Day Six – Squall Alley

I definitely had 3 squalls today. It may have been 4, but I’m not too sure whether the one at 2am was a dream or not. A week ago, if someone had woken me up in the middle of the night I would have been disoriented, annoyed and wouldn’t have been able to get back to sleep. Now, I jump out of bed in a moment’s notice and my subconscious takes over. Whether it was 7 or 10 times I got out of bed to trim sails, adjust course or just make sure everything was OK I couldn’t tell you. I can tell you I woke feeling rested and alert, so I think it’s fair to say my body is starting to become accustomed to the cadence of life at sea.

I learned my lesson from the night before and reefed the main and had the genoa set-up to reef at dusk. An hour later a squall hit, and I was very glad I’d throttled back and was prepared. The radar was certainly lit up all night from the walls of rain passing over, but all I was really focussed on was wind speed and direction. I sleep with my head next to the chart table so I can easily pop up and look at the instruments and decide whether I need to get out of bed, but to be honest I now know from the feeling of the boat where its overpowered, whether she needs to head downwind for a little ‘till the squall passes or if sails need to be trimmed and preventer tightened.

Apart from the sails and their propulsion, one of the most important systems on the boat is power generation. With power comes communications and navigation, two fairly crucial aspects of this trip to maintain in good working order. Comms doesn’t just mean being able to upload a blog and chat to friends and family, it means the ability to get daily weather forecasts. Given its typhoon season this is incredibly important. Thankfully there’s nothing brewing in the next 14 days but if one was to start forming, comms immediately moves from being a luxury to lifesaving. During the day I have solar panels which, depending on how much sun there is, produce a good deal of my energy requirements but this is really only from 10am to 4pm when the sun angles allow for the PV panels to be efficient. This means my primary power is produced from the generator. I can use my main engine to charge the batteries but it both consumes a lot of diesel as well as doesn’t charge the batteries very quickly as it has a small alternator. If these three systems fail, I have two back up solar systems which can charge an iPad and sat phone, however all the electronics on the boat I’m completely dependent on, in particular the autopilot wouldn’t function. In short, the generator is super important. So, the fact I’ve been having issues with it the past few days is resulting in me being a little anxious. The first issue is the starter battery isn’t charging and needs to be replaced. The only way for me to start the generator is to put the main engine on for 10mins and wait till it gives the generator battery just enough juice to kick it over. I do have a spare battery in the bow thruster so when the wind calms a little, I’ll switch them over. The second issue seems to be a poor connection with the control panel which means the generator randomly turns off. When I was young, my dad used WD40 to fix almost anything, so I gave the connectors a spray of this magic fluid and am hoping it does the trick. 

My afternoon was spent reading, watching the waves and listening to music. I’m still on Moitissier’s The Long Way and have just finished the part where he rounds Cape Horn. It helps to give perspective of my wee storm from a few days ago and realise that the ocean can throw much, much worse at you, but for an experienced sailor, this too can be handled with poise. I guess it shows have much I have to learn. Thankfully I’m a willing study.

I saw my first rainbow of the trip in the afternoon and was overcome with emotion. Mel and I always saw rainbows in trying times and believed they were our close family who had passed away, sending their love and support. The rainbows always came just at the right time and we would draw strength from their beauty and perceived message. It was our little thing and whether it was true or not didn’t matter. What mattered was it was special. Was this a message of encouragement from those who’d gone before me wishing me a safe journey and hinting that things were so far in good shape? Rainbows are not only beautiful to me but there’s an almost spiritual connection, so seeing one off in the distance was very special and I took it as a good sign. It made me realise it’s been a long time since I saw one of these spectacular phenomena of refracted light. In Cambodia you’d see them all the time in the rainy season. It made me feel good to see one again.

The sea, I’m learning, is a place for dreamers. You can get lost in the waves and your thoughts but ironically its by getting lost that you think, or at least I do, that I may be finding myself, whatever that may mean. I spend my mornings working on the more practical side of the journey. Setting and trimming sails, planning my navigation for the day ahead, reviewing weather and routing reports, inspecting the boat and doing any repairs and maintenance as well as writing this blog. The afternoons are my time to let the mind wander. Out here I don’t feel trapped by the constraints of modern life. The need to be constantly “on”, constantly being bombarded with news and never ending to do lists. I can be a truer version of myself. Certainly, a happier one. The afternoon is a time to let my heart soar with the clouds around me as they grow from the day’s heat and to let my mind swim in the deep, deep blue water which is over 6km deep under the keel. It’s a special time I’m coming to treasure. My “morslet”[1] of the day.

You’d think there wouldn’t me much to see out here, but you’d be wrong. You can look out towards the horizon and not see the same thing twice. Its ever changing, the sea and the cloud and the sky. I find it both engrossing and enchanting and happily sit here for hours viewing the kaleidoscope unfold in front of me.

Watching tonight’s sunset, I was overwhelmed in a way I’ve never been before. The beauty of the setting sun and the golden light that spread across my entire world created a grace you don’t see on land. It touched everywhere I looked. It touched me to my very core, and I cried tears of pure joy at the privilege of experiencing it. We all come from the ocean originally, so there’s an innate connection to this special place our generic forebearers once called home.  But I think it’s more than that. If there is a god, this is where you’ll find her.

[1] Made up name for the yummiest piece of your meal, which you leave to the very end to saviour.

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Rory Hunter


Entrepreneur. Chief Executive Officer, Song Saa Collective. Pioneers of sustainable development in South-East Asia. The collective includes Song Saa Resorts and Song Saa Private Island in Cambodia’s Koh Rong Archipelago. 2006, co-established the Koh Ouen Marine Reserve, Cambodia’s first-ever marine protected area. The reserve has since expanded to 400 square kilometres and has gained the support of Monaco’s Prince Albert II. 2013, founded the Song Saa Foundation, an independent NGO dedicated to preserving Koh Rong’s underwater sanctuaries, providing alternative means of livelihood for its residents and bringing much-needed healthcare and education to the region. Speaker at international conferences, including the G20 Summit in Brisbane in 2014. World Economic Forum Young Global Leader. Member of the prestigious Young Presidents Organisation. Former advertising executive and worked for multinational firms including Saatchi and Saatchi. Graduate, Harvard Business School; studied sustainability and resilience, Stanford University: Global Leadership, Harvard Kennedy School; BEcon, Sydney University. Completed the Coast to Coast in 2015, one of the world’s toughest endurance races, set in New Zealand, in 17 hours; offshore sailor, downhill skier, long-distance runner and proud dad of two boys.