31 hours into our passage to France, our second night out. it’s now 01:00 on the 15th of July 2016. I’ve just relieved the “boys”, who had their first watch without me for the last 4 hours. I had planned on sleeping another two hours, but I awoke and knowing the English Channel transit lanes were only an hour away, I figured I may as well get up.
Besides, nothing untoward had yet happened, and like the experienced manager taking the young prospect out of the game on a positive note, not letting mistakes happen as they fatigue.
Last night I had been alone, the boys sick as dogs. No, probably sicker.
I like the night, slicing through the water, the white mustache at the bow. There is a coziness the envelops the boat making us even more with nature.
We ran yesterday for 24 hours with the paravanes deployed. We needed them. The weather has been exactly as forecast, with strong NW winds 18 to 25 gusts to 32 for the first 12 hours after leaving Ireland. That caused for some rough seas, 6 to 12 feet.
The next 12 hours were a bit better, with winds decreasing to 15 to 18, gusting to 25 and they were more northwesterly. Then finally, yesterday evening they had died to 5 to 9 knots, so the seas quieted to just a few feet.
Now, as forecast the winds are westerly at about 8 knots. Not bad, not bad at all.
Paravanes worked well. I had changed the rigging a bit more since Scotland last month. They now run 17 feet below the water line and they are considerably more effective than last year.
The hardest part has been saying goodbye to so many dear friends and nice people in Waterford and New Ross. I think I’ll be back though, at least after we put a few miles on as we circle the globe. But I’m sure after a number of years and many miles, I’ll be ready for northern Europe yet again.
Just south of Waterford, we passed an old friend, Fastnet Sound. They dredge the channel just south of the Barrow Bridge, which has a tendency to silt up in the spot where the rivers Suir and Barrow meet. They then dock for the night across the river in Waterford.
As I look at the videos I shot with my phone conditions don’t look that bad. Monday morning unfolded into seas that were still less than 6 feet.
With a “normal” day cruising, we should be in Vlissingen in 12 hours.
The https://share.delorme.com/dauntless site is pretty nifty. You can click on each circle and it tells you the time. I can also see that I made the decision to abort and head for Oostende at 21:20 Monday night. Only 12 nm away, it still took 4 and half hours to get here.
And those were the must miserable 4 hours.
The winds having built to 25 gusting to 33 knots, had built very steep, choppy waves. Only 4 to 6 ft. early in the evening, due to the proximity of land, about 10 miles off our starboard beam, the waves were coming from a multitude of directions, having bounced off the close by land.
Pierre-Jean liked hand steering; he really liked the Krogen and I let him for the most part, though as the evening progressed, I preferred being on the ComNav Autopilot because it does really well in the worst conditions. At a certain point it dawned on me that for PJ, this was a test drive. He got to drive a Krogen in conditions that 90% will never see. He was as sick as a dog, but I give him credit, he found a boat far tougher than he was. He left happy.
Me too. PJ had left me with a bunch of wonderful French wine. And if we have one rule on Dauntless it is all sins are forgiven with wine.
With the mixed up seas, Dauntless was being hit by the tops of waves periodically. So I not fixing the two problem areas, the warped pilot house doors needed new thicker gaskets. The center pilot house window, that flips open, had a rubber flap, to stop water from directly hitting the gasket on the hinge.
I had removed that months ago, with the intent to replace it. I hadn’t. Why, because I was looking for a white rubber mat, that would fit, be inexpensive and look good. So periodically, as the pilot house got bath, water would splash down onto the helm. Only a half a cup at a time, and looking on the bright side, I was happy that the water did not stay in the ceiling, but immediately drained down to the helm!
But still, a half assed oversight on my part. So the helm was covered in wet towels.
The pilot house doors were another issue. A lot of water was coming in, maybe a quart at a time. There were a lot of times.
So for the last few hours that side of the pilot house floor was covered in soaked towels, mats and other materials so the water would not make a waterfall into the salon.
As there was no reason to move around, not so bad of a problem. But as we were minutes away from the harbor entrance, I got soaked just moving around the pilot house.
Then to add misery to discomfort, I needed the pilot house doors to see what was where and get the lines ready. So we had a 30 knot wind blowing through the pilot house it was cold, wet wind. The Krogen has a tendency to stay at whatever the water temperature is. Thus, a 55°F water temperature meant at night the pilot house was about the same. Add wind and being wet, just set the stage for a true disaster.
OK let’s set the stage. I’m a mile from the entrance to Oostende harbor. I see the red and green lights marking the channel, I also see two green lights, on the red side of the channel. I see numerous Sodium vapor lights and the orange glow they produce. With all those lights, I see no channel; only darkness and shadow.
