Some pretty big news here at HaveWind! Many of you have been wondering about our cruising plans this coming season, where we are going, which routes, etc. I’ll bet this one hadn’t crossed your mind! We’re going to complete our first Atlantic Circle! We’ll be helping some new friends deliver their new Lagoon 42 from La Rochelle, France to the BVIs, likely via the Canaries, in Nov-Dec, 2018. Phillip and I are both stoked to go and share the journey with you. We’re flying to France this very day to spend some time with Captain Yannick from our first Atlantic crossing and enjoy La Rochelle for a bit before we shove off. Check out the announcement video below and follow along in real-time via our Delorme posts on our Facebook page! I’ve also got some fantastic shipyard videos coming out here for you, too, while we’ll be offshore so be excited for those. Au revoir! : )
Ahoy crew! A real treat for you here. An interview with our very own Captain Yannick from our Atlantic-crossing on a 46′ catamaran in June of 2016. After all of the photos, stories, blog posts, even a two-hour movie that I have produced talking about our ocean-crossing, Yannick said he needed to “set the record straight.” Ha! He was really happy to do this interview, though, as it was an incredible adventure, such a learning process and an eye-opening experience, it’s definitely worth talking about. Yannick is also a very interesting, multifaceted guy with a lot of great insight and perspective and he shares a lot in this discussion about his boat-shopping process, recovering from the lightning strike and his thoughts and preparation for an ocean-crossing. Thank Jeffrey Wetting with Shooting the Breeze Podcast for putting this together by leaving him a review on iTunes. I hope you enjoy the interview.
Many thanks to Yannick again for letting Phillip and I and the infamous Johnny Walker join him for a life-changing, challenging, fulfilling voyage across the ocean. It brought back many memories hearing his French accent talking about our trip. We miss you Yannick!
Friends, followers, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from HaveWindWillTravel! A real treat for you here, available for the first time to my entire audience: my two-hour movie from our trans-Atlantic. For those of you who are new, Phillip and I had the good fortune to be invited as part of a four-member crew to cross the Atlantic, sailing from Florida to France, this past June on a 46’ catamaran and I created my first full-length film documenting our journey. I thought it would be a great way to kick off Season Five of our YouTube channel which will be all about our TRAVELs, with our biggest voyage of 2016!
When Captain Yannick first met me (which was around the same time he agreed to let me make this tremendous voyage with him, brave guy), he had no idea who I was really, the kind of videos I made, my audience or how I might portray him and his family on film and, because he has plans to produce video documentaries of his own someday, he initially asked that I not share the movie publicly on YouTube. Now, after having watched many of my videos, particularly the movie itself, and with a better understanding of the purpose of my platform (to help share the realities and rewards of a cruising lifestyle) Yannick graciously granted my renewed request to let me share it with my entire audience, for free on YouTube.
So, kick back, make some hot cocoa, round up the last of the Christmas treats and enjoy the show while Phillip and I explore the vast historic castles, churches and smoky cigar holes in Cuba and work to get videos to you all from this incredible adventure as well as my sail to Isla Mujeres, Mexico this past November and our upcoming sail to Miami in February for the Miami Boat Show (we hope to see some of you there!). Thank Captain Yannick for inviting Phillip and I on this incredible voyage and letting me share the experience with you: a crew of four on a 46’ foot catamaran, thirty days at sea across the Atlantic Ocean. The perfect way to kick-off HaveWindWillTravel 2017!
“Do what you would do if the kids and I were with you.”
This was probably the best advice I could imagine anyone giving Yannick in the moment. He was really wrestling with the decision of whether to pull out of the Atlantic and into the Azores to see if we could get the auto-pilot on Andanza repaired or to keep making way hand-steering toward France. As it stood, we were about a day and a half away from the Azores and about eight or nine days away from France with four capable, albeit a little tired, crew.
This crew member, in particular, is a little crazy. Dancing at the helm is the absolute best way to hold a hand-steering shift.
We weren’t even sure, yet, whether the auto-pilot could be repaired in the Azores and Yannick was rightfully leery of docking his 46-foot catamaran. That was one of the primary reasons he wanted to cross the Atlantic Ocean non-stop. And, now he was debating doing it in a port that may be of no help to him with a crew that had only docked the boat once before.
“There are less variables out here,” I remember him saying.
On the other hand, the crew was growing more tired with each two-hour shift and we were still many, many miles from France. When Yannick reached out to his wife, who was “singled-handing” her own rather daunting journey—impressively juggling a move halfway across the world into a new home with two very small children in tow—Clothilde gave him the best guidance I believe any wife could in that situation and I will forever admire her for it. Although she wanted Yannick home, she needed him home, Clothilde told him to act as if she were there with him so he would make the safest decision. Hearty are the French.
While I would love to say this softened and persuaded our Captain, apparently the French are also stubborn as Yannick was hell-bent on getting his boat across the ocean as safely yet efficiently as possible. While he did want to make the best decision for everyone, he also did not want to stop. I believe even Yannick will tell you, what finally swayed him was a rather stern discussion with Phillip, ever the Marine, who felt it was time to step up and say something.
“You have no reason to risk the boat. That’s what I told him,” Phillip relayed to me later as I was holding my shift at the helm when he and Yannick had their discussion. “We have plenty of time to stop for repairs, the weather doesn’t look any less favorable a week from now and, by stopping, we’ll make the last leg of the voyage with a rested crew and, likely, a fully-functioning auto-pilot. There’s simply no reason that justifies the risk.”
“But you guys said you could do it,” Yannick said. And he was right. We did. Because we probably could.
