Time Waits for No One

I was on schedule, the one I’d made month’s earlier. It was June 10th.

So Calif from SD to Channel Islands The missing segment north of San Diego to Oceanside, is simply Garmim, being Garmin.

460 nm to go to our winter home of Vallejo, close compared to only a month ago, but now time was getting compressed. My hard, drop dead dates were also much closer.  July 6th was the hardest one, my flight from Austin Texas back to SGN, Saigon, HCMC, Vietnam.

Airline tickets can always be changed, but at a price and I was tired of just pissing money away.

CE chart off CA coast to Channel Islands Please don’t get confused. Channel Islands Harbor is NOT in the Channel Islands. But instead is just south of Oxnard on the mainland. That’s California just being California.

I also had a wedding in Salt Lake City June 23rd, that I really, really wanted to attend. Three years earlier, I’d crossed the stormy North Sea to get back to Ireland in time to meet my dear friend Jennifer, who was coming to Ireland just to see Dauntless. I’d known her since she was 8 years old. Now, she had met the love of her life and was getting married. I had to be there.

I also wanted, needed to go to Fairbanks, Alaska before I left the USA

I’d already arranged the marina for the winter, in Vallejo California.

It was simply going to be a busy month, but doable if the weather cooperated.

Entering Channel Islands harbor, which is NOT in the Channel Islands. But instead is just south of Oxnard on the mainland. That’s California just being California.

The most recent version of the plan had Dauntless and I getting to Vallejo by the 17th, flying to SLC on the 21st, then onto Fairbanks on the 25th, ending in Austin, Texas on the 3rd. I have good friends there and it so happens that the plane ticket to Vietnam is significantly cheaper if it starts in Austin (or other smaller markets) then NY or Detroit, even though my routing goes thru Detroit.

What are friends and family for? Friends and family are there to talk you out of stupid ideas or better said: to help you see the better plan.

Kyoko’s beautiful house in Channel Islands harbor

My friends, Mike and Adrianna, who now also have a Kadey Krogen 42, called While Knuckles, had suggested earlier that I stay in southern California longer. The reason I had resisted was that that plan upset my sense of completion: let’s get Dauntless settled, then travel.

The Pacific off the Southern California coast, south of Santa Barbara, has significantly better cruising weather. The winds are still predominately from the NW, but more like 50% of the time versus 90% further south. In addition, there are long periods of light & variable winds. Perfect cruising weather.

Dauntless from Kyoko’s house

And that’s what we had for the next five days.

Mike and Adrianna keep their boat in front of a friend house in Channel Islands harbor. They spoke to their friend, Kyoto, and she was happy to have my Kadey Krogen there, while White Knuckles was in Ensenada having some extensive upgrades taken care of.

The weather was also changing. It became clear that I would have to wait to do the last 270 miles from Point Conception to the Golden Gate and Vallejo. So, I took

Dauntless in front of Kyoko’s house

Mike and Kyoko up on their offer to keep Dauntless there as long as I needed, while I:

  1. Waited for weather
  2. Attended the wedding and
  3. Flew to Fairbanks and back
  4. Spent more money on tools and spares at Harbor Freight

I had to change one place ticket, but this was a much better plan. I was able to travel to the wedding and then Alaska knowing Dauntless was in good hands with sharp eyes watching out for her. I really appreciated the hospitality and it made for great 10 days

.

Harbor Freight is Wonderful

,

Dauntless Returns to the USA

Dauntless returned to the USA on June 9, 2018; four years after she left Cape Cod, Mass. I left with Julie and came back with Larry, an interesting swap. But it’s nice to share special moments with special people and I’ve known Larry since we met on T-3 in 1973.

CE chart of our arrival in San Diego

He’s good crew. He knows how to find the best ride for the conditions of wind and seas and he knows when to call me.

The check-in pier to the USA in San Diego is at the police dock at the entrance to the harbor. When we arrived at 19:00 there was a large fishing trawler occupying most of the dock. A spot on the Visitor’s Pier was open and I took it. Upon calling customs and Immigration, they told me everyone was busy with that fishing trawler, took my number and said they’d get back to me.

Noon , 6 hours from SD

Some minutes later, they did just that.  Telling me they were busy, they asked if we had Global Entry. We did, they took our passport numbers and welcomed us to the USA. After the nightmare of paperwork that the Caribbean is, I welcomed some common sense.

Larry and I celebrated our return by going to the typical restaurant & bar ubiquitous in the USA at upscale marinas and sea shores. We paid a lot for the crappiest meal we’d had in weeks. Welcome Home.

The Visitors Dock

It was 17 days from Cabo San Lucas to San Diego. I’ve written about most of the highlights or lowlights already. If you missed it, here are some links:

The Dingy Fiasco part 1

Third Time is the Charm; But it Wasn’t Easy

The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

Four Easy Days

The last 17 days saw us biding our time in anchorages, opposite, hot, dry, almost deserted towns, waiting for strong NW winds to subside so we could proceed NW in weaker NW winds.

