Thursday, April 30, 2009

Communication Breakdown

Latest Position: 04/30/09 2003Z 12 1.008N 60 29.886W

Mom here...

It has been a difficult few days for all of his here behind the scenes. As many of you know, Zac contacts us here at home twice a day at least. We get his position and exchange weather information and navigation strategy as well as shooting the breeze and keeping each other up on all of the latest news.

Zac didn't call yesterday - all day. He didn't call today either. Laurence is in Grenada and went to give the heads up to the Coast Guard there just in case Zac didn't show up as expected on Friday. They offered to send their regular recognizance helicopter that flies out of Trinidad over his last known position and scout out the area at first light. We were so grateful for their sincerity and desire to help.

This morning when Laurence and crew went down to the Coast Guard office to see how things were going, no one seemed to know what he was talking about. The helicopter out of Trinidad could not be sent with out the Sargent's approval and he didn't get in until 8:00. They would have to send him the message - but they had said they sent it last night... No one seemed to know what was procedure or how to organize the flight. In the end we still don't know if any aircraft went out. We did not feel it necessary to organize a search & rescue but it sure would have been nice to confirm that our worst fears were NOT true!

For any of you reading this blog for the first time, Zac has been at sea, crossing the Atlantic Ocean, for the past nearly 5 weeks - the longest leg of his trip to date. A week ago or so his radar stopped receiving for some reason and he has had to wake himself up every 20 minutes, 24 hours a day all week long to check the horizon for shipping. Fortunately, his AIS receiver is still working well - it just isn't picking up every ship. This fatigue factor is probably incomprehensible to most of us but can be very dangerous. The mind is foggy and reactions are slow. To say that we have been more concerned for Zac's safety than usual is an understatement. To suddenly stop hearing from him under these circumstances was especially nerve wracking.

As usual, the prayer requests flew out across the Internet. We purposed to set our minds on things above - taking our fearful thoughts captive and repeating God's promises loudly as if to drown out any negative thoughts. God's hand has been so heavily evident on this trip, we just knew that Zac had to be OK. I prayed for peace and received it. Fear crept in and I prayed for a sign. I went to the mailbox and found it - a post card, mailed over a month ago, from Zac while he was in St Helena - his last stop. Another amazing 'coincidence'!

Zac's post card from St Helena

Beautiful St Helena Island in the South Atlantic
We heard from Zac late this morning. Before Zac left on his trip he was sponsored a little gadget called a SPOT Satellite Messenger. It is used for reporting your position (lat/long) when you are in distant places, say out of cell phone reach. It is a great device. It offers 3 options: '911' - come and get me (which alerts international search & rescue services), 'Help' - just lets whoever is receiving the signal (friends, family) that you need help, or 'OK' - reports the person's position and a wonderful "Hi. It's Zac. I'm OK. Just checking in." Sent as a text message right to my cell phone! It is a standard message that was preprogrammed before Zac left last June but it was music to my ears. He hasn't used it in many months because the coverage zone is not world wide yet. He must have known we would be worried and dug it out.
He has sent several messages today updating his position. We can see that he is on course and moving right along. He should be in beautiful Grenada tomorrow. I'm sure he is anxious. The yearly Drum Festival begins Friday and he didn't want to miss it!

He must be having some problem with his sat phone or charger. We are not sure if he has any other equipment failures at this time but know that he has studied this passage and approach to Grenada extensively over the past 5 weeks so will find his way to port in time.
Laurence has been busy arranging a slip at the Port Louis Marina, a sail maker to repair the tear in Zac's main sail, a mechanic to troubleshoot the Yanmar, and finding the lay of the land in St George's.
Besides being viciously attacked by a cockroach on his first night's stay he has thoroughly enjoyed Grenada and her kind and generous people.
Good news - Karen Foshay at KCET said that the piece on Zac that airs tonight at 8:00 will be online at 8:30 tonight. The web address is and the piece is called The Year of Living Dangerously. If you like the piece, please leave a comment online. KCET is our local PBS affiliate and program sponsors love a good review.

If you are new to Zac's story and reading the blog for the first time - welcome! All of Zac's blogs written over the past 10.5 months are archived on a list on the right hand column of the blog. You can read Zac's entries over this past year, a year of living dangerously, and also of living life to its fullest.



Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Update from Mom

Latest Position: 04/27/09 2315Z 11 4.805N 56 59.744W (280 miles from St George's, Grenada)

From Mom (Zac taking a day off):

It is a huge relief every morning when Zac calls to check in. He is doing really well. He is more than in the groove - he's in the zone now. When we ask what we can bring him from home, he can't think of anything. When I tell him that we are planning a hero's welcome for his return, he replies, "Why? I'm just sailing." Laurence and I figured it was probably best to let him stay in the zone where he doesn't quite realize the dramatic difference between our lives and his. Or maybe it is we who don't realize that he really is content out there.

Laurence left for Grenada today after meticulously loading and unloading his bags to keep the weight down. At one point he took a tiny bottle of Ibuprofen out of his bag saying that he could just take some of Zac's if he needed any. (He is always bringing Zac's home with him, thus the bottle in his bag.) That is when I knew it was time for bed. :)

Laurence, Jen and Mike Smith (electrical engineer) all met up in San Juan, Porto Rico for the final flight into Grenada. They just Skyped us to let us know that all was well with them. All of Laurence and Mike's parts and tools passed through with no problem. Jen, who while running late, had to pound on the door of her flight out of Chicago, will have to pick up her baggage tomorrow.

There has been some talk of the repair to Zac's RayMarine radar. Laurence has been on the phone with Ray Marine and the local experts at Maritime Communications in Marina del Rey to troubleshoot Zac's radar. There is an error message. It appears to be a power issue. Although it is an interesting theory to try to disassemble the dome while at sea, I'm sure that it would be impossible considering the dome is some 20 feet or more up the mast and Zac is in 15-20 knots of wind with a 10' swell. I'll get Laurence to comment on that repair when he gets to it.

There were also a few comments this morning that sounded confused. I accidentally posted Zac's blog before checking my typos. The only way to remove it was to re-post a blank blog in its place. Then I got busy helping Laurence pack and didn't re-re-post til much later. Sorry for the confusion. Zac got a good laugh out of it this morning and commented, "Man!! You can't leave those guys alone for five minutes!" Spoken like a true older brother.

