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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Jan. 30, 2011-Wordless Hours in a Remote Place

Wordless hours of peace go by on a quiet night in a remote place.

Wings lies at rest in a small harbor somewhere on the planet’s watery surface and late into the night Judy and I sit up in our cabin. It is still and quiet outside.

I select familiar, old, songs on the computer which play softly on the cabin speakers and Judy reclines on the settee reading her book.

We are sipping glasses of white wine, each of us alone with our thoughts.

We are cut off from the world outside of our cabin; the dark and still world which surrounds us. We can’t hear anything outside of our cabin and we can’t see into the darkness. Our world is this cabin.

We could be anywhere; it looks and feels the same wherever we are.

Tonight we are in Caudan Basin in Mauritius and there is barely any movement in this enclosed bay to rock us even with the utmost gentleness. We are surrounded by Mauritius’ peaks, visible against the foggy sky out through the main hatch if we look.

On another night like this we were tucked into a tiny nook in Gaciosa Bay in the Solomon’s Santa Cruz Islands, and on other nights, in other far away places where the particular combination of weather and location provided anchorages where neither wind or waves disturbed our peace, we relaxed in just the same way.

We came into this basin in the back of Mauritius’ Port Louis Harbor to flee some rough weather which seemed to be coming. On Wednesday there was something in the air and the marina was subject to an unusual swell.

On Thursday we checked the satellite photo and it showed a Low Pressure system nearby. The system was still to the north but coming towards us and the swells in the marina were bigger.

Thursday afternoon Paul Sungales saw me on the quay and said, "The weather is deteriorating fast."

We downloaded some GRIB files and they showed a pretty well defined system which was projected to become more defined by Friday and be even more defined than that on Sunday, Jan. 30, 2011. From these pictures we could see that the weather would indeed get worse over the next two days.

That night the marina was almost untenable. In the morning we moved to the nearby cyclone shelter: Caudan Basin.

In Caudan Basin there was no wave action. It was peaceful.

We sat quietly and enjoyed the night.

Just as we have done in countless other small anchorages and harbors in countless other places.

Click here to see today's images from Port Louis

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Mauritius

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Jan. 27, 2011-A voyager, not a Cruiser

wingssail images-fredrick roswold

Julian Mustoe

He is a voyager but not a cruiser.

He is a brave man, but some might say foolhardy.

Julian Mustoe, 78, is sailing his 25’ IOR quarter tonner Harrier alone around the world following the path of Charles Darwin, and Monday he set out for Africa to continue his voyage directly into the face of whatever Neptune had in store for him. He has no HF radio, no means to get weather updates, and no EPIRB in case he runs into serious trouble. Julian Mustoe is on his own. However, he’s gotten this far (London to Mauritius), not without some incidents, and you can’t argue with his persistence in the face of disaster nor his resourcefulness. When setting out to cross the Indian Ocean (before leaving Australian waters) his windvane failed and he had to resort to hand steering. Julian rigged a method of steering by the wind pressure on the sails and carried on. Forty days later he arrived in Mauritius.

I gave Julian a briefing on Sunday and told him that the weather picture didn’t look good. There were storms between Mauritius and Africa and maybe a chance of cyclones; I wouldn’t go. But Julian was stoic. He told me, “I think that I shall go tomorrow anyway - I am bound to get some bad weather somewhere in a 30 day passage”.

So now he is off to Africa and I wished luck him and good sailing.


I made a wiring error 17 years ago and discovered it last week. I’ve been working on the alternator recently. After my old Balmar failed for the second time and I bought a new one (shown below) which wasn’t performing well I’d been running tests and checks. Right in the middle of my work the alternator quit charging altogether and I discovered that the regulator had shut down. Tracking the fault I discovered that the blue and black wire from the panel which I used for a regulator switch was actually the ground wire from the charge warning light and was never the right one to use (I never 'til now quite understood the wiring diagram). When the light bulb failed after 17 years the regulator shut off.

