This has been all over my Facebook page the past couple of days, thanks to Kevin King, who crewed with us and took the footage. When the whale first approached, we were in awe, and just enjoyed his company. Kevin wanted to film right away, but I kind of discouraged him – if you’re always behind the camera, you can’t appreciate what’s right in front of you. But the whale kept coming back! I was afraid jamming the camera down in the water might scare him off (he thinking it might be a harpoon!), but eventually we gave it a go. I think it was worth it!
What does it cost to go cruising? Most of these discussions focus on month to month living expenses. Do you eat out in restaurants or stick to the boat? Do you stay in marinas or anchor out? Do you send out your laundry or wash it in a bucket? What’s easy to miss in the discussion, or not apparent in a month-to-month level examination, are maintenance costs. They get lost in the shuffle, but maintenance costs can bite you in the bum.
How can you ballpark annual maintenance costs? There are various “rules of thumb” and most of them put yearly maintenance costs at 10-20% of the boat’s value. It’s extremely problematic to estimate, for a variety of reasons. What is your definition of maintenance (are you including capital expenses or insurance or mooring or repairs or truly only maintenance)? How much can you DIY vs hire out? What country are you in? How gear / equipment intensive is your boat?
Even at the low end of that range, this suggests we should be spending somewhere around US$20,000/year on maintenance. Let me tell you, that is not happening! Our maintenance expenses are a mere shadow of that figure, but we don’t consider Totem to be under-maintained. A little scruffy, maybe, but we are scrupulous about maintenance.
It helps a lot that we left in 2008 with solid systems and gear on board Totem: a great deal of it new, or early in service life. New rigging, new watermaker, new canvas, relatively new engine. New bottom paint, new chainplates, new settees, new autopilot, new liferaft. Basic maintenance costs are low, and there weren’t big surprises.
There have been chunks of maintenance costs along the way since 2008. We had to replace the SSB. We got a new mainsail. We’ve had to get some costly bits for the watermaker and autopilot. We got a new windlass motor, and keep the original as a backup/spare. There was a new mainsail cover. There is periodic servicing or rebuilding on various parts: we are meticulous about service schedules for the most part. Most recently was the alternator we had rebuilt in Miri, Sarawak for the princely sum of $15.
In general, we keep it down by doing as much as possible ourselves. When I say we, I’m mostly talking about Jamie, who is far more mechanically gifted than I am and has the added benefit of years of experience as a sailmaker. He’s re-stitched new windows into the soft sides for our hardtop dodger twice since 2008, reinforced stitching on our old mainsail before our Pacific crossing. He has taken apart and rebuilt our pumps so many times that we call our primary water pressure pump the “frankenpump.” He’s become so skilled with wiring and electronics that other cruisers have hired him to assist with installing equipment or troubleshooting electrolysis issues. But we both get under and scrub the bottom, or polish stainless (well, that’s what kids are for too, right?), or scrub the deck/hull (again, hello kids!). These could easily be chalked up as maintenance that if you’re paying an hourly rate to a service provider in a first world country could add up significantly.
Our orientation to DIY probably accounts for our much lower maintenance costs as much as the fact that we haven’t had costly gear failures to absorb: there are thousands and thousands of dollars we have not spent because we did the work ourselves. Still, the cumulative is not close to $20,000 (+), much less the $100,000 (++) we’d get from multiplying that out over the last five years- and we’re well into our sixth year now.
Well, we are about to look a little more like the rule – at least for this year.
Partly it’s simply the wear and tear of years of cruising. Partly it’s the older systems that need service or are now near the end of service life. As part of our prep to cross the Indian Ocean we’re giving everything a critical eye once more, safety gear in particular. The list of must-do projects adds up to about $25,000. We started these projects last year and are about halfway through the list now now, so hopefully it stays close to that mark! There’s another $10,000 or so of things we’d like to do, but simply aren’t essentials. Sticking to essentials is part of how we’ve been able to go cruising in the first place instead of staying stuck at the dock, so that’s OK. The fact is that we are able to tackle much of this list for significantly less than it would cost us back in the US by virtue of being in a country where labor costs are low. Boat bits are still expensive, especially because there’s often international shipping involved, too. But lower costs for skilled labor can save significantly, and help us get more value for our maintenance dollar.
Still, let’s say we did (if we could!) spend the whole $35k. With a generous definition of our maintenance costs in prior year, this bump might put our average around half of the “rule of thumb” over a five year period, and when you factor in the DIY level…well, maybe suddenly that 10% isn’t looking so far off. Except that it is, and that’s kind of the point. This is just one year out of six where it looks like we will come close to the low end of the “rule of thumb,” yet the term maintenance suggests costs that are steady and at least somewhat predictable at an annual level.
Rule of thumb? There is no rule of thumb, no perfect estimate, but it’s one way to try and bake in your boat size and gear level, with some variance for your risk tolerance, comfort needs, and most of all- your own capabilities.
Up next: what Totem’s maintenance list looks like.McGuyvers know that reading this on the Sailfeed website puts those costs in even better perspective.
March is almost upon us, and with it comes New Caledonia’s big cyclone month. We have been very, very lucky up until now; only Cyclones June and Ian have come anywhere near us. But the weather has gotten rainier and rainier, and I’m reminded that the country was rocked by Cyclone Erica in March a decade ago. As Mad Eye Moody would say: constant vigilance!
The old wisdom tells us that, in a storm, a boat is safer at sea than in a harbor. And I can see the point: there is less to hit out there. But, as the sad story of the Bounty shows, being out at sea isn’t always the greatest strategy. Even if it were, I’m not about to sail Papillon out of the lagoon or into the mangroves every time the weather looks dicey. So how are we going to get by in the marina without coming out the other end looking like a crumpled bit of aluminum foil?
I’ve talked about stripping the decks, securing lines, taking down sails and so on. Standard stuff. And, while cyclone season is new territory for us, the marina didn’t open yesterday. They’ve been through this before, and they have plans. When we first entered the marina back in December, the lady at the desk handed me a set of instructions. In translation, the title was: “Cyclone Alert. Your boat is your wealth – help us preserve it.” Well, I can’t argue with that.
The marina plans distill down to this: put out lots of fenders, shuffle back from the dock a few meters, and tighten up your cyclone lines. And what, you ask, are cyclone lines?
Cyclone lines connect your stern to a chain that runs along the ground below the dock behind you. But, of course, you aren’t allowed to use any old line from the lazarette. Goodness, no! That would be far to inexpensive. It must be nylon line in excellent condition. No polypropelyne or other floating line (sensible). No low-stretch lines (also sensible). Erik and I looked through the pages of tables and descriptions, and discovered we needed two 80m lines of at least 22mm diameter. (Don’t bother looking up what that costs. You would have a heart attack, and then I’d feel bad. Just have a good shiver as you imagine the contents of your wallet floating away into the ether, and you’ll get the idea.)
(If you look at the picture above, the knot we are all supposed to use is labelled “2 tours morts”, which literally means two dead turns. To my eye, it looks like a round turn finished with a bowline. I couldn’t find the knot in my “Ultimate Encyclopedia of Knots and Ropework” (G. Budworth), but I would love to know the proper name of this knot in English. If anyone knows, please leave a comment.)
Lines in hand, it was time to tie them into the chains. The marina prefers you use one of the licensed divers on their list, and I can’t say I objected. Marina water is best avoided. Aside from the risk of electrocution, the water is just plain yucky. Fuel residue, marine growth, and (despite everyone’s best efforts) blackwater discharge all steer me towards a big “no, thanks”.
But the divers here are made of sterner stuff than I am. On the appointed day, our man gamely jumped in the water, tied everyone’s lines into the chain, scooped his stakes and eased on down the road. Not a bad gig if you don’t mind the ear infections. And our pricey cyclone lines settled happily down onto the mud and began to blend into the ecosystem.Tying knots for a living.
After the line-tying deadline had passed, the marina checked out all of the boats. One happy Saturday in December, we were all required to stay aboard and tighten our cyclone lines while the staff came by to check our names off the list.Making sure everyone is tied up and ready for the worst.
We are tied up, our neighbours are tied up, and we all hope that is the end of it. So far, only the girls have gotten any fun out of the cyclone lines. Indy and Stylish quickly discovered that tiny crabs like living in the algae that grows on the first few inches of line below the waterline. So they draw the lines up every now and again to play with the crabs.
