Have you ever had to try to comfort a terrified pet? Maybe they were terrified of being in the car? Or of thunder? Going to the vet? It’s not a situation of safety nor even of any risk, the fear is totally unjustified with the reality. But you know that no amount of words can really help.
But it still hurts you anyway because you know you are powerless to do anything to stop this unfounded terror. The only cure will be some minutes or hours later when whatever caused this is past and your cat or dog realized they have survived.
I’m not talking about “voicing annoyance” for example when you pack the cats into the car for the drive from New York to Los Angeles in roughly four days. Four days of a penetrating meow, that is anything but a “meow” even after the poor thing became hoarse.
To this day, I’m convinced that cat still thinks the only reason the trip ended was because he continually expressed his displeasure.
I’m not talking about that. I’m talking that paralyzing fear when the dog is hiding under the table because of thunder or something like that. No amount of talk is going to change his mind that he is actually safe.
And that’s the kind of fear I saw in Tee on our first trip on Dauntless.
Knowing they were new to boats, having just arrived in America from Vietnam only a couple of days earlier, I planned what I thought was a short trip out of Ketchikan to Prince of Wales Island. A little orientation trip. It was only 15 miles across Clarence Strait, but the winds were a little stronger than anticipated, which produced seas of 1-2 feet. Not terrible, in fact, having beat up the west coast, I hardly noticed these waves.
Not Tee. She was terrified in a way the was beyond words and reason. She wouldn’t leave my side in the pilot house, admittedly the worse ride location in the entire boat, but she sat on the bench and just whimpered (literally).
Luckily, Thien, her 16 yo son, knew his mother well and knew when best to just ignore her. I just felt sick for her, not being able to comfort her.
When we anchored, she was fine, though like me the first days/months anchoring, slept poorly.
The next day, I decided to cut our return trip in half, just going to the next fjord to the north on Prince of Wales Island. This worked well, until our windlass stopped working with 80 feet of chain out in 30 feet of water.
For weeks when Tee wanted a laugh, she would mimic the three of us heaving on the anchor chain pulling it up by hand and saying, “my dream, my dream”.
As time went on and she saw that we didn’t die each time we left the dock, her fears subsided. It helped that Thien explained to her one evening how the roll of the boat is a natural process, as it allows the boat the go with the seas and not fight it. That we, being inside the boat (like two hands cupped together) are safe.
Tee was also eager to learn how to drive the boat and she was at the helm for the entire Rocky Pass transit as we came south from Juneau in August.
There have been dozens of friends/familiy who have been at the help of Dauntless over the last 7 years. Tee has shown an exceptionally sharp attentiveness while at the helm. She looks and sees everything. No inadvertent running aground (like yours truly) on her watch.
She has made a video of her running the boat in the past weeks. It called Sailor Woman and is up on YouTube. She has asked me to share the link.
Keep in mind that it’s made for her Vietnamese audience. Also, I did some of the English captions not really knowing what she was saying, but making it fit what she was showing.
Now on our most recent trip (not the one in the video which was a week before) the winds were coming right up Zimovia Strait which separates Wrangell and Woronofski islands, at 18 knots producing a sea of 1 to 3 feet and Tee didn’t even notice.
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.
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.
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.
This video shows the day before, Dec 21st. Even before the preventer stick broke (which you can see going form the fly beige rail to the middle of the paravane pole)
This is from the afternoon. GIves you a nice idea of the seas. This is what we had plus or minus for 21 days.
So, as December 22nd dawned, (end of Day 13 and beginning of Day 14), the little problems that had popped up were solved quickly.
Though during the night, my last second and last preventer stick broke. It wasn’t critical, I had not used it since it was made three years ago, but still, this morning I wanted to find a real solution.
The winds had been very strong since daybreak, in the low 20’s, gusting to 35 knots.
I decided to stop the boat, just put her in idle and adjust the paravanes somehow. It nice to know that the boat will bob more than roll when stopped. While not underway, Dauntless rolls at about half the rate of our underway roll. So, we’d been rolling 10 to 20 degrees, pretty consistently, now we settle in the trough of the waves, but bob as much as roll.
Now, months later, my brain refuses to remember why I actually stopped the boat. It must have gotten superseded by the traumatic events that followed.
Autopilot disengaged, Idle, then neutral, the boat will coast to a “stop” in about three minutes. Winds and current are still pushing the boat, in this case about 1.5 knots.
Then before I did whatever I had intended to do, I decided to turn the rudder to see if it made any difference in the boat motion. Not a stupid plan; yet.
