Seasickness

Getting or not getting “seasick” is a subject I have been meaning to write about for quite awhile now. I had partially addressed it in the excerpt below which I published two years ago. But I never made the follow-up post of my reflections on the subject and conclusions after the three month and 5,000-mile passage from North Africa to the Panama Canal. A video I made on our nice Christmas Day

Christmas Dinner with Micah on the Atlantic 2016

That’s 5,000 miles in strong, 18 to 36 knot winds produced by the northeasterly trade winds. While these winds are called the NE Trades, because that is their long-term direction, the actually winds on this passage were NE through SE, with three distinct swells from those directions with differing amplitudes and periods.  This produced 8 to 16-foot seas with relatively short periods of 6 to 8 seconds from the NE thru the SE. Not the most pleasant conditions, even for a boat like Dauntless that loves following seas. In fact, this was the most difficult conditions with following seas we’ve ever encountered.

Some of the worst conditions possible if one is prone to seasickness, with the boat corkscrewing its way across the Atlantic at 7 knots. I expected that as I got my sea legs, sea sickness would be just a bad memory.  But no, in fact, it was to the contrary. It got me to wondering what was really going on.

Stress builds and crossing an ocean is stressful in the best of conditions. For one, my insurance does not cover me past 200 miles off-shore. So, abandoning ship is not an option. For another, with a three-week passage, you are asking every component to work 24/7 for that time period and if something does go wrong, how to minimize the damage.  Therefore, it’s a constant weighing of risks, rewards.  E.g. Can I fix this problem with the engine running or do I increase the chances of something else going wrong by turning off the engine?

This is what I had written two years ago, just days after leaving Morocco for the Canaries at the very start of my second Atlantic Passage:

Morocco to the Canaries

Four days on the North Atlantic, 600 nm, four days, 1 hour, 35 minutes, what could go wrong?

For one, we found the weak link on this Krogen, it’s me.

In my first year of cruising, I would get sea sick maybe a quarter of the time. Now in my third year, it’s more like three-quarters of the time.

What’s changed? Who knows?  I’m older, but usually one’s body becomes more adapted. No, I think the problem is in my brain. 

When conditions are rough, I know to take a remedy or put on the Scopolamine transdermal patch. I’ve been using the patch for more than 3 years, now all of a sudden, the patch gives me a bad rash, but it’s also very effective as long as I put it on the night before departure.

With nice cruising conditions, or I should say, relatively nice, with winds and seas less than 15 knots and 3 feet (1m), respectively, I never had to worry, now, if the slightest unexpected event happens, I get seasick.

This last episode was one of the worst I’ve ever had.  But I’m not 100% sure it’s “seasickness”.  It’s more like my body gets a whole load of adrenaline and then when crisis is over, my body doesn’t know what to do. 

We were heading 240 degrees, with Southeast winds 20 to 25 knots, producing seas from the south of 4 to 8 feet. 

The paravanes work most effectively with seas on the beam, so our ride was actually not so bad with a gentle rolling of 8 degrees to the lee side and 4 degrees to the windward side.  

On the 3rd day out of Morocco, I was in the galley filling my water bottle, when I felt the boat motion change. I looked out the salon window to see the windward paravane bird being dragged on top of the water, clearly broken. 

I purposely take my time and want to remain calm. I finish filling my water bottle. I go to stop the boat, neutral, idle, then up to the fly bridge to retrieve the pole and the broken bird. 

Dauntless is quite tame when not underway, in other words, she rolls much less.  So, there was no big crisis.

The two spare birds are stored in the lazerette.  The one that broke had been repaired in Ireland, as it had previously broken crossing the North Sea. So, I wasn’t too worried as to the cause.  We had two spares in the lazzerette. The one on the starboard side was easier to reach, but as we tried to get it out, the fin of the bird became lodged under the generator exhaust hose. And the more stuck it became; the more stressed I became.  I didn’t like the idea of leaving it as it, with its metal fin pressed against the exhaust hose and the wooden bird, so close to the hydraulic rudder piston. But after 10 minutes of trying dislodge it, I gave up, unloaded the port side of the lazzerette and got the other bird that was stored on the other side of the lazerette.

