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The Sky Isn’t Falling

The tales from the grim reaper aren’t that bad. Yes for the last nine days Dazzler and her crew have had patches of weather and a few daily fixes. But in the big picture her crew has learned many things to better understand the whole sailing thing. Everyone has their favorite point of sail and we have ours as well. Our least favorite is having your ear pinned down trying to go as close to weather and as fast as possible. There has to be a level of comfort or the human body gets fatigued. Let’s face it, with a crew of two comfort is a big factor. We generally hove to to make the hot evening meal and that feels as if we are at anchor. Nice break from all the motion of the ocean and subliminal core exercises that Dr. Oz never told us about.

Dazzler and her crew have enjoyed watching her stretch out her legs and lean into the wind. For the last few days we have experienced a good point of sail with 15-20 knots of wind from the east with our coarse of 185°-194° true. The apparent wind angle has been about 70° apparent. Not a bad point of sail but when we add the 1.5-2.5 meter swells running out of the southeast the sea pushes back a bit. Since yesterday afternoon the wind has been coming straight out of the east and Dazzler has hit her glory. We have experience winds from 120°-90° true and she seems to be very happy. For a small heavy vessel she doesn’t give way too easily to the constant bullying of the sea so she holds line very well.

One of the things that I’ve been working on for the last several years is learning to fine tune Dazzler’s sail plan and balance. Constantly adjusting the different sails and noticing how they affect the relationship with regards to how hard the autopilot is working. Currently her sail plan for the above mentioned wind and swell pattern is a double reefed main, fully deployed staysail and the jib let out to the shape of a high clew yankee (About an 80% sail). As she leans into the wind we have been enjoying 6.0-7.0 knots per hour. I must say it’s quite nice compared to those close hauled bone jarring wave crashing times at the helm. She runs smoothly at this wind angle and obtains great speed as we are starting to make up a little time on our passage.

As luck would have it, we are expecting a low pressure front to move across north island New Zealand on 9 November and our scheduled date of arrival is 8 November. So, making up as many miles along the way to ensure we arrive on the eighth of November is important. And who knows what challenging circumstances may rise up to our delight. By the way Neptune that wasn’t a challenge. LOL

The weather is decidedly colder here at 26° south than in Fiji. Granted Fiji had its share of cloudy cool days as well. But Fiji is coming into its cyclone season and summer months now. So is New Zealand for that matter. We were told how warm it was last season by the local Kiwis, but to us 69° and 72° was butt ass cold. Kiwis are walking around in shorts and barefoot and we are all bundled up like we’re going on an arctic adventure with Sir Edmund Hillary. I guess the term of winter or summer is all relative to the thickness or lack of thickness of your blood.

Dazzler is 32 years young and still has a great spirit for bluewater sailing. I try to stay on top of all the preventative maintenance, but issues such as a water lift muffler are something I’ve never experienced or even heard of before. Perhaps they have a service life. Perhaps there is a way to check their condition. Without internet, I can’t search that issue. Rest assured when we get to NZ we will look that up along with where to get a good quality replacement.

Yes that list of projects for New Zealand is growing every day. Six months of sipping drinks with little umbrellas has its price. It’s called Maintenance! Nothing is free in water world! Cruising anywhere and living your dream is not free. Not necessarily money, but your time and labor as well. You could do as some do and have the attitude of deferring maintenance or you can stay on top of it by fixing things when they present themselves. I myself like to even outsmart those pesky things and fix them before they become an issue. In some case those simple projects grow because you find other issues when you’re fixing the first one. For example changing Dazzler’s oil before we left Fiji and finding a nut from one of the shaft flange bolts under the engine. At least we dodged that bullet.

So you see, while I’m sitting here on the morning watch screaming in a southerly direction towards John’s Corner at 7 knots, I am enjoying the relationship we all share. You know the one between Dazzler, crew, the sea, the wind and paradise! You may not think 7 knots is that fast, but for those armchair sailers or those custom to the yacht club bar stool it’s faster than the 405 in West Los Angeles at rush hour but a hell of a lot more fun.

Until next time catch us if you can. Cheers!
Captain Dan

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I Can’t Take It!

