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!
“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 …
“What follows was one of the more fun-loving and honest interviews I’ve done in a while.” Those are Andy’s words and they mean the world to me. I am honored to be able to share this with you all, my podcast interview with Andy Schell from 59-North.com. I had been talking with Andy off and on for a little over a year about the two of us potentially teaming up on a joint project to create something both of our audiences would enjoy and Andy had the great idea to get the exclusive post trans-Atlantic interview from me. If Andy Schell asks, you say “yes” I can assure you, and so I did. And here it is: an intimate conversation with Andy Schell about my first ocean crossing. Please leave a review on iTunes to help Andy’s insightful conversations reach more sailors and share on Facebook as well. I hope you enjoy the interview.
Annie Dike is a reformed lawyer-turned-sailor – that is, she left the profession in her early 30s to pursue a more passionate life. Her and her partner Philip sail a Niagara 35 on the west coast of Florida, and they recently crossed the Atlantic to France on a high-tech Catamaran. Annie & I discussed how she left the lawyer world behind, what the Atlantic crossing was like for a first-time ocean sailor, her various movie projects, her friendship with Pam Wall & her passion for helping others pursue the cruising lifestyle.
Annie Dike is a truly interesting & inspiring character, and what follows was one of the more fun-loving and honest interviews I’ve done in a while. Annie has an infectious personality, and has been using her lawyer-like work ethic to offer cruising opportunities to other aspiring sailors. Mia & I recently teamed up with Annie to offer one of our offshore passages aboard Isbjorn to one of her fans – check out Annie’s Patreon page on patreon.com/havewindwilltravel for details.
Also, remember Andy and I have teamed up to offer one of YOU a chance to join Andy & Mia on one of their incredible offshore adventures. Become a Patron, read Andy’s offshore voyaging FAQs on his website and email me for a chance to win!
Hey there HaveWind followers! As you may have seen on Patreon on Facebook, Phillip and I recently hosted a Skype Q&A session with Patrons who had watched the movie from our Atlantic-crossing and had some questions about the boat, maintenance, provisioning, things that frightened us, things we learned, etc. While it is not a perfect recording (this was my first time hosting a group Skype) there are some great segments in here, primarily from Phillip, where we share our thoughts, lessons learned and experience from our first ocean-crossing aboard a catamaran. I thought you all might get a kick out of it. Yes, a kick. Enjoy!
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.
ERRNNGH. ERRNGH. We interrupt your regularly-scheduled program for this important announcement:
Phillip and I just filed our Permit to Enter Cuba!
Hey crew! I thought I would take a short break from the Atlantic-crossing saga to get you all a bit up-to-date with our current planning for the Cuba trip this winter and what’s been going on with the boat. Patrons are already aware of this through their weekly “Patron’s Extras,” but since they’re getting the complete 2-HOUR Trans-At movie tomorrow, I figured they wouldn’t mind me sharing again with you all here ; ). Let’s dig in.
Our New Rig:
So, the second mast pull. That’s coming out on the video this Friday, the reason for it and what we learned in the process. While it was very disheartening news for Phillip and I to hear, just a few short weeks after we had splashed back from spending the winter on the hard, it ended up (as most things that initially appear to be set-backs) being a not-so-devastating hurdle and another great learning experience for the two of us. I had a lot of fun making this week’s video on it and watching Video Annie go up the mast time and again as well as flail and kick and curse at the top. That’s just pure fun. I hope you all enjoy the video and learn a little in the process.
Going through all of that footage also inspired me to make another video for you all soon covering everything Phillip and I have learned both in the shipyard and with the second mast pull about how to DIY inspect, repair and even replace (if necessary) your rigging. Wait till you see what happened with our new hi-mod mechanical fittings …
You’ll see in the next two videos that, unbeknownst to us, our re-rig was not yet complete when we left the shipyard back in March, but after some more sweaty DIY hours were devoted, she is NOW officially done, stronger than ever and ready to take us to Cuba and anywhere else we want to go over the next ten years.
Heavy Weather Sail Planning:
Once we got all the new rigging in order, our next step was our sail plan. We wanted to make sure we had all possible options for sailing in heavy winds in case we found ourselves in a serious storm out in the Gulf, this was primarily important as we recently decided to sail straight to Cuba when we toss the lines this December. Cuba is the destination we want most to reach and explore this winter and while we’ve hopped along the west coast of Florida before (and love it), this time Phillip and I want to undertake and accomplish our longest offshore passage just the two of us. We also want to get to Cuba as soon as safely possible, so it is the destination of priority. If the Atlantic-crossing did anything for me and Phillip, it was to confirm our mere belief at the time that we would enjoy long offshore passages. We LOVED each of the 4,600 nautical miles we covered from Florida to France, and we are excited to put those kinds of blue-water miles under our own hull, just the two of us.
So, we’re going to do it. Toss the lines in Pensacola and shoot straight for Cuba in (hopefully) a safe, smooth five-day run, our longest yet on the Niagara. The best way to ensure we have a safe passage is to make sure we, the boat and our sails are ready for whatever Mother Nature sees fit to throw out us out there in the sometimes tumultuous, unpredictable Gulf. Hence, the heavy weather sail planning:
Our main sail on the boat is rather new. We replaced it in early 2014 in anticipation of our sail to the Florida Keys that spring.
