First Times

Are always hard.

I still remember vividly every mistake I made during my first winter in Fairbanks, Alaska: having to change a tire at 50° below zero (-45°C), because I had not put enough air in it when it was warmer, and now, at minus 50°, the tire was so flat it had a flat spot, that would not allow the car to move.  Even with thick gloves on, I froze the end of my index finger.

That same winter, same car, I spent a week not being able to start it.  One night, walking the 5 miles to work at my first weather forecasting job, I almost froze to death.  I was so cold, when I finally got to the get at Ft. Wainwright, the gate guard took pity on me and called for a car to take me the last mile.

You have heard enough about our first Atlantic crossing and what we would do differently.

My first year of teaching was unreal.  Swimming across the Atlantic may have been easier.

Dauntless still has the dent in the swim platform from the first time I tried to back into a slip.

So, I find myself relishing the thought of the coming winter.

Why?

Because it’s the second winter for Dauntless in Europe and Ireland. I know what to expect; I know what to worry about and what I don’t have to worry about.

It doesn’t get simpler or easier than that.

I know that with Dauntless secure in Waterford, I can spend a bit more time in the U.S.; not only with Julie in N.Y., but also visiting other friends throughout the country and Europe.

A “Real Life of Reilly” A TV show that that as a young kid I found fascinating, why? It was about this foreign place called Brooklyn.  Reilly worked in the Brooklyn Navy Yard; which also says a lot about New Yorkers in that we are a city of neighborhoods.  Also, since I lived on the west side of Manhattan, it was out of sight.

Literally, my sight.

Had I perhaps lived in the Lower East Side (from which the Brooklyn Navy Yard is quite visible) maybe I would not have thought Brooklyn so foreign.  It did have Coney Island, which I was a frequent visitor.  But again, in those days, the train to Coney Island took the tunnel under the East River; so again, I missed my opportunity to the Navy Yard. (Nowadays, it takes the Manhattan Bridge, giving a wonderful view of New York (Manhattan), Brooklyn and even the Statue of Liberty.

OK, so back to the story.

I can also spend a bit more time on the continent, taking advantage of Ryan Air’s cheap flights, while I scope out some possible places for winter over next year.

Yes, the second time is great.

So while my second winter in Fairbanks, didn’t come for another 10 years, I knew to put 60 lbs. of air in the tires (double the normal amount) before winter started and the gas station air pumps all froze.

I also knew contrary to local wisdom, to start the car engine with no choke initially, otherwise it would instantly flood and I’d be walking for a week.

And in our second year on Dauntless, I know when someone asks me to back the boat into a slip to make it more convenient for them, I kindly decline.

So, I’m really looking forward to my upcoming second winter and second summer in Europe.

But after two, three starts looking the same as one and two.

So it’ll be time to reset the clock again.

Better to have a new first time; than a boring third time.

So just like that we start all over again.

 

 

 

 

The Crater

So, on day three of the cruise through the Finnish hinterland, we had come up with a slightly revised plan.

Leonie and Martin needed to take the train to the airport from either Stockholm or Kalmar, the latter being two hours closer, by train!.  The problem is that two hours on the train is two DAYS on Dauntless.

Dauntless makes her way out of the crater
Dauntless makes her way out of the crater

It would be five days of hard cruising to get to Kalmar and we would have virtually no time in Stockholm.

Now, having ended up spending more than 7 days in Helsinki; I did not want to give Stockholm, the short shrift. I grew up near the Swedish-America line. My second grade teacher was on the Stockholm when it sliced the Andre Doria in half.  Stockholm is in my roots more than Helsinki.

And lastly, this may be the last opportunity to spend any length of time in Sweden, even if only two weeks, therefore we modified the plan.

We would continue west northwest, over the top of Aland Island, and thus take a leisurely route to Stockholm.

So in planning today’s route through the billion islands of the XXX, I noticed our chart warned of a magnetic anomaly.  Nothing to worry about, the three boat compasses never seem to agree, anomaly or not.

But then in the pattern of islands, I noticed was clearly an impact crater, 2.5 miles in diameter, near Angskärs Fjärden.  The magnetic anomaly is caused by the iron core of the meteorite.

So today, we are heading for the crater.  I’ve never driven a boat in a crater before.

Leonie and Martin on Rock Patrol
Leonie and Martin on Rock Patrol

Well, the crater was interesting.  The little town was thought may have a dock, may have had a dock a hundred years ago, but all the kids have left town.

A dozen red painted warehouses, boat ports, and no people.

Almost like those ghost towns of Southeast Alaska.

So, we beat a slow retreat and a few hours later, we were anchored on the north side of a big rock. Well, we thought it was an island on the charts, but alas, it was a big rock island.

A Rock Island One of many, many, many...
A Big Rock
One of many, many, many…
Leonie and Martin admire the new ladder
Leonie and Martin admire the new ladder

Figuring that we would have plenty of opportunity to anchor, visit beautiful, pine treed islands, I convinced Leonie and Martin that this was once in a lifetime opportunity.

OK, a bit of a stretch, but an hour later, after having moved the stern anchor twice, we finally pulled it up totally and dropped 300 feet of chain on the hard rock bottom, figuring if nothing else, the weight of the chain would hold us in place.

So far it has.

And it did.

The next morning, we awoke to a 5 knot easterly wind and Dauntless was facing the east.  Hauled anchor and there was some seaweed, but no mud.

In particular on anchor, I wake up about every two hours.  This past night was no exception, so I decided to take advantage of the end of summer light.  Just in the last week have we experienced dark nights, albeit for only short periods?  As we near the equinox, the nights will not only get longer, but also darker.

Last night, in the clear air of the Gulf of Bothia, it was a marvel to see all those stars.  The Milky Way was quite evident.

So many stars, so little time.

Water & Fuel; Fuel & Water

But thankfully not together.

My next to last set of friends/crew left Friday for Tallinn, and I’m waiting in Helsinki for last set, my dear friends of 30 years, Leonie and Martin.  This weekend alone has given me the time to pretty much do nothing and on a boat nothing is always fun!

I’m writing this piece now, Monday morning, on the forlorn hope, that at some time in the next days, I will actually have Wi-Fi that is connected to something.  Virtually everyone says they have Wi-Fi, which really only guarantees you a router is you read the fine print.

I’m also doing a load of laundry having got the Splendid to work for the first time this year.  A few weeks ago, I was inspired enough to actually take the back off to see what the problem was, hoping it was something obvious and that I could fix.  An unplugged plug being my first choice.

Well, it did turn out to be obvious, but a little harder to remedy.  The belt had simply come off the motor and wheel for the drum.  I made a halfhearted attempt to get it back on, and then inadsplixity, I decided it was easier to collect all the screws for the back, put them in a baggie, tape the baggie to the back and then put the back panel in the compartment under the unit.

What was I waiting for? Godot?

In any case, in the time it took me to do all that, it took me less time to get the belt back on yesterday.

My only disappointment in the whole deal was that I discovered that it will still not run off the inverter, but only with the generator.  I seldom run the genny, but am now, as I must to a wash for the bed linens for my next guests.

Now back to our story: water and then fuel.

Yesterday, remember the day with nothing to do, I had washed my face in the sink in my head and as I always do I listen for the telltale sound the fresh water pump makes as it cycles off.  This usually happens a few seconds after the water is turned off.

I was listening intently because I knew the port side water tank was almost empty and I try not to let the pump such a lot of air.  Because when it does that, the faucets will spit at you and as they are at the level of one’s crouch.  Then a few hours later, when you innocently go to turn on the cold water, your crouch gets blasted by a plug of cold water.  If you’re dressed it’s downright embarrassing, but if naked, it just plain shocking.

