Windows Does What the Atlantic Couldn’t.

I’m returning to Dauntless in a few days.  I have spent my time in NYC getting the final pieces for the heater installation, but I’m leaving with a little cloud over me.

180 st. Depot in the Bronx
180 st. Depot in the Bronx

Why?  A number of reasons:

It started with my visit to our roof top apartment in Manhattan.  It’s been rented since August and the renter has been great, but the plants did far more poorly this winter than the winter before, which was just as cold, if not even worse.  I think it was that the plants suffered last summer, and therefore did not start the winter in the condition they should have.

Then it was on to the next project, the upgrade of our home computer.

Well, I could cross the Atlantic, but even after a week of trying, I still have not been able to get my 7 year old desktop computer to run Windows 7.  It had been running XP.  I spent three days trying to get it to run XP again. No luck.  Then finally, yesterday, I bowed to the inevitable and put Vista on it.

Yes, I got Vista to work, but at the cost of having to reinstall all my old programs, etc.

The Courtyard of Our Apartment Building in the Bronx. They do take care of it.
The Courtyard of Our Apartment Building in the Bronx. They do take care of it.

Stupid.  I should have left it alone and in another year or two replaced it.

I also would like to start our summer cruise in three weeks, yet there seems so much to still do.

Lastly, I would have liked to see a few more friends while here; but it was not to be, hopefully in the fall.

So, I’m left with this sense of not having accomplished much of what I had wanted for this trip.  Like having a pebble in your shoe; irritating, but not deadly.

Let me get to it.

Dauntless Awaits the Next Adventure
Dauntless Awaits the Next Adventure

Dauntless Crosses the North Atlantic – The Post Mortem

The crux of a successful ocean passage

Providence Rhode Island to Castletownbere, Ireland:

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

Stuff that broke: Four Stories and lessons Learned

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

Other Lessons learned

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

The crux of a successful ocean passage

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

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

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

Afternoon of the Last Day
Afternoon of the Last Day

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

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

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

Stuff that broke: Three Stories and Lessons Learned

The Bent Stabilizer Pole Saga:

An operator-induced failure.

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

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

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

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

Lesson Learned:

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

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

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

The Mast Cleat Adventure:

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

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

Lesson Learned:

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

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

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

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

The Auxiliary Water Pump Sediment Filter Highjinx

Another operator-induced problem.

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

Lesson Learned:

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

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

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

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

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

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

What was different this time?

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

My Conclusion:

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

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

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

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

Other Lessons Learned

Food and Provisioning:

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

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

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

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

Route Planning and Execution:

Good job with planning.  Very poor execution.

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

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

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

Organization and Storage of Spare Parts:

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

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

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

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

Odds and ends:

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

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

Solo Voyaging 

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

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

Must-haves, Nice-to-Haves

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

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

Thank you for your patience

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

The Pot Boils

20140828_130637
Noon on the 28th as the Ocean Gets Frisky

Its midnight, a little more than 25 hours to go, and I see that the starboard Racor is full of crap, I switch to the Port Racor and return to the pilot house to contemplate my next moves.

2 Days of Rolling Data
2 Days of Rolling Data

The wind had stayed steady at SW at 30 kts.  I was getting used to the roll, 20° in one direction, 30° in the other, certainly the biggest rolls I’ve ever seen since having the paravanes.  I needed to sleep.  I reasoned that the engine was running, the Racor had done its job, and by switching to the new Racor, I reckoned it should last at worst till morning, but more than likely till my destination, only 25 hours away.

I must have gotten pretty good rest, as there are no log entries from midnight, when I switched to port Racor until 07:00 when I recorded our position and noted, “Last  night for a while” . I was ready for this to end, but, like March, it was going to go out like a lion.  My roll “telltale” had the biggest roll to one side overnight as 23°  Not so bad.   I decided to use this relatively quiet period to change the Racors and FP filters, all three.

At 7:20, I wrote in the log 7:20, with nothing else.  I must have been tired, but I assume that’s when I went to change Racors, as next log entry was at  08:10 when I wrote underway again, changed all 3 Racors. The key there was underway again.

Usually I can now change all three in 15 minutes with the engine running.  This took 40, as we had some drama.  FP filter and right side filter were done quickly, but in priming the filter, the shenanigans began.  When I first turned on fuel pump to prime right side filter, nothing happened, because it was turned off, remember I was running on left side filter. Now in hindsight, I see what I should have done, but if wishes were horses, …

But instead I opened the two valves around pump, leaving the third one open.  In this configuration, the fuel pump is pumping fuel, but only in a little circle, while it laughs at me for giving it such easy work.  Ok, got it, switch to right filter, close gravity feed, prime filter, it’s done and engine is still running. Pump off, gravity feed on.

