While I felt good about having the common sense to abandon the anchor and not try to lift 125 lbs. of anchor chain and anchor more than 150 feet (50 ft of 3/8”bbb chain x 1.65lbs/ft x + 40 lbs. anchor = 122 lbs. plus rode), I had a sleepless night.
While I wasn’t sleeping, I came up with the plan for the week:
First, I had to get the windlass working. It had an electrical problem; it had no power and lastly the wildcat was hitting the chain stripper. None of that was good.
Second, Wrangell only has about 7 hours of daylight nowadays. While the sun never gets very high in the sky in any case, I needed to maximize our chances of seeing those stupid little shrimp pot floats. They are only 10” by 5” wide. No easy to see under poor lighting conditions.
Third, even as we abandoned the anchor, I was looking for the shrimp pot float that should have been very near the boat. We spent 10 minutes looking for it with no luck. I was now worried that the reason we couldn’t find, notwithstanding the whitecaps and poor light, was that the float was under water, pulled there by the strong currents in the area. In the upper part of the bay, I didn’t expect the currents to be that strong, but in the opening to the bay, where we left the first shrimp pot, the currents could reach a few knots. In 320’ of water, with a pot on only 400’ of line, a current will drag the float under. Plus, even worse, with such strong currents and a light pot, who knows where the pot would be a week later.
So, first thing Sunday, I went to my navigation chart to check the currents and tides for the coming days. Coastal Explorer does make that easy. I had to find the slack current times that occurred during what daylight there was. I quickly realized that our options were limited. The viable days were today, Sunday Friday and lastly Saturday (7 days away).
Today was out since the windlass problem was not yet solved. Also, we were all tired. I didn’t want to have any more problems or issues, otherwise I may be writing about Mutiny on Dauntless.
Friday was a school day, but push come to shove, it was viable.
Saturday looked ideal with sunrise and tides. Slack time in Mahan Bay would be at 09:50 Saturday morning, sunrise is 08:20. Plus the currents would be with us until it turned just before 10:00 and then we could ride it home also.
With more than $500 of gear waiting for our return, I wanted to maximize our chances of finding it. So I told the crew we needed to be there by 9:15 to 9:30 giving us a good hour of slack or not strong currents to find our shrimp floats (I used the largest white fender I had for the anchor, I knew I would have no trouble finding it).
Subtracting the 2.5-hour cruise from 09:30 meant a 07:00 departure time. Yes, it would be dark, but my goal was to retrieve our gear.
The last part of this plan dealt with the weather. The winds had been strong 12 to 18 knots the entire day when we left the pots. At noon, it was not much of a problem, but as the afternoon, the clouds had increased, the day became even more grey and darker. With a little pickup in the winds, little whitecaps developed, which made it impossible to find any small white floats in a grey sky and sea.
So, we needed a day with light winds and the less clouds the better.
I go to Windy.com for all my long-range weather planning. I still find it easier to use and I use it for the big picture in the long term. The weather models (I use the ECMWF) were consistent for the entire week and showed that Saturday was the best weather day with the lightest winds and the only non-overcast day.
That would work and I planned accordingly.
Next up, I would have to tackle the Ideal Windlass and get it working by the coming Saturday, the best day for daylight, weather, winds, tides and currents.
The week started ominously over some spilled rice. I had dropped about half a cup of rice on the galley floor. I told Tee I would take care of it and then I froze.
Had I been alone, the dustpan would have come out and that little pile of rice would have been over the side before anyone knew what happened. But Tee was staring at me, which I knew not to be good.
The Vietnamese say rice grains are “diamonds from God”. I knew if I even reached for the dustpan, we would be talking disasters on the biblical scale. No. I stayed frozen.
Seeing my inaction, Tee took her two hands and scooped the rice right up, while grumbling in Vietnamese. Just then Thien got back from school and Tee told him the story of how her bright husband, who seems to know so much about everything, can’t seem to do the simplest things.
They laughed all evening at that and later added that reading too much causes stupidity. Now I did see some truth in that, as throughout my life, I have sometimes struggled with the simplest things, always thinking it’s more complicated than it actually is.
That was Friday evening. We would go shrimping for the first time the next day.
