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Atlantic West - East Solo
Stein HOFF, Norway
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Day 51  •  Day 55

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Monday 4th July

Day 51

Happy Birthday to United States of America and to your citizens!
 If I have got my arithmetic right it is 240 years since George Washington declared independence.

Going well here. The W wind came a little later than forecast last night, pushing us the right way very nicely, thank you! Waiting for it last night I had 4 tough hours in light side wind and continuous fog and drizzle. But warming up inside and getting supper becomes particularly enjoyable after an uncomfortable session. Again the MP3 player well protected inside my jacket, cap and hood kept me going. I finished with the 17 min of George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue". It's another favourite. It's mainly a piano concert, but there are great pieces in there for many other solo instruments, towards the end violin, for example. The clarinet in the beginning is just wonderful. I play that instrument as an amateur, but that bit I cannot master...
Warm night in the sleeping bag, being tossed around a bit, I did not mind each time I saw the speed and direction on the screen.
Lovely sunrise piercing the condensation on my hatch, but fog took over within 10 mins! Now, a couple of hours later, sun is breaking through again. We need good charging, not least for this iPad! Now off to row.

It is a pity that Stein never got the technology for sending photos to function. Since I cannot post a picture of Stein, here is one of our son Martin, who yesterday became Norwegian champion in the 40-44 age group. Martin is otherwise a pretty extreme cyclist, doing things like cycling non- stop from Stockholm to Oslo, and cycling up Mauna Kea in Hawaii, the most extreme cycling climb in the world. I suppose he has a genetic disposition??

Day 51, evening

Another tough day at the oars, this time due to very strong following wind and waves and me worrying about possible knock-downs. I hardly dared to leave the rowing position in case sudden correction to the rudder would be necessary. In 5 hours I just had quick stops kneeling on deck so I could steer while eating a piece of fruit cake, or for using the pee-bottle. 
At 6 pm the conditions were a little easier. Kept rowing and steering another 3/4 hr, then watched it with my wet weather gear on for half hour more before deciding we were ok and no need to put out the sea anchor.
Now, another couple of hours later, we had one or two waves slamming and splashing us, but nothing serious. The wind is supposed to lessen further. 
I have had a great supper, warmed up the chicken and curry freeze-dried meal that was untouched since 1 pm, fried an egg and ate alpha-alpha sprouts on the side. Started the sprouts about 5 days ago in a kit that fits in the bottom of a bucket and stands in the front hatch. Then knekkebrød with cheese, bit of chocolate and a cup of herbal tea. 
Good night!

Tuesday 5th July
Day 52

Good morning! Sunshine and no fog so far! Wind also a little less, thank goodness. Still cool!
It was not the best night as the W wind and waves continued quite strong with noise and minor bangs and spray to stern and starboard. One cockpit full at midnight. Emptied it and took the board and water can inside, only leaving the tied-on bucket. No more big splashes after that. Early morning one must have sprayed high from starboard side, though, as a couple of drops fell from the ventilator straight down on my face! Efficient wake-up call!
A little bit warmer, but condensation a big problem as it is not just on the fittings and perspex of the two hatches, but on the cabin wall as well. Yesterday the two lighters would not work, although no visible moisture. I had to dug out spare matches. But having wrapped the lighter in paper and plastic it worked again today and I got the gas lit and enjoyed my cups of hot tea!
I listen to CBC (Canadian) radio, including local Labrador and Newfoundland news during breakfast. No commercials, much like BBC and NRK back home. It gives a very sympathetic impression of Canadians and their way of life. It's a country with many similarities to Britain and Norway and a place one could easily settle, as Diana's brother and his late Marion did many years ago. Jim has three children and many grand-children, several of that big family came to my send-off in New York and I know will be reading this: thank you again for honouring me and a special greeting to all the grans who had to stay at home! I know Tristian is a follower for sure. Hope to see you all before the end of the year!
Wet weather gear is on, warmed-up socks and shoes are ready, now off to the two oars waiting at the bow position. 
I still have 120 nm left of Grand Banks E, a little less NE.

