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post #11 of 52 Old 09-11-2018 Thread Starter
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Re: Learning from mistakes, ours and theirs.

So there we were, rapidly approaching the Honduras Banks, with no engine, and no power to recharge batteries other than our 2 solar panels, 120W each. We had a lot of batteries, but of course the generator quit when it was time to recharge them. Voltage dropped to 11.7V and we decided not to burn navigation lights. We were in a pretty desolate area. I have not seen a ship in a couple of days. We had to save power for the navigation instruments and bilge pumps. Of course we set right away to try to fix our fuel supply, but - surprise, surprise - we have no spare fuel filters, even as I asked the captain multiple times to get plenty of them. When I found out he did not have any spare filters, I pretty much decided to go home after we make port. I was truly pissed and exchanged some angry words with him when he started bellyaching about having 'bad luck'. I had the helm and I was trying to steer a course for the main channel through the Banks, but the wind was not cooperating. The boat was a pig going into the wind, partly due to design, but mostly due to bad sails: baggy main and 175 genoa that we could not sheet in close to the rail. Our tacking angle was a whopping 100 to 110 degrees. Another consideration was our lose cargo: our bilge was full of stuff that fell in there from the hold area. Seeing that we are not going to be able to pass safely through Honduras Banks, I suggest we head for Rio Dulce, Guatemala, which is downwind from were we are. We do not know ports in the area and Honduras has a bad rep for piracy. Later I found out that we should have headed for La Ceiba, Honduras, which was much closer and has a great boat yard to do all the repairs. That is what happens when you don't know stuff: you make decisions which are less than optimal.
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post #12 of 52 Old 09-11-2018 Thread Starter
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Re: Learning from mistakes, ours and theirs.

We go downwind along the coast of Honduras, some 30 to 50 miles offshore. Wind is changing all the time, both in speed and direction. Sometimes there is no wind and we drift north with the Gulfstream, at 0.6 to 1.2 knots, in good size swells. Nights are worst, with popcorn thunderstorm cells all around us. During the day, heat is intense, and when there is no breeze, the heat and humidity make life miserable. We have hard time sleeping, even when we are dead tired. At one quiet morning, captain dives trying to clear a blockage from our raw water intake. Few years back he got sick and tired of cleaning barnacles of the water intake grate, so he removed it, without much thought... While in the Gulfstream we were passing through big patches of Sargasso weed, some over an acre in size. That stuff is very tough and apparently it plugged up our water intake. We take various sections of raw water pipe off, trying to remove the blockage. Eventually the water starts flowing a little, but the generator still overheats and is not spitting out any water. We rig up a temporary fuel supply, using jerry cans with fuel pumped from the main tanks and filtered through Baja funnels. The engine starts working but runs slow and rough, spitting out only a little bit of water. We are only going to use it when approaching the port. We suspect that water pump is busted on the generator. Of course we have no spare parts of any kind for it.

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post #13 of 52 Old 09-11-2018
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Re: Learning from mistakes, ours and theirs.

Kriss,
In spite of this being a gigantic Cluster F.... It seems as though the experience is going to wind up being priceless. Experience won the hard way doesn't fade quickly and when you look back on it in years to come I would bet that you will be glad that you did it.
Congratulations and Fair Winds my friend !!!
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post #14 of 52 Old 09-11-2018 Thread Starter
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Re: Learning from mistakes, ours and theirs.

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Kriss,
In spite of this being a gigantic Cluster F.... It seems as though the experience is going to wind up being priceless. Experience won the hard way doesn't fade quickly and when you look back on it in years to come I would bet that you will be glad that you did it.
Congratulations and Fair Winds my friend !!!
Thank you! You are absolutely right. I have already re-evaluated my boat buying plans, for example. Would like to get a boat that tracks well and is not a pig upwind or in light airs. I reflected a lot on Jeff's advice to me in that regard. Another reflection was on the auto pilot. A good AP is like having an extra 2 crew members.
And above all: pick your sailing company very carefully.

