Sunday, June 30, 2013

We don't work weekends!

After a trying passage that ended at the Sanitary Fish Market in Morehead City, NC I called CBP to check in. They asked me if I was an American and if it was an American boat. I said yes. They asked me my prior port of call. I said Nassau, Bahamas. They said, “we don’t work weekends, someone will call you on Monday to clear you in.”

 

The Government works in strange ways its services to perform.

 

Fair winds and following seas

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Back in the USA

In Beaufort NC after a terrible trip. More to follow tomorrow.

Fair winds and following seas

Friday, June 28, 2013

Too much wind!

After several days of bobbing around with no wind i was treated to an nighttime thunder shower. I had already taken down the main and had reefed the jib to 50% when it became clear from the weather radar that I was going to be bit. What I was not expecting were 45 knot winds - sustained for about 15 minutes. I attempted to furl the fib futher but only succeeded in turning the jib sheets into a Gordian knot. This is only the second time in my four years of cruising offshore that I have been faced with winds and waves of such violence. Now that I think of it, maybe the third time. In any event it scares me s*(&(less. I remember the last time a halyard was loose and I spent the time listening to bang bang bang like Chinese water torture. The end rresult - the jib needs to be restitched and the sacrificial cover (which sacrificed) replaced. One more expense for the overhaul. At some point one of my Tacktick remotes was swept overboard. Another $600 gone. The joys of cruising.

I ended up rigging a spare jib sheet so that I could undo the knot. It was under tension so did not want to give. It was great fun hanging over the side of Reboot threading the spare sheet through the jib. Did I mention we still have 8 foot waves? And yes I had a life jacket and harness on, but I was not really ready to go swimming.

I have reached what I call the point of indifference. Because of the curvature of the North Carolina coastline I am equadistant from any port of call - with 100 NM to go in any direction. So off to Morehead City, hopefully making landfall (without a thunderstorm) tomorrow.

Fair winds and following seas.

--

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Another frustrating day

I feel like I will be over 200 NM from Morehead City forever. Yesterday was another frustrating day. Very light winds. Rain in the afternoon. When the winds get very light the wind vane steering can not hold a course so I was doing a lot of sail trimming and hand steering. (The electric autopilot is broken, just one more expense when I get into port.) I must have been in a eddy of the Gulf Stream as there were times I was drifting south. What frustration. I only made about 40 NM towards Morehead City over the past 24 hours.

At the moment I have decent wind and Reboot is making progress north. I have favored going toward the west as the Gulf Stream nominal centerline is only about 35 NM to my west. I am hoping to pick up some current that will at least drift me in the right direction when I lose the wind. The trade off is that the warm water in the Gulf Stream spans afternoon showers. Hopefully it will not spawn thunderstorms.

Fair winds and following seas.


--

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Frustrating Light Winds

The last 24 hours have been most frustrating. Winds have been very light and I am sure I am east of the Gulf Stream as I am getting no current kick. Becalmed for 6 hours I have only made 60 NM in the last 24 hours. Not quite a record for going nowhere - that belongs to Andy and my time in Exuma Sound where we drifted at 1.1 knots for three days. At least I had Andy as excellent company!

The Gulf Stream swings east as it moves further north so I am hoping to get into the edge of it in the next day. I have decided that trying to sail over to it would not enhance my arrival, by the time I get there I will have added to many miles.

At the moment I am east of Flagler Beach FL and about 140 NM to the East. Most of the rain storms are about half way between Flagler Beach and Reboot. Flagler is the home of Bill (KI4MMZ.) He has been supporting me at sea for years. At the moment we are too close to communicate by radio.

Fair winds and following seas.

--

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Bobbing Along

I am underway from Nassau, Bahamas to Morehead City, NC, USA. The winds have been light so my progress has been slow. The consequence of light winds is relatively low waves. Given that they are on the beam this has made for a more comfortable ride. So the trede off is: slow and comfortable or faster and more uncomfortable. I like the slow and comfortable. This is the first time in 8 months that I have been sailing solo. It is reassuring that the sailing is easy so far.

I have noticed (I reinstated my XM weather service) that there are lots of storms and rain on the coast. I am about 150 NM offshore so they do not reach me. But i will have to deal with them when I get close to Morehead City. At the moment the center line of the Gulf Stream is about 50 NM to my west. I do not think that taking the time to sail to it will result in a faster passage. It is shifting East so I expect that in the next day or so I will start to feel its impact.

Fair winds and following seas
--

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The $4,500 Visa Saga (Not the Credit Card, the United States B-2 visitors visa)

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"


Apparently not if you are from Slovakia and want to arrive in the United States by private sailboat.