We had two reefs in the main, rigged with one line at the mast that pulls the tack down to both Reef 1 and Reef 2 from the cockpit, as well as two separate lines that pull the main down to Reef 1 and Reef 2 at the clew, also operated from the cockpit. We have been very pleased with this system as we marked each of the lines the spot for Reef 1 with blue tape and Reef 2 with red tape. That way we just drop the main to its mark then pull the reef lines to theirs, all from the cockpit, making the procedure fast and safe.
One additional option we wanted to add, however, was a third reef point in our main sail for the Cuba trip. It was actually John Kretschmer—in a seminar he gave at the Miami Boat Show we went to back in February, 2015—who said: “The first thing I always do when I’m prepping a boat for delivery across the Atlantic is have the owner put a third reef in the main.” That has stuck with Phillip and I ever since—as did many things Kretschmer said (like how much fun it is to cross the Atlantic going east on the northern route, that particularly influenced Phillip’s decision to join as crew on Andanza this past June). Once again, thank you Kretschmer for sharing your sailing knowledge and experience.
With this advice in mind, Phillip and I got with our local sailmaker—Hunter with Schurr Sails in Pensacola—and talked to him about putting a third reef in our main. I also got a really cool tour of his sail loft in the process. Don’t worry, this will all be coming out in a “How to Rig Your Boat for Heavy Weather Sailing” video soon.
We got the main back from Hunter two weeks ago and took it out to Ft. McRee where we raised her up to the third reef to get a feel for how much (or should I say how little) sail that is and re-ran the reefing lines back in ourselves (a good lesson). It was cool to truly understand how these systems work in order to repair or re-configure them if need be while we are underway.
Case in point, one of the things Hunter told us about the third reef he put in the main was that (in anticipation of heavy weather) we could re-run the reefing lines to be able to pull down to the 2nd and 3rd reef from the cockpit (as opposed to the 1st and 2nd as it is run now) and we can do that now that we have learned how the reefing lines are run. Alternatively, Phillip and I have also discussed merely using sturdy nylon straps or ties around the boom to tie in the 3rd reef, a fool-proof time-tested method but also one that must be executed up on deck, potentially in heavy weather, so we may follow our sailmaker’s advice and run the 2nd and 3rd reef ahead of time. These are all contingencies we are trying to think through and plan for ahead of time in case we do find ourselves in heavy weather in the Gulf, but it is neat to see some of the things we are learning while merely out-rigging our boat for offshore sailing that will translate to some seriously-handy skills when we’re out there cruising.
We also had Hunter make us a new storm sail. In 2014, also in prep for the trip to the Keys, we had our local rigger make us an inner forestay—out of rugged, durable line—that we can rig up for heavy weather (enabling our sloop rig to convert into a cutter). We merely have to hoist Annie up. (It’s a good thing she loves to climb the mast!)
I attach the inner forestay at the mast, then we attach it here to the foreward D-ring on the deck via an adjustable turnbuckle to really tighten her down.
After we had the inner forestay rigged up in 2014, we raised our “storm sail” (from the previous owner) for the first time and Phillip found it was really far too big and flimsy to be considered a heavy weather sail. We were surprised to find it stretched all the way back beyond the mast and seemed to be too thin of a material to proclaim itself capable of handling heavy winds. When I took it to Hunter at Schurr Sails, looking at it and the bag, he thought it was a genoa for a Hunter 30, not in any way a “storm sail.” Go figure.
But, as cruisers we try to never waste! So, Phillip had the ingenious idea to see if Hunter could convert this sail into a back-up genoa that could furl around our forestay by taking off the hanks at the luff and sewing in a the proper bead that would enable it to run up our foils on the forestay. We knew from experience (when our genny halyard exploded on our way to Ft. Myers in 2014 and our genny fluttered uselessly to the deck) that it can be very frustrating to lose the ability to use such a powerful sail.
While that incident was the result of a failure of the halyard, we know there is always the possibility our genoa might get snagged, ripped or otherwise irreparably damaged during our sail to Cuba and, if that occurs, it will be good to have a sail we can hoist in her stead, even if it’s not near as big or powerful. It’s like having a spare in case you have a blow-out. It will at least get you home (or to port). Hunter said this would be no problem and he whipped it up for us, so we now have a back-up genny.
Regarding the storm sail, we had to decide how big (or I guess the real question is how small) we really wanted it. Did we want a (as Hunter called it) “God Help Us” sail that was only 25% of the inner forestay triangle, or a 50% sail that would make us more comfortable in 20+ knot winds but still afford us enough speed to control the boat to get the heck out of a storm?
Decisions, decisions … It was a tough call as Phillip and I are definitely—after our incredible first ocean-crossing this past June—planning on crossing the Atlantic in our boat sometime in the next couple of years, so we do want gear for our boat that serves us well both on our voyage this winter as well as longer, more blue water voyages in the years to come. We decided on a compromise and had Hunter make us a 35% sail (10oz Dacron cross-cut) that we hope will be just what we need for the Gulf-crossing this December as well as ocean-crossings in the coming years. We haven’t pulled and tested that one out yet, but Hunter finished it last week and Video Annie was obviously excited to have it in the backseat of the car.
