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

Get the Hell out of Dodge

Get the hell out of Dodge.

We were in 5 feet of water with 150 feet of chain out and we continued to drag slowly, but surely, towards the shallows less than 100 feet away. Been there, Done that. But Not Tonight.

It’s almost 11:00 p.m. So, I get out of my nice cozy bed, put on my work clothes and proceed to make the boat ready to heavy seas.  The nice following seas and waves we had getting here would now be on the bow.  Steady 20 knot winds, a 45 mile fetch, had built the seas to 5 to 6 feet and with a short 6 second period, we were going to get wet.  Nothing I had not encountered before, but now, I had daunting task of making Dauntless live up to her name.  45 miles to go, plus we had to tip toe back up the narrow channel.

I looked long and hard at the chart.  The ocean was only ½ mile east of us.  The chart showed an unmarked channel that should have just enough water for us to get through.  It would save us one hour of the narrow channel.

But with strong winds opposing us, the seas would be breaking at the mouth of the inlet. I thought of Barnegat Bay and the channel that almost ended our dream before it even began.  I had learned a lesson, 6 to 8 foot waves are uncomfortable, but only become boat threatening in shallow water.  I would not tempt Fate again.

After making sure all the furniture was secured and everything put away, 45 minutes later, I was ready. Everyone else was still in bed; I start the engine and hauled the anchor. I told our guests that we were moving, but all was OK and just to stay in bed, as it was going to be rough.

As I headed the bow north northeast, I once again longingly looked at the chart with the ocean only 15 minutes away.  But the lesson of Barnegat Bay held me to my plan and I proceeded to follow my path I had just used a few hours earlier.

An hour later, 00:45 I was turning due east into the narrow, but marked outlet channel, when Julie joined me in the pilot house, as a waning last quarter moon, filled the pilot house with a rosy glow.

We were ready for the angry sea.

We didn’t know what to expect with the oncoming waves.  Dauntless does so well with a following sea that one hardly notices 6 foot waves from the stern, heading in to them, is a different story, made even more difficult because we had no leeway to maneuver in the narrow channel.  And while we had just come thru this channel, the lesson of Barnegat Bay was always with me, as I still feel that is the only time the boat was at risk, in hindsight, we may have been literally within seconds of disaster.

With short period, oncoming waves, I reduced power to 1500 rpm.  Our initial speed of over 6 knots quickly evaporated as we would climb one wave, our bow pointing high to the sky, then almost weightless; suddenly plunge into the trough of the wave, with the bow pulpit almost burying itself into the next oncoming wave.  I watched with dismay as our speed went from 6.2 to 5.8, 5.4, 5.1 and finally 4.8 knots.  With 49 nm to go, our trip was now going to be 10 hours, of up and down.

Luckily, I had the foresight to put a transdermal scopolamine patch on before departure.  I would need it.  As the boat settled into its yo-yo routine, I resigned myself to a long night.

Julie wanted to be in the pilot house, so she suggested I go get some sleep. I agreed, I was exhausted and even a few hours’ sleep could make a big difference.  I briefed her on our course and conditions and went to our cabin.

The Krogen 42 master cabin in under the pilot house in the bow.  As I got into bed, holding on for dear life, I remembered that I had sleep in worse conditions.  When Julie and I went cruising with our Dutch friends, Jan and Carin on their wonderful Malo sailboat, in the Outer Hebrides, our first night at St. Kilda bay was every rolly.  The anchorage was open to the southeast, the direction of the swell.  Julie and I slept very well (after being on a sailboat all day on the open ocean, how can you not?). Thought-out that night, I remember thinking I was on a corkscrew roller coaster.  But I slept and I remember thinking many times, now we turn upside down as we roll to the right.  Think of a fighter plane making a diving turn to the right.

So, I did not expect a problem with this boat movement which was madly pitching up and down, there was little (for Dauntless) roll.

But as I tried to go to sleep, I noticed a very disconcerting sensation.  With each pitch upward, as we crested the wave, Dauntless seemed to hesitate, before the downward plunge began. So lying in bed, I found my body waiting and waiting and waiting for that plunge.  No sleep could be had here, so after 15 minutes of up and down, I returned to the pilot house.

Julie then decided to try to sleep on our sofa in the saloon.  She went right to sleep, so after a while I decided to try it too. The weightless hesitation was not really noticeable near the back of the boat. With the autopilot set and no boats in sight, I curled up next to Julie like spoons and promptly went to sleep for about an hour.

Returning to the pilot house, all was as I left it.  All systems were fine, and we were on course moving at about 4.8 knots.  Seas and winds were still strong off our bow (due east) and occasionally, the pilot house would get a bath as the wind would take the top of a wave over the bow.  Not green water, but a thorough dousing.

As it became light out, a sail boat passed to our north and we discovered two flying fish on deck.  We could see the spot where the fish had hit the salon window, about 5 feet above the decks, 8 feet above the waterline.  Though most of the night, I thought the waves were 4 to 6 feet (in Long Island Sound, I had the most miserable 15 miles ever as I headed into 8 to 10 foot short period waves, the boat only making 3.5 knots. Virtually every wave put spray on the foredeck and against the windows and then the really big waves put spray over the top of the pilot house, once seemingly not even touching the pilot house)

At 11:15 a.m. 26 December 2013, we were anchored in Shroud Cay, the Exumas, the Bahamas.

My guests were able to have a beautiful day (remember this was their first day at an anchorage in the Bahamas) and I felt it was a job well done.

