Surviving Winter on a Boat in Alaska

Dauntless in December

When I wrote Surviving Winter on a Boat back 8 months ago,  in mid-January 2020, we were coming thru the coldest period we would see all winter, and everything had worked as advertised.

It was not to last.  In fact, two weeks later, we had no heat and then no electricity.

Let’s check the videotape.

We are in for a period of really cold weather, at least for Southeast Alaska, with temperatures going down to zero (F) by early next week and staying in the single digits for a week or more.

Wallas DT40 heater in the engine room, the exhaust pipe is on the top middle, hidden behind the black muffler.

And it did get cold. January temperatures went below freezing in the morning of January 1st, were in the teens in the second week and single digits mid-month. Through it all the Wallas DT40 heater worked well and keep Dauntless warm and cozy, as I wrote last January:

 I’ve had to turn up my Wallas heater, no longer content to leave it on the minimum setting. On its thermostat scale of 1 to 5, 1 being the minimum, I now run it at 2 to 3 at night and 4 to 5 in the day. That keeps the salon in the mid-60s in the day and the forward cabin mid-50’s at night. That OK to sleep, since I also have a mattress heating pad that takes the chill off the bed before bedtime.

At the coldest, with lows near 5°F and daytime highs in the low teens, the Wallas used 2 gallons of diesel per day if I ran it on high most of the time. During normal use, basically for the rest of the winter and spring, it averaged about 1 gallon per day, which is right in line with what the owner’s manual states. It’s certainly refreshing to have a company provide real data that hasn’t been lawyered to uselessness.

And then it warmed up and everything went to hell in a handbasket.

On January 20th, the temperature went above freezing for the first time since the cold snap has started a month ago.

What’s Hell in a Handbasket? Mix cascading consequences with trying to be a little too cute and a dash of inattention and you get no heat and soon no electricity.

It all started so innocently enough.

Back in the fall, when I had finally completed the installation of the Wallas DT40 heater (Wallas Finland Heater homepage) the 9 feet of 1” stainless steel exhaust hose ended in my propane locker. That didn’t seem like a good idea even to me, so I went to the local hardware store and got 3 feet of 1 ½ “ mild steel flexible hose because that is all they had.

I can make that work and I did. Nothing a little duct tape won’t solve. I was even proud of myself for making a large loop, in which I even thought to drill a hole for condensation water drainage.  Too small a hole as it turned out.

All went well for months, until the warm-up in late January. The Wallas turned itself off and would not run.

Knowing that water in the exhaust could be the culprit, it was the first thing I checked. But that was easier said than done. The Wallas heater is installed on the starboard side of the engine room, above the battery box. The exhaust hose runs straight up to the salon to the fly bridge.  I wanted to blow thru the exhaust hose. First, I had to take the heater off its mount. Then I hooked up the vacuum hose to blow and connected it to the exhaust.

It worked. I had also seen that my drain hole in the “U” of the exhaust pipe had sealed itself due to rust. So that’s why the ice and water had collected in the exhaust and when it got warm outside, the ice melted and the heater was on a low setting, so the water eventually clogged the exhaust causing the automatic shutdown.

The best laid plans of mice and men…

I drilled a much bigger drain hole, ¼” this time.

The heater started up and ran for 9 hours before shutting down for some problem. Strange.

I started it up again, and again it shut down after about 9 hours.

I called the US Distributor of Wallas products, Scan Marine USA in Seattle, Scan Marine Seattle homepage

Just wonderful people and truly knowledgeable. Bill is the resident expert and he was so helpful. I ended calling them a dozen times over the next week, as I would take the Wallas down and clean out the burner. It would then start, run ok, but shut down at some point on its own.

Scan Marine suggested I send the unit to them. But I wasn’t ready to quit yet.

When cleaning the burner, three parts are removed:

  1. The glow plug which starts the fuel burning,
  2. The fuel pipe, a 1 mm metal pipe that drips fuel into the burner
  3. The thermocouple which measures the heat out put to make sure fuel is shut off if there is no fire.

I had cleaned that little 1mm fuel pipe numerous times, since it will clog if the burner gets sooted up, like with a semi-blocked exhaust!

I had spent what seemed like hours in the engine room, holding the exhaust pipe, checking if it was getting warm, then hot. By then I knew every little noise it made. The minute ticks of the fuel pump, the fan blowing in the burner, etc.

I finally saw a pattern. It was starting ok, fuel was going in, it was burning (since it was getting hot), but then it would shut down, like I had turned it off (though I would get a warning that it had an unusual shutdown).

As I thought about its operation: it was getting fuel and air, but it was turning itself off.

Finally, at my wits end I went online to see how I could test the thermocouple.  Right away, I found someone who had measured the resistance of the thermocouple at about 9 ohms.

Umm, mine was more than 2200 ohms.

Called Scan Marine and they told me the music to my ears, that anyone with no heat wants to hear: “Our mail goes in in 30 minutes, but I’ll make sure your thermocouple makes the pickup

It arrived in Wrangell, two days later. J

Its resistance was 7 ohms. That boded well.

Put it in, turned it on and it’s been running normally the last 7 months.

Thank you Wallas for building a heater that is fixable.

Thank you, Scan Marine, for holding my hand through the process and then getting me the parts quickly.

Looking back, here’s what happened:

  1. I extended the exhaust pipe, but then put too small a drain hole in mild steel.
  2. With the heater running near high with very cold temperatures outside, the exhaust air was hot enough to prevent any water collection, even with the now rusted over hole.
  3. As soon as it warmed up, ice melted in the exhaust ANDI turned down the heater, resulting in cooler exhaust, allowing water to collect, semi-blocking the exhaust, then blocking it causing a shut down.
  4. In the process of cleaning the heater too many times because I couldn’t figure out why it wasn’t working correctly once I had cleared the exhaust, the thermocouple wire broke, but not obviously. Therefore, it would run, but as time went on, the wire insulation got a little warmer, allowing the wire to stop making contact at the break.
  5. Once the thermocouple reported no heat due to the wire break, the heater would turn off the fuel pump, as to not pump fuel with no fire going (even though the fire was going).

Not the first time, in diagnosing one thing, I cause something else to break.

On the other hand, I love the Wallas and would buy it again if need be. It’s expensive, but worth it. It is as quiet as advertised. At night in bed, with the Wallas on high speed fan, I can not hear it, but instead do hear the muffin fan on the fridge compressor. The Wallas is that quiet, with it’s mufflers on the two hot air ducts.

The only thing that made this week with no diesel heater tolerable was having a mattress heating pad on our bed. It allowed us a decent night’s sleep in a cold boat. Don’t leave home without it

This is the 120v one that I have had for a year now and would recommend my 120v Mattress Pad. I hesitated getting a 120v pad because there are issues with noise in the transformer, they can produce a buzz that’s audible in a quiet room. This 120v unit has no noise at all.

Previously, I had used a 12v hating pad. The first one lasted 4 years and I loved it. It didn’t need an inverter to run and it really warmed the bed on cold winter days in New England and Northern Europe. So, when it started not to work, I bought the same one My 12v Mattress Pad. this one only worked for a couple of months before it too, started simply stopped working. So, I gave up on them. Stupidly, I should have returned the second one while under warranty, but for some reason, that never occurred to me.

Now, while we spent this week with no heater. I did have the two A/C reverse cycle units on the boat. They will provide heat. But we only had on 25-amp circuit to the boat. So that took some jury rigging to turn on one heater or the other.

Worked fine until I also decided to install an Automatic Generator Start that same week.

When it rains, it pours!

But that’s the next story.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Power to the People

This entire spring, I have been dealing with electrical power issues, of course, like usual, mostly self-imposed. My Kadey Krogen 42 is a really well designed, well-built boat, but for the nut behind the wheel, all would be perfect.

This is what’s been happening.

Batteries. My four Yuasa 8D Sealed Lead Acid batteries, bought in Ireland 4 years ago, are shot. Each battery is 225 amp-hours (AH) but are down to about 10 AH each! That means that once 40 AH are out of the entire bank, the voltage crashes to under 11 volts.

The battery that was replaced.

Last fall and again this winter, hoping it was just one battery gone bad, pulling the others down, I separated each battery, let them rest and then checked each voltage. Normally it’s a good sign that they were all within a couple of hundredths of a volt, but in this case, it just affirmed that the entire bank was shot.

My first solution was to get and install an Automatic Generator Start (AGS). I found a Magnum on Amazon. An AGS starts the generator automatically at a certain voltage, in this case 12.0 volts. Once this was up and running, at least I didn’t have to wake up every three hours, check the voltage, go back to sleep for an hour or two, then get up to turn off the generator.

