Communications from the mid-Atlantic

In ‘the old days’ there were no communications from here, midway between Tristan de Cunha and Cape Town. Ships left, and maybe they arrived.

Letters were sent and received at ports, courtesy of poste restante. Radio might enable communications at sea, whether line of sight or long distance. Now satellites can enable all sorts of contact, even sending video if you are prepared to pay the (very high) prices.

Here on Europa, communications with the outside world are limited. The skipper has his own satellite connection of course, essential for weather, contact with the office and so on. We carry both VHF and SSB radio. As voyage crew, though, we have one small pipe.

The relevant laptop, on which I am typing this, is in the library, the great cabin at the stern of the ship. It sits secure on a table in front of the starboard side aftmost bench, and contains the Sailmail (TM) email programme. This is only place from which we can make contact.

To send an email, then, I make my way aft from wherever I happen to be, and wait till the computer is free. Then I type the blog (possibly making a word version first if I want time to review it), then send it to my patient friend in Wales.  She uploads it.

if I was doing this trip again, I wouldn’t change my decision to rely on the ship’s satphone (rather than bring my own). It is lovely not to be dominated by it, even though it may make the timing of emails rather haphazard.

I would bring an actual computer rather than only my ipad. It has made managing and transferring photos much more difficult. Also I cannot find a way to transfer documents from my ipad to the computer, which is trying. It’s a small glitch though.

All this means, of course, that there is no internet here. I am looking forward to reconnecting and catching up with everyone, and reading all your comments on this blog either on the site, or on FB, Twitter or Linked In. Keep them coming! In the meantime, repeated apologies for breaching netiquette by not acknowledging or replying.

Today, Sunday, we have continued to sail south east. We are edging southwards to find the best winds to swing back north to Cape Town. At the moment the north westerly is forcing us to sail on a close reach, but as soon as it backs more westerly we will be able to head north.

We are now just two degrees west of the meridian line, zero degrees longitude, which passes through Greenwich. I’ve crossed it under sail many times, but, of course, never so far south.

I didn’t work that out using a sextant, by the way; a GPS attached to the chart system in the computer did the hard work. That  sort of technology is everywhere on board, from wristwatches and phones to the dedicated ship’s electronics. We have a sextant as well and several people who can use it: quite properly we do not absolutely rely on satellites out of our control. In the meantime, we definitely know where we are.

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  1. I can’t believe just how frequent your marvellous updates have been, Sarah. It’s like you’re with us even though you’re so far away. And you’ve brought it alive for me, thank you x

  2. I haven’t posted many replies, but I’m avidly following ever post. I love the idea of knowing where you are on this planet – a comforting notion! Sending you strong energy! Sharon

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