A New Dinghy:
Phillip and I have been in need of a new dinghy for quite some time. For those of you who have read my first salty saga, Salt of a Sailor, you know all-too-well what happened to our first dinghy—a fantastic 6-seater Caribe model WITH a 2-stroke, 15 hp outboard that we never got to use. For those of you curious, check out the book on Amazon or email me for a free eCopy. It’s a whale of a tale.
All I will say is we will never do davits … Thankfully for our first summer on the boat, our buddy Brandon with Perdido Sailor (he’s been there for us right from the start) loaned us a 4 person collapsible Achilles that has served us very well over the last few years for coastal cruising.
Ain’t she a beaut? Thanks again B!
After our never-doing-that-again experience with davits and our experience with the loaner from Brandon, Phillip and I have found that we like a dinghy that can broken down and stowed below decks, particularly when we’re making a long offshore passage. We like clean decks (as we spend a lot of time sitting up on the deck while underway, most often in our awesome Sport-a-Seats!).
Remember they’ll give you a 15% discount if you use Promo Code HWWT2015! Woot! Woot!
We also like the fact of not having another item we need to strap down and secure on deck in case we get into rough seas. Having a dinghy that travels below decks is definitely preferred for us, so far. When we start traveling and island hopping more (with the ability to tow our dinghy more often) we may change our minds, but at this juncture Phillip and I believe the stow-able dinghy suits us best. And, the one Brandon had lent us—while it was a little small, probably would have suited us just fine for our cruising this winter—but the floor of the darn thing kept leaking. Keep in mind, this dinghy is 15 years old, has been packed and unpacked (by Phillip and I alone) and run up on the beach more times than I can count. So, she’s definitely paid her dues. Trying to prolong her “borrowed time,” however, Phillip and I spent the better part of last summer patching her eighteen times at one point,
and even trying to float the bottom with GFlex in order to stop the leaks. (Brandon thought that was pretty funny.)
No dice. She was still taking on water. So, we knew it was time to upgrade. With everything I have mentioned previously about our needs and desires when it comes to a dinghy. We decided on a 9-foot, 6-seater Achilles that collapses and stows below decks. We debated for a while between the slats that remain in the boat when rolled up or separate floorboards that you insert while assembling. To keep the various pieces lighter, enabling easier transfer from our aft berth in the cabin topside for inflation, we chose the floorboards. Phillip was really excited the day the new dinghy came in! So much so that we blew her up right there in the middle of the living room floor!
Phillip cracked me up trying to row away from the couch! Row, Phillip, row!
The instructions also cracked me up depicting a very detailed “downward dog” move necessary to snap the floorboards in place. Phillip and I found this was a pretty accurate portrayal, though, when we first blew the new dinghy up on deck and started fitting the floorboards in. Don’t knock the downward dog!
We tested our new dinghy out over the long Labor Day weekend and found she worked great. We even towed her behind the boat for the first time and left her inflated at the dock when we got back. I’m afraid we’re getting lazy!
It was a fun rainy weekend but we had a great time anchoring first for a solitary night out at Red Fish Point, one of our absolute favorite places, then towing the dinghy west to anchor out behind Paradise Inn for a little bit of crazy beach night life.
That’s also when we made the “Phillip’s Famous Mojito” video that I hope you all got to check out on Facebook!
Great opportunity to check for leaks!
Behind Paradise Inn (love that place)!
Rain could never slow our “good times” train down. No sir!
Once we felt the boat, rig and safety items were pretty much handled it was time to file our Permit to Enter Cuba! This is the permit (USCG 3300) you have to file with the United States Coast Guard to get permission to enter Cuba:
There are twelve designations you can travel under as your purported reason for wanting to travel to Cuba, ranging from humanitarian aid and education to journalism, professional, etc.
After speaking with several cruisers who have traveled to Cuba recently (thank Wally Moran, with SailingtoCuba.blogspot, for the chart above), many of whom have arguably far less writing credentials or intentions than me, I have decided to travel under “Journalistic Activity,” as I do plan to do many write-ups, articles and videos documenting our voyage to share with others who plan to make the same trip. Phillip and I will let you all know as soon as we hear back from the USCG with (hopefully) approval to enter. Do note the 3300 form is only needed to RETURN to the U.S. from Cuba. I have been told by several sources that all you need to ENTER Cuba is a passport and boat registration.
It does make things a little difficult, however, as you have to “declare” your departure and entry dates on Form 3300 so far in advance. We’re cruisers. All plans are written in sand at low tide. Apparently, the USCG doesn’t think this saying is so cute. They want dates and final answers, and they want them now! We’re planning to pick a date in mid-December and hope all works out. I had a great Skype chat with Wally Moran about our plans to sail to Cuba. Wally has co-authored a cruising guide on sailing to Cuba, Cuba Bound, and manages a VERY helpful Facebook Page (Sailing and Cruising: Cuba) devoted specifically to helping cruisers navigate their way to Cuba, and he gave me some great tips on documentation, registration and getting through Customs. I hope I can piece together enough from that conversation and other resources to make a video on “How to Get Your Permit to Enter Cuba.” Thank you again for taking the time to chat with me Wally!
One of the last big items on our list is the life raft. Phillip and I are actually having Captain Yannick help us with that from France as, if you recall, he had to really scramble to buy a new one and have it shipped to Pensacola in time for our shove-off date of May 28th and, in doing so, he came across a very good deal overseas. We’re still working out the details on that and have not yet ordered, but we are grateful to Yannick for the help and the money we will likely save due to his savvy online shopping skills. It never ceases to amaze me the many diversely-talented people you meet while cruising and their willingness to help you along the way, and vice versa.