Hopefully that will be all the exercise those lines get this year until May, when we can pay our friendly neighbourhood diver to untie them from the chain again. A boring cyclone season is a good cyclone season.
Written by Ben Ellison on Feb 27, 2014 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub
When this photo went up on Panbo in early 2010, the prospect of an eLoran system to back up GPS in the USA seemed worse than dead. As the Coast Guard dismantled the old Loran C infrastructure, it would obviously get more expensive to resuscitate the eLoran concept. Well, by golly, the rebirth of eLoran USA is happening anyway! I learned about this good news in a fairly startling way earlier this month, and I’d like to share it with you…
On Feb. 4, Briana Sullivan, a friendly research scientist at UNH, let me know about a Congressional hearing, called “Finding Your Way: The Future of Federal Aids to Navigation,” being livecast by the Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee which looks after the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation. Frankly, I opened the stream late and wasn’t paying much attention until tough-sounding Chairman Duncan Hunter started beating up on Rear Admiral Gerd Glang about eLoran as a GPS back up. You can watch it yourself at about 1:25 into this video. And stick around for the second panel (at 1:35)…
So, while the Admiral seemed rather oblivious about eLoran, the following speaker — Dana Goward, founder of the Resilient Navigation and Timing Foundation (RNT) — delivered an articulate argument for its necessity in a world where “GPS is by far the most important and significant federal aid to navigation, bar none.” He also said that a U.S. eLoran system could be built for only 40 million taxpayer dollars with help from the private sector, and Duncan was not the only congressman who seemed enthused about the project. Goward got my full attention, and I’ve since learned more about the eLoran resurgence here, but don’t miss the following testimony of Dr. Larry Mayer (Briana’s boss) about Chart of the Future.
Goward seems like the perfect guy to operate an eLoran advocacy group like the RNT. He’s a retired USCG helicopter pilot credited with the creation of the rescue swimmer program who went on to many management positions including director in charge of all nav aids, waterway operations, and more (bio PDF here). And Duncan (though I might not agree with him on any other issue) seems like the sort of bulldog politician who gets things done. Like when he recently amended the USCG Coast Guard budget to stop them from any further Loran C teardowns, and was quoted thusly:
“One of the reasons I am interested in this is that DHS has studied the presidential directive that told them to create a backup system for GPS and their conclusion was that, “We need to study it more… They did a study and now they are going to do more studies and that’s the circle loop, the endless loop of stupidity we have in Congress instead of just getting something done.”
eLoran is really happening again in the USA, and again InsideGNSS is covering the story very well. I’m hesitant to start discussing what’s now possible with the technology, though a web page mysteriously titled “eLoran, Eurofix & 9th Pulse” is hard to pass up. But how did I get Kim Jong-un in my title? Well, the threat of GPS failure gets especially real when one country purposely jams it in another, and that’s what’s happening on the Korean penisula, each year worse than the last (study extract below). So what did South Korea, arguably one of the techiest countries on the planet, choose to protect ships, planes and cell towers from the crazies in big hats to their north? A nationwide eLoran system is going up now.Click here to read comments about this Panbo entry, or add your own.
We met the most fascinating cruiser recently. Erik and his family cruised through less traveled corners of the eastern Mediterranean and north Africa. They left the US numbering seven, and returned numbering eight. The Hemingways had amazing experiences and visited unusual places that I’m so interested to share with our family- Senegal! Morocco! Israel! In the way of the cruising world, although our tracks have never intersected we know a number of boats in common, and before long it was like talking to an old friend.
To be honest, it was such a pleasure talking to Erik, I really almost forgot that the purpose of our call was not for us to learn from him, but so that he could interview Jamie and I for his very cool Family Adventure Podcast! We did get on track and had the rare gift a crystal-clear Skype connection. Erik has produced a really nice program that hits on all the big FAQs about cruising: how do we deal with homeschooling? how do we fund cruising? what about putting the kids in school in another country?
Although he’s a former (and future) cruiser, the podcast isn’t just about cruising families. Erik talks to families who chose to opt out of the expected path in many different ways: some choose cruising. Others have biked across continents. There’s a family who is driving their massive truck literally all over the world. Like us, the experience of choosing to live differently has had such a positive impact on his family and he’s looking for ways to help inspire others to take the leap, however it makes sense for them. Erik puts it best on his website:
We aren’t weird, (well, depends on who or when you ask) we just knew we wanted something different for our family. We knew how life sometimes went in the ratrace, predictable, and sometimes…..easy. Do you know what we mean? It is sometimes lived on autopilot and before you know it, the kids are grown and you’re planning retirement. We wanted to take a break, and we knew the nomad lifestyle couldn’t last forever, but we chose to spend some time, focus on our kids, and maybe show them you can dream big, and with some planning, and goal setting, you can do what most people think impossible.
Oh yeah- we know what you mean! Thank you Erik, for letting us share our story.
Andy sat down with Peter in January in Annapolis to talk all about Weems & Plath, Peter’s history as a sailor, the history of navigation, and the new exhibit on navigation at the Smithsonian Institute in DC. Peter also discussed some of his other non-sailing hobbies. This episode was sponsored by SpinSheet magazine, and is the first in a series of podcast/article projects. Read the article that came from this podcast in the March 2014 issue of SpinSheet, available all around the Chesapeake or on SpinSheet.com. Thanks Peter & SpinSheet!
I can’t explain it, but my sail covers have become too small over the years. Either they shrunk, or sails have become bulkier. (Do I sound like an aging man talking about his waistline?) It’s been a real stretch lately, and a ten minute job, to get the sail covers on, especially over my new-ish main, which is still stiff. They were also generally battered and had lots of rips to repair. I’ll say this much though: That Sunbrella is some tough stuff. Those sail covers date from long before I owned the boat, meaning they’ve stood up to at least twenty years in the sun. The stitching has given out and I’ve restitched them, but the fabric itself is still solid.
I had the good sense to first order a swatch from Sailrite, thus confirming my sail covers are made from Royal Blue Tweed. I then ordered several square yards of Royal Blue Tweed, the good UV thread, a square foot of reinforcing leather, and a bunch of twist-locks, and curled up for a night and a day with my wife’s sewing machine. I couldn’t procrastinate on this project because for every day I waited my precious sails were being exposed to the elements.
First of all, it’s a bit of a myth that you need some kind of special sewing machine for this kind of work. I’m sure it would be nice to have a proper sailmaker’s walking foot sewing machine, but I used this one, which cost about $100:
During my circumnavigation I used this old champ, which cost $120 in Panama. It’s the same sewing machine Singer has been manufacturing since 1789:
Neither of these sewing machines have a lot of power, but both could go through 3-5 layers of sailcloth, and even stitch leather. Lots of starts and stops and not the neatest work, but with sail work I find it’s the quantity of the stitches, rather than the quality. And if you’ve ever tried doing it by hand, any sewing machine will seem like a godsend.
I figured if I just split the sail covers down the middle, where they were due for restitching anyway, and added some extra fabric, I’d make ends meet. And so it was: I added twelve inches to the middle of the mainsail; eight to the the mizzen:
Again, the durability of the Sunbrella is amazing: After twenty years the old Sunbrella didn’t fade much compared to the brand new stuff.
While I was at it I replaced the long-gone leather reinforcements around the topping lifts:
And made proper, leather-reinforced exits for the lazy jacks, complete with twist-lock closures:
My first effort at lazy jack exits was with Velcro, and non-reinforced exits. The Velcro didn’t stick after a year or two, and the lazy jacks tore the cover. See how with the repair just forward of the lazy jack exit, I sewed an X over the patch? I don’t know why sailmakers always sew an X over a patch, but I did it too.
The lazy jack exits seem a lot of work, both to make, and to open and close. The alternative is an unaltered sail cover and removable lazy jacks, but then I think you’d have to put sail ties around your sail to keep it from unflaking once you removed the lazy jacks. So I’m sticking with the permanent lazy jacks, and my reinforced exits.
Anyway, total success with just over $100 in materials, plus a good eight hours of my time, but once I’d started I got carried away with lots of little repairs and reinforcements. I’m assuming brand new sail covers would cost considerably more. And they fit, very nicely, with no stretching or struggling.
I’m thinking about this (again) after watching an exciting video (see below) of a sailboat wiping out trying to enter an inlet at Zumaia in northern Spain. The photo above shows a different boat entering the same inlet successfully, which should give you an idea at a glance of how hairy this can be when conditions are uncooperative.