This is more like it
This is more like it
Sunset after a loooong day
Sunset after a loooong day

I made a mistake in our destination, but instead of exacerbating it, I bit the bullet and the problem was solved.

I could now enjoy my day.

Thanks for reading.

How I almost Snatch Defeat from the Jaws of Victory or When a Shortcut, Isn’t!

Chubb Cay to Dollar Harbour, 30 January 2014, Thursday,

It’s Oh Dark Thirty, really, 3:00 a.m.  If I want to get to Cat Cay today, it’s 76 nm @ 6.5 knots, that’s 12 hours, plus the usual hour of hijinks, so I either leave now or drive in the dark. Since for the first few hours this morning I can follow the route I took back in December, it’s better for me to leave now in the darkness, but on a known route.  I also can’t wait to try my new driving lights, but as there is nothing in front of me, I don’t see anything.

Hauled anchor, at 3:45 a.m. and am now underway.  I’m very close to the cold front.  Forecasters had it between Florida and Bimini, but the winds switched around last night to the NW meaning it or part of it, passed thru, however, as I get underway, I notice the winds are again from the SE and I can sense buildups just to my west.  Sure enough, in about an hour, I am going thru heavy rain for about half an hour.  Once again I am passed the front, hopefully this time for good. (Sadly, was not the case and the third time, was at the most critical time.) As the sun came up at 6:30, the very light NW winds just caused barely a ripple on the ocean.  Good cruising weather.

I picked up a hitchhiker for about half an hour.

A Tern Takes a Ride
A Tern Takes a Ride

Been anchored here in Dollar harbor (thanks to Active Captain) 30 minutes, since 17:15, a 14 hour day,  just got out of the shower and now, finally It’s Miller Time, but I’m having stiff drink.  As my mother would say, a highball.

So let’s go back to the videotape. The plan worked well. Would have worked even better had I remembered to look at my Explorer Chart Book of the Bahamas, which was three feet away on the chart table in front of my face all f…day.  (the downside of getting up at 3 a.m.?)

So all was going well.  By leaving so early, the seas were flat for the first 9 hours, it wasn’t till early afternoon that the southerly waves picked up in the shallow water west of the tongue of the ocean.  Small waves about a foot, but once in a while they would hit the boat strangely and cause a disconcerting thump.  I’m making good time too, 1600 rpms, but averaging 7 knots.

At this point, it’s midafternoon and I’m only about 10 nm Southeast of the Cat Cay lighthouse, and I am following the exact route I took coming out, but am wondering why I took that route as it seems a little off from what my Navionics charts are saying.  Especially when I got to the real shallow area that I had come straight thru last month.  Shallow, so cruising slowly for an hour, like 5 kts, with only 1 to 3 feet under the keel.  Luckily, as the water got skinny, I made sure I was exactly on that track, though I did test it, by going north and south of the track to see if it improved. It didn’t.  OK, so I get thru that part and now I’m 3 nm SE of the lighthouse, but it my Navionics says I can try to get to Dollar harbor by coming from the NE on the east side of South Cat Cay.

Interesting. Not one to pass up an opportunity (to save an hour)I slow down even more and give it a try, within minutes the rudder becomes sluggish, I immediately make a sharp U turn and add power as the depth sounder stopped sounding, which means it’s in the mud, sand.  Within a heart stopping  30 seconds, I have at least some water underneath.  OK, all is good, I retrace my steps, get back on course a and once again head NW to the lighthouse and the gap between South and North Cat Cay.

Now, in part because of the wasted time, this storm that has been building is now here, so I go thru the narrow cut south (must hug shore to within 100 ft) of the lighthouse in raging seas and wind.  100 m visibility in heavy rain and wind.  When I get to the west side, it is far worse, as there seem to be two different wave trains and their both 6 to 8 ft.  I realize at this point, that I need sea room no matter  what the seas, so I continue west into the deeper water, >40ft, before I turn South,

Now, I’m wondering what to do, The rain is so heavy, I can’t see the inlets or the rocks just to my left, I don’t trust my chart plotter or my navionics App and the wind is from the North, so continuing on and crossing the Gulf Stream is out of the question.

A light dawns, Like the sun burning though the morning fog, I remember my trusty Explorer Chart Book.  Open it to the pertinent page and low and behold it has all the answers.  It showed why I had previously taken the route I had, plus it showed that the only way to the Dollar anchorage was from the southwest.

I decided to play it safe for once and come all the way south of Wedge Rocks as the channel there looked a bit deeper and wider, on the chart, so I just gritted my teeth and accepted that I would have a rough ride for the next 30 minutes.  The visibility was still bad enough I could not the rocks or breakers, so I wondered about turning into the inlet when the time came, but as it was it was all anti-climactic.  As soon as I was south of the rocks, I turned, and the seas died down to just 2-3’.  Looking at the chart it confirmed the AC advice and it was a piece of cake.  I had 14 ft. of water all the way to this anchorage. There was some wind, but absolutely no boat movement (and for a full displacement boat, that says a lot).  There is a strong current which is keeping Dauntless parallel to the channel, but this is the quietest anchorage I have had in the entire time in the Bahamas.

Here are two videos, but it’s hard to get WordPress to play nice with pictures. So go to http://dauntless.smugmug.com/Dauntless-Public  for the rest of the pictures in descending chronological order.
Finally,  It’s Miller Time and here is one of my favorite Miller time T-shirts at http://dauntless.smugmug.com/Dauntless-Public