A Day in the Life of an Atlantic Crossing

There is much to write about in my latest Atlantic Passage. We had full leaks, big seas, high winds and of course, the ever ubiquitous operator snafus. This post will go through a typical day, then address the issues that sprang up and how we dealt with them, in subsequent posts.

A Typical Day

Sunset over the Atlantic

Sunset over the Atlantic

03:35 hours, my alarm goes off, telling me it’s time to relieve Micah and it’s the start of another day.  I lie in bed a few minutes, feeling the motion of the boat.  What can I discern from that motion? How many times was I almost thrown out of bed last night?  I brush my teeth in my forward head (sink, shower, toilet), using my knees and elbows to brace myself against the constant pitching and rolling.  A dozen times an hour, we get the inevitable larger roll to starboard, as the stern literally falls into the deep trough that forms when the southeast and northwest waves trains meet under Dauntless.  This also causes a large pitch up.  As I put on a new tee shirt and my boat pants, either warm up pants or shorts, depending on the temperature, I slather my forearms and elbows with Neosporin.  They take a beating every day with these conditions. The decks that I have traversed a thousand times are suddenly more narrow.

The Logbook showing Days 2 & 3

The Logbook showing Days 2 & 3

Lastly, before leaving my cabin, I make guess as to the conditions: wind, weather, seas.  If it’s important enough to know, it’s important enough to think about it. It’s why the Socratic method of teaching works. In the darkness of the forward cabin, too many times I have convinced myself the boat is clearly spinning around like a top, or while anchored, or even docked, that the boat is moving forward at some incredible speed.

My making myself consciously think about the conditions outside while in a dark, closed cabin, the next time I have such thoughts, I will have better understanding that it’s not the boat, it’s my brain, and go back to sleep.

Looking East, Just Before Sunrise

Looking East, Just Before Sunrise

03:45 hours, I leave my cabin, walking around the salon and galley, I’m also doing a sniff test, checking for unusual smells, our sense of smell being keener than sight or sound. Then open the hatch, down into the engine room: still sniffing, listening and looking.  I check the usual suspects, the Racor filter and its vacuum (which is an indication of how clean or dirty the filter has become), then eyeball, maybe even feel the bottom of the engine mounted fuel filters to make sure of no leaks.  Look at the injector pump and just around the engine for anything out of the ordinary.  Even check that the amount of fan belt dust has not changed.

Sunset

Sunset from the Krogen Pilot House

I put my hand on the coolant tank of the Ford Lehman diesel.  It’s usually about 164°F and I can hold my hand on it about 1 second, longer means the temperature is lower, maybe 155.  Shorter, and there is a problem, and I need to investigate further.  I check the water maker valve settings.  Making sure it is initially going to “test”.

Every other day, I would add about a liter of oil to the running engine. She consumes about 1 liter every 50 to 60 hours. So, I’d need to replace that. Then, with a last look around, I ascend into the salon and head to the pilot house to relieve Micah.

Dusk

Dusk on the Coastal Explorer Navigation Program

The Moon watches over us

The Moon watches over us

03:55. As I enter the darkened pilot house, I go to the log book to start the 04:00 entry, asking Micah what I need to know.  On this passage, that’s usually nothing, No ships, no boats, no nothing.  He goes off to a well-deserved sleep and I remind him to sleep as long as he wants, and that’s usually until late morning or noon.

04:00 log entry consists:

  1. engine rpms (usually 1500 rpms),
  2. speed (usually 5.9 knots this trip),
  3. course (245°),
  4. engine coolant temp (178°). (*These three instruments in the pilot house vary somewhat based on electrical issues, but it’s still important to monitor on a relative basis).
  5. Oil pressure (*30psi, it’s actually 50 psi since I also have a mechanical gauge on the engine),
  6. voltage (11.5 to 12.2v*). Any significant change to these three numbers does indicate a problem, since they almost never vary.
  7. Every few hours, days, weeks, I use my Infrared temp gun to measure temperatures at the: engine coolant tank, 164°, oil filter, 156°, transmission 127° and stuffing box, 88°, for this trip. Other than the stuffing box, these numbers never vary.  The stuffing box should be less than 20° warmer than the sea temperature, in this case, sea temp started at 76° and ended up at 83 in the Caribbean.

    Storms to the East and South

    Storms to the East and South

Before getting settled in on the pilot house bench, I will usually go outside.  Depending on how rough it is, I may just go to the stern deck.  During this trip, the stern deck was awash constantly with water coming in and leaving by the scuppers.  So I would stand on lower stair toward the bow.

Why go outside?  Why go when Micah is already in the cabin, knowing to fall in the water is fatal?  Because I like a few minutes of solitude, just me and Mother Nature.  I like feeling the wind in my face.  How is the boat really handling the seas.  She talks to me, Everything is OK, just go back in the pilot house and let me handle this. Reassured, I do just that.

For the next few hours, I will read, or more usually play Bridge on the computer.  Sometimes I watch Korean Dramas.

Some nights were quite dark, no moon or cloud covered.  On those nights, one sees nothing.  The first hint that a wave is there is the boat heeling.  On full moon nights, visibility is probably greater than a quarter mile.  But it’s still not good enough to see the proverbial shipping container, so I don’t bother looking.

In actuality, on the high seas, I think the greatest hazard may be sleeping whales, but since one hardly sees ones that are awake… (update – there is a 40-ft. sailboat docked opposite us, it encounters a whale, that ended up tearing the starboard rudder off. The hole was big enough that without the ability to heel the boat to port, they may have lost the boat.)

