Dauntless Crosses the North Atlantic – The Post Mortem

The crux of a successful ocean passage

Providence Rhode Island to Castletownbere, Ireland:

Morning of the Last Day

Morning of the Last Day

  • 3624 nm, 6523 km.;
  • 638 running hours
  • Average speed 5.7 knots
  • 1013 gallons of fuel consumed
  • Average = 1.59 gal/hr.
  • Average 3.6 nm/gal= 1.7 km/liter
  • Cost of fuel $4000
  • Cost per nm = $1.1/nm

Stuff that broke: Four Stories and lessons Learned

  • The Bent Stabilizer Pole Saga
  • The Mast Cleat Adventure
  • The Auxiliary Water Pump Sediment Filter Hijinx
  • Water in Fuel Tanks: Not Pretty; But the Lehman keeps on Going

Other Lessons learned

Evening of the 27th, the Storm Intensifies Again

Evening of the 27th, the Storm Intensifies Again The Past 4 Days of Pitch and Roll

  • Food and Provisioning
  • Route Planning and Execution
  • Organization and Storage of Spare Parts
  • Odd and Ends
  • Solo Voyaging
  • Equipment: Must-haves, Nice-to-Haves

The crux of a successful ocean passage

I first wrote this “Post Mortem” 8 days after the end of our passage, but never published it because I realized it had morphed into many things. Thus there will soon follow a post titled, “Finding the Right Boat” and “Weather or Not”, where I talk about how to, and how not to, use a weather forecast.

Our successful ocean passage was the culmination of a planning process that started 6 years earlier and four years before we even had a boat.  The success was due two major things: finding the right boat and having the right attitude.  Having the right boat protects fools and drunks. Having the right attitude means you know what to except, from the best to the worst.  If your plan is to call the Coast Guard under the “worst” circumstances, stay home.

During the worst of it, while I was miserable, I was not afraid.  I knew the Krogen could handle it and even realized she can handle much worse.

Afternoon of the Last Day

Afternoon of the Last Day

The planning  and learning process is key to a successful passage.  As I had read virtually every account of small boats crossing oceans and books and stories of freighters throughout the 20th Century, I had a good sense as to what worked and what didn’t.  That can’t be overstated because it speaks to our vision and that’s the first step of a successful passage.  So this trip really started seven years ago, before I knew of Kadey Krogen, trawlers, or really anything.

But first, our passage is really not that special.  People have done the same thing in in smaller boats, in far worse conditions, with many more handicaps.  Almost everything I have learned and talk about, I first read someplace else, by someone with far more experience than I will ever have.  Just remember that Columbus did the round trip more than 500 years ago, with three boats that were only 10’ to 17’ longer than Dauntless.

If you’re reading this, you probably read the details of the trip as it happened, or soon thereafter.  So for this entry, I’m going to talk about what we learned in hindsight for the next ocean passage.

Stuff that broke: Three Stories and Lessons Learned

The Bent Stabilizer Pole Saga:

An operator-induced failure.

Only a day after I left Miami with the new paravanes, while I adjusted the fore stays, I had also adjusted the up-down stays, Amsteel Blue 3/8”, which take the vertical loads of the paravane fish.  I had not fully locked them tight on the horn of the cleat upon completion.  I probably thought I would re-adjust them once more and then simply forgot.  So, while they were wrapped in a figure 8 three times on the cleat on the mast, I had not “locked” it on the horn.  Amsteel Blue is slippery enough that if not locked securely with at least 3 or 4 half hitches, they will get loose.

And that’s what happened.  The Figure 8 got loose, thus letting the pole swing from its position of 45° to almost straight down, 170°.  The rub rail, stopping the pole from facing straight down. This put a kink in the pole where it bent around the rub rail.  Not a bad bend, but just enough to significantly weaken the pole.  In trying to get the pole back to its original position, I took out the retaining bolt that would keep the pole in its cup that is attached to the gunnel.  But I still couldn’t get the pole out, so I eventually got it back to position, but now, the retaining bolt was not in place.  I knew it wasn’t needed because all the force on the pole is into the cup, not outward, but months later, it did contribute, if not cause the pole to subsequently bend into an “L” shape.