Otherwise, this is our last “short list”:
There is not too much left to do now that the boat is ready. It’s mainly ordering and testing out some navigational aids and new communication devices. After seeing the convenience (and pleasure) of having a Delorme on the boat for the Atlantic-crossing, with unlimited texting, enabling us to chat with friends, family, even professionals if needed, along the way, Phillip and I have decided to purchase a Delorme with likely the same or similar package as Yannick did as well as an iPad for this same purpose during our cruising this winter. We will be sharing the tracker link as well as messaging capabilities with Patrons. If you have enjoyed this update and would like to stay current with us as we prepare to cast off in December as well as see our movements in real time and chat with us along the way, please Become a Patron.
That pretty much brings you all up to date. As you can see, Phillip and I are incredibly excited to be embarking on this next voyage now on our newly re-built and re-rigged boat, just the two of us. The Atlantic crossing has only fueled our desire to travel sooner and further on our boat. I hope the movie I made from our first ocean voyage does the same for you. I will put it out for rent on YouTube soon for those who want to see it but would prefer not to go the Patreon route. Watch for the announcement here.
Oh, oh, one more exciting thing that happened this week! Annie got her wisdom tooth pulled out! This time NOT by pliers. Phillip and I had to see it as fortuitous that she decided to only start painfully piercing her way through the fragile tissue of my gums once we were back onshore, although we got some good laughs imagining how the wily and resourceful Captain Yannick might have handled that at sea. “Get me some epinephrine, some Novocain and the vice grips.” I can assure you, he would have done it. Thankfully, it was only four days of irritating turned intense pain then one hour of wide-eyed, wide-mouthed Annie watching needles, rods and forceps being passed before her eyes before this puppy came out. Good times.
The cruising community is really very small. Meet cruisers in one port and you know you’ll likely run into them somewhere on the other side of the world. It’s also a very giving community. Lend some cruisers a hand here, and you’ll likely have a hand held out for you in the next anchorage. As the salty crew of Andanzahopped off the boat in Key West, we were greeted right there at the dock by a couple of cruisers we knew from back home in Pensacola.
Amanda and Saunders are live-aboards who had just started their cruising adventure a few months prior. They were living out on the hook in Bayou Chico while Phillip and I had our Niagara on the hard during the big repair/re-fit earlier this year, and it was cool to see them now actually out there, doing it—exactly what Phillip and I would soon be doing—living on their boat and cruising to different ports and cities.
Amanda and Saunders were definitely earning their good “cruising karma” that day by making the two-hour run with us n Key West like pack mules, lugging bags, schlepping supplies, even offering their bike if we needed it as we made our way quickly to the local West Marine, the grocery store and the hardware store.
We tried to grab lunch at one of mine and Phillip’s favorite spots in Key West. Phillip and I discovered it when we cruised down to the Keys in 2014 and it was the only place in Key West we were willing to sacrifice two meal cards for and dine at twice: Paseo’s. We kept talking it up to Amanda and Saunders who had only been in Key West for a few weeks and hadn’t experienced this gem yet for themselves. “The bean and rice bowls are as big as your head!” I assured them, “with gooey melted cheese, fresh tomatoes, avocado, corn, sour cream, like eighteen different ingredients in every single bite.”
I was getting a little carried away. But it is an awesome little Caribbean joint. And, they have whole roasted ears of corn slathered with butter and dusted with salt, pepper, paprika and fresh parsley. Easily the best corn I have ever had (even over my grandma, Big Mom’s, famous BBQ corn).
Paseo’s is also (although Phillip hates when I use this word) super cheap! A $12 bowl can easily be split between two people and have you both waddling away absolutely stuffed, which is why I knew Amanda and Saunders, as cost-conscious live-aboards, would LOVE it too.
But I think our desperate Caribbean love jinxed us because when we finally made our way to Paseo’s, it was closed that day. Dag nabbit!
But we grabbed some samiches at another little bistro, “To go!” Phillip said, and started lugging all of our goods back to Andanza. Then a guy with a golf cart pulls up and asks if we want a ride. We had ventured about 8 blocks out chasing the Caribbean cuisine so we said “Sure!” and hopped in. He seemed so excited to play even just a tiny role in our offshore adventure when we told him we were about to cross the Atlantic. Amanda and Saunders felt the same, like they were sharing in it just a little by joining us for a brief moment in Key West. It was heart-warming to see people so ignited by our journey and willing to help.
When we made it back to the boat, we found Yannick had just completed the daunting fuel top-off back at the boat, having filled not only the two fuel tanks, but also the additional jerry cans we had brought along that we had dumped in while motoring across the Gulf. He was a hot, sweaty mess, but sporting a smile as he helped us bring the goods aboard, stow them away and get ready to toss the lines and head back out.
We waved goodbye to Amanda and Saunders and the folks at the dock and were back out in the Gulf in a matter of thirty minutes, munching our sandwiches and talking about our next waypoint. The stop in the Keys was so fast, it almost felt like it didn’t even happen because we were excited to be back underway. Out there, holding our shifts, traveling across a bounty of blue water, is where we wanted to be. The crew of Andanza had been five days at sea and it had only fueled our desire to stay out longer and sail further. “To France!” we cheersed that evening over dinner in the cockpit.
