Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A Becky Blog: "The Laundry Nazi"

The Sign
It never fails where ever you find a laundromat, on an island, in a city, or even a small town.  You will find one person that will tell you the rules or correct you on proper laundry etiquette .  Shelter Bay Marina is no different.  The boys and I arrived with four huge bags and two arm fully of things to be washed.  This is a task that will take me all day for sure.  After arriving at the door of the mat, I noticed the sign.

ONE washer ONE dryer per person... OH MY!!!  This just turned into a three day process.  But to my surprise the sweet gal (Navil) here said I could use three machines because I was the only one here!!!  Happy dance for sure.

Then it happened, as I was loading up my machines the laundry Nazi walked in.  She quickly did her stern walk about and asked Navil why I wasn't following the rules.  Not talking to me of course.  I continued to load.  Everyone who knows me knows I am the first to cave-in... I don't even like waiting in line at the grocery store because it might offend the people behind me.  Normally I would have quickly given up my third machine.  But not today, if perhaps she would have been kind or even spoken to me, I would have let her have a machine.  Instead I loaded them up with a smile.  The attendant explained to her I was the only one here and she will have an open machine for her shortly.  She even offered to start it for her.  


So, then came my lecture of laundry etiquette .  

"The sign, clearly states that it is one machine per person so others can do their laundry."  She said with a "teacher finger" pointing at me.  

I just smiled and replied....
"I am doing laundry for six people, I will be here all day as it is."

Maybe I should have said,
"I will get my entire family up here so I can use six machines instead of three! "

Oh! I should have said that!!!   I will save that for the next laundry Nazi!

So, she stood around talking to Navil about me, making me fully aware that she was disappointed in me.  She looked like a angry mother hen, marching around this small laundromat.  She marched around checking every machine so she didn't have to wait one second more.  She was in such a hurry on such a  beautiful day in Panama.

So the story continues... The Nazi comes back again and tells Navil that she shouldn't have let me use so many machines and that she will now complain to management.   When she stomped off,  Navil  was frustrated and we joked about me bringing up the other five people, so that I could have all six machines.  We laughed and as machines opened up Navil told me to use them up.  Super! I have an in with the Laundry Gal Navil.  Don't mistake her for the Laundry Nazi!

Lesson learned, be sweet to others around you.   Let the other person look like an ass.

This is the first laundromat I have used that has this policy.  I understand it.  I get it, however, if no one is here to use the open machines and one person has ten loads let them get started.  Relax people, unwind, look at my pile of clothes and be thankful that you have just one load today because the next time you might be the one with ten!

I remember years ago with my friend Rennie on "Salt and Light" when we would make a pitcher of Rum Punch and hit the laundromat after dinner and do a late night laundry/cocktail hour.  That is the way laundry should be done with a great friend, laughter and cold drinks.

Cheers all,

I even was able to use all four driers as once!  Oh My!  Breaking the rules when I can.  

Monday, March 24, 2014

Offshore Musing


During my night watch a few nights ago, as I sat in the cockpit with my head lolling off the side looking at the splashes of fosphoressence (ahhh a word auto correct can't help me with) like flashes of lightning with every crash of the bow, I began to muse about this whole offshore sailing thing.
      Only, perhaps, backpacking deep into the mountains off the trails have I ever experienced such time travel.  Sure we have our gadgets out here that tell us where we are and even let us send out emails and blog posts like this but really at its essence we are the same as the first sailors.  The ocean view looks identical to me as it did for Columbus, that splash of color deep in the night he also mused over.
      We still trudge along at just a little bit faster than Karl Busby walks (look him up on Facebook for an interesting guy).  When we are really moving and feel like speed demons we are still moving slower than I sometimes used to ride my bicycle on my way to Alaska.
      We do see occasional garbage, a water bottle here or floating hunk of something, but not very often, at least in this part of the world.  The wind still moves us at its own whims.  We set waypoints that the wind and sea completely ignore, (how dare they!)  so we must be content to miss them by miles or start up the engine and do what humans everywhere do, force nature to their will, but we don't, we fall off and sail on.
      Every few days the Sea gets an attitude and starts to swat us around, reminding us that we are just a little cork in a washing machine making our way only by her grace and permission.  Often the very next morning we awaken to a stunning light show as the sun comes up over the water and there might not be a wave in sight.
     Aquatic dwellers surface occasionally to say "Hi!"  In the case of dolphins or even whales or just to do their thing and we happened to be in the right place to see them do it.  Just as we left St Thomas whales went by and acted like we were not even there... Just feeding like cows in a Wyoming meadow.
     We are planning the next HUGE stage of our voyage and were faced with three options, the two shorter options involve a lot of motoring and the sailing option involves about 5600 miles offshore with one stop in Galapagos.  We hate to motor so we're going for the long trip.  This will leave us a LOT of time to muse offshore.  I take comfort in the fact that at least we don't have to eat salt beef and hard tack the whole way!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Arrived in Panama