Now to the left side filter. Drain, open, remove old filter, new in, all in one minute, now to prime, change engine to this filter as I turn on pump, but gravity feed is still open. So nothing happens in filter and it doesn’t fill.  Engine starts to slow down, I know I only have seconds left to solve this before I kill engine in 10 foot seas.

As I turn the red handle of the gravity feed to off, so pump can fill filter and feed engine, the engine dies.

Crap.  I vowed never to let this happen and it does.  OK.  Now being alone is a PIA, as I must leave engine room to start engine.  I figure, OK, at least I can now take my time and finish job.  I prime filter, turn off pump, close valves and scamper up stairs to salon and the pilot house.

Start engine. It sounds so sweet as it runs for about 10 seconds and then dies. Walk, Don’t Run, back to engine room, sit next to engine, what did I do wrong?

I have it!  I let air get to engine mounted fuel filters (there are two in series right after the mechanical lift pump (fuel pump that “lifts” fuel from near bottom of engine to top of engine). The BIG lesson here is ALWAYS check similiest solutions first.  (At times, I think I don’t check the simple solution first, because it can’t be that easy.)

So, all I need to do is bleed these engine mounted filters. Easy, the box end wrench is hanging right here just for this occasion (all the wrenches needed for all these jobs are hanging right there). I loosen both bleed screws (yes, book says one at a time, but I’m in a hurry).

Turn on pump, nothing.  Look frantically around.  See all three valves are closed, duh, open the two for the pump and turn on switch, as at that same moment, I realize I did not have to open bleed screws as all three valves were closed, in other words, nothing was open for the engine.

In the one second for that realization to hit home, the fuel is getting to the bleed screws and spraying fuel all over the hot engine. I turn off pump, reset all valves to their correct positons and get my oil soak cloths and start wiping away.  I’m not that concerned, because I have not found any place on the top of the engine that is ever above 200°F and besides, if you think this is the first time I’ve done fiasco, you have another think coming.

I wipe down everything, also Racors, where I made a mess thinking they were the problem and finally at 8:19 I’m up at the wheel starting the engine again.  This time it starts running, but clearly not well, but I also recognize this and know that with a little throttle, all will be fine in 20 seconds.

I’m underway again at 8:20.

Interestingly enough, even with the waves and seas, I did not seem to notice how well the Krogen handled sitting in the middle of the ocean bobbin away.  Too much in crisis mode and not observation mode I suppose.

Three hours later, I check the fuel filters again and am dismayed at the amount of crap the filters are picking up, I change the FP and the port filter again. This time with no drama.

A new issue, the bilge pump has gone off 250 times in the last 24 hours.  Usually it goes off 10 times, in rough weather maybe 20 to 30 times, if my stuffing box is really leaking, I’ve seen 180 times, but never this many.  Now the rolling had increased to almost 20° and 30° in each direction, a delta of 50° (certainly a new record for me) and the decks were wet with water flooding in the scuppers, with the starboard deck sometimes having water flood over the cap rail (another first for me).

There are no obvious leaks anywhere either in the engine room or in the cabin, so I decide not to worry about it, since there is no obvious solution. Like the Racors, the bilge pump is doing its job.

A couple of hours later, the last act of this drama.  I hear a thump, not loud, look to port and see no paravanes pole. Bad.  Engine at idle and neutral, I find the top of the pole near the stern of the boat, being held there by its foreguy.

It takes me half an hour to get it out of the water and tied to the fly deck, because I have to run all over the place, loosen that line, pull here, tighten that line, pull there. Three times I have to come off the fly bridge just to rotate the pole that is hung up on the rub rail.

Also, with all the adrenaline surging thru my veins, I did not really notice how well dauntless was behaving just bobbin up and down, with really not much roll.

So I tried running without the paravanes out.  My course was due north, and the winds and seas were from the southwest to west.  At this point I was going to Ireland or else.  Having people meeting me there was really encouraging at this point I did not want to go anywhere else.

Therefore the course we had was the course we were going to travel.  Without paravanes out, it was the Dauntless of old and this course was not possible.  Umm, the boat would have been fine, but not me.

So, I put the starboard pole and bird back out, not bad, not bad at all I think, but as time passed, I realized the starboard side was taking water over the rail almost constantly, since when D rolled to the right, the roll was deeper without the port bird to slow it down, but then the boat stayed longer in the starboard heeled position, allowing the next wave to essentially push Dauntless into the side of the wave as it rolled under the boat. At one point, I had two feet of water sloshing around the cockpit and side deck.

That wasn’t going to work either.  I then returned to the fly bridge, to untie the bird from the top of the pole.  I spent way too much time doing that and in the meantime, this caused my scariest moment of the entire passage to date.  The boat underway was rolling a lot.  It did not occur to me to stop the boat because my little brain was more afraid of broaching than anything else.  Now you are thinking, didn’t he just talk about how little the boat rolled lying a hull, just in the paragraph above?

