More T-3 Pictures

Update Sep 2020

Thanks to Bill Grothe, who sent me a number of pictures, which I have uploaded to my smugmug account.

T3 photos

They are all downloadable. Enjoy.

Thanks to you all who have written.

Richard

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

 

Ice, Ice and More Ice: My Days on Ice Island T3

Our Camp on T-3
Our Camp on T-3

Update Sep 2020

Thanks to Bill Grothe, who sent me a number of pictures, which I have uploaded to my smugmug account.

T3 photos

They are all downloadable.

Enjoy.

+++++++

Looking at today’s North Atlantic Ice situation in preparation for our journey across the Atlantic, it seems there is too much ice to take the great circle route to northern Europe.  For Dauntless, the only real danger is sinking and the only real way to sink it to hit or get hit by something, be it another boat, a whale or an iceberg.  We can’t make a passage through iceberg-strewn waters.  Other ships we can avoid, while praying to the Poseidon  that we don’t come upon a sleeping whale.

Besides my 10 years in Alaska, I also spent 6 months living and working on an iceberg: a giant, tabular block of ice, roughly 3 miles wide, 4 miles long and 80 feet thick, called Fletcher’s Ice Island T-3.  I was 22 and it was my first work experience after college, unpaid except for room and board.  Looking back, I think that iceberg is part of the reason I’m willing to cross the Atlantic on a 42-foot boat, and even see it as a comfortable experience.  I was attracted to Alaska and the Arctic because it was a place of mystery. No cell phone in those days, and so little communication.  Later, even living in Alaska 20 years later, in the 90’s meant no communication for 300 miles between Fairbanks and Anchorage.  In high school, when I read Jack London’s “To Build a Fire,” I was struck by the consequences of simple mistakes.  But the Arctic is full of people who survived on wits, knowing what mistakes could cost them.

I arrived on T-3 only three years after running out of gas in eastern Washington (see last blog posting).  Little did I dream on that day that I would be sitting on the top of the world, literally.  Well, almost the top. At the time, T-3 was about 400 miles from the North Pole.  Our camp was situated on the edge of the iceberg.  We were there to collect zooplankton from the ocean and make sonar maps of the bottom of the Arctic Ocean.

People wise, there were eight of us:  4 of us from the University of Washington (UW), a researcher from Lamont Geophysical Laboratory, Arnie Hansen from the Naval Arctic Research Laboratory (NARL), and the camp manager, Bill Hallett, and his Eskimo assistant,  both also from NARL.  The assistant was a master at driving our CAT and our Grader, which were the main vehicles of the camp and used to move virtually everything, including our trailers, which had to be moved twice during the summer to avoid the fate of being left on an ice pillar (see picture below).  Bill himself was a remarkably resourceful man I’ll talk about later.

We UW folks split up and pretty much worked in pairs. My partner Chris and I collected zooplankton from various depths of the Arctic Ocean while the other two analyzed water chemistry.  In fact, we ended up collecting the largest number of zooplankton samples the UW had ever collected.

I also, took one weather observation a day, which although it sounds meager, really helped me during the rest of my forecasting career and even today, 40 years later!!!

Our camp on T-3 consisted of about a dozen ATCO trailers, roughly the size of a 40 foot truck trailer. There used to be hundreds of these stacked up along route 509 as it crossed the Duwamish in Seattle, but looking now at Google Satellite (do they have their own actual satellite yet?), sadly they are gone.  Though from above, you can still see the impressions they left on the ground after sitting for probably 30 years.  They were probably last used in building the Alaska Pipeline.  I’ve driven countless friends past these trailers to show them how I used to live.

So, back to T-3.  I had just graduated from the UW, but had to miss my graduation to make the flight from Barrow to Resolute, NWT, Canada.  From there, we flew on a Twin Otter to Eureka, where we refueled and waited to make sure the plane could receive the radio beacon that T-3 transmitted.

The UW had allowed women one year and it didn’t turn out well.  Think Many Men behaving Badly Over a Couple of Women.  The only women within thousands of miles. It was the winter, when the camp expanded to about 40 people: 40 men, 2 women, and did I mention guns and alcohol.

The UW in their mode of “let’s not kill people to make a point,” (remember this was back in the early 70’s before we let Political Correctness trump Common Sense) decided after that, no more women. Since I was arriving in the summer there were many less people, as the camp had to be supplied by air drops by airplane.

U.S. Air Force Alaskan Command C-130’s would fly from their home base at Elmendorf (near Anchorage), fly to NARL  at Point Barrow, pick up our supplies, that had been put onto pallets and then left in the 24/7 summer sun for a day or two,  and then fly 2000 miles, drop our stuff on pallets tied to big parachutes, do a wing wave and fly off to Thule, Greenland, about 1000 miles to our south southeast.

A few asides:

By the way, I stopped drinking milk for these six months.  While other’s drank it sour or not.  Interesting.  Moving to Italy three years later, totally ended my milk drinking.  Italians don’t drink milk, only babies and they don’t get it from a carton.

Another interesting tidbit that you will wonder how you could have lived so long without knowing, in Korean, the translation for breast is milk tank and fish is water meat. Sometimes literal is best.

