Crisis in the Mid-Atlantic – How Can So Few Chickens Make So Much Noise

A long day is ending, but crossing an ocean, there is no rest for the weary. This video shows the view from the fly bridge looking aft as we were topping up the hydraulic fluid after my first temporary repair.

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Of course, I had been looking at the manual for the helm and Auto-Pilot.  They being connected, the Auto-Pilot has an Octopus pump which takes its direction from the ComNav AP computer. This pump then controls the rudder piston. Now that the broken hose was replaced, we had too much air in the system.

And believe it or not, the manual for the system says to just keep topping up the fluid at the upper helm station and in a few weeks, all the air would be worked out of the system.

Maybe a few weeks if we were on Jupiter, but in a few weeks of Earth time.

A Beautiful Sunset

So, two hours after getting the big repair done and getting underway again. I had cleaned up, showered and even took a nap because I was hit by a bad bout of seasickness or what until this time I had attributed to be seasick.

But now, we found the Auto-Pilot was hardly working.  It would hold a heading for a few minutes, but at a certain rudder angle, it would try to move the rudder, the air in the system was not allowing it to work properly.  At which point, it would decide to do a Walk-About.

Yes, I can speak Australian.  I saw Crocodile Dundee.

The problem with a Walk-About in 10 to 20 foot seas is the KK designed to go with the seas. So, lying dead in the water, we bob like a cork.  But underway, we do not fight the waves we go with them and underway, while turning beam to the seas, the first few rolls will be dillies, until the paravanes are totally effective again.

So, every few minutes, our heading would drift off and before you can say, here we go again, we would have a 20-degree roll. And the subsequent roll would almost always be greater unless immediate action is taken.

This at 20:00 the prospect of having to hand steer was a nonstarter, therefore, drastic action was needed.

So, I found myself once again in the hot, 100-degree engine room, on my belly, with feet dangling over the shaft that is still spinning since the boat is being pushed along my wind and current.  I had decided to “bleed” the system. The Octopus pump does have three valves for each line (port, starboard and return) that can be closed to stop fluid draining from the system if need be. In this case, I opened each one in turn until it literally comes out, and I let ATF run out until I saw no more air, while Micha turned the wheel in the specified direction.

15 minutes later we were back underway. The Auto-Pilot was much more responsive, but still only at 50%.  Worse, there was enough air in the copper lines, that they resonated like somebody playing the cymbals 6 inches from my head.

We decided to keep track of the number of walk-abouts. From 22:00 that night, it occurred 7 times an hour.  By 02:00 it was down to 3 times and only once at 03:00.

Though when I came on at 04:00, it was still not working as well as I’d like. This ComNav does really well in bad seas.  But now, with its impaired performance, we were getting into some large pendulum rolling motions. Motions that when working correctly, it has no problem stopping.

Micah was already in bed, it was dark out, but it drives me crazy when something is not working as it should (under the conditions).  I decided it needed burping.  So, I went to the fly bridge and totally took out the fill plug, thinking it needed more venting.

It didn’t hurt and I didn’t fall overboard.

For the next 6 days, we periodically worked the helm steering, trying to get air out of the system. Slowly, but surely, air came out and we would top up the system.

The bigger issue for me in particular was that the racket the air in the pipes would produce every few seconds.  It really hindered my sleep and made out last 6 days really hard.  Especially considering there were really no other issues until the last day and night, which of course, ended up being the worst night of the entire passage.

 

Crisis in the Mid-Atlantic – The Chickens Come Home to Roost

Just After the 1st Repair. It’s 13:33 this is the normal screen I run with. I’ll minimize the Maretron data (black box on left) is there is more traffic or is I have a reason to look at the chart. In this case, what’s important: winds 090 at 23 g 28; Apparent Wind Angle (How is the boat feeling the wind) is right on our stern at 180 degrees. Bottom right shows the roll and one can see the roll reduction while the boat was stopped at the same time the pitch increased. Then the roll greatly increased once we got underway again.

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 This video shows the day before, Dec 21st.  Even before the preventer stick broke (which you can see going form the fly beige rail to the middle of the paravane pole)

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 This is from the afternoon.  GIves you a nice idea of the seas. This is what we had plus or minus for 21 days.

So, as December 22nd dawned, (end of Day 13 and beginning of Day 14), the little problems that had popped up were solved quickly.

Though during the night, my last second and last preventer stick broke.  It wasn’t critical, I had not used it since it was made three years ago, but still, this morning I wanted to find a real solution.

The winds had been very strong since daybreak, in the low 20’s, gusting to 35 knots.

I decided to stop the boat, just put her in idle and adjust the paravanes somehow. It nice to know that the boat will bob more than roll when stopped. While not underway, Dauntless rolls at about half the rate of our underway roll. So, we’d been rolling 10 to 20 degrees, pretty consistently, now we settle in the trough of the waves, but bob as much as roll.

Now, months later, my brain refuses to remember why I actually stopped the boat.  It must have gotten superseded by the traumatic events that followed.

Autopilot disengaged, Idle, then neutral, the boat will coast to a “stop” in about three minutes.  Winds and current are still pushing the boat, in this case about 1.5 knots.

Then before I did whatever I had intended to do, I decided to turn the rudder to see if it made any difference in the boat motion.  Not a stupid plan; yet.

The rudder was already hard over to port. And then in an act of gross stupidity, I turned the wheel more to port. Why? Why? Why?

I knew the rudder was at or close to the stops.  The steering system had had some air in the system for a long time. No matter what I did, I could not get it all out.  So, I thought a little more turn couldn’t hurt.

Oh, my God, it could hurt.  After turning the wheel about a quarter, I felt it go slack in my hand.

I knew exactly what happened and turned to Micah to say, “We’re fucked now”.

I knew because I’ve had this sickening sense before: pushing on brake pedal that goes all the way to the floor or turning a steering wheel and nothing happens. When a hydraulic system goes slack: clutch, brakes, steering. It means the hydraulic system has no more pressure, A hose, fitting or part has given way.

He knew from my tone that I was serious, very serious.  I was so angry at myself. Had Micah done something like this, it’s an accident. For me, I knew better than anyone the consequences of over-pressurizing a system.

