Hindsight is Not Always 20-20

Despite my accomplishments this past year, another 2500 miles behind me, the Golden Gate in front of me, the Baja bash, Panama Canal, the Atlantic Ocean, behind me, I wonder if I did not make some big mistake.

Anchored in Finland.

For not the first time, I wondered about my sudden decision to flee northern Europe two years ago. I loved northern Europe. I loved Ireland. I loved the peoples and the cultures.

I lived for 4 years in Germany and still visit relatively often. The Germans certainly have some interesting attributes. Some of which I even like a lot.

In 2015, I was reminded just like 30 years ago, the different personalities the Germans are along the north coast. These are the people who have known “Auslander”, (from an outside land), for thousands of years. They are not the Germans of the much more insular interior, one meets south of Hamburg down to the Alps.

I dwell on this because stupid Google, out of the blue the other day, sends me my pictures of years ago and says, “don’t you want to post these?”

It reminded me yet again of how great the cruising was along the north coast of Europe, Scandinavia, the Baltic and North Seas. The cruising is the best I’ve yet encountered, with thousands of miles of protected skärgärd cruising. With the wind blowing 20+ knots, 100 meters away, you are cruising or anchored with nary a ripple of waves.

Cuxhaven, Germany

All the peoples who inhabit the environs along the coast are sea faring folk. Much like the Celtic culture along the west coast of Europe, from Galicia in NW Spain to Scotland, The North Sea and particularly the Baltic had the Hanseatic League. From Hamburg to Tallinn, they controlled trade and influenced culture from Germany to Russia.

This seafaring culture manifests itself in boat friendly, stranger friendly ways. No matter how small the port, or how many boats are already there, they will find room for you. In the more formal marinas, like Tallinn and Cuxhaven, the American flag was being put up on the yardarm of the marina even as I checked-in. And even check-in itself was a 5-minute process, with reasonable rates, about $0.25 per foot in Holland to $1.00 per foot in Helsinki. Overall average for marina overnights ended up being less than $0.50 a foot for my 4 months in the Baltic and North Seas.

Haapsalu, Estonia
Tallinn, Estonia
Robbengat Sluis
Holland
Waterford, Ireland

All these experiences were exactly the opposite in southern Europe, by the way. 30-minute check-ins, filing out endless forms, each time, $1.00 per foot was best price and it went up to $2.00.

I was also reminded with much regret that the $1,000 ten-day stay I had at Cabo San Lucas was the same cost of one year! in Waterford, Ireland. Sure,  Waterford could not boast like Cabo of having only 7 days a year with rain, but I am sure they can boast that they have at least 7 days a year with sun.

So, all these fond memories really made me question my decision of leaving Europe in 2016. Stupid Google also reminded me of my great trip to Galicia to scope out a winter home for Dauntless the following year. Food, people and marina in A Coruna were fantastic. I could stay there for $500 per month year around.  Had I stayed another year as planned, I would still have some options. I could return to the Baltic the following summer or just stay in Northern Spain and Western France. I would have also saved so much money.

Oh Regrets. What would life be without them?

Probably a hell of a lot better!

I acknowledge that 2016 was a traumatic year for me. I  often wonder if unexpected life changes led me to make some hasty, irrevocable decisions? It certainly seems so to me when I think and think and think about it.

It would have been just as easy to fly between Ireland or Spain and Vietnam. I picture myself escaping the heat a humidity of Vietnam for the damp coolness of Atlantic Europe.

One key factor drove my decision to leave for the Pacific, the availability of crew. My Hawaiian nephew wanted to take a year off from school before he went to law school. He thought exploring Europe, North Africa and the Caribbean via Dauntless would be ideal. He spent almost a year with Dauntless and I.

He was indispensable. Not only as a great, hardworking, vigilant crew mate, but also as a smart, interesting companion for the boring passage between Europe and the Panama Canal. I couldn’t have come that distance without him.

Dauntless is in Vallejo, California now. I’ll return to her next week for a month of getting her in ship shape. Next spring, I’ll return and weather permitting get her up to the Pacific Northwest by June, then British Columbia and Southeast Alaska for the summer.

Ending up in one of the wonderful, little towns of Southeast Alaska. Which one, will depend on several factors, Dauntless taking second stage for now.

By next year at this time, my life will take another turn, as I gain both a First and Second Mate on Dauntless. We’ll end up staying in Southeast Alaska only a little longer than originally planned. Visa requirements for my wife-to-be and her son require us to live in the United States, so SE AK is the perfect place to settle down for a while and catch a few fish and enjoy the fantastic scenery and wildlife.

What would have happened had Dauntless still been in Europe now? I would truly have a mess on my hands. Instead of struggling with a 2500 trip, I would be looking at 10,000+ miles. Eek!!