07:00 time for coffee and whatever frozen pastry I managed to save.  Usually, I put the pastry in the engine room when I got up and did my engine room sniff test. The sun is coming up, giving me a look of the clouds and skies for the first time.  I’ll look at what “stars” are still out.  Estimate wave height and direction.

I have spoken to about a half dozen boats that crossed about the same time frame.  We all noted that there were three distinct wave sets or swells.  In the first week, there was a westerly swell of 10 feet, with wind driven waves from the east and southeast.  After the first week, the pattern became all easterly, in that there were three wave sets, one from the NE, one E and one SE.  Even my favorite weather app, Windty, at most mentions only the swell and one set of wind waves.

One of the sailors I ran into in Martinique, called these confused seas, “the bathtub”.  The bathtub made for a long 21 days.

Now this wave pattern had a very interesting effect.  About every 6 to 10 minutes, the SE and NE waves would meet under the stern of Dauntless, causing a very big corkscrew roll as the stern fell into the deep trough and rolled to starboard, as the bow pitched up and turned to port.

The Maretron data should these extra big rolls were about 20° to 25° to starboard, 10° to port, with a pitch up of 1.2°, followed by down pitch of 2°.

As I said, being alone, watching the sun rise, is very spiritual. One of those instances that I actually prefer to be alone.

For the rest of the day, log entries were made whenever we had a change to course or anything else.

10:00 to 18:00

More of the same.  Micah would get up by late morning.  We would decide what to eat at our main meal in mid-afternoon.  For the most part we ate normally, which is to say, the freezer is stocked with various meats, pork predominantly, though we had two enormous rib eye steaks that we had found irresistible while in the Las Palmas market. I made the first one (enough for about 4 people) the first week out, but saved the second for Christmas.

The boat motions coupled with a very wet stern deck made for interesting grilling on the Weber Q280, but certainly still better than grilling in minus 20°F or at 40° in a 30-mph wind on our rooftop in the Upper Eastside of New York.

We would also use this time to watch some Korean Drama.  K-Dramas are the perfect way to pass a few hours each day.  Too tired to do something creative like write; sometimes too mentally tried to even read, so K-Dramas came to the rescue.  Captivating enough to keep one occupied during the most monotonous rolling conditions.  Thank God for Korean Dramas.

When the rolling was not so bad, we used that opportunity to play a board game. I made little non-slip pads for the pieces, but even with that, conditions only allowed our games on about a third of the days.

Much of the rest of our daylight hours was spent just checking things that were easy to check during the day.  Walking around the boat, feeling the tension of the stays and lines for the paravanes, as they were under the most strain.

By the way, having waited four extra days for the winds to be favorable when we left the Canaries, as we pulled out of the harbor with 12 knot winds and seas 2-3 feet, I said to Micah, maybe we won’t need the paravane stabilizers the entire trip.  An hour later, I put out the windward {port) bird. A few hours later, both birds were deployed and were needed for the next 20 days until we pulled into the harbor of Martinique.

Bob Dylan was right, never trust the weatherman.

We left the Canaries with full fuel tanks, but only one water tank (150 gallons, 600 liters) full.  This was purposeful, as I wanted to use the water maker to fill the empty water tank.  Our Katadyn 160 water maker makes 8 to 9 gallons of water an hour, so it takes about 19 hours to fill one tank.

Micah and I use about 40 gallons per day. The Katadyn 160 is rated to make 160 gallons per day or 6.67 gallons per hour, but I have axillary water pump, pumping water through two sediment filters, before it gets to the water maker.  Therefore, I have found that on this trip, it produced between 9 and 10 gallons per hour, so we ended up running it about 50% of the time.  Thus, it was convenient to turn it on when I did my engine room survey at 04:00, then turn it off in the early evening. I had pickled (put a preservative in it) in June 2015, 18 months earlier.  This was necessitated by the amount of organic material in the rivers and estuaries o the North Sea and Baltic, made water making difficult, if not impossible.  Thus, it was with some relief upon leaving Gibraltar that once I got it running again, it ran for the next month with nary a hiccup.

14:00 Local Canaries Time, which just happens to be UTC (Universal Coordinated Time, the time of solar noon at 0° Longitude)

14:00 was the time we left the Canaries, so I used it as our “official” 24-hour point.  At 14:00 each day, in addition to the above log entries, I’d note:

  1. quantity of water,
  2. Quantity of fuel,
  3. Fuel feeding from and returning to which fuel tank,
  4. fuel filters in use,
  5. distance travelled in the last 24 hours,
  6. 24-hour average speed,
  7. current position,
  8. current weather, sea state,
  9. average pitch and roll for the period
  10. the new heading and distance to destination.

 

18:00 to 21:00

Evening would have Micah taking a nap below.  I usually took a little nap in the pilot house in the early afternoon after Micah was up and running.  So, I would use this time to walk around again before it got really dark. Feel the lines, sniff the engine room and just get ready, mentally and physically for the overnight.

While his watch started at 22:00, he would usually come up the pilot house between 20:00 and 21:00. If early enough and I was not too tired, we would watch an hour K-drama.  I developed the watch schedule because Micah was flexible with his sleeping, though he did sleep a lot.  I slept less, but I knew I need 6 hours of good sleep.  That ended being more like 5 hours, but it worked.  Though I did find myself dozing off a few times after the sun rose.

 

More to come: The Good, the Bad & of course, the Ugly

We do a little 400 mile trip today to Bonaire, as we say goodbye to the Grenadines and head west.

See you in three days. You can follow at: Share.Delorme.com/Dauntless

 

4 thoughts on “A Day in the Life of an Atlantic Crossing

  1. Interesting reading. It’s a totally different lifestyle now. When are you planning to get to Bonaire and where will you Dock? I’ll tell my friend Amanda to come and see you!

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