the easterlies. Unfortunately things are going to get worse before they get better. I made it through the intercontinental convergence zone. Its a strange place full of thunderstorms and lightning. One moment you have strong easterlies then out of nowhere the wind changes to southerlies, then northerlies, then some other crazy direction. Lots of micro bursts. When the storms leave your left becalmed. The cool thing was that you could see every different type of cloud mixed all together. It looked unreal. Now I’ve entered the SE trades, and you can see the dilemma. I’m trying to go SE and these trade winds are running me off course and may continue to do so for the next 1,000 miles. I’m getting pushed west and the only thing I can do is try to do is make up for it when I get into the westerlies. As I get further south the winds should become more east, but I’ll still be close hauled. This means that I have to beat into the wind and waves for a long, long time, which is terribly uncomfortable and hard on the boat. It has also become quite hot. I sweat all the time, in my sleep, while I read, you should see me after I have pumped the water maker for a half hour. I’m soaked. The last couple of days have been absolutely aggravating. I sailed into an area with a 3kt northerly current and then the wind died. My engine is reliable but not powerful. I only go 3kts at sea so I’ve had a very hard time getting south, although I’ve managed to go every other direction. I even motored backwards while heading south at one point. I can’t believe such a strong current could be found out here in the middle of no where! I’m still battling the current as I write but its starting to ease up a bit. I just wish the wind would come back and help me out. I only made it 16 miles south yesterday.

My sat phone email finally died. It’s been slowly getting worse since the Arctic. This means I’ve now lost communication with the outside world … for the most part. I sent this email through my Predict Wind satellite communicator so I still have some communication. The problem is this system doesn’t shrink the files like that sat phone email did so it costs more money. At the same time its pretty cool that I can send an email from my weather forecasting device. This also means I can no longer see the comments you post on the web site. It’s too bad, those comments made me feel less lonely. Keep posting your comments, I’ll read them when I get back and finally see my web site for the first time in its full glory. I can no longer post pictures on the web site, I’ll post them when I get back. The bail on my boom also ripped off (it was riveted). I tried to bend it back and through bolt it but I couldn’t bend it. I rigged a new bail with some Amsteel line. I just have to watch for chafe. It was the boom vang bail not the mainsheet bail. Also all four solar panels have died. Three of the panels are the roll up kind (solar film). They started to rot early in the trip. I’m sure some company makes good solar film panels, unfortunately the company that made mine must be run by a team of inbred jackabites. I thought my one hard panel would last but it died a couple weeks ago, I have no idea why. It’s a shame, you can get good power from solar panels. That leaves me with just my old wind generator, my alternator and my silly little human powered generator. Oh well, no use crying over spilled milk. My new tiller pilot also bit the dust. It had an engineering flaw. Whenever the arm was all the way out or all the way in it kept trying to go instead of automatically stopping. So over time it chewed up its own gears. I really can’t believe that the designers could look past such a crucial flaw. But whatever, its dead.

It’s true, the great age of exploration has been over for some time. This last March 29th marked 100 years since the deaths of Scott, Wilson, and Bowers (Oates and Evens dead shortly before). There are no new undiscovered lands, and nearly unlimited information can be found on a computer just a few clicks away. But there is still so much to learn. I consider myself a bit of an explorer. I’ve spent the last ten years either saving money for trips, planning trips or doing trips all over the world. Its not a paid profession – being an explorer is a form of financial suicide. You can only do it for the education. Even after every single thing on this planet has been cataloged, there is still so much a person can learn about themselves. We should never stop exploring, for exploration is the physical expression of intellectual passion. (A C-G)
(Through Endurance????)
FORTITUDINE VINCIMUS

Posted in Uncategorized | 15 Comments

1300 miles west of Mexico

I’m at the same Latitude as the BVIs. What I would give to be on Jost Van Dyke, posted up in front of the Soggy Dollar with an ice cold painkiller in my hand. I might as well be on a different planet.

I’ve entered the Easterly trades! Its east northeast, which will become more east as I head south. Then I’ll deal with the doldrums by the equator (ITZC), then as I get south of the equator the winds will turn from east to east southeast to southeast. Then I’ll have another horse latitude (I’m guessing there is one in the southern hemisphere) then the westerlies, and around the Horn I go. I’ve still got about 5,500 miles before the Horn. Still on time for a mid January rounding of Cape Horn.

I caught a Mahi some time back. Well, almost caught a Mahi. The fish didn’t fight until it was two feet from the boat then it jumped out of the water and off the hook. More power to him, I guess, the fish will live to see another day. Twice now I’ve had tuna right next to the boat but they ignore my lures. I bought a bow and arrow before I left and modified it for bow fishing. I woke up a few nights ago at 2 or 3am and went out to adjust the windvane. I looked down and with my headlamp saw a whole school of tuna around me. I rigged the bow but they were gone by the time I got back on deck. Now the bow is ready so If I see another tuna by St Brendan, I’ll shoot the little bugger.