Everything ended up working out so well thanks to generous friends and wonderful strangers.

Yet, I feel a disquiet that I hope is nothing more than the phase of the moon.

 

 

 

 

What We Know

It was about 10 years ago, 5 years before acquiring Dauntless, my first and probably last boat, that I got a vague idea about cruising and living on a boat. I’d never heard of Kadey Krogen, I thought sailors who crossed oceans were living the life of hermits.

This bot was watching that light (upper right corner) and as soon as it turned green, he pointed so his mother would notice.
Kids love helping and being engaged .

I spent the next 5 years reading everything I could find about people on, in and about, boats. I’d always been fascinated with merchant marine stories, so now I just expanded to the small boat world.

Pretty sure that the sailboat life was not for me, my first readings were dominated by those prolific powerboat writers, Nordhavn owners. I’d stalk the mailman, Steven, (yes, even in the Big Apple, we had our mail carrier’s phone number), waiting for the latest issue of Passage Maker, to find out what some hardy Nordhavn owner was up to.

By 2009, it was obvious that the real estate market was not going to keep doubling every few years. I’d never have the money of the Passage Maker crowd. No one was going to give me a $100,000 sponsorship and fly parts needed to repair of my hydraulics stabilizers, by helicopter, to the Northwest Passage.

I expanded my reading to that I had eschewed previously, about sailors and sailing. The amount of material about non-powered boats was 1000-fold greater. I didn’t censor what I read. I was reading to learn, to understand, to experience without having to do, even those experiences I had no interest in doing myself.

I realized just like moving to Italy in the ‘70’s, I needed to have an even more open mind than normal. The more I read, the more I understood that there was no “right” way.

It wasn’t that what I knew was wrong, it was simply that it may not be right.

Even weeks before my first Atlantic crossing, I knew four people was the right amount. But I couldn’t get four.  Julie and I came up with a new plan. She would come but leave at the Azores. Then a third person volunteered at the last minute. But at that point, we decided that two was just fine; and it was.

Sitting in the Azores, looking for crew to assist me from the Azores to Ireland, a 9 or 10-day passage, I was finally convinced by an American sailor from North Carolina to just go on my own. I’d be fine, and it would be better than wasting good weather sitting around and it was.

What I took from all this was that what was obvious, wasn’t.

The Front Seat

I was brought to this entire train of thought recently as I watched a mother and daughter (maybe 2 or 3 years old) on a motorcycle here in Saigon, Vietnam. How touching the scene was. They were having a conversation as they motored along at 20 mph. How could it be safe? Children that age will normally sit in the very front on a little stool or stand.

Surely, I know that a child in a car seat in the back of an automobile is safer than this!

But then I wondered, safer, certainly; but happier, more secure. I wondered?

Over the days as I thought about it even more, I realized I’ve never seen a crying child on a motorbike. Not one. I see captivated kids. They are watching the world go by, with their parent nuzzled snugly right next to them, holding them.  How can you feel more secure than that?

On the other hand, how many times in the USA have I observed some child having a tantrum while being put into a car seat in the back of a car? Too often to count.

Safety versus separation anxiety. For many kids, probably not mutually exclusive, but for some?

 

Even in the First World, we know less than we think we do.

 

A child seat for your motorbike
Getting ready to go


 

 

Self-Reliance

People tell me how brave I am to cross oceans in a little boat like my 42-foot Kadey Krogen. That’s a sentiment that always makes my uncomfortable. I know I’m not brave and I hate fixing things because I suck at it.

A 14+ foot Wave goes on its way

But I’m prepared, and I pride myself on being self-reliant.

That self-reliance trumps everything else. It tells me I Can Do It; even when waves are towering over my head, as we bob in the middle of ocean until I solve the problem.

That self-reliance washes over me like a breaking wave, letting me sleep at night, enjoy the day and think, reason, all the time.

My mother and god-mother were always quick to relate the story to anyone who would listen of when I was very young, so young, that I have no recollection, of me crossing the street with my god-mother and my tricycle. Getting to the curb on the other side of the street, my god-mother went to help me lift it onto the curb and sidewalk, but I didn’t want any help and became adamant, yelling, “Self, Self”, evidently the only words I knew at the time.

24 Dec 2006 15:40 Soon to be stuck

That’s not bravery, I just didn’t want any help. My self-satisfaction comes from getting the job done myself. When I must ask for help, I feel a failure. I wasn’t prepared.

Like one Christmas eve before Dauntless came into my life, my wife and I were on one of our winter adventures, this time on the Gaspe Peninsula, well north of Novia Scotia and north of New Brunswick. We found ourselves stranded on a mountain trail. (Google maps depicted it as a road, but in fact it turned out to be a skimobile track, as I discovered trudging thru the heavy snow looking for a place marker) I had strayed off the snow-covered road and the right side of the Jeep was in a deep ditch. After spending hours doing everything I knew to get us out, I finally relented and called the Canadian Mounties. Another hour later, they showed up with a tow truck, who pulled me back onto the road and we were good to go again.