The rudder was already hard over to port. And then in an act of gross stupidity, I turned the wheel more to port. Why? Why? Why?
I knew the rudder was at or close to the stops. The steering system had had some air in the system for a long time. No matter what I did, I could not get it all out. So, I thought a little more turn couldn’t hurt.
Oh, my God, it could hurt. After turning the wheel about a quarter, I felt it go slack in my hand.
I knew exactly what happened and turned to Micah to say, “We’re fucked now”.
I knew because I’ve had this sickening sense before: pushing on brake pedal that goes all the way to the floor or turning a steering wheel and nothing happens. When a hydraulic system goes slack: clutch, brakes, steering. It means the hydraulic system has no more pressure, A hose, fitting or part has given way.
He knew from my tone that I was serious, very serious. I was so angry at myself. Had Micah done something like this, it’s an accident. For me, I knew better than anyone the consequences of over-pressurizing a system.
The Kadey Krogen has does have an emergency tiller that connects through a purposeful hole in the hatch. But I hate even manually steering the boat in a sea. To stand, sit in the stern deck and hand steer for 7 days like were some god-forsaken sailboat, fuhgeddaboudit.
But I also immediately realized I couldn’t afford the Pity Party. I also could let Micah start thinking of the consequences. Now was the time for solutions and solutions only.
When the Going Gets Tough; the Tough Get Going.
We had 200+ feet of hydraulic lines and the failure could be any place. gain, trying to control the sickening feeling in my stomach, If I’ve learned anything on this boat, it’s to always look for the easiest solution first.
So, we’d start at the rudder piston in the lazzerrette. Open the hatch, and at this point, a wonderful sight (on a boat everything is relative), hydraulic fluid oozing from a hole in the hose just above the fitting. This hose, one of two, for the rudder piston.
First thought, let’s try easy, easy solution, rubber tape, with hose clamps around it.
This video is after i had completed this repair and also shows how I stopped the paravane pole from bouncing by using a fender.
It worked. We got our filing funnel for the upper helm station, from which the entire system is filled with AFT, Automatic Transmission Fluid, which conveniently, both the hydraulic steering and the Borg-Warner manual transmission use for lubrication and pressure.
The system took about 2 liters of fluid. But I only had a total of 4 liters. I’m starting to think of chickens coming home to roost.
We get underway just under an hour later at 10:28. Everything is working reasonably well. You can see from the Maretron data how the boat roll is about half, while the pitch increases when dead in the water.
Coastal Explorer, our main navigation program, running on a dedicated solid state 12-volt boat computer had been acting up. For a few days, it had not been displaying AIS information, no matter what little tricks I had used in the past to “wake it up”.
Now, I knew I was still sending, which is actually far more important, as since I have had transmit capability large ships always stay away. Having seen only one ship in 13 days, the display wasn’t critical, but I wanted it working. I like everything working.
So, as a last resort, I decided to reboot everything. Everything off and on again, in order, about a 4-minute process. The log shows at 12:15 all was well.
We had been checking our repaired hose every hour, as well as topping up the fluid as needed. In the last two hours, we had put another liter into the system. The hose was leaking enough, probably a few liters every 12 to 24 hours.
Now this would have been no problem in coastal cruising. We would have just topped it off until port. I didn’t have that option. So about 7 hours after the first fix, I knew I had to find the real fix.
Two Issues I had to solve: Hose & Fluid.
For the hose, I knew I had a number of spare hydraulic hoses in two different places in the engine room. One set stored with all the extra hoses and tubing, the other set stored in the long-term spares containers on either side of the generator.
The fluid was a bigger challenge. I used the Delorme InReach to text my contact Roger, who got in touch with Ski in NC. Ski, a long-time diesel expert, had been really helpful in the past, so I needed to figure out what I could use as substitute ATF.
The answer turned out to be simple and vexing, 4 parts diesel fuel to 1 part engine oil. Yes, the engine oil of which there was not extra. The engine needed every bit of oil. Dauntless was now full of chickens. They had all come home to roost.
OK, first I had to clear out all those chickens. They were all over the place. Before we did anything, I found the spare hose with the correct fitting in seconds. So far so good. I then stopped the boat again and also the engine, as I wanted to check the oil level to make sure of my calculations (on a passage like this, I just fill the engine at its usual use rate, without turning it off).
Oil level was just were I expected, so I decided I could spare one liter of oil. Worse case, we would arrive in Martinique one liter low, but that’s not a big deal for a day.
