The Lobster’s in the Pot and the Water is Getting Hotter

And this lobster never imagined that over the next days the water would get hotter and hotter finally coming to a boil just hours from safety.

A 14 foot Wave
A 14 foot Wave

The evening before (the 24th), the light winds had ended, as the winds were now out of the south and southwest at 18 to 30 knots (kts), producing a large following sea, 8’ to 12 feet.  I kept rpms low all day, starting at 1600 rpm, later being reduced to 1500, then 1400 when I realized we were still making 5.3 kts at 1400. Having the data log from the Maretron Solid State Compass, enabled me to have a good idea of actual pitch and roll.  I would log it using three values: most of the time, 1/3 of the time and 1/12 of the time (this may be once a minute).  So in the beginning of the day, with this following sea I logged rolls of delta 15°, 22°,25°. So delta 15° means about 5° to one direction, then 10° in the other direction, and every few rolls that would increase to 22° and then every once a minute 25°, like 10°+15° in the other direction.  I had also noticed that the paravanes were less effective in following sea conditions, but since those conditions are usually pretty good under any circumstances, it was not an issue.

I had logged that the 24th ended with the yellow float that’s 17’ above the paravane bird was occasionally under water and that was a scene that I was not used to seeing.

24 hr Roll Data 27 Aug
24 hr Roll Data 27 Aug

The night of the 24th, 25th, was one of the worst nights I’d had on the passage so far.  Winds were about 30° off the port quarter and the roll had increased all morning.

This was my 7th night since leaving Horta.  Being alone, I knew I had to have a program of work and sleep that was effective, otherwise I would be worn down in days.  As I wrote about earlier, having a system that I trusted and having an eye for light, made a difference.  It meant that a quick glance around, radar, AIS was enough, to let me go back to sleep.  In the course of the 9 hours of darkness, I probably woke half a dozen times, and actually slept about 6 hours.  This was very effective.  Days that I slept less, would probably mean that I would take a nap, less than an hour, during the afternoon.

But I was feeling great that I was more than half way.  I found it best to measure the time each night, as it seemed that when darkness came, since I did sleep a bit, before long morning would be there.  Surprisingly, many days did seem to go quickly, it helped that I had about 15 hours of a Korean drama that turned out pretty good.  I had watched that the first 5 days out of Horta.

The winds were also veering more to the west.  This meant that my following seas were becoming more on my beam, though the barometer was steady.

I played with the ComNav autopilot (AP) a bit, re-adjusting the settings, finally settling on Rudder Gain of 7, Counter rudder of 9 and Sensitivity of 9 (7,9,A). 20 minutes later, when I had the biggest roll since Horta, a delta of 35° with 25° to starboard and 10° back to port (25+10), I radically readjusted AP to 2,2,A.  At 03:00 we started rolling heavily, so I promptly changed course to more easterly, to reduce the waves on the beam and tried adjusting the AP again, this time 7,7,A.

Rolling Rolling Rolling Keep them Doggies Rolling Rawhide

Dauntless and our Ford Lehman SP135 passed 3600 hours at 07:30.  We had a small, impromptu celebration and I added ¾ qt. of oil to the hard working engine.  I also re-adjusted the AP to 7, 9,1 and slowed to 1050 rpm which still gave us 4.4 knots and the roll was reduced to delta 15 to 18°, almost nothing.

As the morning of the 26th, progressed, the winds weakened to 10 knots and I speeded up again, back to 1600 rpm and set the course NNE. I also used this quieter time to add a little more oil to engine.

So at 20:00, the evening of the 26th, my 9th night out, even as the winds were picking up, the barometer was 1007 mb, having lost only a mb in 24 hours, my course had me heading to Land’s End (At this point Brest was 290 nm east, Land’s End was  270 nm NE and Castletownbare was 220 nm due north. I knew no matter what the winds did, I would be in one of those places within 2 to 3 days). Fuel was good, I had at least 35 gallons left in the port tank and while I had my second inkling that not all was good in my starboard tank  (which had 110 gallons), I clearly wasn’t that worried about it. We were now running on that fuel. The AP was reset to 6,8,A and I went to sleep that night feeling all was right in the world.

A few hours later, Dauntless woke me as only she can. I was rolled out my pilot house bed with a roll that seemed to bring me to my feet as it felt like I was doing a somersault. As we came vertical again, I was standing on my feet.  Thus would start the last 47 hours of the Atlantic Passage and would be the biggest ordeal Dauntless and I had ever faced.

The big roll to port was caused by 36 kts wind and waves from the southeast.  The dew point also went up 10° (both signs indicative of a warm front) The roll that rolled me out of bed was 25° to port. The barometer had fallen suddenly  to 1001 mb, and within a few hours, would be down to 996 mb. The winds were howling out of the south at 35 knots. I set the course to NNE and hoped to stay in this sector of southerly winds long enough to get me to Ireland.

Ha. What a dreamer.

Thus would begin my two days of feeling like I was tied to the front of a roller coaster and though I was pretty sure the cars would not fly off the track, I was not happy.

The southerly winds lasted only 4 hours, enough to get me 20 miles closer to the end, only 200 to go!

Rolling had increased to delta 18°, 30°, 43° In the year and a half before the paravanes, I had seen isolated rolling like this, but I never put us in a position for it to be long term.  By mid-morning winds were strong out of the west and I was struggling in trying to keep a course that was as north as I could make it, without being pounded by 8’ to 10’ waves on the beam that were continuing to build.

The barometer had bottomed out at 995 mb, but this just meant that the west winds were unlikely to change direction.  They did get stronger 30 kts gusting to 40 kts by midafternoon.  With nothing else to really do, I logged our rate of roll and fiddled with the AP.  It was now at 8,8,2 and we were heading NNE at 6.5 knots.  With the AP I realized that the A(uto) setting, just meant it desensitized itself in this seaway, not what I wanted.  So I reset it again to 6, 8, 1.

