As we returned to Wrangell Harbor after a day of fruitless fishing, but with 5 Dungeness crabs at least, I thought about how I was now an “old pro” returning to this harbor and dock.
What made me think that? This was only my 7th time returning to this harbor and docking on this dock!
Seven times! WTF. Virtually everyone reading this who has a boat has docked at their home harbor more than that, hundreds, even thousands of times more!!
But if you have been reading this blog and following my travels for any length of time, you know I’m all about travelling. Even when Dauntless was ported in Waterford, Ireland, Huatulco, Mexico or Vallejo, California and spent most of a year or more in those places, I wasn’t cruising. I’d leave the boat for weeks or months at a time flying to New York, California, Texas, Italy, Holland, Germany, Japan and Vietnam.
Even when we were home ported in Providence, Rhode Island, our trips were big ones, lasting the season, to Nova Scotia, then the Bahamas.
Therefore, since arriving in Wrangell at the end of August and the summer, we’ve done a half dozen day trips, which again is the most ever for any one port!
I miss Waterford. Still probably the best place Dauntless and I have ever lived. Great place for both the boat and me. We’ll return one day.
I regret not cruising more while in Vallejo. That was my original plan, but it was not to be. In part because Dauntless was under a roof, the mast was down. This allowed me to do a lot of overdue maintenance on the mast fittings but precluded taking Dauntless out for a spin.
While I have substituted taught here in the elementary and high schools, I’m pretty much doing nothing. So, taking the boat out for a few hours (we only have 7 hours of weak daylight this time of year) is a treat for me.
I am in the process of organizing a YouTube channel, in which I will have all of my cruising videos of the last 6 years, but that will be a work in progress. I will start with Dauntless leaving San Francisco and coming up the coast to the Pacific Northwest, British Columbia and finally Southeast Alaska.
That evening, I told my crew, Tee and Thien, that they could sleep late. I could get off on my own, but they needed to be ready for action by 09:00 sharp and they needed to be prepared to spend two hours out on deck in the cold and wind without complaint. That was a deal they loved to accept because both like sleeping in on weekends.
We had the coldest weather of the year in these days, the temperatures being in the high 20’s in the mornings. I had already filled the water tanks of the boat just in case we lost the dock water.
I also made one of my brighter decisions. I disconnected the water hose from the boat Friday evening. It took me almost 20 minutes to do so because it was almost frozen, so I was so glad i had not waited until the morning. I then decided that with the light winds we were having, there was no reason to keep all 7 lines on Dauntless.
One of my better decisions. As it was the lines were frozen and it took me a while to get the lines off the cleats. I left only two lines: a short stern line and a line that was tied my mid-dock to the bow cleat.
Saturday morning was dark and cold, 25°F, the coldest Dauntless has ever seen. The night before I had done my engine room checks, including turning on the engine water intake. I had also checked the oil and set the fuel feed.
My alarm was set for 06:30, but of course on all days of departure, I woke early and was up at 06:15. Time enough to make my usual cup of Vietnamese coffee.
Engine start was at 06:36. After last weeks’ mistake of not opening the engine water intake, I am back in the habit of immediately checking for water in the exhaust and I also ran down into the engine room to make sure there were no bad noises, smells or visuals.
Even with only two lines, it still took me 10 minutes to get the frozen lines off. I had to get some cups of hot water for the line on the bow cleat. But I was underway to Mahan Bay at 06:50, 10 minutes ahead of schedule.
I had two hours to think about the plan once we got there. I had thought that if for whatever reason, the shrimp pot floats were underwater, for instance if the pot had got dragged to deeper water, what would we do? I figured we would put out a fishing line without big halibut jig (a big hook with a 12 oz or 16 oz weight). We would troll back an over the probable areas. It turned out that I’m glad I had thought of this.
It was cold and dark, but we were on the way back to collect our gear. Just before 09:00 we were approaching Mahan Bay. It was a beautiful morning, just some middle broken clouds and light winds (see picture above). Tee and Thien were suited up and ready to go. I aimed Dauntless for the spot that we left the first pot and spotted the float right away, about 100 feet away.
Getting the boat hook ready, the boat was a bit too far away, so I turned to make another pass. This was seeming to be as easy as I had hoped in my wildest dreams.