I got my tools and wrenches. Getting the old fitting off the three-way control valve ended up taking me 15 minutes. I even heated it up with my kitchen torch, but I was very careful not to make my hose problem into something far bigger and unfixable.
Finally, it came out. I put pike gunk on all the new fittings, makes for a better seal and I don’t want any more leaks.
In the video Micah took, you see one time water came across the deck. That’s water that enters thru the scuppers, usually on rolls of more than 15 to 20 degrees. As I said, dead in the water, we bob more than roll, so I was only inundated with water twice in this operation which took about 40 minutes. I wanted Micah to get more pictures of the outside scene not just the top of my head, but he was nervous and I think he felt better not looking out much.
Me on the other hand, I may not look it, but I was pretty ecstatic. I’d fucked up and was able to fix it. We now had 5 liters of substitute ATF which would be more than enough.
The finished product
At 18:00 we were underway again. Immediately, it was apparent that I had way too much air in the system. The Auto-Pilot was acting errantly. It would work for a few minutes, but once the rudder got far enough over, there was not enough pressure to get it back. We would have to turn off the autopilot, then turn the wheel lock to lock three times until pressure built up in the system, check and top up the fluid at the upper helm station and reengaged the autopilot. This went on for a couple hours until I realized I needed to go to sleep to get ready for my 04:00 watch and the boat almost needed hand steering at this point.
That would not do. I did not do all this to have to hand steer for 7 days.
Just when you thought it safe to reenter the water…
Waking up in the now Polish town of Swinoujscie, I had two problems to solve; one more vexing than the other.
But first, let’s talk about Swinoujscie, gateway to the Baltic and until 1945, a German city, aka Swinemünde. With the looks of an old German town, it boasts a certain charm, with a few modern touches. One of those being an almost identical fountain in the main square to that of the Brooklyn Museum, that I had mentioned in a previous post, you know, the one that started out much like this one in Swinoujscie, until the lawyers got involved.
So Swinoujscie, aka Swinemünde, became one of thousands of cities and towns in which whole populations were uprooted and “moved” at the war’s end. Why because Stalin wanted half of Poland and therefore Poland moved west, but never fear, the western powers and the press don’t talk about it, better to tut tut about displaced people in third world countries, than issues they created themselves.
So on that note, let’s get back to our story.
As you recall from our previous episode, Dauntless limped into Swinoujscie, with her tail between her legs, well maybe not a tail, but a thin line that had wrapped around my bow thruster.
But I was determined to at least fix the autopilot.
If you have read our Atlantic Passage, you may remember that the autopilot was one of the most critical pieces on the boat and I had absolutely no spare anything’s for it.
Having Eve and Nigel onboard, did mitigate the loss, but even with three people, hand steering a power boat for long stretches of time is both boring and fatiguing.
Assuming there is no such thing as coincidences when it comes to mechanical problems, in other words, you change, add, replace any part of a particular system, and then that system craps out on you, there is about a 99.9% chance you whatever you did caused the problem.
So, I got out our hydraulic fluid and the handy fitting for the upper helm station and proceeded to run the system and turning the wheel to get the air out.
But little air came out.
At this point, I figured I better get serious, I got the ComNav book.
In the book I discovered a self-diagnostic the ComNav can run. I ran it and got the ominous response “hard right rudder too slow”.
I could not find the bleed screws that were supposed to be on the hydraulic ram. But I did not want to screw with the ram in any case, since it worked fine; it was the autopilot part that was not working.
I ran the self-test again. Same result.
I went down into the engine room to look once again at the ComNav pump. Maybe I could bleed it there. No, no fittings I could see for easy bleeding.
I took a picture of the pump, maybe the writing will give me a clue or I can better see bleeding screw fittings. Nope. Nothing. Nada.
Run the self-test again. No change, but I realize that while I can turn the wheel and the rudder responds as it should, in fact better than before with no groaning while turning it quickly, meaning I had gotten what little air there was out of the system, when I used the auto pilot control head to turn the rudder, it barely moved the rudder to the left (port).
Clearly the auto pilot was the issue, not the hydraulic steering itself.
I looked at the autopilot’s control panel. A lot of green lights. So at least electronically, the autopilot thinks all is OK.
Back to the engine room to look at that pump again. I crawl over to it. I read both sets of labels on the pump. One reads, “to remove the pump without losing fluid, close the thumb valves”
What thumb valves? Those brass “T” handles that I occasionally play with, wondering what they do? The ones that I had decided should be tighter, but not too tight the other day, while I was changing the main engine oil and in a moment of “let’s turn this and see what happens” madness??
