Author Archives: JennyDurnan

Haul Back Moment

Here’s a shot from our deck a couple of nights ago. We’re just starting to haul the net here. The weather wasn’t too awfully bad (by Bering sea in winter standards), but a couple of big ones showed up and we happened to be in the right place for them.

Fortunately, everyone can feel these coming, the boat tends to take a big heave before we get boarding seas like this, so the guys know to get out of the way.

Just another day at the office here on the Constellation.

Pro-trawling propaganda

TJ got featured in a piece in Alaska Dispatch News. It’s a glimpse into what’s going on out there in the wild.

Harvesting flatfish in the Last Frontier
SPONSORED: Meet the fleet that powers Southwest Alaska
Author: Presented by Groundfish Forum Published January 26

Docked in Seattle a few days after Thanksgiving, the F/T Constellation is still filled with the smell of coastal Alaska waters; briny ocean and fresh fish. It wafts up from the lower levels and covers the deck. The vessel has been scrubbed and scoured, but the aroma is impossible to shake.
The 165-foot vessel spent the better part of 2016 trawling the Bering Sea. For months, it carried several dozen crewmembers, decks full of equipment and freezers full of fresh seafood. It motored in and out of Dutch Harbor, the fishing capital of the Aleutian Island chain. While it’ll spend the early winter in Seattle, the break is brief—the vessel heads north again each year when the fishing season resumes in January.

Built in Louisiana and based in Washington, the Constellation is crewed by men from all over the world. But it’s also distinctly Alaskan; part of a hardy fleet fueling local economies throughout the Southwest.

In Alaska, nobody catches more fish than the Groundfish fleet. As a whole, it harvests billions of pounds of seafood annually. A subsection of that fleet — that harvests flatfish, rockfish and cod with trawl catcher processors — is governed by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council’s Amendment 80 (A80).

Capt. TJ Durnan’s been a member of that fleet for years.
“There’s a lot of opportunity there for everybody,” said Durnan, the Constellation’s longtime skipper. “If you’re able to do the work, you can be very successful. It’s a good thing.”
Like most of the men who work on Alaska’s A80 groundfish fleet, Durnan came from somewhere else—Illinois, to be exact. He grew up on Lake Michigan, and spent a year sailing the Caribbean with his father in lieu of college. In 1991, fresh out of high school, he found himself in Dutch Harbor, working aboard a crab barge for around $5 an hour. By the age of 23, he had his first job on a trawler. By 25, he had his mate’s licence. By 26, he was working as a mate on a 225-foot pollock trawler, and in 2002, he took a job aboard the Constellation.
The catcher-processor spends the majority of each year harvesting species of sole and flounder throughout the Bering Sea. The entire Alaska A80 fleet is relatively small—represented by six companies operating 18 vessels—but its impact is profound.

By value, the Dutch Harbor port comes in second only to New Bedford, Massachusetts, according to the 2015 fisheries statistics released by the National Marine Fisheries Service. By volume, Dutch Harbor is the top port in the nation: In 2015, it landed 787 million pounds of seafood with a value of around $218 million. Those numbers have a deep effect on the local community.
“The fishing industry is our only industry here, basically, and the groundfish sector is the largest part because of the volume,” said Unalaska Mayor Frank Kelty. “It’s definitely our strength, and makes Unalaska one of the stronger communities in the state.”
Taxes paid by the fleet fund nearly 50 percent of Unalaska’s annual city budget, Kelty said, and the various fishing companies that operate out of the port pay millions in annual property taxes. Money paid by the A80 fishing corporations fund Unalaska schools, the health clinic and other public services.
“The other large part of that is the amount of business (fishing companies) do in town,” the mayor said. “You have to think about the trickle-down effect.”
During port calls, vessels and their crews do business with local longshoreman, fuel companies, boat repair businesses and machinery companies, grocers and the Alaska Ship Supply store. At North Pacific Fuel, up to 90 percent of business comes from the region’s groundfish fleet. The company’s employees come from as far away as the Philippines. Like Durnan on the Constellation, many of them have worked in Dutch Harbor’s fishery for years.
Kelty himself came to town in the 1970s, and spent decades working in Alaska’s blooming seafood industry. Dutch Harbor’s had an international feel for as long as he can remember: It was once dubbed “North Seattle,” Kelty said. People still come to the fishery from all over the world—Asia, Africa, the Pacific Islands and beyond—not everything has stayed the same.
“It’s a whole different community now,” Kelty said. “When I first started here, we were going through the crab boom.”
Then the local crab industry temporarily collapsed. When the first local groundfish plant came online in the mid-1980s, it more than made up for the plunge in the crab business, Kelty said. As the years went by, he watched the development of Dutch Harbor and the steady evolution of the groundfish fleet.
In 2008 A80 fishery operation and management practices were overhauled, focusing on habitat protection and bycatch reduction. Modern management eliminates the competitive race to catch the most fish, dramatically reducing the number of halibut bycatch. Additionally, modified fishing gear has helped A80 trawlers reduce contact with the ocean floor, while specially designed excluders allow halibut to escape while other flatfish species continue into the nets.

