The Apogee and the Good Samaritan

50:16.56’N
125:13.95W

The apogee, or top of our curving route north.
As we swing gently around the anchor in the Octopus Islands, the bow gradually points southward, influenced by the veering winds of the first cold front of the next season passing overhead. The stationary Pacific high pressure of August may be giving way to the lows from the Gulf of Alaska, giving us overcast and showers for the first time in weeks. As we check the shoreline now, a few Birch trees have added patches of yellow to the evergreen forest. Yesterday, we swam off the boat and I snorkeled underneath to check the prop zinc (loose again, argh); today, the diesel heater purrs like an old friendly cat, and we contemplate turning south. Such is the end of summer in the Pacific Northwest, and Laysan swinging her bow southward for the first time in three months seems to know this.


Campbell River marinas were a nice respite for provisioning stops as we said goodbye to Julia and John B who drove away towards Colorado and Montana. For two weeks, we cruised off the grid with a full crew of five and still managed to remain self sufficient with food and water; although some foraging by the youths for oysters, apples and wild blackberries was required to keep the troops’ appetites sated. Good provisioning, Kathleen! Then, we sadly sent Connor, our reliable second mate, off again to Utah for his studies and, to his great relief, unlimited high speed internet. In Campbell River, we enjoyed dinner with friends John and Naomi, and met their parents who have nicely followed Laysan’s blog through the years.
The last few days have been a greatest hits cruise with Steven after he arrived by an epic seaplane landing off Prideaux. Our friends Don and Sharry on Starr anchored nearby and invited us for an evening potluck with their friends. The next morning an enterprising young fisherman sold fresh prawns by patrolling the anchorage in his commercial boat like a neighborhood ice cream truck of the old days. I had to row the dinghy over to line up with the other hungry rubber boats and get my treat from the nice man. (On our future wish list is an electric winch to pull up the 300′ of lead line necessary for a prawn trap of our very own). The next “hit” was a return to Oyster Cove for you guessed it, the oyster bucket buffet picked up at low tide. Sadly, however, the salmon continue to elude us.  But did I mention the crabs?  Oh boy!


One late afternoon in the anchorage, a boat seemed to be racing directly toward us with Kathleen stiffening her stance and alerting me to this unusual activity. Suddenly a call from their bridge, “Do you have a doctor on board? My son has a fish hook in his eye!” “Yes” she answered, “Anchor behind us, and we will come over!” Gathering my medical kit and powerful end cutting wire snips, we rowed over as good Samaritans in an isolated location. The brave young man had a treble hook embedded in the eyelid and brow, but no involvement of the globe. Unfortunately, the hooks were all barbed, so exposing the tips and cutting them away was a lengthy two step procedure, using half of my lidocaine supply, much to the fascination of his siblings. A couple of days later, he looked fine as he showed me the big red snappers he just caught, hopefully with the highly recommended barbless hooks.
After a five hour run north and through Hole in the Wall Rapids, here we swing again among the Octopus Islands at our furthest north latitude in Desolation Sound for one more day of hiking and paddling. The trail to Newton Lake is on schedule again for tomorrow, rain or shine, as it was a favorite of the summer. Notably, our friend from Campbell River, John, introduced us to his father, Dave, who actually built this trail among many others in Desolation Sound years ago. Amazing! John and Dave, both great fellows, know the rocks and waterways of this area from the time before GPS, like only locals can.
Even within ten minutes of slack current, Hole in the Wall Rapids offered up some boils and whirlpools requiring my full attention at hand steering. With the wind gusting to 30 knots abeam and the subsurface water pushing against the keel differently than the surface water at the rip current lines, we got both roll and yaw changes creating a few shrieks from the crew. And that was with only 1.5 knots of current. Imagine the forces involved at maximum current of 7 or 8 knots, or even 17 knots like Skookumchuck Narrows, which we hope to visit on our way south. Stories are told of logs and even boats being pulled down by the whirlpools only to shoot skyward again like missiles, piercing other unsuspecting hulls at the surface. Hopefully, we continue to witness those currents only from the safety of the shoreline.


So that’s the news from the top of the Salish Sea. We will report on the sights and sounds of the journey south. As the Ent said, “I like heading south, it always feels like going downhill.” All the best to our friends and family. Thanks for listening.
John

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A Cellular Holiday

Desolation Sound has provided a therapeutic cellular holiday,world data system reboot, and an opportunity to entirely miss all media coverage of the first political convention this summer. It was wonderful. I highly recommend it.
Although, for Connor’s sake, we did use the sat phone once to contact Uncle Steven and get a game developers contest theme forwarded in time for Connor’s entry. Yes even at anchor in a fiord, Connor manages to keep working.
Meanwhile we have explored the southern end of Desolation, including Prideaux Haven, Pendrell Sound, and now back near civilization in Manson Bay. Each anchorage offers different scenery and activities that occupy us through the days of seemingly endless daylight. From our Hawaii routines, it is hard to make dinner before dark, so that means dinner at 10 pm most evenings. And even then I think you could take a walk or read a book by the twilight.


The one beer twilight cruise.

Prideaux had a great hike through a mossy forest to a shimmering lake so clear you could see the old logs sunk twenty feet below the surface. Of course Kathleen and I went swimming, but Connor said that was defying the most natural fear of large dark things underwater. Invigorating!
Pendrell Sound was a winding fiord surrounded by five thousand foot snow capped mountains that prevented any intrusive cell phone activity for a week of kayaking up and down the shoreline. At one salt water lagoon, we ran the rapids back and forth with the tidal flow each evening. Amazingly, the oysters can be gathered easily at low tide and brought back to the boat for appetizers on the grill. As I write this, no sign of numbness has yet to appear, so I think I can still play the trombone, and they were delicious. Kathleen is our fully licensed Canadian seafood collector, but the elusive crab defy our attempts. Our salmon trolling rig is now prepared, and hopefully a catch is on the horizon.


Kayaking at Oyster Cove, Pendrell Sound.

As you can imagine, a glacially carved fiord has steep sides under water as well as above. Anchoring therefore requires facility with the stern-tie technique. Equipped with our 300′ floating line, we dropped the anchor a couple of boat lengths from the steep shore and backed down until the crew is yelling about seeing the rocks behind us. At this time, young Connor jumps into the kayak with the line in his teeth(not really), and paddles to the rocky shore, then scrambles up to the tree line and picks a suitable candidate to wrap the stern line around and bring it back to the boat. All the while I keep the boat centered between the anchor and the tree. Then the geometry lesson begins. Tighten up the anchor rode and we may not hold in place. Tighten up the stern line and we may be too close to shore at low tide. Factor in that the tidal range is fifteen feet twice a day, our multiple adjustments gave us plenty of practice and discussion.


Pendrell Sound anchorage with a stern tie.

Finally, we swam in these cold waters off the boat, because the sound has enough lag time in the long days of sunlight that the water temperature is actually measuring 73F. Chilly by Hawaiian standards, it was still great, and it gave me a chance to check the running gear and tighten the prop zinc.

