Almost Done

I had hoped to leave Vallejo for my trip north as early as a week ago. It wasn’t to be and with the eastern Pacific high showing signs that it doesn’t know that summer is here, I doubt I will leave before mid-month!

Dauntless’ Fly Bridge

Talking with a boating friend Friday who is very attuned to the weather in Northern California, he told me that normally, this eastern Pacific high is strongest in April, when it produces the strongest Northerly winds. But it’s now June and the April high is still here.

As a weather forecaster, the shoulder of the seasons, spring becoming summer, etc. is the hardest thing to predict. Each season has its own peculiarities, as well as the type and strength of the weather produced.

One crosses the North Atlantic in July because that’s definitely summer. Low pressure areas in the North Atlantic in July are the fewest and weakest of the year. Winds are almost never above 50 knots. When I was planning my first Atlantic Crossing, that’s why our planned departure was in July. June and August are the shoulder months, August weather can quickly transition to fall. Two sailboats were abandoned off the coast of France in a May storm, a few years ago.  That I found myself in the North Atlantic in late August is a story I have related a number of times. Needless to say, the weather was worse than the month before and the successive three lows that rolled over me during my last 72 hours were definitely a sign of fall type weather; summer was over.

Dauntless’ Fly Bridge

Now, I’m waiting for spring to end. In the meantime, having gotten almost all my projects done, I am now cleaning up the small things.

My fly bridge has never looked so good. All my mild steel items, cotter pins, bolts, nuts, have been replaced with stainless steel. In the past, I used what was handy. During the last couple of months, I have spent days removing rusted fasteners or clevis pins that are ruined because they have a rusted cotter pin inside.

Lesson Learned.

I also added a line of lights for the galley and added a lighted led switch that purposely stays on all the time. I figured people new to the boat, Ti and Thien in particular, would appreciate some help in finding lights and things.

Blue Led switch is middle right just below the cabinets
Dauntless’ solar panels

Over the next days, I am reorganizing my tools once again, as well as much used electrical parts.

Here is the latest snapshot of the weather patterns and winds over the North Pacific. First picture is today, the second picture is June 11th. No point in looking at anything else.

In the meantime, here is an interesting link to the video Ti made, Ti Cooks Pig Ears. with English subtitles. Yes, another Vietnamese delicacy. Who knew they did more than Bahn Mi sandwiches and Pho !!

 

North Pacific Weather Patterns Valid 02 June
North Pacific Weather pattern valid 11 June

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.” ■

 

 

I Fixed My Watch

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

My Skagen

pressuring it back on was simple.

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

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

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

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

It didn’t happen.

I prayed. I begged. No joy.

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

This piece goes on top of that piece

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

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

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

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

Less than an hour later, we were free.

And I’ve never looked back.

 

 

What I’ve Learned from Crossing Oceans

Sunset on the Atlantic

Well, it would probably take a book I’m too lazy to write.

But as I sit here in the sweltering heat of Mexico, air conditioning or lack thereof has become my number one concern.

Having spent two years in Northern Europe, AC was the least of my concerns.  So last year when cruising south, once I hit Portugal, the heat hit us at the same time. Like leaving a room that was a pleasant 68° (20°C) and entering a furnace that was in the 90°s (>32°).

Dauntless has two air conditioning (AC) systems.  One for the back of the boat, like the salon and second cabin, the other, for the forward sections, the forward cabin and pilot house.  Of course, neither one was working.
Somewhere in the Caribbean, finally realizing that this heat and humidity was unrelenting, I tackled the issue and in a remarkable time, got both units working.  Relief at last.  But this isn’t about that.

So, for the last couple months, I have luxuriated in the coolness of modern living.  Now, air conditioning only works if I am at a marina and plugged into shore power or if I run the boat’s generator.

Then last week, my cool times came to an abrupt end.  My aft AC stopped cooling and then started blowing hot air.  That won’t work.

The top of the AC strainer. The problem hose connection in the right.

The main engine strainer 

Boat AC’s working using water pumped through the condenser to make cool air. (Home AC’s use air to cool the condenser).

So, when there is a problem, the first thing to check is water flow.  And in fact, there was not any water flow or maybe just a dribble when it should be coming out like a water hose.

Easy fix I thought. It started well.  I checked the sea strainer, which is exactly that, it strains sea water so that the water pump only gets water and not sea weed, sticks, fish and whatever got sucked into the thru hull opening.  The strainer was full of crap and water was just dribbling out, when it should have been gushing out.

Oh, that was easy.  But on a boat, the systems in place that makes everything run as they must, can become complicated.

I cleaned out the strainer.  Put it back together and that started the last seven days of trial and error.