I watched as one of the blue cushions on the foredeck got picked up by the wind and flew off.  I decided that the rest of them would just have to be on their own, as it was not worthwhile to go out on deck for them in this weather.  A good decision.

The roll was pretty much the same, (15° to 35°) as I really only watching the angle of the wind on the boat, I wanted to go north, so I would adjust the course accordingly trying to keep the wind off the port quarter consistently.  Again, it gave me something to do and kept my imagination from running wild (another problem of being alone).  I did have one other thing that helped; I found I had the card game of Hearts on my computer, (thank you Microsoft) and I played that as much as I could.  In the last days, I could use how well I played as a measure of my tiredness.  I peaked at a 43% win rate, but the last day was hard and I ended the trip at 41%.

At midnight on the 27th, with only had 25 hours left, I discovered the starboard Racor was full of crap (dirt and water), so  I switched to the port Racor and contemplated my next moves as the wind picked up right on my beam.

The pot began to boil.


The Calm Before the Storm II, But New Problems Develop

Day 6 & 7, 23 & 24 August

Back on course, heading due north, the winds were directly behind me, at 180° at 15 kts (written 18015).  Can’t ask for any better than that.  I was fat, dumb and happy.

Following Seas
Following Seas

I experimented a bit.  I wanted to see if different speeds affected the rolling. So between 1400 rpms, which produced about 5.1 knots and 1700 rpms which produced 6.7 knots, the boat rolled about 07° in one direction.  So no real difference, I did notice that with a following sea, the paravanes were less effective than I was accustomed to.  With those same waves on the beam, the roll would have been less than 04°

I also played with the autopilot a bit.  I must give the ComNav Autopilot credit.  I do not like the way the manual is written as I find it so dumbed down, it’s almost nonsensical, but the autopilot itself works well.

Now, the big caveat, is that with the confusing manual, it took me a year to get it to work well, but it f=does a good job and it really excels under severe conditions.  I had no backup for the AP and in the future I will have to address this, as this trip could not be possible without it.

So I set the AP to “auto” mode, where it decides the settings based on how rough it thinks it is. This ends up working fine until it got really rough and then I had to change it to the most sensitive setting to get it to work well.

I was disgusted looking at my track and seeing that I was only 125 nm from my position on the 21st at 7:00 a.m., that’s two days and 3 hours ago, I was pissed. If I wanted to make progress like that, I’d have a sail boat! I could have put the boat at idle, kept the course NE and I would have save a whole bunch of fuel, time and aggravation.

I’ll spend the next 24 hours being irritated at every glance at my navigation program seeing this track that did nothing other than waste time, money, fuel.  Thankfully, what I didn’t know was that by adding 36 hours to this passage, I was setting myself up for a ride of the ride of a life time.

I also added 2.5 qts of oil to the engine while it’s running. It uses almost 2 qts per 100 hours, so I just guestimate.

In the middle of the night, We get hit by a 36 kts gust of wind from the west. It made the boat roll 15° and woke me up.  The rest of the morning, the winds stay westerly but die down to 10 to 15 knots. This was the end of the nice weather.  The barometer, was 1015 mb and starting to fall.

I’d pretty much been  running off the port tank since leaving Horta. This tank was not down to 40 gallons, so it was time to start using the new fuel.  As I’ve said before, I try not to run any new fuel to the engine that has not been polished (cleaned and very finely filtered). This system works well had I got the fuel earlier and then spent a day polishing it while before leaving.  This issue is, I can only polish from the tank that is feeding the engine.

So now on the 24th, I figured I better see what’s going on with the fuel again.  I opened both feeds, so I could polish the starboard tank, but the engine would probably still take most of its fuel from the port tank.  I closed the return to the starboard tank, so as fuel was polished (filtered) it was also transferred to the port tank. The idea here is that if I have crap in the starboard tank, it stays there, hopefully.

So all day, we polish and feed from both tanks, returning fuel is all going to the starboard tank. As I go do my evening check, I am shocked to see the FP is really full of crap.  What does crap look like, large flakes of black/brown material the size of a dime and smaller, plus water. Now, I had run this FP about an hour after getting the fuel on the 18th.  It had rapidly clogged the filter, but this has happened before and that’s why I have the FP. So, I had put in a new filter before polishing again.

We ran like this for two days.  At the end of the first day, not only did I have a dirty FP filter, but the  filter feeding the engine did not look good.  This was the first time, I was really concerned because I do not like that this primary engine filter collected so much crap.  (the engine also has two filters in line, called the secondary filters that are actually on the engine, just before the fuel injector pump).

So after 24 hours, I switched the feel to the other filter.  The next day I changed all three filters while we were running.  For some reason known only to the gods, as I primed the right side filter, it was fine, but when I sent to prime the left side filter, I didn’t know what I did, but within about 20 seconds I could hear the engine starving for fuel.

Damn, I spend 4 weeks not turning off the engine and now, even worse that stopping it on its own, I let it run out of fuel, which can introduce air into the fuel lines.

What a BOZO!

Luckily, Larry and Lena, another KK42 couple, had spoken to me last summer in a most effective manner, “stop dicking around and put an electric fuel pump on so you can prime your filters in seconds. You don’t want to be using the lift pump lever with a hot engine”  Since I had just worn a hole in my hand using the lift pump lever for the three days I had been trying to get the engine started, I listened and did as told.  It had already helped in countless ways, in fact, I had just used it to prime the right side filter.

A clue as to what happened.  Another problem with running alone, now I must extradite myself and run up to pilot house and start engine. It starts and runs for 10 seconds. Then silence, punctuated by that loud low oil pressure buzzer. Another sound you never want to here, unless you just turned off the key.

