Day 24 – 240 miles east of Bermuda

Today was almost a perfect day! Not one person sick, and reasonably calm seas. Hopefully there will be more days like this.

That said, there were a few mechanical problems…

  • Here on Sans Souci, we almost lost our steering system. Garret and St. John had a problem in the middle of the night. Sans Souci suddenly refused to steer on autopilot. Garret tracked the problem to a “collar” that connects the steering system to the rudder. The collar is attached to the rudder by four bolts, which had come loose. The steering system was limping along, but complete failure was imminent. After tightening things down (we are still missing one nut), we’re going again.
  • Que Linda has a leak in their stabilizer system. Fluid is pouring out, but they are capturing it in a bucket, and pouring it right back.
  • Grey Pearl lost an alternator belt, but after a 30 minute slow down was going again.

On the good news front, I am happy to report that our new alternator is installed, and working fine. I believe that the frying of the first one was a result of our overloading it. When the trip is over I’d like to do a bit of investigating on this issue. It seems to me like there must be a regulator of some sort that should have been able to stop us from burning out the alternator. We are being very careful with the new alternator – even to the extent of taking cold showers to minimize electrical consumption. This is probably overkill, but we would like this alternator to last, and I still haven’t heard a good explanation of why the first one blew.

We spoke with Division 1 (the slow boats), which is approximately 300 miles in front of us. They had no problems to report, and did not give us an update on the one medical problem that was reported yesterday.
 
Given that there was no action, we decided to create some of our own. Sans Souci organized a pirate attack on another boat in our fleet – Goleen. I’ve uploaded the pictures to the website (http://www.kensblog.com/.)



As you can see from the pictures, we had fun, and our attack was a huge success. Roberta had a fun question. While we were in the throes of our pirate attack, Roberta took me aside to ask if people would think she looked silly if she set up a jogging track around the pilothouse. I reminded her that most of the crew was on the front deck wearing pirate attire throwing water balloons. She was not in danger of looking strange.

With each mechanical problem that occurs here on Sans Souci, I’ve asked myself whether or not I could have fixed it, had Roberta and I been on the boat alone. Thus far, the one that scares me is the alternator problem. Would I have been able to figure where the smoke was coming from before it caught fire? Maybe. Would I have known how to take it out of the system and continue the voyage? Probably not. Unless we could have contacted someone at the manufacturer who could do some real-time diagnosing via sat phone, I think we would have been turning back, or worse. Luckily, Dan Streech of Nordhavn was on board and solved the problem.

This is an issue Roberta and I discuss often. We still have a lot of the world to visit aboard Sans Souci. The fact of the matter is that I am a retired software entrepreneur. I’m a software guy, not a hardware guy. If I can press a button, or write some code to fix a problem, I’m fine – but when the electric meters and torque wrenches come out, I start to sweat. My “fix” for this has been to duplicate all systems aboard ship. We have two engines, two radars, two generators, two GPS units, two water-makers, two autopilots, two VHF radios, two fuel filters, two water filters, etc. Do you see a pattern here? My primary repair strategy has always been to flip to the backup when needed, and this has served me through thousands of miles of cruising.

The right answer is to force myself to become a diesel mechanic, and develop a strong understanding of electrical systems. I’m smart and will learn quickly, but even smart people can’t learn without making a concerted effort to do so. Aside from this trip, and until that day when I can honestly look in the mirror and see someone who could have diagnosed and replaced the alternator, my sense is that I’d like to confine my voyages to no more than 8-12 miles from shore when Roberta and I are traveling alone. I’m not sure how practical it is that I’ll ever be fully self-sufficient. I’ve been watching Rip Knot and Kirk White in action. The odds that I’ll ever possess their mechanical skills are somewhat comparable to the odds that they will ever be able to master computers or spreadsheets at my level. The question is where one draws the line to have a SAFE boating experience. What level of competence is needed, and what level is reasonable to expect?

As I sit here doing my watch in calm seas, with a totally dark sky, its the perfect time to think about boating, and about life in general. What else is there to do for the next nine days?