3/23/14 Wandering Dolphin POS

Shelter Bay Marina, Cristobol, Panama

We made it!  Leg 1 is done!!   Sorry for the late post today but we spent the morning motoring in behind HUGE ships and getting docked and situated (and showered) at the marina.

Last night was a very pleasant sail only made stressful by the many, many ships we had to dodge.  This was made infinitely easier with the use of our AIS. It makes all the difference in the world when those ships can actually see you on their screens.

Panama is hazy and wet this morning.  It is GREAT to be here.  We have been told that we have the best Canal Agent in the business.  Apparently Roy Bravo can get us through in under a week where many others will actually wait weeks to get through... we hope this is right.  He has already been to the boat and we do not have to check in or out or do any of the canal paperwork.

The boat made the 1200 mile passage from St Thomas with only a few things to fix.  The dingy got a little hole in it from the stays'l track, two plastic sliders broken on the mains'l (but thats why we have plastic ones, they break rather than the sail ripping.)   We also discovered that the watermaker needs a lift pump in order to function while the boat is heeled.  That is my list of "fixits" this week while we wait for our clearance for the canal.  We will also be provisioning the boat for 5 weeks at sea while we are here.

The marina here is very nice but pretty expensive, (still less than Crown Bay though!)  The showers are in their own individual rooms and there is a very nice pool and the food at the restaurant is less than half of Tickles prices.

Thanks for following along!  We will post some pictures later!

Captain Tofer, Rebecca, EmilyAnne, Kanyon, Kaleb, and Benny

Saturday, March 22, 2014

March 22 Position Report

3/22/14 Wandering Dolphin POS

10 48.600 N  078 24.124 W
COG 185T

Wind: NE18-22
SEAS: NE 8-8ft
Temp: 88.6F
Mostly Cloudy

Double reefed main
lightly reefed jib
no stays'l
One more gybe?

Good Morning,

With the heading we are on right now we are directly headed to one of the places we really wanted to spend some time.  The San Blas Islands.  Because we had to work and refit the boat we were forced to skip a lot of the places we really wanted to stop on this voyage.  We also missed Cartagena, Columbia, where we always thought we would spend a Christmas.  Missing these stops is tough but... We console ourselves with the fact that the world is round...

The last two days have been uncomfortable.  It's never fun to close up the boat in the heat, eat only sandwiches, and cringe when a wave breaks into the cockpit.  The boys don't seem to care and their worlds in Minecraft continue to grow and they continue to catch various PokeMon rather than fish.  Speaking of fish, last night a large flying fish came aboard with one of the waves.  It was funny to watch all three boys try to catch that fish in the dark to throw it over.

Aline and Jim V, thanks for introducing us to your families over the Iridium message.  It's pretty cool to have folks in the snow in Alberta and others in Texas sharing our journey with us.
Kevin, Could you resend the info on your Panama anchorage?  EmilyAnne promptly deleted it.

We will have internet at the marina in Panama so we can upload some pictures to the blog.

Captain Tofer, Rebecca, EmilyAnne, Kanyon, Kaleb, Benny

Friday, March 21, 2014

March 21 Position Report

3/21/14 Wandering Dolphin POS

13 17.677N  077 34.792W
SOG 7kt
COG 200T

WIND NE22-25
Temp: 91.8
Seas: 6-8ft
Mostly Clear

Good Morning,
Last night was fairly uncomfortable with waves hitting the side of the boat and quite a few breaking over the deck.  We gybed early this morning and that has helped quite a bit.  The waves are still pretty big so we can't open the hatch in the salon so it gets hot below.  The boat is moving along really well with a double reefed main and reefed jib.

Last night Becca made some pasta salad that was GREAT!  It had elbow noodles, black olives, tomatoes, chunks of chicken, vinegar and parmesan cheese.