I held the 2:00 a.m. shift that night and learned, or I guess taught myself, a good lesson in offshore sailing. While I had considered myself a fairly alert sailor, before setting off on this voyage, I realized I was fooling myself. I would often read during my night shifts, listen to music, write stories in my mind, which is fine, intermittently, but you should make yourself—for the entire shift if you are able, but at ten or fifteen minute intervals at least—focus entirely on the boat and your surroundings. Entirely. You got that? Ask yourself: How is she doing? How are the seas treating her? How is the sail trim? Where is the wind coming from? What has its pattern been the last half hour? Are you on your heading? Is she holding steady? If the engine is running, what’s the temp? The oil pressure? What is the sea state? Do a 360 around the cockpit, looking in every direction. Check for chafe on every line. Force yourself to not be complacent, not for one minute.
Once we made our way around the tip of Florida and started to turn north up the east coast, the winds finally found us. They were on our stern during my shift that night and threatening to kick the boom over into an accidental jibe. I had brought my book up with me to the helm, out of habit, but that is the last time I believe I will ever read on a night shift at the helm. Because I was worried about a jibe, my thoughts crystallized into acute focus on the boat and I found myself, early during the morning hours of June 3rd, asking and answering all of those questions, quizzing myself almost, on the status of the boat. Once I was able to answer all of the questions, it was time to start the inquiry again and after six or seven rounds of this, I found an hour had passed rather quickly and I had thoroughly enjoyed the feeling of being intimately connected with the boat and her surroundings the entire time.
The thought of then picking up a book and reading while on watch felt a bit like driving and texting. Like I was going to miss something and cause an accident. I am not in any way saying reading during a night shift is dangerous or should not be done. What I simply realized, for myself that night, was that I enjoy my shifts more when I direct all of my mental efforts toward the boat. Time passes quicker and I feel safer. This discovery came to me merely the fifth night of our passage across the Atlantic and it marked a mental milestone for me as I spent each of the dozens of night shifts I held after (as I am sure I will hold each night shift on a boat in the future) in this fashion—in complete fixation on the boat.
After my shift, I crashed hard in our berth. Another benefit of exerting significant mental energy on the boat is exhaustion. I never found myself struggling to fall back asleep after my night shift was over, even in surprisingly noisy or rough conditions. When I groggily came to the next morning around 9:00 a.m., I found Phillip cheerfully making toast in the galley.
“We caught a mackerel,” he said with a smile. “It’s in the fridge.”
“Sweet!” I replied and thought I could sure get used to this lifestyle. But it’s all encompassing. My first cup of coffee in hand and I stepped out into the cockpit to find Johnny and Yannick had dissected the starboard engine once again. Rusty, greasy pieces were laid out on a tablecloth on the cockpit floor like they were playing the game Operation. Yannick turned to Phillip with a little stone that had come out of the elbow in his hand and said:
I admired Yannick for his resilience and his sense of humor, even in the face of what might seem to many a daunting boat project. Hearty are the French.
Johnny and Yannick were trying to solve, yet again, unsatisfactory performance of the cooling system in the starboard engine. Johnny said the flow coming out of the exhaust was too light while the stream coming out of the pisser was too strong.
And, I don’t know if I can take credit for that one as an “Annie term” as it seemed everyone called the tiny squirt stream out of the engine the “pisser.” After a few days on passage, and multiple conversations about the coolant systems in the engines, I found myself simply saying it, not knowing when or how I had learned it. While I did learn some French on the voyage, the first language I started to pick up was Diesel.
Johnny believed, because the pisser was strong but the exhaust was light, that there might be a clog between the two, so he and Yannick had removed the exhaust elbow from the engine and were now taking turns blowing through it, the grease from the piece leaving crusty black marks around their lips. I could tell Yannick knew I was trying not to laugh at them when he handed the dirty elbow to me saying I might be the most well-equipped crew member to “give it a blow.” Ha ha.
We were surprisingly able to have a pretty good time doing most anything on that boat, even greasy projects. I’ll spare you the days and details spent dicking around with the coolant system on the starboard engine as it seems it was a multitude of issues that converged into one big problem: the engine not holding temp. Once the elbow was cleaned out (as it was found to be partially clogged), Johnny also discovered the cap on the water pump was not fastening down tight enough to enable the system to seal. Having heard good things about them, Yannick had put SpeedSeal fast caps on his water pumps, in case the impellers had to be changed often or quickly during our passage, but it seemed the screws on the cap weren’t holding well enough to allow the pump to draw water in. Think of a straw with a hole in it. The suction was compromised. However, after some creative tapping in the cap and creation of a few “magic bolts” Yannick was able to fix the issue and the starboard engine had no more coolant problems after that.
Notice I said no “coolant problems.” Engines are such fun.
Thankfully, we were able to undertake all of this engine work while still making great progress up the north coast as the winds were holding steady and strong. It was somewhere off the coast near Ft. Lauderdale when we first broke the 10-knot barrier on the boat. Some fun raw 10-knot footage for you here:
Yes, it required a Whoo Hoo! You’ll hear plenty of Annie “Whoo Hoos!” in the 2-hour MOVIE. We’re only one week out now from the premiere! Get your ticket to view on Patreon.