The Kadey Krogen has does have an emergency tiller that connects through a purposeful hole in the hatch.  But I hate even manually steering the boat in a sea.  To stand, sit in the stern deck and hand steer for 7 days like were some god-forsaken sailboat, fuhgeddaboudit.

But I also immediately realized I couldn’t afford the Pity Party. I also could let Micah start thinking of the consequences. Now was the time for solutions and solutions only.

When the Going Gets Tough; the Tough Get Going.

We had 200+ feet of hydraulic lines and the failure could be any place. gain, trying to control the sickening feeling in my stomach, If I’ve learned anything on this boat, it’s to always look for the easiest solution first.

So, we’d start at the rudder piston in the lazzerrette. Open the hatch, and at this point, a wonderful sight (on a boat everything is relative), hydraulic fluid oozing from a hole in the hose just above the fitting. This hose, one of two, for the rudder piston.

First thought, let’s try easy, easy solution, rubber tape, with hose clamps around it.

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 This video is after i had completed this repair and also shows how I stopped the paravane pole from bouncing by using a fender.

It worked. We got our filing funnel for the upper helm station, from which the entire system is filled with AFT, Automatic Transmission Fluid, which conveniently, both the hydraulic steering and the Borg-Warner manual transmission use for lubrication and pressure.

The system took about 2 liters of fluid.  But I only had a total of 4 liters. I’m starting to think of chickens coming home to roost.

We get underway just under an hour later at 10:28. Everything is working reasonably well. You can see from the Maretron data how the boat roll is about half, while the pitch increases when dead in the water.

Coastal Explorer, our main navigation program, running on a dedicated solid state 12-volt boat computer had been acting up.  For a few days, it had not been displaying AIS information, no matter what little tricks I had used in the past to “wake it up”.

Now, I knew I was still sending, which is actually far more important, as since I have had transmit capability large ships always stay away. Having seen only one ship in 13 days, the display wasn’t critical, but I wanted it working. I like everything working.

So, as a last resort, I decided to reboot everything. Everything off and on again, in order, about a 4-minute process.  The log shows at 12:15 all was well.

We had been checking our repaired hose every hour, as well as topping up the fluid as needed.  In the last two hours, we had put another liter into the system.  The hose was leaking enough, probably a few liters every 12 to 24 hours.

Now this would have been no problem in coastal cruising.  We would have just topped it off until port.  I didn’t have that option.  So about 7 hours after the first fix, I knew I had to find the real fix.

Two Issues I had to solve: Hose & Fluid.

  1. For the hose, I knew I had a number of spare hydraulic hoses in two different places in the engine room. One set stored with all the extra hoses and tubing, the other set stored in the long-term spares containers on either side of the generator.
  2. The fluid was a bigger challenge. I used the Delorme InReach to text my contact Roger, who got in touch with Ski in NC. Ski, a long-time diesel expert, had been really helpful in the past, so I needed to figure out what I could use as substitute ATF.

The answer turned out to be simple and vexing, 4 parts diesel fuel to 1 part engine oil. Yes, the engine oil of which there was not extra. The engine needed every bit of oil.  Dauntless was now full of chickens.  They had all come home to roost.

The offending hose, steel braid rusted to the core.
I’m replacing these hoses and standardizing the fittings.

OK, first I had to clear out all those chickens. They were all over the place.  Before we did anything, I found the spare hose with the correct fitting in seconds. So far so good. I then stopped the boat again and also the engine, as I wanted to check the oil level to make sure of my calculations (on a passage like this, I just fill the engine at its usual use rate, without turning it off).

Oil level was just were I expected, so I decided I could spare one liter of oil. Worse case, we would arrive in Martinique one liter low, but that’s not a big deal for a day.

I got my tools and wrenches. Getting the old fitting off the three-way control valve ended up taking me 15 minutes.  I even heated it up with my kitchen torch, but I was very careful not to make my hose problem into something far bigger and unfixable.

Finally, it came out.  I put pike gunk on all the new fittings, makes for a better seal and I don’t want any more leaks.

In the video Micah took, you see one time water came across the deck. That’s water that enters thru the scuppers, usually on rolls of more than 15 to 20 degrees.  As I said, dead in the water, we bob more than roll, so I was only inundated with water twice in this operation which took about 40 minutes.  I wanted Micah to get more pictures of the outside scene not just the top of my head, but he was nervous and I think he felt better not looking out much.

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Me on the other hand, I may not look it, but I was pretty ecstatic.  I’d fucked up and was able to fix it. We now had 5 liters of substitute ATF which would be more than enough.

The finished product

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At 18:00 we were underway again.  Immediately, it was apparent that I had way too much air in the system.  The Auto-Pilot was acting errantly.  It would work for a few minutes, but once the rudder got far enough over, there was not enough pressure to get it back.  We would have to turn off the autopilot, then turn the wheel lock to lock three times until pressure built up in the system, check and top up the fluid at the upper helm station and reengaged the autopilot. This went on for a couple hours until I realized I needed to go to sleep to get ready for my 04:00 watch and the boat almost needed hand steering at this point.

That would not do.  I did not do all this to have to hand steer for 7 days.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Uneventful Trip

(The below was written last week, while underway, midway between St. Vincent in the Grenadines and Bonaire)

It’s about time!

Don't Let this happen to you. The wreck on the east side of Kleine Curacao
Don’t Let this happen to you.
The wreck on the east side of Kleine Curacao

Anyone who looks at a weather map can see that the passage from the eastern Caribbean to the Dutch Antilles is pretty much the same conditions as the Atlantic from the Caries to the Caribbean.

That means strong easterly trade winds and the seas and conditions that they produce. They are trade winds, because they are produced by the global heating and not by low pressure systems, as occurs north of the tropics.

So, we are merrily rolling along.  This is 42-hour point of a 70-hour trip.  Do I worry about jinxing it, by writing that we had no problems?  Of course, I do.  But every once in a while, I feel the need to get really crazy. Hoping that Poseidon is playing with Persephone and doesn’t have the inclination to mess with Dauntless this time.

Sunset Looking Towards Bonaire
Sunset Looking Towards Bonaire

Now, if this post never gets published because we never made it.  I take all the above back. But let’s assume that you are reading this in the comfort of your reading place and I am happily ensconced in Bonaire paying too much for everything and squealing like a pig as I do so.