I can’t make out what type of boat this is in the video:
But it looks like they’re just coming back from a race. They’ve got laminated sails, a spinnaker pole poised on the foredeck, and a large crew. Presumably they’ve run the inlet many times before, judging from the cavalier disposition of the crew, which is sprawled all over the deck.
Running through breaking surf like this, there’s always a fine line between totally screwing the pooch and just having a close call. For example, that boat in the photo up top (a Beneteau Oceanis 46), did end up broaching like the one in the video in almost exactly the same spot:
But was lucky enough not to capsize. (For the full sequence of pix check out Voiles Et Voiliers.)
FYI, here’s an aerial view of the entrance:
Watching videos of successful inlet runs in breaking seas can be just as entertaining:
But don’t necessarily show you how to do it safely.
Get lucky a few times, and I’m guessing it’s easy to get complacent, particularly if you routinely have to transit an inlet like this. The winter I kept my boat Lunacy at Oyster Pond in St. Maarten, which has a sometimes surf-ridden entrance, I was amazed that the charter boats there were running in and out in conditions I considered untenable. I was thinking I was just a big chicken, but sure enough one of the boats wiped out one day coming in after the Heineken regatta. The crew was badly injured, and the boat was lost.
Bottom line: being a chicken may not be admirable, but you are less likely to get hurt. Because even when you’re very careful, these inlets can bite you.
Check out this viddy here:
Then check out the back story. The owner of this boat, a Perry 43 catamaran, was highly experienced, had run many inlets before, had even attended an inlet-running school, and waited 18 hours before making this attempt.
And yes, he was successful, but that wave he surfed in on did catch him by surprise. And if you watch again you’ll see there was one instant where he did come close to losing it.
Written by Ben Ellison on Feb 25, 2014 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub
There is still an amazing number of boats that can’t use the excellent DSC distress feature that’s been built into every fixed VHF marine radio sold in the U.S.A since 1999. Their radio either hasn’t been interfaced with a GPS or hasn’t been programmed with the owner’s MMSI number, or both. I’ve heard Coast Guard rescue center personnel report that a DSC alert can work beautifully to quickly identify and locate a boat in trouble, but that they rarely see valid DSC alerts. So before discussing advances in VHF (and AIS), let’s note how companies like Standard Horizon and Icom are helping to make working DSC a pervasive reality (finally)…
First note the “WARNING! DSC NOT AVAILABLE” squeezed onto the Eclipse DSC+ screen above, and particularly how the operator must acknowledge the warning before using the radio. Standard Horizon’s Jason Kennedy tells me that some radios on the market don’t yet include this mandated acknowledgement, and I agree that they should (and that boaters who complain about it deserve a lecture on the costs and frustrations of failed search and rescue operations). Kennedy remains a little miffed that Standard Horizon recalled radios last year to fix much more minor interface issues than this, but the authorities have apparently still not insisted that all manufacturers catch up with the improved DSC interface requirements of ITU-R M.493-13 (explained here on Panbo).
The DSC warning can be more detailed on the big screen of the new Standard Horizon Matrix AIS/GPS, but perhaps more important is that little GPS antenna bump at upper left. The sign should read “VHF with AIS and GPS,” which of course means that no installer has to make an annoying NMEA 0183 bare wire connection for this radio to know where it is and be able to share that knowledge with the Coast Guard (or your nearby boating friends). The internal GPS, still unique to Standard Horizon in fixed radios, also means that DSC can work even when no other electronics on the boat are powered up.
Also impressive was the Icom M506 recently detailed here. The Miami show was my first chance to fool with the user interface Icom has been using in new models, and I think it looked especially good on that giant screen. Entering your MMSI seemed very easy, for example, and I’m happy to add that some influential people in the boating world are questioning the strict rule, making it impossible for a boater or installer to change a radio’s own MMSI when a vessel changes hands (or operating areas in some cases). It seems like an unnecessary annoyance when you think it through, and I hope to report soon on a movement to change that rule.
For the M506 models that include a NMEA 2000 interface, getting GPS to the radio should be plug and play simple, and the same connection should also allow DSC calls to appear on chart plotters (another reason to get that distress button working). M506 models with AIS receivers should be able to distribute target info, including AIS MOB alerts, over N2K (and/or NMEA 0183) and hopefully, the models without AIS receivers will still be able to display it and place direct DSC calls to targets if they see AIS data coming in through a NMEA port. So, it was nice to discover that the M506 has a full screen AIS radar-style display option, as well as the partial screen one you’ll see elsewhere.
The Simrad RS90 black box VHF system seems quite similar to the RS35 radio and HS35 wireless mic combo introduced in 2012, except that the 90 can support four fixed mics and two wireless ones. It also has a replay-last-call feature similar to that included on the Icom M506. This system could have gone in the entry about Miami glass bridge advances and is obviously designed to compete with the Garmin VHF 300 series and the modular Ray260. Apparently, the RS90 will not ship with DSC calling to AIS targets, but “future features include DSC calls to AIS targets from handset and compatible MFD plus advanced intercom facilities.” The RS35 (I’m about to finally test) is in the same situation, I think.
McMurdo now offers AIS transponders and receivers, including this Class A M5 color screen model, which is purportedly the first transponder to show AIS MOB alarms (like the many MFDs that can alarm on Personal AIS Beacons built by McMurdo and others). Incidentally, the Kannad R10 AIS MoB Beacon is now sold as the McMurdo SmartFind S20, which seems to fit the large ambitions of the newly formed McMurdo Group.
While McMurdo’s AIS transponders seem to be sourced from Alltek Marine Electronics, they don’t yet offer the Camino-108W Class B model sold under Alltek’s own Amec brand. What’s noteworthy about the 108W is that it has both NMEA 2000 and WiFi interfaces, which means it can potentially supply tablet charting apps with AIS, GPS, and most any other boat data available on a boat’s N2K network. Alltek already has some expertise at N2K messaging and Milltech Marine already offers the Camino 108W, but so far the manual doesn’t say anything about which apps can get what data over the WiFi.
Meanwhile, DigitalYacht just announced NavLink US, which is apparently a version of the recently reviewed SeaNav app that DY will support in conjunction with its WiFi AIS receiver and NMEA WiFi bridge devices. DigitalYacht founder Nick Heyes has put together an excellent 10 minute YouTube presentation that explains how these devices and NavLink can all work together. (Speaking both to boaters and installers, Nick also makes a good case for how this sort of WiFi boat data link can bring new life to even older marine electronics systems.)
Of course, Vesper Marine also sees how a WiFi Class B AIS transponder can serve as the gateway between apps and AIS/GPS data as well as other boat data. I’ve already experienced some of that while testing the WatchMate Vision, and I returned from Miami with the perhaps under-appreciated WatchMate XB8000 to test. I’m looking forward to seeing how Vesper now passes along “a wide range of wind, depth, speed, heading, log and temperature PGN’s.” In Miami I also saw the ambitious new app NavPlay looking good in a demo. NavPlay will support Jeppesen C-Map charts and already has a marketing partnership with Vesper. It looks like the two companies have a complete iPad WiFi transponder solution that can even integrate with autopilots.
Finally, Simon Tucker — CEO of behind-the-scenes AIS specialist SRT Marine Technology – wrote to say he could astonish me if we could meet somewhere in Miami…and he did just that in the press room scene below. While Tucker isn’t ready to go public with interesting new SRT hardware designs, consider the company’s recent acquisition of GeoVS. Check out their real-time 3D vessel traffic visualisation system and understand that it can run astonishingly well on even a good laptop.Click here to read comments about this Panbo entry, or add your own.
No need to include our position today…we’re at the dock at the Conch Inn in Marsh Harbor. I’m sitting in the cockpit with a fresh cup of coffee. Beck’s ‘Sea Change’ album is on the radio. It’s very calm today, after the wind circled the compass last night while we are dinner with the passage of a weak cold front.
We first sighted land about 8 miles offshore yesterday around 0900. The plan, if the conditions were right, was to aim for Little Harbor cut, a small break in the reef 20 miles south from Marsh Harbor, and the spot where Randolph Johnston and his family set up shop after sailing their schooner ‘Langosta,’ down from Mass., searching for a simple, artistic life. Johnston was one of the greatest sculptors of the 20th century, and essentially ran away from his post as a professor at Smith College to ‘escape the maddening rush of civilization.’ They lived in caves while building their shelters ashore, and eventually set up a foundry for making bronze sculpture. And he stuck to it, living out the rest if his 40 years there. His son Pete is still there, operating an art gallery and his namesake pub near the shore. Check out the book ‘Artist on his Island.’ Great story.