“But that doesn’t mean we should,” Phillip told him. And he was right too.
Phillip and I have experienced this phenomenon on occasion during a passage. It’s usually not one thing that goes wrong that puts the crew and boat in immediate jeopardy. It’s usually a series of events. Mostly minor in the beginning. Just a small failure or some system that gets finicky, requires your attention and must be monitored, adjusted or repaired more often. Nothing major just something that strains you a little, and then another that strains you a little more. Then the weather turns gnarly. It’s hard to see or navigate. Then another system starts giving you trouble. And before long, you’re much more tired than you realized. You haven’t been sleeping or eating as well as you had before and THAT is when something bad happens, perhaps because of a poor decision you made because your judgment has been weakened or perhaps just because it is the next bad thing that was set to happen and now things are more than you can handle, particularly in your tired state. For Phillip and I, it seems this is how you find yourself in trouble out there. Not usually from one catastrophic occurrence, but a series of them, one after another until you can no longer control the situation. I remember discussing this recently with Andy Schell and he agreed. As he has far more many miles under his hull than we do, I believe it to be true.
Were we fine at the moment? Hand-steering in two-hour shifts with a capable four-person crew? Yes. But it was the first in a sequence of events that could have occurred. It was the start of a series. And Phillip—wanting both himself to have a safe and enjoyable journey across the Atlantic, but wanting more to see his friend Yannick sail his boat safely across the ocean—took decisive action to try and stop the series before it began. “There’s just no reason to risk it,” he told Yannick. While we were essentially strangers when we signed up as crew for this passage, over the course of each blue mile, a friendship grew and I know Yannick appreciated Phillip’s honesty and perspective. By that point, Yannick trusted and respected Phillip and I think, looking back, he will say it was the right decision, although that did not make it an easy one. After the men emerged from what I was told was a pretty tense conversation in the cabin, the Captain decided Andanza would be stopping in the Azores.
It seemed fate agreed with us as it wasn’t long after Yannick made the decision that I was able to get the folks at Mid-Atlantic Yacht Services on the satellite phone and, without much hesitation at all, they said with confidence they could either repair or replace Yannick’s electric RayMarine auto-pilot. They kind of chuckled at me asking so many times. The crew of Andanza had yet to be awakened to the wide range of serious boat repairs MAYS tackles on a daily basis. It makes sense. It’s the first big marina folks come to after 2,000 nm across the Atlantic Ocean. I now know we all underestimated their capabilities because we did not yet know the state many boats are in when they reach the shores of the Azores. We met sailors there who had lost their forestay, cracked their boom, had two feet of water in the bilge, on and on. Our auto-pilot failure was child’s play to them. Laughable almost. It’s no wonder the MAYS folks were chuckling at me.
“Yes, we can fix your auto-pilot. Yes, I’m sure.”
“Okay we’re coming!”
While we hated it for Yannick. None of us wanted his boat to suffer issues and for him to have to put his ocean-crossing on hold for repairs, but once the decision was made (through no fault of ours), I think each member of the crew will readily admit he was very excited to dock in the Azores. Phillip told me before we left Pensacola he had heard other sailors say there is something magical about the Azores. Sharing a drink with your seasoned, salty crew at Peter Sport Café, walking the docks littered with insignia from the hundreds of boats that have come before you and looking out in every direction at the vast blue of the Atlantic. Now that I have seen it, I wholeheartedly agree: there is something magic about the Azores. Up next on the blog, I will share all that magical place has to offer.
But first, landfall!
“Is there a troll down here?” I remember Phillip asking me. I was sleeping in my berth when we made landfall. I peeked my head up out of the hatch and saw it on the port side. Thick lustrous trees. Mountains. Houses with little red tile roofs. A whole hillside looking back at me. I instantly thought of what we must look like to them. A weathered, salty catamaran making our way in to port. Tired and weary we were no more, though. The sight of land invigorated the crew!
Phillip had the GoPro in hand and I’m so glad he captured this moment. Yannick cracks me up. Twenty-one days at sea, thousands of miles of nothing but blue, our first sighting of land and the Captain says …
Hey Crew! My first ever offshore boat tour! This was such a spur-of-the-moment, whirl-wind and might I say WINDY fun trip. I got invited last minute to join a yacht delivery crew taking this very nice 2013 Leopard 48 from Pensacola to Naples, FL. It was a fortuitous union of talents, good sailing sense and great senses of humor among the crew to make for one very memorable trip and a bumpy offshore tour for you! Video Annie is addicted to offshore voyaging. Are you? Let us get you booked on s/v Libra — firstname.lastname@example.org
Also, specifically for our NEW followers and subscribers, Phillip recommended I make a short video outlining ALL of the very cool things we have going on at HaveWind, so you can be sure to get the full benefit of following along, from free books and blogs, to movies and videos, as well as voyage opportunities and giveaways. If you feel like you’ve got the HaveWind groove, no need to watch (just click it open and give it a quick thumbs up for the YouTube love – ha!). It will just now reside on the front page of the website for new subscribers because HaveWind is certainly growing! Hooray!!
These were some of the varying pieces of advice we were getting when we reached out to folks about our shuddering shrouds on the Freydis. To this day (primarily because of this experience) I am not a fan of rig tuning. I don’t like the science behind it (or should I say the lack of science). It’s like Matthew McConaughey’s “fugazi” from Wolf on Wall Street.
