A French Kiss on the Bay of Biscay

Three days, three nights, three hundred and fifty miles, what could go wrong?

Dauntless in Spain
Dauntless in Spain

In my early years of cruising, it what seems like just yesteryear, oh wait, it was just last year, I started out every overnight passage thinking nothing would go wrong. No muss, no fuss, no drama.

In spite of the fact that I really like Korean dramas, not all dramas are the same and dramas on Dauntless seem just that, dramatic.

But this year, 2016, I vowed everything would be different.  Leaving no stone unturned, I would ruthlessly dot every I and cross every t, leaving no room for dramas of any kind.

We waited an extra day in Rochelle with an anticipated three-day weather window opening up.  Day one would have brisk winds from the northwest (NW 12g18), Day 2 continued brisk winds but from the northeast, Day 3 light winds, less than 8 knots and Day 4 southwesterly winds increasing in strength to 25 knots by Day 5.

Now, what this means is since our course for the 60-hour passage would be to the southwest (240 degrees True), Day 1 would find brink winds on our beam producing 4 to 6 foot seas, Day 2 would see a following sea of the same magnitude and Day 3 should see flat seas.

But we would have to arrive before the southwesterly winds picked up, since there is nothing worse than heading into the seas and wind in a slow ass boat like Dauntless.  Not only does the ride become worse than the worse hoppy horse you ever rode, but you slow down so much, you 10-hour trip becomes 20, so the time of being miserable is doubled is not trebled (see last year’s epic, beating yourself to death on the English Channel.)

Thus our departure time was carefully calibrated to the weather forecast and the opening of the gate in the marina which is only open for three hours centered around the high water time.  Thus 6 hours out of every 24.

We left La Rochelle on time, 14:15 hours, just as the draw bridge opened, and got a hearty send off from the bridge attendant with gestures and yelling which could only mean “Bon Voyage”, though he was pointing to a red light in doing so, but if I have learned only one thing while boating in France, it’s that everything is advisory and as long as you don’t hit something too hard, All’s Well that Ends Well.

The afternoon of Day 1 was about as anticipated, westerly winds around 10 knots; not enough to produce significant seas.  So we ran without the paravanes birds in the water. Dauntless had a nice easy gait to her.  The boys were on four hour watches and they were doing very well. I could even sleep in my cabin (having slept in the pilot house on our previous passage from Ireland).

12 hours into the passage, during the early morning hours, the winds were picking up to the mid to high teens, that will produce seas 3 to 5 feet and they were from the west not NW. This meant that our heading to the SW was into a bit of seas producing some pitching.  So at 02:00 as I rolled around in bed, I figured I may as well get up and deploy the birds.

Normally, upon leaving port, I set the poles out and make sure of the rigging.  We did that this time as usual, but when the birds were in the water, I noticed the lines were wrapped strangely around the pole, with the net effect that the bird was not hanging from the end of the pole, but from the middle.

That just wouldn’t do, so in seas that were now 4 to 6 feet, we stopped to haul the birds, unshackle them and re-rig them.  With Dauntless sitting dead in the water, standing on the side deck can be a bit frightening to the novice sailor.  From the side deck, you look up to see a 6 foot waves approaching the beam. Your first thought is that this wave is not only going to soak you, but will swamp the boat.

Now I’m kneeling down, taking the shackle off, so I can unwind the line from the pole.  Tony, my nephew, is standing there a bit amazed, as he warns me of the “big” waves approaching.  It is a bit daunting I admit, but I tell him those waves aren’t that big.

So, 10 minutes later both birds are re-rigged and in the water.

I did notice that the lee side bird was running pretty close to the boat, but I have seen this behavior before and did not think it was significant.  I got back to bed, leaving Tony or Micah on watch.

As I am laying in bad, thinking about the birds, I had gotten splashed by a few drop of good ole North Atlantic Ocean water.  I went to sleep thinking I had been kissed my Mother Nature.

The winds picked up all night and into Day 2, now blowing at 15 to 22 knots.  Annoyingly, they were still from the west and not the northwest as forecast (stupid me for believing the details of the weather forecast).  So the seas were building and we were rolling a bit more than usual.

Then Bam, what the hell was that? I’m in bed, it’s dark. I get up, look around, I notice that the windward paravanes pole was unloading more than usual.  Maybe that was the bang I heard, felt, as it picked up the slack suddenly.

Every few minutes, when the boat got into a deep rhythmic roll, I’d hear the bang.  I look again, see nothing unusual. Both birds are running closer to the boat than usual, but they are also running deeper than last year.