Some business:

1. KCET will be airing their segment on Zac called The Year of Living Dangerously on Thursday night at 8pm. I'll find out when it will go online at their web site You can go there now to see the trailer they put together.

2. Don't neglect to sign up for Zac's Newsletter. It is the red star-shaped icon on the margin of the blog and the main page of his web site. You will receive an email asking if you really want to sign up that you must answer in order to finish signing up. We will be sending out a test message soon.

@Tim: I haven't heard that Rudyard Kipling poem in ages. I'll read it to Zac in the morning.

@Grant: Great advice to remind Zac to think twice before doing things. Pray that nothing serious goes wrong.

@Birgit: Nice to here from you! I will never forget the kindness of the people at Rodrigues Island in Zac's time of need. Awesome! Post the link to our blog when it is up!

@Everyone: Thank you for continuing to support Zac.


Zac's proud mom

Monday, April 27, 2009

Still Counting...

Latest Position: 04/27/09 0055Z 10 31.253N 54 51.351W

Everything has been going well out here. Still making good time towards Grenada with 430 miles to go as I write. I should be arriving Thursday some time if I'm able to keep up the good average. Other than the good speed, I passed a ship the other night that didn't show up on my AIS. I woke up to scan the horizon and saw a mass of lights. Not having the radar is such a pain. I had to stay up for 3 hours until I passed the thing. I've been waking up every 20 minutes at night to look out because my radar is dead. The only thing to tell me if I'm on a collision course with ships is my AIS. It only picks up huge ships, some ships don't even show up and fishing boats never show up.

The last 2 nights I've been getting very little sleep. The wind vane that had been holding together very well since I left St Helena broke four times last night. It isn't too hard to fix but I'm pretty tired today. Only 3 more nights until I get in. Looking forward to it more and more.

Have to get back to it here...



Sunday, April 26, 2009

Dad's Blog II

G'day All,
It was late last night when I finished posting the blog. I didn't mention how to make the donation. You can click on Zac's Store icon on the blog and find the Donate button. There is also a yellow Paypal link on the right-hand column of the blog. You do not need to be a Paypal member to use their system. Just choose the option to donate without a Paypal account.

I also forgot to mention that Christian will be flying out later in the week and has offered to bring out any cards, letters or small packages that reach him in Virginia by Thursday.

If you are interested in mailing anything to Christian, email him for more information at

Thanks Christian!

Pack to packing...



Saturday, April 25, 2009

Blog from Dad

Latest Position: 04/25/09 2104Z 9 18.992N 49 23.122W (744 miles from Grenada)

It's with a growing excitement that have the opportunity to jump in and give you an update and a little insight as to what is going on behind the scenes here. Talking with Zac earlier today he was moving along nicely at a steady 6.9 knots with 10 foot swells and 20-25 knots of wind. Whilst on the phone we heard a huge noise that sounded like thunder. The line went silent for awhile and we called Zac's name wondering what had happened. He had been trounced by a rogue 20ft + wave. As he regained his composure he seemed quite surprised by it but in the end - unmoved. All part of his day's work!

We continued to talk about the condition of Intrepid who since the departure has logged over 20,000 nautical miles. She has been serving Zac well as she continues on her passage. It has been four weeks today since Zac left St Helena Island. He is doing remarkably well and is excited to get into Grenada. He is looking forward to his short stay coinciding with the annual Drum Festival on the island. Maybe Zac will enjoy a chance to have a bang on the drum he picked up on Rodrigues Island in the Indian Ocean.

There won't be much time for play whilst in Grenada. The repairs that will be undertaken are to troubleshoot and repair Zac's radar. I'll be bringing over a complete new unit as Zac has tried all the obvious possibilities with no success and it is unlikley that there will be many spare parts readily available in Grenada. We will be installing a new auto pilot that was sponsored by the American Sailing Association. It is an upgraded model which should be a more reliable backup to the windvane. We will also be installing a new solar panel regulator. The main sail needs some stitching up. We will be taking spare parts out for the injector pump and also changing the propeller. The external antenna for the Iridium sat phone antenna needs repair.

These are the main repairs that are needed. I'm still trying to figure out how to get all that extra luggage through the airports without incurring exorbitant expenses. I've been stuffing suitcases and weighing them then reorganizing and reweighing. My last flight from San Juan to Grenada is pretty small and I don't know how much luggage I can convince them to carry.

Electrician, Mike Smith, will be joining me on this trip. He has generously offered to give his time and effort and a whole lot more which will half the work load. With Mike on the job we should be done in half an hour (just kidding). Without Mikes help earlier on during the preps Zacs dead line leaving in June would never have been met. Thank you Mike!

Jen will be hooking up with Mike and I in Puerto Rico and flying on the same small plane to Grenada. Wait til they see all of us with our baggage coming! Jen's commitment to the project has brought us all a great glimpse into Zac's reality as he travels around world.

I'm also looking forward to meeting Christian Pinkston, who will also be joining us later in the week. Christian has come on board with his company The Pinkston Group and will be conducting the PR surrounding Zac's return.

As Zac draws near the Caribbean there has been much excitement. With just under 700 nautical miles to go his compromised equipment leaves us a little more anxious then normal. Without radar Zac has to be extra cautious of ships and increased boating traffic. The radar should scan every five minutes and set off an alarm if any vessel comes within the ring set around the boat. However, his backup is the AIS receiver which gives off a signal when ships are within a set distance from Intrepid. Although this is a great system, not all boats who should be transmitting do, which makes it a good back up but not as reliable.

We have been looking at footage that Zac has managed to capture. We have been working with our Southern California PBS affiliate, KCET, on a segment that will air next Thursday April 30th on KCET's program So Cal Connected. If you don't live locally, the story will be online at It has been fun working with producer Karen Foshay and we are excited to see how her piece comes out.

Marianne realized today that she has sent over 5,000 emails since Zacs departure and fielded many more. This on top of being a very committed mother of seven who pours herself into her role as a homeschooler and devoted, beautiful wife. I marvel at how she manages to accomplish so much but we know where she draws her strength from.

We have spent much time recently dealing with some unexpected issues on the business end of Zac's adventure. There are bound to be difficulties and we are hoping to create better understand and get everything sorted out soon.

