Dauntless Crosses the North Atlantic – The Post Mortem

The crux of a successful ocean passage

Providence Rhode Island to Castletownbere, Ireland:

Morning of the Last Day
Morning of the Last Day
  • 3624 nm, 6523 km.;
  • 638 running hours
  • Average speed 5.7 knots
  • 1013 gallons of fuel consumed
  • Average = 1.59 gal/hr.
  • Average 3.6 nm/gal= 1.7 km/liter
  • Cost of fuel $4000
  • Cost per nm = $1.1/nm

Stuff that broke: Four Stories and lessons Learned

  • The Bent Stabilizer Pole Saga
  • The Mast Cleat Adventure
  • The Auxiliary Water Pump Sediment Filter Hijinx
  • Water in Fuel Tanks: Not Pretty; But the Lehman keeps on Going

Other Lessons learned

Evening of the 27th, the Storm Intensifies Again
Evening of the 27th, the Storm Intensifies Again The Past 4 Days of Pitch and Roll
  • Food and Provisioning
  • Route Planning and Execution
  • Organization and Storage of Spare Parts
  • Odd and Ends
  • Solo Voyaging
  • Equipment: Must-haves, Nice-to-Haves

The crux of a successful ocean passage

I first wrote this “Post Mortem” 8 days after the end of our passage, but never published it because I realized it had morphed into many things. Thus there will soon follow a post titled, “Finding the Right Boat” and “Weather or Not”, where I talk about how to, and how not to, use a weather forecast.

Our successful ocean passage was the culmination of a planning process that started 6 years earlier and four years before we even had a boat.  The success was due two major things: finding the right boat and having the right attitude.  Having the right boat protects fools and drunks. Having the right attitude means you know what to except, from the best to the worst.  If your plan is to call the Coast Guard under the “worst” circumstances, stay home.

During the worst of it, while I was miserable, I was not afraid.  I knew the Krogen could handle it and even realized she can handle much worse.

Afternoon of the Last Day
Afternoon of the Last Day

The planning  and learning process is key to a successful passage.  As I had read virtually every account of small boats crossing oceans and books and stories of freighters throughout the 20th Century, I had a good sense as to what worked and what didn’t.  That can’t be overstated because it speaks to our vision and that’s the first step of a successful passage.  So this trip really started seven years ago, before I knew of Kadey Krogen, trawlers, or really anything.

But first, our passage is really not that special.  People have done the same thing in in smaller boats, in far worse conditions, with many more handicaps.  Almost everything I have learned and talk about, I first read someplace else, by someone with far more experience than I will ever have.  Just remember that Columbus did the round trip more than 500 years ago, with three boats that were only 10’ to 17’ longer than Dauntless.

If you’re reading this, you probably read the details of the trip as it happened, or soon thereafter.  So for this entry, I’m going to talk about what we learned in hindsight for the next ocean passage.

Stuff that broke: Three Stories and Lessons Learned

The Bent Stabilizer Pole Saga:

An operator-induced failure.

Only a day after I left Miami with the new paravanes, while I adjusted the fore stays, I had also adjusted the up-down stays, Amsteel Blue 3/8”, which take the vertical loads of the paravane fish.  I had not fully locked them tight on the horn of the cleat upon completion.  I probably thought I would re-adjust them once more and then simply forgot.  So, while they were wrapped in a figure 8 three times on the cleat on the mast, I had not “locked” it on the horn.  Amsteel Blue is slippery enough that if not locked securely with at least 3 or 4 half hitches, they will get loose.

And that’s what happened.  The Figure 8 got loose, thus letting the pole swing from its position of 45° to almost straight down, 170°.  The rub rail, stopping the pole from facing straight down. This put a kink in the pole where it bent around the rub rail.  Not a bad bend, but just enough to significantly weaken the pole.  In trying to get the pole back to its original position, I took out the retaining bolt that would keep the pole in its cup that is attached to the gunnel.  But I still couldn’t get the pole out, so I eventually got it back to position, but now, the retaining bolt was not in place.  I knew it wasn’t needed because all the force on the pole is into the cup, not outward, but months later, it did contribute, if not cause the pole to subsequently bend into an “L” shape.