After getting another 2-hour sleep in, I get up at 07:00, to relieve Micah so they can both get a good sleep.  I am determined to find the bang.  I’m standing in the stern deck, looking at the beautiful sunset and I look down during a particularly heavy roll (15 degrees in one direction) and the paravanes bird is really close to the hull.  Is that the bang I am hearing??

Have the birds become asymmetric?  Meaning does it now matter which side they are on?  I realize that the starboard bird is running to the left, while the port bird is running to the right.  Could the easy fix be to just swap them?

I decide to do just that. So for the third time I stop the boat to retrieve the birds, unshackle them and swap sides.  I think you should be able to see the course change I made to facilitate this, (Share.Delorme.com/Dauntless) I turned Dauntless to run with the waves making the motion on the boat easier.

Ten minutes later, it’s done and they are running true, both now running just where they should about 13 feet from the side of the boat.  So now, I better mark them.  The roll was also reduced after the swap.  Now they are working normally.

Day 2’s winds stayed NW all day. Never saw the NE winds that were forecast.

Around midnight of the second day out, we stopped again to pull the birds, this time because the seas had greatly diminished and I wanted the 0.7 kts back that they use.

So it’s now 08:00 on Day 3.  The winds have finally died, though we have an Atlantic swell of about 6 feet every 8 seconds.

I decided to add a quart of oil to the engine while running.  With the Ford Lehman, there is virtually no blowback with the oil cap off, so one can add oil without making a mess. (Don’t try this with your car with an overhead camshaft.)

This engine consumes about a quart of oil about every 50 hours, so to add some now would not hurt.

As I am pouring the oil in I notice the red plastic ring that comes off the cap was still around the spout of the oil container.  As I think I must be careful not to let it fall into the engine, it falls into the engine!

What a f…ing idiot.  I dash to the pilot house to kill the engine (yes, I know I need a remote start/stop in the engine room) and run back to see what I can see in the top of the oil fill on the crankcase.  I bend over, flashlight in hand and see the plastic ring. Yes! Then I see a second plastic ring? And then a third.

The plastic rings retrieved from the top of the crankcase.
The plastic rings retrieved from the top of the crankcase.

I suppose the good news is they were not going to melt and ruin the head.  I do have one of those retrieval snakes right by the engine, so a few minutes later, I had all three fished out.

I should look in there more often.  Maybe I’ll find my missing books.

Probably not.

All’s Well That Ends Well.

Tonight Spain, ready or not.


Waiting for Weather

Monday 21Z Update

I keep on looking for excuses not to leave, but Mother Nature, continues to send warning signals that I best be on my way.  Right now, the best 42 hour window is from the 13th at 0300L, putting us just off of Brest on the 14th at 22L.

A night time entry, but what else is new!

It’s the only way I can maiximize the good wind conditions as the ridge moves east .

By the way, windyty.com provides the same data as Earth Null School below: windyty.com for Irish Sea nad English Channel

I do like their format, but sometimes windyty has too much data for my liking, especially as it changes.



So, in our last days in Waterford, saying goodbye to some really dear people, having to wait for weather is not so bad.

THe circle is just south of our current location. The arrow is near our destination just west of Brest.
THe circle is just south of our current location. The arrow is near our destination just west of Brest.

Presently the winds are gusting to 30 and we are snug as a bug in a rug. Nothing as sweet as riding out a storm in port, tied to a dock.

As I have mentioned many times, for short term planning, I’ll usually just look at the Null School data set, whose link is:

Current Surface Winds

And here is the current surface map to help you understand the wind pattern better:

Atlantic Sfc Analysis

I’ve been watching this for the last few weeks, at first just to get an idea of the timing of the systems and the strength of the winds.

Until yesterday, the prognosis (progs) seemed to indicate a thin ridge of high pressure passing eastward mid-week. Then yesterday, it showed a nice ridge (indicative of fair weather and weaker winds) on Thursday and Friday, with the high pressure area centered just west of Brest.

Now this afternoon, after the 12Z run of weather models, my ridge of high pressure has been squeezed to almost nothing. So for my 2 day trip, this now looks like a 24 hour weather window:

WNW winds down to 15 knots (map shows km/hr)

It’s for this reason, (that the progs can change significantly) I pretty much do not look at any other weather products routinely.  There are a number of reasons for this, in short, they all get their weather from the same source and more importantly, the different forecast models may differ in terms of space and time; but for someone not looking at them constantly, as in a full time job, forget it.  There is simply too much information to digest fine tune a forecast that much.  In addition, there is no point in looking at more detailed forecasts because by now, I know what to look for.