It took just another minute to replace the broken one and we were underway again, finally 20 minutes later, having spent most of that time, trying to get the one bird out. 

Underway again, all was OK, but I was feeling very strange. Very strange.

I went to change my clothes, as I was very hot, sweaty and covered in anti-corrosion oil I had sprayed liberally in the lazzerette before leaving.

But after changing my clothes, I felt worse; like overheating badly, I figured a shower would help.

I shower, figuring that cooling off would make me feel better, but now, I can’t even dry myself off. It was a bizarre feeling. I wasn’t able to stand up or move. I dragged myself to bed and lay on top.

I figure I just need a little rest, but had wanted to walk around the boat, make sure all is OK before we get underway again. So, after a few minutes, getting more stressed because I knew Micah and Dauntless were waiting for me, as I go to put on my shirt, I became violently ill. First time that’s happened in years, even though, I get sea sick a lot and have that miserable nauseous feeling, I don’t throw up. This time I did.

I finally understood that I can do nothing but lay on top of my bed naked. I couldn’t even dry myself off. I use what little strength I have to tell Micah to make sure everything looks OK and to get underway.

I stayed on top of the bed and went to sleep.

Three hours later, I am up and OK. Like it never happened.

After I posted the above, my friend Dan added this comment:

“I have read of at least one person who has spent decades at sea who get sea sick every time they set to sea for three days or so. They, like so many, take a while to get their sea legs, and then they are just fine. What was interesting about this person is that they ONLY get sea sick when they are captain. If they are crewing on a boat, they don’t get sea sick at all. Their guess was that the stress of being captain was what caused the sea sickness.”

+++

By the time we arrived in the Caribbean, I’d had two more stressful incidents and very similar physical reactions. Not only that, but suddenly, my skin was very allergic to the adhesive on this particular batch of Trans-dermal patches. So, I couldn’t wear it anymore and I’m left with these two quarter sized areas behind by ears of no pigmentation. No Michael Jackson jokes please.

I had also started to see a pattern. On Christmas Day, it was one of the calmest of the trip, with seas not more than 8 feet and winds in the mid to high teens. We saw whales that day and had a couple cruise with us for about 15 minutes. They were 30 to 40 feet in length and swam underwater next to the paravane bird. 

Christmas being more important to my nephew Micah than myself, I wanted to make a special dinner, so I BBQed the last of four delicious Canary Island Tee Bone Steaks. The best ever.

As soon as I had served our dinner, I had that feeling of “seasickness” come over me. A bit of nausea and overall weakness.

Sitting in Martinique in the wonderful marina Le Marin, I had time to reflect on what was really going on. In all my cases of “seasickness”, the motion of the boat was actually less than it had been over any given period of time. Also, it was clear that I wasn’t sick before a crisis, I wasn’t sick during the crisis, but as soon as the crisis was over, I was sick.

Didn’t really sound like motion sickness to me, but more a reaction to stress.

I’s already stopped using the Transdermal patch and now I decided to not take any more seasickness medicine at all, when we left Martinique for the Panama Canal

I also decided to take a shower every morning before my watch and every night before bed. The shower in the morning seemed to calm me down. I had no idea why, but starting my day at a lower anxiety level seemed to make a significant difference.

From Martinique to San Francisco, a distance of 3,600 miles and 90+ days of cruising, in some of the worst seas I have ever encountered, I’ve taken an anti-nausea medicine only twice.

I now understand that that terrible “seasick” felling was my body adjusting to the lack of adrenaline that the stress had produced and my para-sympathetic system was now getting my body back to normal.

Clearly the shower in the morning or before my watch, makes a significant difference.

And then in the November 30, 2018 Wall Street Journal, they did a book review of the book, Never-Home-Alone

And the shower in the morning starts to make sense scientific sense.

Here is the article from the Journal (bolding and underline is mine):

BOOKSHELF

‘Never Home Alone’ Review: The Critters Chez Nous

In trying to rid our homes of insects, fungi and the like, we’re forcing the species around us to evolve ever faster—often at our own expense.