This has been an incredible experience for me. What started off as a quiet conversation between a father and son just over a year ago, God has blessed and many people both young and old have been encouraged and inspired. Check out this email hat just arrived.

Hey Zac,

I just had to say hello. My name is Brian, I'm 28, and I'm a "door to door" salesman for a cable company in Cottonwood, AZ. A "door to door" salesman is usually considered one step lower then a used car salesman, but hey, it pays the bills.
I just wanted to let you know I've been following your story ever since I heard about your journey on NPR in early 2008. I was inspired, somewhat jealous, but mostly amazed at your willingness to tackle such an enormous goal.
Not long ago, I was working in a small neighborhood that was a 55+ community, when I knocked on a door of an elderly women (early 80's) and I preceded to give her my sales pitch when I noticed a beautiful painting of a large sail boat on her wall. I asked her where she got it and she explained to me she used to work on a sailboat as a cook for a tourist company. She had seen the painting somewhere and decided to purchase it.
I then mentioned a story I was following about a sixteen year old who was sailing around the world solo, and she became very excited and said, "Yes! I've been following him to! I don't have Internet so I go down the road to my friends house and we read this BLOG thing together!"
To make a long story short, she was very happy to get her Internet hooked up, and the first page we opened was your web site. We sat and talked for a couple of hours, and I got to say, it was one of the most interesting conversations I've ever had. It was like her youth was coming back to her just speaking about what your doing.
Not only are you an inspiration, but so are your parents. I am a father of two, and I'm the kind of dad who gets nervous just watching my kids on the swing, much less watching them sale off to conquer the globe. Your parents honestly make me want to be a more trusting and motivational father.
So thanks to you and your family for the Internet sale, and my new 80 something friend.
Your almost there, and our thoughts and prayers are with you.


This adventure has come with a financial burden as well. We have been blown away by how many individuals have taken it upon themselves to generously donate. We have often mused, 'There are so many people following Zac's journey. If everyone could give $1 we could get Zac home no problem.' This thought has given birth to a plan. I'm not asking for a 13 billion dollar bailout. We are planning for Zac's return and part of the plan is a reception/celebration at a local yacht club after his press conference at the park. There will be limited space so it will need to be limited to friends, family, sponsors and media. For everyone who donates $1 or more between April 1st and the day Zac leaves Panama City on the Pacific side of the Panama Canal on his final leg home will be entered into a drawing to win 4 passes for this celebration. You will have to get yourself there (sorry, airfare is not included). We are working with a local hotel to get a discounted block of rooms for any Zac Packers interested in coming in from out of town.

While I like the idea submitted by Ken in Toronto to auction off positions as Zac's linehandlers through the canal, I think it might be a bit tricky to arrange. You all can let me know though!

It is late here. We thank you for coming on board Zac's adventure with us!


Friday, April 24, 2009

Steady as She Goes

Latest Position: 04/24/09 1500Z 8 07.596N 46 30.099W

Pressing on here with great trade wind conditions. I've had a large, steep swell this morning that was getting things pretty wet. Fortunately, things have calmed down some this afternoon.

I've been cleaning up some as I get ready to arrive in port again. It is amazing how messy it gets in this little space.

I've been unable to fix the radar and so I'm still getting up every 20-30 minutes at night. I haven't seen any ships in the last 24 hours and the web site showing all of the AIS signals across the globe shows pretty light shipping around me. Dad has some spare parts for the radar so hopefully we'll be able to figure things out in the calm of St George Harbor.

I have received a lot of offers for help and advice for my passage through the Panama Canal. Steve Fink from Marina del Rey, who has recently passed through the Canal, sent a long email describing the process in detail including the places to stop and not to stop. I now know that there are crocs in the lake and not to freak out if I am woken by screaming monkeys. He sent a link to video taken at the Miraflores Lock.

I will try to let you all know when I am passing through there.

I am now confirmed for a slip at the Grenada Yacht Club. Sorry, but it will be too late to send anything there. We will work on an address in Panama. My nonstop leg from Panama back to Marina del Rey is going to be a long one so having your letters and cards will give me something interesting to do.

Plans are shaping up for my return. There are a lot of things to organize. Special thanks to Christian and Sean at the Pinkston Group and Micheal Broggie at the Westlake Nautical Foundation for taking the helm here.

We are in the process of making some changes to my web site. There is a link now on the home page to 'My Newsletter'. If you subscribe to this we will send you updates about exact time, place etc. of my return, book and DVD release, and travel plans. If you have any problems signing up, send me an email at and we'll figure it out.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Looking Forward

Latest Position: 04/23/09 1600Z 6 56.617N 44 21.195W

Working hard to think of something new to talk about here. Wind is good in the 15-20 knot range although I did have some lighter winds as well today. I had a surprise visit from a squall today. I haven't been in a squall in a while. The swells have gotten bigger today and I have had a lot of them crashing over the bow as far up as the dodger. I pulled in some sail for awhile so I didn't push Intrepid too hard. She has been through a lot and I want her to get me home - even if it is a little slower.

I'm not sure who asked when I would be in Panama but I figure that I'm less than a week to Grenada, less than a week in Grenada (God willing) and then a week or so to Panama. I am getting some experienced people advising me about who to talk to and who not to talk to as well as where to go and where not to go. I could be in Panama for a week or maybe even 2 weeks.
I've heard it is an amazing place so I am really looking forward to experiencing the canal.

@John & Chris from Moana: Hey! Are you gonna come out to Cali in June for the big event?


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Life in the Fast Lane

Latest Position: 04/22/09 1521Z 6 01.514N 41 58.710W

Progress is still good here. I've been doing 160 mile days and it has been nice to watch the miles to Grenada tick off. Yesterday the radar stopped working. I trouble shot it with my dad and the electrician but I still haven't been able to figure it out. All the connections that I can get to look good. The problem may be up in the dome.

Because of this, I've had to wake up every 20 minutes at night to scan the horizon. When the sun comes out I get a few hours of solid sleep. I still have the AIS ships radar but a good third of the ships I pass don't have it on and so are not picked up. It is going to get more dangerous as I get closer to Panama and the shipping increases so I've got to keep a good watch.

I passed a cargo ship today called Front Commander. It passed about 2 miles off but the AIS picked it up 10 miles away. The radio operator hailed me and we chatted for awhile. They were headed to Singapore and had 38 days before they got in.

