Below 40° South

Blog | Below 40 South

A Solo Voyage To The Dark Side of The Moon
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Progress Reports

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Progress report #12

Satellite Phone Conversations.
The attached recording was made on February 17th 2017 when Howard sees the Pacific for the first time.

During the voyage I had the opportunity to communicate with Howard by satellite phone. He would call at various times and give me an update about his location or what had been happening since our last conversation. Generally the calls tended to be about the wind, it seemed either to be blowing hard or not at all, and how much sleep Howard had managed to get. I was always amazed to hear Howard state in such a matter of fact way that he had managed without sleep for forty hours or so. Sleep always seemed to be hard to come by. There was other information, of course, but wind and sleep always seem to be included.

The satellite phone was on board because the Armada de Chile required that Howard have an HF (high frequency) radio. The Armada requires boats to have a SSB or HF radio on board but Howard decided this wasn’t practical on a boat as small as Southern Cross. The satellite phone provided the same coverage without the huge antenna and batteries. It turned out to be a useful addition to the voyage.

I recorded about thirty or so calls from Howard and those recordings are safely stored with all the film he shot and has just turned over to us. It was obvious early in the voyage that those calls were a window into what was happening as much as the film he was shooting. The satellite phone also served the added purpose of allowing Howard to talk with the elementary schools he was working with. I know the interaction he was having with them was incredibly important to him and an amazing learning opportunity for the many kids following his voyage through live tracking and the sat phone calls.

Howard told those of us working on the film that the purpose of his voyage was always a question put to him by others as voyaging solo seemed to need or require some lofty purpose to make it legitimate to some as ridiculous as that sounds to me as I write this. I believe it was the “small” in small boat that had some scratching their heads wondering why he would do such a thing. Small to some equated with stunt, fool hardly, ridiculous but if they had taken a moment to consider his strategy then “small” would make sense. His voyage was meticulously planned and executed and the small boat never failed to deliver.

I can attest that his intentions were always clear to him, very personal and never once about self promotion or the need to be recognized. Howard was always uncomfortable with being filmed and asked that John and I tell his story honestly and without any hype or hint of reality TV. He simply wanted to share the story and to this end has no stake in the film and no control over its tone or content. The images he shot have been turned over to us unedited and for this we are grateful because what a story they tell.

Howard did tell us he at times felt self conscious about the voyage as it might seem selfish, self serving or some sort of look at me affair if filmed. In reality his motives were as pure and simple as can be, which is why the story is so compelling to tell. He sailed to explore a true wilderness and as a challenge ad test of his skills and life experiences. I know as fact he felt great purpose and found incredible joy in working with the hundreds of school kids as he prepared to set sail and as he voyaged. The phone calls to classrooms became genuine events for him as he knew he was being tracked by excited young minds. He felt he had a means to infuse possibilities and hope in so many young lives. This desire has since manifested itself into a huge and wonderful project that has caught the imagination of me and many others.

Planning is and has been underway for the continuing “Voyage of Southern Cross” an educational circumnavigation of the world by a tiny ship (Southern Cross) and her best friend Howard. This incredible extension of the voyage Howard has just completed down the Strait of Magellan and into the forbidding Southwest Islands is such a natural for a man of his tenor. I am all in to be a part of this great project that will be free to thousands off schools around the world touching, impacting and connecting children from many nations. I admire Howard’s pure heart and passion to do good in the world. We should all support this noble endeavor and the if us producing Below 40 South are in full support!

Look for updates on the Voyage of Southern Cross project, the soon to be published web site and the roll out of the program, which is the perfect fit for our film Below 40 South. Below 40 South is destined with your help to be the public record of the first leg of this incredible never before attempted circumnavigation of the world by an 11’ 11” sail and oar boat. Southern Cross is destined to go over the horizon in a dedicated container next October bound for New Zealand, then Japan, Tibet, India, Egypt, Greece, Spain, France, Norway, Scotland, England and back to the United States over three years. The best part of all is the program is free to schools, teachers and students.

Back to Howard’s voyage.

The calls he made to the schools during his time preparing in Punta Arenas and while he sailed and explored were as mentioned very important to Howard. In the recording attached to this progress report he mentions that he’s about to call the schools. I know those conversations were a high point for Howard and since we were filming in the classrooms I know the kids were filled with excitement and excitement can translate into engagement in learning. Howard looked forward and enjoyed the calls as much as the children.

For me, the calls are a small but important addition that increases the color and character of the film. I have always been pleased that the satellite phone was there, that I recorded those conversations and that teachers recorded the interactions as they happened.

Please continue to come back here and be sure to visit Howard’s blog “The Voyage of Southern Cross” and make a note that he in his quiet way has decided to hold his incredible story back and will be presenting it publicly for the first time at the coming Northwest Woodenboat Festival in Port Townsend Washington. Howard will be the featured speaker at this years festival, Southern Cross will be arriving direct from Chile just prior to the show. She will be on display for all to see, touch and even board just as she came out of the Southern Ocean and that desolate place at Isla Georgaiana.

Make plans to visit the show (September 8th-10th) and be sure to get a chair early in the main room where Howard will for the first time tell his story complete with images and select film footage. He is being joined by members of the Voyage of Southern Cross team and will be presenting a second time on the circumnavigation voyage for education aboard Southern Cross. His written story will appear in parts beginning in the fall issue of Small Craft Advisor magazine.

John Welsford and I would like to go on record here thanking Howard for his efforts in filming and for his willingness to share what by any measure is an epic small boat story of courage, determination and unbending will to survive against incredible odds. We are glad to have him back and very happy to be involved in supporting his greater vision of using his little ship to circumnavigate as an instrument of inspiration and education. Good On Ya Howard!


John Welsford and Dave Nichols