OK, now, finally, I got it: the black and red wire should have been used not the blue and black one, so I reconnected the regulator properly as well as replaced the light bulb. It all works now. Amazing to me that this wiring error made so long ago should have lay in wait from then until now.

New Balmar Alternator

Now, let me qualify that “all works now” statement. The new Balmar can’t hold a candle to the old one. Its output is not greater and it overheats dramatically: 249F vs. 176F. What a disappointment. I’ve talked to Balmar about it and they agree that the new product is not as good as the older one but they say parts are not available to continue mass producing that prior model. This tells me that their success in selling their product has had the result that they cannot maintain the quality which made their reputation while still addressing the high demand. Too bad.

As for us, we’re having the old model rebuilt (again) and we’ll put it back in service.

Click here to see the another photo
Click here for some shots from Mauritius

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Mauritius

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Monday, January 03, 2011

Jan. 1, 2011-Asia: An Ocean Away

wingssail images-fredrick roswold

Thailand Memento

We spent six years in Asia and it kind of crept up on us; once it was strange and exotic, next it was familiar and comfortable; our home.

Manila, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, and Bangkok and Phuket,Thailand; how we miss those places where we sailed and traveled so often. How we miss the friends we made there, the places there where we used to eat, the stores there where we used to shop. Asia was like an old coat that you wanted to keep wearing forever.

It doesn’t seem real that it is as far away as it is. It seems like just yesterday that we were there and that we could easily return to those old haunts if we wanted to. It seems like the eighteen day passage across the Indian Ocean wasn’t real, just a dream. The ocean crossing is compressed in my mind into just an instant, a single image of huge waves and the white wake of our boat stretching out behind us across vast, open, ocean. It does not seem like the three week passage from one world to another which it actually was.

But then we realize that Asia really is an ocean away. We really came a long distance in those eighteen days and it might as well be to another planet. We are not in Asia any more.

We are in Africa.

Because, just as the Philippines was our first taste of Asia, Mauritius is our first touch of Africa and we now will look forward, not back.

Forward to another new world; one that already seems strange and, if not exotic, is certainly different.

But it is our future. Asia is our past.

Today is the first day of a new year and as I tear off the last page of my Chinese calendar I realize that just as there are no more pages on my Chinese calendar, there is no more Asia for us.

wingssail images-fredrick roswold

December 2010-Chinese Version

There is Africa.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Mauritius

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Dec. 31, 2010-Another Day Sailing

We met a Mauritian couple here when they walked up to our boat at the dock in Port Louis and said “Hello, did you sail here from the US?”? It’s not an unusual question; we get asked it about three times a day in Port Louis and usually it’s just a tourist who is awed by the idea but really has no concept even when we try to tell them why it took 14 years because that’s always the next question,

“How long did it take you?”

But Jean-Mee & Jennifer are planning to buy a boat and go cruising themselves and they’ve done a bit of sailing and they were knowledgeable, interesting and interested so it was nice to meet them and we invited them aboard Wings for a glass of wine. The conversation was good and so was the Christmas Dinner we had a week later at their house.

We planned to meet again in Grand Bay for New Year’s Eve. There would be dinner ashore and then we’d watch the fireworks from Wings and the next day talk boats with them again. There would be lots to talk about and maybe time for some sailing.

So on December 30, 2010 Judy and I set sail up the coast to go back to Grand Bay, where we’ve been before.

Mauritius often promises and sometimes delivers that kind of easy sailing on its leeward side: flat water, blue skies, and good wind. There was breeze sufficient to fill the sails and move Wings at a good pace and the low chop threw an occasional splash of salt water in our faces but nothing which would bother us or cause us to work too hard. And it was warm enough to sail in shorts and a t-shirt.

It was fun in other words.

Under the main and number 4 jib, with the main flattened and traveled down and both sails eased a bit, the helm was light and the boat steady and we slid along at 7 knots just off the reef. Tombeau and Balaclava passed to weather and we approached Cannonier’s Point.