The AGS Setup
The replacement cells

Now, the gen would come on automatically, run for the time I had set, in this case one hour. That would put enough charge back in the batteries for the next few hours.

The installation was relatively complicated because of my Westerbeke gen. It required using two additional relays (the AGS itself is essentially three relays).

About his time, somewhat unrelated to the batteries, I managed to short out my Heart Interface b y doing something really stupid.

We were connected to one 30-amp shore supply. To make life easier, I installed a jumper breaker switch so that I could power both circuits of the boat from the one source. It does mean we must manage our use, so if making hot water in the electric kettle, we must turn ff the water heater which itself uses 10 amps of 120 power.

I managed to blow up two of the mosfets in the Heart inverter by forgetting to disconnect this jumper or disconnecting the shore power, when I went to start the generator.

So, I was also in the market for a replacement inverter. I wanted a pure sine wave inverter to be able to run by 120v heating pad on my bed.

I ended up deciding on MPP Solar Inverters, I got two 1,000-watt inverters that normally run in parallel and thus provide 2,000 watts as needed. I can also sun them singly, giving me back up if needed. Also integrated into each unit is an 80 A MPPT solar panel controller.

The Li battery is under the black rubber protective cover lower right. one od the older 8Ds is in middle. MPP Inverter/Chargers are on top.

On the battery side, I decided to try ONE LiFePO4 chemistry battery, that I would put together myself using four 3.2-volt cells (each 200 AH) and a Battery Management System (BMS). Total cost for the four cells, shipping and BMS was $600, though it took two months by boat from China to Seattle, then barge to Wrangell, Alaska.

The battery was relatively easy to set up. I’d spent much of the winter watching Will Prouses’s videos on YouTube and reading his forum.

Update: the link to one of his videos and forum. Will Prouse’s channel

From the forum, in the marine section, I found the solution to the issue of an abrupt battery shutdown by the BMS, possibly blowing up the diodes in the Alternator or Generator.

link to marine forum

 

The easiest solution seems to be to keep lead acid batteries in the system. So, in my case, I took out only one of the 8D’s and replaced it with the Lithium battery.

The naked battery before covering
This is how I got that 100 lb 8D out of the engine room, without breaking my back. I used the winch on the boom from the fly bridge.

The new setup has been operational since June and has worked well and as anticipated.

I had to set a user custom charging program for my Balmar ARS-5 regulator. I also added a temperature sensor for the regulator to know the temperature of the alternator. I set the bulk charging to 60 amps and 120 minutes at 14.2 volts. Absorption I set to the minimum 6 minutes and Float to 13.3 volts.

Works like a charm. If we are on the hook, 12 hours overnight uses about 110 to 150 AH. Once we get underway, the alternator will put 60 amps into the batteries for the first two hours, then go to Float.  LiFePO don’t like being kept fully charged, so the Float at 13.3 keeps them about 85 to 90% capacity while underway.

The MPP Inverter/charger works somewhat the same, but at least for now, though I did have to change the Bulk charging voltage from 14.2 to 14.6 volts to get it to go into Bulk charging if the batteries are at 50% since the voltage at 50% stays relatively high at around 13.00 v.

With this set up, now when out fishing for the day for days, we just run the generator for an hour or two in the morning and maybe one hour in early evening.

Next up, our summer fishing trip.

 

 

 

Seasickness

Getting or not getting “seasick” is a subject I have been meaning to write about for quite awhile now. I had partially addressed it in the excerpt below which I published two years ago. But I never made the follow-up post of my reflections on the subject and conclusions after the three month and 5,000-mile passage from North Africa to the Panama Canal. A video I made on our nice Christmas Day

Christmas Dinner with Micah on the Atlantic 2016

That’s 5,000 miles in strong, 18 to 36 knot winds produced by the northeasterly trade winds. While these winds are called the NE Trades, because that is their long-term direction, the actually winds on this passage were NE through SE, with three distinct swells from those directions with differing amplitudes and periods.  This produced 8 to 16-foot seas with relatively short periods of 6 to 8 seconds from the NE thru the SE. Not the most pleasant conditions, even for a boat like Dauntless that loves following seas. In fact, this was the most difficult conditions with following seas we’ve ever encountered.

Some of the worst conditions possible if one is prone to seasickness, with the boat corkscrewing its way across the Atlantic at 7 knots. I expected that as I got my sea legs, sea sickness would be just a bad memory.  But no, in fact, it was to the contrary. It got me to wondering what was really going on.

Stress builds and crossing an ocean is stressful in the best of conditions. For one, my insurance does not cover me past 200 miles off-shore. So, abandoning ship is not an option. For another, with a three-week passage, you are asking every component to work 24/7 for that time period and if something does go wrong, how to minimize the damage.  Therefore, it’s a constant weighing of risks, rewards.  E.g. Can I fix this problem with the engine running or do I increase the chances of something else going wrong by turning off the engine?

This is what I had written two years ago, just days after leaving Morocco for the Canaries at the very start of my second Atlantic Passage:

Morocco to the Canaries

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

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 quarter of the time. Now in my third year, it’s more like three-quarters of the time.

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 transdermal patch. I’ve been using the patch for more than 3 years, now all of a sudden, the patch gives me a bad rash, but it’s also very effective as long as I put it on the night before departure.

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

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. 

We were heading 240 degrees, with Southeast winds 20 to 25 knots, 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.  

On the 3rd day out of Morocco, I was in the galley filling my water bottle, when I felt the boat motion change. I looked out the salon window to see the windward paravane bird being dragged on top of the water, clearly broken. 

I purposely take my time and want to remain calm. I finish filling my water bottle. I go to stop the boat, neutral, idle, then up to the fly bridge to retrieve the pole and the broken bird. 

Dauntless is quite tame when not underway, in other words, she rolls much less.  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.  We had two spares in the lazzerette. The one on the starboard side was easier to reach, but as we tried to get it out, 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, with its metal fin pressed against the exhaust hose and the wooden bird, so close to the hydraulic rudder piston. But after 10 minutes of trying dislodge it, I gave up, unloaded the port side of the lazzerette 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 most of that time, trying to get the one bird out. 

Underway again, all was OK, but I was feeling very strange. Very strange.

I went to change my clothes, as I was very hot, sweaty and covered in anti-corrosion oil I had sprayed liberally in the lazzerette before leaving.

But after changing my clothes, I felt worse; like overheating badly, I figured a shower would help.

I shower, figuring that cooling off would make me feel better, but now, I can’t even dry myself off. It was a bizarre feeling. I wasn’t able to stand up or move. I dragged myself to bed and lay on top.

I figure I just need a little rest, but had wanted to walk around the boat, make sure all is OK before we get underway again. So, after a few minutes, getting more stressed because I knew Micah and Dauntless were waiting for me, 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 finally understood that I can do nothing but lay on top of my bed naked. I couldn’t even dry myself off. I use what little strength I have to tell Micah to make sure everything looks OK and to get underway.

I stayed on top of the bed and went to sleep.

Three hours later, I am up and OK. Like it never happened.

After I posted the above, my friend Dan added this comment:

“I have read of at least one person who has spent decades at sea who get sea sick every time they set to sea for three days or so. They, like so many, take a while to get their sea legs, and then they are just fine. What was interesting about this person is that they ONLY get sea sick when they are captain. If they are crewing on a boat, they don’t get sea sick at all. Their guess was that the stress of being captain was what caused the sea sickness.”

+++

By the time we arrived in the Caribbean, I’d had two more stressful incidents and very similar physical reactions. Not only that, but suddenly, my skin was very allergic to the adhesive on this particular batch of Trans-dermal patches. So, I couldn’t wear it anymore and I’m left with these two quarter sized areas behind by ears of no pigmentation. No Michael Jackson jokes please.

I had also started to see a pattern. On Christmas Day, it was one of the calmest of the trip, with seas not more than 8 feet and winds in the mid to high teens. We saw whales that day and had a couple cruise with us for about 15 minutes. They were 30 to 40 feet in length and swam underwater next to the paravane bird. 

Christmas being more important to my nephew Micah than myself, I wanted to make a special dinner, so I BBQed the last of four delicious Canary Island Tee Bone Steaks. The best ever.

As soon as I had served our dinner, I had that feeling of “seasickness” come over me. A bit of nausea and overall weakness.

Sitting in Martinique in the wonderful marina Le Marin, I had time to reflect on what was really going on. In all my cases of “seasickness”, the motion of the boat was actually less than it had been over any given period of time. Also, it was clear that I wasn’t sick before a crisis, I wasn’t sick during the crisis, but as soon as the crisis was over, I was sick.

Didn’t really sound like motion sickness to me, but more a reaction to stress.

