Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Torres Strait Part II

Last night I had real light winds and only made about 20 miles. Around 5am a little breeze picked up and I moved along at 5 knots. That lasted about 3 hours and now the wind is down to about 3-4 knots. Progress, if you can call it that, is way slow.
Torres Strait Part 2:
Entrance to the Torres Strait:
It was 4 am when I reached Bramble Cay. It was blowing 20 knots with hazy fog. I set course for my first way point. I had a good point of sail and was moving along at 6-7 knots. I reached my first way point just as the sun was coming up. By now it was a few miles within the shelter of the reefs. The swell died down from 8 feet to nothing. The winds dropped down a little to 15 knots. So I sailed along that whole day, dodging reefs and islands and constantly altering course. By nightfall I was nearing the entrance to the Vigilant Passage. This is an area where the course alters from the wide Great North East Channel and heads between a narrow break in the reefs. I sailed through. It was marked well and easy to navigate. By the time I got through the passage it was about 10pm. I was starting to feel the effects of the lack of sleep from the night before. I still had a good 80 or more miles til I was out of the Strait. I plugged my next way point into the chart plotter and set course for it. I had about 14 miles (2 hours worth of travel time) to my next way point. I was very tired so I got out 2 alarms and set them to go off in 15 minutes. I set them on either side of my head and slept. (Through my extensive experience with sleep deprivation I have learned that if you can get even 5 minutes of sleep it will make you feel almost as good as new and will give you a couple more hours on your feet.) After my nap I sat on deck with the wind keeping me awake studying the maze of reefs and nav lights against the charts. A couple of way points later, I was entering the Prince of Wales Channel which is the last part of the Strait and also the most difficult to navigate. As I approached the channel there was a ship on its way out. I hailed them and we decided which side we should pass each other on. We passed within a few hundred yards and then they were gone. The next way point took me between 2 shoals. They were marked with lights and I made it through fine and headed for the next way point. This one was nav lights about 100 yards apart. On either side was a reef. This one was relatively hard to aim the boat through so I ended up taking the boat off autopilot and hand steering through. Once through that I was in the Prince of Wales Channel and navigating by red and green nav lights which I found out pretty quickly were reversed from what we have in America. All those years of my dad shouting 'Red Right Returning' had to be reprogrammed to left instead. The sun rose as I was about 5 miles from the channel. I was going about 9.5 knots from wind and running with the current. I got out of the channel and set course for Booby Island about 15 miles away; the official exit of the TS. All went well until the tide turned and now I was going 2 knots. That was a pain because I hadn't slept accept for that 5 minutes and I was starting to fall asleep while on watch. I decided to hand steer for a little while to keep my mind active and awake. I passed Booby Island about 10am and set my new course and slept. The passage was a challenge to my navigation skills but easier than I had expected.
The Clearpoint forecast shows some wind coming this afternoon. I certainly hope so...


Blogger Philsy said...

Hi Zac

Interesting to read that the US uses a different convention for channel buoys. Just looked it up and it seems that the Philippines and Japan also uses your system.

The idea of having red marks to port and green to starboard coming into a port is that if it's a strange place, that makes it easy (you may not be 'returning'), as it's 'red to red' and green to green'.

However, when you leave a port, you'll have some knowledge of it, so can cope with the marks being 'reversed'.

So now you (and I) know! Best of luck with the voyage - I'm enjoying following your progress.



October 3, 2008 at 1:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bravo Bravo!

Excellent truly are The Man.

Loved reading of your Strait adventure.
Can't wait for your book!

Prayers and good wishes...UK friend.

October 3, 2008 at 1:17 AM  
Blogger Anita said...

Ahoy Zac!

Great read, thanks! I wonder if you may have been dreading the Straits as you got closer; as I would guess you must have been told hundreds of times how difficult they are to navigate. I'm sure it was a wonderful feeling to have your skills tested; and to manage a successful passage! I bet it put a big smile on your face because I had one after reading about it!!

Doesn't sound like you've got much wind to speak of, how frustrating for you; but every situation offers opportunities; maybe it's a lesson in patience, or a chance to organize, write in your journal, catch up on mail, read, or SLEEP!!! No worries, you'll soon be moving along.

We've had nothing but rain here in the Finger Lakes region of New York State, but weather forecast holds out hope for the weekend. I wasn't able to haul out "Wombat" last week becasue of the rain but maybe I'll get in one last sail....that would be excellent as the fall colors here are fabulous!

Well Zac, sail on. Know that you are thought of several times a day and more improtantly lifted in prayer.