Thank you,

Ken Williams
Sans Souci, 6209 http://www.kensblog.com/
 

P.S. – The following is a report from Jim Leishman from the Division 2 group. I’m also passing along several of the daily updates from the Web log of Georgs Kolesnikovs, the only journalist crewing on all three legs of the Nordhavn Atlantic Rally 2004. Georgs is having problems getting his daily updates posted to his website … so, I’m helping him “get the word out.”

Wednesday – June 2nd
Position: N32-2’ – W055-15’
Speed: 7 knots
Course: Due East

Its the third day at sea for Division 2 and the crew has settled in nicely to the passage-making routine. Aboard for this leg are Motorboating’s John Woldridge, and Peter Swanson – writing for Yachting. Additionally, we have our normal crew consisting of Dr. Kevin and Kari Ware, Dave Shuler, Justin Zumwalt, James Leishman and myself. With a crew of eight and six bunks – things are a little tight but we’re all enjoying the trip very much.

Since leaving Bermuda we’ve traveled about 500 miles east into the North Atlantic and have enjoyed moderate weather with winds mostly aft of the beam and under 20 knots. Our weather forecaster – Walt Hack predicts more of the same with some increased wind and seas from the northwest early next week.

We were all pleased to get underway last Sunday after a week of activities in Bermuda. A combination of working through boat problems, fueling, provisioning, diving, scooter riding, sight seeing and Bermudian night life all combined to drain our energy levels and pocket books. I have nothing but good things to say about Bermuda, however it is probably the most expensive of countries I’ve visited.

The highlight of our stay was the formal dinner Saturday night at the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club. Crews of the each Rally boats participated, and we were joined by the Commodore and Vice Commodore of the RBYC. Dating back to 1844 the RBYC has earned the reputation of being one of the most prestigious yacht clubs in the world and has hosted the biannual Bermuda Yacht Race for almost 100 years. The halls and meeting rooms of the RBYC are filled with yachting history and it was a heady experience to feel so welcome and a part of this establishment.

Our days at sea consist of morning and evening roll call where each vessel in our division (12 yachts) check in and give their latitude and longitude, speed and course and an estimate of their remaining range at the present speed and fuel burn. Additionally, any problems the vessel is experiencing are discussed and then any additional comments or concerns are reviewed. Generally this is all for drill now as every boat is in visual range and most issues are discussed casually through out the day. Generally speaking, the problems are very minor – today a loose belt was discussed aboard “Stargazer” and her owner quickly made an adjustment and the problem was solved.

The VHF provides entertainment as there is constant chatter amongst the crews. Calls are made on 16 and frequencies are selected for these discussions. At times numerous VHF channels are in use and the crews are developing the friendships we anticipated. There’s heavy discussion about the daily fishing, weather, food preparation, onboard maintenance and dozens of other topics. I heard this morning Susan Spencer aboard “Uno Mas” announce that at 14:00 each day there would be “Chick Chatter” on channel 68 – I’ll try to listen in tomorrow.

Today – Georgs Kolesnikovs, a man I had absolute trust in, suggested that we slow down “Atlantic Escort” and line our entire crew up on the starboard rail for a photo opportunity. Georgs encouraged us to move in closer for the perfect photo and then without warning he and his captain Scott Strickland, Terri Strickland and crew maliciously attacked us with a water balloon salvo. We will not forget this and vow revenge before this Atlantic Ocean is crossed.

More Tomorrow,
Jim Leishman

—————————————————————————————-

FRIDAY MAY 28 2245 I’m batching it tonight, feasting on baked potatoes and Mini Babybel cheese to replenish carbohydrates and protein after a 6-mile walk/run. The Significant Other is in town – actually, she’s at Aqua, the high-end Michael Douglas restaurant – meeting a friend who is in her fifth year of working for Bank of Bermuda.

I saw the other side of Bermuda tonight along the former railway line running down the center of the island. It’s the Bermuda of ordinary folk, black and white, living inland, a reminder where the heart of Bermuda resides. It’s the Bermuda of roosters crowing, even at dusk, of hens and chicks scattering at my approach, of barbecues and Friday night gospel meetings, of tree frogs singing.

The Bermuda I saw certainly was not the million – and multi-million dollar “cottages” along Bermuda’s coast line, the prim and proper business bustle of Hamilton, the capital, or the privilege of Royal Bermuda Yacht Club.

Tomorrow is the last day in Bermuda prior to departure Sunday at 0800.