Lisa Margonelli reviews “Never Home Alone” by Rob Dunn.

When Rob Dunn was a young ecologist he rummaged through rainforests in search of biodiversity. More recently he discovered another type of wilderness: In a study of 1,000 houses in the U.S., Mr. Dunn’s team found 80,000 kinds of bacteria and archaea hidden inside—that’s at least 10 times the number of bird and mammal species observed in all of the Americas.

He soon also unearthed in our homes some 40,000 kinds of fungi and hundreds of insects, many yet to be named by entomologists.

“I was ecstatic,” Mr. Dunn writes. “Back in the jungle again, albeit the jungle of everyday life.”

In his fascinating new book, “Never Home Alone: From Microbes to Millipedes, Camel Crickets, and Honeybees, the Natural History of Where We Live,” Mr. Dunn brings a scientist’s sensibility to our domestic jungle by exploring the paradox of the modern home: In trying to make it “clean,” we’re forcing the species around us to evolve ever faster—often at our own expense.

Mr. Dunn is a fine writer, wringing poetry out of the microbial explorations of Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, who spent half the 17th century documenting all the tiny living things around him—in his neighbor’s mouth, in the snow, in cheese rinds and in wasps. Leeuwenhoek “was to become an astronaut of the miniature,” Mr. Dunn tells us, “all alone exploring a realm that was more diverse and elaborate than anyone but him seemed to understand.”

Mr. Dunn also gracefully explains, without getting bogged down in details, the technology that has allowed scientists during the past decade or so to sequence the DNA of millions of previously unknown microbes, making his book an excellent layperson’s guide to cutting-edge research.

Mr. Dunn’s larger purpose is to explain how the ecology of the home has gone awry. Once upon a time, we lived in leaf huts, with interiors that looked a lot like our outdoor environment.

Soon we moved to round houses, then square houses and finally to air-tight apartments in cities.

Now we close our windows, use products that claim to kill 99% of germs and have unknowingly domesticated bedbugs—so they adjust their workdays around ours.

Our homes no longer resemble the garden outside but have a weird human-centered microbial signature that is also found on the International Space Station, and that’s not a good thing.

The problem, according to Mr. Dunn, “is not what is present but instead what is absent. The problem has to do with what happens when we create homes devoid of nearly all biodiversity except that which falls from us and then, for twenty-three hours of the day, we don’t go outside.”

To understand how mundane and occasionally deadly this evolutionary project of ours is, consider the shower head. In many American homes, water is treated with chlorine and chloramine, which kill pathogens but not mycobacteria, a genus that includes the cause of tuberculosis.

Meanwhile, in homes with water drawn from wells, nonharmful microbes flourish, including mycobacteria’s natural competitors.

By wiping out all the other bacteria in chlorinated water, we create environments where troublesome microbes thrive and even evolve.

This has led Mr. Dunn, together with his colleague Noah Fierer, to find that mycobacteria in shower heads can accurately predict instances of mycobacterial infections, as well as the regions where these outbreaks are likely to occur. 

And yet mycobacteria are not entirely bad. One species has been found to enhance serotonin production, which can lead to greater happiness and lower stress. Mice exposed to a species of mycobacteria are more likely to remain calm when facing a bigger, more aggressive mouse. 

Might this also explain how a morning shower helps us deal with a stressful commute and a bad day on the job? 

These twin stories—of scientific discovery right under our noses and the perilous impact of our unwitting genetic engineering—thread through Mr. Dunn’s book.

Cockroaches were once easily lured with glucose baits but have now rapidly evolved to dislike sweet things. Good strategy for the cockroaches, more troubling for us.

“Just as military specialists study the battles of the past to prepare for the future,” Mr. Dunn suggests that “we might consider our battle with the German cockroach in contemplating our own evolutionary future.”

“Never Home Alone” is a prescription for more biodiversity in the home and, more specifically, a plea for more attention to ecology. The more we understand how different creatures interact and influence our immune systems, the healthier we may be. But in the service of getting more people into ecology, Mr. Dunn believes the field needs to deliver tangible products.