The conditions were right. After motoring for six hours through a calm on Sunday night (and worrying whether we had enough fuel to motor the remainder of the trip), the wind freshened from he SW and we reached the last 50 miles or so on port tack at close to 7 knots. It was calm enough at the reef break to attempt the entrance. Back in 1980, my mom and dad had attempted the same cut alongside two other boats (this is before GPS obviously), and played the Beach Boys’ ‘Lets Go Surfin Now’ over the VHF as their little boats surfed the swell through the cut. We had calmer conditions with the perfect wind direction and sailed through, the anchor ready to deploy just in case.
We followed the narrow, shallow channel north and continued under sail, winding our way now inshore after six days offshore, navigating the changing water color by eye and dodging coral heads and deserted beaches. I think we managed every point of sail on each tack as we weaved our way north, sailing all the while, one last hurrah before hitting the dock. Our luck ran out when we finally rounded Matt Lowe’s Cay on the last leg into Marsh Harbor and had a dead-upwind stretch into the harbor, our first time close-hauled since leaving St. Lucia two weeks ago. So we powered the last mile or so, tidying up the boat and getting ready to go ashore.
The beer restriction was lifted after we cleared the reef cut, and by 8pm last night we had full bellies of lobster and grouper and conch, and brains slightly hazy after our week-long prohibition offshore after those first couple drinks. I usually say it is strange to spend that first night asleep without the boat moving, but the passage was so easy and calm that I could hardly tell a difference at the dock. Kevin is already gone now, having met his taxi at 0600 this morning. I determined yesterday that this was my 14th passage of at least 500 miles, and it was easily one of the best.
Here’s a big thanks to Kevin and Tom, two excellent sailors and (more importantly) excellent company. You guys are invited back any time. And thanks to my Dad for expanding his own horizons and bringing me along for the ride.
Andy, Dad, Kevin & Tom
PS: Lots of photos (courtesy of Kevin), and the video of Wilson the Whale to come, once we get better Internet. Tom, Dad and I fly home on Thursday, and Dad and I will return in late March to sail Sojourner the rest of the way home to Annapolis.
On our last night in Thailand, we had dinner aboard Love Song with friends we first met five years ago in Mexico. A boat coming into the anchorage earlier had caught a couple of tuna, and shared the bounty. Kathy made a delicious poisson cru, a dish with popular variations all over the South Pacific which evoked rich memories from our days cruising in French Polynesia. The combination of raw fish, lime juice, coconut cream and vegetables will probably always send my thoughts back to the Marquesas! Cruising gives us the chance to accumulate a treasure trove of memories and a handful of souvenirs, but I’m realizing that it’s also the recipes we recreate that help us keep links to some of the rich experiences of the cruising life.
After three months in Thailand, it’s the incredible food that will be among our favorite memories. It just feels intimidating to try and replicate the unusual combination of flavors on board. Sweet, salty, spicy and sour are not tastes that we are used to rationalizing together. It’s that combination which makes Thai food so delicious that is exactly what makes it so difficult to reproduce!
I was treated to a Thai cooking class with my brother while Taylor and his family were visiting for the holidays. This class didn’t just crack the door to the possibilities, but threw it open. With help from the Thai/American chef- a terrific teacher who was bilingual, bicultural, and cordon bleu trained- the fundamentals were demystified. Two words: fish sauce! Every dish included making a paste of spices and aromatics with mortar and pestle, and I know now that mine is totally inadequate, but I’m making do. In Thailand, a delicious meal prepared by an expert is only a couple of dollar, so there’s not much of an incentive to learn. With the end of our time in Thailand, these Thai dishes are slowly making their way onto our table.my brother Taylor snapped this shot of our amazing lunch. can’t believe we made it all!
Jamie’s favorite is Laab (also spelled Larb, Laap, etc.- Thai transliteration is famously inconsistent). This became a staple favorite, and it’s easy to make on the boat. No impossible-to-find ingredients, and I promise, no mortar required! It’s usually on the ‘salad’ portion of Thai menus and served at room temp to slightly chilled.
1 lb pork
Bunch of cilantro
Bunch of mint
3-4 chopped green onions
6 Tbsp fish sauce
Dried chili powder (½ – 1½ tsp)
Juice from 2-4 limes
Cover pork with about half of the lime juice and set it aside to marinate briefly while the rest is prepped.
In a bowl, combine all remaining ingredients. You can adapt the quantities of cilantro and mint to taste: I use about 1 c total between the two, skewed toward mint, but less is fine too. If you’re wary of heat, start with less of the chile powder.
Get a frying pan really hot- our cast iron skillet is perfect. Add a couple of tablespoons of water, then immediately add in the pork and stir. Keep stirring and breaking it up until it’s cooked through.
Let pork cool down a bit, then add it to the bowl. You don’t want it to wilt the greens.
Now it’s time to channel your inner Thai! Taste and adjust the flavors: it should be a little spicy, from the chile powder. It should be a little sour, from the lime juice. It should be sufficiently salty, from the fish sauce. Getting the flavors right is a trial and error process.
We serve this with rice and lettuce. If you’re feeling fancy, this would be a gorgeous appetizer served in little lettuce cups. If you’re a Thai food purist, the traditional topping on this dish would be toasted rice. Dry-cook sweet rice in a hot pan until golden, then pulverize it in a mortar and pestle (whoops, I lied).
We’ll keep a bit of Thailand on board in another way, too. On the table of every self-respecting Thai noodle shop are four condiments: chili powder, sugar, and two firey looking sauces: nam pla prik, a firey sauce of chiles, fish sauce, and lime, and prik dong, a simpler combination of chiles and rice vinegar. These bring out the tension between those essential flavors of Thai cooking which each diner customizes to their own taste.
After some unforgettable meals ashore, we’ve made up our own versions of these condiments.This is going to be another piece of Thailand we carry. Simple fried rice is a frequent lunch on Totem, and customized with these Thai style flavors gives it a whole new interest from the crew.
NAM PLA PRIK
1 small shallot (about the size of an olive: these are everywhere, far more common than our yellow onions)
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
13 fresh chilies, sliced (the skinny chilies that get about as long as your pinkie finger)
7 tablespoons fish sauce
4 tablespoons lime juice (fresh!)
You can either slice up the shallot and mince the garlic, or if you’d really want to go local style, put them both into a mortar and pound to break them down. Add remaining ingredients and stir. Done! Don’t store in metal, because it will impart an unpleasant taste. We use a repurposed jam jar. It’s good for weeks in the refrigerator.
This uses the larger hot chiles. Rough cut them crosswise, and fill a small jar about halfway. Cover by 50% with rice vinegar. Prik dong, like Nam Pla Prik, will be better after it’s been able to set a while to let the flavors amalgamate.
It’s a memorable part of the Thai experience that we’ll bring along with us as we continue.
Foodie readers add spice to Totem’s life by reading this on the Sailfeed website.
Posted February 24 by Kimball Livingston
So the boys at Oracle Racing built themselves the fastest AC72 in the galaxy, and they learned how to sail it, just in time. Otherwise we wouldn’t be speculating about another Cup-n-SF vs. San Diego, Long Beach, Newport, Hawaii.
Two weeks before the 2013 match, the Oracle crew was struggling to achieve consistent, replicable settings for daggerboard rake.
Or not happening.
Tiny adjustments were critical. When you’re pushing foils through the water at near-freeway speeds—water being rather more resistant than air—Preferred Angle of Attack is significantly different from Preferred Angle of Attack Plus or Minus a Freckle.
The range of adjustment for the Oracle angle of attack, wing designer Tom Speer tells us, was “about six degrees.”
Which I would take to be an accurate ballpark that he knows any of his competitors could quickly assess, and not so accurate as to be selling out state secrets. But within those sixish degrees, guesswork was unacceptable.
“The problem with a manually-powered hydraulic system,” Speer says, “is that you never know what level of pressure you’re supplying to the actuators. Any normal hydraulic system will have an engine-driven pump and an accumulator that maintains a steady supply of pressure to the valves running the actuators.” In that framework, you can build an architecture of predictable inputs and predictable outcomes. But. “We weren’t allowed engines or accumulators because stored energy was not allowed. As the guys were cranking, they were building pressure, but as soon as you moved something, pressure would drop. The pressure in the system varied according to what was going on—how hard the guys were pumping and whether or not the boards and wing were being trimmed.