OK, what now, I open the bleed screws on the engine filters.  I haven’t had to do that in ages, in fact since the electric fuel pump addition, but just maybe…

Turn on electric fuel pump, and nothing.  What the hell?

Look at my valve positions again and notice that everything is closed. Umm, turn on the main line and fuel sprays out of both bleed screws onto the hot engine.  Luckily, it’s diesel, which allows you to do such stuff without turning into a Molotov cocktail.

Get my little rag, wipe down the top of the engine and the filters. Run up to the Pilot House and turn the key. It starts, but slowly, then I give it some throttle and it roars to life.

Back to the engine room, make sure everything is set to run, turn on FP again and off we go.

I had done all of this early in the afternoon, the winds were still only 10 knots, but by 21:00 they were southwesterly 25 gusting to 30, as the barometer took a rapid dive to 1010 mb, losing 4 mb in 6 hours.

I had no idea that these would be the best sea conditions I would see for the next 5 days.

The Beginning
The Beginning

Crazy Ivan or Going Around in Circles

Day 4 & 5, 21 & 22 August

I had pulled in the birds for the paravanes last evening, but overnight the rolling had increased as the winds and waves increased, so at 05:30 birds went back in the water (when underway, I always keep the paravane poles out, so if I need to deploy the birds, it’s just a matter of throwing them in the water), as the rolling had increased to ±20° (again reminder this means the boat is heeling or rolling 10° in each direction, left and right, though in actuality, the waves make a difference so it’s usually 12° on the downwind side (which for the rest of this trip will be the starboard (right) side).

This was a fateful day. My Horta luck ran out. I made some really strange decisions that I would really suffer for a week later.  The day had stared with strong NE winds at 20 knots. I could not travel into those winds as the boat goes very slowly, like half speed and the pitching of the bow becomes like a bucking bronco.  One lesson I’ve learned about ocean travel is that since you don’t have to worry about running onto shore, you can go any direction, but in a boat that travels 6 knots normally, it’s fruitless to go into strong winds.

So therefore, I made a decision to go NW! Which would have put me in Greenland in two weeks.  But an hour later I turn around and head SE. Now, SE would put me in North Africa in a week. But, remember, I could not go NE because of the winds. This little escapade cost me three hours, as I crossed the spot I was the hours earlier. I was so irritated at myself that I did not realize for a full day that I was compounding this error tenfold!

Krogen on the High Seas
Krogen on the High Seas

Later on, someone asked if I did a “Crazy Ivan”. In the cold war days, Russian submarines, would turn suddenly and go back the way they came to check to see if anyone was following, thus earning the name, “Crazy Ivan”.  No I just changed  my mind a few too many times.

The winds stayed at 20 knots out of the NNE all day.  I continued to motor SE towards Africa.  Had I not been alone, someone, anyone, on the scene would have asked, what our goal was and as soon as I answered that question, I would have seen the folly of my ways.  Decision making is the biggest casualty of single handing.

Winds continued all day, night and into the next day from the NE, finally becoming easterly by evening and weakening to 15 knots. I keep my course of ESE now aiming for Gibraltar.

A number of folks on Trawler Forum have helped me by texting me the current locations of high and low pressure centers, along with their center pressure.  I then plot these positions and draw the isobars, so I have an idea of the gradient, which causes winds. The picture shows the 21 Aug, then I used it for the next two days to plot positions.  I need to be on the east side of the developing low, so the southerly winds it will develop there push me north.  So far, it seems to be working.

In looking at the weather maps I had created based on the positions I was texted, I am starting to understand my logic, I was determined to stay on the east side of any low pressure area. On the first map, the 21st there is this large High to the NNW of Dauntless, moving southeastward.  That was producing the NE winds I encountered and at first I thought to go NW to get on its other side, but then realized it would take forever, so I turned around.

Two days later, the map shows the high already over Dauntless, with the large low pressure area building to the NW.  Looking at that map now, it seems I did take a good course by trying to get to the east, as the winds built strongly from the SW over the coming days.

The east side would mean Southeasterly winds, which I wanted and which came on the 23rd.

But as I look at the maps again, I see that my idea was right on, it was my execution that was lacking. First, even looking at the positions of Dauntless on the three consecutive days, it’s like we hardly moved, yet the highs and lows moved a quarter of the way across the ocean. On the 21st, when I turned SE, I accepted the fact that the winds were going to push me to Portugal. I would have been right, had they kept up for a solid week,  So, finally in hindsight, I see I should have motored slowly north that first and second day, until the winds had a southerly component, as they would have on the 23rd.  then full speed ahead north

I spent much of this day experimenting with course and speed, to find the best way to mitigate the wind coming directly from the direction I wanted to go. It was slow, 3 knots, but at least I wasn’t wasting fuel and I wasn’t getting further away from my destination. I spent three hours going due east, and had a very easy ride with 6 ft. waves coming from the NE.

Finally, after a full day and a half, 34 hours after my first harebrained course change, I changed course to due NNE, into the winds, but really slow, at low (1100) rpms. The ride wasn’t bad, the roll was minor and I was going in a direction that I needed to go.

This ended up being a very good strategy for the conditions and this boat

The Calm Before the Storm I

Day 2 & 3, 19 & 20 August

I was roused from my slumber when I noticed a white light dead ahead, its 06:00.  Turns out it was Jupiter right on top of Venus.  What can I say, boys will be boys.  Clearly, I’ve learned to sleep like a cat with one eye open, In the last year, I have been woken numerous times when I see a light in front of me.  It’s probably happened more than a dozen times and it’s never been an earth bound object, but always the moon, sun, Venus and now, Jupiter’s been added to the list.

Second Night Out of Horta
Second Night Out of Horta

Seas were 2 to 3 feet from the west, winds are from the NW at 8 to 13, and we’re going NE, no whitecaps and gentle rolling ±08 °

I did not see a single boat/ship.  First time ever not to have seen anything, even on radar or AIS.