Day 6 Fiji to New Zealand

Today starts out as a picture perfect sailing day. We had fantastic ESE winds running 12-18 knots. The swell was relatively kind to us with a longer frequency than we’ve seen in days. We had all three sails up and were cruising an average of 6.5 knots for the better part of the day. It wasn’t even that cold. I particularly enjoyed my afternoon watch and was pleased that Dan slept for a good three hours. Yes, things are looking up. Finally!

At 0300 Zulu Dan got on the radio and reported our position and other information to the Seafarers Net. I was sitting around the table smiling and enjoying the fact that we were having a truly wonderful day. After the net Dan went topside to put us into the hove to position so I could heat up the Beef Stroganoff we were having for dinner. This is the 7th time we have gone hove to this trip. Yep…working on a record.

I walked in the galley and realized we were out of paper towels so I headed to the coat locker hoping to find one last roll. I reach in and yes! There is a roll sitting near the bottom of the locker. I grab it and my heart sinks. It’s wet! No, not soaking wet but pretty damp to be sure. I immediately grab a headlamp to further investigate. As I move the coats to the side I see the entire outside wall is wet. “Oh for crying out loud! Seriously! This is getting freaking ridiculous now!”

I start pulling the coats and a few other items from the locker. Then I look in Dan’s locker because it’s right beside it in the bunk room. As soon as I open it I see there’s water in there too. I pull all of his clothes out. Some are really damp….others just feel like they’ve been sitting in a sauna for a while. I go to the companionway and wait for Dan to finish with the sails.

“We have a big problem” I tell him. “The coat locker and your locker have water in them.” Of course he comes down immediately. By this time I have clothes and stuff strewn all over the table, our bunk and the settee. I just move to the side and step into the galley. There’s nothing left for me to do but watch and oh yes, have my nervous breakdown. I’m standing in the galley in tears as Dan assesses the situation. Apparently in his mind it’s not nearly as bad as it is in my mind. He believes we may have a leak around a chain plate and considering the fact that we’ve been healed over to the starboard side for days, the amount of water is minimal. In other words, there’s really nothing we can do about it out here. The water will run down into the bildge and be pumped out. As he said, “It’s not going to sink us.” Well let’s just do a big ol’ happy dance on that now shall we? I’m being facetious of course.

It’s at times like this that I think of my dear friend Roger Sutton who, upon hearing that I was going to embark on this journey to sail the world, told me the first rule of sailing. Keep the boat in the water and the water out of the boat. Well, Roger, I love the sentiment but I guess sometimes you just have to deal with what God puts in front of you. Trust me, I don’t like it and it freaks me out a bit but we have no choice. We’ve still got six more days ahead of us and we’ve got to keep this ship sailing.

Dan, as wonderful and kind as he is, has reached his limit with my doom and gloom attitude. I understand. I know it’s not helping him and I’m usually very strong. We have an affectionate discussion as he’s trying to tell me to buck up and I’m telling him I’m over it all. I’m physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted. Now I know all the women out there will understand when I say that sometimes when all the shit has hit the fan, we just need to take a moment, have a breakdown and then have our man scoop us up in his strong arms and reassure us that all will be okay. We don’t need him to get all agitated and tell us to “suck it up buttercup.” No. That is not at all helpful! You men are surely rolling your eyes about now but it’s true. Acting tough and telling us to “buck up and get over it” only makes things worse. It would be most helpful if you all could stop being so darn practical and try thinking like a woman once in a while.

For the next half hour while Dan deals with his clothes I heat up dinner. It’s uncommonly quiet on board. He takes his dinner to the cockpit and I sit below at the table. After dinner I do the dishes and harvest ice while he continues to look at the water issue. Finally he comes over and hugs me. I apologize for being such a wreck and he calmly explains what he thinks is happening, where the water will go and why I shouldn’t be worried. Honestly, a hug and an “it will all be okay” would have sufficed but he’s an over achiever. Now think of how much easier it would have been if he’d have just done that in the first place. Just saying!

Before we start on our way again I tell him that I’m breaking the rules tonight and having a cocktail before bed. There’s no vodka on board so it will have to be a Tequila drink. My nerves are shot and this is going to be my medicine. I can see he’s not overly fond of the idea but he doesn’t say a word. I think he realizes that it’s probably the best thing for everyone on board.

Dan heads to the cockpit to get us moving again and I make a stiff cocktail and sit down at the table to relax before it’s time for bed. I also make a pact with myself that tomorrow I will begin searching for those hidden cameras.

Until next time…
Jilly & Dan

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Are We Having Fun Yet?

