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!
This is it! Our official goodbye. We are out! Off! Headed to Cuba! See you next year. Phillip and I were dreaming about this moment every day at the shipyard, every time we encountered a new problem, found a new leak and had to break out another thousand. It all lead to this. We are sailing to Cuba. We’ve spent months preparing, researching and packing and we have had a great time sharing the process with you in Season Four of the YouTube Channel in our “How To” series. We don’t know when we’ll get wifi again or have time to put out our next video. It may be a few weeks. But Season Five will be all travel. We’re taking you with us in videos to Isla Mujeres, Cuba, Key West, Miami and more. Stay tuned and Happy Holidays Sailors!
And, as our continued thanks for all of your support and following along, we put together one last season finale for the YouTube channel talking about and showing you all of the safety gear we will be traveling with and covering our last minute checks (including one unfortunate discovery and repair of a raw water leak) before shoving off. As always, we hope you find the information helpful (and fun!) and enjoy following along on our journey. Stay tuned on HaveWindWillTravel’s Facebook page for updates via our Delorme tracker while we are underway. Wish us luck and fair winds and have a fantastic Christmas!
For any of you looking to do your own offshore voyaging, I have included below a link to our complete 12-page bow-to-stern inventory of the boat in case this sparks some ideas for you of what to stock, how to stow it or how to organize it. Included in here is all of our spares, boat supplies, food, fishing gear, safety gear, etc. Plaintiff’s Rest is loaded down!
And, another Christmas goodie for you! I wrote an article about our rotten stringer repair that will be coming out in the January 2017 issue of SAIL Magazine. It gives me a tingle to think how everything is so connected and truly happens for a reason. It was October 2015 when we watched a fleet of boats sail out of the Pensacola Pass in the Pensacola a la Habana Race and, when we saw a gallant 60-footer pass by that, Phillip and I decided–right then and there–we were going to make a plan to sail ourselves to Cuba. We didn’t know it at the time, but it was Captain Ryan on Libra and we’ve all since become very good friends and I now have a new marketing client who I love to work for (he pays in offshore voyages ; ) … is there anything better?) And, it was the very next weekend after we made that decision (Blue Angels November 2015) that Phillip and I found our rotten stringers. But, Phillip decided–right then and there, with the knife blade still sticking out of the wood–that it wasn’t going to stop us. We would haul out, do the repairs, re-rig at the same time and SAIL TO FREAKING CUBA! It actually motivated us further and because it was so much work getting our boat ready to go, the reward is that much sweeter. And now, right before we shove off, the story of the whole incident comes out in print for you all to read while we voyage. There is sometimes a mystifying symmetry to life that takes my breath away. The good, the bad, the rot. It all happens for a reason and always teaches you something in the process. Never give up!
Very exciting video for you here guys. Our 4th Gift of Cruising will be a five-day offshore adventure sail from Pensacola to Miami with us on s/v Libra to attend the Strictly Sail Miami Boat Show, boat show tickets included. Super cool, right? We will depart out of Pensacola February 10th and sail to the show. I will be speaking at the show (so you can come heckle me!) and Libra will be IN the boat show so you can come walk the docks, tour her and meet Phillip and I while you are there. We will give this gift away at the $500 Patron reward level — help us make this happen by becoming a Patron and emailing me to let me know you are available during the passage dates and you want to go on an offshore voyage. In addition, if you would simply like to go ahead and book this passage to make the trip with us, feel free at SailLibra.com! We would be excited to have you! Thank Captain Ryan with SailLibra for this generous donation as well as my many Patrons who make these Gifts of Cruising possible. Get inspired. Get on board.
Also, because it is the season of giving, I put together another full-length video for you all on the channel in our Boat Tours section. It’s my first motor vessel tour! I didn’t even know Gulfstar made motor yachts, but this one was certainly impressive. Twin Perkins diesels, a generator, water-maker, 500 gallons of fuel, 250 gallons of water and insane amounts of storage. Thank Phil for the tour of his 1979 Gulfstar 44, m/v After Five. I blame all Video Annie comments in the outtakes on the wine he kept feeding me while I was working! Enjoy the tour!
