The Harmattan

12 Feb

Harmattan in the Genoa Swivel

We encountered an interesting condition today, the harmattan, which is when the fine powder sand of the Sahara Desert is blown out to sea. We are about 1250 miles west of the desert. When I went to lower the genoa cable (a mast supporting cable in place of the genoa sail if that is in its bag) I noticed that the white cover was tinted a light brown. And further up within the swivel for that cable, I could see this same fine dust.

We first encountered harmattan in 1993 on our San Francisco Boston ...

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Out of the Trades

11 Feb

We are finally out of the worst of the pounding of the trade winds, we still have 15-25 knots of wind, but the direction has shifted from Northeast to East approximately, and the seas have followed, so as we head North, we are not going so much into the waves.

There is still a tremendous amount of spray coming over the boat, and sitting at the chart table at night it seems that every few minutes there is the ‘donk’ of a flying fish ricocheting off the coach roof. Sometimes they are deflected over the boat and back into the ...

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Cruising boat renovations

11 Feb

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“I may have broken the aft cabin.” This is the text I get from Jamie a few hours after I’ve departed Totem for an overnight road trip to Miami. The smoky-green smell of sawdust wafts to me from half a state away and the disarray of a deconstruction project easy to picture. The critical path project for our departure from the US for the Bahamas is to replace the soft sides for our hardtop dodger, so of course, the aft cabin is going to be torn apart.

It comes down to this: cruising boat projects are more likely to be ...

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20 Degrees North

10 Feb

We’ve reached the 20 degree north line, which is approximately the outer limits for the trade winds. They’ve moved north a little bit, over the last couple of days, so we’re still in them, but they should be diminishing in the next 24 hours or so.

20 degrees north is a good milestone. We’re generally aiming in the direction of the Azores. The routing based on these forecasts is all over the place. The weather reports are 6 hours apart and may go in completely different directions. One might go off towards Cape Finisterre. We had one routing that went ...

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Pounding Along

9 Feb

We are at the latitude of the windward leeward islands down in the Caribbean and just about half way across Africa. We are getting occasional notifications through the Inmarsat-C, reports about piracy, warnings to stay away from some of the coastal towns off Western Africa. So we’re in that range, but quite a ways off.

We are crashing as we go across the trade winds, pounding along. It is hard to imagine that everything holds together. Sometimes it doesn’t, but hopefully it will. I think every skipper that I’ve heard from ahead that has gone through this thinks that this ...

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Nautic Alert, excellence in monitoring and control

9 Feb

Written by Ben Ellison on Feb 9, 2017 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

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While my boat, thankfully, doesn’t need six bilge pumps like the system above, four months of serious testing has left me deeply impressed with the Nautic Alert bilge, battery and GPS precision sensor platform. Yes, it also manages one pump or many — probably better than any us ever will — and it clearly informs a skipper of problems whether you’re on board or off. Finally, Nautic Alert regularly assures me that all is well, and it’s ripe for expansion. I think I’m in love…

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First, ...

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Safety Below Deck

8 Feb

Through the night we continued to make progress north. The trade winds have been moderate so far, which is far easier on the boat and skipper. Nonetheless, there have been some tremendous crashes that rattle every corner and joint of the boat.

The chart table bench is athwartship in the boat, and on a pivot, so that you can make it somewhat horizontal, even if the boat, with fully canted keel, and 3 or 4 ballast tanks filled with 3 or 4 tons of water, is still heeling at 25-30 degrees. I make the bench as horizontal as possible then ...

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FOILING MONOHULLS: Flying Minis and the New Figaro 3

8 Feb

Flying 747

Here’s a photo that raised a few eyebrows a couple of weeks ago: David Raison’s famous 747 Mini 6.50 Prototype, the first scow-bowed Mini, pulling another first as it goes airborne flying on a foil. Makes you wonder what this year’s Mini Transat is going to be like, as I’m hearing rumors there are at least three Minis currently undergoing foil conversions. This 747 experiment is being conducted by SEAir, a French company that specializes in engineering and manufacturing hydrofoils, and they tell me it is just that, an experiment, and they do not plan to campaign the boat....

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Advanced Electrical: Diodes

7 Feb

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The most common diodes on boats these days are LEDs, Light Emitting Diodes, which are changing the way we light our boats and use energy. They’re great! There are all kinds of specialty diodes in the electronics world, but the kind of diodes I’ll discuss here are basic, simple old diodes, the kind you could buy at Radio Shack for thirty-five cents, if Radio Shack were still in business. I always keep a few diodes in my box, because they provide a magic solution to some very specific problems.

Diodes are one-way valves for electricity. Place a diode along a ...

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Into the Northeast Trades

7 Feb

Finally, the Northeast trades arrived, or we worked our way far enough north to get into them. They have been more North Northeast than Northeast, and we’ve been sailing higher I think than the others before, relative to the wind, but only because we have less of it, around 15 knots.

With 2 reefs and the staysail, we were at about 9.5 knots, so this morning went back to the solent, and got to about 10.5-11 knots. But we are now at the maximum for the solent and will have to go back to the staysail shortly. I know that ...

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