So on the last day of the trip during one big roll within 60 miles of Ireland, the same windward pole went vertical.  However, the kink in the pole, even though very slight, allowed the paravane bird to put a force on the pole that rotated the pole 90° with the absence of the retaining bolt,  so that the kink now faced aft.  As soon as that happened, the force the bird put on the pole bent the pole 90°, and of course, now this allowed the pole to come out of the cup, making its retrieval even harder.

An hour later, after sitting dead in the water for that time, I had managed to get the pole up on deck.  In my adrenaline rush, I never noticed how well the boat handled being left on its own, wallowing in the seas with its beam to the seas, which were running 8 to 15 feet at that time.  In hindsight, we were bobbing in the ocean, with less roll than when underway.

Lesson Learned:

Replace bent stuff and all hardware before leaving on an ocean passage.

John Duffy, who had rigged the paravane system, told me to replace it, as the bend would significantly weaken it.  I also probably did not mention that I had taken the retaining bolt out and had not replaced it, as the pole had rotated slightly, not allowing the bolt to be re-inserted.

The pole was replaced in Castletwonbere for 300 Euros.  All the hardware is back in place.

The Mast Cleat Adventure:

A day out of Nova Scotia, as we sat in the Pilot House enjoying the world go by our living room window, we heard a noise that sounded like a gun shot.  Knowing that no one on board was packin,’ I looked at the mast and saw immediately that the cleat holding the up-down line was now horizontal instead of vertical.

We chopped power to relieve the strain and I ran up to the fly bridge, though taking the time to put on my PFD (Personal Flotation Device, a life preserver).  One of the two 3/8” bolts attaching the cleat to the mast had broken.  Not wanting to spend a lot of time to try to re-attach the cleat, I tied the up-down line around the mast in a number of clove hitches and then tied it off to the other mast cleat.  This way, much of the force on the line, instead of being transmitted to the cleat, would now be manifested in trying to squeeze the mast.

Lesson Learned:

This new system worked so well that while in Horta, I redid both up-down lines, so that they came to a three clove hitches around the mast, before being tied off on the cleat, with a final half hitch on the horn of the cleat for each line.

John Duffy in Miami designed and installed a great paravane stabilization system, which is not only relatively light-weight, but also easily adjustable and cost-effective.

While in Ireland, I also added one more feature:  I had had another winch installed in Florida to assist in retrieving the paravanes.  In Ireland, I also replaced the lines on the winch with 3/16” Amsteel Blue lines that I had gotten, 300 feet at a really bargain price from Parks, of Hopkins- Carter in Miami.  By using this new, stronger line, it added an extra margin of safety, because it is strong enough to hold the paravanes while underway should I have a failure of the up-down line as described above.  It would also allow me to retrieve the paravanes, even if the boat is not at a full standstill.  This would be fast and useful, in case of emergency.

This was the first and last time I put on the PFD on this passage.

The Auxiliary Water Pump Sediment Filter Highjinx

Another operator-induced problem.

After the failure, a few days from the Azores, the pressure switch failed.  After screwing with the pump for a while, I just bypassed the pressure switch and the pump went back to work. A day later the entire pump gave up the ghost.  I discovered by reading the instruction manual that I had installed the pump upside down, with the electrical parts under the pump itself.  Evidently, you should not do that because if the pump has minor leaks, it gets into the electronics right away.

Lesson Learned:

It behooves one to read installation instructions before the fact, not after.

THe Previous 12 Hours of rockin and rollin Before Arrival.  Notice I had changed the Scale to 32°
THe Previous 12 Hours of rockin and rollin Before Arrival.
The Scale is 24° to Each Side

Water in Fuel Tanks: Not Pretty; But the Lehman keeps on Going

On the Left,Taken from  the Stbd Side Fuel Tank, a Mixture of Water and Emusified Water and Fuel
On the Left,Taken from the Stbd Side Fuel Tank, a Mixture of Water and Emulsified Water and Fuel. On the Right, Fuel from the Port Tank

I have finally deduced that the water, around 5 gallons, got into the starboard fuel tank during the last 36 hours of the trip thru the fuel vent line.  How do I know this?  After I replaced the O-rings of the fuel caps, while the old rings were worn, there is no way a significant amount of water could have entered that way.  In addition, the water was only in the starboard, lee side tank.

