Joe Harris set sail from Newport, RI on November 15, 2015 aboard GryphonSolo2 attempting a solo, non-stop, unassisted, Round-The-World record attempt for a 40ft monohull sailboat.
Joe Harris departed Newport, RI in November on an attempt to set a new Non-Stop Solo Around the World Record for 40-foot monohulls. © Billy Black
On December 23, GryphonSolo2’s regulator for his hydro-generator system overheated and fried its circuit board and Joe diverted to Cape Town, South Africa. This stopover meant the end of his official record attempt in the eyes of the governing World Speed Sailing Records Council due to stopping to receive "outside assistance", but Joe continues his circumnavigation. Joe's updates follow below, most recent first....
Latest Update from Joe: Wednesday, March 2, 2016 - Cape Horn Rounding
At 7:03 AM local, 8:03 AM EST, 1303 UTC, GS2 and I have just crossed the longitude of Cape Horn- 67' 15 West- so even though we are 30 miles offshore, we have by definition, just rounded the Horn! Amazing... I have been dreaming and planning for this for 30 years... so this is a very satisfying moment indeed. In planning the approach to the Horn, it became apparent that my passage was going to coincide with the arrival of yet another cold front, so getting right in close to the rocky shore in a Northwesterly gal was not going to be possible. So, I decide to approach from the SouthWest- leave Islas Diego Ramirez just to port- then proceed past the longitude of the lighthouse on Islas Cabo de Hornos about 30 miles offshore and then make a gradual left turn from the Southern Ocean into the Atlantic, heading Northeast up towards Staten Island.
As you might anticipate, the wind is howling at 40 knots from the West and the seas are 20' - and it is cold as hell- but I would not expect anything less, as the Southern Ocean gives me one last kick in the ass on the way out. No time to celebrate.
These last two weeks have been a real test- as the cold fronts rolled over us with greater frequency and intensity as we went further and further south towards Antarctica and finally into the funnel of the Drake Passage. As the picture below reveals (taken yesterday in preparation for the gale and early morning crossing), I have my bumps and bruises to show for the effort, as we have pounded along under reduced sail and increasingly cold and hostile conditions.
Some say that sailing around Cape Horn is the sailor’s equivalent of climbing Mt. Everest. Others say that summiting Mt. Everest is the climber’s equivalent of sailing around Cape Horn! Regardless of your perspective, the achievement represents a pinnacle of the respective sports. For me as a solo sailor, I have taken another significant step towards joining the few solo sailors (not sure of the exact number, but it is less than 100) who have circumnavigated the Globe by way of the 3 great Capes, including the Grandaddy of them all- Cape Horn. I want to thank the small group of solo circumnavigators that I have been in touch with who have provided advice and insights gained from their passages around the Horn: Brad VanLiew, Tim Kent, Bruce Schwab, Alan Paris, Rich Wilson and Josh Hall- with extra help from Dave Rearick- thank you guys.
And I certainly want to thank all the friends out there who have jumped on the "GS2 totally excellent 2015/16 Kharma Bus RTW Tour"- your constant positive vibes have made a huge difference for me. There is an old custom that sailors that pass around Cape Horn wear one small gold hoop earring in their left ear out of respect, since they left Cape Horn to port. Maybe we can get some extras and Team Kharma Bus will be known by their gold earrings!
But most importantly, I want to thank my wife Kim and kids- Griffin, Emmett and Sophie- for supporting me in this quest. You guys are the best and I love you.
Now all I have to do is hang a left into the Atlantic and click my heels three times and I will be crossing the finish line in Newport… I wish it were so simple.
Many miles to go yet- but this is a huge milestone- part of, but also independent of the circumnavigation- that I will savor for the rest of my life and tell my grandchildren about… and I'm sure the stories will get better as the years go by!!!
Joe’s path, go to http://www.gryphonsolo2.com
Latest Update from Joe: Wednesday, March 2, 2016 - Poor Defense
Slogging along out here in the Southern Ocean with the far-away goal of rounding Cape Horn staying elusively… well… far away!
I am now about 1,500 miles out but still weaving a zig zag downwind gybing course with the westerly wind directly behind me on my easterly path. This causes me to sail extra miles from a straight-line path and therefore daily "distance made good to the mark" is about 1/3 less than actual boat speed average would indicate. Such is life. Another 7-9 days.
So Monday night I experienced some of the worst conditions I have ever encountered and am still trying to assimilate the learning. The forecast was for a steady 35k wind gusting to 60- for a 48 hour period- which is a long time to be under such an assault. I had 4 reefs in the mainsail and the storm jib up- as little sail as possible to keep steerage- but the boat became increasingly hard to steer in the large and confused seas. When a big puff came, the boat would naturally head up- and then the pilot would over-correct back- causing the boat to teeter dead downwind- and if a wave kicked the stern the wrong way- the mainsail and jib would backwind and attempt to gybe the boat. I had both a vang and a preventer (a line from the end of the boom lead forward and back to a winch to keep the boom in position), so the boom really couldn't move, but the sail would backwind- the battens reverse- and it was just not a good thing.
So I sailed a bit higher course and turned the auto-pilot up to its highest setting to prevent this over-correcting- and before long the Auto-pilot alarm went off with the message "Rudder Drive Unit Failure". Shit. I quickly switched from Port to Starboard pilot systems, and crawled back into the aft steering compartment to see what the problem was and found a bunch of water and hydraulic fluid sloshing around.... not good. So I grabbed my bucket and sponge and laying on my belly mopped up the mess- while becoming covered in the slime- but could not identify the source of the leak. I suspect the drive unit over-heated and may have blown a seal in the hydraulic ram unit- so I am not sure if it is toast- or if it might be useable on the mellower settings- TBD- when (or if) it ever calms down.
Being down to one auto-pilot unit sucks for sure and I am pissed because the unit should not have failed, as it was brand new before the trip, and should be able to handle these conditions.... but what are you gonna do.... just deal with it.
Meanwhile, on deck, the storm raged on- wind gusts to 65- completely chaotic sea state- and I'm just hangin' on- hoping nothing more breaks before the storm abates. Not fun. Luckily nothing more did break, and eventually the wind and seas came down and once I thought we were OK, I collapsed in my bunk for 6 hours- completely exhausted.
