Joe Harris: When the Planets Don’t Align

Published on January 3rd, 2016

Aboard his Class40 GryphonSolo2, American Joe Harris departed Newport (RI) on November 15 in a bid to break the 40 Foot Monohull Solo Non-Stop Round the World Record. That plan, however, got derailed when a stop in Cape Town was needed to replace the burned regulator box for his hydro-gen system. Here’s an update from Joe on January 3…

While I certainly wish I was writing this from the nav station of GS2 – blasting eastward across the Indian Ocean – I am instead still here in Cape Town waiting on parts for my alternator that did not arrive before Thursday (Dec 31) and the complete business shut-down for the New Years holiday. We were so close to success – but alas the planets did not align – and it made no sense to leave without a working alternator.

I had successfully replaced the hydro-generator converter box and my hydro charging system is back to 100%. However, the engine alternator is another key component, and the only hope we had of finding the necessary part was to contact Henrik Masekowitz, my German competitor who had recently been forced to terminate his record attempt – the same as mine – due to a very bad ankle injury.

As Henrik’s boat is a near sister-ship to mine and was sitting at a marina in Cape Town about a half mile from mine, I imagined what I needed would be on his boat. I had a really nice chat on the phone with Henrik and he graciously allowed me to open up his boat and see if we could use the part.

Unfortunately, the part did not fit, but it was a wonderful example of the friendship and support that sailors have for one another in times of need. Thank you, Henrik, and I hope your recovery from your ankle injury goes smoothly and quickly.

So there we were with the clock ticking down on the close of business on Thursday for the long holiday weekend and no solution. Not a good feeling…but…deep breaths…patience is a virtue…and this voyage will clearly continue when it is meant to.

Luckily, this unexpected stopover delay has resulted in my reconnecting with an old high school pal Peter Claypool, who lives and works here in Cape Town and has extended an incredibly warm welcome and allowed me to be a guest in his lovely cottage in the town of Costantia, just south of Cape Town. This is wine country and it reminds me very much of the Napa Valley, just north of San Francisco.

A beautiful mountain range starts at Cape Point/Cape of Good Hope and runs north along the coast and through Costantia, climaxing with the incredible Table Mountain that overlooks Cape Town center, with clouds and weather systems constantly rolling through and providing the ideal lush and verdant growing environment for the wine grapes.

It is summer here with the reversed seasons of the southern hemisphere, and the pleasant climate and mountains-on-the-sea topography combine to form a magnet for European tourists and the beaches and seaside resorts are packed.

So while it is frustrating to have been delayed, having the opportunity to explore Cape Town and reconnect with my buddy Clay is a gift. New Year’s Eve could have been a lonely and sad holiday separated from my wife and kids, but Clay and I made the best of it – cooking up a Mexican feast and sampling a full variety of alcohol, that inevitably ended in the usual ridiculous boys wrestling match and resulting injuries only discovered the next day. I guess “boys will be boys”…even when approaching sixty.

So the agenda for today is a good long hike in the mountains, then a surf and turf grill with some fine Costantia wine – along with some NFL football. Doesn’t get much better than that. Making lemonade outta’ lemons.

For tomorrow (Monday, Jan. 4), the game plan is to get my alternator back from the repair shop, install it in the boat,thoroughly test it, and then get out of dodge. I reeeeeeallyyy hope that happens as it is time for the voyage to continue. There are miles to go (and probably about 80 days alone at sea) before I sleep.

Best wishes to all for a happy and healthy New Year!

Background: While Joe will no longer be able to officially break the existing record of 137 days, 20 hours, 01 minute, 57 seconds – set by Chinese sailor Guo Chuan in 2013 – he will continue to unofficially better the mark. Finishing in Newport by April 1, Joe will need to average 195 miles per day, or approximately 8.2 knots, to improve on Chuan’s pace. Website:

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