Improved monitoring and enforcement efforts, like onboard cameras, federal fishery observers and daily logs contribute to overall bycatch reduction. While unusable fish once comprised as much as 50 percent of a vessel’s catch, they now make up less than five percent. Halibut bycatch totals less than one percent.
“Twenty years ago, our fishery was very wasteful, said Chris Woodley, executive director of the Groundfish Forum, an industry trade association. But since the A80 program our fishery is much more targeted —  we keep and sell 95 percent of our catch.”
On board the Constellation, bycatch remains a constant concern. Any halibut caught in the nets must be discarded.
“Day to day, we feel like we’re under immense pressure at all times to avoid halibut,” Durnan said. “I can’t tell you how many times we leave good fishing because the halibut rate is too high.”
Avoiding halibut takes time and work, but it’s paying off: Halibut bycatch is now at its lowest level since the 1970s, when the passage of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act successfully Americanized the U.S. fishing industry.
Second only to the state’s salmon fisheries, Alaska groundfish provide more harvesting jobs than any other fishery, according to the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

While other fisheries provide employment for half of the year or less, the A80 season extends from January to November, with peak employment in February, March and September. More than 60 people found jobs aboard the Constellation in 2016, Durnan said.
“I think a lot of the people like the work and the freedom of it, but these guys can make a lot more money here in a short time than they could in a job on shore,” Durnan said.
People without the skills or work history to make a living in another industry can provide for their families by working for Alaska’s A80 fleet. Other people do it for the lifestyle it enables. For several consecutive months every year, when he’s not working aboard the Constellation, Durnan lives with his wife on a sailboat currently anchored somewhere in Europe.
“I get more quality time at home than anyone I know,” he said, smiling from the bridge of the Constellation. “That’s why I do this—for the freedom it affords.”

https://www.adn.com/features/sponsored-content/2017/01/26/harvesting-flatfish-in-the-last-frontier/

Ireland and England

Ireland was just a 2 stop affair for us this time around, but we are
planning to go back again at some point for a closer look. We were
pretty keen to get to England and go fetch Baxter from his luxury
retreat with Jenny’s mom.

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Dingle was a great place for a visit. We got introduced to and became
members of the ‘Ocean Cruising Club’ while in Newfoundland. We’re not
really very into clubs, but the requirement for entry into this one is
to have undertaken an offshore passage of at least 1000 miles.
Consequently, the membership is comprised of some experienced
folks. What the heck, we figured, why not? Our first OCC contact was
Harvey Kinney, the OCC contact for Dingle. He came down and met us on
the dock, and then treated us to a very nice tour of the area to the
west of Dingle, along with tea and cakes. Membership worthwhile!

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We happened to be there for the big rowing regatta, which was pretty
cool to see. They row like mad racing around in a slightly modified
version of the traditional dories that they’ve used forever on the coast
there. Some teams were more successful than others. I think that for the
most part, rowers were assigned to boats at random, so it really was a
crap-shoot whether or not a team would gel. Some went mostly in circles.

