Posts Tagged ‘peril at sea’

Quantum Traveler

July 22, 2014


Editor’s Note:  Our retired entangled particles, Larry and Gary,  bring with them a little excitement in this latest posting:

Riding Out a Gale / Bus Celebrity

Entangled Quantum Particle Larry Rides Out a Gale Off New Caladonia

Entangled Quantum Particle Larry Rides Out a Gale Off New Caledonia


21 July 2014 | 58 miles from New Caledonia
Our last posting happened at a time when I could get to the keyboard on the computer. Usually that is pretty tough whenever the story gets interesting. It wasn’t long after that posting when another well established gale came through.. Our condition at the time: severe dark, gale force winds, 4+ meter seas (very rough), moving hard to weather. We had already transited across 900 miles of winter seas. There are 58 nm to go to the transition through the reef that surrounds New Caledonia. We thought we would be there about dawn, except for one little detail; we couldn’t quite hold our course. We were moving east of our planned route. Could we tack and somehow, even though it would be horrible, make it to our destination? The question weighted heavily on our minds. In these conditions, there is not enough power in the engine to go to weather. Starting the engine won’t help at all.At that very moment the autopilot failed. Now there is something you need to know to appreciate what this meant. On a boat, an autopilot is the human equivalent of a heart. So, in human terms, the boat had just suffered a heart attack. That’s not much of a surprise considering the conditions it was working through at the time and the even worse conditions that we anticipated. I was thinking of having a heart attack myself!Our situation: we are 58 nm from our safe haven destination, but we cannot get there and we are in a pretty bad gale … and it is night. Of course, it is night. It’s always night when things go really really wrong.I moved to the helm and turned off the wind. Maybe we could sail to the east side of the island which was downwind? There is a passage from east to west that is inside the reef. That is a plan. But it is a long way to steer by hand while in a gale. It is days long. I cannot do that. But I have to try, at least for now, until I can thinking of something else. For those of you helmsmen that thinks you know how to steer a boat you might consider that I didn’t do it very well at all. Maybe I steered within +/- 60 degrees of course, sometimes worse. After an hour I had had it. We had to try something else. Normally, when the autopilot works, we keep the boat moving. Now we had to heave to. Heaving to means turning into the wind until the boat stops, then keeping the wheel in a position to tack the boat and tieing it in place. The boat cannot tack because it has no forward speed, but the mainsail causes it to turn toward the wind. The windage from the rolled up headsail drives the bow off the wind. A steady state condition is achieved that does not require a helmsman. The boat moves slowly sideways to the wind and a little downwind. In this condition we can wait for daylight and for better weather. Daylight will come in a few hours. Better weather looked a very long way away. Oh, yes. I forgot to mention that there are reefs around. We are drifting toward them.

Now comes an important learning opportunity. We will diverge from our story long enough to understand what the crew is thinking. The crew is unhappy. In fact we are pretty much maximally unhappy. We cannot get to our destination and we are 900 miles away from shelter. 900 miles that we would have to drive across without an autopilot. Or it all might end earlier on a reef that is hundreds of miles from any land we can reach. I learned recently that they can actually measure how unhappy you are using brain scans. There is a region in the brain that lights up when you are unhappy. How bright equals how unhappy. At the same time that we are unhappy, we are also happy. We do have the boat slowly drifting and we don’t have to steer! Happiness lights up a different part of the brain. We’ve reached a condition where we are both happy and unhappy at the same time! And the whole crew is experiencing it!

Back to our story, we are moving to a reef, so in a few hours we have to leave the heave to condition in order to hand steer under sail to a new spot that is clear of danger for a while longer. Of course that has to happen at night and did I mention that I’m not doing well at steering? We manage it, but after we heave to again we notice that on one tack we drift north east; on the other tack we drift south west. It turns out we can navigate using this knowledge. Over the course of the next two days we navigate around all the reefs and actually reach the south east part of the reef. 50 miles north east along the reef lies the entrance to the passage. The reef even breaks the waves so the sea is much calmer. My steering improves. The weather also improves, a lot.

The rest of the story is simple. We made it to Noumea, New Caledonia. Yay! Flat water at a dock never felt so good.”  – Larry Nelson

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Editor:  Meanwhile, entangled particle Gary (and bus), are featured in this Ad:

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