Saturday, December 6, 2008

A Day in the Life of a Solo Circumnavigator

Latest Position: 12/06/08 1539Z 27 52.817S 41 11.112E
I've been getting a lot of people asking what a normal day is like out here. Most everyday is different so most everyday I'm on a different schedule dealing with different stuff. I figure a good way to answer that question is to give you a 24 hour look at my life in the Indian Ocean. Last night I called my mom at around 9pm my time and 8am California time to compare weather reports and give a position update. The forecast for the night was 10-12 knots off my starboard aft quarter which is light but enough to sail at around 4-5 knots. As the night wore on the wind dropped off to around 8 knots. It was just enough to keep the boat on course going 3 knots - painfully slow. I went to bed around 10:30pm Mauritius time but I know its gotten earlier since I set out because the sun sets around 7pm in Mauritius which is 9pm out here. I was woken up by my radar alarm at 11 something just after I had fallen asleep. I got up and turned off the alarm and saw the familiar shape of a ship on the radar screen. I grabbed my night vision scope (thanks Dave) and went up into the cockpit to see if we were on a collision course but the batteries in the scope were dead. So I got out some AAAs to replace them and grabbed a coin to open the battery compartment. All my foreign coins were too fat for the screw. Unable to find a US quarter I sat in the cockpit and watched the 2 white lights that resemble hundreds of tons of metal pass me by. As soon as the ship was far enough away from me to set my radar alarm again I went back to sleep. I also had 3 separate squalls that night. I don't know what time they were because I was too tired to care. They aren't powerful enough for me to need to reef. But I still had to stay awake until they cleared the radar screen. I set 2 alarms - one at 2.5 miles and the other at 4.5 miles. On the last squall I set the 2.5 mile alarm again but fell asleep while waiting for the squall to pass to be able to set the 4.5 mile alarm. I was woken up at around 6am by the radar alarm and saw that I had a ship 2.5 miles away on a collision course. I tacked to put some distance between us and watched it pass a half mile away. Then I went back to sleep and woke up around 9am. I called home again to see what the weather showed for the day. The forecast was for 8-10 knots but the wind had built from 8 knots to 20. I had a few squalls and ships but nothing too close. I passed through a squall with a raging rain storm and washed my hair. Around 12 I was up on deck untangling the lazy sheet on the genny and I saw for the first time not flying fish but squid on deck. No, I didn't eat it. The rest of the day passed uneventfully. I have been reading Singlehanded Sailing by Richard Henderson. It has chapters written on different aspects of solo sailing from many diffeent solo sailors. I cleaned up some inside and studied some charts and now I am finishing typing this blog - at 8pm. There is the last 23 hours of my life. It may be kind if boring to read but, hey, you asked!
Note from Mom:
Laurence and I had a great evening last night at the Westlake Yacht Club. The were having their yearly holiday party with food and music and lots of good company. They have been an amazing support during Zac's trip from before he left. Special thanks to Carol Amenta and Michael Broggie for showing off and selling 20 of Zac's calendars. They really are something with a slightly over-sized format and big, professional-quality photos by 3 different photographers.

There are still some available at Zac's Store (link to the right on this blog).

There was a nice article in the Ventura County Star (our local paper) this morning:
For those of you who may not read the blog comments, here is the link to the NPR interview:


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great to hear from you as always...
land ho soon come!

But did you eat anything yesterday?

December 6, 2008 at 10:01 AM  
Anonymous Melanie said...

LOL @ Kate! He defnitely didn't have squid. That's some good eatin' your missing out on, but I guess it would be a lot of work to clean and cook. And without a fryer, well....

I definitely wasn't bored with the details of your day, Zac. For those of us non-sailors, those details are extremely interesting. Do we need to send you some pocket change for your night vision scope (thanks dave h)? Or, do you have a mini-screwdriver on board?

Haven't heart from Bill Mann in a bit. I think the hairwashing chore might bring him out of hiding LOL!