As I approached the float the second time, I realized we were not as straight as we should be and at that instant, I realized that I could only screw up my perfect day if I ran over the thing and got the line stuck in the prop.
As I was having that thought, the float was along the port side hull, I kicked the stern to the right and put the gear in neutral, but it was too late.
Just alike that I had screwed up my perfect day by running over the float and getting the line stuck in the prop.
Fuck me. More appropriate words were never spoke. How could I have been so stupid. I ran to both sides of the boat hoping to see the float, but nothing. Nowhere, no how.
I put the boat into reverse gently, hoping to unwind it. I immediately heard the float hit the hull and seconds later it was floating along the boat, the line still around the prop and ripped out of the float.
The line had been ripped from the float. Then we saw a little piece of the float, about the size of a tangerine, floating away. I went to get the boat underway to try to catch it, with hopefully the shrimp pot line still attached, but we lost sight of it.
It wasn’t clear to me if we still had the line on the prop or not. Now was time for Plan B.
Thien got his fishing pole. He let out a few hundred feet of line. Within five minutes we had a catch. Reeling it in like it was the most valuable fish we ever caught, it was our shrimp pot line. It was also clear that the line was still wrapped around the prop.
So, first things first, I wanted to get the pot on the boat. That done, with all of two shrimp inside, I now had to get the line off the prop.
Being able to hold on to one end of the line that is wrapped around the prop and shaft does make the job a bit easier. In this case, I asked Tee to hold tight and tell me if the line was getting tighter or looser, when I put the boat in gear. She couldn’t tell, even when I tried reverse.
I wasn’t sure if it was a language issue or simply she did not have the feel of the problem, so I decided I had to do it myself. But I also didn’t want someone else at the controls if I am holding a line that is around the prop!
So, I got enough slack on the line so that I could stand at the helm, with one hand on the gear shift lever and the other holding the line tightly with the line from the prop thru the salon to the pilot house. I put the boat in forward gear, and I could feel the line getting a bit looser, at the same time, I could feel the prop rubbing against it.
I pulled harder on the line and it parted. I’m guessing the line cutter just in front of the prop on the shaft was able to put enough pressure to cut the line.
We were free and no vibration what’s so ever.
We headed for the second shrimp pot and it was just where I had marked it on the chart. Which does make me think that it was underwater when we were looking for it a week earlier. We snagged it, this time without any drama and it had four shrimp.
Thien ate them with gusto.
The weather was beautiful, so once we grabbed the anchor line, we tied it off and fished for a couple of hours. We caught two flounder. They were dinner.
Pulling the anchor up now worked like a charm and we motored back to Wrangell in a much better mood that the week before.
Yesterday, Saturday was the Debacle, Sunday the Plan was made. That gave me five days to sort out the windlass and get it working again.
First thing I did was get out the Ideal windlass manual for my ACW windlass. I had two issues:
As we were hauling the anchor, it became more and more strained, until finally it just stopped with the current protection breaker activating
The wildcat hits the top of the chain stripper on each revolution.
Now this windlass is 30+ years old but is built like a champ and perhaps if I rad the manual more often, it will outlast me. Because there in ALL CAPS was a warning that the windlass should only be used with a load in the clockwise direction.
Oops. Because I had anchored with my secondary anchor whose rode used the starboard anchor locker, I would wind the rode around the capstan and use the down switch to rotate the windlass counterclockwise. I had worked in the few times in the past I had done so, but the anchor was never very deep. With a little tap on the circuit breaker protection switch, I could reset the circuit breaker button and the windlass worked fine. I even test it, by lowering the primary anchor and letting a couple hundred feet out on the harbor bottom, which is between 10 to 20 feet under the keel.
Hauling it worked fine, except for the chain stripper being hit and therefore bent by the wildcat.
The diagram of the winch also gave me the information that the top of the chain stripper must be exactly 2.5” above the plate of the winch to fit into the groove of the wildcat which is about a half inch wide. Mine was clearly 2 and ¾”.
In the same manual, I found an old picture, which seemed to show that the chain stripper was perfectly straight. That was enough for me.
So, first stop Monday morning was to the big boat yard next to the dock, Superior Marine Services. There, Tyler, who was the bronze and stainless-steel expert, took a few minutes out of his busy to day to help little me (He is one of those big Alaskans that towers over me, like a brown bear!).