I see sandwiches in our future today though, it's pretty boisterous today.

Today is EmilyAnne's 17th birthday!  We brought stuff to make a cake but... she might have to wait...

We should be arriving in Panama Sunday morning, we are pretty excited!

Aline - EmilyAnne says the answer is: "The horses name is Friday..."

Captain Tofer, Becca, EmilyAnne, Kanyon, Kaleb, Benny

Thursday, March 20, 2014

March 20 Position Report

3/20/14 Wandering Dolphin POS

13 31.890 N   074 39.880 W
SOG 6.8-7kt
COG 270T

Wind: NE 20-22
Seas: NE 6-8ft

Partly Cloudy

Good Morning From Wandering Dolphin,

We did a little course change last evening because we needed to gybe.  The new course is taking us a little north of our intended route and we will miss the eddy current but it will also put us about 20 miles further north of the largest winds and seas we are supposed to see today and tomorrow.  We will gybe again when we reach 13 29N  76 00W which should put us on a good heading for Panama.

Last night Kristofer made a twist on a Cuban quesadilla with fried summer sausage, melted cheddar, bread and butter pickles, and mustard on a fried tortilla. This morning Becca made Tofer's famous coconut rice.  No one is going to starve.

Three of us virtually live in different worlds out here as we read our various books.  Kaleb has traded in his Game Boy for a Kindle as his occupation of choice and has joined in the swelling ranks of readers.  Rebecca just makes Kristofer tell her the whole story of every book he reads rather than reading it herself.  Kanyon spends most of his time trying to find a comfortable spot to fold his super long legs into a sitting position.

Yesterday when we gybed the boat, suddenly everything that had been secure on the starboard side spent the whole night suddenly flying across the boat at inopportune moments, or falling on sleeping people.  But I will say the head sure is a lot more comfortable when it embraces you rather than flinging you off as you try to do your business.  Tofer discarded eight little dead flying fish from the scuppers this morning.

We  would like to send out a little thank you to two particular folks who constantly amuse us with jokes and riddles.  Aline and Jim V please send us another message just letting us know who you are.  Do we personally know you or are you following on the blog or Facebook?  Either way, "Thanks!"  You are really a part of this passage and have brought giggles and laughter to the family!

Looks like about two days left to Shelter Bay Marina in Panama!

Captain Tofer, Becca, EmilyAnne, Kanyon, Kaleb and Benny

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

March 19 Position Report

3/19/14 Wandering Dolphin POS

13 55.527 N   071 49.995 W
SOG 7kt
COG  250T

Pressure: 29.75
Temp: 90.5F
Wind:  SE 18 - 22
Waves E 3-4 ft

Mostly Cloudy

Good Morning,

Rebecca is frying up some canned meat and scrambled eggs for breakfast.  Kanyon, who has the early watch, is back in bed.  The rest of us are up listening to "Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy" by Big and Rich.

The wind has moved around to the south so things are a little more comfortable.  When the wind was right behind us the reefed jib flogged in the movement of the waves and made a "Whomp" sound every 15 seconds... jared my brain.

The boat is good.  The Dingy basket, tied under the dingy and over our cabin came loose in the night and sounded like a monster trying to escape.  I had to climb under the dingy through the barely open hatch and tie it down again.  All the fun stuff happens in the middle of the night.

We are really happy with our progress so far.  A big thanks to our weather guy Bob Cook for putting us right where the helpful current is!

A family offshore is an interesting animal.  It takes a few days just to get to the point where you can move about without either being irritated by someone or irritating someone yourself.  Everyone seems to try and find a little spot all to themselves.  Rules help.  Like, "The person on watch chooses the music, no one complains, their time will come."  So we get a wide variety, from Benny's and Becca's country to Kaleb and EmilyAnne's new alternative, Kanyon's Christian Rock, and Kristofer's classic rock and 80s stoner bands.  We have a BIG headstart on this offshore living thing, at least Wandering Dolphin is our home, we've lived here for eight years and we've made passages.  A family, newly moved aboard would definitely need some break in time before trying a passage.

We are pumped for PANAMA and the PACIFIC!!

Captain Tofer, Becca, EmilyAnne, Kanyon, Kaleb, and Benny

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

March 18 Position Report

Wandering Dolphin 3/18/14 POS

15 08.037 N   069 05.761 W
COG 240
SOG 7.5 - 8

Pressure: 29.75
Temp: 90F
Wind E20-22

Sunny Sky

Sails: Full Genoa, Double Reefed Main

Good Morning!