All good here. Probably heading back into the hinterlands soon after a rendezvous in Campbell River with friends and family.  More on that later.  Wishing you all the best.
John, Kathleen and Connor

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Heading North: Legal Migrants

Not to be insensitive about the very real struggle facing migrants around the world, we too face the routine of determined progress heading north, toward promised lands. Each day now we rise, weigh anchor, and motor out into the straits toward our current destination of Desolation Sound, a series of channels and islands so named by Captain Vancouver in the eighteenth century because he thought it had little economic value. Evidently that did not regard aesthetic value as it is more and more beautiful the closer we get.

Echo Bay, Sucia Island

But I digress; how did we get here? (Water flowing underneath). Languorously exploring the San Juans the last few weeks, we have enjoyed the company of Kathleen’s father, Jim, and sister, Carolyn. Eagles and herons, seals and porpoises abound, but no real whale sightings yet. Our new crab trap has gone to the bottom a few times and taunted us with small ones that jump away, so we have more to learn on that front.


Prevost Harbor, Stuart Island

One evening, while performing the evening ritual of pupus on the flybridge, we heard the ominous beep of a new alarm. Not the bilge, not the propane, not the errant iPhone, what is it? Finally down below, outside the engine room door we discover the CO monitor bleating like a lost lamb, and we both look at the door wondering what evil lurks therein. The diesel genset has been running a couple of hours charging the batteries without complaint, but now that I think about it there is a smell of exhaust. Defying protocol I peer in the engine room and sure enough it’s intense in there. Genset shutdown, blowers on, all hatches and doors open, everybody goes back to the flybridge until the air clears.
Upon inspection, the genset wet exhaust elbow has cracked at the flange with the exhaust manifold, allowing exhaust to escape and set off the CO alarm. Another reason not to run the genset while you sleep, I say. How much will that cost, asks Kathleen. Not to worry, I say, we can fix it. (Hoping that such arcane parts are available). Amazingly, the marine services industry is so well developed in the northwest that our next port of call in Anacortes has a dealer for our genset and a stainless steel fabrication shop with everything we need. But this being the busy time, no mechanics are available for two weeks.
Three days later, I emerge from the engine room after rebuilding the exhaust, squinting into the sunlight that has been bathing the quaint town of Anacortes. My able assistant, Kathleen, now qualifies as a diesel technician.  They say that cruising is working on your boat in interesting places. A migrant needs to be self sufficient.


Into Canada, we crossed the border with flags flying and but one bottle as allowed, and quickly went to Costco in Sidney BC. Heavily reprovisioned and fully laden with fuel and water now, we waited for son Connor to fly into Sidney from Hawaii. Properly celebrated, his arrival marks the next phase of our cruise, and we are so happy to have the opportunity to share this experience during his summer off from university. The question remains how will he tolerate the lack of high speed internet?


Montague Harbour, Galiano Island

The Gulf Islands are behind us now, the Strait of Georgia has been crossed, and we work our way north with a few other boats intent on the same destinations. We even saw Umiak, one of our sister boats from the factory in China, and hailed Hugh on the radio as we passed in the Malaspina Strait and exchanged recommendations on anchorages up North. We agreed that we are both proud to have boats by Bill Kimley at Seahorse Marine.

Montague Harbour, Galiano Island
So the journey continues, and all is well aboard Laysan as we head through some of the most beautiful cruising grounds in the world. Life is good, all the best to our family and friends, and thanks for listening.
John

49 45.69N

124 25.95W

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Sneaking the Pass

Deception Pass is a twisty 2 mile passage only 150 yards wide and 100 feet deep, yet moves the acres of water to flood the Skagit Bay and release it again into the ocean twice a day. This much water through a small channel means treacherous turbulent currents up to 8 knots that have dashed many a boat on the granite rocks lining the sides of this canyon. Perhaps this is why the venerable British Captain George Vancouver chose to examine it from afar with his telescope and send his trusty navigator in a small boat to investigate. The young master Whidbey survived the pass and discovered it connected all the way south to Puget Sound providing an alternate passage in protected waters, if only one could transit the pass. As the pass connected again with the sound, and was not simply a bay, it had deceived Captain Vancouver and his telescope, so was therefore named Deception Pass.
Why does this matter to Laysan? Because, we too would like to run north from Puget Sound in protected waters to the San Juan Islands. And so it was that after our long day cruising up inside Whidbey Island (the young navigator’s naming reward), we slept somewhat fitfully at anchor thinking about the next morning’s run through the pass. This would be like running a river rapid in a bus. The only time to make the pass is at slack tide when the current slows to zero for about seven minutes before it reverses again and the boiling currents threaten to turn the nice pointy bow of Laysan in many directions other than my intended heading.
Printed tide charts, electronic chart plotters, iPads and iPhones all agreed the slack time was 9:07, so we weighed anchor at 8:30 and made for the pass, under the Deception Pass bridge towering 150 feet overhead. A 1935 WPA masterpiece of civil engineering we had many times before stood on its railings watching the boats negotiate the pass, wondering what madness drove them here. And now it was us.
On the downstream side of the pass the currents swell up in huge pools with frothy edges indicating an impending push of the bow, and each time we responded with the wheel to keep her straight. As the clock ticked closer to 9:00 a few other boats began to assemble for the pass with the same goal in mind. Together in single file, we few boats rumbled toward the narrowest part when I noticed the myriad little fishing boats feverishly trying to catch the salmon coursing underneath. With their immense outboard motors they seemingly cared not for currents, and parted the way for us just before my hand approached the extremely loud horn button.
As the canyon walls rose vertically to that great iron bridge, the waters suddenly flattened to glass and the time was right on 9:00am. Out into the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and toward the San Juans, we had passed the test, and it was high fives all around for the happy crew of myself, Kathleen, and Grandaddy Jim Harvey. Whew! But maybe we will go the other way outside next time.

  
On the approach.

  
Jim and I in the pilot house.

  
Nearly there.

  
And we are through!

All good on Laysan.

John

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Salish Sea 2016

Salish Sea 2016
Awake, alert, enthusiastic!
After a Hawaiian winter working-season, where we dutifully served part time in the old offices, the lovely Kathleen and I arrived in Olympia to finish the pre-season checklist for Laysan. Recently hauled and bottom painted, Laysan looked sleek and ready to perform in the Pacific Northwest with as many of the family as could plan to join us in this land of big trees, blue skies, impressive tides and swift currents, and most importantly, flat water(we hope).

  
Due to a combination of celestial factors beyond our control, June has some of the highest and lowest tides of the year, and the range on these days around here exceeds 17 vertical feet. Yikes! Only make the Costco grocery provisioning runs on high tide, or face the gangway like a ski jumper. Also, this means at a low low negative tide, we only have five feet of water at our slip and Laysan’s pretty red bottom is nestled in the muck. No way to leave at that point, but there is certainly not much motion in the boat for our semi-circular canal challenged friends.