But I have no choice. I am in 20 feet of water, winds are up to 35 knots, waves are crashing into us from all directions, and there are all sorts of sand banks close to shore with all sorts of names, meaning they have a history, i.e. “remember when poor Jacques floundered on the Grote bank?”
The wind is pushing us fiercely to the south, to the right (green in Europe) side of the channel. I am trying to keep the boat on the red side, but clearly still not seeing the entrance.
Finally, I trust to the charts, C-Maps by Jeppesen, (did I ever tell you I was a Product Manager at Jeppesen?? you’d think I could get a discount on their charts!), aim for blackness just to the right of the last red marker and as soon as I enter the shadow, I can see the rest of the channel straight ahead and the seas flatten.
But this is big commercial channel. I need to get the paravanes in. Pierre-Jean has never done that before, so I must leave him in the pilot house, while I go to the fly bridge and winch them up. It only takes two minutes and I am thankful that all the tweaking I have done on that system works so well.
I race back down, and aim for the right channel which will bring us to one of three marinas in the harbor.
I am cold, wet and miserable. I’ve gotten only a couple hours sleep in the last 24; but this is where I am pleased with my decisions.
As we motor slowing down the channel, maybe a mile, I am conscious of the wind pushing us along. I want to reconnoiter the marina, but not get us in a position I cannot get out of.
Sure enough, as we get to the slips, mostly short (30’) finger piers, there are no “T”s and the left side of the marina which has longer docks is filled with small ferries. I am adept at making the Krogen do a circle in about a 50’ diameter without using the bow thruster. While docking I turn on the bow thruster, an electric Vetrus, but try not to use it as my experience has been bow thrusters are like banks. If you need it, it won’t be there.
So on a calm day, no current, bow thrusters work great. But this is not that kind of day.
I decide there is no room here. Though I keep in the back of my mind the possibility of rafting to one of the ferries.
We then proceed back to the other marinas, right near the entrance to the harbor. It is a narrow entrance that widens after the opening.
The one long dock is occupied by one of those new plastic, three story, small penis boat. Clearly American, though it says Bikini on the back and flies no flag.
Turns out there was room on the opposite side of the same dock, but that would have meant I had to go around the end of the dock to an uncertain fate and after all I went through I was not about to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
So we proceeded towards the third marina and a set of locks, which while closed did have a waiting dock that I could use. We looked around and did see a spot, along the inner dock, maybe 55’ long, between two sailboats. It was in cul de sac and just opposite the waiting dock.
We prepared a midships line and I tied to the waiting dock to think about what to do. The bow is facing the lock and southward, the empty 55’ spot is 100 on our left beam and the wind is coming from the stern at 20 knots.
I figured I could stay at the waiting dock until early morning, but my problem in situations like this, is that I do not sleep, anticipating the knock on the hull telling me in a foreign language that I cannot do whatever I am doing
There was also a seaweed covered wall, 50’ high, but we saw nothing to tie to.
So, I decided the spot between the two boats was feasible. But with one caveat, Pierre-Jean had to be on the dock. I would then throw him the midships line we had prepared. That way, once a line was on the dock, he could control my movement to the sailboat behind.
He was a bit dubious, maybe he thought I was going to leave him, but I liked it and it was the only way I would attempt that spot. (The waiting dock was connected to the other dock, like three sides of a box.
And it was a box I was going into to.
My first attempt was halfhearted. The boat was facing south, wind from our stern and I thought just maybe if I put her in reverse, I could use the bow thruster to push the bow around 180°. At about 90°, abeam the dock and piling I had just left, the wind was pushing the boat so hard, this was not going to work in a million years. I gave it full left rudder, full throttle forward to kick the stern away from the pole and pier. No problem, just a little too close.
Let with wind take me in forward, I’d through the line to PJ, out her in reverse and PJ could pull us into the slip. With the wind behind us, I was going too fast from the beginning. When I slowed, I had no way and no control. I backed up and got out, just narrowly missing that same f…ing pillar.
Just like in NY, I would parallel park. After all the above shenanigans, this turned out to be easy.
I backed into the box at an angle aiming for the empty spot but wanting to keep the bow close to the sailboat that would end up in front of us.
When I was abeam the stern of the sailboat, I threw PJ the line and he put it on a middle cleat. I yelled at him to watch the stern and I would watch the bow. He would control how far back to let the boat go.
Worked as planned as and with less drama than anything else I had attempted that night.
Dauntless on the other hand looked at me when it was all over, yawned and thought, “All in a day’s work”.