“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 …
Even after crossing the Atlantic, I still believe some of the worst wind and sea state I have faced has been in the Gulf of Mexico. As Phillip and I prepare to sail across it to Cuba this winter, we want to be ready for whatever the Gulf may dish out. That means heavy weather sail planning in the form of a strong, small storm sail, a third reef in the main, a back-up genoa, and a convertible inner forestay. Follow along as we rig our Niagara out for heavy weather offshore sailing. Only 28 days to go!
If you have seen our Atlantic-crossing movie, I know you want to meet this man.
We’ve had so many followers and Patrons ask me so many questions after watching the movie: “Why non-stop?” “Why did you have so much trouble with the engines?” “What other spares would you have brought?” All valid questions that Phillip and I are happy to answer, but who better to ask than the Captain? Yannick definitely loves to talk about his boat and the lessons learned from the Atlantic-crossing and he has graciously agreed to offer up some of his time to share those with you, my followers. He is a very interesting man, with many diverse talents and pursuits and I’m excited for you all to get to know him better.
So, here’s the deal. We can only handle so many on a call. Just like the Patreon Skype session with Phillip and I discussing the Atlantic-crossing, we will open it up to the first ten folks to sign up. First come, first serve. Reach out to me in a comment below, or on Facebook or via email. GO! I will record the Q&A session like I did last time and share later with you all here so everyone will get the benefit of the discussion. Also, I will share with anyone who signs up to participate but who has not yet seen the Atlantic-crossing movie a link to view the movie for free so you all can watch it over Thanksgiving (while I’m voyaging to Isla Mujeres!) and start deciding what you would really like to ask Capt. Yannick about the voyage. You can also rent the movie ($2.99 on YouTube) here or Patrons get free viewing. The call will be Thursday Dec. 1st at noon, CST. (As Yannick is seven hours ahead, this seemed to be the only reasonable overlap of time that wouldn’t force him to give an interview at 2:00 a.m. his time. My hope was that any 9-5’ers who wanted to participate could take lunch at your desk and jump on the call.)
Thursday, Dec. 1st at 12:00 p.m. CST — Skype with Capt. Yannick
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 — email@example.com
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!!
“Read all about it!” Hey HaveWind followers. I hope you’ve got a BIG cup of coffee in hand, because there is enough awesome cruising content here to keep you entertained for hours. If only you had more hours, right? I wanted to share with you all the “Patron’s Extras” I’ve been putting together each week for my Patrons which includes an up-to-date newsletter covering our sailing, boat projects and cruising activities for the week, a Cuba Prep update (only 37 days to go, Holy Schnikes Batman!), offshore voyage opportunities, a sneak peek of each Friday’s video and TONS of footage from our everyday adventures, big and small. Become a Patron if you’d like to receive these “Extras” hot off the press! Or wait for them each month here. Either way, kick back, enjoy your java and BINGE!
It’s simple: meet sailors, make friends, then offer to crew and bring good booze and snacks! I just returned from crewing on a pretty spur of the moment yacht delivery on a Leopard 48 and I can’t wait to share the footage, lessons learned and boat tour with you:
But, the last time I was in the Gulf prior to that trip was when my good friend Captain Ryan took Phillip and I and a handful of friends and Patrons out for a day sail in the Gulf on the gallant s/v Libra. We had a great time taking a break from work, boat projects and Cuba prep (only 42 days to go!) and enjoying the beautiful blue waters we have right in our backyard in Pensacola. Thank Captain Ryan for making this fun footage possible by checking out his offshore passages at SailLibra.com. Then join a trip on Libra yourself and come have turkey tacos with me in Mexico for Thanksgiving or join us for New Years in Havana! There’s still room! Jump on it firstname.lastname@example.org!
“You know, I knew it was going to be things breaking, stuff needing to be fixed, repaired, maintained, but I thought it would occur at a rate that I could keep up with it. If it’s like this all the time, it’s no fun.”
I quoted that right from my log that day. I remember when Yannick said it. He had just come out of the “engine den” beneath his bed on starboard yet again and was blowing off some completely understandable steam and frustration with the amount of systems on his boat that were giving him trouble.
Yannick’s engine den.