“You might open a valve a given amount,” Speer says, “and sometimes in response the actuator would move quickly; sometimes it would move slowly.”
I will be so bold as to say for Tom, inconsistency is a killing force.
I will also report that, not being an engineer, I don’t fully get this quote: “When we mounted the valves on the board trunk, that implicitly provided a mechanical feedback so that now the valve would cut itself off. With low pressure, it would move slowly but stop at its given place. With higher pressure, you got a faster response and the same, predictable stop.” Speer has since expanded upon this, and you will find his words at the bottom of this piece.
So, Jimmy, here’s your new world: You want an attitude change of half a degree? On each of your wheels (mounted at an angle because it was just so hard to cram stuff in), you have two buttons. Press one, and you get a daggerboard rake adjustment of half a degree. Press it three times and you get 1.5 degrees.
Speer again: “Making that change helped us catch up on our maneuvers.”
I dare you to accuse the man of insufficient understatement, remembering that Oracle Racing’s USA 17 #2, reimagined in-build after the #1 Oracle boat pitchpoled in spectacular fashion on October 16, 2012, sailed into the 2013 match still behind the curve.
Before we leave the subject of hydraulics, however, let’s detour through one sideways detail. “Our wing self-tacked,” Speer says. “Air loads would make the wing fold through to the new tack. New Zealand’s wing had to be cranked through hydraulically. In race eight we surprised them—they expected to be able to cross on port because they had ‘always’ been able to cross—but they couldn’t cross and they had to tack quick. They weren’t ready. They didn’t have pressure ready. But their guys did have the a-m-a-z-i-n-g presence of mind to keep cranking, and keep cranking.”
And keep cranking, kinda like those legendary Edwards test pilots reeling off airspeed numbers after the wings fell off . . .
If you’re reading this, you’re 99.9 percent likely to already know that Oracle skipper Jimmy Spithill spent part of almost every press conference talking large about overnight modifications to the boat. So was that reality-based, or was it theater?
Speer says, “Crew work was the biggest difference.
“We didn’t change our daggerfoils at all, but we were experiencing cavitation between the rudders and the rudder wings. It was enough to strip the paint in every race, and we had to repaint them every time we went sailing. Then the team came up with a sort of Coke bottle-shaped bearing that went into the junction. That shape worked because it has a high velocity on the fairing where the foils had low velocity. Adding two factors together, it sort of smoothed out the velocity at the junction and gave us maybe 30 kilograms of drag reduction.”
A – A – A – And that’s all, folks. That was the comeback.
The future. Well, Yosemite is looking as if it could blow, big. There’s no good news in the weather for the USA, whether you’re freezing east and north, and sometimes down south, or parched out west. And cable news is not going away. We forgive you, Ted Turner. And an AC35 is as close to a cosmic inevitability as anything in sailing.
We’re told to expect a new protocol, cum design rule, before the end of March, but probably not with a venue announced, which makes it a leetle bit harder, eh, to set designers in motion? Average wind. Sea state. Mere details.
Yes, there is movement toward renewing the AC45 circuit. Yes, it would make sense to go foiling on said circuit, but that would add cost at what crossover in value and . . .
Speer says, “We foiled 45s for test purposes, but it took 20 knots to get them foiling. To make it work in light air, you would have to make them wider, with bigger wings.”
And a good engineer will leave it at that.
Returning to the matter of controlling daggerboard rake
I have this from Tom, in response to my question about OTUSA’s adjustments to their system. Take it away, Tom Speer—
“The essence of a feedback control system is the system works on the difference between what you want and what actually exists. This difference in control engineering parlance is called the error signal. It can be anything, as long as there is this difference operation is going on. The difference can be electrical, as when an electronic sensor provides a measurement and the subtraction is done in the control computer. But you can also set it up so the difference is done mechanically. This is what OTUSA did.
“The desired board position was provided by a small electromechanical actuator. This could be something like the servo you’d use to move a control surface in a model airplane. Judging from the photos, I’d say the actuator used in the board control system was essentially an electrically driven screw. The important thing is it had a rod that went in and out in response to the buttons on the steering wheels or buttons that the crew could control. Each push of a button moved the rod a given amount. A certain number of inches of rod movement corresponded to a certain number of degrees of board rake. Control engineers would call this the command signal.
“The next element in the control system was the valve. This was a three-way valve – it had positions for positive board movement, no board movement, or negative board movement. The important thing is whether the valve is open or closed depends on the position of the internal valve element relative to the valve body. If you have the valve body fixed and you move the valve lever, you turn the flow on or off (or reverse the direction of flow). But it would work just the same if you nailed the valve lever down and moved the valve body back and forth. So it’s really the difference between the position of the lever and the position of the valve that counts. If you wave the valve in the air, both the body and the lever move the same and there’s no difference between them, so there’s no flow through the valve.
“The last element of the control system was the board rake actuator. Flow from the valve moved a piston in the actuator. The valve could send the fluid to the front side of the piston or the back side of the piston in order to move it in either direction. When the valve was closed, no fluid could enter or leave either side of the piston and it was hydraulically locked in place. When the valve was open, there was a flow rate proportional to the supply pressure.. When there’s a constant flow rate, the board actuator moves at a constant rate, just like blowing up a balloon.
“Of course, a common way to use the valve is to bolt the body to fixed structure and just move the lever. In this case, the position of the electromechanical actuator would correspond to the rate of change of board rake because movement of the rod would change the lever and that would control the flow rate through the valve. The difference represented by the valve position would be the difference between the lever position and zero, because the valve body was fixed. To move the board, you have to open the valve for a time, letting fluid flow to the actuator, and then close the valve. So the electromechanical actuator controlling the lever has to move one way to open the valve, and then move the opposite way to close the valve. Two movements – on, then off. If the supply pressure was constant, you could use a fixed time interval between the two actions to move the board a fixed increment. But this doesn’t work when the supply pressure is variable, because the flow rate will vary and you will get a different response for the same time interval. You might measure the supply pressure and adjust the timing accordingly, but that was against the rules.
“The way OTUSA solved the problem was to take advantage of the fact that the flow rate really depended on the difference between where the lever was located in space and where the valve body was located in space. When something depends on a difference, you can exploit it for feedback control. You just need to make one side of the difference correspond to what you want, and the other side of the difference correspond to what you have. OTUSA made the location of the valve body correspond to board rake by mounting on the board trunk. They made the lever position correspond to the rake they wanted by anchoring the small electromechanical actuator to the hull structure. Now the end of the rod from the electromechanical actuator corresponded to the desired rake of the board. Rod forward to rake forward, rod back to rake back. When they connected the rod to the valve lever, the feedback loop was closed.
“When the rod moved, the valve opened, just like it did when the valve was bolted to the hull structure. But now the valve body moved with the board instead of staying fixed to the hull. When the body and the lever were back in alignment, the flow shut off. Only one movement of the electromechanical actuator was needed, and the position of the small actuator was proportional to the desired position of the board. The movement of the board itself turned the flow off when the desired rake was obtained, as indicated by the body matching the lever location. I called this an implicit feedback, because there was no explicit sensor that you could point to that measured board position. It was the valve itself that did the measuring.
“Locating the valve on a moving thing is a very common control technique. It’s used in all kinds of hydraulic actuators. It’s quite common for the valve to be mounted directly on the hydraulic cylinder itself, with the rod end anchored to fixed structure and the cylinder end attached to the moving thing. Now a linkage from the fixed structure to the valve provides the desired position and the valve moving with the cylinder measures the actual position, in the same I’ve described above.”
Thanks, Tom, and now we really will leave it at that—Kimball
Well informed sports fans will recall that SAIL‘s publisher, Josh Adams, abandoned his career in sailing journalism back in August 2012 to assume command of the U.S. Olympic sailing team. Our loss was the Olympic team’s gain, and they seem to be recovering nicely from their zero-medal performance in the 2012 London games. Last month they scored six podium finishes at the ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami regatta, including a gold medal for Paige Railey in the Laser Radial class.
//Post by Sailing Anarchy.
The interview is well worth watching. Josh does a good job of not demonstrating contempt for Mr. Clean and provides lots of insight into the team’s prospects moving forward toward Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
For more discussion on sailboat racing and how to publicize it, you can watch some sailing journos (including Mr. Clean and SAIL‘s Kimball Livingston) mix it up in this video from the Leadership Forum:
As of 1030 EST Sojourner is in position 25 29 N, 075 20 W, making 5 knots under sail on a course of 305 T.
