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.
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.
San Juan Islands, Washington