  
As it always seems when preparing for a passage or cruise, the checklist items need more and more attention until we find ourselves tasking through twelve hour days. But as Buster said on TV, some days you just have to push right through nap time. And we did find the great Oly Taproom just down the dock for our allotted one beer of the day when the work whistle finally blew. And then, on a high tide and a breezy morning, we warped out of our tight little slip with a nod to our friends on the dock helping swing Laysan’s reluctant stern into the fairway and we were away!

  
So here we go, through the Salish Sea, which includes Puget Sound, San Juan Islands, Gulf Islands, Desolation Sound, and the Inside Passage of BC for as long as we and the machinery desire. Wish us luck and we will keep you posted.
All the best.

Thanks for listening,

John

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Walking the Pacific

Laysan sits idle at the dock in Olympia, after we packed and flew away to Hawaii for the winter. Journey interrupted. Reflecting now on the events of the last few months I am glad we could accomplish so much in our reliable fifty foot steel floating machine with a crew of family and friends. When asked if we miss it already, the ever grounded Kathleen answers no because she is fortunately always happy where she is. As Buckaroo and others have said: “No matter where you go, there you are.” Which, oddly enough seems appropriate because despite that we are now ostensibly retired, we are also both temporarily working again part-time at the old offices. Same as it ever was, almost.

image

At our brisk walking speed of six knots, Laysan crossed the most tempestuous and ill-named of oceans, the Pacific. On a good day it had the mesmerizing infinite liquid blue depths reflecting the sky above that you could stare at endlessly. And on a not so good day, it filled our windows with frothy streaked grey lumpy vistas that forced our gazes down and our thoughts away from food. But in our memories, the good always outweighs the not so good. And, well luckily, the bad really never materialized.

DCIM101GOPRO

DCIM101GOPRO

The ensuing weeks of cruising delivered our hopes as promised; the islands and anchorages of the northwest hold innumerable active days of boating ahead. And the delivery vessel for these adventures is again, Laysan. Expensive folly or fortuitous dream machine, either way, relegating it to a cost benefit analysis would be impossible for me, because, as you may have guessed, I am biased, romantically. At the end of the day, isn’t romance behind the momentum of our decisions?

DCIM101GOPRO

While we motored steadily around the clock for twenty days across the Pacific, starting in July, daughter Julia methodically stepped her way along the crest of the Pacific mountain ranges from Canada to Mexico. At a speed similar to ours, though limited each day by nightfall, she has made it halfway by now to Northern California at Yosemite. By December she and John B will arrive at the Mexican border having covered almost 2700 miles of the PCT by foot. Perseverance and self-sufficiency are among their qualities to be sure.

Sarah crewed dutifully with us, and showed her expertise as a field biologist for the Mega Expedition Ocean Cleanup project. Now her view is fixed upon graduate school in marine biology, where I believe she should be very well appreciated. Connor codes and codes and codes, in the language of electronics and machines, which seems to suit him well at the university. Hopefully, all will be home for the holidays this year to make it complete for Kathleen and me.

As we go quiet on the blog for a while, here is a link to the short movie we made. All the best to you out there, and thanks for listening.

Pacific Crossing 2015

 

John

Honolulu, Hawaii

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Locked up, Crashed out, and a Deadbeat

The Ballard Locks are a one hundred year old marvel of urban marine engineering connecting Puget Sound with Lake Union in Seattle in one gurgling leap of twenty vertical feet. Free for the asking, each year thousands of boats large and small, commercial and recreational clump together like so many bewildered fish in a steel and cement tank to enter a different kind of water, fresh. Ouch, say the barnacles. And so it was for us aboard Laysan, that we too ascended like a salmon into the aptly named Salmon Bay for a couple of days at our friend Don’s marina.
After honking, waiting, and tying up to encrusted piers, the massive railroad bridge lifted and allowed us underneath to get the green light for the large lock in Ballard. There on the wall two stories above our decks stood burly line men in harnesses attached to a smooth long track behind them along side. Like guard dogs for the gates of doom, their chains rattling as they walked, I wondered what calamities would pull them to this precipice. Instructing us to port side tie to the ancient slimy wall behind a tug three times our size in every dimension, they all chuckled as Kathleen tried valiantly to heave her fifty foot line up overhead only to see it repeatedly flop back onto the deck. Sarah, however received a nice courtesy line lowered for her convenience to correspondingly send up her line. Meanwhile, Kathleen continued to amuse the tug deck hands and a small collection of tourists watching from behind the guard rail until we were tied, and the massive steel gates began to close behind us.

  
And then came the interloper. Skulking along side, an unassuming small green day-fisher with two flimsy fenders rafted on our starboard side arousing some suspicion on our part. Behind us were another collection of recreational boats tending their lines and waiting for the water to rise. Gradually and quietly it did, with only the sound of the lock men’s harnesses rattling as they coached each crew to make their lines fast before the gate to Lake Union would open. And then things happened too fast.
Turbulence in the lock from the pent up tons of water wanting to escape down to the ocean now entered the lock. Almost simultaneously, the monstrous tug motored away in a froth of power, adding to the swirls straining our lines. Yet we remained steady. Next, the interloper released his stern line and Kathleen tossed his bow line, and he promptly lost all semblance of control. In seconds he swept sideways to the current, his bow directed to our starboard side, and he inexplicably roared his engine and T-boned us with a jarring crash. My slow motion view allowed me two words, “Fender!” and then subsequently, “#&€£”. Which was echoed by Kathleen on the foredeck very pointedly in the interlopers direction. As he spun further out of control back down the lock, potentially endangering other helpless boaters between him and the massive leaky gate, I wondered what types of fiberglass carnage might occur. The lock crew, now quite active on their chains and harnesses, called out to us: “better get his information.” Right. Good thing GoPro was filming the entire experience from the flybridge.

  
Tied up again outside the lock, in the rain, with terse faces all around, we strained to see the damage over the railing and waited for the man of the green boat. He dutifully arrived, but professed ignorance of insurance, and boasting of his many years of boating, promptly blamed the locks, the tug, the weather, but never his hand or eye. Still though, he gave his license, registration, phone and business, so we hoped to find little damage and a responsible soul. Plus, we have GoPro and a lawyer.
Now it is days later, emails and phone calls only perfunctorily responded by the green boat, and we still need to get a professional estimate. After scrutinizing the impact zone while lying sideways on the dock with rubbing compound, I doubt it will be very serious. But the lack of responsibility is a shock. Perhaps more fenders next time. Perhaps more karma next time.
Last night we watched the red moon totally eclipsed and hanging lazily above the peak of Mount Rainier, while we bobbed around in the dinghy to get a better perspective from the anchorage. Beautiful views, clear skies, and rather chilly now into the forties at night, we are almost to the end of this cruise. All is good aboard Laysan.
Home soon,

John
47-13.5N

122-48.8W

South Puget Sound

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Lessons From the Crew

Hi Kathleen, John and Sarah,

Looks like you are heading south again. Hope you’ve been having an amazing time. On the ferry from Port Angeles, I wrote the following notes, with the intention of developing a fuller blog post. However, it just hasn’t happened, so I’m sending it to you as it is. If you think it is useful, feel free to use it on the blog.

