The Polar Bear Club

Hardy souls waiting to go for a dip.

I’m not in it, at least not in the Wrangell, Alaska version. Even NYC has a version, with people going in the water at Coney Island on the first of the year.

Now the Wrangell version is for these hardy enough to brave the cold waters (50°F) of Zimovia Strait on the first of the new year. This winter has been extremely wet, but not very cold, with temperatures staying above freezing except for just of couple of dry days in the high 20°s. Every other day we’ve had clouds and rain. Contrast that with last year, where by this time, we’d had few feet of snow since before Thanksgiving until now and had weeks of below freezing temperatures.

Our Marina on a rare sunny day

I do have my Polar Bear certificate for being in Resolute, Northwest Territories, Canada, but I just had to be there, not do anything special.

While on T-3, I did have the opportunity to jump into the Arctic Ocean, in the six-foot diameter hole we had melted thru the sea ice to collect zooplankton samples for the summer. But the idea of jumping into water that was 28°F, even then, in the years when I was young, brave and knew everything, was unappealing to me.

I pictured myself going into shock, not being able to drag myself out of our four-foot-deep ice hole, while my bumbling colleagues came up with a way to drag me out as I died of hypothermia.

Being on the Arctic ice pack in the middle of summer was fascinating. During the summer, with 24 ours of daylight for five months, the sun did produce significant melting of the top layers of ice.

Now, a little lesson on the Arctic ice pack. The ice pack was (until recently) only about 4 to 6 feet think, absent pressure ridges, (areas where the ice has been pushed into little hills by wind and current).  Currently, the ice pack has thinned to just 3 to 4 feet. Thus, much larger areas are opening up during the summer melt.

The ice pack grows from underneath, fresh water freezing in the 28° water. Thus, the ice pack is all fresh water and was the source of our drinking water. We melted ice most of the year, but for two months of the high summer, we would pump fresh water from the numerous lakes that formed on top of the ice.  These melt ponds would be a beautiful blue in color. On the other hand, when we would come upon leads (a break in the ice pack) in the ice, the water would be as black as the blackest night. I found them actually scary, I would not get within a few feet of them. Terrified would be more like it. Even after all these years, nothing has made me feel that primordial fear like those black, black leads.

The Arctic Ocean doesn’t get very much snowfall, it’s simply too dry. So, all the ice growth comes from below. While all the ice melt or sublimation (solid, ice, becoming gas, water vapor, without turning to liquid first. Sublimation is how most of the ice disappears. Therefore, the ice pack is always growing from underneath 10 months of the year and losing ice from above throughout the year, but especially in high summer, June and July.

If you would like to know more and be up on Arctic  Sea Ice News & Analysis, check out this link, which I look at every months as I dream of cruising from Alaska to Europe one day:

http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenew

For a longer look at Wrangell’s New Year’s dunking, check out, (no translation needed):

Anchoring on a Lee Shore in a Gale in Southeast Alaska – The Devil You Know…

20200725 Anchoring on a Lee Shore in a Gale in Southeast Alaska – The Devil You Know…

Our track around Farragut Bay ending in the east side of Read Island (as depicted by green boat)

As I have said before, this is my 7th year with Dauntless and 6 years with my 55# Delta anchor, so I sleep well at night on the hook.

We were cruising from Wrangell to Juneau, 148 nm, normally three days, but we wanted to do some halibut fishing and we didn’t need to be in Juneau until the following Wednesday, giving us 6 days.

We left Wrangell Friday morning on an out-going tide, giving us a push through most of Wrangell Narrows. Outside of Petersburg, at the north end of Wrangell Narrows, the current will abruptly change from a plus 1 knot to a minus 4 knot current. When this happens, we anchor just off the channel and wait a couple of hours for the slack. That’s what we did on this day also.

Even with our stop of a little less than two hours, we arrived in Farragut Bay about 20:00 Friday evening, dropped out shrimp pots and crab pot and anchored on the south side of the large bay. It is an open anchorage, but suitable for good weather with no swell.