As I have said many times, while an ocean-crossing is going to be hard on any boat and luck has a lot to do with it, looking back on it, Phillip and I believe the reason Yannick was having to deal with so many issues was because his boat had not been sailed recently. She had been very well-maintained and newly refitted and upgraded, but she hadn’t been out on a passage in over a year. She hadn’t been shaken down. That’s what we were doing … for 4,600 nautical miles. And, while Yannick truly was a trooper through it all, facing one headache after another, like anybody would, he did have his “this sucks” moments. Frankly, I think he handled it better than I would have had it been my boat. I’ve had my moments …
And, sadly, after all Yannick had suffered so far (engine troubles, the watermaker, the generator, the spinnaker), the worst of our problems still laid ahead. The first of which started to rear its ugly head when we found Auto would turn-notto. I wrote about it to my Patrons in my mid-crossing Atlantic Log #3:
Atlantic Log #3: Auto Turn-Notto:
This is what it usually looks like when you’re on watch on Andanza. If the conditions are calm or otherwise manageable, the auto-pilot does all the work and you can easily kick back, hands free and read a book during your stint as long as you periodically monitor the conditions (wind speed and direction and engine temp if motoring) and do an occasional 360 to check the horizon for ships and obstacles (few and far between out here) or, more likely, rain clouds or squalls. Since we left Pensacola Bay on May 29th, the trusty auto-pilot has been holding us on a steady course to France about 99.94% of the time (give or take). The crew is very aware of our luck in this regard and happy to do anything which keeps “Auto” happy, fed and functioning to continue this trend. This would be a very different passage if we had to hand-steer this boat all the way across the ocean and we are very aware of that.
Through a freak series of events, we learned yesterday, however, that if Auto WERE to shut down unexpectedly, we might not be able to properly steer this boat. When we put Auto on standby yesterday to test something completely unrelated, we were surprised to find … Auto turn notto (to the left anyway). It was wild. Once Auto was on standby, you would turn five, maybe ten degrees to the left, then the wheel would tension up and become too tight to turn any further. You could turn to the right just fine but when you went back to the left you’d lost whatever ground you had traveled to the right, leaving only another five, maybe ten degrees then the same insurmountable tension. Yannick described it as “ratchet steering to the right.” Surprisingly, each time we re-engaged Auto, he would take over just fine and turn to the left with no problem—almost as if he was mocking us. “See guys. It’s easy,” he would say with a laugh.
Because Auto kept successfully re-engaging, it was kind of a not-yet-big problem. As it stood, Auto was working fine, but if he went out (and we all, of course, separately imagined this happening to us during one of our lonely night shifts), we would have a good bit of canvas up, with often 20+ apparent winds on the beam and only the ability to turn right. NOT a situation in which you want to find yourself. So began our hunt for the cause and potential fix.
We started with the steering cables and the chain behind the helm. A long series of turning, tugging, pulling and checking ensued only to find the tension was not in the cables. The afternoon continued with many focus group sessions, diagram-drawing and plenty of head-scratching. After several hours we finally determined it was the arm itself of the linear drive Auto that—for whatever untold reason—did not want to disengage and allow the quadrant to move freely to the left when both put on standby and turned off completely. That Auto is one stubborn dude!
After some more configuring and brain-storming, we decided if Auto was to go out the proper procedure would be to remove the cotter pin and disconnect his arm from the quadrant so we could hand steer (to both the right AND the left!). Unfortunately this procedure will likely take place in a frenzied hurry while the boat is drifting off wind with canvas up and ratchet-to-the-right steering only. Again NOT a situation any of us are looking forward to but it is one we are prepared for and can handle thanks to some inspection, forethought and communication. Until Auto goes out, however (a prospect which may not happen) it is, as I mentioned, a not-yet problem. For now, we thank our lucky Auto karma and continue during the day to hold hands-free watches while devouring read after juicy read at the helm. It’s my watch now so you’ll have to forgive me, but I really must get back to this book: Horn Island Dream, written by our very own Pensacola small business owner at Intracoastal Outfitters, Wes Dannreuther!
“That won’t last another 500 miles.” Johnny’s not one to sugar-coat things. And he sure didn’t here.