Everything happens for a reason. Two years ago, I had no idea I’d fall in love with the love of my life, yet again (ok, I’ve had a lot of lives). Or that she would be in Vietnam or that I’d spend all my free time with her in Vietnam.  Or that SE Alaska, then so far away, now so close, would be the perfect place for a variety or reasons.

Trinh and I in SaiGon, Vietnam

Sometimes even a blind squirrel finds an acorn.

 

 

What I’m Really Afraid Of?

Just when I thought I had the Plan, I read a story about drug driven crime spreading to the west coast of Mexico. Manzanillo, one of my planed stops, was prominently mentioned.

20180126 Win
dyty Depiction of Surface Winds

Where does that leave me? Besides the obvious, afraid!

Last summer I had a detailed plan to cruise up the coast of Mexico, stopping every night, hitting all the nice spots, with only a couple overnight passages. Let’s call that plan, the Coastal Cruise Plan. This is essentially what we had done 3 years ago in the Baltic.  I had even spent the last month alone, cruising from Stockholm all the way back to Ireland.

Last year, I had my nephew, Micah, with me from Ireland to Costa Rica.  It’s no coincidence that when he left Dauntless in March to go to law school, I lost a lot of my ambition to continue north alone. Cruising alone for me is not fun. It’s what I do when I need to get from A to B or as I did from Stockholm to Waterford.

20180126 NWS P_e_sfc_color

I am hoping that this coming summer, my girlfriend Trinh and her son, Thien, will have visas for Mexico. This is something that I must initiate this April when I return to Huatulco. If that is possible, they, with other friends who have expressed interest in joining Dauntless this summer, would make the Coastal Plan at least feasible. We would enjoy the numerous stops and towns along the coast, plus many eyes make for less stressful cruising.

A visa for the U.S. is another story and it takes forever. I’m hoping for 2019.

The Pacific coast of Mexico is not the Baltic and North Sea. The weather is not necessarily worse, but the predominant winds are from the northwest, the direction Dauntless must go. Adding to that problem, there are numerous fishing boats and nets and other boat traffic near the coast, whereas in the Baltic, there was none of that.

Lastly, safe harbors (protected from weather) on the Pacific coast of Mexico are few and far apart. North from Huatulco to Manzanillo, a distance of almost 600 miles, there are only two safe harbors. In a normal (for me) coastal cruise of 40 to 60 miles per day (6 to 9 hours), that’s 8 out of 10 nights anchored or in some port, at the mercy of the weather.

That’s a no-go.

For those of you who have read my precious comments about weather forecasts, you will know that even in the best circumstances, I don’t trust weather forecasts past three days and even at that I assume they are 50% off. That means, if the forecast is for winds from 270° at 12 knots, I plan for winds 240° to 300° at 8 to 16 knots (50% and 150% of forecast).

Therefore, to cruise an unprotected coast in any but the mildest of conditions is perilous.

I needed a plan B.  The Near Coastal Plan.

In this plan, we will take what the weather gives us. If we get four good days (favorable winds and seas) we’ll cruise until the weather becomes unfavorable. This potentially means we would take chunks of distance, 3 days, 24/7 is 450 nm. Making the entire trip into 4 chunks of 500 miles each, would get the job done and reduce time spent too close to the coast.

It would be far less fun however, but probably safer in many ways and less stressful.

Then came plan C, the Ocean Plan.

But first we talk to talk about hurricanes.

Hurricane season runs from June through October, with the highest frequency, mid-July to mid-September.

I can see an advantage in avoiding the high summer.  Looking at the Windyty depiction of the surface winds over the eastern Pacific today, you can see the big ass high pressure system that keeps the easterly trade winds over Hawaii (far left of picture) as well as the northwest winds over the west coast of California and Mexico.  Now, one of the disruptors of these winds are hurricanes.  The circulation pattern around hurricanes is far smaller than this massive high-pressure system, but a Pacific Ocean hurricane a few hundred west of Mexico, would cause southerly winds off the Mexican coast.

If it moved slowly north, maybe I could tag along??

It all depends on the situation and I’d have to figure out my escape routes, but it’s something for me to think about and plan for. It’s also significant that eastern Pacific hurricanes are weaker than Atlantic ones, with wind patterns not much stronger (if at all) than Northern Atlantic low-pressure systems in August and September (and I’ve certainly had my fun with those!).

Then the Ocean Route would entail an end around, running almost west, then curving slowly northwestward and finally northward, ending up east of Ensenada or southern California. With little winds, it would be an easy 10 to 12-day voyage, just like I did alone from the Azores to Ireland.  I’d only do this though if I saw the possibility of an extended time of light winds.