So, listening closely as the pump droned on, I went to switch the water tank valves.  Turned off port, turned on starboard.

Now usually at this point, it may take many seconds or even a minute or two, for the pump to build sufficient pressure and turn off.

Sometime by turning on the kitchen tap, I can facilitate this process to get the air out, since the kitchen is the highest tap.

I do so and the water pressure is not very strong, much like it is running out. Strange I think.  I turn it off and the water pump continues to run and run.

Well, just a few months ago, the same thing had happened.  I spent an hour trying to diagnose the problem.  Then, it turned out the valve for the just emptied tank was NOT fully closed, maybe open only 1/8” but that was enough.

So this time, I think oh, I know this problem, I go check the valves, but the port tank was fully closed.

Being at a marina, I had turned off the Maretron system which tells me the level of the tanks.  I wanted to do this because my first thought was the tank I thought was full, was actually empty.  This had also happened to me somewhere in the past.

The Maretron sensors confirmed that I had one full tank, but it also said that I still had 20 gallons in the port tank, which I had thought was empty.  The Maretron tank sensor works well for low quantity, so now I was getting flummoxed.

I had already turned off the water pump just so it would keep running while I tried to find the problem.

I switched the tanks again, back to the not quite empty port tank; turned on the pump and ran the kitchen water again. No change, I tried the hot water, but there was not hot water!

Now, this was getting stranger still.  Even if the water tanks are empty, the hot water tank is always full since if the water pump cannot pump water from the tanks, it also cannot pump water out of the hot water tank.

Would you like to guess what the problem was?

 

So twenty minutes later, I finally decide to check all the faucets in the boat.

Sure enough, the faucet in my head was happily running just as I had left it 20 minutes earlier! I turned it off the water pump turned off within seconds.

Now, a little fuel issue, but at least I understood what happened immediately.  But I will give you time to guess for yourselves.

Coming back to Helsinki, we had motored for about 5 hours. No problems.

The next morning, I go to the engine room to check the fuel tank levels.  I do this my means of sight tubes. Sight tubes are connected to the top and bottom of each tank and indicate the level of the fuel inside the tank just based on the fact that fluid finds its own level.  The only thing you much check is that for the sight tubes to be accurate, the valves that connect them to the tank must be open, top and bottom, as well as the feed and return valves to that respective tank. Four valves all must be open.

I check the starboard tank that the motor had been feeding from, it indicated 3” of fuel, at this point about 35 gallons (yes, I need fuel).

The port tank was empty, empty.

I knew I was low on fuel, so I had used the fuel polisher to transfer all the fuel for port to starboard, just in case.  I did not want the engine to run out while underway.  I know the tank is empty when the fuel polisher is just sucking air.

I also checked the port tank, even though empty, sometimes the return valve is hard to fully close, so it can collect fuel sometimes.

I go to open the four valves and what do I see, they are already open!

Now that strange.  Stranger still is that the engine ran and had no problem running.  I had done this before last year.  I had both feed pipes on from each tank, but one tank was empty.  It took me an hour to figure out why the engine would not keep running.  Why? Because the fuel pump is sucking air from the empty tank and pumps always prefer air over liquid as it’s easier to suck.

So why did the engine have no problem running?

 

 

And the answer is, last year when the engine would not start, the feed pipe was open, but the sight tubes were closed.  Had the engine had fuel this is the normal running configuration.  By having the sight tubes closed normally, there is less chance of air getting into the system.

This time the 4 valves were open on the empty port tank, the 4 valves were also open on the tank the engine was supposed to be feeding from.  But again the engine ran for 5 hours with no hiccups at all, like the good Ford Lehman it is.

Why did it work?

The running engine returns to the tank much more fuel than it needs.  Because I had left the sight tubes open also, the engine never got a chance to suck air from the empty tank.  Instead after start up, as it returns fuel to both tanks, the fuel to the empty port tank is flowing right back down the sight tube and being feed back to the engine.  And it was just enough (since some was returning to the starboard tank also) so that the fuel lines never got any air ingested.

Had I gone down to the engine room while the engine was running, I would have seen a full sight tube.

The reason the previous time something similar happened, and the engine would not run, was because the sight tubes were closed.  Now the fuel being returned has to go into the tank, fall to the bottom of the tank, splash, and collect back at the lowest point near the feed pipe.

But that takes too much time and even the splashing fuel in an empty tank causes a lot of air.

SO this time, having the sight tubes open, kept the fuel for aerating itself and also minimized the time it took for it to be at the feed pipe.

All’s Well that Ends Well.

Now, let’s go find some f…ing internet.

Ground(ing)hog Day II

Sans Bill Murray.

Another Beautiful Sunset Over Finland and Dauntless
Another Beautiful Sunset Over Finland and Dauntless

The evening of the [first] grounding, Julie and I, along with our NYC friends, Karen and Jason, were joined by our English sailing buddies, John and Jenny on S/V Shaka.

We celebrated our second successful tie to shore with a stern anchor with a bottle of Prosecco followed by a tasty dinner of roast pork shoulder, onions and red peppers all grilled on the Weber Q280, washed down by at more Prosecco and some Cotes du Rhone.

Good food, good company, good wine; no one can ask for more of life.

What the Chart Looks like
What the Chart Looks like

So I felt far better about the day’s fiasco and remembering my new life’s motto, All’s Well that Ends Well.

That’s what crossing the Atlantic has done for me; my sense of perspective was totally recalibrated, e.g. crossing the street, get run over by a bus, first thought, well, at least it didn’t happen while crossing the Atlantic!

Next day, we awoke to another beautiful day.  Blue skies, westerly winds, which were calm in our protected cove.  I had never slept so well on “anchor”.

Tied to an Island
Tied to an Island

The day’s plan was to move about 10 to 15 miles further east towards Helsinki, as we needed to return to Helsinki the next evening as Jason and Karen had a plane to catch to attend a wedding in NY in two days.

The challenge in Finland is finding a sheltered (from the wind) spot that is not in front of someone’s house, or even visible from said house.  In fact, they are a bit particular about that and in just a few days’ time, we would learn just how particular. But that drama is for a different day.

The challenge is to motor relatively slowly around islands that are everywhere, to find a sheltered cove, that we can safely motor up to, get someone on land to put a line around a tree and then deploy the stern anchor.  All the while also watching for houses, flag poles, stern buoys, docks and other signs of human habitation that must be avoided.

Not an easy task.

Our Stern Anchor
Our Stern Anchor

So as we enter a wide channel between a few islands, maybe a third of a mile apart, we spot some locals sunning themselves on the rocks.  What better way to find a place than to ask them for suggestions!

Another stupid idea that will cost me $$$, but how much is still to be determined.

So, once again, I am driving the boat, as we yell over to these Finns, hoping someone can not only speak English, but can give us a suggestion as to where we can go and not intrude on anyone’s space.

It didn’t seem we ever got an answer that we could understand, though I do remember they pointed out a rock to be avoided, about 200 feet off the end of their island and 200 feet in front and to the left of our heading.

No problem I say, I see it clearly marked on our charts.  I’m certainly not going to run over the little “+” that denotes a rock this time.

And I don’t!  But alas, it turns out I didn’t have to actually hit the “+”, but like tossing horseshoes, close also counts.

I’m turning the boat in a lazy 180° aiming along the route we had just come in on, I aim right of the rock going again about 3 knots. But not far enough to the right.

