Hello, I'm Henry.  

Welcome aboard my blog's home. 

If you come along with me, you'll become acquainted with my motley mates and faithful crew:

Experiences, Sightings, Observations, Impressions, Ideas, Reflections, Remembrances, Insights and Commentary.

They, after all, have accompanied me for as long as I can recall. Their tenure has helped me turn my tiller, fill my sails, and transport me over seas to distant lands. Maybe if you take the time to get to know them, a few will do the same for you.

Click this way and scroll along if you please...Enjoy your stay.   

We Were Smoking!

We Were Smoking!

Leaving North America Behind

Reindeer's 1976 Transatlantic Voyage

June 13, 1976

Blog Entry #5

On Tuesday, June 15, Reindeer departed St. Johns with the wind astern and her spinnaker flying. We had heard the weather reports about some of the transatlantic soloists being dismasted, lost and dropping out of the England to Newport race.  Icebergs had also been sighted and reported south of us. The updated weather forecast was calling for gale force winds - Force 9 or 55-70 knots per hour...close to hurricane level.

Within 5 hours after we left St. Johns behind, the winds started to increase.  Little did any of us young hands (Lewis Smith 19, Hank Smith 16, Toby and Paula Garfield in their 20's and me 26) really have any real understanding or experience sailing in such severe ocean conditions. We were about to get an education.

  Newbold, Toby and Paula   pop their heads   out the companionway before the sun   disappears for another 9 days.   T  he companionway was the only dry place for fresh air onboard. Unfortunately, Paula was already seasick; this photo of her is the furthest ondeck she ever got to the outside in this 10 day stretch.  

Newbold, Toby and Paula pop their heads out the companionway before the sun disappears for another 9 days. The companionway was the only dry place for fresh air onboard. Unfortunately, Paula was already seasick; this photo of her is the furthest ondeck she ever got to the outside in this 10 day stretch.  

I remember Newbold reminded us of general practices during the storms ahead and while we we on watch on deck. He first made it clear we were not racing so we could take our time completing any task. This was a relief, but as I would eventually discover, completing any task in severe conditions would be at best a snail's pace. Especially when much of one's strength went to holding onto something.

Newbold's other reminders:

  • wear a harness at all times when on deck. We were reminded that a harness does little if it isn't snapped one of the two jack lines
  • If we needed more hands than two on watch, we should not hesitate to ask for assistance.
  • Any emergency or significant sighting wake up Newbold or Orlin immediately. 
  • Wake the upcoming watch at least 30 minutes before so they have enough time to get their foul weather gear on. 
  • Always heat some water for the oncoming watch.
  • Keep the log book current by the hour so the next watch can see what has happened.
  • Always keep a lookout ahead...waves, weather, icebergs.
  Hank Smith, Orlin Donaldson and Toby Garfield reefing. 

Hank Smith, Orlin Donaldson and Toby Garfield reefing. 

Referring to chapter 4 of Newbold's book, Down Denmark Strait, he wrote,

"Once out of sight of land, the wind backed to the sou'east and down came the chute. The wind and sea gradually began to build, and the temperature of both air and water plummeted, the water in the low forties and the air to about 36 degrees F. It felt very cold, and it stayed cold for a week. For four or five days, I never removed my heavy woolen trousers, even when getting into the down-filled sleeping bag. I remember taking draconian measures just to prevent the slightest piercing draft of air from coming into the bag and down my neck when I was trying to sleep. While it was both wet and cold on deck, we kept warm reefing the main and changing headsails to meet constantly changing wind conditions.
  Notice Hank and Toby wearing life harnesses while the experienced Orlin declined.

Notice Hank and Toby wearing life harnesses while the experienced Orlin declined.

This was my experience as well in trying to stay dry and warm. I will describe my bunk experience in an upcoming blog entry.  However, Newbold next adds in his book that...

"The main cabin was comfortably warm by virtue of a charcoal fire in the compact little fireplace."

This was inaccurate as the coal stove never worked.  In fact, it was so poorly designed and pre-tested under sailing conditions that when we finally were able to get a fire burning, it very quickly smoked almost everyone out of the main cabin area.  Our only escape was up on deck to breath fresh air.

The chimney may have been too short or the draft from above too strong for the fire to draw properly.  Opening the hatches to release the smoke only made the situation worse as the added draft only stoked the fire. The whole incident actually kept us warm, at least temporarily, by having us suit up to escape topsides. It was after all no easy task to don foul weather gear in foul weather while riding a roller-coaster. With Reindeer feeling like a roller coaster, getting dressed usually took at least a half of an hour.  

Of course, I can only speculate about why coal stove description was left out of Newbold's description, but I suspect it was omitted to save some embarrassment for designer, installer and approver.  It was a great idea as an alternative, backup heat source - something needed when the boat entered the Arctic Circle or whenever running the engine for heat became an issue.  We soon surmised there was no easy fix and the benefit of a half ton of coal stored was was only added ballast.  I am not sure if the coal bin were still full upon return back to the states, it might have been a source for some embarrassment. Not sure if the stove was ever fixed for the future legs; maybe it was after I left the boat in Norway.

 Orlin tightening a line on deck.  Note fog bank ahead and source for fog bank below. and nimble Orlin without his harness.

Orlin tightening a line on deck.  Note fog bank ahead and source for fog bank below. and nimble Orlin without his harness.

In his book Newbold is more accurate when he describes how else we kept warm.

"Occasionally, when we ran the engine for battery charge, the radiator along the cabin sole (baseboard heating) also put out some heat. With air temperature below 40 degrees, and the sea water not much above that, we kept the hatches closed except when cooking.

Actually, besides the body heat from our exercise with our 3-4 layers of clothing (thermal long underwear, sweater and foul weather gear) and wet down sleeping bags, this was our only external heat source.  "Charging the ship's batteries" took on newer meaning. We now despised listening to the drone of Reindeer's engine, but we so appreciated the baseboard heating.

More about keeping warm in a wet bunk in an upcoming blog entry.

First of 4 Gales

First of 4 Gales

Orcas and Russian Sightings

Orcas and Russian Sightings