He wants to systematically explore the species in our homes to determine which ones could contain useful chemistry. The camel cricket, a previously unnoticed and rarely studied thumb-size little bugger that lives—possibly by the billions—in American basements, has gut bacteria that can break down black liquor, a highly alkaline toxic waste produced by the paper industry.

The thief ant traipsing across your kitchen counter also produces an antibiotic that may eventually be useful against hard-to-fight infections. Personally, what I want to see is a home “makeunder “show dedicated to “rewilding” homes—similar to what you’d see on the Learning Channel, only more anarchic.

A bunch of giggling scientists show up at the door, toss the hand sanitizer, the shower head, the Sheetrock and the fungus-laden air conditioner.

In their place, they hand the homeowner a bar of soap, throw open the windows, install a ball of spiders to fight flies in the basement and start a batch of sourdough—all in the service of re-creating the garden indoors.

No doubt there will be tension in the idea of a wild domicile. Even King Tut, Mr. Dunn notes, was buried with a fly swatter.

Ms. Margonelli is the author, most recently, of “Underbug: An Obsessive Tale of Termites and Technology.” ■

 

 

Atlantic Passage 2016 Videos

I am writing a piece on getting seasick and I wanted to include some of the videos I had made just before I got sick. My point being that I’m not sure it is seasickness per se.

In looking for the videos, I realized that while I had posted a link to them in my smugmug site, https://dauntless.smugmug.com/Dauntless/Dauntless-Atlantic-2016-Videos/

I’d never posted some of them here.

So here they are:

 Day 13, Stbd deck view, seas 8 to 15 feet. An average day.

 Day 14, View from the fly bridge looking east.

 Day 14, I’m replacing the hydraulic hose in the lazzerette.
We are dead in the water and Micah didn’t like looking aft at waves that towered over the boat and then disappeared, as we bobbed on top of the wave. (View of seas at 2:40).

 Day 14, I show the new hose.

 Day 16, On our more steady days, we’d play a board game, in which I had glued a piece of non skid rubber to the bottom of the pieces.

  Day 16, The only ship we encountered in the 3 week trip.
Thank you AIS (for he avoided us).

Day 16, Our well travelled Kadey Krogen Flag on it’s second Atlantic Crossing

 Day 16, Christmas, one of our best days.
We had great steak dinner and had a whale with us for awhile. 

 Day 16, Our Christmas whale

 Day 16, Christmas Dinner.
I got “seasick” as soon as I finished cooking.

Day 14, the Maretron data showing 8 hours of Rolling (right) and 4 days of pitch (sorry I did not make the time frames the dame). The rolling graph also clearly shows the 30 minutes or so we were stopped, while I replaced the hose (between hr 4&5). Also, please note that while it seems rolling is the same or increased while stopped in the water, the paravanes have no effect when stopped. Therefore, if underway without paravanes, the rolling would be about double under these following seas condition (when the paraveanes are least effective).

 

 

 

The Last 7 Days

A video of the morning after.

If I’ve learned nothing in the last 60 years, it’s that I need 6 to 7 hours sleep on a routine basis to not get into a sleep deficit.  The watches on this passage were set up to facilitate that.

In spite of the drama I like instilling in my life, for every one day of “crisis” we spend about 5 to 6 days of peaceful boredom. It’s even possible that the weekly crisis is not totally random.

Why, you wonder?

Not so much on this trip, but in the past, most of my problems were caused my me. Complacency, boredom, who knows, I decide everything is going so well, so I may aa well see what happens if I do this. This last crisis was a case in point. I was “experimenting”.

My only point here is that in spite of the appearance of the narrative, very little time is spent dealing with anything. The hardest part of a long passage is not getting bored, even more so in these conditions that virtually never changed.

So, December 23rd dawned to bright skies and easterly winds; we were feeling good.

The one lingering issue was the amount of air still in the Hydraulic steering system (which is controlled by the helm wheel or the ComNav autopilot), which caused a hellacious banging every few seconds as the auto-pilot moved fluid thru the lines.  This was exacerbated by the location of my cabin directly under the pilot house.