So.... my take away and strategy for the next gale- which is due tomorrow night- might be to take the mainsail down completely (or as far down as a square-top main will go) and try to use the larger staysail to keep the boat tracking better downwind but not have to worry about gybing the main and possibly damaging either the sail or the traveler or whatever. I guess it’s a bit of a laboratory out here and I'm always looking for solutions when things don't go as you hoped or planned.
On to Cape Horn!
Latest Update from Joe: Tuesday, February 23, 2016 - Poor Defense
It is a bit ironic that my previous post was entitled "Playing Defense"- which I certainly feel like I am doing as the gales blow through here every two days- but unfortunately last night I did not play very good defense, and a sail was damaged as a result. I prepared for the night by getting 2 reefs in the mainsail and the Solent jib out, planning to "run deep", or run before the wind at a True Wind Angle (TWA) of about 145'. I had experienced good results with this sail plan previously in winds up to the low 30's.
However, last night as the night wore on, the winds just continued to rise until they were consistently in the low to mid 40's- a lot of wind. The sea state came up quickly and the boat started getting thrown around. I kept ticking down the auto pilot control button to have the boat sail more downwind, but at a certain point the boat begins to wallow in the wave troughs, and the jib is blanketed by the main and begins to flail around wildly as the wind fills it with a crack and then empties. Listening to this happen from below in the cabin at 3:00AM, I felt I had to furl the Solent or the sail would get damaged from all of the shock loading.
So, despite considerable trepidation, I geared up and went out into the maelstrom. The sea was lit, as the phosphorescent foam of the breaking waves was illuminated by a full moon. I released the Solent jib sheet and went forward to furl the sail using the furling drum at the bow. However, the wind was so strong that the sheets were flying all over the place, and I was wacked in the nose (a bit of blood) and then my headlamp was knocked off by the flailing sheet. I sat down on the deck and pulled as hard as I could on the furling line, but it barely moved. The sail was all over the place and ended up getting wrapped around the headstay, so I returned to the cockpit to tend to the sheets and see if I could get it unsnarled. I eventually did, but a small tear developed in the foot of the sail just forward of the clew patch (where the sheets attach to the sail). With the sail continuing to fill and empty, the tear quickly grew horizontally, moving down the foot of the sail.
At this point I knew I was screwed, as I could not get the sail furled and we were clearly over-powered by the 40+ knot wind- and it was scary. As I sheeted the sail in, the boat would round up, causing it to get sideways to the waves and lose steerage. It was not fun. A rogue wave hit from a weird direction- kicking the stern around- and we accidentally jibed. Big mess- boat heeled radically- Release jib- release running backstays- release traveler- get the boat moving- violently gybe back to original course.
I knew than I had to get the Solent furled, so just went forward with considerable adrenaline pumping- not taking no for an answer- and just muscled it in- although it was a bit shredded at this point along the foot. We were then back under control with just the main with 2 reefs and I went below to lick my wounds.
So- I am very disappointed that I allowed myself to get in that situation. The challenge is to always have just the right amount of sail up- not too little so you go slowly and not too much so you are out of control with a rapid wind increase. I guess the truth is that I really did not expect it to blow a sustained 45k with that really nasty sea state, or I would have had much less sail up. The harsh reality is that you have to reduce sail before the gale- because once you are in it, it is very difficult to get sails down.
So tonight another gale is coming- so I will have three reefs and the staysail- and hope that will be the right combination to maintain steerage without being over-powered. The solent jib- my primary jib- is at a minimum temporarily out of commission and may be permanently toast- that remains to be seen- but either way- a costly mistake.
So I will discuss a possible repair of the Solent jib with my sailmaker and see what we can come up with. The Solent is not on a halyard to raise and lower, as it is permanently lashed in place to the mast, so I would need to go up the mast to get it down to work on- which could only happen in very calm conditions, i.e. not down here- so I will be without it in the short term. This will likely slow me down a bit- but there is not much I can do about that at this point. In the meantime I am hunkered down - trying to play better defense- and looking forward to getting around the Horn - out of the Southern Ocean and back into the Atlantic Ocean- within two weeks- or about 2,800 miles straightline. But it could be a long two weeks.
Latest Update from Joe: Thursday, February 18, 2016 - Alternative Realities
Your humble reporter is transmitting from a very isolated place in the southern ocean- East of New Zealand- West of Chile- but approximately in the middle of nowhere.
The wind has been consistently from the N- NE for the past two days so I have stayed with my sail configuration of 2 reefs in the main and the staysail with the wind about 20 knots just forward of the beam (77' true wind angle "TWA") . Boat speed is around 8-10 knots- if the wind were just a bit aft of the beam (say 100' true wind angle) I would be going 12 knots- but with the wind just forward of the beam- so we do not surf or plane.
The Heel angle is about 20' despite full water ballast. Rough sea conditions makes it hard to move around the boat. We just bang. When I go on deck, I am greeted by waves of cold water over the head, which discourages me from hanging out in the cockpit, as I get quickly soaked and cold and there is nothing to do.
So... there you have it… I am not going to glamorize it... nor am I complaining... this is "head down- get through it" time in the Southern Ocean- and water/air temps remains warmer than I expected at 57'.
But in the Southern Ocean, any day above water is a good day- so let’s look on the sunny side. I am not Shackleton in an open boat- I have a relatively warm, dry cabin to retreat to and be alone with my thoughts.
But I am bored- "all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy-- red rum, red rum" so I tore out the pictures out of the "Sports Illustrated Swimsuit" edition and have duct-taped them on the cabin walls and ceiling. I know - kinda a 15-year-old thing to do- but I really needed some artwork, as the condo was not popping. Now it is.
I am enjoying Hemingway's "The Old Man and the Sea", having put down Mick Jaggers' biography (vapid) and a chick book called "The Lake House" that I found nauseating and boring.
I am totally addicted to the "Boston Legal" TV series re-runs and laugh and cry out loud un-abashedly. Denny Crane and Alan Shore.
I also watched "Pulp Fiction" last night- a classic- and would encourage any of you into that genre (warning- not for children- deeply twisted) to put it back up- with particular emphasis on the dance scene (they do The Twist) with Uma Thurman and John Travolta, and the bible speeches of Samuel Jackson.
Also watched Clint Eastwood in an early western called "Hang'em High" which was pretty bad- but amusing.