The fastest I have seen our Niagara go is 8.3, and that was surfing down a wave. I’m confident I never want to see her go faster than 10 knots. Moving so fast on a sailboat was a wild feeling. It seemed no matter how much wind you put on her stern, Andanza could take it. No heeling, no groaning, she just went faster. It was strange, almost frightening to watch the wind climb to heights that would tighten my throat on our Niagara—15, 20, 25 and upwards—and the cat held fast. And it was a good thing, too, because a thick, blue wall was forming off our starboard bow as we sailed around the tip of Florida and right into our first storm of the trip.
“Let’s go down to second reef!” Yannick thundered from the mast. In the slick, glassy waters of the Gulf, we had barely raised the sails, much less had any need to reef them so this was our first time running a reef drill. Looking back, I’m sure every member of the Andanza crew will tell you we should have done this sooner, even if just for a drill. Or better yet, intentionally just as a drill. Safety was definitely a very high concern for the Captain and crew and we had talked many times about reefing often, every day at sunset, etc. but we had missed the all-important need to actually DO IT, several times over, so that we as a collective crew could reef quickly and efficiently, like a well-oiled machine. Now here we were, in 28 knots of wind, watching it increase and preparing to execute our first reef drill.
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I watched him in anticipation as Johnny eyed it and swished it around a time or two. Water dripped from Yannick’s nose onto his forearm as he, too, strained to see.
Having confirmed the prop was not fouled, Yannick was more curious than anyone as to why the starboard engine had cut out again on the early morning of June 1st.
“It doesn’t have enough fuel in it,” Johnny said. Yannick’s head craned back quizzically.
“How do you know?” he asked, locking eyes with Johnny. This was the same kind of direct stare that often made me second guess whatever I had just told Yannick and start to mumble. Yannick has a rabid desire for scientific, rational answers. He needs things to make sense for him logically before he can accept them and move on. While it is fun to watch this trait play out as he devours another technical manual or draws a diagram for you of how the flaps on an airplane wing work, it can be a little intimidating when his ravenous thirst for logic is directed at you. At least that was how I felt when he would shift those probing eyes in my direction.
I want YOU to give me answers. Annie says *gulp*
It didn’t seem they had the same impact on Johnny, though, with his unquestionable knowledge gained from experience.
“I can feel it,” Johnny said simply, circling the fuel in the filter round and around, along with his thoughts on it, likely thinking back on everything he and Yannick had done to the engines in the weeks before we shoved off. It didn’t take long for the two of them to come to the conclusion that the fuel had been polished (because it had been sitting for the tank during the months of repairs) but that not all of the fuel filters had been replaced afterward. Another lesson learned. And, it was pretty impressive to see Yannick whip out a plastic bin with at least ten spare fuel filters (I told you he was pragmatic) and put a new one on. Once again, we seemed to face a pretty daunting problem—an engine that would not run—and we were able to reach a fairly easy solution, implement it and move on. I could already tell all of these little “it doesn’t have enough fuel in it” experiences were going to serve Phillip and I well when we set off to sail our own boat across an ocean.
Within a matter of forty minutes, we went from Captain overboard to check for a fouled prop and a disassembled fuel system to a fully-functioning engine and bagels on the burner all before the start of my 6:00 a.m. shift!
Once the buzz of the incident fizzled off, Yannick (who had just finished the 4-6) went back to his berth to sleep. Johnny headed back to get some more rest as well and Phillip began to fiddle in the galley making coffee. I sat, a little tired at the helm, knowing I was about to be there for another three hours and secretly wishing the fuel incident had occurred just an hour or two later as a nice distraction mid-shift.
Does that sound horrible? Of course it does! Hoping for some sort of equipment failure just so I could be entertained with repairs during my shift. Yannick’s going to howl when he reads this. That’s not quite what I meant. I never hoped for a failure, but I will admit I did—occasionally, on some lackluster shifts—hope for some sort of occurrence (dolphins at the bow, a ship sighting, some interesting conversation over the radio, very benign things like these) to break up the monotony of my watch. That’s only because the minute you were relieved from your post a whole world of wondrous activities waited! You could then read to your heart’s content, cook up an extravagant meal or sit down and write a vivid, gloriously-detailed story, just for the heck of it. Outside of cleaning the boat and assisting the Captain with his many-a-boat projects (which was rare, Yannick truly took on most of the boat work in solitude, declining assistance often) that’s really what our days out there were filled with and it was heaven!
It was funny to watch each crew member start to gravitate toward one of the four rotation days they liked better than others. The 6-9am, 7-10 dinner shift, followed by the 4-6am “sunrise shift” the next day was definitely my favorite. Sadly, that day was always followed by the stupid 4-hour shift day, which was actually my idea initially.
“We’ll do one long shift each day, right in the middle of the day when everyone is awake so it will help make the shift go quicker,” is what pre-Atlantic Annie thought. Well … even when everyone is awake, that doesn’t mean they’re really inclined to do anything that makes your four hours at the helm go any quicker, and why should they? It’s their off-time. Outside of boat maintenance or other necessary chores, they should be doing whatever the heck they want, whatever helps them relax and best prepare for their next shift. Oftentimes, you were left to fend for your creative self during that four-hour shift. I sometimes counted each of the 240 minutes.