Though if I was travelling locally, like north along the coast, then I would check the marine forecast for that area. But if was just saying what I already could deduce myself, in other words no real local conditions to consider, then I don’t bother looking at it again.

Dauntless needs a little less than two full days. 42 hours, to get from Waterford to Brest, France.  So I’ve been watching for the last few weeks, whenever I have internet, to see how often a two-day window appears.

Not very often.  There may have been one a few weeks ago, but since that, I’ve only seen good weather windows of about a day.  Now, when I say good weather, originally I was looking only for winds on our stern at 15 knots or less. The Krogen runs really well in such conditions, rolling as she is wont to do, but the paravanes reduce most of that.

As I was watching, I had even settled for 20 knots astern, since I saw so few periods with less than 15.  Also, since our course to Brest will be 160 True, winds from dead astern would be 160 +180 = 340 or northwesterlies.  NW winds occur after a cold frontal passage.

So it’s easy, just wait for the front to pass and head out.

But it’s not so easy, as I learned 30 years ago while forecasting the weather for northern Europe and Germany in particular.  The North Atlantic is a true spawning ground for low pressure systems.  They line up like freight trains, from North America to Northern Europe. And they are moving quickly, averaging 4 times the speed of Dauntless or about 600 nm a day.

But as the fronts approach Europe, they start to weaken as they lose the upper air support that is centered over the North Atlantic.  Then with the passage of the cold front, instead of the usual 2 to 3 days of high pressure with NW winds and cold temperatures that one gets in the mid-west, one gets a reprieve of only 6 hours, before the winds jump around to the south or southwest in from the of the next cold front due to arrive in about 18 hours.

It was exactly the pattern I got into in the last three days of my Atlantic Passage two years ago.  But then, I wasn’t thinking of the overall pattern, but instead was just so glad to see a few rays of sunshine as the winds dropped to 15 to 18 knots.


I remember making a snack thinking the worst was over.  I was able to find the banging wine bottle.  So as the winds picked up again in the next few hours, I hardly noticed.  I was like the lobster in the pot of cold water wholeheartedly noticed the water getting hotter and hotter until it’s too late.

But unlike the lobster, I know I’ll be safe no matter what, though I may be miserable.  That’s because the first step is to find and have a boat that can do what you want it to do.




New Ross Boat Yard

The Joanna Mary
The Joanna Mary

See some of the boats that kept Dauntless company for the windy, Ireland winter.

All boats were blocked AND STRAPPED DOWN for the winter winds, that were greater than 100 knots!!!

Cats are Fat
Just across the boat lift bay from Dauntless. I don’t think she is going anyplace this year either.
Tie Downs are evident

It’s not called the “North20160423_155106.jpg Atlant

One of the Fastnet boats in the yard. They are based in Waterford.
One of the Fastnet boats in the yard. They are based in Waterford.

ic” fo20160423_155313.jpg20160423_155343.jpg20160423_154745.jpg20160423_155400.jpg20160423_155216.jpg20160423_154504.jpg20160423_155421.jpgr nothing.20160423_155400.jpg

The Joanna Mary in dry dock
The Joanna Mary in dry dock
A narrow canal barge
A narrow canal barge


One of the Cats of the New Ross Boat Yard. The Travel lift was moving as he nonchalantly walked past.
One of the Cats of the New Ross Boat Yard.
The Travel lift was moving as he nonchalantly walked past.
This boat was a winner in the around Ireland race back in the '70's
The Sea Hunter was a winner in the around Ireland race back in the ’70’s
Dauntless was just put in the shed for painting.
Dauntless was just put in the shed for painting.

Now … It’s Miller Time

B52 Its Miller TimeAnd I’m sick.  Just a cold that I felt coming on last week, but I had been feeling better and I needed to take advantage of being next to the dock and wall (instead of being rafted to fishing boats) so that I could rig the new paravane pole.  It also allowed me to complete the re-rigging of the smaller lines on the winch that pull the birds and the poles up.  It’s now a very easy system to deploy and retrieve when I am alone.

My first morning in Waterford, my winter quarters, somewhat nicer and warmer than Washington’s winter in Valley Forge and I probably have enough food and calories on this boat to feed a family in Africa for a year, an extended family!