We knew a storm was coming, with increased south-easterly winds throughout the day, Saturday and into Sunday. Our plan was to fish a bit  Saturday, check out another anchorage, but ultimately head to our Read Island anchorage where we had anchored two times previously, one time with very strong southerly winds (which meant we were anchored off a lee shore)

We fished a few spots, but no luck, as the winds picked up to 15 to 20 knots, the seas inside Farragut Bay did also, with 3-foot waves. We decided to pull our shrimp pots, which in hindsight turned out to be a mistake. It was not fun with those winds and waves and stressed Ti out more than was necessary.

We then headed to the east side of Read Island, where we could anchor for the night, but first did another hour of fishing in a spot Ti had noticed a small fishing boat last time we were here.

Saturday, 25 July 2020 at 18:00. Radar and chart depiction of our anchorage.

About 17:00 Saturday, we were anchored in our Read Island cove. I let out 140 feet of chain plus our 30’ nylon snubber bridle. The spot we anchored was roughly the same as the first time when we had seeked shelter here during another storm earlier this summer. The initial anchor bearing was 80’ @ 243° in winds that were already SE to SW at 8 to 15 knots.

The previous storm had produced winds 15 to 25 knots in this cove. I was quite stressed as it was a lee shore, but we pretty much stayed right where we anchored. This informed my opinion for this coming storm.

06:30 Sunday morning wind graph

We were anchored in 37 feet of water under the keel. Had it not been off a lee shore, I would have let out another 100+ feet of chain.

The winds were 15 knots gusting to 25 thru the evening. By nightfall, it was raining heavily and between the rain and the darkness, I could not even see the nearby shore a couple of hundred feet away off our beam. Thus, the lack of any decent videos or pictures.

Just before midnight the winds came down a few knots, but as they say, this was the proverbial calm before the storm, as by midnight, the winds were rapidly building again. It was to last almost 24 hours, with half that time with winds above 20 knots, peaking to 40.

This is our 24 hr wind graph from at 17:00 Sunday and the previous 24-hr to Sat 17:00 (when we first anchored)

I was happy to go to sleep before then, but Ti was a nervous nellie, waking me up every half hour to tell me the wind was blowing, and the boat was rocking a bit (though not really). The first couple of times I got up to check everything to maintain marital bliss, if nothing else, as it was pitch black outside, with heavy rain and wind. I could see nothing. At midnight, the anchor bearing was little changed in direction or distance.

While the winds were high in this cove, there was really no swell or waves, at most a half foot, making it a little rocky, but hardly noticeable in the scheme of things.

I went back to sleep, but Ti would still wake me up a dozen times until morning; I’d reassure here and go back to sleep.

Civil twilight was about 04:00, with sunrise 45 minutes later, so that’s when I got up again, as I could no longer use the excuse to Ti that it was dark out and I couldn’t see anything.

Ti makes the best of our SUnday by making an apple pie as we are hunkered down.

So I was up, in the pilot house, watching as the storm peaked about 06:00 with winds gusting to 40 knots and a steady 20 knots, but for the next 6 hours, while the wind gusts came down a bit,  the steady winds were higher in the 25 to 30 knot range. Thus, with that wind pressure, the anchor bearing distance oscillated between 156 and 174 feet for much of the morning, before decreasing to 110’ to 130’ by midafternoon. (and where it had been the previous evening).

My little diagram of our anchor in relation to the boat at its most extreme.

Looking at the little diagram I drew and my calculations, all the catenary was out at that point, 174 feet away, and we were simply being held by our Delta anchor. As the sun got higher in the sky ,I could see shallow rocks about one boats length away behind Dauntless. That confirmed my calculation to not let out more chain. I was also ready to start the engine should I notice us dragging. However, since we had not dragged at all, I was hesitating to move and thus possibly upset the balance we had obtained.

