Around The World Voyage : Commentary : Leg 4

May 16, 2002

Thursday May 16th 3 pm/1500 US Atlantic

Lat 12.59.373 Lon 64.20.700
Heading 263 degrees (heading West)
Speed average 7.6
Next Waypoint = GPS target 2 miles above Dranjestad Island (better known as Aruba) Distance to waypoint = 334 nm
Fuel remaining = 770 gallons
Distance from starting point – Port St. Charles, Barbados = 275 nm
Distance to Panama Canal = approximately 975 nm
Certainties: “We aren’t there yet, but we must be near somewhere…”
Recent music in the CD – English Beat – Wha’ppen, Bruce Hornsby – The Way it Is

My watch ended at noon and I just took a cockpit shower so I’m freshly deodorized, feeling clean and still in this down-swell-heading-West predicament. I’m sitting in the wheelhouse with Grego – the outside temp is 87 degrees and the mellow breeze of about 15 knots is producing white caps and keeping some good airflow through the boat. In “day mode” our developing routine is to open both doors (port and starboard) and the forward starboard vent windshield. We also open up the salon door to let air flow in/out through the wheelhouse and salon. Dan has just come on watch and has checked in and proceeded to the engine room to do his inspection.

The generator is still running and the two staterooms are being refreshed continuously by the air conditioning – both of these systems have been non-stop since shortly after leaving Barbados when Mike tried to conk-out in the guest stateroom, but didn’t feel is was properly yacht cruise worthy to sweat when he was supposed to be dreaming. It took no convincing and by the simple act of manipulating a couple of switches we had cold air flowing within the minute.

Regarding air conditioning, it seems the least I can do is send a personal thank you from crew number four to PAE’s own Bradley Smith for installing the A/C. Most of you long time ATW readers already have heard the story of Brad flying to Yap to mount the system out in the middle of the Pacific, but it’s a tale that still won’t be repeated as many times as it is appreciated. Sleep is important. Sleeping on a boat that never stops moving is something I have to kind of sneak up on. A rested crew is more alert and better prepared to react quickly and responsibly to any urgent situations. Fatigue has been a factor in most maritime mishaps. So after doing your duties/chores/watches, etc., at some point you have to wrap it up and get some shut eye. We are sleeping in air conditioned staterooms thanks to Brad. No laying in bed sweat pouring our of every pore wondering what you can do that will make you comfortable to doze off. Thanks again Brad, if you had planned this better you would have put in a time delay reset switch set to activate a day out of Barbados and we could have had you fly out with your repair tools to join us on crew four.

SPECIAL NEWS UPDATE. Attention single women ages 25 – 35 ; Brad Smith is a hardworking, efficient global traveler, good with his hands and has a rock steady job. Lives aboard his own yacht in Dana Point, CA and possesses several exotic means of transportation. He is also certified by the ABYC and adept at all things mechanical. I would be giving out too many secrets if I listed his personal email here, just inquire online by sending your best pitch to: iwantbrad@nordhavn.com. (Brad, if this doesn’t work you’ll have to come up with a plan B on your own.)

Between noon and 2 today I did my first on board reading. I was given a hot tip by Ron Jacks, a friend of Nordhavn, who after learning of my plans to transit the Panama Canal suggested I read “The Path between the Seas” by David McCullough (all you readers out there may know McCullough better for his Pulitzer winning book ‘Truman’ or just as the guy who wrote that best selling book about John Adams last year – which Grego is reading onboard). A light went off in my head and I called my dad because I remembered him telling me he had read that building-of-the-canal book a couple of years ago when he made the passage on a big luxury liner. Sure enough he still had it, loaned it to me and I’m underway. The history of finding the best place to build a canal in Central America is already proving to be an intriguing read, guess I’ll have to put Dirk Pitt on hold for a couple of days, I’m sure Clive Cussler would understand.

