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Atlantic West - East Solo  2016

 

Stein HOFF, Norway

 

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Photo by Elisabeth Hoff
 



PAGE 1

 

Day 10  •  Day 15  •  Day 20  •   Day 25  •  Day 30  •  Day 34

 

 PAGE 2 >>> 
  
Day 35  •   Day 40 
 •  Day 45  •  Day 50

PAGE 3 >>>
Day 51 
•  Day 55
  PAGE 4 >>>   
Day 56
 •    Day 60
PAGE 5 >>>
Day 65 
•  Day 70
 
Day 75  •  Day 80

      

     

Click here  ▼  ▼  for the most resent entries

 
 

17th May 2016, 00:36:31 UTC

 

After fast passage It got very, very slow this morning with strong wind and big, breaking seas.
I had two sort of warnings when two seas washed across the deck. But that 3rd wave hit from starboard side, suddenly the boat is on its side and I in the water...
The next hour I spent soaking wet securing items on deck better while getting the sea anchor ready (should have been!) and got it out with nearly 100 m rope, then with chattering teeth changed to the SeaWind survival suit. After that several hours tidying and mopping up inside. No serious damage, some to the cockpit awning and I lost a few items and learned a lesson. Lifejacket inflated automatically and is like a yellow balloon with a flashing light in the cockpit! Must find out how to deflate it. Thank goodness the EPIRB was not set off automatically. Now you see why my good progress suddenly
came to a hault... 

 

Friday 20th May, 14.30 (18.30 UTC)

Day 6

I am at 40 17 N, 071 00 W ,  Fox II rocking gently, rudder pintles knocking away, but otherwise all is still and quiet. I have just had a snooze after lunch, before that 2+2 hours rowing. No wind, so no assistance. What looks like water feels like treacle at times across undulant swells from storms far away. Average speed only about 2,5 k. But still a beautiful place to be. Those who fear the seas should have had a few hours of therapy aboard here today. The whales are back, a lot more heavy breathing than necessary just for diving, it seems. Also had a school of tuna chasing something behind the boat, reminded me of those we fished with Brian on Pitcairn. Yesterday I was visited by a solitary storm petrel and a sooty tern. I imagined they were saying welcome back! Nearly 2 years since we last met! (www.whiteadmiral.com) Today saw a large flock of these small petrels, beloved by sailors for their presence and antics on all oceans. This is their home, they only seek shore to breed. They are small relatives of the wandering albatross. But those giant cousins stay south of equator, unfortunately. My own cousin Stein's Brush & Shave were in double action today, also used Judi's after-shave liberally (also thank you for taking us to your favourite China Town restaurant one week ago!) and I made 10 l drinking-water. Eating my way through all the fresh food brought me the last days by Diana. She pointed out that the boat and I were very untidy, but could not suggest where to put all those extras! Still some bread and one banana left, a few tomatoes, a cucumber, and of course onion. Although half were washed away May 16th. Shame, because onions keep almost indefinitely as long as they get fresh air. Must get back on the oars, a slight breeze has come up from SW: Best gift I could get! 2+2 coming up, but not sure if body, butt and fingers are ready for more yet... Aim is 12 hours daily.

 

Saturday 21st May

Day 7

Position 9 pm 40 37 N, 070 39 W. At sea anchor last 2 hours as wind increased from SE and it started raining. Started rowing 5 am so that R/V Neil Armstrong could get on with their work. The research vessel is brand new, 2nd in command Mike, told me over the VHF. After a while I stopped for breakfast, noticing a current against me...I managed a total of 7,5 hours actual rowing, not much farther east, but a lot better than had I done nothing. Last night at sunset a pod of dolphins came by next to me. More big whales also seen today, but at a distance. New birds seen today; gannets and fulmar (havsule og havhest). Lots of floating seaweed. A big lump got stuck in the rudder. So I had to to another "Jack in the box" (troll i eske) impersonisation to get it off!

 

22 May

Day 8

One week gone, 8th day at sea, not one I want to have too many of. It rained while the wind and waves increased and became quite a gale yesterday. Difficult to sleep while sliding about and worrying about what will break. But by midday today the sun came out and the wind calmed enough to do some inside work. I had been blown north of a shipping lane and decided to get south again when the waves stopped breaking. Pulled in the sea anchor. Finally now in the area between the two 4 n.miles wide, giant lanes, it is 02.00 and position is 40 28.6 N, 070 54,7 W and I am ready for some sleep! Wind almost gone and full moon above.

 

Monday May 23rd, 9pm Local, 0100 UTC

Day 9

A cool, pleasant day with reasonable seas, grey sky, occasional sun, but that all-important wind still from E or NE. But I got away from the busy shipping-lanes and now only have about 10 nm to the continental shelf. Off that is where I may find the warm and probably helpful waters of the Gulf Stream.
Getting up yesterday after the gale I found the rod to the tricolour lantern on the bow broken. There was salt water inside the cover, so a wave probably washed over it. It was hanging there just by the wires, but still working! A piece of aluminium and some thin tope and it is up and working again.
It's been raining on and off the last 2 hours. I have sheltered inside, had another freeze-dried "expedition meal" as drying clothes and keeping a dryish bed is difficult. But good news is that it looks like the wind has shifted round and that the forecast sent by Diana is correct: Tailwinds for several days coming up! Fingers crossed for no more frustrating rowing in giant circles!

 

Tuesday 24fh May

Day 10

and at 10 pm I am finally E of where I started to go the wrong way last Sunday. Last night when the rain came I just went to bed and had the best sleep on the voyage so far. This morning it was foggy at first, but as wind came up from S it cleared, hit the N breeze and created lumpy seas. But after about 2 hours the rowing became easier and for the rest of the day made good progress. At lunch I opened cards from Diana and from Finn, my 7 year old grandson in London. Thank you both!! So nice to get old-fashioned post.
Also had a shave, tried to get the pc working via the Sat-phone, - it's the only way I may send out pictures, but had to give up - again!
My body feels surprisingly good after more than 9 hours rowing today. Bum and fingers a bit sore. Back is fine. It gets more sore from sitting hunched up in this tiny space writing on the iPad than after rowing 9 hours?
Good weather forecast and W winds also for next couple of days - super!