It’s one of those typical northern European fall/winter day, a stale gray sky with light rain and drizzle.  Probably good for me, makes me rest, as on sunny days, I have this primordial urge to hunt & gather. So instead I’m watching last night’s Jet’s game.  God, they are pathetic.  The poster child of what it looks like when you have an owner who cares more about appearances than winning.  In other words, they make terrible choices, but instead of dealing with it, they keep on telling everyone how smart they are and there is no problem; simply ignoring the fact that the data (their record) says differently. If you refuse to reflect and admit mistakes, there is not much chance of improvement. Much like Obama, who seems to be re-inventing the Vietnam War in Syria?  I wonder if he has even read books about the War.  It’s the ultimate folly and hubris to think you can to run a war from the White House.  All it does is annoy the enemy and get Americans killed for no reason. The Iran rescue attempt was also run from the White House.  Yes, that failure still rankles me to this day. OK. Basta.

Waterford Viking Tower
Waterford Viking Tower

I’m hoping to have Wi-Fi at some point, it will make getting my laptop online much easier and it the main reason I have not posted more in the last two weeks.  I’ll just have to make a better effort to diagnose my phones hotspot issue.

I’m also finishing the Post Mortem for the Atlantic Passage.  It’s a bit wordy, so it needs some editing.  In the near future there are a number of issues:  the Electro Scan system is having issues with the mix motor and long term, I must find and install a diesel forced air heater.

Having spent the last three weeks in fishing harbors, Castletwonbere and Dunmore East, has been really a wonderful experience for me.  Ireland has five official fishing ports, and those are two of them.  I’ve been tied to fishing boats most of that time and the fishermen have been great.

We Fit Right In
We Fit Right In

You can see in some of the photos I’ve posted the similarity between this Krogen 42 and the fishing boats.  In fact, almost identical lines.  I had not noticed this before in the U.S., but here is was obvious.  Clearly a primary reason Dauntless is so salty and as I reflect on the passage, as uncomfortable I was at times, Dauntless was in her element and could have taken far more.

In the short time I’ve been in Ireland, I have met so many great people, interested in our passage and clearly these are communities tied to the water. Even yesterday, the person who came to fuel my boat (2400 liters, 631 U.S. gallons) loved the look of the Krogen and took many pictures of her.  Now being in Waterford, this will be a little different experience.  No fishing boats and we’re right downtown, I ‘m currently tied adjacent to the Viking Tower.  Looking out my salon window, instead of tremendous waves, I see a mud flat between the dock and the City wall.  The tidal range here is 11 to 12’.  Dauntless has only 2 feet of water under her keel at low tide.  The river we’re on, the River Suir, is the fastest running river in all of Europe, but it’s really a tidal estuary, but I didn’t feel the need bring that up, as I was being told about the river.  I like being in river like this, as it means far less likely hood of freezing and it’s in constant flush mode.

Waterford Spire
Waterford Spire

I finally was able to recalibrate the Victron system, thanks to the help of a Victron Product Manager I met at the Amsterdam boat show.  This system monitors all the current (electricity) going into and out of the batteries.  It’s important to monitor because whenever the boat is not running the engine or generator (which I try to seldom use) all the power is provided by the batteries, so it critical to know how much power has been taken out of them, to a maintain long term battery health.  It would be over $1,000 to replace the batteries, so I want them to last quite a few more years.

OK, let me go see if I can find hydrochloric acid for the Electro Scan and not be arrested for terroristic intentions.


The Pot Boils

Noon on the 28th as the Ocean Gets Frisky

Its midnight, a little more than 25 hours to go, and I see that the starboard Racor is full of crap, I switch to the Port Racor and return to the pilot house to contemplate my next moves.

This video doesn’t exist

2 Days of Rolling Data
2 Days of Rolling Data

The wind had stayed steady at SW at 30 kts.  I was getting used to the roll, 20° in one direction, 30° in the other, certainly the biggest rolls I’ve ever seen since having the paravanes.  I needed to sleep.  I reasoned that the engine was running, the Racor had done its job, and by switching to the new Racor, I reckoned it should last at worst till morning, but more than likely till my destination, only 25 hours away.

I must have gotten pretty good rest, as there are no log entries from midnight, when I switched to port Racor until 07:00 when I recorded our position and noted, “Last  night for a while” . I was ready for this to end, but, like March, it was going to go out like a lion.  My roll “telltale” had the biggest roll to one side overnight as 23°  Not so bad.   I decided to use this relatively quiet period to change the Racors and FP filters, all three.