The wind is strong, 25 knots on our starboard quarter, about 120° relative to the boat, and when I look at the chart seconds later, I see that we are getting close to that rock and shallow area just off our port side.

I steer the boat more to the right, but not in that imminent danger mode, in which I push whoever is at the helm out of the way, and spin the wheel faster than the wheel of fortune; no this was more like, umm, that rock is getting close Jeeves, maybe we should wander a bit more the other way.

So in no haste apparent haste, just as the boat turns, we feel the now too familiar thumps announcing we have struck land once again.  Dauntless rises out of the water, but not like Moby Dick this time, more like a humpback whale, as we rise, but then slide off to the right.

Again stopping within 20 feet, tilted to the right, but still on the rock enough that I cannot extradite ourselves with a little reverse engine.

It’s a large rock.

Very large, maybe two to four feet below the surface, but at least a hundred feet long in the shape of a banana.  The “+” on the chart denoted, the highest point!, but not the full extent.

All my fault in any case.  I still got too close for no real reason and was again too sloppy in my helmsmenship.

Another lesson learned the only way one does seem to learn; the hard way.  But then as a teacher, having firmly believed that no learning is done unless work, sometimes hard work, is involved, I take my medicine that I so liberally dished out to others.

And I can only smile at that irony, but it’s really not ironic, it’s simply a fact of learning.

So again, we got about half way along the keel before stopping, tilted at an angle to the right, bow up.

Within seconds, literally seconds, a Finn and his son appeared in a little skiff, asking if we needed help to get off.  I had already put Dauntless in reverse, but just for a moment, and seeing no real movement, I did not try very hard, and stopped.

Since s/v Shaka was right behind me,  I figured why run the motor and prop hard so close to rocks, when they can pull me off.

But the Finn really wanted to help, he volunteered to go get his big skiff, with 150 horsepower engine, but I told him Shaka was right there and we would try with that at first.

He helped my talking the line from our boat to Shaka.  While that was taking place, I looked around and it was clear that the deep water was off our starboard stern quarter.

I asked Shaka to pull us in that direction and within seconds of him pulling, we were off.

I know there are now more scrapes and gouges, that will have to be attended to sooner, October, rather than later, the spring, but no visible damage and no holes or issues with the prop or shaft.  If I get the opportunity to pull the boat sooner, I will probably do that, just to make sure and develop a plan for the winter.

But let me tell you, while I felt lucky, as I had the day before, I hated the idea that I had used all of my lucky charms in two days, with another 50 days to go in waters just as treacherous.

Like the guy who speeds through the red light, once, twice, three times, sooner or later, he’ll get creamed; and on this trip I had already sped through too many red lights.

Well the friendly Finn suggested a place for us and I asked him to guide us.

He brought us a cove about ½ mile away (maybe the same place the sunning Finns had been pointing to?), but we decided it was too windy and I was frankly afraid to approach the shore (rocks) within 100 feet to see if the wind would die down as we got closer to shore.

So, he brought us to another cove, on the SE side of a rather large island.  There was an old stern buoy there, but he told us, while the island was privately owned, (as most of them are in Finland), he had not seen anyone use this mooring for years.  But no house was visible, so he was sure it would be OK.

It was a very nice spot:  no house in sight, the winds were calm in this sheltered location and we could motor slowly to the rocks on shore.  We decided to stay.

The procedure at this point, what with my extensive stern anchoring experience (at one and counting), consisted of checking out the spot by motoring, drifting really, to nose up to shore and if the nose of the boat can get to shore with enough depth under the rest of the boat, all is good.

Next step is to back up. Make a “U” turn to return to a spot about  150 feet from shore.  With the boat facing shore again and along the exact track we had just taken in to shore, we drop the stern anchor and slowly motor up the shore/rock again, letting out the rode as we go.

Then some intrepid soul, jumps onto shore or if too high, we use the kayak to get to shore to bring a line around a tree and return it to the boat so we may leave in haste if need be, without having to go ashore again.

Our ground tackle consists of a 100 foot ¼” line, a strap to protect the tree, my 40 pound Bruce with 10 feet of chain and 250 of nylon rode.

So far in the half dozen times we have done this, being so close to land, there is almost no force on the boat to push it away from land. So the bow line’s main purpose is just to hold the bow at a particular position.

Now, having the bow secure, the rode on the stern anchor is taken in just a bit.  Enough to hold the bow literally inches away from the rock in front of it.  This will preclude knocking, albeit quietly and slowly, against the rock all night keeping yours truly awake.  (Or until I get up, and pull in the stern anchor rode to put tension in it, dressed only in my birthday suit).  But that’s only happened once so far.

Our stern anchor is my old 40 lb. Bruce with the bent neck with 10 ft. of chain and 250’ of nylon rode that is really stretchy.  This was my third anchor rode set that had been stored in the lazerette.

Looking at all the fancy stern rigs boats in Europe have, I decided to actually use what I had for a season before spending (wasting) any more money.

I just unhooked the Bruce from the bow rode (50 ft. chain and 250’ line, got the old rode out of the lazerette and bough a plastic hose reel in Ireland.

Voila, done.

The anchor sits on the swim platform, its neck between the slats of the platform, the ten feet of chain in a plastic box also on the swim platform, with the rode running thru the stern hawse pipe to the line on the hose real.

Again, we had a great dinner.  Salmon I think.  I do love our Weber. Washed down by plenty of wine.  And then our German sailing buddies, Andres and Annette, found us. The evening ended with more empty bottles than I thought existed on the boat.

After recounting my tale of woe, we followed him out the following morning, late morning, as the evening before the four men, two Americans, one German, one English, partied like is was 1999.

This was such a nice spot, we returned to it a few days later after having been to Helsinki again to change out crew. Dana and Peter, also from NY now joined us for Julie’s last few days in Finland.

But this time, within a few hours of arriving, two women in a little skiff came by and asked us to leave since their brother was coming with his boat sometime that afternoon and evening.

So we pulled lines and anchors and decided to try to spot the helpful Finn had suggested a few days earlier.

Since we were now a single boat, both our sailing buddies had to press on west towards home, the spot was good for just one boat.

It turned out to be a wonderful spot.  Quiet, with a larger view to the north.  In fact, the spot we had moved from to make room for the brother was only a half mile away and clearly visible.

So another great day that ended well, well, almost well. The brother never showed up.

We were worried that something may have happened to him!

 

 

 

 

Spanked in Finland

60° North; 24° East, probably as far east as we will get in Europe this year.

Our first night in Finland
Our first night in Finland, bow to shore.

Since leaving Latvia, Estonia and Finland have been interesting.  Later this summer I will have to have a Baltic Sea recap, but for now, just a little saga that we have probably all heard before.

We got beat up a bit going between Tallinn and Finland, but what else is new.  Maybe we should have named Dauntless, “Windfinder”, because she certainly does that well.  The Dog Days of summer, high pressure, hot and windless; not.

We have the Cat Days, high pressure, but not so hot and always windy, 12 to 18 knots.  Why “Cat Days”?  Have you ever held a cat too long? How do you know it’s too long?  One second they are purring contently in your arms; then the stealthy too long switch clicks on, the nails come out and they use your body to spring away, faster than you can say, “kitty, why didn’t you just tell me you wanted to me put down?”

The Wind is Always Blowing
The Wind is Always Blowing

So why Cat Days, because you get up, go outside to marvel at the beautiful sky, just some wispy cirrus at 30,000 feet, not too cool, not too warm, you think it will be a perfect day for being on the water.

