Wednesday, May 24, 2017

May 2017: The Leg to Bermuda

We are in Bermuda and back online for a short spell.  This is a “catch up post” that summarizes the past week that we’ve been at sea and mostly off the grid.  I say “mostly” because we are able to communicate on a limited basis with Silvio’s satellite phone if needed, and also text messages via our Garmin inReach device.  Both have come in handy for occasional “ops normal” reporting, as well as a few technical assistance items that popped up along the way (with James at Yacht Tech (LINK), who was very responsive and helpful, as was Bob Senter.)
Our inReach Tracking & Messaging Site

We also can – and usually do if Rick remembers – post at least a daily message to our inReach tracking web site (LINK)….when you visit there to view our track and current position, if you look in the left pane and expand it by clicking on the arrow (>) you will see a list of the messages we have transmitted along the way.  Or in the map display, message boxes will appear along our track – just click one those for quick status updates when we are otherwise incommunicado.

Relish Departing Nassau
At the captain’s briefing on Tuesday morning (16-May @ 0830) we got a weather forecast good enough to make launching on our planned D-Day a “go”. We had calculated the ETE to join the five other boats at the rendezvous (RZ) point at about 25 hours; and with their scheduled departure time of 0800 the following day we came up with a departure time of 1130.  That made for a leisurely morning for us to insure that all pre-departure checklist items were covered, and also gave the crew time for some familiarization training in Relish’s engine room to prep for the shared duties of periodic engine room inspections while underway.
Chelle & Gary on the Fly Bridge

Even with some extra time spent trying to figure out the complexities of Relish’s auto-start generator system (which is pretty sexy) we still were underway by 1115.  The waters surrounding New Providence were relatively calm as we exited Nassau harbor and pointed the vessel to the Northeast towards the RZ point.  As the day progressed wind and seas gradually increased to the 15-to-20 knot and 4-to-5 foot range, but quartering on the beam so the stabilizers handled most of the rolling.  When we turned Relish more to the northwest after rounding the Berry Islands we were mostly going downhill with the waves, so the ride was good.

Chelle Prepared Great Dinners for Us...and We
Always Ate as a Crew in the Pilot House
One of early and fairly critical checks in the sortie was powering up the water maker to be certain we would have plenty of fresh H2O for the upcoming long legs.  Many if not most ocean crossers consider a water-maker problem to be a “no-go”, at least at the outset.  Relish has a top of the line unit – a Newport 700 MKII which can run off of 24V DC power (as well as 240VAC) and can pump out 30 gallons of fresh water per hour.  And – nuts – we found it was leaking at one end of one of the membranes.  But a couple turns with a wrench on a small end nut solved that and we were in business.  Otherwise our first day of mechanical checks were fairly routine and the boat ran fabulously.

With 4 crew members our night shifts were fairly pleasant – Silvio took the helm from 2100 to midnight, then Gary until 0300, followed by Rick from 0300 to 0600, and then Michelle for the last slot from 0600 to 0900.  During the daytime hours we used the informal “who wants to drive for a while?” approach vs. scheduled shifts, and it all worked well.

Our Rendezvous with the NAP Fleet
While our departure weather forecast was acceptable, it wasn’t ideal; as predicted the winds started kicking on Wednesday afternoon…right about the time we came within AIS and VHF radio range of the five other Nordhavns comprising our NAP fleet.  Seas went to 6 feet with occasional bigger holes in the water as the winds cranked up on cue, and that cut short Rick’s fishing in the Gulf Stream.  Shortly thereafter we were in consistent 6-to-8 foot seas at nasty 6 second intervals, so everyone strapped in.  Our rendezvous with N55 Angela, N55 Moxie, N52 Aeoli, N50 Tivoli and N47 Roam was mostly uneventful, apart from the fact that we were about 30 minutes early and thus had to slow down and execute some S-turns to weave our way into the formation.

One of Our Buddy Boats
Eventually the 8 footers @ 6 second intervals had impacts on the fleet, as the smaller N47 and N50 had to slow down to keep fuel burn and comfort to a tolerable level.  (A good rule of thumb for tolerable sea state:  add 2 to the wave height, and if your intervals are less than that number, you won’t like the ride.)  So Roam and Tivoli fell back into their own two-ship formation while the rest of us continued on, playing follow-the-leader (Angela) in a loose diamond formation.  And Relish caught her first fish without the benefit of a fishing pole – a very unlucky flying fish had the misfortune to launch itself at the top of one of the bigger waves and came to a sudden stop on our fly bridge (which is at least 20 feet up.)
Flying Fish Crash Lands
on Our Fly Bridge

Relish continued to perform well in the sloppy conditions, but after our daily wide open throttle (WOT) run – which is performed daily to help exercise the big diesel engine – our engine room temperatures were escalating (reaching 130F), and that caused the stack blower to thermal out, and the SeaFire fire suppression bottle wasn’t too happy either based on its pressure gauge reading.  Neither caused any serious problems other than some elevated blood pressure, as eventually we got it under control by slowing and opening the lazarette door to let its blowers bring more of the cooler air in.  Rick also changed the fuel valve positions to return unused diesel from the engine to the original feeding fuel tank rather than the engine room supply (day) tank, and that also helped – those tank temp readings went down from 150F to the 110-118F range as a result.