I noticed the one on the left side was tight, the other two, one on top and one on the right, were close to being closed, but not tight.
Umm, could these be the valves that are to close when removing the pump? And if so, should not they be OPEN now?
I have Eve use the autopilot control head to move the rudder, it now moves, not quickly, but better than before. I open all three and she tries again. Much better, almost like it’s supposed to.
We run the self-test again. This time, rudder movement is normal.
I had changed the oil on the main engine a few days earlier. So I was working at the back of the engine and it my spare time I was fiddling with those three T valves. Sort of aimlessly fiddling.
So it seems my fiddling closed at least one valve and we had a few days of indifferent autopilot response, culminating in it not working at all.
Now all is fine. No air, valves open and the autopilot has worked better than ever.
When people ask me about crossing the Atlantic and why I like Kadey Krogen yachts, I say that quite simply I have never had a problem with the boat that was not caused my operator error.
We just passed 4000 engine hours. That’s 2300 hours we have put on the boat in the last 28 months.
I’ve put 300+ hours since leaving Waterford two months again.
I have also been breaking down the cost of this trip during the last few days. That will be the subject of a later post.
We love Dauntless because she never lets us down. Now if only I could find a way to control that nut behind the wheel.
And we shall never talk of it again.
Leba, Gdansk and leaving Poland for the lands to the east
It’s been an eventful few days. Now into Day 5 of our 8 day Cruising Association’s 2015 Baltic Rally, having all those sail boats around keeps you on your toes. The winds had been howling since Wednesday. Therefore it was decided to remain in Kröslin until Saturday morning.
But I needed to be in Ueckermünde, the next stop and our last in Germany, Saturday morning, as Ivan my dutiful crew member was returning to Italy that day and Eve and Nigel were scheduled to come that afternoon.
Therefore I decided to leave Friday morning in spite of the winds.
And they were howling, 25 knots, gusting to 38. But at least, my position at the end of the “T” combined with the winds pushing me off the dock, made for a relatively easy launch.
Between Kröslin and Ueckermünde, there are two bridges with set opening times, a few times a day.
We got to the first bridge early, we had 45 minutes to wait. After a few anxious moments, we got a line onto a large steel piling and made a bridle from the bow cleats. Worked well and Dauntless kept her bow to the wind at about a 30° angle. Easy Peasy.
We got to the next bridge, in spite of traveling as slow as I could, we still had an hour to wait. There was a shallow anchoring area for boats waiting for the bridge. Only 7 feet of water, (D takes 4.7 ft), but it was on the windward side, so that meant if the anchor did drag, we would at least be push to deeper water closer to the channel. And the day’s winds meant there was virtually no one on the water except for us and two sailboats, one German and one Danish.
Anchor out; I also have an anchor buoy, which is attached to the anchor with a very thin, but strong Amsteel line. Too strong.
An hour later, we weigh the anchor and get underway down the very narrow channels (much like the ICW in Georgia) towards Ueckermünde.
Arriving in the quaint town, my directions told me to proceed until the bridge, at which point one cannot go further and tie up along the wall close to the bridge. Sounds easy; I was calmer than usual knowing Graham and Fay of the Cruising Association would be on the dock to help tie up.
As I come into the narrow part of the channel, towards the anticipated docking spot, I turn on the power to the bow thruster. I try to minimize bow thruster use, but I will use it and would hate not to use it and hit another boat as a consequence of me being stubborn.
The 25 knot wind is now right on my stern. I know D turns well to the left and backs to the right, so I can usually do a 180° turn to the left within a 50’ circle. With not winds that is.
I pull to the right as much as I can. But leaving room for the stern to kick out to the right and still miss the restaurant boat.
All went well, until about half way through, so now I was perpendicular to the canal, the fish restaurant boat was just a couple feet from the swim platform, the dock wall just feet in front of us and the bridge, that effectively made this a dead end for us, about 50 feet away with the wind blowing us towards it.
Then the light on the bow thruster went off, which told me, it had blown the fuse.
I was actually unfazed about it, I try to minimize my bow thruster use in any case, just for reasons like this, and though the wind was now pushing me closer and closer to the bridge, it was still a boat length away.
Backing and filling like I have practiced many times, the Kadey Krogen with its large rudder swung her stern around quite smartly and we were parallel to the dock 30 seconds later.
