Was just finishing washing the dishes after another scrumptious dinner produced by yours truly, when I noticed that the galley sink faucet produces much hotter water at full volume versus reduced volume. So, my next thought was I better add that to the list of things I need to brief Ti and Thien about.
Then, as I thought about it, I realized this was truly a big issue. I don’t think Ti in her 40+ years has ever lived in a house with hot water. In fact, I know she hasn’t. The poor girl didn’t even have electricity until after she went to high school.
Do any of us even know someone who didn’t have a TV, color at that, growing up?
Even at that, only she and her sister finished high school from their neighborhood. Why? Because they had to swim a small river, hide dry clothes and bikes on the other side, just to get to school. Most kids didn’t want to bother. Umm, maybe if they had school buses the graduation rate could get above the current 98%.
In the USA, we have to cook the books (continually lowering the standards) just to get to 70%. But you all know that.
I know I digress, but let me end it with this: as an educator, If nothing else, at least I’ve learned that children value what they earn and don’t value what adults give them.
It is as simple as that.
So, 20+ years later, when I met Ti, she had taught herself English and had just started teaching herself Japanese. Why? Because English has become the world language and there are some very big Japanese-Vietnamese joint venture projects, (like the subway) taking place in Saigon (HCMC). Ti, as an accountant, wanted to find a position in a multi-national company.
She found me and Dauntless instead. Thus, I am making a list of the hazards and operating procedures aboard ship.
All of my problems are truly First World problems.
The last months, Ti got to calling me “mister chess”, which replaced “mister com’on” as her main moniker for me. I earned mister com’on, by being ready to leave the house sooner than she and saying com’on, let’s go a bit too much. She learned to give me a 10-minute delay, “Don’t come down to leave until I tell you”, which solved that problem.
For much of the winter, I would play chess on my phone against the app, in my spare time. I realized that while I have always really liked chess, playing it with friends and lovers ended up being a lose-lose for me. I don’t like being competitive with my significant other and even playing with her son Thien, who is a good beginning player, I didn’t want to beat him, so I would give myself a handicap and then be irritated when I lost, because even though I didn’t want to win, I am competitive and don’t like losing. A no-win situation or lose-lose.
Micah (my nephew and crew in 2016) and I played a board game called Empire Builder all the way from Ireland to Panama for that 10-month journey. It was a great game, because unlike chess, I felt I could experiment with different strategies that kept the game interesting for me. It wasn’t just about winning but coming up with new ways to win. While Micah was very competitive, and he beat me two thirds of the time and at times he accused me of not trying. But I was trying, just in my own way. Once I found a winning strategy, the fun for me was to change the strategy and see how else I could win. As I said, more often than not, it didn’t work, but I liked trying and didn’t mind losing to Micah as he is very smart, and he always made my brain work hard to succeed. A win-win.
But for me chess is different, and I realized I just don’t like playing against people, any real people, but against the computer is fine and enjoyable. Much like Empire Builder, I aim for about a 50% success rate, at which point I have the computer play at a higher skill level (basically it takes more time to go thru moves). Now I still got really irritated when I would lose stupidly, but I like the challenge.
To a certain degree, being up for the challenge is why I love teaching and education. In the classroom or in a school there are always challenges. I like the fact that these challenges change from kid to kid, from day to day. I get true satisfaction helping others help themselves.
That’s also the connection I have to boating and Dauntless. If I can help someone else not do the stupid, costly or just plain not needed thing that I did, I feel valuable, same as helping a student see why we have seasons or where the copper in that penny in our pocket was made.
So, it was a bit of a shock the other day when I realized that I had not played chess since getting back on Dauntless weeks ago. I wondered why?
Teaching, whether to adults for children, exercised my mind, like running a marathon, without ever leaving the room.
Being back on Dauntless, now presented me with a number of challenging systems’ issues:
Rewiring my mast, moving instruments to collect better data and reduce cabling issues, so I’m not climbing up the mast in 15-foot seas because my wind instrument is not working and the higher the winds, the more I like seeing the numbers!
Moving my fresh water tank selector valve to a place that is more accessible
Moving the water maker test port and selector valve out of the engine room
These types of problems give my brain all the exercise it wants. I don’t need chess for now.
I also have some boring jobs:
Replacing the seals in my water maker
Taking my heat exchangers to be tested
Replacing anodes (zincs) in said heat exchangers.
But when I finally get to those jobs, I will probably play chess again, because those jobs are just that, jobs. No challenges, I can’t make something better, all I need to do is make it the way it was.
Easy, but boring.
And that’s where Southeast Alaska comes in. Much like the Baltic cruise on 2015, I so looking forward to Southeast Alaska:
Last week I returned to Dauntless, but then took a 5-day trip to Anchorage to attend a teaching job fair. I figure as long as I will be in the USA for the foreseeable future, I may as well work again and put my winter time to constructive use and replenish the coffers.
I spent much of the winter thinking of what had to be done on Dauntless. Since leaving Ireland two and a half years ago, I’ve asked for a lot from my little Kadey Krogen, but gave her only fuel and oil in return.
But 30 months, 10,000+ miles, 2100 engine hours later, the poor girl needs some TLC. While I revised and improved things like the paravane stabilizers as time went on, some other things, like my solar panels, were ignored, though I knew I needed to change the wiring from the controllers.
I also didn’t need to, but thought it was time to change the location of my fresh water tank selector. Too many times, I’ve had to sneak into the occupied second cabin in the middle of the night, open the closet, pull up the floor board and change the water tank so I could take a shower. Since I’m working with water, I may as well also, change the selector valve for the water maker output.
So, I have a list of about a dozen improvements and corrections (to some older half-assed jobs of mine) to do. Plus, the normal stuff of putting away the clothes and accouterments of a “normal” life after merging a couple of households. Now, where to put those dozen suits?
I’d also come up with a plan as to not to waste money. I cook very well and like my cooking. I often eat out only because I like getting out, not because the food is better. In fact, often it’s not, yet expensive.