I had another bad headache yesterday but am much better today. I could really go for a nice, cold Gatorade right now.

I've got roughly 1100 miles to go to Grenada and am really looking forward to getting in in about a week.


Monday, April 20, 2009

Counting the Days

Latest Position: 04/20/09 0200Z 4 23.617N 38 05.355W

The wind and current are still great. I made the best mileage of my entire trip going 170 miles from yesterday morning to this morning. This leaves me with 1500 nautical miles until I reach Grenada. This could be done in 10 days at this pace! It feels like I should be seeing land by now I've been out here so long. My dad asked me this morning if I was having fun. You have to know my dad to know how someone could ask that. I haven't met anyone yet who really likes long ocean passages but it is something that needs to be done to get to the next amazing adventure so you just do it. Its not that it doesn't have it's amazing moments but there is a lot of down time in between those.

Other than good progress, I've had a small emergency repair. One of the lines on the self steering unit chaffed through. There are 2 lines that run from the paddle in the water to the cockpit. I replaced one while I was becalmed at the equator but didn't bother with the other one because it looked fine but at 6:00am the line snapped and I spent 1/2 an hour hanging off the back of Intrepid threading the new line. (Yes mom I was harnessed.) I finally got it in and tightened up a few bolts that had wiggled loose a bit.

@Becky: So far my food and water are holding up pretty well. I have already eaten everything sweet on the boat and all of my dehydrated food so I'm back to the canned food. Thankfully, my wisdom teeth have been fine since those few days when they were on fire.

@Russ: I am planning a very short stop in Grenada. Although I have heard that it is an incredible place I am hoping to do some repairs and reprovisioning and heading out. My leg from Panama back to Cali is a long one and I want to get moving.

@ Trevor: Richard? You out there? You have a brother named David?

@Mike: I never did catch up with the Volvo Ocean Race fleet. I spent a few days considering where I was going to pass Saint Peter and St Paul Rocks since I had changed course so often with the shifting winds. I was glad to pass them to starboard and stay in the stronger current.

@Jiffy Lube: Yes, I can reef the mainsail from the cockpit. The furling jib is a Schaefer roller furling. The best out there!

OK, getting late -gotta go.


Sunday, April 19, 2009

The North East Trades

Latest Position: 04/19/09 0151Z 3 10.278N 35 53.265W

I've been making great progress with the 15-20 knot trade winds even though its been a bit of a bash with the wind and swells coming on the forward starboard quarter. Still doing over 140 mile days and loving it. I seem to be out of the squally area that normally spreads several degrees north and south of the equator. I guess it really fluctuates and doesn't always follow the norm. It has been nice to not have to reef in the middle of the night for random squalls.

It has been really grey. The sky is grey and the water is grey and it is really dramatic to look at.

The forecast shows that the trade winds should hold steady all of this week so I should be able to do about 1000 nautical miles a week with the wind I've got. I should be in in a little under 2 weeks.

The wind is building a bit here and I'm going to put another reed in before I hit it.


PS To the Baker Girls: I have not seen the so called green flash except for one time at St Helena. I have been looking for it and have heard that it has something to do with rods and cones and color saturation in the bakc of the eye?? What I did see was nothing to write home about anyway.

Friday, April 17, 2009

000 00.000!

Position as of 04/17/09 1650Z 0 34.617N 31 06.075W

When I woke up yesterday morning I was only 37 miles from my way point at 30W and the equator. I was making 5 knots and calculated a daytime crossing. But there are no guarantees when you are near the equator.

I was doing some adjustments on the wind vane at about 8:00 am. When I looked out, half of the horizon was black with huge patches of squalls bearing down on Intrepid. One mile before it hit, the wind dropped down to almost nothing. I reefed the main and waited for it to hit. The wind shifted and built to 35 knots - dead on the nose! I put another reef in the genny before the wind hit so hard that I could barely see the front of the boat or open my eyes.

Beating into 35 knots turned into 40 knots and it was getting pretty rough especially with the 8 foots seas to match. The first set of squalls lasted about two hours. When I came out of the squalls the wind died completely and the wind gauge arrow was spinning around in circles.

I sat waiting for some wind. I didn't have to wait long. Twenty minutes later I got slammed with another bunch of squalls. This went on all day - first no wind, then 35 knots on the nose. Classic equator conditions. Later in the evening I passed through a squall and on the other side the wind was steady.

Unbelievably, I was still about 30 miles from my way point so I adjusted my wind vane and went to sleep. It is pretty exhausting beating through squalls all day.

The AIS woke me up around 2:00am and I was across the equator and making good time.

This morning I had 20 knots on the forward starboard side slamming along in 8 foot seas. At my current average speed I should be in Grenada in about 2 weeks. It is great to bust out of the doldrums and be on my way again.

Its getting late here. I'm going to hit it.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Breaking Through

Latest Position: 04/15/09 0 35.871S 28 38.202W

The winds filled in a little this morning and I have about 8 knots apparent with the wind on the forward quarter. The wind has built a little as the day has gone on and the forecast is for it to keep building over the next 24 hours. So it looks like I have broken through the convergence zone finally. As long as the winds hold I should be crossing the equator and picking up the NE trade winds sometime tomorrow. Once I cross the equator I will reach my half way point of this leg. The second half should go much quicker because of the strength of the NE trade winds blowing right on my beam.

It feels great to finally be on my way again and not be bobbing around in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean going nowhere with squalls and 100 degree weather all the time. In fact, I'd much rather be going trough a storm than be becalmed like that.

@Sarah: You should not be worried about sailing with your parents. I sailed with my family when I was 9-11. There were some scary times but life is different at sea, There are really bad times but really good times. Life on land is pretty predictable and steady. You don't have as bad of times but the good times are really great. Oh and there is life without the Internet. You can send email through your radio but no Internet at sea.

@Anita: My power problems have to do with the regulator that accounts for my power. My solar panels are charging and my wind generator would charge if there was wind. It isn't getting regulated well. I have run the engine to charge things up and I could turn off the radar during the day to save power if I really needed to.