I found the perfect afternoon reading spot, it’s actually an old sailing favorite – out on the bow pulpit. Found my PassageMaker hat, rubbed on some AloeGator, grabbed a bottle of water and a banana and informed Mike of my intentions. Our rule is you tell the skipper on watch if you go on the foredeck, boat deck or cockpit and report back in when you return. Earlier I had found two closed cell 2” thick by 12” and 3’ long cushions in the port foredeck locker. After placing one athwartships across the lower rung of the pulpit I positioned the other one fore/aft and sat down with my feet extending aft perfectly braced on the windlass. The sun was aft (maybe I can get those white sock-tan lines to blend back into my ankles), the breeze in my face and I could hear the sea roll by and listen to the bow slicing forward. Occasionally there would be a mild commotion, a rustling type of sound, and if I looked quickly enough I’d be treated to mini flying fish, the size of dragon flies take off for 3 – 5’ flights. The bow pulpit is securely braced and is almost fully over the boat (it does not extend out far) and my legs were well within the 18” molded in bulwark so even if the pulpit broke all I’d do is bruise my butt on the anchor. Mike turned off the Radar so I wouldn’t get cooked by the microwaves – since he used to work at the San Onofre, CA Nuclear Plant I appreciated the heads-up gesture. Mike is an on-the-ball guy, and he’s a huge asset to the company, but I’ve often wondered why a guy with the same credentials and qualifications to do the same job that Homer Simpson has would leave such a high tech important field to write our detailed owner’s manuals let alone volunteer to become an indentured servant and ships cook on an extended three hour cruise. Oh yeah, he went to Berkeley.

Back to my pulpit adventure. We are screaming down waves (OK, maybe yodeling – but boy howdy these seas are shoving NORDHAVN as well as a 50,000 lb. 40’ big boned full figured girl can be pushed). Sitting in the pulpit a big set emerged from behind and I called to Mike to read the top speeds off the GPS – 9.9 knots! Cowabunga, surf’s up! Dude, this is totally rad – closest thing to an e-ticket fun ride I’ve yet to find aboard. I’m sure we must have hit an unobserved double digit figure during the afternoon. Being a contemplative type of guy I was looking up at our paravane outriggers (Hey Bill Hanna at Forespar thanks for the great rig) and in my mind I was designing a set of down wind sails – you’d have to rig ‘em up so that they couldn’t get burned by the dry exhaust which runs up outside the mast, but we could put up a lot of canvas – the last two days the wind has stayed aft between 120 degrees port and 120 degrees starboard, averaging 15 knots true – ah, just a thought. If conditions hold over the next couple of days I think I’ve found a great way to unwind after my morning watch. As I folded up my book a light sprinkle of rain fell and I could see several squalls on the horizon headed our way, but the only place they showed up is on our Raymarine radar screen.

About that radar. It’s been at least twelve hours since any floating targets have appeared. We are out in the deep blue with nothing around for a hundred miles. I just realized I haven’t seen a plane in the sky since we crossed through the Grenadines. We’re over 100 miles north of the offshore coastal islands that protect Venezuela, heck only a few frigates (sea birds) and those flying fish are hanging around to keep us company (common denominator for NORDHAVN, frigates and flying fish is our love and dependence of the water and our use of wings (active fin stabilizers) – advantage to these local fish and fowl – their wings let them get airborne and ours glue us to the water). Radar, when you are so far off the beaten path it’s just a blank black screen with rings, even so it’s amazing how many times I still look at it - during the day you can scour the horizon with your Steiner binoculars (by the way thank you Steiner – they work great), but at night, well actually I’m going to do a separate night time report so I’ll save that for later.

For those of you keeping score at home we three of crew four have continued the same watch shifts as the third leggers. Starting at midnight we each take a two hour shift: 0 – 2 = Dan. 2 – 4 = Jeff. 4 – 6 = Mike. Then we rotate in the same order doing three hour intervals. The skipper going off watch is updating the log book on the hour so that when you come on watch you’re first task is already done. This gives you time to get your bearings and browse the instruments. Any changes of course or deviations from the norm are noted in the log book which are ceremoniously updating each hour. We are basically heading West along latitude 13 degrees. The log book includes our position in lat and lon, course heading, average speed, RPM, net amps, alternator output, wind speed and wind direction, and an engine room check. We have the paper charts folded on the wheelhouse table and are periodically penciling in our position, but it’s more for practice than purpose – we could easily retrace our steps following the log book and the Raymarine electronics allow us to access virtually anything we need to know just by pushing the correct buttons.

Time flies, it’s 5:00 and I have an important duty to tend to.

Trying to enjoy this adventure I remain a close resemblance to Jeff Merrill.

 

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