Yesterday, I completed two things on the nice to do list: replacement of the Raritan water heater anode and replacement of a terminal block for my 120-volt neutral circuits in the engine room distribution panel.
After two months, I’ve finally hit my stride and actually feel confident in what I am doing. That manifested itself in those two completions yesterday. Instead of taking a couple of days, they took a couple of hours and I didn’t have to redo anything.
This got me to thinking about a job interview I had just the other day. I found myself talking about the importance of not overwhelming students, especially students who may be far being in whatever work that needs to be done.
I mentioned in the interview that even when a student was far behind, let’s say they need to complete 20 projects or work assignments by years’ end. It’s already February and they have nothing done, with only a few months to go. It’s easy for a teacher to just be upfront about it, if you don’t get these done; you’ll fail.
I’ve seen teachers do that countless times. But it won’t accomplish the stated goal of getting that student to be successful, (though it does make the class smaller). If a student sees a mountain of work to do, they never get started, discouraged, not seeing how they can get it all done, they give up before they even start.
That’s me, now and then.
So, two months ago, when I made my list of the top half dozen things to get done before departure, I knew the last was far bigger, but I couldn’t overwhelm myself. I didn’t want to paralyze myself with indecision. Now, I know many of the readers here are successful boaters because they just see what needs to be done and get to doing it.
In the same way half of all students are impervious to the adults in their lives who get in their way, be it parents, teachers, or anyone else. They’re going to learn and be successful no matter what. It’s not by chance that the historic graduation rate in the last 50 years continues to be about 50 to 60%.
I’m not in the group. I needed a teacher to be able to at least steer me in the right direction or a teacher who could tell I was bored to death and challenge me in ways the curriculum didn’t. The same way a good teacher will give make-up work to a student in a piecemeal fashion. Do this for me tonight and I’ll give you something else tomorrow. At the same time scaffolding the rigor of the work. So, in a short time, they are whipping out stuff they never thought they could do just weeks ago.
Two months ago, starting with a list of 6 items, I knew I’d do more. I’ve done three times that amount so far. While moving the instruments on the mast, I knew to check the paravane fittings. The clevis pins needed to be checked and I wanted new cotter pins. I also noticed too much wear on the main fitting to the mast, so I needed to add some washers and new pins.
As I did more and more, sometimes taking a week to complete one checklist item, but I also did another half dozen items, that were not on the checklist. I became more confident.
Confidence is the other side of the equation. When I finally completed the LED project, which involved 4 wires, with four conductors each (a positive, and 3 separate grounds that control the three colors, blue, red and green), I was very pleased to see it all worked as anticipated. I had three switches to turn each respective set on or off, plus three additional switches to control the colors, since I figured I didn’t need any complicated controller.
That it all worked, gave me the confidence to tackle the 120v terminal bar, that seemed straight forward, but you never know. When that went well, without me having to redo stuff, I tackled the water heater anode and that went even quicker.
The order I tackled these projects mattered. I have read education studies that when formulating a test, the order of the questions can make a significant difference. The same questions in a different order can make a significant difference in student performance. Teachers have known this forever. If you put the hardest questions first, it discourages students. Why a teacher would do that is a story I will save for the book I’m thinking about writing. But it also goes to our overall 60% graduation rate.
When I took the test for my NMC Master’s license, the lights and signals test was the hardest for me. It was hard enough to remember red over green. Was that fishing or trawling or neither? But the day shapes were even harder for me, since I was not using them myself.
For a week I took practice tests. The passing requirement for that portion of the test was the highest at 93+%; meaning out of 33 questions, you could only get 2 wrong.
During my practice tests, I got anywhere from 65 to 80% correct. Well off the mark.
Test day came up and we took the other three portions of the test first that were easy for me. Then the dreaded lights and signals. The first 5 or 6 questions were “easy” in that I was sure of the answers. By the end of those 33 questions, I was positive that I missed only one!
Well, I missed two, but that was still enough to pass. I was elated, but I also recognized that the question order made a significant difference for me that day. Because I felt confident in those first half dozen questions, I didn’t stress and overthink the rest.
In the same vein, when I started working on the boat projects, I knew the order made a difference.
Since I whizzed through those two things yesterday, I decided today to tackle the Purisan project. Two months ago, I’d not even mentioned it because …
But now, it’s almost done, but that’s for tomorrow’s story.