 

 25th May

My 11th day at sea, has been good, I managed 10 hours rowing, but it started with 13 C and dense fog like a wet blanket all around, only about 20 m visibility and flat calm and a current taking us NW at about 0,5 knots. (I want to go E!) As I started to row a breeze came up from S, so had to go NE. Only after a couple of damp hours did the fog finally lift and the sun broke through. Before my lunch break two large, black dorsal fins were waving along behind me. Giant sharks! But almost certainly just peaceful basking sharks with huge mouths looking for tiny grub. A couple of hours later came the proof as this giant fish of about 5 m length jumped almost right out of the water and came down on its side with a huge splash! I saw it happen twice more, not when I had the camera ready, of course. Still, made my day!

 

26th May

Day 12

and an extra update From Fox II on a lovely morning, 15 C and the warmest yet.
At 06.30 local, 10.40 UCT at pos. 40 21,2N, 069 27,0W and weather forecast is good for several days and I should clear a bank NE of me and other last dangers of the USA continent without problems. And find a good current! So I have set my first major waypoint as just S of Grand Banks, Newfoundland at 42 N, 50 W and 880 nm ahead. At an optimistic 40 nm/day, it will take 22 days.

Still 26th May - Day 12 - on Fox II and we are 24n.m. further E than when I reported this morning. That is all I got out of 11 hours rowing altogether - my longest session yet. And I feel it, especially in my buttocks. My third and last freeze-dried meal has had hot water added, needs to be eaten soon and I am too tired to write much. Except saw two big whales breeching, i.e. jumping out of the water! This happened closer than yesterday, when I was sure it was the basking sharks (large dorsal fin) performing, now I am not so sure as today showed the broad, symmetrical tail of a whale. Anyway, a spectacle! Otherwise very little wind to help me, at sunset no wind at all. While rowing I have enjoyed listening to music and that NRK P1 favourite of mine: Lønsj! In charge are Rune Nilson and Torfinn Borkhus. I have 15 podcasts of Lønsj! - trying to make them last. Only disappointment is that the music played in the original programs and which is usually to my taste, are missing on the podcast.
Yesterday we passed the latitude of Cape Cod north of here. That is where John Ridgeway and Chay Blyth started their row in 1966, when they after 92 days reached Ireland and became the second successful pair to row an ocean, 70 years after Harbo & Samuelsen.

 

Saturday 28th May

Day 14

Just E of George's Bank, 787 nm to WP1. Sun is going down very hazy and orange and I am going down very tired soon, so I am getting this off a few mins after stopping rowing for the day. I spent more than 16 hours on my little, rolling seat pulling oars yesterday and still feel the effort tonight, had to have a wee snooze after less than 2 hours this morning! But body is doing well, ship's MO (Medical Officer) is very happy with the physical state of the entire crew. (There was need, however, for some cream to be applied to some tender skin this morning...) Quite strong SW breeze most of the day. Strong tides near the bank caused some steep and nasty seas, but Fox II tackled them well. Not much sea life noticed with such noisy, churning water everywhere, but there are always storm petrols darting in an out between the crests looking for food.
Two weeks ago today was the farewell party. I think of it often. Good friends, good memories. May have a wee toast tonight for all you who came - my first drop on this trip.

 

29th May

Day 15  and this morning 2 weeks since Fox II and I pulled out of North Cove Marina with Rozinante II just behind. Bjørn Jordan, owner of that yacht, is an old friend who Arvid Bentsen and I encountered at sea when we rowed from Tenerife to Barbados i 1997. Bjørn had crew who looked after the first Rozinante when he swam over to say hello properly! In 2002 while preparing for my Portugal to Guyana row, Bjørn, Arvid and I tested the boat and ourselves by rowing from Denmark to Norway non- stop in about 21 hours (2 rowing, 1 resting). Bjørn will be on his way sailing home via the Azores about now, fun if he does a repeat performance! (Mind you, the sea temperature is quite different!)
Today's been a tough day at the office... Slight breeze from SE all day, not much waves, so I did manage to row slowly j','into it. But much to my disappointment, the tides out here are still strong at 1,5 - 2,0 knots, so at times I have nearly been at a standstill. While having lunch and a shave I lost 3 of my hard fought-for miles, at the same time thick and clammy fog descended on us...

 

Monday 30th May

Day 16

Scary Encounter!
Going slowly. Fog all day, S-SW winds, often rough seas due to tides. Hard work. Sore right back and tender right bum... But I have just finished my freeze-dried supper - game casserole - to the soothing music of Chet Baker in my cosy cabin. My last bit of cucumber went with it. Tasted great. But last night was not as relaxed. Woke up 3.20 am to the peeping warning of the AIS. I could read that the ship MVK Romulus (call sign 9V7644) was heading for me at 19,7 knots. I was a bit disorientated at first as slight wind kept the bow pointing E, while on the AIS we were heading W with the tide. Outside was thick, clammy fog. But the sea was nearly flat and my radar reflector high up on a vertical stick. I hear the rumbeling of engines and suddenly there is a red lantern high above me on port side and a white bow wave 20-30 m away. Now I call him on channel 16!: "Romulus, Romulus, do you see Fox II on port side?" On channel 6 we talk why I wallow in his wake. He just saw me visually, not on the radar. It was set at 5 miles, 3 m. Something is wrong with your AIS, he says. I explain that I know. This could be very dangerous, he says and sounded a bit shaken, too. And he is gone.
It took me a long time to relax after that. My radar reflector is about 2 m above sea level. So if the ships adjust their radar higher to avoid picking up waves (clutter) they do not pick up small boats like mine. And he had not altered the setting when the sea was calm. Another lesson: call them all on VHF - early!

 

Tuesday 31st May

Day 17

Goodbye USA!
Day 17 was a good day for mileage, managed 30 towards the waypoint, but same old clammy, unpleasant fog and miserable visibility now for more than 50 hours. Also it rained for a few hours while rowing in the morning. Cold feet and fingers! Wind has been from SW and W, we have been pushed further N than intended, but the forecast says NE wind for many days ahead, that no doubt will send us S again. Now for supper, the crew is hungry, nothing wrong with the appetite on this boat!
Last night we finally crossed the territorial border of USA and have properly entered the North Atlantic Ocean!