As you get underway, it is perfect.  You have managed to get out of your tight dock space without hitting anything, you call Port Control asking for permission to leave (mandatory in all eastern European ports so far) and they respond in accented English, yes we may, with a tone that says:  thanks for asking and knowing our rules, have a nice day.  A feeling of satisfaction comes over you.

It’s mid-morning, you want to make 40 miles, and winds are less than 10 knots, with little 1 foot waves.  The Kadey Krogen is slicing thru the water with that reassuring hiss that tells you all is well and this is child’s play.

Sunset in Finland
Sunset in Finland
The Cat Building of Riga
Speaking of Cats; The Cat Building of Riga

An hour or two later, not quite halfway, you’re feeling a bit off; not queasy, just not right.  You realize the winds are up to 15 knots, the seas have now built to 3 feet and you’ve lost a knot of speed as the combination of wind and waves slows the boat.

Paravanes out to reduce the roll, immediately, the roll is reduced 50 to 90% depending upon wind direction (less for a following sea, more for a sea on the beam).

Now you look at the speed and see that your speed is further reduced, the birds on the paravanes reduce our speed by 0.6 knots.

Umm, our 6 hour trip has become an 8 hour trip.  I contemplate increasing power to make up for the loss, but it just kills me to burn 50% more fuel to go an extra knot faster.

8 hours it is.

Today, since Tallinn, we are travelling with our new found sailboat friends, John and Jenny.  It’s nice to have thinking partners in new waters like this.  But they stay safely behind us.  What do they know that we don’t?

By early evening, our first time in Finland, we found a sheltered spot with no houses in sight, one of the criteria for anchoring in Finland.  The problem is, there are billions of islands and many times, it is unclear if there are any houses until the last moment, which means we must then turn around and keep looking.

The cove we find is OK, but we decide to try to find a more sheltered cove for the next day.

We use a stern anchor with 150 ft. of rode out.  I then slowly motor up to the cove, until our bow just barely kisses the rocks.  Some intrepid person must then jump on to the rock or land, and we take a line to a tree and return it to the boat, so that we do not have to get on land again when we depart.

So the next day, our first full day in Finland, we are scoping out a place to stop with simple criteria in mind: a house should not be in sight, especially an occupied house and it has to be on a lee shore.

Since there are millions of islands, there is a lot of choice, clearly too much choice for some simple folk like Julie and I.

Mid-afternoon, we are slowly motoring, looking for a place for the night, I see on both my Navionics and C-Map charts the cross signifying a rock dead ahead, about a half mile ahead, 2 minutes at 4 knots.

I’m steering and I say to Julie, we must watch out for that rock.

Julie sees that point I am talking about and acknowledges it.

We both promptly then forget about it, as we go back to trying to figure out where we can stop.

Until two minutes later, with a large bump, dauntless’ bow rises out of the water like Moby Dick.

We had been going slowly because there are so many obstacles, so dauntless stops as soon as I put her in neutral in about 20 feet, with the weight of the boat on the keel on the rock.

I put her in reverse and we slide right off.  I spend the next hour trying to feel any change of vibrations and berating myself for seeing a rock, plainly and correctly marked on the chart and then hitting said rock.  No vibration, no holes in the boat.  Could have been worse. Far worse.

Julie summed it up best:  Richard Sees the Rock; Julie Sees the Rock; We Talk About the Rock; We Hit the Rock.

My first mistake, was that I could have altered course a bit, but instead I tell Julie, make sure I don’t hit that rock.

My second mistake was to then totally forget about the rock.

In hindsight, knowing we were in rocky waters, I was going just above idle speed, about 4 knots, maybe a bit less.

This enabled me to get the boat stopped quickly, so I did not run over the rudder or propeller.

That was about the only thing I did correctly.

When I first saw the rock, I should have altered course so that in the “unlikely” event that I somehow forgot about it, I would not be heading directly for it.

So an hour later, as we had our dinner, we celebrated another day that ended well.

And I vowed to never do that again.

But as Sean Connery learned, never say never.

And my “never” didn’t even last 24 hours!

Former Mined Area 151

Has a catchy ring to it, doesn’t it?  If there are no more mines left, I wonder why they annotate it on the chart.  Maybe just in case?

In any case we decide to go right through; what’s the worst that could happen?

It seems the Russians mined large swaths of the Baltic and what wasn’t mined was closely watched; well, as closely watched as can be with conscripted soldiers living on vodka and potatoes.

But all good things must come to an end and with the fall of the Soviet Union, the Baltic Republics were allowed to have their own destiny again and the rest of us can now enjoy that benefit.

Sadly, we did not go to Lithuania as it required a large detour around a current mine field.  Well, it isn’t listed on the charts as a mine field, but then I doubt the hundreds of mine fields presently annotated were so listed prior to the breakup of the Soviet Union.

Oh yes, after the Russians moved Poland west by a few hundred kilometers, they took a chunk for themselves, Königsberg, threw all the Germans out, the lucky ones that is, and renamed it Kaliningrad, because the name Stalingrad was already taken.

So, during the last two weeks, we have been exploring country never before visited by me at least.  First Poland and now Latvia, Letland in Dutch, Land of the Lets.

Poland and now Latvia have been a wonderful experience, the people, the food, and the warmth showed to us by virtually everyone.  Dauntless probably had her picture taken a thousand times in Gdansk.  I wish she looked better, Dauntless I’m referring to, not Gdansk, but we’ve already travelled more than 2,000 miles since leaving Ireland, so who has the energy to wash and wax?

I did regret not speaking Polish.  Had we stayed another week, we would have probably gone viral.  People would ask how long we are staying docked against the wall in downtown Gdansk, because they wanted to bring the family for a photo session the next time.

Wonderful people who also make the most wondrous smoked meats and fishes.

Then Latvia.

Compared to Western Europe, the prices is Poland, not in the Euro zone and still using the Zloty, were good, maybe 30% cheaper than in Germany.

Latvia on the other hand is in the Euro zone and prices are still amazingly low.  So low in fact, that we felt compelled to find out why.

In talking with the marina “bosman,”  in Liepaja, he explained that Latvia prepared for the change to the Euro in a very methodical manner.  They used strict conversion tables, unlike in most places, like Italy, which saw a doubling of many prices within the first year of conversion, but no doubling of wages, pensions and salaries.

Dauntless in Liepaja docked in front of a warship
Dauntless in Liepaja docked in front of a warship

We ended up spending only two nights.  Having seen the outdoor and indoor market in the small city of Liepaja, the market in the capital, Riga, was literally 10 times the size.  We have never seen so many berries, blue, black, red, etc. in my life.  Clearly, people would buy large quantiles to preserve for the coming winter.

The harbor itself was a mix of old and new, with modern bridges, next to Soviet style cranes and trains. I’ll try to upload some pictures.

Today, our adventure in Estonia begins.  We had a windy passage yesterday and it looks like the wind will continue for the foreseeable future, maybe forever.

Dauntless is doing well, though I was a bit shocked last night as I gazed at all the scrapes, scratches and gouges I’ve put on her hull in the last two months.

Liepaja
Liepaja

I’ve also used far more fuel than anticipated, 50% more.  The actual fuel consumption has been good, the problem is the distances I had calculated.  It’s been 60 days since leaving Ireland.  What I had not anticipated was that so many harbors and docking places would take a significant amount of time, 30 minutes to an hour to get in and then the same going out.

Therefore, 25 to 30 stops times 2 extra hours for each, is 60 additional hours of fuel consumption, about 90 gallons, at 1.4 gal.hr, which is our average so far in 415 hours so far.

