| 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 email@example.com. Don't forget the website,
www.ussmaverick.net, 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.