I hadn’t cleaned or opened the strainer in probably 4 years.  It had a lot of corrosion around it.  I brushed and cleaned it up as well as I could. Put it back together again, turned on the AC pump and all was well.

For about 10 minutes.

As of yesterday, the 6th day, I got the time up to two hours. It would run OK for two hours and then quit.  I would need to let it rest about an hour and then do the process all over again.

Somewhere between the thru-hull and the AC water pump, air was being sucked into the system. The water pump is sucking so hard and it’s always easier to suck air than water. So even the smallest crack will allow air to be sucked in.  That air then collects at the highest point in the system, at the aft AC unit, at which point the air blocks the water and the AC stops cooling.

That has been my last 7 days.

Every day I tried something new. I even made new gaskets from rubber sheets, I’ve did all sorts of things to try to fix the strainer.  Sure, there has been some improvement, but it wasn’t fixed.

But I didn’t have a spare strainer. What to do?

One of my lessons learned from crossing oceans is there is always a solution.

When you are in the middle of the Atlantic, there’s no Boat US, no AAA, no nothing, only you and the odds and ends you happen to have.

I realized I did not have a spare sea strainer, but I did have two other sea strainers!

I could simply bypass the AC strainer and put a hose between one of the other strainers to the AC water pump.  Then if there is still a problem, it would mean it’s the pump itself.

I’d decided to use the Generator strainer.  The gen is not being used and won’t be until next summer.  Also, should I mess that system up, it’s not a critical component, like the main engine.

The AC sea strainer uses 1” hose.  Turns out the gen sea strainer uses ¾” hose.  The gen doesn’t use much cooling water, but the AC’s use a lot.

The main engine sea strainer was 1” hose, so I decided to use that.  That has enabled me to sit here a couple of hours later and write this piece in the cool comfort of the Kadey Krogen salon.

Which raises another even more important issue. The first rule of Ocean Crossing, Do No Harm. Don’t fix one problem by making another.

Only because Dauntless will spend the winter here in Huatulco, Mexico, would I consider messing with the main engine’s sea strainer.

There is always a lot of blather about single engine boats crossing oceans. Large commercial boats do it all the time, but then they are not affected by marketing.

If one looks at engine failures on single engine boats versus multi engine boats, the preponderance is a failure of one of the two engines on a multi engine boat. Why is that? On the face of it, the numbers should be exactly the same. Why aren’t they?

They are not the same because both consciously and unconsciously people take care of stuff better when they only have one versus two. Of anything.

How many times have you lost a key after having gotten extra keys made? How many times have you lost your only key?

If I was getting underway in the foreseeable future. I would never have touched the main engine’s sea strainer. Even though Dauntless is going to be here for the next 8 months, if my plan was to come back and get her ready to cross the Pacific, I would never have touched the sea strainer now.

Only because I have the luxury of knowing that: not only will I not be using the engine until next summer, even then we will be slowly moving up the coast. I have a few years and a few thousand miles of coastal cruising before setting across the North Pacific.

A boat is all about systems.  A motor boat even more because it takes more complicated systems to run in a dependable manner.  So, I am very careful not to mess with systems that don’t need it. Remeber, Do No Harm.

In opening up the AC sea strainer, I messed with that system. I upset something.

Turns out, in getting ready to bypass the AC strainer, I noticed the end of the outlet hose was very hard.  Is it possible that when I opened the strainer, I broke the seal between this hose and the strainer nipple? Even though the two clamps were tight. (All connections to thru hulls have two clamps)

I decided before I did anything else, to cut 2″ off the end of that hose and re-attach it.  I did and that solved the problem once and for all. Yesterday, the ACs worked for 12 hours with nary a problem.

So even with a solution in hand, keep trying to determine the real problem. Otherwise, it may come back to haunt you in the most inopportune time.

When I had the hydraulic hose failure in the middle of the Atlantic.  I caused the problem because I turned the wheel knowing the rudder was already at its stop. Thus I did harm. This forced the fluid to go somewhere and it burst the hose at its weakest point. Luckily for me, that point was easy to find and relatively easy to replace.

But I will never do that again.

Here is the video of me replacing that hose.  The seas were about 8 to 15 feet.  We were stopped in the water like that for about 30 minutes, because I had to be careful not to make a small problem worse by breaking one of the fittings from the three-way coupling:  

I tried to get Micah who was holding the camera to get the overall picture and show the big waves that would approach Dauntless and then disappear under the boat.  But that seemed to unnerve him. He wouldn’t look out. Oh well, it could have been worse.

So, one of my lessons learned in crossing the Atlantic: There is always an alternative, there is always a way, a bypass, a work around, but there is always a way.  You just have to think about it.