Normally our brains filter out routine noises. I once lived next to a church steeple in a small town in Germany. Every 15 min, some combination of bells would ring: 15’ after the hour 1 gong, 30’ after 2 gongs, 45’ after 3 gongs, then 4 gongs on the hour, followed by the number of gongs based on the hour, 1 = 1, until 12.

Within a few days, I didn’t even hear it any more. But I did find it nice to be able to know the time in the middle of the night, without turning on a light.  I do love Germany.

Even years later, when I would visit and sleep in the same house, after the first gong, I’d “hear” no more.

This wasn’t like that.  Since the noises had no pattern, with a variable duration and frequency, my brain did not do what to make of it, so it made sure I heard everything. As the days wore on, while the noises were decreasing, they were still significant and I found myself getting less and less sleep. Three hours overnight, then an hour here, maybe a couple there.

Did that contribute to our travails on the last night?  Probably a bit, maybe more, but Micah and I had the worst night of the entire trip on our last night before pulling into Martinique.

The days since our big repair had been good.  In fact, Christmas, December 25th, was one of our best weather days, with winds not going over 25 knots, thus our ride was great with light rolling to 10°, worst 15°.  I made our last big steak and candied sweet potatoes.  We even opened a bottle of Bordeaux that my French friend PJ had given me.

Micah meticulously pours our wine

That was also our second whale sighting.  There were two whales, about 30’ long cruised with us for about 15 minutes.  Very nice.

The Whale Video

Dauntless rolling along, watching this makes me miss the ocean

I do love our Weber Q-280 grill

Our ETA to Martinique was noon on the 28th. Therefore, the night of the 27th, was our 20th night at sea since leaving the Canaries.

I started the last 24 hours by putting the last of our oil, 1.1L into the engine. I estimated that at worst, we would arrive about 1 liter low, which is normal. (and we did). But there was no point in shutting down the engine to check at this point, as I had no more oil anyway.

Just as I go to bed at 22:00, ETA in 14 hours, the starboard paravane pole bounces vertical. This necessitates stopping the boat and letting the pole fall back into position, once the rearward pressure is taken off the line to the bir

The starboard pole has never done this before in the previous 15K+ miles!

25 minutes later, it does it again. Something is not right, but I am tired and even in hindsight, it’s not totally clear to me under the circumstances what I should have done.

All evening the winds had been increasing.  They were now easterly at 25 steady gusting to 40. Clearly the seas had grown, again with the annoying swells from both NE and SE and the wind driven waves from the east.  Our rolls were getting substantially more, routinely to 20° and the worst, a few times an hour to 30°.

Even on a rally boat like Dauntless, a 30° roll is significant. Or I should say, it feels significant in the pilot house.  If I am in the engine room, I hardly notice, even the salon is much better, but I digress.

I attributed the increased rolling to the winds and seas.  It was dark out, so it’s hard to estimate seas.  Also, since we were approaching the island of Martinique, the waves would start to change.

But at 02:40, all of a sudden, the boat rolled over at 15° (normal) to port, but was really slow in rolling back.  This meant the opposite stabilizing bird was not working for some reason.

Sure enough, I had gotten up to see why the boat motion was different and saw right away the starboard bird being pulling along the surface.

We stopped to retrieve it.  It was broken and later that morning as I looked at it, I realized the bolts that held the vane in place had come loose.  That was probably the reason the pole went vertical earlier in the evening, as the bird was no longer running straight. That added a tension that eventually broke the plywood wing of the bird in half.

Now, in a strange occurrence, maybe due to lack of sleep, after we pulled the bird, we continued on with just the one port side bird deployed.  I’ve run many times with only one bird.  It is quite effective on a beam sea with winds that are not too strong.

But with a following sea, only one bird, is only half effective, so we rolled our way into Martinique that way.

I say strange because all that morning, I had been tripping over the extra bird that was no longer in the lazerrett.  We had gotten the bird that was jammed in the lazerrett out and even cleaned up the lazerrett.  So, it was sitting, inconveniently, on the port side deck.  It would have taken all of 30 seconds to attach it to the starboard pole and throw it in the water.