Up until this time, Dauntless had been in seas almost as rough, though not for this extended length of time.  But even if only for 8 hours, no water had ever entered the tank before in our previous 2000! hours of cruising.

What was different this time?

  • A much longer time of seas on the beam, three and a half full days, with 54 out of 72 hours, being in large 15+ foot waves.
  • The last 12 hours, with the failure of the windward paravane pole, the boat remained heeled over to port for a longer period of time, as the recovery was slower.
  • While all the above was going on, for reasons that were just chance, I had been running on the port (windward) tank, which was now near empty, thus for the last 2 days of the passage, we were feeding off the port (lee) side tank.
  • Thus, just when the port tank was being used, the boat was heeling more to port, thus keeping the fuel vent which is at deck level under water for a significant portion of time.

My Conclusion:

The lee side tank sucked in the water thru the fuel vent.  Had I been using the other tank, in all likelihood, this would not have occurred.

Afgter Arrival.  I also Changed the Scale to 32°, so This shows my LAst 12 Hours of the Passage
After Arrival. I also Changed the Scale to 32°, so This shows my Last 12 Hours of the Passage. Sorry for the poor quality. I was shaken, but not stirred.

I will move the fuel vent hose, so that this can never happen again.

In addition, I will make it a practice to use the windward tank under such conditions.  I could have easily transferred fuel to the starboard tank while underway.  It was just chance that I had filled the starboard tank in Horta and I therefore used that fuel first, since I knew my fuel in the port tank was good.

Other Lessons Learned

Food and Provisioning:

Maybe from reading too many books written by frugal sailors, my provisioning could have been better.  I had too many things I don’t eat, like rice and beans,  and not enough of what I do eat.  I still have enough calories on Dauntless to feed a family in Africa for 2 years.  No, I do not really know what I was thinking.

We should have had a bit more lettuce.  Romaine lettuce in those packages of three lasts for a few weeks in fridge.

Eggs.  Julie likes eggs.  I forgot she really likes eggs.

Mayonnaise, to make egg salad with all those eggs.  I like egg salad.

Route Planning and Execution:

Good job with planning.  Very poor execution.

Not having the paravane stabilizers for the first 3,000 miles of cruising with Dauntless made me very sensitive to the direction of winds and waves.  The Krogen handles following seas exceedingly well.  Thus I carried that mentality with me on this passage.  I made too much of an effort to keep the seas behind us and off the beam, thus our northeasterly course leaving Cape Cod and our southeasterly course leaving Nova Scotia.

In hindsight, it was an overreaction in both cases.  That continued with my solo voyage from Horta, with the zigzag of day three, first NW, then SE then after 24 hours of stupidness, northward.

In the future, I will let the paravanes do their job and keep a course more directly (great circle route) to our destination.  In fact, while I did not record the data, my feeling now is that the rolling of Dauntless is about the same with the paravanes, whether the sea is following or on the beam.  Without the paravanes, there is a night and day difference.

Organization and Storage of Spare Parts:

I’m grateful that I didn’t need to use any spare parts.  But the haste in which we left, meant we obtained a lot of stuff at the last minute.  It was put away, with only a general idea of what was where.  Had I needed anything, I would have found it eventually, maybe even by the time, the westerly winds pushed us all the way to Europe, a month or two later.  At least I would not have starved.

This winter has been spent re-packing virtually all parts and tools.  In addition I have a written inventory, with location, storage bin, model numbers etc.  Before the next passage, it will even be computerized.

How did I decide what spare parts to take or not?

This turns out to be relatively easy.  I picked those parts I could both afford and could replace myself.  So, we had an extra starter, even though i had no intention to ever turn off the engine.  We had an extra alternator.  i did not have a spare injector pump, too expensive.  Except for the fuel injector pump, I had all the other external engine stuff: injector tubes, hoses, belts, lift pump, etc. We had extra hoses, belts, etc for every critical component.  Therefore, we had nothing extra for the generator, since I don’t use it underway.  We had no internal engine parts, pistons, etc, becuase while I could probably replace it while docked, it was not something I could see myself replacing underway.  But also, that is not a typical failure point of the engine.  Internal stuff usually shows signs of wear for a long time before failure.

