Deep black sky’s at night

Written by David Townsend

12, February 2006

Position 07°52’570S 026°30’618W

Hi dear friends, thank you for following our journey. Here’s this weeks update.

Firstly I have to apologise to all who have sent me emails this past week (30/01/2006 onwards) I have been unable to reply. The reason for which will be explained in this weeks update.

Life onboard:
Oh to be back upon the Ocean, the deep blue sea, jumping Marlin, dolphins dancing in and out of the waves. Life’s tough out here but then I guess someone has to do it.

Our friends in Ascension gave us so much fish you would be amazed, fish every night since we left and it is a shame we had to throw some of it away yesterday (Sunday). The reason why is simple, I had the fridge turned to nearly maximum; in turn this took a heavy drain upon the batteries. So much so I had to later turn it down to its usual setting.

If we had been on a reach or on a beat then all would be fine for Casper our wind generator would supply enough amps to maintain all systems including the fridge on its maximum setting but unfortunately we have now been on as run since our departure, this means that Casper is only putting 0.8 amps compared to 10 or 15 amps. The reason for this is simple, if you take the boats speed away from the wind speed or more commonly known as its ‘True’ wind speed you obtain its ‘Apparent’ wind speed and this is nearly always less than its ‘True’ therefore Casper can not generate as much.

This has impacted our ability to connect to the email system as this requires around 12 amps an hour, normally it takes 30 minutes to send and receive say around 5 emails in and 5 emails out of the system. I managed to download and send several emails on Monday. I have also written the replies (not sent) but since then I have not had enough power to transmit and make a connection. As soon as we are back normal I will catch up with the back log so please be patient it may take a week to do so..

Woody (my crew) came up with a valid suggestion especially bearing in mind our location, that was ‘why do we not turn off our navigation lights as this would save us a little’. In it’s self a good idea, apart from being against the ‘collision regulations’ but I would agree if the conditions were right but for one thing. Out here I like to not only think of these as only ‘lights of navigation’ but also ‘lights of hope’ and by that I mean, if I were in distress, adrift in my life raft , to me they would be ‘lights of hope’, hope of being seen, hope of being rescued, after all I could have been holding on to my flares for the past three days just waiting for a passing vessel and here was my opportunity. Okay, a little over the top perhaps but out here you lookout for each other and in the grand scheme of things what’s 19 amps a night.

Part of the problem is also a manufactures design fault by the way they integrate the power source for the compass light, this was identified some two weeks after our departure from the UK when we first experienced battery management problems. Without getting too technical I have a mini network onboard, to the lay person this can be compared to let’s say the internet (or SeaTalk to give its name onboard) where computers talk to other computers but in the system onboard it allows one instrument to relay data to another so all the instruments are integrated.

The manufactures decided it would be easier to just connect the compass light to these systems. Where the compass light only requires say around millionth of an amp the ‘internet’ requires 5 amps an hour (this would not be a problem while cruising around Europe or port to port but when each voyage is around 2,000Nm and lasts anything up to 30 days it can add up). As you can see there is a big difference, so with the cable acquired via a friend of ours in Abidjan I removed this connection and ‘hardwired’ the compass light straight to the batteries, thus saving around 50 amps per night. After all you do not need all this fancy equipment out here, don’t get me wrong all the extra information is handy but unless we use the ‘Arnie’ the autopilot (we tend to steer by hand and have done so since leaving the UK some 8,000Nm ago) this information is not required. All you need is a course and a compass to steer her by.

So, today Sunday the 5th of February at 21:30hrs I decided to heave-to. The true wind speed was now for the first time reaching 18kn, this would mean an average of 12.5 amps an hour would be going into the batteries. So while the crew slept I ‘Heaved too’ and maintained a sharp lookout. Although at our current position we are nowhere new any main shipping lanes and far too far out for any local boats it is always safer to maintain such a lookout.

By 08:00hrs the battery level was at 12.2 amps, the better side of being totally flat but still only a quarter charged. If the wind maintains its current strength then I intend to stay here until 18:00hrs today (Sunday) before returning to our course for Recife.

The sailing is great, beautiful blue seas. Deep black sky’s at night, and with loads of new stars for we are now in the Southern hemisphere. Stars such as the ‘Southern cross’, the ‘Southern square’ or the ‘Southern triangle’ etc… as you can tell a great deal of imagination was used to name such stars but it would be unfair to say that for there are many great shapes such as the ‘Fox’ or the ‘Flying fish. Although we cannot see much of the Southern hemispheres sky yet, we are not far enough south it has been interesting leaning these new constellations.

The boat:
No problems with Pinta other than just cleaning up the dust and fine sand gathered during our stay on Ascension Island.

Bye the way all previously sent and unsent ‘Weekly Updates’ are now available to view online, visit our website at:

Well that’s if for now I hope all of you are ok wherever you may be.

Fair winds and calm seas.