When Apollo astronauts circled the Moon, communications were cut off with Earth every time the command module passed behind the Moon. This is because the Moon itself blocks radio signals, preventing communication when it comes between Earth and any spacecraft.
We had radio silence too. We neglected our blog for a long time. Too much boat work and enjoyed a wonderful summer with our grandkids onboard. It didn’t feel like blogging – sorry.
Today, we prepared the boat for sailing to the Bahamas. It will not be an easy sail. As always you have to leave late in the year in order to avoid tropical storms. This time “Nicole” is coming up north right now as I am writing – even though she is inland, Nicole has a strong, negative effect on the Atlantic weather patterns.
Our departure is planned for 0500h on November 12. We plan to arrive at Cape Eleuthera Marina Nov 18.
Should work out.
(Featured image is a fishing vessel from Port Roses. Don’t worry, the photo was shot with a Telelens)
From France to Spain March 19, 2019
Our departure day has arrived. The desire to finally sail again is getting fulfilled. In the prior week we had sailed from La Grande Motte to Cap d’Agde (35nm). We got our feet wet and tested the boat.
This trip is close to 190nm and leads around Cap Creus. The cape marks the border between Spain and France and has its reputation in winter time due to the frequent, ferocious Tramontana winds. Our plan was to pick a weather window behind a front with receding winds, but still enough wind to have the boat moving. Yeah- we got the boat moving.
The wind forecast was nearly point on. The wave forecast not so much. For the gusts above 30kts we were prepared with a 2nd reef and had our small jib ready to hoist. In the end, the wind never felt as bad as the waves, especially 50 miles south of Cap d’Agde.
We began docking off early in the morning, but needed the dinghy to get our lines off the mooring buoys. First, we helped our friends on JAMS, a new Outremer 51, to do the same. Due to the very strong winds the night before, we had changed our mooring lines from slip through to just being tied with a bowline hitch to the mooring balls. Chafing was our main concern.
The first stretch we had planned to sail together with JAMS, who were heading to Port Vendres in France. It took more than an hour to get the mooring lines sorted out and the dinghy hoisted again. At 0930h we finally left port. The sun was shining brightly as we maneuvered out of Cap d’Agde. We noticed how slow our boat was moving due to the marine growth on the hull under water. This is caused by our long times staying in port. At 2000 rpm, on one engine, we had lost around 1 kts boat speed – down from 6.2 to 5.2kts.
In fresh wind (20kts+) we hoisted the main with a second reef and unfurled the genoa for a nice downwind heading. Soon both boats, Lunara and JAMS, sailed at double digit speeds.
The first two hours sailing were great, but the more we moved away from land the stronger the wind became and the longer fetch of free water allowed the waves to grow. The Admiral became crabby, she got the (sea) flue.
Initially it was warmer and quite sunny. Never forget, it’s still winter.
As we rounded Cap Creus, we had averaged 10.5kts and hit a top speed of 17 kts. The tripmeter’s 8.4kt average (picture below) requires an adjustment for the hour or more spent leaving the dock and raising the main sail. We were quite impressed, considering that the hull has a lot of drag from the marine growth.
10 hours into the trip, past Cap Creus, we met some fishing vessels heading home to Port Roses.
Mid evening we passed a former dock neighbor from La Grande Motte ‘Orialine’ (Outremer 51). I just got a shot from very far away.
Night broke, the wind receded to a tad above 20 knots. Boat speed was an easily manageable 7 kts. The Admiral was still out of commission.
No worries, as we planned to stay in deep water passing Barcelona 10 miles to the south. Started charging the batteries with the generator. After 60 minutes the generator …..
…said adios amigo. Not really surprising, except it is the second, replacement generator and had less than 10 hours runtime. Upon arrival I inspected all the possible reasons for overheating and found some 🙁
The fuel pump was installed horizontal (should be vertical), which creates bubbles in the diesel and a lean fuel mix for the generator leading to overheating. Second, upon taking the water filter apart (yes, I checked the impeller pump first), I found an installation novelty: Sikaflex (silicone sealing) in the filter intake and output. Why? The filter was not meant for generators, had conical connections and the flat hose connectors do not fit a conus- obviously. So, a lot of Sikaflex was used to make it fit. Some people, please don’t call them marine professionals, should never have access in their life to either Duct-tape or Sikaflex. It should be a controlled substance and subject to something similar to a firearms permit!
Anyway, I ordered a proper water strainer which took 2 weeks to get here and will install it tomorrow.
Now, we run the engines to charge the batteries – yes, you guessed it right – something else happens. An Volvo engine control alarm with a piercing loud beeping signals alerts us that one of the smaller 60A alternators is charging with 15V. The electrician company later commented ‘Don’t worry, the 15V won’t reach your batteries’ Great, a) why does Volvo programmed this alarm? b) how do you sail/live with a 110dB alarm? What are my options? Not using the engine?