Odds and ends:

If I have not talked about it above, we ain’t changing it.

  • That means stuff like the DeLorme InReach will not be changed. We like the limitations that system imposes.  I don’t need to call mom when the shit hits the fan.
  • Probably will add some redundancy to the ComNav Autopilot. Unlike a sail boat, we cannot tie the wheel and expect to go in any semblance of a straight line; I tried.
  • One of my issues has always been that in a seaway, there can be no noise of moving objects in the boat. Moving things can cause damage in and of themselves, and must be controlled.  So, even at 40° of roll, every few minutes, during the worst of it, I heard no crashing or banging of stuff.  Everything must be secure.
  • Need more recorded movies and Korean Dramas. They really help to pass the time.  Yes, one can tire of just reading.  When I was alone, I got really bored.
  • On the other hand, I did back in to computer card games. Bridge in particular, yes, I am of a generation that learned bridge.

Solo Voyaging 

I hope to never do another 10 day passage alone again.  But I will if I have to.

Having said that, the next passage next year, will be part of a much longer voyage and we will be pretty much under way for 18 months.  With Julie working, I will need a lot more help during the many segments the trip will entail.  I will put it out there on Trawler Forum seeking those who want to be a part of the experience and maybe even share some expenses and I’m sure some shenanigans.

Must-haves, Nice-to-Haves

Must Have Nice to have
Paravane Stabilizers Four 110W Solar Panels and two Controllers
Lexan Storm Windows Coastal Explorer
C-Map North Atlantic and Western Europe Charts Boat computer and router
Digital Yacht AIS Transceiver Master’s License
Katadyn 160 Water maker Vitrifrigo Freezer and Refrigerator
Delorme InReach text only sat phone Splendid Vented Washer/Dryer Combo
Spare parts for the Ford Lehman SP135 Engine  
Other Spare parts  
Revere Off Shore Commander 4 person Life raft  

Here are a few more pictures and videos.  The file name incorporates the date time the file was recorded, thus 20140827_1927  means it was recorded 27 Aug 2014 at 19:27 (7:27  p.m.) hours.

Thank you for your patience

And Yes, this was and is our first boat:-)

The Weather Intensifies; A Day by Day Summary Cape Cod to Flores

A Day by Day Summary Cape Cod to Flores, the Azores, 2230 nm, 20 July to 05 Aug 2014

20 July, 06:00, we left with the tide, as had a few hours on the Narragansett River, then Buzzards Bay to the Cape Cod Canal and across the Bay, anchoring at 21:00 that night. 91 nm,

21 July, anchored in Provincetown Harbor.  Very foggy, had to top up the tanks and repair VHF antennas, none of my VHF radios was working! Discovered that I had connected two antenna cables to each other, and one old Loran cable to the PH VHF, let the Shenanigans begin.

22 Jul, NO GO, Water maker not making water, changed fuel polish filter and one primary engine fuel filter.  The shenanigans continue as it takes me hours to figure out I have water maker valve set to Clean, thus no water.  We finally leave as fog breaks at 12:00 noon.  An hour later, the one and only boat we talk to the entire trip asks if I have seen any whales, I tell him we’re headed to the Azores.  He doesn’t get that answer very often. Yes, all the radios now work.

23 July, A strong S to SW winds 15 to 20 knots all night has kept us from turning more east (as many of you have noted).  The great circle route does pass just south of Nova Scotia, so with the winds pushing us that way, we take it as an omen to stop.  We pull into Shelburne, NS at 14:35 on the 24th.  We refuel, three times I say gallons and they give me liters. Luckily, I’m not a 767.  That night, when paying we realize the mistake and top up the next morning. Yes, that counts as a shenanigan.