@Anonymous: My fridge is an energy pig so I don't run it much after a week at sea. Nothing to keep cold really. Unfortunately, the water in the ocean is 85 degrees and not very refreshing. I don't try to cool off with ocean water because it makes me really salty and itchy. I don't have enough water to rinse off very well afterwards. I have 'showered' in squalls though. Sometimes the rainfall is so heavy it is like a shower!

@Anonymous: No stowaways on board. I have never had any mice or weird bugs. Only flying fish and booby birds! But that was a long time ago.

I have to get some sleep and rest up for crossing the equator tomorrow!


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Message from Home

Latest Position: 04/14/09 1 08.607S 27 49.476W

In light of all the bad news in the solo circumnavigators' world of late, we wanted to update you all on Zac's position and goings on. He fell asleep and slept through our evening check in time. Yes, we were beginning to wonder but he woke up realizing that he had missed us and gave a quick call to check in. All is well. From the looks of things he should pick up some traces of wind (9 knots or less) and be able to make some decent progress tomorrow hopefully.

We are totally excited with Zac's progress - obviously not distance-wise, but in character and perseverance. He could probably redefine the word perseverance for us all tonight!

Many of you know of the issues; both health and financial that we are experiencing here. We would not trade this experience for anything though and know that God will work all of this for the good in the end because we do love Him.

Your comments and emails encourage us as a family as much, sometimes, as they do Zac. We hope to meet some of you when Zac returns to California in late June.

Our hearts go out to the group - Natasza Caban, Minoru Saito and Mike Perham and his family and all they are going through.

This is certainly shaping up to be more of an adventure than we had anticipated!


Monday, April 13, 2009

So Close and Yet So Far III

Latest Position: 04/13/09 1450Z 1 39.192S 27 17.354W

Not much change here. The wind has been light and fluky. The seas are calm. It is boiling hot and humid. I have spent some time today filming, cooking, reading, writing and resting. I tried to get on a Caribbean Net on the SSB at 2000Z (12.359Mhz) but the reception was bad so I'll try again when I get closer. I think the guy who runs it is transmitting out of Canada.

I hear that the Volvo Ocean race boats are leaving Rio de Janero soon. I have visions of all of us being stuck out here in the doldrums together!

Seriously though, I am sooo close to the wind but moving so slowly it feels like being 1000 miles away. The NE Trades are waiting for me near the equator if I can just get there.

Thanks for all of the comments with ideas to keep cool, keep my mind busy and reminding me how lucky I am to be out here. I'm still hot and frustrated but excited to be out of here soon and into the trade winds again.


Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Doldrums

Latest Position: 04/11/09 1440Z 3 3.065S 26 16.649W

Well I have finally arrived in the doldrums and am experiencing them in a way only a few people get the privilege of doing. Going nowhere for nearly a day while slowly roasting to death just begins to describe how frustrating this is. I could be at anchor for how calm the water is. The forecast shows wind coming (and going) over the next 48 hours but for now I'm stuck. Not much else to say. Hot, humid, boring and frustrating.


Friday, April 10, 2009

Pressing On

Latest Position: 04/10/09 2251Z 2 49.025S 25 44.585W (Updated - originally posted wrong!)

From Mom:
Finally got the view of Zac's weather converted to jpg format thanks to Linda at Clearpoint Weather. I love this view because it is what you would expect at the equator in the convergence zone. This view is changing constantly and is filled with green (12-15 knots) for the most part today. White/light blue is very light to no wind. Yellow is 15-19 knots. Arrows point the direction that the wind is blowing. This frame just shows the wind forecast. Clearpoint is able to show many other aspects like wave height, current, lightning, cloud cover, water temp and air temp.

From Zac:
I have had a lot of squalls again today. I'm either sailing along at between 6-7 knots or ghosting along at 3 knots with barely a zephyr to nudge me along. The days pass by quickly. I get to night time and I'm thinking everyday, "Wow, today went by fast." Everyday.

My teeth have not given me any trouble today. They aren't infected at least for now and I have a good supply of antibiotics to see me through until Grenada. I'll try to hold off on any surgery until I get back to Cali in June sometime.

It is hot, hot, hot all day and all night.

We still don't have an address in Grenada. Mom is arranging things there and has not confirmed anything yet.

Questions for today:

What will you do when you cross the equator?
I don't know yet. My first crossing in the Pacific was in the middle of the night and in the middle of a squall so I wasn't able to do much besides a quick thanks to God and Neptune.

Mrs. Libby's 6th grade class asked what food I am most looking forward to when I get back/
Right now I am really missing Mexican food. I could really go for a carne asada burrito from Baja Fresh right now!

There have been a few comments about my fishing or lack of fishing.
I have been fishing on and off. I will not, however, be the youngest person to circle the globe without catching a fish. I caught an nice fat tuna a while back. I got it on film as well so Pete Thomas at the LA Times doesn't write another article about my fishing 'record'!

Do you have your crew for the Panama Canal?
No. The Panama Canal Authority will assign a 'captain' for Intrepid. I will also need 4 line handlers who will be on land handling lines. You can hire people to do this or usually cruisers help each other out. I would like to be a line handler for another boat before I head through with Intrepid so I can know what to expect.

Can I chat with Natasza Caban on the high frequency radio?
We never did set up a frequency to meet on. Normally, when using the HF radio you have to arrange a frequency to meet on. There are so many frequencies you would never find each other otherwise. The short range marine radio, the VHF, has one hailing channel that all boats call on before deciding on another channel to meet up at. The range on this radio is probably about 12 miles so you really need to be pretty close to talk. I have not been using the HF radio much since the Indian Ocean. I'll have to get hooked up to a Caribbean Net soon.



Thursday, April 9, 2009

Flying Through the Doldrums

I'm still making good progress towards the equator although the squalls have picked up quite a bit. The intensity is not too bad. Most are only 20-25 knots. I've been able to use them my advantage which has been making a pretty boring passage much more interesting.

I've been able to stay in squalls today for about 8 hours going along between 6-7 knots - a little over hull speed. As soon as I get out of the squalls, the wind drops quite a bit and I may only be going 4 knots for a couple of hours. I'm averaging about 120 miles a day right now. If I am able to keep up this speed I should be crossing the equator in about 3 days.

Other than that, I think it is a full moon tonight so when the clouds clear up enough for it to shine through it seems like it is almost as bright as day which makes it easier to do things at night.