Since I finally just published the account of an average day crossing the Atlantic in the trades, you should all know the routine my now.

And the weather is the same.

Sunrise
Sunrise

Easterly winds, 20 knots gusting to the low 30’s, with the direction varying from northeast to southeast.

As long as it has an easterly component, Dauntless can deal with it as we make our way west.

While the winds are about the same, the wave heights are significantly less. Thank God, no strike that, Thank Poseidon.

I guess that is the effect of the Grenadines and Antilles reducing the fetch (the distance winds blows over uninterrupted sea).  There seems to also be a tidal current of 0.5 to 1 knot pushing us along.  That means that yesterday, we made 156 miles in the first 24-hour period, that’s an average of 6.5 knots.

The extended length filling tube and funnel for the power steering
The extended length filling tube and funnel for the power steering

Our earlier Atlantic Passage, our average was 137 nm at 5.9 knots.

Yesterday, I made grilled chicken for us, with a side of pasta.  I also made a tomato sauce for pasta, which we will eat today.  This is something I have not made for many, many years, at least a half dozen, years.

I made this for Micah, as the time for him to return to school and get on with his life is now rapidly approaching.  It’s the least I can do for his hard work and the diligence he as shown these past 8 months on Dauntless.

The three big problems we had previously: the mysterious fuel leak, paravane shenanigans and hydraulic hose failure, have all been overcome.  The paravane poles have been the most interesting in that I am always tweaking the system.  Sometimes my tweaks work, sometimes they don’t.  But I pride myself on finding simple, inexpensive solutions and this stabilizing system is finally starting to speak for itself.

The hydraulic steering and the helm and for the ComNav Autopilot has never been quieter.  Never, at last since I’ve owned the boat.  And as Micah pointed out, the owner’s manual did say that one had to be patient as air would work itself out of the system in a few weeks.  I did help it by rigging a Rube Goldberg looking filling tube and funnel on the upper helm.  This allows the system to burp itself without the usually oily mess.

After the ABCs, we are headed to Colon and the Panama Canal, after a short visit to Columbia, where my brother is for some unknown reason.  He’s never seen Dauntless, so it’s the least I can do.

Near term, once through the canal, we’ll head up to Costa Rica, where Micah will leave us and Larry, my Alaskan friend of 44 years who I met on T-3, will join me and D.

 

 

 

 

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

 

What I’ve Been Up To

I know it’s been quiet here the last three weeks, but I have been busy.

Sunset at Le Marin
Sunset at Le Marin

I am in the process of writing a comprehensive account of our month on the Atlantic from Morocco to the Caribbean.  Having very limited access to the internet, reduces my ability to upload posts and pictures.

But I have been busy. Today, Micah and I finally got everything put away as I have been re-organizing my tools, electrical stuff and miscellaneous stuff that is stored I the pilot house.  It’s a lot of stuff.

It’s taken me literally two weeks to get it done.  Why was it so hard?

I was spurred to action because after arriving we had some projects to do and a few things to fix or improve and during that first week, I found myself spending an inordinate amount of time trying to find various tools.

Having spent too many minutes trying to find a simple 13mm wrench, during the re-organization, I found the other 10 wrenches and 4 sockets. Yes, all 13mm.  Why so many? Because I had it in my mind that I needed one, so every time I got close to a hardware store…

Sooner or later I shall have to find someone who is good at organizing.  If not I may up be being the Cat Lady of the High Seas!

The picture is from last night and is yet another beautiful sunset at Le Marin on the wonderful island of Martinique.

Tomorrow we will be leaving, but just an hour south to St. Anne.  We will spend a couple nights there before heading to the Grenadines later on in the week.

Every few days I post pictures in Instagram at DauntlessatSea

 

 

Why We Cruise

Some people cruise to escape the responsibilities they face on land.

RIchard on Dauntless after Crossing the Atlantic OCean
Richard on Dauntless after Crossing the Atlantic Ocean

Most people cruise to enjoy nature and experience new sights, people, foods and cultures.

I cruise to solve problems.

In the past week, I have had a number of discussions with friends and fellow cruisers.  Many ask, Richard, you are in a place, the eastern Caribbean, that most boaters would love to be. Why not stay longer; stop and smell the roses?

I ponder a bit, questioning in my mind why, what is so obvious to most, eludes me.  Am I deficient?  I know I am not stupid, but why do I push myself so?

Truth be told, I could go from island to island, bbq on the boat most days, eat out others, drink a few glasses of wine, maintain Dauntless, myself and the love of my life in the manner I’ve been accustomed to, even travel to Asia, Europe and the USA every year and never run of money.

I tell them I have a plan. Plans can be changed they respond. Yes, I think, I change plans all the time. But I always have a plan.  When I do things without a plan, bad things happen.

No, nothing gets done without a plan.  And yes, even crossing the Atlantic was being planned before we even found our little Krogen 42.  It was being planned before I even knew Kadey Krogen’s existed. It’s what I thought about before drifting off to sleep on most nights.

So, the idea of having no plan, just going with the flow, is simply a life I cannot imagine.  It would be easier for me to imagine living on Jupiter, the planet, not the city.

So, when I’m asked why not just do this the easy way? I have no problem answering, because it’s not in the plan.

There is one big caveat.  I love sharing the joys of life, food, drink, laughs, experiences, with friends and loved ones.  Not having a mate, a partner to share these experiences with this past year has put a damper on the cruising.  If I had a mate who absolutely wanted to be in such in such place for a long time; I’d make it happen. Then I would modify the plan, but until than…

Now one of my really smart friends, knowing my answer, suggested why not do a boat trade.  Surely there is someone in Alaska who would trade places with you. Let them live on your boat and you live on theirs’s in Alaska since that is your intended destination for this coming summer and next winter.

Now that has me stumped momentarily. But then, like a light bulb turning on, I understood the issue.

If my goal was just Alaska, then staying in the Caribbean for another year would be doable.  Even trading boats or leaving Dauntless here for a year would be doable.

But from the beginning of the boat idea.  From before the first Atlantic crossing, there was a plan, a goal and destination and everything that came before was a step towards that destination: S. Korea & Japan.

So, I cross oceans to get to the other side. I also do it because it is the ultimate problem solving puzzle.  No phone, no help, it’s having a good plan and then adjusting the plan as need be.