I’s already stopped using the Transdermal patch and now I decided to not take any more seasickness medicine at all, when we left Martinique for the Panama Canal

I also decided to take a shower every morning before my watch and every night before bed. The shower in the morning seemed to calm me down. I had no idea why, but starting my day at a lower anxiety level seemed to make a significant difference.

From Martinique to San Francisco, a distance of 3,600 miles and 90+ days of cruising, in some of the worst seas I have ever encountered, I’ve taken an anti-nausea medicine only twice.

I now understand that that terrible “seasick” felling was my body adjusting to the lack of adrenaline that the stress had produced and my para-sympathetic system was now getting my body back to normal.

Clearly the shower in the morning or before my watch, makes a significant difference.

And then in the November 30, 2018 Wall Street Journal, they did a book review of the book, Never-Home-Alone

And the shower in the morning starts to make sense scientific sense.

Here is the article from the Journal (bolding and underline is mine):

BOOKSHELF

‘Never Home Alone’ Review: The Critters Chez Nous

In trying to rid our homes of insects, fungi and the like, we’re forcing the species around us to evolve ever faster—often at our own expense.

Lisa Margonelli reviews “Never Home Alone” by Rob Dunn.

When Rob Dunn was a young ecologist he rummaged through rainforests in search of biodiversity. More recently he discovered another type of wilderness: In a study of 1,000 houses in the U.S., Mr. Dunn’s team found 80,000 kinds of bacteria and archaea hidden inside—that’s at least 10 times the number of bird and mammal species observed in all of the Americas.

He soon also unearthed in our homes some 40,000 kinds of fungi and hundreds of insects, many yet to be named by entomologists.

“I was ecstatic,” Mr. Dunn writes. “Back in the jungle again, albeit the jungle of everyday life.”

In his fascinating new book, “Never Home Alone: From Microbes to Millipedes, Camel Crickets, and Honeybees, the Natural History of Where We Live,” Mr. Dunn brings a scientist’s sensibility to our domestic jungle by exploring the paradox of the modern home: In trying to make it “clean,” we’re forcing the species around us to evolve ever faster—often at our own expense.

Mr. Dunn is a fine writer, wringing poetry out of the microbial explorations of Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, who spent half the 17th century documenting all the tiny living things around him—in his neighbor’s mouth, in the snow, in cheese rinds and in wasps. Leeuwenhoek “was to become an astronaut of the miniature,” Mr. Dunn tells us, “all alone exploring a realm that was more diverse and elaborate than anyone but him seemed to understand.”

Mr. Dunn also gracefully explains, without getting bogged down in details, the technology that has allowed scientists during the past decade or so to sequence the DNA of millions of previously unknown microbes, making his book an excellent layperson’s guide to cutting-edge research.

Mr. Dunn’s larger purpose is to explain how the ecology of the home has gone awry. Once upon a time, we lived in leaf huts, with interiors that looked a lot like our outdoor environment.

Soon we moved to round houses, then square houses and finally to air-tight apartments in cities.

Now we close our windows, use products that claim to kill 99% of germs and have unknowingly domesticated bedbugs—so they adjust their workdays around ours.

Our homes no longer resemble the garden outside but have a weird human-centered microbial signature that is also found on the International Space Station, and that’s not a good thing.

The problem, according to Mr. Dunn, “is not what is present but instead what is absent. The problem has to do with what happens when we create homes devoid of nearly all biodiversity except that which falls from us and then, for twenty-three hours of the day, we don’t go outside.”

To understand how mundane and occasionally deadly this evolutionary project of ours is, consider the shower head. In many American homes, water is treated with chlorine and chloramine, which kill pathogens but not mycobacteria, a genus that includes the cause of tuberculosis.

Meanwhile, in homes with water drawn from wells, nonharmful microbes flourish, including mycobacteria’s natural competitors.

By wiping out all the other bacteria in chlorinated water, we create environments where troublesome microbes thrive and even evolve.

This has led Mr. Dunn, together with his colleague Noah Fierer, to find that mycobacteria in shower heads can accurately predict instances of mycobacterial infections, as well as the regions where these outbreaks are likely to occur. 

And yet mycobacteria are not entirely bad. One species has been found to enhance serotonin production, which can lead to greater happiness and lower stress. Mice exposed to a species of mycobacteria are more likely to remain calm when facing a bigger, more aggressive mouse. 

Might this also explain how a morning shower helps us deal with a stressful commute and a bad day on the job? 

These twin stories—of scientific discovery right under our noses and the perilous impact of our unwitting genetic engineering—thread through Mr. Dunn’s book.

Cockroaches were once easily lured with glucose baits but have now rapidly evolved to dislike sweet things. Good strategy for the cockroaches, more troubling for us.

“Just as military specialists study the battles of the past to prepare for the future,” Mr. Dunn suggests that “we might consider our battle with the German cockroach in contemplating our own evolutionary future.”

“Never Home Alone” is a prescription for more biodiversity in the home and, more specifically, a plea for more attention to ecology. The more we understand how different creatures interact and influence our immune systems, the healthier we may be. But in the service of getting more people into ecology, Mr. Dunn believes the field needs to deliver tangible products.

He wants to systematically explore the species in our homes to determine which ones could contain useful chemistry. The camel cricket, a previously unnoticed and rarely studied thumb-size little bugger that lives—possibly by the billions—in American basements, has gut bacteria that can break down black liquor, a highly alkaline toxic waste produced by the paper industry.

The thief ant traipsing across your kitchen counter also produces an antibiotic that may eventually be useful against hard-to-fight infections. Personally, what I want to see is a home “makeunder “show dedicated to “rewilding” homes—similar to what you’d see on the Learning Channel, only more anarchic.

A bunch of giggling scientists show up at the door, toss the hand sanitizer, the shower head, the Sheetrock and the fungus-laden air conditioner.

In their place, they hand the homeowner a bar of soap, throw open the windows, install a ball of spiders to fight flies in the basement and start a batch of sourdough—all in the service of re-creating the garden indoors.

No doubt there will be tension in the idea of a wild domicile. Even King Tut, Mr. Dunn notes, was buried with a fly swatter.

Ms. Margonelli is the author, most recently, of “Underbug: An Obsessive Tale of Termites and Technology.” ■

 

 

Atlantic Passage 2016 Videos

I am writing a piece on getting seasick and I wanted to include some of the videos I had made just before I got sick. My point being that I’m not sure it is seasickness per se.

In looking for the videos, I realized that while I had posted a link to them in my smugmug site, https://dauntless.smugmug.com/Dauntless/Dauntless-Atlantic-2016-Videos/

I’d never posted some of them here.

So here they are:

 Day 13, Stbd deck view, seas 8 to 15 feet. An average day.

 Day 14, View from the fly bridge looking east.

 Day 14, I’m replacing the hydraulic hose in the lazzerette.
We are dead in the water and Micah didn’t like looking aft at waves that towered over the boat and then disappeared, as we bobbed on top of the wave. (View of seas at 2:40).

 Day 14, I show the new hose.

 Day 16, On our more steady days, we’d play a board game, in which I had glued a piece of non skid rubber to the bottom of the pieces.

  Day 16, The only ship we encountered in the 3 week trip.
Thank you AIS (for he avoided us).

Day 16, Our well travelled Kadey Krogen Flag on it’s second Atlantic Crossing

 Day 16, Christmas, one of our best days.
We had great steak dinner and had a whale with us for awhile. 

 Day 16, Our Christmas whale

 Day 16, Christmas Dinner.
I got “seasick” as soon as I finished cooking.

Day 14, the Maretron data showing 8 hours of Rolling (right) and 4 days of pitch (sorry I did not make the time frames the dame). The rolling graph also clearly shows the 30 minutes or so we were stopped, while I replaced the hose (between hr 4&5). Also, please note that while it seems rolling is the same or increased while stopped in the water, the paravanes have no effect when stopped. Therefore, if underway without paravanes, the rolling would be about double under these following seas condition (when the paraveanes are least effective).

 

 

 

Catastrophizing at Sea

I’m currently visiting my friends for 40+ years in northeastern Italy, in a little town called Budoia. At the very foot of the Dolomites (a portion of the Alps), I first came here while stationed at Aviano Air Base in 1976.

The front of the house and the church
Budoia, (PN) in NE Italy.

Last night, while returning relatively late, it turned out, in spite of having all the keys to the doors, the shutters were also inadvertently locked. Now, these shutters are not the dainty kind we see on so many houses to give them that “homey” feel.

No, these shutters, like the house, were built in the 1800’s to keep the brigands out and to withstand a siege. So, the one door that I knew was kept unbolted at night and that I had the key for, was behind the brigand proof shutters. I know, I tried, not even a millimeter of give on those shutters.

