Thanksgiving – Navigating the Saint Helena High and into the South

Nov 23, 2023

Shipyard Brewing blog

Thursday November 24 – 0000

As the clock has just rolled over to midnight and signaled the beginning of a new day, it is now Thanksgiving Day; a day to contemplate all that i’m grateful for. And today, most of all, i’m just eternally grateful for my friends and loved ones who have supported me in chasing this long-held dream of mine in racing solo and around the world on a sailboat. Beginning with Whitall Stokes, who initially offered me the boat, and extending to each and every one of my amazing friends, supporters and sponsors who have made it possible for me to be in this position, I am grateful for you. In summer of 2022, this race wasn’t even on the cards, and yet by Thanksgiving of 2023, i’m in the Southern Atlantic Ocean and racing fast towards my first depressions which will carry me towards South Africa. Mind-bogglingly cool.

Since crossing the equator, we have again had almost entirely very nice sailing conditions. Dare I say it, but this trip down the Atlantic has been rather dreamy, and easy, if we’re being honest. As the breeze went more and more aft, it was both Code Zeros and then into both running spinnakers as Shipyard Brewing and I rode tail winds down the coast of Brazil, headed southwards. With brilliant rays of sunlight, my recently installed Solbian solar panel set-up completely took care of my power needs for the past week. When sailing downwind in moderate winds, the wind generator doesn’t do much, and is just in the way, so I tie it off. And as for my hydrogenerator, well, it’s just a backup on this boat; I still have yet to use it since starting the race. I’m sure i’ll use it more as the skies get grey down south.

The past few days have been very challenging, yet also very fun when you get down to it. When reaching across southeast trades, the strategy was simple; go south. With consistent winds that were forward of the beam, there was no dealing with flying sails (spinnakers and Code Zeros), and there was little in the way of trimming or squalls and wind shifts. Set it and forget it, let the boat do it’s thing until the wind changes. Now however, the sailing has been a lot more hands on. In the past three days i’ve used every sail in the inventory. Working with my friend and supporter Jason Christensen back in Seattle, I am mostly happy with how we’ve sailed the race so far from a navigational standpoint. We haven’t always had the quickest boat in the race and there have been times when I had challenges onboard and couldn’t sail the boat as well as I would have hoped, but for the most part, we’ve gone the right way and it wasn’t by accident. A whole lot of planning and constant dialogue went into getting me through the last weather system and front, and then into this current weather system around the Saint Helena high. As i’m currently making good progress on a good heading with a full main and fractional Code Zero up, i’m feeling confident that we made it through the hardest part of the Saint Helena high without parking up as bad as most of the competition, so i’ll take that as a small and well deserved victory.

Crossing a weather front about 36 hours ago, that marked the convergence seam from one weather system into the system that we are currently navigating; the Saint Helena High.

The weather has begun to change dramatically, and get much cooler. Right now at 27 South it’s downright comfortable. After a couple of weeks without a shirt on in the tropics, I found myself donning a shirt yesterday and then a fleece last night and for some of today. Things are cooling down to where soon I can feel i’ll be in socks, boots and long underwear, and soon after that i’ll be wearing under layers. As soon as I get into windy and bumpy conditions where water is splashing around again, i’ll be donning foul weather gear from here on out, whereas up until yesterday i’d just run outside in shorts and a life jacket with no shirt and handle my business, and be good. But no longer. Tropical Ronnie is now having to turn into Southern Ocean Ronnie in a matter of days. You can feel the change coming. On the plus side, the days are beginning to get notably longer. I have kept my ship’s time on UTC for the race, so sunset and sunrise are still relatively normal, but soon the times will get all out of whack as i’ll be running due east with the sun rising and setting earlier and earlier each day.

Another thing that has changed greatly is that we are now entering some of the most remote waters i’ve ever sailed in before, as I get closer and closer to the South. Right now we’re crossing a shipping lane between Rio de Janeiro and the Cape of Good Hope, so there’s a bit of a ship traffic. But for the most part, ship sightings are becoming rare. And in a rather new experience, i’m being hailed on the radio by Ship’s Captains that are wondering just what the hell a sailboat is doing down here. Until now, I’ve yet to sail to a place yet where passing ships will hail on the radio and ask what i’m doing and where i’m going. A quick glance at Marine Traffic or an AIS tracking application or website shows that there aren’t many private yachts sailing down here at all, save for some singlehanded weirdos in the Global Solo Challenge. 

Life onboard is still mostly quite comfortable as it’s been mostly downwind in moderate conditions for the majority of our descent of the Atlantic. My completely un-tested food has been mostly good. In America, I had some go-to freeze dried food brands, but in Spain I ordered a bunch of food from France, and thus far i’ve been pretty pleased. I do wish I had brought slightly more food however. For now i’m okay, but when I get to the South and burn more calories due to being colder, I may end up starving a bit. We’ll see. As of yet, I have been un-successful in catching any fish. I had big hopes for today – going perfect mahi mahi speeds in warm waters – but alas I did not find any friends to hop on for a Thanksgiving feast. Speaking of Thanksgiving feast, I do have something special planned. Anyone who hung out with me in A Coruña knows that my favorite restaurant was the ham bar Jamoneria Leonesa. On my second to final night there I purchased five vacuum sealed bags of ham and cheese to eat on Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, Cape Horn and my birthday. Well, today is Thanksgiving and so I will get to eat ham for the first time since leaving Spain! My friends Genevieve and Grace got me a bottle of port before I left, and I think i’ll bust that out to emulate some vino tinto, or red wine. ‘Jamon y queso y vino tinto!’ at Jamoneria Leonesa became a bit of a theme while in Spain, and I really can’t wait to go back in there and go huge at the ham bar with my favorite folks once this whole race is over. I will also be rinsing my ham and cheese down with a Shipyard Pumpkinhead Ale or American Pale Ale. I only brought about a dozen of each, and I am saving them for special occasions. I think Thanksgiving entering the South is warranted to drink a Shipyard.

Thanks again to everyone, all of my sponsors, (especially Shipyard Brewing), all of my friends and supporters, my amazing partner Marisa, and everyone who has followed or sent messages of support. Sailing Shipyard Brewing in the Global Solo Challenge is fun, it’s an adventure, but it ain’t easy. So to everyone who has helped me in any way over the past 15 months, thank you. I appreciate you today and every day. 

Happy Thanksgiving from Shipyard Brewing. 

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