All’s Well that Ends Well. Why do I repeat that so often? To remind myself not to think of the pain and suffering caused by my own foolish behavior. And besides, that’s the ONLY good thing I can take out of the last two days.
During the past few days, I broke about every rule I had vowed never to break:
- Don’t enter a strange harbor at night
- Don’t back up the boat to dock
- Don’t enter strange marina at night
- Don’t set out on a cruise with winds in your face from the get go
- Don’t travel with current and strong winds in the opposite direction.
- Repair little leaks before they get to be big ones
- Move the fuel tank vents
- Don’t let one problem lead to others
- Do preventive maintenance things the day BEFORE departure
- Run the fuel polisher while in port
- Don’t delay in changing fuel filters as needed
- Always do a visual check that all lines are clear when leaving dock
- Don’t get a case of “get home-itis”
- And if any of the above develop, pull into a port in the daytime and wait it out.
I did none of that.
Let’s rewind the tape and see why that happened.
Larry and Karla were leaving Dauntless for the gay lights of Paris and by coincidence; they were being replaced by someone from Paris, Pierre-Jean who had contacted me a few months ago, as he is really interested in Kadey Krogens.
Our goal was Vlissingen, in the southwest corner of Holland, about 190 nautical miles (210 sm, 350 km), 30 hours at just above 6 knots.
I had been looking at the weather for days, http://earth.nullschool.net/#current/wind/surface/level/orthographic=-2.69,50.52,3000
This surface wind chart at earth.nullschool.net is pretty much the only thing I look at. It goes out 4 days and by clicking on any specific point, it provides the wind direction and speed for that point.
Now, listen carefully, when you go to your favorite weather site to get a specific forecast, with all pretty colors and forecasts every minute, all you are getting is the same information in a format that has been made to look attractive. The danger is that those more specific forecasts give the impression of significance that does NOT exist. OK moving on.
Sunday looked to be a good weather day, light winds, but the forecast for the coming days had steadily increasing northeasterly winds from Sunday night thru the end of the forecast period on Wednesday.
NE winds was our worst case scenario, as we had to go NE. In addition, the currents in the English Channel are very strong, 3 to 5 knots, and we had already encountered even stronger currents, contrary winds and very steep standing waves just getting to Honfleur. After that encounter, I had vowed never again.
Never lasted only two days.
I have found that 15 knots of wind is the magic number. Below that speed, no matter the direction, seas stay small and travel is relatively easy. Above that speed, seas start building and the direction and currents start making a big difference.
Well, my forecast was right on. Should have been easy.
Sunday looked to be the best day, light NE winds, increasing to NE at 10 to 15 knots Monday, increasing to 25 to 35 knots Monday night through Tuesday night.
We were leaving Honfleur at 8:30, the time the bridge opened to let us out of the inner harbor. Then one hour down the Seine we would be turning NE ward just as the currents also revered to run NE. Our ETA to Vlissingen was 04:00 Tuesday morning. Now this would mean the last 10 hours would be into strong winds. Pierre-Jean and I talked about the plan and figured if it got bad, we would just pull into French or Belgium port before it got too bad. But how bad could it be?
Famous last words.
Because I had not yet moved the fuel vents, I was diligent about feeding from the windward tank, as Dauntless rolls a bit more to leeward. Having left Waterford with full tanks, the port side tank was finally about 5 inches less than full and therefore showing up on the sight tube. So, I decided to leave Honfleur running on the starboard tanks, to level the boat.
When we had arrived in Honfleur, two days previously, the Fuel Polisher which had been running the whole time while underway, indicated 10” of Hg, which meant it needed to be changed. I also noticed a little water in the bottom of the bowl. So I wrote in my log to change the FP and the port side Racor filters.
I am still mystified why I did not do this before the Sunday departure.
We must be waiting in front of the bridge for the 8:30 opening. I had started the engine and turned on the fuel polisher for the starboard tank at 08:00, we would use the starboard side Racor, which was new.
At 08:15, I do a last minute check in the engine room and decide that I would now change the two filters, thinking better late than never, though I hated the thought of starting my day smell of diesel.
Changing the two filters took about 5 minutes, so with 10 minutes to spare, our lines are cast off and I’m backing out of the slip, with my hands smelling of fuel, even though I had washed them three times.
I must have been distracted.
As we back out, all of a sudden, the bow starts swinging quickly to the right, towards the bowsprit of the two sailboats docked perpendicular to Dauntless. Thinking that it’s wind driven, I quickly give a burst of left full rudder in forward to push the bow to port. That works. OK I try backing straight again, same thing happens at which point the sailboat folks are getting concerned. I straighten the boat again and as I go to look, Pierre-Jean yells that there is still a line tied to the end of the finger pier to our stern. Well, that explains that. We get the line untied and I pull out finally with no drama.
No, in reality the drama was just beginning.
To be Continued