Back to the T-3.  These airdrops were scheduled for every three weeks starting in July until we got the hell out of there, when it was cold enough to build an ice runway and the C-130’s could land.  We would be getting low on food at the end of three weeks, so we did not like any delays, at all.  Winds too high?  Drop anyway.  The Air Force guys also didn’t want to have to come back, so pretty much we almost always got a drop close to schedule.  Obviously, they needed to be able to see our camp and the one time they did drop with 40 knot winds, we did lose a pallet that took off across the ice never to be seen again (well, Artie, the intrepid NARL guy I mentioned, who is featured in some of the polar crossing books of the 1960’s, did retrieve our mail).

So we got deliveries and mail, but could send nothing out until the ice runway could be built.  Think of a situation in which you can get a letter every 3 weeks, but there is no way to send anything out—unimaginable today.  It was four months before we could get our mail out.  How was anyone to know they were still loved? How mankind survived 500,000 years without cell phones if not unimaginable, is certainly cruel and unusual punishment.

So no cell phones, no fax, no games, no TV, no nothing.  We did have a building, the old observatory, which was filled maybe a thousand paperbacks.  That was the entertainment.

Daylight was constant by the time we got there, having flown for two days all over northern Canada (NARL didn’t trust our 30-year old DC-3 plane to fly over the ocean).  The sun was up all the time.  The sun was actually hot and sometimes we would be out in T-shirts, even though the air temperature on the hottest days never goes above freezing!  Most days, temps were in the teens or low 20’s F.

We occasionally walked on the sea ice. Our work hut was on sea ice, because the sea ice was only 8 feet thick and we had a little derrick set up with a winch to haul nets and Nansen bottles in and out of the ocean.  During the height of the summer, there were melt ponds all over, like little, or sometimes big, lakes.  The blue ones were just on top of ice, but the black holes looked just like they sound, black, and I was terrified to go near them.  They were black because the ice had melted all the way through to the ocean, so one was looking at the arctic ocean.  Seals would occasionally pop their heads out. Falling in would have been a matter of life and death.  Sea ice grows from below and melts from above. So by August we needed to keep a heat lamp on in our hole for our net, otherwise it would freeze over within hours.

The camp did have one rifle, which we took with us whenever on the sea ice in case we encountered a polar bear.  Never did, much to my disappointment, but I stopped taking the rifle, because I thought I was going to shoot any bear anyway. Same reason I won’t have a weapon on the boat.  I never saw a polar bear, but I did see a few seals.

As the summer wound down, much of August was cloudy, very little snow though.  The arctic region is pretty much a dessert.  Just windy and cold.

The first sunset was September 7th; the last sunrise was September 14th. So within a week, we went from total day to total night. Temperatures in September were often below 0°F, -17°C.

The next two months were colder still,  minus 20 to 30°F with winds almost always.

We built an ice runway under those conditions that ended up having a large lake in the middle, which we found with the CAT one night. Took us 24 hours to get the CAT out.

My adventures on T-3 ended when a  Markair C-130 came to pick us up in the middle of November.  I arrived in Fairbanks after a direct flight form T-3 to Fairbanks International,  with two dollars in my pocket.  (Mark Air did not have the same fears of NARL about flying their planes directly over the top of the world, they were in a hurry, this wasn’t a government flight after all!)

What influenced me the most on this experience?  Our camp manager, Bill Hallett. He was the epitome of what Alaskans were in those days. He saved the camp twice, once when a fire broke out near the generator hut and the second time, in late October, when we had all expected to have been gone a month earlier and our generator gave out. He literally rebuilt the thing within a day, as we stood by and helped as best we could, as the camp got colder and colder. With no electricity to run the heaters, they would still burn, but could not distribute the heat, thus the few feet around the heater in each trailer would be roasting, while each were below freezing and getting colder, with the outside temperature of -35°F.  All we had was a single HF radio, Single Side Band, but we would go days without being able to raise anyone.

Bill understood the consequences of not being resourceful and knew there was nobody to help. No calling home when we got hungry, no helicopter taking us off the mountain, no reality-show bs with a producer holding a safety net off camera.

We had to solve our problems with what we had.  That’s what Bill did, and what I aspire to do.  It was as simple as that. Maybe that’s why I’m willing to cross the Atlantic in a boat that is probably similar in size to Columbus’s Nina and Pinta.

I think I’ll add some books to my Kindle.

 

T3 Pedestal Building
Our Grader
T-3 picture ice_islandT3
T-3’s drift over the Arctic Ocean from early 1950’2 to 1975 When I was there in 1973, it was just near the top of Greenland
T-3kf3aa_p1
A close up of our ATCO trailers
C-47 on Pillar April 1962 T-3
Air Transport Command crew Departure on May 16, 1944, C-47-A 43-15665. U.S.Army Air Force * Picture taken by Arnie Hansen 1962 * Correct aircraft ID thanks to Raymond Frankwick

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sad End Notes:

Bill Hallett died in Fairbanks a few years later.

T-3 made another circuit of the arctic and then got caught in the current east of Greenland and moved south into the North Atlantic, where US Navy Ice Patrol planes watched it melt.  I know this because  11 years later, in 1984, I had the small world luck that the same navy crew spent a week at Eielson AFB at my weather station.  So over many beers, we toasted T-3 and all that made her special.