It’s been a hectic week, with me torn between getting pictures selected, cropped, uploaded to the blog, and working on my assignments for Power Cruising and Circumnavigator, and helping get the Nordhavn 47 Strictly for Fun ready for the passage to Azores, and spending time with Significant Other. As I’m going to be away from home for two full months, in my time management here, I have erred in favor of Significant Other.
 
SATURDAY MAY 29 2315

The smaller boats are ready to depart Bermuda at 0800 on Sunday for the Azores about 1,800 nautical miles across the pond. As you can see in the weather forecast from Walt Hack a few posts down, conditions will be a bit bumpy at first but then should improve.

This is the longest leg across the Atlantic, with the distance being what separates true passagemakers from poseurs

We should be at sea about 12 days, our pace dictated by our smallest vessel, the Nordhavn 40 Uno Mas.

At the final briefing this afternoon, we heard that Uno Mas will start out conservatively, running its Lugger at 1,400 rpm which should produce 6 knots of boat speed with fuel consumption at 2 gallons per hour. The idea is to proceed cautiously for the first two or three days, recalculating fuel burn every 24 hours. Once real-world data for this stretch of ocean this week in this boat is in hand, we may be able to speed up a bit.
 
At the farewell dinner tonight, most folks seemed eager to get under way again. I am in that camp too, looking forward to my time aboard the Nordhavn 47 Strickly For Fun with owners Scott and Teri Strickland and one other crew, Jonathan Ehly.

Teri is the one who provided that great quote early in this weblog: “My husband is having a middle-life crisis, and he’s invited me along.”

SUNDAY MAY 30 1030

We’re at Five Fathom Hole off St. George and turning east for the Azores. Actually, we’re first heading to 55 degrees 00 minutes west longitude on a heading of 106 magnetic.

Weatherman Walt Hack suggested the waypoint to give us the smoothest possible ride between weather systems to the north and south of our route. Once we get to 55 00 West, in about 480 nautical miles, we’ll pick up the rhumb line (shortest distance) to the Azores.

After the 25 knots of wind that blew through Hamilton harbor for much of the day yesterday, today we have perfect weather for starting a long passage. There is a light wind and gentle seas of 2 to 3 feet, with only the occasional bump, on our starboard quarter.

Uno Mas, the fleet pacesetter, is steaming along at 5.9 to 6.1 knots.

SUNDAY MAY 30 1520

Lat 32 22 North Long 63 51 West Speed 6 knots Course 106

We’ve had our excitement for the day: Teri spotted a round fender in the water ahead of us and Scott decided to call a man-overboard drill. The fender looked fairly new and Scott was determined to retrieve it. Thus, with the boat in neutral and alongside, he dove into 15,000 feet of ocean to get the thing.
 
MONDAY MAY 31 0230 during my night watch
Lat 32 22.3 North Long 62 53.2 West 403 nm from our waypoint at 55 00 West, Speed 4.8 knots because of an adverse current, Course 106, Light wind, gentle 3-5-ft seas

In the night sky, there are dim flashes of lightning so distant I cannot hear thunder. I am alone on the 0200-0400 watch. With a four-person crew on Strickly For Fun, watches are stood solo – just the way I like it. Scott, Jon Ehly and I look after the three two-hour watches between midnight and 0600, with Teri standing the evening watch from 2100 to midnight. Between 6 a.m. and midnight, watch-standing is not a fixed schedule. Whoever feels like, he or she has the con. There is an informal attempt made to ensure no one is stuck on the bridge for hours without a break.

This is my first experience with free-form watch-standing during the day. It is ironic to find such an unstructured system on a boat as well and tightly organized as the Stricklands run Strickly For Fun. When I signed on, Scott emailed me a PDF file detailing the routine of the ship and what was expected of guests and crew. See preceding post.
 
Those who haven’t been at sea at night will be surprised to hear how bright it is out here as a result of the moon being a few days from full. Despite overcast skies, there is the appearance of a silver dawn.

On the Furuno Navnet display, Scott has set the radar for night running: Black background. Red rings one-half mile apart emanating from the center where our vessel is. Bearing and course in green lines. Eleven red blips shows where the fleet steams eastward around us.