25 July, Underway again, hopefully next stop, the Azores.  Keep rpms between 1500 & 1600 for the next 5 days.  The sight tubes on the tanks do not come into play until the tanks are about 1/3 down, therefore I will not have an accurate read until then. Southwest swell only 1-2 ft., light westerly winds all day and night.  Water maker auxiliary pump stops working, and the water maker was not working since it lost it prime.  I work on pump, pulling it out and finally just bypassing the pressure switch.  All is working OK. With the light winds, we were trying to get as far south as possible, knowing the SW winds would return.

26 July, No change in weather (wx) or course, at 9:00, the water maker was stops working again.  No power at all. Thought it was the relay, change relay, no change. Discover it is the tube fuse had toasted itself.  I put a spade fuse in, but the wires were too small and it cooks itself within minutes.  Luckily, I’m feeling all the wires as this is going on, and no other wires got even warm.  I decide to go without the fuse.  Never had another problem (but it doesn’t stop you from worrying about it!) and it was just now in writing this, that I remembered I was supposed to get new fuse.

27 July, Broken clouds all day with rain showers and thunderstorm, changed course to 135°, Southeast, speed is changing from 4.2 to 7.8 knots, we are clearly in the Gulf Stream eddies. We go all evening close to 8 knots.  This is the first day; we did not have some minor mechanical problem to deal with!

28 July, rain showers and Thunderstorms all day, winds getting stronger, south or SW 15 to 25, at 9:00 turned off all electronics for about an hour as we passed thru one line of cells, by 10:30 we were past that and all was normal again, the winds are strong from the south, so the paravanes are really working. At 11:30, we hear a noise that sounds like a pistol hot. Not having a pistol on board, we were worried.  I look to see that the 3/8” bolt for the mast cleat for the starboard paravane has sheared off. Quickly, neutral, to get pressure off of mast and I go up to fly bridge as boat is rolling around.  I re tie up-down line, which transfers force from paravanes to mast, and make a hitch around mast and tie it off at the boom. This turns out to be really effective and in a few days, I retied the other cleat too.  Oh, I forgot that wasn’t my first solution; my first solution was to tie it on another cleat that was on the mast.  As I watched it bend that cleat as we got underway, I decided that I needed a new solution.wpid-20140728_104746.jpg

29 July, at 2:45 upon our watch change, I decided it was a good time to add to quarts of oil to the running engine.  After much ado, it was a non-event. Much messier in a car.  Scattered clouds, SW winds at 10 to 15 continue.  1080 miles to go 😮

30 July, Sct clouds, winds still SW but less than 10 kts, no whitecaps!, we stopped at noon to pull in paravanes (they slow us up about ½ knot). Took this opputunity to take a swim.  The water was so blue. Also took this relatively calm period to tighten the paravane stays and the mast stays.  We spent the next 30 hours without the paravanes. This was the only time all trip without them.

31 July, nice weather continues. I tell Julie that this is what I had hoped for for the entire trip. By 18:00, the southerly swell causes us to put the paravanes back out. We had also gotten an easterly wind on our bow.  This was causing a pitch that coupled with the roll was becoming unpleasant, so the birds went out and the ride became ok, though still pitching.

1 Aug, another nice day, light easterly winds continue, so the ride wasn’t that smooth, but OK. Later on in the afternoon, I do what I told everyone I wouldn’t. I stopped the engine.  I wanted to check the new fan belt tension, I also changed the other fuel filter and added ½ qt. oil. (I was proud of my 2 qt. guess the day before).  Fan belt was fine. Before stopping the engine, I did start the Gen. why, who knows, maybe the start battery would be dead.

2 Aug, our 4th day of nice weather, Julie took a swim too. Winds are SSW at 10, so paravanes are needed. But still nice, Saw dolphins.  This nice weather really helped our morale, we were more than half way and also we had stopped having a problem a day.

3 Aug, we’re making good time, 160 miles in last 24 hours.  We also saw out whales today, but winds are out of NE causing again that pitch and roll.

4 Aug, Thunderstorms in the early morning, I change course to avoid them and get further south.  A few hours later, we return to our easterly course, as the winds have picked up since noon. They are now up to 20 kts and the seas are building to about 6 ft., though we have kept it behind us, off the rear quarter.  For the next 48 hours this would be our challenge.

