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  • iainmacneil

Week 18 - Polar Foils for April Fools!

Ever Westward....

Wed 30th March (day 119)

On a boat full of boys, it was inevitable that we would end up with a laundry disaster at some point. There are no red socks onboard (a sensible ban for obvious reasons), but for the Southern Capes we had some bright red thermal fleece jackets, one of which went in the wash, leaving us in the pink until we found the bleach!

The engine is being pushed much harder at 850 RPM and the blades on our controllable pitch propeller are set at 80%. This results in an engine oil consumption rate of 0.26 Ltrs/Hr, or 6.25 Ltrs/day.

Therefore, every third day, we need to top up the main engine with 20 litres of 15W/40 Engine lubricating oil. While this is actually normal, we can only see it so clearly because the engine is running constantly 24 Hrs/day, getting only a few hours rest in port before we are off again. After the North Atlantic Sea Trials undertaken in July-Sep 2021, the Mitsubishi Rep in Spain contacted Mitsubishi in Japan to clarify the range of typical oil consumption on this engine. Their response was between 0.1 to 1.5 Ltrs/Hr. If we were actually consuming 36 Ltrs of oil per day I would be seriously worried..... they maybe need to re-check their calculations!

Spring cleaning has started in the engine room, with Luke cleaning all the pipework and changing all the pipeline identifications from Swedish to English (not a small job!).

Friday 1st April (Day 121)

Today was the day for pranks. Obviously, the more folks you catch out and the more far-fetched the idea the better!

So, on social media we announced the following: Another change of route..! After Fremantle we will proceed South to the Antarctic ice shelf. Undertaking a negative inverted composite great circle that will save 3,000 miles to South Africa. Also allowing us a chance to see how ASTRA really does as an ice breaker and whether or not our ‘Polar Foil’ actually works or not! #astracircumnavigation #polarfoil #circumnavigation #expeditionvessel #icebreaker #aprilfoolsday #expeditionyacht #aprilfool #expeditionyachts

The first clue was that ‘Polar Foil’ is an anagram of ‘April Fool’, the second clue was that #aprilfool was in the hashtags, although nobody really looks there. I think its fair to say a last-minute change of plan to pop down to the Antarctic is pretty extreme, even for this team. However, a lot of folks swallowed it and Iain and Kat both got quite a number of messages in connection with the ‘Polar Foil’, so it worked!.

(Note how diplomatically we are not naming and shaming here......even the guilty crew members can keep their blushes hidden.......However, as someone who has experienced Macneil's legendary ability to keep a straight face while winding you up, I fully sympathise. The "I loaded up sheepskin coats in Hobart while considering the route....." is typical of the convincing level of detail he will apply........... Ed)

At 17:00 we rounded the fourth of the of the five Southern Capes on our circumnavigation, which was Cape Leeuwin at the SW most tip of Australia.

Our crossing of the Great Australian Bight was fairly uneventful, but strong winds and a heavy predominant swell on our port quarter and wind waves on our starboard quarter made for some odd vessel movements and lurching for 3 nights, necessitating the use of the stabilisers.

The passing of each Cape is always interesting, although Cape Leeuwin (Leeuwin pronounced as if you were saying ‘flew in’ without the ‘f’) at the confluence between the Great Australian Bight and the Indian Ocean didn’t greet us with confused seas, but did throw some very strong adverse currents, running at up to 3.5 knots against us for 12 hours.

Sat 2nd April (Day 122)

The day starts studying the long-range weather forecast for the Indian Ocean, where Tropical Storm Halima was centred but is now moving west. Its is expected to reduce to a tropical depression and dissipate by the middle of next week.

Fremantle – If Carlsberg arranged port calls for us, this would be the one! We were in and out in less than 6 hours. In that time we:

- Loaded 33,600 litres of fuel into our main tanks and deck tanks with no delay

- released Mikey and Dan for a quick 1.5 Hr run ashore

- completed a crew change as Carlos is leaving us for a couple of weeks and Pete joining

- received our stores and provisions.

After all of that, we still managed to get ashore for some seafood snacks and a quick pint. 5hrs 54mins in port kept us well within Iain’s ‘Laytime calculations’!

Carlos' last action and Pete's first cuppa onboard!