Coming out from under the point Wings heeled to the stronger breeze and we saw the breaking waves ahead marking the reefs which lurk offshore there. Judy ducked below several times to check the chart. She warned me to keep footing off even as the wind was trying to lift us. Wings wanted to sail higher and I had to resist the temptation to let her go up.

We stayed away from the reefs.

Once past the point we felt the rise of the Indian Ocean swell and the boat came alive. There was more wind, more spray, more heel, and more speed; we had the power now and we charged upwind. There was deep blue sky and Indigo ocean and the smell of clean salt air which had blown in all the way from Cape Leeuwin, Australia, three thousand miles away to the south east. It was great.

Free of land we gave Wings her head and we, along with the boat, reveled in blue water sailing at its best. So good was the sailing that there was an urge to just keep going. We right sailed past Grand Bay and looked at the horizon and imagined the vastness of the Indian Ocean ahead.

But slack high water at the flat outside of Grand Bay was not to be missed so we turned away from the open ocean, tacked over, eased the sheets and ran in watching our shadow leap over the sandy bottom. It was close enough under the keel to make us nervous but we’d been this way a few times before and we let her fly.

Later, when the chain rumbled out in our old spot in front of the Grand Bay Yacht Club we felt good; it was the last sailing day of 2010 and it had been a great day.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Grand Bay, Mauritius


The fireworks at Grand Bay were absolutely spectacular although we almost missed them; dinner in town with Jean & Jennifer and Joelle ran long then there was desert and the bill, and after that we had to weave through the Grand Bay New Year’s Eve crowds and we were even surprised to find the dingy dock packed with spectators waiting for the show but they let us through and we quickly boarded the zodiac intending to get back to Wings in time to see the show and hoping to get some good photos.

Only the show didn’t wait!

Halfway back to Wings the main fireworks started and by that time we were just abeam the raft from where they were being fired, by remote control, so at that point, when we were about 100ft away from the raft, we were the closest humans to ground zero for the Mauritius fireworks spectacular. Luckily it didn’t blow up and none of the smoldering debris landed in our dingy but we were looking straight up at them for the longest time. When it was finally over we continued on to Wings. The downside was that my camera was on Wings, not with me in the dingy, so I got no shots. Maybe Jen or Joelle did.

Footnote #2

wingssail images-judy jensen

Sailing with Jean and Jen

On January 1, 2011, we again set sail, only for this time it was to go out of Grand Bay for a short day-sail with Jean and Jennifer. Again we had great blue water sailing conditions and we beat towards the east with a #4 and full main in nice 15kt winds. What we didn't anticipate was the effect of the strong current which runs between Mauritius and the islands to its north. That current was against us and simply flattened our tacks on the outbound leg but after an hour or so when we turned back to come in with the spinnaker the current became a major issue as it swept us down towards the rocky reef on the east end of Gunner’s Quoin.

With the assym kite up but without it being fully hoisted or pulled in on the tack it could not be trimmed for a tight reach and it was not at all effective as we tried to sail high to avoid the rocks. We did get clear without much drama but it was not particularly pretty. The barely flying kite was pulling us mostly sideways and we were not going as fast as we should have been.

When it was finally it was apparent that we’d passed the rocks and we could bear away to the West we did and then we were able to trim the kite. For Jean & Jen, who have not sailed with spinnakers before, the reach to avoid the rocks was an eye opener. Jean said, “I don’t think I’m going to get one of these for my boat.” However, when we were later steaming downwind with a full kite at nine knots he might have started to reconsider and when we were back in Grand Bay at anchor it was all smiles aboard Wings; we’d had another great day on the water and enjoyed the company of our new found friends.


Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Grand Bay, Mauritius

Click here to see photos from the New Year's events at Grand Bay

Click here for a few photos from Jean & Jen's place at Trou D'Eau Douce (and the drive we took)

Click here to read (in French) Jean-Mee's political articles about Mauritius

Click here to see the log book pages of our sailing trips in December 2010

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