At 7:20, I wrote in the log 7:20, with nothing else.  I must have been tired, but I assume that’s when I went to change Racors, as next log entry was at  08:10 when I wrote underway again, changed all 3 Racors. The key there was underway again.

Usually I can now change all three in 15 minutes with the engine running.  This took 40, as we had some drama.  FP filter and right side filter were done quickly, but in priming the filter, the shenanigans began.  When I first turned on fuel pump to prime right side filter, nothing happened, because it was turned off, remember I was running on left side filter. Now in hindsight, I see what I should have done, but if wishes were horses, …

But instead I opened the two valves around pump, leaving the third one open.  In this configuration, the fuel pump is pumping fuel, but only in a little circle, while it laughs at me for giving it such easy work.  Ok, got it, switch to right filter, close gravity feed, prime filter, it’s done and engine is still running. Pump off, gravity feed on.

Now to the left side filter. Drain, open, remove old filter, new in, all in one minute, now to prime, change engine to this filter as I turn on pump, but gravity feed is still open. So nothing happens in filter and it doesn’t fill.  Engine starts to slow down, I know I only have seconds left to solve this before I kill engine in 10 foot seas.

As I turn the red handle of the gravity feed to off, so pump can fill filter and feed engine, the engine dies.

Crap.  I vowed never to let this happen and it does.  OK.  Now being alone is a PIA, as I must leave engine room to start engine.  I figure, OK, at least I can now take my time and finish job.  I prime filter, turn off pump, close valves and scamper up stairs to salon and the pilot house.

Start engine. It sounds so sweet as it runs for about 10 seconds and then dies. Walk, Don’t Run, back to engine room, sit next to engine, what did I do wrong?

I have it!  I let air get to engine mounted fuel filters (there are two in series right after the mechanical lift pump (fuel pump that “lifts” fuel from near bottom of engine to top of engine). The BIG lesson here is ALWAYS check similiest solutions first.  (At times, I think I don’t check the simple solution first, because it can’t be that easy.)

So, all I need to do is bleed these engine mounted filters. Easy, the box end wrench is hanging right here just for this occasion (all the wrenches needed for all these jobs are hanging right there). I loosen both bleed screws (yes, book says one at a time, but I’m in a hurry).

Turn on pump, nothing.  Look frantically around.  See all three valves are closed, duh, open the two for the pump and turn on switch, as at that same moment, I realize I did not have to open bleed screws as all three valves were closed, in other words, nothing was open for the engine.

In the one second for that realization to hit home, the fuel is getting to the bleed screws and spraying fuel all over the hot engine. I turn off pump, reset all valves to their correct positons and get my oil soak cloths and start wiping away.  I’m not that concerned, because I have not found any place on the top of the engine that is ever above 200°F and besides, if you think this is the first time I’ve done fiasco, you have another think coming.

I wipe down everything, also Racors, where I made a mess thinking they were the problem and finally at 8:19 I’m up at the wheel starting the engine again.  This time it starts running, but clearly not well, but I also recognize this and know that with a little throttle, all will be fine in 20 seconds.

I’m underway again at 8:20.

Interestingly enough, even with the waves and seas, I did not seem to notice how well the Krogen handled sitting in the middle of the ocean bobbin away.  Too much in crisis mode and not observation mode I suppose.

Three hours later, I check the fuel filters again and am dismayed at the amount of crap the filters are picking up, I change the FP and the port filter again. This time with no drama.

A new issue, the bilge pump has gone off 250 times in the last 24 hours.  Usually it goes off 10 times, in rough weather maybe 20 to 30 times, if my stuffing box is really leaking, I’ve seen 180 times, but never this many.  Now the rolling had increased to almost 20° and 30° in each direction, a delta of 50° (certainly a new record for me) and the decks were wet with water flooding in the scuppers, with the starboard deck sometimes having water flood over the cap rail (another first for me).

There are no obvious leaks anywhere either in the engine room or in the cabin, so I decide not to worry about it, since there is no obvious solution. Like the Racors, the bilge pump is doing its job.

A couple of hours later, the last act of this drama.  I hear a thump, not loud, look to port and see no paravanes pole. Bad.  Engine at idle and neutral, I find the top of the pole near the stern of the boat, being held there by its foreguy.

It takes me half an hour to get it out of the water and tied to the fly deck, because I have to run all over the place, loosen that line, pull here, tighten that line, pull there. Three times I have to come off the fly bridge just to rotate the pole that is hung up on the rub rail.

Also, with all the adrenaline surging thru my veins, I did not really notice how well dauntless was behaving just bobbin up and down, with really not much roll.