“It’s not on the elemental chart. It’s not real.” That’s about what the “proper amount of tension” on rigging feels like to me. Thankfully, Yannick, with the seemingly endless supply of information he had compiled about his boat, found a very small notation in the back of a manual made by the previous owner of the boat when the rig was replaced in 2012 about the amount of barrel that should be visible in the turnbuckle. It was the only resource we had that included a non-subjective component. You know, actual numbers not just “I’m okay, the rig’s okay” feelings. For that reason, it had my vote. And Yannick’s as well. According to the previous owner’s notation, the starboard shroud needed to be tightened until 2.5 more centimeters of thread were exposed in the turnbuckle. The port shroud needed an additional 3.57 cm of thread. With heavy PVC tubes that had to be lifted while two others handled the tightening and measuring below (while the boat was still bashing around underway), it was not the easiest of chores but it was do-able.
With Yannick serving as our Chief Measurer, and Johnny and I awarded the honor of Turnbuckle Turner Nos. 1 and 2 we set to tightening the rig in the early morning hours of June 8th, eleven days into our trans-Atlantic. I learned a good lesson from Johnny that day too. I would say he cracked me up, but I think I actually cracked him up. As we bundled up the tools, a towel and the cotter pins we would need for the job and headed up on deck, Johnny mentioned tying a safety line in case we dropped things. Good idea I thought and I carefully tied a tiny Dyneema line from the turnbuckle to the new cotter pins we would be putting in once we finished tightening the shrouds. When Johnny settled in next to me and saw what I had done, he doubled over chuckling and said:
“I meant tie a line to the tools. We have plenty more cotter pins. We don’t have more tools.”
Ahhh. That Johnny. You can tell he’s been around boats a while. These were the kinds of simple tips and tricks I was picking up out there. All part of why I went.
Once we had tightened the shrouds to Yannick’s measurements, the murderous shuddering definitely subsided. It was so comforting just to hear that sound in particular—such a horrid metallic clanging—stop. That shrill cry is not something you want to associate with a boat beating its way across the ocean. Water on hulls. That’s fine. Taut sails and crashing waves. All fine. Shrouds vibrating themselves to death. NOT fine.
It seemed about the perfect time to tighten the shrouds, too, as the winds continued to howl through our rig that day, holding steady between 22 and 26 knots. We knew exactly where there winds were coming from too: Tropical Storm Collins.
As I mentioned, we got incredibly lucky with the weather on that trip. No matter how much intel, satellite equipment and cautious planning you have or make for an ocean-crossing, a good bit of your fate still falls in the category of “pure luck” because once you shove off with the intent to cross an ocean, you’re exposing yourself to a big open body of water and a boat that doesn’t travel near as fast as storms. We had been watching TS Collins forming in the Gulf and had actually heard from friends first with the worry that it might be coming toward mine and Phillip’s Niagara 35 back in Pensacola. *gulp*
Yannick’s going to kill me when he reads this, but I’ll just be honest. I pleaded with the storm to continue heading west to Texas, or perhaps hook and go east, go across Florida, go anywherebut to our poor little, just re-built boat in Pensacola. Apparently the storm heard me because that’s exactly what he did. The Wednesday on that storm tracker chart above is June 8th, when the storm was just starting to make his turn toward the Big Bend of Florida. We were following it closely out in the Atlantic. Thankfully, on Andanza, we had fantastic weather intel in the form of a hired weather router, a friend of Yannick’s (who proved equally capable) doing the same, as well as Weather Fax, GRIB files and unlimited Delorme texting available to reach out to anyone on-shore with the ability to follow the storm. This may sound awful, but it actually became a little tedious trying to respond to everyone who reached out to us then warning us about TS Collins. Our weather router kept us on a more southerly route while TS Collins dissipated over head in the Atlantic. But, Collins sure brought the freaking wind!
It didn’t seem thirty minutes after we’d finished the rig tightening the morning of June 8th that the blow started to creep to 27, 28 and upward.
Although we had just finished our rather rigorous rig tightening, Yannick instructed the crew to drop the sails down to Reef 2. I told you it’s never boring out there! If you think it’s always sitting around, reading, writing, napping. It is sometimes, but the other days feel like a flurry of projects, one after the other, and you can’t believe it’s time for your night shift already. This was definitely one of those days.
And, sadly, while we did now have our reefing procedure down (thanks to Yannick and his typed-up, taped-up list at each crew member’s station), we still had so many things to learn about that boat. I believe every day crossing an ocean will teach you something new about sailing. However, I also believe every day on passage will teach you something peculiar or particular about that boat (or boats like it). I am actually grateful that we all made it safely across the ocean so that I can now sit here and merely write and share some of these experiences as lessons learned (as opposed to tragedies) because some of the things we survived out there were just pure luck. On that day we battled the Barber Hauler and almost lost in a big way. Our critical lesson learned: Detach the Barber Hauler before reefing.
For many of you who sail with a Barber Hauler often, this may sound like a very basic proposition. Common knowledge. For those of you scratching your head merely at the sight of the word “Barber Hauler” … well, this is why you make trips like that. To learn critical lessons like this. Recall the Barber Hauler was a secondary line we ran from the clew of the genny down to the deck to pull the sail outward away from the center of the boat to open up airflow between the genny and the main sail.
Brandon taught us this during our very first sail on the catamaran as he has raced many boats in his days and learned this trick to increase the efficiency of the boat, particularly catamarans where it is often difficult to make good use of the genny due to the boxy shape of the boat. We had been using the Barber Hauler often on Andanza as it did, visibly, increase the speed of the boat on a close haul. But, we made a serious mistake when we left it on while bringing the sails down to Reef 2.
Recall in our reef drills, the first step was always to head into the wind so we could furl the genny a bit (so she wouldn’t snap and pop and beat Yannick up at the mast while he handled dropping the main). Once furled halfway, Phillip would then fall back off and fill her with a little wind while we set to dropping the main.