I had already tried the other two doors, one in front, one in back, all bolted. I had even tried the door that is not used. Upon unlocking it, it seemed to give a millimeter or so, but is was clear that either the furniture in front of it was completing blocking it or it too was bolted. In any case, I quickly gave up and returned once more to the shutters.

The shutter when closed

Was it possible there was something I was not understanding in their opening? The matriarch of the house, knew I was coming back at this hour and had acknowledged not to lock me out, so I wondered what I was missing?

It was cold, already, 28° or -2°C. I couldn’t sleep in the car. My cell phone was dead, but I did have car charger and cable, I plugged it in and called the house. No answer.

I then tried her mobile number and minutes later after I successfully completed the “who is this? (It’s me) and why are you calling me at this hour? (the shutters are locked)” interrogation, I saw her coming down the stairs.

A half hour later, warm and cozy in my bed, was I ever so grateful to be in bed and to not have had to implement contingency plan number XYZ. But that got me to thinking, what was XYZ?

Normally open

In my ten minutes of trying to solve the problem, trying every door a couple of times, even the windows, trying all sorts of key like objects in the lock of the shutters, all the while not thinking of the cold and me with no overcoat, (since I came from Vietnam). I realized never spent any time on “what if I can’t get in?”

What if I could not rouse the occupant? What if; then what?

No, I was totally focused on solving the problem.

While it’s impossible to cross an ocean in a small boat and not have some issues, in my two plus ocean passages, I’ve only had one problem that could have been, more than an inconvenience. That was when I burst the hydraulic line 1,000 miles from land in the middle of the Atlantic in 10 to 15-foot seas.

The hose that broke feed the hydraulic ram for the rudder. Without this hose, no steering and no autopilot. My Kadey Krogen does have an emergency tiller that attached to the top of the rudder post thru an opening in the deck, with a 6-foot lever arm. But this would mean standing, sitting, suffering on the aft deck for 7 straight days and nights.

I shudder even now just thinking about it.

As mariner’s who motor instead of sail know, a boat at constant rudder angle, will not go in a straight line. Wave action pushes the bow a little bit each time and the boat will be noticeably turning within 30 seconds in any kind of seas, thus requiring constant rudder adjustments. The primary reason an autopilot, to maintain a constant heading, is much required. More than likely Dauntless would arrive in Martinique minus any human crew, as we would have decided that swimming was better.

When this hose broke, my first thought wasn’t how we would now get to Martinique, it was how to solve the immediate problem. Just like last night, I didn’t spend any time on “what-ifs”. Oh, over the years I have some very general contingency plans, such as, engine stops, and I can’t get it going again for whatever reason, the prevailing winds will eventually blow the boat to land (as this wouldn’t happen in the Southern Ocean, that’s another reason not to go there!). Therefore, we have enough canned goods, water and peanut butter to last for months.

Many people have asked me what makes me able to cross oceans while other far more experienced sailors don’t. As I was reminded last night, one of the keys is the ability to focus on the problem at hand and not to catastrophize the problem. Don’t think of more problems when as you try to fix one.

When my helm wheel went slack in my hands in the middle of the Atlantic, I allowed myself one indulgence, I cursed at myself for being so stupid, but then it was to the task on hand. Let’s not spend any time on what-if I can’t fix it, let’s just fix it.

Another way to look at is Optimist versus Pessimist. The optimist sees possibilities, the pessimist sees barriers.

Not may pessimists cross oceans, maybe not even in planes!

You can check out my post about this here: Crisis in the Mid- Atlantic

 

 

 

 

,

 

Two Types of Boaters

Two More Projects Down; 37 to Go

Now, there are two types of boaters.

There are those who have few parts, but they are well organized and whenever they need something, they always have just what they need. Best of all, they have very few extra pieces, everything being stored in a few 2-liter containers.

Then, there is the boater who every marine store, big box store and Amazon loves. They have literally hundreds if not thousands of parts: plumbing connectors, electrical wires of all sizes, butt connectors, spade connectors, every connector under the sun; except for the one they need.

All threaded NPT

I’m in the latter group.

So, my little, very little, dock filter project, took three days and 4 trips to Home Depot, Wal-Mart and Ace hardware. Why, you wonder with the plethora of things I already have on board?

An assortment of hose barbs and NPT connectors

Well, it’s like this. I have 100 feet of ½” clear braided nylon tubing. I also have about 25 feet of 3/8” of the same, as well as 50’ of 1 inch. The water filter I bought used ¾” fittings. I didn’t want to use ½ inch. I also needed ¾” NPT to Hose thread.  I had a nice variety and quaintly of stainless steel ¾” hose barbs to ¾” NPT, and many ½” barbs, but alas no ¾” tubing.

I will spare myself the embarrassment of the Rube Goldberg setup I made first, then second, finally third, but with too many connectors of different sizes, it was difficult to not have a joint leaking.

Finally, I bit the bullet and went back to HD for the umpteenth time and bought a ¾” NPT male/female water heater hose of two feet.

Thus, my dock water household filter was installed in a manner that I’m happy with. Even got a quick disconnect to work that I’ve been carrying around for 4 years. I also took the time to re-organize all my hose and pipe fittings.

Now as you look at the pictures, while it may seem relatively organized, I seem to have soooo many ¾” fittings for who knows what, since I have few ¾” anythings on board.

An assortment of Hose thread (top), hose to NPT and all NPT (middle) and hose barbs (bottom)

The dock water filter was certainly not a necessity, as I have gotten along fine without it for these 5 years. But I am on a self-imposed deadline, getting the stuff done that is at best superfluous and at worst a waste of money. For next year, with Trinh here, she’ll ask me how I managed all these years without it, not having a good answer, she’ll tell me to save my money.

I’ve already calculated that I will save $500 per month. I feel richer already.

I did have a much bigger and serious problem, that I have worked around, but had to be fixed.

My Heart Inverter/Charger has not been charging for the last few months. I could tap it and it would wake up and start to charge, but sometimes within minutes, sometimes within hours, it would revert to not charging.  So, I knew it was an internal relay problem. But I hate disconnecting it from the 930 amp-hours of batteries.

Also, I could work around it relatively easily, as I have another charger, a Neumar, that charges only, but will work on any voltage, which made the time in Europe very easy. It’s on circuit 1 and as you have read, in this marina, I only am connected to circuit 2.
When I left Dauntless in July, I left her connected to circuit 1 and therefore the Neumar was charging.
But now, being on the boat, circuit 2 is more convenient. I didn’t want to do another work around like I did for the washer and water heater. I needed the Heart Inverter/Charger to work as it is supposed to.

So, I depowered everything, turned off all external power and disconnected the batteries (at the 300-amp fuse). Open the Inverter case and sprayed a lot of contact cleaner on everything, especially the two sets of points that make up the charger relay.

I also tightened the female spade connections on the circuit breaker for the charger (on the upper right of the picture). They didn’t feel loose, but still, couldn’t hurt and a loose connection like that, while very simple, can cause havoc or worse.

I let it dry for an hour, re-connected everything and powered her up. This time, I didn’t have to tap it and it worked as it should. Battery voltage slowly worked its way up to 14.04 v and stayed there for a while as the amperage came down. But even after 24 hours, voltage was 13.78 v, while the amperage was still about + 4 amps.

49 hours later, the voltage as stabilized around 13.70 and the amps going into the batteries stays a little positive, even if it is only +0.4 amps.

Very happy. Now, when I leave the boat this winter, I will leave it on that inverter charger.

I also ate some great Korean food this past weekend, as I had a great day in San Jose with some wonderful Korean friends.

Korean food in San Jose

 

And I did go to Costco, since my 3000 feet of plastic wrap which as lasted me 5 years ran out yesterday. While at Costco I bought romaine lettuce, Brussel’s spouts and rack of lamb.

The new box and old box (with wood veneer)

 

Coming up next, a hundred males, only a few females; nothing good can come from that.

Still Plugging Away in Vallejo, But a New Tale of Adventure and Woe on the High Seas

My fresh water replumbing job was 75% done yesterday, today it’s 50% and even that took a couple of hours. Suffice to say that the floor of closet now looks like Charlie Kruger took to it with a chain saw. No pictures, since many who read this are carpenters or at last know how to work wood and the pictures are not fit for a mature audience.

My beloved grill already for another 5 years

But it does bring back some painful memories. My first wife had asked me many, many times to repaint some chairs we had. Finally, I did. I laid the yellow paint on nice and thick, so the old color would not show through. I was pleased, though they took days to dry. Finally, I presented my masterpieces and she asked me about those drip marks. What drip marks? They weren’t there when I put them to dry. I hope she’s not reading this and cringing.