A shot from the pilot house during the 32 hour passage from Liepaja to Riga
A shot from the pilot house during the 32 hour passage from Liepaja to Riga

Coming up, Estonia, Estland in Dutch, land in the east.

Night Passage to Riga
Night Passage to Riga

 

 

 

And We Never Spoke of it Again

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The Tower in Ueckermünde

Just when you thought it safe to reenter the water…

Waking up in the now Polish town of Swinoujscie, I had two problems to solve; one more vexing than the other.

But first, let’s talk about Swinoujscie, gateway to the Baltic and until 1945, a German city, aka Swinemünde.  With the looks of an old German town, it boasts a certain charm, with a few modern touches.  One of those being an almost identical fountain in the main square to that of the Brooklyn Museum, that I had mentioned in a previous post, you know, the one that started out much like this one in  Swinoujscie, until the lawyers got involved.

So Swinoujscie, aka Swinemünde, became one of thousands of cities and towns in which whole populations were uprooted and “moved” at the war’s end.  Why because Stalin wanted half of Poland and therefore Poland moved west, but never fear, the western powers and the press don’t talk about it, better to tut tut about displaced people in third world countries, than issues they created themselves.

So on that note, let’s get back to our story.

As you recall from our previous episode, Dauntless limped into Swinoujscie, with her tail between her legs, well maybe not a tail, but a thin line that had wrapped around my bow thruster.

But I was determined to at least fix the autopilot.

If you have read our Atlantic Passage, you may remember that the autopilot was one of the most critical pieces on the boat and I had absolutely no spare anything’s for it.

Having Eve and Nigel onboard, did mitigate the loss, but even with three people, hand steering a power boat for long stretches of time is both boring and fatiguing.

Assuming there is no such thing as coincidences when it comes to mechanical problems, in other words, you change, add, replace any part of a particular system, and then that system craps out on you, there is about a 99.9% chance you whatever you did caused the problem.

So, I got out our hydraulic fluid and the handy fitting for the upper helm station and proceeded to run the system and turning the wheel to get the air out.

But little air came out.

At this point, I figured I better get serious, I got the ComNav book.

In the book I discovered a self-diagnostic the ComNav can run.  I ran it and got the ominous response “hard right rudder too slow”.

I could not find the bleed screws that were supposed to be on the hydraulic ram.  But I did not want to screw with the ram in any case, since it worked fine; it was the autopilot part that was not working.

I ran the self-test again.  Same result.

I went down into the engine room to look once again at the ComNav pump.  Maybe I could bleed it there. No, no fittings I could see for easy bleeding.

I took a picture of the pump, maybe the writing will give me a clue or I can better see bleeding screw fittings.  Nope. Nothing. Nada.

Run the self-test again.  No change, but I realize that while I can turn the wheel and the rudder responds as it should, in fact better than before with no groaning while turning it quickly, meaning I had gotten what little air there was out of the system, when I used the auto pilot control head to turn the rudder, it barely moved the rudder to the left (port).

Clearly the auto pilot was the issue, not the hydraulic steering itself.

I looked at the autopilot’s control panel.  A lot of green lights. So at least electronically, the autopilot thinks all is OK.

Back to the engine room to look at that pump again.  I crawl over to it.  I read both sets of labels on the pump.  One reads, “to remove the pump without losing fluid, close the thumb valves”

What thumb valves?  Those brass “T” handles that I occasionally play with, wondering what they do?  The ones that I had decided should be tighter, but not too tight the other day, while I was changing the main engine oil and in a moment of “let’s turn this and see what happens” madness??

I noticed the one on the left side was tight, the other two, one on top and one on the right, were close to being closed, but not tight.

Umm, could these be the valves that are to close when removing the pump?  And if so, should not they be OPEN now?

I have Eve use the autopilot control head to move the rudder, it now moves, not quickly, but better than before.  I open all three and she tries again.  Much better, almost like it’s supposed to.

We run the self-test again.  This time, rudder movement is normal.

I had changed the oil on the main engine a few days earlier.  So I was working at the back of the engine and it my spare time I was fiddling with those three T valves.  Sort of aimlessly fiddling.

So it seems my fiddling closed at least one valve and we had a few days of indifferent autopilot response, culminating in it not working at all.

The Innocent Victim
The Innocent Victim

Now all is fine. No air, valves open and the autopilot has worked better than ever.

When people ask me about crossing the Atlantic and why I like Kadey Krogen yachts, I say that quite simply I have never had a problem with the boat that was not caused my operator error.

We just passed 4000 engine hours.  That’s 2300 hours we have put on the boat in the last 28 months.

I’ve put 300+ hours since leaving Waterford two months again.

I have also been breaking down the cost of this trip during the last few days.  That will be the subject of a later post.

We love Dauntless because she never lets us down.  Now if only I could find a way to control that nut behind the wheel.

And we shall never talk of it again.

Coming up,

Leba, Gdansk and leaving Poland for the lands to the east

 

 

A Gaggle of Greece and Two Ugly Ducklings

It’s been an eventful few days.  Now into Day 5 of our 8 day Cruising Association’s 2015 Baltic Rally, having all those sail boats around keeps you on your toes.  The winds had been howling since Wednesday.  Therefore it was decided to remain in Kröslin until Saturday morning.

Dauntless in Ueckermünde with the fish boat restaurant to the left.
Dauntless in Ueckermünde with the fish boat restaurant to the left, not leaving me a lot of room for the U turn

But I needed to be in Ueckermünde, the next stop and our last in Germany, Saturday morning, as Ivan my dutiful crew member was returning to Italy that day and Eve and Nigel were scheduled to come that afternoon.

Therefore I decided to leave Friday morning in spite of the winds.

And they were howling, 25 knots, gusting to 38.  But at least, my position at the end of the “T” combined with the winds pushing me off the dock, made for a relatively easy launch.

Between Kröslin and Ueckermünde, there are two bridges with set opening times, a few times a day.

We got to the first bridge early, we had 45 minutes to wait.  After a few anxious moments, we got a line onto a large steel piling and made a bridle from the bow cleats.  Worked well and Dauntless kept her bow to the wind at about a 30° angle.  Easy Peasy.

We got to the next bridge, in spite of traveling as slow as I could, we still had an hour to wait.  There was a shallow anchoring area for boats waiting for the bridge.  Only 7 feet of water, (D takes 4.7 ft), but it was on the windward side, so that meant if the anchor did drag, we would at least be push to deeper water closer to the channel.  And the day’s winds meant there was virtually no one on the water except for us and two sailboats, one German and one Danish.

Dauntless flying the Kadey Krogen flag in Ueckermünde, Germany
Dauntless flying the Kadey Krogen flag in Ueckermünde, Germany

Anchor out; I also have an anchor buoy, which is attached to the anchor with a very thin, but strong Amsteel line.  Too strong.

An hour later, we weigh the anchor and get underway down the very narrow channels (much like the ICW in Georgia) towards Ueckermünde.

Arriving in the quaint town, my directions told me to proceed until the bridge, at which point one cannot go further and tie up along the wall close to the bridge.  Sounds easy; I was calmer than usual knowing Graham and Fay of the Cruising Association would be on the dock to help tie up.

As I come into the narrow part of the channel, towards the anticipated docking spot, I turn on the power to the bow thruster.  I try to minimize bow thruster use, but I will use it and would hate not to use it and hit another boat as a consequence of me being stubborn.

The 25 knot wind is now right on my stern. I know D turns well to the left and backs to the right, so I can usually do a 180° turn to the left within a 50’ circle.  With not winds that is.

I pull to the right as much as I can. But leaving room for the stern to kick out to the right and still miss the restaurant boat.

