Below 40° South

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

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Progress Report #15

In any special purpose vessel, like Southern Cross, there is seldom non-essential gear. In fact, the goal is have the gear perform several tasks or jobs if possible. Then sometimes gear surprises you and is able to do a job that was not imagined it would need to do. This was the case with the winches for the “running shrouds” (see the video in the media section). Like the small Jam cleats in Progress #14, I believe Howard found the antique Merriman winches at a garage sale a number of years back. He recognized a wonderful and unique design, bought them and put them away for future use.

I first saw the winches in Austin, when Southern Cross was in my shop and we were filming the construction. I have to confess I experienced extreme winch envy and I joked several times about the possibility of someone breaking into the shop and stealing those winches.

Aside from the elegant design, what struck me was how they were perfectly suited for the “running shroud” system Howard was designing for Southern Cross. They were pleasing and traditional looking, esthetics has always been an important part of Southern Cross, and they functioned as though they had been specifically designed for that purpose.

The surprise part came early on in the voyage with kelp. Kelp posed a huge problem for Howard. In the following photo (all photos are still taken from GoPro footage) Howard is paddling through a large bed of kelp. Sailing through the kelp beds was difficult or impossible and anchoring became very challenging. He had to drag large balls of kelp up with the anchor making it virtually impossible to haul in the anchor by hand. When he could finally break the anchor free he was lifting a hundred pounds or more kelp at times.

Now the little Merriman became an anchor winch and had to experience loads it was not really designed to carry. Howard had to use the winch to retrieve the anchor, as seen in the photo below.

In the following photo, you can see Howard cleaning kelp off the anchor.

The winches became far more important and saw more use retrieving the anchor than with the “running shrouds”. In a post voyage interview Howard wondered if he would have been able to cope with the kelp issues without the Merriman winches.

These classic pieces of gear are an important part of the fabric of the voyage and like a great deal of gear have their own story to tell. We need your financial help and support to tell the story of this incredible adventure. The post production part of the film making process is the most time consuming and expensive, but together we can make this happen.

- David Nichols