On board- I have narrowed my mind to very basic thoughts- eat, sleep, keep the boat going, make sure the batteries are charged, try to communicate with other humans- or dolphins- when they come around- but they don’t speak English- I so wish they could- or I could speak dolphin.
I smelled myself this morning and was not pleased so thrashed around with baby wipes and baby powder for a while and feel much better.
At some point I'm sure I will have to do some sailing again... but until that time… I just need to survive inside my 10' x 10' cabin and my 4" X 4" brain.
Joe’s path, go to http://www.gryphonsolo2.com
Latest Update from Joe: Thursday, February 4, 2016
I think where I left off last was with the approaching gale and me in "yellow flag" mode, slowing to let the gale go past. So that strategy worked well and while I did see winds over 40k, I did not get the 70k winds that were not far away, so I felt good that between Commanders Weather and my weather/routing we devised a strategy that worked. So I passed the longitude of Cape Leeuwin, Australia, one of the "Great Capes" on Tuesday and have been humming along since then in very good conditions with North-Westerly winds in the 20's which allows me to sail on port gybe at a wind angle of about 130', which is perfect for this boat.
The next milestone is getting past the longitude of the South East Cape of Tasmania, which is about 900 miles ahead. After that the target is Stewart Island at the Southern tip of New Zealand, which is about 1,750 miles, so I am targeting Feb. 12 or 13 as an ETA, at a 9 knot average boat speed and continued favorable wind direction. Good stuff.
So I had a weird incident yesterday, as I was sitting in the cabin reading around mid-day my time, I picked up my iPhone to check text messages from the YB tracker system, and there was a message from my wife Kim asking if I was Ok as my EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon) had been triggered and sent a message to the world-wide sea-air rescue network and Kim had been contacted by both the US Coast Guard and the Australian Rescue Center to see if my EPIRB alert was real or a false alarm.
Holy Cow- I had no idea... so I crawled to the back of the boat to a locker in the port stern quarter and found my "ditch bag" of emergency supplies, which had one of my EPIRB's in a front pocket. The bag had somehow been flipped over and was upside down, causing the EPIRB to be pressed into the floor, which accidentally pushed the "ON" button and the EPIRB was flashing and transmitting an emergency signal of distress. So I flipped the bag back over and pushed and held the "on" button on the EPIRB, which de-activated the signal.
However, the signal had been transmitting for about 90 minutes already, so Kim had been called by the U.S. Coast Guard at 3:00 AM, asking if she knew me and if I was really in distress? Since we had been emailing only a couple of hours ago and the tracker showed the boat moving in the right direction at 10 knots, Kim told them she thought I was OK but would check and get back to them. She then called and emailed a team of 6 experienced mariners I had put together before my departure to handle "emergency communications", and all waited to hear back from me. I was shocked to get the message that the EPIRB was on, so quickly relayed to Kim that there was no emergency- everything was fine on board GS2- and to please tell the U.S. and Australian sea-air rescue teams to stand down.
I then called Kim on my sat phone which had not been functioning well, but I took the Iridium phone out of its cradle and brought it on deck and- lo and behold- it got a signal and connected the call! Kim was obviously relieved to hear that everything was OK and this was a false alarm, but it was 3:00 in the morning and she had been dealing with this for two hours and she was understandably a bit stressed! Luckily our Emergency Comms team had responded- the world-wide COSPAS-SARSAT sea air rescue system that the EPIRB alert triggers had responded rapidly and efficiently and everyone was ready to assist- which was awesome.
So on we go- I feel badly for the accidental triggering of the EPIRB (it is now in a "Pelican" waterproof case with lots of padding) and the stress it placed on Kim and my team as well as the international sea-air rescue system, but the good news was that everything worked as it was supposed to, which gives me confidence that were I to have a real emergency, the people, systems and technology are in place to effect a rescue. Thank you to all involved.
More news in a few days... hopefully it will be boring… and Happy Birthday to my Mom, Katrina Parson- who turns 79 today!
From 46' South- below the Great Australian Bight-
Joe’s path, go to http://www.gryphonsolo2.com
Latest Update from Joe: Saturday, January 30, 2016
As I approach both Cape Leeuwin, Australia and the chronological estimated half-way point of the journey on Monday Feb 1 (Day 67), I am also facing a building gale right in front of me. I was first warned of this yesterday by Commanders Weather who advised me to "Slow Down!" so that the storm would have time to weaken before I got to it. I was initially bummed at this advice because I was going along very fast- say 10-13k- with surfs up into the higher teens- and was gobbling up the mileage. However, when I sat down at my nav table and pulled down a 4-day GRIB weather file and saw the storm, I quickly realized what they were talking about and the wisdom of their advice. Thank goodness for their "eyes in the sky" broader vision of the weather world- I am very lucky to have them looking out for me.
So I took down the staysail this morning and put up the orange storm jib for the first time in a long time and tucked the third reef into the mainsail and slowed the boat to about 7.5k. When I run my routing now at 50% of normal expected speed, it shows the worst of the storm (i.e. winds of 50 knots or greater) blowing itself out just before I get to it, so I am looking at 35 to 40k instead of 50-plus. Huge difference. Really hope that is the case.
So now I am holed up in the cabin for the next two days as it is already blowing 30k and will continue to do so for the next 48+ hours. So lots of reading, drinking hot tea, and anxiously looking out the cabin windows as the seas build and we get bashed around by the waves. Squalls roll through periodically and the wind increases and a driving, pelting rain falls, which makes it feel like you are going through the car wash having punched the "deluxe clean" option.
I suit up in my foul weather gear every 2 or 3 hours and go out to check on everything, trim the sails, raise or lower the hydro-generators and do a few exercises to get warm and relieve the cabin fever. It is an interesting existence. I am reading a good book called, "All the Light We Cannot See" about World War 2 in Germany and the occupation of France, and one of the characters tells of being shut inside a house for four months in occupied St. Malo, hiding from the Germans. So I guess things could be worse...
So I hope you all are getting outside and enjoying the snow (if you have some) and getting some exercise. My time is steadily improving in the 40 foot dash from the bow to the stern, but I could use a little more runway! I will report again once the storm passes on Monday night.