You know how guys like to buy stuff and can’t wait to use it. You know, strap it onto their car or put it on the bench in the garage. We all get the glazed over euphoric look in our eyes and kind of a big ass grin with mumbling words like I can’t wait to get this baby home and use it. I’m sure you ladies out there know of a man or perhaps even your man has acted like this. There have been many shiny things I’ve purchased for Dazzler over the years so I know from whence I speak. Then there are things that you buy and you aren’t really sure why you bought it or even where you will use it. I’m guilty of that also. You know, you might even have to convince yourself that it would be a good idea to have it anyway.

It was a blustery day just two nights ago. The winds in the low twenties. I’m looking up from the port side at some two plus meter seas. The sea swell was mixed and close in frequency. It was getting close to dinner time and we made the decision to quit beating ourselves up and hove to. For those novice to sailing, this is a very simple maneuver that is like parking your boat in the ocean for free. There are none of those sneaky meter maids like on Washington Blvd. in Venice, CA. You know the ones that know how much time each meter has left and have the parking ticket half filled out. They’re just waiting for the meter to click over to red so they can hit the print button. Yes you have it timed, but you weren’t as quick as the meter maid. Not that kind of parking. The fee kind. Those of you salty seniors say they all know how to do it. Then there’s the new sailor who claims to know how. I say swallow a little pride and actually do it yourself. It’s a very simple technique. Your crew and partner will love you for it.

We decided to wait out the weather for about six and a half hours. So, when the sea state calmed a bit and winds subsided, we fired up Dazzler and were once again off to the great around the world race. No not really Grape Ape. He likes racing around in the dinghy. Anyway, back en route to New Zealand. About and hour into our trip, I hear a pop and a hissing sound. That can’t be good. I immediately check the exhaust discharge and see that exhaust is coming out WITHOUT any water.

The exhaust should have water in it to aid in discharging the sea water passing through the heat exchanger that cools the engine. No water means there is an issue with the cooling system. So, I immediately hove to again to investigate the problem. Once Dazzler is set, I head down to start taking the companionway stairs and motor cowling off to access the front half of the engine. The engine room is filled with what looks like exhaust smoke and it’s very steamy.

I know how this story goes. I first decide to check the seacock and strainer for flow free operation. Here is the fun part that Jilly just loves. “Babe! We have to remove some of the contents of the quarter berth.” Basically our in-house, I mean in boat, garage. I can’t even call it a man cave because there isn’t any room for me in there when it’s packed. But, it stores all that extra gear you hope you really don’t have to use like storm sails, extra bilge pumps, diving gear and Bocce balls for that ever so frequent game with the locals on the beach. Ha ha ha! Whatever it is, it is in the way to access the starboard and aft area of the engine room so it has to be moved out of the way and into the salon area. Kind of looks like what happens after a bomb explodes. Stuff goes everywhere.

Once I stuff my huge noggin into the aft area of the engine room to access the sea strainer, I see a small hole in the top of the elbow of the water lift muffler. That looks very unusual, it’s out of place and shouldn’t be there. I checked the sea strainer and found it to be clear. Before moving onto the next phase of diagnosis, I decide to contemplate how I’m going to fix the hole. I remember that in my bag of tricks, I bought one of those shiny items at the marine store that here in the South Pacific is called Minute Mend emergency epoxy. Some of the locals in New Zealand call it dog poo. It comes in a plastic tube. The contents look like a green cylinder of a clay like substance. You know green dog poo. You cut off as much dog poo as you think you might need. Strip off the thin layer of plastic off the outside and start squeezing and mixing this magic epoxy. On this particular dog poo the exterior is green and the center is white so you know when your poo is properly mixed. That means both colors are now a new minty looking flavor of dog poo. I had prepared the surface around the hole on the exhaust elbow by cutting off the excess shards and sanding the paint off its exterior. I then took my mint flavored looking dog poo and started pressing it into the hole making what I hoped would be a sound solution for the repair. We won’t know for twenty or thirty minutes.

