Kip Stone's latest log from his Open 50 Artforms. Stone is en-route from Nova Scotia to the start of the Route du Rhum 4/10/06

Kip Stone settles into the motions of life at sea as he delivers his Open 50 Artforms to St Malo, France in preparation for the Route du Rhum which starts on 29 October. He set off from Halifax, Nova Scotia a week ago and is content that, after his first 500 miles at sea, he’s qualified for the Route du Rhum.

Here’s Stone’s latest log sent from the boat yesterday.

Position (at 1200 yesterday)49°09.2N, 030°54.4W
Speed12-16 kts
ConditionsNW 25, Overcast skies, building seas
Distance to St Malo1,130nm

It’s been one week since I set off from Halifax, Nova Scotia, bound for St Malo, France. My first order of business was to satisfy my solo qualifier for the Route du Rhum, which I accomplished after sailing the first 500 nautical miles of the trip. My timing with the wind was excellent, as it dwindled then died just hours after receiving confirmation from the safety committee. At that point, it was back into delivery mode with the engine on for the next 30 hours as I made my way across a largely windless hole.

My timing also appears to have been good with respect to the string of hurricanes making their way up the Atlantic this fall. I could see the lights of St John, Newfoundland this time last week when I finished my qualifier – later today, I’m told, Hurricane Isaac hits the area with sustained winds of 75 mph.

Crossing the North Atlantic in a sailboat during hurricane season really is a little bit crazy, like a slow motion game of dodge ball where you just can’t run fast enough. Up until yesterday, the sailing conditions I have encountered have not been particularly good, yet I consider myself fortunate to have gotten off so easily. The season has already changed at these high latitudes. The wind shifts are hard and abrupt, the cold, dense air packs a punch, and the low-pressure systems rolling through the area generate deep ocean swells leaving the seas confused for days. It will be a big relief to have the boat tied up to the dock in St Malo.

Despite the challenges, I have been having some fun out here as my body settles back into the motions and routines of life at sea. My sleep pattern has pretty well fragmented into naps throughout the day and night, and I’ve migrated from the culturally driven three meals a day into what’s probably closer to grazing. In some ways, it all seems a bit odd, but then again this effort is quite purpose driven and I’m glad to be brushing up on these skills in the weeks ahead of the start and not during the first week of racing.

Last night, for instance, I tested the autopilot, my ability to sleep, and my sense of self-preservation by flying a spinnaker in 25-30 knots of breeze. Like so many things of this nature, it all worked extremely well up until the moment it didn’t. As I remember telling my dad so many years ago after cracking up his car, “the good news is I’m fine.”

Since then, the seas have continued to build and now, under reduced sail, we’re hopping from wave to wave in a more controlled manner. I was getting tired of granola in the morning, so after licking my wounds and cleaning up the mess I decided to test a dried egg product that caught my eye while I was provisioning. Unfortunately, the packaging was the only thing that was really different, which I should have known simply by reading the directions. After all, how good a meal can you hope to expect when all you have to do is “add water, stir, and season to taste?” Looking for a few little wins to help offset my earlier disaster, I took pride in my ability to keep the liquid egg in the saucepan long enough for it to heat to putty textured semi-solid, even while coming off waves at over 17 knots. It was a hot meal in the middle of the ocean and not all that bad.

So, all is well aboard the good ship Artforms. The sky behind me has a cold, wintery look and the breeze now hits mid 30s under the clouds. I’m regularly topping 18 knots off the waves with two reefs and the solent and now, with night falling, it’s about time to dampen things down before I find myself in trouble again. A few more days like this, and the coast of France should appear on the horizon. I can almost taste the croissants.