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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

February. 29, 2012-Atlantic Radio Dead Zone

We just made a radio connection tonight, the first in three days; this part of the Atlantic must be a radio dead zone.

Anyway, we are having a good sail towards Brazil, averaging about 150 miles a day in mild conditions. We are eating well, the boat is fine, and all is well on board. We have 1400 miles to go to Brazil.

We'll write more later.

Fred & Judy (and Randy and Laura), SV Wings, mid South Atlantic

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Monday, February 27, 2012

February 27, 2012-Departing Saint Helena

At 12:43 PM Wings, having completed preparations and obtained port clearance, stood out to sea from Saint Helena, bound for Brazil.

We have enjoyed our stay in Saint Helena and the pleasant company of Nepenthe's, Jim and Carol, who also depart today. Last evening we had cocktails and a lite meal aboard their yacht with Randy and Laura and it was great fun. Sadly we will now split with Nepenthe as they are making their course for Gibraltar. They have been cruising friends since 2000 when we met in Scarborough, Australia, but we have made a date to sail together in the future in Mazatlan, when we both reach that port. We hope to keep it.

Saint Helena has been good, yesterday, after one last shopping trip, some of us went to the swimming pool, Randy climbed Jacob's Ladder (the stairs to the high town) and took a minute off of his time, and Laura made last minute email connections at Anne's. I walked the cliff trail to Bank's Battery and took some photos. Later we topped the water tanks and finished scrubbing the bottom. After we got home from Nepenthe dolphins came around in the dark and wished us good bye.

I think we are ready for sea.


At 16:00 Saint Helena is well astern, we are sailing wing on wing in company with Nepenthe, two miles abeam and the catamaran Ile de Grace, out of Annapolis, with John and Jennifer aboard somewhat behind. The three yachts are gradually separating and will soon be spread out across the wide ocean.

Fred & Judy, (and Randy and Laura), SV Wings, On Passage for Brazil

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Saturday, February 25, 2012

February 25, 2012-Saint Helena

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Wings at Saint Helena

A few million stars fill the night sky in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean and the trade winds blow cool, continuously.

Off the island of Saint Helena Wings is riding at anchor and no city light for a thousand miles diminishes the brilliance of the stars and no land mass interrupts the trade winds.

We’ve been a few days in Saint Helena where the place retains the feel of the 1800’s more than the present and the past tugs at us. The buildings, the town, the people, the mood of the place seems like it is lost in a time zone of long before simply yesteryear; it exists in the last century. The placards on the town’s monuments speak of deeds from 1820, the new markers speak of 1945. Nothing has happened since then. The present has passed by St Helena.

There is no cellular phone system here, but you can speak face to face to anyone if you see them in town, otherwise someone will tell them you are looking for them and maybe you will see them later.

There are no ATMs, but you can walk to the Bank of Saint Helena and the teller will draw your cash for you. And if you wish to use your visa card the storekeeper must walk to the bank to see if your card is good while you wait (and no hard feelings over the trouble.)

There is no airport. Travelers come by sea alone, as they always have.
There is a supply ship, the HMS St. Helena, and it comes from Cape Town twice a month with supplies. Between the visits of the HMS St. Helena the store shelves become a little more empty than usual, but when the ship comes in, and when the supplies are unloaded, the shelves fill and the residents of Jamestown drift towards the shops to see what the ship has brought.

wingssail images-fredrick roswold
Saint Helena

Jamestown has a slower, friendly, pace here which lulls you and draws you in. You can stroll through down town and you can hang out for a few hours in Anne’s café while a little rain cloud blows over and you will be on island time. It has been going on this way for a couple of hundred years. Now though there is a decline. The population is aging and there are fewer young people staying here to be part of the community. Ten years ago there were 100 births a year. Now there are 20. Saint Helena is fading away. It’s purpose, as a stopover for ships bound for India, ended with the completion of the Suez canal.

However, this might all be changing. An airport is going to be built and more development is expected including five star hotels. Just this week the construction crews have come like an alien invasion. The supply ship offloaded a few dozen blue and white Toyota pickup trucks with the construction company logo on the doors and the company managers and foremen are already swarming over the island in them like robotic drones; they are everywhere. You turn and there is a blue and white truck coming around the bend with a stony eyed foreigner wearing a hard hat behind the wheel. You turn again and there is another one. You can’t hide from their stare and Saint Helena can’t hide from the progress they represent.