And as I thought about it, happy to be lying in my warm bed, with no new scars to deal with, I realized though the worst of it, while I was certainly unhappy; there was no noise from below. The salon, the staterooms, the engine room, nothing was banging, rolling around or otherwise out of place. Books stayed on the shelves in all three rooms, and pother than the second monitor in the pilot house that I had to re-secure, everything was battened down.
A great boat is a sea way.
I hung up all the wet things and at 3:00 a.m. took a hot shower, crawled into bed and was ever grateful that I had remember to turn on the 12 v heating pad a few hours earlier.
With that, All’s Well that Ends Well.
Food, Fuel and Fools
Having left Honfleur, Sunday morning at 8:30 a.m., we are through the lock to the Seine by 9:00 and we are cruising downstream at warp speed, 10 knots, speed over ground.
I’m finally enjoying my cup of coffee and morning croissant, though a faint order of diesel lingers on my hand.
We escaped, unscathed, so a little diesel with my coffee is acceptable.
We are feeding off the starboard fuel tank, little used since leaving Ireland. I want to balance the boat. I am running the fuel polisher, a larger fuel filter and water separator, which filters 90 gallons of fuel per hour. The only downside to running it while underway is that it does cause a slight reduction of fuel pressure to the engine. Though this has never been a problem.
As we exit the Seine, the color contrasts are marked. Brown mud color for the Seine outflow and blue-green for ocean water. We turn northeast, speed slows to just above 5 knots, but the current will change in our favor in the next hour.
A couple hours later, the current is favorable, but not as strong as I had hoped. At best, we are getting an extra knot. I decide I better check on the filters in the engine room.
I am surprised to see another 2” of water on the bottom (it’s a glass bowl) of the fuel polisher. I turn it off and drain the water. There is also a little water in the primary engine filter (there are two side by side. I can select either one or the other or both or none). I switch to the other filter and also drain the primary filter.
Our speed has increased to 8.4 knots. We are north and east of Le Harve and have about 170 nm to go to Vlissingen. I estimate our ETA of 04:00 Tuesday morning, using an average speed of 6 knots, which I think is on the slow side.
We are starting to roll a bit, only 8°, so we deploy the paravanes. We lose about 1/3 to ½ knots, but the roll is reduced to less than 2°.
I go check the filters again and now am dismayed to see a lot more water in both the primary engine and the fuel polisher (FP). In addition, the FP is showing a vacuum of 23”, with 10” being the point I should change it. It is full of crap and must be changed now. I am worried. It means there is far more water in that tank than I had expected. I must change them again, while underway, at least I think that should be no problem.
I switch the Racor to the other filter, and within a minute I hear the engine laboring; then die before I can do anything. I immediately think back to this morning when I had changed this filter and as I had primed it using the electric fuel pump I installed just for this purpose, I had not let the fuel spray out the top like I normally would to ensure the filter had no air. Instead, I half assed it not wanting to get more fuel on myself.
Sitting there bobbin in the English Channel was sort of peaceful. The engine room is almost cozy. It’s warm, not too hot and very little boat movement is felt. I think I should one day sleep down there, but won’t due to the little issue of possible carbon monoxide poisoning. (For that reason one should not cruise with the salon doors open).
OK, I tell Pierre-Jean to turn off the key and thus turnoff the low oil pressure buzzer. And I take my time changing the two filters and then priming all three again.
A few minutes later, all set, ask him to start the engine, it starts, I turn on the fuel polisher, the engine stops. Now, Pierre-Jean is starting to show concern in his voice. What’s happening?
I tell him, don’t worry, be happy, start the engine again. He does, it does and as I fiddle with the valves, turning off the electric priming pump, I am slow to turn on the gravity feed valve, so the engine dies once more.
A few shenanigans later. I reset everything, re-prime everything. Go to start the engine myself, because I know it will need a bit of throttle and it starts, slow at first, but within seconds, back to its normal pitch and ready to go.
While doing all this, I also decided enough of trying to see what is going on with the starboard tank, now; it was a matter of not wanting any more problems with fuel.
I switched back to the port tank, turned on the FP and it ran until docked 36 hours later. Vacuum never got above 3” no more water was seen in it or the primary engine filter.
We were back underway. The only problem with this kind of stuff is the anxiety it causes. For those next 36 hours, every visit to the engine room was filled with dread. Would there be water? Would the filter be clogged? Did I have two tanks with water in them?
As things got ever rougher, every check increased my confidence that at least that problem was solved. That’s a huge relief.
With the paravanes out, we look like really trawler, so for the second time, we got buzzed by a French military plane. I suppose wanted to make sure we were not trawling for real.
