The holiday season is no time to slack off. Sure, we’ve got work, holiday shopping, family obligations, and holiday parties. But, the crew of Wild Rumpus has less than five months to an epic Atlantic crossing and we have stuff to learn!
With so little time before flying across the world to then sail back across the ocean, there remain useful things to learn. For example, we will have a Wingaker sail aboard Wild Rumpus — which is an enormous sail that none of us has ever used. We will have a very dark panoramic sky full of stars and moons- and I currently have very little idea of how to use those stars to navigate if all of our electronics die. Also in the category of “never used” and hope to never need to use are the personal flotation devices, flares, and life rafts. But as School House Rock taught us (well, those in the U.S. in the 70s and 80s) . . .
Learning Our Biggest Sail
The Wingaker is a form of symmetrical spinnaker. For the non-sailors, a spinnaker is a downwind sail (wind behind us) with an enormous surface area constructed of relatively light material. Imagine a giant parachute that only works up to 20 miles an hour of wind and then blows apart. That’s a spinnaker.
Used incorrectly, the sail will blow apart into shreds of lightweight material that might as well be made of money and tears. Used correctly, this sail could transform a passage into a magic carpet ride 24 hours a day.
Nobody on board is trained to use the Wingaker. Luckily, we were able to schedule a training sail with the owner of the Wingaket sail loft for some of our crew. Eric and Stacey will be heading to Palermo Italy in January. There, the future liveaboard crew of Wild Rumpus will sail, using the Wingaker, to Greece under the tutilage of Lothar, owner of Wingaker. Stacey and Eric will then be our onboard experts in using our biggest and prettiest sail for the crossing.
We’ll report back on the sail and training once complete. In the interim, please follow Stacey and Eric on their current adventure. Hopefully, they’ll post some pics of their sail and training!
If lightning strikes or some other catastrophic event renders every one of our various GPS devices inoperable, I would like some idea of how to navigate as the ancient mariners did. The odds of this tragic event happening are infinitesimally small, but I hate unplanned-for contingencies. They are like a cockroach in my ear constantly scratching its way out.
So, in an effort to get that nasty bug out I am attempting to learn celestial navigation. The problem is that math causes me fits. I can play with words all day long and have no fear of appearing in front of a stadium full of people to give an off-the-cuff chat on virtually anything, but math breaks my brain.
For those who don’t already know, celestial navigation relies on using a sextant to find the angle of various celestial bodies at certain times of the day or night. Then, once you have those angles you use some form of math magic -geometry perhaps (fairly certain I was suspended from school much of that semester), to determine where on the earth you are.
So, this will be a slog for sure. I’ll report back on whether I manage to complete the course and whether I think it is actually worth bothering with for would-be world travelers. I am told that some people actually enjoy celestial navigation — probably the same sickos who like math and play sudoku for fun!!
Survival At Sea
Ideally, the passage will be uneventful to the point of mild boredom. We train, however, for the extremely unlikely event that things get too exciting. As sailors I trust to join the passage, I know my crew all regularly practice good seamanship with a focus on staying on the boat, and maneuvers to pick up a crew member that falls overboard. Once onboard Wild Rumpus, we will train to use its heavy weather sails, to deploy the drogue (a giant series of parachute-shaped straps used to slow a boat in extreme weather).
But, there is no effective way on our boat to learn and practice the catastrophic incident skills we hope never to need. So, in January I will take the Safety at Sea- Offshore course through the Del Ray Yacht Club.
There is a classroom component and a fun part. The fun part is wearing foul weather gear and PFD then jumping in the water! From that awkward and cold position, climb into a life raft, which I am told is no easy task. Then, exit the life raft, flip it, and learn to right it before entry. The use of the wooden plug to stop leaks, flares to catch rescuers’ attention, and smoke to mark a location are all on the curriculum. This, unlike celestial navigation, sounds right up my alley! I’ll report back once I complete the course.
More Prep Continues Behind the Scenes
There are lots of moving parts involved in getting ready for the Atlantic crossing. Supply chain issues could still cause delays. COVID outbreaks in Capetown could still cause delays. But I am told that moving cargo from the U.S. to Capetown remains a relatively easy to schedule task.
So, in an effort to minimize shopping time while in Capetown so that we don’t compound any further delay by having to shop in an unfamiliar city, I’ve continued to work my way through the initial inventory list. Flashlights, gaffers tape, galley ware, hand tools, and even comfy chairs for sitting on the bow have all been purchased in the U.S. As a result, I’ve spent a shocking amount of time working on building the pallets (two now) to be shipped. The day-to-day of these tasks is just too boring -even for this blog.