 

Wednesday, June 1st

Day 18

God morgen fra Nordatlanteren!
We got 10 n.m. Drift during the night and at sunrise 45 min ago had covered 40 n.m. towards 1st waypoint. Still fog, but thinner with a white sun just breaking through. Wind has just gone NE, guess I'll be heading SE. Woke with a cold head next to the hatch during the night, only 11 C out there, the balaclava helped! Just had breakfast with large bowl of Diana's high octane cereal mix (incl. breast-milk supplement!) with rehydrated apricots & raisins, then two fried eggs with a knekkebrød (crisp bread). Diana; how long is each packet of knekkebrød supposed to last? Hei! The fog is lifting!
Ha en fin dag alle sammen!

 

At sea-anchor.
Clear, blue sky and gentle seas from N and NE changed quite suddenly 1,5 hrs ago to a F6 from ENE. I tried with centre-board and managed to row just E of S for half hour, then it got too rough, starting to head SW and out goes the sea-anchor at 41 48,2N, 065 24,2W. With regular spray across deck, I have escaped to the cabin with the door only just ajar and am about to have late lunch in the form of Adventure food's Mince Beef Hotpot with a few Sørlands chips and a cup of tea, and hope this wind strength and direction does not last long. Boiling water and preparing even this very simple meal is quite a challenge. A bit like doing it sitting on a horse walking on uneven ground, I imagine. Bon appetite!

 

Still on sea anchor.

Been lying eating, reading and relaxing in the cabin, warm and dry, setting sun in through the stern hatch, but being thrown around quite a bit. Like a tivoli ride as Fox II rolls jerkily 20-30 degrees from side to side while the sea anchor is tugging at the neck!
Meant to splice a rope handle for the toilet bucket, but have given up all thought of doing anything useful other than tidying up, charging cameras, laptop and various other electronic gear, and reading "Restless" by John Peck, a sole mate.
Martin sent a text on the Iridium that amazed me. Already the NRK Lønsj guys Rune & Torfinn have noticed me listening to a whole lot of their podcasts and posted a greeting back on Fb: thank you, thank you, & that includes Bob Kåre! (That character reminds me so much of visiting Sælbu as a boy and not understanding what the cheerful locals were talking about!)
Not such great news from Diana who says strong wind from E may last another 24 hrs...Looks like I'm stuck here tonight. Ironic, finally away from the tides of the American continent and out in the proper, deep ocean after 2,5 days of clammy fog.
On the cheerful note: Another view of the huge, waving dorsal fin of a sun fish this morning and two large whales rolling slowly past, this time managed to film them!

 

June 2,  2016  00:00UTC

41° 49.55 N, 65° 26.19 W
Still at sea anchor, rough night, bit better now, wind still ESE. Drifted N 6 n.m., hardly any W, so current going NE, which also explains some of the steep, breaking waves. Must check temp of the sea-Gulf Stream?

 

Thursday, 2nd June

Day 18

Still at sea anchor.
, .
Wind and sea calmed this morning as I last wrote, but was soon back to the same 20 knot+ wind from E and steep, rough, irregular and often breaking seas. Fox II is covered in salt - a brilliant sun dries the water but leaves the white crystals. Just now it is a little calmer and I have been outside for the sake of the exercise, at least, trying to prepare for the worst. Nothing alarming in the forecast, but just in case. Last night lying in my bunk being tossed around I kept thinking what it would be like if we rolled right over. It is something I have always considered a 50% risk on this passage. My conclusion was not a happy one! So now everything outside is either put into the bow storage compartment or is better tied down. The pump within easy reach from the cabin. I have a large, solid waterproof bag (came with the survival suit) in the cabin so that I can stuff laptop, cameras and electronic gear (already each in plastic bags) in the bag with dry clothes, have the straps holding the watermaker and the stove on all the time and a strap across the bunk also ready to buckle myself down. That still leaves a few extra, loose items, but they can be quickly shoved into the waterproof hold underneath my bunk. In threatening situation the main hatch must be completely shut and the swan neck ventilator on the cabin top tightened down to almost shut.
With proper use of the sea anchor I hope to avoid this my "worst case scenario".
Never so bad it is not good for something: The enforced rest inside has been good for the skin on my behind and my sun-burned lower lip. And I have read, dozed, watched a film and had some nice text messages on the Sat phone, and from Diana a long list of friends and followers from all over wishing me well: Thank you, thank you all! I love the good vibes you send me - I may be on my own out here, but I don't feel lonely.
I have been very slow so far, but don't give me up, I certainly am not!

 

Friday 3rd June

Day 20

Miserable conditions!
 3rd day at sea anchor and drifting back where I came from. Cold rain and 15-20 knot wind from ESE hitting the cabin door for my morning trip to the bucket... I'll say no more.
Still too rough to contemplate rowing at right angle to the wind, but towards evening there is a hope of it lessening and backing more northerly.
Anti-collision tactics worked well at 03.20 when the ship Tombarra appeared on the AIS screen and was heading for me at 15 knots. I called him and he saw my lantern and altered his course to starbord. He did not pick me up on the radar until he was less than 1/2 mile (900 m) away. My sea anchor is 100 m ahead of me, held near the surface by a buoy. One of my nightmares is a vessel passing over it.
Tombarra came from English Channel and was heading for New York, my route exactly in reverse.
While writing this, approx 4 hours after my bucket expedition, rain has stopped, the movements are maybe a little less jerky and a pale sun is trying to peep down. Here's to the power of positive thoughts! Have a nice week-end, everybody!

 

Off again!
Day 20 continued.

