What I’m Really Afraid Of?

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

20180126 Win
dyty Depiction of Surface Winds

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

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

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

20180126 NWS P_e_sfc_color

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

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

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

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

That’s a no-go.

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

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

I needed a plan B.  The Near Coastal Plan.

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

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

Then came plan C, the Ocean Plan.

But first we talk to talk about hurricanes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dauntless Crosses the North Sea 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now, people are another matter.

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Keys:

 

Planning – It Ain’t for the Faint Hearted

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.

Looking north from my apartment in HCMC, Vietnam

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:

  • The Goal
    • 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.

  • Background information
    • 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.

Going out into the storm

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.

 

As One Chapter Ends Another Begins

Asia, via the North Pacific is still a goal.

Last Days in the Atlantic for a Bit

But now that transiting the Panama Canal, a set structure in time and space, has been done, I have time to take a breath.

I want to enjoy the Pacific Northwest, British Columbia and Southeast Alaska.  These areas provide the spectacular scenery of Norway with wildlife that has been long gone from Europe.

The western coasts of Central and North America pose a formidable challenge for little boats: long stretches of coastlines with inaccessible harbors when you most need them and predominantly head winds and seas.

If I’ve learned anything in the last few years, this Krogen does not like head seas.  They make for a miserable ride that takes twice the time and fuel.

Dauntless Rests In Fish Hook Marina, Golfito

So, the first step is understanding that with any northerly component to the winds, one must stay put.

We are also constrained by a relatively short cruising period, 5 months, maybe 6 at best.  That’s 150 to 180 days.  Climo says that the winds are northerly 66 to 75% of the time. That means of those 150 days, maybe only 45 are useable.

In those 45 days, I can reasonably assume that gets me about 2100 nm or someplace in Northern Mexico from Golfito.

The following summer, 2018, I’d have 2400 nm or about 49 days to get to the Pacific Northwest.

Lastly, in the third year, 2019, that time will be spent in British Columbia and Southeast Alaska.

So, I now have a more realistic time table.

Three seasons of cruising, also means three seasons of idleness.  And we all know that idle hands are the devil’s workshop. So, while Dauntless is safely tucked in, I must keep busy at an affordable pace.

The west coast is considerably more expensive than Northern Europe, thus I find myself having to be open to new money saving strategies for the winter in particular.

Since re-crossing the Atlantic, I have been slow in updating my digital log.  Maybe because the data simply does not change very much:

  • In 2016-17, Dauntless fuel consumption remains constant at 1.45 gallons per hour or just above 4 nm/gallons. This number is only 1/10th of a gallon different from 2015.
  • My costs, total expenses for Dauntless and for myself have averaged just less than $100 per day for everything. This is also slightly less than 2015.  While marinas in southern Europe were much more expensive than northern Europe, the large number of passage and anchoring days equalized that cost.  Also, a passage day, 24 hours x 1.5 gallons = 35 gallons per day at $2.5 = $90/day.  So, using fuel for 24 hours pretty much equals the cost of a marina and eating and drinking.

The long-range plan, a circumnavigation in a 30-year Kadey Krogen, is still the plan.  I’m already thinking of where I am crossing my track and what comes after that.  Northern Europe, Sweden and the Baltic still have an attraction that is hard to beat, but who knows.

I’m always thinking of the future; reflecting on the past.  While that doesn’t leave much time to appreciate the here and now, it’s who I am.  I get far more enjoyment having the Plan come together, then just winging it.  I can read a hundred self-help books about living in the moment.  What they all have in common, is that they are written by people who are adept at living in the moment and figured out how to monetize that.

 

So, this finds me taking a break from D right now.  We’ve been together almost 24/7 since November.  My nephew Micah went home to enter Law School, so I decided to take a little break and do a little reconnoiter for this coming winter.

A Quickie in New York

I wish!

Caffebene in Ft. Lee, a really nice place to spend time
Caffebene in Ft. Lee, a really nice place to spend time
Each morning I watch the feeding frenzy of Blue Jays, Cardinals, squirrels and chipmunks.
Each morning I watch the feeding frenzy of Blue Jays, Cardinals, squirrels and chipmunks.

But it was a quick trip, 5-days, to New York to tie up some loose ends.

Some lines always need a good whipping.