I will keep an eye on the blog to hear of your travels.

Naomi

PS…I was on the west coast this weekend (Nootka Sound Kayak trip)…and saw sea lions thermoregulating!! It’s a thing.

After a few years away from passage making, I seemed to have forgotten the uncomfortable motion and long days associated with taking a small boat between continents. I thought a couple weeks crewing across the Pacific sounded like a wonderful adventure. And it was. However, I’ve made a few notes, should my memory fail me (it will), and I find myself tempted to engage in similar passage making behaviour in the future:

· Always ask Kathleen to be in charge of provisioning, for any voyage.
· Do not celebrate aloud the wonder of the auto pilot. You will be tempting fate. The auto pilots will fail as a result.
· Hamburgers and fries are a mandatory post-voyage celebratory meal. Even if it requires waiting two hours on the sidewalk for a table at the best burger joint in Washington. It will be worth it. It was.
· Do not leave port without a plumbers friend. ‘Nuff said.
· Contrary to my experience elsewhere, fog does not burn off by midday. In fact, you might spend ALL day in fog in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. This makes “Landfall” especially anti-climactic.
· No boat should be without a full size shower. A seat is necessary.
· Do not remove your happy patch. Seasickness meds were necessary for the entire voyage.
· The Pacific can be just that. However, it can also be a nasty beast that makes you question why you would ever go from a to b in a boat, instead of using a more logical mode of transportation.
· Tying one’s hopes and dreams to an ETA based on current speed is folly. An eta of four days, for three days in a row, is crew-defeating.
· One’s idea of a good time can be fluid. Daily highlight was our 4:30 calculations of distance travelled and fuel consumed. This data was graphed, and we all revelled in the fuel vs distance curve… affectionately called the “howzit goin’ curve”.
· Do not doubt that a large, unwieldy, poorly constructed, metal sampling device will add value to the voyage. In fact, it will be the part of the adventure that you are most proud of.
· Life without google is hard. And awesome.
· Sea Lions thermoregulate. It’s what they do. It might look like a shark’s fin. But it is a sea lion’s flipper trying to soak up some sun. I promise.

Naomi🙂

After 20 days at sea, Naomi stepping off in Port Angeles.

After 20 days at sea, Naomi stepping off in Port Angeles.

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Gearhead Summary

Hello there fellow gearheads and those various tech-curious types,
Laysan now lies quietly at anchor in flat calm Reid Harbor on Stuart Island, slowly resolving her aches and pains after the three week crossing of the Pacific Ocean. I too, am in such a state of gradual refurbishment, and now just enjoy looking out the window at boats and trees, but remember, as my friend Joe says, we are originally from Texas and therefore easily entertained. Regardless, now is the time to summarize the grisly details of the mechanical wonders that got us here. Some consider this post an obligatory snore, others can’t wait for it to get out there. I will let you decide.

 
Twenty days and 1032 gallons of lovely red diesel carried us 2370 miles across the Pacific Ocean from Honolulu to Port Angeles, Washington. Our best day of distance made good was 150 miles and our worst day was 102, with an overall average speed of 5.2 knots. Fuel used each day averaged 52 gallons and the mileage was 2.37 nautical miles per gallon. The integral tanks on Laysan add up to 1522 calculated gallons, but for an extra margin I carried a fuel bladder with 75 gallons on the foredeck. This flabby beast, nicknamed Baby Huey, was a complete hassle and I was glad to be rid of it on day 8. As we arrived with approximately 550 gallons of reserve fuel remaining, it was probably unnecessary.

 
Sarah had brilliantly composed a masterful spreadsheet of distance made good, distance to go, fuel consumed and the ever hopeful, estimated fuel in reserve. This number would fluctuate daily, and in the beginning with dire effect of wind and circumstance. But each evening, with baited anticipation, she would reveal a wondrous display of graphical magic that is known as Beebe’s “how’s it going curve.” This graph reveals your predicted total fuel reserve based current performance, and thirty percent is the hopeful threshold to maintain. Needless to say, this drama entertained us repeatedly, and fortunately, consistently remained within bounds. We actually did not reach the point of no return, fuel wise, until she calculated that 52% of fuel was used at the 82% of total distance made good on day 16, when of course we had no intention of turning back.

The howzit going curve.

The howzit going curve.

Iveco, the main engine, rumbled persistently along without complaint for 455 hours. Oil consumption was 4.5 quarts added intermittently throughout the trip as the oil pressure would drop slightly every 100 hours. At the halfway point we shut down amidst protest from the wide-eyed crew to check the levels, added a couple of quarts, and ended the disturbing silence that had everyone gripping their seats until the starter whined and Iveco awoke again with a familiar burp chug chug.

 
Racor fuel filters are ganged in a pair to allow switching and changing under way. With no pressure problems, I only changed over to number two at 539 gallons and 236 hours. Unfortunately number one then developed an air gap that would complicate the refilling if I had needed to do more changes, but we came all the way in on number two. I’ve had this problem with the slow air gap on all my Racors, but find no fuel leaks. I think it back flows into the tanks somehow.
The watermaker, The Little Wonder (it’s real name), functioned well and ran a total of 26 hours, making almost 300 gallons of salt water into drinkable fresh water. Our total capacity is 400 gallons, and we were never below half. Hot showers every night is a passage-making luxury, and allows for a happy, and clean, crew.

 
The paravanes were very helpful on two occasions for two days each. Beam seas up to 9 feet are uncomfortable and the fish make it much better, but they cost a half a knot, so we pull them back on when it gets tolerable again. I would like to have an easier method of retrieval as the grappling hook and winch method requires at least two people. On this journey, the sails were never flown because the wind never came off the bow more than 30 degrees. Eventually, we took down the main altogether to stop it flogging the mast. We have used them to great advantage in the past, but not this trip.

 
Debris was a problem for us twice with prop foulings. Seeing and scientifically collecting plastic become another thing entirely when the prop starts to grind. Both times we managed to clear the problem by stopping and backing down, but it may not always be so simple. Seeing and avoiding certainly works in the daytime, but there is a lot of stuff out there.

 
Electronic gremlins are a frustrating nemesis because they have no honor and come and go with impunity. They cannot be tied, screwed, wrenched, or taped, and I do not like them, not at all. When autopilot number one suddenly went dark, it complained of an invalid heading, indicating a loss of compass information. Unbeknownst to everyone, a hidden 5 amp fuse with a loose cap was the solitary culprit. In retrospect, another compass feed could have been changed over to number one. Worse yet however, was the abject total dark failure of autopilot number two, which gave up with a sudden hard over turn to the stop until it blew the breaker and fuses, never to be revived by normal means. It now lies on the bench at Comnav for an autopsy. Meanwhile, number one is back on the job like nothing happened. Weird.