So progress and change are coming to Saint Helena and it will be difficult. Hotels and homestays are now booked ahead for four years by workers coming to build the airport. It will take a lot of skilled staff but few locals will be hired; the foreign development companies will bring their own people. Meanwhile prices for everything are going up and only the foreign workers will be able to afford them. There is a rumor that the British Government will reduce the pensions to pay for the airport. The old folks are worried.

Tourists will soon follow the construction crews and there are more rumors flying around about the changes which the tourism will bring. Few of the “Saints” think they will be good. The British Government would like to cut the cord to Saint Helena, to cut off the subsidy which keeps this place running now, and make it self-sustaining. The airport and other investments being made are supposed to pave the way for a financially independent Saint Helena.

So regardless of the fears of the local population, the juggernaut of change is coming.

Most of the cruisers, and right now there are fifteen yachts anchored here, believe a new Saint Helena will be much different and we are glad to be here before that happens.

Me? I don’t know how it will turn out. Progress; you can’t fight it. I just know that the isolated, 18th century village which we found here will certainly get yanked into the 21st century and this piece of living history will be lost as it is now and that is neither good nor bad, just fact.

At least we saw Saint Helena the way it once was.

Click here for more Sant Helena photos

Fred & Judy (and Randy & Laura), SV Wings, Saint Helena Island

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

February 22, 2012-Photos From Wings

We have a few photos from our passage to Saint Helena.

Now we are safely anchored and ashore, and we will be exploring this delightfull place. We'll send another report before we leave.

wingssail images-fredrick roswold
Sailing to Saint Helena

Jamestown, Saint Helena

Click here to see more photos of the passage.

Click here to see the first shots as we arrived in Saint Helena.

Fred & Judy (and Randy & Laura) SV Wings, Saint Helena

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Febuary 19, 2012-Arrival in St Helena.

We dropped anchor in the roads off Jamestown, Saint Helena, at 0700 Feb. 19, 2012. All is well on board. Not much Internet here. We'll write more later.

Fred & Judy (and Randy and Laura) SV Wings, Saint Helena

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Saturday, February 18, 2012

Febuary 18, 2012-Tomorrow Morning

Tomorrow morning, God willing, we will drop anchor off Jamestown, Saint Helena Island, in the South Atlantic Ocean, one of the more remote settlements on the planet.

We are excited about this landfall and because my morning watch has me on deck at dawn while the others will be sleeping, I will get the first view of it.

I have no anticipation of what I will see. I can think of other small, high, islands we have approached, and other historic towns at the water's edge in other remote places we have visited, but I know from experience that each place is unique, and until I set eyes on Saint Helena itself, I won't know what exactly it will look like.

But I can imagine.

We should be rounding the north end of the island at sun rise with both the wind and the sun at our backs, maybe with glorious blue skies like we had today, and as we turn the corner we'll sheet in the sails and work our way upwind towards the anchorage, tack on tack, beating in from the ocean. "Wings, arriving". The American flag will be flying at the backstay and the red ensign of Great Brittan will be at the yard. I am sure our whole crew will be on deck to drink in the whole experience our arrival.

We'll drop the sails and glide into a spot in front of the town, its historic buildings and streets filled with the morning light and reaching up the valley into the mountain in front of us, near Nepenthe, our friends who are already there. There will be fishing boats along the waterfront and maybe a ship or two, and our anchor will splash down amongst them.

Then we will be able to go ashore and walk the streets, smell the smells, hear the sounds, and meet the people.

And we will be in Saint Helena.

There will be nothing like it.

Fred & Judy (and Randy and Laura) SV Wings, on Passage, South Atlantic

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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Febuary 16, 2012-Ocean Vast