We are now 12 vessels in this division of smaller/slower boats. The Krogen 58 Sea Fox has joined us, preferring to run a long passage such as this one at 6 knots plus or minus rather than 8 plus with the larger/faster vessels. That division of six vessels still is in port, in Hamilton, scheduled to depart Tuesday at 0800. They should catch us up on the final approach to Horta where we are due to arrive on June 11.



Introduction for the 17-page document Scott and Teri have prepared for guests and crew aboard Strickly For Fun:

“Strickly For Fun” Pre-Trip Information

1. Purpose.

The purpose of this document is to help you understand what to expect while traveling on the Strickland Motor Yacht, “St f F”. Reading this manual is very important. It will help you determine if the trip is right for you! It will let you know what to expect the trip to be like. Give you important safety information. This manual will describe:

– Purpose of the Crew Manual.
– What to expect on the trip.
– Our Route.
– Safety Concerns.
– Food.
– Weather. 
– Sea Communications. 
– Harbor Communications. 
– Work Effort. 
– Watch Standing. 
– Entertainment. 
– Comforts.
– Seasickness. 
– What to Bring. 
-Clothing and Personal Gear Checklist. 
– Rules. 
– Conclusion.

A general understanding of the trip, equipment, and responsibilities will make the trip more enjoyable for everyone.

This document is one of four documents you should read. 

– Crew Manual 
– Emergency Manual 
– Watch Standing manuals

We also have: 

– Departure manual 
– Underway 
– Arrival Manual 
– Shoreside (managing the boat at a dock without us!) 
– Systems manual

Conclusion of the 17-page document Scott and Teri have prepared for guests and crew aboard Strickly For Fun:

17. Conclusion.

This trip is not for everyone. The trip is not a common activity. No one else you know will ever do this. This trip is designed to be an adventure of a lifetime. It will not be perfect! If you don’t want new experiences, take a plane. Since you will be involved with actually operating the vessel you will need to do your share of the work. If you are not willing to help, please stay home. This trip is for people who want to grow. You must be willing to learn new skills. We do not expect people to know these skills before they come on the boat. Part of the fun is teaching and learning new skills. Due to weather our times have to be somewhat flexible. If we plan on a two-week trip, plan for a couple of extra days. If you want to follow a rigid time schedule, take a tour. For everyone to have fun we all need to get along. If just one person is cranky the trip will be miserable for everyone! We have a gang plank are we are willing to use it! In short: this trip is not for the boring, lazy, stupid, inflexible or grumpy people!

TUESDAY JUNE 1 0700
 Lat 32 22.6 North Long 59 30.7, Speed 6.4 knots, Course 107, Light wind, gentle 3-to-4-foot seas.

We are experimenting with a new watch system as the one we started with didn’t suit everyone.
 
I am now on from 9 p.m. to midnight and from 6 to 9 a.m. In effect, I get my share of watchstanding – 6 hours out of the 24 hours the four of us deal with – done in one half of the day, thus, I should be able to look after my others chores, devote several hours to my work, as well as get a couple hours of sleep to augment the 5.5 hours I can get in between watches.

The other three crew stand two-hour watches between midnight and 6 a.m., in rotation from one night to the next.

At the roll call last night, our smallest boat, the Nordhavn 40 Uno Mas that is setting pace for us all, reported it had increased speed to 6 knots, so the entire fleet was able to bump rpm up 50 or 100. At 6 knots, Uno Mas reported burning 2.1 gallons per hour, meaning it had a healthy reserve in hand. (Aboard Strickly For Fun, we burn more, but our fuel tankage, at 1,400 gallons, is such that 1,800 nm is not a challenge, at least not from the point of view of fuel consumption.)

The latest weather report from Walt Hack indicates the light winds and gentle seas are likely to end in 48 hours, being succeeded by wind up to 22 knots and seas up to 8 feet. Some of the new weather may come from the east – right on the nose – but by the weekend, we could be enjoying blue skies and sunshine and mild conditions again.

Last night, I took a turn in the galley and served up the almost-famous Kolesnikovs Klops, a dish from my Latvian motherland made with ground beef, bacon, mushrooms, onions and plenty of sour cream, presented on a base of a creamed and buttered potato mash with green onions, with a side of dill pickles. So satiated were we that dessert of chocolate mousse with whipped cream has been postponed until later. If that sounds like a repeat of what I wrote from Autumn Wind, that is because it was.
 