 
The Raymarine chart plotter took us on a course that looks like an arrow shot from Hawaii to Washington. Radar and AIS picked up all the traffic, of which there were 13 ship sightings; many I called by name and they answered faithfully each time. I felt their radio log was another bread crumb trail of our position and progress. And besides, as Lindbergh said, it was a reassuring wave from our fellow man crossing lonely oceans of water and night.

 
SSB transmission and reception was poor, and we did not use Sailmail this time. The shortwave checked out fine reception before departure, but it is a finicky box. Much easier is the satellite phone and its connection to the laptop for email. With Naomi’s guidance, we obtained grib wind files and tif pressure maps from saildocs each day. The device to have we learned, is the DeLorme InReach, which saved the day when Naomi texted the sat phone service to reload our account, as they were supposed to do automatically. Their bad of course, but we needed a backup satellite device, and her brother’s InReach came in handy to say the least.

Rick Shema was our faithful weather router who sent us updates every three days. His email was a much anticipated event every evening, and I highly recommend his service.

 
After weeks of a dry engine room bilge, on arrival I found a half gallon of pink fluid sloshing there. After checking every coolant hose and clamp, the culprit appears to be the heat exchanger on the domestic water heater. Corrosion at the aluminum tank hose barbs has allowed coolant to leak out but not water. After closing the engine valves for the water heater and cabin heater, the leak has stopped. Evidently, the only solution is a new water heater. (Don’t tell Kathleen). Just some routine maintenance, dear.

 
Electric tea kettle and a rice cooker make the electric inverter seem like a necessity these days. We had three tanks of propane, but they are probably still almost full. Kathleen’s excellent provisioning with 14 prepared homemade frozen dinners for four were easy to heat on the stove, and they were delicious. Having a freezer is great, and ice cream on Fridays was a ritual. For the not so great feeling days, when we all appreciated our Scopalomine patches, noodle bowls were the answer. All in all, with a trash compactor, we only had one bag of garbage for four people after three weeks. That, I believe, is low impact.
Well, that is the way I see it. As I’ve said before, a crew with a good boat can go anywhere. All the best, and thanks for listening.

John

M/Y Laysan

San Juan Islands, Washington

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They’ve Got Some Wind In the San Juan’s

Remember what I said about my dream of the Northwest, “quiet coves”, “mirrored waters”, perhaps I should have done a bit more research. This morning we experienced a gale that midway through the day was upgraded to a storm warning (defined as sustained winds in the range of 48 knots (55 mph) to 63 knots (73 mph)). At one point, there was a mini white squall in the cove, like a wall of whipped blowing water coming at the pilot house at full speed. I was so excited, I screamed, John came running, the boat leaned sharply to port, and our bottle of real maple syrup took a dive onto the teak floor! Yes, I will admit we were in the midst of having pancakes in the pilot house, watching the wind meter slowly creep higher with each gust of wind in the middle of the gale/storm. But nothing says crisis like syrup on the floor and we sprang into action. Donning windbreaker gear, we headed out to check lines, canvas covers, the snubber line… In reality, we had already prepared for the storm, picking a cove that had good “holding” and wind protection from the south, pulling up the dinghy, tying down the Bimini, anchor line out at a scope of 7 to 1, so we were in good shape.

Flying in 47 knot winds!

Flying in 47 knot winds!

However, the same cannot be said of our neighboring boats. In the course of the morning, we saw at least six boats drag their anchors, requiring quick action to get control of the boat in the storm. The most suspenseful was our immediate easterly neighbor, a large 65 foot boat, who inexplicably had three, count ’em three dinghies, tied to his stern. We were watching the cove as one after another gust ran across the water towards the moored boats, suddenly realizing our neighbor was slowly moving closer to our position. No people were apparent on the boat and we began to discuss our evasive maneuver choices if the large boat continued to drag down on us. Suddenly, a woman burst from the pilot house running forward to the bow wearing…..you guessed it…..her black nightgown! The spectacle continued as the wind whipped, the anchor work began, the engines fired up and slowly, the behemoth with its three clumsy dinghies and one underdressed crew member lumbered off to a new anchor position far down the bay.

Sonata is closer to us than this image appears.

Our neighbor is closer to us than this image appears.

During the course of the morning, VHF Channel 16 issued “pan pan’s” (urgency calls) of boats dragging anchor, dinghy’s turned over, people in the water and even a few “may days” (imminent danger) including one 50′ boat on the rocks. While listening to Channel 16 is a marine necessity, the repeated calls amp up anxiety level and create a no nonsense atmosphere.

Happily, after about five hours of expectant watching, occasional acting (we had to let out more chain and reset the snubber), and the consumption of a hearty lunch, the winds subsided (max observed was 47 knots) the cove turned calm; reflecting the grey green of the evergreens on the hill. All is right with the world.

Sunset at Westcott Bay.

Sunset at Westcott Bay.

Kathleen

Westcott Bay, San Juan Island, Washington
48 35.74 N
123 09.13 W

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Safe Arrival

Laysan and crew arrived safe and well in Port Angeles, Washington at 5:00 pm on August 16, 2015. 20 days at sea! We are now “cruising” Port A for burgers and beer and looking forward to a quiet and complete night of sleep. Cheers.

Happy to arrive in Port Angeles, Washington.

Happy to arrive in Port Angeles, Washington.

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Good news, bad news

All passages are intense learning experiences with many long periods of inactivity interspersed with sudden opportunities to interpret, formulate, and react. First the bad news: yesterday afternoon the second autopilot quit with an overload that threw the breaker and blew its internal fuse. Evidently two autopilots are not enough. Fuse replacement and lazarette exam again to no avail. That means we are hand steering and it’s getting dark and the entrance to the Strait of Juan de Fuca is still ahead. Valiantly we persisted making for the entrance, but without any visual cues and magnetic headings difficult to hold, we all decided to hold off and spend the night at sea again and try again at daybreak.

Now for the good news: We are almost to east end of the Strait nearing Port Angeles, where we will stay a few days. Today has been another great group effort weaving among fishing boats and freighters, all the while hand steering in zero visibility dense fog. So landfall has been rather more of a virtual experience, as we have not seen much land except a large rock about a mile away this morning. ” I want to see mountains, Gandalf!” (We listen to the Hobbit at night for dinner entertainment.) Anyway, the Strait has been absolutely, totally, completely flat calm, which is beyond amazing for us after three weeks of roiling seas.

After docking, our first order of business is to find the post passage hamburger and celebrate our combined effort at a successful passage of 2280 miles and twenty days. A wonderful crew with a stout boat can go anywhere. We all thought often of our family and friends out there maybe reading the blog and being somehow connected to support us all together on this journey. All the best to you everywhere. See you soon.

Aloha,
John

Navigating the Juan de Fuca in the fog.

Navigating the Juan de Fuca in the fog.

Our first introduction to zero visibility.

Our first introduction to zero visibility.

After 20 days, our first sight of land.

After 20 days at sea, our first sight of land.