Day 1 of 60 days, the next two months, on my first free day, with the rental car that I’d picked up in Sacramento Airport the night before, and which had to be returned by 18:00 here in Vallejo, I would do my shopping at Costco to set me up for the next two months.
All goes according to plan, with only a little warning flag. The freezer only got down to 20°F in the first 18 hours. Usually, it is minus 5°. Did it just need more time, I wished and hoped?
You all know that hope. The hope that is not based on any reason or even history. It’s just a hope that you don’t have to deal with it
So of course, on Day 2 of 60, instead of starting my dozens of projects I’d planned, I’m dealing with stuff that isn’t even on the list.
Freezer temperature is still too high. My Costco ice cream is more like a slurpy. First thing I did was to look online for solutions. Not hard, and in fact, on Cruiser’s Forum, there was a really well written story of re-charging the Freon in (my) BD50F Danfoss compressor. Not so hard, just finding a coupling fitting will be a PIA.
I check out the re-charge fitting and I notice the first fly in the ointment. I’ll have to move the entire compressor to get at the re-charge fitting, as it’s tucked up against the insulated copper tube for the refrigerant.
My compressor is behind the freezer, under the pilot house settee. Getting to the securing screws require an agility I never had. Yet again one of those situations in which a trained monkey would be very valuable.
By noon, the compressor is moved enough to start phase 2. Finding Freon.
Taking my new acquired $60 bicycle, it was only 10 minutes to the NAPA store. Sure enough, they have Freon, but not the hoses or fittings to connect it. I buy a can in any case. (Why you wonder, without the hose??)
Then, as I am walking out the door, I realize that I still need the hoses and connectors, so I may as well go to the nearby Autozone. Said Autozone was much better equipped than the NAPA and not only are their prices lower, they have a number of options with Freon and hose together. I still needed an adapter hose to connect the car sized fitting to my bicycle style fitting used on the Danfoss compressors.
They had something that may work, so I get that too, promising not to hurt the packaging so I can return it if need be.
Decide I may as well, return the Freon I got at NAPA. Apologize for that.
Get back to the boat and get ready to get to work.
As I am gently moving the compressor, trying not to make a small problem into a much bigger one by rupturing a coolant tube, I notice that the muffin fan that sits between the compressor and the radiator is not turning. I stick my finger in it to make sure and it’s still not turning.
Well, that will teach me to diagnose the problem on the internet.
Yes, Freon may still be an issue, but before I do anything, I need to get the fan working. There is no way I can take the old fan out without moving the entire compressor to a more assessable location.
But guess what? I have muffin fans! At least three or four!! Why? You wonder? Because back in the day, year one (as Asians would count it), the muffin fan went out in my inverter. The inverter overheats and shuts off pretty soon without the fan.
I bought 4 muffin fans online, they were advertised as being very quiet and would last forever. Spares are good. Of course, par for the course, once I took the old muffin fan out of the inverter, I realized the fan rotor had just fallen out of its housing. I just needed to glue it and put it back. It’s worked the last 5 years without a hitch. Though of course, noting is that easy. I cut the wires very short when I pulled it out, so of course, it took half a day to reconnect them.
But now, when I really needed one, I had muffin fans to spare.
I installed it on the opposite side of the radiator, so that it blows thru the radiator, the defunct fan and the compressor. I hooked it up to an external 12v power because before I went to the trouble of hooking it up normally, I wanted to make sure it was the solution to the problem.
Within hours the temperature of the freezer was down to zero. By morning, it was -5°.
I was good to go.
Now, at the end of Day 3 of 60, my to-do list is the same as ever and Alaska is no closer.
I could call this, Mexico Just Works, at least this part.
As international trips of 3,000+ miles go, this was by far one of the easiest ever! 13 hours after wake-up at oh-dark-thirty, I was being dropped off at my hotel in Huatulco. Hotel Balcon Gueela turned out to be a really nice, comfortable place to stay while Dauntless gets her bottom painted. The sense of relief was palpable. Which got me to thinking, why such angst? I’ve travelled 24 hours to get to and from Vietnam, but other than relief that the trip was finally over, I never experienced fear before.
I’ve crossed two and a half oceans by now. I’ve spent a few too many hours being miserable, but never afraid.
So why now, why this underlying angst in traveling to Mexico? I’d been in a dozen of airports and train stations this past year. Why the angst now? When I arrived at baggage claim in Mexico City from my New York flight, I had 3 hours for my connecting flight to Huatulco. I assumed I’d pick up my bag, go thru customs and immigration, then recheck it for Huatulco.
That’s the routine at most ports of entry. But not here. Here upon arrival at baggage claim, I was approached by a nice, uniformed lady, who asked my point of origin and when informed it was NY, she asked to see my boarding pass with claim stub and pointed out that my bag was checked through to Huatulco. Duh. I travelled 90,000 air miles last year. One would think I would have thought to check at some stage of this process, especially at the onset, when the bag tag was affected to my bag. It’s always nice to make sure one’s bag is going on the same trip as you are!
Though at that moment of check-in, 05:00, I was distracted by the realization that my 07:00 flight was really at 08:00. The 7 a.m. time must have been the time I told myself to be at the airport. But somewhere in my little mind, that got fixed at the departure time. I had stayed with friend’s in Brooklyn to be close to the airport. I hadn’t slept that well because I had bad toothache (needed a root canal) and I was just nervous about he whole trip. So, I ended up leaving the house at 04:00, and was checking in, an hour later, having returned the rental car full of gas and taken the JFK tram.
So, another rookie mistake, not even confirming my flight time.
Why was I so nervous? The toothache certainly didn’t help, but still.
While there was no customs inspection (NAFTA?), I did have to go through immigration. But even this routine, simple task, seemed beyond me. First, I did not have the right form. I had a customs form, which I didn’t need, but was never given the immigration form I did need. OK, no problem, says the immigration officer, “go to that desk and complete form and return here”.