Latest Update from Joe: Sunday, January 24, 2016
It has been quite exciting out here at the bottom of the Indian Ocean and/or the top of the Southern Ocean, where the westerly winds and cold fronts just keep rolling through. Last night it blew between 30 and 40k all night, and luckily I had not much sail up (3 reefs and the staysail), so the boat rode through it Ok, although the big seas throw the boat around a lot. I heard from Commanders Weather yesterday that Tropical Cyclone Corentin is brewing to the north of me off Madagascar, packing winds of 80 to 100 mph, so was advised to head East and South as fast as my little legs would carry me. Yes Sir. I think I have been averaging well over 9 knots over the last 3-4 days and it feels like I am in a rhythm with the weather systems and the boat. Lots of sail changes, but I like the work-out and it helps tire me out- which is good- as too much sitting around produces anxiety.
In other breaking news aboard GS2, I finished Neil Young's autobiography, "Waging Heavy Peace" and thought it was - in the words of Richard Sherman - highly mediocre. Though I love his music, this rambling, disorganized tale bounced around aimlessly in time, and literally seemed like he wrote it or dictated it in random spare moments as he drove or flew or whatever. Anyway, it’s always great to hear how crazy a musician's life is, as it makes the rest of us look tame by comparison with our minor addictions and bad habits. These guys went big and many of them died young. A fun read for me, but not one I would recommend unless you are a huge Neil Young fan.
I made some fresh water from salt water today - I know - it's a miracle - and ran the engine for the first time in a week or more just to keep away the gremlins. The hydro-solar combo has met all our energy needs, but there will come a calm day with no sun when the diesel beast will be needed so need to keep her tuned up. All good.
I woke up this morning after a good sleep despite the raging winds and had my morning coffee and went on deck all fired up to put more sail up and put The Doors on my iPhone and launched into yet another crazed bout of howling and tears and air guitar maelstrom. WTF I ask you. I can't seem to play any music now without sobbing - I feel like frickin' John Boehner. In college, my Brown lacrosse teammates and I were way into The Doors, and we played them incessantly to get psyched for games and to party. L.A. Woman was our theme song... and it still sends a shiver down my spine. So a shout-out to the multi-generations of Brown State Lacrosse Nation - and Coach Lars Tiffany - my heart is with you as the spring season approaches.
I have also been futzing endlessly with time -speed - distance to the finish calculations and have the following estimates to report:
Estimated total voyage time at sea:
134 days - assuming no further stops or major problems (shhh that would "unofficially" break the record, but were not gonna talk about that right now - Ok?)
So halfway would be 67 days: Feb 1- A national holiday will be declared in the Kerguelen Islands
Around the bottom of New Zealand: Around Feb. 12
Around Cape Horn: Around March 3
Back to Newport: Around April 4 - 8
Looks so simple and easy sitting there on a piece of paper doesn't it? I hope by putting this out there I am not inviting any bad luck - I am more hoping that everyone will again climb on board the Kharma Bus for a sustained ride to the finish line! And a large Par-Tay! So send the positive vibrations… they will make it down here.
Latest Update from Joe: Friday, January 22, 2016
And the beat goes on down here near Antarctica. It was actually quite a nice day today with sunshine and moderate winds, which allowed me to do a few chores and clean the boat up a bit.
I discovered that a batten in the staysail had poked through at the luff so I needed to un-hank the sail and send it below in order to make the repair. I decided just to stitch over the tear, as I did not think that sticky back tape would last in that location, but I had to use a drill and small diameter bit to get the needle and thread through the thick and tough sail cloth. It went pretty smoothly and now it is back up and looks fine, but will have to see if it withstands the test of time.
My next issue was with kelp on both the keel and the rudder. I used my Japanese tree-cutter blade to get the rudder clear, but the seas were too rough and we were moving too fast for that to work on the keel. I could see through my little glass inspection port in the bottom of the boat that some kelp was wrapped around the top of the keel fin where it intersects with the hull and when the boat got going over ten knots it sent up a whining noise caused by the high speed vibration. It was loud and highly annoying so I rounded the boat up into the wind and tried to sail backwards twice to get it to come off- and some did- but not all- so it still makes a little sound but not near so bad.
I have been very pleased with the output of the hydro-generators through the new regulator box, which I have been monitoring very carefully. I let the batteries discharge down to about 12 volts and then put the hydro down and let it charge the batteries up to about 12.7 volts and the new three new batteries hold the charge very well. I have not run the engine to charge via the alternator in about 6 days but will do so in a day or two just to give the engine a run and make sure everything is happy.
So today, with the wind forecast to stay below 20k for 12-18 hours, I was able to go from two reefs in the main and the staysail to a full mainsail and the A5 gennaker, with the staysail set underneath it. The boat is cruising along at 10-12 knots happily and it feels good to have a sail set off the sprit for the first time in a while.
Mentally and psychologically I feel I am more back in the groove after a tough re-start out of Cape Town. I am falling into a routine and that helps make the time go by more quickly and I feel more grounded. I am working on some time-speed-distance estimates for my time to New Zealand, then time to Cape Horn and then time to get back to Newport and will publish the estimates probably on Sunday, when Ken Campbell from Commanders Weather is back from his vacation and able to give me a second opinion. From my math, completing this voyage in under 137 days at sea seems very possible.
Before I set off, I assured my family that four months would go by in the blink of an eye. Well... I'm not sure what they think... but for me, this has been one very long blink. Like most things that are hard, time seems to slow down while you are doing it, and you count the days till you are back, and then when it is over, you wish you were back out there. Interesting dilemma. But for someone who can sometimes be a lone wolf, it’s good to be reminded of the need for the human warmth of companionship. So I am trying to learn from these solitary days in the Southern Ocean… with lots of time spent scanning out over the endless ocean, watching the birds dip and soar, watching the incredible cloud formations scud by, the sun and moon peek in and out of view… and burning these visions into memories… and trying to take what the sea has to offer for learning.
And for some strange reason- I have nothing but Steve Miller Band songs running through my head- so put a few SMB songs on tonight and I'll bet you will be rockin' in your kitchen.
Latest Update from Joe: Sunday, January 17, 2016
Happy Sunday to you all and congrats to our NE Patriots for a big win over the KC Chiefs. Although I could not watch the game, I had excellent play-by-play commentary coming from a number of friends which was really fun, as I had to be up through the night anyway to help guide my faithful stead through a pretty good cold front.