One of the squalls today had 35 knots and as I was reefing the genoa I looked over at the knot gauge and I hit 11 point something knots boat speed! Not bad for an Islander 36 whose hull speed is 6.3 knots.

My wisdom teeth seem to be doing OK today. Mom talked to the dentist who had a look at my Xrays and advised me how to handle things until I get to port.

Getting late here. Need to do some sail trim before I go to sleep.


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Wisdom Teeth and Wind!

Latest Position: 04/08/09 2251Z 4 00.703S 23 47.312W

I have been having a good trip so far through the 'doldrums'. The squalls aren't too bad and they have given me some good speeds. For some reason the wind is just off my nose now but I am able to make 6.5 knots so I'm happy! I have been having trouble with my wisdom teeth. I actually went to the dentist over Christmastime and had no problems but they did say that my wisdom teeth should come out within the next 6 months. Now one of them is pressing on my back molar and feels like it is on fire. I hope they have some good dentists in Grenada! So I guess that answers your question, Melanie. I am brushing and flossing but am still suffering!

More questions:

Do I want any more music?
I have about 10,000 songs on my Itunes so I think I'm good.

Do I have a set list from Saint FM?
I don't think so - what is a set list?

How did I get back on the boat after my swim on the way from Cape Town to St Helena?
I grabbed on to the gunwale and pulled myself up.

Was the water cold in St Helena?
No, it was warm. The weather in St Helena was warm and humid.

What is the outboard motor on my pushpit for?
I have an inflatable rubber dinghy stowed down below. I get it out and put the outboard on when I am going to be in port for awhile, especially while at anchor. I usually get a friend to help me commission the dinghy because the outboard is pretty heavy and awkward.

Do I have a life raft and does it self-inflate?
Yes! I have brand new life raft. It doesn't quite self-inflate. I have to pull the emergency lanyard and then the life raft takes care of the rest. The hard part from what I understand is getting into the raft.
On the subject of safety equipment, I have a water-activated EPIRB which is a distress radio beacon and is another invaluable piece of safety equipment. This is registered to my boat and when it hits the water it sends a digital signal including who and where I am to an international satellite system and then on to search and rescue people.
On the subject of distress radio beacons, I also have a hand held version of the EPIRB that works in a similar way but is small and not just for marine use.

OK, back to it here. Working on my book, finishing my Health schoolwork and enjoying the ride!


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Weather in the ITCZ

Latest Position: 04/08/09 1500Z 4 08.049S 23 06.159W

Well with Internet problems, lots of squalls and poor sat phone reception yesterday, the blog never quite made it. It must be floating out in space somewhere!

I have had a pretty good time of it out here considering that I'm in the ITCZ now. The squalls have been frequent but not too strong so I am able to change course slightly and run with them and not reef which has been some good, fast sailing.

I thought you might be interested to see what David's forecasts are like. He has been keeping a close eye on the convection around Intrepid's course. This excerpt from yesterday's forecast has completely changed today but it will give you an idea of the level of expertise and experience that I am working with:

Current Conditions and Synoptic Outlook:
The overall synoptic situation further south has remained well-establishedand little changed from the previous forecast. The focus now is on the route across the ITCZ and the transition into the NE Trades. The ambient surface flow at Intrepid’s current position is generally ESE in the 11 to 15 knot range at this time, with plenty of localized ups and downs in wind strength, and shifts in direction in and around the squalls. Zac has now left the light to moderate, and relatively consistent SE regimine his wake, and has entered the southern band of trade wind convergence. Latest model solutions this evening show vertical velocities at 700mb that correlate well with the general distribution of large scale convection on tonight’s satellite imagery, which is very encouraging. They also show the widest band of predicted convection closer to the Brazilian coast, with a narrower band further to the east, along Intrepid’s intended track over the next few days.
So, it was a good decision to move Intrepid’s equatorialcrossing to 30°W, which was much further east than the original gate picked out for Intrepid. Latest satellite imagery shows that it will be very difficult to avoid someof the squall activity. Development today has been relatively rapid and fast moving, with 850mb flow keeping development tracking from east to west quite quickly.
This is in contrast to the rather slow moving convective masses that were much easier to tip-toe your way through when crossing the equator from N to S in the Pacific. Ambient wind directions should become more easterly at 3°S, then gradually backing to ENE at 2°S, and finally NE at the Equator. By 1°N there may be some NNE tendency and strengthening, but this should eventually settle into a consistent, moderate to strong NE flow further north. Of course this is a general description of the ambient surface flow, so, in practice, expect squalls to wreak havoc with your localized winds. Generally stronger winds mixing to the surface from aloft will tend to be ‘backed’ south of 3°S, and ‘veered’ north of 3°S.
Again, this is a gross generalization, with local outflows tending to fan out at the surface with complex interactions. Bear in mind though, that because of the upper flow, and the depth of convection, these squalls do have the potential to pack a sudden punch.
In the short term, (over the next 12 to 24 hours) it would make sense to head on a more NW or even NNW course, toward 3°S 23°W. This would minimize Intrepid’s time interacting with the largest convective complex. However, the disadvantage would be that it increases the overall distance sailed, and may make it slightly tougher to reach the equatorial waypoint at 30°W later, (because it would mean a slightly more downwind course in the light easterly ambient conditions). The chances are that you’ll get more fluky shifts than the general ambient flow, so in practice it shouldn’t make a lot of difference at all. Plus the sailing angle should improve as the equator is neared, enabling Intrepid to get back on track and gradually point her nose at Grenada without any penalty in boat speed.



Will post again later with more questions and a Clearpoint Weather graphic if I can figure it out!!!


Monday, April 6, 2009

More Atlantic Ocean Q & A

Latest Position: 04/06/09 1445Z 5 50.233S 20 00.029W

Still making good time but the thought of being at sea for another 3 weeks minimum is weighing on me. I'm trying to keep busy with writing, school and talking to friends. I finally broke out my stash of freeze-dried food yesterday. I pumped up the trusty (or not so trusty) alcohol stove and heated some water for Chili, Rice and Cheese with Blueberry Granola for desert. I am really full for the first time in a while.

My headache is gone now, thanks for the concern. It may be dehydration or nutrition or stress. I get them once in a while and they are pretty intense.