Saturday started out unwell. It was a real litany of what not to do.
Sunrise is around 08:15, sunset 15:15, remember that for later.
We had just gone thru the coldest days Dauntless has ever seen, with temperatures in the mid to high 20’s. On this Saturday, our dock water hose was frozen. In what turned out to be the only thing I did right in this entire process, I had filled both of the water tanks on Dauntless in case we lose dock water. Now, the Harbor Maser here has his act together, as I noticed they had the end of the water line open during freezing temperatures, thus keeping the water flowing.
So, while water was not a problem, it still took some time to disconnect the frozen hose and put it away. Then, we spent 20 minutes trying to get the frozen lines off the boat. By then everyone was cold and miserable; at least I was. But Tee and Thien get excited about fishing, so our 2-and-a-half-hour cruise to Mahan Bay, on the east side of Wrangell Island, went pretty quickly.
Another boating friend here in Wrangell lent us a shrimp pot. We also bought one while on sale here in town, so we had two shrimp pots and one crab pot.
The plan was to put one shrimp pot in about 320’ of water at the mouth of the bay, the second further up the bay in about 150’ of water; lastly in the crab pot in about 40’ hear the shore. We would then anchor in deeper water, about 200’ and fish for a couple of hours.
All went to plan, but a few yellow flags were already being waived and ignored by yours truly.
First, wanting to not have a departure in the dark, I did not start the engine until 08:45. Then it took 30 minutes just to disconnect the water hose and get the frozen lines undone. So, we were not underway until 09:15.
Running against the current, we did not get to Mahan Bay until 11:35, where we set the first shrimp pot in 320’. This pot only had 400’ of line and in a miscommunication between me and Tee, I wanted to confirm the pot was on the bottom before we released the buoy. Oh well, “the best laid plans of mice and men…”
We motored 30 minutes up the bay and set our second shrimp pot. This one we did confirm that the pot was on the bottom and we had about 50 feet of line remaining to the buoy. We then dropped the crab pot just offshore in about 30’ of water and motored back to deeper water to do some fishing.
In one of my brighter moments, since we were anchoring in 160’ of water, I decided to put our secondary anchor down. It has 50’ of chain and 350’ of rode. My reasoning was why put the windlass thru trying to lift 150 of chain and anchor.
It’s now 12:35. We wanted to let the pots sit and fish for two hours. Which we did, Tee caught two sole or flounder. (we eat everything we catch, even those ugly bullhead (sculpin) fish.
I didn’t even start the engine to retrieve the anchor and get underway until 14:50. Clearly a mistake. The wind had been blowing all day, blowing up the entrance to the bay at 15 to 18 knots. With no real fetch, no real waves, but enough to make little whitecaps. No problem for Dauntless but trying to find a little white pot buoy in a gray sky is another story.
But we were not even there yet. As we wound the anchor rode in, the winch started going slower and slower. Ut Oh. It had done the same thing a couple of months ago. The fix was so simple, I forgot what it was!!
In addition, the wildcat was hitting the chain stripper. That certainly didn’t help. But after pulling in less than 50 feet of line, it totally stopped. I pushed the reset button on the windlass solenoid, to no effect.
I knew we couldn’t pull this much line and anchor in by hand. In August when this happened in 30 feet of water, it was hard enough.
Now, because I read a lot, I had anticipated this for years. Both anchor rodes are connected to short lines in the chain locker so that if all the chain or rode is out, the short line can be untied or cut if need be. That’s what we did. I then tied a large fender to the line and wrote Dauntless on it. I told Tee we would come back next week to get it.
By now, the sun has set, and we could find neither shim pot buoy.
We cruised home in total darkness, getting a few scares as we passed the airport, in that lights look so much closer at night.
I knew we would have no problem finding the anchor, assuming I fixed the winch. But it had also occurred to me that the reason we saw no sign of either shrimp pot was because the current had moved them and therefore, in a strong current, it’s possible the buoy was being pulled underwater! In which case they may never be seen again.
I also felt bad that not only had we left our new shrimp pot; we had left the one we borrowed. I hated to tell Bob that I’d returned without his pot!
Losing $500 of gear the first time out was not my idea of a good time.