So it is blowing a steady 35k- gusting to 45k- from the West and I am headed as downhill as possible to the SE to ease the strain on the boat and just try to surf along with the wind and wave flow. The key is picking the optimal wind angle so that the boat does not round up in the gusts but also does not wallow around as a result of sailing too deep. So I sit below at the nav table and dial the auto pilot settings up and down and try to keep the boat moving nicely and not get overwhelmed.
While riding through this gale, I am reminded of a skiing trip to Alta, where Kim and I joined up with some other folks to hire a guide to take us to the hidden sweet spots on the mountain that others might not find. Our guide was an Austrian fellow named Dieter, who was very clear in his instructions and honest about the risks. At one point we took our skis off to hike up a narrow, icy trail to get to a summit that lead to an area of virgin powder and Dieter quietly stopped the line and said, "You are now entering the "No Fall Zone", so please be very careful as you climb, because a fall would not be good". We all turned and looked down the near-vertical slope and understood immediately what he was saying. I feel a little like I am in the "No Fall Zone" down here in the roaring forties!
So geographically , GS2 and I are now just North of the Prince Edward Islands (South African) and the Crozet Islands (French), but I don’t know much about either of these so if someone could do "the Google" and provide some historical tid bits, that would be great.
It’s cold and gray and wet and it makes me want to stay in the cabin in my sleeping bag- it’s gonna be a long two months of this...
There are birds circling the boat almost all the time. Although they are pretty and fly very gracefully, they look to me like they have only food on their minds. Reminds me of the old spaghetti westerns where the vultures used to circle after the big gun battle…
I watched the movie "The Butler" with Forrest Whittaker and Oprah Winfrey about the civil rights movement and it was excellent.
I just finished reading "Left for Dead", Beck Weather's story of survival on Mt. Everest. I saw the movie "Everest" while I was in Cape Town and enjoyed it and have also read Jon Krakauer's book "Into Thin Air" which is also about this same incident where a storm swept up Everest and many climbers were lost. Pretty good read from multiple perspectives- his wife included.
I have now started Neil Young's autobiography "Waging Heavy Peace" and 40 pages into it, seems pretty good. Neil Young is a weirdo rocker for sure- but a savant whose music I have always enjoyed- so this should be fun.
I just rediscovered a semi-random bunch of Podcasts on my iPad which are mainly the NPR TED Radio Hour and a number of "Real Time with Bill Maher" episodes. I listened to a TED talk about Quiet and Stillness and Introverts vs Extroverts which was quite interesting given my current monastic situation. I realized I had not spoken a word in quite a while. Some might say that’s a good thing.. ?! :) Anyway, some good intellectual stimulation for my brain.
So that's about it from the lunar module down under. I'm already dreaming about rounding Cape Horn- every sailor’s ultimate quest- but that is a long way out- so maybe I need to focus on getting past Australia and New Zealand first.
To follow Joe’s path, go to http://www.gryphonsolo2.com
Latest Update from Joe: Thursday, January 14, 2016
From Feast to Famine
After three days of very light or no wind- The Wind God Aeolus has woken up and turned on the fan out here on the Agulhas Plateau, which is about 400 miles south of the tip of South Africa and about 560 miles north and east of Prince Edward Island (will have to study-up on that one), a remote outcropping in the middle of nowhere. I am on Day 6 following my re-start from Cape Town and Day 49 in cumulative time at sea, so the web site counter will soon just reflect cumulative time. So yesterday as I studied the weather I could see that I had to cross a cold front to get to the fresh south westerly wind. The GRIB weather file called for 22 knots of wind, but I had a feeling at the transition point to the new weather it would be more and indeed it was at about 2:00 AM this morning when it went from 8 knots from the East to 30 knots from the South West in about 10 minutes, with some rain attached. So although I had been waiting for this shift to occur and a gybe, I had a bit too much sail up, so scrambled for the next hour to put three reefs in the main and change from the solent jib to the smaller staysail. These late night, high wind sail changes never fail to get the adrenaline pumping and I moved slowly and carefully around the boat as I made the changes. After I had the situation stabilized, I put some water ballast in to reduce the heel angle and fell into my bunk around 4:00 to catch a little sleep before dawn.
So the boat is moving well now at 9-10 knots in 23 knots of wind at a True Wind Angle of about 80'. However, I can hear GS2 whispering to me, "Hey Dad- I really want to go downwind!! Can I?? Please, Please??". I know if I could turn her downhill by about 40' we would be absolutely flying, but I am trying to head South East, so alas have to keep my "American Pharoah" reined in for now. As Neil Young said, "There Comes a Time.”
So I'm nearly finished a book called "Service- A Navy Seal at War" by Marcus Luttrell, author of the bestseller and hit movie "Lone Survivor." This one is about his tour of duty in Ramadin, Iraq, during President Bush’s "surge" and it is an interesting read. On the movie shelf, I juxtaposed "Training Day", which Denzel Washington won an Oscar for portraying a bad-ass cop in gangland LA, with "It's Complicated", an amusing semi-chic-flick story of divorce and reconciliation with Meryl Streep. It’s good to have variety. Maybe Mick Jaggers' autobiography next?
So I am hoping that having paid my dues and battled my way back down south here to the Roaring Forties, that the prevailing Westerly wind will dominate and allow me to make up some miles after a slow first week from Cape Town. The down side is the constant crashing and banging as the boat lurches along and blue (cold!) water coming over the deck constantly- so must have full foul weather gear for any trip on deck. Makes for a lot of changing and mopping water out of the boat to keep my small living area dry. But I will take it over flat calm any day!
To follow Joe’s path, go to http://www.gryphonsolo2.com
Latest Update from Joe: Saturday, January 9, 2016
After a 10 day stop in Cape Town for repairs, in the immortal words of Willie Nelson, I am indeed "On the Road Again".