And the answer is YES, of course I did.  But at the time, doing something and reflecting on it are two different actions, but pretty much no learning takes place without that reflection.  I was too much in crisis mode to reflect on anything.  So with me up on the fly bridge, I’m really seeing how big these waves are.  Some are clearly at my eye level, maybe 16 feet above sea level.  And they are hitting the boat on its beam.  The first time the boat rolled and I’m hanging on for dear life up there, I was a bit nervous. It felt like we were over 80°, by telltale later told me it was only 38°

But again, once me and D had survived the first roll, I realized it wasn’t that bad, in fact, I just stayed seated on the port bench, bracing myself with my foot on the helm chair, as the boat rolled.

Finally I get the knot undone and I decide to throw the fish in the water with 18’ of line, tied in the amidships cleat, figuring it could not get back to the prop or rudder and it was better than nothing.

It was better than nothing.  Even though an hour later, on hearing a thumping noise, and not being able to pin point it, I actually convinced myself it was the bird hitting the boat (it wasn’t) but proceeded to stop the boat, then pull this bird back out of the water, shorten the line another two feet and finally, throw it back in the water (this is actually an abbreviated account.  I did a few other things, but you had to be there to understand).

Finally I told myself to get a grip and proceeded to find the wine bottle that was rolling under the desk in the second cabin thunking the wall every 30 seconds, which is exactly what I thought it was an hour before.

I had no log entries between 14:00 when I threw the bird back in the water and 01:00 the following morning when I was passing Mizen Head light house.

I did record the rolling though, for those 11 hours, the boat was rolling a delta of 24°, 36° and a whopping 61° (23+38) every so often.

That afternoon, I was wedged on the bench, playing hearts, trying to keep my mind off the sea state, the waves, and the fuel.

As evening turned to night, it was very dark, the winds were 30 knots gusting to 45 out of the due west. The waves were above 16 feet so I spent most of that time lying on the bench with my head to the port side, so I did not feel like I was standing on my head.  The worst part was as the boat would be heeled far over, it was stay there a bit and then since it’s dark, the next wave hits suddenly with a big bang on the exposed starboard hull, pushing us further into the side of the wave.

Even now, it’s hard to describe my feelings.  I was certainly miserable, but not really afraid.  The roller coaster is probably the best analogy in that is still makes us afraid, even though we know it can not fly off the tracks.  I was afraid to go to sleep.  Rocky land was only 15 to 20 miles away and even though it would take hours to get there, countless boats have come to grief so near their final destination, I was not going to let that happen to me.

But Monkey Son still had that smile on his face, so I knew it would be OK.

Monkey Son Was Not Worried
Monkey Son was not worried

And it was, I had carefully planned my route using both Coastal Explorer and my Navionics app on my phone, as Navionics showed the lighthouse range colors better.

Karel had given me really clear instructions, so when I saw people standing on the dock at 01:40 in the morning of August 29th, 2014, I knew our Atlantic Passage was over.

 

 More pictures are always being added to http://dauntless.smugmug.com/

And here are some videos that may help to give you an idea, taken just before sunset, please excuse the quality.  I was hanging on for dear life.

20140831_130013
Fuel I collected the next day from each tank

A Lucky Start

Leaving Horta, Azores for Ireland, Monday, 18 August 2014

The first day of the last leg of our Atlantic Passage.  For the first time, I’m totally alone.  I had wanted to find a crewmate for this portion of the voyage, but it was not to be. Also, it’s impossible to replace Julie, not because we’re married, but because our decision making process produces optimum results every time. Julie and I had met a sailor in Flores, who was crossing the entire Atlantic by himself going to the Med. So, I thought I just needed to manage my time and I’d be fine.

I got a later than anticipated start, as I has to fuel the starboard  tank with 1224 liters, (323 gallons) of diesel.  We had arrived in Horta with 125 gallons remaining in the port tank, so I’d be leaving with 447 gallons (1700 liters) and expected to arrive at Castletownbare, Ireland with about 80 gallons.  Why I waited until the last day to fuel and why I did not put some fuel in the port tank are questions that are best left for the next life. But I will say that often times, decisions that seem questionable up front, after the fact, become apparent, even if I could not explain it at the time.

I took the short walk to our favorite café, Café Volga, to have my last meia de leite.  Twenty minutes later, At the little vegetable market, I bought a bunch of tasty tomatoes (which would turn out to be my main dish the next 5 days, in large part because I’d bought nothing else!) and while walking the mile back to the fuel dock, I realized I no longer had my passport.

I quickened my step, hoping, I had left it back on the boat, but actually knowing that I hadn’t. As I got back to Dauntless, in my haste to look for my passport, with grocery bags in each hand, I entered the boat through the pilot house, then came rushing down the stairs and swung left into the galley.