Ivan on his last full day on Dauntless got us tied up and I thank the lucky stars for another good end to a stressful day with 25 to 38 knot winds, a narrow dock space and having to wait two hours for two bridges in winds in strong, gusty winds.
Now as for the 300 amp slow blow fuse, this had happened once before a few months after we got Dauntless. Then I did not have a spare fuse and since it powered the Inverter also, I had to resort to extreme measures. Don’t do this at home.
This time I had a spare, so I promptly found it and replaced the blown fuse. I simply assumed it had blown because I had used the bow thruster for too long or continuously.
I had also changed the engine oil while in Kröslin. With Ivan’s help it went easily, too easily.
Ivan left on the train early Saturday morning, it was sad to see him go. A great kid, and a real big help.
Eve and Nigel were there to replace him and I looked forward to leaving Germany on Sunday and entering Poland for the first time in my life and Dauntless’ too for that matter!
With a bit of a hangover from the night’s before bbq. A comment about German bbq’s. They are just that, meat on the grill. By speaking to the cook in German, I even got extra meat. Maybe too much meat. Since there was virtually no salad or other fillers, I ate a lot of meat and washed it down with a lot of white wine.
Meat, wine and great company, one cannot ask for a better life.
So, the next morning Sunday, a bit hungover, but all seemed right with the world.
The fuse was replaced, the oil had been changed, and D was really for new places. But one nagging problem. Leaving Kröslin, having to stay in a number of narrow channels for hours on end, the ComNav autopilot did not seem up to its usual precision. It was over correcting too much and also more noise than usual, usually an indication of air in the hydraulic lines.
So, we had a late morning departure planned for Ueckermünde and the two power boats would bring up the rear of our little gaggle of sail boats and the two ugly ducklings following behind.
The plan was to travel at about 5 knots which was the fastest speed for the slowest sailboat.
I knew it was going to be a slow day, very slow, in any case. While Dauntless is not fast, nor even quick, she does like to travel around 6 to 7 knots. Any slower and she starts to get ornery, below 5 knots, she gets downright rambunctious.
So I figured once I started the engine, I would be in no hurry to leave and would check the hydraulic fluid of the wheel and autopilot. So we did, but discovered no great amount of air in the steering system, in fact virtually none. That made me worry, if there was not air in the system, then why was the AP acting strangely. The day before, even though I had it set on the highest sensitivity to keep us in the very narrow channel, it was not responding fully like normal. As the heading drifted off, it was not correcting quickly. On numerous occasions we had to quickly shut it off and hand steer to get back into the 5 mile long, straight as an arrow channel. But then we would try it again and it would sort of work. And then do the same thing.
So when we get underway from Ueckermünde, while I hoped I had fixed it, I also knew I had not done anything significant and this was more like a wish and a prayer.
Well we catch up to the fleet and now, the one power boat, Tudora, a beautiful maintained older cabin cruiser, came by to tell me I had a line in the water.
Now, I had remembered that a day earlier I had seen the small, thin line that is connected to the anchor buoy had fallen in the water. I had forgotten to get it out and now, I was a bit embarrassed that another boat had to remind me.
As I pulled on the line, it was stuck; on what I didn’t know, but clearly it would not come up.
I pulled harder. No change and it did not budge an inch.
I had a brainstorm. I fastened the anchor buoy to it and let it go. I figured if it was stuck on the prop, it would trail behind the boat. Now, I was sure I had purposely not had enough line for it to reach the prop, but then …
After a few seconds the buoy bobbed the surface; at amidships.
In a flash, it all came together.
The line had been in the water when I made my U turn. I had used the bow thruster for a longer period of time, maybe 20 seconds versus just a few seconds normally.
The line had been sucked into the bow thruster, wrapped itself around the shaft, stopping the shaft from rotating and lo and behold, the fuse blew.
Sure enough, as I pulled on the line, it was clear it was emanating from the front of the boat.
Knowing that, I was not overly concerned, I don’t use it very often and now, my practice backing and filling would reward me, so in spite of my fellow travelers concerns, we’d be fine without it, until haul out at least.
What had made the day so difficult was that the autopilot was acting like never before. In the past I had had problems, significant ones at that, with the compass connected to the autopilot.
I knew how to deal with that. This wasn’t that. That was the problem.
The last few hours, the autopilot went from bad to worse. It was not even following its own commands. This to me was a more serious problem. The end result was that Eve and Nigel had had to hand steer virtually all day. The times we did try to AP, it would work for a bit, but then as the compass heading changed, first a few degrees, then 10, then 20°, nothing would happen. I would lunge for it and turn it off so we could get the boat back on track and in the channel and the gaggle we were supposed to be following.