We know how big is this ocean. The books and the charts tell us: about 3000 miles by 3000 miles. We know that intellectually, but we don't know it in our guts until we're out here.
Out here on the ocean, or anywhere, when you climb higher you can see farther but no matter where is my vantage point on this yacht the horizon is still only about 25 miles away. Anything beyond that is over the horizon. There could be land, or a ship, or anything over the horizon; I wouldn't see it. But when I look around this 25 mile circle of blue day after day, and I never see anything but blue and a constant line of waves marching from somewhere over that horizon towards me, I sense viscerally that the ocean is vast. I know it in my gut. This is a vast blue ocean.
Vast but not empty.
Three hundred miles ahead of us lies an island: Saint Helena. It is steep sided, with rock walls meeting the sea; the tip of an old volcano. And on one side, where a valley has been eroded down to the sea, there is a village: Jamestown. About 5000 persons live there. Once Napoleon Bonaparte was imprisoned there and to that Saint Helena owes its fame. He died there in 1821. Since then Saint Helena's star has been falling, but still there are these people living on Saint Helena. From what we hear they are happy living on this tiny island in the middle of the vast ocean. There is an old fort, a wall, the quaint village, but no airport. Anyone who embarks or disembarks at Saint Helena does so like we will, from a ship.
There are some other islands out here. One thousand miles to the NW is Ascension Island, a communications outpost, for satellite tracking mostly, and about 1000 people are there, working on the island.
To the south, over 1200 miles, is Tristan de Cunha. I don't know much about Tristan, but yachts to stop there if they are crossing on a more southerly course. It is a cold and lonely place, Tristan de Cunha. Mostly the attraction, I think, is the name. What a romantic sounding place, Tristan de Cunha.
And further afield are the South Georgia Islands and the Falklands but we won't be stopping at any of them, only Saint Helena, and we will tell you what we find when we get there.
We continue on our way, but more slowly than before. The wind has abandoned us but we are still moving. We should be there Sunday or Monday.
Fred & Judy (and Randy and Laura), SV Wings, South Atlantic

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Monday, February 13, 2012

February 13, 2012-Pounding Out the Miles

The wind came on Friday night, came hard, and we took down the jib. Even without the jib the boat flew through the night; eights and nines. The next afternoon the wind dropped and our speed was down to five and a half knots. We put the big jib back on and our speed picked back up: seven to eight again. Since then the pace has continued. For the last three days we've been pounding out the miles.

Hour upon hour the boat ploughs on. The wind vane silently steers, the sails remain untouched, the wind a steady eighteen to twenty-two knots from 140 degrees. Now the boat is hitting the high sevens. But the seas are moderate and the motion is easy. Down below, in our bunks, it feels so still sometimes it seems like we have stopped. But we haven't, we're flying straight towards Saint Helena. We are nearly half way there already.

We sleep soundly through our off watches, the watch stander listens to music and snoozes. There is nothing to do; the boat minds itself.

So the sailing is good, it's getting warmer by the day, and we're happy. We've had a couple of days of sun, some clouds, and last night it rained. Flying fish have started to come aboard. The days pass. Tomorrow is Valentine's Day and we will be past the mid-point; we've put some champagne in the cooler for a celebration.

It is a good passage so far.

Fred & Judy (and Randy and Laura) SV Wings, South Atlantic

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Saturday, February 11, 2012

February 11, 2012-First Day at Sea.

For the first five hours we struggled to keep moving. First no wind and we motored, then a little wind in which we tried sailing, and which then promptly died, and then we motored again in lumpy seas. The motion gets us all on the first day at sea, and with those waves none of us were happy. We're miserable and we are cold. Yes, that refrain again. It is still cold.

Around dinnertime the wind filled in from the SE and the skies cleared. Again we set sail. The wind built. Even in the irregular waves we were going fast. That was good. By midnight the wind was in the mid twenties and we took down the genoa.

From midnight to noon today day we covered 91 miles, an astonishing rate. That felt good.

And, while the air is still cool, the water must be warmer, since the refrigerator is now running close to constantly, a sure sign of warmer water. But still, we dress warmly when we go on deck.

And there are those waves. We are getting tossed around pretty good and the deck is wet. You watch where you sit. But at least we are moving.

I needed to change the internal battery in the B&G system and had bought new batteries the last hour before we left Walvis Bay. To change the battery I had to disassemble the control unit. But when I put the new battery in and reassembled the unit it wouldn't work. And when it doesn't work you have no instruments. No instruments! I was devastated by the thought of no instruments. Soon I had circuit boards and soldering irons and wires all over the cabin and for two hours I fooled around with it. I put in the boards from my spare units. I soldered connections. I put the old battery back in. Nothing worked and nothing was consistent. There was cold fear in my heart about having no instruments for this whole passage. Then the instrument gods decided enough was enough, and when I reassembled it one last time they let it work again. Now it is perfect and I have vowed not to touch the thing until Brazil. What a close call.

But with the sea conditions, the cold, and the instrument problem it was not an auspicious start. Oh, did I mention Randy and I are both feeling sick? We are.

But today is the second day. The sun came out. The sky is blue. The waves are down and so is the wind strength. So we are optimistic.

One thousand miles to St Helena.