The kids are all in the cockpit playing "I Spy..."  They all laugh their asses off when one of them says, "something that is... blue!"

We've taken a couple of waves over the rails so some of the cockpit is soaked.  Other than that inconvenience everyone seems to be getting used to the motion.  Lots of laughter right now, that's always a good sign.  Emily is acting like a typical 17-year-old, shes... asleep.

The boat is doing great.  We still have that S.L.O.B... Slow Leak Over The Bed... Damn mushroom vent.  It's to wet to attack it with silicone.  Nice to be on a boat that can MOVE.  All those deliveries on full keel slow pokes, not counting poor little Dulcinea who performed above the call with just a jib, has really given me an appreciation for a fast boat.  I have to admit though, she's not as comfortable down wind as those boats.

Bangers and Mash last night with BBQ sauce was GREAT... but none of the boys liked it?  Figure that one out??

To all of you who are sending jokes and riddles, THANKS, but its time to send the punchlines and answers.

Thanks for following!
Captain Tofer, Rebecca, EmilyAnne, Kanyon, Kaleb, and Benny

Monday, March 17, 2014

March 17 Position Report

Wandering Dolphin 3/17/14 POS

16 57.180N  066 46.252W
COG 240
SOG 7 - 7.4

Wind: E 17-19
Seas: 3-4ft  5 seconds

Pressure: 29.75 steady
Temp: 90.8F

Sails: Double reefed main, Full Genoa, no stays'l

Good Morning!

Hey!  We saw WHALES as we sailed away from Water Island yesterday!!

Wandering Dolphin is doing her thing.  She is capable of about 9.5 right now but the family is not up for it.  We are quite comfortable right now.  All systems are good with the exception of the water maker.  I have to add a lift pump to the water supply when we get to Panama.  When we are heeled over to starboard at all it doesn't get enough water into the filters to make water.

Rebecca and the kids are all doing ok.  Benny still has his cold so he is not himself yet.  Rebecca must be feeling OK since she is pulling out all of her St Paddy's day beads and stuff with plans to make us all wear it or be pinched!  I think I will make a Corned Beef supper tonight which will NOT please EmilyAnne because she thinks it looks like dog food.

I LOVE the Vesper Marine AIS and my Navionics chartplotter all on my iPad!

Day 1 Down, My guess is 70 days at sea left to Bellingham Harbor.

Kristofer, Rebecca, EmilyAnne, Kanyon, Kaleb, Benny

Saturday, March 15, 2014

We Leave In the Morning! Where are we going???

It was a VERY busy few days as we said goodbye to friends, provisioned the boat, went through ALL the boats systems, changed ALL the fuel filters, checked for leaks in the transmission, changed the oil etc...  Having just arrived back from such a long trip on an old, tired boat, and having just watched the ocean find each and every weakness in that boat, motivated me further to diligently look at all of our systems.  Don't get me wrong, Although Wandering Dolphin is not as old as Dulcinea, 1989 -vs- 1981, and she has just gone through an extensive and complete refit, I am not naive enough to think she will arrive at our first, let alone, final destination, without having plenty of things to fix.

So the time has arrived to let you all know our final destination and all of the legs in between.  We have kept this a pretty closely guarded secret, with only a few close friends and families knowing the details.  We did this for a few reasons but the main one was that with this gypsy lifestyle and our own tendency to change our minds we were afraid to give a destination and then.... not get there.

I am actually a little worried about telling everyone our plans in detail now, even though we are actually setting sail tomorrow morning, for the very same reason.   The trip that we now set out on is really a little mind blowing and I know from experience that there are so many things that can happen to cause a voyage of this magnitude to fail.  I do think that sharing it all with you now will, in the end, show the twists and turns and changes in plans as the ocean takes her toll on both the vessel and the crew.  You can share all of this with us from the very beginning.