Here you can see everyone’s respective positions as well: Yannick at the mast, Johnny at the genny winch on port, Phillip at the helm, and me at the winch(es) on starboard. Here I’m furling the genny while Johnny is easing out the port genny sheet. This is what we were trying to do when the Barber Hauler incident occurred.
The precautionary genny furl was usually a no-sweat first step and one that we could easily accomplish with both Johnny on port and Phillip at the helm on starboard who were both easing out the tension of the genny sheets while I furled her. Our wild card this time was the stinking Barber Hauler, which we had fastened to the genny clew on port. Think of it like a wild, uninhibited bull whip. We had unclutched the Barber Hauler to allow slack to pull through so the genny could furl but we should have detached it from the clew because as soon as the wind came out of the genny the genny now had a live cracking wire in her hands and she started whipping Yannick at the mast with it and Johnny on port.
Soon after I started to furl, I heard shouts. I looked to see Yannick holding his head down at the mast with a hand clasped over his right eye. I looked to Phillip at the helm who was looking to Yannick for instruction, then I looked to Johnny on port and saw it. The snarling beast that was off its chain. The Barber Hauler was snapping on the deck, beating the windows, flailing out overboard and coming back again. Johnny was crunched down near his winch with a guarded hand held over his head. I cleated the furling line and bolted through the cockpit to try to catch the Barber Hauler as I heard Yannick shout to Phillip: “Fall off!” Thankfully, even with the Barber snapping at him, Johnny knew to cleat the genny on port as Phillip was about to put the wind in her before he ducked back down. And don’t think I was heroic. It was probably dumb of me to try to jump in as the hero and wrestle that line in the whipping wind. I could have probably been easily injured as well but (by luck yet again) I was able to get a hold of the flailing Barber Hauler, bring it down on the deck and pull and cleat the slack out of him before he could slap anybody else.
When we re-grouped in the cockpit, having only furled the genny a few wraps, we all could see now that Yannick had been popped in the face by the Barber Hauler. A thick red whelp traveled from the middle of his scalp down to the top of his jawbone on the right side and he said he thought he had blacked out for a couple of seconds when it happened. But, Johnny had truly got the worst of it. He lifted his shirt to reveal a clear, puffed up red slash across his mid-section which I’m sure was painful. But his voice was a little shaky as he rubbed his thumb and told us the line had got caught around his neck at one point and his thumb another.
We were all a little shaken up by the Barber Hauler incident, and were reminded—in a rather stark fashion—that things can go very wrong, very quickly and unexpectedly out there. Like I said, thankfully all we did was suffer some whelps and learn a lesson. We got very lucky that day with the Barber Hauler. But, we still had winds of 27+ and three-quarters of our main sail up. So, once we shook it off and realized the mistake we had made, we disconnected the Barber Hauler and secured it safely to the deck while we then went through, efficiently and safely, the rest of our reefing procedure to bring the main sail down to Reef 2. By that time, we were beat, whipped and each of us ready for rest.
With the second reef in the sails, the boat was still bashing along but it was much more manageable and the boat held steady, romping and ripping through waves, everything soggy and moist, but with each of the boat’s primary systems (the sails, the rigging, the auto-pilot, etc.) all performing beautifully as we clicked off miles and days passed in a wet montage. It was funny the things that would once seem abnormal on shore, now seemed totally normal out there. Case in point:
Doing laundry with saltwater, a bucket and a clothes line? Out there, it’s normal!
Yannick playing dinner-prep D.J.? NORMAL.
Phillip breaking out arbitrarily in “What shall we do with the drunken sailor?” NORMAL.
Daily disassembly of random boat parts? NORMAL.
Finding yourself happy to be awake at sunrise? NORMAL.
Discovery of unidentifiable black objects in the food bin? NORMAL.
Discover of unidentifiable “gobbly bits” in the bilge? NORMAL.
Annie pairing shorts with rubber boots (and 100% pulling it off I might add)? NORMAL.
Yannick taking his morning Nespresso in the engine locker?
Yannick actually just told me a couple of weeks ago when he first watched my movie from the trans-at crossing with a friend that his friend said: “It looked like you spent the entire trip in the engine locker.” To which Yannick replied: “It felt like I did.”
The movement of the catamaran, however? NOT normal. At least initially for us monohull sailors. It was such a strange new feeling. While the cat does not heel, I will give you that. It does do this strange four corners type movement that keeps you guessing which way the boat’s going to throw you at any second. It reminded me of that game we all used to play as kids where you move it right, left, backward, forward, trying to get that little silver ball to fall down through the right hole. Well, we were the ball, and the boat was having a hell of a good time bouncing us off the walls, down the stairs and into our beds. You could almost hear her laughing as she did it. But, it wasn’t miserable. I actually like the feeling of movement underneath me. It reminds me we’re going, traveling over a frothy body of blue to a new place. It’s fun!
The waves, too, were absolutely incredible. Just when we started making our way east of Bermuda, we saw some of the biggest of the trip.
It reminded me of fire. Something so natural and mesmerizing that you watched perhaps because of the seemingly inexplicable novelty of it—i.e., what it is exactly that creates a flame and causes it to dance? What forces move water into mountains and push them toward your boat? The sheer fact that it is threatening is entrancing. You want to watch it because it’s beautiful and because you need to keep an eye on it. The waves in the middle of the Atlantic would loom on the horizon, grow like lumbering hillsides until they appeared taller than the boat on the horizon. Then, as one neared, Andanza’s stern would rise up. You would feel her nose start to pitch downward as the wave lifted her high above the ocean. Sometimes the boat would catch the wave just right and start skidding and careening down the surface, surfing the wave at speeds of 14, 15 and upwards before she lurched into the trough of the wave in front of her. Other times, she would not catch the gravity of the wave on the front and instead it would roll heavy and foamy beneath her. Better still, sometimes her hull would toss around and land just right, contacting a wave dead on and causing a wall of water to slap up and swamp the cockpit.
