Crisis in the Mid-Atlantic

Day 14, 22 December 2016, Still 800 miles from our new destination of Martinique.

Dauntless Log for Days 13 & 14. Notice the blank lines in the middle of the right page.

The void in my log for that date, from 12:21 to 20:01 says a lot, because it says nothing.

The fuel crisis was a week behind us.

Though now I was a bit concerned out our oil supply for the engine.  I had changed the oil just before we left the Canaries. That left me with only had 10 liters of oil for the trip.   For coastal cruising this is more than enough, but to cross the Atlantic, to go 2500 miles without the possibility of stopping to get anything, be it food, fuel or oil, was plain stupid.

I’ve gotten in the habit of buying extra. If I need one, I get two, but in the checkout line, I decide to get another one so I end up with three.  This is exactly what I did while at Deevey’s in my last days in Waterford, Ireland.  In this case, I got an extra case, which the owner Mark was great about bringing to the boat. Little did I realize what that extra case of oil would mean 6 months later.

Stupid because the Ford Lehman engine consumes about 1 liter every 50 to 60 hours. I knew our passage was going to be about 500 hours, so I should have at least 10 liters on board, plus at least one oil change of 14 liters, just in case.  For example, if an oil hose fails on the oil cooler, most of the oil will be in the bilge before I can turn off the engine.  Thus, having the full amount of oil for the engine as “spare oil” is a necessity.

So instead of starting with 25 liters on hand, we only had 10.  And now, after 13 days, 312 hours, I had already put 6 liters in the engine, so now, I’m down to only 4 liters.  No problem unless there is a problem.

The day before, day 13 out of the Canaries, we had the continuing drama of the windward paravane pole bouncing vertical. As long as we immediately stopped and let the pole fall back into place no problem.   But it was occurring more often, becoming annoying and running the risk of doing damage to something.

The Maretron data shows what a rolly passage it was.

Finally, at midnight, when it happened again, I got out of bed and Micah and I decided to retrieve put in place one of the preventer sticks I had made for just this purpose two years earlier.

This video shows the stick I was using.

It broke by morning.  We put the second one on, hoping it was just a defect in the wood.  It lasted even less time.  Finally, I got the idea to wedge a fender between the pole and the gunnel. That worked for the next 1,000 miles.  In Martinique, we further refined the system and tested it under rolling seas all the way to the Pananma Canal. Now, it no longer can get out of position.

Hey, it only took 3 years and 15,000 miles. I never said I was a quick Lerner!

 This video shows the conditions on Day 13

Now I have a system that I am quite proud of: It’s very effective, simple, easy to adjust or modify and easy to use even single-handing. It takes only 1 minute to deploy the birds, and I’ve retrieved them alone in less than 3 minutes.

So, as Day 14 dawned, the issues we had had: the 5-day fuel leak, the paravane poles and the broken bird, minimum oil reserves, seemed behind us.  Being on a boat in the middle of the ocean makes you self-reliant like you never thought possible. In the worst moments, I don’t tell anyone. Why? What the point? They will just worry about something they have no control of.

Problems popped up; problems were solved. The only issue was that I would get terrible seasick as soon as the crisis was resolved.

Little did I realize that my biggest test yet was just around the corner.




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