Sailing Through the Variable Winds

Passage Notes (continued)


While I was up in the cockpit, David suddenly shouted up "Shut down the engine!" which I promptly did. When I went below, the whole interior was full of what looked like smoke—it looked like we had a genuine emergency at hand—a fire at sea! I quickly learned that it wasn't smoke but steam. An engine coolant hose had ruptured, spewing boiling-hot coolant all over the engine and engine compartment, creating clouds and clouds of steam. All the vapors had the sickeningly sweet smell of antifreeze. We opened the hatch (which had been closed due to the rain) and turned on a fan to help clear the steam from below. David turned on the engine room blower and from the cockpit you could see a plume of white steam streaming from the deck vent. At one point, Marcie agreed to create a good scene for a photograph. She opened an access door to the engine compartment and a big cloud of steam came rolling out and rose up to the ceiling. It made for a good picture, but the door she opened was in the galley just across from the oven. In the picture, all the white "smoke" makes it look like Marcie just burned the roast again, big time (a purely hypothetical situation I couldn't imagine happening!).

We had to wait a while for the steam to dissipate and the engine to cool. Meanwhile, coincidentally, Marcie had actually been using the oven to bake, and she served up a bunch of banana bread muffins. David rooted around in various lockers and came up with some spare hoses and a collection of tools he would need. Once the engine cooled, he changed the offending hose, and as usual, it was a difficult and messy job. At the end of the job he had to clean up all the old coolant that had spilled into the engine bilge. He dredged up several small bucketfuls of thoroughly disgusting slop water, which were gingerly passed up the companionway hatch and regrettably but necessarily dumped overboard. After the repairs were completed, we restarted the engine to test it, and after a few minutes David pronounced the repairs successful. Way to go, David! It had actually turned into a pretty nice day, with partly-cloudy skies and a nice wind for sailing. Not needing the engine at the moment, we shut it down and continued sailing.

Yesterday afternoon, after the first batch of serious rain ended we took a couple of reefs in the mainsail. This was rather conservative, but we wanted to be reefed "just in case" for the upcoming night watches. As it turned out, the winds were light, so today we shook out the reefs and had a good sail for part of the day. Contrary to what you might think, when it rained heavily the wind actually slowed down and sometimes died out completely. These rain clouds have very little vertical development, so they aren't likely to generate strong winds like a thunderstorm. The air is humid enough that even a little vertical development is enough to wring copious amounts of moisture from the air.

We are no longer in the reliable trade wind belt and are now in an area of variable wind, or sometimes no wind. Over the past few days, here are the wind directions we have encountered: NNW, NE, N, WNW, NW, WSW, S, NNE, ENE, ESE, E, SSE, SE, W, WNW, NW, NNW. This is 14 of the 16 points of the compass—the only two we missed were SSW and SW. It's actually not too bad that we missed those two because that's the direction we want to go and a sailboat has a hard time going directly into the wind.

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