We had used the same overnight shift schedule as the previous night and again that worked well for the crew.  By daybreak seas had subsided to 2-to-4 feet. 
Our Nav Chart with Revised
Weather Routing

Those of you tracking us via our inReach online tracking map (LINK) likely were wondering about our initial route segments – mostly north up the U.S. coastline vs. a direct shot at Bermuda from our RZ point (although still 100+ miles off the coast).  The reason for that was twofold:  first to take advantage of the Gulf Stream’s pushing currents for as long as we could (at one point saw 13 knots speed over ground, which for a 150,000 pound full displacement trawler is quite fast); and secondly to find the most comfortable route possible that still allowed all boats to make the journey with adequate fuel.  By extending our route even further north than originally planned we added about 100 miles to the journey but were able to minimize the time spent in that pressure gradient that kicked up those 8 foot seas.
Fishing in the Lumpy Ocean

With both the sea and boat condition improving, we were also able to spend some more time in the cockpit with a couple of lines out to troll for fish – Mahi in particular.  The first fish to bite had to be rather large, as it nearly spooled Michelle’s reel in a very short time; we tried a bit more drag to stop the fish’s high speed run, but with 250 yards of line already out and all the “water drag” that entailed the 40# line just snapped.  Nearby one of our buddy boats hooked into (and landed) a small marlin (estimated at 60 pounds), so we guessed that we had hooked something similar.  And we definitely did not have gear beefy enough for one of those.
Fishing with the Fleet

Silvio contacted our weather briefer at Commanders (LINK) for a mid-day update, and generally that confirmed the previous forecast and routing decision, so the expectation was for calmer seas by the next morning.  And Relish had passed its halfway point between Nassau and Bermuda with over 550 miles under her keel by the end of the day, averaging better than 8 knots along the way.

When Rick came on watch at 0300 the ride was already starting to smooth out, and by daybreak we were in beautifully smooth, deep blue seas.  Temperatures had dipped into the 70’s with mostly clear skies as well.  We had the fishing lines out by 0700, and while it took a couple more hours we got a strong hit on the short-line port side rig.  Michelle was on cockpit duty and she did a great job of getting the fish – a 40-inch Mahi (Dorado) – to the boat; rather than gaff it Rick grabbed the leader and pulled it into the boat.  These boats don’t have fish boxes, so we just covered it with a large yoga mat to settle it down (best use I’ve ever seen for one of those things).  We clubbed it, but for the next fish we’ll pour some alcohol into the gills for hopefully better – as in less hectic – results.
Michelle & Her Nice Dorado (Mahi)

During the course of a long cruising day there are always some maintenance and/or boat operational tasks that need tending to – today Silvio and Rick wanted to give the 20KW genset a rest and test out how the new battery chargers and the big 175 amp alternator would behave – beautifully and correctly as it turned out.  We also needed to troubleshoot two minor hydraulic leaks on the ABT active stabilizer fins – one at the pump’s manifold and the other at the starboard actuator assembly.  Since we had pretty flat seas we first turned the stabs off to give them a rest and check for static leaks (none found).  A bit later we reactivated using only the port side fin and then monitored for leaks overnight (the ABT stabilizer system performs nicely using only one of the two fins, attenuating roll up to 75% efficiency); the seepage returned but we were making troubleshooting progress, and it still appeared to be minor as the hydraulic reservoir remained at or above the full mark.

That evening we enjoyed some VERY fresh Mahi as an appetizer, but saved the bulk of the filets for a planned potluck dinner when we get to Bermuda.

As of Saturday morning we had traveled 770 nautical miles and had another two and a half days to go to reach Bermuda.  Overnight watches were completely and blissfully uneventful with light winds and seas that continued to be smooth under mostly clear skies with temps in the low 70’s.  The graveyard shift boat drivers shared fishing stories and tips to while away the time, and when Rick’s watch was over he had the lines deployed once again, this time by 0630.  Our last weather briefing called for at least one more day of benign weather, but after that we would likely run into the next pressure system that was forecast to kick up the winds to 20K and seas to 5 feet.  So we wanted to make the most of this fishing time.
Sunset from the Cockpit in the Middle of an Ocean

Silvio and Rick spent some time on a few more operational and maintenance items, all relatively minor and fairly routine.