After I wrote this morning it again became too rough to contemplate rowing. So a few more hours of involuntary "rest" followed with the boat rolling and jerking around me. Just when my mood was at an ebb, in comes encouraging text messages from Robert and Mekhola - my son and daughter-in-law in Cambridge - cheering me up no end. Thank you!!
But eventually, about 3.30 pm, there was a definite improvement. Taking in the sea anchor with its 2x100 m ropes and making it all ready for the next time, was a cold and wet 20 min affair, but finally, just after 4 pm, after 48 hours going in the wrong direction, we were off!The wind was now F4-6 from ENE, overcast, slight drizzle, the sea steel grey with rough and noisy breakers at cross angles caused by patches of current. Impossible to get any rythme, hard on hands and back. Occasional spray across deck and feet. After 4 hours it is getting dark, my back has had enough, my toes are numb. We covered 12 n.m., but only 3 n.m. towards the Grand Banks waypoint. At the moment the boat is steering itself straight S. If the wind would kindly cooperate, this may improve to a more easterly direction during the night. And I have reappreaciated the simple luxuries of my 2x1 m cabin, had some luke-warm consomme and will now boil up water for supper: Blå Band's "Potato with chicken & spinach". Life could be a lot worse!

 

 Saturday, 4th June.

Day 21

Portuguese man-of-war.

Last night with Fox II sailing herself south in the fresh NE breeze was so much more comfortable than the two on sea anchor! Woke up to fog, its been with us apart from some lovely, sunny hours in the middle of the day. Fog closing in again now. When I finished rowing about half an hour ago we had done 50 n.m. in about 27 hours, but only 10 miles E. At least we are back on the same latitude as when we had to deploy the sea anchor!
But this position is better for finding the Gulf Stream.
Diana reports likelihood of little wind tomorrow, then very strong S wind on Monday... Back on the anchor, I suppose... I certainly do not want to be pushed further north if I can pevent it.
Highlight today, apart from the daily mail and greetings from Diana, was seeing a Portuguese man-of-war ("Blue-bottle" in Australia). I did not think they come so far north. Quite large mantle sticking out of the water and formed so that this specialized jelly-fish can partly sail, partly swim into the wind! Underneath is a trail of nasty tentacles. I know, because I was badly burned once by one, single stray tentacle among sea-weed after a storm. Google it!
And have a nice week-end!

I wrote latitude in my report a few mins ago by mistake, we are of course back on the same longitude as before the easterly gale. 682 n.m. to waypoint south of Grand Banks. Good night! from Fox II.

 

Sunday 5th June

Day 22

Dolphin day!
Day 22,  and I slept in! I usually get up with sunrise 5 am. I was awake at 4 am, but next thing I knew it was 6 am. Time to start using an alarm clock?
I had to go to toilet just after midnight. At home the toilet is a peaceful, comfortable sort of place where you can relax while you do what needs to be done, push a button, wash hands from a tap of warm water and retire to bed within a couple of minutes. Not so simple on Fox II. The green bucket from Felleskjøpet is too big to be used inside, for a start! So it all happens on a rolling, dew-covered deck,dimly lit by the lantern: Pick up sea water, dry off the rim, find a half-stable spot on deck, squat down while giving the hip, knee and ankle-joints a thorough test. Hold on somewhere solid for dear life, have the pieces of paper folded and ready inside a plastic bag while stopping it blowing away. Empty bucket, no splashing! Pick up more water, add liquid soap, wash with dessignated brush, empty once more, stow away. Baby-wipe hands and crawl back inside.
It's actually the first time I've had to do this during the night-possibly why I overslept!
But it was a good morning, no sun, but no fog either, warmer at 15 C and hardly any dew. Light wind from NE. (Grrr!) We had drifted SSW during night and lost 6 nm to the waypoint. So today the enture days rowing gained me 8 nm towards E and we were again back at the longitude of 4 days ago! But fortunately a lot further south...
Sitting rowing hour after hour while hardly making any progress can be quite testing, but today actually went quickly and was entertaining thanks to a pod of about 20 large dolphins that kept me company for many hours. They would dart back and forth, but if I held a reasonable speed would join me for several minutes.
My other highlight was a very supportive "Day 20 card" from Hugh, my son-in-law in London. Thank you!
3 weeks since start, a slow day, but still one of the best. Sea anchor is set, now for some supper!

 

Monday 6th June

Day 23

Harbo & Samuelsen's day.
On this day, 120 years ago, Georg Harbo, 30 and "Frank" (Gabriel) Samuelsen, 26, started their row towards Europe. Their boat was an 18,5' open fishing boat - a dory - similar to the boats they used when fishing and clamming off Sandy Hook. They flew the American flag and their boat was named "Fox" after their main sponsor, editor Richard K. Fox of "National Police Gazette". Few thought they would survive, even fewer that they would succeed and become famous. But they did against all odds and made their first land-fall in Hugh Town, Isles of Scilly after only 55 days!
Today, Another Norwegian rowing boat was due to start from Battery Park, to try to equal or better the original pace of H&S, but Stian Aker and Rune Malterud have had to postpone their record-breaking attempt one year for medical reasons.
Last night turned out to be quite rough and wild and uncomfortable with a near gale from SSE. And heavy rain in the morning. But surprisingly warm, 19 C in the shade and 17 C in the sea. Saw two more Portuguese Man-of-war jellyfish. Got the sea anchor in by 11.30, rowed a little, but almost impossible due to criss-crossing, large swells.
The sea became more rowable later, but almost no progress due to current in SW direction. So after a full five days of not making any real progress due to a long list of different causes, I am starting to think that this place is bewitched!?
Diana says SW wind tomorrow. Should be good. And some east-going parts of the Gulf Stream cannot be far away, surely! - I feel I deserve a good push in the right direction now!

 

Tuesday 7th June.

Day 24

Red sky in the morning...
And: AIS electronic miracle!

Did not sleep so well due to big swells causing rolling and knocking from the rudder, but at least this morning we had drifted NE and no more backwards. The fog had lifted and the pre-sunrise eastern sky was a spectacular blaze of red and orange - and made me grateful for being out here... But what about the saying:
Red sky at night is a sailor's delight, red sky in the morning is a sailor's warning!?
But in comes a nice text from my son Martin in Oslo with stable, mostly following winds for days ahead, confirming Diana's predictions from yesterday. Also it is again warm, 19 C, and another day of wearing shorts. But very humid and overcast.
Rollers coming in from SW were at times very large. They are ok to row in as they are like friendly hillsides on the move, slowly up, slowly down, no breakers. Worse with the smaller ones from S and SSE, which has in fact made it impossible to keep my preferred course east. So its been NE all day...
I noticed the barometric pressure has kept falling slowly all day, now 1001. In tonight's mail comes the explanation as there is a tropical storm Colin moving up from Florida and the Carolinas. It will affect me tomorrow, but is weakened, thank goodness.
Poor charging today and my batteries were low this morning, but for a nice reason: my AIS (automatic identification system) suddenly started working correctly and transmitting last night! I had felt a bit haunted and bewitched yesterday, now a miracle to make up for it?! A passing ship this afternoon, "Aguaprosper", confirmed he saw my name and other details on his screen! A big relief, especially in fog. All commercial ships now have the AIS system.
Had to remove my engagement/wedding ring due to thickened skin. My fingers look not unlike those of a reptile shedding old skin!
Boiled rice and onion and a whole egg together. Taste good accompanying a freeze-dried meal. Five onions left now.
Now raining.