I also got to spend some time with some good friends, both new and old.

And best of all, I ate Korean food 3x, Japanese 2x, pizza 2x and lastly French once; best of all, I ate so well and gained no weight.  Lekker.

When I get back to Dauntless tomorrow, I’ll be doing the preparing to head south to France, Spain and Portugal for the next 5 months.

Such a short trip may seem pointless, but I leave NY today feeling much better than on arrival.  Being able to articulate my goals and reflecting on them with friends makes a big difference.

During June, having my friends Brian, Dan and Robin on Dauntless, really helped me put a focus on my goals for the coming years.  It is great to have people around as enthusiastic as I.

Then, coming to NYC, talking with friends, facilitated the final touches on the plan.  As articulated in my last post, by adding 10 months in S.E. Alaska, everything finally feels like it’s coming together.

Not having to spend all of 2017 rushing someplace will allow me to pause and smell the roses.

Having Dauntless staying put for 6 to 8 months, allows me to visit friends in Europe and probably take a trip to reconnoiter Asia.

I feel unburdened and that’s a good feeling.

So now I can concentrate on the important stuff:  What’s with these cats.  Here we have a billion-dollar company and they must Photoshop the cover for all their kitty liter bags.

Clearly Photshopped
Clearly Photoshopped

Do these people even have cats?  One would think someone in this company would think they should show some indication that they understand cats.

Must be dog people.

So, I’ll end on this poster. It fit my two cats perfectly at least in their first year as kittens.

Bad Kitties
Bad Kitties

A link to the site for T-shirt Bad Kitties T-Shirt

A Cardinal coming for breakfast
A Cardinal coming for breakfast

A Man with a Plan

 

The Atlantic Trade Winds
The Atlantic Trade Winds (click on the links below to see the winds move. Click on “Earth” in the lower left corner [of the link, not my picture] to change parameters)
Well any number of plans; the current one, 15 months to Japan, now in the 29th day since its start date.

But like all plans, a plan is good only until first contact with the enemy.  For Dauntless it’s headwinds, or better said, for Richard it’s the hobby horse ride headwinds produce on Dauntless.  The fact that we are consuming half of our fuel, just to go up and down waves, adds to the sick feeling the ride produces.

Yep, it’s a lose, lose, lose situation for all: the timeline, my wallet and my health.

Dauntless in the meantime just motors along, oblivious to my misery.

For my long range planning, other than Jimmy Cornell’s books and pilot charts, on a daily basis I pretty much only look at this: link to current Atlantic map

This shows the current surface winds over the Atlantic.  You can see that draw a line from Gibraltar to the Canaries to Barbados and the trade winds are running strong as they have all winter.  So no problems there.

wp-1466993359075.jpg
The Eastern Pacific showing strong northerly winds from British Columbia to Southern California. Ugh!

(side note, there is simply no point in looking at anything more specific for any period more than two weeks away.  Even when I was waiting to cross the North Sea from Norway to Scotland, a three-day trip, I read the marine forecast, but really only looked at this site to figure out when I would have at least a two-day window, which is what I got)

 Now, this is the problem, this is the Eastern Pacific, link to current western Pacific map

I’ve been looking at this about once a day since fall.  Only in the past month have the northerly winds let up south of Mexico and Central America.

My current 15-month plan would require me to be able to travel north from the Panama Canal to Kodiak Alaska in 170 days or about 35 miles per day.  Doable with favorable winds, but I’ve been watching and the winds are not favorable, not at all.  At this point, at best, I think a quarter of the days would be “good” cruising days and that may be too generous.

The other problem with this current plan is that I would probably be able to rush north out of Central America, but then get stuck in Mexico and the coast of the western U.S. for months on end.  Thus passing by places I would like to spend time only to be stuck in places I don’t.

So, Plan B.

I will add a year to the Cruise Plan, wintering in Southeast Alaska.

Many boaters do it, I know it somewhat, but only from the perspective of the Alaska Marine Highway (Ferry) system.

Thus I can spend more time in Central America at the height of the winter when the northerlies are strongest and I can spend 10 months in British Columbia and Southeast Alaska, some of the prettiest cruising areas in the world, full of fjords, whales, birds and bears!

The weather is not that bad and having visited Juneau and Sitka many times back in the 90’s, it will be nice to go back on my own bottom.