In analyzing the track on the Coastal Explorer C-Map chart and the Maretron wind graph, it was clear that we had spent about 12 hours between that 150 and 174 feet and by mid-afternoon Sunday, 22 hours after we had initially anchored, we had moved back to the original bearing and distance of 78 feet. Monday morning, when we finally hauled anchor after 36 hours, we had moved to within 60 feet of the anchor under calm winds.

The track of CE for 36 hours. The radius of the circle is 180′

All in all, I could not have been happier with how things developed and how rock steady we were under difficult conditions.

Would I do it all over again?

It’s hard to say. I would probably turn on the radar and set the alarms the next time. That would be more effective than anchor alarms (GPS based), which I don’t use anymore, because I find them ineffective.

My Alaska friends had told me that any location that may have been more sheltered from the wind would have been more open to waves and swell.

All in all, it’s hard to try to improve upon a good outcome. As they say, sometimes it’s better to stick with the Devil we Know, versus the one we don’t.

To see a little video of this, which I have not yet uploaded on my Dauntless at Sea You Tube channel, please visit the link  below and subscribe.

Dauntless at Sea You Tube Channel

20190717 Watts Narrows – No Guts, No Glory

Leaving Kutz Inlet Waterfall Earlier than Anticipated only to Tackle the Scary Watts Narrows by Day’s End

20190717 Kutz to Baker Inlet via Watts Narrows

As previously written, Dauntless got underway earlier than I. I woke up a little after 6 a.m. only to discover that we were about a ¼ mile from our anchoring spot We were a ¼ mile from where we were the previous night. I can determine from the Coastal Explorer track that we started drifting about 02:00, so in 4 hours we drifted a quarter of a mile down the inlet about ¼ mile from shore with depth now more than 200’.

Oops!

I started the engine and we got underway.

It was a typical summer day in the Inside Passage, cloudy with rain showers on and off all day. Once we got into the main channel, we had a quiet day moving north. About midafternoon, we were passed by a humpback whale heading south.

Three hours later, we were approaching Watts Narrows, which we needed to pass thru to enter Baker Inlet, where we would anchor for the night near yet another waterfall.

There are hundreds of passages called “narrow” in S.E. Alaska and British Columbia. Watts Narrows was the narrowest and scariest that I have encountered since Northern Europe!

I’ll let the two videos speak for themselves. I made videos from inside the pilot house showing the Coastal Explorer chart and the Raymarine radar, while also taking GO Pro video from outside.

Enjoy

 

Baker Inlet Waterfall

 

 Docking Dauntless at Heritage Harbor, Wrangell, Alaska

Docking Dauntless at Heritage Harbor, Wrangell, Alaska

We went to drop one crab and two shrimp pots. This video shows the last 15 minutes are we return to the Heritage Harbor, Wrangell, Alaska.

We back into our slip for the convenience being able to get on and off the boat via the stern and swim platform, plus it’s a little better for the shore power connections.

A few things to note: With a single screw and no bow thruster, Dauntless has always been a handful to get in and out of tight places. But as time as gone on and I’ve bounced off enough objects, I am pretty skilled at backing her up. She has a left-handed prop, meaning the prop rotates counterclockwise. This causes a produced prop walk to port, I have to keep about 3° of starboard rudder to go in a straight line.

She can turn 180° to port in about 60-foot diameter but turning to starboard can be problematic as I discovered one day while trying to turn on the River Maas in the Netherlands. While the current was against me, a 30-knot wind from our stern made turning around to starboard impossible as I discovered halfway thru the turn. The bow just stopped coming around. Luckily, at this point, I had plenty of room to turn the other way.

A couple of hours later, having already forgotten what I just learned, I tried again in a small harbor to dock into the wind.  (See the picture below ) To my horror, as the boat crabbed upstream and towards a boat tied perpendicular to the dock I was trying to reach, I rammed the dock with the bow, knowing that at least then, it would stop my progress towards this other boat 60 feet away.