Day 52 evening

Wind has gone, the boat rolls terribly when a swell hits us. Somehow I managed to cancel the report that was nearly ready... And I am tired after another all day effort, but at last in easier conditions than yesterday. In fact this pm was some of the best rowinq so far this trip. Nice sun, no fog, following wind. Bit rough first in the morning, but quickly improved. We had done 36 nm since 7 am when the wind disappeared at 6.30 pm.
Lots of birds again today, but only seen one puffin. Yesterday I saw many puffins heading for land with beaks full of small fish. Nearest land where they may have their chick was 60 nm! That is an amazing effort - maybe something for Ripley's Believe It or Not collection of strange facts?!
On birds- I would really like to know the name of the gull that is everywhere here. Maybe my neighbour Tore, retired teacher and hobby ornithologist can help: The gull has pink, webbed feet, has speckled brown wings, top darker than underside, brown top of the head, slightly hooked beak, white neck & throat, white body except for brown tail feathers with a white band across. Elegant flyers. Lie around here everywhere feeding on something in the water - plankton? Or just waiting in groups for their feathers to grow out again? Can you also tell me what "lomvi" is in English? Saw two more today.
I was asked in an interview back home if I talk with myself when I am alone. I didn't think so then. Well, I must now openly admit that I not only talk a lot to myself but to my surroundings also - like yesterday, for example: The big waves were often a bit scary and I tackled that partly by addressing them according to size and character. For example "big mummy" or daddy waves, sometimes with a fat son trailing! And to the really big, roaring ones: "Come on, you big, ugly granddad wave!!"
Variable, light wind tomorrow. Probably pleasant, but not good news for progress...
Good night!

Wednesday 6th July
Day 53

Comfy, cold night, 8 C?, no wind, slight sea, saw sun just before 5 my time, next ting I knew it was 6 am and thick fog. Grrr! Lazy morning.
We drifted slowly NE during the night, now slowly SW - exactly opposite. So there is tidal variations here dominating any Gulf Stream. Explains some of the criss-crossing, awful waves in strong wind. 
Not seen any Blue-bottles or seaweed, either. 
Or fish.
This I thought was one of the best fishing grounds in the World, but so far no sign of fishing boats or fish other than those carried by puffins in their colourful beaks! On local news Friday they said recreational fishing was allowed last weekend. So there must be heavy restrictions here even to hobby fishing. I think this is where there for years was fishing of a type of abundant cod that eventually became extinct. Not enough with quotas, one needs policing, too. In large areas of the West Indies langouste lobster (crayfish) and Queen conchs, for example, are nearly gone in spite of so-called strict rules, but there is little or no local enforcement.
Diana is back in Engersand and has sent me lots of greetings from neighbours and from friends in New York and California. And elsewhere. In fact she had a terrace dinner last night at our upstairs close friends overlooking Drammensfjord in the light summer night... I try not to think of it and tell myself this is my choice, what I have wanted to do for many years and that I am privileged to be able to do it! And that is very much due to the support of Diana, who I know is worried a lot of the time. Sorry I am putting you through this, but you agree it's a good story for the grans?! 
Thank you again, very, very much, my Diana, I will also be glad when it is over and let me assure you: I will not do it again!
But meanwhile, I may as well enjoy it...

