Sailing to the British Virgin Islands in the Caribbean 1500

Passage Notes (continued)


Click on either picture to see a bigger version; use your browser's "back" command to return here.

Click on the picture to see a bigger version; use your browser's "back" command to return here.  

I spliced together two pictures for this view.  

I used my digital camera to make a movie during one of the heavy downpours on Monday the 12th. Unfortunately, the video quality is really poor. The camera doesn't have a very good movie mode, plus I was shooting through a salt-encrusted hull porthole. Click on the picture to play the movie (1.12 MB, 52 seconds of video); if it doesn't play automatically, right-click the picture and download the .mpg file to your computer, then open it manually in Windows Media Player (or similar program).  

Monday, November 12, 2007 (Day 9 of the Passage)

Occasional squalls today. The house bank is running chronically low since we're trying to conserve fuel by reducing the running time for the main engine and genset.

The autopilot quit working today and Jeff didn't think it was fixable, but I poked around and discovered there was a bad connection in the wiring between the main controller and the hydraulic actuator. We were able to bypass the bad connection by running a temporary replacement wire from the main controller in the saloon to the actuator in the aft cabin via the workbench passageway, duct-taping the wire out of the way. This did the trick and the autopilot went back into service.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007 (Day 10 of the Passage)

In the wee hours of the morning the genset suddenly quit and was placed out of service. This meant there was no more AC power to run the reefer/freezer, since it draws too many amps to run off the inverter. The genset was also a fuel-efficient way to recharge the house bank, much more so than running the big Cummins diesel. To conserve power, we decided to turn off the entire Furuno Navnet system, since all the equipment together takes about 10 amps of DC current. Although the chartplotter screens are now dark, we turn on a handheld battery-powered GPS every hour to get our position fix.

In the morning, Greta cooked a yummy breakfast of pancakes with strong coffee, which really hit the spot. There's something about a nice home-cooked meal that takes the edge off of problems that we're experiencing.

When we needed to recharge the house bank this morning, the Cummins was hard to start (the genset is now out of service). Between the engine / genset troubles and the low (and leaking) fuel supply, we're on the edge of a real predicament. If we lose the ability to recharge the house bank, we might get a couple of days of electric service before the batteries run flat. Without electricity, our voyage would revert to the dark ages, literally. No more lights (including nav lights), no fresh water (the foot pump is broken), no hot meals or coffee (the propane solenoid needs electricity), no toilets (they flush with electric pumps), no washdown dishwashing in the galley, no VHF or SSB or stereo, no autopilot, no compass light, no wind instruments, no bow thruster, etc. Plus if we can't start the engine, we would have a really difficult time in a crew-overboard situation given our weak sail plan. Oh well, let's hope the god of diesel engines (pictured as some sort of piston-flailing muscle-bound Teutonic deity) keeps us in his good graces.

Thursday, November 15, 2007 (Day 12 of the Passage)

Another miserable night of rainy squalls with winds to 38 knots (my watch) and 48 knots (Greta's watch); there was some lightning but not very close. Sleeping was nearly impossible in the damp salty berth plus the boat was rocking and rolling. Greta said some leaking saltwater sloshed out of a cubby over the bed and splashed on her face while she was trying to sleep. We have adverse winds from the southeast, which is the direction we're trying to go. With our weak sail plan it's difficult to sail close to the wind, plus we make lots of leeway. Under these conditions, the only way we can make progress is to motor slowly, conserving fuel.

Friday, November 16, 2007 (Day 13 of the Passage)

Here are some observations from my journal during my night watch on Friday night:

Inky darkness on a nearly windless ocean with slow rolling swell that rocks the boat, not quite pleasantly, but not the wicked malicious rolling of our earlier bad weather. The dark outline of the mast and spreaders, looking gaunt like a leafless tree, gyrating wildly as the swell manhandles the boat. Distant lightning and nearby dark but nonconvective clouds, tropical cloud formations, castles in the sky of all shapes and sizes, some dropping a deluge of rain. Through some clear sky, a swath of light from the Milky Way arches horizon to horizon.

Clattering and clinking of the rigging, the dull growling roar of the Cummins diesel, which at 1000 rpm pushes us along at four knots—an economical cruise to be sure, but also the slow boat to Tortola—we are dead last. Everyone else has arrived, awards have been presented, people wined and dined and friendships stoked. Meanwhile, we are still puttering along, with our tattered headsail making us look like a derelict ghost ship.

Twinkles of bioluminescence below, shooting stars above, randomly streaking across the cosmos. A ship slowly creeps over the horizon, then nears so navlight colors are determined (starboard side to), then slowly and silently it gains bearing and passes far ahead (six miles according to our radar, which was covered with speckles of interference from the ship's radar).

Late night munchies: first PB+J, then later cheese. We have lots of cheese, use it before it goes bad.

Otto the Simrad autopilot, dutifully steering a course for an approach waypoint off Anegada Island. Of course Otto's tiny silicon brain has no appreciation for the prospect of green hilly islands, safe and secure tie-ups with shore power and dock water, and especially not the most anticipated feature of shoreside civilization: a long hot shower then clean clothes.

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