Our roll has increased, winds continue 240 at 15 kts gusting to 25, and we’re rolling 15° in each direction with the paravanes.  That’s not normal.  We are watching the birds in the water and they are doing this little circular motion, the port bird is running next to the hull of the boat, while the Stbd bird is running three feet outside the pole.  Very strange behavior.  We’ve had these smaller birds on since Rhode Island, and thought we saw no difference.

At 16:00, we stop, to reposition the angle of the poles, thinking, it will help.  We have a strange evening. The port pole occasionally jumps vertical, which makes us stop the boat, so it falls out again. Finally, at 23:00 I try to go to sleep.  It’s hard to sleep, for the first time all voyage, and sure enough in an hour I hear the pole go vertical again, but I figure Julie can handle it and she does. An hour later, the same thing. The boat is also rolling a lot, like 15 to one side, 20 to the other, that a delta of 35°, that’s like pre-paravane numbers.

The third time it happens, I figure I better get up, as Julie has had enough practice with the shenanigans.  I first try to change the AP, the boat does clearly not like some combination of something, so I do the easiest thing first. No change.

Finally at 02:00, 05 Aug, we pulled the old bird out of the lazerette and changed the port bird. Now remember, we were hesitate to do this because the boat is rolling like a.. And trying to retrieve a 40 lb. object can be dangerous.

As soon as we get underway, I see the port bird is now tracking straight AND the Starboard bird which had been coming out of the waves sideway, since it was also doing a circular thing, is now tracking straight. At 3:00 Julie goes to a well-earned bed and we power along with strong SW winds now up to 25 knots.

But I know we’ll be at Flores within 15 hours, in fact, we can see the cap cloud over the island,  the boat is going well and we still have 9” of fuel in each tank (about 160 gal). At noon, we decide not to wait for port, but to change the stud bird also, the seas have continued to build and are above 6 ft. and the roll is delta 20°

At 17:30 we sight the lighthouse, of Porto do Albarnaz.  While we have seen the islands on the radar for the entire day, that doesn’t count.

It was nice to see land, especially after the last hard 48 hours. But it wasn’t over.

Because of the large waves from the SW, we were not able to turn more southerly, so we had to keep a course that put us north of Flores, even though we were heading to the southern tip.  I hoped that once in the lee of the island, NE of Flores, we could turn south and the wind and waves would be smaller.  They were, but not at first, we had an hour after we turned on=f now going into these 8 ft. waves, being slowed to like 3 knots.  It was at this point that we had a strange thing happen. We got hit by a float?? It came flying across the bow, hit the pilot house window and bounced off into the dark ocean.

3 miles, one whole hour later, we were in the lee of the island and the waves were less than half.

We anchored in 35’ water outside the Porto das Lajes, 39° 22.897’N, 31° 09.991W at 22:00

Anchorage Porto das Lajes, Flores
Anchorage Porto das Lajes, Flores

Our first part of our Atlantic Passage was done.

And that’s why I didn’t write. I was resting.

Stay tuned to the same channel next week.

Thanks for joining us.

Dauntless is big
Dauntless is big

I want to conclude the Bahamas Adventure with the Christmas Disaster

But before I tell the rest of the story of the summer Canada trip, in which there will be midnight dives, midnight docking, 12 knot currents, flying trawlers, flying people, swinging booms, crushing dinghies, crashing seas, the bureaucracies of the world at their best, BoatUS on the edge, Canadian customs, the ever vigilant USCG, pilot ships, thunderstorms, rain, ships passing in the night, lobster pots, lobsters, big tides and of course fog, fog and more fog.

I want to conclude the Bahamas Adventure with another lesson learned and disaster narrowly averted.

Christmas Eve, My crewmate, Chantal, and I returned to Bayshore Marina in Nassau.  She would be leaving to visit her parents the next day and I would be picking up Julie and two of our friends, Karen and Jason, who were coming back for more adventure, having shared some of the shenanigans of Maine this past summer.

The trade winds had continued to blow steadily out of the East and ESE at 15 to 22 knots for the entire week.  They were forecast to continue the next few days, so I decided to use the following seas they would produce and head to Andros Island.  Overall course would be WSW, so the winds and seas would be just off our stern and provide a great ride, as Dauntless loves having her rear end goosed.