All went well, until about half way through, so now I was perpendicular to the canal,  the fish restaurant boat was just a couple feet from the swim platform, the dock wall just feet in front of us and the bridge, that effectively made this a dead end for us, about 50 feet away with the wind blowing us towards it.

Then the light on the bow thruster went off, which told me, it had blown the fuse.

I was actually unfazed about it, I try to minimize my bow thruster use in any case, just for reasons like this, and though the wind was now pushing me closer and closer to the bridge, it was still a boat length away.

Backing and filling like I have practiced many times, the Kadey Krogen with its large rudder swung her stern around quite smartly and we were parallel to the dock 30 seconds later.

Ivan on his last full day on Dauntless got us tied up and I thank the lucky stars for another good end to a stressful day with 25 to 38 knot winds, a narrow dock space and having to wait two hours for two bridges in winds in strong, gusty winds.

Now as for the 300 amp slow blow fuse, this had happened once before a few months after we got Dauntless. Then I did not have a spare fuse and since it powered the Inverter also, I had to resort to extreme measures. Don’t do this at home.

This time I had a spare, so I promptly found it and replaced the blown fuse.  I simply assumed it had blown because I had used the bow thruster for too long or continuously.

I had also changed the engine oil while in Kröslin. With Ivan’s help it went easily, too easily.

Ivan left on the train early Saturday morning, it was sad to see him go.  A great kid, and a real big help.

Eve and Nigel were there to replace him and I looked forward to leaving Germany on Sunday and entering Poland for the first time in my life and Dauntless’ too for that matter!

With a bit of a hangover from the night’s before bbq.  A comment about German bbq’s.  They are just that, meat on the grill.  By speaking to the cook in German, I even got extra meat.  Maybe too much meat.  Since there was virtually no salad or other fillers, I ate a lot of meat and washed it down with a lot of white wine.

Meat, wine and great company, one cannot ask for a better life.

So, the next morning Sunday, a bit hungover, but all seemed right with the world.

The fuse was replaced, the oil had been changed, and D was really for new places.  But one nagging problem.  Leaving Kröslin, having to stay in a number of narrow channels for hours on end, the ComNav autopilot did not seem up to its usual precision.  It was over correcting too much and also more noise than usual, usually an indication of air in the hydraulic lines.

So, we had a late morning departure planned for Ueckermünde and the two power boats would bring up the rear of our little gaggle of sail boats and the two ugly ducklings following behind.

The plan was to travel at about 5 knots which was the fastest speed for the slowest sailboat.

I knew it was going to be a slow day, very slow, in any case.  While Dauntless is not fast, nor even quick, she does like to travel around 6 to 7 knots.  Any slower and she starts to get ornery, below 5 knots, she gets downright rambunctious.

So I figured once I started the engine, I would be in no hurry to leave and would check the hydraulic fluid of the wheel and autopilot.  So we did, but discovered no great amount of air in the steering system, in fact virtually none.  That made me worry, if there was not air in the system, then why was the AP acting strangely.  The day before, even though I had it set on the highest sensitivity to keep us in the very narrow channel, it was not responding fully like normal.  As the heading drifted off, it was not correcting quickly.  On numerous occasions we had to quickly shut it off and hand steer to get back into the 5 mile long, straight as an arrow channel.  But then we would try it again and it would sort of work.  And then do the same thing.

So when we get underway from Ueckermünde, while I hoped I had fixed it, I also knew I had not done anything significant and this was more like a wish and a prayer.

Well we catch up to the fleet and now, the one power boat, Tudora, a beautiful maintained older cabin cruiser, came by to tell me I had a line in the water.

Now, I had remembered that a day earlier I had seen the small, thin line that is connected to the anchor buoy had fallen in the water.  I had forgotten to get it out and now, I was a bit embarrassed that another boat had to remind me.

As I pulled on the line, it was stuck; on what I didn’t know, but clearly it would not come up.

I pulled harder.  No change and it did not budge an inch.

I had a brainstorm. I fastened the anchor buoy to it and let it go.  I figured if it was stuck on the prop, it would trail behind the boat.  Now, I was sure I had purposely not had enough line for it to reach the prop, but then …

After a few seconds the buoy bobbed the surface; at amidships.

In a flash, it all came together.

The line had been in the water when I made my U turn.  I had used the bow thruster for a longer period of time, maybe 20 seconds versus just a few seconds normally.

The line had been sucked into the bow thruster, wrapped itself around the shaft, stopping the shaft from rotating and lo and behold, the fuse blew.

Sure enough, as I pulled on the line, it was clear it was emanating from the front of the boat.

Knowing that, I was not overly concerned, I don’t use it very often and now, my practice backing and filling would reward me, so in spite of my fellow travelers concerns, we’d be fine without it, until haul out at least.

What had made the day so difficult was that the autopilot was acting like never before.  In the past I had had problems, significant ones at that, with the compass connected to the autopilot.

I knew how to deal with that.  This wasn’t that.  That was the problem.

The last few hours, the autopilot went from bad to worse.  It was not even following its own commands.  This to me was a more serious problem. The end result was that Eve and Nigel had had to hand steer virtually all day.  The times we did try to AP, it would work for a bit, but then as the compass heading changed, first a few degrees, then 10, then 20°, nothing would happen.  I would lunge for it and turn it off so we could get the boat back on track and in the channel and the gaggle we were supposed to be following.

Pulling into the dock at Swinoujscie, it was good to be tied up, but it had been a long day that ended with two major problems, the worst being an autopilot that all of a sudden wasn’t.

I went to bed that night with two issues, not the best ingredients for a good night’s sleep.

 

 

 

Italy, Holland, Germany and the Tower Incident

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THe Tower on Ruden

Sort of like the “Bedford Incident” but without Sidney Poitier, or a submarine or the drama, but let’s start at the end.

So, I just had a little conversation with the conductor of the train taking Ivan to Berlin for his plane to Venezia.  The fact that I could have this conversation in German reminds me how comfortable I am in Germany, in spite of a few glitches and now being locked in a tower.

This past year, having Dauntless in Ireland, afforded me the opportunity to spend much more time with my old friends in Italy, the Netherlands and now, new friends in Germany. Since September, I’ve spent five weeks in Holland and three weeks each in Italy and Germany. The most time in many years.  I do like Germany, maybe not as much as Italy or Ireland, or Holland, or Spain, or …, but I do like it.

I have some wonderful friends from Germany and being here this long actually makes me miss them more, but that’s a saga for a different day.

So it is with an understanding eye that I relate my incident in the tower.

Let’s set the scene.

For the last week Dauntless has been in the company of about 20 boats, all members of the Cruising Association which is headquartered in London.  We are doing a week long “rally” in Eastern Germany and into Poland.  I figured it would be a good way for me to wet my feet, figuratively, but hopefully not literally, for my first ever trip to Poland.

While all these travels are new to me by boat, before I became a boat based gypsy, I was certainly a car based gypsy and travelled extensively all over Europe, but never Poland or the Baltic Republics.

So on a windy, but sunny day, our little band of boats set off for Kroeslin from Stralsund, with a small stop for those who are interested on the island of Ruden.

Dauntless on Ruden
Dauntless on Ruden

Now, one pleasure I get out of being on a tour organized by others is that I don’t have to do any thinking.  I don’t have to worry about bridge opening times nor actual routes.  In fact, it was only after I was tied to the wall, just outside the little, very little harbor of Ruden that I realized only about half a dozen boats made this detour to check out Ruden.