In one of my recent posts I talked about my use of Windy.com and how much I like the GUI they have developed. It’s an easy way to look at the two-main worldwide weather forecasting numerical models, the GFS and the ECMWF.
Almost a year ago today, I wrote the post “The Atlantic is a Harsh Mistress”. This was my first reaction to the reality of what we experienced versus the anticipation of what I expected.
I had read so many accounts of boats crossing oceans. Not having any experience, myself I was not sensitive to the subtle differences of the trade wind Pacific versus the Atlantic.
Hey, it’s the trade winds, characterized by strong steady winds and large, 15 to 30-foot-long period waves.
Easy Peasey, as Micah was fond of saying.
I’d just read an account of Kadey Krogen 42 doing the much longer passage from the California to the South Pacific and Australia. Their only problem was boredom and they ran out of Coca Cola. I wouldn’t have those issues. Having lived in Europe on and off for years, I’d long ago learned it best to wean myself off American products. And boredom, not when I had countless hours of Korean Dramas and a crew mate in Micah, who also liked them as much as I.
I still vividly remember leaving Heiro, the western most island in the Canaries to small seas and steady winds. After the first hour, I found myself thinking this could be an easy three weeks. An hour later, as the seas and winds increased, I deployed one paravane stabilizer, another hour later, I deployed the second. We stayed in that configuration for the next three weeks.
It was anything but easy. The passage was characterized by three wave sets (swells).
Swell are longer period waves that develop when the wind blows over the ocean for long period of time. Thus, winds and storms, hundreds or thousands of miles away cause swell.
The primary wave set or swell was from the east, the second from the northeast and the third from the southeast. The third had the longest period (time between waves) of ?15+ seconds. The other two, were on the order of 9 to 12 seconds.
On top of this all, were the wind driven waves. These waves are created by the wind at that location and if the wind stops the waves stop also. These waves had a period of about 7 seconds.
The result of all this was that we had 12 to 15-foot waves from the east, right behind us. My Kadey Krogen loves following seas, but what made it so difficult was the other two swells with different periods hat produced a corkscrew movement. Then every 8 minutes or so, the NE and SE wave troughs would meet under the stern of Dauntless and we would do this wild corkscrew movement with first the bow pointing to heaven and then seconds later, twisting down.
It was a wonderful corkscrew if I was on a roller coaster.
Here are some videos of the experience:
I love my boat so much.
So that was my introduction to multiple swells. Oh, I had noticed it before in the north Atlantic, but I attributed to “rogue” waves and it was not so systematic as in the trade winds.
The result was best described by some sailors I met in Martinique who had just done the same crossing. They called it the bathtub, because the water was so disorganized.
On the far right, you can see the vertical column where “waves, swell, swell2 and swell3” can be chosen.
Looking at this data today, mid-March, it’s also apparent why the best time to cross this part of the Atlantic is in early winter, as the when we crossed in December, at least all the winds and waves had an easterly component. Now, you can see that there is a swell from the northwest, that must be very unpleasant.
Yesterday as I was watching my girlfriend Trinh prepare the food at her grandmother’s grave, I realized how much my perspective has changed since crossing the Atlantic.
I accept a level of uncertainly, magnitudes above, what I would have been comfortable with even 10 years ago.
The cemetery is about 20 minutes from Trinh’s mother’s house, where we are staying these days of the Tet holiday. Trinh and her mother had been cooking all morning. Finally, they meticulously packed a large bad hat would sit between my legs in front of me on the motorbike.
We set off. I had been to the gravesite two days previously, so I thought I knew what was going to happen. Upon arrival, I see the box of cookies we had left the previous visit. Obviously, her grandmother hadn’t eaten any. Yes, I was being flippant.
Incense was still burning; Trinh mentioned that her step-brother, must have just been here. I never knew she had a step brother, but what the hell, I’ve only known her for little more than a year!
Trinh proceeded to unpack the bag, which contained not only food, but plates, utensils, clothes and even money. When you’re dead who knows when you may need extra cash.
In spite of my flippancy, I really like, respect the Asian reverence for the dead and elderly. It was one of the differences (in my mind) between western and Asian cultures and a reason I became so attracted to first Korean and now Vietnamese culture.