I stuck to things mechanical and electrical after that.

Who looks at the bottom of the closet anyway?

I have finished some small things though. I replaced both burners and the electric igniter  on my Weber Q300 grill. That grill has spent 5 years on the ocean. I’ve been quite pleased with it.

I also installed the new thermostat in my Raritan water heater. I did notice in my travel this week that both the thermostat and heating element are available at your local Home Depot for roughly half the price. It’s expensive to print the word “marinized” on the box.

The tangle around the prop that was removed today

Last, but not least, I had a diver come by to check my bottom. Well, Dauntless’ bottom. And sure enough, I had a little collection of lines around my prop. I’m so happy. Coming up the California coast, I thought I felt a slightest of vibrations. Almost like a shudder every few seconds. It would not have been noticeable to anyone else and Larry didn’t feel it, but I knew. Even wanting to be wrong about it, I knew. I was worried that I had tweaked the prop. Worse yet I thought I had tweaked it by doing something stupid. Yes, even stupider than the last stupid thing.

We were underway from Ensenada to San Diego, eagerly anticipating the celebration with fireworks and fire boats that was sure to wait us in the old U.S. of A. It had been 4 years after all.

This shows the Maretron Data of Pitch (left) and Roll (right). You can see where I deployed the paravane because the roll was reduced by more than half at about the 28 minutes ago mark. You can see that it also reduced the pitch, but that is not to be expected. It happened this time because of the combination of NW swell and West wind waves as were headed NNW.

The wind was light, 10 knots from the west on our port beam. With the added Pacific swell from the northwest, the boat’s rolling had increased as the day wore on. By early afternoon, the roll was 10° to starboard and about 5° to windward or port. But occasionally the roll increased to 15° & 10°. That’s a difference of 25° and usually is the point where I really notice the roll and so I will put one or both paravane birds out. In this case, I just put the windward bird out. That would dampen the roll about 50% and we only lost 0.4 knots. A good price to pay for a nicer ride.

This picture I took as the boat slowed down, so the bird was back under the water.

Suddenly, close to the USA-Mexico border, the ride of the boat abruptly changed. It became very smooth. I jumped up from the pilot house settee to look at the paravane and see that we had snagged hundreds of feet of line connected to pots, I guessed. I estimated hundreds of feet, since I could see at least 100 feet strung in the air, then to the bird which was well out of the water.

I chopped the power, the boat slowing quickly. But now, the line of the pots was snagged on the bird, but stopped dead in the water, with the pole vertical, we had all the dead weight of whatever that line was attached to.

I got the not so bright idea to go in reverse. Possibly, the line would un-snag itself at that point. It’s worked in the past, but no luck this time.

Larry and I heaved and heaved and got the line up to the bird, at which point, we cut the snagged line away. This line also had several floats on it. Once cut away, the floats and line and floating right next to the hull amidships.

Until now we had done almost everything right. I just needed to be a little patient.  But patience is not a virtue I have been gifted with. I decided to go forward to get away from the floats. Yes, by running over them. Sounds stupid even in the writing. Sure enough, within seconds the line was in the prop. I stopped the motor and cursed at my stupidity.

That done, I put her in reverse, as I have unwound lines that way also. In this case, no and hell no. There came a hellish scream, which I attributed to a float being wound around the prop scrapping the hull.

Wow, as I write this, details came back that I totally forgot about!

I went in the water. I lowered the swim ladder, climbed down the ladder to the lowest rung and stood there, while Larry handed me the boat hook. I was able to snag the line using the boat hook, since it was about 10 feet under the water.

We got that line up to the boat and cut it.

I then backed up again and we were free.

But from then on, I felt this slight shudder. Had I tweaked the prop? I didn’t know until today.

I do have a SALCA cutter anode (model 2000, 2″ diameter) on the shaft, just in front of the prop. I’m sure it has saved me many times and even this time, may have helped. But that pile of lines now on the dock, was wrapped around the prop since San Diego.

In thinking about this incident, I also realize that the paravanes were well designed for incidents like this. I’m sure that is the most force put on that pole and lines since installation. The 3/8” Amsteel Blue line fore guy did its job. To stop the roll suddenly and slow the boat so abruptly, there must have been thousands of pounds of force to the aft on that line. It’s tied off permanently at the bow hawsepipe and cleat. I have it doing 4 turns over the cap rail, with a clove hitch before it’s tied off on a cleat. Thus, the cleat never really sees significant force, even under these circumstances.

Thank you, John Duffy in Miami, for doing such a great job with the paravanes.

I think I’ll have a celebratory drink, since I missed the fireworks and fireboats in San Diego.\

And I’m looking for a decently priced Hookah outfit. I need to be even more self reliant.

 

 

Plugging Away in Vallejo

Having dedicated these days to the three dozen items on my winter to-do checklist, I hardly have time to write this blog. So, I’ll just have to add this to the list.

So, I figured I’d make goal, nice and high,  like 25%.

My salon electrical panel

What? You were expecting 110%?

I’m not one of those super achievers who when they want to paint the engine room, they take everything out, like engine, genny and all that crap glued to the walls.  Eek. Even writing that sends chills down my spine.

I have done a few things on the list. Maybe more than a few. Of course, I had to write a review for the local donut place. Well, not so local, but good donuts are worth the time.

The back of the salon electrical panel. the breaker I had the problem getting the screw back in was near the top of the picture middle column.

This wonderful marina  with covered dock, only supplies me one 30-amp circuit. It quickly became tiresome for me to change the dock plug from one circuit to the other, when I want to turn on the water heater or Splendid washer-dryer. So, in consultation with that Krogen guru, Dave Arnold, who pointed out  a far simpler method to power those items from the circuit that they are not on, from what I had originally devised. I proceeded to put a simple jumper off the breaker in the salon two days ago.

But then today, in a sure sign of mission creep, I decided to idiot proof my little setup.

In normal times, I run either two 30-amp lines to the boat or one 50 amp to a splitter that makes it into two 30’s for the boat. My main charger/inverter is on circuit 2, with most of the primary everyday stuff in the boats like the outlets and salon A/C. On Circuit 1, are the step children: washer dryer, water heater, chargers two and three and forward A/C unit.

So here, the dock power is plugged into circuit 2. In it’s previous life, this Kadey Krogen used to be a heavy 120v user, almost everything except for the navigation lights, radio and radar were household 120v.

Dauntless was going to be a cruising boat, not a dock queen, so from the beginning, my goal was to reduce that 120V dependence. First to go were the Subzero fridge and freezer; then thanks to Amazon, all the lights and/or bulbs were replaced by 12v LEDs. Boat computer, LCD monitors (Samsung 24”, there is at least one particular model that will work on 12v and in fact, works to about 11.5 v) and everything else in the pilot house are 12 votls.

The only 120v items that remain are one salon wall light that also serves as a 120v power tell tale and the older appliances that are not sued that often and thus not efficient to change such as the Raritan water heater, the Splendide washer dryer combo, the two A/C units and the microwave. That’s it.

This is the first time in months, I’ve needed the 120v water heater, as it also uses engine coolant to heat the water. But it’s cold up here and that first night back, taking a cold shower was enough for me to decide I needed a better plan. Replacing the heating element had been on my list of things to do for a while, as measured in years. While in Cabo I realized the water, heater was not working on electrical power. But, since I was seldom stopped long enough for the water to get cold, I didn’t need it until now.

So, the first day back, it was number one project. Of course, I had to get an inch and a half socket, but once that was done, it was all done, and we were good to go

Except we weren’t. Still no hot water.

Get the electric meter, umm should have done this first, only to discover that the problem was the thermostat. Well, that was easily bypassed. Now for the first time in a long time I had electrically heated hot water. I just had to remember to turn off the breaker after an hour or so.

Now I had the problem of having to move the dock plug every time I wanted to make hot water. I don’t like messing with the dock plug. If I’m moving it once a day, that’s a sure way to have some other issues. I needed a better solution.

So, two days ago, I made a jumper from a non-used breaker on circuit 2 to the water heater breaker on circuit 1.

I now had power to the water heater from circuit 2. Life was good.

I always want to make it better though, even if that has often not served me very well. A primary reason I’ve had few careers in my life, especially in Education, where there are too many adults who like the system just the way it is, words and promises notwithstanding.

But obvious solutions are sometimes not as simple as it seems. Thus, today I spent a couple of hours just trying to get one little screw back into the breaker. It was one of those old, straight cut, very short screws that were popular in the 60’s.  I tried grease, even glue, to get it to stay on the tip of the screw driver. I had only taken it out because I wanted to disconnect the line that was there. I knew it was going to an outlet that is not used, but I wanted to make sure that if I had power to both circuits 1 & 2, that I would not be feeding power where it was unexpected.