48 11N
123 46W

17 miles to go

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Electronic Mutiny

A captain’s concerns are many indeed, and crew satisfaction is a well honed fine art of diplomacy that stays at the top of the list. But I may have neglected one very important member lately, Commander, our faithful autopilot. Last night after losing to Naomi in the great Phase 10 card game of many days, we began discussing dinner when a shrill beep of defiance emanated from Commander, and it would not steer anymore. All day for many days Commander had dutifully followed the navigated route from Honolulu to Neah Bay. These last few days had innumerable large swells coming at us along the port beam while Commander valiantly readjusted as we rose, rolled, wobbled, and pitched. Until, finally the announcement with a beep, no more.

Restart, reboot, reconnect, retry all failed, and the prospect of hand steering did not appeal to any of the previously happy crew. (Problems secondarily multiplied.) Everyone took a post: lifejackets on, Sarah to the wheel, Naomi opened the manual, Kathleen watched over me as I descended into that quiet place beneath the cockpit with the wet hatch that we do not want to open, the lazarette. Fearing a red hydraulic fluid Quentin Tarantino scene again, I was relieved to find all things in their place, but no activity on the autopilot pump. So we still have steerage, but by the wheel, which is difficult to maintain as straight a course to landfall as we all want and need at this point of the journey.

Enter the value of redundancy, a second autopilot is available, with its own control, pump and ram on the rudder. But to engage number two, we bypass number one ram, which also responds to the wheel. After turning a couple of 360’s among the towering swells, all the valves are positioned and the autopilot number two is actively steering, but it knows not of the chart or route, so auto heading is enough for now. This means that the watchstander must constantly monitor the route and drift to correct the heading. Again the issue of general crew satisfaction is at risk, but they are a hardy bunch and smiles are all around as we head into the night without Commander.

Today is an abatement of the wind and seas, and the miles are still ticking down to enter the Straits of Juan de Fuca tonight. We will make for Port Angeles further down the Strait by tomorrow as they have more marine services than Neah Bay. Hopefully, we can revive the Commander and begin cruising without too much delay. As for the crew, it is lovely Kathleen’s birthday today and ice cream and brownies are on the celebration menu. Smiles restored.

That’s the news, all the best to our friends and family out there.

John

A little water on the port side.

A little water on the port side.

Checking the rigging.

Checking the rigging.

47 55 N

125 54 W

42 miles to the Strait.

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All By the Numbers

As the nautical miles tick down, the numbers’ analysis is flying fast and furious. As I said earlier, our two primary conversation topics are food and math. In the early days, the focus was on calculating the fuel we had, the fuel we used, and how much more fuel would we need. These amounts would change on a daily basis since some days more fuel was used to go fewer miles and other days, more miles were achieved with less fuel. On average, we use between 51 and 59 gallons in a 24 hour period and travel between 114 and 150 miles in that day. The fuel consumption numbers were predominantly John’s area of interest.

Naomi liked to figure out how fast we were going and how that translated to our daily distance. Now mind you, Laysan is a slow boat, so Naomi was parsing the difference between 4.5 knots and 6 knot speeds. So a poor day average was 4.5 knots for 24 hours equaling 108 nautical miles compared to her jubilant good day of 6.0 knots for 24 hours equaling 144 nautical miles. Pause for a moment and consider the distance. Ultimately, we have to traverse 2,280 miles of ocean, yet we are accomplishing that with a speed that is equal to a slow jog or a fast walk.

Sarah’s forte was a lovely computer program she designed that used our fuel usage, miles covered, distance remaining, fuel remaining, and other mystical categories she is refusing to reveal to me. The result was a graph that showed whether we would triumphantly arrive with a 30% fuel reserve (the optimum) or whether we were forever doomed to stay in Hawaii because we just couldn’t make such a crossing. The happy result of Sarah’s graphs has consistently been that we have enough fuel (1,482 gallons) to reach the Pacific Northwest.

As for me, I am a concrete, spatial type of person and I like the charts. Everyday at 9:00 am HST I would read off the latitude and longitude, array my colored pencils and my rectangular protractor and carefully map my previous day’s progress. For 17 days, I have added my daily inch to the map in a brilliant blue line; initially the minimal progress was distressing. However, now we are a mere two inches away, we can practically see the Olympic Mountains!

The current mathematical challenge is determining at what time we will reach the opening of the Juan de Fuca Strait, what time is the flood current in the strait, and how long before the current reverses to an ebb. The whole current conundrum is new to John and I, and I am sure it will take hours and days of study to understand how to traverse the Puget Sound with its ever-changing current and tides.

We believe that at this point, we will bypass Neah Bay since our anticipated arrival will be in the middle of the night; nighttime arrivals in unfamiliar channels, bays, and marinas are avoided if possible. So we will hold off the coast until daylight Sunday, then make our way down to the Strait to Port Angeles, Washington. If all goes well, we will arrive Port Angeles on Sunday afternoon, that is if our calculations are all correct.

Kathleen

The trusty Raymarine gives us lots of numbers to mull over.

The trusty Raymarine gives us lots of numbers to mull over.

A sad, desiccated flying fish who met his fate on the side of the boat.

A sad, desiccated flying fish who met his fate on the side of the boat.

45 29.34 N
130 48.962 w
313 nm to go

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Between a Low and a Hard Place

Each morning before sunrise I see Orion reclining comfortably along the horizon to the east, seemingly bemused at our progress over the ocean. Then as the sliver of moon rises before the sun, Orion gradually gets up and goes off to do whatever it is constellations do all day, rather Bachanalian, I suspect. Here on the surface of our planet, I am just happy to see some speeds above 5 knots after yesterday’s bashing.

With a dissipating low off Oregon to our right, and a big advancing high to our left, we are between the cogs of two giant rotating gears of waves and wind. The low circulates counter clockwise giving us a north wind, and the high rotates clockwise giving us a north wind, resulting in an all day experience of 25-30 knots on the nose, with the white capped green lipped ten footers gnashing us in the face. Slowly up the wave with all sky in the windows, then pitch down with a pounding boom and spray over the pilothouse and nothing but the blue trough in our view. Repeat one thousand times and it’s time for lunch. That was yesterday. Maybe today will be better, because we want to arrive for Kathleen’s birthday on the 15th.

Regards to all. Laysan and crew are fine. Another few days and we will enter the Straits of Juan de Fuca,

Aloha,
John

Dealing with the paravane fish, a great, if heavy device that helps with the beam roll of the boat.

Dealing with the paravane fish, a great, if heavy device that helps with the beam roll of the boat.

43 40 N
133 58 W

486 miles to go

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GoPro the Diver

The morning after the mysterious slowdown was spent wallowing in 8-10 foot beam seas, courtesy of the cold front passing through from the west. After a few 30 degree rolls, the unanimous decision was to launch the paravanes. The fish, as we call them, are fifty pound steel triangles suspended from outrigger poles on each side of the boat. They run 15 feet under water angled slightly downward to resist any upward force, and greatly reduce the oscillations of rolling after each wave slides under the boat. An excellent simple device, they do cost a little in drag, and they require a tedious retrieval with grappllng hooks and winches, so we will leave them in a couple of days until conditions improve.

