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:

 

A Lock Too Far

The Lock Too Far
The Lock Too Far

Have you ever been unreasonably angry?  You know you have no cause to be angry, thus “unreasonable”, but you still can’t shake it.

Maybe not angry; just f…ing irritated.

So I’m sitting on the wrong side of the last locks before town and Neptune’s Staircase.

Maybe because while I understood that I would not get out of the Caledonian Canal system today, I had looked forward to being in town.  In the last week I have spent too many days, nights, alone. No one to talk to, no internet, no Wi-Fi, no nothing.

So, I sit here, looking at the beautiful scenery, but disappointed that I’m not in town.

And it’s certainly quiet out here.

The View From Dauntless
The View From Dauntless

But hark; I hear a sound, I go investigate.  Alas, it is but the refrigerator compressor.

Welcome to my world.

So, since we last talked it’s been 4 days and 400 miles.

The two day crossing of the North Sea became three days.

A long three days, exactly 72 hours.

I’ve been too tired to write about it.  Maybe tomorrow.

Tomorrow is here. Now I’m really tired.  Neptune’s Staircase took it all out of me.  And then we still had another three locks and a bridge or two to go.

Finally, at 14:00 hours Dauntless is on the sea heading for Oban.

And being at sea you know what that means?  Winds of course.  25 knots on the nose. Knocks about a knot off our speed, but I am keeping the rpms higher than usual, 1800 rpms, because the engine has been running cool the last few days have spent basically two days at idle.

I wanted to get this posted, but the pictures had not uploaded and you need pictures to understand what I write some times.  I’m not the best when it comes to descriptive detail.

My hands ache from handling cold, wet lines for two days.

Well, almost home.  I feel it calling.

 

 

Nothing to Fear, But Fear Itself

Ain’t that the truth?

Dauntless and the SAR boat in Egersund, Norway
Dauntless and the SAR boat in Egersund, Norway

It’s Thursday morning, cloudy, rainy, and of course windy, but Dauntless and I are sitting snug in the harbor of Egersund.

Egersund is a medium fishing town and the little central area is just a minute away.  We are tied to the endo of the dock near the SAR boat.  The marina itself is all finger piers, so I may be to move later, but prefer not to be in a finger.

We entered the fjord just after sunset and then it was another half hour coming up into the town.

Yesterday went as well as I had hoped.  Maybe better.

One of the biggest drawbacks to being alone is not the physical stuff, or even docking, but it’s the stuff in my head, and being alone I dwell, maybe obsess is a better word, as my imagination goes crazy.

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Not a Bad Day

With people around me, unreasonable thoughts come, hang around for a few minutes and then the interaction with others snaps me out of it.

If you watch Cesare, the Dog Whisperer, he’ll make a sharp sound or tap the dog, to get the dog’s attention away from whatever the dog is obsessing about.  That’s exactly what I need occasionally.

Before yesterday, I had looked at the route to Scotland 50 times.  But even the evening before I left Mandal, I got out of bed to get the tablet to look at the route again.  I was looking for an excuse not to leave Mandal.  Any excuse.  I was in the grip.

But no matter how I looked at it or how many times, it was still clear that if I went direct from Mandal to Scotland, I added 50 miles on to the trip, that’s 8 hours. And it made no sense to add 8 hours to a trip that was already above 40 hours.

I had to leave Mandal and the only weather window I seemed to have was yesterday.

I got off a little later than expected; as I spent some time helping my Danish sailors move their boat.  They, in particular, the wife, were so helpful when I docked in Mandal. Besides the ubiquitous wind, there was a current and a vicious steel ladder near the end of the dock that I initially wanted to tie to.

They were not only quick to understand I needed someone to receive the lines, but also, as the boat was getting more and more out of shape, she could see I was getting stressed and gave me some calm, encouraging words.  It helped and we were tied up minutes later.

So, leaving the dock late, I then had to go get fuel, which was right by the entrance to the harbor.  As I am getting closer, a small skiff pulls up to the dock and I had to wait 10 min for him to finish, but then as he is pulling out another boat jumps in.  Another 10 minutes of me making circles in the harbor looking at the crashing waves outside the harbor.