Autumn Wind was a dry boat while under way. Aboard Strickly For Fun, we uncorked a Hawk Crest Cabernet Sauvignon to wash down the meal. Lest that leaves the wrong impression, I should note the bottle was not emptied.

Yesterday, I neglected to mention that Teri Strickland has named herself fleet DJ. At the beginning of the morning roll call, we broadcast Bad To The Bone by George Thoroughgood to the fleet on VHF 17.

Naiad stabilizer problems continue to pop up. The latest to be afflicted is Sea Fox, the Krogen 58, which has been running on only one fin for the last 24 hours or so. Yesterday being Memorial Day in the U.S., no sat phone calls were made to Naiad, but starting this morning, sat phone charges have been mounting, with no solution yet.

Also yesterday, Scott Strickland initiated a 12 noon “coffee klatch” on VHF 17 with a half-dozen vessels participating. Today, we plain forgot to get on the air.

Everyone aboard Strickly for Fun is anxiously awaiting the first shout of “Hook up!” from Jon Ehly who has two fishing lines out. Jon is quite a fisherman and he cannot believe how bereft of fish we have been since leaving Hamilton. That, despite the fact he invested $500 in new lures.

June 1 0700

Note to readers:
I have given up on attempts to post to my weblog via Skymate. Henceforth, using SailMail and the single-sideband radio aboard Strictly For Fun, I will send reports to Ken Wiilliams aboard Sans Souci and Fred Wunderlich back in Fort Lauderdale for posting to their sites, and to Significant Other for keeping family and friends informed.

WEDNESDAY JUNE 2 1600

Lat 32 25.5 North Long 55 04.1 West, Speed 6.4 knots, Course 92, Light wind 5 to 10 knots out of SSW, gentle 2-to-3-foot seas.

Just short of our 55 00 West waypoint, we have turned for the Azores 1,351 nm distant. Coincidentally, Autumn Wind reached Goleen in the larger-boat fleet behind us. The four Nordhavns, one Northern Marine/Seaton, and one Monk/McQueen are 313 nm behind us, running on the rhumb line to the Azores at 8.5 knots. That means they could catch us in six days, that is, Tuesday.

The larger boats had better weather right from the start, thus, they have been on the shortest course for Horta right since departing Horta.

It has been an eventful day, eventful for the middle of the Atlantic at displacement speed.

World Odd@Sea reported catching and releasing a 90-lb marlin. Someone else reported sighting a whale.

We have fish, too, for dinner, sent over to Strickly For Fun by the Spencers on Uno Mas. We exchanged gifts while running about 30 yards apart and tossing a line from one boat to the other. We sent them a best-selling book on CD, Number One Lady Detective Agency, which Teri wanted to share with Sue Spencer. In return, we received yellow fin tuna, caught and frozen on the Pacific side of Panama.

As I write this in the saloon, Teri is in the galley preparing a mango salsa with cilantro to go with the tuna which Jon will medallion and lightly pan-fry. My mouth waters as I type.
 
Earlier in the day, under the ruse of wanting to photograph Jim Leishman and the crew aboard Atlantic Escort for Power Cruising, I asked Atlantic Escort to run along side Strictly For Fun, getting as close as they felt comfortable. They took the bait, and for their trouble were bombarded with water balloons by Scott, Teri and Jon on our flying bridge. As Escort pulled away, threats of revenge rang in the air.

At 1400, Sue Spencer on the Nordhavn 40 Uno Mas convened the first rally chick chat, a gettogether on VHF 69 for the women of our fleet.

At 1200, I resurrected the daily coffee klatch that Scott started a few days ago on the radio, calling it NAR Net. Today we chatted about fishing and what lures were working. Tomorrow the theme will be filters.

This morning we heard that the larger boats had departed Hamilton on schedule. Crosser had an encounter of the unwanted kind with the dock on departure. More recently, Grey Pearl lost an alternator belt. Otherwise, all goes well with the big boys.

Must go now as it is time for an engine-room check.

–30—gxk

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Credits     |     Video produced by: Rock Steady Media     |     Teletype photo: Arnold Reinhold     |     PDP-11 photo: Trammell Hudson