I just thought it better to remove the second lead from the load side of the breaker. Now, the breaker has only one load, no matter what.  On the picture, it’s the second breaker in the middle column in the lower part.

After doing that, it was easy to also add a jumper for the washer dryer. Those breakers were on the outside column, about a million times easier to access and that only took a few minutes.

My new head water nozzle

My other little projects that were on the list was to add little water nozzles by each toilet.  It’s an eastern Asian thing and virtually every toilet in Vietnam has one, even the toilets that don’t have a commode. I also find it far more practical than a French bidet. Besides cleaning all sorts of things,  it can also be used to fight fires or water fights with mutinous crew!

What more can one ask for?

The Second head water nozzle

The Dauntless Fuel System

After three days in Xtapa, I was getting ready to go again.

My Racor systems

The night before departure, I topped up all our fluids, both oil and coolant were down, since we had those repairs the days earlier. While they were topped up upon completion of those repairs, it takes running time for air to work out of the systems.

The rough seas and miserable pitching of the last few days seemed to really scour the fuel tank, so I ran the fuel polisher system (filtering fuel to take water and impurities out) on the starboard tank for 8 hours the day before. During the 8 hours, vacuum on the filter had increased from 4”, which is OK, but not great, to only 5”. Which is marginal. Since we were getting underway for another multiple day passage, I changed the fuel polisher filter, a Racor 900 filter system (Racor 2040 2-micron filters bought on Amazon for $12 each.

I usually don’t run the fuel polisher that often anymore.  Unless needing to really top up the tanks, like leaving the Canaries for the Caribbean, I only put new fuel in one tank. Thus, I can isolate any issues. I then run the fuel polisher on the new fuel to check it out. Usually an hour; If the vacuum doesn’t change significantly, I turn it off. Sometimes the vacuum will even go down, when the new batch of fuel is better than what was in the tank.

Underway, I also always set the return to the same tank it is feeding from. Once, in prehistoric times, I set the return to the other tank as a means to transfer fuel. Of course, I forgot and ran out of fuel while running. I didn’t do that again.

But I did. This second time, I had inadvertently left both feeds and returns open. For whatever reason, my system tends to return more fuel to the port tank and less to the starboard tank if both returns are open. Thus, I emptied one tank. But this time, the engine did notice because I had also left the sight tubes open on top and bottom. The result was that although the starboard tank was empty, enough fuel was being returned, keeping the sight tube full, which was then fed back to the engine.

Aux fuel pump

Had I closed the sight tube, the engine would suck air from the tank feed.

Lesson learned. Nowadays, besides feeding and returning to the same tank, I also keep the top of the sight tubes closed, so that fuel goes back to the tank. Otherwise, it defeats the purpose of using cooler fuel from the tank.

I like the Racor setup very much. Twin primary filters, Racor 500, in parallel, and a Racor 900 for fuel polishing and transfer. For a long-distance cruiser like Dauntless, it’s a mission critical system. Meaning don’t leave home without it. When underway, I don’t go into the engine room often, maybe only twice a day, once in the evening before my shower and bed and in the morning, after my early morning watch. (I usually wait until crew is awake, so I don’t wake them by opening engine room hatch, unless the night before I thought I may have an issue, then I check again as soon as I wake).

Racor filters

The parallel Racors really give me peace of mind. In the early days, when changing filters was more of an adventure than it should be, if I suspected a problem, I’d immediately switch filters to the new one and then monitor the new one for issues (water or clogging). But I didn’t have to deal with the filter just then.  If in a benign environment, I may shut down the engine, but that is rare. Nowadays, I can change a filter in less than two minutes and that includes priming engine if need be. I installed an electric fuel pump just for that purpose. It makes doing any fuel related work so easy. I used to hate changing the engine mounted filters. I still have the scar on the back of my hand from spending days trying to prime engine (turned out to be a failed O ring had clogged fuel line to Injector pump). Nowadays, if I do switch filters while underway, I will change the old filter, so I always have a new one ready to go at an instant.

Fuel from Colon Panama
Strange coincidence that the only place I got significant water in fuel was the only place that gave me a bottle of fuel to prove it was good. Ummm

Nowadays, I almost never have an issue. But when I do, I need the fuel polisher now.

Like when we fueled up in Colon, Panama, waiting to transit the Panama Canal. It was a fuel barge, made even sketchier because they spent some time transferring fuel from a tug to the barge and then to my boat. Once I returned to our slip and ran the fuel polisher, it picked up a lot of water. Another reason to never run from both tanks at once. I knew I had a problem, but it was isolated in the port fuel tank. I also installed those plastic drains that can be opened by hand on all three Racor filters. So, in a situation like this, it made it particularly easy to run fuel polisher a while, when bowl is full of water, empty, run, repeat, until I decide to also change filter. I’ll usually do that at the end.  Then give it a good run again to make sure it’s good to go.

I’ve had a few occasions, in which I just let the fuel polisher run and the vacuum gets to 22” to 24” of mercury (Hg).  When that happens, I am ever more grateful that none of that crap got to engine or even primary filters.

Because the Racors are doing their job so well, I don’t change the engine mounted fuel filters very often. Maybe even on the order of 500 to 1000 hours. This interval has gotten longer and longer because even in the past when I did have some water in the primary filter, the secondary engine mounted filters had none.

I like Fram

You may think that that’s excessive. What’s the harm in changing the primary filters? In my first year or two, the primary filters were the cause of all sorts of issues from blocked fuel lines to air in the system. They are hard to reach, which introduces a greater possibility of error in replacement or even affecting some other nearby engine component.

The Ford Lehman SP135 engine and I have an agreement. I don’t mess with it and it does its’ thing, which is to never stop until so commanded. So, I am particularly careful working near the engine.

A couple of weeks later, this system would again save my bacon. I had carelessly kept running from the starboard tank, even after it went below the sight tube. I did have a reason, I wanted to see if I had really needed the expensive fuel I had added in some expensive place.

I’m in the pilot house and suddenly, I hear the pitch of the engine change. Remember, the Ford Lehman and I have an agreement. The engine pitch never changes. So, in seconds I had the hatch open and was down in front of the engine by the Racors. I instantly switched filters, then took the time to look around. The engine was starting to surge now (up and down in rpms). I looked at the feed tank and saw no fuel in the sight tube. Now the sight tube is still about 20 gallons above the feed line. I open the port tank feed and return and close the starboard feed and return.

Surge continues. I ask Larry to give it some throttle. No change. Throttle back to just above idle. I turn on the electric fuel pump used to prime filters. Add throttle. In about 5 seconds that seems like 5 minutes, the engine smooths out. I wait another minute and turn off electric fuel pump and carefully adjust valves that put electric fuel pump into main fuel line. (otherwise, when first installed, the fuel pump just pump fuel around in a circle, with out the need to go to the engine. Under normal setting this fuel pump is isolated in a parallel loop and the engine uses gravity feed and it’s lift pump).

From first change of engine pitch to running normally again took less than 60 seconds.

My Sp135 was good to go again.

 

 

 

The Saga of the Katadyn Watermaker

The passage from Huatulco to Xtapa was eventful in many ways.

Our fine feathered friend was ready for adventure

The Katadyn 160 Water maker, made in Switzerland, has been a stalwart since installation four years ago, in 2014. It’s simple, which attracted me to it. No gauges, no bells, no whistles, no back flushing, no nothing. When doing long distance cruising, the more simple, the better. It’s only accessories are the manual and a salinity meter, but the manual says your taste buds are more accurate than any salinity meter. Thus, I turn it on, have the three-way valve to the test hose which empties into the galley sink. In the first minute or two, it will taste salty and maybe even moldy, if I haven’t used it in a week. After 5 to 10 minutes, (depending on when last used), I check it again and it’s good.

If I won’t be using it for more than a week, I will “pickle” it. Basically, that is to run a solution that prevents bacterial growth, mold, on the membrane that is producing fresh water.

I have used it in brackish water, but the organic growth quickly clods the first filters, so I don’t do that anymore. I also have a special cleaning solution that I have only had to use once, this past year, because I did not pickle it for a few weeks of non-use.

So, this Katadyn has produced thousands of gallons of water the last four years. I turn it on, taste the output in 5+ minutes and switch the three-way valve to fill one of the water tanks. No fuss, no muss, simple.

This time was no different, however after a few hours, I noticed that I was wasn’t hearing its distinctive thumping sound. It’s hard to hear unless you listen for it, though I can put me hear near the galley sink and the thumping is quite distinctive there since the output water uses the galley drain thru hull.