Since leaving Horta, I had run the fuel polisher about an hour just to check the fuel. Now, since the engine feed would feed from whatever tank I was polishing, I did not want to polish for a long time. I just wanted to make sure the engine ran on that fuel.  In doing so, I did notice some gunk in the bottom of the fuel polisher.  It was enough for me to decide not to use that tank as source for time being, but it wasn’t so much that I was concerned. Frankly, I just felt the Racors were doing their job so don’t fuss over it.

Again, woken from my slumber with another light dead ahead, this time the rising crescent moon at 02:20.

I’ve had my most substantial meal of the trip so far. Hormel canned chili (no beans), a can and a half of corn, a can of red kidney beans, a small Horta onion, 3 slices of American cheese, Sam Jang (Korean bean and garlic paste), Red pepper paste, garlic powder, black pepper and salt. The first day underway from Horta, I hardly ate at all, yesterday; I ate a tomato salad and some candy bars.  This morning, I had a tomato and onion salad (oil and vinegar).  And then my chili concoction midafternoon. I have three more portions in the freezer. I’ll end up eating them all in the next 5 days.

Winds continue to be light, less than 15 knots, so I pull the birds out of the water in late afternoon.

From my viewpoint, my course looks good.  A direct course to Ireland from Horta would have been to the NE, 045°. Instead, to take advantage on the movement of the Azores high, as well as the development of a little low west of the tip of Spain, I have taken a course of 066°.  There have been cumulus buildups on the horizon in all directions since morning, but around me, just scattered high clouds and for the first time, light winds, 5 to 8 knots from the west. (Spoiler alert, in 7 days this developing low would beat me like a rented mule)

We are droning along at 6 knots.  The Ford Lehman engine never misses a beat, which means many times one can hardly hear it as it is so steady, our brains ignore it.  When I sleep, nap at night, it feels just like being on a trans-Atlantic flight flying to Europe in the middle of the night, with the occasional moderate turbulence and the drone of the engines.

Also, these first few since leaving Horta have been thankfully uneventful.  Earlier in our passage, leaving Rhode Island, Cape Cod and finally Nova Scotia, each day there were things to deal with every day. Finally after  the 4th day out of NS, all systems were working and we settled into a routine.

A Lucky Start

Leaving Horta, Azores for Ireland, Monday, 18 August 2014

The first day of the last leg of our Atlantic Passage.  For the first time, I’m totally alone.  I had wanted to find a crewmate for this portion of the voyage, but it was not to be. Also, it’s impossible to replace Julie, not because we’re married, but because our decision making process produces optimum results every time. Julie and I had met a sailor in Flores, who was crossing the entire Atlantic by himself going to the Med. So, I thought I just needed to manage my time and I’d be fine.

I got a later than anticipated start, as I has to fuel the starboard  tank with 1224 liters, (323 gallons) of diesel.  We had arrived in Horta with 125 gallons remaining in the port tank, so I’d be leaving with 447 gallons (1700 liters) and expected to arrive at Castletownbare, Ireland with about 80 gallons.  Why I waited until the last day to fuel and why I did not put some fuel in the port tank are questions that are best left for the next life. But I will say that often times, decisions that seem questionable up front, after the fact, become apparent, even if I could not explain it at the time.

I took the short walk to our favorite café, Café Volga, to have my last meia de leite.  Twenty minutes later, At the little vegetable market, I bought a bunch of tasty tomatoes (which would turn out to be my main dish the next 5 days, in large part because I’d bought nothing else!) and while walking the mile back to the fuel dock, I realized I no longer had my passport.

I quickened my step, hoping, I had left it back on the boat, but actually knowing that I hadn’t. As I got back to Dauntless, in my haste to look for my passport, with grocery bags in each hand, I entered the boat through the pilot house, then came rushing down the stairs and swung left into the galley.

My first step from the stairs to the floor was almost my last.

I had left the engine room hatch wide open, leaving a big square hole, in which I stepped.

Being is such a hurry almost cost me dearly, but at the same time saved my lucky ass.

As I came flying down the stairs, I didn’t notice anything amiss until I took that first step onto thin air.  Luckily, I was moving so fast my momentum carried me across the opening and my chest hit the side of the galley counter, allowing me to get my arms up (each laden with grocery bag) and onto the galley counter.  With each forearm on top of the counter, I held myself up and I was able to keep myself from falling the five feet into the engine room.

As I extricated myself and realized that I was not hurt at all, not even banging my shin bone which seems to be a weekly occurrence,  I realized how lucky I’d been. Even the eggs I’d just bought had survived.

Now if only my passport would show up. I looked through the boat for my passport, but no luck and went to go tell customs that I didn’t have it.  They said no problem, I could check out without it, but I asked if he could call the police in the happenstance that it had been found and turned in.

A few minutes later, he gave me the thumbs up and 45 minutes later the police were nice enough to bring it to me.

So, less than an hour after two incidents which could have turned out very differently, Dauntless gave one long blast as we left the dock (I didn’t want them to forget the first Kadey Krogen they had seen in years so soon) and we headed north for the last part of our Atlantic Passage at 11:08.

My course was northeast, there were scattered clouds and light winds from the northwest; all in all a beautiful day.  I didn’t put the Scopolamine patch on until after I left. It usually takes  quite a few hours to take effect, so the only reason I think I delayed was I keep on thinking I shouldn’t need it. I did.

Well, it’s probably stress and fatigue, but on  this trip I needed virtually all the time.  So within a couple hours of leaving I felt sea sick.  When I fell sea sick, I almost never vomit, I just feel queasy and listless. And now feeling this way, I knew it would stay with me until I had some sleep, even with the patch.

Good weather, light winds, boat had a little rocking motion of about 10° in each direction.