We wound up in Dingle for 5 days, getting some well-deserved rest.
There was a bit of a blow passing through, and we were hoping to get
around the SW corner of the island without getting pounded anyway. The W
coast of Ireland has a well-deserved reputation as a bit of a nasty
place, and we got a taste of it upon leaving Dingle. There wasn’t a heck
of a lot of wind, but the seas around the headlands were just
miserable-3 or 4 wave trains all intersecting and breaking, lots of
current, just a crappy ride.

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Once we rounded the corner and got by the Fastnet rock, all was a lot
better, and we enjoyed a decent rest of the trip into Kinsale.

This is a town situated a few miles up a river, which is guarded by
some substantial fortifications dating back to the 1500’s. It’s a
beautiful setting, and the town is apparently renowned for its
restaurants. No offense to the Irish, but we found the cuisine there to
generally be pretty tasteless. Maybe we missed out on the really good spots.
No matter, we usually eat on board anyway.

We spent a further 6 days in Kinsale, again waiting for weather. There
was a big gale on the way, and we didn’t have enough time to make it
across the Celtic sea to Land’s End and around the south of England from
Dingle. So, this wound up being a fine stop.

The gale made the marina quite rough, as there really was no
protection for about 1/2 mile to windward, but we rode it out pretty
well compared to most of the neighbors, which were generally pretty
small boats, with the exception of one very old 60′ or so cutter with
very long overhangs. It was interesting to see our boat and this one
beside each other at the dock. RS, probably thanks to the absolute lack
of any overhangs, bobbed around pretty mildly, with a sea slapping the
hard chine once in a while.

Our traditional neighbor, despite weighing more than double,
hobby-horsed relentlessly, heaving up and down 2 or 3 feet at the bow
and stern at times. It was interesting to watch, for me, anyway.

The neighbor, by the way, was the S/V ‘Overlord’. We had seen her on the
AIS the day before. Jenny asked me who the heck would name their boat like this,
and I guessed that they were probably WWII enthusiasts, as this was the official name
for the D-Day landing at Normandy. It turns out that was the correct guess.
‘Overlord’ had been one of a large class of sailboats built in Germany for the purpose of
training their Naval officers in navigation. This version was in Europe at the
outset of hostilities, and was captured. She was bought after the war by a
club, and re-named. Clever name, I think. The boat is now co-owned by some 200 people, who share time on the frequent cruises that the boat does, and all contribute either time or money into the club to earn these days. Good concept.
In any event, we had a fine stay in Kinsale.

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Finally, the weather cleared, and the forecast showed what was likely to be a spinnaker run
down to the English Channel. It was not to be. We had about 6 knots of wind from straight astern to Land’s End, and then not a breath from there on, and motored basically all the way to our next stop, Plymouth.

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This was just a one night stop for us, and after the rather dreary motoring we were pretty tired, so we had dinner at a middling restaurant on the dock, and went right to bed.

A dawn departure had us on our way to our next stop, Portland. This is
a big commercial harbor, which has a new marina which was built for the
’12 Olympics. It’s a really nice facility, plenty of deep water berths.
A good spot for us of ridiculously deep draft.

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The next day, it was on to the Solent, and we have now arrived in the
yard in which we’ll store RS for the winter. We don’t expect to be back
on board until mid-March, so this will conclude the sailing portion of
the website until the spring. On tap for next year are Scotland and
Norway, and likely a bit of time in the Baltic as well. We’ll update a
bit from time to time on boat projects and our other travels. We’re
liking the exchange rate thanks to the Brexit vote, and it looks like we
can replace the lost code zero for much less than it would have cost
back in the US.

Baxter is happily back home, currently laying on the settee snoring.
It’s good to have the little guy back. I missed him a lot. He’s getting
pretty old, just a few weeks from his 11th birthday. He gets tired after
a short walk, and doesn’t see as well as he used to. Of course, anytime
he sees another dog, that’s all forgotten and he completely flips out,
just like he always has. I’m guessing he’s still got a couple of more
good years in him, but he’s definitely looking pretty geriatric these days.