Passing under the Golden Gate, I felt the chapter coming to the end. Like turning the page and seeing only a short paragraph remaining.
As I made my course eastward under the bridge, the winds picked up as forecast to westerly at 20 to 25 knots. I was happy to have just gotten up the coast before the band of strong northwesterly winds had reasserted itself.
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I also knew now that no matter what the winds did, my ride to Vallejo would be relatively smooth and it was. The picture shows the Maretron data with winds as high as 32 knots, but the roll reduced over what it was on the ocean.
After a few hours of motoring up the channel, Fly Wright was there to greet me.
I had to dock outside my covered slip that first night, as I had to lower the mast and the paravane poles.
With many hands helping, the mast the poles were easy to lower, though I wondered how I managed to do it myself a few times.
We had a great dinner that evening at the Sardine Can, a good restaurant near my slip. The next day, I moved Dauntless to her winter home. She’ll be there, out of the sun and rain until next spring, when we continue our northward trek.
This time I remembered to change the oil right away. I also had a long list of items to do before I flew away.
I’ll be back to her in September to commence a long list of projects that hopefully will be done by spring.
On the 63rd day since getting underway from Huatulco, 2300 hard miles ago, I got up for the last day at 02:00.
70 gallons of fuel would be more than enough to get Dauntless the last leg to San Francisco Bay and Vallejo.
Checking the current tables, I had to get to the Golden Gate by 13:00. Then the current would push me the last 40 miles to Vallejo at plus 2 or 3 knots. To make that happen, I had to depart by 03:00, planning 10 hours for that 65 nm.
02:33 Engine start. We (Dauntless and I) were underway at 02:45, with scattered clouds and southerly winds.
I had about an hour of cruising WSW, before I could head NW. After a few hours, just after sunrise, I was able to go on my final course of 340°. The winds stayed southerly at 12 to 16 knots for the rest of the morning. Just enough time for me to get into San Francisco Bay.
Videos I took that morning:
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At noon, 12:00, I was entering the Golden Gate channel. My goal of the last 10 months was in sight.
And it was an impressive sight. To be looking at the Golden Gate Bridge from the Pacific on my own bottom. How many people can say that?
I was proud: of my accomplishments, of my determination to complete these goals, of this Kadey Krogen that was so strongly and safely built.
We could not have come up with a better name, Dauntless, determined, never give up.
I still needed to get Dauntless out of this harbor safely.
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:
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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:
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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:
It would take a knot off my speed and
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.
10:22 Change course to 016°, 1600 rpms, 6.2 kts, 3.5 nm to Morro Bay entrance. 7 knot winds on beam are producing a lazy roll of +10° (to stbd)/to -05° (to port).
11:30 Enter Morro Bay. Spot my first Sea Otters. Great. One more thing not to run over besides the ubiquitous paddle board and kayak people.
12:03 With a slow, almost idle, 4 kt approach (The minimum speed to have enough way to control boat), I approach the Morro Bay Yacht Club dock. It parallels the coast and there is ample room for me. I make a 180° to port (the direction this KK loves to turn) and am tied to the dock minutes later.
12:05 Docked at MBYC. An easy day, 3:55, 23 nm, 5.9 avg speed.
Morro Bay turned out to be a delight. Delightful people at the delightful Morro Bay Yacht Club (MBYC). If I was ever in one place long enough to join a yacht club, MBYC would be the kind of place I’d love to join. Having to wait out the weather for four days turned out nice. Really reasonably priced at $35 per day, it was a pleasure to be there. I felt good and knew that time wise, I’d be good to go if I could leave on the 30th.
I watched the winds every day and the forecasts were tracking well. I thought to leave Friday, but the winds were still up and while forecast to go down later in the day, this is a perfect example of when I say, “Don’t leave based on a forecast”. If your waiting for light winds, wait until you see light winds.
Also, MBYC had hamburger night Friday evening or maybe it was cocktail hour. In any case, I vowed to leave early Saturday morning, if winds were light as predicted.
Now the plan was getting down to hours. The anticipated 36-hour weather window showed light winds becoming increasing strong, but from the south as Saturday progressed into Sunday, but by Sunday afternoon, the northerlies would be back with a vengeance, 30+ knots west of the Golden Gate.