After 15 minutes, Trinh was putting the final touches on the dinner. I watched as she meticulously spooned a little fish sauce seasoning on the two main plates, a tuna steak and a plate of sautéed squid. Looked so good, I thought it a shame to waste. Knowing the Vietnamese don’t waste anything, I was surprised.
She poured little glasses of wine and water, giving the old water to the potted plants, and refilling the glasses with fresh water.
When everything was done, she lit the incense and did her little prayer ritual.
Then, just as I was thinking we were ready to leave, she started to undo all the work of the last 15 minutes by putting all the food back in the containers it had come it. Nothing wasted, even the little sauce, went back into its’ little bag.
(two short videos of her getting it ready, then putting it back)
Surprised? Not really, more like bemused. After my first Atlantic crossing, I learned to not be surprised at anything. I also learned to not complain about anything. When I dared complain about the 12-foot waves, they became 18 feet.
Mother Nature taught me as only she can: Be grateful for what you have, because it can always be worse.
Oh, I can still be as miserable as I want or as the situation dictates, I just can’t express how bad it is. Can’t even think it, for who knows who is reading your thoughts nowadays.
Those three storms, each a day apart, in the North Atlantic in the last week of August 2014, re-forged my brain.
New Yorkers grow up in a culture of excellence. That’s because we complain about anything that isn’t top notch, price notwithstanding. As teacher, then principal, I took that attitude with me. I did what was best for the students and built the teachers into a successful team. I complained to the powers to be about policies and procedures that were not conducive to student learning. I was listened to. While we had a reform minded Chancellor, that was very effective; but as soon as that Chancellor left, the reactionaries returned and I was out within 6 months. My only crime was my naivety that results (graduation rate from 40% to 70% in 4 years) would speak for themselves.
Dauntless was the crucible that helped me through that abrupt change in life.
Three years later, on the North Atlantic, heading to Ireland, this was the forge. I would become accepting of what is or else. Now, this doesn’t mean I accept just anything. More than ever it simply means that if I’m not happy with a place or situation, I need to not be there or accept that I can’t change it.
Thirty minutes after arrival at her grandmother’s grave, now, really ready to leave, I still had to ask, with a little smile on my face, but what happens if she is still hungry? Trinh answered deadpan, “she ate”.
That was that. I knew what we were having for dinner and it was quite tasty, though the tuna was a bit drier than normal!
The North Atlantic taught me not to complain; to accept. The North Atlantic opened me to the possibility to be in an Asian culture in which even when I think I understand, I don’t.
I watch, observe, but don’t judge. I assume I don’t understand the full situation at any given time. I keep my questions simple, where do you want me, when?
I never ask why. Like waves on the ocean, it is, what it is, could be better, could be worse. If you don’t like it, go somewhere else, but don’t try to change it.
As spring gets closer and closer, I’m watching the weather daily. I know what I want, but the light wind conditions may only last a couple of days, while I need a week plus.
In the last weeks, the more I have thought of this, the more I am thinking of getting north as best I can, probably well offshore.
Offshore solves a number of issues for me:
I like the open ocean
far less fishing activities, like boats and nets
more sea room, if I need to run before the storm (this is always a consideation in my planning)
getting big chunks of distance done in a short time, 3 days = 500 nm
did I say I like the ocean
I like the GUI and data presentation of Windyty.com, so all the maps I show are from them and when I do look at weather, I look at them before anything else. This is what a great case looks like. How long it will last? Not long enough, but a few days, then with a low pressure system developing further west, would give me favorable winds for the second of two 3-day periods (the steaming distance between Huatulco and Cabo San Lucas is 900 nm or 6 days.
This case though is far more typical, with NW winds >15 knots, even more so in the summer than now.
As I flit from place to place, I wonder what drives me. After all, crossing oceans, flying from continent to continent, costs time and money.
“Is it worth it?” I’ve asked myself that question many times, not only since Dauntless entered my life but well before it.
In the summer of 1970, I worked driving a cab in New York. Coming home day after day covered in sweat, dust and grime, in the days before air conditioning. But at the end of that long, hot, humid and dirty summer, having survived not only the weather and the traffic, but the escalating crime in the City, I took my money and bought my first car.