All seafarers have stories about the errors and oversights made in the received stores onboard in port. As we have a commercial ship chandler supplying us in each port they are, admittedly, used to supplying large merchant ships with crews of 20+ onboard. So when we received 6kg of chilli peppers rather than 6 individual, we were maybe not as surprised as you might think. However, not being able to use all of them, the visitors and bunkering staff in Fremantle were all sent home with an excess vegetable bag...... with the very best of wishes from the catering crew on Astra!

Sun 03 April (Day 123)

We left Fremantle at a good speed of 10.5 knots hoping to complete the 3,300 mile crossing of the South Indian Ocean in under 14 days. Our first night out we encountered some fairly large marine bioluminescence, which were about the size of frisbees illuminating our wake. Astra gave her own inimitable welcome to Pete, building heavy swells of 4m on the beam and wind winds of Force 6 by mid-Sunday morning. Eventually, Iain relented and put the stabilisers on.....

Sunday morning Dan was making morning rolls at 05:00, ready to accompany the square sausage that Pete had sourced in Fremantle, all washed down with a can of Irn Bru.

For those of you that aren’t familiar, and remembering that at this point there are 4 Scots on board, Irn Bro is a 'health drink' made with natural minerals that is often cited as Scotland’s other national drink. (and now I must introduce you all to another unique Scottishism, the double positive that means a negative..... 'Aye Right'. This is typically a phrase used when someone like Iain Macneil tells you something absurd with a straight face (see1st April above). So, Irn Bru......step a fond part of the Scottish hangover breakfast, accompanying a bag of crisps - there is enough salt and sugar in that combination to put just about anyone back on their feet. And no, I do not drink it, I am Welsh............Ed)

Mikey had useful inside knowledge of what the supermarkets stocked in Perth/Fremantle as he lived and worked there for 6 months when he was 18.

Mon 04 April (Day 124)

The day starts with a surprise as we have no water onboard? The tank is completely empty, which gives us a bit of a start as the 1,750 litre tank had been topped up on Sunday evening. A quick and logical investigation by Iain and Luke confirmed that it's not the flush on any of the toilets that have broken and we don’t have a pipework leak as there has been no bilge alarm (and as Carlos is no longer onboard its not one of the millennial team's luxurious showers 😉). Therefore, the logical explanation has to be that the water tap on deck has been opened by the waves that were striking the port side overnight. We were unable to access the decks due to the condition of the sea state but, looking down from the port bridge wing, we can see that the waves have moved a heavy rubber hose and that it had struck the fresh water tap on deck. This was quickly isolated in the engine room and the fresh water maker was brought back in to operation.

Navigation & Routeing We are currently 1,000 miles west of Australia and 2,300 miles east of Mauritius, undertaking a slight anti-clockwise arc across the Southern Indian Ocean, where we are making 10.5 knots with some favourable currents. ETAs Port Louis, Mauritius Sat 16/04

Durban, South Africa Fri 22/04.


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Apr 07, 2022

Great update. And yes, you got me with the April Fool.😁


Mark Whitman
Mark Whitman
Apr 07, 2022

Your updates never fail to inform and entertain, and it is encouraging that you finally survived a full week without any major challenges (at least on the MV Astra scale of challengers). My mother once washed my underwear with a something very red, which forced me to complete my 7th-grade year of school wearing "tidy pinkies." I also once owned a car that consumed oil at about the same rate as your engine. The pictures displaying the cleanliness of your engine and crew, clash with my much lower expectations of such things that I presume were formed by multiple viewing of Humphrey Bogart in "African Queen" and other black & white sea noir films of the 30s and 40s …


Apr 06, 2022

Great weekly update as usual - congrats Ed - you should think about doing it professionally

Only disappointment is the lack of a photo of the crew all wearing their pink fleeces!


Phil Beaumont
Phil Beaumont
Apr 05, 2022

Fantastic log again as usual. Nothing like Lorne sausage on a soft roll wi butter and broon sauce, washed doon wi irnbru, you lot are spoilt! I even know some welsh who would enjoy it!! You might have fooled some but, I know that wi the choice of cold burn or sunburn, there is only one direction mr mcn would go! Best of luck with this section and look forward to next weeks update,

Phil Beaumont
Phil Beaumont
Apr 05, 2022
Replying to

The talk o the toon r the boys in maroon.....

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