Additionally, the trip up San Francisco Bay must be timed for the currents and tides. The currents are as strong as hell’s Gate in NYC. So, I had to back up all my arrivals and departures so that I would arrive at the Golden Gate between 12:00 and 13:00 Sunday July 1st.
To get there at that time, I had to leave Santa Cruz before 03:00. So, if I wanted 5 hours sleep in Santa Cruz and a time to have dinner with some new boat friends who had their boat there, I had to leave MBYC at 01:00 to do the 121-mile trip in 18 hours, getting me to Santa Cruz by 18+1= 19:00
No problem. Just an early evening and get up at 01:00.
Dauntless was parallel parked between two sailboats. The evening before I had asked about leaving that early, anything I needed to know. Everything seemed routine. I should be able to just push the bow out as I realized the last lines.
Maybe the sailors giving me this advice did not realize that Dauntless was 44,000 pounds? Certainly no one warned me about the current.
01:15 up, Saturday morning dawned with the expected light winds, I was ready to go.
01:20 As I did my routine combined current check and pee, it was obvious that the current was not insignificant.
The next 8 minutes were the most harrowing of the last three months.
It was obvious I couldn’t just undo the lines and push her out away from the dock and SV 15’ in front. Plan A was dead.
The stupid sailboat in front of me has two solar panels out behind his stern. On the first picture of this post, the sunset, the solar panel array is visible on the port side stern of the sail boat in front of me. They are probably 12 to 15 feet from my bow pulpit, which is 5 feet above them. But my hull will impact them before it hits anything else. No fender could protect them. This guy should be on a mooring.
Plan B: I untied all lines, but for the midship cleat. I wrapped it around the dock cleat near the stern, so it would slide thru once I released tension on my side. Meaning the line was secured to the boats stbd midship cleat, then back to the stern cleat on the dock and then I’m holding the bitter end in my hand while on the dock, near the pilot house door. The boat is in neutral at idle. For this to work, my plan is to give the bow a mighty push from the dock, releasing the line while I clamber on board.
With one mighty heave, I was truly seconds from disaster.
Dauntless was not moving out as much as I had hoped. I also was keenly aware that I was risking her leaving without me.
I clambered on board, as dauntless drifted forward crab like, her bow maybe 15 feet from the dock, stern still near the dock. I debated momentarily, for a split second at most, whether to just give her a shot of power, hoping that she would go straight out into the channel.
At 1.5 knots, that about 2 feet per second. In the 6 seconds it took me from release of the line, get on board and into pilot house, Dauntless moved 12 to 15 feet, the bow pulpit was almost over the left side of the sailboat. The stupid solar panels are a few feet from my stbd hull.
It was clear to me in a moment that if I gave it forward power, it would rake the entire starboard side of Dauntless against the stern port quarter of the SV.
I quickly put her in reverse and slightly increased power to 1100. I also had a sailboat behind me. I ran out to the bow, just in time to find off the stupid solar panels as the Kadey Krogen finally started to retreat.
I ran to the side deck to see what kind of room I now had behind me. I need to be tied to the dock I bought myself some more seconds by leaving her at idle in reverse. This gave me enough time to get to the side deck and get a line on the dock cleat. I made it tight and thought about what to do.
I took some needed breaths. I had to be calm now What were my options? It’s almost 1:30 in the morning. No one is getting up soon. On one hand it’s only a schedule, but being alone, makes the schedule even more important. If I didn’t leave now, I would be forced to run overnight. Which then has an impact the following day.
The Golden Gate timing was immutable.
I wanted to leave, but the idea that I start me day be destroying this boat’s solar panels would really fuck up my day.
I tied the boat thru the stern cleat to the dock’s cleat just a couple feet away.
I would try to push the bow out with the stern tied. I wouldn’t do anything else. Engine at idle, transmission neutral. It was just an experiment to see how far the bow would actually go out. If it went out to 45°, It would probably work.
It went to maybe 20°.
Tied again with a little more slack on the stern line, same results, but now she headed for those f…ing solar panels again like they were a magnet.