Five minutes later, he looks at my just completed form and shows me the bottom half I had not filled out. This time, he directs me to a desk closer to him, as I clearly need supervision, though more likely, he was just trying to save me time and reduce my frustration/confusion.
Third time is the charm. I get my requisite stamps and I’m off to the lounge to wait two hours. Airline lounges are pretty much the same, but I was nervous beyond words; looking over my shoulder constantly. Now, those who know me, know I am the most trusting person on the planet, possibly in the entire solar system. And naïve too, as my stint in the Bronx was to prove.
A couple hours later, walking down the air stairs, looking around at the quaint, little Huatulco airport, I felt a large load was lifted off my shoulders. The walk from the plane to the terminal, took about 4 minutes. During this walk, I noticed the baggage train was going to beat us to the terminal. My bag was on the first pass of the carousel as I walked in. I grabbed it, noticed a nice lady standing at a podium with a big sign that said, official taxis, walked up and she gave me my options for the 20-minute ride to Huatulco and my hotel. I could have a private taxi for $25 or go in the group van for $9. I took the cheaper route.
The whole process, the entire trip from the time I got up at 03:30, left JFK to arrival at my hotel in Huatulco, could not have been easier. Everything was simple and in Mexico, helpful people always appeared just when you had that first confused look on your face. Mexico just works.
It was at that point when it finally dawned on me the reason for my angst. What was that load that was taken off my shoulders? It was simply that I hadn’t been killed during my travel in Mexico. No, I wasn’t taking a bus through the countryside in the middle of the night, but clearly, I had been afraid. Not until I was in the familiar Huatulco, did I feel safe.
This was totally irrational, I’ve been in a million places more dangerous than the Mexico City airport!
Where did this fear come from? I’ve been thinking about this for a week now.
My “news” information is purposely limited, as I have come to understand that “news” is not as objective as I once assumed. Remember, I did say I was naïve. I had a bad experience with the print media as a high school principal in the Bronx, NY. The Chief Editor of this newspaper, told my boss, that he was directed to print a story that was nothing more than character assassination, meant to embarrass and defame me. I knew who wrote it, as it was carefully written, as to not be accountable to her, but then she was crazy and had no problem saying the most outrageous things. She wrote this kind of stuff routinely.
The end result is that I stopped reading the New York newspapers. So now, I only read the Wall Street Journal, Science News and sometimes the Guardian from England.
I certainly don’t read anything that purports to be “news” on the internet. In fact, once I discovered that there are numerous pictures of big ships in tremendous waves online that are photoshopped, I realized you can’t even trust what you see online.
Even though I avoid sensationalism, it was still in my mind that Mexico was this dangerous place that made me afraid, in a totally irrational manner. So even a seasoned traveler like myself can get caught up in the hype with no sense of reality. This was made all the more “unreal” to me in that my interactions with any Mexicans, in New York, the USA or even in Mexico! have been outstanding. I’ve never had a bad experience. Ever. Can’t say that about almost any other place, even Canada (they can’t get it out of their heads that not every American has an arsenal of guns!).
And I never watch those weather shows with their drumbeat of death and destruction. Gimme a break. Get a life.
Just when I thought I had the Plan, I read a story about drug driven crime spreading to the west coast of Mexico. Manzanillo, one of my planed stops, was prominently mentioned.
Where does that leave me? Besides the obvious, afraid!
Last summer I had a detailed plan to cruise up the coast of Mexico, stopping every night, hitting all the nice spots, with only a couple overnight passages. Let’s call that plan, the Coastal Cruise Plan. This is essentially what we had done 3 years ago in the Baltic. I had even spent the last month alone, cruising from Stockholm all the way back to Ireland.
Last year, I had my nephew, Micah, with me from Ireland to Costa Rica. It’s no coincidence that when he left Dauntless in March to go to law school, I lost a lot of my ambition to continue north alone. Cruising alone for me is not fun. It’s what I do when I need to get from A to B or as I did from Stockholm to Waterford.
I am hoping that this coming summer, my girlfriend Trinh and her son, Thien, will have visas for Mexico. This is something that I must initiate this April when I return to Huatulco. If that is possible, they, with other friends who have expressed interest in joining Dauntless this summer, would make the Coastal Plan at least feasible. We would enjoy the numerous stops and towns along the coast, plus many eyes make for less stressful cruising.
A visa for the U.S. is another story and it takes forever. I’m hoping for 2019.
The Pacific coast of Mexico is not the Baltic and North Sea. The weather is not necessarily worse, but the predominant winds are from the northwest, the direction Dauntless must go. Adding to that problem, there are numerous fishing boats and nets and other boat traffic near the coast, whereas in the Baltic, there was none of that.
Lastly, safe harbors (protected from weather) on the Pacific coast of Mexico are few and far apart. North from Huatulco to Manzanillo, a distance of almost 600 miles, there are only two safe harbors. In a normal (for me) coastal cruise of 40 to 60 miles per day (6 to 9 hours), that’s 8 out of 10 nights anchored or in some port, at the mercy of the weather.
That’s a no-go.
For those of you who have read my precious comments about weather forecasts, you will know that even in the best circumstances, I don’t trust weather forecasts past three days and even at that I assume they are 50% off. That means, if the forecast is for winds from 270° at 12 knots, I plan for winds 240° to 300° at 8 to 16 knots (50% and 150% of forecast).
Therefore, to cruise an unprotected coast in any but the mildest of conditions is perilous.
I needed a plan B. The Near Coastal Plan.
In this plan, we will take what the weather gives us. If we get four good days (favorable winds and seas) we’ll cruise until the weather becomes unfavorable. This potentially means we would take chunks of distance, 3 days, 24/7 is 450 nm. Making the entire trip into 4 chunks of 500 miles each, would get the job done and reduce time spent too close to the coast.
It would be far less fun however, but probably safer in many ways and less stressful.
Then came plan C, the Ocean Plan.
But first we talk to talk about hurricanes.
Hurricane season runs from June through October, with the highest frequency, mid-July to mid-September.