Meanwhile, the rumble seemed to have an extra component which is only gradually and begrudgingly acknowledged. Denial is a potent force against objective observation, and as a physician, a parent, and a mechanic it is important keep analyzing the information. Our midnight solution may have only been a partial one because there is a subtle thumping, like a tom tom paradiddle coming through the boat. It is time for GoPro to take a swim.

Screwed onto its selfie stick and wearing a little orange floatie, I then strapped the GoPro to our ten foot boat hook and ventured out back into the cockpit awash with each rolling wave from the beam. Its red light blinking happily, I plunged the camera over the side trying to pan around to capture the running gear in action. Kathleen slowed from idle to neutral, and after a few minutes of filming we came inside to dry off and review the footage. All four of us huddled around the computer watching each frame download, trying to recognize the structures and disregard the multiple frames of just bubbles and Laysan’s maroon bottom. Gradually the propeller and rudder views were there, and undeniably a 2-3 foot swath of net was hanging from one blade and the prop zinc! Arrgh! We all moaned. Does this mean a shutdown and a dive trip for me? Oh, the humanity of it all.

Sarah, the diligent and unflappable, continues to review the following frames and exclaims “look, it’s leaving!” And, incredibly, it is. Like a veil in the wind, the netting detaches from the prop and wafts away by the rudder, and is gone. Amazing. The subsequent frames show our shiny prop unfettered, and we are absolutely all smiles. No shutdown in big swells, no diving under the boat, just engage and go forward. Fantastic. And the tom tom paradiddle vibration is no more either. All is good again aboard Laysan.

It is almost six am, and the big red sun is rising off our starboard bow. The wind has clocked around to the north and the beam rollers are flattening a bit. All the best to you out there.

John

An amazing series of photos; here the debris netting is wrapped on the prop.

An amazing series of photos; here the debris netting is wrapped on the prop.

The netting is still wrapped...

The netting is still wrapped…

...still wrapped...

…still wrapped…

We captured the exact moment the netting releases from the prop and starts to float away; the net is floating past the rudder in the photo.

We captured the exact moment the netting releases from the prop and starts to float away; the net is floating past the rudder in the photo.

39 13 N
140 27W
884 miles to go

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Sea Treasures

The sea gave us a gift yesterday, a crystal blue sky with glassy flat azure water that reflected the suns rays into the depths. We gathered on the front deck and gazed down expecting to catch a glimpse of some ancient sea creature gliding under Laysan. I have always heard of the mirrored sea days, but I had never experienced one until yesterday. Perhaps just as momentous, yesterday was our half way point, no turning back now. We celebrated by cooking vegetarian curry and rice and watched the sun sink into a stupendous orange horizon. That evening while I was on watch, I witnessed a second spectacular moment when a pale quarter moon rose out of a sea sparkling with bio-luminescence into a black sky filled with stars. All very poetic and lovely.

Lovely, calm Pacific Ocean.

Lovely, calm Pacific Ocean.

However, today is a different story. I awoke to a bad pounding rolling experience, the kind that makes me cling gibbon monkey like to my bed. A low pressure area was moving in from the west doing its level best to destroy the placid waters of yesterday. Grey clouds hung low, squalls lined up against us, the ocean took on a hue of prison drab, and the waves struck us a beam. For the first time on the trip, we had to deploy the paravanes in order to maintain some level of comfort from the incessant side to side rolling. The four of us sat glumly nursing our granola and tea wondering what happened to the nirvana of yesterday.

The radar shows approaching showers in yellow and red.

The radar shows approaching showers in yellow and red.

For the first time since we had reached the Ocean Cleanup zone, we did not send out the Mega Monster for its collection of plastic; too treacherous on the cockpit. While one might think we were relieved to be out of a chore, we actually missed the daily routine of the three trawls. Every afternoon, someone takes the wheel while the other three dress in life jackets and old salty clothes and convene on the cockpit. Everyone has their job, Naomi or John handle the 150′ rope that deploys and retrieves the Mega, Sarah clips and unclips the Mega from the pulley lines and makes sure the Mega is upright at deployment, I retrieve the netting and cod-end (the mesh net piece that collects the sample) and try to keep the Mega from bashing into the back of Laysan. Once the cod-end is brought aboard we all gather around to inspect our collection. Each trawl collects some marine life, small crabs, tiny fish, plankton, water bugs, squid but most astonishingly, each trawl collects plastic. Keep in mind we are 1,200 miles from Oahu and 900 miles from the west coast and the sea is full of plastic bits. Every single trawl, we collect a cod full of plastic fragments; the enormous amount of plastic that must be in the ocean is inconceivable and sobering. In addition to the small fragments, we witness a constant stream of debris floating by Laysan; buoys, netting, shoes, bottles, bags, crates, fenders, fishing floats….to realize that the sea is full of this garbage is disheartening. Check out the Ocean Cleanup website or Facebook page and show your support for this group’s Herculean effort to rid the world’s oceans of plastic. Also of interest is a link to the Mega Expedition which shows the location of all the boats participating in the research. Laysan was the first to reach the designated area and you should be able to see our path as we near the northern edge of the research area. http://yb.tl/oceancleanup

Well, the seas have lightened up, maybe we will have time for another trawl after all! Where are my salty clothes?

Kathleen

The cod chock full of plastic bits after a one hour trawl.

The cod chock full of plastic bits after a one hour trawl.

Examining the latest trawl collection.

Examining the latest trawl collection.

Big plastic as well as small plastic bits were caught in the trawl.

Big plastic as well as small plastic bits were caught in the trawl.

Saving a baby crab that was swept into the Mega net.

Saving a baby crab that was swept into the Mega net.

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Night Watch

imageHello everyone;

John here, at 0400 on the night watch. It’s not all hot chocolate, star gazing, and meaningful contemplation you know. Laysan has been gliding gracefully the last couple of days through the middle of the great Pacific high pressure system of summer, with calm seas and winds that make for speeds over 6 knots and smiles all around. This will not last for long but it feels timeless with the pleasant rumble of the diesel resonating through the boat. Until, something is not so pleasant about the rumble.

About an hour ago, the rpm dropped suddenly by 200 and the speed dropped below 5 knots, which could be the throttle slipping since it is held in place for days at a time by a simple friction screw. But it also felt like the water around Laysan got thicker, holding her back, and the rumble had a whine in it. More throttle and the rpm comes up, but the fuel flow is double, so normal is no longer in place. Idle, neutral, floodlights aft to check for debris, nothing. Reverse, back down, neutral, wait. Engine room check all ok. Forward, engage, throttle up to 1900, speed back up over 6 and fuel flow normal, engine room check ok, now breathe. Laysan is gliding again.