After replacing the hydro-generator converter box, then the alternator, then the batteries, I think we finally came to the end of my charging system woes and everything seems to be working well at the moment- knock wood. It was certainly frustrating to not be able to get things done before Cape Town shut down Thursday 12/31 at noon before the New Year’s holiday week-end, but such is life. When we did get the alternator back from the repair shop on Monday- we installed it- and it did not work properly- so we had to track down another- and I threw the old one into the sea in frustration. We also determined that the batteries were no longer properly holding a charge- so we had to replace them on Tuesday. When we finally had things back together and tested on Wednesday, a cold front blew in and caused the delay in departing until Friday. Many thanks to marine electrician Chris Hutchinson, Harbormaster Steven Bentley and my old friend Peter Claypool for helping to track down all the bits and pieces necessary to make GS2 once again ready for sea.
The reality of Cape Town weather in January is that it blows hard out of the Southeast constantly (the wind is nicknamed the "Cape Town Doctor", so as Ken Campbell from Commanders Weather says, "If you are heading East- Cape Town is an easy place to get into but a very hard place to get out of.” So we decided that even though I knew I would take a shellacking the first 12 hours, a Friday night departure was necessary to avoid the next cold front coming in on Saturday. So Claypool tossed me my lines off Quay 6 and I headed out into Table Bay- when the Doctor opened up a can of Whoop-Ass and unloaded gusts up to 40 knots as soon as I cleared the breakwater! I motored to a spot in the lee of the mountain and got my act together and set three reefs in the mainsail and the staysail and headed out. Holy Cow- I was immediately pounded by winds over 30k- gusting over 40- and the boat was very difficult to manage. I was very nervous that something was going to break, as I was hard on the wind trying to head SE towards the Cape of Good Hope into this incredible wind machine.
Suffice it to say that last night was a long night with little rest and a lot of hand steering, as the auto-pilot would get overwhelmed in the gusts ad the boat would round up dangerously. I also had to watch out for shipping traffic- as it was fairly busy- and it reminded me a bit of the English Channel in a big blow. At daybreak the wind began to moderate into the high teens- and the sun has come out and it is actually pretty warm- which I think might be the Agulhas current- as the water temp is 75-degrees vs the usual 68-degrees.
So- with all of your collective permission- I would like to "unofficially" pick up the record attempt where I left off- which was on Day 43- and still see if I can beat the record of 137 days based on elapsed time at sea- so not including the 10 day stopover in Cape Town. So that would mean I will need to complete the remaining 2/3 lap of the planet in 94 days at sea or less- and mathematically that is certainly feasible.
Time to get to work-
To follow Joe’s path, go to http://www.gryphonsolo2.com
Latest Update from Joe: Wednesday, December 30, 2015
“Sorry for being quiet for a bit but it’s been very busy! Where do I begin?
Came into Cape Town on Monday night- after a wild sail up the coast from the Cape of Good Hope. The coastline is spectacular and a strong wind from the Southeast took me up the shore in no time- arrived in Table Bay about midnight and Harbormaster Steven Bentley came out in a RIB to guide me in to Victoria Basin in 35 knots of wind in Table Bay. Very glad to get to the dock.
Yesterday was incredibly busy. We replaced the converter box for the hydro-generators and that went well. We went for a sail/sea trial to test them in Table Bay where it always seems to be blowing 35k and everything worked well. I am very psyched to have my hydros back in action!
However... I had been having trouble with my alternator/regulator for charging the batteries while running the engine- so the technician finally determined that the problem was in the alternator- so we pulled it out of the boat and took it to a repair shop for new brushes and diodes. I hope to get it back today and re-install and test- but not sure on the time table.
I found that the solent jib had significant chafe so had to take the sail down and do a fairly large repair on the dock. Lots of helpers- which was great. Sail is now back on the boat and ready to go. Thank you to Terry Halpin for getting your pal Mike to help me- a very knowledgeable guy.
My old high school pal Peter Claypool lives and works here in Cape Town and has been a huge help- it has been very nice to have an old friend here for moral support. We had a great dinner last night and he is helping me round up supplies. Thank you, Clay.
Filled up with diesel and fresh water- now off to the grocery store for a few things- hope to depart tonight- but may be tomorrow. Although very tempting to stay here in beautiful Cape Town with people could not be more helpful and friendly. Hope a weather window opens so I can get south quickly.
So that’s about it- I got a very nice note from my German competitor Henrik who broke his ankle and had to stop his voyage. He also pulled in here to Cape Town and was quickly flown back to Germany for surgery. His boat is the marina just down the road. Best wishes to you Henrik for a speedy recovery- I will be continuing my voyage with you and mind- hope I can make it around for both of us.
All the best to everyone for continued holiday fun-
Latest Update from Joe & Team: Wednesday, December 23, 2015
A tough blow to Joe but he sails on….
Yesterday was a tough day. It was very stormy, with enormous seas and winds between 30 and 45 knots throwing the boat all over the place. It was hard to simply stand up. In the middle of this, I began to smell something burning. It smelled like melting plastic... and that’s what it turned out to be. The "black box" regulator that sits under my navigation seat for my hydro-generator system that takes the AC current produced from the propellers spinning off the back of the boat and turns it into DC current to charge the batteries, had overheated and fried its circuit board.
I knew I smelled something bad, but it took me a while to locate the smell and then get the whole thing apart and when I finally did, I knew in a second I was screwed. The two hydro-gens that look like little outboard engine legs hanging off the transom of the boat just port and starboard of centerline had provided roughly 90% of all the electricity I have used to date on the trip. They are wonderful “free” energy in that they consume nothing and produce lots of electricity when the boat goes fast. I don't know exactly why the regulator box got so hot and ended up melting the board. The best theory is that since the boat was going very fast, the hydro props were spinning fast and produced more electricity than the regulator and batteries could handle, and that excess energy turned into heat, which melted the circuit board.
Unfortunately, I don't have either a spare regulator box onboard, nor do I have enough diesel fuel to charge the batteries for the estimated 85 days left in the voyage without the benefit of the hydros’ contribution.
For this reason, I have elected to divert GS2 to Cape Town, South Africa, which is about 1,000 miles due East and not far off my current path, in order to replace the burned regulator box and get my hydro-gen system going again.
I plan to make the repairs as quickly as possible in Cape Town- without touching land- which should allow me to get back out on the race course with minimal time lost. However, this stopover will mean the end of my official record attempt in the eyes of the governing World Speed Sailing Records Council due to stopping to receive "outside assistance", which is not allowed for a solo, non-stop circumnavigation record attempt. While this is a big bummer no question, I have to remember that my goal began as simply sailing solo around the world safely, with the record piece being a bonus. I am now returning to those basic goals, and feel good about being out here for the right reasons. To be clear, I do intend to pursue the record of 137 days "unofficially", as I still think I can beat it, even with lost time to the stopover- and wouldn't that be cool?