Day 53, evening

6.30 pm and writing earlier than usual. I only rowed for 1/2 hour this morning but had to give up. Not only breeze from ESE, but swell from different directions making Fox II jerk and roll. Also the fog thickened and the E wind made the temperature drop further. 
I had a list of jobs and got them done: fastened the foot strap better with extra screws. Made a support for the Katadyn water maker hose so I cannot losen it where it comes inside from the cockpit by cutting out a strip of aluminium, bending it and drilling holes. Spacer behind. Nice little bracket, if I may say so myself! Got the life-raft off the two storage areas M1 and M2 (central and nearest the cabin). Counted up the gas and found 21 full, 9 empty, nr 10 is in use. Eggs in M2 had suffered in one of the knockdowns, probably, so 3 are broken, two remaining in the box, the other has fallen to the bottom of that hold and smells not good! I have to remove the foot board to get down to the bottom, it will have to wait. There will be other days, unfortunately, when SA will be out and maybe it is warmer than here ! (Newfoundlanders must be a hardy lot!)
In P5 up at the bow Diana has placed a lot if extras, in fact so much it extends my provisions by many days. Tins of sardins, mackrel, rye bread, raisins, tubes of kaviar, peanut butter, rice. The eggs are also extra, I have 38 left. Two I fried for lunch and had with half a tin of kippers (smoked herring) in oil from Bornholm. I did not like the kippers they served at breakfast in Wolfson Hall when I started studying medicine in Glasgow in 1964, but that tin today tasted so good! Mind you, some of the food I marvel at here now, I remember testing at home last winter and finding rather bland, mushy and tasteless!
Anyway, in M2 is now only 30 l water (part of important ballast) and used gas cans - and the broken egg below. M1 has more water, all unused cans, eggs, marge and an unopened bag of white wine. Life-raft is back on top. 
Now supper!

Thursday 7th July
Day 54

At SA now for nearly 24 hours, wind is now quite strong, about 20 k from E.
Occasionally it backs to NE, but unless N, or better NW I am not trying to row! The waves have also built and inside here I get free back- and midriff exercise just sitting compensating for the rock & roll. Just lying for most of a day, in fact, tends to give me a sore back. Body is built for moving! No fog, but overcast and drizzle and cold. At 7 C in Saint Johns and probably the same here it is my coldest 7th July ever on this side of the Equator. (We lived for a year in Gisborne, New Zealand in 1980.) And it is going to get colder tonight, says the local radio: 3 C and risk of frost in Newfoundland! But the drizzle should stop soon, maybe the heater up above will send us some warming rays.
So here I am, Chief Condensation Mopper of the good ship "Fox II". I have a few titles I anticipated like MO (Medical Officer), Skipper, also Chief Bucket Washer, but my present main task I had not anticipated.
After supper last night, well tucked into my sleeping-bag, socks on and two woollen layers all over+a thin jacket, I watched the first part of "Titanic". And the other day I listened to Ranulph Fiennes reading his autobiography (he was voted the biggest living explorer a few years ago). On one of his Arctic trips he did not change clothes or wash for 7 months! So I am a lot better off than him and the ill-fated passengers in 1912. 
In fact I used my Brush & Shave kit yesterday for my weekly shave. And had a wash.
Helicopter passing overhead just now on it's way to an offshore platform 30 nm to SE. Would have been fun to row past it, not likely with all the N winds forecast.
Hope at least I can report some rowing tonight, but I guess you may know from my positions by the time my report is in...

Special greeting to Pato, Industrimetall AS, Svelvikveien, Drammen. 
I meant to write for a while as I am very pleased with the steel bar you made across the bow rowing position. The ropes from it on both side give me extra security, makes it easy to hang up clothes to dry and I can tie on a small canopy above me in heavy rain. Also the system with slots for locking the foot steering that you perfected works very well. Often I worry that the strain in heavy weather will damage the holes or the tap, but so far minimal wear. I have extra lines on both sides that I lock into clam cleats on the gunnels when I don't row, they then take the main strain. 
Hope there is still a good demand for your dinghy-lifting patent, the "ilift"!
Altså mange takk, Pato, for ypperlig arbeid! 
Og til alle som trenger noe spesiallaget i rustfritt stål, Pato kan ordne det meste.
Håper også ryggen din er bra og at du kom i gang med Concept II roing?!

Day 54, evening

On the road again!
In early afternoon the wind backed to N, still cold drizzle, so I git on the SeaWind survival suit, hauled in the SA ( hard work in strong wind and building waves) and got going. Not quite my ideal course of 67 degrees, but at least SE and towards the edge of this enormous bank and closer to warmer water. The row became quite exhilarating at times with really big, long rollers overtaking me, white foaming crests and all. But they were not as steep and irregular as during the strong W wind a couple of days ago. I think it must be because today, finally, wind direction and current direction were more or less aligned. I managed just over 5 hours and more than 20 nm, about 4 k average speed - excellent!
I have had supper, thawed my frozen toes (the survival suit socks are waterproof, but not thick), boiled the rice that has soaked since yesterday and will have some for breakfast with the rest of the kipper.
Wind is fairly howling at times outside. We drift about 30 degrees to the wind on to portside. No big bangs so far, but hatches are tightly shut and everything as secure as I can make it. Put the still dampish quilt cover on the quilt and will have that on top of the sleeping bag. May help to dry it.
Good night!

