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! : )
Ten. Thousand. I almost can’t believe it myself, but that’s my number. 10,025 to be exact. I’ve been keeping track and when Phillip and I sailed our gallant Niagara 35 back into the Pensacola Pass on our recent return from the Bahamas, it was not only a fantastic feat successfully completing another offshore voyage, it was also a pretty cool milestone for this little sailor, who began sailing only five short years ago.
Headed off on my very first offshore voyage: April, 2013
Captain Annie at the helm, returning from the Bahamas: April, 2018
Ten thousand … This calls for a ditty, no?
Five years, 5oo HaveWind posts, and one captain’s license later, and I dare say I just might call this little gal a bluewater sailor.
When Phillip first planted the seed, “I’m going to buy a boat and cruise around the world,” I immediately, without hesitation, heartily agreed! “Not without me!” was my creed.
Our very first photo at the cockpit together during our first voyage.
So, we started boat-shopping and, little did I know, the many, many new, exotic places I would go! In the bilge, in the fridge, “Get down in the engine room,” he said.
So down I went, bumping my knees, my knuckles, my head. On that boat, I’ve cursed, and sweated, and bled. There are so many, many things, you see, that have to be fixed, cleaned, fixed again, and re-bed.
But the good news is, as long as her hull, keel, and rigging are sound, you can work on her while you sail her anywhere, as long as you don’t run aground! Because the worst, absolute worst, thing you can do to a boat, is to leave her sitting stagnant, unkept and going nowhere, just sitting afloat.
Not our boat, oh no! Our beautiful Niagara, with her magnificent thirty-five feet. She’s often cast-off, sailing away, on a gentleman’s (or perhaps not-so-gentle) beat.
That wise, seasoned boat has taught Phillip and I so much about both her and the sea. Because out there, and you may not believe me, but she feels really rather small to me. The time that she grows, seems unwieldy and impossible to stop, is only when we are approaching a treacherous dock.
But out there, in bluewater, while romping and running, she seems so agile and nimble. Like a horse at the derby, impossibly stunning.
That’s where she and her crew love most to be — moving, gliding, slipping under sunsets at sea.
My heart and courage exposed, this amazing man and boat have challenged me, to push myself, try harder, learn more, travel further, set myself free!
So I did. I changed my career, my address, my focus, all so I could head out to sea. And the rewards have been limitless: Cuba, the Bahamas, Mexico, France, the Florida Keys!
All connected by big, brimming, bodies of blue, just waiting to challenge and test you, too. Each passage, each mile, will teach you something new.
Forty-six hundred of them took Phillip and I all the way across the Atlantic, with a hearty, hilarious French Captain named Yannick.
But the Gulf of Mexico, never to be out-done, over and above the Atlantic, has, thus far, won. The Gulf has handed us our most trying times, tossing and bashing us to windward, threatening to snap lines.
Thankfully the storms and rough seas generally do not last. You just have to ride it out, get the boat comfortable, and usually in twenty-four hours or less, it will pass.
And soon you’ll find yourself motoring without a lick of wind, albeit across the most beautiful glass you’ve ever seen.
And you’ll make the mistake of asking Mother Nature to blow. Just a little. Like ten to fifteen.
Or seven and a quarter, perhaps, just enough so we can be #spinning!
While a perfect passage (in our world, a nice downwind run), from shore to shore is admittedly rare, the toying, tempting promise of it is what makes us accept the dare.
Because when you get there, no matter how near or far your “dream there” might be, it’s an incredibly cool feeling to have the honor to say: “We sailed here, you see.”
And for Phillip and I, I believe one of our most memorable offshore voyages will forever be: Cuba. Because it was a trying, eye-opening, exceedingly-thrilling passage where we bypassed the Keys. And Phillip and I both felt great pride in telling people: “We sailed six hundred nautical miles, here to be.”
Hope you all have enjoyed this little sailor’s first 10,000 nautical miles here at HaveWind. Here’s to the next ten! Cheers!
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!
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
“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!
“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.
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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What do you need to cross an ocean? A level-head, an adventurous spirit and a sense of humor! Exciting news guys! I have completed the complete, 90+ minute movie from mine and Phillip’s first trans-Atlantic this past June when we crewed aboard a 46′ catamaran from Florida to France. It was an incredible adventure: 30 days of feats and failures at sea. I had a daunting amount of footage and photos to sift through when we returned, but I spent a lot of time trying to make a high-quality, realistic, engaging account of what an ocean crossing truly feels like for those of you who may be considering it, or who may be afraid to do it.
This video discusses some of my own personal fears in signing up for the passage, some advice I received from Andy Schell with 59-North, and includes the “Official Trailer” for the movie that will be coming out this September! All Patrons will get a free early viewing so BECOME A PATRON to get your ticket to view (as well as access to all of my other cool Patrons-only content)! The movie will also be available for rent on Vimeo in October so everyone can watch. Stay tuned here for updates on the release of the movie and my podcast interview with Andy Schell! Very exciting. I’m all fidgety about it! : )