Leg #1
St Thomas to Panama and a transit of the Panama Canal

Tomorrow morning we will drop the mooring, fuel and water the boat, and with light wind from the ENE expected, pop the spinnaker for the 1200 mile, 8 to 10 day sail to Panama.  We have an agent booked who will take care of all of the paper work for both clearing in and out of Panama and for the measurement of the boat and transit of the canal.  Our total fees for this service, including the actual canal fees is $2500. Thanks to our agent, we also have a slip reserved on the caribbean side of the canal for one week prior to our transit.  During that time we will provision the boat for our Pacific voyage.  The cost of food in Panama is WAY less than here in St Thomas so right now the boat is only provisioned for our first 10-day leg.  I have recently read, "The Path Between the Seas" by David McCullough.  If you are interested in the history of the canal I HIGHLY recommend this book.  I will be teaching the kids about the history of the canal while we are in Panama.

Leg #2
Panama to Galapagos

Once we transit the canal we will sail to the Las Perlas to decompress for a couple of days before we set sail for the Galapagos.

The voyage from Panama to Galapagos is about 1100 miles as well.

The situation with the Galapagos is that you are not actually allowed to clear out with the Galapagos as your destination and to get an actual Visa to visit is very expensive and difficult when arriving on a private vessel.  There is a little loophole though that allows you to stop for repairs and you are then issued a visa for 10 days to 3 months at the discretion of the person checking you in.

All boats need repairs of some sort after a 1000 mile voyage so this should work for us.  Once we are cleared in we are not allowed to take the boat to any of the other islands so unless we can afford to take a tour or something our experience of the Galapagos will really only be on one island.

Leg #3
Galapagos to Hawaii

This leg is BY FAR the longest leg of our voyage.  The difficulty in sailing to Hawaii is that we have to cross the ITCZ (Inter-tropical-convergence-zone), which is an area of unsettled weather, usually very little wind and a lot of squalls.  It is better known as "The Doldrums."  There are two ways to sail from Galapagos to Hawaii.  The shortest route is a straight shot and it is about 4000 miles.  The route recommended for sailing vessels is actually to sail east, using the trade winds and only turn north crossing the ITCZ after gaining a lot of your east.  The disadvantage of this second route is that it adds almost 1000 miles to an already VERY long voyage.

We are fortunate to have a great weather forecaster in Bob Cook of Ocean Pro Weather.  Our friend and former Boss, Bob Thomas, the owner of Sweetest Thing has generously agreed to pay Ocean Pro for almost 2/3 of the weather forecasts we need for our entire voyage!  With Bob Cooks advice and real time forecasting we will be able to make choices on routing depending on what the weather is actually doing.  Bob is our "Ace-in-the-hole"  for this HUGE passage and we will be relying on him heavily to keep us sailing.

We will be at sea for more than a month on this leg of the trip and our plan is to make landfall in Hilo on the Big Island.  We plan to stay in Hawaii for a month or so and make our way to Honolulu where we will meet up with our son Jimmy who will be flying in to meet us.  His plan is to join us for the summer and for the final two legs of our Voyage.

Leg #4
Hawaii to ..... wait for it..... ALASKA

Yep... that's the plan.  We will set sail from Hawaii for the 2600 mile passage to Sitka, Alaska.  From there we will spend the summer slowly working our way down the inside passage to Prince Rupert, British Columbia.

We are all super excited to spend some time in a whole new latitude and to see wildlife that my younger kids can only imagine having grown up in the tropics.

Leg #5  Final Destination

Prince Rupert, British Columbia to Bellingham, Washington

At the end of August we will do an offshore leap down the coast to Washington State and our final destination, Rebecca's hometown, and the town we met in and were married in 25 years ago, Bellingham.  All of Beck's family lives here and we are really looking forward to spending a couple of years reconnecting and even doing some land travels while we are there.  The plan is to stay on the boat at a marina but we also know how cold it gets there so we will see how that goes.

Wow... Yeah when it's written out is sure looks crazy.

I will be sending out a blog to my buddy Mike Hanson who will be updating the blog for us while we are gone.  We will also be using our Delorme "In-Reach" again.  There was a little confusing during the delivery of Dulcinea because it showed Wandering Dolphin on the map.  That was only because I was using Wandering Dolphin's "In-reach" locator.  This time it really will be Wandering Dolphin on the move.  Let me share with you how that thing works.  The "In-reach" allows us to post REAL-TIME posts from anywhere in the world, while we are on the passage.  We can tell you when the dolphins are playing with the boat, or the kids catch a tuna as it actually happens.  The other VERY cool thing is that anyone can go to our Mapshare page and by clicking on any one of the little Wandering Dolphin positions it will bring up a little box with "Locate" as one of the options.  Anyone anywhere can just click "locate" and it will show you our actual position and course/speed in real time.  We have already paid for this service and we hope people will use it.