He’s done well for a rescue mutt, that’s for sure.

Jenny, badass.

I would like it to be known that I’m married to the greatest woman alive.

There’s a saying that’s been attributed to John Wayne, I think: ‘True courage is being scared as hell, and then saddling up anyway.’

I don’t think that Jenny was ever ‘scared as hell’, but the potential for the Atlantic crossing to be truly shitty was certainly not lost on her. Most women out there would have had their husbands find a few of their buddies to make the crossing, and then fly to the other side. Hell, I would have taken this option if it were a possibility! This is actually quite common for the longer crossings in the world of cruising. Let the boys do the long passage and then enjoy the sailing once it’s over with. There’s nothing wrong with this, but I have to say that I’m really proud of Jenny for taking this trip on.

Nice job, my dear. The next time we cross the pond, it’ll be in the trades, promise.

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Transat Part V – Crossing to Ireland

 “What? Piss off!”

 This was one of the first interactions that we enjoyed in Ireland.

 Some context is in order. A passerby on the dock stopped to check out the boat and have a chat. When he asked us how long it took us to get across the Atlantic, this was his response to our answer. It turns out that ‘Piss off’ is Irish for ‘Are you kidding me?’ in our own version of our shared tongue. I was quite amused. Obviously, this was delivered without malice.

After a week of hanging around St. John’s, the three of us tossed the lines just after dark. The storm we had been waiting for was finally past, and all looked good on the weather front.

 For the record, our crossing time from St. John’s to Dingle was 8 days, 18 hours and 48 minutes. Our best day’s run was 260 miles, and our top speed surfing was a rather exciting 21.8.

 The passage was much better than we had hoped for. Our decision to endure the somewhat excruciating wait in St. John’s was the right call, and we managed to get across with a minimum of fuss. After motoring/sailing south to dip around the ice zone, we picked up the south side of a secondary low that formed in the wake of the big one we had been waiting for, just as the GRIBs predicted. We had favorable winds up to about 35 knots for a couple of days out of that one, racking up our best day’s run for the passage.

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 Next up was a period of pretty calm winds, which we motored through.

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 Day 5-7 found us on the west side of a high pressure system, which was coincidentally moving at just our speed. We basically were close reaching right along the same pressure gradient for this whole time. We were finally able to point the bow toward Ireland at this time as well. We had been sailing more or less straight east for days as a result of my weather routing.

 Finally, the last stretch found us in a tighter pressure gradient, with winds in the high 20’s/low 30’s, which brought us some fine surfing conditions and our maximum speed for the passage.

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 In the end, we never saw even a proper gale. Being patient was a big part of this, but some good luck played a big part too. Forecasting isn’t worth much in these latitudes beyond about 3 days, so we were really grateful that the N. Atlantic gave us a pass. I’m humble enough to admit that this passage was one I was viewing with quite a bit more trepidation that any I’ve undertaken before. There are an awful lot of tales of some really trying things happening to very competent sailors on this route, and only a fool would be so arrogant to think that he’s such a stud that he couldn’t also fall prey to the nastiness that occasionally can happen on a passage straddling 50N in this particular stretch of water.

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 I’m glad to have it over with, and also glad that boredom was the biggest issue we had to contend with. A lost fishing float drifting by was enough to spur a good hour’s worth of conversation.

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 Not long after we arrived in Ireland, a whopper of a storm developed and crossed our track. It was very nice to be tied up in a tight little harbor rather than being out there for it. This, friends, is the big advantage of speed. We probably only sail the boat at about 70% of her potential, and can still rack up 200 mile plus days regularly.