Wilson the whale swam by to say hello yesterday.
‘Whale!’ shouted Tom near the end of his afternoon watch yesterday. Kevin, Dad and I scrambled on deck to get a look. We were sailing smoothly along under the asymmetrical spinnaker which we had set earlier in the day as the wind continued to veer to the SSE and get lighter.
‘I just saw him spout, about 30 yards to starboard,’ Tom told us when we came on deck. Sure enough a few minutes later he surfaced again, this time even nearer the boat. We could see his head and mouth quite clearly – a big, wide, baleen mouth, a real whale (though we are not certain what kind. Minke maybe, or sperm whale?).
According to my dad, it was just how Walter the Whale acted when he and Mia encountered him coming across the Atlantic last January, and looked to be a similar type. Wilson, as I’ve dubbed our whale friend, stayed with us for almost an hour. He would swim right alongside the boat (we measured him at about 2/3 the length of Sojourner, so maybe 20, 25 feet or so. His tail was at least six feet across). Then he’d dive under the boat and come out on the other side, spouting right off the bow, then diving and circling back again to our stern. He approached a few times from dead astern, laying on his side and making one powerful kick with his tail to glide right up to the rudder, his bright white belly reflecting the sunlight. He swam effortlessly, easily matching our 6 knots without so much as a twitch of his body.
Wilson continued this routine for a while, coming closer and closer each pass. At times he was RIGHT next to the boat, maybe five feet under the surface. I could have stepped onto his back without getting wet. His presence and sheer mass gave me chills. Being that close to nature is special. Each one of us inadvertently and without hardly noticing let out several ‘Wow!’ and ‘Look at that!’ comments in Wilson’s presence. Kevin was able to get some amazing underwater footage on his GoPro, which we will post once we are back ashore. But what a moment.
So the trip is ending on a high note. We’re not there yet, and won’t fully relax until we are through the reef and safely at anchor or at the dock, but right now the conditions are pleasant, to put it mildly. After motoring through a calm night, the breeze it back, just enough to ease us along on a flat sea, making 4-5 knots, just fast enough to time our arrival outside the reef tomorrow morning in daylight. I made ‘mung’ for breakfast – the leftover ground beef and veggies scrambled into a dozen eggs – and Dad just loaded the fridge with beer to preemptively cool it in anticipation of lifting the alcohol prohibition once through the reef tomorrow.
Until Next Time,
Andy, Dad, Tom & Kevin
When Erik went back to work, Papillon became My Boat. By which I mean, Papillon became My Problem. With my resident handyman thousands of miles away, anything that broke was going to be my responsibility. And it was just a matter of time before something bad happened. This is a boat, after all. So when the generator died this week, I wasn’t surprised.
I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m not very handy. As Erik kindly puts it, I’m not a natural tool user. No arguments here. But, being the big boss that I am now, I thought I could show some maturity and give this a whirl. I’ve watched Erik fix the genset before, usually in my role as Tool Monkey. I may not be able to do it as quickly as he could, but surely I could start the troubleshooting process. At worst, I would be setting a good example for my girls.
How to begin? First, I fell back on my scientific training: I gathered data. What did I know? When I tried the system a second time, it died after five minutes, just like the first go-around. No sputtering, just sudden death. So probably not lack of fuel. I checked the temperature. Aha. Too high. Probably a cooling system issue, then.
But it was barely seven o’clock: time to get the kids off to school. I met our carpool moms in the parking lot, and mentioned my issue. Immediately, they both offered up their husbands to help me.
“Oh no,” I said, “I’m okay for now, but I’ll let you know if I need some help.” What a nice gesture, I thought. People are so kind.
Because I had my own resources. Manuals. My native intelligence. Um, my own husband. No need to go picking up extras yet.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” asked my port-side neighbor as I climbed back aboard. ”Later on, I can come take a look.”
“I’m okay for now,” I told him. ”But thanks – I’ll let you know if I get stuck.”
I had an email waiting from my not-currently-resident expert. He gave me a cascade of likely culprits, and, full of optimism, I got ready to knock through them.
First: were we getting cooling water into the system? When I turned the genny on, yes, water exited the hull. Okay, good. Something was flowing. But it looked less-than-usual to me, and sounded more sputtery than normal. Maybe we had some marine growth down there. Sure enough, when I felt around the throughhull, it was full of the tiny tubeworms that seem so prevalent here. So I cleared it out. As I examined my torn-up fingers, I made a mental note to use a tool next time. But that was the easy one – the inlet throughhull is well below the waterline. I mentally prepared myself to slide into the yucky marina water to clear out the inlet side.
But before I could dip a toe in the water, what to my wondering eyes should appear, but an extra husband! A neighbor from down the dock approached with a glum expression and a scuba mask, explaining he had been sent by his wife to help me. I tried to dissuade him, but he shook his head. ”When I was away, someone helped her. Now I must help you.”
I pondered this nugget of Man Logic as he dove into the water. These husband-offering gestures were comical around husband #3, but started to depress me a little by #6. As the days wore on, no one ever asked me if I needed help – they just assumed I required assistance. Male assistance. Not a single woman put herself forward. The fact that I did, in fact, need Erik’s advice at every stage only made me feel worse. How were all of us raised to expect the men in our lives to repair everything?
Extra Husband hauled himself back onto the dock. ”It’s clear,” he said as he hosed himself down. ”Nothing is growing in the throughhull.”
Rats. My easiest option was off the table. Pushing past me to the engine room, Extra Husband offered to look at the generator himself. While he was poking around, Stylish and her teacher came home from their French lesson.
“My husband is waiting in the car,” said the French teacher as Stylish skipped off. ”Do you need me to have him take a look?” She noticed Extra Husband down below. ”You let me know how this one does,” she whispered.
Extra Husband poked around for a while, but didn’t have any good answers. ”You should call a mechanic,” he said.
But I wasn’t defeated yet. Call a mechanic – so much for this plethora of husbands. Surely there was still some low-hanging fruit to pick before giving up.
My first port of call when I don’t know something is a book. Out came the operator’s manual. I squinted at the schematics: tiny, badly-photocopied pictures clearly drawn for someone of Smurf-like stature. The section on the cooling system didn’t do much more than refer me to the service manual. So, out came the service manual. At least this was a pdf; I zoomed in and found what I wanted. I was ready to do battle.
As I sat in the engine room, tracing hoses with the flashlight and fighting a stress headache, my confidence started to wobble. After three years, I hardly know this room at all. I couldn’t even find the fridge reset last week until Erik explained where it was. How did I expect to figure out this stupid generator?
But I wasn’t beaten yet. More emails. More questions. More tracing. More husbands. I tackled the raw water filter – clear. The feed hose to the raw water pump – flowing nicely. Time to try the impeller.
By now, I had gained a small and fragile confidence in my abilities. Sure, Erik could have knocked out this job in about fifteen minutes, whereas I was on Day 3, but there is a good reason for that. He has experience. Fixing cars, fixing farm equipment, and fixing many, many boat parts. Why, surely my brothers couldn’t do this either, being soft city-dwellers just like me. Fix a motherboard, maybe. But even Erik was a noob once in his life, even if it was just when he was six years old. I could make up for the lost years.
Out came the Allen keys. As I wedged my hands into the generator, I began to understand the reason for Smurf-sized pictures in my manual: only a person three apples tall could possibly work comfortably in those tight spaces. I started to smile; in a way, it is funny that I’m always offered the husbands – how do their enormous hands ever fit anywhere in a boat? Enough hilarity, Amy; back to work. I closed the seacock (those of you playing the home game, don’t forget this step), prepped the vacuum and the “yuck bucket”, and slowly opened the cover plate. I sucked up all of the extra water, put the screws and the plate into a tupperware bin (also critical – screws love to roll away and fall into inaccessible places), and gently pulled off the plate. There was the impeller. And it looked perfect.
Damn. Well, still, I had to pull it out and check. What did the service manual say? Check for flat spots, cracks and broken vanes. No problem. Even I am no stranger to a broken impeller.
Okay, but wait. How was I supposed to get the impeller out? Back to ask Husband, the Original. Oh, there’s a special tool. What a relief, I thought, because I was really hoping to unpack another locker to hunt down another tool. As I descended into the engine room for the nine hundredth time that day, tool in hand, I started to have a new appreciation for Erik and his constant requests for help. It is annoying to have to keep stopping a job because you forgot the silicone grease, or you need a different ratchet, or the metric wrenches instead of the imperial. Clearly we need to train the girls up for this role.