Also, time of year matters in my decision making. In the scenario just mentioned above, In May or June, I’d have plenty of time to wait or make it happen.  I may have different options later in the summer.

In September 2015, while waiting in Norway to cross the North Sea (I anticipated a 72-hour crossing), my weather windows were getting smaller and smaller. September is simply too late to be doing such a trip. But Sweden was so nice!

There had been strong northerly winds 25+ winds and driving rain, for days. I waited and waited. Finally, I saw a high-pressure ridge building into the North Sea from the English Channel, but this ridge of high pressure was also moving eastward.  But it only gave me a two-day window for a three-day trip.

Dauntless Crosses the North Sea 2015

I had to take it. It meant that I left my little port of Egersund, Norway, with 35+ knot winds from the NNW and rain. If you look at my route I took to Fraserburgh Bay, Scotland, those strong winds caused that dip in my route. Even with the paravane stabilizers, it’s just easier on the boat to put the winds and resultant seas on the starboard stern quarter. After 24 hours, as the winds died, I was able to head more westerly and on the third day, to the northwest. But that little longer route also added 12 hours to the trip and the next frontal system was right on, so my last 8 hours were in the weather again.

Would a longer, better weather window has come eventually? Sure. In the winter, under very cold air and high pressure. I couldn’t wait that long.

Dauntless in Ireland, next to a fishing boat with almost the exact same lines. There is a reason she handles the North Atlantic like she was born there.

When we decided to cruise the world or at least get away from the coast, we knew we wanted, needed a boat that that could all that and more. All the readings I did about boats and people cruising in boats all over the world, led me to Kadey Krogen.

Our little 42-foot boat was well built, extremely well designed for the worst of the worst and affordable.

Having Dauntless under my feet gives me confidence that she can handle any stupid situation I put her in.

Now, people are another matter.

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Keys:

 

I Fixed My Watch

I’ve dropped my watch a number of times on my tile floor.  A couple of times, the crystal has popped off.  Just

My Skagen

pressuring it back on was simple.

Then, once the face also came off, as well as the minute hand.  That took a bit more effort and thought to put straight.

Two weeks ago, I dropped it yet again, while thinking that I better not drop it, and this time the damage was extensive, it that all the pieces came apart.

This was not a simple fix.  I tried; for days.  Two of the pins were obvious.  But there was smaller brass peace only a 6 mm in diameter that for the life of me, I could not get to fit.  Worse, I was not even sure how it fit.

I took pictures, I enlarged those pictures.  I tried to align the pieces as best I could be hoping for a miracle, that all four pins would just fall into place.

It didn’t happen.

I prayed. I begged. No joy.

I knew I could send it in for repair, but one thing crossing the Atlantic has done for me is to make me self-reliant.  I don’t need no stink’in warranty center.

This piece goes on top of that piece

It finally occurred to me that I had to go back to basics.  I needed to further take apart some pieces and then piece it back together.

That process still took an hour, but when done, my watch was as good as new.

Crossing oceans takes a well designed and built boat, enough fuel and food and most importantly, the confidence to get it done. Nothing else matters. Not the weather nor the seas nor how tired, bored, cold, hot or scared you feel.

On our first summer on Dauntless, in Down east Maine, after having been ensnared on a lobster pot line for over 8 hours, with help still 8 hours away, my partner turned to me and said, “no one is going to help us, we must do it ourselves”

Less than an hour later, we were free.

And I’ve never looked back.

 

 

Cruising Costs of a 42 foot Kadey Krogen

Having some time on my hands for another couple of weeks, I thought I would share with everyone what the Cruising Costs have been for Dauntless, a 42 foot Kadey Krogen Motor yacht over the last two years.

I’ve broken out the numbers, so for instance, if you only go to a marina 10% of the time, you can adjust the numbers accordingly.

If you have any specific questions, I will be glad to answer them, but please email me vice PM.

May Thru October 2016 My approximate route. Most of the little black dots are stops

The number don’t add up to 100% because there are some personal travel expenses, which I track but are not pertinent to the story.

Also, the significant difference is that in 2016 I was able to buy 900 gallons of fuel in Ireland for very reasonable prices (far less than UK “red” diesel).

In 2015 because Dauntless range under such conditions, I had to refuel with very expensive fuel in Finland, Sweden and Norway, arriving back in Ireland with almost empty tanks.

Marina costs were significantly higher in 2016 because Portugal, southern Spain, Atlantic France are significantly more expensive than many Baltic and North Sea marinas.

 

 

2015 Baltic and North Sea Cruise

Food costs are pretty much for a couple.

In the next weeks, I will update the latter half of 2016, the trip from Rota Spain to Gibraltar, Morocco, the Canaries and Martinique.

2017 update will be from Martinique to Panama Canal, Costa Rica and up to Mexico for the winter.