He suggested the big press. I mumbled ok since I was clueless. After all of 5 minutes and about a dozen pressings in different angles and parts, my stripper was as straight as new.
And typical of Alaskans, he wouldn’t take any money for his efforts, even coffee money.
I walked back to Dauntless, installed by stripper and it fit perfectly. I then proceeded to pull up the hundred feet of chain I put out as much to clean it an anything else and my little windlass worked like new.
Tides, currents and sunrise were all set. Now, I just needed the weather to cooperate.
While I felt good about having the common sense to abandon the anchor and not try to lift 125 lbs. of anchor chain and anchor more than 150 feet (50 ft of 3/8”bbb chain x 1.65lbs/ft x + 40 lbs. anchor = 122 lbs. plus rode), I had a sleepless night.
While I wasn’t sleeping, I came up with the plan for the week:
First, I had to get the windlass working. It had an electrical problem; it had no power and lastly the wildcat was hitting the chain stripper. None of that was good.
Second, Wrangell only has about 7 hours of daylight nowadays. While the sun never gets very high in the sky in any case, I needed to maximize our chances of seeing those stupid little shrimp pot floats. They are only 10” by 5” wide. No easy to see under poor lighting conditions.
Third, even as we abandoned the anchor, I was looking for the shrimp pot float that should have been very near the boat. We spent 10 minutes looking for it with no luck. I was now worried that the reason we couldn’t find, notwithstanding the whitecaps and poor light, was that the float was under water, pulled there by the strong currents in the area. In the upper part of the bay, I didn’t expect the currents to be that strong, but in the opening to the bay, where we left the first shrimp pot, the currents could reach a few knots. In 320’ of water, with a pot on only 400’ of line, a current will drag the float under. Plus, even worse, with such strong currents and a light pot, who knows where the pot would be a week later.
So, first thing Sunday, I went to my navigation chart to check the currents and tides for the coming days. Coastal Explorer does make that easy. I had to find the slack current times that occurred during what daylight there was. I quickly realized that our options were limited. The viable days were today, Sunday Friday and lastly Saturday (7 days away).
Today was out since the windlass problem was not yet solved. Also, we were all tired. I didn’t want to have any more problems or issues, otherwise I may be writing about Mutiny on Dauntless.
Friday was a school day, but push come to shove, it was viable.
Saturday looked ideal with sunrise and tides. Slack time in Mahan Bay would be at 09:50 Saturday morning, sunrise is 08:20. Plus the currents would be with us until it turned just before 10:00 and then we could ride it home also.
With more than $500 of gear waiting for our return, I wanted to maximize our chances of finding it. So I told the crew we needed to be there by 9:15 to 9:30 giving us a good hour of slack or not strong currents to find our shrimp floats (I used the largest white fender I had for the anchor, I knew I would have no trouble finding it).
Subtracting the 2.5-hour cruise from 09:30 meant a 07:00 departure time. Yes, it would be dark, but my goal was to retrieve our gear.
The last part of this plan dealt with the weather. The winds had been strong 12 to 18 knots the entire day when we left the pots. At noon, it was not much of a problem, but as the afternoon, the clouds had increased, the day became even more grey and darker. With a little pickup in the winds, little whitecaps developed, which made it impossible to find any small white floats in a grey sky and sea.
So, we needed a day with light winds and the less clouds the better.
I go to Windy.com for all my long-range weather planning. I still find it easier to use and I use it for the big picture in the long term. The weather models (I use the ECMWF) were consistent for the entire week and showed that Saturday was the best weather day with the lightest winds and the only non-overcast day.
That would work and I planned accordingly.
Next up, I would have to tackle the Ideal Windlass and get it working by the coming Saturday, the best day for daylight, weather, winds, tides and currents.
I thought this would be a good opportunity to explain my weather planning or better said, planning on the weather.
The fist picture on the left shows my main area of interest at the white dot, just south of Cape Mendocino. This is where the winds are the strongest. It’s a two day (46 hr) cruise to Crescent City, just north of that spot.
The sequnece from the 25th to the 28th seems to show improving condidions along the sure, with the strong Northerly winds moving off shore.
It could well happen. But what I focus on is the large overall pattern.
