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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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Cut, Cut! Stop Rolling!

I’ve spent the past two days searching Dazzler from stem to stern and still can’t locate the tiny hidden cameras. This has led me to believe that either they are some microscopic feats of engineering that are undetectable to the human eye or that we are not in fact part of some evil psychological experiment. If the ladder is the case then I can only assume that we have surely been involuntarily cast in some aquatic themed Twilight Zone episode. I think I can even hear the music drifting over the sound of the sea as I write. Dododo…dododo!

Why would a perfectly sane (well somewhat sane anyway) sailor believe this? Well, let’s just recap the past 24 hours shall we? You already know everything up to that point and honestly I think that alone would prove my point but let me add some fuel to the fire of madness in my head so that you too can join in the delusions that presently afflict my muddled brain.

Yesterday was a truly delightful day on the sea. We had amazing winds and the swell was just right. The sun came out to warm the air a tad and we were sailing across the open ocean with a certain assertiveness that comes from being truly confident that you finally have your whole world under complete control. Both Captain and mate were beaming with pride as Dazzler cut through the swells with determination and grace. The white foam of the ocean splashed high above her bow as she plunged into the sea in her typical dramatic flair. Yes, this was the most perfect day of the seven we’ve spent on this roller coaster passage from Hell. Smiles were abundant and hope was in the air.

We performed our expertly choreographed passage routine like true professionals switching between watch and naps, food preparation and mealtime. Finally as the sun began to dip low in the sky I too looked toward a night of slumber in my warm and cozy bunk. I confidently left Dan on watch in the cockpit. The winds had dwindled so he had put on the engine to keep us moving at a good rate of speed. We were still trying to make up time that was lost over the past couple of days and there’s still that pesky low pressure system we’re racing to New Zealand.

I slept soundly with the crashing waves thundering away against Dazzler’s stout hull and when I said my prayers I thanked God for a glorious day without so much as a simple problem…err challenge as Dan refers to them. Before I knew it Dan was waking me for my normally scheduled watch. As I began to stir I asked him why I thought I heard the engine go on and off several times. He told me he’d tell me when I got up. That “Oh holy hell” feeling washed over me like the tsunami that hit Sri Lanka years ago but just then I remembered my pledge to try to keep a good, can-do attitude about these “challenges” so I crept out of the bunk and let Dan begin explaining the newest hurdle in our race to New Zealand.

It seems once again we have no water exiting Dazzler’s exhaust. Cue the music …. dodododo dodododo. “How can this be?” I calmly question. “I’m not sure.” He replies. “But I will figure it out and fix it. Don’t worry. I’ll fix it.” He goes on to tell me that we are sailing nicely and don’t need the engine right now so he’s going to get some sleep, have me then get some sleep and when the winds begin to die he will clear out the lazarette (almost as bad as emptying the quarter berth) and he will go down and fix it. With that he kisses me goodnight and retires to the bunk for some well earned rest.

I, in the meantime, gather my watch materials and snacks and head to the cockpit. After completing my instrument and sail checks I sit beneath the dodger where it’s out of the wind and a bit warmer. I gaze out to the ocean and as I do it dawns on me. I’ve absolutely zero emotional response to this news. I’m not mad, frustrated, frightened, sad….nothing. I’m completely devoid of all feeling whatsoever. I guess it could be called being at peace except for I just wasn’t feeling anything at all. It was odd to be sure but I kind of liked it!

I think I’ve finally resigned myself to the fact that there is nothing I can do about any of this. I certainly can’t diagnose and fix the problem. I believe in Dan and his ability to do so wholeheartedly so I just need to sit back and let Dan and God do what they need to do. The rest of my watch I hardly thought of the issue at all.

I wake Dan at 0400 for his watch and make him coffee as usual. We’re sailing along at close to seven knots and we have following seas which is making it a very nice and somewhat speedy ride. Once he’s clipped in on deck with his go juice I head to the bunk. I’m hoping to sleep well because I know he’s going to wake me in a few hours so we can tackle our newest challenge.

Several hours later I hear the Watch Commander alarm go off. The beeping goes on just a little longer than normal so I wait…it continues so I jump out of bed calling for Dan. As I race up the companionway stairs he’s nowhere in sight. My heart is driven into my throat like a shot from a pistol as I climb higher to get a look on deck. My head swings right then left. In the light purple haze of the dawn I finally see the dark outline that is Dan standing on the starboard deck holding onto some line as he’s tightly gripping the handrail on top of the dodger. Dazzler is healed over close to 30° as she’s slicing through the sea at top speed in the 20+ knot winds that are blasting our port quarter. There’s white water splashing up behind the dark figure and then the Watch Commander sounds its 130 decibel alarm. In the confusion I forgot to reset it.