But the bulk of the day was spent swapping off helm duties, routine engine room checks every 3 hours, monitoring the fishing rods in the cockpit (no action this day), and grabbing sun on the foredeck or just chilling out on the fly bridge.

It was another beautiful daybreak, once again greeting us with light and variable winds and very calm seas.  We had the fishing lines deployed before 0600.  But fishing activity was light at best until later in the day.

On this day Silvio and Rick got some power management lessons from the new inverter(s)…revealing that not all 120V galley equipment can be run simultaneously, with the convection setting of the microwave being the main violator of excess amps.  That and a slight dishwasher issue complicated galley operations for a spell, but we finally figured out a combination of power settings (and cleared the dishwasher fault), making Michelle considerably happier.
WOT Instrumentation Readings All
Good Except for that EGT Reading

As you may recall we had some concerns from our previous wide open throttle runs, so afterwards we had conferenced via Silvio’s sat phone with diesel guru Bob Senter, whose expert opinion was that our EGT sensor (pyrometer) was faulty, since all other engine parameters were completely normal.  So today’s WOT went fine as long as we ignored the EGT gauge, and the exhaust from our big Lugger diesel was lacking any signs of accumulated soot; but we still kept it to 5 rather than 10 minutes just to be safe.

Silvio's Mahi
As our day was winding down with another spectacular sunset and we began our usual preparations for night watches, the port side fishing rig went off, and this time Silvio was available to man the rod and he reeled in a nice 30” Mahi – his first ever, so a great conclusion to a fine day.

Our streak of glorious early mornings came to an end as we passed through a line of light showers towards dawn, and daylight broadened with grey skies, light mist, and a brisk breeze with lumpy water.  The rain clusters we had seen on radar in the hours before sunrise decreased in strength, which was actually unfortunate, as we were hoping for a fresh water wash-down of the boats before nearing Bermuda and St. George’s Harbor.

But none of that prevented us from deploying the fishing lines once again at 0630.  The port side line went off again just after 0700….unfortunately we had tangled with an overly curious sea bird rather than a fish.  Rick donned the gloves and was able to capture the gull and untangle its wing from the fishing line without damage to the bird or the fishing rig.  Our total catch count was now 2 flying fish, a seagull and 2 nicely proportioned Dorados.
Land Ho - Bermuda on the Horizon

Relish continued to hum along like a thoroughbred as the odometer rolled over past 1100 nautical miles on this initial leg.  The seas were churning up as the day progressed, eventually getting back into the 4-5 foot range, before settling down a bit later in the day.  As we came into sight of land our formation fell into a single file with closer spacing in preparation for the approach to St. George’s channel.  After waiting for a large freighter to exit the harbor around 1730 at the request of Bermuda Radio, we all motored over to the check-in pier and processed through customs.  It was a slow process with 4 crews in the line, but the customs personnel were kind and courteous.  
Four Nordhavns Lined Up for
Customs Processing

When that was finally complete we motored over to nearby at St. George’s Dinghy docks and “Med-moored” Relish just as the sun set. We were exhausted but happy to be securely tied up in an impressive looking row of Nordhavn yachts.  After hooking up the passerelle, taking a shower, grabbing a short meal and a drink, we all crashed into our respective bunks for some much needed – and uninterrupted – sleep.
Med Mooring at St. George's
Weather wise Tuesday was a delightful day – bright sunshine, temps in the low 70’s, some fair weather cumulus and a steady 10 knot breeze out of the east.  During the night the fleet’s other two boats, Roam and Tivoli, had arrived and processed through customs, so now all 6 vessels were together once again.

View of the Bay From Our
Fly Bridge
This was maintenance day for us – Michelle and Gary went to work giving a salt-encrusted Relish a much needed bath, while Silvio and Rick worked in the engine room to transfer some fuel from port to starboard to correct a list that had gone unnoticed in the rough seas.  But the larger task was to change the oil and oil filter on the main engine, a big L1276A Lugger diesel….it takes 44 quarts of oil and an enormous spin-on filter that looks more like a small SCUBA air cylinder than an oil filter canister.  It isn’t a difficult operation, but it takes some time to complete based on sheer volume alone.  We also made our list of needed parts to order for delivery at our next port (Horta in the Azores) and Michelle made a brief re-provisioning run to the local market.