Dauntless in Nijmegen. I had come on on the left (side of picture) to turn right to dock as you see, but wind was blowing 30 knots from astern (on the bow on).BTW, this was with a working bow thruster. Another reason I learned it’s best not to depend on one for when you really need it against high winds or current, it will be least effective.

Lesson learned.

Now when you see me make a 270° turn to port coming around to 90° to starboard from our original heading, you’ll understand why I take the long way around.

Here is my docking video

 

A look Inside at Dauntless, a Kadey Krogen 42, built in 1988

Dauntless Tour 2013 2020

The Wind is Always Blowing

A look Inside at Dauntless, a Kadey Krogen 42, built in 1988

 

I’ve been asked to give a little tour of Dauntless. Built in 1988 by Kadey Krogen, designed by James Krogen, this 42 foot boat has been the best economical paggagemaker of all time.

With two cabins, one mid-ship portside, the main forward, each with a head & shower. A very efficient boat inside and out.

Safe in towering seas, she just rolls along no matter what I ask her to do.

 

 

 

Cruising North along the Inside Passage in B.C. Kutz Inlet Waterfall Walkabout

20190716 Sloop Narrows, Klemtu Passage, Anchoring twice at Kutz Inlet Waterfall

Anchoring at Kutz Inlet Waterfall, Inside Passage, BC

Highlights of this day include:

  • Another beautiful day on the Inside Passage in British Columbia.
  • Passing thru Sloop Narrows, Klemtu Passage
  • Anchoring in front of Kutz Inlet Waterfall
  • Having to re-anchor because I had anchored on a steep underwater slope, so suspected the holding would not be good. It wasn’t.

Our first anchoring was at 17:46. We were anchored in 20’ to 32’ of water, as it was a steep slope. I suspected the anchor had not set on that slope, so I watched it carefully. Here is what I saw:

  • 17:46, Initial anchor bearing 48’@ 142°, depth under the keel, 32’
  • 18:01, (15 minutes later), bearing 35’ @204°, depth 15’
  • 18:15, 36’ @ 204° depth 12’
  • 18:30, 40’ @ 226° depth 7’

While the anchor was holding, I no longer liked the spot we were in. There were now two other boats in the anchorage, and they were more than a ¼ mile away. Maybe I better join them?

So, we moved. At 18:46 we were anchored in a new spot, much further from shore, but still on a slope. Bow anchor bearing was now 72’ @ 248°, I had 90’ of chain out in 40’ of water. I decided to put the stern anchor out. It’s a plow anchor with 10’ of chain and 300’ of nylon rode. This was just in case the bow anchor was not well set on the slope it was on.

For the next two hours I watched it. With two anchors out, I used the waterfall itself as a reference. The distance did not vary by more than 15 feet, I felt this was OK. Though our depth under the keel continued to lower as the tide went out. And because I had two anchors out, I did not have much scope on either line, with only about a 100’ out for each in 30’ of water.

But I wasn’t worried and with 12’ under the keel, I went to sleep, planning on an early departure the next day, so we could get to Prince Rupert, BC in two days.

I slept so very well. In my first years anchoring, I would awake every couple of hours, lay in bed feeling the motion and within a minute, convince myself that we were float free and clear. I’d then check the anchor alarm (Drag Queen), notice that it had turned itself off, so would get up to check that all was good. It always was good. In other words, my imagination was worse than the reality. I then go back to sleep, only to repeat the process a couple of hours later.

By years 3 & 4, waking up became less routine on the hook, as my 55# Delta anchor never dragged. Though I would still check occasionally in the worst weather.

This highlighted track shows the route we took when Dauntless got impatient and left.

In the last couple of years, I’ve become even more relaxed about anchoring. Having used the anchor alarm in years, mostly because I found it only went off, after I took the dingy to shore and was walking downtown. Additionally, my first-year anchoring miscues were not so much about the anchor dragging, but me anchoring in the wrong place with not enough water under the keel at low tide.