I was bummed that we’d had to call for help and further bummed that we were so close to getting over the mountain heading to the coast, and now, we would have to backtrack and take the long way around. As you know from my experiences in Cabo, I hate turning around.

24 Dec 20016 15:48 I think I got stuck now.

But only a couple hours later, ensconced in a warm, little restaurant, that was luckily open on Christmas Eve, another adventure that ended well and a lesson learned: when in Quebec, learn French.

While I no longer have that Jeep or that wife, I still find myself reflecting what I should have done differently. After years of thought, a little fortress type anchor with a come-a-long, would have gotten us out on my own. I think!

When I became the commander of a weather station in Alaska, while in the U.S. Air Force, I remember my commander making it clear to me that my job was to make sure he never heard from me. No news was good news.  That was simple, direct and effective.

The Cute place we found for dinner. All’s Well that Ends Well

Of all the organizations I have worked for and with, I found the USAF to be the best at teaching leadership and thus building consensus within units. For people who have never served in the military, the perception is that it is a top down organization. In fact, that’s not the case.

Our military is not like the German’s of WWII, in which the SS was tasked with executing German Army members found to be retreating or the Russians, who had political minders in every unit ready to shoot anyone who turned their back to the enemy.

Our military leaders, officers and non-commissioned officers (sergeants) are taught to build consensus through trust and respect. Nobody is going to charge that hill if they think, you, as their leader, don’t have their best interests in mind.

It’s why when push comes to shove, I think we do have the best military people in the world.

Taking the leadership skills, I learned in the Air Force suited me well in my education career. When I became the principal of a failing school in the Bronx, I did turn it around. To do so, I needed the support of the teachers, which I had, despite a couple of malcontents.

In fact, despite them, we were able to make significant changes to our programming, like adding block teaching classes and longer one-hour periods, that required the approval of the teachers and the teacher’s union representative. Every year these initiatives were approved because of consensus building. Our results reflected this success, with a more than doubling of passing scores on the years’ end tests and our graduation rate. Chancellor Klein said to put the kids first and I did. Simple.

Now a normal minded person would think that self-reliance is a good thing. I don’t take it to extremes, I’m still not stuck in the snow waiting for spring.

So, what’s the downside?

I never recognized that my immediate boss in the NYC Dept of Education, hated my self-reliance. It was my Achilles heel. I thought our data spoke for itself. Our school was doing much better than our peer schools. But New York is nothing if it’s not political and I’m not so political if you haven’t noticed.

When the regime changed, my focus on students and their success, no longer mattered. My supervisor didn’t want a self-reliant principal, she wanted a sycophant. I should have been calling her every week, asking for advice, letting her help me wipe my ass.

But then, had I done so, I wouldn’t be here now. I wouldn’t have Dauntless and most of all, you wouldn’t be reading this.

I like being self-reliant.

 

 

 

 

How Fresh is Fresh

In the last 5 years Dauntless has visited almost two dozen countries.  While, I’ve been in couple dozen more in the last 40 years. That’s a lot of different languages and cultures.

Chicken, Rice, a green vegetable, some pickled vegetables

It was 42 years ago, that I first set foot in Italy and it would begin a life of living and experiencing new languages, cultures, foods, etc. Sitting on a bus, passing thru the middle of Milan, in just looking out the window, it was obvious this was not the Italy I had expected, nor was it the Little Italy of New York either or the Italy of Italian-Americans. Not one cannolo was in sight. In fact. It would take me a year to find one and that was further south in Florence.

Passing a billboard advertising skin cream which depicted naked women, I vowed then and there to leave my perceptions behind and reboot my expectations. For effective cross-cultural communications, this can be the only starting point. When in Rome, Do as the Romans.

No phrase probably sums up a successful expatriate experience better. I was/am always amazed at the number of Americans I would meet living overseas like I yet complaining that it wasn’t Kansas.

Living so, accepting the people and cultures I’m immersed in, allows me to enjoy my travels and adventures with Dauntless, or like this month, without her, in Vietnam.

Even when speaking a common language, understanding and accepting cultural differences is crucial for good relationships of any sort.

Trinh speaks pretty much fluent English. When she doesn’t understand a word, it’s usually because of my pronunciation. Our miscommunications center around different understandings of the same word or sometimes, while the words are understood, the background isn’t.

Thus, began our discussion about “fresh” chicken. A little question about fresh chicken, became a bridge to cross cultural communication.

