I can write gobs and gobs about HCMC so far. Let me suffice to say in this little introduction that it is a true working city full of really nice, friendly people, with incredibly good food at even more incredibly inexpensive prices.
Today I did a little exploration of a new section of town, took four buses that cost me a total of $1.00, that’s 25 cents each.
Here is a little video I took on my first days.
I found it best to just close my eyes often.
This video doesn’t exist
And if you think the motobikes are numerous, think of the alternative like Bejing, where cars sit in endless traffic jams and the pollution is so bad it’s hard to go out!
Since I have talked, written, about my planning process a lot, you know I like having a plan.
But there are times when a plan, any plan, has been elusive. Also, the best plans are always subject to change.
Generally, I find that the best plan, or better stated, the best initial plan, is one that stands the test of time. Having a straw man to test, If I go here, this will happen, allows me to continuously refine the plan and test it mentally with many different scenarios.
Having an initial plan also allows me to write about it, talk about it. So, my friends or anyone has a chance to ask, Uh, you’re not really planning on doing that, are you? I like, even need, questions like that. They are part of my extroverted thinking process. They make me better articulate, or think through, the what and why of the plan. And of course, there are times, I learn of significant mistakes.
Oops. Like this summer’s missing 1,000 nm. That’s about 25 days’ worth of coastal cursing. A month out of a season that may only be 5 months.
My initial plan after transiting the Panama Canal in January, was to head up the west coast ending in Southeast Alaska 6 months later. Not a terrible plan, if traveling by car!
But when the details are still an ocean away, don’t sweat, don’t worry.
Then as my Panama Canal transit got later and later, I’d make some adjustments to the west coast plan, deciding to stop in the Pacific Northwest or even Oregon if that’s as far as I got by October.
I still had not found the missing 1,000 miles, but then I still did not know they were missing.
We had a quick five day, 300 miles run from Panama City to Golfito, the southernmost port in Costa Rica.
I could finally catch my breath. In fact, during the five-day run, though it meant two long 14 hour days and then anchoring in waters no so protected, the seas were flat and it allowed me to start seriously thinking of the coming cruise up the west coast.
And then I noticed that my little planning table had a little error. I had not accounted for the miles of Baja California. Mexico from beginning to end is 2100 nm, I had typed 1100 in what I call my “Planning Table”. I found the missing 1,000 miles.
Another factor came to my attention. A few posts ago I wrote about the expenses of Dauntless. Our expenses are very consistent, when I’m on the boat they run close to $100 per day. The only way that number changes significantly, is if I am not on Dauntless, like in the winter and if Dauntless is in a safe, secure, inexpensive location (like Waterford, Ireland).
Also, In the last weeks, I’ve realized how much I miss Northern Europe. My biggest mistake was not spending two summers in the Baltic. And to have this realization half way around the world is a bit annoying. (since there is nothing I can do about it now).
Martinique was a nice port, made nicer having endured a relatively rough three-week passage across the Atlantic from Europe. Beautiful women, French food & wine, what more can anyone ask for?
But after three weeks, Micah and I were both ready to move on. Sitting for months at a time is just not in me.
Therefore, my new, updated, improved plan allows me to take my time traveling north up the coast. I won’t have to travel in bad weather or contrary winds for a change. But it will be incumbent upon me to find good, economical places for Dauntless to winter over.
This winter that will be someplace in northern Mexico, next winter probably British Columbia and finally Southeast Alaska, maybe near Wrangell for the third winter.
Crossing the North Pacific will come next, then probably wintering over in Korea before heading south along the Chinese coast the following spring.
Exploring Southeast Asia and Vietnam will be up next.
And after that?
A return to Northern Europe; unless of course, the plan changes.
As I mentioned before, if you are not living in the moment, you are reflecting on the past or planning the future.
At night, as I drift off to sleep, I am usually always thinking of the future. I hate surprises. For me, there is no such thing as a “good” surprise. Unless of course, I get notified that a non-existent relative left a large sum of money in Nigeria for me. What could go wrong with that?
Exactly my point. A surprise meant I did not anticipate well enough. As many of you reading this will understand, it helps if you do read. To know and have experienced everything, I would have to be as old as the Universe itself. I’m not that old and as most of us figure out in our formative years, we will never catch up to that second-grade teacher we are in love with.
Reading and writing allowed our civilization to grow on the experience of those who came before us.
Reading allows us to experience without doing. While not the same as doing, brain studies have shown that it’s remarkedly effective. Two pianists given the same piece of music to play, one actually plays it, while the other only “plays” it in their mind. After a given set of time, there is remarkedly little difference between the two, when they actually perform it on a piano.
So, developing a mental picture is critical to my planning process. I also always have an idea of best and worst conditions. I simply never want to be surprised.
Now that the Pacific chapter of this story has started, my vision has shifted to the west, Asia in particular. Even though Asia is still years away, once I get north of Mexico, there is not much of the coast I have not seen. When I was on Shemya in the Aleutians, 30 years ago, I never envisioned returning on my own bottom.
So, the eastern and even northern portions of the Pacific, I have well imagined for a long time. So now it’s time to learn the western periphery, Japan, Korea, China, Taiwan, and Vietnam.
At the same time, I’m starting to think again about what is beyond that. The Indian Ocean, getting around Africa and even, once back in the Atlantic, then what?
Asia, via the North Pacific is still the medium-term goal.
But now that transiting the Panama Canal, a set structure in time and space, has been done, I have time to take a breath.
I want to enjoy the Pacific Northwest, British Columbia and Southeast Alaska. These areas provide the spectacular scenery of Norway with added wildlife that has been long gone from Europe.