I wouldn’t call it complacent, I was finally just comfortable anchoring, knowing my boat and anchor. To a point where even last month, on our trip to Juneau, we had to shelter from a first storm in Farragut Bay. We anchored in a little cove that I had anchored in two times previously. While it was a lee shore, in that the wind was pushing us towards the shore just behind the boat.

All thru the night, Ti would wake me up every 20 minutes to tell me the wind was blowing as the boat rocked back and forth. The first time I did get up to check, but with 40 knot winds and rain, I couldn’t see anything, but could tell from the chart we were 172’ from the anchor, just where it was when I went to bed. I didn’t get up again.

Writing about this now, I will make my next video of this day, so you can see the charts.

Back to our story.

I woke up at 6 the next morning and almost always immediately upon waking up, I would get up and do a quick check even before I put any clothes on.

This morning, I knew we wanted to get underway, so I figured I’d take the 10 minutes to do my morning toilet, get dressed, then haul anchor, get underway and make coffee.

That plan worked so well.

So well in fact, that I even went into the engine room to check the oil level before I came up to the pilot house. Larry was still sleeping in his cabin, when I looked out the pilot house windows and  noticed we were already underway!

We were a ¼ mile from where we were the previous night. I can determine from the Coastal Explorer track that we started drifting about 02:00, so in 4 hours we drifted a quarter of a mile down the inlet about ¼ mile from shore with depth now more than 200’

I figured Dauntless was in a hurry to get underway, so I obliged her.

 

North on the Inside Passage in BC, Bella Bella to Mouat Cove and onward thru Reid Passage

Hecate Strait to the west. The magenta line (on the right) is the route we took up the Inside Passage

20190715 North on the Inside Passage in BC, Bella Bella to Mouat Cove and onward thru Reid Passage.

The chart shows why the Inside Passage is so special, sheltering one from hundreds of miles of open Pacific ocean swells and waves.

Highlights of this day and a half include:

  • Another beautiful day on the Inside Passage in British Columbia.
  • Anchoring in Mouat Cove
  • We take the dingy for a short spin
  • Departure from Mouat Cove
  • Going through the narrow passage of Reid Passage

    Mouat Cove

We took the dingy out to explore Mouat Cove, a beautiful little stop about midway along the Inside Passage. We managed to not hit any rocks, wither with the dingy or with Dauntless.

 

 

 

 

20190713, 14 & 15 Blenkinsop Bay to Sea Otter Creek to Bella Bella BC

On these two and a half days, 13, 14 and 15 July 2019, Dauntless continues her northward trip up the Inside Passage in British Columbia to Alaska.

Highlights of this day include:

  • We race the Alaskan Ferry Columbia
  • We have a freshwater leak that empties our only full water tank
  • We stop early to rebuild the water maker, which only takes about 4 hours, only to discover that it didn’t solve the problem
  • Each day was 65 nm in 9 hours and 30 min on the 13th and just over 10 hours on the 14th.
  • First half of day 3, was just from Sea Otter Inlet to the Bella Bella dock where we hoped to get water for our freshwater tanks.

Low lights consisted of us spending 6+ hours rebuilding the Katadyn watermaker high pressure pump only to discover it did not solve the problem of the oil seal that was in the electrical motor portion of the water maker.

Upon close inspection, I had suspected as much before we started, but I was hoping for one of those boating miracles that was not to be.

For some reason, there does not seem to be a lot of places to stop and get fresh potable water along the BC portion of the Inside Passage.  The cruising guide did seem to indicate that water was available at Bella Bella, so that was our destination on the morning of the 15th.

Once docked, we found the hose, but it took me 15 minutes to figure out how to turn on the water. The valve was hidden just beyond alittle gate that made it difficult to see.

Once that was done, we filled both tanks and got underway to anchor for the night a few hours north in Mouat Cove.