 

Wednesday 8th June

Day 25

A rough day.

A good day at first turned very rough and still is. Gave up rowing 3 hours before sunset and have just been drifting with the wind like we do at night to gain precious mileage. Not without doubt as lying to the sea anchor is safer, but of course slows us right down. Writing about this initially one hour ago we did indeed have a knock-down to portside. The cockpit canvas was tucked back and the boat righted itself faster than on 16th May, but it was still a big mess. The hatch was slightly ajar, so a little spray came inside, too. Grrr! This is now sorted out. Everything outside was tied down except the bag of 5 onions underneath the gunnel and an empty water container. Gone, I am afraid. But the wind has died, so we are still going ahead at reasonable pace. And with nerves a bit in tatters...
Interesting phenomenon this morning. First there was fog and heavy rain, then brilliant sunshine and spectacular cloud formation all around. Very low barometer reading of 991 mbar. So I rowed through this for about 30 mins before clouds from behind caught me up. I was in fact in the "eye of a hurricane" of the tropical storm Colin, now just a tropical depression blowing itself out.
But later the westerlies really took off: Force 6-7 (21-30+ winds) with these large, cross-breaking, unpredictable seas. Maybe Colin has something to do with them, too, but I doubt it.
Spotted several more Blue-bottles (Portuguese man-of-war) yesterday and today.

 

Thursday 9th June.

Day 26

Why am I here?
.
I got through the night without any more proper knock-downs. But plenty seas growling down on me as if saying they like to and me thinking they will. Once more, I had decided, and out goes the sea anchor. I had hatch and cabin-top airvalve shut most of the time, opening only to let in some oxygen as needed. A slight headache indicates when CO2 levels are rising. Brilliant morning sunshine showed up white crests like snowtopped hills criss-crossing everywhere. Beautiful and terrifying. Had a go at rowing from 9 am for a couple of hours, boat went faster, but it was more correcting course with one oar at a time and steering than rowing. Besides the oar-handle tends to slam down occasionally on the same, plastered abrations on my legs...
So it has been a nervous inside existence most day, only popping out to bail out the cockpit, maybe 5 or 6 times. And asking myself why on earth am I here and why am I doing this? A telephone to Diana helped me get over these existensial questions, as did a cup of tea and one of her snacks.
On the positive side: Great progress, soon halfway to my Grand Banks waypoint (1100 n.m. from start, total distance is about 2900 nm). And it is not cold. And good visibility.
Another positive, more private discovery: Found out how to (relatively) safely use the toilet bucket inside!
Wind has swung from W to NW, still F6-F7, confused, noisy, menacing 4-5 m seas. Overcast, rain showers. Less wind is promised tomorrow, just one more night...
And the sea anchor is still there as a safety back-up whenever necessary.

 

Thoughts from home.
Many have asked me recently how I am feeling, what I am doing, and am I worried about Stein. The answer to the last question is "of course I am". This route across the North Atlantic is, as I suspected, turning out to be a lot rougher and tougher than his two previous trips across the more southerly route. He is an optimist and a positive thinker, but this will take him to the limit of his resources, though I do not think anything except a total disaster will stop him. I am disappointed that the boat has now tipped onto its side three times, had hoped it would be more stable than that, and have told him he must use the sea-anchor when he feels threatened and not take any chances. There is still some heavy weather to come next week, but I am hoping that as summer sets in it will get a bit gentler and that he will pick up the Gulf stream.
I am keeping busy with family and friends, plan visits to England and the South of Norway during the summer, and have started a big project to sort out our thousands of old slides and photos. So that will help to keep my mind occupied.
I am married to a very unusual, rather crazy man, but I suppose this is part of why I love him. I am not prepared to lose him yet, and will be very happy on the day when I see him rowing over the horizon near the Isles of Scilly! 
Diana.

 

Friday, 10th June

Day 27

On sea anchor.

Day 27 brief update. My family already know I had a major knock-down just before sunset while busy with the Sat phone and just having prepared Pasta con Noci with an egg added. To starboard side and stayed on that side for ages it seemed, water squirting in where it should not, enough water inside to wet all my clothes and bedding on that side. Got the sea anchor out as quickly as possible while being pounded and soaked. Then hours mopping and sorted out. Night in survival suit. This morning much the same awful stuff down from NW. Cockpit still being filled from time to time. Spent a long time assessing damage and now rinsing and drying a few thing like Sat phone, but a miracle if it works again. Apart from minor cuts no physical damage, all major equipment for rowing and navigating ok. Had it been to portside where all the instruments are, the story might have been very different. 
The main challenge here seems to know when the conditions demand the sea anchor... Not done too well so far. 
Still finding bits of pasta in the most unexpected places, but it has stopped dropping off the ceiling!

 

Sat phone dead.