I had some seconds to spare this time, but I had to get her in reverse. We were still attached to the stern dock cleat. I had tied it so that while in reverse it did not have enough slack to hit the boat behind me. In other words, while I could watch the bow, I had to make sure when backing not to hit the boat just behind me.
Then I noticed an interesting phenomenon in reverse, attached to the stern cleat, the bow came out.!
That made perfect sense since Dauntless stern always wants to starboard. I need 2° of right rudder to go straight. In reverse, the prop walk is still to the right, to starboard, which is pone of the primary reasons, I always try to dock and tie on the starboard side.
(which in a recently found video has me backing into the slip in Golfito, Costa Rica. Once I figure out how to get it not inverted I will upload)
I checked the line on the dock and boat to make sure they were secure and then gave her more power in reverse. The bow keeps coming out more and more. This would work.
Back to idle, I quickly retied the stern line so that the closed loop was over the forward horn of the cleat. I then ran the line thru the stern hawse pipe forward inside the boat to the midships cleat.
I put the boat in reverse and added some power.
The bow came out further and further. Still in reverse, I sent down to the midships cleat, and took the line in my hand and walked it back to the pilot house door. With the line in my hand, I checked the port side to make sure it was still clear, gave her more power and the bow came well out.
Now, I knew the terrible downside of this plan. If that dock line snagged on something, at best it would slam the boat back to the dock hitting the boat ahead, at worse, I could drip the whole dock up, causing even more mayhem.
And I couldn’t check it. I still had to get the stern out to not hit the sailboat.
When it seemed, the bow would come out no more, I had to force myself to be slow and put her in idle, neutral, forward, power. Probably two to three seconds.
But remember at 2 feet per second forward due to current. In just doing that, reverse to forward, without slamming the damper plate, used half the distance between the two boats.
I stayed right behind the helm. I had to hope the line slipped off cleanly. As the solar panels were about two feet off the pilot house door, I swung the wheel hard right and goosed the power, to kick the stern out. The boat was still crabbing forward, so even with that maneuver, the stern only cleared by a few feet.
But she cleared. I hauled in the stern line quickly and turned on my driving lights to make sure I didn’t run over any sleeping sea otters.
01:28 Underway to Santa Cruz. I thanked every god I knew.
In hindsight, some thoughts:
It’s a no-brainer that I should have just swapped positions with one of the two sailboats. Either being in the front or end, would have been leaving no problem. Also, everyone at the YC was so accommodating, it would have been no problem.
Not as obvious is how the lack of a functional bow thruster affected this. It’s been three plus years now since by bow thruster stopped working. At least two times, we thought it was fixed, only to discover it wasn’t. But clearly, it hasn’t been a priority. Why?
Before it stopped working, there were two memorable times when I needed it, but winds and currents overwhelmed it. Thus, it has seemed better to just learn to live without than to depend on something that may not work as well as hoped in the worst conditions.
Be cause of that, I also stopped doing stuff because some marina or dock master suggested it. Now, I’ll say, “I don’t have a bow thruster, I can’t do that” Oh, no problem, we’ll put you on this “T” then! Duh!
And now this experience reinforces my feelings that at least for me, I’m better off without it. My first thought was if the bow thruster was working this would have been easy. And therein lies the problem. I would have pushed the bow out, jumped on board, used the bow thruster without the understanding that the boat was moving 2 feet a second and while the bow would have missed, the broad side of the boat would have slammed into the stern of the sailboat. No way was it going to get out of the way in the 10 seconds I had.
Yes, God certainly Watches Over Fools and Drunkards.
Larry had returned to Alaska also, so when I got back to Dauntless on the 24th. I’d be taking her the last 400 miles of this 2000+ mile trip to Vallejo on my own. I had a plane ticket to leave Sacramento on 3 July to Austin.
Assuming I had to arrive on the 2nd, I had 8 days to get to Vallejo. Ray, one of my boat mates in the new marina had kindly offered to give me a ride to the airport at 0h dark-30, so, I was back on the clock.
The first leg was critical, 70 nm to Point Conception. Winds had been light or southerly for two days, while I was in Salt Lake City, now, my day of departure, Monday they were forecast to increase from the west as the day progressed. (This is the way I use weather forecasts, looking at the trend, but not necessarily believing the specifics). 70 miles is 12 hours steaming time. I wanted to get around Point Conception before 16:00, otherwise as winds picked up on the bow, we would go slower and slower and I would become ever more miserable, yet again.