My first step from the stairs to the floor was almost my last.

I had left the engine room hatch wide open, leaving a big square hole, in which I stepped.

Being is such a hurry almost cost me dearly, but at the same time saved my lucky ass.

As I came flying down the stairs, I didn’t notice anything amiss until I took that first step onto thin air.  Luckily, I was moving so fast my momentum carried me across the opening and my chest hit the side of the galley counter, allowing me to get my arms up (each laden with grocery bag) and onto the galley counter.  With each forearm on top of the counter, I held myself up and I was able to keep myself from falling the five feet into the engine room.

As I extricated myself and realized that I was not hurt at all, not even banging my shin bone which seems to be a weekly occurrence,  I realized how lucky I’d been. Even the eggs I’d just bought had survived.

Now if only my passport would show up. I looked through the boat for my passport, but no luck and went to go tell customs that I didn’t have it.  They said no problem, I could check out without it, but I asked if he could call the police in the happenstance that it had been found and turned in.

A few minutes later, he gave me the thumbs up and 45 minutes later the police were nice enough to bring it to me.

So, less than an hour after two incidents which could have turned out very differently, Dauntless gave one long blast as we left the dock (I didn’t want them to forget the first Kadey Krogen they had seen in years so soon) and we headed north for the last part of our Atlantic Passage at 11:08.

My course was northeast, there were scattered clouds and light winds from the northwest; all in all a beautiful day.  I didn’t put the Scopolamine patch on until after I left. It usually takes  quite a few hours to take effect, so the only reason I think I delayed was I keep on thinking I shouldn’t need it. I did.

Well, it’s probably stress and fatigue, but on  this trip I needed virtually all the time.  So within a couple hours of leaving I felt sea sick.  When I fell sea sick, I almost never vomit, I just feel queasy and listless. And now feeling this way, I knew it would stay with me until I had some sleep, even with the patch.

Good weather, light winds, boat had a little rocking motion of about 10° in each direction.

Two items of technology, allowed me to feel I could safely do this portion of the passage alone:

  • Our new AIS transceiver, which meant that I could see other boats, but more importantly they could see Dauntless.  Ever since I installed the AIS transceiver just before leaving Rhode Island, no ship has ever came within three miles of Dauntless, and usually it’s at least five miles.  In the past, before  AIS, on virtually every open ocean portion we did, Dauntless always had at least one ship that was on a collision or near collision course until I changed course.

I think that with having AIS, big ships now see us automatically and alter course just to not have to bother worrying about it. It seemed my having AIS made their lives much easier, and this is safer as the result.

  • The second item is the Raymarine radar and its use of the alarm function. After only a year and half of use, I had finally figured out how to make my radar proximity alarm work and be effective. In the past, I didn’t use it because all I got were false alarms.  Finally I realized that by greatly reducing the gain (on automatic mode, it sets the gain at 45 out of 100), I set it at 06, and making the inner circle around the boat, a mile from the boat, anything substantial would have to go through this ring and thus set off the alarm.  I never needed it, because of the AIS as mentioned above, but in the first days, I did test it and even at the lowest gain setting of 1, it would still see a ship at 4 to 5 miles.  No more false alarms.

It allowed me to sleep more soundly, though in the course of the night, I’d still wake up maybe a half dozen times.  But I knew I had to have at least 6 hours of sleep during the 12 hours of darkness, even if it was three 2 hour periods.

My mid-afternoon, I was finally passing the island of Ina De Sao Jorge.  Winds had continued from the NW all day, putting the winds and sea right on my port beam, with winds at 10 knots, producing 2-3’ waves and Dauntless with the paravanes out and the birds in the water was rolling about 10° max to one side.

As darkness descended I got the pilot house ready for night, changing the displays and lowering the brightness, checking the engine gauges once more, 172° water temp, oil pressure and voltage.  Course & speed, weather and sea conditions, all noted in the log and lastly, an engine room check, in which I go sit on the spreader in front of the engine, look at the Racors, the fan belt, use the flash light to check anything unusual near the back of the engine, oil and fuel filters not leaking, etc. Just sit there and soak up the sounds and smells, till my brain sees that everything is normal. Even with all the noise, it’s actually peaceful. The Ford Lehman SP135 has a steady drone that I have only heard before in jet engines, in that it is so steady, not even the slightest change of pitch or sound, unless the throttle is changed. I can’t even begin to describe how reassuring it is.

My alarms set, nothing on the radar for miles and miles, I know I’ll wake in a hour or two, do a little check and hopefully, go back to sleep.

As I lay on the pilot house bench, cozy in my quilt, looking out at the darkness, I think of the day’s events and as the gentle roll rocks me to sleep, I hope I haven’t used all my luck on my first day.