Two items of technology, allowed me to feel I could safely do this portion of the passage alone:

  • Our new AIS transceiver, which meant that I could see other boats, but more importantly they could see Dauntless.  Ever since I installed the AIS transceiver just before leaving Rhode Island, no ship has ever came within three miles of Dauntless, and usually it’s at least five miles.  In the past, before  AIS, on virtually every open ocean portion we did, Dauntless always had at least one ship that was on a collision or near collision course until I changed course.

I think that with having AIS, big ships now see us automatically and alter course just to not have to bother worrying about it. It seemed my having AIS made their lives much easier, and this is safer as the result.

  • The second item is the Raymarine radar and its use of the alarm function. After only a year and half of use, I had finally figured out how to make my radar proximity alarm work and be effective. In the past, I didn’t use it because all I got were false alarms.  Finally I realized that by greatly reducing the gain (on automatic mode, it sets the gain at 45 out of 100), I set it at 06, and making the inner circle around the boat, a mile from the boat, anything substantial would have to go through this ring and thus set off the alarm.  I never needed it, because of the AIS as mentioned above, but in the first days, I did test it and even at the lowest gain setting of 1, it would still see a ship at 4 to 5 miles.  No more false alarms.

It allowed me to sleep more soundly, though in the course of the night, I’d still wake up maybe a half dozen times.  But I knew I had to have at least 6 hours of sleep during the 12 hours of darkness, even if it was three 2 hour periods.

My mid-afternoon, I was finally passing the island of Ina De Sao Jorge.  Winds had continued from the NW all day, putting the winds and sea right on my port beam, with winds at 10 knots, producing 2-3’ waves and Dauntless with the paravanes out and the birds in the water was rolling about 10° max to one side.

As darkness descended I got the pilot house ready for night, changing the displays and lowering the brightness, checking the engine gauges once more, 172° water temp, oil pressure and voltage.  Course & speed, weather and sea conditions, all noted in the log and lastly, an engine room check, in which I go sit on the spreader in front of the engine, look at the Racors, the fan belt, use the flash light to check anything unusual near the back of the engine, oil and fuel filters not leaking, etc. Just sit there and soak up the sounds and smells, till my brain sees that everything is normal. Even with all the noise, it’s actually peaceful. The Ford Lehman SP135 has a steady drone that I have only heard before in jet engines, in that it is so steady, not even the slightest change of pitch or sound, unless the throttle is changed. I can’t even begin to describe how reassuring it is.

My alarms set, nothing on the radar for miles and miles, I know I’ll wake in a hour or two, do a little check and hopefully, go back to sleep.

As I lay on the pilot house bench, cozy in my quilt, looking out at the darkness, I think of the day’s events and as the gentle roll rocks me to sleep, I hope I haven’t used all my luck on my first day.

Luck, more luck & wonderful people

I just had two of the worst things happen this morning for the entire trip.

After getting fuel, I went to store to get a few provisions, tomatoes, cheese, sausage and more white wine.
I figure that was enough for 7days.

After the market, I’m walking back to boat and I realize my passport is not in my back pocket. Right away, I realize it probably came out when I pulled my phone out.

Ok. But I hoped I left it on boat.

I get to boat, enter thru the pilot house, take a quick look for my passport on helm, no luck, come bounding down the stairs, with grocery bag in each hand, sunglasses on, turn left for galley and guess what I don’t see?

I’d left the engine room hatch open, while fueling and I step onto air.

My whole life passes before me, well not really, just the last second.

Luckily my momentum allowed me get my arms and elbows above galley counter.
So no damage done.

I’m thanking everyone for that and figure I’ll find my passport now.
No luck.

So I’m ready to retrace my last stops, but I ask customs to call police first, while I return to boat and look one more.

I’m now waiting for the police to bring it. Someone found it on the street.

If rather be lucky than smart.

But I do love the Azores and Horta.
Wonderful food, people and drink.
And that’s all that matters.

I’m off to Ireland shortly, knowing all goes well that ends well.

The Weather Intensifies; A Day by Day Summary Cape Cod to Flores

A Day by Day Summary Cape Cod to Flores, the Azores, 2230 nm, 20 July to 05 Aug 2014

20 July, 06:00, we left with the tide, as had a few hours on the Narragansett River, then Buzzards Bay to the Cape Cod Canal and across the Bay, anchoring at 21:00 that night. 91 nm,

21 July, anchored in Provincetown Harbor.  Very foggy, had to top up the tanks and repair VHF antennas, none of my VHF radios was working! Discovered that I had connected two antenna cables to each other, and one old Loran cable to the PH VHF, let the Shenanigans begin.

22 Jul, NO GO, Water maker not making water, changed fuel polish filter and one primary engine fuel filter.  The shenanigans continue as it takes me hours to figure out I have water maker valve set to Clean, thus no water.  We finally leave as fog breaks at 12:00 noon.  An hour later, the one and only boat we talk to the entire trip asks if I have seen any whales, I tell him we’re headed to the Azores.  He doesn’t get that answer very often. Yes, all the radios now work.

23 July, A strong S to SW winds 15 to 20 knots all night has kept us from turning more east (as many of you have noted).  The great circle route does pass just south of Nova Scotia, so with the winds pushing us that way, we take it as an omen to stop.  We pull into Shelburne, NS at 14:35 on the 24th.  We refuel, three times I say gallons and they give me liters. Luckily, I’m not a 767.  That night, when paying we realize the mistake and top up the next morning. Yes, that counts as a shenanigan.

25 July, Underway again, hopefully next stop, the Azores.  Keep rpms between 1500 & 1600 for the next 5 days.  The sight tubes on the tanks do not come into play until the tanks are about 1/3 down, therefore I will not have an accurate read until then. Southwest swell only 1-2 ft., light westerly winds all day and night.  Water maker auxiliary pump stops working, and the water maker was not working since it lost it prime.  I work on pump, pulling it out and finally just bypassing the pressure switch.  All is working OK. With the light winds, we were trying to get as far south as possible, knowing the SW winds would return.