“Amy?” called a dock-side husband. ”Need some help down there?”
“I’m okay, thanks. I’ll let you know.”
Impeller-extractor in hand, I was ready to do battle. I turned to the genny and tried to ease the tool between the vanes.
And discovered that the fuel filter was in the way.
I wedged myself back against the fuel lines and stared at the offending filter for about half an hour. Yes, I could probably figure out how to get it off. I could. But I was hard running up against the fact the issue here wasn’t a simple blockage. Something was almost certainly broken in there – something requiring expertise to identify and fix. Was I trying to fix this generator because it made sense for me to do the job, or was I just trying to prove something to myself?
I took a deep breath. And I put down my tools.
I set my pride aside, closed up the generator, opened the seacock, and walked away. Good sense dictated that I agree with the husbands: it was time to call the mechanic.
I respect the time Erik has put into understanding our systems. And I can see that I’ve wasted a chance to learn that myself during our time aboard. Oh, I’ve got excuses: I was teaching/cooking/writing/wrangling children/otherwise occupied. But the truth is, I never thought that pumps and fuel and lines and the other necessary elements of a boat were very interesting… and I had someone to rescue me But, when I tried it for myself, it was kind of fun to figure out where things were and how they fit together. It was a puzzle: if this leads to this, then that must do that.
I still don’t think this is my life’s calling, but I do think I will watch a little more carefully next time. I might even ask to try it myself once in a while.
Because surely there is a better way for me to solve small problems aboard than to borrow a husband or two.
When you know that it was variable, 5 knots to 25 knots, you know how the latest Extreme 40 race could go wrong.
Aberdeen closing on Groupama in a light spot.
Both closing on the finish.
Then Aberdeen caught the biggest gust of the day, lost control, and, Groupama skipper Franck Cammas said, “I had absolutely no idea it was coming, other than a shadow.”
Those who could, jumped overboard, and the one injured crewman, Tanguy Cariou, may or may not be aboard if overnight repairs successfully return Groupama to the course for next day’s racing in Singapore.
Mamma said there would be days like this—Kimball
Good morning from Sojourner! As of 0930 EST we are in position 24 21 N, 073 04 W and running square before a SE breeze around 15 knots. A nice big, long swell lifts our stern and surges us forward every 15 seconds or so, and we are averaging around 6.5 knots.
Yesterday evening we set the running rig as the wind continued to clock from E to SE. By just before dinner time we were nearly 20 degrees off course. So we set the genoa to windward (starboard) on the spin pole and continued on through the night, which was filled with brilliant stars. Jupiter shone brightest right overhead on my watch, with Orion just to the west. The Milky Way glowed in the sky.
This morning on my 0600-0900 watch the wind eased a bit and continued to clock. Kevin and I jibed the whole running rig, which is rather time consuming with all the guy lines and preventers involved. We slowly and methodically brought everything around, and are now on a port tack for the first time, the genoa piled out to port and the reefs shaken out of the mainsail. Full sail for the first time sine leaving St. Lucia and easy, beautiful sailing. So far, 1000 miles have passed under Sojourner’s keel since leaving St. Lucia.
Until Next Time,
Andy and the Crew
Written by Ben Ellison on Feb 21, 2014 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub
That’s the Web browser built into the Humminbird ION10 MFD that I first saw demoed in Lauderdale (pre browser), and the test was pretty realistic for a boat show. It was easy to log the ION onto my phone’s WiFi hotspot and if you click the image bigger, you’ll see how well it rendered a complex site like www.powerandmotoryacht.com. It even supports tabs for multiple sites, so if I were out fishing on, say, a sunny center console, I could have had a weather site open while still checking my gmail or moderating Panbo comments, all on a bright waterproof screen. This is a MFD first, I think — the Standard Horizon CPN1010i can access the Web, but not while in navigation mode — though the lack of ION detail on Humminbird’s site suggests that they are taking their time getting it out the door.
More conventional boats’ WiFi often involve an onboard router combined with a hi-power bridge like the Rogue Wave I’ve been testing for years. One thing that distinguishes the Rogue from other solutions based on the same Ubiquity hardware is custom browser pages that make changing hotspots easy, and it was nice to see that there’s now a mobile version suitable for phones. Cruise into a new harbor, find a good hotspot on your phone, and all the devices using your boat router will be online.
Wave WiFi was also showing smaller versions of its marine broadband router and dual-antenna MIMO versions of its bigger-boat EC-HP and EC-ER models. But notice all the locked access points on the screen above; WiFi Internet access can be great on a boat, but it’s not as easy to find as it once was. Wave WiFi wants to help in that department, too, encouraging electronics installers to work with them on creating quality marina hotspots. (And I encourage installers to pitch an AIS receive station at the same time, as it’s another relatively inexpensive way to make a marina stand out.)
A lot of cruising boats use cellular data connections instead of WiFi, or at least when beyond good hotspots, and marine cellular accessories seem to be entering a new phase. Behold the new and interesting-looking Digital Antenna 1285 and Shakespeare Galaxy 5239 wideband antennas that may soon distinguish some masts. After testing a Wilson cell booster that includes 4G/LTE frequencies, I learned that Shakespeare is working with SureCall on a series of “anywhere” booster kits – I think the Halo 2G/3G/4G kit is almost ready to ship — and in Miami I saw a prototype 2G/3G/4G Digital Antenna amp. All the booster manufacturers are scrambling to meet just-extended FCC technical requirements, but the end result should be a better booster environment without worries about “taking down a tower.”
If you do have a fast Internet connection right now, you might want to check out BaronMarineWeather.com’s interactive map. It’s mostly U.S. data right now and a little buggy, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many interesting data layers on a free site before. This screen I generated yesterday afternoon shows the predicted precipitation (future radar) this morning, and so far, it’s been fairly true (a yucky day). The justifiably proud Baron meteorologist who showed me this site in Miami wasn’t sure if it will stay forever free, but I’m trying to find out.
Cruising in a warm exotic locale would be nice right now, but I am getting to the age where access to telemedicine is moving up the equipment list. So, it’s good to learn that bandwidth-efficient Digigone SecureChat can be used with GWU’s Maritime Medical Access service, and that the large, expensive remote viewing station will soon have an alternative consisting mostly of the Android tablet above and a neat wireless hi-res macro camera that’s pointed at the “patient’s” face in this demo (the “doctor” was actually a computer tech with a stethoscope back at the Digigone offices). Though I’ve experienced SecureChat video conferencing that seemed useful at only about 60 Kbps, Digigone recommends a minimum of 150 Kbps for telemedicine, and I think that means at least an Inmarsat FleetBroadband 150 connection. (Hey, there’s a new “small boat” service called Fleet One coming, though all that’s out now is a partner announcement).
But while I’m having yucky day fantasy, I might as well include broadband satellite comms, and I’d quite enjoy the very clever add-on that KVH has come up with. With the acquisition of Headland Media last spring, KVH got access to all sorts of premium movie, TV, and news content, all of which will soon appear as the IP-MobileCast content delivery service. You’ll need at least a TracPhone V3-IP mini-VSAT system, plus a MobileCast subscription, but then content like first-run movies will start flowing “over the top” — meaning when the mini-VSAT network is not busy, mostly at night, and also beyond your regular data subscription — and into a KVH-supplied media server. So, most anywhere your big yacht might be, you can use a tablet, PC or smart TV (or converter) to watch things you couldn’t even get on your home cable system. Not to mention news in so many flavors it reminded me how far flung the yachting world is.Click here to read comments about this Panbo entry, or add your own.
I know for certain that I’m going to jinx us by writing what I’m about to write, but I’m going to write it anyway. It’s the dawn of our 4th day at sea on Sojourner since departing St. Croix, and if you count the leg from St. Lucia, today marks the start of our seventh consecutive sailing day broad reaching on starboard tack with 20 knots of wind off the stern quarter. Remarkable sailing.