Captain SV Wombat ~_/)
Waterloo, NY

October 3, 2008 at 3:51 AM  
Blogger Daryl said...

What a remarkably humble young man! "The passage was a challenge to my navigation skills." That sentence says a lot about both his skills and his attitude about his expert skills.

from Iowa

October 3, 2008 at 6:29 AM  
Blogger Uncle Hectic said...

Good job! I'm surprised you were able to sail through the passage; I would have thought you'd motor through for sure. Definitely a tribute to your navigation and sailing skills. Now get some sleep.

October 3, 2008 at 6:40 AM  
Blogger Peter said...

Hey Zac,

Excellent job man. I'm not a sailor so I can't imagine what you are actually seeing when you see reefs on each side of you, or how they are marked for sailing through.

But in listening to your description, its obvious you were and are well qualified to make such a maneuver through the straits. Now wonder your parents are so confident in your abilities. Very impressive Zac.

Thank you for the description and details. We were all quite concerned for you, and obviously you had it all under control.

Hope and praying the winds pick up so you can make some progress.


October 3, 2008 at 7:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Awesome posts, Zac! Great to hear your account of the Torres Strait... Get some good rest out there on the "lake" while you can, I'm sure you'll be encountering many more waters that are not as calm! Take good care, Your Oklahoma Well-Wisher

October 3, 2008 at 7:41 AM  
Blogger Joy on Journey said...

Yea! Worth waiting for. Glad I didn't have to wait for the BOOK though!

Thanks for telling us your point of view. I never had any doubt that you would make it through unscathed. You are an excellent student who was armed with plenty of information and skills to apply the knowledge. You had angels on every side - the challenge makes getting through that much more rewarding. Nice Job, Captain!

LA in MN

October 3, 2008 at 7:59 AM  
Blogger kirsten said...

Thanks so much for that post!I had searched Torres Straits online,but didnt get that much info.Keep on going Zac!

Bloggers check my blog!

October 3, 2008 at 8:10 AM  
Blogger Xray said...

Hi Zac
It seems to me that if you are in water that is shallow enough to have to avoid a reef then it's shallow enough to throw out an anchor and catch 15 minutes of rest. Just an observation.



October 3, 2008 at 8:17 AM  
Blogger Mona said...

Thanks for Part II. This is going to be one amazing book!
Get some good rest while you can.
Sail Safe.
Tucson, AZ

October 3, 2008 at 8:19 AM  
Blogger Mouse on a Motorcycle said...

I remember when I could keep functioning on a quick cat-nap every few hours. That was waaaaaay back when I was young. I read that Thomas Edison worked that way his whole life, leading to the conclusion that that's a "use it or lose it" ability.

Now I'm old and fat, so it's probably best for all if I stick to daysails and singing about adventurous passages.

Praying for you daily Numbers 6:24-26
Mouse in Whittier

October 3, 2008 at 8:21 AM  
Blogger Splais said...

Well Zac,

I see on Google Earth that you are approaching the halfway point on your next leg past "Kneeling" - too late to turn back now :) seems like you are making awesome progress. We were out bass fishing and one of our once in two year rain storms came up. We got soaked and the white caps were rolling and all I could think about was what it must be like for you out on the open ocean in a storm, wow! you're braver than I am.

Steve Plaisance\Yuma, AZ

October 3, 2008 at 8:29 AM  
Blogger STEVE B said...


Sorry you are having such slow progress but glad you have the time to fill in the Zacpac on the Torres Strait. Great reading about your passage. I suddenly feel very tired. Setting two alarms for only a few minutes of sleep after not having slept in so long must have been excrutiating.

Wishing you fair seas,


October 3, 2008 at 8:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Student: Zac Sunderland
Topic: Torres Straits
Grade: A++

All the comments leading up to the TS passage had me expecting a "peril at sea" story. You made it seem like a cake-walk. Are there any other legs of the trip that will be as or more challenging?

Since you're sitting there now in a 'bob & bake' situation, so are getting suggetions on what to do with your time. No one seems to have mentioned the home schooling materials you have on board. What's going on with that? It's just another part of the challenge! If managing education along with a circumnavigation was easy, truancy would be rampart and you'd be dodging traffic out there!

Continued good luck to you. You are an example of the adage that the more prepared one is, the better luck he will have! That is not profound. It's horse sense!

The Croaker

October 3, 2008 at 8:54 AM  
Anonymous Axel said...

Zac Pac.
The following link may be of interest to some. It explains the international marker system.

Have a nice weekend
I know we are all busy getting Intrepid to the next stop so I think is just a another hard work weekend :-)

October 3, 2008 at 9:01 AM  
Blogger Berry Blog said...