So while it is showing a small area of light winds along the coast, that if it came to pass as depicted, it would be ok, even good to leave San Francisco and head north, the problem is the area of favorable winds is very small.
I’ve always said that forecasts are more often correct, but id they are wrong, it’s usually an issue of location or time, but not the event. For example, a cold front with showers and thunderstorms is forecast to move thru your area in 12 houris time. In reality, it could be 10 hours, or 8 hours, even 6.but it’s happened.
Where it happened is another story, That’s what I mean my location. Forecasting snow anywhere along the east coast is always problematic. A lot of things ahve to fall in place for the forecast to be spot on at a given location or time. The snow-rain line could end up being 10 miles west of New York City. After the news media has panicked everyone for days, it looks\ like a big bust, but in reality, looking at the large scale picture, 90% of the areas that were forecast to get snow got it, same for rain, it was only that little band that was incorrect.
And that’s what I’m thinking of as I look at these three days of forecasts. The overall pattern really doesn’t change much. This little narrow area of light winds could easily end up being 20 miles to the east leaving me frighting winds and waves.
Most importantly, all the pictures I have posted here are the only things I have looked at to make this decision. This gives me an overview. Until the overview looks more than doable, there is not point in in spending time looking elsewhere, at other products or other models.
Om addition, if you find yourself trying to find the right model to five you the forecast you want, you are only cruising for a bruising.
Two days ago, here are the Windycom woeather maps I looked at to tmake my decision if 23 could leave on the 25th:
It’s 7 days to Washington’s Neah Bay. The first few are the most critical, since off the Oregon coast, the winds are more from the southwest in general. So, the California portion is the most difficult.
I’ll wait until the entire high pressure system moves east. I’d rather have 30 knots from the SW than 10 knots from the north.
So, a few days earlier, I had gotten the idea to go the Sands Casino, in Bethlehem, PA on Saturday, then pick Julie up at Newark Airport on the way home Saturday night. The Sands is a little less than 2 hours driving in normal traffic, though I have made it in 1.5 hours in the wee hours of the morning.
With the Storm, flights were cancelled and therefore I had nothing to do.
Well, I did have a plan, so I figured, I’d just modify the plan.
As I brush the more than one foot of snow off the car at 9 a.m., I thought about not going, but once the car was clean, how could I not go. In fact, I was more worried about getting back and finding no parking, but turned out not to be a problem.
Having watched the storm prognosis for the last 5 days, I knew exactly what to expect, with the worst conditions being south and east of the City; therefore, I would head north, then west, then southwest and finally west on I-78. Now, the only problem was I knew I-78 to be in the bullseye of the heaviest snow, but I figured if everyone stayed off the road…
I also expected the heaviest snowfall, at the rate of about 2” per hour, to hit during mid-day, so that would just keep things interesting.
There were a few cars about, more than I expected, what with the dire warnings and all. The plan was to go north on the Bronx River Parkway, then west across the Hudson on the Tappan Zee bridge, I-87. Then as the Thruway turns north to Albany, I head South southwest on I-287 for 30 miles to I-78 west to Pennsylvania. The Sands is only 10 miles into Pennsylvania.
As I got on the Bronx River, traffic was running about 40 mph and the road was pretty good condition. I discovered why within minutes as I came up on 2 NYC snow plows that were doing a good job in keeping two lanes clear.
Once they got off, there was more snow on the road, but less snow had fallen. Once on the Thruway, going west, traffic continued at a moderate pace until I got to I-287. Then it got interesting.
Much more snow on the highway, heavier snow falls, though reduced traffic, made the next few hours stressful.
I saw four or five groups of snow plows consisting of 6 to
12 trucks cleaning the three lanes of northbound I-287. What 12 trucks can do at once, that 4 could not do, is something, probably only someone in New Jersey can explain.
Not being able to judge how deep the snow is in the less travelled lanes is one of the most difficult and dangerous aspects of driving in snow. The cause of many off road excursions.
This happens because the tires on one side of the car have increased resistance, thus pulling the car into the deeper snow, slowing, but surely. It must be countered quickly, but delicately. Cars like going the direction they are going. Any big changes will cause upset. In this case, many immediately turn the wheels in the direction where they want to go, let’s say back to the middle of the road.