So I hope you will continue to support the "Team GS2 Totally Excellent Kharma Bus RTW 2015/16 Campaign" (now there's a good t-shirt!) and I will continue to provide frequent Facebook/email updates as I have thus far.
Thanks for your ongoing support. Game is still on. Happy holidays to all!
To follow Joe’s path, go to http://www.gryphonsolo2.com
To follow Joe’s path, go to http://www.gryphonsolo2.com
Latest Update from Joe & Team: Friday, December 18, 2015
I seem to have survived my first South Atlantic/Southern Ocean gale and it was an interesting weather pattern that I expect will repeat itself frequently over the course of the next two months down here in the southern latitudes. So the wind starts in the North or Northwest- and builds up into the twenties- providing some nice downwind surfing conditions as we are headed East-Southeast. I had two reefs in the main, the A5 fractional, hard-luff, heavy weather downwind sail, with the staysail set underneath it. A pretty stable rig. However, above 25 knots of wind, the surfs of 13- 18 knots boat speed got pretty exciting, so I furled the A5 and doused the staysail and went to the solent jib. A good call- much more stable- but I needed to sail a little higher to keep the Solent full and the boat moving steadily above 11 knots.
As the front moved through, the wind was around 30 knots with gusts to 35, and rather quickly went from NorthWest to West- to SouthWest-to South- necessitating a gybe- and then I furled the solent and hoisted the staysail to go hard on the wind in 25- 30 knots of wind and nasty sea conditions. Ugly. Suffice it to say it sucked completely. The motion of the boat and pounding into the seas was so erratic it became important to really focus on simply not getting thrown around and getting hurt. Torrential rains- water everywhere- above and below decks- and cold! Slept fitfully in my FW gear with boots on- listening for any sounds that did not seem right. Sure enough- I heard a flapping and came on deck to find the Solent jib trying to free itself from being furled on the headstay, so I had to run off deep and unfurl and re-furl the sail from the foredeck, which was easier said than done in 30+ knots with the sail flapping like crazy.
So through the crucible and out the other side- winds slowly diminishing last night from mid 20's to mid -teens, then the inevitable "light and variable"- sails slapping- auto pilot alarm going off when all you want to do is sleep- as the storm system exits and the transition begins.
So today is sunny and clear- clean-up day- sponge out the water- hang stuff up to dry- try to catch up on sleep and chores. Another gale forecast for Sunday afternoon through Tuesday. Better get used to it.
To follow Joe’s path, go to http://www.gryphonsolo2.com
Latest Update from Joe: Tue, December 11, 2015
Latest Update from Joe & Team: Tue, December 1, 2015
"Hello Sports Fans:
I'm coming to you live from the "Bulge of Brazil"- getting very close to the Equator! We (me and the boat) are roughly 430 miles away, so at a 10 knot average that would get me there in 43 hours, which would be the wee hours of Thursday morning. Crewed boats typically make a party of the Equator Crossing, with someone dressing up as King Neptune and crew members making offerings to placate the gods.
I am thinking of a Jameson and coffee with a fine cigar- a "Gryphon"- courtesy of my good bud Jeff Hacker. So, as you can tell, I am looking forward to that- and will send a photo commemorating the moment that the GPS shows 0.00 degrees for latitude.
So life at sea here in the tropics goes on- 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness. It is very warm and very windy- usually blowing about 20 knots - and the sea conditions are rough- so the boat gets very wet. It is almost comical, every time I go on deck, I am greeted by a large wall of water in the face. I feel like the clown in the circus when they do that comedy routine and some unsuspecting clown gets splattered with a bucket of water- that would be me. Usually I have just put on a clean shirt and shorts and I naively go on deck just for a little fresh air- and Wham- I get nailed with a wave in the face and get completely soaked.
So now I have shorts and t-shirts hanging everywhere in the cabin, which really don't dry in these rain-forest like conditions- and I find foul-weather gear just way too hot in this climate- so mostly I am naked (and afraid?) and nobody seems to mind. I am just covered in salt water and am really trying to avoid salt water sores, particularly on my butt, which is a common affliction for sailors. So, I will leave it there- looking for the next downpour of rain so I can run on deck and have a fresh water shower!
The boat is holding up well- I have had two reefs in the main and the Solent jib up for quite a while and the boat likes the combo of power from the jib without too much weather helm from the main. The auto-pilot steers 99% of the time and the hydro-generator puts out between 12 and 20 amps of power which is enough to run the AP's and electronics and keep the batteries topped up at over 13 volts. So I have not really had to focus on energy conservation much at all- and can use the computer and sat comms fairly freely- which is nice. If we slow down, this may change, and I am hoping the solar panels will then kick in, but they have not been major energy contributor so far. I have only run the diesel engine once so far, just to make sure it still worked.
So that’s my pre-Equator story- looking forward to visiting the southern hemisphere for only the second time under sail- the 2005 Transat Jacque Vabre from France to Salvadore, Brazil being the other time.
Stay thirsty my friends - Joe"
To follow Joe’s path, go to http://www.gryphonsolo2.com
Position on 12/1/15:
November 21, 2015 update from Joe Harris:
“Yesterday I became aware of a new competitor out here on the great Atlantic race course and that is a gentleman named Henrik Masekowitz. Henrik is from Germany and is attempting to break the same record as I am- 137 days around the world, solo, non-stop, unassisted for a monohull boat 40' or less. Henrik started from France two days before I did and is sailing a Class 40 Akilaria RC 1 named Croix du Sud, whereas as I am sailing an Akilaria RC2. Both boats were designed by naval architect Marc Lombard in France and built in Tunisia by MC-Tech- Henrik's in 2007 and GryphonSolo2 in 2011. Pretty darn similar boats. I believe Henrik's web site is: http://www.soloceans.de and he is also on YB tracker at http://yb.tl/hmsailing.
So it is "Game On" sports fans... we have a race on our hands, which is I think is what both Henrik and I were hoping for in both originally trying to do the Global Ocean Race, which is no longer happening.