Its been light winds mixed with nice 15-20kt winds mostly out of the east to north northeast. The temperature has been around 75-80 and with a light breeze its about prefect. The waters the most beautiful color of Blue and the clarity is incredible. Im going to get spoiled sailing these waters. I did have a bad squall hit me out of the blue five or so days back. I had my asymmetrical sail up and the wind picked up speed faster then I could drop the sail and my whisker pole bent severely. I need that pole to work so I’ve been thinking about how I’m going to repair it. I have a few ideas, I’ll figure out something. I tuned my rig the other day. My shrouds were down to 5% breaking strength so I brought them back up to 10% breaking strength. Then I decided they were to tight so I brought them back down to 8% and ill probably mess with them again today. Tuning a rig is more of an art then it is a science. I’ll just keep making minor adjustments until I’ve got the rig perfect. I also climbed my mast and did a full rig inspection. It looked good, but its hard to tell with stainless steel as it rots from the inside out.

Freighter traffic in the Pacific ocean is almost non existent compared to the Atlantic. I saw 6 or 7 freighters between the latitudes of LA and San Diego, but thats about it. Well, I did see part of a freighter yesterday. It was to far away so I only saw the wheel house infrastructure. I usually hate freighters, I consider them the cockroaches of the sea. There big, indestructible, and all over the place. In the Pacific I’ve seen so few of them I actually enjoy them. Its nice to know im not the only human out here.

Last summer when I left on this trip 46,000 people had died in Mexico since 2006 due to drug related violence. 19,000 in the last 16 months. So that means by the time I get back to Annapolis theres a good chance that more people will have died in Mexico over a six year period do to drug related violence then all the US soldiers who died in the Vietnam war(56,500). Crazy! Mexico is having a civil war, but its a new type of civil war. Its the cartels against everyone. Theres your random fact of the day.

FORTITUDINE VINCIMUS
Matt

Posted in Uncategorized | 19 Comments

South…..ish

On a totally random note today (Oct 17th) is the day that Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown, solidifying America’s independence from Britain. It is also the day that I finally have emptied my fuel bladder, now I can roll it up and stow it away. I’ve had a love hate relationship with the fuel bladder. On one hand, it was the only way I could have brought enough fuel to guarantee my completion of the Northwest passage (really there was no guarantee I would make it, but at least I had enough fuel). On the other hand, it was leaky and messy and I’ve been smelling Diesel for 126 days. I was always able to stay one step ahead of the leaks (for the most part) and in reality the fuel bladder was a god-send. It was donated by John (the manager of Ferry Point Marina) and his dad. When they gave it to me it was fine. The problem was I had to cram it into a place it wasn’t meant to fit in, then I filled it with 600 pounds of diesel. It held up well for the first 4,000 miles, but then wear and tear caught up to it.

Ferry Point Marina also sponsored me with a free haul out for St Brendan. Ferry Point Marina has been letting C.R.A.B keep some of there boats there for free for many years. Any Marina thats willing to lose a few bucks to help a non-profit is good in my books. Plus they do good work at a good price. I’ve always preferred the “mom and pop” type boatyard over a larger corporate style boatyard like Jabins. At Ferry Point Marina I can go into the office, make a cup of coffee, joke around with the manager and staff. At a Large Boatyard you’re just a customer, but at a place like Ferry Point you are also a person.

The winds have been mostly light and southerly, I.E. annoying. When I do get wind its usually east southeast. So as you can see I’ve been heading west quite a bit, but its either I go southwest or north northeast. I don’t want to go north so SW is my only real option. Its because of 6 days of nearly no wind that gave me the opportunity to burn enough fuel to empty my fuel bladder. I still have 45 gallons of diesel left which I will need when I enter the Intercontinental convergence zone, AKA the doldrums, around the equator. In some ways the light winds have been a nice break from the difficult weather I experienced up north. On the other hand 5 knot headwinds get old pretty quick. I’ve been wondering if I’ve been sailing threw the horse latitudes. If I were to draw a straight line across this latitude into the Atlantic then I would be in one, but I don’t know enough about the Pacific ocean (and I don’t have Internet access) so all I can do is guess. It seems like the horse latitudes; if I had a horse I would of thrown it overboard by now to gain some speed.

I’ve been fishing with two lures non-stop but no fish. I’m using the right kind of lures for tuna but I haven’t had the best luck with fishing in general. I bet I’ve pulled two lures for over 25,000 miles in all different parts of the planet and I’ve only caught around 25 fish. Only twice have I had good luck. Once sailing the north Atlantic coast of Morocco back in 09 where I was pulling up tuna after tuna and again during my second single-handed transatlantic between Gambia and Antigua, when I was catching good Mahi Mahis regularly. I’ll keep fishing, you never know I might catch one today(maybe).