See ‘ALT STARBOARD R’ 15V in the picture.
Around midnight we began passing Barcelona. The town and coastline is well lit. Not much ship-traffic at this time as most ferries, cruise- and cargo ships seem to want to stay in port during night. When we had nearly passed Barcelona, at 0500h, the traffic awoke and we had to dodge a lot of the bigger guys.
The night was beautiful with clouds alternating with a full moon. Even the Admiral, in her sad state with a flu, enjoyed the view. The full moon set precisely at the time when in the east the sun was rising – magical. We sailed and motored on towards our destination Roda de Bara to arrive their early afternoon.
I was a bit exhausted, as I had been on watch most of the last 36 hours. 5 miles away from port we lowered the sails and set the autopilot on a NW course for the port entrance. We motored slowly with one engine a little above idle rpm, so that I could get an urgently needed nap for 45 minutes. I don’t like to drive into a foreign port super tired. Even a short nap works wonders (thanks Andrew for the tip!)
Upon arrival and after a messy fight with the dirty mooring lines I got our little electric scooter out on the dock and checked in at the Capitanerie. The gentlemen managing the marina is a very nice former east German navy officer. He remembered all the west German navy’s surveillance ships by name – the ones I had sailed on in the 70s. You can imagine we had a nice long check-in chat 🙂
Late next morning, after a good sleep, I inspected the boat and found some more installation defects and deficiencies. The port side main bilge pump was damaged. Someone had stepped on it most likely during the water maker repair. Two notches of the casing were broken off. The pump was sitting loose and the impeller chafed in the housing. Ordered a replacement (160 Euro!) and installed it.
Upon repair I found the pumps electrical wires had several cuts and corrosion had set in (not visible from the outside). So I replaced a longer stretch of the cable as initially planned 🙂 the joys of boat owner ship!
Then working on the generator overheating issue I discovered another installation no-no. The base plate of the throughull for the generator is mounted partially free floating and not fully painted, hence, not waterproof. Ultimately, the wood will rot and cannot support the pressure from the tightened throughull. Even today, it is a compromised installation. Will haul out in Cartagena (next port) and replace!
Further, one disconnected electrical wire from one alternator (not the overcharging alternator) was hanging loosely in the bilge touching the water 🙁 Have to check if it’s still hot, as this wire was prior used to signal the house battery voltage to the alternator.
In the port engine room the B&G autopilot controller fell of the hull. It was improperly glued/Sikaflexed to the hull (see prior post). You can have some fun with this stuff – see picture below.
Roda de Bara
is remarkably warmer than Southern France at this time of the year. Less wind and 300 days sunshine is more than good enough for us! Roda de Bara is quiet and idyllic in a positive way, but also means less restaurants being open during winter (nearly none during the week).
Some impressions of this very nice beach town:
Ah yes, the food: Carnivores do not suffer in Spain. This is the Lidl supermarket with a great selection of local Iberico ham:
This was a long post, but fun to write. If you made it until here you deserve a glass of Rose!
We were on the dark side of the moon
“But beware of the dark side. Anger, fear, aggression; the dark side of the Force are they. If once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny. Consume you it will.” ―Yoda
“Always pass on what you have learned.” ―Yoda
So here it is:
Last week we escaped from the clutches of evil electrons in France. On March 14, early morning, we quietly sneaked out of La Grande Motte, sailed west a baby step to Cap d’Agde – 35nm. Here we waited for a weather window for the larger leg going past Barcelona. We felt the dark force weakening.
Now, what is the Force? Since September 3, 2018, we were tied to ports in Southern France. We laid in two ports just for the convenience of the electrical systems installer to finish their work. This was their second round of correcting and finishing a failed installation which began in March 2017. Spread out over six month technicians appeared. Their working time on the boat totaled maybe 4 weeks. Five month were idle time when nothing happened – except us, in desperation, touring vineyards in the vicinity. Mondays was the technicians travel day, Tuesday the work began and Friday at noon they rushed back home, and don’t forget the two hour lunch time in France.
Practically every blue device onboard was exchanged (blue is the brand color of Victron’s electrical marine equipment). We also swapped out two destroyed alternators, one generator, one pump and many other smaller items, which were either the wrong device, not needed or malfunctioned. A shoddy installation could have been the reason for their malfunction or it could have been the devices themselves. Whatever the reason, we were tied to port.
Not forgetting the smoldering electrical fire on top of the coach roof last year and the subsequent discovery of osmosis under those six solar panels. The argument with the insurance companies about which one is responsible to pay, took a long time. It lasted into the cold, wet winter period of southern France. As a result we were limited in our ability to do lamination work. Epoxy cures above 11°C and we were most of the time below the curing temperature.
A local company – Thalassa Nautic, planed down the osmosis affected roof by some millimeters. Then we waited several weeks for dry weather with temperatures around 10°C or higher. With the help of an armada of electrical heaters and a tent over the top deck we got the deck warmed above the curing point.