Possibly we have fouled the prop with some of the scattered line and net we see each day and avoid, but at night, well, it’s back to the original theory of small boat in a big ocean where untoward intersections of objects is unlikely. This theory has its flaws in a world of plastic, which is part of our ocean cleanup campaign. And it certainly becomes a more pressing reality when Laysan whines and slows in the night. Later today in the daylight, we will send GoPro over the side on a stick to examine the drive train for remnants of this night watch mystery.

The wind and the swell are now picking up from the west indicating we are possibly experiencing the edge of a cold front. At least it is pushing us in the right direction for a change. That’s the news from 37 34N and 142 28W. 1000 miles to go. All the best to our friends and family.

John

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Crisis of Three and a Spaceship

On the midnight shift, moving through the blending dark of the sky and the ocean, I feel like I am in a spaceship. Voyaging through a space, far from land, far from people, far from light. The reality is that we are a spaceship by circumstance; we are fully self-contained and we must be fully self reliant. Any problem that arises can only be resolved by our common sense, John’s bounty of spares, and creativity.

Yesterday, we had three mini crises. The first was signaled by an occasional quiet beep; we all heard the sound, but no one could pin point the source. The beep became more frequent, more insistent. Finally, we all confirmed that it was the lazarette bilge alarm, signaling that there was water in the bilge. However, the design of the boat is such that the only opening to the lazarette is a hatch on the floor of the back cockpit, a location awash in salt water with each roll of the boat. Hence a Catch-22; open the lazarette to check for water in the bilge and the source of our alarm but in the process, risk a wave of salt water washing into the lazarette creating a greater problem. What to do? We knew there wasn’t much water in the bilge, because the manual pump was only removing cupfuls of water. However, the source of the leak was important since we didn’t want it to increase…was it a leaking thru hull, a leaking rudder post shaft seal, a leaking hatch gasket? We marshaled the forces, slowed the boat, turned into the waves, outlined the hatch with rolled towels, stood guard for a sneaky wave, and John jumped down into the lazarette with tools and flashlight. Five minutes later, John concluded that the problem was the hatch gasket, tightened the dogs on the hatch, leaped back out, and we slammed the hatch shut. Success…no water in, no major problem, tiny issue resolved.

Checking the lazarette, note the beach towel protective shield; towel v. ocean.

Checking the lazarette, note the beach towel protective shield; towel v. ocean.

Crisis two was a short time later; discovered when we tried to send our daily position report to our weather router. The satellite telephone informed us we didn’t have any more minutes, sorry. Whaaat? We had spent almost two weeks with the Inmarsat people working out our satellite communication, and included in those endless discussions was the instruction to automatically reload our satellite minutes if and when we went through the first $100. In other words, “here is my credit card, make sure we have access to the satellite”. At that bad moment in time, the Catch-22 is that we had no means of communicating with the people who could get us communicating again. In fact, we had no means to communicate with anyone other than via our VHF radio or SSB radio. The fortuitous resolution to this rather serious problem was Naomi, the infinitely prepared. Naomi had brought an InReach satellite messenger that allowed for short text messages to a telephone or email. We sent a series of terse, annoyed texts to the Inmarsat folks who, six hours later, deemed our problem serious enough to fix. Back in business again. In hindsight it is easy to say “we should have a second device, such as the InReach or the Spot”. I can only respond that crossing preparation is a constant balance between need – want – cost; sometimes you call it right, sometimes you don’t.

Our third mini crisis of the day involved Baby Huey, the 75 gallons of diesel lashed to the front of our deck in a large black bladder. Despite a certain amount of stress from our two previous crises, the day was relatively wave quiet so we decided to empty the bladder into our side fuel tank. John had devised and tested a diesel pump that should have made the whole job a 20 minute affair; one hose onto the Baby, one hose into the diesel tank, and a pump in between. All hands on deck with life jackets and the process began. However, within four or so minutes the pump stopped working, either battery failure, air suction failure, or gremlins. What to do? Try to fix the pump, try to do a gravity feed, try to create a straight suction with the hose… we opted for a gravity feed. However, various physics problems conspired against us and we spent two and a half hours on the rolling, salt encrusted front deck lifting, rolling, squeezing, stomping, hanging, roping, and cursing the Baby. Eventually, we prevailed and every last drop of diesel was drained from Baby. No disasters, no injuries, no loss.

The spaceship sails on and we have been lucky today that all we need has been aboard.

Kathleen

Lassoing Baby Huey.

Lassoing Baby Huey.

Adding 75 gallons of diesel at sea in the side tank.

Adding 75 gallons of diesel at sea in the side tank.

17:10 HST
33 13.293 N 147 15.574 W
Miles to go: 1370 nm

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What Would You Talk About in the Middle of the Pacific Ocean?

As our rolly, bumpy days flow past, our conversations focus predominately on two topics; food and math. Even though everyone still dons their daily scopolamine patch, our appetites have survived. I stocked our larders premised on a single idea; we are unlikely to want to cook. Laysan has a lovely kitchen with a microwave, gas range, oven, refrigerators, freezers, however, any cooking attempt must be made by wedging yourself against the cabinetry, feet planted firmly on the floor, and gripping the edge of the counter with one hand. If you need to get something out of the fridge, you take the wedge position open the door, keeping in mind that if the boat rolls at that precise moment, the refrigerator door could break off its hinges. Cushioning the door against such a fate, reach in and grab item, set it on the counter just as the boat does another roll, slams the fridge door and
the item slides or rolls down the counter to land in the sink. And so it goes for each item of a recipe. To circumvent this high wire act, I made multiple crock pot meals and froze them in a foursome serving container. Now all I have to do is pop it out of the freezer into a pan and heat it up. Perfect! We are dining on French cassoulet, beef chili, madras lentil soup, jalapeno cilantro pesto pasta, black bean and chicken tortilla soup, and udon noodles. The highlight of the week is, Friday, ice cream night!

This particular breakfast did not go so well, oatmeal on the floor.

This particular breakfast did not go so well, oatmeal on the floor.

Every evening around sunset, we discuss our meal options, contemplate possible sides and then bob and stumble our way to the galley. Once our choice is heated, we all sit up in the pilot house on the couch, lined up like birds, and enjoy our soup in the Japanese red bowls from Don Quijote. During our evening meal, we listen to the audio book of The Hobbit and watch as the sun drops into the ocean and the moon rises in the east. A fine moment in the day.

Our respective favorite dining positions.

Our respective favorite dining positions.

Frequently, our conversations turn to the meal we plan to have at Neah Bay, our first landfall. John’s dream of a meal is a hamburger, Sarah a cheeseburger, I want just the french fries, and Naomi, ever the out of the box thinker, desires sushi.

As for our second most popular topic, math, that will have to wait for another blog.

Sarah introduced Naomi to an island favorite, spam musubi. Naomi claimed she liked it!

Sarah introduced Naomi to an island favorite, spam musubi. Naomi claimed she liked it!

Kathleen

10:00 HST
31 19.56 N 149 07.73 W
Miles to go: 1518

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