Fred & Judy (and Randy and Laura), SV Wings, On passage in the Atlantic.

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Friday, February 10, 2012

Febuary 10, 2012-Departing Africa

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Blue Peter at the hoist

Wings departs Africa today bound for Saint Helena Island in the middle of the South Atlantic.

We expect to weigh and set sail at 14:00 and the wind, though light, should be adequate to get us out of Walvis Bay and out of Africa.

Hopefully we’ll reach the SE trades, which are in the forecast but otherwise nowhere to be seen, before the day's sea breeze dies out.

The fuel and water have been topped, the provisions refreshed, and the boat is in good shape except for the water maker and outside stereo speakers. No worry mate, she’ll be right.

It has been a good year in Africa, one which we would have been sad to have missed.

We’ll post the blog when we can.

Fred & Judy (and Randy and Laura), SV Wings, Walvis Bay, Namibia

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Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Febuary 8, 2012-Walvis Bay

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Walvis Bay, near the salt pans

Maybe it is something to do with the weather which has me down. It has been cold and cloudy here in Walvis Bay since we arrived. Cold? How can that be in Africa at 22 degrees latitude in the middle of summer?

Well, it is. There is a cold current coming up the coast and it brings cold air with it, and fog.

So, we have fetched up in an altogether dreary place, in my opinion, although our new friend here, Arri, said, "If you get sand in your shoes here, you will always come back”. If there is charm here it must be the people, they are wonderful. But the town is is flat, industrial, cool, windy, dusty; you name it.

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Judy and Namibian Friends

But on the positive side, people here are very friendly, all of them, the yacht club is quite nice, we’ve found what we needed for the boat (not much, just a new computer!), and we’ll be able to get water and fuel and the other provisions we need for the crossing to Brazil. But boat parts? Impossible. Good thing we don’t need any. And right now I do have sand in my shoes but I find it hard to believe that I’ll always come back, as Arri said I would.

Right. Get me to someplace warm.

We leave Friday or Saturday for Saint Helena and Brazil.

Fred & Judy, (and Randy and Laura), SV Wings, Walvis Bay, Namibia

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Friday, February 03, 2012

February 3, 2012-Driving in Namibia

wingssail images-fredrick roswold

Namibia is not a crowded place.

We rented a car on Wednesday and headed out. On Thursday morning we drove across the Namib Desert and for half a day and we encountered only two other cars.

That afternoon we saw four more cars and at the check point they said that they were having a busy day.

Wild Horses

But we are glad to be here; the sights in the desert are amazing. On Wednesday we visited a ghost town where diamonds were mined for 50 years. We saw a herd of wild horses. We stayed the night at a roadhouse in the desert with good food and old cars, mostly American ones.

On Thursday we drove to a huge canyon, the Fish River Canyon, which is said to be second in size to only the Grand Canyon and we were only one of three cars (and a couple of motorcycles) there. We drove along the edge of the south rim for two hours. There were no guard rails and no guards. We could have driven off and no one would have known.

We drove though mountains which border the Namib and then along the Orange River which flows from South Africa to the ocean along the border between the countries.

On the way home we drove through a sand storm.

We were glad for the reliability and air conditioning of our rented ford truck.

And we were glad to get back to Wings anchored in Ludertiz Harbor.


Tomorrow we sail for Walvis Bay, another port in Namibia.

Click here for more photos from Namibia

Fred & Judy (and Randy and Laura) SV Wings, Ludertiz Bay, Namibia

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January 31, 2011-Randy Joins the Blow Over Club

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Dolphins escort us

You couldn’t tell it from the photos I posted but the bay at Luderitz is pretty windy. In fact the world record for speed sailing was recently set here.

Randy found out when he tried to take the dingy to shore in a near gale of wind. Only a few yards from the boat a gust of wind picked him up and blew both he and the dingy upside down. That’s when we also found out how cold the water was. He nearly froze to death and that is not an exaggeration.

I was on board Wings and I heard his shout and ran on deck to see him swimming alongside the white bottom of the upside-down dingy. From his gasps I knew the water was cold. In fact hypothermia was a danger. This was a serious situation.

I urged Randy to swim towards the boat and he urged me to start the engine and move the boat closer. We did both and soon he was back on board. That was a close call and we were lucky.

But in the end no harm was done and we learned a lesson. No boating in gales of wind without a second person’s weight to hold the dingy down to the water.

Fred & Judy (and Randy and Laura) SV Wings, Ludertiz, Namibia

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