The Sailor’s Journey – 7

When we last left Matteo Miceli on his round-the-world, solo sailing adventure, he was just nearing the Cape of Good  Hope. This was certainly not an easy task, alone in a boat in the dark. This was one of the milestones of this trip, due to the Cape’s infamously large waves and unpredictable currents, and Matteo was glad to be past this challenge. Once again, he could breathe deeply again…but not for long. The threat of icebergs lay ahead.


Positions of Leica Geosystems’ equipment on the Eco40

Before we write about that, we’d like to quickly refresh your memory of the reason why we are writing about Matteo Miceli on the Leica Geosystems Blog. A research group in Geodesy and Geomatics at the University of Rome decided to participate in the project known as “Roma Ocean World”. What this project is, is an adventure led by the University of Rome’s Professor Paolo di Girolamo and the Italian sailing hero, Matteo Miceli, on the Eco40 sailboat. This boat is not just any boat but one that was designed to be independent of outside help for energy, food and water, and fully equipped to  produce enough wind, solar and hydro renewable energies to be self-efficient. Matteo is also able to desalinate water for his personal needs, and also drinks it, uses it to cook and washes with it. He has two chickens on board and named them Blondie and Brunette and they produce eggs for him. There’s also a vegetable garden sustained with artificial light (which took on a dose of ocean water during the first part of the trip and now only produces mung sprouts). He has a fishing rod to catch fish (time and calm water allowing), and in case he doesn’t catch any fish, Matteo has 100 bags of freeze-dried food stored on the boat and some power bars.
The Eco40 is also equipped with three GR25 GNSS reference receivers + antennae, all sponsored by Leica Geosystems, to help record the boat’s movement, dynamic stress and material durability, among other things, throughout the trip.

The Eco40 is a Class 40 sailboat that is not only a favoured by recreational sport amateurs, it is also a popular racing boat for professionals. With the analysed data collected by Leica Geosystems equipment, the Class 40’s structural design will be able to be streamlined for more speed, wave heights can also be calculated to validate numerical models of the UK’s Met Office (Meteorology) and  polar diagrams can be made for future Class 40 racing boat competitions .

It’s the first time ever that a sailboat’s movement will be accurately measured by GNSS on a global journey, with all data transmitted by Matteo via satellite every four hours, and at the end of the journey, Professor Paolo di Girolamo and Mattia Crespi from the University Rome will analyse and report on the data results (for more info, see the first part of The Sailor’s Journey.) Click here (22122014.pdf)  to download a report of the second month’s navigation report).

So lets return in time to mid-December and Matteo, who has just entered the Indian Ocean after passing the Cape of Good Hope. The team in Rome, Andrea Boscolo and Alessandro Pezzoli, are about to expertly lead Matteo through the turbulent waters of the Indian Ocean towards his next big challenge – Cape Leeuwin – on the southwestern tip of Australia.
Watch this video of the tumultuous waves  that Matteo had to  deal with recently, making it impossible for him to catch any fish.

It’s still 4900 nautical miles (or over 9000 km/ 5600 miles) away. This distance is scattered with lots of little (or not so little) challenges, such as icebergs, obstructing Matteo’s route towards the Arctic Sea. Winds gust at  50 knots literally push Matteo towards Cape Leeuwin and the boat reaches a speed of 20 knots (40 km h). The navigation team in Rome lead Matteo past the Prince Edward Islands, where a large iceberg, almost 4 km long, is blocking the way. At these latitudes, big icebergs tend to break up into smaller pieces, making it a very dangerous passage for the Eco40, and Matteo was expertly  navigated by the Roman team, who helped to ensure the boat’s safety. This passage tends to have many icebergs, so iceberg tracking was started before Matteo arrived in the area using the ESA’s Sentinel-1A satellite and Italy’s Cosmo SkyMed, which discovered a 32 km long piece of ice drifting along the boat’s projected route.


Icebergs blocking Matteo’s route


Just before Christmas, Matteo was lucky enough to catch a fish, which might have been a Blue Bonito but then again, maybe it’s a Butterfly Kingfish? What do you think?

In the middle of the night an emergency text came from Matteo that a gap of 1.5 cm appeared in the lower bushing of the axle needed to steer his starboard rudder. Luckily, the upcoming weather was calmer, with less wind and rain turning into snow, and Matteo was able to improvise a bushing repair made of Teflon, which he built from the few resources he has aboard the Eco40. He has been sailing with his creation for three days now – but will it hold for another 18,000 miles?

At this point in time, the Eco40 has sailed 10,200 nautical miles, with the boat’s average speed at 7.5 knots and winds reaching 53 knots. Water temperature in this region is roughly 4.6°C, due to Antarctic Circumpolar Current.

Christmas began as a lucky day with Brunette prsenting a Christmas egg to Matteo and yesterday’s fish gave him a festive meal of freeze-dried rice with Mediterranean fish sauce. Matteo took time out to make a second bushing out of resin, in case the improvised one made he made broke.
But later on in the day, a storm hit with winds gusting to 60 knots. The repaired rudder and bushing held up luckily and so did Matteo, who was still worried about that bushing. At this point, he was close to the Kerguelein Islands and had only 1900 miles to go till he reached Cape Leeuwin. Bravo Matteo!


Passing by the Kerguelein or Desolation Islands, with roughly 100 residents of scientists and researchers. Discovered in 1772, it’s one of the most isolated places on Earth.

On this day, Matteo decided to dive in the water to see what really happened to the bushing and rudder and found out that vibration caused screws to loosen in the ring nut of the bushing, making it almost impossible to steer the boat.
While diving around under the boat, he discovered something quite shock. The Eco40, even as far from land as it was, was partly covered with tar that polluted the water (see image below).

See the brown stain caused by tar? It's pollution found even here on the water's surface!

See the brown stain caused by tar? It’s pollution found even here on the water’s surface!

The New Year begins with a long and tiring night. A storm with winds gusting up to 65 knots (120 km) hit the Eco40 for 12 exhausting hours, and more than a few times, the Eco40 was lying on its side while moving at 20 knots. No easy feat for Matteo, alone in the dark, with water temperatures of 5°C and 10 meter waves crashing down on the boat, however Matteo and the Eco40 are still afloat and passed this test too!
No rest yet: The next storm had already been forecast to hit on JAN 02, again at night, with wind gusts of 65 knots. And again Matteo’s boat was knocked about and partially underwater. Luckily the repairs Matteo made held these two weeks and the also last 4000 miles. Therefore, both the team in Rome as well as Matteo felt it unnecessary to stop somewhere to repair the boat, which would mean the end of the “Roma Ocean World” project.

On JAN 04, just as Matteo was to sit down to his fish dinner, a tidal wave hit the side of the boat, without warning and capsizing it. Matteo was thrown under the bunk, receiving a bump on the head and needed painkillers. To this day, takes his breath away as he thinks about it.

JAN 05 Matteo reached Cape Leeuwin – another big milestone of the trip. The wind has calmed down and now it’s raining and misty. Not much to smile about on this day, it cooled down a great deal – but because he was about to start his next big challenge, to follow the almost deserted Clipper Route (deserted because safer sailing options opened like the Suez- or Panama Canals) and Matteo began to smile again!

Good winds till we see us again!

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