Therefore, I planned my departure from Kyoko’s dock at 04:00.
I never sleep well before embarking on any kind of trip, be it, by plane, train, automobile or boat. Thus, I was up just after 3 and figured I may as well get this show on the road.
I have a standard departure procedure. One that I adhere to since pulling away from the dock in the Chesapeake, 4 years ago, only to have the engine stop two minutes later from no fuel. At that time, I dropped the anchor in emergency mode (pulling the chain out of the wildcat and letting the anchor freefall) to stop our drift into nearby boats. Once that was done, I headed to the engine room to see what happened. A quick glance showed both fuel tank feeds were closed. Since I had just opened one, it was clear to me that in my mindset to “open” a closed valve, I had closed the one that was open. So much for check lists.
Way back then, I still did not have my auxiliary fuel pump installed, so of course it took 10 minutes of lift pump masturbation to get the air out and everyone happy again.
Consequently, I follow a standard start up routine, which consists of:
Engine room check, smelling and looking for obvious leaks and confirming fuel feed and Racor use.
Turn on breakers for:
“Loran” that’s the breaker used for my USB ports now
Check Anchor light is off
The boat computer, modems, router, Maretron system, two Samsung LCD displays are all 12 volt and on a separate breaker that is not on the pilot house system. They were already on, as that system takes a few minutes to boot up, as the router can be picky.
Now, on this night, I had already taken one spring line off before I went to sleep. In hindsight, that was probably a mistake, as it got me out of my routine.
03:30 I did my engine room check. I was also out of my routine because my engine room bilge pump was off and had been for the 10 days I was on this dock. With the little leak I had from the transmission, while no significant oil would be discharged, it would still make an embarrassing oil sheen, would not be nice for Kyoko and Mike, who had so graciously given me this spot. I could easily wait until we were off-shore.
03:43 Engine start. To this day, it is unclear to me what I was thinking. But I didn’t turn on the Auto Pilot or the Radar. More likely I did, but in any case, I untied from the dock, without realizing that neither was on.
03:52 Free from the dock and underway. I make the 90° turn to starboard to clear the dock, at which point I realize the Radar is not on. It’s dark. I don’t travel without the radar in the daytime, let alone now. But what to do.
These fairways were relatively wide, maybe 150 feet, but with boats and/or docks on either side. To return to Kyoko’s dock, I would have to do a 180° to port, then a 270° to dock bow facing out, as I was. In the dark, alone, that did not appeal to me. I also did not want to dock bow in, tie on the port side, as all my lines were on the stbd side. Again, being alone, limited my options. I decided to press on and look for a convenient place to stop to be bel to diagnose and solve the electrical issue.
In hindsight, I should have turned around and docked bow in. As it turned out, where I did decide to dock had a current that was vexing. At least this was a dock I knew. But at the time, I was more concerned about hitting something and felt it would be better someplace else. There must be some fuel dock or some such on the 40 minute it would take to go thru the channels and harbor to the sea.
My abrupt stop of video and boat for that matter is because while approaching the bridge, I was sure it was the same bridge I had come under two weeks earlier. But then, it that moment of panic, I thought maybe in the dark, I had made a wrong turn. I didn’t, but that’s what being in the dark will do for you.
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So, I slowed to inch under the bridge. I then proceeded to spend 15 minutes trying to back in a dock. With no current, it would have been easy, but in this case, there was a current, pushing the boat and especially the bow to port, so as I backed I’d end up almost perpendicular to the dock. After 3 or 4 attempts, I gave up and decided it would be easier to just go bow in around the corner. It was, and I did.
Just tied to midships. The boat secure, I was able to get under the helm to see why I had no power to the radar and autopilot.