Trinh is the best cook I’ve ever had the pleasure to know. I’ve always prided myself on my own cooking and for most of my life, I’ve done most of the cooking in the household. Over the past year, I tried to analyze what makes her cooking so good, even better than almost any restaurant I’ve eaten here in Vietnam. And should we try something new to her, if we like it, she will recreate it at home. I’ve concluded that it’s her meticulous preparation and wholesome ingredients she uses.

By far my favorite dish is her fried or sautéed chicken.  I’ve never had such delicious fried chicken any place or any time in my entire life. The skin cooked to almost a hard, crunchy shell, with moist, tender chicken underneath and flavors that just melt in your mouth.

Chicken to die for.

I knew she always bought the packages of chicken wings at Co-Op Food. Co-Op is owned by the government of Vietnam. They have two retail stores that are everywhere in Vietnam: Co-Op Mart, which is like a large supermarket, familiar to any westerner and Co-Op Food, a small, convenience store style store. I like both, initially, I had to leave my preconceived ideas at home about Co-Op Food. When I think convenience store, I think packaged snacks, old hot dogs, mystery meat burritos heated up in microwaves and gallons of colored water, chemical based drinks in large plastic cups.

But Co-Op Food is the place for everyday items and fresher foods than Co-Op Mart (the supermarket) offers and why Trinh only buys the chicken at Co-Op Food, not Co-Op Mart.

Now, if you know me at all, you know I’m skeptical of almost everything I hear and half what I see. So, I pressed Trinh on the difference, why was this package of chicken wings better than that one?

What do you mean the chicken at Co-Op Mart is not fresh? When was it killed in the last week or so?

She looks at me, like I have two heads (because she wouldn’t touch chicken killed last week. Who knew?, not I).

No, she responds, the chicken at Co-Op Food is killed that night.

What do you mean that night? I ask, still not able to get my mind around her expectations of freshness.

She explains: Chicken at Co-Op Food is killed, plucked, packaged at 01:00 a.m. on the morning I buy it. It’s on the shelves around 06:00 a.m.

She doesn’t know how old the chicken is at Co-Op Mart, she guesses a few days at most, but it’s older and she’s not buying it, ever.

For a boy grown up in a supermarket culture, with foods routinely shipped thousands of miles and processed and packed ages ago, it’s fascinating to realize that while the outside package looks the same, the behind the scenes processing is totally different. These supermarkets and smaller food stores are competing with local markets that are everywhere, literally every quarter mile.

Supermarkets do as local markets

Who knew that fresh could be that fresh.

Lotte Supermarket in District 7, Ho Chi Minh City

I can’t fault the results.

Third Time is the Charm; But it Wasn’t Easy

leaving Cabo the first time on 13 May

After arriving on the southern tip of Baja California May 9th, two weeks later we are faintly getting out of this tourist trap. Oh, Cabo, or better yet, Cabo Falso, has finally loosened her grip on us to to us pass.

My two previous attempts were unpleasant at best, more like miserable. And on each the previous attempts to round the cape in ferocious seas and winds, I had tried two or three times, either tacking away from shore or closer to shore to escape her grip. Each time, I dragged myself back to Cabo, tail between my legs.

On the second attempt, the autopilot also started to not act right, so I felt the failure even more.

My Octopus pump. the top screw was leaking
The screw, replacement “O” ring and broken circ clip for the Octopus pump

With thousands of boats in Cabo San Lucas, I thought it would be easy to find the little “O” ring and broken circ clip my Octopus pump needed. After walking around to numerous places in the hot sun, I found the ring, but not the clip. I called my followers who is a plethora of mechanical advice (he’s the one who told me how to make emergency hydraulic fluid in the middle of the Atlantic), who explained that the circ clip was just a stop, so the screw would not come all the way out.  It was already out, so that solved that problem. I put the new “O” ring on, leak stopped, and pump worked fine.

The Garmin InReach track for the May 13, 20 and 23.
The superfluous tracks are Garmin’s way of introducing us to their world. https://share.delorme.com/dauntless

I am really in debt to Octopus Pumps. This is on the list of winter projects. I really need to have a spare.

We waited and waited. I was very conscious that every day was costing me $100+ The reality is on my budget with all the cruising I do, necessities come first, so a marina becomes a convenience. Thus, it’s the one place I really try to try to control my costs.

That I didn’t like Cabo just added insult to injury.

I make a habit to only look at Windy.com and the forecast winds once or twice a day. With crew on board, I look at it more often to make them happy, but I really don’t. The nature of forecasts is that if they change radically, they are most probably wrong. Thus, once a day will provide enough guidance. Also, while nowadays, the forecast models are run more often, at least every three hours, planet Earth still has a 24-hour day. In simplistic terms, the winds and weather are driven my differential heating caused by our day and night cycle. Therefore, running the model more often does helps, but it won’t totally cure instability issues with the forecast.

