It’s been an eventful few days. Now into Day 5 of our 8 day Cruising Association’s 2015 Baltic Rally, having all those sail boats around keeps you on your toes. The winds had been howling since Wednesday. Therefore it was decided to remain in Kröslin until Saturday morning.
But I needed to be in Ueckermünde, the next stop and our last in Germany, Saturday morning, as Ivan my dutiful crew member was returning to Italy that day and Eve and Nigel were scheduled to come that afternoon.
Therefore I decided to leave Friday morning in spite of the winds.
And they were howling, 25 knots, gusting to 38. But at least, my position at the end of the “T” combined with the winds pushing me off the dock, made for a relatively easy launch.
Between Kröslin and Ueckermünde, there are two bridges with set opening times, a few times a day.
We got to the first bridge early, we had 45 minutes to wait. After a few anxious moments, we got a line onto a large steel piling and made a bridle from the bow cleats. Worked well and Dauntless kept her bow to the wind at about a 30° angle. Easy Peasy.
We got to the next bridge, in spite of traveling as slow as I could, we still had an hour to wait. There was a shallow anchoring area for boats waiting for the bridge. Only 7 feet of water, (D takes 4.7 ft), but it was on the windward side, so that meant if the anchor did drag, we would at least be push to deeper water closer to the channel. And the day’s winds meant there was virtually no one on the water except for us and two sailboats, one German and one Danish.
Anchor out; I also have an anchor buoy, which is attached to the anchor with a very thin, but strong Amsteel line. Too strong.
An hour later, we weigh the anchor and get underway down the very narrow channels (much like the ICW in Georgia) towards Ueckermünde.
Arriving in the quaint town, my directions told me to proceed until the bridge, at which point one cannot go further and tie up along the wall close to the bridge. Sounds easy; I was calmer than usual knowing Graham and Fay of the Cruising Association would be on the dock to help tie up.
As I come into the narrow part of the channel, towards the anticipated docking spot, I turn on the power to the bow thruster. I try to minimize bow thruster use, but I will use it and would hate not to use it and hit another boat as a consequence of me being stubborn.
The 25 knot wind is now right on my stern. I know D turns well to the left and backs to the right, so I can usually do a 180° turn to the left within a 50’ circle. With not winds that is.
I pull to the right as much as I can. But leaving room for the stern to kick out to the right and still miss the restaurant boat.
All went well, until about half way through, so now I was perpendicular to the canal, the fish restaurant boat was just a couple feet from the swim platform, the dock wall just feet in front of us and the bridge, that effectively made this a dead end for us, about 50 feet away with the wind blowing us towards it.
Then the light on the bow thruster went off, which told me, it had blown the fuse.
I was actually unfazed about it, I try to minimize my bow thruster use in any case, just for reasons like this, and though the wind was now pushing me closer and closer to the bridge, it was still a boat length away.
Backing and filling like I have practiced many times, the Kadey Krogen with its large rudder swung her stern around quite smartly and we were parallel to the dock 30 seconds later.
Ivan on his last full day on Dauntless got us tied up and I thank the lucky stars for another good end to a stressful day with 25 to 38 knot winds, a narrow dock space and having to wait two hours for two bridges in winds in strong, gusty winds.
Now as for the 300 amp slow blow fuse, this had happened once before a few months after we got Dauntless. Then I did not have a spare fuse and since it powered the Inverter also, I had to resort to extreme measures. Don’t do this at home.
This time I had a spare, so I promptly found it and replaced the blown fuse. I simply assumed it had blown because I had used the bow thruster for too long or continuously.
I had also changed the engine oil while in Kröslin. With Ivan’s help it went easily, too easily.
Ivan left on the train early Saturday morning, it was sad to see him go. A great kid, and a real big help.
Eve and Nigel were there to replace him and I looked forward to leaving Germany on Sunday and entering Poland for the first time in my life and Dauntless’ too for that matter!