It’s having to make do with what you have a not what you want.

It’s having to solve problems.

Throughout my life, in every endeavor I was involved with, I strived to make the system better ev, oftentimes to the detriment of my life or career.  In hindsight, I should have done some things more delicately, but I don’t have any regrets.  You fight the good fight or you may as well be the cow in the field eating grass.

So even as careers change and jobs end, I am still a problem solver. Cruising gives me the opportunity to solve problems.  The best part is that they are problems of my own making.

I make mistakes and curse myself once in a while.  I take a 1 hour job and make into a day or two, but at least I am cleaning up my own mess.

When that next destination comes into view, I pat myself on the back and say, Well done pig, well done.

Q & A After the Atlantic Crossing

My Friend Alfa Mike asked the following, so I thought I would share with everyone:

Richard on Dauntless in Martinique, La Marin
Richard on Dauntless in Martinique, La Marin

>Do they speak a lot of English Language in Martinique or is it all French?

The Moon & Venus watch over us on our last nights
The Moon & Venus watch over us on our last nights
Until the very end, a story sea
Until the very end, a story sea
A little mishap while changing the oil just after arrival
A little mishap while changing the oil just after arrival
Mountain on Martinique
Mountain on Martinique
Driving thru the forest
Driving thru the forest
More Rainforest
More Rainforest
Even made it to the Kadey Krogen page
Even made it to the Kadey Krogen page
La Marin Marina
La Marin Marina
  • some English, once in a while, you need to know some basic French.

> What have you seen & experienced there?
This past weekend, we drove up north to see rain forest and volcano.  Inactive of course, so not much to see.
> What have you done in the boat while there.?  Repairs, upgrades?

at this point, there is still much to do.  Not helped that yesterday I spent all day to do a 1 hour job.  I hate working with wood, like the interior.

  • Working on electric in fwd bilge, adding small bilge pump.
  • Rewiring holding tank switch so that it can’t get turned on accidentally.
  • Micah patched dingy.
  • Rerigged paravane pole.
    • One pole needs to be replaced. Probably do that in Mexico or So Cal.
    • Also, rigged a preventer so windward pole will not go vertical when boat rolls heavily to lee side.
  • Finally finished 3rd 20# bottle of propane yesterday.  Those 3 bottles were filled in Tallinn in July 2015. That’s 7000 miles ago.  Luckily have two extra bottles that a sailboat boat gave me in northern France last summer as he was not going back to USA. I have not been able to get propane since Estonia last year, but am told I can in St Lucia.  But I can wait till So Cal possibly.
  • Must still replace 2 hydraulic hoses and bleed system for AP and helm steering.
  • Complete oil change, i.e. fill engine with oil.
  • We’ll fuel again in St. Lucia, only to half full about 250 gal
  • Repair bracket for wx instruments on mast, the following winds (when we were stopped for Hydraulic line) managed to wrap paravane line around it and mangled it, because I was so happy to get one problems solved, I created another one.
  • Winds also broke stern flag pole. Same happened to Sweden sailboat docked next to us.
  • All 5 fuel filters are changed (2 Racors, 2 engine mounted and fuel polish)
  • Replacing all screws in rub rail is proving to be a real PIA. As they are rusted and not coming out. These are Inox screws I bought in Ireland and again in Portugal. Big f…ing mistake.
  • General clean up, still finding flying fish on fly bridge (where else would they be 🙂
  • Spent $200 on stainless steel screws.
  • Another $200 on oil and ATF for rudder steering
  • $200 on rental car for 3 days
    Yes, everything is in increments of $200.
  • Finally took Icom VHF radio to shop, as my friend Pat in Waterford told me to do last year. It’s unfixable it seems. So, will take VHF radio from fly bridge and install in pilot house.
  • Need to still upload a billion pictures to http://dauntless.smugmug.com/

> How has the weather been?

  • Is it Humid? Hot, a bit muggy, yesterday was first day without wind, so then the boat really heats up.Did I tell you I don’t like hot weather?  Thus the 12 years in Alaska and two years with Dauntless in Northern Europe and now returning to first Southeast Alaska and then Japan & S. Korea.

>Now after all is said and done, In hindsight what would I have done differently?

  • In terms of places to go or not, it’s hard to say. Only having spent time in southern Spain and Morocco can I say that I would not have missed it.  But had I not gone, how would I know that?  It would have better financially and sailing wise to go direct from the bottom of Portugal to Las Palmas on Grand Canaria.
  • Should have spent some hard-earned money 3 years ago, to be able to use 230v, 50hz shore power to run ACs. I did try to get them to run off inverter, but the inverter produces a square sine wave and both the Splendid washer/dryer and the AC’s will not run on that.

I could have tried the transformer I use not for the water heater.  It would supply 120v, but 50hz to AC.  That swill probably work. But at this point, I’m not sure it’s worth the effort.  Back in Southern Spain and Portugal when I was dying of the heat, I should have thought of that.

Yes, I could always run generator, by the 1 gal/hour at $5/gal fuel. Now, 8 hours is only $40 per day, but adding that to expensive marina at $55/day, that’s close to my desired cap of $100 per day.

  • Speaking of money. My average daily cost for all living and boat expenses is about $109 per day.  Though I still have yet to update the last month, I do not think it will change significantly.  This is also a few dollars below the previous year.  So, all in all, the expenses are about what I expect.  The proportion is also the same, 25% for each:
    • Fuel & oils
    • Marinas & docks
    • Food, groceries & eating out
    • , like cell phone, transportation, cars, trains, planes and automobiles.

> How do you like it in Martinique?

  • Love it. People, food could not be better. I am so lucky that I was told to head here when it became clear that I could m=not make the southing I needed to get to Barbados.  It was only a 20° more southerly course, but with the large seas we had, it was not worth being beaten up.
  • In hindsight, Martinique is a much nicer place to clear in, eat and drink than probably anyplace in the Caribbean. Martinique is a Department (like a State) of France.  Thus, it feels like France because it is France.  It’s not the bureaucratic mess that Portugal, southern Spain and Morocco are.
  • FYI in terms of how they treat boaters:
    • Northern Spain, Galicia is just like northern Europe and France, as are the Cana.ries.
    • Southern Spain and Portugal were totally different, and not in a positive way.
    • I was told that it’s because of the Arab penchant for bureaucracy.