I know this is getting too complicated. Let me say this, if you are waiting for a specific weather window, like I was in Cabo, how many times have you noticed that during the day, the forecast is changing, only to return to what it said originally 24 hours later? So, looking at a forecast more than a couple times per day is simply not helpful and more often confusing. This was quite apparent as I watched the winds off the southern Baja Peninsula.

The other phenomena with numerical forecasts are the sliding weather window. I mean it shows favorable whatever in the 24 to 48-hour time frame. But the following day, the favorable whatever is still forecast to come in the 24 to 48-hour time frame. It’s like the forecast is waiting for something to happen. It is in fact; numerical models are just predictors of fluid dynamics. But something in the real world is not acting like the model suggests. Therefore, it keeps sliding the forecast.

Which is fundamentally why numerical models have not replaced weather forecasters. Weather forecasters will know the proclivity of each model for each area and time of season. Changing seasons is the biggest bugaboo for both man and machine. That’s why some months are easier or harder to forecast.

Enough weather for now.

Rounding Cabo Falso

On 23 May 2018, we finally got underway heading to Ensenada with stops along the way. The first protected stop was Maddalena Bay, about 200 miles up the coast.

Our track on Coastal Explorer. We are finally past the point that we turned around last time.

Coming abreast of Cabo Falso, winds had picked up to 310° at 15 gusting to 25 knots. I put one bird in the water to reduce the roll, which had gotten to 10° to 15° to port, as the winds were on the forward starboard quarter. We were pitching 6° to 8° up and down. Not fun, but tolerable for a while.

Six hours after departure, we were finally around the cape and heading NNW. Winds had died down to 10 knots, but we still had an unpleasant pitching motion.

Night view of Coastal Explorer our first night out of Cabo.
You can see the pitching and rolling motions for the last 12 hours on left on bottom of screen.

During the spring and more recently in my time in Cabo, it was apparent that there are three distinct weather regimes off the Baja coast. The southern third has the strongest and most consistent NW winds. The second third has slightly more variety, while the last third, north of Tortuga Bay, must more variable weather, more like southern California.

Our Coastal Explorer chart showing our route for the previous 36 hours, after arrival in Magdalena Bay
Navionics on Tablet, further out view on Coastal Explorer, as we proceed up the channel in Magdalena Bay
Another view out the pilot house window, with Maretron and Coastal Explorer chart

Not until we were close to Magdalena bay did the winds back around to the west, though they were strong at 15 to 20 knots.

We pulled into Magdalena Bay 17:00 on the second day, the 24th, we then spent a few hours going up channel to Puerto San Carlos, to be protected from the coming wind storm.

Another view out the pilot house window, with Maretron and Coastal Explorer chart. It did stay like that the entire time

This leg’s summary: 188 nm, 35 hours, 25 min, avg speed 5.45 knots

Now, let’s check out that dingy. If you missed that fiasco, see:

https://dauntlessatsea.com/2018/07/14/the-dingy-fiasco-part-1/

 

How Fresh is Fresh?

In the last 5 years Dauntless has visited almost two dozen countries.  While, I’ve been in couple dozen more in the last 40 years. That’s a lot of different languages and cultures.

Chicken, Rice, a green vegetable, some pickled vegetables

It was 42 years ago, that I first set foot in Italy and it would begin a life of living and experiencing new languages, cultures, foods, etc. Sitting on a bus, passing thru the middle of Milan, in just looking out the window, it was obvious this was not the Italy I had expected, nor was it the Little Italy of New York either or the Italy of Italian-Americans. Not one cannolo was in sight. In fact. It would take me a year to find one and that was further south in Florence.

Passing a billboard advertising skin cream which depicted naked women, I vowed then and there to leave my perceptions behind and reboot my expectations. For effective cross-cultural communications, this can be the only starting point. When in Rome, Do as the Romans.

No phrase probably sums up a successful expatriate experience better. I was/am always amazed at the number of Americans I would meet living overseas like I yet complaining that it wasn’t Kansas.

Living so, accepting the people and cultures I’m immersed in, allows me to enjoy my travels and adventures with Dauntless, or like this month, without her, in Vietnam.

Even when speaking a common language, understanding and accepting cultural differences is crucial for good relationships of any sort.

Trinh speaks pretty much fluent English. When she doesn’t understand a word, it’s usually because of my pronunciation. Our miscommunications center around different understandings of the same word or sometimes, while the words are understood, the background isn’t.

Thus, began our discussion about “fresh” chicken. A little question about fresh chicken, became a bridge to cross cultural communication.

Trinh is the best cook I’ve ever had the pleasure to know. I’ve always prided myself on my own cooking and for most of my life, I’ve done most of the cooking in the household. Over the past year, I tried to analyze what makes her cooking so good, even better than almost any restaurant I’ve eaten here in Vietnam. And should we try something new to her, if we like it, she will recreate it at home. I’ve concluded that it’s her meticulous preparation and wholesome ingredients she uses.