Pilot house voltage has been an issue since day 1. I need to run a bigger or additional line and ground to the pilot house. When on long cruises, once the batteries are fully charged, the voltage at the batteries goes to 12.85v or thereabouts. The problem is that voltage in the pilot house is down to the low 12v. The Raymarine radar display will blink out momentarily when the voltage dips below 12. This usually happens when the auto pilot commands a longer turn. It gets annoying. So, since I never got around to running the additional wires, I instead did my normal half-assed fix of jumping from one buss to the other. The pilot house electrical panel has three separate busses. It used to be two, but sometime a couple years ago, I thought I had a fix for the radar by making a third buss. It sort of worked.
But coming north with Larry the radar display (not the transmitter or computer, only the display) started blinking again. I added another jumper. Worked great. But then upon arrival, I redid in a different way. Why? who knows!!
That different way is what was not working. I realized right away why the autopilot wasn’t getting power. So, I put it back the way it was, and all was good. That took 5 minutes. The additional docking took 45 minutes.
That delay would bite me in the ass later that afternoon. Once I got out to sea, the winds were light from the south or southwest. I was headed 280°, just north of west. Winds out of the south were good, east better. Late in the morning the winds started to turn to 280° at 06 kts, right on the nose. 3 hours later at 14:00 they were 28012 g 15 kts, pitching had increased to 12° up and down and speed was reduced by one knot.
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I was able to make the turn to the NNW, 340° at 16:00. Winds had already increased to 290° 14 g 20. The turn took the winds and seas off the bow to the port forward quarter, much better than dead ahead. I was grateful for my early morning start.
The rest of the day was a piece of cake. Winds stayed 300° 15 g 20 for the rest of the evening. We were pitching and rolling, but it was tolerable. I didn’t jump overboard as I have been tempted to do when going into ahead sea.
And now you know the rest of the story.
I arrived in off Avila Beach in San Luis Obispo Bay around 22:00 and anchored that night using the radar. But then you already knew that.
I was on schedule, the one I’d made month’s earlier. It was June 10th.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Mike and Kyoko up on their offer to keep Dauntless there as long as I needed, while I:
Waited for weather
Attended the wedding and
Flew to Fairbanks and back
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
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.
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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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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
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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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
As I sit in my 10th floor apartment in Ho Chi Minh City, a.k.a. Saigon, the People’s Republic of Vietnam this balmy January 2018, writing these words, I think back one year. I was in Martinique, in the Lessor Antilles, luxuriating in having just completed a harder than expected crossing of the Atlantic from North Africa to North America.
Vietnam wasn’t even on the radar and if it was, I thought it was a wave top. Impossible it imagines how different 2017 would end up.
So, how can a person who doesn’t have a clue as to where they will be in 12 months’ time write about planning?
And not only write about, but spend a good portion of every day’s waking hours thinking about The Plan? So much so that just a while ago, I found myself looking at the noonsite.com information about Taiwan.
Taiwan? wtf, he still hasn’t figured out how to get Dauntless out of Mexico, you’re thinking.
And right you are. So, I thought you would be interested in knowing or better understanding my planning process.
To understand my planning process, let’s look at my goal and some background information:
Long term, cross the North Pacific, return to Northern Europe & complete my circumnavigation.
Short term, spend a couple of summers in Southeast Alaska.
Near term, get Dauntless to California before next winter.
Dauntless is now in the wonderful little town of Huatulco, Mexico, in the little Bahia Chahue.
In 2016, once I made the decision to return to North America, I made an elaborate plan (published in some blog post last year) to transit the Panama Canal and cruise up the west coast of North America to SE Alaska.
Looking aback at the plan now, I stayed pretty much on time and on target, only transiting the Panama Canal a couple weeks later than originally planned, until Costa Rica.
Arriving in Golfito, Costa Rica in March 2017, the wheels then came off or a more apt description, I was beached.
What happened? A perfect storm of: local bureaucracy, my nephew who cruised with me since Ireland, had to go back to school and I met this wonderful woman in faraway Vietnam.
Returning to Dauntless in June, I needed to get moving north. Costa Rica is a wonderful country that I had visited in 2004 and had really looked forward to returning. But, it turns out, it is not really cruiser friendly. The few marinas are ridiculously expensive and the paperwork of checking in and out was cumbersome and confusing.
My newfound friend, Cliff joined me and we took Dauntless from Costa Rica to Mexico. Mexico, it turns out is everything Coast Rica isn’t. Cliff had to go back to work and hurricane season had arrived, so in reaching the wonderful town of Huatulco in August, I decided that enough was enough.
