Its midnight, a little more than 25 hours to go, and I see that the starboard Racor is full of crap, I switch to the Port Racor and return to the pilot house to contemplate my next moves.
The wind had stayed steady at SW at 30 kts. I was getting used to the roll, 20° in one direction, 30° in the other, certainly the biggest rolls I’ve ever seen since having the paravanes. I needed to sleep. I reasoned that the engine was running, the Racor had done its job, and by switching to the new Racor, I reckoned it should last at worst till morning, but more than likely till my destination, only 25 hours away.
I must have gotten pretty good rest, as there are no log entries from midnight, when I switched to port Racor until 07:00 when I recorded our position and noted, “Last night for a while” . I was ready for this to end, but, like March, it was going to go out like a lion. My roll “telltale” had the biggest roll to one side overnight as 23° Not so bad. I decided to use this relatively quiet period to change the Racors and FP filters, all three.
At 7:20, I wrote in the log 7:20, with nothing else. I must have been tired, but I assume that’s when I went to change Racors, as next log entry was at 08:10 when I wrote underway again, changed all 3 Racors. The key there was underway again.
Usually I can now change all three in 15 minutes with the engine running. This took 40, as we had some drama. FP filter and right side filter were done quickly, but in priming the filter, the shenanigans began. When I first turned on fuel pump to prime right side filter, nothing happened, because it was turned off, remember I was running on left side filter. Now in hindsight, I see what I should have done, but if wishes were horses, …
But instead I opened the two valves around pump, leaving the third one open. In this configuration, the fuel pump is pumping fuel, but only in a little circle, while it laughs at me for giving it such easy work. Ok, got it, switch to right filter, close gravity feed, prime filter, it’s done and engine is still running. Pump off, gravity feed on.
Now to the left side filter. Drain, open, remove old filter, new in, all in one minute, now to prime, change engine to this filter as I turn on pump, but gravity feed is still open. So nothing happens in filter and it doesn’t fill. Engine starts to slow down, I know I only have seconds left to solve this before I kill engine in 10 foot seas.
As I turn the red handle of the gravity feed to off, so pump can fill filter and feed engine, the engine dies.
Crap. I vowed never to let this happen and it does. OK. Now being alone is a PIA, as I must leave engine room to start engine. I figure, OK, at least I can now take my time and finish job. I prime filter, turn off pump, close valves and scamper up stairs to salon and the pilot house.
Start engine. It sounds so sweet as it runs for about 10 seconds and then dies. Walk, Don’t Run, back to engine room, sit next to engine, what did I do wrong?
I have it! I let air get to engine mounted fuel filters (there are two in series right after the mechanical lift pump (fuel pump that “lifts” fuel from near bottom of engine to top of engine). The BIG lesson here is ALWAYS check similiest solutions first. (At times, I think I don’t check the simple solution first, because it can’t be that easy.)
So, all I need to do is bleed these engine mounted filters. Easy, the box end wrench is hanging right here just for this occasion (all the wrenches needed for all these jobs are hanging right there). I loosen both bleed screws (yes, book says one at a time, but I’m in a hurry).
Turn on pump, nothing. Look frantically around. See all three valves are closed, duh, open the two for the pump and turn on switch, as at that same moment, I realize I did not have to open bleed screws as all three valves were closed, in other words, nothing was open for the engine.
In the one second for that realization to hit home, the fuel is getting to the bleed screws and spraying fuel all over the hot engine. I turn off pump, reset all valves to their correct positons and get my oil soak cloths and start wiping away. I’m not that concerned, because I have not found any place on the top of the engine that is ever above 200°F and besides, if you think this is the first time I’ve done fiasco, you have another think coming.
I wipe down everything, also Racors, where I made a mess thinking they were the problem and finally at 8:19 I’m up at the wheel starting the engine again. This time it starts running, but clearly not well, but I also recognize this and know that with a little throttle, all will be fine in 20 seconds.
I’m underway again at 8:20.
Interestingly enough, even with the waves and seas, I did not seem to notice how well the Krogen handled sitting in the middle of the ocean bobbin away. Too much in crisis mode and not observation mode I suppose.
Three hours later, I check the fuel filters again and am dismayed at the amount of crap the filters are picking up, I change the FP and the port filter again. This time with no drama.
A new issue, the bilge pump has gone off 250 times in the last 24 hours. Usually it goes off 10 times, in rough weather maybe 20 to 30 times, if my stuffing box is really leaking, I’ve seen 180 times, but never this many. Now the rolling had increased to almost 20° and 30° in each direction, a delta of 50° (certainly a new record for me) and the decks were wet with water flooding in the scuppers, with the starboard deck sometimes having water flood over the cap rail (another first for me).
There are no obvious leaks anywhere either in the engine room or in the cabin, so I decide not to worry about it, since there is no obvious solution. Like the Racors, the bilge pump is doing its job.