As Dan steps into the cockpit I reset the alarm asking what is going on and why the hell he was on deck without me being up. He tells me the jib sheet got ripped right out of his hand and he had to go get it. He says he needs to walk it back around deck. I suggest that maybe we could wait until the winds die a bit and it gets a tad lighter out. He agrees as he tosses the line into the cockpit. Having been in a deep sleep before being rousted by the incessant beeping of the Watch Commander I was not dressed to be outside. It was cold and damp and I needed more clothes. I went below to curl up in our thick Sherpa blanket in the bunk for a few minutes to get warm before I got dressed.

This would probably be a good time to tell you that we have a hard and fast rule on Dazzler. No one, including the Captain, is to go on deck without making the other person aware that they are going there so they can keep watch. It’s a good safety rule and one that my dear Captain has been known to break. In an emergency such as the line taking off and him needing to get it I can understand and forgive him. That said, what happens next was not one of those times where I could just look the other way.

I’m in the bunk warming up and all of the sudden I hear an out of the ordinary sound above my head. I stop and listen a bit harder and realize it’s footsteps. “Are you freaking kidding me?” I gasp as I go back up the companionway. As I do I see the winds have jumped up to 24 knots. We’re screaming through the water as I look toward the bow and there is Dan on the port side restringing the sheet around the deck.

Remember that feeling of nothingness I had on watch? Well let’s just say all feeling has returned and the emotion that immediately rears its head is pure anger. “What in the hell are you doing on deck without telling me?” I scream above the wind and waves. “We have rules damnit!” You think the wrath of a woman scorned is bad…try a woman at the edge of her sanity on a boat hundreds of miles from shore as the love of her life is on deck breaking one of the most critical safety rules of all. It’s not a pretty sight and one that would strike fear in the hearts of the most macho of men.
Dan returns to the cockpit explaining that he yelled down to say he was going on deck. No! Just no! We have had this discussion many, many times before. If you don’t get an acknowledgement you must assume your message was not received and act accordingly. I’m furious and he knows it. He doesn’t say another word as he clips in and sits down. I storm down below to cool off a bit.

The thing is we never let an argument linger. It’s not worth it and we both know in the end we’re still going to love each other and be together when it’s over. I leave Dan to consider his actions for ten minutes or so then return to discuss what happened. Certainly he tries to defend himself but when I turn the situation around and put me out on deck he realizes that I am probably right and apologizes. I apologize for yelling and just like that everything is good between us again. Just as it should be.

Now we still have the issue of the exhaust to deal with but we’re sailing along at six to six and a half knots so we don’t want to slow down. No, we’ll wait until the winds start dying off and then tackle that. It looks like that will be later this afternoon so we go on about our normal routine.

Mother Nature provided us with some beautiful weather that allowed us a rather spirited sail today running as high as 7 knots with kind and somewhat mellow following seas. It certainly helped us to make up some lost time. Alas around 1700 the winds and seas started to settle down and we knew it was time to get working on the exhaust repair. Dan went on deck to drop the sails and I started praying this would be an easy fix.

With the sails down and the boat slowed to about a knot Dan cleared out the lazarette and went in to see what else had gone wrong. He ended up pulling out the exhaust lift silencer unit. We found a large crack in one of the elbows. Dan filed it down with the dremmel and we used the Minute Mend epoxy to repair it. I’m telling you this stuff is amazing! With this repair we used the last of it but will definitely be buying more in New Zealand.

After an hour and a half of floundering while he worked on the exhaust we were ready to fire the engine. It took several minutes but eventually we had water coming out of the exhaust! I’m sure we don’t need to tell you what a joyous moment that was for us. There was lots of shouting and a few high fives! Of course a few praise the Lords were in there as well. Within 2 hours we were up and running again.

What we hope for now is that the repairs last for at least three more days. We just made the turn near John’s Corner and are now headed toward NZ. Our hope is to arrive just ahead of the 25 knot blow that is expected on Saturday. Nothing like sliding in at the last possible moment.

As for this episode of the Twilight Zone let’s just hope the producers haven’t decided to make it a two parter. I don’t think these two battered old salts can endure much more. Dodododo Dodododo.

Until next time…
Jilly & Dan