It seemed so simple. I wanted help bringing Reboot back to the United States for a yard period. I needed to visit my doctors and wanted to share my family and beautiful country. Andrea (a citizen of Slovakia and the European Union) had been sailing with me for six months. We had been in and out of 10+ countries in the Caribbean with no problem. The United States code does not permit travel under the "visa waver" program to the United States on a private sailboat. You must arrive on an "approved carrier" which means a commercial flight. Andy could have applied for an ESTA, flown to Miami for about $150 and stayed in a hotel while I brought Reboot back to the United States.

I did my Internet research. It said that Andy needed a B-2 visitors visa for entry on Reboot. There are only two places in the Caribbean with an American Embassy. The obvious choice was Nassau in the Bahamas. I checked online for the visa wait times - 1 day.

The process is typically bureaucratic. First you apply. Then you pay. Then you go for an interview. Then you wait. We applied. I helped Andy translate the questions. It took 5 hours to fill out the application. Since the only place you can pay the fee is in Nassau I sent the Embassy an email and asked for special consideration to book the interview and then pay. I was turned down.

We arrived in Nassau. I went to the web site for directions to the "Cash-and-Go" to pay and found out that they take credit cards over the Internet. I paid and found out the next interview opening was 8 days later. We stayed in the marina at $100 per day and waited for the interview.

Andy went to the interview. Because she has very limited English language skills the "consular officer" invited me to come in and help translate. What I was asked to translate was that they were turning Andy down for a visa because she did not have a reason to go back to Slovakia. I explained that we were sailing the world and that Andy had no interest in going to Slovakia as we were heading for Mexico, Belize Guatemala, etc. on our way to the Pacific once Reboot was fixed. I offered to purchase an airplane ticket to Slovakia. I pointed out that we had be in 10+ countries in the past 6 months and never had a problem. Nothing I said made any difference.

Now it turns out that "consular officers" have the final say. No appeal rights. No other recourse.

I contacted my Congressman. I spoke to a very nice staff person. She said she would do what she could but that this is a story they have heard over and over and not to get my hopes up.

I figured, OK, I understand how this goes. So I purchased a plane ticket to Miami and a plane ticket in August to Slovakia. Andy applied for an ESTA under the visa waver program. Turn around time - 3 days. Outcome - turned down - we presume because she had been turned down for the visa. Scratch one non-refundable ticket to Miami.

We saw the hand writing on the wall. I purchased Andy a ticket on British Airways direct Nassau - London Heathrow. Then a car service to Stansted. A RyanAir ticket from London to Bratislava, Slovakia. We try to check in online. Check in online is blocked. We go to the airport - check in is no problem. (Of course I lost 10 pounds of sweat during the 24 hours before the flight worrying that they would not let her on the airplane.)

Andy gets on the plane and I sigh in relief. After all, what can go wrong now? She is an EU citizen traveling in the EU. Was I naive.

Andy arrives in London, gets her bags and goes to Customs. They take her apart. She spends about 2 1/2 hours in Customs while they empty her bag, sniff every bottle, and in general give her a hard time. Of course she doesn't speak enough English to understand what is going on. She is in tears.

They finally let her go. Of course the car service has long ago left. Apparently some kind soul with a telephone calls the car service and they say they will come back for an additional charge of 40 pounds. So back they come and on to Stansted. Where she of course misses the flight. RyanAir is not amused. The ticket was non-refundable. She did not fly. Tough luck. Purchase another ticket. So after sleeping in the airport all night she gets on the morning flight to Bratislava.

Andy does not live in Bratislava. She lives in Trencin, about 100 km away. After driving to Bratislava and finding no Andy her family returned home and drove back the next day. European fuel prices being what they are, and the terrible economy in Slovakia make this more than a minor annoyance.. But she at last arrives home.

So after paying for the marina, airline tickets, visa fees, ESTA fees, car service fees, and cab fares to the airport I am out about $4,500. All because I wanted help bringing Reboot from Nassau to Miami.

Thank you United States Government. You make me proud to be a citizen that gave 30 years of his life serving in the United States Navy.

Fair winds and following seas.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Still in Nassau

Andrea goes to Slovakia tomorrow and I leave for the US on Thursday. Back to solo sailing for a while.

Fair winds and following seas

Friday, June 7, 2013

XM Weather Service

Now that we are back near the United States I have reactivated the XM Weather Service for my chart plotter. I don't know if I want to be happy or sad. Most of the time when making long transits you just deal the the weather as it is. Now I can worry about the bad weather I see on the chart plotter.

