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Week 19 - Why it's Called the "Monkey Island'..

Iain checking the radar cabling

This week it will be a full moon on Sat 16th April, so Easter is upon us (Easter Sunday, is the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring equinox).

But the fact that we really like onboard is that, at the next full moon, we will be arriving back into Lanzarote! Wooooooo.

Wed 06 Apr (Day 126) | Thu 07 Apr (Day 127)

The week started with a bit of a nightmare as we lost our main radar set, which is the only radar that we have that is capable of providing the necessary modulated input to the wave analyser and we really don’t want to be rounding the coast of South Africa without it. We have become reliant on it in heavy weather conditions as it helps us make sense of the confused sea conditions found at each of the Capes to determine the best course and speed to adopt.

We had the following issues: Type: Furuno FAR 3000 Series (3220) Alarms received: Radar Sensor COM Error and No ANT Echo Signal, generating alarms 194,6 and 194,8.

The troubleshooting section of the manual told us to check the connection between the radar antenna and the power control unit (PCU). It was a reasonable day so we powered up the stabilisers to steady and up the main mast I went to check the visible connections from the radar.

One cable connection at the antenna seemed loose but after a bit of fiddling we powered back up and everything alarmed and went to StandBy again.

Dan had sailed with this radar series previously so sent a WhatsApp to former shipmates asking if they had experienced any similar issues. Within a few minutes one of them came back havinghad the same alarms that required replacement of a printed circuit board (PCB).

Now we carry lots of spares...but not radar PCBs.

We sent the info to CanaryTrack Electronics in Las Palmas (who installed our bridge electronics suite) and this incredibly helpful team directed us to the Power Control Unit to do some initial checks and then directed us to the specific PCB to check the bank of LEDs for life, and the integrity of the cabling to that specific PCB. We had to remove the console panel by a very odd balancing act by Iain and Pete of a heavy radar PCU mounted to the deckhead (yes, it’s a word! and is the proper term for the ceiling onboard a ship) - much to Luke’s alarm as he stepped on to the bridge .

But GOOD NEWS! A CAT5 communication cable was definitely not fully in place and after replacing it all was returned to normal.YAY! We are pretty sure that this cable worked loose during the heavy pitching we experienced in the Tasman Sea.

Office Catch-up Across this week, Iain is able to have several catch-up sessions on MS Teams with existing and new staff members at Witherbys, preparing for his return to normality (no comment .....Ed) when he gets back. Each session was about 1.5 Hrs and gave staff an added insight in to life onboard and lots of opportunities for asking questions. (Hmmmmmmm, my turn next I think.........Ed)

Thursday’s session L to R: Alexandra, Ashleigh, Eevon, Maureen, Kieran, Daniel Rafferty (the other one!) and Ryan.

Friday 08 April (Day 128)

We recorded our fastest day and longest distance travelled, 270 miles over the last 25 Hrs (we put the clocks back 1 Hr last night). An average speed for the day of 10.80 Knots.

However, this speed was short lived as we started to surf in the following seas and winds built to 30 knots immediately astern.

(Pic - Relief Watchkeeper Pete keeping an eye as we speed through the night)

******************************Notes on Seamanship***********************************

Guidance on ‘surfing’ (Not as much fun as it sounds......Ed)

While it is possible for a motorboat to surf on the crest of a single wave, it will generally tend to surf down the front of it.

When surfing, the water and the boat are moving at the same speed and steering is reduced so the risk of the boat being pushed or even rolled to the side (broached) by the passing waves is increased (and this action would be rapid and before you had time to think on a smaller boat).

When seas are building in the early stages of a storm, their steep faces and sharp crests can cause considerable trouble. While we weren't in a troublesome situation, at the speed we were moving we were getting some vibrations from the propeller. Speed was eased by 1 knot and everything settled. In the early stages when surfing, you can't control the direction of travel so rudder limit and off course alarms will be sounding, indicating that its time to consider your options, which include:

· Start 2nd steering motor

· Adjust course to reduce the risk

· Adjust speed.

Speed, surfing, wave shape and steering are all and always linked.

The general guidelines in managing conditions when surfing begins in differing wave conditions are :

· Steep waves of a short period - it is best to slow the boat down and let the waves run under the boat

· high waves of a long period – apply as much speed as possible and run ahead of the waves. The general approach with regard to the use of speed when surfing is that it is better to lose a little speed compared to the speed of the waves to regain effective steering control

Note/. More powerful semi-displacement boats are able to recover from broaching by reacting quickly and increasing speed. We also put the stabilisers on as conditions increased and we had started to roll +/- 20°. We needed to avoid a situation where the rolling period matched the pitching period, as this configuration can destabilise a vessel!