Oh well, All’s Well that End’s Well.

And of course, as we approach the harbor of Le Marin, the only sailboat we’ve seen in 19 days decided to tack right in front of us.  Much like the last idiot on our first night out of the Canaries.

Warning. Harsh language is involved and I don’t hate all sailboats.  But for the life of my with an entire ocean in front of him, why he cut across our bow is beyond me.  I had been watching him for quite a while, had he delayed his tack 10 seconds or changed his course by a few degrees he would not have ended up directly in front of our bow. I had to virtually stop as to not hit him… umm, maybe that is the answer, could he have needed a new paint job?

And my feeling were certainly exacerbated by the fact that this was only the second SV we had seen and the previous encounter, our first night out, was eerily similar.

 

 

 

 

 

Crisis in the Mid-Atlantic – How Can So Few Chickens Make So Much Noise

A long day is ending, but crossing an ocean, there is no rest for the weary. This video shows the view from the fly bridge looking aft as we were topping up the hydraulic fluid after my first temporary repair.

Of course, I had been looking at the manual for the helm and Auto-Pilot.  They being connected, the Auto-Pilot has an Octopus pump which takes its direction from the ComNav AP computer. This pump then controls the rudder piston. Now that the broken hose was replaced, we had too much air in the system.

And believe it or not, the manual for the system says to just keep topping up the fluid at the upper helm station and in a few weeks, all the air would be worked out of the system.

Maybe a few weeks if we were on Jupiter, but in a few weeks of Earth time.

A Beautiful Sunset

So, two hours after getting the big repair done and getting underway again. I had cleaned up, showered and even took a nap because I was hit by a bad bout of seasickness or what until this time I had attributed to be seasick.

But now, we found the Auto-Pilot was hardly working.  It would hold a heading for a few minutes, but at a certain rudder angle, it would try to move the rudder, the air in the system was not allowing it to work properly.  At which point, it would decide to do a Walk-About.

Yes, I can speak Australian.  I saw Crocodile Dundee.

The problem with a Walk-About in 10 to 20 foot seas is the KK designed to go with the seas. So, lying dead in the water, we bob like a cork.  But underway, we do not fight the waves we go with them and underway, while turning beam to the seas, the first few rolls will be dillies, until the paravanes are totally effective again.

So, every few minutes, our heading would drift off and before you can say, here we go again, we would have a 20-degree roll. And the subsequent roll would almost always be greater unless immediate action is taken.

This at 20:00 the prospect of having to hand steer was a nonstarter, therefore, drastic action was needed.

So, I found myself once again in the hot, 100-degree engine room, on my belly, with feet dangling over the shaft that is still spinning since the boat is being pushed along my wind and current.  I had decided to “bleed” the system. The Octopus pump does have three valves for each line (port, starboard and return) that can be closed to stop fluid draining from the system if need be. In this case, I opened each one in turn until it literally comes out, and I let ATF run out until I saw no more air, while Micha turned the wheel in the specified direction.

15 minutes later we were back underway. The Auto-Pilot was much more responsive, but still only at 50%.  Worse, there was enough air in the copper lines, that they resonated like somebody playing the cymbals 6 inches from my head.

We decided to keep track of the number of walk-abouts. From 22:00 that night, it occurred 7 times an hour.  By 02:00 it was down to 3 times and only once at 03:00.

Though when I came on at 04:00, it was still not working as well as I’d like. This ComNav does really well in bad seas.  But now, with its impaired performance, we were getting into some large pendulum rolling motions. Motions that when working correctly, it has no problem stopping.

Micah was already in bed, it was dark out, but it drives me crazy when something is not working as it should (under the conditions).  I decided it needed burping.  So, I went to the fly bridge and totally took out the fill plug, thinking it needed more venting.

It didn’t hurt and I didn’t fall overboard.

For the next 6 days, we periodically worked the helm steering, trying to get air out of the system. Slowly, but surely, air came out and we would top up the system.