Here is the video: Dauntless in the Inside Passage 13 July 2019

20190712 Savary Island to Blenkinsop Bay via Campbell  River and Johnstone Strait

The tile says it all. This is the 12 July 2019 cruise on Dauntless northbound the Inside Passage in British Columbia.

Highlights of this day include:

  • We see a small whale
  • We see numerous whirlpools, but don’t get sucked in
  • We pass a number of southbound cruise ships, including the Nieuw Amsterdam and the Alaska Ferry Kennecott. ( I have a fondness for the Holland-America line, as I grew up across the street from Pier 40 in New York, where they docked in the 1950’s up until the 80’s?.
  • We stop for three hours on the Campbell river to wait for the currents to change.
  • Larry corrects me when I say “Johnston” Strait not “Johnstone”. Made all the funnier for me because I should have known, having been once married to a Johnstone.
  • Our anchorage was pretty windy, with westerly winds of 20 knots gusting to 28. But we held well as we always do (well until a few days later, but that’s another story.

Here is the video: 20190712 Savary Island to Blenkinsop Bay via Campbell  River and Johnstone Strait

20190711 Vancouver BC to Savary Island with tour of Smuggler Cove

We left Vancouver BC for the last time at 7:11 on 7/11. I think it was a coincidence! It was a long, 12+ hr. day, but it’s the Inside Passage, so weather is normally not a factor.

Dauntless cruise from Vancouver BC to Savary Bay 11 July 2019

There was an interesting spot we (My long-time Alaska friend Larry was with me for the next two weeks) wanted to check out, Smuggler’s Cove and that turned out to be the highlight of the day. Truly tight and narrow, it was a bit stressful entering and even leaving.

We have some OK Go-Pro footage of that excursion, though the Go Por was fogging up, so it’s not as good as it should be. I also took some video from inside the pilot house of the charts, both my Coastal Explorer running C-Map and Navionics on my tablet.

After that exploration, it was another 7 hours until we stopped for the night in an open anchorage, just north of Savary Island. All in all, as easy day, filled some interesting tidbits.

You can watch the videos here on the Dauntless at Sea You Tube Channel. The Smuggler Cove entrance is very tight and the conversation between Larry & I is interesting. Vancouver BC to Savary Island with tour of Smuggler Cove

Larry has been on Dauntless crossing the English Channel, Leaving Cabo San Lucas and the Mexican coast northward and now from Vancouver in the Inside Passage. This latest cruise was the easy compared to the rough sea we experienced off the Mexican coast and in the English channel. Those videos will get uploaded after I finish the Inside Passage 2019.

 

 

 

 

With My Heart Still Racing

I still needed to get Dauntless out of this harbor safely.

Leaving Morro Bay at 01:42
Dauntless is near the top of the horseshoe on the CE, C-Map chart. From left to right: Raymarine E-80 radar, probably set at 1/8 mile, Samsung LCD 24″ monitor showing Coastal Explorer C-Map, below, Samsung 12″ tablet showing Navionics chart. .

After a close call, like I just had, it’s easy to relax your guard, but it’s still dark, in a narrow channel lined with boats, piers, infrastructure and even sleeping otters.

For 30 minutes I threaded my way thru the horseshoe shaped channel.

At exactly 02:00 I passed the outer marker and set my course to the northwest. ETA to Santa Cruz marina was 19:00

Video of us leaving Morro Bay:

I took a few deep breaths, regretting that that I didn’t have a sheep, goat, first born son or even a chicken to sacrifice to Poseidon.  Did a few Hail Mary’s and settled in for the rest of the night?

Windy.com had depicted a very narrow inverted trough moving off the coast during this 36-hour period. What that meant was that now, 02:00, winds were light from the land (the nightly land breeze) but would strengthen rapidly during the early morning hours. Then stay strong, 20+ knots out of the south for the next 24 hours, before the dominant high-pressure system, which had dominated the weather in the eastern Pacific for like forever, or much of the spring and summer so far, would bring back the strong northerly winds.

This meant I had until noon the following day to get thru the Golden Gate. After that, winds would be 20+ from the north.