Still I found it fun! Cool snippet from the Trans-At movie for you here, showing the height of the waves and the moment when I was honored to have witnessed the highest boat speed of the trip. Can you guess what it was??
Often a wave would grab the stern of the boat, kick her out almost 45, 50 degrees off course and you would sit at the helm, hands poised over the wheel knowing it would be your job to get her back on course if Auto did not do it for you but not 100% confident of your ability to do it. It was shocking to see the degree of deviations the auto-pilot could correct. A swift shove off course and he would diligently nose her back onto her heading. Every time. Every wave. It almost created a dangerous sense of nonchalance. We were definitely spoiled with the auto-pilot.
Our main concern at that time was making sure he had power. We were struggling with the generator at the time. According to the MasterVolt, it was only charging the batteries up to like 60%, then it would trickle off and not put any more juice in. Many discussions were had about voltage, amps, watts, generator cables, etc. While I listened, I mostly stayed out of those debates because—pitted next to Johnny, Yannick and Phillip—I certainly was no generator/battery expert. And, to be honest, even with all of their expertise combined, they seemed to be contradicting one another often. But, not discussing it (10 out of every 24 hours of the day like the boys did) did not mean that I wasn’t concerned about it.
It was around 11:35 p.m. the night of June 9th and I couldn’t sleep. My shift didn’t start until midnight and while I usually sank into my berth like a log until the very moment when my relief crew member shook me awake or the alarm on my phone went off, this night I could not quiet my mind. I kept imagining the batteries were draining down to 10% and suddenly there wasn’t enough juice to power the auto-pilot. I imagined this would of course happen when someone wasn’t close enough to the helm (or with enough mental clarity, myself included) to turn the wheel in the right direction the moment Auto gave out in order to keep the wind in the sails and the boat on a safe course. It’s very easy to get disoriented—when you have to run up to the helm and you’re not in tune, at that moment, with the environment and wind direction—and easier than you think to turn the boat in a direction that backwinds the sails or causes a terrible accidental jibe or worse. I kept imagining this would happen during my 12-2 shift and it was ruining any sleep I thought might be possible in the hours that lead up to that dreaded shift. I finally just got out about bed around 11:45 p.m. to look, once again, at the percentage on the MasterVolt and confirm it was at least above 10%. It showed 65% and trickling in.
Yannick was bent over the instruments at the nav station when I staggered behind him, his head hanging like the sad ornament on a Charlie Brown Christmas tree. “I’ve been counting the minutes,” he said as he started to rise to go to sleep. I thought, for a moment, to protest saying it was only 11:45, not midnight yet, but I knew it wouldn’t do any good anyway. I wasn’t going to be able to fall back asleep and Yannick needed rest more than anyone. So, I just let him go. But then I sat and cursed him as my dreaded two-hour night shift was now a dreaded two hour and fifteen-minute shift and was starting now. Uhhhhh. Yannick told me before he went to bed, though, that he didn’t trust the percentage on the MasterVolt. He did not think it was calibrated correctly because the volts were showing 24.62V (plenty). Yannick said the the number to watch was the volts. If they fell under 24.0, then it was time to wake him. The Captain then stumbled off to bed and the boat was in my charge. Uhhhhh.
After thirty minutes of sitting at the nav station below as Yannick had been doing, watching the instruments (particularly the rudder indicator on the auto-pilot instrument showing how far, starboard to port, the auto was truly having to steer the boat) and praying Auto would hold, I couldn’t stand it anymore. I didn’t care if the wind was blowing, if it was wet and drizzly outside, if it was a little cold. My mind would not let up unless I was sitting at the helm feeling connected with everything and knowing exactly what I would need to do if Auto gave out. Bottom line is, I feel safer at the helm. So, I slugged it out topside and it actually was much better. It’s like sitting in a passenger seat of a fast, seemingly out-of-control car, or sitting in the driver’s seat, with your hands on the wheel. I can’t explain it, but it soothed me.
And, my shift actually went quicker because of it. The winds were finally easing off a bit. We had shaken out the second reef earlier in the day when the winds dropped below 25, followed by the first reef when they dipped below 20. While it was still blowing a steady 17-18 during my shift (an amount that would worry me on our Niagara) on the Freydis, with the sails fully up, it was a nice, steady ride. With reliable winds, the big seas were our main concern and I liked sitting at the helm imagining myself actually steering through those collosal waves (that way if Auto did lose juice I could do it when the time came.) Little did I know I would get more than my desired share of that experience on this trip. But, before I knew it, it was nearing 2:00 a.m., the winds were lightening up, Johnny was rousing down below and I was about to hand over the reigns of that bashing boat (one of my favorite feelings) and crash back into my soft, cottony palace of sleep below (another of my favorite feelings). Life was good.
Until the unmistakeable scent started to seep in. The smell of burnt plastic in your berth? NOT NORMAL.
It crept into my dreams at first. I was in a kitchen somewhere scraping an oven. Then footsteps thundered overhead. I started to rouse, but I felt so confused. Where am I? What’s that smell? When did we crank? I blinked my eyes awake to the sight of Yannick, his head careened downward into mine and Phillip’s berth from the hatch overhead, darting his eyes all over the room. I popped my head out of the hatch, coughed up melted plastic fumes and asked what was going on. Then Johnny emerged from the engine room on port with the sad state of the muffler in his hands.
