Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Some fun back at home

Back in Sydney, catching up with office work but we still had some time to have fun with another ABC radio interview:

and making a teaser trailer for our upcoming expedition movie:

Monday, 17 June 2013

Sic transit gloria mundi

And so passes the glory of the world. Its been quite a journey, but after 2,600 nautical miles, the first leg of the expedition is over.   The boat is packed, the samples on dry ice, the crew is on planes to their respective destinations. Indigo will enjoy a well deserved rest under the sunny skies of Port Louis (Mauritius) until the start of leg 2 in a couple of months that will see us pass through Chagos Archipelago, then on up to the Maldives. 
This has been a 'landmark' sampling expedition that would have never happened without the guinea pig crew.  Joe, Martin, Josh and of course my wife Rachelle ... thank you all. 

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

We've been adopted by a big mama

The ocean never ceases to amaze. The other day we were just done sampling when I suddenly looked around with my polarized sunnies and asked 'There are some weird dark patches out in the water, anybody has an idea of what they might be?'.  It wasn't long before we saw a large back with a small fin and a spurt of smelly water at mere 50 meters from us. We were right in the middle of a pod of blue whales making their migration.
Deciding not to disturb them, we pulled up the sails and started making way (we sample with the engine off) but the pod kept following us. Sometime a whale would pop up right behind us, sometimes right on our side, sometimes crossing our bow amazingly close. And when we changed course, the whole pod would change course with us. Maybe because of our dark blue hull they thought we were one of them, the long lost silly cousin that goes in the wrong direction, or maybe they just liked the Miles Davies cd that was playing at the time. This lasted for over an hour but everyone was so excited by the show that we forgot to take pictures... except Rach who took some video, but that cant go on a blog!

Monday, 10 June 2013

Seamstresses and electricians

On a sailing passage this long, one must employ some ingenuity.  Yachts are self-sufficient floating universes with all sorts of systems that can break or misbehave and the team has to deal with it.
One example happened when, during the big storm of last week, one of our peristaltic pumps got wet and stopped functioning. Our team of electricians (Martin 'Edison' Ostrowski and Joe 'Tesla' Grzymski) went to work. With the aid of common household items (and a multimeter) they found out that the pump was still serviceable but the controller was shot. They therefore used the other peristaltic pump and with a usb cable connected both pumps to a single controller in parallel. End result, we have two functioning pumps again which we nicknamed "the siamese twins".
Another example of skill deployment was when, during a squall, one of the seams of our mainsail busted open. Our sail repair team (Josh 'Jack-of-all-Trades' Goldstein and Joe 'McGyver' Grzymski) got thread and needle and sutured over a meter of sail back to its original state. The repair is so darn good that we have problems even spotting it.     
I am not sure how these newly acquired skills will be used once we get back to civilization but when you are on a small boat in a vast ocean they certainly do come handy.  Now if we can just find someone to fix the wind machine across this part of the ocean, all will be well!

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Where the magic happens

This first leg of the Indigo V expedition is drawing to a close and it's time to start looking back at these past few weeks.
We've been through beautiful sunsets and sunrises, squalls, storms, doldrums, heavy seas, sleepless nights, great meals, dreadful amounts of 2-minute noodles, lots of laughs and some great memorable times.  The scientific part of the expedition has been successful beyond our wildest dreams. We have plenty of data to work on and lots of equipment to improve or repair before leg 2.
But for those of you interested, this is where all the science happens: on our reconfigured lounge table. For extra credit try identifying in the picture all the following items:
  • The flow cytometer
  • The FRRF (fast repetition rate fluorometer)
  • The barcode printer
  • Joe Grzymski with a deer-caught-in-headlight look
  • The navigation station
  • The panic grab bag (contains all the emergency stuff in case we sink)
  • The repurposed library now filled with syringes and filters (and 100 books)
  • The -80 freezer (that now heats instead of cooling after a run in with some bad seas)

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Who Turned on the Wave Machine?!

When we left Port Elizabeth, our only concern was a small low pressure system developing west of us and moving east. It was predicted to hit us five days later (Sunday June 2nd) with max wind gusts of about  35 knots. In sailing terms, this is strong wind but nothing to write home about.
Of course Mother Nature always has her own plan and as the low pressure system deepened, the weather forecast grew grimmer. By Saturday evening the winds were already gusting over the initial 35 knots and rising. We decided take the safe approach and "heave to".
Heaving to is a classic sailing maneuver for storm management. It's been described as the sailor's 'safety valve' and allows to endure the biggest waves and storms by slowly drifting sideways with minimal sails and creating a protective slick that prevents breaking waves.  Basically, we lashed the rudder all the way to starboard, tied the staysail to starboard and tied the main sail to port.  This gives lift to the bow when she turns into the wind but when it turns away the rudder and the mainsail keep it at the right angle to the waves.
We all woke up the following morning to some less than pleasant weather and some surprisingly considerable waves (over 10 meters) coupled with sustained gusts at over 45 knots. Fede and Josh, who have seen a lot of bad weather in their sailing days, confirm that this gale was one of the best (worse?) they's ever seen.  So we made the best of it.  We fired up a Macbook with a movie selection, made some popcorn and had a movie & book reading fest ... for 30 hours.  We have about 100 books stocked in our library here aboard, I think we've almost read them all!  
The following day was hang-over day across the open ocean, pitching with dead swells left over from the party so we delayed sampling until the next day that proved to be sunny, cheerful and Rach saw a rainbow on the horizon just off the stern.  Our next concern?  We seem to be running out of gin & tonic!