The problem is, buy turning the wheel, it increases the slip
angle, as the slip angle increase, tires have less traction. So, the two tires that were keeping the car going relatively straight, now have less traction. The car will usually spin off the highway, into the ditch. Sometimes though, it’s worse, in that the car tries to turn, can’t, but as it slows, the tires all of sudden gain traction, but the driver has the car aimed at the center guard rail and within seconds the car does a header into that guard rail. That’s why one sees so many cars, that initially drifted off to the right
shoulder, the driver over corrects, and the car makes a left turn, nose first into the center median.
I-287 was reduced to one useable lane, as the left lane had snow at an unknown depth. Presently, I see a semi-tractor trailer gaining on me and I am happy to have him pass. Now, he will put a lot of snow in the air, my wipers
will ice up more rapidly, but he solves the unknown depth for me.
I follow in in his tracks for about 20 minutes. If he goes in the left lane, I go in the left lane. Trucks are so heavy, they can deal with a lot of snow, as long as they are moving. But I must stay exactly in his tracks. This lasts for about 25 minutes until I peel off to I-78.
There was much less traffic on I-78, thus the snow was deeper. I had to stop twice to knock the ice of the wipers.
As I got deeper into Jersey, virtually every exit was blocked by a truck. I’m glad I did not have to stop.
OK I’ve talked enough.
Let the pictures tell the story. They are in chronological
The weather forecast, at least for the NYC area, has been on track for at least 5 days.
In the old days, we would spend that time preparing for it, proud to be able keep business as usual.
Nowadays, it’s constant fear mongering, hunkering down and buying groceries like we will never be able to buy food again.
It’s the 372nd Storm of the Century. Which for those of you paying attention, means we get one about every three years.
The constant refrain: It’s dangerous, Watch us, We’re keeping you safe.
But never-fear, with thousands of reporters and even the Governor, risking their lives to tell us how dangerous it is, but don’t worry, they are out there protecting us. Even worse, they attack anyone on the streets, people who actually feel they should go to work.
If I hear “we’re keeping you safe” one more time…
You wonder, why do I care? How can it hurt?
Because it dilutes the term, keeping us safe. We lose all sense of reality and perspective.
There are those who are truly keeping us safe, those men and women, deployed around the world, whether on some mountain top or watching remotely in a command post, continue to do so, without fanfare or even notice.
Yes, while it certainly takes persistence to cross an ocean, I’m referring to a difference type of persistence, persistence as it relates to weather forecast skill.Reading this article this morning from the April 17, 2015 edition of Science News, I thought it would illustrate the impact persistence has on a weather forecast.
Onshore hurricanes in a slump
Record-breaking nine years have elapsed since last Category 3 or stronger hurricane made landfall in the United States.
No major hurricanes have slammed into the coast of the United States since Hurricane Wilma in 2005. The gap in these hurricanes making landfall is the longest in recorded history and is incredibly rare, researchers report.
Many hurricanes in recent years have reached Category 3 or above while out to sea, but they’ve all fizzled into weaker storms before coming ashore. The landfall drought is probably a temporary run of good luck rather than a climate shift. The researchers estimate that there’s a 61 percent chance the drought will continue through this year.
I have promised to publish a post about weather and weather forecasting. That post will be titled, Weather or Not, but this is not that.
This is more a little teaser, an appetizer. The above quote was taken from the most recent on-line edition of Science News, an absolutely wonderful magazine that now comes out every other week, as the on-line portion has gotten bigger.
Having read SN for more than 20 years, I’ve always looked forward to what juicy bits it would contain each week.
I’ve quoted the above portion because it highlights something that I will talk about extensively in my post, the power of persistence. So as the article above talks about how rare it is for the U.S. not to have a Cat 3, or greater, hurricane landfall; we have already gone 9 seasons without one.
These researchers still prognosticate that there is still an above even chance, 61%, that we will not have a landfall this upcoming season also.
I’m sure that’s predicated on the power of persistence. So even though this is far out of the ordinary, (no landfall), persistence is still hard to beat when it comes to forecasting.
In my upcoming post, Weather or Not, I will discuss the impact of persistence on a forecast, how to evaluate the quality of a weather forecast, how a forecaster can be right 95% of the time; but still not make good forecasts! and most of all, how you, the cruiser, should or should not use said forecast.