Day 22

Today’s brief blog offers not more on the happy social life at sea on Lord Nelson, but some pointers to ocean sailing: the planning and navigation in our day-to-day progress. The shortest track is of course to follow a great circle route. In the southern ocean this would take us too far south to 65 deg south latitude, and into the weather, winds and sea conditions we do not need, and put the ship at risk from ice which breaks away in the summer months and drifts northward. So we adopt the conservative ‘Great Southern Route’ to a way-point off Cape Horn at 56 08S 63 13W. That is the theory. In practice we modify our course, to the north or south, and take best advantage of the present wind and avoid coming storms. Engines were silenced after leaving the harbour and will stay so until the passage around the Horn is accomplished. When we left the islands the first leg of our trans-Pacific was set on course 137 deg. We enter the Southern Ocean at the 50th parallel.

As the wind veered east-nor-easterly rather than stick to that course, we modified our approach ordering the helmsman to sail ‘full-and-by’, that means sailing as close to the wind as possible and at the same time keeping to sails full. With our square sails set we can get no closer to the wind than about 70 deg before she starts to luff, and loose speed. Sailing with just the stay sails and jibs she sails a little closer to the wind.


For the last 24 hours we have enjoyed a 20-30 knot northerly wind with helmsman steering due east. The yards are braced round sharp to starboard to sail on a broad reach. Set thus progress is good – consistently good achieving 7 knots and occasionally up to 9 knots. In lighter winds we sail with every useful stitch of canvas set: all squares to the royals, staysails and the spanker. As the wind freshened early yesterday we handed the spanker. At over 25 knots the royals are furled; and at more than 28 knots the top gallants are similarly furled. Lord Nelson has a relatively short keel so it is important, as in any sailing vessel, that the sails set are well balanced to minimise the amount of helm required to maintain course. For the recent watches with a fresh to strong wind and just the topsails, courses and staysails set, she carries two or three degrees of weather helm and four degrees more to keep an easterly course. Due to leeway we achieve a course over the ground of 095. It taxes the helmsman’s concentration anticipating her next move in a beam swell with strong gusts to keep her on course and avoid rebuke from the watch officer.

From noon to noon over the last 24 hours we have run 154 miles, that’s an average speed of 6.4 knots. The distance now to Cape Horn is 3,511 miles.

You may see our instant position, course and speed by checking the map on another page of the web site. This plots data from the ship’s AIS (automatic identification system) a safety requirement for ships under the SOLAS Convention.

Report by Stephen and John R, for the After Port watch