I can see an advantage in avoiding the high summer. Looking at the Windyty depiction of the surface winds over the eastern Pacific today, you can see the big ass high pressure system that keeps the easterly trade winds over Hawaii (far left of picture) as well as the northwest winds over the west coast of California and Mexico. Now, one of the disruptors of these winds are hurricanes. The circulation pattern around hurricanes is far smaller than this massive high-pressure system, but a Pacific Ocean hurricane a few hundred west of Mexico, would cause southerly winds off the Mexican coast.
If it moved slowly north, maybe I could tag along??
It all depends on the situation and I’d have to figure out my escape routes, but it’s something for me to think about and plan for. It’s also significant that eastern Pacific hurricanes are weaker than Atlantic ones, with wind patterns not much stronger (if at all) than Northern Atlantic low-pressure systems in August and September (and I’ve certainly had my fun with those!).
Then the Ocean Route would entail an end around, running almost west, then curving slowly northwestward and finally northward, ending up east of Ensenada or southern California. With little winds, it would be an easy 10 to 12-day voyage, just like I did alone from the Azores to Ireland. I’d only do this though if I saw the possibility of an extended time of light winds.
Also, time of year matters in my decision making. In the scenario just mentioned above, In May or June, I’d have plenty of time to wait or make it happen. I may have different options later in the summer.
In September 2015, while waiting in Norway to cross the North Sea (I anticipated a 72-hour crossing), my weather windows were getting smaller and smaller. September is simply too late to be doing such a trip. But Sweden was so nice!
There had been strong northerly winds 25+ winds and driving rain, for days. I waited and waited. Finally, I saw a high-pressure ridge building into the North Sea from the English Channel, but this ridge of high pressure was also moving eastward. But it only gave me a two-day window for a three-day trip.
I had to take it. It meant that I left my little port of Egersund, Norway, with 35+ knot winds from the NNW and rain. If you look at my route I took to Fraserburgh Bay, Scotland, those strong winds caused that dip in my route. Even with the paravane stabilizers, it’s just easier on the boat to put the winds and resultant seas on the starboard stern quarter. After 24 hours, as the winds died, I was able to head more westerly and on the third day, to the northwest. But that little longer route also added 12 hours to the trip and the next frontal system was right on, so my last 8 hours were in the weather again.
Would a longer, better weather window has come eventually? Sure. In the winter, under very cold air and high pressure. I couldn’t wait that long.
When we decided to cruise the world or at least get away from the coast, we knew we wanted, needed a boat that that could all that and more. All the readings I did about boats and people cruising in boats all over the world, led me to Kadey Krogen.
Our little 42-foot boat was well built, extremely well designed for the worst of the worst and affordable.
Having Dauntless under my feet gives me confidence that she can handle any stupid situation I put her in.
As I sit in my 10th floor apartment in Ho Chi Minh City, a.k.a. Saigon, the People’s Republic of Vietnam this balmy January 2018, writing these words, I think back one year. I was in Martinique, in the Lessor Antilles, luxuriating in having just completed a harder than expected crossing of the Atlantic from North Africa to North America.
Vietnam wasn’t even on the radar and if it was, I thought it was a wave top. Impossible it imagines how different 2017 would end up.
So, how can a person who doesn’t have a clue as to where they will be in 12 months’ time write about planning?
And not only write about, but spend a good portion of every day’s waking hours thinking about The Plan? So much so that just a while ago, I found myself looking at the noonsite.com information about Taiwan.
Taiwan? wtf, he still hasn’t figured out how to get Dauntless out of Mexico, you’re thinking.
And right you are. So, I thought you would be interested in knowing or better understanding my planning process.
To understand my planning process, let’s look at my goal and some background information:
Long term, cross the North Pacific, return to Northern Europe & complete my circumnavigation.
Short term, spend a couple of summers in Southeast Alaska.
Near term, get Dauntless to California before next winter.
Dauntless is now in the wonderful little town of Huatulco, Mexico, in the little Bahia Chahue.
In 2016, once I made the decision to return to North America, I made an elaborate plan (published in some blog post last year) to transit the Panama Canal and cruise up the west coast of North America to SE Alaska.
Looking aback at the plan now, I stayed pretty much on time and on target, only transiting the Panama Canal a couple weeks later than originally planned, until Costa Rica.
Arriving in Golfito, Costa Rica in March 2017, the wheels then came off or a more apt description, I was beached.
What happened? A perfect storm of: local bureaucracy, my nephew who cruised with me since Ireland, had to go back to school and I met this wonderful woman in faraway Vietnam.
Returning to Dauntless in June, I needed to get moving north. Costa Rica is a wonderful country that I had visited in 2004 and had really looked forward to returning. But, it turns out, it is not really cruiser friendly. The few marinas are ridiculously expensive and the paperwork of checking in and out was cumbersome and confusing.
My newfound friend, Cliff joined me and we took Dauntless from Costa Rica to Mexico. Mexico, it turns out is everything Coast Rica isn’t. Cliff had to go back to work and hurricane season had arrived, so in reaching the wonderful town of Huatulco in August, I decided that enough was enough.
The Task at Hand is to get Dauntless from southern Mexico to California, 1800 miles.
Dauntless cruises at about 6.5 to 6.8 knots. thus a 24-hr. period is 150 nm. That’s the figure I use for planning. With light winds and small seas, then the planning exercise is about planning stops after a day of cruising.
Two years ago, in the Baltic Cruise, I largely ignored the weather and planned the whole 4,000-mile trip based on cruising days of 5 to 8 hours. Usually we would stay a few days in each town or city stop. But the pacific coast of North America is a whole different creature.
Climatology tells me that the winds are predominantly from the northwest (the direct I must go) 2/3’s to ¾’s of the time. I use Jimmy Cornell’s Ocean Atlas which has pilot charts for each ocean by month. Jimmy Cornell’s Pilot Charts also tell me the secondary wind direction and currents. June thru September is 4 months, 120 days. I figure that I will have favorable winds about ¼ of those days, or 30 days. I have 1800 nm to go divided by 30 days means 60 miles per day. No bad, about what I did in the Baltic in September.