Pulling into the dock at Swinoujscie, it was good to be tied up, but it had been a long day that ended with two major problems, the worst being an autopilot that all of a sudden wasn’t.
I went to bed that night with two issues, not the best ingredients for a good night’s sleep.
Providence Rhode Island to Castletownbere, Ireland:
3624 nm, 6523 km.;
638 running hours
Average speed 5.7 knots
1013 gallons of fuel consumed
Average = 1.59 gal/hr.
Average 3.6 nm/gal= 1.7 km/liter
Cost of fuel $4000
Cost per nm = $1.1/nm
Stuff that broke: Four Stories and lessons Learned
The Bent Stabilizer Pole Saga
The Mast Cleat Adventure
The Auxiliary Water Pump Sediment Filter Hijinx
Water in Fuel Tanks: Not Pretty; But the Lehman keeps on Going
Other Lessons learned
Food and Provisioning
Route Planning and Execution
Organization and Storage of Spare Parts
Odd and Ends
Equipment: Must-haves, Nice-to-Haves
The crux of a successful ocean passage
I first wrote this “Post Mortem” 8 days after the end of our passage, but never published it because I realized it had morphed into many things. Thus there will soon follow a post titled, “Finding the Right Boat” and “Weather or Not”, where I talk about how to, and how not to, use a weather forecast.
Our successful ocean passage was the culmination of a planning process that started 6 years earlier and four years before we even had a boat. The success was due two major things: finding the right boat and having the right attitude. Having the right boat protects fools and drunks. Having the right attitude means you know what to except, from the best to the worst. If your plan is to call the Coast Guard under the “worst” circumstances, stay home.
During the worst of it, while I was miserable, I was not afraid. I knew the Krogen could handle it and even realized she can handle much worse.
The planning and learning process is key to a successful passage. As I had read virtually every account of small boats crossing oceans and books and stories of freighters throughout the 20th Century, I had a good sense as to what worked and what didn’t. That can’t be overstated because it speaks to our vision and that’s the first step of a successful passage. So this trip really started seven years ago, before I knew of Kadey Krogen, trawlers, or really anything.
But first, our passage is really not that special. People have done the same thing in in smaller boats, in far worse conditions, with many more handicaps. Almost everything I have learned and talk about, I first read someplace else, by someone with far more experience than I will ever have. Just remember that Columbus did the round trip more than 500 years ago, with three boats that were only 10’ to 17’ longer than Dauntless.
If you’re reading this, you probably read the details of the trip as it happened, or soon thereafter. So for this entry, I’m going to talk about what we learned in hindsight for the next ocean passage.
Stuff that broke: Three Stories and Lessons Learned
The Bent Stabilizer Pole Saga:
An operator-induced failure.
Only a day after I left Miami with the new paravanes, while I adjusted the fore stays, I had also adjusted the up-down stays, Amsteel Blue 3/8”, which take the vertical loads of the paravane fish. I had not fully locked them tight on the horn of the cleat upon completion. I probably thought I would re-adjust them once more and then simply forgot. So, while they were wrapped in a figure 8 three times on the cleat on the mast, I had not “locked” it on the horn. Amsteel Blue is slippery enough that if not locked securely with at least 3 or 4 half hitches, they will get loose.
And that’s what happened. The Figure 8 got loose, thus letting the pole swing from its position of 45° to almost straight down, 170°. The rub rail, stopping the pole from facing straight down. This put a kink in the pole where it bent around the rub rail. Not a bad bend, but just enough to significantly weaken the pole. In trying to get the pole back to its original position, I took out the retaining bolt that would keep the pole in its cup that is attached to the gunnel. But I still couldn’t get the pole out, so I eventually got it back to position, but now, the retaining bolt was not in place. I knew it wasn’t needed because all the force on the pole is into the cup, not outward, but months later, it did contribute, if not cause the pole to subsequently bend into an “L” shape.
So on the last day of the trip during one big roll within 60 miles of Ireland, the same windward pole went vertical. However, the kink in the pole, even though very slight, allowed the paravane bird to put a force on the pole that rotated the pole 90° with the absence of the retaining bolt, so that the kink now faced aft. As soon as that happened, the force the bird put on the pole bent the pole 90°, and of course, now this allowed the pole to come out of the cup, making its retrieval even harder.
