Has a catchy ring to it, doesn’t it? If there are no more mines left, I wonder why they annotate it on the chart. Maybe just in case?
In any case we decide to go right through; what’s the worst that could happen?
It seems the Russians mined large swaths of the Baltic and what wasn’t mined was closely watched; well, as closely watched as can be with conscripted soldiers living on vodka and potatoes.
But all good things must come to an end and with the fall of the Soviet Union, the Baltic Republics were allowed to have their own destiny again and the rest of us can now enjoy that benefit.
Sadly, we did not go to Lithuania as it required a large detour around a current mine field. Well, it isn’t listed on the charts as a mine field, but then I doubt the hundreds of mine fields presently annotated were so listed prior to the breakup of the Soviet Union.
Oh yes, after the Russians moved Poland west by a few hundred kilometers, they took a chunk for themselves, Königsberg, threw all the Germans out, the lucky ones that is, and renamed it Kaliningrad, because the name Stalingrad was already taken.
So, during the last two weeks, we have been exploring country never before visited by me at least. First Poland and now Latvia, Letland in Dutch, Land of the Lets.
Poland and now Latvia have been a wonderful experience, the people, the food, and the warmth showed to us by virtually everyone. Dauntless probably had her picture taken a thousand times in Gdansk. I wish she looked better, Dauntless I’m referring to, not Gdansk, but we’ve already travelled more than 2,000 miles since leaving Ireland, so who has the energy to wash and wax?
I did regret not speaking Polish. Had we stayed another week, we would have probably gone viral. People would ask how long we are staying docked against the wall in downtown Gdansk, because they wanted to bring the family for a photo session the next time.
Wonderful people who also make the most wondrous smoked meats and fishes.
Compared to Western Europe, the prices is Poland, not in the Euro zone and still using the Zloty, were good, maybe 30% cheaper than in Germany.
Latvia on the other hand is in the Euro zone and prices are still amazingly low. So low in fact, that we felt compelled to find out why.
In talking with the marina “bosman,” in Liepaja, he explained that Latvia prepared for the change to the Euro in a very methodical manner. They used strict conversion tables, unlike in most places, like Italy, which saw a doubling of many prices within the first year of conversion, but no doubling of wages, pensions and salaries.
We ended up spending only two nights. Having seen the outdoor and indoor market in the small city of Liepaja, the market in the capital, Riga, was literally 10 times the size. We have never seen so many berries, blue, black, red, etc. in my life. Clearly, people would buy large quantiles to preserve for the coming winter.
The harbor itself was a mix of old and new, with modern bridges, next to Soviet style cranes and trains. I’ll try to upload some pictures.
Today, our adventure in Estonia begins. We had a windy passage yesterday and it looks like the wind will continue for the foreseeable future, maybe forever.
Dauntless is doing well, though I was a bit shocked last night as I gazed at all the scrapes, scratches and gouges I’ve put on her hull in the last two months.
I’ve also used far more fuel than anticipated, 50% more. The actual fuel consumption has been good, the problem is the distances I had calculated. It’s been 60 days since leaving Ireland. What I had not anticipated was that so many harbors and docking places would take a significant amount of time, 30 minutes to an hour to get in and then the same going out.
Therefore, 25 to 30 stops times 2 extra hours for each, is 60 additional hours of fuel consumption, about 90 gallons, at 1.4 gal.hr, which is our average so far in 415 hours so far.
Coming up, Estonia, Estland in Dutch, land in the east.
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.