The Sailor’s Journey – 8

We last left the self-sustaining sailor, Matteo Miceli, a few weeks back, after he claimed that the Eco40 was hit by a tidal wave. This massive wave came from out of the blue and hit the side of the boat, sending Matteo headlong into a wooden frame and causing him to hit his head hard.
After making sure Matteo hadn’t received any serious damage, the Professor back in Rome assured Matteo it was not a tidal wave. But gigantic waves similar to tidal waves do happen for no explainable reason. He was just unfortunate enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, which of course didn’t take away the pain of being flung unexpectedly into one of the boat’s structural frames.


A beautiful sailing day but rolling sea caused by wind start to get the best of Matteo

Waves are actually a big part of Matteo’s journey during the next two weeks. It is around January 8th and the Eco40 has almost reached the halfway point of its trip. The sailboat is now roughly 1000 miles south of the Great Australian Bight and Matteo has been on board for 80 days and the journey has covered almost 14,000 miles (22,500 km).
There is unfortunately another storm developing and Matteo has been advised to change his route and head toward an area known for generating cyclonic winds (better than being hit by a storm but still not an easy alternative) in order to reach southern New Zealand, still about 1300 miles away. His boat has been traveling at an average speed of 30-40 knots and the rolling sea, caused by the wave swells and wind, starts to get to him.

Once in a while, Matteo is lucky enough to have nights without wind, allowing him to finally sleep deeply for few hours without being woken up by a sudden pitch of the boat or gust of wind. With sleep, his spirits are much better, even if the temperature inside the boat only reaches 8°C.


The Geomatic experts, Mattia Crespi and Augusto Mazzoni, have advised Matteo of his course for the next days but they are worried that in order to avoid one storm, Matteo will meet yet another one just south of New Zealand.
The water off of southern New Zealand is well known to seamen for its shallow waters due to an extended continental shelf that reduces the water depth from an average of 4000m to 300-400m, and in places even to 150m! The effect this has on the ocean waves is tremendous, as certain readers are aware of and the giant waves found here are also a result of the Indian Ocean changing into the Pacific, where current directions change and the sea becomes exceedingly difficult.
The shallow waters cause an effect known as “shoaling”. Shoaling occurs when swells of waves react to the shallow seabed, making waves increase their height significantly. The forward moving volume of the water is the same when it is pushed into the shallow-lying seabed, and the wave’s water has nowhere to go but upwards. On top of this, there is less water on the backward movement of the wave, which is extremely dangerous to a boat. This effect can leave a boat’s keel without bottom clearance in the shallow water. Imagine: the boat repeatedly being thrust upwards with the continuous forward momentum of a wave and crashing down to the bottom of the ocean as the wave withdraws. Worst case scenario: The boat splits in two. To make things even worse, water currents from opposite directions in this region cause exceptionally high waves…Matteo will certainly be experiencing a tough time ahead.
However no need to worry about Matteo, he is led by Geomatic experts, Alessandro Pezzoli and Andrea Boscolo, the team back in Rome, who know all about “wave mechanics”.

This image shows the continental shelf off Southern New Zealand, causing enormous waves.

This image shows the continental shelf off Southern New Zealand, causing enormous waves.

NOTE: Thanks to on board receivers and antennae, which were generously sponsored by Leica Geosystems, collected data of wave motion collected during the Eco40’s global journey will be documented and analysed, partially from wave motion data that was collected in places never documented before. Bravo Leica Geosystems!

With all this water turbulence, the fish aren’t biting and the chickens aren’t providing eggs. Matteo has to open a bag of freeze-dried food and heats it up with the fish he caught and froze around Christmas. After his meal, he has to concentrate on building up enough speed and miles to quickly sail through two storms that await him in the next days. If he doesn’t gain enough speed, the storm and the enormous waves expected when passing from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific will certainly crash down on Matteo and the Eco40 with alarming and dangerous intensity. The team and Matteo decide to head North towards Holbart, Tasmania, to avoid what they can of the first storm forces and arrive well positioned to accommodate the second storm.

15 JAN – Raining hard but with batteries loaded at 70%, the Eco40’s keel has taken on a lot of algae. The wind has picked up to 20 knots and it is too dangerous for Matteo to dive under the boat to free the keel of excess seaweed. The excess algae creates vibrations and noise on the boat and Matteo feels like he is being chased by a barrage of dirtbikes.

However, two days before Matteo was lucky enough to have calm winds and was able to do control checks of the rudder, his repaired bushing and take inventory. He’s in a good mood and ponders on a contest he started a few days ago. The challenge is to guess the exact date the Eco40 will arrive at Cape Horn, with date, hours, minutes and seconds. The lucky winner will receive a day’s ride on the Eco40 with Matteo Miceli after this journey is over.

The winds pick up strength and Matteo is forced to take down his main sail. A very dangerous thing to do. Still the winds and the waves have come crashing down on the boat and the inside of the boat is filled with water.

Jan 17 – The storm has passed without too much damage. Brunette is upset by the storm and not laying any eggs.

Matteo, however is rested and ready to answer the question of how he can sleep in peace when he is alone on a boat in the middle of nowhere.
Well, he has an autopilot, a PC with cartography, route and possible alarms when wind changes directions or intensity. There are two bunks, one on each side of the boat. These change angles according to how the boat tilts. Matteo has guards on the sides of the bunks so he doesn’t fall on the floor should the boat suddenly lies on its side. From his bed, Matteo can see both the autopilot and his PC. He has learned how to sleep on command using a learned step-by-step method. He also sleeps for short periods because this reduces the amount of sleep a person needs for a 24 hour period to just 4 – 5 hours.

As of January 20, Matteo is approximately 4000 nautical miles from Cape Horn and has entered the Pacific Ocean. The weatherman, Alexander Pezzoli reports all is calm at the moment, however cold polar air will collide with the heat that originates from desert areas of Australia, making the weather unpredictable. There will be more icebergs as Matteo heads starts to head toward Cape Horn. The size of these icebergs is hard to determine because their visible size is very small but the rest, some 90%, is underwater and very dangerous for small boats like the Eco40.

Good winds to all!

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