Of course, it was a car my father recommended. He was a master a virtually anything he was interested in doing and cars were one of his interests, so there was no thought of getting anything but what he pointed out.
Good move. My first car was ugly, like a box and battleship grey. And only a week after getting it, I packed it up and stated the long, 3.000-mile, trip back to the University of Washington in Seattle, with nary a thought. My attitude has always been If other’s have done it, so can I. Even then, the pattern of not stopping until late into the evening, running on fumes or taking “short cuts” was apparent.
I never thought I was particularly brave, in fact, I knew I was pretty shy and afraid of the dark.
But that didn’t matter because there was always something new to see over the next hill or around the next curve.
The 21 days on the westward crossing last December were very similar, yet so different.
I looked forward to the day, the sunrise. What clouds would we have today? Rain or showers? The sky always had something new; something I hadn’t seen before. In my first Atlantic Passage in 2014, I had tried to avoid developing rain showers or thunderstorms. But in a boat going 6 knots, that is a futile gesture. Even more so, this last trip, I looked forward to the cleansing rain. I also didn’t want to upset the boat. She gets in a rhythm, let here stay in it without any major course changes.
The only thing I never liked was blue sky. My two years living in southern California were the worst, blue skies every day. I almost died of monotony. Even now, on the boat, I see a building storm on the horizon and I can’t look away. I’m fixated, as if watching a beautiful woman get dressed, what will the final look be? But storms are even more interesting than people, because their lifetimes can be minutes or hours.
These days, visiting my friends in Italy and Holland, the first time seeing them since my Atlantic Passage last Christmas, I’ve been able to recount the story numerous times.
Many say how brave I am. But I know better; I’m not brave at all, I’m simply curious.
It did get me to think about how I provisioned the boat the first time in 2014 and then, subsequently for the westbound trip, 11 months ago.
It’s hard to imagine that one year ago, Dauntless was in Rabat, Morocco and I took a quick 10 days first ever trip to Japan. But that’s yet another story.
What food did we put on the boat for our New England to Ireland passage in 2014?
There are a number of factors that had to be taken in account and planned accordingly:
Dauntless, with its 700-gallon fuel tanks, 300-gallon water tanks and a Katadyn water maker, capable of making 160 gallons of water a day (24 hours), had the range to make this 2600 nm trip easily.
With a full-size refrigerator and freezer, we did not have to cover our eggs in Vaseline like sailors of old, but our refrigerated space was not unlimited. While Romaine lettuce will last two+ weeks, did we really want to fill our fridge with bulky lettuce?
The trip should take 26 days underway. We did plan on stopping in the Azores, but I didn’t want to be required to make that stop just in case. So, we would plan on having at least 30 days’ worth of everything.
Lastly, everyone asks what happens if the engine breaks and can’t be fixed or the propeller falls off or we get hit by a meteorite? Well, if the latter, no trace would ever be found, but for the former, what was the plan? Look at a map. Let’s say we were disabled in the middle of the North Atlantic, what would I have done?
Well, I would NOT have called the Coast Guard. If you call the CG, they come and will take you off the boat. Two problems with that plan:
Dauntless can leave me; but I’m not leaving her. My life raft is on the fly bridge. When the water gets to the fly bridge, I’ll consider deploying the raft and setting off the EPIR.
Despite what you see on TV, being rescued, hoisted off a boat in the ocean has a lot of risk for both rescuers and rescues. No thanks. Maybe if I’m in the lift raft, but not from a floating boat.
So, that leaves us with what was the plan? Propeller has fallen off and is now on the bottom of the Atlantic or on its way (FYI there is a formula to determine exactly how long something takes to settle on the bottom of the ocean. For a grain of sand, it takes more than a year, for a propeller, it’s probably a 6-hour trip).
The prevailing winds are westerly, from the west. Therefore, sooner or later, those winds will push Dauntless at 1 to 2 knots towards Europe. So, the one-month trip becomes 3 or 4. Not great, but doable.
That gives me my goals for provisioning:
One month of food that will be consumed.
3 to 6 months of foods that will most likely not be eaten, but is easy to store and will keep forever.
Only get stuff I like to eat.
So that was easy. In practicality, it’s like taking a trip to Costco and buying like you won’t, can’t, be back for half a year. That’s what we did:
Fresh food for two weeks
Freezer stocked with meats, pork, beef, chicken, all things we would eat at home.