With a bit of a hangover from the night’s before bbq. A comment about German bbq’s. They are just that, meat on the grill. By speaking to the cook in German, I even got extra meat. Maybe too much meat. Since there was virtually no salad or other fillers, I ate a lot of meat and washed it down with a lot of white wine.
Meat, wine and great company, one cannot ask for a better life.
So, the next morning Sunday, a bit hungover, but all seemed right with the world.
The fuse was replaced, the oil had been changed, and D was really for new places. But one nagging problem. Leaving Kröslin, having to stay in a number of narrow channels for hours on end, the ComNav autopilot did not seem up to its usual precision. It was over correcting too much and also more noise than usual, usually an indication of air in the hydraulic lines.
So, we had a late morning departure planned for Ueckermünde and the two power boats would bring up the rear of our little gaggle of sail boats and the two ugly ducklings following behind.
The plan was to travel at about 5 knots which was the fastest speed for the slowest sailboat.
I knew it was going to be a slow day, very slow, in any case. While Dauntless is not fast, nor even quick, she does like to travel around 6 to 7 knots. Any slower and she starts to get ornery, below 5 knots, she gets downright rambunctious.
So I figured once I started the engine, I would be in no hurry to leave and would check the hydraulic fluid of the wheel and autopilot. So we did, but discovered no great amount of air in the steering system, in fact virtually none. That made me worry, if there was not air in the system, then why was the AP acting strangely. The day before, even though I had it set on the highest sensitivity to keep us in the very narrow channel, it was not responding fully like normal. As the heading drifted off, it was not correcting quickly. On numerous occasions we had to quickly shut it off and hand steer to get back into the 5 mile long, straight as an arrow channel. But then we would try it again and it would sort of work. And then do the same thing.
So when we get underway from Ueckermünde, while I hoped I had fixed it, I also knew I had not done anything significant and this was more like a wish and a prayer.
Well we catch up to the fleet and now, the one power boat, Tudora, a beautiful maintained older cabin cruiser, came by to tell me I had a line in the water.
Now, I had remembered that a day earlier I had seen the small, thin line that is connected to the anchor buoy had fallen in the water. I had forgotten to get it out and now, I was a bit embarrassed that another boat had to remind me.
As I pulled on the line, it was stuck; on what I didn’t know, but clearly it would not come up.
I pulled harder. No change and it did not budge an inch.
I had a brainstorm. I fastened the anchor buoy to it and let it go. I figured if it was stuck on the prop, it would trail behind the boat. Now, I was sure I had purposely not had enough line for it to reach the prop, but then …
After a few seconds the buoy bobbed the surface; at amidships.
In a flash, it all came together.
The line had been in the water when I made my U turn. I had used the bow thruster for a longer period of time, maybe 20 seconds versus just a few seconds normally.
The line had been sucked into the bow thruster, wrapped itself around the shaft, stopping the shaft from rotating and lo and behold, the fuse blew.
Sure enough, as I pulled on the line, it was clear it was emanating from the front of the boat.
Knowing that, I was not overly concerned, I don’t use it very often and now, my practice backing and filling would reward me, so in spite of my fellow travelers concerns, we’d be fine without it, until haul out at least.
What had made the day so difficult was that the autopilot was acting like never before. In the past I had had problems, significant ones at that, with the compass connected to the autopilot.
I knew how to deal with that. This wasn’t that. That was the problem.
The last few hours, the autopilot went from bad to worse. It was not even following its own commands. This to me was a more serious problem. The end result was that Eve and Nigel had had to hand steer virtually all day. The times we did try to AP, it would work for a bit, but then as the compass heading changed, first a few degrees, then 10, then 20°, nothing would happen. I would lunge for it and turn it off so we could get the boat back on track and in the channel and the gaggle we were supposed to be following.
Pulling into the dock at Swinoujscie, it was good to be tied up, but it had been a long day that ended with two major problems, the worst being an autopilot that all of a sudden wasn’t.
I went to bed that night with two issues, not the best ingredients for a good night’s sleep.