Aren’t offshore voyages fun? If you just said, “Heck yeah!” we need to talk. I’m helping to light a fire under my followers who are serious about cruising by getting them booked on some fantastic offshore voyages this winter, starting with a Thanksgiving voyage with us to Isla Mujeres that we are filling now with Patrons. If you are serious about wanting to travel offshore this winter, send me an email NOW and let me get you on board this fine vessel! Boat tour coming soon.
“I wouldn’t go if I couldn’t take a hot shower every day.”
It was my brother who told me this recently. Sorry, John (if you’re reading this, probably not!), but you did say it and I’m sure you would still stand by it now. We were talking about the Atlantic-crossing, what it was like for me and whether he would ever want to do something like that and that was his response: “Not if I couldn’t shower every day.”
“You could shower every day,” I huffed back at him, “as long as you used mostly saltwater with just a quick freshwater rinse.”
John looked at me kind of funny. I think he seriously forgot it’s saltwater out there and that your fresh water supply on a boat is limited. Understandable as he is my brother. I forget the order of the cardinal directions sometimes and have to say that “Never Eat Shredded Wheat” ditty to myself to remember. We’re both well educated but still blondes at heart.
Love you Bro.
“It would have to be a hot shower, though,” John said. “The water out there is probably super cold. I would want a comfortable shower.”
“Those were some of the best showers of my life,” I responded, instantly, immediately because it was so true.
The second day of the trip, Phillip and I took our first of several showers on the transom of Andanza and it was an incredible experience. There is no better feeling when you’re sweaty, dirty, oily and all gummed up from a passage to be able to jump overboard and submerge yourself in cool, crisp cleansing water. As predicted, the wind in the Gulf was virtually non-existent, which sucked for sailing but was great for a Captain-approved intentional man overboard dip! Phillip and I tied a tow line and jumped in, both of us squealing and shouting “Whoo hoo!” when it was our turn in the water because it just felt so incredible. I don’t care what the instruments said. 2.9 knots? Please! In the water it felt like we were making 10!
Get your drawers Annie!
Water whisked across my body like a running river, washing all of the dirt and grime away and almost sucking my britches clean off! I had to keep reaching back and snatching them to keep them on. It was also difficult to pull my legs back underneath me just to get back onto the boat, but it was so much fun! Phillip and I took turns jumping in, coming back out to soap up, jumping in again to rinse off then helping each other with a warm Solar Shower rinse afterward and I honestly cannot think back on my 34 years and recall a shower I enjoyed more. I can walk up to a tub, turn on the water and have the same “hot shower” experience everyday and it will be just what John craved: comfortable. What I cannot have, though, is a crisp, chilly, invigorating saltwater cleanse like I had on the back of Andanza with an endless blue horizon around me in every direction. That kind of unrepeatable newness is what I crave.
The sunrise that morning, our first on the trans-Atlantic passage, was also a moment I will not forget. We were all kind of shocked that the first sail we raised on the trip was the spinnaker and that we had flown it all through the previous night without a problem. She was still up and fluttering in the bright morning sun when I rose just after 5:00 a.m. May 30th, to find Phillip in his absolute happy place. He had made a pot of coffee and was standing in the cockpit just watching the sun rise. His serenity was infectious, so I just stood next to him and watched too.
“Some minutes go slow but the days go fast.” Andy Schell with 59-North told me this recently when he interviewed me about my first ocean crossing for his “On the Wind” podcast. (Such an honor! You know I will let you all know when that comes out!) Andy said someone had told him that’s what it feels like to cross an ocean and I could not agree more. That moment with Phillip, our first morning on passage, watching the sun rise, felt so vivid and slow. I remember the feeling of the cool morning air, my hair dancing and tickling my face, the sight of the spinnaker with sunlight glowing through it.
What I don’t quite remember, though, is the rather large chunk of time from that moment until our shower on the transom some seven, or perhaps eight, hours later and what I did during that time. Some moments tick by like an eternity but other stretches of time pass by in a blurry succession and all of sudden you can’t believe it’s already Thursday, or June or just 1,000 nautical miles left to go! Time slows and speeds like an accordion and the song is over before you want it to end. Andy was right about that.
While the lackluster wind did not make for great sailing, it did make for an absolute beautiful backdrop for the hours of reading, writing and daydreaming the crew did as we motored our way across the glassy Gulf.
We knew we were going to have to stop in Key West to fuel up at the very least and it appeared—at the rate we were going—we would get there in about three days, although no one was in a rush.
I tried to make myself do some “work writing” (I call it)—the various articles and pieces I write for my legal marketing clients—during those first few days, but to be honest, I found it difficult to make myself do anything that felt like work. With a beautiful blue backdrop, the smell of salt water all around, water as blue as a sapphire with sun streaks that pierced down for miles, it was hard to force your mind to do anything but relax and reflect. This is probably one of the aspects of blue water passages people love. It’s like your mind rejects stress. It flat out refuses to fret over anything that doesn’t involve your immediate surroundings.
With each of us having pushed ourselves to our stress-load limits in the days before we shoved off, the crew rested a great deal during those first days on passage. And I say “the crew” because the Captain, Yannick, remained in boat project mode, every hour, every day of that trip. Unlike the rest of us, he never slowed down.
And if you think that’s a lot of photos of the Captain working, I laugh at you. I have at least 103 just of Yannick doing boat projects. I’ll do a whole montage one day! It’ll be great.