Longer term supplies consisted of those items that we do like normally, but also will last practically forever:
Peanut butter, 2 large Costco sized jars
Canned sardines, 2 dozen tins
Rice, 10 pounds Japanese
Condiments, olive oil, etc.
Canned tomatoes, 24
Canned corn, 24
Crackers, dry pasta,
Dauntless cooks with propane. It fires the Weber grill and the Princess three burner stove. I’ve never used the oven portion, since the Weber does well if I have to bake something.
In hindsight, I had too much canned stuff that I normally don’t eat, beans and tomatoes come to mind. On the plus side, when provisioning for last year’s Atlantic Passage, I hardly had to buy any canned things, only some canned sardines from Spain. I’m still eating the peanut butter from 2014! I finally ran out of rice this past summer.
One also must keep in mind that you need to have protein that you like, keeps forever and is easy to store. One can probably live forever on peanut butter and sardines. Rice also keeps well, though I don’t eat very much, as it took me 3 years to eat 10 pounds.
Leaving Spain last year, I did have about 6 liters of UHT milk. I don’t drink milk, but I really like it in coffee in the morning, so this was something that really went to my peace of mind, though I could easily have lived without it. (I stopped drinking milk during the 6 months I was living on the Arctic Ocean on Ice Island T3. Never drank it again, as in a glass of milk).
In hindsight, the one thing I should have had was fishing tackle. Even though I don’t fish, it’s foolish not to have the capability if crossing an ocean.
But looking at our steak we enjoyed on Christmas Day, 900 miles from Martinique, I need to go find some red meat!
Most galleries are in chronological order. The date time group is also embedded in the file name. Please forgive all the redundancy. It’s always easier to take too many pictures than not enough, though it makes sorting after the fact a real PIA.
Also, should you see anything and have a specific question, please feel free to email me.
Kadey Krogen Rendezvous 2017
Richard on Dauntless
Dauntless’ Second Atlantic Passage
Four Legs from Europe to the Caribbean
Leg 1 Rota Spain to Rabat, Morocco, via Gibraltar to fuel up
50 hours total
Leg 2 Rabat Morocco to Las Palmas, the Canaries (unexpected stop)
4 days, 1 hr., 35 min
Avg speed 6.1 knots
Leg 3 Las Palmas to Heiro, the western most island in the Canaries, Fuel top-up
31 hours and 45 min
The last & biggest leg, the only one that mattered, the Canaries to Martinique
460 hours, (19 days, 4 hours)
The “Oh, BTW, you still have 2000 miles to go” leg, Martinique to Panama Canal and Mexico
460 hours, (19 days, 4 hours)
Same strong easterly trade winds; same large, mixed seas
Avg roll +13°/-09° ext 22°/-10°
Overall Winds & Seas
Conditions are Very Different than the North Atlantic
Trade winds prevent turning back
Constant wind speeds of 20 to 35 knots
Direction varied over 90° from NE to SE
3 wave sets produced large 25° roll every 8 to 10 minutes for 3 weeks
NE & SE wave sets, smaller, longer period
wave heights predominate 10 to 15 feet at 8 seconds
3 different wave sets produced large 25° roll every 8 to 10 minutes for 3 weeks
First week very disconcerting to have stern fall to stbd so suddenly every periodically
Since leaving North Africa, until the Panama Canal, more than 5,000 nm and more than 60 days underway, all but two of those days required the paravane stabilizers.
Entering the Pacific and turning northwest from Panama City, in the first four days we had no need of stabilization. They call it the Pacific for a reason.
Crises In the mid-Atlantic
What I did
What I now think I should have done (hint: Much Ado About Nothing)
Hydraulic Hose for Rudder failure
I was screwing around
What I did
First fix did not work
Spares, spares and more spares (but not the right fitting)
What I now think I should have done
Overall Summary of My Second Atlantic Passage
Considerably harder than I had expected
I’m still organizing the data, but the big take-away, is that the fuel consumption for the last two years has been about 1.5 gal/ hr. or a little above 4nm/gal
Average cost has run between $75 to $133 per day when I’m on the boat. Even during the most recent passage, cost was $104 per day, with fuel being $80 a day.