An hour later, after sitting dead in the water for that time, I had managed to get the pole up on deck. In my adrenaline rush, I never noticed how well the boat handled being left on its own, wallowing in the seas with its beam to the seas, which were running 8 to 15 feet at that time. In hindsight, we were bobbing in the ocean, with less roll than when underway.
Replace bent stuff and all hardware before leaving on an ocean passage.
John Duffy, who had rigged the paravane system, told me to replace it, as the bend would significantly weaken it. I also probably did not mention that I had taken the retaining bolt out and had not replaced it, as the pole had rotated slightly, not allowing the bolt to be re-inserted.
The pole was replaced in Castletwonbere for 300 Euros. All the hardware is back in place.
The Mast Cleat Adventure:
A day out of Nova Scotia, as we sat in the Pilot House enjoying the world go by our living room window, we heard a noise that sounded like a gun shot. Knowing that no one on board was packin,’ I looked at the mast and saw immediately that the cleat holding the up-down line was now horizontal instead of vertical.
We chopped power to relieve the strain and I ran up to the fly bridge, though taking the time to put on my PFD (Personal Flotation Device, a life preserver). One of the two 3/8” bolts attaching the cleat to the mast had broken. Not wanting to spend a lot of time to try to re-attach the cleat, I tied the up-down line around the mast in a number of clove hitches and then tied it off to the other mast cleat. This way, much of the force on the line, instead of being transmitted to the cleat, would now be manifested in trying to squeeze the mast.
This new system worked so well that while in Horta, I redid both up-down lines, so that they came to a three clove hitches around the mast, before being tied off on the cleat, with a final half hitch on the horn of the cleat for each line.
John Duffy in Miami designed and installed a great paravane stabilization system, which is not only relatively light-weight, but also easily adjustable and cost-effective.
While in Ireland, I also added one more feature: I had had another winch installed in Florida to assist in retrieving the paravanes. In Ireland, I also replaced the lines on the winch with 3/16” Amsteel Blue lines that I had gotten, 300 feet at a really bargain price from Parks, of Hopkins- Carter in Miami. By using this new, stronger line, it added an extra margin of safety, because it is strong enough to hold the paravanes while underway should I have a failure of the up-down line as described above. It would also allow me to retrieve the paravanes, even if the boat is not at a full standstill. This would be fast and useful, in case of emergency.
This was the first and last time I put on the PFD on this passage.
The Auxiliary Water Pump Sediment Filter Highjinx
Another operator-induced problem.
After the failure, a few days from the Azores, the pressure switch failed. After screwing with the pump for a while, I just bypassed the pressure switch and the pump went back to work. A day later the entire pump gave up the ghost. I discovered by reading the instruction manual that I had installed the pump upside down, with the electrical parts under the pump itself. Evidently, you should not do that because if the pump has minor leaks, it gets into the electronics right away.
It behooves one to read installation instructions before the fact, not after.
Water in Fuel Tanks: Not Pretty; But the Lehman keeps on Going
I have finally deduced that the water, around 5 gallons, got into the starboard fuel tank during the last 36 hours of the trip thru the fuel vent line. How do I know this? After I replaced the O-rings of the fuel caps, while the old rings were worn, there is no way a significant amount of water could have entered that way. In addition, the water was only in the starboard, lee side tank.
Up until this time, Dauntless had been in seas almost as rough, though not for this extended length of time. But even if only for 8 hours, no water had ever entered the tank before in our previous 2000! hours of cruising.
What was different this time?
A much longer time of seas on the beam, three and a half full days, with 54 out of 72 hours, being in large 15+ foot waves.
The last 12 hours, with the failure of the windward paravane pole, the boat remained heeled over to port for a longer period of time, as the recovery was slower.
While all the above was going on, for reasons that were just chance, I had been running on the port (windward) tank, which was now near empty, thus for the last 2 days of the passage, we were feeding off the port (lee) side tank.
Thus, just when the port tank was being used, the boat was heeling more to port, thus keeping the fuel vent which is at deck level under water for a significant portion of time.
The lee side tank sucked in the water thru the fuel vent. Had I been using the other tank, in all likelihood, this would not have occurred.
I will move the fuel vent hose, so that this can never happen again.
In addition, I will make it a practice to use the windward tank under such conditions. I could have easily transferred fuel to the starboard tank while underway. It was just chance that I had filled the starboard tank in Horta and I therefore used that fuel first, since I knew my fuel in the port tank was good.
