Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Magical Mystery Tour - Gulf of Mexico Saturday 5/11

Major Dolphin Patrol, 10 or more on each side of Wand'rin Star

They raced down the fave of a wave abeam and then shoot to the bow.

They continued for over 20 minutes

It was like a compititon to see which dolphin was having the most fun.

Disney Magic passing to Port

A Zen moment for John

Just Happy to be Here!

Sometimes you just try to steer better than the autohelm

Did not quite make the Jump

Speedy little devils
Maureen was the first to spot this vessel.

Finally I could see it.

With These Eyes

BP Atlantis Platform 122 miles offshore from Louisiana in 7000 + feet, It is the size of a  City out there

The Rain slowly ends for a cloudy sunset

Minor Splinting for a snapped Steering conduit fitting.

Gulf Magical Mystery Tour

By Saturday 00:15 Elsbeth II, a Tow with two barges passed to Port. John had ID the target & tuned the radar to track her. I asked John to come back up at 2:09 to assist with determining the vessels heading. I was concerned we may pass to close. We agreed all was well and they would pass across us well ahead. He went back down below. At 0236 I heard something drop, a noticeable WHACK! and thought something must have slipped off near the companionway and fell below. I stepped in front of the helm to investigate and something at my bare feet started fluttering around freaked me. I turned on my headlight and there was a Flying Fish flopping around. He was so close to the companionway that I was afraid he was about to flop down below so I grabbed a small rag, picked him up and threw him overboard. The whole cockpit smelled Very Fishy and it was all over my feet and legs. I had a jug of water in the cockpit so I immediately started washing the area down, it conveniently drained down the scuppers. Now only the rag smelled so I tossed it on the aft deck to deal with later. I was sad to think that I failed to get a couple of pics but whatever. We had been sailing with about 30% of the main and most of the Genoa at 5+ knots the whole watch. It is best to have at least the Main reefed down at night so you do not have to go up on the deck when it is dark if the wind pipes up. Maureen came up for her watch and at 0335 we started the engine to charge the batteries for an hour. The autopilot was definitely using a lot of power to steer in these quartering seas. Our position was N26 40.677 W087 12.620. The winds picked up for Maureen and she had to trim in the Genoa and average 6.9 knots with 15knots of wind. She noted that she had seen as much as 8 knots during her watch. By 0730 the winds started to clock and John made a course change to 280 and by 0800 to 300 degrees. I got up and we were making great time. We turned the engine on so I could cook up some breakfast, Egg Tacos, avocado, cheese, Jalapenos, & Salsa with all the coffee you could drink. Afterwards Maureen went below to catch some rest. John had the helm and He told me to check out all the dolphins. I went on the foredeck to get a closer look and there was a huge pod on both sides of Wand’rin Star playing in the waves and the bow wave. At least 10 or more dolphins on each side. I grabbed the camera and for at least 20 minutes took pics of them just hoping some would turn out. They would race the face of a swell just abeam and then accelerate through the bow wave, some of them jumping completely out. A few others would at the same time come at a perpendicular angle to the bow and leap completely out of the water just in front of the bow. This was happening on both sides of the boat, as soon as they passed the bow they would immediately turn and race back top do it all over again. We were nearly passed the Florida Panhandle and even with Alabama.
By 1448 we had 18 knot winds with gust to 25, a squall line was developing in front of us but the seas were only a foamy 3-4’. By 1500 we had the Engine on to furl the main and the Genoa to 30%. Seas were now 5’ At 1755 we started the engine and motored sailed at 1200 RPM as it was clear we would be dealing with what appeared to be a cold front passing a day earlier than forecasted. There was a lot of serious lightening developing as well. John took this all in stride as it certainly was not anything he had not dealt with. Maureen was pretty concerned as she had been through a miserable storm on their trip across to Florida. She wanted to alter course and try to avoid the brunt of the passing front. I have learned from the Admiral to never discount anything a Female says aboard a vessel. A woman’s intuition is far sharper than any man’s and I have known more than one instance when a man did not respond when a female shared their intuition and they not only suffered the result but they then had to admit that they were wrong and She was Right! Some friends I know were chartering in the British Virgin Islands on a Hylas 54 and when they failed to heed the warning of a female on board who was concerned they were going the wrong way they ended up grounding on a coral reef and had to spend the night there till help came late the next day. We changed our heading to 200 heading SSW towards a light area on the Horizon. I then began to tune the radar so we could see the storm. After a while it became clear that we were not going to be able to out run the storm and our best course would be to head up and get through it as quickly as possible. You could see the whole storm on the Radar and it looked as though it would be about 2 hours for us to get on past it. I went below and stored all my portable navigation equipment in the oven. The metal enclosure is supposed to protect it from a lightening strike. We buttoned up the full enclosure and at 1900 hours motored through the initial 30 kt winds on the nose at 1500 RPM heading 320 degrees. It Rained HARD for 30 minutes and lightening everywhere, The storm lost it’s punch and by 1930 hours we were able to reduce the RPM to 1100 as the storm began to subside with 6-8’ seas.
I went below to get some rest, John was resting in the cockpit till his watch and we were sailing along making good time. By 20:02 Maureen noted in the log that “the storm had stopped.” At 2030 Maureen was leaving the Helm as John was coming on watch, the auto pilot was tirelessly keeping Wand’rin Star on course. Before John took his place at the helm we were hit with a 47 knot sustained gust, Immediately Wandrin Star healed and Jibbed through the wind and I heard a loud bang down below. It sounded to me like it came from the Aft berth where the steering quadrant is and I was afraid that a steering cable had just broke, I hollered up to John “Do You have Steering?” I leapt to the aft berth and threw up the bedding to open up the access to the steering quadrant. The Starboard side cable was good but there was just a small bit of play in the port side cable. Bang! I ran back to the companionway and asked John again if he had steering, He Said “Yes!” Well what is that banging? We had just jibbed through the wind again and the Main had violently swung across. I was confused as to why we had jibbed again, I couldn’t get my mind off the steering and checked the steering conduit that ran down through the engine room, again the port side looked ok, but I found one of the Hard Plastic fittings that join two pieces of steering conduit had snapped in the center. That explained the small bit of play. Bang!, I more time we Jibbed hard, I again ran to the cockpit to see if John needed assistance, he finally got the boat under control at that moment. All of this happened in less than 90 seconds, things were all disheveled down below and I with Maureen’s help put everything back in it’s place. I checked with John again to make sure all was good up there and discussed my plan on securing the fitting on the steering conduit. I then begin to do repair on the steering by fitting two wenches the same length as the fitting as a splint on each side and wrapped it all up with Rescue Tape. I then added three Hose clamps to brace it all together. I felt certain this would see us through to Corpus Christi especially since the autohelm would be doing most of the work to get us there. The autohelm is connected directly to the rudder post completely independent of the Edson Steering Pull/Pull Quadrant system. I knew the big gust of wind had overcome the autopilot, but that is where human’s come in. It is hard to say exactly what snapped the fitting. It could have been that John had not put the autopilot on standby so when he took the wheel he was acting against the autohelm and putting so much pressure on the steering cable that the fitting snapped. Or if the autohelm had been put on standby then it simply could have been the forces of the wind and seas in trying to get a 30,000 pound vessel under control again. Everything happens very fast in these situations, The remote control for the autopilot is not back-lit and so pushing the standby button when it is completely dark in the cockpit that is going in circles with rail in the water heal just at the very moment crew changes hand is quite a wake up call.
At 23:30 I went on deck with John to take in the reefed Main and we continued on with the Genoa in 15 kt winds maintaining over 6 kt’s through the night.

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