26 July, No change in weather (wx) or course, at 9:00, the water maker was stops working again.  No power at all. Thought it was the relay, change relay, no change. Discover it is the tube fuse had toasted itself.  I put a spade fuse in, but the wires were too small and it cooks itself within minutes.  Luckily, I’m feeling all the wires as this is going on, and no other wires got even warm.  I decide to go without the fuse.  Never had another problem (but it doesn’t stop you from worrying about it!) and it was just now in writing this, that I remembered I was supposed to get new fuse.

27 July, Broken clouds all day with rain showers and thunderstorm, changed course to 135°, Southeast, speed is changing from 4.2 to 7.8 knots, we are clearly in the Gulf Stream eddies. We go all evening close to 8 knots.  This is the first day; we did not have some minor mechanical problem to deal with!

28 July, rain showers and Thunderstorms all day, winds getting stronger, south or SW 15 to 25, at 9:00 turned off all electronics for about an hour as we passed thru one line of cells, by 10:30 we were past that and all was normal again, the winds are strong from the south, so the paravanes are really working. At 11:30, we hear a noise that sounds like a pistol hot. Not having a pistol on board, we were worried.  I look to see that the 3/8” bolt for the mast cleat for the starboard paravane has sheared off. Quickly, neutral, to get pressure off of mast and I go up to fly bridge as boat is rolling around.  I re tie up-down line, which transfers force from paravanes to mast, and make a hitch around mast and tie it off at the boom. This turns out to be really effective and in a few days, I retied the other cleat too.  Oh, I forgot that wasn’t my first solution; my first solution was to tie it on another cleat that was on the mast.  As I watched it bend that cleat as we got underway, I decided that I needed a new solution.wpid-20140728_104746.jpg

29 July, at 2:45 upon our watch change, I decided it was a good time to add to quarts of oil to the running engine.  After much ado, it was a non-event. Much messier in a car.  Scattered clouds, SW winds at 10 to 15 continue.  1080 miles to go 😮

30 July, Sct clouds, winds still SW but less than 10 kts, no whitecaps!, we stopped at noon to pull in paravanes (they slow us up about ½ knot). Took this opputunity to take a swim.  The water was so blue. Also took this relatively calm period to tighten the paravane stays and the mast stays.  We spent the next 30 hours without the paravanes. This was the only time all trip without them.

31 July, nice weather continues. I tell Julie that this is what I had hoped for for the entire trip. By 18:00, the southerly swell causes us to put the paravanes back out. We had also gotten an easterly wind on our bow.  This was causing a pitch that coupled with the roll was becoming unpleasant, so the birds went out and the ride became ok, though still pitching.

1 Aug, another nice day, light easterly winds continue, so the ride wasn’t that smooth, but OK. Later on in the afternoon, I do what I told everyone I wouldn’t. I stopped the engine.  I wanted to check the new fan belt tension, I also changed the other fuel filter and added ½ qt. oil. (I was proud of my 2 qt. guess the day before).  Fan belt was fine. Before stopping the engine, I did start the Gen. why, who knows, maybe the start battery would be dead.

2 Aug, our 4th day of nice weather, Julie took a swim too. Winds are SSW at 10, so paravanes are needed. But still nice, Saw dolphins.  This nice weather really helped our morale, we were more than half way and also we had stopped having a problem a day.

3 Aug, we’re making good time, 160 miles in last 24 hours.  We also saw out whales today, but winds are out of NE causing again that pitch and roll.

4 Aug, Thunderstorms in the early morning, I change course to avoid them and get further south.  A few hours later, we return to our easterly course, as the winds have picked up since noon. They are now up to 20 kts and the seas are building to about 6 ft., though we have kept it behind us, off the rear quarter.  For the next 48 hours this would be our challenge.

Our roll has increased, winds continue 240 at 15 kts gusting to 25, and we’re rolling 15° in each direction with the paravanes.  That’s not normal.  We are watching the birds in the water and they are doing this little circular motion, the port bird is running next to the hull of the boat, while the Stbd bird is running three feet outside the pole.  Very strange behavior.  We’ve had these smaller birds on since Rhode Island, and thought we saw no difference.

At 16:00, we stop, to reposition the angle of the poles, thinking, it will help.  We have a strange evening. The port pole occasionally jumps vertical, which makes us stop the boat, so it falls out again. Finally, at 23:00 I try to go to sleep.  It’s hard to sleep, for the first time all voyage, and sure enough in an hour I hear the pole go vertical again, but I figure Julie can handle it and she does. An hour later, the same thing. The boat is also rolling a lot, like 15 to one side, 20 to the other, that a delta of 35°, that’s like pre-paravane numbers.

The third time it happens, I figure I better get up, as Julie has had enough practice with the shenanigans.  I first try to change the AP, the boat does clearly not like some combination of something, so I do the easiest thing first. No change.

Finally at 02:00, 05 Aug, we pulled the old bird out of the lazerette and changed the port bird. Now remember, we were hesitate to do this because the boat is rolling like a.. And trying to retrieve a 40 lb. object can be dangerous.

As soon as we get underway, I see the port bird is now tracking straight AND the Starboard bird which had been coming out of the waves sideway, since it was also doing a circular thing, is now tracking straight. At 3:00 Julie goes to a well-earned bed and we power along with strong SW winds now up to 25 knots.

But I know we’ll be at Flores within 15 hours, in fact, we can see the cap cloud over the island,  the boat is going well and we still have 9” of fuel in each tank (about 160 gal). At noon, we decide not to wait for port, but to change the stud bird also, the seas have continued to build and are above 6 ft. and the roll is delta 20°

At 17:30 we sight the lighthouse, of Porto do Albarnaz.  While we have seen the islands on the radar for the entire day, that doesn’t count.