The other thing you can do, and we like it when you do, is to send us FREE messages to our Iridium SAT phone which is always on.  The phone gives a little double "beep" when we get a new message and the whole crew jumps up to see who is sending us a message.

To send us a message

Go to  http://messaging.iridium.com/
Enter this number in the first box:  881632521786
Where it says email, just put in your name because we cannot send emails out anyway.

enter your message # (example 2/3).  You can only enter 160 characters per message so you might need to split your messages into several parts.  Put your name somewhere in the message so the crew
knows who is sending the message.

Tonight we would like to say Thank You to St Thomas and especially to Water Island and Honeymoon Bay!  You will always live in our hearts.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Sailing Vessel Dulcinea Delivery - St Thomas, USVI to Galveston Texas

When I am asked to do a delivery I try to give a very conservative estimate.  I don't like it when I receive an estimate and it ends up being considerably more than I had expected.  So I estimated 20 days for this passage thinking it might actually take from 15 to 18 days.

I have done a LOT of deliveries in the past eight years and was pretty proud of the fact that, in spite of bad weather on a lot of passages, I had brought the boats in with almost no real damage.  This passage underlines the truth that the ocean is the master and that Murphy really will eventually execute his law.  When we left I was feeling really good about the condition of the boat.  The owners had taken good care of the boat and had just done a lot of the big jobs like replacing the standing rigging.

The delivery ended up taking 26 days and the boat had to be towed into port the last 70 miles.  I share this with you because, while hindsight might teach us a few things, the real lesson is that no matter how well you have prepared for an offshore voyage there will always be a few holes in your preparation and just as water will always find a way into a boat, weakness in the boat will come to light offshore.  As my very favorite offshore philosopher says,

"If it's gonna happen, it's gonna happen out there!"  Captain Ron

The vast majority of those 26 days were beautiful downwind sailing days, and my kids, EmilyAnne and Benny proved to be FANTASTIC crew.  Benny actually had blisters on his hands from hand steering when we arrived but had not complained once.  The Coast Guard small boat crew sent us a message over the radio telling me to tell my kids that they were VERY impressed with their professionalism.  When they showed up to help set up the tow with the big cutter Thetis, EmilyAnne was at the helm and Benny was assisting me on deck.  We were all in our harnesses of course but my kids showed no sign of worry as the boat was lifting and dropping in large, close interval seas with a 250 foot Cutter right beside us.  At one point one of the Coast Guard guys on the small boat yelled, "Do you guys need one of us to come on board to help set up the lines?"  Without even looking at me to find out my opinion Benny shook his head and said,  "No!  We Got it!"  The Coasty looked at the others and said, "He's a little man isn't he?"  They grinned and gave him the thumbs up.

The passage was filled with wonderful moments where Dolphins played in the bow wake and the full moon set while the sun rose over the water.  But it was also filled with moments of discomfort and stress as things broke on the boat or weather changed and brought bigger seas and winds.

I have obviously had a lot of questions about what happened out there so I just decided to post the actual report which I gave to the owners when I arrived.

Post Delivery Report and Suggestions


On the morning of the 12th sailing under reefed main (one reef in the main) with wind blowing off the starboard quarter at 16-18 knots we heard the Main rip.  It ripped straight across the sail.  I lowered the main and stowed it.  Damage - The main is ripped right across the sail and can be sewn with tape to repair but in my opinion, after inspecting the fabric, the sail does not have a lot of miles left on it if it is repaired.  It would be fine for daysailing but I would not trust it for extended offshore voyages.

We decided to push on for Galveston as the boat seemed to sail surprisingly well with her jib alone.  We also knew we had another jib as back up, and the engine if worse came to worse.

Engine Issues:

When we left St Thomas we motored just as far as Porpoise Rocks before we turned it off and began sailing.  Batteries were fine with just the wind Gen. and Solar but on the morning of the third day I decided to run the engine for a couple of hours to top up the battery bank.  The engine started up fine but within about 20 minutes it began to loose power.  I took it out of gear and the RPM picked up but after a few minutes it began to drop again until it finally stopped.  With Diesel engines a problem like this is almost always fuel, if it is not it is air, but that is rare.  I checked the air cleaner which was fine and I was then certain that it was a fuel issue.  Jim had told me that the filters had been changed just prior to our trip and that he had bought fuel for the journey at Crown Bay Marina.  I was certain that it would prove to be sludge from sitting or bad fuel from Crown Bay (which we had last year ourselves.)