By far my favorite dish is her fried or sautéed chicken.  I’ve never had such delicious fried chicken any place or any time in my entire life. The skin cooked to almost a hard, crunchy shell, with moist, tender chicken underneath and flavors that just melt in your mouth.

Chicken to die for.

I knew she always bought the packages of chicken wings at Co-Op Food. Co-Op is owned by the government of Vietnam. They have two retail stores that are everywhere in Vietnam: Co-Op Mart, which is like a large supermarket, familiar to any westerner and Co-Op Food, a small, convenience store style store. I like both, initially, I had to leave my preconceived ideas at home about Co-Op Food. When I think convenience store, I think packaged snacks, old hot dogs, mystery meat burritos heated up in microwaves and gallons of colored water, chemical based drinks in large plastic cups.

But Co-Op Food is the place for everyday items and fresher foods than Co-Op Mart (the supermarket) offers and why Trinh only buys the chicken at Co-Op Food, not Co-Op Mart.

Now, if you know me at all, you know I’m skeptical of almost everything I hear and half what I see. So, I pressed Trinh on the difference, why was this package of chicken wings better than that one?

What do you mean the chicken at Co-Op Mart is not fresh? When was it killed in the last week or so?

She looks at me, like I have two heads (because she wouldn’t touch chicken killed last week. Who knew?, not I).

No, she responds, the chicken at Co-Op Food is killed that night.

What do you mean that night? I ask, still not able to get my mind around her expectations of freshness.

She explains: Chicken at Co-Op Food is killed, plucked, packaged at 01:00 a.m. on the morning I buy it. It’s on the shelves around 06:00 a.m.

She doesn’t know how old the chicken is at Co-Op Mart, she guesses a few days at most, but it’s older and she’s not buying it, ever.

For a boy grown up in a supermarket culture, with foods routinely shipped thousands of miles and processed and packed ages ago, it’s fascinating to realize that while the outside package looks the same, the behind the scenes processing is totally different. These supermarkets and smaller food stores are competing with local markets that are everywhere, literally every quarter mile.

Supermarkets do as local markets

Who knew that fresh could be that fresh.

Lotte Supermarket in District 7, Ho Chi Minh City

I can’t fault the results.

Things I Must Do on Dauntless

Upon waking up this Monday morning, as I was organizing my day, thinking about what I wanted/needed to do, I thought about this blog and what to write. I’d like to finish writing about the events of the trip to Vallejo. But as time passes, so does emotion of the events, making it harder to write about in an interesting way. Thus, the main casualty of losing my laptop for almost two months is insightful writing.

This morning in HCMC, writing this post

On my day’s list of things to do was also to refine my plan for the projects that need to be done on Dauntless. Specially, I want to plan, draw some diagrams, for those projects that I want to get done this September, when I return to Dauntless for 4 weeks.

So, why not write about that. It’s current and may be interesting to some.

I’m sitting in one of my two favorite coffee chops in the Bình Tân district of Hồ Chí Minh City, Vietnam. I come here when I want coffee, or a yogurt blended with orange juice, and that’s what I’m drinking today. The other shop I like, when I want a fruit smoothie, usually avocado.

I’m alone, so it’s a good time to write. My girlfriend Trinh (pronounced like Din), is working. Doing my three-month hiatus bringing Dauntless north, she expanded her sub-contracting job and now has 9 people working for her producing marking and ink pens.

Dauntless under cover in Vallejo

I can’t complain; I do like women who like work. Ultimately, my breakup with Julie was because she picked work over me and D. Why it will be different next time is not in the scope of this post, but one day I’ll write about it. I will say it’s more a cultural thing than a personality thing.  I’ll see Trinh later this morning and afternoon.

During the time on Dauntless, I started to make a list of the things that needed to be done on Dauntless at some point. I hate lists, as they remind me of all the stuff I still must do, but in this case, it’s needed.

Dauntless under cover in Vallejo

My biggest problem when cruising alone (in the sense of not having a long-term partner with me) is that when I arrive wherever, I’m tired. I don’t have the will or desire to sit for the next X number of days and fix, repair, replace, modify what needs to be done.

Of course, I’m fixing things that must be fixed, but no more. I may do some half-assed job just to get going, but I know I must come back and modify it.

One of the big attractions of the marina in Vallejo is that I am in a covered slip. I don’t have to worry about working in the rain or worse, in the sun. I’m looking forward to it.

My current list of projects includes everything that must be done before September 2019, once in Southeast Alaska. Obviously, some things are more critical than others, e.g. I don’t need the diesel heater until Alaska. Other things are conveniences, but on a boat, conveniences are important. So, one of my first projects next month will be to move my fresh water tank selector valve so I don’t have to go under the floor in the guest cabin every xxxing time to change water tanks. Along with that, I will also clean out the water tanks and reseal the inspection ports and install a baffle on the Maretron ultrasonic sending unit. This should be a day’s worth of work. If Trinh was with me, probably half-a-day, since she’s always busy like a bee. I’m more like a sloth, so it will probably actually take two to three days.