The bigger issue for me in particular was that the racket the air in the pipes would produce every few seconds.  It really hindered my sleep and made out last 6 days really hard.  Especially considering there were really no other issues until the last day and night, which of course, ended up being the worst night of the entire passage.

 

Crisis in the Mid-Atlantic – The Chickens Come Home to Roost

Just After the 1st Repair. It’s 13:33 this is the normal screen I run with. I’ll minimize the Maretron data (black box on left) is there is more traffic or is I have a reason to look at the chart. In this case, what’s important: winds 090 at 23 g 28; Apparent Wind Angle (How is the boat feeling the wind) is right on our stern at 180 degrees. Bottom right shows the roll and one can see the roll reduction while the boat was stopped at the same time the pitch increased. Then the roll greatly increased once we got underway again.

 This video shows the day before, Dec 21st.  Even before the preventer stick broke (which you can see going form the fly beige rail to the middle of the paravane pole)

 This is from the afternoon.  GIves you a nice idea of the seas. This is what we had plus or minus for 21 days.

So, as December 22nd dawned, (end of Day 13 and beginning of Day 14), the little problems that had popped up were solved quickly.

Though during the night, my last second and last preventer stick broke.  It wasn’t critical, I had not used it since it was made three years ago, but still, this morning I wanted to find a real solution.

The winds had been very strong since daybreak, in the low 20’s, gusting to 35 knots.

I decided to stop the boat, just put her in idle and adjust the paravanes somehow. It nice to know that the boat will bob more than roll when stopped. While not underway, Dauntless rolls at about half the rate of our underway roll. So, we’d been rolling 10 to 20 degrees, pretty consistently, now we settle in the trough of the waves, but bob as much as roll.

Now, months later, my brain refuses to remember why I actually stopped the boat.  It must have gotten superseded by the traumatic events that followed.

Autopilot disengaged, Idle, then neutral, the boat will coast to a “stop” in about three minutes.  Winds and current are still pushing the boat, in this case about 1.5 knots.

Then before I did whatever I had intended to do, I decided to turn the rudder to see if it made any difference in the boat motion.  Not a stupid plan; yet.

The rudder was already hard over to port. And then in an act of gross stupidity, I turned the wheel more to port. Why? Why? Why?

I knew the rudder was at or close to the stops.  The steering system had had some air in the system for a long time. No matter what I did, I could not get it all out.  So, I thought a little more turn couldn’t hurt.

Oh, my God, it could hurt.  After turning the wheel about a quarter, I felt it go slack in my hand.

I knew exactly what happened and turned to Micah to say, “We’re fucked now”.

I knew because I’ve had this sickening sense before: pushing on brake pedal that goes all the way to the floor or turning a steering wheel and nothing happens. When a hydraulic system goes slack: clutch, brakes, steering. It means the hydraulic system has no more pressure, A hose, fitting or part has given way.

He knew from my tone that I was serious, very serious.  I was so angry at myself. Had Micah done something like this, it’s an accident. For me, I knew better than anyone the consequences of over-pressurizing a system.

The Kadey Krogen has does have an emergency tiller that connects through a purposeful hole in the hatch.  But I hate even manually steering the boat in a sea.  To stand, sit in the stern deck and hand steer for 7 days like were some god-forsaken sailboat, fuhgeddaboudit.

But I also immediately realized I couldn’t afford the Pity Party. I also could let Micah start thinking of the consequences. Now was the time for solutions and solutions only.

When the Going Gets Tough; the Tough Get Going.

We had 200+ feet of hydraulic lines and the failure could be any place. gain, trying to control the sickening feeling in my stomach, If I’ve learned anything on this boat, it’s to always look for the easiest solution first.

So, we’d start at the rudder piston in the lazzerrette. Open the hatch, and at this point, a wonderful sight (on a boat everything is relative), hydraulic fluid oozing from a hole in the hose just above the fitting. This hose, one of two, for the rudder piston.

First thought, let’s try easy, easy solution, rubber tape, with hose clamps around it.

 This video is after i had completed this repair and also shows how I stopped the paravane pole from bouncing by using a fender.