I kept the rpms up, 1700, boat speed varied between 6.3 to 7.3 knots due to the coastal current. With no current, the speed should have been about 7 to 7.2 knots at 1700 rpms.

Pitch and roll were ok, pitch was a few degrees up and down, roll +5° to-8°, the Krogen had an easy motion. There was a swell from the NW at 4 to 8 feet and wind waves from the SE at 1 to 3 feet.

It felt so good to have the wind behind me. I could open the pilot house door without the fear of the wind grabbing it from my hand. I could stand there and just watch the ocean and the sky. I love the ocean as a fish loves water.

By noon, winds had picked up to 15 knots, still from the SE. I estimated the NW swell now at 8 to 10 feet. (which meant my earlier estimate of 4 to 8’, made in the dark, was probably understated).

Video of us underway at 13:22:

By 14:00 the winds had increased from the south and were now, 180° at 19 gusts to 25 knots. Pitch and roll had doubled: pitch was +4°/-8° & roll +11°/-11°.  That roll was at a point I would deploy the paravane stabilizers, however in this instance two factors mitigated against it:

  1. It would take a knot off my speed and
  2. I had just passed many fishing boats. I got tired of fishing trawlers buzzing me because they thought I was stealing their fish. In the heavily regulated fishing industry in the USA, it’s not as much of a problem, but I’d just spent 4 years outside the USA.

At 19:00 I entered Santa Cruz harbor.  Was tied up at 19:19.

We did 121 nm, 17 hrs:42 min, at an average speed of 6.84 knots.

I had a nice dinner with my new-found cruising friends, Ralph and Kristen.

By 21:00 I was tucked into bed, with the alarm set for 02:00 and my last day of the 2018 Baja Bash.

The last day of June ended with a whimper.

All’s Well that Ends Well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What I’m Really Afraid Of?

Just when I thought I had the Plan, I read a story about drug driven crime spreading to the west coast of Mexico. Manzanillo, one of my planed stops, was prominently mentioned.

20180126 Win
dyty Depiction of Surface Winds

Where does that leave me? Besides the obvious, afraid!

Last summer I had a detailed plan to cruise up the coast of Mexico, stopping every night, hitting all the nice spots, with only a couple overnight passages. Let’s call that plan, the Coastal Cruise Plan. This is essentially what we had done 3 years ago in the Baltic.  I had even spent the last month alone, cruising from Stockholm all the way back to Ireland.

Last year, I had my nephew, Micah, with me from Ireland to Costa Rica.  It’s no coincidence that when he left Dauntless in March to go to law school, I lost a lot of my ambition to continue north alone. Cruising alone for me is not fun. It’s what I do when I need to get from A to B or as I did from Stockholm to Waterford.

20180126 NWS P_e_sfc_color

I am hoping that this coming summer, my girlfriend Trinh and her son, Thien, will have visas for Mexico. This is something that I must initiate this April when I return to Huatulco. If that is possible, they, with other friends who have expressed interest in joining Dauntless this summer, would make the Coastal Plan at least feasible. We would enjoy the numerous stops and towns along the coast, plus many eyes make for less stressful cruising.

A visa for the U.S. is another story and it takes forever. I’m hoping for 2019.

The Pacific coast of Mexico is not the Baltic and North Sea. The weather is not necessarily worse, but the predominant winds are from the northwest, the direction Dauntless must go. Adding to that problem, there are numerous fishing boats and nets and other boat traffic near the coast, whereas in the Baltic, there was none of that.

Lastly, safe harbors (protected from weather) on the Pacific coast of Mexico are few and far apart. North from Huatulco to Manzanillo, a distance of almost 600 miles, there are only two safe harbors. In a normal (for me) coastal cruise of 40 to 60 miles per day (6 to 9 hours), that’s 8 out of 10 nights anchored or in some port, at the mercy of the weather.

That’s a no-go.