The western coasts of Central and North America pose a formidable challenge for little boats: long stretches of coastlines with inaccessible harbors when you most need them and predominantly head winds and seas.
If I’ve learned anything in the last few years, this Krogen does not like head seas. They make for a miserable ride that takes twice the time and fuel.
So, the first step is understanding that with any northerly component to the winds, one must stay put.
We are also constrained by a relatively short cruising period, 5 months, maybe 6 at best. That’s 150 to 180 days. Climo says that the winds are northerly 66 to 75% of the time. That means of those 150 days, maybe only 45 are useable.
In those 45 days, I can reasonably assume that gets me about 2100 nm or someplace in Northern Mexico from Golfito.
The following summer, 2018, I’d have 2400 nm or about 49 days to get to the Pacific Northwest.
Lastly, in the third year, 2019, that time will be spent in British Columbia and Southeast Alaska.
So, I now have a more realistic time table.
Three seasons of cruising, also means three seasons of idleness. And we all know that idle hands are the devil’s workshop. So, while Dauntless is safely tucked in, I must keep busy at an affordable pace.
The west coast is considerably more expensive than Northern Europe, thus I find myself having to be open to new money saving strategies for the winter in particular.
Since re-crossing the Atlantic, I have been slow in updating my digital log. Maybe because the data simply does not change very much:
In 2016-17, Dauntless fuel consumption remains constant at 1.45 gallons per hour or just above 4 nm/gallons. This number is only 1/10th of a gallon different from 2015.
My costs, total expenses for Dauntless and for myself have averaged just less than $100 per day for everything. This is also slightly less than 2015. While marinas in southern Europe were much more expensive than northern Europe, the large number of passage and anchoring days equalized that cost. Also, a passage day, 24 hours x 1.5 gallons = 35 gallons per day at $2.5 = $90/day. So, using fuel for 24 hours pretty much equals the cost of a marina and eating and drinking.
The long-range plan, a circumnavigation in a 30-year Kadey Krogen, is still the plan. I’m already thinking of where I am crossing my track and what comes after that. Northern Europe, Sweden and the Baltic still have an attraction that is hard to beat, but who knows.
I’m always thinking of the future; reflecting on the past. While that doesn’t leave much time to appreciate the here and now, it’s who I am. I get far more enjoyment having the Plan come together, then just winging it. I can read a hundred self-help books about living in the moment. What they all have in common, is that they are written by people who are adept at living in the moment and figured out how to monetize that. Sort of like our President who only seems to live for the moment. Nuff said.
Maybe a better analogy is a book on how to live like a dog, written by a dog, but marketed to cats (dogs already know how to live like a dog).
The cat than buys the book, gets home, reads the first page and decides to take a nap. Nap time over, the cat looks at the book, realizes it pertains to dogs and thinks that’s $17.95 poorly spent.
Then before you know it, it’s nap time again.
That is works for most people is fine with me (President’s excepted); It simply doesn’t work for me.
So, this finds me taking a break from D right now. We’ve been together almost 24/7 since November. My nephew Micah went home to enter Law School, so I decided to take a little break and do a little reconnoiter for this coming winter.
If I’ve learned anything while cruising with Dauntless it that at 6 knots, it takes forever to get anyplace. Therefore, it always behooves me to check out places by land and air before committing to the journey by sea.
Well any number of plans; the current one, 15 months to Japan, now in the 29th day since its start date.
But like all plans, a plan is good only until first contact with the enemy. For Dauntless it’s headwinds, or better said, for Richard it’s the hobby horse ride headwinds produce on Dauntless. The fact that we are consuming half of our fuel, just to go up and down waves, adds to the sick feeling the ride produces.
Yep, it’s a lose, lose, lose situation for all: the timeline, my wallet and my health.
Dauntless in the meantime just motors along, oblivious to my misery.
For my long range planning, other than Jimmy Cornell’s books and pilot charts, on a daily basis I pretty much only look at this: link to current Atlantic map
This shows the current surface winds over the Atlantic. You can see that draw a line from Gibraltar to the Canaries to Barbados and the trade winds are running strong as they have all winter. So no problems there.
(side note, there is simply no point in looking at anything more specific for any period more than two weeks away. Even when I was waiting to cross the North Sea from Norway to Scotland, a three-day trip, I read the marine forecast, but really only looked at this site to figure out when I would have at least a two-day window, which is what I got)
I’ve been looking at this about once a day since fall. Only in the past month have the northerly winds let up south of Mexico and Central America.
My current 15-month plan would require me to be able to travel north from the Panama Canal to Kodiak Alaska in 170 days or about 35 miles per day. Doable with favorable winds, but I’ve been watching and the winds are not favorable, not at all. At this point, at best, I think a quarter of the days would be “good” cruising days and that may be too generous.
The other problem with this current plan is that I would probably be able to rush north out of Central America, but then get stuck in Mexico and the coast of the western U.S. for months on end. Thus passing by places I would like to spend time only to be stuck in places I don’t.
So, Plan B.
I will add a year to the Cruise Plan, wintering in Southeast Alaska.
Many boaters do it, I know it somewhat, but only from the perspective of the Alaska Marine Highway (Ferry) system.
Thus I can spend more time in Central America at the height of the winter when the northerlies are strongest and I can spend 10 months in British Columbia and Southeast Alaska, some of the prettiest cruising areas in the world, full of fjords, whales, birds and bears!
The weather is not that bad and having visited Juneau and Sitka many times back in the 90’s, it will be nice to go back on my own bottom.