@ Marianne and Laurence - Great to hear you had a nice evening out "solo." Were you able to sneak back into the house after all the little ones were asleep?

December 6, 2008 at 10:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've enjoyed reading your own words, Zac, and your account of 23 hours at sea as a solo sailor was definitely NOT boring. Thanks for keeping us up to date!

I continue to wish you fair winds and safe home.

John MacGregor

December 6, 2008 at 10:12 AM  
Anonymous Melanie said...

meant to say, haven't heard from Bill Mann...

December 6, 2008 at 10:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Zac,
Boring? No way. We asked for it and got it, we're as happy as can be. It's great to hear from you and know you're doing well.

My continued thoughts and prayers to you.

A fellow homeschooled friend :)

December 6, 2008 at 10:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why so far south? I plugged your location into Google Earth and it looks like you are closer to Antarctica than you are to Africa

December 6, 2008 at 11:29 AM  
Anonymous Danvers said...

LOL LOL. I think the following exchange is very funny, and very telling:
From the Article:

"There are not nearly as many unknowns as there used to be," she said, noting she speaks with her son at least twice a day by phone.

When he's not working on the boat or on the lookout for other boats and ships, Zac is hitting the books, working toward his high school diploma.

Comment on the article:
Posted by kasmirkathy on December 6, 2008 at 10:24 a.m. (Suggest removal)

My 5th grade son loved this story. Very inspiring. But when we read that Zac was doing school work out at sea alone, he smiled and said "Sure, he is."

December 6, 2008 at 11:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Boring? Right. Just keep it up. We are also here to vicariously sail along with you. The details, no matter what, are an elixir to us. I might also note that at this point, things that have become boring to you are still new to us.

Keep sailing and keep us informed. You're still the man.

Welcome back. Great to hear from one of our favorite people. Happy that you had a nice evening out. You must be quiet the local celebrities as the parents of Zac! Walk proud!

The Croaker

December 6, 2008 at 12:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the NPR story link. Just got a calendar and poster, in part, as a reminder. As we're facing difficult times (I think, perhaps, a little more so in Detroit) and I'm trying to manage with a severe pay cut (almost half) & an uncertain future, among other scary factors, your adventure inspires hope, determination and serves as a reminder to continue to reach for a few dreams. Plus, I think it's fascinating and, always, a pleasure to watch anyone excel at or enjoy something.

take care, Mort

December 6, 2008 at 1:06 PM  
Blogger jlh said...

Hey Zac,

Your blog is anything but boring! We love hearing about your experiences. A squid on deck?
Amazing! What did you end up eating?

@Laurence and Marianne, sounds like a wonderful evening. I'm glad Carol and Michael showed the calendars. We love ours. The pictures and quotes are fantastic.

Jennifer and Ben
Sherman Oaks, CA

December 6, 2008 at 2:20 PM  
Blogger Daveh said...

In a Sailfish Tournament, so I’ve been behind on the blog… Just also checked Mike Perham, 6 days in port, no update… Interesting…
Zac, Laurence, Marianne… May the bad weather of Madagascar and S. Africa continue to be good for Zac

Daveh & Skipper

December 6, 2008 at 2:41 PM  
Blogger Anita said...

Hiya Zac!
You boring.. NEVER!!! I agree with all who posted that it's always great to hear from you and we LOVE getting details of your daily life aboard Intrepid!

I don't know how you deal with the constant interruption to your sleep. I can only equate it to years ago when our daughter was an infant.....BUT I wasn't on a moving boat with squalls, ships and the like! Good thing you're young.

Did I miss it or did you give details about that birthday cake? What kind of gifts did you have??

LOL @ Danvers son and his comment on you keeping up with school work...still laughing at that one :)

I think Bill Mann has been having computer issues....hopefully we'll "see" him back soon

Has anyone heard from Glen??

Well Zac, Sail on fair winds and following seas. You're covered in prayer, with God's angels about you.