The Wahoo Bistro
The rest of the day was spent relaxing and socializing with the other members of the fleet.  Our next door neighbor at the dock was Cameron McColl who had piloted his gorgeous N57 Jura to Bermuda from BVI, and would now join our NAP fleet for the journey to the Azores.  That evening we piled into his dinghy to head across the bay to have a meal at Wahoo’s Bistro, where we enjoyed some very fresh and tasty fresh fish for dinner (the Red Hind there is outstanding, as is the Wahoo.)

After that it was chill time back on Relish, followed by another night of blissful, continuous sleep.

Today is a holiday here….”Bermuda Day” (LINK) 
Chelle Walking the Plan, aka
the Passerelle
an annual celebration on the island marking the unofficial start of the summer season.  Thousands of people will crowd the streets of Hamilton to celebrate Bermuda's rich heritage with a parade, music, dancing and other festivities that stretch long into the night.
  This year it also coincides with the 35th America’s Cup racing events, a battle for the oldest trophy in international sport. Racing starts with the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers on 26th May and the top Challenger will meet Defending Champions in June.
Relish on Her Med Mooring

The latest weather reports indicate that conditions will go to hell on Friday, which was our planned departure date; so it appears we’ll be hanging out in Bermuda for an extra day or two.  In addition to TRWs, we’ll have winds in excess of 25 knots, and when that happens here you have to leave the dock and anchor out in the bay.  We’ll probably execute that move tomorrow (Thursday) when we also head over to the fuel docks to top off for the long leg to the Azores. 

More to come later, perhaps before we start on the next leg; but if not, stay tuned to our tracking site for the very latest.  We'll also be posting to the "official" NAP blog in the next few days as well.....likely after we get settled at anchor while waiting for the next weather window.

Monday, May 15, 2017

May 2017: Final Preps for Departure

On Wednesday 10-May we once again drove back to Palm Beach, this time in a one-way rental car loaded with our travel bags.  We stopped at Old Port Cove marina to grab a couple more spare parts from Yacht Tech for Relish, and then the next day (11-May) caught a flight out of PBI back to Nassau. 
Relaxing Dinner in Relish's Cockpit

Untangling the Jordan
Drogue Chute
With just less than 5 days remaining before our planned departure date we went to work on final departure preps.  They were all relatively minor items:  troubleshooting the GFCI outlet for the fresh water pump, tightening the couplings on the transmission drain/fill lines, laying down new absorbent pads for the main engine, preparing and then securing the Jordon drogue chute, topping off the wing engine’s day tank, and mounting a coolant recovery tank for the wing engine….plus a few other nits here and there.

Who the Hell Put a
GFCI Back There?
We also prepared clipboards for the Pilot House with appropriate checklists and communications protocols for the crossing, and made final tweaks to our safety equipment – primarily configuring life vests with signaling devices and then topping off the ditch bag.  Over a couple of days we loaded our planned routes into the ship’s navigation systems, as well as a couple of backup laptops, and double-checked waypoints for accuracy and clearance.
Michelle Loading Routes Into the
Furuno System

Of course we also took time to get off the boat and walk to some of the local eateries nearby.  Silvio had found a local favorite just a short walk from the marina, so we enjoyed some of the best conch salad to be found anywhere, along with some spiced Bahamian shrimp, and for a third course a pile of seasoned vegetables over a whole snapper -- all washed down with plenty of Kalik (a good local beer.)
Local Nassau Dive for Conch
Salad & Kaliks

On Sunday we also made a final grocery run which primarily consisted of loading up the galley with fresh produce, fruit and dairy from the local market. The prices were eye-popping….Nassau is not an inexpensive place to shop for such things.  Gary Brace, our 4th crew member for the leg to Bermuda, flew in that evening and joined in on the preps.

Final Shopping Run in Nassau
On Monday morning (15-May) we participated in the first of the final two captain’s briefings via cell phone and Skype.  Bernie Francis chaired the meeting, introducing all captains and crews to each other, and going over final checklists for departure.  We followed that with discussions about individual crew member responsibilities in the event of an MOB event and a few other emergency situations.

That evening we experienced a significant fresh water leak under the galley sink when the filtered water (plastic) faucet connector snapped at its threads.  We scrambled to turn off the fresh water pressurizing pump and use other faucets to relieve pressure and drain the lines....but we still dumped a LOT of water into the boat and down into the engine room below. Lacking a good plumbing repair kit we had to improvise some of our own parts and cap off two fresh water hoses.  We now have high praise for JB Weld's "WaterWeld" product.
Farewell Fireworks Over Nassau Harbor

After all that it was all about checking for a good weather window, and we were pretty much ready to launch by the next day (16-May).  We have another captain's briefing at 0830 that day, and that will determine the ultimate departure timing and rendezvous with the rest of the fleet 200 miles to our northwest.  We won't have time for another blog post before then, so stay tuned to the tracking site to verify launch:  (CLICK HERE).