In this situation always adjust speed to stop the condition developing further.

Another measure that can be taken , is to adjust the trim by the stern to lift the bow higher. This stops the bow burying as you go over one wave and into the next. If possible, get onto the back of a wave and try to sit there. On Astra mid-ocean, we were able to change deck tanks used to quickly adjust our trim.

******************************End of Notes on Seamanship********************************

Sat 09 April (Day 129) VSAT – Yet another black hole!

By Friday evening our VSAT seemed to have faded again and we so we looked up all the coverage charts.

We should have been in full coverage but nope, we were back to a dial-up connection on Fleet Broadband.

Luke queried this with INMARSAT and they responded that they thought there were no vessels in the South Indian Ocean and so they had allocated the bandwidth elsewhere! (pfffffffft........Ed)

However, having flagged the issues we now have 7 VSAT satellites providing us with coverage.

Main Fuel Transfer from Deck finished

We have dropped 15,000 of 17,000 litres down to our main tanks to manage our daily consumption over the last week.. Our Frank Berg IBC Pump has taken a bit of a battering, but with a full set of spares, Luke swiftly rebuilt the pump unit so it is fully functioning for the next transfer.

Sun 10 April (Day 130) - Space Debris!

We apparently passed through a 360 mile space debris path in the South Indian Ocean.

There had been receiving Nav Warnings all week about Space Debris coming down along a path in the South Indian Ocean where, of course, it is believed no ships will be present (see Inmarsat above).

Astra turns up in all sorts of odd places and after not having seen another ship since we left the coast of Australia 8 days ago...we were now hoping to pick up a shiny piece of space debris with a SPACE-X logo on it!

The Nav Warning did not indicate who was responsible for this space debris, but a quick spot of research told us that on 30 March 2022, China announced the successful launch of its new Long March-6A rocket, which lifted off from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center (TSLC).

The Long March-6A rocket has a mass of 103,000 kg (227,000 lbs) and a length of 29m (95ft).

However, the 21 tonne core stage was to return to earth at the weekend in the vicinity of Astra at the weekend....

China says the risk to the Earth's population is low. Just us five on Astra then..!

A birthday this week…

Iain turned 51 on the 8th April (That's the end of this big 50 Challenge nonsense then, come home at once!.......Ed). The team pushed the boat out with a passably Scottish dinner that consisted of:

- Crayfish Tails (from Hobart)

- Deep fried fresh haggis balls (from Perth WA)

- Home made Banoffee Pie.

Astronomical navigation

With the cloud cover easing in the Southern Indian Ocean, we were able to get back to star observations. Iain had to admit how he had truly forgotten how good and simple to use a program call ASNAV is!

More than 20 years ago, Johan Machtelinckx and Iain met after Johan had developed the best sight reduction program. It's still as good today as it was then. A huge benefit of ASNAV is that it includes the planets, sun and moon as well as the selected stars and it will do all the calculations to run up the fix for you.

For those that want the best celestial navigation program for Windows, ASNAV is still available, now as a FREE download at


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Mark Whitman
Mark Whitman
Apr 13, 2022

I think what makes your communications so interesting is that compared to my comfortable life on land, your day is filled with a whole raft (pun intended) of challenges and concerns that I will never encounter even once in my life, let alone on a daily basis. I assume that the loss of communications, changes in the currents, high winds, failing circuit boards, debris from space, etc - the things that should scare the hell out of any sane human adrift in the middle of an ocean - are the very challenges that have drawn you to this adventure. More power to you! Carry On old man of 51!


Iain Macneil
Iain Macneil
Apr 12, 2022

Agree on Monkey Island, but thought my Monkey days were over. It was lucky it ws one of the few good days we had, were surfing with 30 knot winds the next day. It’s great to be back in the lower latitudes and get back to star sights and even see stars come to think of it, as we seem to have spent a lot of time with an overcast sky and squalls. This is looking like our fastest leg yet, with another days run at 10.32 knots today. Yep looking forward to the Mozambique and Aghulas currents on our rounding of South Africa.


Phil Beaumont
Phil Beaumont
Apr 12, 2022

Fantastic log again, really well written iain and edited kat, thoroughly enjoyable and so looking forward to the book, I'm putting my order in for an 1st edition signed copy ta, lol.

Interesting that you used monkey bridge, must be a tanker thing lol, in ben line we called it the monkey island, strange origins of the term though and only theories. According to theory, some people believe that as the monkey island was located at the top of the main mast of sailing ships, sailors had to scramble up the ship’s rigging to free or repair the sails and rigging or to keep a lookout for icebergs , reefs, or land. Because the sailors had to climb as the…

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