The only thing the crew focused on, however, was the status of the boat and when our next shift was. And, for Phillip, what he was going to make us for lunch and dinner!
It was tuna pasta with beets for lunch that day. Thank you Chef Phillip!
My shift that night was ten to midnight.
I was sitting in the cockpit with Yannick while he was finishing what we all started to call the “dinner shift” (7-10pm). That was an awesome shift because it usually included the fun entertainment of everyone making and eating dinner and often a movie. That shift was cake. It seemed it was the 2-4am shift that most folks didn’t care much for.
I was getting ready to take over around 10:00 p.m. when I saw a zip of white flash by in the water. Perplexed, I craned my head over the side to try to decipher what I saw. At first it was just darkness, black water. Then I saw another zip of bubbles, quick and nimble, fast up to the bow and it finally clicked in my mind what I might be seeing. Dolphins. In phosphorescence. I nudged Yannick and told him to look.
“They’re all up at the bow!” he said. “Get your tether. Let’s go.”
I couldn’t scramble into that thing fast enough. I was fidgeting and fighting my way into my life vest. And, I would say I didn’t think to wake Phillip because I knew he was tired and needed to rest up for his midnight to 2am shift, but that’s not true because I wasn’t thinking about Phillip at all! Not one bit. There were dolphins at the bow! And, they were glowing! And I was going! Yannick was tapping his foot at the helm waiting for me so we could both go together. (We were still sticking by our rule that no one was allowed to leave the cockpit to go foreward at night alone.)
The sky was dark. The moon had been rising around 2:00 a.m. every morning since we set off from Pensacola, leaving often a dark night sky with a barely visible horizon, until the moon would rise a fiery orange on the port beam. Yannick had his head lamp on and lit my way to the bow. I heard them before I could see them. The gentle puff of dolphin’s breath, three puffs, at least four, in a matter of seconds, which told me there were many dolphins, and they were everywhere. I could hear them on our starboard side, near the starboard bow, and near the center of the boat where Yannick was already looking over.
I perched on the edge near the port side, my feet dangling over the bow feeling the crisp salt spray from the water and I saw them. Dolphins. A dozen at least. Zipping through the water at seemingly lightning speed from one hull to the next, leaving behind, each time, a trail of glitter. At least that’s what it looked like. Their bodies gleamed with phosphorescence, moving so fast they left a sparkling trail behind. I have never seen such a thing and I believe the only experience that could compare would be this same sight and phenomenon again: Dolphins in phosphorescence. It was breathtaking. Inexplicable in its beauty. These creatures move with such speed in the absolute dark, completely aware of their surroundings, our boat, each other, the entire body of water it seemed. They had no fear. Only joy. And in the moment, so did I.
It was a very memorable moment to share with Yannick, as well. We both looked at each other like two kids at an aquarium, saying nothing, just smiling. I’m sure he remembers that night. The glowing pod stayed and zipped along with us for about ten minutes. When they finally trailed off to the east, their last brilliant streaks fading into dark, Yannick and I slowly made our way back to the cockpit where it was my turn to hold the helm. I kind of thought Yannick would stay up a little with me to re-live the dolphin moment, but “Goodnight” he said as he made his way down below.
I’m glad my shift that night began with such a lively, invigorating scene because it was a long, slow two hours after that. The “time accordion” was slowly stretching apart. I forced myself to stay alert. Do a walk-about around the cockpit every ten or so minutes. Look at the instruments. Check the engine temp. Without any wind, we had been motoring all day, letting the starboard engine pump us across the Gulf.
It was a calm night, but cloudy, which meant no sparkling chop, no horizon. There is something eerie about motoring straight toward a black sheath. You’re not entirely confident that you’re not about to slam into something. It’s hard to look away from the bow. You have the instinct to keep verifying but each time you do it just stirs your worries anew because you can’t see anything. Shifts like this, like Andy said, ticked by slowly. I was always so grateful when a worrisome shift ended to hand over the helm with the glorious, gratifying knowledge that the boat hadn’t struck something and cracked into a hundred pieces during my shift. That didn’t happen when I was at the helm. And, I know how awful and selfish that is to say, but it is just the truth. I also shocked myself at how easily and quickly I could fall into a deep sleep after my night shifts because the tediousness of the worrying had exhausted me so.
The crew was able to fall off into deep slumbering comas often with the mere closing of our eyes. Johnny slept ten hours a day those first few days. While all three of the crew members had been working incredibly hard the final weeks before we left to complete work that had to be done or finished ahead of schedule so we could leave the country for six weeks, Phillip and I had been doing that at a desk while Johnny, as a diesel engine mechanic, was doing that often on his feet or hands and knees finishing several rather large engine repairs before he left. And, he’s 72! He’s an impressive guy that Johnny. And, he always held his shift so it didn’t bother anyone at all that he slumbered so much in between during those first few days. It actually turned out to be a blessing because the next morning we sent him right down in the hole at the crack of dawn.
I heard the rumble of the port engine cranking beneath me in my berth early the morning of May 31st. Something felt a little off about it as we had been trying to split time between the engines and Yannick had told me the night before he was planning to run the starboard engine until well into the following day. I thought something might be wrong, but I was also tired and didn’t quite want to wake up yet so I just rolled over. Then I heard rushed footsteps. Then Johnny’s voice. Then I woke. It was just after 5:00 a.m. I popped my head out of my hatch on the port-side as Phillip rustled out of bed and I heard Yannick’s report.