It worked. We got our filing funnel for the upper helm station, from which the entire system is filled with AFT, Automatic Transmission Fluid, which conveniently, both the hydraulic steering and the Borg-Warner manual transmission use for lubrication and pressure.

The system took about 2 liters of fluid.  But I only had a total of 4 liters. I’m starting to think of chickens coming home to roost.

We get underway just under an hour later at 10:28. Everything is working reasonably well. You can see from the Maretron data how the boat roll is about half, while the pitch increases when dead in the water.

Coastal Explorer, our main navigation program, running on a dedicated solid state 12-volt boat computer had been acting up.  For a few days, it had not been displaying AIS information, no matter what little tricks I had used in the past to “wake it up”.

Now, I knew I was still sending, which is actually far more important, as since I have had transmit capability large ships always stay away. Having seen only one ship in 13 days, the display wasn’t critical, but I wanted it working. I like everything working.

So, as a last resort, I decided to reboot everything. Everything off and on again, in order, about a 4-minute process.  The log shows at 12:15 all was well.

We had been checking our repaired hose every hour, as well as topping up the fluid as needed.  In the last two hours, we had put another liter into the system.  The hose was leaking enough, probably a few liters every 12 to 24 hours.

Now this would have been no problem in coastal cruising.  We would have just topped it off until port.  I didn’t have that option.  So about 7 hours after the first fix, I knew I had to find the real fix.

Two Issues I had to solve: Hose & Fluid.

  1. For the hose, I knew I had a number of spare hydraulic hoses in two different places in the engine room. One set stored with all the extra hoses and tubing, the other set stored in the long-term spares containers on either side of the generator.
  2. The fluid was a bigger challenge. I used the Delorme InReach to text my contact Roger, who got in touch with Ski in NC. Ski, a long-time diesel expert, had been really helpful in the past, so I needed to figure out what I could use as substitute ATF.

The answer turned out to be simple and vexing, 4 parts diesel fuel to 1 part engine oil. Yes, the engine oil of which there was not extra. The engine needed every bit of oil.  Dauntless was now full of chickens.  They had all come home to roost.

The offending hose, steel braid rusted to the core.
I’m replacing these hoses and standardizing the fittings.

OK, first I had to clear out all those chickens. They were all over the place.  Before we did anything, I found the spare hose with the correct fitting in seconds. So far so good. I then stopped the boat again and also the engine, as I wanted to check the oil level to make sure of my calculations (on a passage like this, I just fill the engine at its usual use rate, without turning it off).

Oil level was just were I expected, so I decided I could spare one liter of oil. Worse case, we would arrive in Martinique one liter low, but that’s not a big deal for a day.

I got my tools and wrenches. Getting the old fitting off the three-way control valve ended up taking me 15 minutes.  I even heated it up with my kitchen torch, but I was very careful not to make my hose problem into something far bigger and unfixable.

Finally, it came out.  I put pike gunk on all the new fittings, makes for a better seal and I don’t want any more leaks.

In the video Micah took, you see one time water came across the deck. That’s water that enters thru the scuppers, usually on rolls of more than 15 to 20 degrees.  As I said, dead in the water, we bob more than roll, so I was only inundated with water twice in this operation which took about 40 minutes.  I wanted Micah to get more pictures of the outside scene not just the top of my head, but he was nervous and I think he felt better not looking out much.

Me on the other hand, I may not look it, but I was pretty ecstatic.  I’d fucked up and was able to fix it. We now had 5 liters of substitute ATF which would be more than enough.

The finished product

At 18:00 we were underway again.  Immediately, it was apparent that I had way too much air in the system.  The Auto-Pilot was acting errantly.  It would work for a few minutes, but once the rudder got far enough over, there was not enough pressure to get it back.  We would have to turn off the autopilot, then turn the wheel lock to lock three times until pressure built up in the system, check and top up the fluid at the upper helm station and reengaged the autopilot. This went on for a couple hours until I realized I needed to go to sleep to get ready for my 04:00 watch and the boat almost needed hand steering at this point.

That would not do.  I did not do all this to have to hand steer for 7 days.