> How long do you plan to stay?

  • until sometime next week. Then heading south, a bit before heading west to the ABC’s

> Any comments you would like to make about the trip you just completed now that your more rested up?

  • Very glad I don’t have to do it again for another 18 months

 

 

Days 1 & 2 The Canaries to Barbados

After topping up the portside fuel tank, we had a quick lunch, as I was hot to trot.

La Restinga
THe Wonderful Town of La Restinga

As we pulled away from the dock of this peaceful little town, I already knew I would miss it once in the Caribbean. As we came around the protective wall of the harbor, I gave one long blast on the horn, to warn any boats entering that we were leaving and as our way of saying goodbye to a place we really liked.

One long horn blast means “attention” as in pay attention, I’m doing something you may not be able to see.  Last year in the Baltic, I noticed that the Germans always gave a long blast when entering a harbor.  Just like in the Canaries, most of the harbors have a tall jetty to protect them from the waves, but it also hides boats coming in or out. Thus, the warning.

The Island of El Hierro We say goodbye to 2+ years in Europe
The Island of El Hierro
We say goodbye to 2+ years in Europe

As we settled into our course 258°, the winds were from 120° at 15 knots, thus we had winds and waves from our port side quarter panel.  Not the best, but it could be worse.  After just a few minutes, I realized we needed to deploy at least one bird to cut the rolling which had increased to ±15°. That’s a lot.

With one bird in the water, I speed was only reduced by about 0.5 knots, but 2/3s of the roll was gone.

As I watched the sea, I also realized we had a large, 10 foot plus swell coming from the west with a period of about 10 seconds.  Not too bad, but not helpful either.

The 1st on many Sunsets at Sea
The 1st on many Sunsets at Sea

Over the next 24 hours’ conditions remained exactly the same.

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Weather data at the end of the first day. I am also recalibrating water tank fill as we use water maker

I remember writing the above.

The last words I wrote for 20 days.  Umm, I wonder why? Barbados? Stay tuned.

 

 

An Unexpected Stop

Leaving Las Palmas Sunday morning, our next stop was planned to be Port St. Charles on the island of Barbados in the eastern Caribbean, 2636 nautical miles west.

Leaving the busy harbor of Las Palmas
Leaving the busy harbor of Las Palmas

The plan was to go north, around the top of Gran Canaria, then southwest between the islands as to afford some protection from the wind.

Leaving the protected harbor of Las Palmas, we encountered strong, NW winds that had produced, large seas since the current was running from south to north on the east side of Grand Canary island.  As the seas built to 10 to 15 feet, it was clear that “this dog doesn’t hunt”.

So, 48 minutes into our Atlantic crossing, we turned tail and headed south.wp-1481017309574.jpg

An interesting start.  Does make one a bit nervous when the plan changes in the first hour of a 400-hour trip.

We rounded the south end of the island and set the autopilot for 260° and settled in to an anticipated 16 or 17-day passage.

As the day progressed, the winds came around to the south-southeast at 12 to 16 knots and stayed that way for the next 26 hours.

Friendly dolphins escort us
Friendly dolphins escort us

The problem was with these SE winds producing 3 to 6-foot wind driven waves from the southeast, we also had a west to northwest Atlantic swell with waves 6 to 10 feet on a 10 second period.  The combination produced a corkscrew pitching, though most of the roll was being eliminated by the paravanes stabilizers. It also slowed us significantly, doing only 4 to 5 knots through most of the period.

A close encounter of the annoying kind

A little after 04:00, it’s pitch dark outside, Dauntless is rolling along at 4.3 knots.

Finally, a period of calm winds.
Finally, a period of calm winds.
Dauntless is on standby
Dauntless is on standby
A cute harbor, with volcano in backgroung
A cute harbor, with volcano in background

I see a radar return of a boat about a mile north of our course and pretty much on the same course.  It’s a small boat, as the radar return is relatively weak and of course no AIS, the automated ship information that would have been on my navigation chart anytime an AIS equipped boat gets within 5+ miles. It also provides course and peed so it takes a lot of the guess work out.  Since I’ve had it on Dauntless, big ships don’t get as close anymore.

I get the binoculars and can see his red running light as well as his stern light.

So, he is ahead and to the right of my course.  OK, I turn left about 10° to put some distance between us.  Over the next half hour, I realize, instead of getting further apart, he now seems to be on a direct heading towards Dauntless.

As I am looking at him again, it all becomes clear.  He shines a spotlight on to his mainsail.  And in this vast ocean, not having seen another boat for the last 12 hours, this guy decides to wait until we show up to tack and basically cut right in front of me. At night, with seas bouncing the boat around, he puts our two boats on a collision course.

What a fucking moron. Remember, it’s dark out.  In day light, it’s much easier to understand the situation and what needs to be done.  At night, with only the radar for guidance, nobody would want to purposely get so close to another boat.

I turn more to the left, south, but to my horror, within minutes I realize he is now only a quarter mile away. He shines his light on his stupid sail again. He’s telling me he has the rig

The other side of the Island
The other side of the Island
Lava
Lava

ht of way, yes, he has the right to be dead too.

I’ve turned left twice, I am actually a bit afraid since my attempts to get further away, he is now closer. What don’t I understand?? Clearly, I understand neither his course nor intentions.

Again, this kind of situation is much easier to deal with in daylight, but now, only seeing two points of light, with no perspective, he could be 100 feet away, or it could be Mars and Venus.

I have to do something and do it quickly.

I no longer trust him, his course seems to be crossing ahead of Dauntless, therefore, I do the only thing I can to make sure he does not hit me.  I turn sharply right, 90° right. This way, I can watch him and keep him to my left. He is going south, crossing my western track, so I will go north and once I get north of him, I will turn west.

I’m going north, he is going south and he passes me about a quarter mile to the west, on my left.   In other words, if not for my right turn, he would have crossed just in front of Dauntless.

One of my rules is I never want to pass directly in front of another boat, big or small.  I aim for their stern to pass behind.

After he passes, I turn again west and he turns again west now about a mile south of my course, but again on a parallel course.  He’s probably going to Barbados also.