In the meantime, I decided to check the raw water impeller. It seemed to be fine, but I remembered the last time something like this happened I ultimately had to replace the impeller. So, saving some time I decided to pull the impeller out. This is somewhat of a poor design on the Yanmar. Such a critical component should have easier access. But, alas I’m not a diesel engine designer or engineer. I’m the guy that has to shove his fat fingered hand into a space it wasn’t designed for, hold tools and actually use them in that same space. Thanks Yanmar! I finally get the old impeller out and find eight of twelve vanes split about about halfway each. I grab a new impeller pop it in with my big fingered hand after of course lubing the impeller up with some silicone grease. Yummy! It’s about as easy as trying to put those spring loaded surprise snakes back in the can. You know it has to fit, but it just doesn’t want to go. “Scotty I need more power! I just can’t do it Captain!” Needless to say persistence pays off and I got the new impeller fitted.

By this time the 20-30 minute curing mint flavored dog poo has had time to cure in an hour or so which means it should now be petrified mint flavored dog poo. Yummy! Let’s start the engine and see what happens. I start the engine and there is still no water exiting the exhaust port. Humm, I remembered last time that I had to burp the heat exchanger water discharge hose. After burping the water line the magic occurred. Water was now exiting the exhaust port. I now inspected my petrified dog poo repair and it was working perfectly. But, the exhaust hose connected to it was now leaking water. Argh! I tighten the hose and restart the engine. It’s still leaking, but it’s a manageable leak. Ha ha ha! No such thing. It was late I was tired and needed some sleep. The leak was dropping into the bottomless pit of Dazzler’s bilge and not a big deal for now.

We put everything back into their proper places and start heading south again. I decide to hit the sack and Jilly is on watch. About an hour into our trip, Jilly yells down the center of Dazzler, “Dan get up I smell diesel fuel.” Okay! We hove to again! Yes, again damn it!

One of the plastic fuel cans we bought in Mexico has developed a small pin hole leak and we needed to transfer it quickly into the main fuel tank to avoid any loss. At least that is what I thought. So, after hoving to we transferred the fuel from the defective fuel container into the main tank. About an hour later we were under way.

Wait, this story isn’t over. LOL

Last night while smelling the salty air and listening to the engine running. Wait a minute. I didn’t tell you why the engine is running. We had sailed all day. When we had to hove to twice we lost about fifteen miles from our planned travel plans to get us the Marsden Point, New Zealand about a day ahead of a low pressure system. The winds were on the nose at 12-14 knots and the sea state wasn’t too bad, so after dinner we decided to motor through the night in attempt to make up some time we had lost during the day. Additionally, we could get back some of the easting we had lost as well. Anyway, I hear a funny noise coming from the engine. I’ve spent so much time with her over the last few days I feel like we’re dating. I check the exhaust port and the exhaust mixed with water is spewing out like normal. I check the engine room and I see the manageable leak from the exhaust hose is not manageable anymore. “Jilly, we have to hove to and correct another issue with the exhaust.” She was thrilled about waking up from sleeping, which by the way, every time I try to wake her from her sleep it must be like hearring the boxing bell going off for the next fight round. This time she didn’t come up swinging. She apparently thought I was some bad guy in a scary dream trying grab her. Really! We are in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and for some unknown reason someone is trying to get her. Like I said, at least this time she didn’t come up swinging.

I dig everything out of the lazarette and head down to the area where the exhaust issue is. A long story short or the Readers Digest version. LOL The two inch hose barb of the elbow on the water lift muffler appears to have a crack on it at the point where it enters the elbow. Tada! I know. I’ll use some of that minty green flavored dog poo. Yummy! I mix up a golf ball size batch of the delectable silly putty and start rolling it into the shape of snake. Wonder Twins powers, shape of snake. LOL I start placing my minty green dog poo snake around the joint of the hose barb and the elbow. I force it into the crack all around the joint until it looks like a bad duplicate from Mrs. Dijacamo’s third grade clay project class. You know that object your so proud of after it comes back from the kiln. You know that prize that can only be described by it’s recipient, your mother. Happy Mother’s Day Mom! LOL I reattached the hose and we waited about forty minutes before firing up the beast. Water flowing out the exhaust port and no more leaks from the exhaust hose. Excellent! The minty green dog poo scores another one.

Remember ladies, when your man brings home something and says he needs it, but he doesn’t exactly know when or where he will need it. Let him keep it. Beside it makes us guys happy that one less pair of shoes is on the boat and that whole drawer is full of those kind of things.

On a side note, we are working on getting the award for the most times hove to in a passage. I don’t know what the record is but I have exceeded it in my mind. LOL

That’s all for now from the South Pacific. Cheers!
Captain Dan