Forgot where I read this but thought I'd share:
All the wonderful things you'd like to have in this life are just right outside your comfort zone.

Anita ~_/)
Waterloo, NY
Captain SV "Wombat"

December 6, 2008 at 4:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Sorry fro coming on as Anonymous, but am having a problem with my Google/blogger password.

Enoying the mirth caused by the miniphilosopher who when told you were doing your schoolwork said, "Yeah, right!"

You are doing it aren't you. A few times when we hadn't heard from you in a few days, I forgave you and gave you the benefit of any doubt because my assumption was that you were catching us on homework, or maybe even getting ahead a bit so you could enjoy your 'winter break' and holiday in South Africa.

WARNING: Mom may be there asking awkward questions! Better get with the program. Tip: WE never disappoint Mom!!

The Croaker

December 6, 2008 at 4:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

re: Daveh
click on Mike P's "blog" and you will see more updated info, apparently they don't update the "latest news" on the homepage very often

December 6, 2008 at 5:21 PM  
Blogger Dana said...

Not boring at all! Quite the contrary--pretty exciting!

Santa Monica

December 6, 2008 at 5:58 PM  
Blogger Jerry Critter said...

Zac, If you want boring, try one of my days...LOL.

I would trade places with you in a second except you probably would really die of boredom, and I would die because I don't know how to sail.

December 6, 2008 at 7:13 PM  
Anonymous Halle said...

Ha ha, and I thought a long day of testing at school was tough! ^.^

Sounds like a pretty tiring day, I hope you ate something and got at least a tiny bit of sleep. Keep going!

-Halle S. in Oregon

December 6, 2008 at 7:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just ordered from the Zac Store and am thinking of you, Zac, with every item. Many prayers come your way from me daily. I am so proud of you and how the Lord has worked out the details of this challenge to which you are being true.

As I head for bed you are well into your day, may it be blessed, blessed, blessed.

Kathy, Bend, OR

December 6, 2008 at 9:45 PM  
Blogger Clay said...

??? what ???
you need a U.S. quarter to turn a screw, com'on Zac don't scare us like that. You mean to tell me that you don't have a screw driver on board, no tool kit in the deep blue, not even a swiss army knife. Tell us your joking Zac? Tell us then that you bought a Bic lighter when you where on shore or at least you grabbed a new book of matches right Zac. Stay safe Zac.

December 7, 2008 at 1:02 PM  
Blogger Ben, Becky, (Noah) & Caleb Bacheller said...

Zac, been following you for a few months. Thanks for sharing your 23 hour day. It's neat for those of us who have not clue with sailing to learn a bit at a time. Appreciate it.
Also been praying for your safety and alertness while out there. May He keep you safe as you journey.

Ben Bacheller.

December 7, 2008 at 5:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

@ DaveH

Dave, you seem to have a downer on poor Mike. I've just checked my RSS feed and Mike has been blogging almost every day since his last stop off, explaining what he's been doing to the boat.

Please, let's not start the bitchiness again.

December 7, 2008 at 11:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excuse me...In Daveh's defence....
I don't think that Anonymous Dec.7 at 11:54pm, knows what he/she is talking about!
Daveh is not any of what you are stating.
I am sorry to be so 'upfront' but that comment is ridiculous and ill thought out and is not helpful to anyone.

UK friend

December 8, 2008 at 4:00 AM  
Blogger Daveh said...

I have never posted anything negative about Mike Perham, my comments are always about the O.50, equipement, the challenge, ect...

Not trying to be a downer at all, it's a hell of a feat he's attempting.

I've sailed O.50's with crew, a wild vessle with crew, much less alone.

I wish Mike the best, I wasn't aware that his home page news isn't as current as the blog news.

I do believe (from experience) that him handling an O.50 in the southern ocean is a huge feat, that is the only thing I've ever said.

No ill will inteded here, that's for sure.


December 8, 2008 at 4:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Someone needs to FIX THE HEADER on the blog - It still shows Zac as being 16 years old.

