Only an hour and a half after leaving the wonderful little stop of Marina Chahue, Dauntless’ winter home, we were underway once again. I wanted nothing more than an uneventful passage. I was so appreciative of Mark and Brian stepping up and volunteering as crew, so I wanted them to have a good time too with no worries.
Now I realize, that having a “good” time varies greatly from person to person, but in general, being on the open ocean is peaceful. It can be the epitome of serenity itself, unless there are nagging issues.
Dauntless was suffering from abuse. In the pervious two years, I’d ridden her hard and put her way wet. I loved this Kadey Krogen so much because I could do exactly that. The leak in the heat exchanger was the first “must stop the engine” problem I’d had since the middle of the Atlantic! That was more than 5,000 miles and 18 months ago.
This boat was made to take a beating and keep on ticking. But just as rough seas bothered me far more than Dauntless, the little problems on the periphery did the same. They kept me in a state of what’s next?
We spent the next 40 hours going west. I’ll explain why in more detail in the upcoming post, Chasing Weather Forecasts, but for now it suffices to say that I wanted to be 60 miles off the coast.
We were also running a bit harder than usual; the Ford Lehman was purring along at 1800 rpms. Maybe the purr was more of a growl to me, but it was important that we make good time while we had favorable winds, in this case they were WSW at 5 knots and we were making 7 knots.
The primary reason I don’t run at 1800 rpms is the significant decrease in efficiency from 1500 to 1800 rpms. Here are my estimated numbers in a flat sea:
|Kadey Krogen 42-148 w Ford Lehman Sp135 & 4 Blade Prop|
Thus, for a 16% increase in speed from 1500 rpms @ 6.2 kts, we consume 43% more fuel. That’s fuelish.
By early morning on the second day out, we turned northwest, on a heading that would parallel the coast until we could turn further north in a couple more days. Winds were still OK, from the north at 10 knots, thus on our beam, but not strong.
By the end (48 hours underway) of the second day, we had covered 320 nm for an average of 6.7 knots. The pitching and rolling had been minimal, pitch less than 3° up or down and rolling less than 5° in either direction (always greater to lee side).
But then it all started to change. From the beginning there was a smallish weather window, from 2 to 3 days. Now, during our third night, that window was closing. Winds picked up to 320° @ 12 knots, so only 15° off the starboard bow (our course being 304°). Pitching increased to +4 (this is downward as measured by the Maretron Solid State Compass (which the autopilot uses too since it reacts better than the flux gate compass) and a more significant, -12° (bow pitching upward).
This was getting uncomfortable. For my intrepid crew, they took it in stride, far better than I.
Our watches were set so that I would get 6 hours sleep overnight. Brian and Mark covered 21:00 to 04:00 as they saw fit.
Before going to sleep that night, I did discuss with them the issue of weather. Our weather window was not only closing, but the forecast was for increasing winds right on our nose for the foreseeable future. While I was still hoping to get to Cabo direct from here, that was still 3+ days away. 12 knots on the bow is tolerable, 15 is borderline and 18 is a no-go.
They were up for it; as I went to bed that evening, I wasn’t sure I was.
I awoke 3 hours later. The boat was pounding, not constantly, but on every third pitch. Pounding to me is when the boat slams into a wave, like hitting a log. Thump.
I tried to go back to sleep. The master cabin in the Kadey Krogen is forward and the only downside is that this pitching motion is most apparent there. However, it usually doesn’t bother me. My first experience with a corkscrew movement was a few years before Dauntless came into our lives. We were sailing (literally) with my Dutch friends, Jan and Karin, in the Outer Hebrides, west of Scotland. Anchored in a rolly harbor off of St Kilda, that night I felt, dreamt, that I was sleeping on a roller coaster. The rhythmic corkscrew motion I found almost soothing. I slept well.
But this was different. The pounding bothered me. Things break with that sudden, jarring movement (and in fact it was during these days that the pressure switch stopped working on my fresh water pump. I later discovered it only had soldered connection which came apart).
My sleep became very fitful, waking every 10 to 15 minutes, my mid seemingly wanting to figure out what was going on. Finally, I turned on the light and tried to figure out the pattern the boat was in. For 30 minutes I measured the frequency of the pounding. On virtually every third pitch, which were 8 d=seconds apart, the boat would pound hard, every 25 to 28 seconds.
I also knew that which these seas, pitching movement, unlike rolling, takes significant power. In other words, instead of going 7 knots, we were now going 5.5, but using the same fuel as if we were going 7.
At 5.5 knots, it would take 100 hours to get to Cabo, that’s 4+ days of this crap. That was impossible.
I decided to start my watch early, figure out if we could mitigate the ride and if not, determine my options.
First thing I did, after I got the lay of the land, was to reduce rpms to 1650 and change course by 10° to the west. This put the seas on the stbd bow. Weirdly, our speed just slowed a tad to 6.0 from 6.1 (we also have currents off the Mexico coast, which are both tidal and non-tidal).
Significantly our pitch was reduced by almost 50%. I liked that. Even more importantly, the pounding stopped.
I could live with these conditions.
Alas, they were not to stay.
Just before sunrise, around 05:00, the winds increased to 330° @ 12 gusting to 16. This increased the pitch +4 to -8° and the roll +10 to -9°. I further reduced the rpms to 1590. Over the next couple of hours, Mother Nature started to mock me. The winds backed around to 290°, right on our nose again.
At 08:00 the winds were steady at 300°12 to 14 knots. I knew they would only get stronger during the day (the sun heating the air and land do cause the winds after all). This was also in line with the forecast of increasing winds over the next few days.
At 08:45, I informed the crew that we were changing course and would head to Xtapa, a little town with a nice marina just north of Zihuantanejo. This would mean a bit of backtracking. We were already north of Xtapa; however, the other alternative was Manzanillo, which was 113 nm at 330°. With the seas on our bow, increasing winds, it would take us 24 hours to get there. Whereas, Xtapa, at a heading of 065° would put the seas behind us and we should have a quick 12-hour ride. So long, because we were 70 miles offshore.
It ended up taking 14+ hours, but after pounding into the seas for 10 hours, who noticed.
Passing thru the shipping lanes, it was nice to have the Digital Yacht AIS transceiver. It allowed us all to avoid one another.
14 hours later, at 23:00, we entered yet another unknown harbor and docked in the dark, at Marina Xtapa
What else is new.
I did get a good night’s sleep.