Here’s the current Dauntless Project List:

System Item  Problem/Issue/Goal Notes, parts? Est Completion
Engine Change Oil

R&R Impeller Cover

 

Been leaking for 2 years

 

 

Done 6663.88 hrs.

April 2019

H2O Move tank valves

Reseal tank fittings

Replace lines, one-way valves,

Check and redo all clamps

Place caps on Maretron tubes

Make external filter system for tank fill

September
Water Pump pressure switch Adjust ?
Mount Spare pump?
Transmission Real seal leak Check engine alignment?? ?? April 2019
Fuel Sight tubes Put LED strip behind tubes

Bundle wires on port side

Watermaker R&R Seals with kit

Add three-way intake valve

September
Generator Oil & filter

Install Battery

Check remote start switch

Install Perko switch to house?

Check Charger to Gen

 

 

 

Nice not to have to get out jumper cables?

September
Bow Thruster R&R broken gear Would be nice to use again, OTOH I’ve done wo for 3 yrs.
VHF’s ICOM 304 Internal relay?

Handheld

Chinese handheld

Send back to ICOM

Needs battery

Figure it out

September

April 2019

April 2019

Salon Hatches Add hinges to middle two Get someone who knows wood September
Outside Hull R&R rub rail

Touch up paint

Cap Rail refinish

With Stainless steel (CI Hbr) September

April 2019

2019

Ext Doors Touch up, Tung oil 2019
Fly Bridge Water ingress Where? Rail fittings? 2019
Windlass & Anchor Lube windlass

Re-mark Anchor chain

September

2019

Solar Panels Re-wire controllers, fuses, switches

Add array over dingy

Replace terminal blocks and fuse holder September
Purisan Controller corroded Return to Raritan September
Pilot House Electrical Add capacity Run additional cable, pos and neg from ER distribution Sept or April
Paravanes Get two new 28”, Use current as spares

Make holder

Reduce excess lines

April 2019
Boom Winch R&R April 2019
Mast Make New Bracket for Instruments

Get 25’ NMEA 2000 cable

Re-attach spreader lights

September
Diesel Heater Complete Wallas installation 2019
Hookah Face mask and compressor 2019
Hydraulic Fittings

Octopus Pump & Capilano piston

Standardize all fittings

Rebulid

Spare?? 2018 -2019

 

I’m tired just wiring this list. I think I’ll rest now.

 

 

The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

Cabo San Lucas is a sunny, dry, playland for those with more money than sense. It’s a step towards reality, if your starting point was the Mexican Pavilion at Disney World or Las Vegas.

Cabo at night

It’s everything I have a point of avoiding during my last 40 years of international travel and exploration.

Worse of all, it was expensive for Dauntless, almost $100 per day at the IGY Marina. The marina in fact, was on the only bright spot of the whole experience. Accommodating, warm, friendly staff. It was no problem for me to stay on the “T”, as I did not like the idea of trying to maneuver down the various slip xxx.

And then there was Pancho, the 12-year-old sea lion, who lives in the harbor and this marina it seems.

Pancho hitching a ride and waiting for free fish

The other bright spot of time spent in Cabo, was meeting a family, wo was having a birthday party in town at their son’s bar. Larry and I were the only patrons and seeing me eyeing the cake, they must have felt obligated to invite us to share it with them.

An excellent pizza

We inquired about finding really food, not tourist food, and they squeezed us into their little pickup and off we went to the Mexican part of town. Whatever we ate was delicious and I cherish these types of experiences. A wonderful experience in otherwise a boring town.

Our new found freinds

That’s the Good, the Bad and the Ugly are best left unsaid. There is no reflection here, no lessons learned. I knew what it was and it was. 

Pancho on the dock
The statue of Pancho
Little Mexican Place
Dauntless wanting to leave

Moving On.

Four Easy Days

Why can’t they all be like this!

Sunset on the evening of Day 1, 20:02

Xtapa to Puerto Los Cabos and Cabo San Lucas.

After three nice days in Zihuantanejo and Xtapa, Brian, me and the boobies set out for Cabo 4 days away.

The NW winds had died down and we got going under high broken clouds and the temperature in the low 80’s. Winds were light, then as the day progressed, turned southerly (good), but the Pacific coast of Mexico just can’t help itself and my evening the winds were out of the north and northwest again, though not too strong at 8 knots.

Leaving Xtapa for Puerto San Lucas, Day 1, May 6, 07:36

For the next 36 hours the winds were about 5 to 9 knots, at night from the E or SE as a land breeze and during the day from the W or NW as a sea breeze (blowing on to the land to our E).

I was pleased to see the boobies return. They seemed to get the routine down better this time and at times we had as many as a dozen on the rails just enjoying the free ride.

