Midnight Watch

Ok, if you read an earlier post, you'll know that middle of the night watches haven't always been my thing but experiences continue to temper this. Sunday's 2200 - 200 watch is another example. The evening was outstanding and I thought I'd send my impressions for those not fortunate enough to have a similar experience. I know my writing doesn't convey the half of it.

New Destination

A lot has happened since our last blog and several of our planned blog topics have slipped astern given yesterday's events. As you know, Shearwater has withdrawn from the TransAtlantic Race 2015. We made the decision with heavy heart but, given the options and resources available, we felt it appropriate.

A frustrating day at sea today with a big high pressure blocking our path to the ice gate, so progress has been slow. This has allowed all onboard to take a little extra sleep. We are split into 3 watces of 2 people, with lloyd out of the watch system. This means we are on stby

for 4 hours (helping the on watch with manouers cooking cleaning, and for me weather routing, then we move to being on watch for 4 hours, when we are ondeck driving and trimming, and finally we get 4 hours off for sleeping, and repeat. Having lloyd out of the watch systems works well as he is a strong driver, so can jump on the helm at any time and bridge between watches.

The skipper awoke in buoyantly positive mood this morning! As he appeared at 0400 to take his turn on the helm Bernard helpfully commented that it had been light at 0300 and that we should possibly advance the clocks two instead of just one hour. The skipper then disappeared below to write in the log book.

On re-emerging he casually announced that it was now 0600 instead of 0400. One way of shortening your watch I suppose! This now puts us 2 hours behind good old Blighty. This positive mood evaporated however when he examined the latest weather Grib files announcing that he thought he would prefer to be further north.

He then re-ran the programme 3 more times and still remained indecisive. Should we gybe to get north? The unfortunate Bernard was awakened from his well deserved rest and was asked to double check. Together they decided to remain on our current course and gybe, if necessary, in 12 to 24 hours. Bernard was then allowed back to his pit.

We have been trying to regain a new route since we missed our initial weather window due to our mast repair delay. With that 5 hour delay,  we could not get ahead of the trough and was caught by the hole it left us to sail through.

07 July

The evening of the 6th and the first half of the 7th have so far seen little wind, no clouds and, with the exception of a few dolphins, a featureless sea. It’s looking to be a hot still afternoon and with luck the breeze will fill in before tomorrow.

Otherwise, life on board is good. Well fed, well rested, dry and not smelling too badly, everyone is in good spirits and waiting for wind.


Last night and most of today have featured slightly stronger breeze and, as a result, better sailing than we’d expected. The A3 remains our headsail of choice with a change from the Genoa Staysail to our J4 and now back to the GS. Just now, we’ve closed to within about a dozen miles of Comanche as measured to the next mark in the course associated with the Ice Gate.

It’s surprisingly warm on deck in full sun, the workload is modest and a number of us have remarked that it seems a bit more like Transpac conditions than a Transatlantic. Last night we spent some long hours diagnosing problems with our Automated Identification System, which plays a critical role in a number of ways: it’s designed to assist in avoiding collisions at sea, it is also a key component of our man overboard recovery strategy and an onboard requirement for participation in the Transatlantic, and it’s required for navigation within the English Channel.

Our own installation was working well when we left the dock on Sunday, but within a few hours of the start, we noticed that we were experiencing very short range and then as night fell we were unable to detect any of the fishing boats that were often within only a few hundred meters.

After eliminating all other possibilities, we concluded the problem was with the antenna. This morning, bowman Scott Beavis made a trip to the top of the mast and quickly descending to announce that nothing remained of the masthead antenna or the connector to the mast antenna cable.

We managed to put together a solution based on a dissected spare VHF antenna, a crimp connector, some rigging tape and a little underwater epoxy and after one more trip to the masthead, we’re back in business.


The Rambler crew assembled at Newport Shipyard at 10 a.m. The first order of the day was assembling all our post race paraphernalia for air shipment to England. The scene on the dock was fairly relaxed compared to the previous weeks near endless work lists. As we stowed personal gear on board and assembled for our pre-departure crew meeting, our impression was that the Rambler was by far in the best shape since being launched in late 2014.

We ticked through a quick review of weather, safety, watch system and a final thanks to the shore team for the outstanding preparation and with little fanfare, dropped the dock lines and motored for the starting area.

Narraganset Bay was surprisingly filled with spectator craft of every shape and size. Many made fly-bys with cheers, waves and kind words for our safety and results for our Transatlantic Race and future slate of events in the U.K., the Mediterranean and Australia. It was a great send off for a program that was conceived, constructed, commissioned and campaigned in Rhode Island.

It was good to watch Paradox get a bit into Phaedo during the Open Class start just minutes before our own, which was, thankfully, much less eventful. We enjoyed a stronger-than-forecast breeze with full main and J2 and then transitioning to FRO and Genoa Staysail.