He knew the fact that the auto-pilot arm would not properly disengage when we put her on stand-by was a sign the unit was deteriorating. No one disagreed with him, but we really didn’t have grounds to say otherwise. When Auto was on, everything was sunshine and hands-free steering. So we decided to not let it be a big problem until it WAS a big problem. The Sea Gods seemed to reward our faith by sending us a few days of sunshine, relaxing hours spent reading with fish on the line! Remember in the last segment when we told Johnny what to wish for on his birthday? It must have worked. Can you say: “FISH ON!”
Or better yet, get your “Sushi on!”
Yannick’s best tuna smile!
Soon the winds found us again, though, bringing steady streams of 20-25+, thankfully aft of the stern, and we were really bashing and crashing through some big seas.
The waves were set apart, mind you, with long periods in between so it wasn’t too rough but it did make for the occasional wicked bash on the catamaran floor and definitely a wet, spitting ride in the cockpit.
For that reason, Captain Yannick shut us all in the cabin and we monitored the instruments from the interior nav station during our respective shifts. All the more reason we were praying Auto would hold out there.
But Johnny’s prediction was holding true. It wasn’t 400 miles into Johnny’s predicted 500 that Auto started his “death squeal.” Yannick monitored vigorously and decided to take off the auto-pilot arm to see if he could disassemble the unit and perhaps repair it underway before it eventually died altogether.
Unfortunately he found the unit was crimped shut by the factory making manual disassembly and repair underway impossible. Yannick re-attached the arm and set to making an auto-pilot failure contingency plan as the unit squealed in the background. The B&G began to register “no rudder response” often, perhaps every 1-2 hours. But if you turned the auto-pilot off and back on, it would pick back up and work just fine. When this began to happen every half hour, however, Yannick knew it was done and all hands were ready and waiting on deck when the auto-pilot eventually gave out on the evening of June 16th.
Now, why did Auto die? Because he was 82 years old! In auto-pilot years that is. Yannick’s RayMarine linear unit had over 10,000 miles on him and he had already steered the four of us over 3,000 miles across the Atlantic, so, he really was on borrowed time. You couldn’t really fault him. He’d done his job. Like several systems on Yannick’s boat, it was simply time to replace or upgrade. Yannick knew he was going to have to do it, but whether or not to stop what was supposed to be a NON-stop trek across the Atlantic ocean to try and replace the broken auto-pilot in the Azores or have the crew hand-steer another 8-9 days to France and replace it there was Yannick’s dilemma. We all knew going into this voyage with Yannick, one that if you recall he was fully committed to make entirely on his own, that Yannick did not want to stop. He had even said this himself in the power point presentation he made for us to help us prepare for the trip.
But, also within this power point, Yannick set forth his four hopes for this voyage, one of which was that we all would:
I swear, that is straight from the Captain’s checklist. But Yannick also wanted to get his boat across the pond to France as quickly and safely as possible. This was no pleasure cruise. It was a yacht delivery with a strict mission and the crew was instructed to “have fun” within the bounds of that mission. No one faulted Yannick for this. No one said a thing when we sailed right past Bermuda. We had all signed up for a potential non-stop voyage. But, now, safety was playing a role in Yannick’s mission. Whether or not the crew could hand-steer the boat all the way to France (which we all told him we could and we all were committed to do if that was his decision) would not answer the more important question of whether or not the crew should hand-steer the boat to France. We all began to dress warmly, donning gloves, hats and full foul weather gear for our now far-more intense hand-steering shifts at the helm while this very hard decision fell on the shoulders of our Captain, Yannick.
Fun little video I made for you all from the Atlantic-crossing movie footage capturing some of the heavy bashing we were doing those days and the unfortunate demise of our auto-pilot. The saga continues. Stay tuned!
Also, exciting news! We will be drawing our Andy Schell offshore voyage giveaway winner THIS WEEKEND. I will announce the exact time soon and we will try to live stream the drawing if we have good wifi on the hook, so you can watch us pull the lucky winner out of the hat. If you’d like to be IN that hat, opt-in! Become a Patron, read Andy’s FAQs and email me for a chance to win this awesome Gift of Cruising!