But it also means that when the winds are favorable, I must make miles. The reality of seasonal climatology is best looked at and planned for over periods longer than a few weeks. In this situation, I can easily be stuck in port 30 days waiting for the winds. Then if I’m lucky, I’ll have a good period, 5 to 10 days of southerly winds. Depending upon where we are along the coast, it means we may do 48, 72 or even 96 hours to take advantage of our good weather window.
Now in this context, when I say “weather” I really mean winds and seas. I’ve left port on many stormy days. Rain, showers do not bother me, it’s really all about the winds and seas for my little Kadey Krogen.
The effect of head winds and seas vary greatly. 5 to 7 knots are hardly noticeable and may produce small seas, less than 2 feet. Dauntless will lose a few tenths of a knot under such conditions.
As winds off the bow become stronger, it all goes down rapidly from there. 12 to 15 knots produce 3 to 5 ft. seas, pitching become unpleasant and we’ll lose more than a knot of speed. 18 + knots are untenable from a comfort level. Too much hobby horsing and probably down to 5 knots, less with any counter current. This is what happened to me off the French coast going up the English Channel to Holland. We were making 2 to 3 knots in pure misery of pitching. Because of the conditions, I finally decided to abort to Ostend, Belgium. It took another 6 hours to go 15 miles. Some of the worst 6 hours I have ever experienced. The Kadey Krogen was fine, she takes a beating and keeps on ticking. The humans inside were not as happy.
What I took out of that beating was to more carefully consider winds and seas on the bow. A 20-knot wind from the stern is fine. We had 20 days of that crossing the Atlantic last year. Even 20 knots (and resultant seas) on the beam are ok. The paravanes are most effective with beam seas. Though I tend not to venture out in such seas if I am in port. 20 knot headwinds are untenable. Stay in port. If at sea, options are reduced, but probably a change in direction is warranted.
I use Windyty.com for my forecast winds. I tend not to look at forecast seas because the accuracy is seldom good enough to use in an effective manner. Though Windyty will give you the first, second and third swells.
Now when it comes to forecast winds, for whatever reason, the forecast winds are almost always understated, though I do realize it’s possible that I only notice the over and not the under. Thus, when winds are forecast to be 12 knots, that usually means 8 to 15 knots. If 8, ok, if 15 it’s a no go. So, in this case, I will use 8 knots for the Go-No Go decision.
From Huatulco to the Channel Islands, it’s only 1800 nm in three long legs. that’s basically the distance I did between Martinique and the Panama Canal. But with much more un-favorable winds and currents.
Top speed for Dauntless is about 8.5 knots, but it’s non-factor because it’s impossible to justify the double to treble fuel consumption for 2 knots. So, my effective (long term) hurry up speed is 7.5 knots at 1800 rpms and 2 gallons/hour. Thus, I usually keep it to 1700 rpms, 6.8 to 7.0 knots and 1.6 gal/hr.
In my next post, Planning is the Mother of Anticipation, I’ll discuss the Mexican coast, what options we’ll have, crew and hurricanes.
Well, it would probably take a book I’m too lazy to write.
But as I sit here in the sweltering heat of Mexico, air conditioning or lack thereof has become my number one concern.
Having spent two years in Northern Europe, AC was the least of my concerns. So last year when cruising south, once I hit Portugal, the heat hit us at the same time. Like leaving a room that was a pleasant 68° (20°C) and entering a furnace that was in the 90°s (>32°).
Dauntless has two air conditioning (AC) systems. One for the back of the boat, like the salon and second cabin, the other, for the forward sections, the forward cabin and pilot house. Of course, neither one was working.
Somewhere in the Caribbean, finally realizing that this heat and humidity was unrelenting, I tackled the issue and in a remarkable time, got both units working. Relief at last. But this isn’t about that.
So, for the last couple months, I have luxuriated in the coolness of modern living. Now, air conditioning only works if I am at a marina and plugged into shore power or if I run the boat’s generator.
Then last week, my cool times came to an abrupt end. My aft AC stopped cooling and then started blowing hot air. That won’t work.
Boat AC’s working using water pumped through the condenser to make cool air. (Home AC’s use air to cool the condenser).
So, when there is a problem, the first thing to check is water flow. And in fact, there was not any water flow or maybe just a dribble when it should be coming out like a water hose.
Easy fix I thought. It started well. I checked the sea strainer, which is exactly that, it strains sea water so that the water pump only gets water and not sea weed, sticks, fish and whatever got sucked into the thru hull opening. The strainer was full of crap and water was just dribbling out, when it should have been gushing out.
Oh, that was easy. But on a boat, the systems in place that makes everything run as they must, can become complicated.
I cleaned out the strainer. Put it back together and that started the last seven days of trial and error.
I hadn’t cleaned or opened the strainer in probably 4 years. It had a lot of corrosion around it. I brushed and cleaned it up as well as I could. Put it back together again, turned on the AC pump and all was well.
For about 10 minutes.
As of yesterday, the 6th day, I got the time up to two hours. It would run OK for two hours and then quit. I would need to let it rest about an hour and then do the process all over again.
Somewhere between the thru-hull and the AC water pump, air was being sucked into the system. The water pump is sucking so hard and it’s always easier to suck air than water. So even the smallest crack will allow air to be sucked in. That air then collects at the highest point in the system, at the aft AC unit, at which point the air blocks the water and the AC stops cooling.
That has been my last 7 days.
Every day I tried something new. I even made new gaskets from rubber sheets, I’ve did all sorts of things to try to fix the strainer. Sure, there has been some improvement, but it wasn’t fixed.
But I didn’t have a spare strainer. What to do?
One of my lessons learned from crossing oceans is there is always a solution.
When you are in the middle of the Atlantic, there’s no Boat US, no AAA, no nothing, only you and the odds and ends you happen to have.
I realized I did not have a spare sea strainer, but I did have two other sea strainers!