Now, at 1930 EDT (2330 UTC), we’ve cleared Nantucket shoal, cracked off a bit and peeled to our A3. The crew has settled into our watch system, which is four watches of four, with four fresh crew coming on deck every two hours in rotation. That gives each of us a four-on/four-off routine, with navigator Andrew Cape, strategist Brad Butterworth and owner George David floating.

Wayne Meretsky
Transatlantic 2015

In the foreground, Simon Daubney (right, trimmer) talks with Josh Belsky (pit) about jib mode. In the background, left to right, the crew in hats are Stu Wilson (boat captain/trimmer), Stu Bannatyne (watch captain), Scott Beavis (bow), Andrew Cape (navigator) and Brad Butterworth (tactics).

Broad reaching at 20 knots

Off watch

Scott Beavis (left, bow) and Stu Bannatyne working to make the best of 3 knots of wind.

Dave “Naval” Shilton

My adventure on Dorade has been a very interesting one. When it comes to the weather, we’ve have had it all; mostly strong winds with a few days of very strong stormy conditions and the occasional light breeze.

Tuesday 1030EST 41 59N 59 46W Atlantic Ocean

If you saw our race start on Sunday, we were ON OUR BIKE!!...... no doubt about it, fabulous action !!

Well.... right now, 500nm down the track, THE TRAINING WHEELS ARE ON !!

Das Atlantik-Sturmtief hat weitreichende Auswirkungen und wird Einfluss auf die Regatta-Flotte nehmen. Abseits des Kerns und der von den US-Gribdaten prognostizierten 40 kn Wind, haben wir es in der von uns durchsegelten Randzone mit WSW 7-8 und teils sehr ruppigen sowie

Time:  1608 UTZ
Date: July 7,  I think that means that it is Tuesday
Latitude: 42 16.537n
Longitude: 037 48.345w
True Wind Direction: 250 true, but varying 10 degrees on either side of that
True Wind Speed: 30 knots, with lulls to 26 and puffs to 34
Sea state:Filthy.  Truly vile. Big swells approaching 30 feet, with intermediate crossing waves of 15 to 20 and then lots of slop.

After yesterday's update, we ran under the A5 chicken chute all day and all night. double headed with a storm jib and then two reefs in the main.  Yesterday's conditions were decent, with winds in the mid to high twenties and a relatively organized sea state.  Then early last night we saw a front come through with a 50 degree wind shift and we decided to take a hitch to the north. The gybe went smoothly, which was remarkable because it is the very first gybe or tack we had put in since before the starting line.  We had been on port board for over 1500 miles. 

For a while we were actually able to fetch the finish, but as the front moved through we got clocked and were headed more NNE. Still on favored board, but barely.

By dawn this morning, the winds were steadily in the high  20's to low 30s but  the biggest issue was the sea state. It is really, truly vile.  Giant rollers are throwing us around like rag dolls, and between the waves, the variation in true wind direction and the puffs, all combined with the fact that we are running as deep as possible to maximize VMC, means that we were constantly at risk of broaching or rounding up.  Pilot steering was out of the question, so we had some long and tense watches on the helm and even with two guys that are pretty experienced at this, we would round up at least once an hour.   

Finally, right after dawn we decided the frequency was too great and we wanted to switch down from the A5 to the solent.  Maybe a concession of our frailty, but it was proved to be a bit late since we then almost immediately broached.  Recovery in that sea state is an amusing exercise. Once you have ground on the new runner, broken the old runner, dropped the main and traveler, released the storm jib and then released the A5 (all while standing at 80 degrees heel), you then have to be prepared to jump on the tiller as the boat stands up and starts hauling ass at 15 knots down the next wave.  Then you need to quickly dump the water from the two tanks on the wrong side, fill the two tanks on the right side, move everything and clean up the mess. It cost us an hour and one coffee mug lost overboard.

Since then, it has been solent running with two reefs. We still see 11 to as much as 20 knots of boat speed, but we are well off the polars. We do, however, have more control.

Ever since I saw this low developing, my plan has been to try for the southern route, threading the needle on the bottom part of the low with out getting spat out into the Azores high.  I figured that sailing inside the low was going to be more about survival than actual racing and that I would deal with the VMG gybing to the finish that the southern route implied.  I also have seen the Canadian models be more accurate than the NOAA models for this entire spring and early summer, and those Canadian models seem to support my hypothesis.  It remains to be seen if I am foolish or wise, but you guys will be able to have a good yard stick in comparing Dragon's outcome and that of Stella Nova or Toothface who have chosen north.  So far, Stella has been able to maintain high averages, and my hat is off to them.  They four up on that boat, all great sailors, but they have to be working real hard at it.  Sea state will be even worse than here, water colder and more wind.

This update came in from Mike overnight. 

We had earlier gybed into the lower part of a massive storm system, hoping to catch great winds tomorrow. 

Seas built very rapidly, and we were unable to sail the more southern route intended

Dead ahead looked grim, and we decided a fourth reef was beter than a 38knot wind gybe attempt in 16 foot breaking waves. After some hard work on a slippery top, Rob noticed a 2-foot tear in the top of the main problably caused by a spreader during the  reefing process.

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