I’ve been sitting here standing watch in the cockpit with the iPad in my hand waiting to write this until the sun came up. It was already light when I relieved Tom at 0600, but the sun was still somewhere over the horizon. Soon though, a large bank of clouds, like snow covered mountains in the distance, lit up a brilliant gold as the sun crept up beyond them. The sky above the boat turned all sorts of orange and pink and blue. As it got higher, though still hidden behind the mountainous clouds, rays of sunbeams fired out in all directions, up and over the peaks and down onto the ocean. It would be impossible to photograph this, or even paint it. If you’ve seen it, you’ll know what I mean. If you haven’t, we’ll get out there and look for yourself. The combination of slight sleep deprivation and the mental state that affords, plus the great wilderness that we’re sailing through gives sunrises at sea a special feel. Even if you could properly convey the image of the scene back home, you’d never convey that feeling, and that’s what it’s all about.
I should mention for the wives and families back home that Sojourner is currently in position 22 45 N, 070 38 W as of 0630 EST. We changed back into the Eastern time zone yesterday, and in another 45 miles we’ll be officially out of the tropics (north of 23 30 N, or the northernmost latitude that the sun will reach in the summer solstice in late June). Kevin would know that well by now – he and I spent many hours yesterday discussing celestial navigation, and worked our way through his first sun sight. (I love the binder he made up for the class. On the back cover he printed a photo of the Dos Equis ‘Most Interesting Man in the World.’ Kevin’s invented caption reads, ‘I don’t always shoot sun lines, but when I do, I always use the lower limb.’ Pretty clever!)
Today will be a cleaning day aboard the boat. All of us now are going on more than half a week in the same scuzzy clothing. I haven’t changed underwear since Tuesday, and my scalp is starting to itch and my fingernails are dirty. It’s HOT sailing offshore in the tropics, as you’ve got to keep the boat all closed up. Down below it must be 90 degrees. It’s a huge relief coming outside and feeling the breeze on our dirty skin. So well heave-to later on this afternoon for a swim and a good cleanup. I’ll change my underwear and shave. Well wipe down the cabin sole with fresh water and clean the galley and the head real good. Dump some fresh water on the cockpit cushions (it hasn’t rained more than a few drops yet).
So that’s life aboard Sojourner as it stands today. Kevin and Tom are proving awesome crew members and good company, and we are eating quite well – chicken curry ala Chef Andy last night, burgers by Kevin the night before, and with any luck some fresh mahi mahi tonight if my dad can prove himself a real fisherman. Northwest we sail towards the Bahamas.
Until Next Time,
Andy and the Crew
It was a trio of unfortunate events on a day that began with a beautiful sail, after a day anchored off another stunning Thai island. Any one of these three could ruin your day, and even two out of three could cause serious problems. We managed to luck out with all three.
- Autopilot failed. Inconvenient, not serious.
- Steering cable broke. Getting serious now.
- Engine overheated. Trifecta of doom?
It was late morning and Totem was scooting along nicely, nearly 9 knots on a beam reach in 20 knots, stunning blue skies, and seas peaking out around two meters. It was glorious, if slightly rolly when the bigger waves gave Totem a shove.another pretty island recedes in the early morning light
Remember how important it is to listen to your boat? Sometimes your boat doesn’t whisper. Sometimes, it yells at you. Ours began the audio assault with a constant shrill beep that means our autopilot has lost steerage. This normally happens when there isn’t enough wind, which was hardly the case at the moment. Instead it was giving up because of the forces against it- a kind of protection from catastrophic failure. We’ve had an occasional problem on the port tack when the sea state puts additional force on the rudder, and it’s been “on the list” to look at.
Was this a crisis? No, not at all. Gorgeous day, great sailing conditions, we’ll just hand steer. It’s only about 25 miles to our destination, and we’ve got plenty of daylight. Jamie called for more sunscreen, and I read a couple more chapters of Prince Caspian with the girls.
A couple of hours later, I heard grunting thump from my perch in the nav station. It was kind of like the sound a line makes when it loads up on one of our primary winches, but not quite. The next sound really caught my attention: Jamie calling “Problem!” from the cockpit. Before I can get entirely up the companionway, he tells me he thinks we’ve lost our steering cable.
Things just went from inconvenient to really serious. Losing our steering cable?
We came up about 15 degrees. Jamie and Niall furled the jib, and we eased the main way out, bringing us back towards our course towards Ko Lipe. The good news was Totem was well balanced. If there had been different conditions- big weather helm, seas pushing the transom to the side- we could have been prone to more rounding up and creating some chaotic conditions on board. Instead, while Jamie set up our emergency tiller, I could stay in the cockpit and keep monitoring our course and traffic.the tiller is short, so Jamie lashes a spare piece of wood to extend it
Wind and seas had abated considerably since the autopilot gave up, so we gave it a try- in the lighter conditions, it happily clicked and whirred back into gear. Yeah! One step back in the right direction. This was great, but now we needed more speed, so we decided to fire up the engine.
This doesn’t last long. The engine alarm shrieks at us angrily, demanding attention. Jamie and I are both a little confused. First the autopilot. Then the steering. Now the engine?! What’s going on?benign conditions, but I hope we never need the emergency tiller again
We immediately shut it down. The temperature gauge is pinned at the top: we’ve only seen that once before, when our impeller blew up between Moorea and Tahiti in a very ugly sea state. Jamie goes below to open the side doors of the engine compartment to help it cool down faster, and begins troubleshooting.
While the engine is cooling, he spends time first looking at the steering cable. We assumed it had broken, and wanted to make sure that movement from the quadrant wasn’t setting up further problems with a jammed cable- thinking it may need to be moved out of the way while the autopilot takes care of steering. It turns out the cable is fine, but an eye bolt that holds it in place has sheared in half- so it’s simply fallen uselessly down. As Gary knows, I’m married to McGuyver, and in a matter of minutes Jamie has rigged up a loop with Dyneema that has the steering cable back in play again. Another step forward- steering works! It’s a little squishy, but it’s fine. We’ll replace the broken bolt, but leave a piece of dyneema as a backup in the future.you have to be a contortionist to get into the area of the quadrant
Confident that things are getting better, we decide to try the engine. Bad idea: there’s more of the shrieking alarm immediately. Time to let it cool more, and start working through the decision tree of possible causes. One after another, they come up empty. There’s plenty of coolant. Oil is fine. We took time to watch water flow when we turned it on the second time, and water is definitely running through (blowing my initial theory that we picked up one of the 4,236,927 plastic bags floating between Phuket and Langkawi). Impeller looks great. Nothing is obvious, so we just wait.
While we’re waiting, the wind starts to die. Of course, right? We’ve got steerage, but only just barely. We have current, and it’s pulling us toward the islands that looked like such a friendly destination hours earlier. Now I can only see them for the rocky shoreline and off lying reefs. Not so friendly. We remember our friends on Kittani were planning to come into the same island group, and are lucky to find them with a quick VHF call. They’re only a few minutes away, and agree to loiter near the pass between islands we’re heading for just in case we need a tow.
At this point, I’m also thinking about how nice it is to have a dinghy and outboard with some jam to it. Most of the time I chalk the importance of a solid outboard up to the ability to cruise out to a great snorkeling reef, but the reality is that it can also let us use the dinghy as a barge and propel Totem if needed. Nothing speedy, but enough to help if we needed it.
Another hour passes. The wind dies, and the current picks up: so sailing is no longer an option, and the rocky reefs of the islands ahead are worrisome. Jamie’s found nothing with the engine, so we decide to give it a try again and glue our eyes to the temp and oil gauges. This time, no problem. We warm it up gradually, and eventually decide that it’s running normally. A huge relief, although not a complete one, because we the cause is a mystery. I’d really prefer a known cause that can be addressed! The anchorage is just a few miles away now- crystal water, a lovely beach, and a calm harbor.
What did we do right?
- We didn’t freak out: we kept our heads, and addressed the issues one at a time as a team
- We were prepared with alternates / backups to help in each scenario
- We contacted a boat nearby, friends we thought were headed to the same bay and were lucky to find just a few miles away: they stayed nearby and would have been available to help with a tow if needed
What can we learn from this?
- Hindsight being 20/20, we could have spent time looking into this known issue with our autopilot many miles ago
- Our Yanmar 4JH3/TE is due for a 5,000 hour checkup. Could it be something that more timely maintenance could have prevented? We generally baby this baby, but we’re past due there
There are still some puzzles to solve and maintenance to do to make sure we can prevent a repeat, but what could have been a horrible day just turned out to be nothing more than… eventful, in the way we don’t usually like to record.relaxing at last: anchor down in Ko Lipe
Tonight’s sunset G&T is going to be appreciated just a touch more than usual.
McGuyver knows that reading this on the Sailfeed website is better than fixing a tiller with rubber bands and chewing gum.