Trip Reports

Looking For Adventure (02-Dec-2002-13-30):
1:30 PM local time, Monday, December 2 (1330 Dec. 2 UTC) 21 35 N 027 22 W. Temp. 78, Humidity 70%, Cloud Cover 70%. Sixth day at sea.

Warm greetings from the crew of Maverick.

As the song goes "or whatever comes our way." We got you covered on the whatever. I'm back in my old familiar seat, strapped with a kind of seat belt arrangement into the nav station at the computer. Maverick has a proper nav station but the computer has commandeered it and we use the galley countertop for charting underway. This must be the first missive I've written at sea since the Red Sea. It's almost cheating to send the other ones out, since they were written from a stable platform. It's rolly out here, but quite a bit nicer than the last few days, and we're doing about 7.5 knots under triple-reefed main and a poled-out Genoa in twenty-five to thirty knots of wind and six to eight-foot seas. We're south of 23 27 north, so we're technically in the tropics, and it is beginning to feel like it.

There must be over 500 boats crossing the Atlantic. It's a whole different scene from the blast-off from California to the Pacific in March of 2001 where we were all alone. It's also different from the feeling of the world cruisers heading out from Sri Lanka to the Maldives and up the Red Sea. One thing is, it's probably a more upscale group, Maverick not included. I think there were fewer than three boats in the circumnavigators going up the Red Sea whose owners were what you'd call rich. The average boat was a forty-footer with some miles on it and a crew on a relatively tight budget.

Among the Atlantic passage-makers there are a lot of first-time long-distance cruisers who will sail the Caribbean for season and return to Europe. There are also lots of people who charter a berth on a seventy-footer with a paid crew, fly in to the Canaries, do a two-week passage, and fly home, now able to make the claim that they've crossed the Atlantic. There are people who've just bought a boat specifically to join the ARC and come across. The ARC does a hard sell at the London boat show next to the yacht sales, complete with pictures of tropical beaches which for a Londoner are pretty irresistible. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

The ARC is the biggest of the Atlantic rallies, of which there are several. I'm not sure what its attractions are, but one of them shouldn't be that it's safer. A few days ago the skipper of a 51-footer in the ARC, believed to be British, went overboard while tethered to the boat, and his wife was unable to get him back aboard before he drowned. She's now alone with his body on the boat in the middle of the Atlantic, with the nearest boat, that has turned upwind to help her, sixty miles away. Another boat, a Hunter 45, that may not be part of the rally, has lost its rudder. Once you untie the docklines, you're about as on-your-own as a person gets on this planet, ARC or no ARC.

Our boys are not in such bad shape, but we haven't gotten off to a very good start, either. As you will remember, we can't use our engine for propulsion, so when the weather looked good for strong northeasterlies to get us down to the trades, it was a good time to go. The first day the wind hadn't settled in and we found ourselves jibing between Tenerife and La Gomera, looking for wind. The next day, however, we got the wind, and along with the wind, the seas. For four days we had 25-30 all day, picking up to 30-35 with gusts to 40 at night. The seas along with this soon built to twelve and then fifteen feet, as behind us, the wind was stronger. The problem was that there was already a twelve-foot swell from the northwest, so the ocean got a bit ugly. All the forecasts called for rough to very rough seas, and that's a pretty fair assessment. I was happy to talk to a British skipper who allowed as how it was "bloody miserable," the reason being I've heard enough from Brits and Aussies and especially Kiwis who delight in calling 45 knots a "nice sailing breeze." I don't think the crew of Maverick was miserable, but it wasn't really a cakewalk out here. Pretty soon the cockpit cushions, which we had given up trying to keep on the seats, began soaking up water from the frequent waves we got in the cockpit and became fifty-pound sponges. Cooking was pretty much abandoned and it was a little hard to stay in the bunk. We made our way from head to galley with nimble gibbon-type movements, as going from place to place on the boat without handholds was not a good idea. Francis on Okiva was near Italy when he fell after missing a handhold, requiring a helicopter to take him to the hospital, but we're not close to anywhere. All in a day's work, of course, but yesterday things went a bit cattywumpus. A control line on the vane broke. No big deal at all. Then later, Ship's Chief of Wind vane Engineering Terry Shrode noticed the vane acting a little funny. Taking a closer look, he discovered that the setscrews on the shaft that the paddle is hung on had worked loose and the shaft was connected only at one end. Before long this would have worked loose and there are not enough spares aboard to replace the parts that would have gone missing, with the result that we'd be hand steering across the Atlantic. While Mr. Shrode hung himself over the transom to deal with the situation, which he did, by the way, with his normal aplomb, the Captain steered. Steering at sea is something we rarely do and I'd forgotten that it's pretty cool. We were surfing down the faces of these huge waves and then one big guy came along and woohoo!! I looked at the GPS and found we had hit 17.7 knots, which isn't bad for an old boat.

Later we tried to start the engine but it just went thunk. Now we don't need the engine for propulsion but we do need it to charge the batteries so we can have running lights, cabin lights, talk on the radio and use the computer. The idea of crossing another 2200 miles of Atlantic without power was not attractive, so the Captain immediately looked at the alternative, which would have been a close reach to the Cape Verdes in thirty knots and twelve-foot seas. Yuck. After some slightly worrisome head scratching we started disassembling things and it became apparent that we had seawater in the combustion chambers, which had come in through the exhaust system, not the raw water pump. The raw water system, exhaust system, and injectors were pulled apart, although in twelve-foot seas this isn't quite as easy as it would be at home. We cleared out the water from the cylinders and got the engine started. But today we had the same problem, requiring the same repair. We've sailed a lot of miles with the same exhaust system, in big following seas, and can't see how anything's changed. Every part of the system is by the book (Calder) and seems normal. We don't have a valve to shut of the exhaust as he suggests, but it's never been an issue and these aren't the biggest seas we've seen. Any ideas? No use sending them if they can't be done at sea. Keep them short. Hey, this in an interactive site.

The problems haven't slowed us down too much, although we did reduce sail while we were fixing things. We've averaged about 140 miles a day, even counting the first one which was very slow, and yesterday and today, when we've had to slow down to work on the engine. The GPS tells us we have about 1990 to go.


Thanks to all those who have written words of encouragement. Everyone can stay in touch by writing Don't forget the website,, that has some new pictures up.

PS to Bill: Monitor is on the very short list of companies I would recommend. Don't buy a Compaq laptop. PS to GV: Congratulations on the new CD and release party.

PS to Mac: Yeah, it would be cool if you started the cars up.

PS to Hank: I think we've decided on Carriacou, which seems like it might be quieter. Please write if this is a mistake.

PS to our readers: The wind and seas have come up again.

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