I'm nearing the ITCZ and the forecast is for more convection (rain/storms) and fluky winds. David Morris is on top of it and may reroute me a bit to avoid a big, nasty in the forecast. (Ugribbers can look at 4S and 23-26W in a few days!). I have noticed that the Atlantic Ocean doesn't have the big rolling swells like the Pacific. Maybe because the Atlantic isn't as deep?

I am currently about 700 miles from the equator so I'm looking forward to having some kind of milestone to tick off on this long passage.

More questions:

Landon Scott asked what was the scariest situation that I have found myself in?

Definitely has to be when my forestay broke free while I was in the Indian Ocean. The wind and seas were so strong and rough which had the boat rolling and pitching so that I could hardly move around on deck. My stainless steel pulpit on the bow was smashed in by the weight of the roller furling drum on the end of the forestay flailing around so my life lines were loose and I had nothing to brace myself on. Just when I thought I had furled the sail and fastened the whole mess down to the deck, it would break free again and out on deck I would go. That went on for quite awhile. I finally was too exhausted to do anymore and fell asleep down below. When I woke up the wind had lightened and I was able to manage things better until I was able to make an emergency stop in Rodrigues Island.

Eric DeLio asked what were the worst conditions you have have seen to date and where was it?

Just off of Papua New Guinea I had a day of steady 30 knot wind gusting to the low 40s with a big, sharp swell all on the beam. The boat kept getting swamped by waves and thrown off course so that I had to hand steer for almost 24 hours. The night was especially bad as I could not see the waves coming and couldn't brace myself for them.

Roger Bacon asked why having an offset shaft is such a problem for an electric autopilot.

Because there is a skeg, the prop shaft is offset so it can be removed without removing the rudder. This puts extra torque on the rudder which puts extra pressure on an electric auto pilot that was rated for a boat of Intrepid's class, size etc.

Intrepid's skeg-mounted rudder

OK, back to it here.



Sunday, April 5, 2009

Sleeping, Sharks and School

Latest Position: 04/05/09 1550Z 7 05.548S 18 28.184W

I am happy to say that Intrepid is still in the wind. We have spent only a few hours on and off in lighter winds. I've got a steady 20 knots now that is filling the sails nicely and we've been moving along in the 6s for over 24 hours.

I'm ticking off the miles to Grenada - only 2800 to go! I'm starting to wish that I was in an Open 50...

Since I'm going to be out here for awhile, I have answered a few more questions today:

James (9) and William (7) MaGuirk asked if I've ever fallen out of my bed.

Yes, many times. I have a lee cloth that is like a sheet of canvas that is attached to my bunk and also to the cabin top. It does help me to stay in bed but it has broken a few times. When it is very rough I sometimes pull my mattress on the floor and sleep wedged in there. One time while I was sleeping, my kettle flew off of the stove and hit me in the head. I still don't know how that happened!

What is the coolest animal I've seen out here?
It would have to be the sharks. They are kind of scary but they are awesome to see up close.

What has been my favorite port of call so far?
It is hard to pick my most favorite place because they are all so different so I will tell you my top three.
1 - Cocos Keeling Island in the Indian Ocean is so remote and quiet and amazingly beautiful it has to be one of my faves.
2 - Durban, South Africa isn't the most beautiful place but it has a great sailing community and friendly people who have become like family to me.
3 - Cape Town, South Africa has the good sailing, friendly people and is a beautiful place. There is a lot to do there. It is probably more like California than any other place I've been.

Jamie Wasson from Pennsylvania asked if I have stayed in touch with any of my teachers back home and how am I handling my school requirements. What grade will I be in next year?

I have been homeschooled for most of my life so, yes, I have kept in touch with my teacher. Hi Mom! I played football at a private high school for a few years but I have not kept in touch with any teachers or coaches there. Since I started taking high school classes in junior high, I was ahead. I have earned some class credit for my trip like World Cultures, Oceanography and Seamanship, Composition, etc. I will be a senior next year and plan to finish my last requirements and graduate while I finish my book and documentary. I have been thinking of what I would study in college but haven't decided yet.

Seth Spearman asked if the "Do Hard Things" shirt that I wear is related to the book Do Hard Things by the Harris brothers.

Yes it is. My mom heard Alex & Brett on the radio one day and bought the book. She went on their web site but they did not sell t-shirts there (at least at that time) so she had one made online. Someone saw a photo of me in the shirt and word got to Alex & Brett who sent me a few of their shirts and another copy of the book. It is a great book for young people to read. It shows a pattern of lower and lower expectations from today's youth and destroys the myth that that is how is needs to be. Young people can do hard things!

John Merkl from Oconomowoc, Wisconsin asked if I find it hard to be alone for long periods of time at sea and has the tranquility and peacefulness changed me in any way.

The first 3 days out of a port are tough and I really miss everyone. After that, I get used to being alone. After a few weeks at sea I do start to get restless and am ready for a new experience. Days and nights are the same because you are up a lot in the night. There are no Friday highs or Monday lows - everyday is the same out here. As far as peacefulness goes - it is not very peaceful out here. The wind rushes and the boat is creaking all the time. When I'm in port it is peaceful. Cocos Keeling on a calm day is the epitome of peaceful.

Ok, have a mean headache today so will say good bye for now.


Friday, April 3, 2009

The Full Monty and More

Latest Position: 04/03/09 1400Z 09 21.974S 015 16.813W

I have been able to keep moving pretty well until this afternoon when the wind finally died some. It should be picking up later tonight so hopefully I can keep moving. I had a surprise today. I opened a can of food that I bought in St Helena called The Full Monty. Inside was the most amazing thing. It was chopped sausage, 2 whole sausages, chopped mushrooms, a hunk of steak all surrounded by baked beans. Awesome! This really beats canned curry or canned macaroni and cheese. I also ate a whole package of chocolate digestives. These are English biscuits that we always eat when visiting my dad's family in England. They are a seriously hot commodity if we ever have them at home, especially with 2 brothers and 4 sisters to fight...I mean share them with.

A few more questions today:

How do I sleep and how much sleep do I get?
I sleep pretty much on and off through out the day. When I go to sleep I set the alarms on my radar to warn me of any ships within 4 miles. If there are many ships I have a bad nights sleep but right now there is not much shipping so I have been sleeping well. If it is rough or the wind picks up I just have to get up at night. I have gotten to the point that I can wake up as if it is daytime right away while at sea. No time for being sleepy sometimes.