Lots of laughs

Fair winds and following seas.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Nassau, Bahamas

We are in Nassau, Bahamas after a terrible trip. In my last post I explained that we were going to sail on the wind vane - we did. The trip to the Bahamas was uneventful with the exception of 10 foot seas that rocked Reboot. We decided to go into Eleuthera Sound to get away from the high seas. One never knows what would have happened if we had stayed in the Atlantic. Once in the Sound we experienced four days of heavy rain and then were becalmed for three days. Everything in Reboot was wet. Then we drifted around for a while as the vane could not steer without wind and I did not want to motor for a couple of days and end up with low fuel.

We eventually passed through the "Ship Channel" only to have the Garmin chart plotter freak out as we were in the tightest part of the passage. The last time it did this was as we were entering English Harbor. Not very reassuring.

As we headed up toward the next passage I noticed a sailboat in front of us on the AIS. It was another Catalina 42 - Threepenny Opera - a boat I was familiar with from the owners association web site (Catalina 42 International Owners Association). We raised them on the VHF radio. What good luck - they pointed out a route that would save us about 35 NM to Nassau. We motored across the Bahama Banks dodging the coral heads and made it into Nassau before sunset. They also suggested a marina. Things in Nassau are very expensive so having a modest place to go was important (modest is $75 per night - the Atlantis marina would be $250 per night (lol!) Addison then followed up with a message offering any assistance  - they have been sailing the Bahamas for years. Very nice.

We will stay here while we sort out Andy's visa.

Fair winds and following seas.

Monday, June 3, 2013

S*((& Storm 2

The saga of the toilets continues. Andy heard the sound of gas escaping from the vent from the back toilet tank. We also discovered that it was hard to pump the toilet into the tank. I ran the macerator pump but nothing much seemed to happen. I took a sharp object and jabbed at the wire screen covering the vent line. Boom! S&*((& Sto4m 2! Fortunately the vent is outside of the boat. The resulting spray was quite a sight. It did take quite a few buckets of sea water to clean up the mess. But nothing like the first time. The macerator pump has been working but of course at the moment it does not want to pump. This is the old pump. My guess is that it is clogged with feminine product like the front pump. Since the pump is inside the boat I will leave it alone until we reach the US and I can have the tank externally pumped and flushed. In the meantime I will toy with it endlessly in hopes it will start to pump again.

As is true of many of these kinds of discoveries I have now added a new item to my to do list – replace all of the vents. It would appear that over time the screens rust and they don’t work very well. I always wondered why all the old boats I have been on had no screens in the vents. Now I know.

Fair winds and following seas.

Autopilot Fairlure

We departed Nanny Cay marina after an extended stay, We found the local cuisine to give us stomach problems. Then the weather window closed. What had been intended as a four day stay expended to eight days. We worked our way out of the British Virgin Islands. It was fun for me to pass Soper’s Hole – the west end of Tortola Island. We then proceeded in 5 to 7 foot beam seas to work our way around Jost Van Dyke. Although the rolling was uncomfortable we had good wind and set course for Grand Turk Island. I figured that once we got closer (its 400 NM) we could work out a strategy for either going up inside the Turks and Bahamas or staying out in the Atlantic. We had not gone more than ½ hour when we heard a loud groaning noise. I went to the cockpit and determined that it was coming from the autopilot. Shifting a bunch of gear I was able to get into the stern locker. I found that nothing was blocking the autopilot ram but that when I turned off the autopilot the noise went away. We had not rigged the Monitor so I decided to return to the nearest island where we could shelter overnight (it was about midnight local) and sort things out in the morning. After hand steering for about an hour we were able to make landfall in a partially protected cove. After setting the anchor (my normal 200 feet of chain and 100 feet of rode in 30 feet of water – its there, why not use it?  I sleep better!  (Having the rode also acts as a nice shock absorber to the chain, it is much easier on the windless.)

After a somewhat rocky night at anchor I woke up and emptied out the stern locker. Again nothing seemed amiss. I think that the autopilot was part of the original installation on the boat. This would make it about 17 years old. I got out my trusty West Marine catalog and discovered that a new ram was $2,000 in the US.  Not a good way to start the day. Since almost all of the remaining equipment on the boat is Garmin I priced a new Garmin autopilot – about $4,000.