As the sun rises I can see him off to the south.

A Course Change

Finally, a few hours after day break on the second day, the winds died down (as forecast by the way) to less than 5 knots. The NW swell was still present, but without the wind driven waves, we could pull in the paravanes birds and our speed increased to 6 knots at 1500 rpms.

Now at this point we were still about 45nm ESE of the furthest west Canary Island, El Hierro, the island that Columbus set off from 500 years ago from the port of La Restinga.

Our current course was 260°, the port of La Restinga was at 289°, therefore not a big detour and when I looked more closely, it only added 6 nm to our entire trip.  Thus, even though I was sure we had enough fuel for Barbados, if I would run out of fuel within sight of Barbados, I don’t think I would ever hear the end of it.

And I felt it was best to get away from my errant buddy.  I’m in credulous that anyone, at night, would purposely pass in front of another boat.

Sunset in La Restinga
Sunset in La Restinga

Thinking of the encounter a couple of hours later, I think that even though I saw his boat for quite a while, he must not have seen Dauntless, until he tacked in front of me.  But still, why make the safety of your boat depend on someone else’s action?  Sometimes Right of Way really means Right to Be Dead.

Seven hours later, we pull into the little harbor of La Restinga.  It’s really a cute little harbor.

Docked along the wall, behind the rescue boat, the security guard came by, to help with our lines and take our information.  Very nice. As I have said previously, all of a sudden, being in the Canaries, is like being in northern Spain again.

These are sea-going folk, unlike the olive and cattle people of Spain’s southeast.

Well, after we got all tied up, it turned out we cannot get fuel until Wednesday, as Tuesday was a big holiday, so just like that, we are having a two-day vacation.

For a few seconds, I briefing debated just leaving, but again, I don’t like being ridiculed and more seriously, I was meticulous in fueling at Las Palmas, so this gives me an opportunity to measure my exact fuel consumption at 1500 rpms over a 30-hour period.

My guess is that it will be 1.4 gallons per hour, ±0.1 gallon.

I’ll tell you tomorrow.

And now Wednesday night, it is tomorrow. But still no fuel.  They ran out. Maybe the truck comes tomorrow. Maybe.

In any case, once having made the decision to stop for fuel, I will wait for fuel.  I only need about 50 gallons, 200 liters, but it’s a cute harbor, with nice people, excellent food and wine and it’s a volcano.

What more can one ask for!!!

 

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Dolphins visit D

 

 

Morocco to the Canaries

Four days on the North Atlantic, 600 nm, four days, 1 hour, 35 minutes, what could go wrong?

Dauntless is ready to Leave Morocco
Dauntless is ready to Leave Morocco

For one, we found the weak link on this Krogen, it’s me.

In my first year of cruising, I would get sea sick maybe a ¼ of the time. Now in my third year, it’s more like ¾.

What’s changed? Who knows?  I’m older, but usually one’s body becomes more adapted. No, I think the problem is in my brain.

When conditions are rough, I know to take a remedy or put on the Scopolamine patch. Now the patch gives me a bad rash, something it did not do a couple years ago, but it’s also very effective as long as I put it on the night

Sunset over the Atlantic
Sunset over the Atlantic

before departure.

With nice cruising conditions, or I should say, relatively nice, winds and seas less than 15 knots and 3 feet (1m), respectively. In the past I never had to worry, now, if the slightest unexpected event happens, I get seasick.

wp-1480823606020.jpg
Grand Canaria comes into sight

This last episode was one of the worst I’ve ever had.  But I’m not 100% sure it’s “seasickness”.  It’s more like my body gets a whole load of adrenaline and then when crisis is over, my body doesn’t know what to do.

Monday, the 28th, Day 1 of 4.  It was great to get underway again.  Having an extra week in Morocco was not needed. The Moroccans are lovely people though and even that morning the Pilot asked me if I wanted to go out with them that morning to check the inlet. I’m always up for an adventure, so of course I went.  The winds had finally died down, so I was a bit surpised to see 6 to 8 foot waves at the inlet.  But they were not higher, so they declared the port open.wp-1480823606027.jpg

Grand Canaries
Grand Canaries

That started the whole customs, police and immigration process.  Basically, just like checking in, you leave your berth, go to the designated dock and all the above come visit.  It took us about an hour to check in 3 weeks earlier, and it took about an hour to check out.  If that seems like a lot, you should know that in southern Spain and all of Portugal, it always seemed to take half an hour. (the difference between northern Europe, including northern Spain and southern Europe is like night and day; it’s mind boggling).

So, Day 1 started out with our checking out.  The customs or immigration lady, who checked us in with her team of three others, checked us hot.  Must say, she was the hottest officer I have ever seen.  But she was all business, all the time.  If you have ever been to the Soviet Union, you can picture what I mean.

The process, though time consuming, was easy and extremely convenient. As we pulled away from the dock, we waved at everyone and headed to the inlet.

Those steep inlet waves test that everything on the boat is stored securely and all was so we headed southwest along the coast of Morocco. While the winds from the south were light, there was an Atlantic swell of 8 to 10 feet, with an 8 to 10 second period. Not bad, but it necessitated us having the paravanes out with the two birds in the

Las Palmas
Las Palmas

water.

Day 1 ended after 24 hours and we did 133 nm.

Day 2 (starting Tuesday at 14:35, the second 24-hour period) started the same, light SE winds, but became stronger through the entire period. Finally, at the 47-hour point, mid-afternoon on Wednesday, the winds had increased to 25 knots.  With our southwesterly course, this meant they were off our bow.  This makes the course untenable as we end up burning fuel to go slower and slower, all the while pitching up and down like one of those mechanical bulls!

Our initial destination had been the Canary Island, Fuerteventura, but with these strong SE winds, we needed to head more west, like 240 degrees. Thus, our new destination became Las Palmas, on the island of Gran Canarias.

So, Day 2, 150nm, (the second 24-hour period) ended with us headed 240 degrees, with winds 160 at 21 knots gusts to 25, producing seas from the south of 4 to 8 feet.

The paravanes work most effectively with seas on the beam, so our ride was actually not so bad with a gentle rolling of 8 degrees to the lee side and 4 degrees to the windward side.