I actually got pretty crafty in finding at least one way to shave this four-hour sentence down when I would ask the Captain, very benignly, very nonchalantly, right at the start of my 12-4: “Yannick, we need to switch time zones today. Do you want me to handle it?”
“Yeah, thanks,” Yannick would say, his thoughts consumed with yet another diesel engine diagram.
I would walk away with a wicked smile, take my post at the helm at noon and immediately change the clocks to 1:00 p.m. Muuuhahahaaa. Sadly, this very peculiar pattern of time changes always occurring very conveniently during Annie’s 12-4 shift was soon discovered by the wily Captain Yannick. The next time I asked if he wanted me to handle the time change, blinking and batting my doe-like eyes, he went straight to the watch schedule taped on the saloon wall to find, yes, indeed, it was Annie with the 12-4 that day and he replied:
“No,” with a playful grimace. “I’ll handle it later.”
Dag nabbit! I did have a good run, though. Four of the seven time changes we had to make from Florida to France did occur during my four-hour shift. My God I’m terrible! Who wants me to crew with them now?
But, I was paying my dues that morning. Watching the horizon. Watching Phillip read contentedly in the saloon, counting the minutes. Then suddenly a match struck and the minutes started to burn. It was somewhere around 7:30 the morning of June 1st when we heard the first startling whizzz of the fishing reel on the port transom. Phillip was up and was piddling around in the galley when I heard it at the helm. My heart started pumping, my eyes darting around the instruments, the engine panel, the chartplotter thinking surely this sound was some kind of alarm that was telling me, as the helmsman, that something was very wrong with the boat. Your mind (or mine did, at least) went instantly there when a loud noise sounded out. But, this sound was a good one! As my frantic thoughts finally stopped swirling and started to come into focus it finally dawned on me. Fish. Fish on. The fishing rod! Then Phillip, far more capable of actual spoken words than me at the moment, shouted it out as he scrambled out of the saloon.
I checked everything at the helm to make sure I could leave my post to help with this awesome new development. We had a fish on the line! The line we’d had out for three freaking days now. “All good here. FISH ON!” the instruments told me, so I went. With some tag-team reeling and some creative baptisms-of-rum at sea, we pulled in our first fish of the trip! A hearty tuna!
She made a mad bloody mess on the port transom kicking and flailing around until we had her tamed, but boy was she a beauty. That slick, silver body, contrasted with the rich crimson blood spilling out. Such a right and proper feeling of carnage! Often I feel bad for a fish when we catch one and I watch it flip and kick itself to death, but this time, it felt right. Like we were out there, living on the sea, and this was the bounty she had provided us to keep us fed and motivated and moving along. I can’t explain it, but I felt like the fish was a gift and I was grateful.
After an hour spent filleting her and scrubbing the blood off of the transom, my shift was then magically over! The Distraction Fairy shined down upon me those days. On days that she didn’t I imagined her a crafty little thing flying above the dodger, hiding from my line of sight, deciding whether I deserved something fun that day or not, like a naughty Tinkerbell.
Obviously I had a lot of time to think about it.
Phillip and I decided to chill the fish filets for a few hours so we could make a huge sushi spread for lunch. This was one of the those fun moments you had only talked about in the many weeks before we shoved off, when we were discussing fishing equipment, sushi ingredients, and how much fish we might eat during the passage. Now those visions and predictions were here. Sitting in the form of four hunky maroon filets in our fridge. Phillip and I had experimented one evening before the trip making our own sushi at home from fresh tuna bought at Joe Patti’s. I had never made sushi before but it was really very easy, as long as you have all of the ingredients on hand (most of which keep for weeks except for the cucumber or avocado) and there’s something about home-made sushi that just tastes better. (Well, assuming you get the rice mixture right–not too much vinegar, not too much sugar.)
Phillip likes rice on the outside.
I prefer them seaweed out with cream cheese!
The cool thing about making the rolls yourself is you can make them however you want! And we were about to put that sushi-rolling experience to use making an awesome spicy tuna spread from a fresh fish pulled right out of the Gulf. As with many things I had already experienced in my life—baths, afternoon naps, sushi platters—the version of those things experienced while we were underway crossing an ocean became instantly “the best,” because the sushi platter we all feasted on in the middle of the bright blue Gulf on June 1st was the best of my life.
I also had another “best of my life” that day. (Some days out there were full of them.) Soon after our filling sushi lunch, when the entire crew (except for Yannick who had the 12-4 that day, take that!) was reading and dozing, we were all snapped wide awake when Phillip spotted a pod of dolphins off the port bow, rippling in the water, dipping and jumping and coming our way! Phillip, Yannick and I all made our way to the bow of the boat and watched as eighteen (by my count at least) bottle-nosed dolphins zipped and played in the glimmering jewel-toned waters of the Gulf.
I had never seen that many dolphins at one time, all converging, swooping and swishing together. It’s amazing how agile and aware they are of each other and how quickly they are able to meet up, communicate through clicks and whistles and them swim instantly in sync. I don’t care how many times I see them, dolphins will always take my breath away and make me sit, jaw dropped, the goofiest grin on my face and stare like a kid at the Wonka factory. I ran down below to see if Johnny wanted to come up and see the show but it turned out he had the best seat in the house from the escape hatch in his berth, and I caught it all on film! Friends, I give you a fun little clip I shared with Patrons back in June:
Another fun project I decided to tackle that day was to try out the OCENS sat service Phillip and I had purchased for the trip. (Detailed blog post outlining the various services and packages we considered, what we purchased and why HERE.) And, after some fiddling and holding of the sat phone up to the heavens (seriously), I successfully sent my first email that day from the glassy Gulf of Mexico!