By Sunday evening, at 18:00 the winds were from the NE at 10 knots. Going into the winds at 10 knots is not a problem, at about 14 to 15 knots it starts to become an issue. Since one is going into wind driven waves the period of the waves from the boat’s perspective is reduced, causing the boat to pitch up and down more. This up and down motion, besides being uncomfortable, also greatly reduces the speed of the boat and conversely increases fuel consumption.
Our speed was down to 5 knots, little did I realize that we would never go as fast again.
By midnight, we were down to 1.9 knots. This was partially due to a reduction in rpms because of the oncoming seas, but I made yet another mistake my not think this through.
I had the watch until midnight, and then Pierre-Jean took over until 04:00. During that time I went to by cabin to try to sleep. But we were pitching more and more and I found myself bracing by feet against the wall at the foot of our bed every few seconds. I only got about one hour sleep in the four I was off watch.
As I came back on watch at 04:00 Monday morning, winds were now NE at 15 gusts to 20; seas were only 3’, but right on our bow and very short period. We were pitching about 3° up and down and the rolling was about 4° to each side. Speed was up again with the current to 4.5 knots. But again, I was not understanding that when the current was with us, it would give us a one knot boost for about 4 hours; yet when against us, it would be a negative 4 to 5 knots for 6 hours.
The winds were acting just as forecast three days ago: Less than 12 knots on Sunday, increasing thereafter.
Monday morning, faced with these facts, I should have planned a port for an early afternoon arrival. Pierre-Jean wanted to press on; but so did I. I simply did not want to deal with another country, Belgium. Getting to the Netherlands would make my life easier; form a new phone SIM to better rail transportation. Also, we would be in protected waters so it didn’t matter what the weather did.
All the right reasons for going on, but clearly ignoring the reality.
It had been 24 hours since our departure. Fuel and fuel filters were now OK. But winds were gusting to 20 kts and I knew it was not going to get better!!!
As I look at my log, even now, I am having a hard time understanding what I was thinking. The above rationale notwithstanding, by 14:00 our speed was down again to 2.5 knots, the winds were right on our nose at 20 gusts to 25, the seas were now 4 to 6 feet and our pitching and rolling had doubled from earlier in the morning.
Now was the time to bail out and head for a harbor. We were 12 miles from Calais! Going at our glacial speed it had been off the starboard quarter for hours.
We didn’t and paid the price for the next twelve hours.
A reminder, you can see the details of the route and the location of Dauntless at any time for this coming summer cruise anytime at:
We got up early to take advantage of the calm winds and little boat traffic. Dauntless rolled a bit last night on the mooring ball, so I put the paravanes out. They decreased the roll a bit, certainly dampened it, like shock absorbers on a car, but these particular fish (or birds) are made to be moving through the water for maximum effectiveness.
As we got south of the Scillies, I realized that while it was 90 nm to Plymouth, France was but 120 nm. With fair skies and still under the influence of the Azores high, it made sense to me to press on across the channel to the continent. I discussed our options with Karla and Larry and they concurred. A direct route to France also meant we could avoid the Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS) off the English Channel and the area north of Brest.
So instead of turning due east for Plymouth, we set off ESE towards the north coast of France. The port of Trebeurden is our goal, with anticipated steaming time of 22 hours.
After a few hours of beautiful weather and looking at our expected arrival time, I decided to lower the engine rpms to 1500. Not only will that save us about a half-gallon of fuel per hour, but our ETA would have been 04:00 at the faster speed, and is now, about 05:30. A better arrival time, as it will be light.
It’s 18:00 now and as the day progressed diurnal heating produced some stratocumulus clouds and winds from the WNW at 15 gusting to 23. So the almost flat seas we had in the morning, gave way to wind driven waves of 3 to 5 feet hitting Dauntless on her stern starboard quarter. We have gradually increased our rolling from plus or minus 1 to 2 degrees to +/- 4 to 6°
Still, that’s half of what it was for the last few hours of our cruise into St. Mary’s Harbor in Scilly.
For dinner, I made a tasty dinner of hamburger and crudité. The hamburger ground by my butcher in Waterford. It’s hard to imagine that I spent 8 months on and off in Waterford and now won’t be back for four months. But I did meet an Irish sailboat in St. Mary’s. We had gotten into a discussion about the “legs” on their boat which was beached on hard sand, held vertical on its keel by said legs. That gave me some ideas of how I could make that work on Dauntless. Probably just 4”x4”s with a notch for the rub rail, then bolted through the hawse pipe. A project for next winter. They were taking her to the west coast of Ireland and will winter over in Dingle, so I promised to come visit next winter.