I’ve dropped my watch a number of times on my tile floor. A couple of times, the crystal has popped off. Just
pressuring it back on was simple.
Then, once the face also came off, as well as the minute hand. That took a bit more effort and thought to put straight.
Two weeks ago, I dropped it yet again, while thinking that I better not drop it, and this time the damage was extensive, it that all the pieces came apart.
This was not a simple fix. I tried; for days. Two of the pins were obvious. But there was smaller brass peace only a 6 mm in diameter that for the life of me, I could not get to fit. Worse, I was not even sure how it fit.
I took pictures, I enlarged those pictures. I tried to align the pieces as best I could be hoping for a miracle, that all four pins would just fall into place.
It didn’t happen.
I prayed. I begged. No joy.
I knew I could send it in for repair, but one thing crossing the Atlantic has done for me is to make me self-reliant. I don’t need no stink’in warranty center.
It finally occurred to me that I had to go back to basics. I needed to further take apart some pieces and then piece it back together.
That process still took an hour, but when done, my watch was as good as new.
Crossing oceans takes a well designed and built boat, enough fuel and food and most importantly, the confidence to get it done. Nothing else matters. Not the weather nor the seas nor how tired, bored, cold, hot or scared you feel.
On our first summer on Dauntless, in Down east Maine, after having been ensnared on a lobster pot line for over 8 hours, with help still 8 hours away, my partner turned to me and said, “no one is going to help us, we must do it ourselves”
Perseverance, in the face of very adverse situations, being bored almost to tears or dealing with unimaginably
stupid, selfish adults, has gotten me to many of my most important goals in my life: four university degrees, meteorologist, science teacher, high school principal, Dauntless and certainly crossing the Atlantic, now twice.
But it has also gotten me in trouble. Big trouble.
My life has always been about planning. Acting spontaneously is not me. Throughout my life, when I have acted spontaneously, the outcomes were not good.
So, it sounds simple.
Make the Plan; Do the Plan.
And this works much of the time, but not always. Why? Because while I’m not acting spontaneously, I end up following a not well thought out plan. Whether career changes, job changes or route planning, I’ve sometimes followed flawed plans to the “T”.
Now, not all plans have the same consequences. Leaving the U.S. Air Force to start my own business still baffles my mind. Yes, I was tired of the bureaucracy of the USAF, but the USAF is a model of efficiency, team work and everything else you can think of when compared to the New York City Department of Education.
So that decision, way back in 1987, ended up affecting my life for the next 20+ years.
Most recently, I had another occasion to change the plan. Abort so to speak.
The outlines of the Pacific Ocean Plan were in place before we even crossed the Atlantic three years ago. While always subject to modification, the Plan has two primary functions:
It focuses my thoughts to anticipate issues and possibilities
It gives me the confidence to persevere, to succeed, even when I get tired, bored, etc.
It’s hard to imagine, that in the original Plan, I would be in Yeosu, South Korea in this month!
Oh well, even the best plans of mice and men, sometimes go astray.
Last year at this time, I still expected to be in the Pacific Northwest by now. One month ago, I still expected to be in Guaymas, northern Mexico this week.
Instead, Dauntless is in the wonderful, little port of Huatulco, Mexico. Just across the Gulf of Tehuantepec.
The crossing of the Tehuantepec was a good example of when to modify the plan.
So, as I left Chiapas at 08:00, alone, because my friend, Cliff who had joined me in Costa Rica to help me get Dauntless the 450 nm to Mexico, had had to return home. But the longest leg was now behind me and tonight next 6 weeks alone was doable, even if not my preference.
The crossing was long, 40 hours, uneventful, but also an eye opener.
Before leaving Chiapas, I had been advised my everyone, from locals to friends who had done it themselves, to stay within a few miles of the coast, just in case the winds pick up. It would only add about 20 nm to a 240-nm trip, not that bad.
The course directly across the Gulf is 284°, while along the coast it would be about 305°, so after passing the breakwater, I made my course 300°.
I then spent the next half hour dodging pangas and fishing nets. 260 nm at 6.5 knots is 40 hours. I immediately understood that I could not spend 40 hours dodging boats and nets.