I wrote it ahead of time (it was my first “Atlantic Log” post for Patrons with a picture), so the only time I spent “on the clock” was about four minutes acquiring a signal, inserting the text, uploading the image (recall OCENS has a feature that automatically compresses the photo for you to decrease the upload time) and sending the email. With a data rate of $1.39/minute under our package that meant roughly $6.00 each time I wanted to send a write-up with a photo, which in my mind was perfectly quick, affordable and worth it to enable me to send followers an up-to-date report and photo while abroad.
My only disappointment was my misunderstanding that the emails could only be sent from my phone so the typing took longer, but when I am forced to write less, my writing is always better. One of my absolute favorite quotes about writing is from Mark Twain: “I didn’t have time to write something short, so I wrote something long instead.” This is so true. It’s easy to babble. So, the “phone limitation” (as do many things that are initially perceived as a limitation) turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
The GRIB service could be useful, too, in that we could download a fairly detailed (wind, wave and current) GRIB file for the region of the Atlantic we were sailing in at the time in about six minutes (so roughly $8.00 each time you downloaded). Yannick, however, had such great weather service in the form of a hired weather tracker, who analyzed the weather patterns and sent us new coordinates roughly every 24 hours, a friend who did the same (just for fun and who proved to have a keen eye for heavy weather diversion), as well as WeatherFax on the boat, we didn’t really need the additional GRIB service available under our sat phone plan. But, it’s always good to have a back-up system, so Phillip and I did not regret the purchase. What we vowed to get next time we head offshore, however, is a Delorme! That thing was awesome.
Yannick had purchased a Delorme package that allowed for unlimited texting on the iPad via the Delorme app and that service proved to be invaluable, both in terms of seeking out answers or help when dealing with a non-urgent boat, navigation or medical problem and to simply stay connected to friends and family while underway. Phillip and I will definitely be getting a Delorme for our cruising this winter to Cuba and beyond, for this reason. We also shared Yannick’s tracker link with Patrons so they could follow us each step of the crossing and message us along the way, and we will do that again with our trip to Cuba as that was a really fun experience to share with close followers, friends and family. (Get your Delorme ticket now!)
“It’s going to take you two months to cross at this rate!” some of our friends and followers were saying during those sluggish days in the Gulf, when we were motoring bare poles on a sheet of satin, barely making five knots. And, at that rate, they would be right. The winds were non-existent in the Gulf.
Even the birds were beating us to Key West.
Do you see the bird here?
While glassy waters are beautiful, they don’t offer much in the way of sailing. This crew was ready to get around the tip of Florida, into the frothy waters of the Atlantic and find some stinking wind! Be careful what you wish for. Those first few slow days, we all simply counted our blessings that the engines, swapping from one to the other approximately every 10-12 hours, were still chugging us along and kept trucking toward Key West so we could re-fuel and re-provision.
Seeing as we were headed to port for one major supply, the Captain wisely decided to check to see if we needed others. Which provision comes to mind first? If you said water, you would be correct! Yannick enlisted me that afternoon as his trusty water maker mate and I controlled the water maker panel from Johnny’s berth in the port bow while he diverted the product into a separate container so we could taste and test it before sending it into the main tanks.
I watched Yannick sip, smack and frown, sip, smack and frown before he brought the bottle to me and handed it over without saying a word, which did not bode well. I dutifully tipped it up and repeated Yannick’s sip, smack and frown, just the once.
Sadly, a system that had been making non-salinated 60 parts per million water was now making a salty 290 ppm concoction that wasn’t going to keep anyone happy or hydrated. We chocked it up to the making of the first batch in the pure, pristine waters (ha!) of Bayou Chico. Whoops. Whatever had caused it, though, it was clear we would not be making any potable water on this trip, so in addition to fuel, we also needed to stock up on water (and lots of it) in Key West.
“Land ho!” I shouted when she came into view off the starboard bow, although I’m not even sure what that phrase truly means. Why the ‘ho’? (Dictionary.com says it’s used “as a call to attract attention” … I guess that’s fitting for many reasons.) But, knowing what something really means has never stopped me from saying it. I can’t tell you the origin of “Whoo Hoo!” but now having watched over a hundred hours of Atlantic-crossing footage, I can confidently tell you I say it too much. (Movie will be coming out Sep. 22, 2016 on Patreon! I’m allowed to say it this time … Whoo Hoo! : ) It was exciting, though, to see shore emerge on the horizon after our five serene but slow days crossing the Gulf.
The Captain gave the crew two hours to jump ship and run our errands in Key West. This was no leisure visit. We were on a mission. Key West in 3 … 2 … 1 … GO!
If you all are enjoying this story, I have (soooo many) more! Become a Patron for an additional weekly post giving you an up-to-date report on mine and Phillip’s current adventures and boat projects and our preparations for sailing “To Cuba and Beyond” (said in a Buzz Lightyear voice) this winter. A HUGE thanks to my many supporters and followers who make all of this fun sharing possible.