So on the last day of the trip during one big roll within 60 miles of Ireland, the same windward pole went vertical.  However, the kink in the pole, even though very slight, allowed the paravane bird to put a force on the pole that rotated the pole 90° with the absence of the retaining bolt,  so that the kink now faced aft.  As soon as that happened, the force the bird put on the pole bent the pole 90°, and of course, now this allowed the pole to come out of the cup, making its retrieval even harder.

An hour later, after sitting dead in the water for that time, I had managed to get the pole up on deck.  In my adrenaline rush, I never noticed how well the boat handled being left on its own, wallowing in the seas with its beam to the seas, which were running 8 to 15 feet at that time.  In hindsight, we were bobbing in the ocean, with less roll than when underway.

Lesson Learned:

Replace bent stuff and all hardware before leaving on an ocean passage.

John Duffy, who had rigged the paravane system, told me to replace it, as the bend would significantly weaken it.  I also probably did not mention that I had taken the retaining bolt out and had not replaced it, as the pole had rotated slightly, not allowing the bolt to be re-inserted.

The pole was replaced in Castletwonbere for 300 Euros.  All the hardware is back in place.

The Mast Cleat Adventure:

A day out of Nova Scotia, as we sat in the Pilot House enjoying the world go by our living room window, we heard a noise that sounded like a gun shot.  Knowing that no one on board was packin,’ I looked at the mast and saw immediately that the cleat holding the up-down line was now horizontal instead of vertical.

We chopped power to relieve the strain and I ran up to the fly bridge, though taking the time to put on my PFD (Personal Flotation Device, a life preserver).  One of the two 3/8” bolts attaching the cleat to the mast had broken.  Not wanting to spend a lot of time to try to re-attach the cleat, I tied the up-down line around the mast in a number of clove hitches and then tied it off to the other mast cleat.  This way, much of the force on the line, instead of being transmitted to the cleat, would now be manifested in trying to squeeze the mast.

Lesson Learned:

This new system worked so well that while in Horta, I redid both up-down lines, so that they came to a three clove hitches around the mast, before being tied off on the cleat, with a final half hitch on the horn of the cleat for each line.

John Duffy in Miami designed and installed a great paravane stabilization system, which is not only relatively light-weight, but also easily adjustable and cost-effective.

While in Ireland, I also added one more feature:  I had had another winch installed in Florida to assist in retrieving the paravanes.  In Ireland, I also replaced the lines on the winch with 3/16” Amsteel Blue lines that I had gotten, 300 feet at a really bargain price from Parks, of Hopkins- Carter in Miami.  By using this new, stronger line, it added an extra margin of safety, because it is strong enough to hold the paravanes while underway should I have a failure of the up-down line as described above.  It would also allow me to retrieve the paravanes, even if the boat is not at a full standstill.  This would be fast and useful, in case of emergency.

This was the first and last time I put on the PFD on this passage.

The Auxiliary Water Pump Sediment Filter Highjinx

Another operator-induced problem.

After the failure, a few days from the Azores, the pressure switch failed.  After screwing with the pump for a while, I just bypassed the pressure switch and the pump went back to work. A day later the entire pump gave up the ghost.  I discovered by reading the instruction manual that I had installed the pump upside down, with the electrical parts under the pump itself.  Evidently, you should not do that because if the pump has minor leaks, it gets into the electronics right away.

Lesson Learned:

It behooves one to read installation instructions before the fact, not after.

THe Previous 12 Hours of rockin and rollin Before Arrival.  Notice I had changed the Scale to 32°

THe Previous 12 Hours of rockin and rollin Before Arrival.
The Scale is 24° to Each Side

Water in Fuel Tanks: Not Pretty; But the Lehman keeps on Going

On the Left,Taken from  the Stbd Side Fuel Tank, a Mixture of Water and Emusified Water and Fuel

On the Left,Taken from the Stbd Side Fuel Tank, a Mixture of Water and Emulsified Water and Fuel. On the Right, Fuel from the Port Tank

I have finally deduced that the water, around 5 gallons, got into the starboard fuel tank during the last 36 hours of the trip thru the fuel vent line.  How do I know this?  After I replaced the O-rings of the fuel caps, while the old rings were worn, there is no way a significant amount of water could have entered that way.  In addition, the water was only in the starboard, lee side tank.