A couple of hours later, the last act of this drama. I hear a thump, not loud, look to port and see no paravanes pole. Bad. Engine at idle and neutral, I find the top of the pole near the stern of the boat, being held there by its foreguy.
It takes me half an hour to get it out of the water and tied to the fly deck, because I have to run all over the place, loosen that line, pull here, tighten that line, pull there. Three times I have to come off the fly bridge just to rotate the pole that is hung up on the rub rail.
Also, with all the adrenaline surging thru my veins, I did not really notice how well dauntless was behaving just bobbin up and down, with really not much roll.
So I tried running without the paravanes out. My course was due north, and the winds and seas were from the southwest to west. At this point I was going to Ireland or else. Having people meeting me there was really encouraging at this point I did not want to go anywhere else.
Therefore the course we had was the course we were going to travel. Without paravanes out, it was the Dauntless of old and this course was not possible. Umm, the boat would have been fine, but not me.
So, I put the starboard pole and bird back out, not bad, not bad at all I think, but as time passed, I realized the starboard side was taking water over the rail almost constantly, since when D rolled to the right, the roll was deeper without the port bird to slow it down, but then the boat stayed longer in the starboard heeled position, allowing the next wave to essentially push Dauntless into the side of the wave as it rolled under the boat. At one point, I had two feet of water sloshing around the cockpit and side deck.
That wasn’t going to work either. I then returned to the fly bridge, to untie the bird from the top of the pole. I spent way too much time doing that and in the meantime, this caused my scariest moment of the entire passage to date. The boat underway was rolling a lot. It did not occur to me to stop the boat because my little brain was more afraid of broaching than anything else. Now you are thinking, didn’t he just talk about how little the boat rolled lying a hull, just in the paragraph above?
And the answer is YES, of course I did. But at the time, doing something and reflecting on it are two different actions, but pretty much no learning takes place without that reflection. I was too much in crisis mode to reflect on anything. So with me up on the fly bridge, I’m really seeing how big these waves are. Some are clearly at my eye level, maybe 16 feet above sea level. And they are hitting the boat on its beam. The first time the boat rolled and I’m hanging on for dear life up there, I was a bit nervous. It felt like we were over 80°, by telltale later told me it was only 38°
But again, once me and D had survived the first roll, I realized it wasn’t that bad, in fact, I just stayed seated on the port bench, bracing myself with my foot on the helm chair, as the boat rolled.
Finally I get the knot undone and I decide to throw the fish in the water with 18’ of line, tied in the amidships cleat, figuring it could not get back to the prop or rudder and it was better than nothing.
It was better than nothing. Even though an hour later, on hearing a thumping noise, and not being able to pin point it, I actually convinced myself it was the bird hitting the boat (it wasn’t) but proceeded to stop the boat, then pull this bird back out of the water, shorten the line another two feet and finally, throw it back in the water (this is actually an abbreviated account. I did a few other things, but you had to be there to understand).
Finally I told myself to get a grip and proceeded to find the wine bottle that was rolling under the desk in the second cabin thunking the wall every 30 seconds, which is exactly what I thought it was an hour before.
I had no log entries between 14:00 when I threw the bird back in the water and 01:00 the following morning when I was passing Mizen Head light house.
I did record the rolling though, for those 11 hours, the boat was rolling a delta of 24°, 36° and a whopping 61° (23+38) every so often.
That afternoon, I was wedged on the bench, playing hearts, trying to keep my mind off the sea state, the waves, and the fuel.
As evening turned to night, it was very dark, the winds were 30 knots gusting to 45 out of the due west. The waves were above 16 feet so I spent most of that time lying on the bench with my head to the port side, so I did not feel like I was standing on my head. The worst part was as the boat would be heeled far over, it was stay there a bit and then since it’s dark, the next wave hits suddenly with a big bang on the exposed starboard hull, pushing us further into the side of the wave.
Even now, it’s hard to describe my feelings. I was certainly miserable, but not really afraid. The roller coaster is probably the best analogy in that is still makes us afraid, even though we know it can not fly off the tracks. I was afraid to go to sleep. Rocky land was only 15 to 20 miles away and even though it would take hours to get there, countless boats have come to grief so near their final destination, I was not going to let that happen to me.
But Monkey Son still had that smile on his face, so I knew it would be OK.
And it was, I had carefully planned my route using both Coastal Explorer and my Navionics app on my phone, as Navionics showed the lighthouse range colors better.
Karel had given me really clear instructions, so when I saw people standing on the dock at 01:40 in the morning of August 29th, 2014, I knew our Atlantic Passage was over.
More pictures are always being added to http://dauntless.smugmug.com/
And here are some videos that may help to give you an idea, taken just before sunset, please excuse the quality. I was hanging on for dear life.