I could simply bypass the AC strainer and put a hose between one of the other strainers to the AC water pump. Then if there is still a problem, it would mean it’s the pump itself.
I’d decided to use the Generator strainer. The gen is not being used and won’t be until next summer. Also, should I mess that system up, it’s not a critical component, like the main engine.
The AC sea strainer uses 1” hose. Turns out the gen sea strainer uses ¾” hose. The gen doesn’t use much cooling water, but the AC’s use a lot.
The main engine sea strainer was 1” hose, so I decided to use that. That has enabled me to sit here a couple of hours later and write this piece in the cool comfort of the Kadey Krogen salon.
Which raises another even more important issue. The first rule of Ocean Crossing, Do No Harm. Don’t fix one problem by making another.
Only because Dauntless will spend the winter here in Huatulco, Mexico, would I consider messing with the main engine’s sea strainer.
There is always a lot of blather about single engine boats crossing oceans. Large commercial boats do it all the time, but then they are not affected by marketing.
If one looks at engine failures on single engine boats versus multi engine boats, the preponderance is a failure of one of the two engines on a multi engine boat. Why is that? On the face of it, the numbers should be exactly the same. Why aren’t they?
They are not the same because both consciously and unconsciously people take care of stuff better when they only have one versus two. Of anything.
How many times have you lost a key after having gotten extra keys made? How many times have you lost your only key?
If I was getting underway in the foreseeable future. I would never have touched the main engine’s sea strainer. Even though Dauntless is going to be here for the next 8 months, if my plan was to come back and get her ready to cross the Pacific, I would never have touched the sea strainer now.
Only because I have the luxury of knowing that: not only will I not be using the engine until next summer, even then we will be slowly moving up the coast. I have a few years and a few thousand miles of coastal cruising before setting across the North Pacific.
A boat is all about systems. A motor boat even more because it takes more complicated systems to run in a dependable manner. So, I am very careful not to mess with systems that don’t need it. Remeber, Do No Harm.
In opening up the AC sea strainer, I messed with that system. I upset something.
Turns out, in getting ready to bypass the AC strainer, I noticed the end of the outlet hose was very hard. Is it possible that when I opened the strainer, I broke the seal between this hose and the strainer nipple? Even though the two clamps were tight. (All connections to thru hulls have two clamps)
I decided before I did anything else, to cut 2″ off the end of that hose and re-attach it. I did and that solved the problem once and for all. Yesterday, the ACs worked for 12 hours with nary a problem.
So even with a solution in hand, keep trying to determine the real problem. Otherwise, it may come back to haunt you in the most inopportune time.
When I had the hydraulic hose failure in the middle of the Atlantic. I caused the problem because I turned the wheel knowing the rudder was already at its stop. Thus I did harm. This forced the fluid to go somewhere and it burst the hose at its weakest point. Luckily for me, that point was easy to find and relatively easy to replace.
But I will never do that again.
Here is the video of me replacing that hose. The seas were about 8 to 15 feet. We were stopped in the water like that for about 30 minutes, because I had to be careful not to make a small problem worse by breaking one of the fittings from the three-way coupling:
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I tried to get Micah who was holding the camera to get the overall picture and show the big waves that would approach Dauntless and then disappear under the boat. But that seemed to unnerve him. He wouldn’t look out. Oh well, it could have been worse.
So, one of my lessons learned in crossing the Atlantic: There is always an alternative, there is always a way, a bypass, a work around, but there is always a way. You just have to think about it.
I stayed two nights in the wonderful, quiet, still anchorage of Cedros & Jesusita. It gave me time to catch up on my
sleep and to complete the chores, cleaning and re-organization I should have done before I left the dock in Golfito.
Not the first time I have managed to stress myself by not finishing things as I should in a timely manner.
Won’t be the last, but still …
I hated leaving but it was time to move on. I carefully followed by previous track out into open water. If I didn’t take any shortcuts in; I certainly don’t take them on the way out.
I was underway before 8:00, as I had contrary current to contend with, I kept the rpms a little higher, 1700 today than the usual 1500 to 1600. This gives me about an extra half knot, but also consumes an extra quarter gallon per hour or 17% more fuel.
I was headed to Bahia Samada. While it got good reviews on Active Captain, I’m starting to think all these reviews are written at a different time of year, with no south to west swell, because again it turned out to be rolly.
Also, buggy. I’ve gotten in the habit like most experienced “cruisers” to turn on generator as the sun sets. It’s at this point that the winds will decrease or die and the bugs come out. Also gives me an opportunity to put a little charge in the batteries, while running the A/C to cool and dehumidify the boat.
I usually run it a couple of hours, though I am conscious of the noise and it there are any other boats nearby, I turn it off sooner rather than later.
As I turned NE around the cape towards Samada, there was a large area of rain showers and thunderstorms, seemingly right over my intended destination. Though my timing worked out well in that the storms were moving slowly west, so while it rained for a while, by the time I got to the anchorage for the night, it at stopped.
As I said, not a great place to stop. Rolly and buggy (mostly gnats). Therefore, at the crack of dawn the next day, I was ready to get out of Dodge.
Hauled anchor at 06:00 and was underway to Bahia Guacamaya. This place also got great reviews and for once it deserved them. Hardly any roll, quiet, beautiful.
I stayed here two days. I got the water maker running again, cleaned up the stern deck and jury rigged my garden hose reel that I use for the stern anchor line. I did a good job, only wondering why I had not done it weeks earlier. Another unknown mystery of the universe.
But even before that. The trip was very nice. When I had left the winds were light from the northeast, forecast to turn southwesterly during the day at about 8 to 10 knots. As I rounded Cape Velas the winds were ESE at 20 knots gusting to 25. That pretty much was the rest of the afternoon. Very luckily, I was only a few miles off shore so the wind had very little fetch (the distance winds blow unencumbered over water) this kept the wave heights down, in fact they were less than 2 feet.
Dauntless was rolling on marginally. Now had I come here a few hours later, the seas would have been much greater. Just like the day I left Golfito, with the winds having blown all night, the seas were moderate by the time I left.