The Task at Hand is to get Dauntless from southern Mexico to California, 1800 miles.
Dauntless cruises at about 6.5 to 6.8 knots. thus a 24-hr. period is 150 nm. That’s the figure I use for planning. With light winds and small seas, then the planning exercise is about planning stops after a day of cruising.
Two years ago, in the Baltic Cruise, I largely ignored the weather and planned the whole 4,000-mile trip based on cruising days of 5 to 8 hours. Usually we would stay a few days in each town or city stop. But the pacific coast of North America is a whole different creature.
Climatology tells me that the winds are predominantly from the northwest (the direct I must go) 2/3’s to ¾’s of the time. I use Jimmy Cornell’s Ocean Atlas which has pilot charts for each ocean by month. Jimmy Cornell’s Pilot Charts also tell me the secondary wind direction and currents. June thru September is 4 months, 120 days. I figure that I will have favorable winds about ¼ of those days, or 30 days. I have 1800 nm to go divided by 30 days means 60 miles per day. No bad, about what I did in the Baltic in September.
But it also means that when the winds are favorable, I must make miles. The reality of seasonal climatology is best looked at and planned for over periods longer than a few weeks. In this situation, I can easily be stuck in port 30 days waiting for the winds. Then if I’m lucky, I’ll have a good period, 5 to 10 days of southerly winds. Depending upon where we are along the coast, it means we may do 48, 72 or even 96 hours to take advantage of our good weather window.
Now in this context, when I say “weather” I really mean winds and seas. I’ve left port on many stormy days. Rain, showers do not bother me, it’s really all about the winds and seas for my little Kadey Krogen.
The effect of head winds and seas vary greatly. 5 to 7 knots are hardly noticeable and may produce small seas, less than 2 feet. Dauntless will lose a few tenths of a knot under such conditions.
As winds off the bow become stronger, it all goes down rapidly from there. 12 to 15 knots produce 3 to 5 ft. seas, pitching become unpleasant and we’ll lose more than a knot of speed. 18 + knots are untenable from a comfort level. Too much hobby horsing and probably down to 5 knots, less with any counter current. This is what happened to me off the French coast going up the English Channel to Holland. We were making 2 to 3 knots in pure misery of pitching. Because of the conditions, I finally decided to abort to Ostend, Belgium. It took another 6 hours to go 15 miles. Some of the worst 6 hours I have ever experienced. The Kadey Krogen was fine, she takes a beating and keeps on ticking. The humans inside were not as happy.
What I took out of that beating was to more carefully consider winds and seas on the bow. A 20-knot wind from the stern is fine. We had 20 days of that crossing the Atlantic last year. Even 20 knots (and resultant seas) on the beam are ok. The paravanes are most effective with beam seas. Though I tend not to venture out in such seas if I am in port. 20 knot headwinds are untenable. Stay in port. If at sea, options are reduced, but probably a change in direction is warranted.
I use Windyty.com for my forecast winds. I tend not to look at forecast seas because the accuracy is seldom good enough to use in an effective manner. Though Windyty will give you the first, second and third swells.
Now when it comes to forecast winds, for whatever reason, the forecast winds are almost always understated, though I do realize it’s possible that I only notice the over and not the under. Thus, when winds are forecast to be 12 knots, that usually means 8 to 15 knots. If 8, ok, if 15 it’s a no go. So, in this case, I will use 8 knots for the Go-No Go decision.
From Huatulco to the Channel Islands, it’s only 1800 nm in three long legs. that’s basically the distance I did between Martinique and the Panama Canal. But with much more un-favorable winds and currents.
Top speed for Dauntless is about 8.5 knots, but it’s non-factor because it’s impossible to justify the double to treble fuel consumption for 2 knots. So, my effective (long term) hurry up speed is 7.5 knots at 1800 rpms and 2 gallons/hour. Thus, I usually keep it to 1700 rpms, 6.8 to 7.0 knots and 1.6 gal/hr.
In my next post, Planning is the Mother of Anticipation, I’ll discuss the Mexican coast, what options we’ll have, crew and hurricanes.