Well, I finally get to the fuel dock and got 500 liters of fuel for $5.20 a gallon, $1.35 per liter (double the price in Ireland, which is a major reason I did not want to leave the boat for eh winter in Norway)

So at 10:35 I FGFU.  I’ll let you guess at that.

Within minutes of being in the open water, I realized I got my MOJO back.

Having spent much of the previous day getting ready for action, Dauntless was ready.

I put things away that I had not put away we I checked all the stays for the paravanes and went through the boat from top to bottom making sure everything was secured.

That made all the difference, so when we encountered our first big seas, 6 – 8 feet, 2-3m, everything was tight.

The first few hours were in somewhat protected waters, but then I had 5 hours with the wind and seas on the beam, 6 to 12’, 2-4m.

And that’s when I remembered how well the paravanes work under these conditons.  The paravanes are most effective in a beam sea.  As the wave approaches, the boat rolls into the trough, just in front of the wave, but then as the wave lifts the boat, the paravanes stop the boat from rolling to the lee side.  So as the wave goes under the boat, the boat rights itself and stays that way as the wave passes under the boat.

Now I knew all this, but I had forgotten about it.   So I just sat in the pilot house marveling at how nicely that boat was handling all of this.

Depending on the wave period and other things, sometimes the boat would roll to the lee side, but again when that happened, the paravanes stopped the oscillation that would result without the paravanes deployed.

SO now I am waiting in Egersund for a weather window.  I’d like two days, but it’s late in the season for that.  Right now, I thinking late Saturday or certainly Sunday, arriving in Scotland Monday night or Tuesday morning.

I’ll watch for the next days.  I’d like winds less than 20 knots and seas not more than 4 meters and the winds and seas can come in any direction from 80° to 280°, with the bow being at 0°.

I won’t go with any head wind, seas, component.

I’ll try to post some videos. I should get a Go Pro.

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It’s now Friday evening.

I’m leaving tomorrow around noon.

I will even drag my 37 pound laptop to the café so you may hear my last words, just in case.

No, I’m not worried about dying; I’m more concerned that one of my faithful readers will die because I left them in the lurch too long.  Not my fault.  This marina in off season charges $5 per day, yes, that’s five dollars, but for your five dollars you do not get internet.

However, you do get the best laundry I have experienced in 4 months. Only $2 and the dryer actually dries in 40 minutes.

And I’d get free electricity and water, if I deigned to squeeze into the finger piers; I don’t.

Even though I have bene having battery issues the last weeks.

So just a few days ago, I discovered on of the 8D batteries was low on voltage, so it’s out of the program. Today I checked the cabling of the other three.  After this weekend’s run, the truth will be revealed.

Norway has been a great experience.  I am not saddened with leaving only because it has always been in the plan to return next spring and summer.  It will be May and June next year, make your reservations early.

So, a little follow up about weather.

While I have distained weather forecasts, I do look at them.  I just don’t trust my life, my health or my boat on them.

So for example, in this case, I have been watching for more than a week.  Winds over the North Sea have been as high as 50 knots in the last two weeks making 9 meter, 27 foot seas.  Forgetaboutit.

So I’ve been looking for the best two day window I can get at this time of year.  A few days ago it looked like Sunday and Monday and maybe Tuesday.  Winds 10 to 15 knots out of the NNW or South.

I can live with that, as I have said, I just don’t want a component on the bow.  If tomorrow the winds are NW, I will go SW, accepting some extra miles.

Now, I have noticed today that the winds are less than forecast, in fact, down right mild, 8 to 12 maybe.

On one hand that’s good, as it will let the North Sea settle down, but on the other hand it could mean the forecast is a day behind, the next storm system could be coming across the UK not Tuesday, but maybe Monday.

In any case, I am still going, became to me it’s about what is happening now and not in the future.  Therefore, as long as I don’t have strong winds on the bow, I leave.  I would not leave if I must hope for a change of conditions.  .

On that note.

Talk to you in Scotland