For those of you who have read my precious comments about weather forecasts, you will know that even in the best circumstances, I don’t trust weather forecasts past three days and even at that I assume they are 50% off. That means, if the forecast is for winds from 270° at 12 knots, I plan for winds 240° to 300° at 8 to 16 knots (50% and 150% of forecast).

Therefore, to cruise an unprotected coast in any but the mildest of conditions is perilous.

I needed a plan B.  The Near Coastal Plan.

In this plan, we will take what the weather gives us. If we get four good days (favorable winds and seas) we’ll cruise until the weather becomes unfavorable. This potentially means we would take chunks of distance, 3 days, 24/7 is 450 nm. Making the entire trip into 4 chunks of 500 miles each, would get the job done and reduce time spent too close to the coast.

It would be far less fun however, but probably safer in many ways and less stressful.

Then came plan C, the Ocean Plan.

But first we talk to talk about hurricanes.

Hurricane season runs from June through October, with the highest frequency, mid-July to mid-September.

I can see an advantage in avoiding the high summer.  Looking at the Windyty depiction of the surface winds over the eastern Pacific today, you can see the big ass high pressure system that keeps the easterly trade winds over Hawaii (far left of picture) as well as the northwest winds over the west coast of California and Mexico.  Now, one of the disruptors of these winds are hurricanes.  The circulation pattern around hurricanes is far smaller than this massive high-pressure system, but a Pacific Ocean hurricane a few hundred west of Mexico, would cause southerly winds off the Mexican coast.

If it moved slowly north, maybe I could tag along??

It all depends on the situation and I’d have to figure out my escape routes, but it’s something for me to think about and plan for. It’s also significant that eastern Pacific hurricanes are weaker than Atlantic ones, with wind patterns not much stronger (if at all) than Northern Atlantic low-pressure systems in August and September (and I’ve certainly had my fun with those!).

Then the Ocean Route would entail an end around, running almost west, then curving slowly northwestward and finally northward, ending up east of Ensenada or southern California. With little winds, it would be an easy 10 to 12-day voyage, just like I did alone from the Azores to Ireland.  I’d only do this though if I saw the possibility of an extended time of light winds.

Also, time of year matters in my decision making. In the scenario just mentioned above, In May or June, I’d have plenty of time to wait or make it happen.  I may have different options later in the summer.

In September 2015, while waiting in Norway to cross the North Sea (I anticipated a 72-hour crossing), my weather windows were getting smaller and smaller. September is simply too late to be doing such a trip. But Sweden was so nice!

There had been strong northerly winds 25+ winds and driving rain, for days. I waited and waited. Finally, I saw a high-pressure ridge building into the North Sea from the English Channel, but this ridge of high pressure was also moving eastward.  But it only gave me a two-day window for a three-day trip.

Dauntless Crosses the North Sea 2015

I had to take it. It meant that I left my little port of Egersund, Norway, with 35+ knot winds from the NNW and rain. If you look at my route I took to Fraserburgh Bay, Scotland, those strong winds caused that dip in my route. Even with the paravane stabilizers, it’s just easier on the boat to put the winds and resultant seas on the starboard stern quarter. After 24 hours, as the winds died, I was able to head more westerly and on the third day, to the northwest. But that little longer route also added 12 hours to the trip and the next frontal system was right on, so my last 8 hours were in the weather again.

Would a longer, better weather window has come eventually? Sure. In the winter, under very cold air and high pressure. I couldn’t wait that long.

Dauntless in Ireland, next to a fishing boat with almost the exact same lines. There is a reason she handles the North Atlantic like she was born there.

When we decided to cruise the world or at least get away from the coast, we knew we wanted, needed a boat that that could all that and more. All the readings I did about boats and people cruising in boats all over the world, led me to Kadey Krogen.

Our little 42-foot boat was well built, extremely well designed for the worst of the worst and affordable.

Having Dauntless under my feet gives me confidence that she can handle any stupid situation I put her in.

Now, people are another matter.

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