The power was on, but the watermaker was not. There is an auxiliary pump and the watermaker itself (which is essentially a very high-pressure pump that forces seawater thru the membrane and molecules larger than pure H2O, water, can not pass thru and are sent down the discharge hose.

The auxiliary pump and the watermaker each have a separate fuse, so that was an easy check and I found the watermaker fuse had melted. not just opened, but the plastic fuse itself was melted.

That’s bad.

Mark pointed out that those fuse holders can be the culprit by not holding the fuse tight enough, letting it arc. OK, new fuse and holder. Watermaker is thumping again.

Eight hours later, the watermaker had stopped again. Same fuse, though not melted, just blown.

There was clearly a problem, that just couldn’t be laid on poorly made Chinese fuse holders.

To compound matters, I had let us leave Huatulco with minimal water on board, only 55 gallons in one tank, the other being empty, ready for the watermaker to fill. The watermaker fills one 150-gallon tank in about 20 hours.  In normal water usage, I use about 25 gallons per day, but there were three of us.

I was far more stressed than I let Brian and Mark know.

I replaced the fuse again and hoped for the best. This process was made more difficult because to check the fuse and the watermaker, I had to open the heavy hatch cover to the aft section of the engine room in the salon. (On the list of winter projects is to put a hinge on two of the four panels).

Seven hours later, it stopped again. Quick check shows fuses OK. Next step, the relay.  This relay was one of the half dozen I bought from Amazon for $8. It had been working in that hot engine room for 4 years. Despite being Chinese made, it was heavy duty and well built, except for one thing, the wires, also heavy gauge, were cross colored. Color coding and “standards for American and European Direct Current (DC) wiring (as used in boats and cars) are pretty much the same: red is positive, black is ground, yellow is accessory, etc. So, these relays, all used red, black, yellow, blue wires, but not in the accepted color scheme. It was clear even before I bought them that that was the issue and the reason they were on sale at such a good price. So even though I’ve used them on applications around the boat for the last 4 years, even doing a simple replacement, takes me some time, because it’s hard to get my head around the different color scheme. Don’t connect that red wire to the black one!

But that was done, and we are making water again. Good, because we were down to 23 gallons.

Three hours later, again a blown fuse. Now I was getting worried about running out of 30+ amp fuses.

While I was dicking around with the relay, I took the opportunity to dig thru my spare 12-volt electrical parts bin to figure out my options if I had to replace the fuse holder.

I could take the fuse out of the circuit altogether, but that’s an emergency fix. I did have a real circuit breaker. I could rewire and replace the fuse holder with the circuit breaker and put long enough wires on it for me to have access in the salon. In other words when it tripped, I could just reset, without opening the heavy hatch each time.

So, a few hours later, when the fuse went again, that’s what I did.  I also stopped the engine, over the years I have come close to having a severe accident when underway and my foot slips next to the spinning shaft. In this case, my ankle just bounded off the shaft, but I took it as a warning. It took 30 minutes, but at the end, I had the circuit breaker wired up to the salon.

The watermaker worked for the next 20 hours filling the one tank.  I think the circuit opened not once during that time, though it did open while filling the second tank the next day.

Best of all, it was easy for me to check and we had no more water problems.

We left Xtapa with full water tanks and the watermaker did work as required on the four-day passage to Cabo San Lucas, however, just before arrival, I noticed that the watermaker pump itself was leaking its internal oil. The seals had failed. I’m sure that was the cause of the higher than normal electrical draw all along. I’m just happy after four years of no maintentance, it gave me one more week when I needed it.

I have the seal repair kit, it will be another winter project. More than ever though, I was grateful to Katadyn for making a watermaker that would tolerate my shenanigans.

Here is a link to the Katadyn. I bought it directly from Katadyn, since they were discontinuing the model, so they gave me 30% off. But the link shows the simplicity of the system.

http://www.downwindmarine.com/Katadyn-PowerSurvivor-160E-Watermaker-12V-p-91001017.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Auspicious Start

Ever have those situations when the yellow/red flags are waving, and you spend all your time trying to decide if the flag is yellow or red? Instead of wondering what’s causing the flag to wave in the first place??

Our Intended Route in Red. Taking the time to get away from the coast seemed best for the forecast winds at the time.

Welcome to my world.

Brian and Mark arrived Sunday, the 29th of April. I was a bundle of nerves, due to:

  • The normal stress of starting a long trip,
  • The stress of having crew to keep happy,
  • I still had to check out of the port Monday morning,
  • Having decided to have the boat yard, do the transmission seals, they did not take credit card, so I must figure out a way to get $1000 in cash by Monday morning.

My Monday noon, all the problems were solved, and I was feeling pretty good. I had good, intrepid crew. We had food, wine and booze enough for however long a cruise the weather would allow.

With a crew of two, plus me, we had 205 gallons of fuel in the port tank, 210 in the stbd tank, 55 gallons of water in the port water tank and the stbd tank was empty (to be filled with the water maker while underway).

The track from the InReach at Share.Delorme.com/Dauntless
(If you go to that site, I do not know why the time is 12 hours off)

Engine start was at 12:25, we got underway 10 minutes later, clearing the breakwater at 12:45, on the way to either Can San Lucas, 950 miles northwest (7 days) or maybe even Ensenada, which was another 700 miles further north (another 5 days).

So, at the beginning of a 7 to 12-day passage, my sense of well-being lasted 20 minutes, or about 2 miles.

Clearing the breakwater, we set the course SSW to clear the coast before turning west, then WNW.

The bilge alarm sounded 20 minutes later, (a buzzer that

The Coastal Explorer, C-Map chart

is activated whenever the bilge pump is on), went off, and then sounded again a few minutes later. That was not normal. Thinking the stuffing box again, I left Brian at the helm, while I went to open the salon hatch to the engine room.

Stuffing box was not leaking, but I did see a pinhole leak that was spraying water from the oil heat exchanger. Umm, it’s a pinhole leak, sea water, yet the bilge pump had been on enough to pump much more water? What’s going on.

A minute later, as the engine overheat alarm sounded, it all became crystal clear. Shut down the engine, but we were less than a mile from the rocky shore.

Mark and Brian relax the night before our eventful trip

The engine coolant hose (a heater hose) from the engine to the water heater had failed at the nipple to the water heater. It has dumped all our coolant into the bilge. We were 6/10ths of a mile from shore; a very rocky shore. So, first thing I did was fill the engine coolant tank with fresh water using the garden hose the first owner had installed in the engine room just after the fresh water pump. It was good to know that I had a source of fresh water for the engine that I could use in a critical situation.

If push came to shove, I’d stick the nose nozzle in the coolant fill and turn it on, to keep water in the engine if I needed to start the engine before the repair was done.  We were in 160 feet of water, so I also had the option of dropping anchor.

Lines stored behind the fly bridge ladder

Had I had a problem that was going to take longer to fix, or if I did not have fresh water available, or if I was alone, I would have let out 200 feet of anchor and chain, knowing that the anchor would set itself as the water shallowed. This is the emergency anchoring plan I always have in the back of my head while cruising near shore. In still deeper water, with no shelf, I would combine my two anchor rodes, the secondary being 50 feet of chain and 250 feet of rode (400’ of 3/8” BBB chain on the primary with 55# Delta anchor).

I also have stored behind the salon between the upper deck ladder:

  • a 500-foot line,
  • a 250’ line,
  • a couple of 50’ lines,
  • a few shorter line,
  • the stern anchor) Bruce) and it’s 300 feet of rode on a hose reel.

 

These lines can all be easily retrieved and used as necessary.

Had I been alone, that’s what I would have done, while turning the boat around and heading back to the marina on auto pilot. I could have then re-fit the hose, knowing I had at least 15 minutes before I needed a course correction.

But I was not alone.

With Brian at the helm, responsible for watching our drift, Mark and I proceeded to deal with our two problems, the coolant hose and the pin hole oil cooler leak.

The coolant hose was easily dealt with. Cut off the end and reattach to nipple. I then checked for leaks, as we started the engine. No leaks, so I filled the coolant tank with ¾ gallon of coolant. This all took 10 minutes.

Next to tackle the oil cooler. We first tried a quick repair; can we stop the leak enough until our next port.  No, we couldn’t, the metal at the cap end from which it was leaking was too thin. (these were the heat exchangers that had just been supposedly checked. In addition, I’m sure this was the one that was already leaking, and I told them to keep it).

Checking the situation at the helm, while we were drifting towards shore, we were drifting very slowly and again with Brian watching, I knew we would have plenty of warning should an issue arrive. Therefore, we decided to change the oil cooler.

What a PIA. But an hour later we were all done. No leaks of oil, water, or anything.