I changed the Racor and the engine ran only a few minutes before quitting.  There did not seem to be a lot of dirt in the racor.  Jim mentioned the primary engine filter which had not been changed but he had spare filters on board.  I looked it up in the manual and attempted to get to it while in offshore conditions.  Because it is on the back wall of the engine compartment and  comes apart in pieces with small o-rings, it was not feasible for me to fix myself.

Now our situation was a little more challenging.  With no Mainsail the boat sailed well on all points of sail with the exception of close hauled.  The rest of our journey through the Caribbean was down wind but we did not know what we would meet for weather in the Gulf of Mexico.  The decision was made to pull in to Grand Cayman in order to have the engine repaired and possibly the mainsail sewn and the fuel polished.

In Grand Cayman the sail loft never even returned our calls.  The repair guy couldn't come until Monday but it was decided that I would work on the boat to try to fix it on Saturday.  I topped off the tank and noticed fuel seeping out of one of the screws where the sender is connected to the tank.  I replaced that screw, which was stripped with a new one.   I attempted to replace the primary filter but unable to see what I was doing back there and with my size and lack of mobility I was afraid that I might actually do more harm than good attempting to replace it.  I decided to wait for the mechanic monday.  I did go through the engine and tighten all of the areas where you bleed the system and having fixed the screw and doing that, the engine started right up and ran like a champ while sitting at the dock.  Monday the mechanic came, tested the fuel and determined it was good.  Changed the filter and we were good to go.


Upon our approach to Grand Cayman I noticed that the batteries were not charging up like they had been in spite of the sun being out and shining bright.  They would go no higher than 12.4.  I was concerned that they had been pushed too hard even though at nights they never got below 12.2V.  (We had stopped using the fridge when we realized we had no engine to charge.)

When I cleaned all of the stuff that was stowed on the battery area off in order to check them suddenly they began to charge fine.  I left the compartment open after that and had no more issues with the batteries themselves.

Engine Charging Issue:

After Grand Cayman I noticed one night that the red CHARGE light did not shift over to ACCEPT so I checked the alternator belt (Jim had mentioned that the RPM gauge dropped off sometimes,  we noticed this too and that had been the problem on my boat as well.)  I tightened the belt and that problem went away for a few days until the belt loosened again.

Engine Transmission Issue:

Upon leaving Grand Cayman, the wind was almost nonexistent and would prove to be that way for almost three days.  The engine was working great now though so we motored most of that time.    It worked well, sounded great and had no issues but after turning  it off for a day once the wind filled in, I started it in order to charge the batteries and it made a GOD_AWFUL screech.  I immediately shut it down, went below and opened the compartment.  I had Em start it up while I observed and as soon as it started it was obviously coming from the V-Drive.  She shut it down and I checked the oil in the tranny.  It was almost empty.  When I filled the tranny with oil, the sound stopped and the engine ran fine.  It had a seal leak or something and is leaking out almost all of the oil that is added and fairly quickly.

Jib Roller Reefing Line:

The jib was our POWERHOUSE for this trip and it performed REMARKABLY well.  I actually am in love with that sail.  But because it was our only means of propulsion it was worked a lot.  Reefed in and out constantly to control speed and keep the boat moving.  I admit that there were times where, had I had a reefed mainsail up as well I would not have carried as much sail on the jib, but because it was our sole means of movement we pushed it a little harder.  We were Always diligent to reef as winds increased though.

On the Night of the 5th the wind changed to NW and we were no longer able to sail toward Galveston.  We were forced into a situation where we would be close hauled for the next 48 hours or more so we tacked almost due west and came into the wind as close as she could go with no main.  The seas were HUGE and steep with only about a 3 to 4 second interval causing the boat to lift and slam a LOT.  The wind was blowing 20-22 apparent so about 16-18 True.  We were flying the little Tri-sail on the main track and the jib was reefed to about 2/3 its normal size ( it is a 110 working jib).  Suddenly Emily noticed the sail un roll all the way and the reefing line was loose.  I made my way to the bow (In these HUGE waves) and noticed that the problem was that the reefing line had chafed through where it went into the first block beyond the furler.  There was enough line left in the drum to roll it in part way by pulling the line right up on the bow but it could not be spliced with knots as there was not enough room in the drum for the knots to furl in.  We consulted with each other and decided that in that now 18-20 knots of wind the boat felt good and it was actually able to power through the waves better.  Before with it reefed it would almost stop as it came up against a wave.  We chose to leave the sail unreefed at that point.