Up until this time, Dauntless had been in seas almost as rough, though not for this extended length of time.  But even if only for 8 hours, no water had ever entered the tank before in our previous 2000! hours of cruising.

What was different this time?

  • A much longer time of seas on the beam, three and a half full days, with 54 out of 72 hours, being in large 15+ foot waves.
  • The last 12 hours, with the failure of the windward paravane pole, the boat remained heeled over to port for a longer period of time, as the recovery was slower.
  • While all the above was going on, for reasons that were just chance, I had been running on the port (windward) tank, which was now near empty, thus for the last 2 days of the passage, we were feeding off the port (lee) side tank.
  • Thus, just when the port tank was being used, the boat was heeling more to port, thus keeping the fuel vent which is at deck level under water for a significant portion of time.

My Conclusion:

The lee side tank sucked in the water thru the fuel vent.  Had I been using the other tank, in all likelihood, this would not have occurred.

Afgter Arrival.  I also Changed the Scale to 32°, so This shows my LAst 12 Hours of the Passage

After Arrival. I also Changed the Scale to 32°, so This shows my Last 12 Hours of the Passage. Sorry for the poor quality. I was shaken, but not stirred.

I will move the fuel vent hose, so that this can never happen again.

In addition, I will make it a practice to use the windward tank under such conditions.  I could have easily transferred fuel to the starboard tank while underway.  It was just chance that I had filled the starboard tank in Horta and I therefore used that fuel first, since I knew my fuel in the port tank was good.

Other Lessons Learned

Food and Provisioning:

Maybe from reading too many books written by frugal sailors, my provisioning could have been better.  I had too many things I don’t eat, like rice and beans,  and not enough of what I do eat.  I still have enough calories on Dauntless to feed a family in Africa for 2 years.  No, I do not really know what I was thinking.

We should have had a bit more lettuce.  Romaine lettuce in those packages of three lasts for a few weeks in fridge.

Eggs.  Julie likes eggs.  I forgot she really likes eggs.

Mayonnaise, to make egg salad with all those eggs.  I like egg salad.

Route Planning and Execution:

Good job with planning.  Very poor execution.

Not having the paravane stabilizers for the first 3,000 miles of cruising with Dauntless made me very sensitive to the direction of winds and waves.  The Krogen handles following seas exceedingly well.  Thus I carried that mentality with me on this passage.  I made too much of an effort to keep the seas behind us and off the beam, thus our northeasterly course leaving Cape Cod and our southeasterly course leaving Nova Scotia.

In hindsight, it was an overreaction in both cases.  That continued with my solo voyage from Horta, with the zigzag of day three, first NW, then SE then after 24 hours of stupidness, northward.

In the future, I will let the paravanes do their job and keep a course more directly (great circle route) to our destination.  In fact, while I did not record the data, my feeling now is that the rolling of Dauntless is about the same with the paravanes, whether the sea is following or on the beam.  Without the paravanes, there is a night and day difference.

Organization and Storage of Spare Parts:

I’m grateful that I didn’t need to use any spare parts.  But the haste in which we left, meant we obtained a lot of stuff at the last minute.  It was put away, with only a general idea of what was where.  Had I needed anything, I would have found it eventually, maybe even by the time, the westerly winds pushed us all the way to Europe, a month or two later.  At least I would not have starved.

This winter has been spent re-packing virtually all parts and tools.  In addition I have a written inventory, with location, storage bin, model numbers etc.  Before the next passage, it will even be computerized.

How did I decide what spare parts to take or not?

