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Joe Harris: Minimal Reprieve from the Thrashing

Published on March 5th, 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 pitstop in Cape Town was needed for repairs to his energy systems. But Joe has carried on – here he provides an update on March 5…

I left off last time in a slightly traumatized state after a thorough butt-kickin’ at the hands of the Southern Ocean. That has continued, as the cold fronts sweep over me from West to East… one after another… seemingly the further south I go the closer they are together… meaning minimal reprieve from the thrashing.

However, on the good news side, I have been making good progress and am now about 930 miles from Cape Horn, and beginning to carefully consider approach/rounding and post-Cape strategies. But first, maybe a quick update on the mundane aspects of life at sea so far south:

1. Cold- It is getting colder! When the weather man says a cold front is coming through, he is not kidding! Water temperature is about 51-degrees, so working on deck my hands quickly get cold and numb. I have gone to an extra under-layer – a Musto union suit/salopette made of an insulated material that is quite toasty. On the top, I am wearing a new, softer version of the Patagonia Nano puff jacket that has become so popular because it is so comfortable.

All black – very stylish. Thank you to Martha Parker at Team One Newport for selecting this gear. I have not yet gone to the “Ocean Rodeo” one-piece “dry-suit”, but it may be in my future! I am rotating two sets of Musto HPX foul weather gear to allow them to dry out a little – but not much drying occurs in this environment. Two sets of sea boots – one Gill, one Zhik.

2. Mold/mildew- Not the sexiest topic but the environment is so wet, mold is growing everywhere – above deck and below. Not much I can do about it until I get into a sunnier environment.

3. Food- Breakfast is granola with hot milk, dried fruit or hot Apple Crisp; Lunch is peanut butter & jelly on a sea biscuit, tuna or salmon on a biscuit; Dinner is Mountain House dehydrated meals. I went long on Beef Stew so I am learning to love it; Snacks include beef jerky, Baby Belle cheese and cracker, and trail mix.

4. Books/movies- Because it has been so rough, movie nights have been curtailed until after the Cape Horn rounding for fear that the laptop will get launched and damaged. For books, I just finished James Patterson’s “Cross Justice” which was an excellent homicide investigation thriller, so I am continuing in that genre with “I’m Traveling Alone” by Samuel Bjork, a Norwegian author. Very good so far… similar to “Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”.

5. Exercise- As I am confined to the cabin a lot, I have developed a series of exercises – squat thrusts, toe raises, curls, bench press, sit-ups, stretching – that I do about twice a day when I get antsy and it really helps burn off the nervous energy and feel better mentally and physically.

6. Sail plan- For the last few gales, I have either gone with no mainsail or only the orange square-top “fin” of the upper-most portion of the main exposed and the ORC #4 jib. This has worked well and the pilot seems to be able to steer for the most part, except in the worst of sea conditions. I have not had any time with the wind below 20 knots to repair the damaged foot of the Solent jib, so I think that will have to wait until post-Horn. Otherwise all sails are in good shape although getting quite a workout!

7. Auto-pilot- I have not used the port auto-pilot system that went down in the major gale last Monday/Tuesday night because it has been too rough. The starboard system is functioning well although I am keeping it on very mellow settings just to be safe, and I am waiting for a calm day to try the port system again and see if it lost too much hydraulic fluid and is toast or if it might still be working.

8. Cape Horn rounding- Working with Commanders Weather and utilizing the experience of past mariners who have rounded The Horn, I am piecing together a strategy to get South – to the 56° latitude of CH or a bit lower early, so there are options – left or right – as the corner gets near, depending on the weather.

The continental shelf rises very quickly from about 13,000 feet to about 400 feet in the Drake Passage, just south of the Horn, and there is also a bit of a funnel effect from the narrow gap between Antarctica and Cape Horn, both of which conspire to create an environment where the seas can become very steep, very quickly, and can cause major problems.

In an ideal scenario, I could pass near the “Isla Hornos” and get a photo of the lighthouse etc. to commemorate the event, but I somehow think that will be difficult to achieve. Therefore, I am setting up South of the Horn and if the weather is crappy, I will stay well outside and off the continental shelf in the deeper water. I’m still pretty far out so lots can change with these very fast moving weather systems.

So that’s about it from 54-Degrees South…

Background: As a result of Joe’s 11-day detour to Cape Town (Dec 28-Jan 8), Joe will no longer be able to officially break the existing non-stop record of 137 days, 20 hours, 01 minute, 57 seconds – set by Chinese sailor Guo Chuan in 2013. However, he remains hopeful to unofficially better the mark. Website:

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