Starboard Intermediate Standing Rigging Failure:

About 3 hours after the reefing line chafed through a sudden rogue wave which was noticeably bigger than the other already large waves came at the boat from a side angle.  It hit the boat on the starboard side (jib was pulled out to port.)  That wave filled the cockpit and completely drenched the guy at the helm.  The water rolled all the way over the deck, moved the dingy, which was strapped down all the way to the port side, knocked all of the fuel cans right out of their lines tying them to the board so they were still attached but lying flat now, and... as the wave rolled over the deck and the boat was knocked down to port the water from the wave filled the jib.  All of this happened in an instant, and when the boat came back up we noticed the broken rigging.  I immediately went forward, we rolled the sail all the way in and turned on the engine.  Upon inspection the rigging broke right where it goes into the turnbuckle under the spreader.  It might actually have just pulled out.  (On a side note, I do not know a lot about the rod rigging but when our rigger from St Thomas came by for a beer before we left he just noticed it and made the comment, "Ahhh Yeah, that rod rigging, ya never know when its gonna go you know?" )

We decided that the risk of loosing the mast was too great even to tack and use the sail on the other side of the rig so we decided to motor.  The engine started fine but did not have enough power to push the boat into the 20 knots of wind and those CRAZY seas.  We were only able to make 1.5 knots toward our destination.  I was also VERY concerned that we would run low on transmission fluid and I would not catch it in time to fill it and we would loose the transmission.

At this point, 70 miles offshore and to the west and knowing that we still had almost 48 hours of contrary wind anyway to get to Galveston and also considering that the whole are of the Gulf of Mexico where we were now adrift was pocked with rig platforms I determined that the only safe action was to call for a tow.

Tow Boat US was unable to come out 70 miles to get us so the US Coast Guard Sent two cutters, the Thetis and then the Heron to take us to the Galveston entrance where Tow Boat US picked us up and brought us the rest of the way.

The Small Stuff Damaged:

Spinlock holding the Jib Halyard - EXPLODED under pressure.  I noticed that all of the spinlocks are about that same age and one, the main halyards, is already broken in the same way.  I recommend you replace them all.

Small Pad-eye holding the Bimini down on aft port corner.  In 30+ knots of wind that pad-eye broke right at the screws.  I tied it down to the arch so we did not loose the Bimini.

Bow Light - While under tow with the first Coast Guard Cutter the tow line on one side must have caught on the light at one of the points where our boat was on the down of a wave and the cutter was on the up, it broke it beyond repair.

Wheel cover - The wheel cover was coming un-stitched at the bottom when we left St Thomas, there were other spots that were already worn through, Hand steering for over two weeks to Grand Cayman was its undoing.  By the time we go there it was falling off on the bottom.  I removed it as it was a hazard to steering.

Man-Overboard Pole - When we were in the worst of the cold front with winds blowing 30 to 35 the pole broke and was trailing behind the boat, we recovered it and strapped it beside the unit.

Other Issues that need attention:

Spinnaker pole - both ends are seized with corrosion and will not open.

Spinnaker - upon inspection of that sail I noticed that there are areas where the stitching is coming undone, if you were to raise it it would instantly blow.

Watermaker - The watermaker worked AWESOME the whole time.  It needs to be pickled as we stopped using it a few day ago due to the OIL IN THE WATER in the Gulf of Mexico.  Oil will ruin your membrane instantly.
Hatches and Ports - Several of these need new seals as they leak, the head hatch leaks very badly, the port over the port settee has a stripped locking nut so it will not tighten all the way, it leaks and the water leaks down the wall onto the settee.

These are the same hatches and ports I have on my boat and they are some of the VERY best made.  You can buy all parts and seals for them from Atkins and Hoyle online.

Over-all Impression of the Vessel:

Dulcinea is a GREAT offshore sailboat.  Very well built and comfortable offshore.  She is built with superior fittings and I would recommend her to anyone for true bluewater sailing.  She is just an old boat and will need constant care or a COMPLETE refit.  We were having these same issues offshore on our boat until we did a TRUE COMPLETE refit.

Captain Kristofer Burton