So here we are- completely unexpectedly- joined on the race course around the world - but he coming from France and me coming from Newport. I think the mileages are pretty similar and we will meet up at the equator and then sail the same course around the bottom of the globe- leaving the five great capes to port and Antarctica to starboard- and ultimately around Cape Horn at the southern tip of South America and then back up to the equator and then splitting paths, with Henrik back to France and me to Newport.
Henrik's record attempt is also being reviewed by the World Speed Sailing Records Council in England as my attempt is. It's quite ironic, isn't it?
Upon reflection, I do think it’s pretty cool... as long as I win. :) However, if I break the old record but lose to Henrik, that could potentially suck... but let’s not go there girlfriend.
I know for a fact that this will sharpen my competitive instincts and cause me to push even harder, while remembering that you can't win unless you finish safely.
So, Henrik- I wish you safe and fast passage... just not too fast pal... and for the first leg... I'll wager you a bottle of fine French champagne if I get to the Equator first- even with your two-day head start!”
Best to all-
To follow Joe’s path, go to http://www.gryphonsolo2.com
Position on 11/21/15:
November 17, 2015 Update
On Sunday morning, November 15, 2015, Joe Harris set sail from Newport, RI aboard GryphonSolo2 attempting a solo, non-stop, unassisted, Round-The-World record attempt for a 40ft monohull sailboat. To set the record, Harris needs to beat 137d, 20h, 01m, 57s.
Video of Joe's start around the world, Sunday, November 15. Courtesy of GryphonSolo2
Harris has reported a couple of days of broad reaching at 22-30 knots, visits by pods of dolphins and a bird has taken up residence in the cabin. Settling in, Harris remarks “Mother Nature seems to be welcoming me to her world.”
You can track Joe’s progress at http://www.gryphonsolo2.com/ and follow him on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/GryphonSolo2-235552776555708/?fref=ts
Position Report 11/17/15
To learn more about Harris, see the below WindCheck article from September 2015's issue and check back for updates.
By Julianna Barbieri, September 2015
Longtime shorthanded sailor Joe Harris of South Hamilton, MA has set his sights on the Non-stop Solo Around the World Record for 40-foot monohulls. The attempt, aboard his Class40 GryphonSolo2, will be made in accordance with the rules of the World Sailing Speed Record Council (WSSRC), who will time the start and finish in Newport, RI.
Joe Harris will depart Newport, RI in November on an attempt to set a new Non-Stop Solo Around the World Record for 40-foot monohulls. © Billy Black
Additionally, a “WSSRC Black Box” will be installed on the boat, the data from which will be used to ratify any claim by GryphonSolo2, that the existing record of 137 days, 20 hours, 01 minute, 57 seconds, set by Chinese sailor Guo Chuan in 2013, has been broken.
Harris intends to leave Newport on a favorable weather window at the beginning of November. To qualify for an Around the World record, he will sail from Castle Hill Light in Newport and return to Newport, leaving Antarctica to starboard. The attempt is an approximate distance of 26,700 nautical miles. To beat the current record, he’ll need to average 195 miles per day, or roughly 8.2 knots per hour.
“I have been hoping, planning and dreaming of racing around the world since I was about 20 and now I am 55,” said Harris. “I have come dangerously close to doing this twice; first with my Open 50 GryphonSolo in 2008 in the Velux 5 Oceans Race, before it was postponed. I then bought my Class40 GryphonSolo2 in 2011 with the express purpose of racing solo around the world, but alas, there is no longer a race, as the Global Ocean Race will not run again. So, being ‘all dressed up with nowhere to go,’ I have decided to ‘just do it’ and in turn attempt to break the speed record for a 40-foot monohull.”
Harris grew up sailing on Long Island Sound, being mentored by his father, Woody Harris and his grandfather Hans Rozendaal, both experienced offshore racing sailors. With four transatlantic crossings, nine Newport Bermuda Races, five Marblehead to Halifax Ocean Races, five Bermuda 1-2 races, three Atlantic Cups and numerous international miles sailed, he has logged over 60,000 offshore ocean miles, while owning five boats over a span of 30 years.
Sailing singlehanded, Harris finished second in the 2004 Transat (Plymouth, UK to Boston, MA). His victories include the 2005 Transat Jacques Vabre (France to Brazil, double-handed), the 2006 Newport Bermuda Race (Open Division), the 2007 Bermuda 1-2 (in which he set a new course record), and the 2014 Atlantic Cup presented by 11th Hour Racing.
© Billy Black
He and his wife Kimberly have three children (Griffin, 17, Emmett, 11 and Sophie Grace, 8). When he’s not sailing, he is involved in real estate investment, development and project management.
Harris is actively training for his record attempt. In addition to multi-day training sails, he competed in the PHRF Doublehanded division at the Storm Trysail Club’s Block Island Race Week in June and the Marblehead to Halifax Ocean Race in July (also double-handed), and he’s doing the Ida Lewis Distance Race this month.
GryphonSolo2 is an Akilaria RC2, the second generation of Class40s designed by Marc Lombard and built by MC-Tec. She was launched in 2011 in LaTrinite, France. In preparation for the record attempt, the boat has undergone a major refit at Maine Yacht Center in Portland, ME including the installation of new autopilots, new computer and navigation system, new Iridium satellite communication system, and new solar panels and a hydrogenerator for offshore energy production. The keel and rudders were removed, inspected and reinstalled, and the mast was completely stripped and re-painted. North Sails, one of GryphonSolo2’s Official Suppliers (along with Harken and Headway), is building a new sail inventory specifically for the record attempt.
“There is no other sporting event in the world that runs for 137 days, 24 hours day, in which you are the only athlete on the playing field racing against the clock,” said Harris. “This will no doubt be the greatest challenge I have ever faced and I would be lying if I said that the prospect of being alone on the great oceans of the world for four months is not an intimidating thought. It is. But in the end, this will provide me the greatest test that I can imagine. So, I look forward to engaging with anyone who would like to follow the record attempt, from the preparation, to the start, to the communication from sea, to my return to Newport in, hopefully, anything less than 137 days.”
To learn more about this remarkable sailor, visit gryphonsolo2.com.
Julianna Barbieri is the Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Manuka Sports Event Management (manukasem.com), a Newport, RI-based sports event asset and management company specializing in marine events and environmental sustainability.