Unlike yesterday, time today has seemed to fly by. And yes, I kept the patch on.
For the past two hours I have been watching the parade of ships heading for the TSS north of Brest. I have also managed to figure out the Raymarine radar a little better and finally noticed after two years that the gain also had an adjustment for wave state. I could keep the gain much higher, if I also adjusted the wave state. A win win. And to think, some say I’m a slow learner! (win-win turned out to be tie-tie, as I adjusted it not to see waves, turns out it also didn’t see fishing boats).
A beautifully flat day, azure sky and sea, with just some mare tails cirrus. As the afternoon and evening progressed, the winds started picking up slowly, but surely. By evening, increased westerly winds had produced 3 to 5’ waves and the roll was 6° to each side. As one of the lessons learned from the Atlantic Crossing, I now run off the tank on the windward side of the boat. The lee side seems to remain heeled for slightly longer times, so I don’t want the engine sucking water through the vents. Yes, I had not gotten around to moving the vents yet. I did think about it a lot though!
Under these conditions, it’s not an issue, and possibly only an issue under heavy seas with only paravane in the water.
I had also adjusted the ComNav Autopilot to be less sensitive, so that it made fewer corrections constantly. I will have to call them someday and discuss if my interpretation by reading between the lines of their user manual is correct. Basically, under open ocean conditions, meaning no need to keep a rigid heading constantly, I set the sea state to very high (rough seas), so that it doesn’t try to adjust heading every second. Under these conditions, I will hear it operate every few (3 to 6) seconds.
On the other hand, under truly rough, 12+ seas, I set it to totally flat conditions, so that as soon as it senses the stern coming around it acts. Then the adjustments are almost constant, but it does a great job of steering the boat through the worst conditions. I have tried to hand steer under such conditions and frankly the ComNav does a better job. In the 20+ foot seas on the last day into Ireland, as I cowered on the bench in the pilot house, the ComNav reacted so well, I never saw any green water over the rails. Maybe I should ask them about a sponsorship!
During the early evening hours we had a little excitement as we were crossing the main eastbound traffic lanes. While not in a TSS, the ships having come around Brest in the TSS 30 miles to our west, will reenter the TSS about 30 miles to our east. Therefore they pretty much stay in the same track. Makes it easier for us, as one can figure out where the main traffic lane is and the direction ships will be heading.
We only encountered a few west bound ships, but an hour north of the east bound lanes, our AIS and Coastal Explorer showed the parade of ships heading east. They were cruising at 14 to 18 knots, while we were doing 6.5 knots. That gave me plenty of time to plan our crossing. There was only one ship that was a factor. It was a big Chinese ship that the AIS said it was doing dredging operations (something must have gotten lost in translation), but to me looked to be one of those floating dry docks. Massive bridge at the bow and a massive stern and almost nothing in between.
I adjusted our course to be perpendicular to his course and I could see that he adjusted his course a few degrees to starboard also. The picture is what CE depicted. The closest anyone got was about a mile, though later on we passed a fishing boat about a quarter mile away, but I had been watching him for more than an hour so…
By midnight winds were westerly at 15 gusting to 22, seas 4 to 6 feet and roll 7°. This kept up until we reached the harbor.
Dawn was breaking as we approached. We had to stop to get the paravanes in, while it only took a few minutes, it was disconcerting to be stopped just hundreds of feet from the large rocky outcrop. So I was much relieved to get underway again even though Dauntless hardly drifted at all.
Previously, I had carefully plotted a course into the basin based on our pilot charts, and my C-Map and Navionics charts.
But the reality ended up being a bit different. Our planned path was full of moored boats. So on to Plan B, I kept our speed just above idle, about 4 knots, to minimize the damage if we hit anything. I picked up the three green lights our pilot charts told us meant the gate was open. But our pilot chart had also told us the gate was always open during neap tides and as I remembered seeing the waxing (light on the right) quarter moon last night, I knew it was a neap tide.
Creeping slowly forward, the sign board seemed to indicate 2.5 meters, but always leery that I am missing the obvious, I was still worried about the mysterious sill. We passed over the sill into the marina basin and didn’t scrape anything, but it was an anxious moment.
A big assed catamaran was on the one available “T”. I went past him to see if we had any options, we didn’t. I turned around and headed for a slip just inside the gate. The slip is short, only 20 feet, so our rear half is hanging out.
The wind was behind us, so that was a bit of a mistake, it made the docking more stressful then it needed to be, but finally, 23 hours after engine start at St. Mary’s, we were finished with engine and had landed on the “continent” for the first time by boat.