10 June 2022

Day 8–The curse of technology

It's 2200 and we are currently steaming along under power, moving at a brisk 5 knots through the water, leaving a creamy wake behind us. What could possibly ruin this dreamy scene?

Technology. With a glance at my GPS chart plotter, I can see that we are making a mere 3 knots over the ground. This knowledge crushes my spirit in a way that is hard to communicate, even to Helena. According to another piece of technology—a detailed forecast of the various eddies and counter currents of the Gulf Stream—we should actually have a small favorable current. We should be making a bit more than 5 knots, instead of 2 knots less. Of course the forecast is wrong. Of course it is. But I made my best plan based on this technology, and now I am stuck plodding along at 3 knots over the ground.

I envy Bernard Moitessier and his contemporaries. They had none of this technology. He would just be sailing, making the best of whatever weather came his way. He'd think right now that his Joshua was performing beautifully, and enjoy the beautiful phosphorescent track they were leaving in the water behind them, now t the track they were leaving on some computer on the internet.

Speaking of which… if you have been watching our tracking page, you are probably thinking there is some sort of drunken sailor steering Petronella. Our track is full of zigs and zags, and today it looks like we've been sailing in jagged circles.

What actually is happening is our Iridium Go! Tracking device doesn't work very well inside a steel boat. So the GPS positions it's reporting every few minutes is not very accurate. This results in the jagged, crazy track we are leaving for posterity on the Internet.


Well, this morning dawned over a much calmer sea than we saw last night. The storm had passed and the wind and seas were subsiding back to normal. We were still hove to, so it was a good time to walk around the deck, assess the damage, and begin repairs. This took most of the morning but I wanted to be back in tip top shape before resuming operations. Was this the optimum decision? I have no idea. Maybe we could have fixed things while we sailed and made a few extra miles at the expense of making the work a bit more difficult. Did I second guess that decision? Yes I did. Did that help? No it did not.

So now we were faced with 2-3 days of relatively calm weather after the storm. Which way to go? Moitessier would probably just sail east. Maybe on a great circle route to the Azores, if he even knew precisely where he was (it's been cloudy the last few days, so he would only have a rough idea of his location, not being able to get a good Sun fix with his sextant.

I on the other hand have technology and access to weather data Moitessier would have considered magic. Not only did I know exactly where we were, I knew exactly where the Gulf Stream was supposed to be, and precisely what winds were supposed to be where over the next 16 days.

Supposed to be.

So I was able to make a detailed plan — a specific route to sail which would take best advantage of the wind and currents in the forecast. So that's what we've been doing since lunch time. How's it working out? Not so great. How precise is that computer modeled weather data? Not so great. Am I second guessing myself. Yes I am. Am I beating myself up for making a terrific plan using the best available data, that just hasn't work out so great? Oh yeah. Yes I am.

Is that stupid? Yes it is.

Technology. It's a mixed blessing.

Anyway, we are hoping to drive out of this adverse current sometime tonight, and to be on the south side of the Gulf Stream in a day or two. I am so ready to be done with this damn Stream, but for now, it's a dominating presence in our life. The ancient Gulf Stream, and technology. Yeah they are on my bad side tonight. They better watch out.


  1. So, John, I meant to tell you after reading your previous post describing trimming Petronella's sails. I am so relieved to know that reefing is not some nautical verb tense involving reefers. Gary


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