Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Day 87 - The Fifty Dollar Question

You might be wondering what the latest news is on my selection of Island
X – will it be Tarawa? Or will it be Funafuti in Tuvalu?

I wish I could tell you. The question is still being hotly debated in
TeamRoz. It would be the million dollar question – except that our
budget isn't that big. It's at least a fifty dollar question though.

Distance-wise, there is not much in it. 482 nautical miles to Tuvalu,
517 to Tarawa (approximately). But on the ocean not all miles are equal.
Some are upwind, some are downwind, some are across-wind. Although the
ocean may look flat, it is more accurate to think of it like a ski
resort. Downwinds are like well-groomed ski slopes. Upwind I'd need a
chairlift. Across the wind I'd be cross-country rather than downhill
skiing. I'm not sure what the ocean equivalent would be for off-piste,
but I'm pretty sure I wouldn't want to try it.

On the one hand, I would prefer to go to Tuvalu:
a) because it would set me up better for making it to Australia next
year, and
b) because it would be better for my climate change message – Tuvalu
being the current "poster child" of climate change thanks to their
recent announcement that they intend to be the world's first carbon
neutral country, with a target date of 2020.


From where I am now, I am doubtful that it is possible. Given that the
winds are generally E-SE, I suspect that I would get pushed too far west
before I could get far enough south. For example, see the RozTracker for
the last couple of days. My bows have been pointed as south as they can
be, but the best I can do is 90 degrees to the wind – and the wind has
been from the south, so the best I can do is west. No nicely groomed ski
slopes heading the way I want to go.

There is a fine line between being adventurous and taking unnecessary
risks. If I got tempted into trying for Tuvalu, but ended up missing
landfall altogether, or having to be towed some significant distance to
make it into port – either of these would NOT be cool. I would
definitely be off-piste (and piste off).

But then will I end up cursing myself next year – if I find myself
heading for Papua New Guinea instead of Australia? Will I wish I'd tried
a bit harder for Tuvalu?

So, when in doubt, postpone the decision until there is more information
available. Even if I was set on Tarawa, my plan would still be to push
south beyond the Equator to get south of all these tricky old currents
and weather systems, and then to take a sharp right and row downwind to
the west, before looping up slightly to get to Tarawa, which lies just
north of the Equator. By happy coincidence, this is also initially what
I would do to get to Tuvalu.

So I'm going to go south as much as I can, and see what longitude I'm at
when I reach the Equator. By then I'll have new weather information and
can make a better informed decision.

Of course, this doesn't make life easy for Nicole and the rest of
TeamRoz who are planning to come out and meet me. The suspense
continues. Meanwhile, I am heading rapidly towards tomorrow – the
International Date Line is now just about 35 miles away.

[photo: My rather old chart donated by Captain Vince of the White Holly,
printed back in the days when Tuvalu was still called the Ellice
Islands. But hopefully they're still in more or less the same place,
although they might be getting smaller as the seas rise…]

Other Stuff:

Thanks for all the messages from the Rozling community. Wouldn't it be
amazing if we were all able to assemble, from all around the world, and
get together in one room for a huge party when I finish this row? I
would love that! Maybe we can figure out a way to do it in virtual

Naomi – don't worry about your knees. I try to take the strategy of NOT
worrying about things – just preparing for them. Only time will tell if
your knees will bear up. But do take some painkillers and
anti-inflammatories with you just in case… and if your walk has to turn
into a drive, well, never mind. It won't be worse, just different!

I especially enjoyed this message, which I think also came from Naomi,
although it was a bit difficult to tell from the way it was formatted in
the email I received:
"I thought of you when I read this today on my FaceBook page: "The
between "try" and "triumph" is the UMPH!"
Isn't that just a GREAT message?!

Hi to Carol, Greg, Sue, Brennan and Conor – thanks for your messages!

Weather report:

Position at 2300 HST: 01 23.451N, 179 25.178W
Wind: 0-20kts but generally around 15kts, S backing to E during the day
Seas: 3-6ft, SE, quite steep and choppy at times
Weather: mostly blue skies, some cloud – cumulus and cirrus. Could see
some rainclouds around but they kept their distance several miles away.

Weather forecast, courtesy of

Latest tracker reported your position as: 01 31N 179 02W as of 18Aug

As of Tuesday 18 Aug 2009. According to measured data, there have been
SEerly winds up to 7-12kts over your position and some light rainshower
activity. The heaviest of rain was north of 05N. Lighter SEerly winds
are to
your west to Tarawa with heavier and widespread rainshowers. South of
equator there are stronger ESE winds 17-20kts. The SEerlies shift to
5-10kts by late tonight. Then shift to SEerly and increase in speed to
range with 20kts possible. Winds return to Eerly and abate to 5-12kts by
morning of the 21st.

Widespread clouds with deep convection are north of your position along
ITCZ axis. West and south of your position, skies are partly cloudy with
minimal convection.

Forecast sky conditions: Partly to mostly cloudy. Scattered, light to
moderate rainshowers.

Ocean currents: No significant change from last report

Forecast (low confidence)
Date/Time HST Wind kts Seas (ft) est
18/0800-18/1200 SE-E 5-12 2-4
18/1200-19/0000 E-N 5-10 2-4
19/0000-19/1200 N-SE 5-10 2-4
19/1200-19/2100 SE 7-15 2-4
19/2100-20/2100 SE 10-20 3-5
20/2100-21/0600 SE-E 10-15 3-5
21/0600-23/0800 E 5-12 2-4

Next Update: Thursday, 20 August