I had been watching the weather for days, waiting for the appropriate weather window. Since the synoptic weather pattern that caused the Tehuantepec winds was also the same that caused the Papagayo winds which I had been watching for weeks. So, I was pretty confident that at I’d have at least 24 hours of light winds, then at the worst case, if they started to build, I’d have winds on the beam for at most 12 hours.
Being summer, those winds would not be as strong as in winter. Just like the North Atlantic, cold air can easily produce hurricane force winds in the winter. Therefore, worst case, Dauntless and I would have to put up with 20 knot winds on the beam for half a day. Not fun; but not dangerous either, at least not in this Kadey Krogen.
With all that in mind, within 3 miles of leaving the protection of the Chiapas, I changed course to go directly across the Tehuantepec. Needless to say, itw as an uneventful crossing. (Had it been eventful, you would have heard about it by now).
The Plan was to provision the boat in Huatulco and wait for a weather window to continue north. The more I waited, the more I saw my current Plan slipping away. Finally, I realized it was time to let it go completely. In talking to the Marina Captain and a dock neighbor who was heading south, it became clear that the next few hundred miles all the away to Acapulco, offered only one safe harbor, therefore I could not afford to stop as long as the winds and weather were favorable.
Picturing the pangas and nets off of Chiapas, I realized that my long thought out Plan was not feasible at this point. As I looked for alternative places to winter Dauntless, they were all much more expensive, like 10x more! than my present location of Huatulco.
So here we are. Robert Burns said it best:
“The best laid schemes of Mice and Men oft go awry”
If you are worried about everything, you will drive yourself and crew crazy. You need to be able to separate the likely from the remote. Be vigilant, but you can’t watch everything. An hour from home, you can afford in indulge your paranoia, in the middle of the Atlantic, indulgences are not allowed. it’s “Calm & Assertive” as Caesar Milan would say.
When I would hear a noise in the middle of the night. Perhaps I was being sleeping? Did the noise wake me or was it a dream? I stay in bed in listen. Sometimes I may even open my cabin door to listen and more importantly sniff the wind! Your sense of smell may well be your most reliable tool on a boat.
Admittedly, the first year on Dauntless I was not his way. Unless she was firmly tied to a dock, I was up at every little noise or movement. I hated anchoring out because I got so little sleep. What changed? Mostly me understanding that the boat was fine, the anchor was fine, and the only problem was me.
A couple days out of New England, on the way to the Azores, on my first Atlantic Passage, a mast cleat that secured the port paravane pole let go with a sound like a pistol shot. I stopped the boat, put on a PFD (probably the last time I used it too) and went to the fly bridge to see what happened.
The quarter inch steel bolts had sheared off. I realized that it was too much tension for a cleat, but a simple clove hitch around the mast a few times would secure the two paravane pole lines with much less stress at any particular point, then ending on the cleat. I made that change in minutes and three years later, it’s still the same.
Later, Julie told me that having a problem like that and me being able to come up with a different and even better solution, gave her all the confidence to not worry about anything. And she didn’t. She had been on the boat less than I, but was more experienced. She understood right away what it took to be successful.
It took me a couple of years.
During my second Atlantic Passage, westbound from Europe, North Africa to North America, I had noticed fuel in the bilge on the first day out of the Canaries. I kept it to myself. It didn’t seem like much, probably less than a gallon, of the 700 we had onboard. To get to the Caribbean we would probably need 600 of those gallons. If push came to shove and I needed to conserve, I could probably get there on 500, even 450. In fact, at idle and in gear, 900 rpms, fuel consumption is probably 0.5gal/hr. at 3.8 knots, making the range above 5,000 nm. With these conditions, with a 20-knot wind behind us, our range would be above 6,000 nm. (at idle and in neutral, with no load on the engine, the fuel consumption is probably 0.1 gal/hr.)
Since I could see no leak on any of the connections or hoses between the fuel tanks and the engine, including the 4 fuel filters, there was not much I could do until it became obvious. It was clearly coming from the tank, but not the bottom of the tank.
I continued to run the numbers in my head, often, during those days and nights.
But I continued to say nothing. Certainly, Micah could do nothing and he worries, a lot. My job as Captain is to do the worrying and to keep my crew fat and happy.
By Day 4, Calm & Assertive was slipping away. I was getting nervous.