Day 27 continued.
Nearly 24 hours since my nightmarish knock-down, worst happening so far this trip and since I got out the sea anchor. It happened so incredibly fast and without any warning that I detected. But my attention may not have been 100% as I had just got dehydrated food ready, had the hatch momentarily ajar and I was texting on the Sat phone (never finished it). "Then all hell brakes loose", as the saying goes...
Conditions are marginally better tonight, waves slamming and sloshing into the boat and cockpit needing bailing out not as frequent as this morning. For a while the sun broke through the clouds frequently enough to charge boat batteries and all extras. No apparant damage to the battery that got partly flooded under the bunk. 
I spent 2 hours taking the Iridium Satellite phone apart, cleaning, drying. (Lower adomen works well as dryer of smaller items!) I found at least one area of electrical shortcut and there are droplets in the sealed screen. But no amount of abdominal & groin heat/drying and extra charging could get it to switch on...
So that's a major part of my communications gone. It leaves me with this service via the iPad and the YB tracker, items I will be looking after very carefully... (But in an emergency I also have the EPIRB and digital VHF systems.)
Not having shaved for a week and having boiled enough water for lunch, out came Buster's Brush & Shave set and Judi's after-shave Cologne. And from Diana I have an envelope marked "For a day that you need cheering up!" It worked, thanks for your book, pictures, card, consideration and love, Diana!
But one hour ago I also received Diana's weather forecast for the next five days. That, I am afraid, was hair-raising reading... Reasonable for tomorrow. I desperately need a combination of sunshine and moderate wind to make lots of water, rinse and dry clothes etc and do hope that day is tomorrow, Saturday. For tomorrow night the wind is back up and maybe even stronger...

 

Saturday 11th June

Day 28

Good morning!

Better night, no need to bail out cockpit, drifting slowly SSW behind the SA. Slept fitfully in survival suit, a bit cold, difficult to get warm and comfortable. Watched David Attenborough on "Africa" on laptop after supper, stunning pictures, but kept falling asleep. Today a bit cooler,15 C outside, fresh breeze from NNW, irregular, rough seas still, 75% clouds, bar 1017 mbar and rising, looks promising, had I not known what's in store tonight...
Rinsing, drying is main priority until a bit easier to row. Diana: with such bad forecast for these latitudes, would it be wise to move S whenever possible? How are the four women rowers getting on?
Wishing you all a good week-end of mundane, dull, wonderful, shore-based activities!

 

Day 28 continued.

As you can see from my position, another no row day. A good day, all the same, as I am now yet again sitting in my normal, dry clothes in a cosy, small, well-functioning cabin. All Adventurefood's " Pasta Alle Noci" with that egg I added is cleaned away with fresh water, and more than half my wardrobe has been rinsed and dried. Most of the remainder has been dried. Only a couple of items that was needing washing, anyway, is in a bag in the front hatch. With other words, the sea and the waves calmed down sufficiently to make a lot of water, rinse and dry. And it helped that the clouds nearly disappeared and provided good drying and plenty solar power. With all the bedding out on deck or in the "rigging", a close inspection of the mattress was possible. I came away with several diagnosis. It was incontinent with an actual puddle down at the feet, a sodden infection up left side reeking of pasta and egg, and a head part also oozing liquid and making my behind damp. It ended up with radical surgery, amputating both the foot and the head part. The remaining torso was tied to the spare oar on the sunny side. After a while liquid collected along the bottom edge. Before returning to the cabin I squeezed out more infectious material, got the still damp sheet from the front hatch, it is now serving as liquid absorber down the side. On top is plastic, then the awning and finally a blanket. If the dampness seeps through these three layers, I'll sleep on the survival suit!
So I must confess to having added to the local pollution as I committed the amputated parts to the sea ... Normally I do not throw in even the smallest scrap of plastic. But these unwanted items today I think will soon sink.
My clothes have now been organised in three grups depending on state of dryness, the best being in with the electronics.
A small flying fish on deck this morning - like the Portuguese Man-of-war seemed out of place. Wind increasing.

 

Sunday 12th June.

Day 29


Brief report lying to SA in (the usual) rough to very rough conditions: All dry, safe and well inside. Reasonably comfortable, morning's most dreaded business is done! About to breakfast. Low power, more later.

 

Sunday 12th June. 23:50UTC

Thunder and lightening.

Much the same, rough conditions all day, even when the W wind became fairly gentle in the afternoon snd I was very close to pulling in the SA (sea anchor). But the strong winds were on back, now from SW, and to explain why the barometer has fallen from 1017 to 999 in 12 hours, it has just started raining with thunder and lightening... 
Most frustrating is, however, that Fox II does not necessarily drift with the westerly wind! Sometimes we drift straight into it, sometimes S. Contrary ocean current again refusing to cooperate with me and my project while pushing us in the wrong direction and at the same time kicking up confused seas, often with noisy, bit scary overfalls.
Still good in here, though. My cuts and abrasions are healing, I feel well and I have now made a spray protection for the instrument area, like a canvas curtain, in front of what I call my chart table. It is the area on top of the stove and water-maker and is covered in blue, anti-slip silicone mats and I realize now, quite difficult to wipe. So putting things down spreads the salt and causes corrosion and contact problems. Been increasingly difficult to charge this iPad that I write on, for example. So I have spent time taking plugs apart, cleaning and applying Dielectric compound. (But for the hand-held VHS I plan to get rid of the plug and connect it directly to the 12 v system. )
So add some reading, listening to radio, making food, bailing out the cockpit (only necessary 3 times last 24 hours), the day soon goes. No rowing, no progress towards Isles of Scilly as I enter my 5th week at sea. Even so, it is still one day closer to arrival!
Diana has relayed a long list of names of friends, family, neighbours and other followers, thank you all, glad you find my reports interesting. But to my younger followers, sorry, nothing to report on the wild-life side today, only the usual birds... More interesting days will come!

 

Monday 13th June

Day 30

New definition of happiness.

Humid night after nature's pyrotechnic show last night, but gentler conditions and finally got the SA out 6.30, sorted a tangled tripping line, got the nose of Fox II facing in the right direction, grabbed the oars and got rowing 7 am! Have covered 7,2 nm in just over two hours! That's more like it! 
Conditions may not last, although the present forecast is not as bad as a few days ago and the current is not pushing me back or at odd angles bright now and hence the waves are a lot "friendlier". 
When I sat down to row again after 31/2 days of despair, utter mess and physical inactivity, I just had to laugh out loud! What a relief, what a difference! Let me spell it out:
Happiness is being able to row east on the North Atlantic...

 

Day 30 continued

Happiness is... continued.