"My name is Zac Sunderland and I am 16 years old. I departed June 14th from Marina del Rey, California in an attempt to become the youngest person to circumnavigate the world alone by yacht. ©2008 Zac Sunderland All Rights Reserved"

December 8, 2008 at 5:44 AM  
Anonymous kaje said...

With all the piracey going on, I would love to see you drop the lat. and lon. position from your blog. Don't make it easy for them.....kaje

December 8, 2008 at 5:56 AM  
Blogger Douglas Pistone said...

Hello Zac & The Pac,

Zac, I know you might think this is boring stuff for us to read but I really enjoyed it. Your last 24 hours and my last 24 hours are nothing alike. This is why I enjoy reading it!!!

Daveh, Like always Hand in There.

Zac, hopefully the wind picks up a little but just enough to get you moving at 6 to 7 knots!!!

Sail On,
Douglas Pistone
MDR, California

December 8, 2008 at 6:20 AM  
Blogger Daveh said...

Just checked the grib data, looks like light winds until Thursday, then it's 15-25 for 4-5 days with one day light, should get him into durban I bet by this time next week I guestimating...

Not too windy, but winds, most from the beam...

Daveh & Skipper

December 8, 2008 at 6:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great to hear Alex Chadwick caught up with you again. Millions of folks listen to NPR's programming. Here's hoping that some of those listeners
will donate to the cause. Smooth sailin' into Durban, dude.
Kodiak Mike
NPR member station/Alaska

December 8, 2008 at 7:33 AM  
Anonymous Your Oklahoma Well-Wisher said...

Hey Zac! Thanks – that was a fun read, really enjoyed your “day in the life” account, even though every day is different, great for us to get a glimpse. Like Anita, only comparison I have with the snippets of sleep is the first 3 months with my twin newborns – oh my! But I was in my cozy home with my husband to help, not at sea alone with squalls and ships and alarms! Keep on keeping on as you are – you are doing something absolutely amazing and very inspiring to many! Take good care and hope it continues to be smooth on your way to Durban…

Peace, Your Oklahoma Well-Wisher

December 8, 2008 at 7:57 AM  
Anonymous Jen said...

So glad to hear (thanks Daveh) that the weather is good for Zac - at least it isn't storms!

I also second "Clay's" message about the US coins and no mention of a screwdriver! yikes! let's hope that was just for dramady's sake!

Zac: your days are not boring for us.... we are wanting to hear all that detail and more! how was the cake? was there icing too? are you video taping still?? how are your sleeps??

take care,

December 8, 2008 at 9:23 AM  
Anonymous Tricia in Vancouver, BC said...

Thanks for the window on your day, Zac. At this point in your voyage do you philosophize about what this trip means to you? Are you enjoying your offshore time? Glad to be out there? Looking forward to the end of the journey?

A note for those concerned about screwdrivers: On some electronic devices, like my little handheld GPS, and maybe Zac's nightscope, the battery compartment is opened via a slot that's curved in depth -- it's made specifically to be opened by sticking the edge of a coin in it.


December 8, 2008 at 9:34 AM  
Blogger Sherna Taylor said...


I love your day in the life of.. , so many of us just go to bed for a straight 6-8 hrs of uninterrupted sleep.

Love your "I also had 3 separate squalls that night. I don't know what time they were because I was too tired to care"... gives real insight in to your daily experiences.

I have been following Zac from the day he left I look forward to your comments. It's really nice having some expert opinions with out having to go to another site to look up the meanings of some"things.

You may be having some comprehension issues as Daveh has definitely never been disrepectful in any way to Mike Perham.

Zac, continued good winds and safe journey

Sherna T

December 8, 2008 at 10:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK, sorry if I misinterperated Daveh's comment. It came across as a negative, especially as Mike HAS been updating his blog.

Daveh also comments on his website that Mike has an unlimited budget which is not true. Maybe that's why I viewed his comments in that way.

Group hug? :-)

December 8, 2008 at 12:33 PM  

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