Have I seen any pollution out here and are there any differences between the oceans?
I haven't seen any pollution out here except when I was off of the coast of California. Also the air is super clear out here. No smog. At night when the skies are clear the stars are amazing. There hasn't been much difference between the oceans except that the Indian Ocean was inky black and the Pacific was more blue.

Have I seen any wild life?
I have had a few sharks trailing the boat about 500 miles off of Australia. I have seen a lot of dolphins and was followed into St Helena by a huge pod. I haven't seen many birds since Boris, the Booby Bird who landed in my cockpit after Hurricane Boris passed through. I have seen a strange bird that looks like a swallow with a split tail but is grey and has a long beak like other ocean birds. I have seen them as much as 300 miles off shore. I thought I saw a mermaid once, but when I looked back she was gone!

What do you think you will do after you get back (asked at least 10 times!)?
I do actually have to finish high school still. It would be a drag to sail all the way around the world alone and have my mom kill me for not finishing school. So that will be one thing. I would like to do some speaking to schools and yacht clubs or something like that and tell people about my trip. Before too long, I really want to get back out here. Maybe not another circumnavigation but to explore some places I missed this time and stay other places longer. I am interested in adventuring. I hear there is already a 17 year old about to climb Mount Everest so not that but....

A special 'Hello' to Parker and his class at the Maple Creek Elementary School. Hang in there Parker. My family and I are praying for you and your doctors.



Thursday, April 2, 2009

Cruising with Questions

Latest Position: 04/02/09 1600Z 10 34.823S 013 57.338W

Cruising along here in the 'fives' and feeling pretty good about it since the forecast is for the wind to continue to lighten. I've got 8 knots of apparent wind which combined with my boat speed of around 5 knots means I have around 13 knots of wind behind me. Intrepid doesn't sail down wind very well in much lighter winds so I'm hoping that I can stay away from the 8 knots or less areas.

Thanks for all of your questions. So far I have received over 100 of them so hopefully that will keep me busy for some of this leg!

Bill Bourne's 6th grade class at the Parker Middle School asked if I brought any game systems to play while I'm at sea. They also wanted to know what food I eat and can I cook.

I did not bring a game system (I have never owned one actually) but I do have my computer and a few games. I got Guitar Hero for Christmas from my aunt and uncle but I can't play it while rolling around at sea.
I eat a lot of canned food at sea. When I left Los Angeles last June, I had a lot of fresh food on board like oranges, apples, potatoes and onions. Those kinds of things can be hard to find on a small island. In fact, there is currently a potato shortage on St Helena Island. The potatoes didn't make it to the delivery ship and the whole island is upset. Anything that isn't grown on the island has to be shipped in so fresh things are expensive, not very fresh and hard to find.
I have been know to eat cold chili straight out of the can on more than one occasion!

Don Murray from Marina del Rey asked what it feels like to be out in the sea for weeks at a time and what goes through my mind during that time.

When I left for Hawaii on my first leg, it was pretty intense having the sea all around me and knowing there would be no land in sight for weeks. It was especially hairy when I passed the continental shelf and the big Pacific rollers were all around me. They are long, tall swells that are found in deep water. Now when I am out at sea it has become normal for me. I just get up and do my jobs and take care of things just like if I were on land. There is a ton of blue all around me; blue sky and blue sea as far as the eye can see.

Dr. Simon Clarke from Kingston, Jamaica asked why I chose and Islander 36 for my trip and how does it handle, especially in heavy seas. He also asked if an electric auto pilot would be good as a back up.

I chose the Islander 36 for several reasons. It is a fairly inexpensive and dependable boat that is heavy enough to handle heavy seas yet also can move quickly in light air. Although Intrepid has gone around the world once already she was easily modified for my trip for extra safety and stability. Mainly, we added a cutter rig, new keel bolts, reinforced hull in front of keel, installed a hard dodger, reinforced cabin walls and bulkheads. It helps having a dad who is a shipwright!
She handles extremely well. I can go hull speed (around 7 knots) with 10 knots of wind on the beam. She also handles very well in heavy seas. I have been in as much as 20' seas with no problem. The only problem the Islander has is when going down wind. She tends to fish tail because of her narrow stearn.

I have had several electric autopilots on board that have burned up because they haven't been powerful enough to handle the pressure from having an offset shaft. The American Sailing Association has just sponsored me a brand new Raymarine SmartPilot that I should receive in Grenada. This is more powerful that my previous autopilots and should see me home.

OK I have to get busy here. Will answer more tomorrow.


Note from Mom: I have received several emails regarding the RSS feed on Zac's blog. If yours is not working for some reason, you will have to try to sign up again. I cannot do that from here.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Making Progress

Latest Position: 04/01/09 11 46.674S 12 40.068W

I'm almost parallel with Ascension Island now so I'm glad to be making relatively good time. The wind has dropped off a little today but I have still been able to make 5s all day which is good. I'm pretty sure there is something wrong with my solar panel regulator. I'm not getting nearly as much power as I should be which means I'm going to have to run the engine to top off the batteries every couple of days.

We have been talking about the book of my trip and thinking back over some of the amazing things that have happened along the way. There was a time when I was off of Durban. Remember I was caught in a Southerly Buster and just couldn't make the tack into port. At one point I was just sitting there off of the harbor, my lowers had just gone due to a broken bolt and my engine wouldn't start, there were ships all around me and it was pouring with rain. You would think that I would be terrified. I probably was to a degree but since the situation was just under control there was this rush of exhilaration to be on the verge of danger but able to stay safe. Hard to describe, but this is what I wanted when I set out on this trip. Not trouble but excitement and adventure.

Then there was the time between ports off of South Africa when I was sitting up in the cockpit at night watching and waiting for a ship to pass off of my radar screen so I could reset the alarms. I had fallen asleep without resetting the alarms. I felt someone grab my shoulder and shake me. I woke up and looked around but there was no one there! I sat up and realized that I was on a collision course with a ship. I was just able to alter course in time. If I had not been woken, I might not be writing this today.

I guess you could say that Someone is looking out for me!

Since things are pretty quiet out here it would be a good time for your questions about my life at sea. You can ask them through the comment feature at the end of this blog or email them to I'll try to answer a few every day.