Rowing alone in these waters is not exactly a social event, so what better than a visit from an old friend for a chat and a show-off? All credit to Bjørn Jordan on Rozinante 2 for finding me out here, but he did! Diana mailed this morning that he was near. I put on my AIS and called on VHF at 10 o'clock. Soon we chatted on the VHF radio, but could not see each other. He got my position twice. I stood up on a couple of occasions toscan the horizon behind, but saw nothing. At 12 as I was briefly inside boiling water for lunch he called on the hand-held VHF, heard me on mine, which indicated he must be very close. So I look out again and there is the yacht, already ahead on portside, less than 1/2 n m away! A sight that gave me a big lump in my throat! But I got out and told where to look as I stood tall waving, only then did he see me between the waves. I had my "Beef & rice curry" quickly and then followed about one hour when we got as close as safely, chatting on the VHF or just shouting across and taking pictures and videos of each other's crafts in motion. I had met his crew, Cathrine already in New York, she did the filming. Getting footage out in the open ocean is a rare opportunity. I got great shots with both my cameras, but it will be a while before I can show them to Bjørn. He should be in the Azores within 2 weeks, so maybe from Horta there will finally be some illustrations with these reports?!
This is the second time we meet at sea sailing and ocean rowing. First time was i 1997 as Arvid Bentsen and I took part in the Atlantic Rowing Race. Bjørn was in his first Rozinante and swam across for a chat and signed our guest book! So Arvid, when you read this, maybe you could post pictures from that memorable occasion?
Happiness is meeting good friends and sharing experiences...
Ps Bjørn told me he recorded gusts of 47 knots that day I had my knock-down!

 

Tuesday 14th June

Day 31

On a free ride to the Grand Banks.

13 must be a lucky number, June 13th was certainly a lucky day! Still, last night as I stopped rowing I routinely prepared the boat for the possible worst. The evening sky was a spectacular show of clouds, some black and trailing curtains of rain, others split and toplit with dots of blue and shafts of radiating sunrays. Beautiful and foreboding. But the wind was not much stronger, 15-20 k from WSW. Inside and preparing supper suddenly I see that my speed has increased. I am very happy if I get 1 - 1,5 k push by wind and waves in the right direction normally, but now I kept seeing 3 and 4 k! This has continued all night and we have finally raced past the 550 mile half-way to the Grand Bank's WP (waypoint). Only a small amount of spray during the night, less than 3 litres in the cockpit. Slept quite well under my still damp quilt. This morning the clouds are again very dark and the wind a little stronger, but the breakers are not too vicious. 
I know the boat self-steers best with more weight in the stern, so I hesitate to go outside and row and possibly upset the balance. 
The SA is ready to be put out at first scary hit-and-big-splash. And no tripping line, makes it much quicker to put out (although slower to get back in). Yesterday I also added sealer around the compass and cockpit GPS where water has entered under pressure. Rolling and jerking along while cleaning with thinner and applying 3M 5200 Fast Cure, the finish is not great, but it is functional!

 

Day 31, evening

Current left... Current returned!

Sunset is within half hour and the west sky is again a spectacle of black and white clouds, areas of rain and the fans of beaming sunrays on the heaving seas. Moderate to strong winds all day varying from SW to NW, rain showers. My free ride river disappeared shortly after my report this morning and for several hours I actually had to work for the mileage. However, in the afternoon it was back and we've been shooting along! Or so it seems. I skipped my afternoon freeze-dried meal when the wind was very strong for a while to help progress as I thought "time sea anchor soon". But then conditions improved again after a brief rain shower (when I sheltered inside). And again we ate up the miles. We now have 498 nm to first WP. SA is ready, head torch, gloves, rain gear all organized for if and when.
And now I feel I deserve supper!
Ps Today I wrote a special report on last week's storm experience for "Ripley's Believe It or Not!" website.
Pps Just had a splash that filled the cockpit 1/3...

 

Thursday 15th June.

Day 32


Another wild night, but flying along still! We are more than 70 nm closer to WP1 in 24 hours and probably done more than 80 through the water. Rain showers, black clouds, NW gusting 30 or more, regular, smallish sprays across the gunnels and into the cockpit. No bad knockd. Bailed out 3 times during the night, only once this morning was it more than half full. So SA still just there ready up near the bow. Apart from the movements, main discomfort is the humidity and difficulties in drying anything. Next definition of happiness might be a dry quilt cover! But it is warm, I only wear shorts and top, hardly shoes or socks. Health is fine. I have cut up socks and made shin protectors-work well. Made hot tea for breakfast this morning, first time for a few days. After a big bowl of cereal with the usual raisins and apricots (soaked overnight) finished with knekkebrød & kaviar. Not like the exclusive Russian caviar, but Norwegian smoked cod eggs, savory and exclusive enough for me out here. Hoping for less wind tomorrow and that the Gulf stream stays with me. And hoping my family, friends and followers out there are well and have a nice day.
Ps I put my local time 1 hiur ahead today

 

Back on sea anchor.
Just as I pushed "send" on my report 1/2 hour ago a wave washed right across us from starboard and we lurched badly to port, but rose fairly fast and not a drop inside. Got the sea anchor out double fast and realized just how wild it had become. Daggerboard down, cockpit is bailed out and I am drying and warming up inside with Fox II bucking about me. Now I will truly find out the direction and speed of the current. I have a suspicion it just changed direction maybe explaining why if became so extremely rough. Feels safe inside, and the sun is out just now smiling down on us. Left a pair of shorts and underpants outside, they need rinsing.
Still hoping you all have a nice day!

 

Thursday 15th June

 

One month at sea today,
but not much to celebrate tonight, I'm afraid. Still at sea anchor and with the worst sea conditions so far this journey. Not sure in all my sailing and rowing I have seen anything like it. I assume it again is caused by current and wind hitting each other at angles, plus maybe swell from other directions to make it even more irregular. Wind is mostly Force 6 from W, with stronger gusts, but we are drifting at 3 knots SSE! 