Two hours into Day 3 (Thursday, 16:50), I was in the galley, when I felt the boat motion change. I looked out the salon window to see the windward paravanes bird being dragged on top of the water, clearly broken.

At first I was really calm about it.  I finished filling my water bottle. Then went to stop the boat, retrieve the pole and bird.  Dauntless is quite tame when not underway, in other words, she rolls much more underway w=then when dead in the water.  So, there was no big crisis.

The two spare birds are stored in the lazerette.  The one that broke had been repaired in Ireland, as it had previously broken crossing the North Sea. So, I wasn’t too worried as to the cause.  But as we tried to get the bird out of the lazerette, the fin of the bird became lodged under the generator exhaust hose. And the more stuck it became; the more stressed I became.  I didn’t like the idea of leaving it as it, so close to the hydraulic rudder piston, but after 5 minutes of trying dislodge it, I gave up, took the bins out of the other side and got the other bird that was stored on the other side of the lazerette.

It took just another minute to replace the broken one and we were underway again, finally 20 minutes later, having spent more than half that time, trying to get the one bird out.

Underway again, all was good, but I was feeling very strange. I had to change my clothes, since I spray everything in the lazerette with various WD-40 products. After changing my clothes, I figured a shower would help.  I felt very hot. I shower quickly, figuring that cooling off would make me feel better, but now, I can’t dry myself. It was a bizarre feeling. I didn’t seem able to stand or move.

I tell Micah that I will join him momentarily, figuring if I just relax for a few minutes all will be fine. As I am now sitting on my bed, still sort of wet.  I finish drying myself, realize I need to rest, but want to walk around the boat, make sure all is OK.  As I go to put on my shirt, I became violently ill. First time that’s happened in years, even though, I get sea sick a lot and have that miserable nauseous feeling, I don’t throw up. This time I did.

I realized I can do nothing physical. I tell Micah to make sure everything looks OK and I needed to nap.

I do and three hours later, I am up and OK.

Winds were weakening, but the westerly swell was still there, so we kept the birds in the water. Finally, when I came on watch at 04:00, I decided to pull the birds to make some time (the birds cost about 1 knot of speed).

Day 3 ends, 147 nm, with the winds SE at 10 knots and we’ve been making 6 to 7 knots the whole time.

Day 4 starts with me adding a quart of oil to the engine while underway.  It had been 72 hours and the Ford Lehman uses about a quart every 50 to 60 hours. Winds of 10 knots or less allowed us to run without the paravanes for most of the period, but by early morning, the roll had increased to an annoying level. Our course had been 232 for the last 20 hours and the winds were now 210 at 10 kts, and the seas 210 with 3 to 6 foot waves.  This meant we were now heading into them, but with 40 miles still to go, there was not much we could do.  The waves were also causing an annoying corkscrew motion, a combination of pitch and roll, so I decided to put one bird, the windward bird, in the water.

This past year, since leaving Ireland, I have on a number of occasions, put only the windward paravanes bird in the water.  It still is 80% as effective as both birds, but it reduced our speed a little less, 0.7 knots, versus 1 to 1.2 for both.

And that’s how our passage from Rabat to the Canaries ended.  We pulled up just a mile from the harbor, pulled the bird and we entered the Puerto Deportivo De Las Palmas on Friday at 15:26.

Day 4, 167 nm, 25 hours, 35 minutes, average speed 6.5 knots.

Total for trip: 598 nm, 4 days, 1 hours, 35 minute, average speed 6.2 knots

A couple of videos:

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Cruising down the Moroccan Coast

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End of Day 1

 

See where we are at: http://share.delorme.com/dauntless

Trapped in Morocco

The day to never forget started with a beautiful sunrise.  As the red, then orange then yellow orb cast its glow on this arid North African landscape, little did I realize this day would be one never forgotten.

We went about our normal chores. After being in Europe for over two years, Dauntless has gotten that weathered, experienced look, that says, look out, here I come. Admittedly, the new paint scheme helps in that regard.  Two years ago, every minute was a scramble to get something done, and then a half minute to undo what was just done, and another few minutes to do it again.

Moroccan Friends
Moroccan Friends
Dauntless in Rabat
Dauntless in Rabat

Now, those novice jitters are gone.  Spares, parts, and all the other crap that I can’t throw away is carefully stored in containers in the engine room.  The virtual computerized inventory is all done.  Stored in the virtual closet.

Dauntless is lying heavy in the water.  Full of fuel, water, but unlike last time, with just enough food to last a family in Africa about 38 days, instead of the 400 day supply we left New England with two years ago.

So, who could have realized an innocent remark to a passing stranger would matter?

The Marina Bouregreg is a very nice marina.  Situated on the River Oued Bou Regreg in the town of Sale, the capitol city of Rabat is just across the river.  Rumor has it that the royal family has some boats in this marina, so security is all over, but very friendly and helpful.  As marinas go, it’s by far one of the best we have been in.

So just a day after arriving, now two weeks ago, as I ambled back to our beautiful Kadey Krogen, now going on a young, but frisky 28 years old, I spotted a group of ladies also admiring her.

It’s not often one sees a boat in Europe flying the Stars and Stripes and I always like flying a large courtesy flag, so I can fly a large American flag just below.  I would not want to offend the locals.  In spite of the common belief in the USA, I have yet to be in a place where Americans are not admired.  There are probably 10,000 pictures of Dauntless and her two American flags taken over just the last two years.

Now they girls turned out to be students at the University also taking pictures of Dauntless. After a few words it was clear that their English was very, very good.

One thing led to another and next thing we knew, we were all talking about America and Morocco in the salon of Dauntless.  It was a large group, 4 girls and the 4 of us, Larry, my T-3 friend, Pierre Jean (PJ) a KK wannabe from Paris, Micah, my fake nephew and myself.  An eclectic group.  PJ and Larry were leaving to go back to their respective haunts, while Micah was going to Fez, a beautiful city a few hundred miles from the coast.

So, as we said our goodbyes to the students, their insistence that they make us a Moroccan dinner before leaving for the Canaries was touching. And who can say no to a group of pretty ladies; not I.  A date was set and we said our goodbyes.

The day before our tentative dinner,  we re-affirmed the arrangements.

It was a wonderful dinner.  We really felt appreciated that these 4 Moroccans would go to such an effort of cooking all day just for us Americans.

