Started: Coconut Grove near Dinner Key Marina, 25°42.92′N 080°13.63′W
Moored: Fernandina Harbor Marina Moorings, 30°40.24′N 081°28.17′W
Log: 304 nm. Time: 60 hr. Engine: 60 hr. Fuel: 56 gal.
Even when stuff started breaking, this was still an epic passage: the first phase of an epic voyage. The big question is this: do you know exactly how much fuel you burn per hour? Are you willing to bet your life on that number?
We're trying another experiment in seasickness meds. How does Stugeron™ stack up against Bonine™ and Dramamine™?
CA built a lee cloth for the saloon settee.
Then she tested it. For the rest of the afternoon.
When Red Ranger is heeled over, it's difficult to really relax on the settee; when you do, you roll off it.
On previous passages, we've slept in the aft cabin, but it's LOUD back there. Mr. Lehman and Mr. Benmar do not work quietly. Every time Mr. Benmar moves the wheel, he groans. Loudly.
On the passage S from Vero to Miami, CA tried napping on the settee, and found it was much quieter than the aft berth. Adding a lee cloth makes it more secure.
We left on Tuesday, the 22nd, bright and early. We bashed around in slip 18 at Dinner Key Marina to top off our water in both tanks.
Emphasis on "bashed around". I gave the pilings a good working over with Red Ranger's bang rails and bow pulpit. We found splinters on the foredeck. I struggle with close maneuvering.
The seas were — as predicted — 3′ to 4′. This means we were rolling around quite a bit. It was unpleasant.
Note that seas in the open ocean are often bigger than this. 6′ to 9′ are quite common. However. Open ocean waves tend to have a frequency on the order of 20 to 30 seconds. There's not as much bashing and rolling. Near-shore waves include tidal effects and an actual reflection of the energy from the land; the period is 5 to 7 seconds and the direction is inconsistent, leading to a sloppy, twisting motion.
For this trip, CA tried Stugeron™ as the anti mal-de-mer med of choice. Not available in the US. You have to mail-order them from Mexico or Canada.
On most of our previous off-shore passages, she's been really sea-sick. Puking multiple times on each four-hour watch. Fortunately, those bad passages have all been just one long, ugly night.
This time, we're planning a two-night or three-night passage. If she can make it.
She felt really bad Tuesday, but… She wasn't heaving over the side. That's a plus. It's the first day, which is always more difficult. The conditions were pretty bad during her afternoon watch. By the end of my evening watch, they had settled down to flatter seas and nearly non-existent wind.
We were scooting up the inside edge of the Gulf Stream. Some lumpiness was expected. We wanted a few knots of push from the current, since we knew the winds would be flat.
Also, we were motor-sailing in "jib and jigger" configuration. We had the mizzen and the big yankee working to hold the boat steady and provide some speed. Mr. Lehman provided the rest of the speed. Adjusting the RPM's, we found a comfortable place where we could make 7 (instead of 8) knots, but the motion was pleasant.
Wednesday, the 23rd, got rough in the afternoon. Seas were at least 6' with a few waves even higher.
During the roughest part of her watch, CA found something that worked well for her.
She tried laying down in the cockpit. She brought a pillow and sort of napped during her watch. Eyes Closed. Flat On Back (ECFOB). Every 10-15 minutes, her phone alarm would go off. She'd sit up, check all around carefully and then lay back down ECFOB before feeling too sick. She was able to keep up her log entries, and even cook in spite of the snotty conditions.
Reading and writing require the kind of narrow focus that brings on seasickness for a lot of us. I'm often okay until I have to stare at the compass or chartplotter for a while. Then. Ugh.
The seas died down to flat during my next watch so the sunset picture shows flat and calm as if nothing had happened in the morning and early afternoon.
(The little hemisphere below to to the left of the sun is a consequence of using a waterproof Otter Box — there's an extra layer of plastic over the iPhone camera lens, which leads to odd artifacts like that.)
We watched a pod of spotted dolphins on Wednesday. We tried to shoot some video, it's not clear how much will show anything.
