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GryphonSolo2: Mid-Atlantic reality check

by Joe Harris, GryphonSolo2 26 May 06:57 PDT
GryphonSolo2 © Joe Harris

I am writing from the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and it is a harsh environment. We are healed over at 30-degrees with the wind at 25k on the beam (coming from 90-degrees to the boat), with the sea state rough and irregular waves of 6-12 feet, so it is like riding a tilted, angry, bucking bronco. It is very challenging to move around and you need to be very careful as it is easy to get thrown around and get banged up. We lost our staysail on the second night out to a furling mishap and have since been over-powered in our larger solent jib or under-powered in our storm jib. Sub- optimal.

I think my body is covered in bruises although I haven't actually seen my body (or my face) in 9 days. Forgot a mirror. We are sailing the boat as best we can to go fast but also preserve the boat and ourselves for the actual race, but in reality, that is not happening. We are making small repairs constantly and addressing annoying leaks (ballast tank valves, forward hatch, water tank) as best we can. Suffice it to say the boat is wet inside and out. Sleeping bags are wet. This is not the "champagne sailing" you see in the brochures. This is a 'grind-it-out" delivery in the spring in the North Atlantic that many race boat professionals do routinely, but it doesn't make it any more pleasant.

My co-skipper Roger Junet and I divide the day into "watches" of 3 hours at night and 4 hours by day, and so we are getting decent sleep... way more than I have as a single-hander in the past. We have the water-maker going right now producing about a gallon an hour as our 15 gallon tank was getting a bit low. For electrical power we are relying on our hydro-generators, which because we have been moving at high speed have been producing more than enough electricity to drive the auto pilot, navigation and communication equipment.

For food it has been freeze-dried meals as the main thing and plenty of snacks. We bought a bunch of avocados and have been enjoying them daily until we ate the last one yesterday on day 9. We are reliant on our Jet Boil stove to heat water for the freeze-dried and the coffee, hot chocolate and Jameson that is our "go-to" drink when we come on watch. "Going to the bathroom" is an adventure as we have to poop in a bucket and throw it overboard off the stern. So if you can picture being in full foul weather gear and squatting in the cabin to poop in the bucket and then carrying this precious cargo aft to the stern rail to toss it over, you get a sense of how primitive life is out here. Roger and I have each carried each others buckets from time to time and that's when you know you have a friend.

So it looks like at least 8 more days to go of banging away in the cold gray drizzle at 30-degree heel angle and I cannot wait to arrive in Lorient and put this trip in the rear view mirror. I am re-reading Dodge Morgan's book "American Promise", a solo sailing circumnavigation story and Roger is reading Italian sailor Giovanni Soldini's book, and they both seem to be pretty miserable too, so maybe this experience is best remembered through rose-colored glasses over cocktails on shore.

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