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Deep (Sea) Thoughts

Posted by Keith on May 9, 2007 at 9:41 pm  

Fresh Wahoo Ceviche

Captain Wolf caught a small Wahoo today. It’s the perfect size for the four of us. At this moment I’m enjoying Alida’s outstanding Wahoo Ceviche. And tonight we’ll invite the rest of the fish to dinner!


Wolf had actually hooked a giant Marlin moments before he caught the Wahoo. I personally saw the Marlin skip across the water at what looked like 50 knots before it spit out the hook. We’re using smaller hooks to minimize the chances of us killing one of those magnificent monster fish. We are attempting to catch only what we can eat. But it is sure fun to see the big boys jump!

After the Marlin got free, Wolf started reeling the line in to check the lure. But the Wahoo had other ideas, and he took the hook. Wolf had no difficulty bringing him in. I caught it on video.

Film at eleven. Or maybe tomorrow morning. Depends on how many helpings of Wahoo Ceviche I have tonight.

It looks So Much Closer On a Map…

Distances can be deceiving. I knew it would take us eleven or twelve days to travel from San Diego to Honolulu, but for some reason I never really appreciated that the next leg of our trip – from Honolulu to Majuro, Marshall Islands – would take almost as long.

Tomorrow we will have been at sea for a week; and it was only last night that we passed the half-way point. Our trusty Nordhavn 55 is performing beautifully despite -10-foot swells and 20+ knots of trade winds on our port quarter; and she has averaged close to eight knots, while consuming, we estimate, only slightly more than six gallons of fuel per hour. But the trip to Majuro will take a full ten or eleven days.

And because we will pass the International Date Line sometime tonight, we’ll probably arrive at Majuro late on Monday, their time (Sunday back in the States). That means this coming Sunday I’ll be broadcasting our show from at sea.

Our weather routing service tells us the trades will remain brisk, and that the swells will continue almost all the way to Majuro.

These are not ideal conditions for lounging topside, working out on the elliptical trainer we attached to the aft boat deck, or even for walking about the ship with both hands full. While conditions are certainly not extreme, we are definitely in the “one hand for you and one hand for the boat” mode.

Are We “Alone”?

The Fifth Edition of Ocean Passages for the World, by Admiralty Publications, contains charts showing established shipping lanes throughout the world. There are, for example, no fewer than 18 established sea lanes to and from Hawaii. However, not one of those lanes comes within five hundred miles of The Marshall Islands!

Obviously, someone must deliver something by sea to The Marshall Islands occasionally, but whoever it is did not get a mention in Ocean Passages for the World.

When we passed within 40 miles of Johnston Atoll we entered an area of the Pacific that is simply not traveled much. Recreational sailors will normally take a more southerly route from Hawaii to reach French Polynesia, for example, But we elected to head southwest, and to visit the much-less-visited Marshall Islands, and then Micronesia, as we make our way as safely and as quickly as possible to study the larger economies of The Philippines and the Pacific Rim.

Meanwhile, we saw one boat our second day out. That’s it!

Of course, His guiding hand is always with us, but in terms of human contact we’re about as remote as it gets right now. It is at moments such as these – at places such as this – with strong trades and 8-10-foot swells, when one truly appreciates all the safety gear, work and preparation that are part of a well-planned trip, and a well-made boat.

I once read that sailors should treat all maintenance and safety-related tasks aboard their ships as a series of “bank” deposits. The more deposits you make when seas are calm, the more withdrawals you’ll be able to make when they’re not.

I think that is a wonderful philosophy – and as my accountant reminds me, this past year I’ve certainly made more than my share of “deposits”!

Just ten years ago, we’d have been really alone. But how alone are we today when we can call home? When we can post a blog via satellite? When we receive your emails daily, and when we can send photos and videos to our website?

So perhaps the word “alone” is not the correct word. Instead, I should say that our location is “remote”. But later, when I call home and hear the voices of my children and my wife, I won’t feel alone at all.

Air Conditioning

It is very hot and sticky out here. And it’s going to get much hotter during the summer. Fortunately, the trades help ventilate many areas of the ship. But, in my opinion, it is not enough. Here’s my simple rule: If you are mainly just sitting around, and you still must change your shirt at least twice a day, and you stick to everything you touch, it’s probably time to turn on the air conditioning.

However, Captain Bligh – I mean Captain Wolf – is not crazy about turning on the generator to power the ship’s air conditioning system, to put it mildly. He is concerned, among other things, that we may raise too much heat in the engine room by having both the main engine and the generator going at the same time.

I happen to support a different theory: It’s the temperature in the engine, not around the engine, that matters most; and ever since the very first time I turned on the ship’s ignition about a year ago, the internal engine temperature has consistently registered about 181 degrees – with or without the generator running. And besides, I argue, Nordhavn would simply not have built a system you couldn’t use.

Wolf counters that although that may be true, because of the warm seas around us, the engine may run as cool as it did farther north. He worries, understandably, that the various hoses and other gizmos in the engine room might deteriorate more rapidly in the high heat.

Then I counter by reminding Wolf that they are just hoses and gizmos, that we have lots of spares, we can replace them as they wear out if necessary; and that we have blowers in the engine room to remove the hot air, so it won’t get all that hot down there anyway.

But he reminds me that the blowers may not be up to removing all the heat we need to remove, which is, I’ll admit, always a possibility; and that we cannot ventilate the engine room by opening the lazarette hatch on the floor of the rear cockpit in these seas because water will spill onto the aft deck through the scuppers and into the lazarette if we do.

He also points out that we will use more fuel with the generator running.

But, being a numbers guy I dispatch the fuel argument by demonstrating that we should have every bit as much fuel in reserve as we reach Majuro as we did on the longer voyage from San Diego to Honolulu.

I also remind Wolf that I paid an extra $XX,XXX for a drop-dead powerful air conditioning system on this ship; that I aspire to visit the Pacific Islands but not necessarily become a Pacific Islander, and that I’ve just spent the past 28 years of my life in Phoenix, Arizona, so I have nothing to prove regarding my ability to tolerate heat.

But then Wolf says it will seem even hotter when we exit the boat if we are accustomed to the A/C.

To which I respond that I’ll take my chances. Then I remind Wolf it’s not just a comfort issue. That we have $XXX,XXX of electronic equipment on this boat, including all of our cameras and broadcast gear, and that high heat and humidity, and the possibility of salt spray when we have the pilot house doors open for ventilation, is not kind to electronics.

To which Wolf mumbles something about the heat in the engine room again.

So by now I’m wearing him down, but I can tell he still is not quite convinced. So I conclude with my most compelling closing argument – an argument to which I (almost) never resort:

“I’m the owner, so please turn on the %##@%&^! A/C!”

Seriously, I have great respect for Wolf’s opinion, and I realize it’s a close question. We both realize that the heat and humidity can be a challenge at many levels. We’ve mutually agreed to try running the generator, and the air conditioning, at two or more of the four AC stations onboard, about 12 hours each day – from about noon until midnight. Then the person on watch at midnight (Wolf, actually) can open everyone’s state room hatches above deck, weather permitting, and turn off the system.

In fact, right now it is about 2 PM local time, and I’m writing this blog in our air conditioned salon! I stood up a moment ago and for the first time in a week the seat cushion didn’t stick to my back!

Now that’s progress!

–Keith


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