Friday 8th July
Day 55

Not raining, light fog, moderate NNW wind, moderate, occasionally big seas, and only 55 nm to edge of Grand Banks on this SE course. Boy, am I looking forward to warmer waters! Contrary wind again expected tomorrow night, hope I am out before and that I do not get blown back!
The humidity is a major problem best solved by warmer weather, of course.
Meanwhile some sun would be very welcome and as I write it is at least strong enough to make the solar panels charge at 1,3 amps. I need to make a lot of water, preferably 15 l, that is 3 hours at 4 amps. Fortunately keeping the AIS on active 24 hrs/day uses less power than I thought. I dim the screen and turn off anything not important.
To combat or at least reduce humidity I always carry something inside my top. Right now it is the radio, which is acting up. After a while I put it with some paper in a closed plastic bag. Same with socks, cameras. May try it with the long gas lighter, too! This morning again it would not work, had to dig out matches. 
Great breakfast, by the way. Rice with egg and kippers got a heat up. Meant to add some olive oil, but it is now opaque in the bottle ( kept in S1 below deck) and would not pour! But marge worked, pepper & salt. Plus my usual high octane cereal w apricots & raisins soaked overnight, knekkebrød with kaviar, two cups of tea.
I got the radio going and heard shocking news from Dallas...
Locally 6 C in Saint Johns with a high of 14 expected, possible frost again tonight, but hope of high 19 tomorrow. They would deserve that!
Sun's gone again. 
Ordinary wet weather gear today (wind, spray), but the SunWind survival suit certainly did the trick in cold, rain, spray and rough conditions yesterday. Well made, Hansen Protection!
Thanks again for many wishes from near and far mediated by Diana yesterday! Best of luck back to all of you, too, with your own challenges. And for those about to start their holidays: Hope it's up to your expectations! 
It's Friday!

Day 55, evening

Sun came out long enough to make the water I needed and dry out the survival suit. Wind stayed at NW, gradually weakening and now, 2 hours after sunset, it is virtually gone. Still some swell giving us a little push in the right direction. But it will soon change, according to the forecast, as during the night the easterlies will be back. We only have 30 nm to the SE edge of the Grand Bank, it was getting a little warmer today, but now I fear we'll be here for several more days as the SE and E will be stay for 3 days!
Saw dolphins twice today. One single, large specimen came jumping along next to us, probably chasing fish. He sort of leap-frogged along at least 10 times!
My first really close meeting and chat to a ship this afternoon: i thought it was a trawler first as he moved very slowly. He was directly in my path so i rowed close and saw it was "Cygnus", a Canadian Coast Guard ship. We chatted over the VHF. He asked if I needed water or provisions! I was dearly tempted, but explained I was trying to do my row unsupported, but if they could take some pictures or maybe video and forward to Diana, that would be super. So I gave Diana's mail address. But I forgot to ask when they would be back ashore...
Diana has looked up the bird "lomvi" (Norwegian) and says it's the guillemot in English (and French). Not seen them or puffins now for two days - finally we are too far from their chicks on land (we're now 200 nm from Newfoundland). Regarding the gull, which I still see a lot of, my friend Tore, the bird watcher is away bird watching, so no help there yet.
Diana wanders about my body. It's holding up fine. Bum and back and hands suffer a bit, of course, but not taken any pain-killers or NSAIDs yet. I get some indigestion and take a PPI type a couple of times weekly, as well as some ordinary antacids. Tonight I had to soak my hands in warm fresh water to make the corns and thickened skin swell in order to cut them down: "Fox II" pedicure!


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