This turns out to be relatively easy.  I picked those parts I could both afford and could replace myself.  So, we had an extra starter, even though i had no intention to ever turn off the engine.  We had an extra alternator.  i did not have a spare injector pump, too expensive.  Except for the fuel injector pump, I had all the other external engine stuff: injector tubes, hoses, belts, lift pump, etc. We had extra hoses, belts, etc for every critical component.  Therefore, we had nothing extra for the generator, since I don’t use it underway.  We had no internal engine parts, pistons, etc, becuase while I could probably replace it while docked, it was not something I could see myself replacing underway.  But also, that is not a typical failure point of the engine.  Internal stuff usually shows signs of wear for a long time before failure.

Odds and ends:

If I have not talked about it above, we ain’t changing it.

  • That means stuff like the DeLorme InReach will not be changed. We like the limitations that system imposes.  I don’t need to call mom when the shit hits the fan.
  • Probably will add some redundancy to the ComNav Autopilot. Unlike a sail boat, we cannot tie the wheel and expect to go in any semblance of a straight line; I tried.
  • One of my issues has always been that in a seaway, there can be no noise of moving objects in the boat. Moving things can cause damage in and of themselves, and must be controlled.  So, even at 40° of roll, every few minutes, during the worst of it, I heard no crashing or banging of stuff.  Everything must be secure.
  • Need more recorded movies and Korean Dramas. They really help to pass the time.  Yes, one can tire of just reading.  When I was alone, I got really bored.
  • On the other hand, I did back in to computer card games. Bridge in particular, yes, I am of a generation that learned bridge.

Solo Voyaging 

I hope to never do another 10 day passage alone again.  But I will if I have to.

Having said that, the next passage next year, will be part of a much longer voyage and we will be pretty much under way for 18 months.  With Julie working, I will need a lot more help during the many segments the trip will entail.  I will put it out there on Trawler Forum seeking those who want to be a part of the experience and maybe even share some expenses and I’m sure some shenanigans.

Must-haves, Nice-to-Haves

Must Have Nice to have
Paravane Stabilizers Four 110W Solar Panels and two Controllers
Lexan Storm Windows Coastal Explorer
C-Map North Atlantic and Western Europe Charts Boat computer and router
Digital Yacht AIS Transceiver Master’s License
Katadyn 160 Water maker Vitrifrigo Freezer and Refrigerator
Delorme InReach text only sat phone Splendid Vented Washer/Dryer Combo
Spare parts for the Ford Lehman SP135 Engine  
Other Spare parts  
Revere Off Shore Commander 4 person Life raft  

Here are a few more pictures and videos.  The file name incorporates the date time the file was recorded, thus 20140827_1927  means it was recorded 27 Aug 2014 at 19:27 (7:27  p.m.) hours.

Thank you for your patience

And Yes, this was and is our first boat:-)

9 thoughts on “Dauntless Crosses the North Atlantic – The Post Mortem

  1. An amazing journey. Thanks so much Richard for bringing us along. I certainly was up late watching your crossing from the Azores.

    The perspective here as written is of value. Thank you for taking the time to post it. Now I cannot speak to the mechanics but can tell you there is life besides bridge — and I suggest “Midnight Sunitaire” as the card game to play. It requires strategy, planning ahead and is small (played it back in the days of Win95 so it’s not a huge flashy thing)…

    Good luck and keep on posting. Your journey is fascinating. The fuel vents onboard Seaweed are wrong in a heavy rain so I’ll address them at some point. Your reminder is timely. Happy cruising.

  2. Great post Richard!
    Thanks for taking the time to compose it all into a such a valuable passage-making summary. I learn something everytime I read your posts. (Btw, It seems we share something in common,,, our Admiral is “Julie” too!)
    Cheers Dude.

  3. Great voyage Richard,
    Thanks for your story with all your inside information and experiences. I take my lessons out of it for the future.
    Are you on the way already to view our Europeen countries?
    If you like to have some touristic advice, please call.
    Wish you all time a hand wide water below your keel.
    Cheers, Marinus, KK39, Netherlands.

  4. Richard, met you and your crew thuis morning in Lauwersoog.
    Much admiration for crossing the Atlantic even with the paravane tackle !
    Hope you have a nice summer around the Baltic
    And.. be careful out there !

    John aboard Rubaiyat
    Groningen

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