So I tried running without the paravanes out.  My course was due north, and the winds and seas were from the southwest to west.  At this point I was going to Ireland or else.  Having people meeting me there was really encouraging at this point I did not want to go anywhere else.

Therefore the course we had was the course we were going to travel.  Without paravanes out, it was the Dauntless of old and this course was not possible.  Umm, the boat would have been fine, but not me.

So, I put the starboard pole and bird back out, not bad, not bad at all I think, but as time passed, I realized the starboard side was taking water over the rail almost constantly, since when D rolled to the right, the roll was deeper without the port bird to slow it down, but then the boat stayed longer in the starboard heeled position, allowing the next wave to essentially push Dauntless into the side of the wave as it rolled under the boat. At one point, I had two feet of water sloshing around the cockpit and side deck.

That wasn’t going to work either.  I then returned to the fly bridge, to untie the bird from the top of the pole.  I spent way too much time doing that and in the meantime, this caused my scariest moment of the entire passage to date.  The boat underway was rolling a lot.  It did not occur to me to stop the boat because my little brain was more afraid of broaching than anything else.  Now you are thinking, didn’t he just talk about how little the boat rolled lying a hull, just in the paragraph above?

And the answer is YES, of course I did.  But at the time, doing something and reflecting on it are two different actions, but pretty much no learning takes place without that reflection.  I was too much in crisis mode to reflect on anything.  So with me up on the fly bridge, I’m really seeing how big these waves are.  Some are clearly at my eye level, maybe 16 feet above sea level.  And they are hitting the boat on its beam.  The first time the boat rolled and I’m hanging on for dear life up there, I was a bit nervous. It felt like we were over 80°, by telltale later told me it was only 38°

But again, once me and D had survived the first roll, I realized it wasn’t that bad, in fact, I just stayed seated on the port bench, bracing myself with my foot on the helm chair, as the boat rolled.

Finally I get the knot undone and I decide to throw the fish in the water with 18’ of line, tied in the amidships cleat, figuring it could not get back to the prop or rudder and it was better than nothing.

It was better than nothing.  Even though an hour later, on hearing a thumping noise, and not being able to pin point it, I actually convinced myself it was the bird hitting the boat (it wasn’t) but proceeded to stop the boat, then pull this bird back out of the water, shorten the line another two feet and finally, throw it back in the water (this is actually an abbreviated account.  I did a few other things, but you had to be there to understand).

Finally I told myself to get a grip and proceeded to find the wine bottle that was rolling under the desk in the second cabin thunking the wall every 30 seconds, which is exactly what I thought it was an hour before.

I had no log entries between 14:00 when I threw the bird back in the water and 01:00 the following morning when I was passing Mizen Head light house.

I did record the rolling though, for those 11 hours, the boat was rolling a delta of 24°, 36° and a whopping 61° (23+38) every so often.

That afternoon, I was wedged on the bench, playing hearts, trying to keep my mind off the sea state, the waves, and the fuel.

As evening turned to night, it was very dark, the winds were 30 knots gusting to 45 out of the due west. The waves were above 16 feet so I spent most of that time lying on the bench with my head to the port side, so I did not feel like I was standing on my head.  The worst part was as the boat would be heeled far over, it was stay there a bit and then since it’s dark, the next wave hits suddenly with a big bang on the exposed starboard hull, pushing us further into the side of the wave.

Even now, it’s hard to describe my feelings.  I was certainly miserable, but not really afraid.  The roller coaster is probably the best analogy in that is still makes us afraid, even though we know it can not fly off the tracks.  I was afraid to go to sleep.  Rocky land was only 15 to 20 miles away and even though it would take hours to get there, countless boats have come to grief so near their final destination, I was not going to let that happen to me.

But Monkey Son still had that smile on his face, so I knew it would be OK.

Monkey Son Was Not Worried
Monkey Son was not worried

And it was, I had carefully planned my route using both Coastal Explorer and my Navionics app on my phone, as Navionics showed the lighthouse range colors better.

Karel had given me really clear instructions, so when I saw people standing on the dock at 01:40 in the morning of August 29th, 2014, I knew our Atlantic Passage was over.


 More pictures are always being added to http://dauntless.smugmug.com/

And here are some videos that may help to give you an idea, taken just before sunset, please excuse the quality.  I was hanging on for dear life.

Fuel I collected the next day from each tank

This video doesn’t exist
This video doesn’t exist
This video doesn’t exist
This video doesn’t exist
This video doesn’t exist

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