OK, I was here now, so I figured I may as well traipse down the dusty path and check out the watch tower that looked south over the V1 and V2 rocket development area of Peenemunde and later as the observation post to make sure no one left the people’s paradise known as the Deutsche Democratic Republic (DDR).  It’s actually comical to write that.  You have to hand to the commies; they certainly have a sense of humor.

So, there was Dauntless, right at the entrance to the harbor, flying not one, but two Stars and Stripes, with of course the German flag, a large one mind you and my newest addition, a Kadey Krogen flag thanks to the great people in their Seattle office.

Thus while I was securing the lines and then changing from by boating clothes to my walk a dusty path clothes, a little German boat, carrying maybe six people came in and tied up in the inner harbor in a spot reserved just for them.

One of the Displays of a B-17 Over Germany
One of the Displays of a B-17 Over Germany

So an hour later, I find myself walking down the dusty path, past the island caretaker’s house, past the 1960’s style barracks, though it could be 1930’s, it’s hard to tell in the DDR, with not a soul in sight.

On the path just in front, I pass a German coming from the tower and figure he was with that little boat that came in after me.

The tower is basically a four floor, 20 feet by 12 feet structure.  Each floor had one room looking south towards Peenemunde.

Now, while I was alone in the bulding, I was making noise.  Under such circumstances, I usually talk to the photos and ask them questions.  I don’t get many ansers though. I was also humming a tune; rather loudly as no one was about and it turned out the tune was from the Victory at Sea soundtrack done by RCA Victor and Robert Russell Bennett.  It had been in my head for a few days as I had played it after some arduous crossing.  At the time, I had no idea what particular track I was humming, but did discover later it was “D-Day”.

On each floor they had some information on the wall about the history of the island and one floor was about the war years. There was a photo of a B-17 in flight over Peenemunde.  Now my German is not so great, but I could glean from the explanation, that they were not thanking the B-17s for liberating them from the madman who was Hitler.

And I really had no idea the tune I was humming was titled “D-Day”.

Really, I didn’t.

Having walked to the top floor, I figured I may as well go one more flight up to the open air roof.

It was open air and it was the roof.  30 seconds later, feeling my duty was done, I go down to the ground floor, but realize something is different; it’s dark.  The metal door, which had been propped open when I had entered, was closed.

I actually went to look for the stairs to go down one more floor thinking I had forgotten how I came in.

Nothing.  I go UP one floor, maybe I was in the basement?  No, I can see I’m two stories up.

The German Boat
The German Boat with Tower in the Background

I go back to the metal door, which I had tried to open initially.

I try harder this time, now 98% sure it was the door I came in, I push really hard and see that there is a chain holding the doors closed.  I push harder. Nothing.

Now, at this point, I am not panicked; but simply perplexed.  I am still thinking I had possibly come in some other entrance.

Now, folks, this is a simple building.  We’re not talking Taj Mahal.  So, I realize that someone has chained me in the place.

OK, I check out the windows.  Not only are they bolted closed, but the first floor has those iron gates covering them.  I do see an English couple walking up, so I go wait for them and they confirm that the chain is padlocked.

Now, my phone is on the boat.  Who would I be calling on this island?

I thought to myself, maybe I should have brought my chain cutter with me. The fact that it weighs 20 pounds and is three feet long was probably the main reason I didn’t.  I also am not sure why I even bought it, as I can never remember using it.  Maybe I bought it for just this occasion?

No, brute force will be my last resort.

Free at Last, Free at Last
Free at Last, Free at Last, the Eyebolt hanging down with the nut I put back

I look at the door and the eye bolt the chain is connected to on the outside has one nut holding it in place.  I pull on the end of the bolt hoping to relieve the pressure and maybe I can get the bolt off.

I do; it does and I unbolt the eye bolt.

Push it through and I am as free as a bird.

I consciously put the nut back on the bolt.

I start walking back to Dauntless, who is probably now wondering what is taking so long on this forlorn island.

Just before the harbor, I pass one of the Germans I had seen earlier, now sitting on a bench waiting, watching or maybe just plain resting.

He smiles. And it all becomes clear.

His smile gives him away.  He gives me that mischievous smile that explains the whole situation to me at a glance.

I give him my “we’ve beat you twice and we could do it again” smirk and continue down the path, back to Dauntless with her two American flags standing straight out in the brisk wind.

I’m proud to be an American.

And, I really didn’t know the tune was titled, “D-Day”

 

 

 

 

Germany, A Few Thoughts and Bugaboos Too

Yesterday, we arrived at the harbor of Stralsund at 23:15.  Jeremy from the Cruising Association was ready, waving a flashlight so I knew where to go and I cannot tell you how relieved I was having that last uncertainty removed.

Ruden the little Island North of Peenemunde
Ruden the little Island North of Peenemunde

We had D tied up and engine off in 10 minutes, surely a record.

Saturday started in a frustrating fashion and ended the same way.

I use my Kindle for most books and I use the Kindle app on my phone for magazines and newspapers.  The app works better because it’s in color and the newspaper I read, the Wall Street Journal is formatted far better for that medium.

Why do I like the WSJ?

As I moved around the world, the WSJ was the one paper that one could get consistently and I liked the mix of world, US and business news.  Since I’ve gotten it on my Kindle, I like it even more since the version I get is for NY and has stories of the NY sports teams.

During this past year, I have come to realize that after a long day or before a long day starts, I really like having my cup of coffee and the newspaper. On reflection, I realize that while Dauntless is my main job now, almost as important, is reading the newspaper in the morning.

I grew up that way and since my first job was delivering newspapers, a job that was setup by the upstairs neighbors who wanted the four morning newspapers and therefore found another half dozen customers for me to make it worth the while of a 10 year old. So, I had the paper every morning to read before school.  As I got older, work and organizing my day mentally took precedence.

But now on Dauntless, I find a satisfaction on sitting down in the morning with the paper and my coffee that can hardly be described.

With my Samsung Note I can take it with me anywhere has been great.  I’ve even gotten used to the fact that it is not available until just before 8:00 Ireland time; which means an hour later on the continent.

OK, fine.  But since I have been in Germany, my internet connections seem to have vanished. Last week I was in a particular foul mood all day, just because I could not get the day’s paper.  Now Amazon certainly has its issues.  About once a month, the kindle has a hissy fit and tells me something stupid like all of a sudden I have too many devices or there is no new paper today.

Peenemunde Brochure
Peenemunde Brochure

If you email Amazon support, they now give you the boilerplate answer:  cut off your pinky, use the blood to wipe the screen, say praise be to whatever god your believe in or not, and that should do it.

Well, not exactly, but it’s usually just as bad, erase everything on your phone, reinstall everything and it will work. Sometimes.

Yeah, I don’t do that either.  Strangely most of the time, within a few hours it starts working again.

OK, but now, it’s not Amazon.  It’s the many places that say they have Wi-Fi, but really don’t.  And that now includes the Telco’s.

So no paper, email for days.  I didn’t miss it crossing the Atlantic, but now people think when I don’t respond to their email I’m ignoring them.  Worse, Gmail manages to send some stuff, but other stuff sits for days in the Que.

So this weekend ended on a sour note for me.  No paper, made worse because it took me a day to figure out the WSJ had not published on Saturday, the 4th.

Then Monday dawned bright and first thing it was back to the O2 store that sold me a data only SIM on Saturday to find out why I still had no Internet.  Now, I had returned to the store Saturday afternoon, just before closing to ask why it was still not working and the response was many people are having the same problem.  That was confirmed by my German friends who had checked online for me.

OK, so off I was to the O2 store for a resolution one way or another.

