Molly Sasser's 4th Grade Class - Madison Exploratory School, Canon City, CO asks:

Dear Molly:

Thank you for letting us join your class. First of all let me introduce myself. My name is Dave Harlow; I am Jessica’s dad and Captain of the “Nordhavn” for this leg of the Around the World trip. I work for a boat building company in Dana Point California called PAE Yachts.

The boat I am currently on is a Nordhavn 40, built in California. The Around the World trip was first designed to test our smallest cruiser and to prove that even our smallest boat could travel safely to any part of the world. We then thought that we could also try to set a record for the fastest circumnavigation in a powerboat of this size. We plan on completing the trip in six to seven months. I think what it really is, is a great adventure and a lot of fun. If you and your class would like to join us and follow our passage we would be very happy to have you aboard.

The route of the trip will be as follows:

California – Hawaii – Marshall Islands – Philippines – Singapore – Thailand – Sri Lanka – Up the Suez Canal – through the Mediterranean (stops unknown at this time) – Across the Atlantic – through the Panama Canal – up the coast of Mexico – back to Dana Point.

We have three-man crews for each leg. Along with me on this leg are Ray Danet and Tom Selman. Jessica and I spent a week on board Tom's boat several years ago on a trip down the California coast.

To follow I hope are answers to the questions your class has asked.

1) Will you go through the Indian Ocean?

The boat will go through the Indian Ocean. The crossing will start at Phuket, Thailand with a stop in Sri Lanka and then up through the Suez Canal. I will not be on the boat at that time; there will be three new crewmembers for that leg. I crossed the Indian Ocean years ago in a 46’ boat. This is a really neat area with many different cultures and countries to see.

2) Will you see Whales and Dolphins on the trip? What kind?

We have seen hundreds of dolphins and two days ago we saw a Humpback whale with a very small calf swimming along at her mother's side. We followed them for a little ways but stayed far away so we did not scare the calf. They continued on very slowly and then the mother arched her great back, flipped her tail in the air and dove. We could see the little calf try to flip her tail up, but it just kind of slapped the water, she is just learning. Humpbacks can hold their breath for a long time and swim a long way under water. We never saw them again.

3) How long will the trip take?

We have planned to take about seven months to complete the trip. The boat travels about 7 knots an hour. That’s about the speed of a fast jogger. Can you guess how long it would take to jog around the world? Well about 7 months if you never stopped to sleep

A short pause: In the middle of writing this Tom and Ray caught a 12 lb Dorado on a hand line. A hand line is a clear fishing line with a lure on the end tied to a 50’ piece of thin cord. The cord is tied to the boat with a stretchy cord in between to take the shock of a fish strike. We then tie an empty can to the cord as an alarm. The lure is dropped in the water and when a fish bites the lure the line goes tight and the can bangs around and lets us know that we have a fish. You then pull him in by hand and that way we don’t have to slow the boat down as you would if you were using a rod and reel. Looks like we are having Dorado for dinner.

4) Are you going to see any Narwhales?

I don’t think we'll see any Narwhales. I think that the whales we will see will be the Humpback, Sperm, Pilot and Blue Whales. I don’t know where the Narwhales live. If you find out, please let me know.

5) Why are you going around the world?

Well like I said up above, to test the boat and to learn about long range cruising.

(Don’t tell anyone, but mostly we are doing it for fun)

6) What do you do at night?

Well we just keep on going. We stand watches. We each stay on watch for three hours at a time, all through the day and night. Below is the watch schedule.

We also have radar to spot any other boats and land around us, a depth sounder to tell us how deep the water is and an electric chart to let us know exactly where we are at all times. It is very dark out here so we turn the lights in the boat down low so we can see out. We also turn the radar and other equipment down low. Try this in your folks' car at night – have them turn the inside lights up bright and you can’t see outside / turn the inside lights down low and you can see again. It’s the same in the pilot house at night.

When you are on watch you watch the instruments and walk around the boat once in a while just to make sure everything is OK. When your watch is over you wake up the next guy, (he grumbles a bit) and then you are off watch and can get something to eat or go to sleep.

Tom – 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm
Ray – 9:00 pm to 12:00 midnight
Dave – 12 midnight to 3:00 am
Tom – 3:00 am to 6:00 am
Ray – 6:00 am to 9:00 am
Dave – 9:00 am to 12 noon --
Noon to 6:00 anyone that’s awake stands watch.

7) What do you do in a really big storm?

We will try to avoid storms as much as possible. We have really good weather reports and will try to move out of the storm's way. We move very slowly so if a storm comes right to us we will just have to ride it out. This boat is very strong and is designed to go through storms. We also have thick clear plastic window covers to protect the windows from breaking, (like in the movie “Perfect Storm). I hope there are no storms!

8) How many places will you stop around the world?

I don’t know the answer to this. We have about 20 planned stops. There always seems to be more stops than planned. If something breaks or someone has to go home then we will make detours. Sometimes you just decide to take a break at a nice location and pull in. These are sometimes the best parts of the trip.

9) How will you cook on the boat?

We have a full galley (kitchen) on the boat. The galley is in the middle of the boat so it has the least amount of motion from the rough seas. The galley has a stove, refrigerator, freezer, double sink and even a trash compactor. We have food stored all over the boat; sometimes we can’t remember where everything is stored so we have to go looking. We will be having fish tonight!

10) What if you have to fix the boat?

We have a full tool locker with every kind of tool we think we will need. We also have spare parts for almost everything. When you are this far out to sea, there is no one to help or to call so we have to be able to take care of any problem that comes up.

11) What do you do in your spare time?

There is a lot of spare time. When you are off watch there is still lots to do. We still need to cook and do the dishes, there’s fishing, we have a VCR so we watch movies, play poker, read – we do a lot of reading, and just day dreaming or sleeping.

12) What if someone falls off the boat?

That’s a good question. Most people are not prepared to get someone back on board if they fall off so when it happens, it can have a bad ending. We are all prepared to get an overboard person back on board. The first thing to do is just stop the boat and throw a marker or life ring to the person. Most of the time they could just swim back and get on the swim platform to safety. If the person is hurt or in really rough conditions we would throw a life ring overboard to help mark the spot and also give them something float on. The next thing to do is for one crew member to point at the man overboard and never look away, It's easy to loose sight of a person in rough water or any water for that matter.

We would then turn the boat around and go back on exactly the same course and pick them up. In warm water there is more time for this – in cold water a person in the water can get weak very fast and have trouble staying afloat. Luckily for us the water is about 77 degrees here. The most important thing for any boat – on an ocean, river or lake - is for everyone on the boat to talk about what to do and have a simple plan that everyone knows before it happens.

13) What other types of fish do you catch?

Well we have caught Dorado (Mahi Mahi) and Albacore. We hope to catch Tuna, Sea bass and crabs when we stop and most of all we are hoping to catch a Wahoo. This is a big fish that looks like a Barracuda and has teeth as big as a dog's - really fun to catch and good to eat. We always let the fish go that we are not going to eat.

14) What will you do when you get back?

I think I’ll drive out to Colorado and see Jessica. Maybe I can bring some photos to show your class where we have been and what we have seen.

15) Does it feel funny to walk on land after so long at sea?

Yes it does. It feels like everything is moving and sometime you get kind of dizzy. It really feels funny to sleep in a real bed; it seems so big and feels like it is rolling. It also takes a few days before you stop waking up at midnight to go on watch.

Thanks to all of you for the good questions. I will write when I get to Majuro and let you know what we see there. If you have any additional questions or want me to research anything for you, please let me know. I look forward to your hearing from you.

Dave Harlow


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