Also, I was able to check the latest forecast. I use WIndyty.com for the most part as I love how they present the data and the options you have to change what you look at. I pretty much only look at winds, though I may check the different weather forecast numerical models to see any significant differences. What was interesting about today was the forecast was very wrong, at least in terms of wind speed and for a small boat like Dauntless, that does make a significant difference.
I usually tell people, whether they ask or not, that weather forecasts are usually right, but when wrong they are usually wrong or time or location. What do I mean?
The forecast was for 8 to 10 knot winds out of the east. But 100 miles further north, the winds were forecast to be 20 knots. So, in this case the forecast was wrong by location. The timing was good.
Now since my Krogen on can go about 60 miles in 12 hours; 100 miles off on location makes all the difference in the world. But if I was in an airplane covering a much larger distance, the location being off becomes much less of an issue. Same thing if I’m a ship going 18 knots.
Now had I gotten up that morning with the winds blowing hard, I would not have left. Because the other aspect of bad weather forecasts is that they usually don’t get better. Meaning, if the forecast starts off incorrect, for any given time and place, it’s not like the weather will catch up. Sure, it may look like the forecast is spot on 12 hours later, but more likely, it’s just a matter of chance.
So, I got to Bahia Guacamaya and just as advertised the bluffs to the east blacked the winds from getting into the bay. Ver nice. One of the best anchorages yet, certainly the best if I include the scenery. So good in fact, I really regretted not have Trinh with me. This would have been such a wonderful spot to explore together.
Here are some videos of the two days:
21 July 18:15, Entering Bahia Samada at night.
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22 July Bahia Samada the following morning
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22 July 11:13 Underway to Bahia Guacamaya
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23 July Morning in Bahia Guacamaya
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Costa Rica Day 5 Summary: Engine Start 07:46, stop 18:50; uw 10 hrs 49 min, 67.7 nm, avg speed 6.3 kt. Average Roll while underway, +8° to -10°, delta of 18°;
Anchored Bahia Samada in 17 feet water with 100’ of chain out.
Costa Rica Day 6 & 7 Summary: Engine Start 06:00, stop 14:40; uw 8 hrs 30 min, 55.6 nm, avg speed 6.56 kt. Average Roll while underway, <5°either way, delta of 10°;
Anchored Bahia Guacamaya in 21 feet water with 80’ of chain out.
As soon as my eyes opened due to the light thru my porthole. I got up; it was time to get out of here. My night was not as restful as it should have been. I was eager to get to the next stop which as I had read about on Active Captain, virtually guaranteed me an easy, peaceful, steady night.
I use Active Captain to search the best places for the current weather and sea conditions. In North America, I find it indispensable.
I was so happy to get underway. If you are going to be rolling around, you may as well do it while making miles. I had a long day ahead of me, so I got going, before I made my Vietnamese coffee.
Which will be another crisis looming in the distant horizon, the day I run out of Vietnamese coffee. I really like it. I can make it very, very strong, almost like espresso, but it is not bitter. At some point, I may think about importing it into the US.
But I digress.
It’s 06:30, I’m heading WNW to get around the cape’s further north and it’s a grey day. With broken clouds, only a few patches of sky and rain showers from the previous evening’s thunderstorms lingering to the north and west.
I don’t mind the storms. It all depends on the winds. As
long as the winds are favorable I’m happy. On those days that I have choice as to leave or not depending on the weather, I pretty much only look at the winds. On a boat, the winds, speed and direction, are what makes a difference. The boat is made to get wet, I don’t worry about rain.
Today the winds are light and while it’s a long day, it wasn’t bad at all. As I arrive at my planned anchoring location, I am a bit perplexed because it doesn’t look like what I’d pictured from the charts.
Or I should say chart. In one of the more bizarre aspects of my mind, I’ll make a plan and then when it comes time to execute, forget the main reason I made the plan in the first place. I can only chuckle.
In this case, for the last 4 years, I make it a rule to always have two electronic charts available. The primary is on the boat’s computer and runs with Coastal Explorer, my navigation program. I’m running C-Map (ex-Jeppesen) charts mainly because they are the most cost effective for world-wide coverage.
My secondary is Navionics running on my tablet. Also, extremely cost effective for tablets.
Except I left my tablet, who was dying from battery failure in Viet man, planning on getting a cheap tablet while in NYC. But then I decided while in NYC to save a few pennies, since I’m only spending thousands of dollars a month on Dauntless.
I forgot about my Navionics charts.
Until now. At some point, I will do a review of the two charts, C-Map versus Navionics, but now, I just missed the other’s perspective.
Just then with the sun setting, a small open boat comes by and I decide to overcome my shyness and ask in my crappy Spanish for his recommendation for a good anchoring spot.
I do and he does. I follow him about a quarter of a mile and he puts me on the spot.
In 26 feet of water I put out the anchor and snubber (I always use a snubber bridle, that takes the chain load off the bow pulpit and puts it to the bow hawse pipes and cleats).
This spot was ideal. Even with the slight current, the boat felt like it was on land. It would slide around 90° every 6 hours, but the movement was not even noticeable.
I stayed here two nights. In the 12 overnight hours, the boat moved 0.01 nm; the previous night, the boat moved (while on anchor) 1.7 nm!
I slept 10 hours straight and spent the next day doing more cleaning, organizing and minor stuff.
Day 3 Summary: Engine Start 06:20, stop 18:07; uw 11:39, 78.1 nm, avg speed 6.7 kt. Average Roll while underway, +7° to -9°, delta of 16°; extreme rolls delta 20° (not bad, half of what it was crossing the Atlantic)
Anchored off Isla Cedros & Jesusita in 26 feet water with 120’ of chain out.
Tuesday, 18 July. After waking up so many times I stopped counting, I was glad to see the dawn so I could get out of this spot. Now I’ll tell you why:
I had gone to bed by 20:00 hours, having spent more than an hour futzing with anchors and snubbers.