Ah yes, the other thing. In Ibiza, July last year, I got an electrical shock swimming under our boat. This was a deeply disconcerting accident for me; without – thank God – physical consequences for myself. The persisting electrolysis problems and its source were finally found. An electrical bridge in the isolation transformer was missing since the very beginning of the electrical installation. This meant we built a 230V field under our boat. Sailors check “Input earth connection” as per the manual of the device!
As of today we are in Catalonia in South East Spain. Yet, the dark force is still with us, though to a lesser degree! During our first real sea-trial, sailing from Southern France to Roda de Bara in Spain, we experienced some electrical equipment failing again. The new generator stopped after 1 hour with an exhaust temp overheat message. One of the engines small 60 amp alternators generated a piercing alarm signaling over-voltage.
After arrival in port, during the post voyage boat inspection, I discovered that the autopilot control box fell off the wall in the engine room. The data cables were just holding the box, while the rudder steering cable chafed on this critically important instrument.
I was very upset about this discovery since I also found a shallow hole drilled into the outer hull, which is an absolute No-No. Even a non mariner can imagine the consequences of reckless drilling on a boat. The box was fixed with silicone to the hull side without roughing up the surfaces, another No-No. I could peel-off the remaining silicon with my fingers from the mounting board! “Do. or do not. There is no try.” — Yoda
Collateral damage from the installers we suffered a lot, like the port side bilge pump where someone stepped on and broke the pump housing letting the impeller chafe on the housing. In the starboard engine room bilge I found a small ‘Deutsch’ connector piece, which belongs to the Volvo MDI box. Another todo 🙁 . Right now, I just hope that we will not have the same problem like on the port engine, where a Volvo technician discovered an improperly installed Deutsch connector with a contaminated pin which prevented contact with the electronic MDI box of the engine. We needed Volvo to find out why we couldn’t stop the engine. The Volvo technician blamed the electrical installation company after their work on an alternator.
And now, firm promise, I save you from a continuation of this rant, except that the installation is still not complete and parts of the electrical plan need still to be installed.
Roda de Bara is a quiet beach resort in winter and spring. Tourists begin to appear around Easter. Many restaurants are closed or only open during the weekend. We find it idyllic and like it. On the dock we met several nice neighbors including some fellow Germans and Austrians!
Sunshine, turquoise waves breaking on the beach, palm trees, tapas for lunch with a glass of brut Cava. This is how I imagined sailing in retirement.
Today we have to do some technical work on the boat – hint: evil ‘E’ related. We are not the first one to discover that a boat seems to be a floating construction site, which the owners surprisingly enjoy. Freud would have dedicated a whole book to sailors, why they do that and how it relates to their traumatic upbringing 🙂 .
We know why we are doing this, it’s just momentarily that the dark Force sucks the light out of the joy.
PS: we got a sample case of brut Cava onboard. In the evenings we conduct dangerous experiments with olives, cheese and Iberico ham. Any tips on how to compose the explosive mix, let us know.
Sea Urchins are protected. Only a controlled quantity is allowed to be harvested.
Today was the day for sea urchins aficionados. I tried them, not today but some years ago, and found them tasty, but the wine served with them more interesting. Here are some pictures for today’s event in La Grande Motte.
The End is Near, well this comment was meant with tongue-in-cheek. Obviously, the end is in sight! (As a fun project Google ‘The End is Near’). Every week we make baby steps forward fighting electrical gremlins. Our Nav system went from death defying low voltages of 10V to an average of 13.5V – meaning the autopilot will not disengage willy-nilly anymore.
We got the leaking top windows replaced. Most of the defunct solar panels are replaced. Four of the six top panels are already connected. Two panels couldn’t be connected because fishing the cables through the ceiling meant ripping up the ceiling. Now we wait for upholstery from Nautitech BEFORE we destroy something.
We used our time in port for other boat improvements like extra 400W solar on the davit arms. The empty forepeaks get shelves for storage (not IKEA!) and pipes to hang ropes and some sail bags.
We installed LED light strips in the main salon to have more indirect lighting.
For early March we secured a spot in Cap d’Agde. Just a back-up in case the electrical work drags out. We still need two inverters replaced and some minor electrical work (if such thing as minor ever exists when you use the E word).
We sincerely hope the Klabautermann is on our side now. For those who don’t know the K-man here is his Wiki entry: A Klabautermann is a water kobold that assists sailors and fishermen on the Baltic and North Sea in their duties. It is a merry and diligent creature, with an expert understanding of most watercraft, and an irrepressible musical talent. It is believed to rescue sailors washed overboard.
New top windows – not leaking anymore.
Nav system voltage went from too low to great
Replacement Solar Cells on top, not complete yet. New 400W solar on the davits.
We are getting there!