It was nice to see land, especially after the last hard 48 hours. But it wasn’t over.

Because of the large waves from the SW, we were not able to turn more southerly, so we had to keep a course that put us north of Flores, even though we were heading to the southern tip.  I hoped that once in the lee of the island, NE of Flores, we could turn south and the wind and waves would be smaller.  They were, but not at first, we had an hour after we turned on=f now going into these 8 ft. waves, being slowed to like 3 knots.  It was at this point that we had a strange thing happen. We got hit by a float?? It came flying across the bow, hit the pilot house window and bounced off into the dark ocean.

3 miles, one whole hour later, we were in the lee of the island and the waves were less than half.

We anchored in 35’ water outside the Porto das Lajes, 39° 22.897’N, 31° 09.991W at 22:00

Anchorage Porto das Lajes, Flores
Anchorage Porto das Lajes, Flores

Our first part of our Atlantic Passage was done.

And that’s why I didn’t write. I was resting.

Stay tuned to the same channel next week.

Thanks for joining us.

Dauntless is big
Dauntless is big

Wind and Waves

Now that you hopefully have a better understanding of following seas, let’s define a few more terms and procedures.

If I say the winds are westerly, that means they are from the west.  Generally I speak of wind direction in relation to the direction we are trying to go.  So, for example, when we left Cape Cod, the Azores and Europe were to our east, so we wanted to set a course to the east, therefore westerly winds would have been good, as they would have produced a following sea and all would be happy.  As it was, many of you already remarked, that we did not go east, as the winds were actually quite strong from the southwest forcing us to take a more northeasterly course.

This morning, the winds in Horta are howling, that is faster than strong, but not quite a gale!

I use knots to measure speed, as a knot = 1 nautical mile per hour, a nautical mile (nm) is about 1.12 statute miles.  We still use nautical miles because it turns out there are exactly 60 nm in one degree of latitude and since 1° of latitude equals 60 minutes, one minute of latitude = one nautical mile. It makes looking at charts and estimating time very easy.

So the Bost scale of winds:

  • Light and variable, less than 5 knots (6 mph) and from any direction. They are light enough, the direction doesn’t matter.
  • Light winds, 5 to 10 kts
  • Moderate winds 12 to 16
  • Strong, 18 to 25
  • Howling 25 to 35, (so today the winds are blowing 15 to 20, with gusts 37)
  • Gale 38 to 45
  • Storm faster than that.

Directions.  In general, directions like easterly, means in relation to a real map, so USA is west, Europe is east and South America is south.  On a boat, there is one other direction we look at, the apparent direction.  The  boat doesn’t know which way it faces, it just knows that the winds are on its nose (bow), that’s 0°, coming at a right angle to the boat, is on our beam, the starboard (right) beam is 90°, the port beam, (left) is 270°  All of these directions are relative to the boat. On the diagram I drew I added two more directions, the right and left rear quarters.  Basically, I try to keep the winds between 135° and 225°, and the more near 180°, the better.

 a wind diagram in relation to the boat
a wind diagram in relation to the boat

How the Boat handles in Winds and Waves

In calm weather and flat seas, I would normal run Dauntless at 1600 rpm, which would produce a speed of 6.2 knots and consume 1.5 gal of diesel per hour or 4.13 nm/gal.  Now how does this change with wind and waves?

If at the same 1600 rpm, if I was running into a 10 to 12 knots on the bow, or they are at 0°, dauntless would probably slow to about 5 knots, as this wind would probably produce waves of about 2-3 feet and we would start to pitch up and down (all wave heights mentioned are an estimate and an average, if the waves are 2 ft., there will be some 1 ft. waves, some 3 ft. waves and an occasional 4 ft. wave.  Think of it as a bell curve with the average being in the highest point of the curve, but there are extremes on both sides).

If this same wind were on the beam, our speed would stay the same, we would not slow down, but we would roll and 15° to each side. This is without the paravanes.  It would be uncomfortable.  And as you can see, a 10 to 15 knot wind is really normal, so the paravanes were really important.

From the stern, this same wind would add a few tenths speed and the ride would be ideal. That’s how we got the saying, “May You Have Fair Winds and Following Seas” I smile even writing it.

Now, if the wind is blowing 20 knots for any length of time and the seas have had the time to build, those winds would produce 5 to 8 ft. waves.  Going into them, our speed would be reduced to half, if they were on our beam, with paravanes, our roll would be one third of what it would be without, so about 10 to 15° with, without almost 40° (yes, I have done that, no, I won’t do it again. I never felt unsafe, but it’s miserable).  Larry Polster of Krogen told me he has had his 42’ roll as far as the cap rails.  I’ve never got that far (that I know of), probably only a foot below.

So the lesson here is that as the winds increase above 15 knots, it really limits ones course.  Therefore, when we left Cape Cod, while we wanted to head east, as the winds keep getting stronger and stronger from the southwest, it made os take an ever more northerly course and essentially pushed us to Nova Scotia.

So again, I am always trying to keep the winds in the rear of the boat.  We spent days and days just trying to get further south, but the winds and the waves they produced were not allowing it.

We only had two nice weather days.  I had been hoping that most of the trip would be under the influence of the Bermuda and Azores high pressure areas, giving us light winds, sun and very small seas, less than a foot.

But alas, it was not to be.

Also dauntless’ normal speed of 6 knots is about a third to a quarter of the speed of a low pressure system across the ocean,  So even as one storm passes, the next one will catch up to us in a few days.

One of the reasons we only saw whales and turtles once, was that it takes calm seas to notice a turtle floating near you or to see a whale surface.  We only had two days without white caps and those were the days we say the whales and turtles.  The first few days Julie and I wanted to see whales so badly, we were imagining them everywhere, but it was only the waves tops.