We got buzzed by a fishing trawler, which is becoming the norm since returning to North America.

The fishing trawler that just had to check us out to make sure we were not taking his fish.

The only place it happened in Europe was in the Bay of Biscay. If the French won’t tolerate the Uber disruption, they certainly won’t tolerate anyone taking their fish. That we just look like a trawler, especially with our paravane poles, is an annoying coincidence.

Boobie resting outside pilot house door

In the first 48 hours, we put 333 nm under our belt; more than halfway.

Winds picked on the third day, from the west, and we in the mid-teens overnight, causing the most pitching and rolling since leaving Xtapa. I deployed the windward bird to keep the rolling manageable. Having the windward bird in the water is 80% as effective as both birds and the effect on the drag is the same, thus the bird doing the work also produced the drag.

Just physics, there are no free lunches.

Video of the Second evening

We entered the harbor and large marina of Puerto Los Cabos at 20:25; 85 hours after leaving Xtapa and 570 nm later. Turned out  this was the easiest three days of the entire Baja Bash only I didn’t know it yet!

Puerto Los Cabos was a disappointment. Only a few dollars cheaper than the marina a Cabo San Lucas, it was surrounded by … nothing. A 5-minute taxi ride that cost 30 pesos ($1.50) cost in Huatulco and 50 pesos in Xtapa now cost 200 pesos. I ended up renting a car for $60 for 24 hours. That made it easy to go to airport and drop Brian off and so a little shopping. I ended up staying two nights.

I was spending $90 a day in the marina, Cabo was about the same price. Anchoring was pragmatic at best near Cabo. From reading reviews on Active Captain and Noonsite, the anchorage was open to the swell, but worse, was in the area of all the tourists doing water hijinks. Thus, the locals discouraged boats from anchoring in various ways, which I did not want to test.

Maretron data showing weather data and pitch and roll for the last 24 hours. At this point, the roll tolerable, the pitch is not (multiple scale by about 4, thus -4 is about 16 degrees bow up)

Video of El Cid now passing behind us.

Maretron data showing the roll with bird in the water and increase after I pulled it.
Boobies on the port side rail
El CId passes behind us
AIS on Coastal Explorer showing El CId passing behind us
Encounter with passing cargo ship at 03:00. He looks closer on the chart because of the resolution, but why take chances in the middle of the night, thus the course change.
Morning of Day 2
Morning of Day 2. West of Manzanillo
Dauntless entering the harbor at Puerto San Lucas

 

I was hoping I’d only be in Cabo a day or two at best and a few days at worst.

The hoped-for weather window kept teasing me and then slamming shut in my face. In the last 5 years and 20,000+ miles, I can count on one hand, the number of times I’ve started a passage only to turn around. Cabo made me count on my fingers and toes.

 

,

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.

 

 

 

Don’t Miss Great Foods Because of Bad Translations

A little background. I came to Vietnam with some trepidation. I don’t like hot climates, hot weather or most foods that they produce. I came to meet my special person though I had an open mind. In the early days, I made the mistake of saying I didn’t particularly like “Hot Pot” as Lãu is translated in English (and my spelling here is not 100% correct, as I can’t find the correct accent for the “a”.

Vietnamese Lẩu. This a fish version that both Trinh and I prefer

A very bad translation at that. I, of all people, should have known better.

Having spent the last 40 years in and out of Europe, if I venture into a place that even has a menu in English, I always ask for the native language, be it Italian, French, Spanish, Dutch or German. Why? Because generally, the translator is trying to put the food into a familiar concept, when no such comparison exists. Sometimes even the literal translation misses the mark widely.

One time in Wissembourg, an ancient French town along the French-German border, after a typically simple, but exquisite French dinner, the dessert offered was “frozen omelet”. We passed, but on walking out, we realized what they were offering was Baked Alaska, (whipped egg whites surrounding a block of ice cream that is browned in the oven) one of my favorite desserts.

The recent home of the fish before he made it to the pot.
The restaurant will grill the half the fish, with the other half going into the Lẩu

Fast forward 40 years later and my ill-informed comment about Hot Pot, had me missing a Vietnamese specialty for months until the confusion was cleared up. But why such confusion in the first place?

Because the Natives are trying to put it into a context we understand. The problem is that there are 500+ Chinese who also have a thing that’s called “Hot Pot” in English, which is totally different that the Vietnamese version. Even the Koreans have a version, which they call Shabu Shabu, which in my mind is better way to handle different foods that don’t translate well.  If I go to a Korean restaurant and see Shabu Shabu, I know exactly what I am getting. When I see “Hot Pot” the only thing I am sure of is that a pot is involved, and it will be hot.

Even the Google Translation of Lãu leaves a lot to be desired. Their definition, “a casserole of meat and vegetables, typically with a covering of sliced potato”.

The grilled portion of the fish

Who came up with that definition? A twenty something person who read about ancient life in the Midwest?