The big problem was that the bilge pump was pumping water out that had gotten into the bilge from the lazzerette. With large following seas, the stern deck is awash plenty of time, enough that water gets into the lazzerette. It is then dutifully pumped out. When I would look into the bilge, fuel being lighter than water, it floats on top. So, when I look in the bilge and see a gallon of liquid, which the bilge pump will pump out, it’s unclear if I’m looking at a gallon of fuel or a quarter of a cup, the rest being water. Under these conditions, the bilge pump was turning on about once an hour. So, in 24 hours, that’s about 24 gallons. If it’s mostly water no problem, but if mostly fuel I needed to know.
It was possible that I was looking at the same inch of fuel floating on top of water. So, when the pump would pump out, it was just pumping water leaving the last inch of liquid every time. I had to know what was going on.
initially on Day 4, I did the following:
I used the shop vac to vacuum out the bilge. Now if I saw fuel again, I knew it was new fuel. I turned off the bilge pump and left it off for 6 hours.
I reduced our engine rpms to 1450. Now this change would only reduce our consumption by about 0.1 gallons/hour, but we had 16 days at 24 hr./day = 384 hours. So, to save a tenth of a gallon, that’s 40 gallons over that time. I had estimated worst case scenario if it was all fuel with a little water, we were losing about 12 gallons a day, that would be 200 gallons lost. That would be a problem. Better to reduce speed now and figure it out just in case.
Six hours later, I checked the bilge hoping to see only water.
I saw water and fuel!
Wherever the fuel was coming from, it was still coming. But of the approximately 5 gallons I pulled out, there was at most an inch of fuel on top of the water. That’s less than half a gallon.
From the first time I noticed the fuel, it never seemed that much to me. From dipping the oil soak cloth (very effective in absorbing fuel and oil, but not water) to collecting the 6 gallons, all signs were a minor fuel loss, which was even decreasing. But,
The mind is its own place and can make a heaven of hell or a hell of heaven. (thanks Milton & Star Trek).
But this is why I say, worry is very destructive. Even with those facts, by the next day, that worry drove me off the deep end. By constantly checking for fuel, all it did was make me lose any objective sense of reason. I cracked.
So, I came up with another radical plan.
We needed a way to recover significant amounts of fuel:
I cut the hose (pictured) that leads from the bilge pump to the thru hull and stuck another hose onto it. This hose I now led out of the engine room, out the salon door to a large bucket on the stern deck.
We would collect everything the bilge pump pumped out of the bilge for the next 12 hours.
We would then take the fuel that standing on top of the water, and pour it into another bucket. Then filter it and pour it back into the fuel tank, as needed. Thus, even if losing 20 gallons of fuel a day, we would probably recover 75% of that. To lose 5 gallons a day was tolerable.
Now the boat is rolling all the time as we have 10 to 16 foot waves off both stern quarters, so it was no easy task to pour one bucket into a larger bucket.
We, really Micah, did just that for 6 hours.
When I relieved Micah, he thought it was mostly water. I checked the “fuel” bucket, the one into which we were pouring the obvious fuel from the bigger bucket. After 6 hours, we had about a quarter of a gallon if that.
I looked at that, I looked at Micah and I came to my senses.
I quickly put an end to this process. It was a 5-minute job to re-connect the now two sections of bilge hose and we were back to normal.
On Day 6, all fuel stopped getting into the bilge
Did I scare it away?
The only explanation is also the most obvious explanation. Last year, in Ireland, when we opened up the port tank to seal it, it was obvious that water had dripped down from the screw holes in which the poorly installed fuel vent fitting had been placed. Now since this is one of the few design, construction issues I have ever found on the Kadey Krogen, it’s hard to complain.
I figured that what had happened is that since the tanks was totally full, the pitching movement in particular meant fuel was being pushed hard against the upper back of the tank. Just where the fuel vent is poorly installed. A few drops every dozen second will easily add up to a couple of gallons a day.
Lesson Learned: If I had to do it all over. I should have been more patient. I could have slowed a bit before doing anything else and waited a few more days. I let myself get too nervous even after I had come up with multiple estimates that the amount of fuel we were losing was not significant.
After arrival in Martinique, Dauntless still had 125 gallons of fuel. I determined that we had lost probably 5 to 1o gallons at most. I was meticulous in feeding from each tank every other day, thus the tanks should have been the same, but instead there was a 5 to 10-gallon difference.