Well I’m doing good. I feel healthy and I’m doing my best to get south. The clock is ticking, I need to get to the Horn on time. I try not to worry myself crazy, All I can do is give it my best.
Fortitudine Vincimus
Matt

Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments

10,533 miles

So as you can see I’m over the 10k mark. I’m also south of Annapolis and the starting line at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. Over the last few days I’ve had the most drastic weather change of the trip. I’ve been losing a layer a day and now im barefoot with just a pair of shorts on. This temperature is perfect. I’m soaking up as much as I can, soon I’ll be sweaty and uncomfortable, but thats better than freezing and numb.

I’ve had fog and rain for the last few days. I’m surprised by the fog, im 500 miles from the closest piece of land. But this fog is a weakling compared to the fog beast that lives in the Arctic. The sea is strange looking right now. There has been light wind for 48 hours so the choppy waves are gone but there’s a 10-14 foot rolling swell coming out of the NW and misty rainy fog. Its eerily beautiful. Theres also some huge birds around here, the biggest sea birds I’ve ever seen. There were more about 500 miles north of here. I couldn’t tell you what type of bird they are, I really need bird book next time.

Some good news, I was looking through my I pod touch that my sister got me and I noticed a kindle app. Some how my sister backed up most of my kindle books on my I pod. Reading a book 3 sentences at a time takes some getting used to but its a whole heck of a lot better then nothing. My sister is one of my biggest sponsors. She’s my older sister but she looks younger. If you met her you would think she’s some sweet innocent girl, but she’s a powerhouse in the business world making six figures and kicking butt. My sister and I are both driven and ambitious, we just have different goals.

I did have a little scare, I ate a bunch of peanuts that ripped up my intestines like broken glass. I pooped blood for three days. I don’t mean to be disgusting or anything. I’m better now, although I still hurt inside a bit, needless to say, it gave me a fright. Don’t worry I’m fine.

One of my biggest problems is chafe. At night when I’m sleeping the chafe monster comes out and chews on my lines. I’m always shifting around and inspecting all my lines. They aren’t large diameter lines so they chafe through quickly. Someone needs to invent chafe monster repellent.

My sails are made by Hyde sails. My original sail sponsor welched on me (reneged) at the last minute and it put me in a bad position (I had no sails). Scott Steele came through and hooked me up with Hyde sails. It really saved the trip. It was such a last minute scenario that I literally didn’t have my sails until the day before I left. Talk about a close call. Scott gives private sailing lesions. Now a lot of people can give you sailing lessons but hes’ the only instructor I know that won a medal in the Olympics for sailing. If you can learn from the best, why mess with the rest? Scott had a bit harder task then my other sponsors because I’m very picky about my sails. In my mind you should be……I’ve also been a sail-maker so I know what I want. Not that I was the greatest sail-maker, me and a sewing machine never got along very well, but I was good at hand work.

In the next few days im going to step up my fishing game and see what I can catch. Ill also take advantage of the warmer weather and do some spring cleaning to get rid of some of this mold (the mold has completely taken over the V berth). The waters no longer green its returned to a beautiful color of blue. Life is good.
Fortitudine Vincimus
Matt

Posted in Uncategorized | 9 Comments

Position Update

Position 40 00n 135 00w

The Q&A part of this web site will be on hold for awhile. I need to save my minutes.

FORTITUDINE VINCIMUS
Matt

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

My thoughts on resupply…

I appreciate and understand everyones concerns. I can not stop again for another resupply, unless something absolutely catastrophic happens. I need this time alone to think about the man I was, the man I am, and man I need to be. I can not keep having human contact, it messes with my chi. Simon had to practically pull the teeth out of my mouth before I would agree to the last resupply. Anyway, I’m going to be hundreds and hundreds of miles off the coast of California. I need to get to the Horn by mid January and I’m already behind schedule.

Resupplies are expensive, if you want to do me a favor donate money to C.R.A.B, I don’t want the money to go to me, this trip is about C.R.A.B. I was trying to do this trip with no resupplies originally, I failed to maintain that part of the trip when the water maker broke. The only place were I could justify another resupply would be the Falkland Islands.

The tracking device should be working again shortly. I’m fine, life is much easier now that I’m not freezing cold all the time. Thank you all for your concerns, I need to get around the Horn, then we can talk about a resupply.
Matt

Posted in Uncategorized | 9 Comments

The Briefest of Updates

I’m trying to fix the problem with the iTrac tracking device. I emailed predictwind, I should know something in the next 24 hours. My current position is 44 04.559n 137 56.657w.
Matt

Posted in Uncategorized | 9 Comments