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

It’s Showtime

.OK, Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, the time has finally come to get this show on the road

Dauntless is loaded, (I wish I was) and most stuff is put away, well, at least on the outside of the boat.

After more than 5 years of dreaming, hoping, wishing, planning, reading and even some arithmetic, the time has finally come to shove off.

In about 4 hours, Sunday, 20 July 2014, Dauntless, with Julie and I will depart our home away from home in Providence, Rhode Island and set our sights on the Portuguese islands of the Azores.

But before we can even go east, we must travel down the Narragansett River, then northeast through Buzzards Bay, to pass through the Cape Cod Canal in midafternoon when we will have favorable currents.

From then, we’ll see how we feel, whether to anchor one last time in North America at the tip of Cape Cod or to turn right and head east.

While our route is somewhat dependent on weather and seas, we are planning on the great circle route (course 082° T) from Cape Cod to the Azores as it takes one southeast of Nova Scotia, east along 42°N then east-southeast.

Our planned route
Our planned route

1900 nm, it will take 13 days, maybe 12 with the following seas we hope to have, we will pretty much be riding over the top of the Bermuda/Azores High.

We now have a Delorme InReach Satellite Phone. It will only do texts, but it does allow two way communications all the way across the ocean.  You can follow our route with updates every 10 minutes and/or contact us by going to the website

Once on the above page, on the left column, you click on my name, which allows you to select the other buttons above, Locate, Message, and Center.  So Locate pings the phone, basically updating the map. Message allows you to send us a text message and Center, does just that, it re-centers the map.

I’ll pretty much have the InReach on until I get to winter quarters, probably in Ireland, probably at the end of September.

Dauntless – It’s Not Just a Name

An Update

After 5 years of planning, reading, thinking, asking, listening and worrying, we are just days away from leaving

Thanks to Parks and the cat, at Hopkins-Carter, I got a great deal on a whole bunch of stuff, including a Digital Yacht Class B AIS Transponder, which just went live minutes ago.

I even installed the silent switch.

AIS, Ship's Computer, Maretron multiport connector, IPG and USB, Fuse Block
AIS, Ship’s Computer, Maretron multiport connector, IPG and USB, Fuse Block

My MMSI is 367571090.

The computer is from Island Time PC and everything is running though that, including Wifi extender.  Call Bob, he is great and always ready to help, even when I’m doing something stupid.

I should have done it months ago, but it is what it is. Now, I must figure out how to get Coastal Explorer to see my Maretron Network.  The rest of the programming, I figure I can learn during the next few weeks.  I should be somewhat adept by the time I get to the Azores.  Luckily, you don’t need much navigation to cross the Atlantic, just ask Columbus.

I will take pictures and document all the changes, hopefully in the next few days, before we leave, (though is you have been paying attention, I’ve been promising that for months).

Also, stay tuned, as I will also be giving you the Delorme Earthmate link for Dauntless. Then you can ping and even text me.

Gotta Go.  Much left to do, like getting new compass to talk to ComNav and where is that Alternator and why does it have so many wires on the back??  I knew I should have taken a picture of it BEFORE I disconnected everything. EEK