It’s on my must do list this fall to standardize all my hydraulic and oil fittings. Thus, making it easier to replace lines or bypass the coolers if need be.

We had drifted a quarter mile closer to shore, we still had a third of a mile to spare. Easy Peasy as Micah would say.

Knowing we could return to the marina easily, reduced the stress of this repair. It wasn’t “fix, or else” like it may have been in the middle of the Atlantic, like with my imaginary fuel leak.

At 14:10 we were underway again.

My peace of mind now lasted one minute.

The autopilot was not working. It thought it was working, but it wouldn’t steer correctly.

Back to the rear of the engine room, I looked at my Octopus pump, it looked ok, no major leaks, then I saw the three valves which control fluid to the pump, allowing me to change pump without draining all the hydraulic fluid from the system, were closed.

Oops.  At least that was easy.

A minute later, we were underway again, hopefully to Cabo San Lucas.

This time my peace of mind lasted a whole two hours.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Dingy Fiasco part 2

As the winds finally let up after 10 days to let us get out of the tourist hell that is Cabo San Lucas, I was optimistic that having a functional dingy would give us increased stopping opportunities.

Our peaceful anchorage in spite of 25 knot winds

One of the key factors in deciding to burn money staying at the marina in Cabo for $100 per day was the lack of a serviceable dingy. Though, the reviews for anchoring outside the harbor, were mixed at best.

Leaving Cabo, the plan was to get a few days up the coast to wait out the next forecast period of strong northwesterly winds that preclude any movement north. Our goal was Magdalena Bay, a very large bay, similar to San Francisco Bay.

We had decided to bypass the anchorage off the Magdalena Bay entrance, as it did not look as protected as San Carlos, point another 12 miles north through a meandering, narrow channel. We were also looking forward to getting the taste of Cabo out of our systems be visiting a real Mexican town again.

Thus, the die was cast for Puerto San Lucas.

the channel to Puerto San Lucas in Magdalena Bay

As we were passing the anchorage, heading up channel, we heard a call on the VHF, weak, but readable, in Spanish, telling us something. Again, my Spanish stinks, so I wasn’t sure what was being said, but I guessed it was about Puerto San Lucas and we’d figure it out when we got there. I’d already made the decision that the anchorage at Magdalena Bay was too open for my likes.

12 miles and two hours later, as we approached Puerto San Lucas, we got the call again. This time, it was loud and clear that the port was closed due to the anticipated high winds. I suspected that, so we told them we were going to head a couple miles further north to anchor in the lee of the mangroves. That was met with happy approval, since it was clear in the tone of the conversation, that the port captain didn’t like telling us the port was closed to us.

We proceeded north another few miles which put us right on the edge of the charted area of both the C-Map and Navionics charts. Going very slowly as the water shallowed, at one point, I did let us get out of the channel and had to rapidly reverse to avert the 17th grounding of my career (but who’s counting?)

Video of us approaching out anchorage 

Still shot of us approaching anchorage
Dauntless at anchor, north of P San Lucas

Anchored in about 10 feet of water, with 100 feet of chain and snubber for the anticipated winds, we were quite content. The winds were already 15 to 20, gusting to the high 20’s, but with no fetch, the seas were very small, less than half a foot, and Dauntless was rock steady.

We did swing around overnight due to the current, but my 55-pound Delta anchor has never dragged since I got it 4 years ago. I don’t even bother with an anchor alarm anymore, but I admit that’s because I have given up on Drag Queen probably because it turns itself off due to poor reception in my cabin and more importantly, I don’t anchor off lee shores.

Having sleep like a baby, the previous two nights having been spent underway, we woke up full of piss and vinegar. Time to take the dingy to Puerto San Lucas and check out the action, well more like, check out the food.

Now, not being totally stupid, I decided to go upwind for a bit to see how well the dingy and its puny 5 hp outboard could handle the conditions. As you can see from the video, all looked great, though the winds were blowing 20 to 25 knots.

The view from the dingy on our reconnaissance lap

Did I do the math? No. Puerto San Lucas was about 2.5 to 3 miles away; downwind.

But we set off with the winds to our back, the only concern was where we could land the dingy. Not knowing that location was mistake number #1.

Mistake #2 was I have two handheld VHF radios. The primary one, the ICOM, battery could no longer charge, so that was on the list of things to replace. The secondary one, the Chinese whatever, would take real rocket scientist to figure out how to use, thus it was relegated to some storage container someplace where I put things I don’t feel like dealing with.

Video of our test lap 

Besides, why would we possibly need a radio.

Twenty minutes later, zipping right along, maybe a half mile upwind of town, wondering where we could land the dingy. We see a man cast fishing, standing in about 1 to 2 feet of water maybe a few hundred feet from shore. Let’s head there.

As we get closer, we finally realize we are running of water. Umm, those rocks look so close. I reach to unlatch the outboard, so it can tilt upwards and as I fiddle with the lever, ge-clunk, the prop hits a rock or two and we are in half a foot of water.

We get out the oars, yes, I remembered to take them, only to realize we are hard aground, as the wind continues to push us towards shore.

I jump out, to get us turned around, Larry starts to row. Some minutes later, we are in deeper water, enough to start the outboard.

Rule #1, when running aground, follow the same route out as you followed in. Mistake #3, not following Rule #1. We were further to the west than our track in.

Getting the outboard started we decided to head back to Dauntless. The outboard had a bad vibration; I’d bent the prop. That, the 25 knot headwinds with the now 1 to 2-foot seas it produced, along with a heavier dingy and two people, meant that our downwind speed of probably 5 to 6 knots, was now about 2 knots.

Every minute we would be splashed by a breaking wave. We couldn’t see Dauntless at all. I knew where she was, but clearly, we were more than 2 miles away. That meant, we had an hour of this.

That’s when we went aground again. This time coupled with a belching of very black motor oil, like the Exxon Valdez had passed through. I thought I had totaled the outboard, as in the prop hitting a solid object was enough to break a connecting rod inside the motor.

But the motor started up and we seemed to crawl northwards. I didn’t know where the oil (about a cup worth) had come from, but I expected the motor to quit at any moment. The winds and seas were too strong to row again. Even with the outboard still running, we were doing at best 2 knots.

We discussed contingency plans.

We decided to head north until the boat came into sight and hope the motor lasted long enough. I kept on asking Larry if he thought we were making any progress. That guy fishing was still quite visible, while Dauntless was no where to be seen. This went on for the next 30 minutes, until it was obvious that we were making progress. Though I wondered for how long. The outboard was clearly on its last legs, shaking itself to death with no oil.

We decided that if the outboard quit, we would have to head west to the shore, about 1 mile away. We could not go upwind, but if we angled across the wind, we should be able to make shore. At that point, we would get out and walk along the shore in deep enough water to drag the dingy north. Once NW of Dauntless, we would row to her.

We were cold and wet, but having a plan that was at least feasible, made me feel slightly better. Though I was feeling miserable that I was subjecting Larry to this fiasco. That was making me feel worse. When I’m alone and fuck up, I deal with it. But I hate for others to suffer because of my actions. This is why I like being alone many times. I don’t feel stressed nor responsible for anyone else. If I torture myself, so be it, I deserved it.

The Kadey Krogen came into sight after about 40 minutes since we stared heading back. She blended well into the background. The outboard sounded worse than ever. I pictured it quitting within feel of Dauntless. With these winds and waves, no way could we have rowed to her. Even if we were 100 feet away, we would probably have to row to shore, a half mile away, and do our drag up the coast to get upwind of her.

I crossed my fingers and toes.

About this time, we saw a panga heading south. But it was about a half mile to our east and by the time we saw it, it was well south of us. Had I seen it earlier, I would have waved it down. He could have towed us to Dauntless in 10 minutes. But it wasn’t to be. I was reminded how stupid it was, especially under such conditions, to venture forth without a radio.

For 30 minutes we watched Dauntless get bigger and bigger. I prayed to Poseidon, Circe and whoever would listen to just get there. Finally, as I bumped into the swim platform and Larry grabbed ahold, I breathed a sigh of relief. We’d made it.

Getting the dingy rigged to the winch line, I decided to see if the outboard would start. No, it was done. I was grateful it kept on going that last hour.

I’ve written before about the “having two keys”. There have been countless times when I have lost a key but had duplicates someplace. Whereas I can never remember having lost a key when it was my only one.  I wondered if I was more careless than usual because I knew I had another outboard in the future? My friend Mike had promised to give me his spare 15 hp outboard when I got to Southern California.

One never knows, but everything is connected, even when you think it isn’t.

The following day, leaving for Magdalena Bay anchorage, to give us a better head start the next day.