I had already noticed and thought about two issues, two yellow, if not red flags. The first being the lack of anchorages in the area we were heading for and the second being that no one ever mentioned cruising to Andros island.  Everyone talked about the Abacos, the Exumas, Nassau, etc.  here was this big island, just 45 miles west, whose only redeeming value was that they produced much of the fresh water for Nassau.  Furthermore, looking at our planned anchorage, it would require an hour long threading of a narrow, unmarked channel.  I would use my very accurate, so far, Explorer Charts, and my Navionics app on my Samsung Note, as well as the Navionics chart on my Raymarine Chart plotter (6 years old data).  I felt confident that we could handle whatever came our way.

But I figured we would be getting off the beaten track. How bad could it be?

What was I thinking?
What was I thinking?

So Christmas Day starts out rosy and pink.  Beautiful sunrise, we get underway, backing up out of the marina, everything ship shape.  I had even written out and gone over some new household procedures with our guests, since a few things had changed since the summer.  I was feeling very organized and experienced!

Hubris.

First hour, we have to head SE to get around New Providence island (the island Nassau is on), it’s a bit of a rough ride with 3 to 4 foot seas rolling the boat 10° to 20°. But after an hour we turned southwest and the ride totally smoothed out.  A little after noon, we reached Tongue of the Ocean, where the water went from the Bahamas depth of 10 to 20 feet to over 4,000 ft. deep.

I took this opportunity to stop the boat, putting her in neutral.   The month before, I had taken a similar opportunity to take a swim.  Any thoughts of swimming quickly evaporated as dauntless broached (waves turning the boat perpendicular to the waves) within two minutes with a vicious roll almost 40 degrees.  As I used the wheel to pull myself up, I quickly put her in gear and pushed the throttle up to get steerage back.  No damage done, a little lesson learned.

Our charts indicated a very narrow marked (with pilings) channel extending ¼ mile due east of the Island, after which we would turn south and thread our way another 45 minutes south to an indicated anchorage at ———-

We did this, arriving at our planned anchorage about 4 p.m., about an hour before sunset.  Andros Island has a reef protecting much of the east side.  We had worked our way south, with the Island about ¼ mile to our west and the reef, indicated by a line of angry breakers, about ¼ mile to the east.

Seas had built to 4 to 6 feet out of the east.  The period was relatively short, about 6 seconds, but we were protected now by the reef and just had some small chop, though with continued strong easterly winds to contend with at anchorage.

Christmas Sunset over Andros Island. What you can't see the island, ...
Christmas Sunset over Andros Island.
What you can’t see the island, …

After getting the anchor set, letting out 100 ft. of chain in only 6 ft. deep water, I didn’t like what I was seeing.  In the Exumas, we were normally anchored just west of the cay.  The cay would protect us from the wind and waves and the beach would be very close, sometimes within 100 feet of white sand and blue, clear water.  I wasn’t seeing that here.  Instead, even though the reef protected us from the large waves, there was a surface chop that made the water turbulent.  The Island also was far away, maybe a half a mile, though the shallow water was very close.  Lastly, we were in a narrow channel, the wind was strong out of the east and to the west of us was shallow water and the island itself.  In other words, if we dragged anchor, we would be on the beach before I could ever say, WTF?

We had dinner, watched another pretty sunset and at 7 p.m. two hours after our initial anchoring, as I am finishing my glass of wine, I look at the window and to my dismay, I see we’re dragging, slowly for sure, but dragging none the less.

I call everyone to Action Stations.  Fire up the engine, decide where we need to be, haul anchor, move to the new spot, drop the anchor, set it, and wait.  It’s not holding.  We try again.  No luck.  And now, our situation is made even more uncomfortable, as we are sitting perpendicular to the wind, producing a yawing motion.  While not terrible, I figure let’s try an experiment, let’s put out a stern anchor!  With my motto being, there is a first time for everything, we talked it over and while we did not need a stern anchor, it wouldn’t hurt to try it now.

We did, and after an hour of moving, fiddling and other hijinks, we came to the conclusion that it was a waste of time.  Luckily, through foresight, luck, the gods or all three, it turned out to be relatively easy to retrieve (I am sparing you the gory details, but suffice it to say, this was an hour long production).