These were spotted dolphins, not the more common plain gray bottlenose dolphins. They're a little smaller with prominent spots and longer beaks.
After my watch — after sunset — CA saw them leaving phosphorescent wakes as they chased flying fish (or maybe squid) for their dinner. In the deep darkness of night at sea, a fish (or squid) leaping out of the water is remarkable. She almost woke me up to let me see it, too. Wisely, she left me to sleep. There's only four hours, and we need every minute.
Thursday, the 24th, remained flat. We were starting to feel great: two flat nights and now we're starting a flat day. The day also started with an alarming system failure. The fuel gauge read empty. Actually, it read below E — like it wasn't working.
We log details every hour: position, course and speed, wind, sea state, engine, and fuel. The previous fuel level had been ½. The bilge was not full of fuel, the engine was still running. Jumping from ½ to broken appears to be just gauge failure, nothing more.
Each hour, BTW, rarely shows much change in the fuel level. You can sort of judge the gauge down to the 16th of a tank: divide the space between ½ and ¾ into quarters. We log these fine gradations ½, ½+, ⁵⁄₈, ⁵⁄₈+ and ¾; each step is about 4.5 gallons.
We expect to see a minute ¹⁄₁₆ change in the gauge over a 3 or 4 hour period. But let's not read too much into these details. The tank is not a perfect rectangle; the sensor may not be linear; the gauge may not be linear.
This raises big questions. How do we judge our safe distance-yet-to-go without a working fuel gauge? If we're reduced to fuel-per-hour, how well do we really know our fuel consumption per hour?
If we burn 1.0 gallon per hour, we have only used 48 of our 75 gallons. No real problem.
If we burn 1.5 gallons per hour, Red Ranger's tank is almost empty. Was the gauge really that far off? Why did it get stuck at ½ for so long?
The Commodore Says: "Get to shore and fill the tank."
We're at 30°03.385′N 080°14.385′W, 55 miles off shore. (It's 50 miles from West Palm Beach to West End on Grand Bahama Island.) We decided to top off the fuel tank by making a 75 mile, 12 hour run to Fernandina.
We have 25 gallons of diesel on deck, for an emergency.
The question amounts to this: How much will we sail between this point and Charleston, 160 miles away? If we could sail the whole way, we'd use little fuel (two gallons coming in the channel and reaching a dock.) If we have to motor or motor sail the whole way, we're talking about 26 hours, which could be… well… 26 to 39 gallons of fuel. Do we really have 40 gallons?
We get two things out of this diversion.
1) A full tank.
2) A precise measure of how much fuel we burned since filling them in Florida. Since we've motored at just about 1400 RPM for the entire time, this will give us a more precise fuel-per-hour number that we can use in the future.
Staying or Going
Plus there's an option for a night at anchor (or maybe a $20 mooring ball.) However, the weather Thursday night looked like it would be fine to continue sailing. A very real possibility was just hitting the fuel dock in Fernandina and then pressing on to Charleston ASAP. If the weather remained clement, we could make Cape Fear or even Cape Lookout in good order.
Stay the night? Press on?
Before The Commodore can make that decision, we have to get to Fernandina Beach. Did we burn 72 gallons already? Or did we only burn 48-odd gallons?
With hearts in throats for the next 12 hours, we chugged to Fernandina Beach.
Meanwhile, we can look at our alternatives.
The chart plotter shows a 68 hour sail from Fernandina to Beaufort at 5 kt. If we motor, that's pushing it. That would leave us with just 7 gallons in the tank and 25 on deck.
If we motor the entire way.
Since we really like flat seas, we can see the advantage of motoring the whole way. It's expensive, but it's much nicer than feeling sick all the time. And it's much nicer than juggling wind that's too strong or the wrong direction.
The Commodore Says: "We're taking a mooring." We can press on in the morning, ready for two or three more days of what might be really pleasant passage-making.
If the weather remains settled.
|Depart||Started: Coconut Grove near Dinner Key Marina, 25°42.92′N 080°13.63′W|
|Arrive||Moored: Fernandina Harbor Marina Moorings, 30°40.24′N 081°28.17′W|