Fighting sleep is one of the worst experiences in life especially in a three hour lecture class. With endless ocean in front of you, I'm sure keeping your eyes open is a tougher challenge than my boring professors. The switch in the boy colors must have seemed surreal when tempted to nod off.
Hope you catch up on the z's so you can enjoy the trip again.
-Charlie, Maine

October 3, 2008 at 9:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Zac, Team Sunderland and Zac Pac,
Wow, I had some catching up to do, as we just moved across country from Washington DC to Camarillo, Ca.

Zac, you should consider becoming a journalist. Your account of the Torres Straits was interesting, as well as informative.

We hope to get to your fundraiser, depending on the when and where.

Good luck on your continued journey. Cocos Keeling sounds like a dream place. We hope that you get to enjoy a bit of it.

Bill and Linda
Camarillo, Ca
(formerly Washington DC

October 3, 2008 at 10:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thoroughly enjoyed reading parts one and two of the Torres Strait. Like your folks, you are an excellent writer.

Thank you, Axel, for the info on the international marker system. I will check that out.

Hoping for more wind. Continuing to pray...

Sherman Oaks, CA

October 3, 2008 at 11:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Part one and Part two were great, fun and as usual I learned something new. Keep up the great work. Have some fun and please get some sleep.

Keep on pushing -


October 3, 2008 at 1:39 PM  
Blogger Hopp√≠polla said...

Sleep, my friend, sleep.

October 3, 2008 at 4:21 PM  
Anonymous Rory Gogan SINGAPORE said...

Solid effort! U did a whole lot of livin ducking and diving in the TS. Reef here, shoal there, no sleep anywhere.
Sunderland... takin' names and kickin A!

Your LA Dodgers are kicking my Chicago Cubs butt. The third game is in LA 10:15 ET 715am your Sunday morning. I think U should be able to catch on the Arm Forces network on your SSB.

Im sending U a t-shirt to Cocos-Keeling c/o of the Post Master General so please check for it when U get there.

Funny line about your Old Fella, made me think of Twain's when he wrote:
When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.

Be safe lil Buddy!

October 3, 2008 at 5:23 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

WOW! The Torres Straits blog was incredible. You gave everyone a great ride! How exciting it must have been.

Kee up the fantastic work and your dream will definitely come true! Blessings, Steve S

October 3, 2008 at 5:45 PM  
Blogger lita pita said...

your such a trooper. :]
i am not sure if i could trust myself to stay awake.
but i am so glad that you have trained your mind to be alert!
it stresses me out a little bit thinking about you falling alseep out there. but i no God has you covered, no need to worry.

- elita

October 3, 2008 at 7:44 PM  
Blogger Tomi said...

Sweet heavens Capt., you made it sound as easy as sailing thru the English Channel dodging w/e sailboats & cargo ships. After all the horror stories I've searched thru & asked my Grandpa about (he's an experienced Capt. in his own right, tho' on power yachts - wee bit of a diff there, even he admits). Not once did you mention cranking the Yanmar.

Truly a testiment to your skills, experience & well earned knowledge.

God bless you.

I am curious, on the day/night/day we were all busy on our knees, what day was that during your journey into the Straits?

A co-w*rker asked me to inquire, is there phosphoresence (sp?) in the Torres Straits? If yes, did it help guide you?

Ditto to all the previous posts, you, Our Dear Capt Zac, are truly a Hero to many of us.

Thx for keeping us on the edge of our seats (when this gets made into a movie, it's going to be riveting!).


October 3, 2008 at 8:01 PM  
Anonymous canadian_meisjes said...

Good to hear the not-working satphone story from your POV. We're praying for you daily. Hope you get some time to sleep and then enjoy Cocos Keeling - sounds gorgeous.
~Jessica and Rosemary from Canada

October 3, 2008 at 8:19 PM  
Blogger Debbie said...

Welcome to California Bill and Linda! My oldest son lives in Oxnard and I have a cousin that lives in Camarillo!! Camarillo is a beutiful place to settle in. I am sure going to try and be there at Zac's fundraiser, so will hopefully be able meet you and all the faithful Zac Pack followers! I myself live in the San Fernando Valley. I just hope the get together works out so that I can attend!I am so looking forward to it.

Part II was terrific and I am lookig forward to Zac's next blog! You do have the natural ability to write a good novel, Zac. I hope that the wind has picked up some.

Cocos Keeling looks like paradise! Take a lot of pictures please!!!

Thinking about you daily Zac. Happy sailing!!

North Hills, CA

October 3, 2008 at 9:05 PM  

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