So, it’s 9 p.m., dark, windy and I’m ready for bed.  45 minutes later, the anchor alarm (Drag Queen) goes off. I just up, even bother to put on pants, start the engine and for the third time move the boat. I’m back in bed at 10 p.m.  Before even closing my eyes, as I think about the past few hours, I realize that Dauntless has moved roughly a foot a minute ever since we got here, so in one hour, we will again have moved 60 feet and what am I going to do then?

I screwed this pooch and there is only one answer.

Crossing the Gulf Stream

 Rocking and Rolling

 Last day of January 2014 – Dollar Harbour to Florida

Dollar harbour anchorage turned out to one of the best of my whole Bahamas Adventure.  Due to the strong current the boat was rock steady all night, though it did do a 180° in the middle of the night.

Wind is out of the SSE, 15-22 knots.  On weather, I pretty much only look at the NWS products and even at that, I use them a guide, but…  For example, the product I’ve been using here is:

AMZ001, with the subset AMZ117 BAHAMAS INCLUDING CAY SAL BANK, while relatively general, for today, E to SE winds 15 to 20 kts, seas 6 – 8 ft. Atlc exposures and 3-5 ft. elsewhere.

While relatively general, I like this product because it does not imply significance, in either specific time or location, that cannot be reasonably forecast,

The winds are actually SSE, so I probably won’t be able to maintain my desired course of 281° (with the GS pushing me north, the resultant COG would be 301°), which would land me at Miami.

15 minutes later I’m pounding into 4-6 ft. waves from the SSE.  I want to get well clear of the wedge rocks before I try to go W or NW.

Turning thru 270° Dauntless is rolling 25° on each side of vertical.  Not tenable.  I settle on WNW, 300° heading. This gives me a following sea 30 to 40° off my stern, tolerable.  I estimate (using my handy Clinometer app) that most of the rolls are on either side of 10 °, but 1/3 of the rolls are 15 to 18° and 1/9 of the rolls are 25-28°. I take a Cinnizine (Stugeron), thanks Dutch friends for bringing it.

Dauntless' Tracks Outbound and Return
Dauntless’ Tracks Outbound and Return

I also am reassured that should the conditions get worse for any reason, I do have a number of alternatives: I could head further north, as the Krogen does extremely well in a following sea or I could abort and head NNE to Bimini.

Four hours later, I am about in the middle of the Gulf Stream, I had increased speed to 2000 rpms, the most I have pushed my Lehman for any length of time, but with a speed over ground of about 9.2 knots, it does make the ride better.  The seas have been 6 to 8 feet; I hand steered a while and did discover that my hand steering I could almost keep a course as low as 280, BUT it’s a lot of work, so I have adjusted the autopilot a few times and discovered that I can set it to react well to those largest waves. Once I understood that the ComNav Autopilot manual is really poorly written, in that they use poor analogies.  Instead of explaining exactly what a certain adjustment actually does, they simplify too much.  Many companies do this, but they don’t understand their customers.  Meaning, those customers that will take the time to read their 3 inch think operating manual could use the exact description, instead they dumb it down, but dumb people won’t even read it in the first place.

So in trying to figure out what they really mean, for example Counter Rudder, seems to be an exponential function and in this case, by increasing it to almost max, Dauntless is able to react to large waves that want to pull the bow up (broach) faster than I can do it myself, and in fact, is more consistent.  So, the last few hours are actually easier, then also, as I got to the west of the main GS, the waves have diminished a bit to 4 to 6 ft.

By 16:00 I am entering the Port Everglades ship channel.  My crossing is done and our Bahamas adventure is over.

All’s Well that Ends Well.

As I get caught up with my postings, you will notice a mixture of tense.  Please bear with me as some things are written just as they happen, some after the fact, some before the fact and some not at all.

My current plan is to also post some pictures directly with the blog, but also to make a link for all the pictures for a given trip.  I’m also working on the duplication issue, so bear with me.

I’ve also uploaded some short videos of this crossing at http://dauntless.smugmug.com/Dauntless-Public/

Richard on Dauntless currently in Coconut Grove