Early In my solo sailing experience the autopilot failed. It was the control head in the cockpit. I learned two things from that experience. Raymarine repairs took months (I waited three months for “my turn” in line, then the technician declared .the control head broken in 5 minutes) and that the control head, computer, and drive unit needed to be matched for them to work. I realized that I should call Raymarine technical support for advice. I spoke to the technician. He told me that it sounded like the clutch needed to be rebuilt and that it would be repaired for a flat fee of $575 and that it would be about a one week turnaround. This sounded a lot better than $2,000. The problem of course is that I am in the Virgin Islands. Shipping the unit to New Hampshire, paying for a marina for a month, and the cost of shipping it back would cost more than a new unit even at inflated Virgin Island prices. That assumes that the proper sub-model of drive unit were here and could be installed. Fat chance of that. The problem with world cruising: once you are away from your home base repairs and parts can get very expensive. The shipping costs to repair the watermaker were in excess of 400 Euros. “Overnight” packages take weeks to move around and get thru customs. It was not an appealing solution.

Since I had used the Monitor wind steering to cross the Atlantic twice I decided to set it up so that we could use it to sail to the Bahamas. Andy and I sorted everything out and were ready to go when a wave of thunderstorms decided to work its way across the area. We were both tired from the night before. We decided to get a long rest and leave early tomorrow morning. That will give us a full day of daylight to sort out the vane. Hopefully it will all work out fine.

Fair winds and following seas,

 

Silent Sailing

 

Many people believe that sailing if quiet. It is anything but.

 

Last night we were about 100 NM north of the Dominican Republic on our way from the British Virgin Islands. Most of the time we have been sailing at night the moon has been out. In fact when we departed the BVI not only was the moon rising before sunset but it was full. Last night (26 May) I was sitting in the cockpit at sunset. The moon had not risen and all of a sudden it was pitch dark. as only the middle of the ocean can be. Andy came up and commented that she could not see a thing.

 

For some reason I was reminded of the first time I sailed Reboot at night. My ex-wife, my ex-stepdaughter, and her friend accompanied me from Milwaukee across Lake Michigan. We departed in the late evening so that we would arrive on the Michigan shore after sunrise.  After a few hours the women all went to bed leaving me alone in the cockpit. I soon became aware of all the sounds: the wind in the rigging, the waves slapping against the hull, the dingy bouncing behind the boat; the various blocks and sheets stretching and relaxing as Reboot rolled in the waves. All in all there is a lot of noise! It was unexpected and added to my general nervousness of my first big “offshore: venture.”

 

Fair winds and following seas.

 

 

Dolphins!

Andy got to see her first at sea dolphins today. They came up and played with the bow wave for about 3 minutes. We didn’t get the camera out in time.

 

Fair winds and following seas.

 

Two lessons (33452Z May 31, 2913)

 

Lesson 1

When I was a young man I remember reading the phrase “amputation with a dull spoon is possible, it is just very slow and very messy.”  Wind steering with an improperly adjusted Monitor vane is possible, it just doesn’t hold  a course very well. We have had almost continuous rain for the past 35 hours wth gusty and changing winds. Since the Monitor keeps Reboot at a constant wind angle I was under the impression that we kept heading up because the wind shifted. Tonight I realized thet the direction was not changing, just the intensity. This led to the conclusion that there was a problem with the adjustment of the vane. Now I hate to do anything at night – I prefer the light of morning\.  We were sailing so poorly that I decided to give it a shot, After several attempts I finally dit on the correct combination – all of a sudden we were heading on the desired course independent of the wind speed. Since we were trying to head almost directly down wind the (*heat went down, the motor cooled down and that’s when I heard that highway sound”) ride became much better and the strain on the rig and the sails was greatly reduced. So lesson 1 is: Make sure the vane and a telltale attached to the boat are both pointing in exactly the same direction. Turn the wheel until the boat is maintaining the desired course. Then engage the wheel. What I was doing was misaligning the vane to steering wheel connection. Getting it correct makes a huge difference.

Lesson 2

I have been sitting in the salon most of the last couple of days because of the rain. About every 10 minutes I stick my head up and do a visual scan. I am comfortable with this as Reboot has both Radar and AIS – both of which have proximity alarms. I found that I was having a great deal of trouble staying awake. I finally realized that with e everything battened down for the rain that the cabin air was stale. I cracked two of the hatches and my difficulty staying awake was greatly reduced.. Yes I am tired as I write this, it is the middle of  the night. But not near as tired as I was in the stuffy cabin.

Fair winds and following seas (that at the moment are running 10 to 12 feet!_

 

 

Underway

Underway to Beltung. 548 nm. 5 to 6 days or more dependent upon wind. 1 POB + 1 Cat Fair winds and following seas :)