A distant TCU
A distant TCU

Following Seas

Our passage from Nova Scotia started out perfectly, with northwesterly winds (meaning they are from the NW and since we were going southeast, they were directly behind us, the so called “following sea”), almost pushing us. Perfect for Dauntless as she handles waves from behind very well.

Before our purchase of Dauntless, my research had indicated that the Kadey Krogen as a function of hull design, was not only one of the most effieeincet boats out there, but also, probably for the same reasons, it handled a following sea very well. Meaning, as a wave lifts the boat from behind, the Krogen hull continues to keep the boat on track, whereas boats that do not handle a following seas well, the boat will slew sideways and try to roll down the face of the wave on her beam.

Julie and I tested this the first time out on the boat. It was the second day after closing and we felt it was time for a trip.  Now, not knowing anything about Florida, or Stuart, where we were, we fired her up, and headed down the river and out the inlet.  Wind was blowing onshore, producing big ass waves.  But then what did we know? We had bought a boat to go around the world and if it couldn’t get out of this inlet, better to realize our mistake sooner rather than later.

We certainly were not afraid, curious is a better word.  So we are heading east out of the inlet, into 6’ to 8 foot waves on our bow.  Shout period waves, plain annoying.  Julie and I are in the pilot house, holding on for dear life as the boat goes flying up and then down (pitching), with a little roll (maybe 15°). We’re doing fine, when we hear this large crash from down below.  We had not secured the door to the fridge, so our wine and club soda bottles had come crashing out and were rolling around the salon floor along with the two chairs and couch.

Only one club soda bottle had broken, so we felt that was the best of omens.  After about 20 minutes of this pitching and rolling and with no more adventures, we felt it was time to turn around. Now, I did know enough that I did not want to get hit by a wave on our beam, so much like skiing, when one turns on top of a mogul, I used power and our big rudder to get us turned without too much drama. (I’ve certainly rolled more since).

And as we put the winds and seas behind us, it was like the 8 ft. waves disappeared.  Dauntless was transformed form this bucking bronco to the old grey mare.  The combination of our speed going in the direction of the waves and her hull form, made the waves almost disappear.

Right then and there, we knew we had made the right decision.

The Ocean is So Blue

This surprised us.  Having been in the Bahamas this winter, when the water as not so deep, it was so blue, like you are looking at a swimming pool.  But the deeper parts, like “Tongue of the Ocean” where the water is over 5,000 feet deep, the water is a dark navy blue color.

So, one of the first things Julie and I noticed a day out of Nova Scotia, was how blue the water was.  Not navy blue, but a lighter shade.  It took us more than a day to get off the continental shelf where the water goes from a few hundred feet deep to over 10,000 feet.

Mid-Atlantic Blue Ocean
Mid-Atlantic Blue Ocean

By day three, we were in very deep water, over 14,000 feet deep, yet the water was so blue, not dark, like you could almost see the bottom.  It called to us like the Sirens of the ancient world.  Many times, I felt like jumping in, the only thing stopping me, the knowledge that on the open ocean, simple acts beget tragedies.

Finally, the sun came out and we had two nice days, winds less than 10 knots, 1 to 2’ waves, really nice motoring weather.  So we stopped the boat to take a swim.  Left the engine running, but not in gear obviously, and tied a 40’ line to the stern, just in case of who knows what.  Now, we of course did not both go in the water at the same time, we didn’t even take off our clothes at the same time, in fact, Julie waited until the next day.  But as I jumped in the ocean, I could not but feel great.  The water was so blue under the boat, almost sky blue, and surprisingly, so salty. It tasted much saltier than before.  Julie confirmed that also when she took her swim the following day.

We did see wildlife.  Not as much as along the coast though.  We only saw dolphins a few times, but one group was really large, more than 30.  They swam with us for only a few minutes, whereas in the past, I’ve had dolphins spend 30 to 50 minutes with us. We also had a pair of birds hitch a ride.  Happily, both flew off under their own power after a much needed rest the following day.

A Mid Atlantic Turtle
A Mid Atlantic Turtle

A few days from the Azores, we sighted what we initially thought was a float, but it turned out to be a turtle, just floating on the surface. Then an hour later, another turtle.  We also had our only whale sighting, a couple of Humpbacks, maybe q quarter mile south.

Maybe the birds even helped themselves to the flying fish we would find on deck each morning.  Sometimes we can see their impact 5’ or 6’ above the deck level on the salon wall or windows.  They are also pretty small, just a few inches long.  The flying fish we encountered in the Bahamas were much larger, but then so were the waves that night.

And just before Flores, we had a half dozen squid ranging in size from two to six inches long, on deck. I’m guessing the squid got there thru the deck scuppers as the boat rolls in the waves.  The only problem was that sometimes I did not find them for a day, in which case we really did start to smell like a trawler.

We need a cat.

A FLores Cat

Some Housecleaning

I’m sorry I have not been as communicative as I would like for a number of reasons, including:

  • Limited Wi-Fi, or better yet, unlimited Wi-Fi, but it’s not connected to the Internet, and have only found one place where it is. So what email writing I have done is written on my cell phone, which is not conducive to this blog (I’m not swyping three pages worth)
  • Every day, I seem to have an hour project that takes me 10 hours to complete
  • After being in Horta for a week, I finally got all the small things done and the boat is ready to go
  • Being ready to go, I don’t want to write, I want to go, so I end up writing things like “Disappointment” which has nothing to do with this trip so I’ve decided to save it for a later date.
  • I’m waiting for the weather to leave. It will be 7 days to Ireland and I want the first three or four to be good, which means light winds and seas.
  • At this time, I am thinking of a Monday, late morning departure, as I would like to give the seas a day to calm down.
  • Stay tuned.

Thanks for sharing this voyage and our adventures.