Being stuck inside this small, noisy, rocking-and-rolling shell is no fun. Apart from the physical discomfort, today even a bit frightening and depressing. Sun came out and mockingly heated up the cabin at a time when it was very difficult to get fresh air in because of the frequent spray. Still, I have had to lean out several times to bail out the cockpit, timing it between the waves, that has cooled me a little. No more than a few drops inside, so my timing has been good, so far.
The worst is negative thoughts that well up, like how much strain can that rope holding the SA take? Is the the rudder, its fittings and lines strong enough? What happens if the wind gets even stronger? 
The hand-held VHF again stopped charging. It is water-proof, but the base where it sits to get charged is certainly not. I took it apart and found corrosion. Unfortunately this iCom model does not get charged by 12 v directly, in the base is a transformer to about 7,5 v and three charging contacts. My cleaning has not made it work. - Another upsetting problem with communication (My main VHF transmits fine, but does not receive - weird!) On AIS I noticed a Norwegian ship passing within 3 n.miles - the "Star Isfjord", but I wanted to save what power is left on the iCom and did not contact them. 
A lot of the equipment aboard has been on two previous crossings, so I am really annoyed with myself for not having had them checked more thoroughly.
While writing this there has been less knocks and spray...
Maybe there is some improvement!

 

To the memory of Oscar Jordan, Barbados.
Sadly, in Diana's mail today was the news that our good friend and colleague Dr Oscar Jordan has died in Barbados. 
I got to know and respect Oscar as an excellent physician in QEH hospital in 1978. Marsha, his wife, was a teacher at Elisabeth's school, St.Gabriel's, they had children of about the same age as we and they became good friends. My mother, Eli, was also one of Oscar's big fans! 
We last saw Oscar and Marsha happily surrounded by children and grand-children in April 2015. Also we saw the new Diabetic Centre he had planned for years and was so proud of. I have many good memories of a thoroughly nice, wise, caring and good person! 
To Marsha, Claire, Julian and Alex: So, so sorry about your loss. 
Condolencies and love from Stein on "Fox II", North Atlantic

 
Thursday 16th June
Day 33
Ordeal over - for this time.

Still here! And optimistic again. Reasonable night, no big splashes. Bar 1010, rising, coolish breeze from NW. Partly overcast, but friendlier looking sky than for several days. Still lumpy seas, occasional white horses where the current is stronger, I imagine. Drifting straight S still at a frustrating 2 knots. I was down to 449 n m to my WP yesterday, now 454 and down below 40 degrees N (39 31 N). Actually a latitude I headed for out of New York, but never reached. I must rinse my soaked clothes from yesterday, pull in the SA and see what's happening, hopefully also get rowing E or at least SE, but 2 k is a fast current!
Diana says no strong wind next several days, but not favourable, either.
Good breakfast while watching Michael Jackson dancing "Walking" - a video I found on my iPad with some other of his old stuff. What an amazing dancer and singer he was! Entertainment out while rowing I have not had for a while now with all the rough conditions, but better days no doubt will come!
 
 
Hair-wash day.
I have just finished a tasty supper of "Mediterranean Pasta with Chicken" to which I added two fried eggs, had some Sørlands-chips (potato chip is Norwegian for crisp) on the side, as well as a cup of red wine. And I have toasted to the memory of good friends, and especially Oscar Jordan, Barbados, who sadly passed away this week.
The horizon behind us is ablaze after a perfect sunset - and indicates we may get another good day tomorrow. How is it possible that two days in a row can be so different?!
Today became a day for clearing, rinsing, drying, reorganizing. Even the damp sheet from my May 16 knock-down got the treatment. (Amazing it did not smell too badly.) And finally the cockpit GPS is now properly sealed. And I have stuck more no-skid tapes to areas I tend to stand: home improvements!'
Making a fair amount of water I finally also washed myself from top to tor, including my hair! (first time since 14th May, I am embarrased to admit...) And on top of this I did get in many hours of rowing, too!
Sea being calm made it possible to spot several blue-bottle jellyfish, some being more pink than blue. And a flock of excited sea birds tell-taled a school of tunas chasing smaller fish with a lot of splash and leaps.
Storm petrols do not usually give us much attention, but today 5 of these small birds kept flying around me. They make a short, sharp shriek which is easy to copy. I think we were 
communicating, the birds and I!
 
Friday 17th June
Day 34
Contrary wind.

Last night's euphoria did not last too long. I should maybe have seen it coming as the barometric pressure was falling and the boat slowly heading SE. But during the night rain and fresh breeze set in properly and some hard fought-for mileage lost. Got the SA out at 05.30. But otherwise fine so far, nothing nasty has been forecast, although the waves are already quite big. Rain has just stopped. 
Diana asks why I bother bailing the cockpit as the 70-80 l water (when up to deck level) may in fact add stability. Main reason are small leaks along the bolts for the water filter. Also the bucket I keep in the cockpit starts slashing about. Finally I use the frequency by which the cockpit fills as a way of monitoring the severity of the conditions. But I will try to stop that leak!
I'll now post greetings in Norwegian, but hope you all are enjoying the proper "Friday Feeling" - and then have nice week-end!
 
Day 34 continued


A few miles further SSE than when I wrote this morning. But no rowing, no real progress. Just lying here behind the SA. Frustrating!
Wind has been fresh from NNE and the seas moderate, but too rough for me to try rowing. The fact that we are not drifting SW where the wind's heading, shows there is a current heading E. There's something positive!
Too much movement out on deck, so it's been inside existence all day. I have snoozed and watched and enjoyed the rest of "How to tame your Dragon" and David Attenborough on "Congo" (from the Africa series). I love these BBC documentaries! 
I had another look at the Iridium Sat phone. In fact got it sort of switched on, but the screen lit up only to show irregular patches and it made a pained, ectronic noise, reminding me of a dying person. I tolerated it for 1/2 hour thinking it may come right by some miracle, but eventually removed the life-support, i.e. Its battery and bracket, disconnected the antenna and packed it away for good. Rest in peace.
More success with charging the hand-held VHF radio. It looks like its two batteries charge up OK by applying 12v instead of 7,5 directly. I'll take care not to over-charge. So something useful has come out of this day! 
And the barometer is rising, the sun was out for a while, now there is a friendly moon is looking down on us and no doubt wondering what a tiny boat is doing out here so far from anywhere... (As do I, too, on days like these!)
From Diana this morning came a long list of names and greetings. Thank you all very much!
And tomorrow is my grand-son Oscar's birthday. More about that in a few hours. First Real Turmat's "Pasta Bolognese".

 

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