“Rosita” Reports – Leg 1
26 March 2000 –
Rositas is red. She floats, albeit with a bit of a list to starboard. She made it from New Bedford to Marion. Of course I had to adopt the traditional head-fixing posture 1/2 a mile out from New B. Now in the “where to put things” phase. Hope to have the boat ready for a leg stretch by next weekend. New sails and a feathering prop have raised the speed under sail to 7 knots without trying and 10 without too much trouble. Looking for an early May departure towards Ireland.
Crew for the trip to Ireland: Amy Knowlton, Phil Hamilton and Lisa Conger from the New England Aquarium, and Eric Pierce and Michael Moore from Marion.
Hope to have time to survey the NW and W coasts of Ireland for right whales in early June, before a pit stop in the Shannon around the 18th. Then to the Hebrides and St Kilda before Azores in late August.
Saw our first osprey of the year at dusk this evening. No right whales to be seen in Buzzards Bay……..
23 April 2000 –
What are we doing?
A couple of years ago Hannah and I realized that if we were ever to spend a chunk of time in a boat with our children, the time was nigh. Oliver is now 14, Sam 13, Chris 10 and Tom 8. Any later and wings will be sprouting. The buds of revolt are already evident.
Neither of us have much time for cruising for cruising’s sake. We have to have a mission. Over the past 8 years or so I have become increasingly involved in northern right whale conservation issues. The known habitats of Georgia and Florida in the winter, Massachusetts in the Spring and Nova Scotia/ New Brunswick in the summer, do not account for all the whales all of the time, by any means. Where are the others is the question? Essentially we are looking for a few remaining right whale needles in the North Atlantic haystack. Needle isn’t exactly a good descriptor for these rotund leviathans, but you get the idea.
Where are we going?
The first thing we learnt in looking at the whale literature for old right whaling grounds and seasons and at the pilot charts for sailable weather zones was that right whales never read the pilot charts. Cape Farewell off Greenland and Iceland are not places to cut your teeth in a sailboat. So we tried to compromise between likely weather and potential for right whale encounters. What resulted was plan for a mad dash to Ireland in May. Survey there in June and off the Hebrides in July. A bolt to the Azores before the Autumn gales take hold in Western Europe, then some island hopping: Madiera, Canaries, Cape Verdes by Christmas. Ideally we would visit Cintra Bay in the Western Sahara, a known old wintering grouind, but the liklihood of returning from there unscathed is low. So then we had a choice of back to the Azores or on around the circle. A further look at the pilot charts convinced us that people go to the Caribbean in the winter for good reasons, so we will too, and then on up to Bermuda in the Spring, where there are hopes for more right whales. If we are still in one piece by then we’ll then head for Newfoundland and Labrador for the second summer before home and school and work. in the Fall of 2001.
Where have we got to?
This winter the boat went through a major refit at Niemiec Marine in New Bedford: increased the sleeping capacity by two, built a crows nest, welded up the opening ports in the hull, and went through most of the systems. My last message was on the crest of launching a month ago. Now we are back in the water after some moderately severe keel surgery following Michael’s brush with some ledge in Marion Harbor 3 weeks ago. Good to get that one out of my system. Now we are largely loaded, systems seem to be up and running ? today at least ? and we’re beginning to watch the weather for a likely departure early the first week in May. “The CREW” is Amy Knowlton, Eric Pierce, Lisa Conger and Phil Hamilton.
Hope this is of interest. Once we get underway we’ll try and give some periodic updates as we go along.
5 3 00 1950 UTC. Pos’n 42 04N 69 47W (10 mi E of P’town).
6 knots on wind(SE12) stbd tack.
Calm seas, happy crew. Looking for sleep.
May 4 2000: 2040 New England time Pos’n 41 50N, 65 58W, (240 mi East of Cape Cod).
Motoring in light variable winds. Headed for our first warm core eddy, hoping to ride the north edge of the Gulf Stream without too much weather. No critters yet.
May 5 2000 41 17 N 62 49W., c. 200 m. S of Halifax NS.
Warm night in an Eddy, now headed into a GS meander. Wind 10-15 knots SSW.
Fine reach at 7-8 knots. Lisa cooking dinner, Philip on deck, Amy and Eric asleep.
One lg. whale breach, no ID. 6 common dolphins bow riding for a while this am. Few birds. Weather Gods still smiling.
May 6th 2000 41 07 N, 58 36 W.
A busy day – blowing about 30 from the NE, heading south of east and doing pretty well with staysail and trysail. Vang failed today – but have rigged a topping lift. Weather for next few days will keep us aerobic I suspect. Hatch leaks too! Two jaegers, a loon and a something that breached.
May 7 2030 EST 41 12N, 55 42 W
Emerging from first significant low without any major scars. The next one promises to be a little less uphill, if stronger. Currently still on the wind, skirting the Gulf Stream, given the wind conditions. The stream is a warmer but lumpier place to be. Seeing various shearwaters, a group of c 200 unidentified dolphins. No ships or sun today.
05 08 00 41 17 N 52 50W
A day to regroup after some fairly boisterous headwinds. Aka duct tape on the hatch leaks and recovery of a semblance of order down below. Refilled H2O thanks to the wonders of RO. Now bubbling along at 8 to 10 knots with a rainy so’wester. Taking a bit of a dogleg south to increase the comfort zone from reported ice down to 42 15N and ourselves. “Boat riding well, crew happy, although skipper at times surly”: quote Eric Pierce.
05 09 00 2140, 41 13 N, 049 32 W
Survived yesterdays gale, albeit after shearing the mainsheet traveler. Headed in to another tomorrow. Still making reasonable progress. Saw two sperm whales. First lg. whales.
05 10 00 41 21 N 48 06 W.