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.
Plato
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post #15 of 52 Old 09-11-2018 Thread Starter
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Re: Learning from mistakes, ours and theirs.

To wrap it up...
Eventually we get really, really exhausted. The night squalls take their toll. The boat does not lie ahull well. It just bobs and spins like a piece of driftwood, with very uncomfortable motion, despite drawing a whopping 8 feet and having lots of ballast. We try various reduced sail configurations, but are not very successful. We decide to go to Puerto Cortes, Honduras instead. It's a big port and we encounter lots of traffic. We are back in the main shipping lanes. But the wind dies again and we will not make port before the night fall, even if engine helps us in the final approach. We resign to keep pushing towards Puerto Barrios, Guatemala rather that trying to enter unfamiliar port at night, without any charts showing the entry into harbor. That night gets very rough with series of strong squalls and torrential tropical rain. It rains buckets, but the water is warm and washes off our stink (the water maker is not working and we have no power anyway, so we have to conserve water). One squall is so violent that boat gets turned around 180 degrees in 15 seconds. There were 4 waves of rain squalls, but none as bad as the first one. In the early morning, just after sunrise, we are still some 30 miles from port, and the easterly wind dies and land breeze picks up, dead on the nose. Captain fires up the engine and we go for broke. The scene is a bit like from Road Warrior movie. We are pumping and filtering diesel one small batch at a time, trying to keep the engine going. Boat reeks of diesel and our clothes are soaked in it as well. Did you know that diesel engine returns about twice as much fuel through the return line than it uses to run? Couple of times we miscalculate fuel use and run out of fuel in our jerry can tanks. Fortunately the captain manages to get the engine going each time. He is a good mechanic. Finally we pull into Puerto Barrios, find the port authority office, and get cleared with immigration, customs, and health, despite it being Sunday afternoon. Local people are friendly and helpful. Captain finds a diesel mechanic who is going to check out our engine and generator on Monday. Next day mechanic confirms that generator pump has a busted impeller, and tells us that the turbocharger is busted on the engine. I inform the captain that I will not be going any further with him. He is not surprised. The other crew member has already taken his stuff off the boat and checked into local hotel. I leave the boat next day, catching a bus to Guatemala City and then a flight to US. I do not regret crewing on that boat and value the experience I gained. Life goes on.
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post #16 of 52 Old 09-11-2018
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Re: Learning from mistakes, ours and theirs.

This is an excellent read- I imagine I could easily fall into the same situation. If there is more, please share! We learn from others adventures.
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post #17 of 52 Old 09-11-2018
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Re: Learning from mistakes, ours and theirs.

Was this your first long passage?

Key learning for me is when I do my first long passage as crew, it will be with an experienced captain with good reputation (preferably licensed captain, though that's no guarantee either). It will have to be someone with enough balls to refuse to go to sea until his experience tells him the boat is sound.

It's a shame @SVAuspicious doesn't participate here any more. I suspect he'd have a lot to teach us about this venture, and dozens of similar close calls averted. I suspect one of his warnings will be to NOT have the owner present for these passages unless he's built up a lot of personal trust in him.
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Re: Learning from mistakes, ours and theirs.

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Was this your first long passage?
Yes, it was. I sailed my own boats for weeks at a time, but it was all coastal and I would spend most of the nights on hook.

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.
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Re: Learning from mistakes, ours and theirs.

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Thank you! You are absolutely right. I have already re-evaluated my boat buying plans, for example. Would like to get a boat that tracks well and is not a pig upwind or in light airs. I reflected a lot on Jeff's advice to me in that regard. Another reflection was on the auto pilot. A good AP is like having an extra 2 crew members.
And above all: pick your sailing company very carefully.

Secure anchoring and AP:
#1 and #2
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post #20 of 52 Old 09-12-2018
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Re: Learning from mistakes, ours and theirs.

Good stuff. Thanks again.
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