In the middle of his 4-6am shift, the starboard engine had shut down again on its own. No sputter, stutter or puttering out. It stopped immediately. Yannick had already checked the oil and other fluid levels, the temp, etc. There were no visible problems in that regard. He was preparing to go overboard to see if something had fouled the prop as Johnny, still blinking himself awake, starting making his way down into the starboard engine locker.
“Well, it’s a good thing you got a lot of rest yesterday, Johnny,” Phillip said. Johnny just smiled and shook his head as he eased down into the hole.
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We all stood helpless, watching the boat inch closer and closer to the Catamaran. I closed my eyes and gritted my teeth (the only thing I knew to do at the moment) while my mind conjured horrific images of boat crashes:
Okay, not deadly, fatal crashes, but pricey ones all the same. I was sure the boat was going to come out of it looking something like this:
If not worse:
But, just as I was bracing for the worst, I felt a tug on the anchor line. It had caught. Finally. I gripped hard and shouted to Phillip. We didn’t want to yank it up so he said it was best to let some line out and let it dig in a bit. A dicey proposition when your boat is headed straight for one three times the price, but it wouldn’t help anything if the anchor slipped. I let some more line inch through my hands as the boat slowed. Finally. We eased up to the Catamaran with just enough room for the guy to push us off of his glistening gem. We handed him a line and he helped us walk our boat over to an empty spot at the dock and tie up. The relief of having the boat stopped and secured made us forget momentarily about the engine. At least she was tied up and not going anywhere. (Ted Bundy would be so proud!).
The Catamaran guy was a big help, though, and quite understanding. Turns out he had also had a boat that was broke down on the other side of the river. It seems engine problems are common in the boating community.
Boat humor with a legal spin … man I’m on fire today!
We joked that there must be something in the water, but that was actually a legitimate concern. We checked the fuel pump to see if it was clogged and preventing fuel intake or wasn’t separating the water from the fuel, but it seemed fine. We checked the impeller (where the boat pulls in sea water as a coolant for the engine) to make sure it wasn’t clogged, which could have caused the engine to overheat. But, no dice there either. We simply had no answers. We had checked and filled the oil that morning, checked the coolant, gassed up, and she had cranked fine. She was running fine, up until the moment she wasn’t. We felt like the guys on King of the Hill, just standing around scratching, and drinking, and wiggling a wire here and there, with no real progress.
A lawn mower focus group if you will.
We tried to crank her a couple more times at the dock but she wouldn’t even turn over. It was almost like she had a dead battery, but we knew that wasn’t the case because the house batteries were full and running fine. We were at a loss.
So, Phillip had me get on the phone and try to find a mechanic that could come out and take a look at the engine. The bad news was most of them were located in Apalachicola – a good 30 minutes away – without the resources or time to make a special, emergency trip to the Carrabelle River to check us out. But, thankfully, after a handful of calls and some groveling and pleading, we were lucky enough to find a willing victim. Turns out he worked out of a marina just around the bend in the river from where we had docked, which he had been operating out of for over twenty years, and his family owned a local restaurant on the Carrabelle River. In those parts, he was the diesel engine guy.
Coincidence? I think not!
The mechanic’s name wasn’t Bailey, though, it was Eric. And he looked nothing like Will Ferrell, in case you were wondering. He had a big job on a barge to get to that day so he told us he’d stop by on his way out to see if our problem could be fixed quickly and he could get us back on our way that day. Eric arrived within the hour, and he was super sharp. He immediately began tinkering and turning bolts and troubleshooting and crossing items off of his differential diagnosis. We were glad to see him roll up his sleeves and go to work so quickly, but not pleased with the fact that he, like us, kept coming up empty-handed. We continued our super-helpful practice of standing there, watching, scratching … and drinking, but apparently it wasn’t enough. Eric came up greasy, sweaty and shaking his head in defeat. He was going to have to take the engine apart to figure it out, but he had to get out to that barge. He said he would send his guys back out in a couple of hours to get to work on it.
Unfortunately, we were approaching high noon, a very hot high noon, and we were tired and drained and just … weary from the passage. Phillip and I sat on the dock, baking in the heat, frustrated with the situation, waiting for the engine boys to come back, both of us thinking of any place we’d rather be than stranded there on a hot dock with a broke-down boat.
Perhaps lounging in soft hammocks on the beach:
Enjoying cocktails at sunset:
Or back at the helm of that beautiful boat, a gentle breeze blowing over us:
Anywhere but there. But we had a tough decision to make. It was already noon, on Tuesday, and we had at least another 48 hour passage ahead of us, assuming the engine could be fixed on the spot. The possibility of even making it back to Pensacola by the end of the week looked grim. We talked it through and decided we had to call it. We were going to have to leave the boat at the marina in Carrabelle and make the four-hour drive home by car. We were truly disheartened. Phillip and I wanted to make this passage, to bring our boat back to its home-port, once and for all. Make the dream a reality. But we just didn’t have the time to spare, especially with the status of the engine currently a complete unknown, and any solution hours, days, maybe even weeks away. We hated the thought of leaving her there, alone, miles away from home, without any answers, and we hated the thought of coming back to Pensacola in some crappy rental car, when we were supposed to sail in on crystal green waters, in our shiny new boat. Phillip and I sat somberly on the dock, one apologetic hand on the boat.
Unfortunately Mitch, however, wasn’t sharing in our mood. He bounded up to us like Tigger at the circus, all giddy and goofy, and said, “You know this restaurant here opens at noon. Do you think they’ll have curly fries? I could really go for some curly fries.”
Phillip and I exchanged a pointed look: Did he really just say curly fries?
I swear, if we didn’t get that rental car soon, I was going to shoot him.