We beat into a NE 30, Happy with our Sperry’s storm jib and trysail. Lisa’s made some cranberry blondies. Never thought I’d see so much of that trysail…. All’s well. Time to tack again.
05 11 00 42 03 N, 45 03 W.
Yesterday was an interesting wriggle in a NE 25 to 30 with the Gulf Stream against the wind to our south and the iceberg limit not far enough to the north. We found that she would happily beat to windward through the gap with storm jib and trysail. The war on chafe is fully embattled. Today a grand beam reach – starting a great circle route to Ireland, via a possible right whale spot at 49N 22W. – first time we flew the main since the traveler let go two days ago – our macrami fix seems to be holding. Made water, bread and battery juice today. Life is good. Still looking closely for bergs.
05 13 00 43 34 N 41 37 W.
While Michael and the rest of the crew sleep, Amy and I enjoy the light of the half moon illuminating the mainsail. Northerly winds continue to hold giving good sailing conditions. We are all excited to see our latitude become greater than our longitude- seems like we are indeed making headway towards Ireland. In celebration, there has even been talk of bathing!
Philip and Amy
05 14 00 45 33.2′ N 036 07.5’W
It’s a fantabulously glorious day here aboard the Rosita! The sun is out and sun screen is applicable (the pun meister’s ways are infectious…). All who are off watch are hanging out in the cockpit reading, napping, and sunning (ok, it’s still a little wet on the foredeck) The winds are steady out of the north at 15-20 kts, the seas are less lumpy than they have been in several days, and we are cruisin’, in the direction of our destination no less! Currently we are 45 33.2′ N x 036 07.5’W and have definitely passed the halfway point. We celebrated yesterday by taking showers! Well, most of us that is. There was one who abstained…Life is good aboard this red sloop. Short visits from both striped and common dolphins, not to mention the excellent company keeps all entertained.
05 16 00 0223 UTC 051600 47 19N 31 14W.
Since we turned the corner around the Grand Banks we have had the pleasure of the company of an ever growing high pressure system. The book says to ride the edge. Well – that’s a bit far off, but for the past three days we have had winds abaft the beam, a fair amount of sun, and easy sailing at 7 to 10 knots without much effort. Seeing a lot more small cetaceans – striped and common dolphin and a large group of pilot whales yesterday that stayed with us for quite a while. Headed for the old Commodore Morris whaling ground in the hopes to finding some right whales last reported there in 1878……then headed for Ireland weather permitting.
Michael. Food, sleep and watch relief…….
05 18 00 2200 UTC 48 11N 27 57 W
Tuesday, after a 14 hour pilot whale escort we crossed the mid Atlantic ridge . This boat seems to be an exercise wheel for bored odontocetes. She seems to be going faster now it’s downhill. Amy topping 11.2 knots after being dumped on by an overloaded seagull. Expect to arrive at the Commodore Morris ground early Thursday. We have a hydrophone array lent to us by the Song of the Whale folks at the International Fund for Animal Welfare. It’s working well – hearing sperm whales and delphinids. So if we cant see’em there’s a chance we’ll hear ’em. This is our 5th straight day with the wind on the port quarter at 10 to 25 knots. Tuesday was a 186 mile day. Michael.
This email system has become extremely temperamental so please don’t worry if we are silent for the next few days and pls keep traffic to a minimum. Thx.
05 19 001645 UTC 51 02 N 18 59 W
Email seems to have recovered, so here’s an update. Currently heading ENE, 350 m. from the mouth of the R. Shannon. Out of the Azores Hi into some fronts. Blowing 30 NNW. A grand old run in at the mo. at least. Comm. Morris ground yesterday proved to be essentially barren of marine mammals, large or small. We heard sperm whales but saw nothing. We saw much more odontocete activity before the Mid Atlantic ridge. Pilot whales, and common and striped dolphins. Now seeing occasional lags again. Still hearing lots of sperm whales. Plan is to head in to Kilrush on the R Shannon to fix a few things, (aka ensure Guinness hasn’t degraded since the last visit) and then head up the coast to find those elusive nordcapers, before Hannah, Oliver, Sam, Chris and Tom arrive in June and we head on up to the Hebrides for more wait, watch and listen. Michael
05 20 00 1400 UTC 51 33N 15 18W
This could be our last full day at sea for this leg. Saturday. 210 m WSW of Loop Head, at the entrance to the Shannon. Last night blew a steady 30 with gusts to 40. Weather maps show a cavalcade of lows headed our way, – it looks like we might be ahead of the curve, with an ETA sometime late Sunday, depending on how much we have slow down for the weather promised tonight. Hearing distant dolphins and sperm whales. Seeing gannets – one of which tried in vain to take the hydrophone for breakfast. Crew engaged in composing unprintable limericks. Michael
05 22 00 – Kilrush Creek, Co. Clare Ireland
0 Irish Summer Time. Kilrush Creek, Co. Clare Ireland. Locked in to the marina 11pm local time last night. No blood. No bruises. Happy Crew. Skipper had to kayak ashore to find a phone to get the lock operator. Folks here friendly in the extreme. Parts for traveler waiting us. River Shannon beautiful. Last day at sea punctuated by visits from lost racing pigeons. One bottlenosed dolphin in the Shannon mouth. Crew off exploring. Michael and Eric fixing boat. Emotion of making a safe, happy trip is still overwhelming. Enormous sense of gratitude to a bunch of people. Our families for putting up with us, our colleagues for doing our jobs in our absences, Marty, Berk, Tony et al @ Niemiec Marine for fixing the boat so she wouldn’t break, and the weather gods for letting us off with just a few dust ups. Full gale forecast for tomorrow…. Pls. Expect this missive to be irregular from hereon. Michael.