The plan was to leave two days later, on the 24th.

But we couldn’t. the Port was closed!  Nervously we wondered, why was the port closed?

Reassured by the pilots that the port would be opened the next day, we went about doing the last-minute preparations.  Micah and I both decided to put on our sea-sickness patch, as it seemed two of the four days needed to get to the Canaries would not be very pleasant.  I also decided that Madeira was an acceptable destination also.  A few hundred miles north of the Canaries, it would increase the options on our route based on the actually winds and seas.

This situation reminded me of my crossing of the North Sea last September.  I ended up taking a weather window that was only 2 days of the four needed.  Turned out OK. As fall becomes winter, one’s options get worse not better.  So, I felt this was doable.

The plan was that for us to even have two good days, we needed to be 250 miles west of the coast, then as the winds veer to the northwest, we could head west-southwest to Madeira or south southwest to the Canaries.  The paravanes are most effective in a beam sea. Winds were forecast to be 15 to 20 behind the front (from the NW).   My Rule of Thumb is to ALWAYS assume the winds will be 50% stronger and only within a 90-degree arc of the stated direction.

Thus, worse case, these NW winds could end up 270° at 30 knots.  If that happened, then we head due south.  It wouldn’t be fun, but I’ve seen worse.

I slept fitfully; not well at all.  Finally, in the middle of the night, I decided we were not going.

The problem, my fear?  There was a forecast strip of high winds from the southwest just off the coast.  My plan depended on getting west of those winds before they got strong, as they were forecast to get up to 40 knots.  If in the first 24 hours of leaving, if we encountered SW winds at 15 to 20 knots, no problem, we head NW and can turn SW as the winds change.

But I was ignoring my own rule of thumb.  What would happen if the winds were 260° at 25 knots?  I’d have to go virtually due north, which would put me back in Rota in three days!

Or even worse, the first 24 hours goes as planned, we are now 125 miles from the coast, but the strong wind band sets up also further west. Thus 40 knot southwesterly winds.  We’d be back in Gibraltar before anyone could say, what the fuck just happened.  And worse, it would not be a fun ride.

When one is in the middle of the Atlantic, you take what Mother Nature gives you and are grateful for it.  If you complain, or even look at her the wrong way, she’ll show you very quickly that no matter how bad it is, it can always get worse.

That morning, as I went to talk to the pilots (all boats are guided into the harbor and marina on a 24/7 basis), they assured me that the harbor was now open, and he added that I would have no problem since I have a sturdy boat. That’s certainly true, but I told them I had decided to wait out this coming storm in port, rather than at sea.

Strong winds off the coast trapped us here for anther few days.  We’ll get out this weekend.  Saturday is still unsettled, but Monday and Tuesday, look good.

Follow us at: Share.Delorme.com/Dauntless

Richard on Dauntless, currently in Rabat, Morocco

Forecast winds off the African Coast
Forecast winds off the African Coast

What Happened to Me?

Yikes, looking at this Blog, I’m still in Rota, Spain.

Like New -  Again
Like New – Again
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Like New- Again

That seems like eons ago!

So, while Micah and my friend Larry explore Morocco, I will take this opportunity get caught up.

Bouncing around at anchor
Bouncing around at anchor

Maybe my lack of writing has been a function of the cruising conditions.

Getting back to Dauntless after a month the sigh of relief was probably audible across the Atlantic. Her month on the hard went perfectly.  She had shore power with no interruptions the entire time (I have thermometers for fridge and freezer, which records max and min temps).

The gouge I had put into the side had been repaired

Our first spot to anchor heading into the Strait.
Our first spot to anchor heading into the Strait.

and painted.  The anti-foul undercoat was re-applied over those sections that the straps of the travel lift had lifted off when being splashed in Ireland.

So, for less than $200 she was back in the water looking like new again.

All in all, a great relief.

But now, it was time to get underway and make some miles.

Second Anchorage.  Easily found thanks to Active Captain
Second Anchorage. Easily found thanks to Active Captain
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Busy avoiding ships

And they turned out to be tough miles. The 87 miles from Rota to Gibraltar had to be broken into three different segments. Each time the winds picked up on our bow and once they reach 15+ knots, it makes the situation pretty crappy.

Nautical miles Time Hr:Min Average Speed (KTS) Reason for Stop
37 7:35 5.5 Winds on the nose, continued to increase
29 5:05 5.6 Same as above
18 3:30 5.0 Finally, in Gib

 

Our first stop, was a bit of desperation.  Just NW of the lighthouse off Cape Trafalgar, it was not that well protected from the easterly winds, but it was better than burning fuel to go mostly up and down.  We only stayed about 4 hours, but this was enough time for the winds to die down and we got underway again.

This stop also provided another example of how the “police” are about helping, not enforcing. After we were anchored about an hour, a Spanish Civil Guarda (national police) boat sidestepped themselves to within about 100 feet of Dauntless.  I came out to the pilot house door, two guys came out of their boat and yelled over the wind whether I spoke Spanish.  I replied only a little.

They asked, “problem”. I responded, “no, I wait for wind” They waved, said OK Adios and slowly motored off, until their wake would not rock us any more than we are already rocking.

In the more than two years of cruising in Europe. I have always found the maritime authorities were always about help if needed, but not enforcement.

Our next stop, west of the causeway at Tarifa was much better, as the Active Captain description explains.  We were well out of the wave action, so the boat was pretty quiet.  We stopped here at 02:00 and had a much-needed sleep.  Then though I was up by 08:00, the winds were up to, so we just sat and waited.  Finally, by early afternoon, the winds died down and we took off, now only 18 miles from The Rock.

The Rock from across the Bay
The Rock from across the Bay

The last of our challenges, the 6 miles crossing the Gibraltar Bay.  There are two areas for large ships to anchor on the west and east sides of the bay.  We went through these areas pretty close to the anchored behemoths because it reduced our exposure to the super-fast ferries from the Ceuta on the African coast to Algeciras, the Spanish port just north of Gibraltar.

Those ferries, once spotted would be 3 or 4 miles away, but right on you within minutes.  When we left Gibraltar a few days later, they would give us quite a thrill as three of them raced across the Straits seemingly aimed right at us.

Dauntless in Gibralter
Dauntless in Gibralter