But this time, when I inquired why still no joy, I asked the question, that I should have asked on Saturday, but naively didn’t, assuming I would be told the whole story from the beginning.

But I had forgotten I was in the former DDR.  Germans are a bit reserved, at least compared to Italians or Irish, but the denizens of the former DDR are even more reserved.  With extra information, words, even necessary information, comes the risk of saying the wrong words to the wrong people.  Living for three generations, 60 years, under the watchful eye of the Gestapo/Stasi will do that to you.

So I was understanding; I smiled and did not say what I was thinking as he finally told me I needed an APN (an internet protocol).  In Italy, and with Verizon, the phone needs an APN, but is not needed in the Netherlands, or Ireland.  But, behind my tolerant smile, you know, the kind you give your puppy after he eats your favorite shoe, I wondered how he could have neglected to mention this after I returned to tell him it still wasn’t working?

But little did I realize how my mettle would be tested just 36 hours later locked in an old watchtower on Ruden.

 

 

 

Deutschland

Well my faith has been renewed in the human race or at least my decision making whichever is lessor.

Dauntless in Cuxhaven
Dauntless in Cuxhaven

We had an uneventful night passage from Lauwersoog in Friesland, the Netherlands to Cuxhaven Germany.

Unlike the English Channel, which really whipped my ass, the currents north of the Frisian Islands were as advertised; we got a good boost for about half the time. This allowed me to keep the rpm’s low, 1400 pretty much the entire way, and thus fuel consumption low.

With the help of the current we still averaged 6.0 knots, and that is in spite of the outgoing ebb coming up the Elbe, which kept our speed between 2.5 to 3.5 knots for last three hours.

Ivan and Bas had watches of 4 hours on, 4 off, and I pretty much dozed in the pilot house bench ready at a moment’s notice to further confuse any issue that came up with my groggy head.

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When we left Lauwersoog Sunday morning, the winds we SW at 12 knots and pretty much stayed like that for our entire trip.  The day became grayer, as the clouds increased during the afternoon and evening, leaving us in that murky grey world.  Winds became southeasterly as a minor trough moved past us, and then stayed that way, so as we started up the Elbe estuary, the current was running with the winds, keeping the waves pretty flat.

Sunrise on the Elbe
Sunrise on the Elbe

Remembering the debacle that could have been in Oostende, Sunday afternoon, a few hours after departure, I looked hard at the numbers and realized that even with the helping current, our best ETA would be 03:00.  Being further north, and June, nautical twilight would be about that time, but still too O’dark thirty for me.  So we slowed even further, timing our arrival after sunrise.

Turned out a much more open, straight forward harbor than Oostende, but I was still pleased with the decision.

I am also getting excited about the Baltic.

Poor Dauntless looks like she has been through a battle, as she shows the battle damage of the over 30 locks and bridges we had to tie up to. Doesn’t sound like a lot compared to the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW), but what is different is that one must tie to something, as the wait times for bridges that “open on demand” vary greatly and the “open on demand” in the Netherlands means, if you are waiting in front of the bridge, they will see you and at that point put you on the priority list, but every train, bus, bicycle and pedestrian has a higher priority and probably a few planes also.  But the real issue in the waiting is the tieing up to all sorts of things at all sorts of heights and materials.

It was frustrating two days until Marinius, explained these facts of life to me during the European Krogen Rendezvous 2015.  What you didn’t hear about the rendezvous?  That story is still in the making.

Anyway, all this results in the poor D refuses to have any close-ups made.  So pictures shall have to be from a discreet distance. I shall have to find a real gel coat master at some point.  And please do not tell me how easy it is and that I should do it myself.  I once painted a set of chairs; at the divorce, my wife reminded me of the drips I left.  How was I to know I needed to thin the paint!

Last night, I finally decided to re-read the Baltic material I had collected from the Cruising Association meeting we had attended in London in February.  Having that information reduced the anxiety I was feeling about the Nord-Ostsee Kanal (Kiel Canal).

So tomorrow we leave, three hours before high tide, go to Brunsbuttel and wait.  They too have a priority order.  We are on the sub-order list.  Yes, Russian submarines even have a higher priority, but then the Germans will pretend they did not see them as they do not want to provoke them.

Back to the topic on hand.

I also realize that as different as many of these places are from the sea, I have spent so many hours driving around Western Europe and Germany and the Netherlands in particular, that I’m ready for new places, faces and cases.

If you wonder what a new case is, so do I, but I needed a word that rhymed.

Yes, that is my biggest worry right now!

How Big is Your Anchor?
How Big is Your Anchor?

 

 

Travelers & Just Say Yes

We are in Lemmer this morning.  A town on the Ijsselmeer in the beginning of Friesland, which has a really Dutch flavor.

Dauntless in Lemmer, Friesland on the Ijsselmeer
Dauntless in Lemmer, Friesland on the Ijsselmeer

We’ve decided to stay here two nights, and will even move the boat into the inner harbor.

I like showing our colors.  The liberalism of my youth was quickly extinguished once I moved to Europe and saw that Europeans, instead of feeling oppressed by the imperialistic Americans, were actually grateful for the security America provided.

My visits to Eastern Europe, just confirmed that and the fact that virtually all the eastern European countries are now in NATO, attests to that fact.

So, I’m proud to fly the Stars and Stripes.  I’m proud Dauntless came across the ocean on her own bottom and I’m happy that Julie and I like travelling so much.

Our first date was just that.  We took a bus ride from the bottom of Manhattan to the top and returned on a different bus.  An activity I had done countless times growing up in NY and now I had a partner to join me.

Lemmer Fisherman
Lemmer Fiskerman

Our first big trip, driving across the country in a Dodge Neon to Seattle, San Francisco and back took 6 weeks, 10,000 miles and billions of hours of conversation.  We had brought many hours of tapes with us and we ended up listening to only about a half dozen hours of them.

We do like talking.

Back to Italy in the 1970’s, when my Italian girlfriend accused me of being a gypsy, even though I do not think it was said as a compliment, it was hard to disagree.  The real Gypsies, Roma or Travelers, did not seem to live such a bad life to me.  Travelling around in their caravans (campers), pulled by older Mercedes didn’t seem any worse a life than what the rest of us were living.

Burt facts are facts and in the 40 years I have known her, the Italian ex-gf, she has lived in three places and I have lived in 30. So there is no denying the data.

This morning as I sat in the bakery enjoying my appelflap, an apple turnover, and my little coffee, I thought about this whole travelling thing.  The crux of it is that traveling is easy for us because we can accept uncertainty.

The person in the bakery was speaking Dutch to me, she asked me if I want the coffee for here and I said yes.  Then she said a word I did not understand, ‘berief” or “bericht,” or something like that.

I instinctively said, yes.

The coffee ended up coming in a littler cup than usual for the Dutch, but it was perfect.

Lemmer
Lemmer

And that is the lesson I first learned way back in the ‘70’s in Europe, when faced with questions and languages you do not understand, you must put yourself in the hands of the host.  Invariably hosts want to do the right thing and it will turn out well.

I’ve been with people who insist on knowing exactly what they will be doing, eating, etc.  The problem with that is that they then end up only eating, drinking and doing the things they are familiar with. What the point of that?

These types of interactions have characterized my life in the last 50 years.  I am instinctually trusting. By being trusting, it also gives one the opportunity to learn.  Oh trusting has hurt a few times, but never in this context.

So, I’m doing something I am good at, like doing, learning and is

Lemmer Streets, the Dutch like bricks
Lemmer Streets, the Dutch like bricks

interesting and challenging.

Life couldn’t be much better.