Other Lessons Learned
Food and Provisioning:
Maybe from reading too many books written by frugal sailors, my provisioning could have been better. I had too many things I don’t eat, like rice and beans, and not enough of what I do eat. I still have enough calories on Dauntless to feed a family in Africa for 2 years. No, I do not really know what I was thinking.
We should have had a bit more lettuce. Romaine lettuce in those packages of three lasts for a few weeks in fridge.
Eggs. Julie likes eggs. I forgot she really likes eggs.
Mayonnaise, to make egg salad with all those eggs. I like egg salad.
Route Planning and Execution:
Good job with planning. Very poor execution.
Not having the paravane stabilizers for the first 3,000 miles of cruising with Dauntless made me very sensitive to the direction of winds and waves. The Krogen handles following seas exceedingly well. Thus I carried that mentality with me on this passage. I made too much of an effort to keep the seas behind us and off the beam, thus our northeasterly course leaving Cape Cod and our southeasterly course leaving Nova Scotia.
In hindsight, it was an overreaction in both cases. That continued with my solo voyage from Horta, with the zigzag of day three, first NW, then SE then after 24 hours of stupidness, northward.
In the future, I will let the paravanes do their job and keep a course more directly (great circle route) to our destination. In fact, while I did not record the data, my feeling now is that the rolling of Dauntless is about the same with the paravanes, whether the sea is following or on the beam. Without the paravanes, there is a night and day difference.
Organization and Storage of Spare Parts:
I’m grateful that I didn’t need to use any spare parts. But the haste in which we left, meant we obtained a lot of stuff at the last minute. It was put away, with only a general idea of what was where. Had I needed anything, I would have found it eventually, maybe even by the time, the westerly winds pushed us all the way to Europe, a month or two later. At least I would not have starved.
This winter has been spent re-packing virtually all parts and tools. In addition I have a written inventory, with location, storage bin, model numbers etc. Before the next passage, it will even be computerized.
How did I decide what spare parts to take or not?
This turns out to be relatively easy. I picked those parts I could both afford and could replace myself. So, we had an extra starter, even though i had no intention to ever turn off the engine. We had an extra alternator. i did not have a spare injector pump, too expensive. Except for the fuel injector pump, I had all the other external engine stuff: injector tubes, hoses, belts, lift pump, etc. We had extra hoses, belts, etc for every critical component. Therefore, we had nothing extra for the generator, since I don’t use it underway. We had no internal engine parts, pistons, etc, becuase while I could probably replace it while docked, it was not something I could see myself replacing underway. But also, that is not a typical failure point of the engine. Internal stuff usually shows signs of wear for a long time before failure.
Odds and ends:
If I have not talked about it above, we ain’t changing it.
That means stuff like the DeLorme InReach will not be changed. We like the limitations that system imposes. I don’t need to call mom when the shit hits the fan.
Probably will add some redundancy to the ComNav Autopilot. Unlike a sail boat, we cannot tie the wheel and expect to go in any semblance of a straight line; I tried.
One of my issues has always been that in a seaway, there can be no noise of moving objects in the boat. Moving things can cause damage in and of themselves, and must be controlled. So, even at 40° of roll, every few minutes, during the worst of it, I heard no crashing or banging of stuff. Everything must be secure.
Need more recorded movies and Korean Dramas. They really help to pass the time. Yes, one can tire of just reading. When I was alone, I got really bored.
On the other hand, I did back in to computer card games. Bridge in particular, yes, I am of a generation that learned bridge.
I hope to never do another 10 day passage alone again. But I will if I have to.
Having said that, the next passage next year, will be part of a much longer voyage and we will be pretty much under way for 18 months. With Julie working, I will need a lot more help during the many segments the trip will entail. I will put it out there on Trawler Forum seeking those who want to be a part of the experience and maybe even share some expenses and I’m sure some shenanigans.
Nice to have
Four 110W Solar Panels and two Controllers
Lexan Storm Windows
C-Map North Atlantic and Western Europe Charts
Boat computer and router
Digital Yacht AIS Transceiver
Katadyn 160 Water maker
Vitrifrigo Freezer and Refrigerator
Delorme InReach text only sat phone
Splendid Vented Washer/Dryer Combo
Spare parts for the Ford Lehman SP135 Engine
Other Spare parts
Revere Off Shore Commander 4 person Life raft
Here are a few more pictures and videos. The file name incorporates the date time the file was recorded, thus 20140827_1927 means it was recorded 27 Aug 2014 at 19:27 (7:27 p.m.) hours.