Dauntless was as disheveled as ever. I had to clear a line thru containers and chairs that had moved around the salon. The stern deck was a mess also.
When I first put out the bow anchor, it was obvious the Krogen would not lie into the wind, but perpendicular to it. Probably caused by currents in the bay, but it made the rolling even worse than it had been the previous 12 hours. But the next anchorage was 35 miles away, another 7 hours. I could not go on, I had to make this work.
First, I tried attaching the snubber like to the midships cleat instead of the bow as is normal. I also put out another 50 feet of chain after the snubber. My idea was to put some pressure on the side of the boat to try to hold it into the waves better. (This may have worked better had I connected it to the stern).
An hour later, I realized this was not working. I started the engine briefly to get us into the waves, then threw out the stern anchor on short scope, hoping this would hold us in the right direction.
For about 15 minutes it seems to significantly reduce the roll. I had made a pot of beans, corn and hot dog.
That was my no so healthy dinner, but as I told Trinh, I hadn’t passed any gardens today. Besides humans can live a long time on a single food. It wouldn’t kill me to not have balanced meal for a while.
I tried to go to sleep, but the boat had this terrible movement. There was a rolling oscillation that would get worse after about 4 rolls, then die off for about 30 seconds before doing it again. No way could I get to sleep with that. I got up numerous times to see if we had moved. We had moved but the bow anchor was doing fine.
I decided to move the snubber back to the bow. That helped the motion a bit.
Then an hour later, hearing a big bang, I jumped up to make sure we hadn’t crashed into the small fishing boats about 500 feet away. No, we hadn’t. But I then proceeded to pull in the stern anchor as I thought it must be contributing or causing the unnatural corkscrew rolling of the boat.
It seemed to work. Now we were just held by the bow anchor. Still rolling around and swinging on the arc from the anchor, I decided to brace myself in bed and just not worry. I’ve possibly only dragged once with this anchor, so go to sleep.
That I did by about 01:00. As the dawn broke a little after 5, I was up. I decided not to deal with the mess in the salon until my next stop. But within minutes I found myself moving containers, chairs, getting the restraining straps and bungee cords and making everything snug. A sweaty 20 minutes later, it was all done and I felt so much better.
Looking at the actual winds, they were easterly at 4 knots, so decided to press on and get out of this hell hole. Clearly, I’ve been in worse anchorages, the ones you must leave sooner rather than later. But this one was pretty bad.
Got underway, 342° at 35 miles. Should be there in 6 hours. No need for paravanes, as the wind is out of the east (direction of the coast, about 6 miles away) the seas are relatively flat, with just the SW swell at about 2 feet and 10 second period.
And the second day ended as well as it started. Oh, we had more anchoring follies, but isn’t that why we pay the price of admission?
Day 2 Summary: Engine Start 06:08, stop 12:00; uw 5:52, 34.3 nm, avg speed 6.6 kt.
Monday, 17 July 2017. Up at the crack of dawn. I had told Sergio, we were leaving at 06:00. I hadn’t heard from him in two days, so… that normally means he changed his mind. I can’t begin to tell you the number of times I’ve corresponded with people who are so excited, over time and frequently, only to have them disappear or to tell me they have to wash their cat the day of departure.
So far, the score is 1, who turned up as promised to 7 no-shows. Mind you, all these people contacted me first!
Chantal, the one who did show was great. Even left her alone on Dauntless for a week in the Bahamas. Oh well.
My friends who have joined me have all been great and they made the 2016 Cruise of the Baltic, the Baltic Republics, Poland, Sweden and Finland, so enjoyable.
I start with all this because it influenced my decision to leave, on a day that I simply should have stayed put.
I was anxious to get this show on the road. I was burning days and hadn’t even move a mile north, yet had almost 2000 miles to go.
So, when I realized Sergio was going to be a no-show, I wasn’t unhappy. Being alone is actually far less stressful for me is many ways:
I’m not responsible for someone else’s life
I don’t have to feed them or explain how not to screw up the toilet
I don’t have to worry about them getting home safe and sound
I can run around in the middle of the night, as I did last night, checking on strange noises, naked.
Yes, many advantages.
I now use Windyty.com as my main weather source while outside the USA.
It indicated light winds, 3 to 5 kts, Monday, increasing a bit Tuesday and much more on Wednesday. Therefore, it seemed Monday was the best day and I wanted to go in any case.
But when I got up, I could see a large thunderstorm to the west and it had been producing strong winds and rain all night. It was an extensive area, probably 15 miles by 10 miles. I don’t mid traveling in such conditions, however this storm produced strong, 12 kts westerly winds. Since I had to go west, then SW, then NW, that was not good.
And now I did what I tell everyone NEVER to do. Never ever. I got fixated on the forecast, 3 kt winds, thinking the seas will be small. Totally ignoring the fact that this storm had produced relatively strong winds, 10 to 18 knots for the last 12 hours.
As you see in the picture, I take off into this storm and immediately I notice 3 to 5-foot waves that I’m going into. Up and down we go. I slow up to 1400 rpm, and press on. I should have turned around and gone back to my peaceful, sheltered anchorage. I didn’t.
Two hours later as I turn the corner finally getting out of the Bay of Golfito, to head NW, I discover a significant swell, from the south to southwest 4 to 6 feet. Now the boat really started to roll. Of course, in my idleness, I did not stow everything well, in fact the salon was a mess.
I deployed one paravane stabilizer bird, then half an hour later, the other.
The roll was never so bad, only about 8° in each direction and the extreme rolls where just over 12°. These numbers are half of what we put up with for 21 days crossing the Atlantic 6 months earlier, but still. But having furniture roll around the salon is always disconcerting.
The ride didn’t ameliorate until the last 1.5 hours when I turned NE to go to Bahia Drake. An anchorage that given its’ 3-star rating was clearly over-optimistic.
Day’s Cruise Summary: Engine start, 05:52, stop 17:29; 11 hrs:15 min underway (uw), distance 62.2 nautical miles (nm), average speed 5.6 knots (kt)