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 We often get questions from folks who have spent all their time on smaller boats. Often, they think that our boat’s just too big to be managed by a couple, that it’s just a matter of time before we wind up in some kind of a situation where we’ll simply be overwhelmed by our big beast. Nonsense. Mind you, we have no quarrel with someone who chooses to cruise on a smaller boat. There are a lot of positives to that approach.
The truth is that the gear for these sailboats has come an awfully long way since the early days of cruising, and boats that were once the domain of big crews the size of linebackers can now be managed quite easily by mere mortals. We’re certainly sold on the benefits of a bigger, fast boat.
For those of you reading who are not really tuned in to the world of cruising sailboats, this is a very old debate, this big v. small question. We get quite a few passersby who declare flatly that we’re a little out of our heads to sail this thing with just 2 people. This is the reason for the commentary at the moment.

 Yes, we have to be a little bit more conservative than we might have needed to be on Star Path or Western Explorer, but the truth is that Rocket Science is far more manageable than Western Explorer was, and probably on a par with Star Path, which was a little 36′ ketch with tiny sails. It really comes down to weight. RS weighs far less than the steel boat did, and just a little more than the ketch.

 The benefits of some really good design also factor in here.

 Anyway, we’re finding Ireland to be very nice so far. A few more days here and we’ll cross over to England.

 More soon.

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Transat Part IV – Mac Gyver

So, we left St John’s late in the evening.

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When we started up the engine, it gave the slightest little hiccup, and then carried on as normal. I ran the revs up an down, waited a while, and wrote it off as our first really cold start in a while. Wrong…

We motored for the better part of the first night, about 8 hours without a hitch. Then we got a decent sailing breeze, shut the beast down and settled in for some sailing.

The next night, when it came time for our first charging session, I fired up the engine. It ran for a minute or so, and then promptly sputtered and died. There was also some new belt squeak happening. Now this was quite odd. We filter our fuel before it even gets to the day tank, and there was no sign at all of fuel contamination. But, we did get some truck fuel in St. John’s, from the same outfit that we got the stuff that caused a bunch of smoke in the exhaust last year, so I was fearing that we had a load of bad fuel.

Anyway, I set about the easiest first problem, which is bleeding the system, and discovered some air in the lines. How very strange. I got it bled, fired up, and the engine was running again, apparently ok for the moment. When we ran the RPM up to charging speed, the alternator belts started slipping terribly. A quick look at them revealed them to be totally slack. What the hell? 2 engine problems at the same time?

I figured that the sliding bracket had come loose, so I loosened up the set bolt, slid the alternator to the limit of it’s travel, and found that I still had some very slack belts. Not good. The big, what should be unbreakable, lower bracket had snapped right in two. Shit.

I carry a spare upper bracket, but the lower one? It’s 1/4″ gusseted steel plate, for crying out loud. We have a small second alternator on the engine, and we also have a spare brand new small one, so I knew I could get some charging going, but the big unit is the one we really need if we don’t want to run the engine way too much.

Time to get creative.

Out came the drill, cutting fluid, taps and wrenches. I drilled a hole in each side of the offending part. Next, I had to find a piece of steel to bridge the crack. I dug around a bit, until I finally came across a bicycle pedal wrench that came with our folding bikes. Perfect. I had to bend the jaws around a bit, but it was finally converted into an effective joining strap.

I tried to tighten the belts up, but my repair was too flexible. Failure.

I realized quickly that I needed to provide some vertical support as well. I first tried some line, but didn’t really have a decent strong point to tie to in the right place. I would have to support it from below. I first thought about employing one of the hydraulic mast jacks, but this seemed too complicated, so some shimming was decided on. I hunted around for some wood, ultimately settling on one of those West Marine thru hull plugs as my best candidate. I whittled a notch into it, pried the alternator up as hard as I could, and drove that sucker in. Success.

I’m happy to report that this arrangement made it all the way across the pond without a hitch. The crap we have to do to keep a passage going is sometimes rather unconventional…

Unfortunately, the air in the fuel issue is still happening from time to time, and I’m still struggling with that one. I’ve taken to bleeding the lines before starting up, and that’s been just fine. Once it’s running for a few minutes, it’s a non-issue. I’ll dig into it tomorrow. I’m sure it’s just a loose fitting somewhere that I missed the first time around. It’s nice to be at the dock and be able to deal with these things in a more leisurely fashion.

McGyver would have been proud, had he not been cancelled after a few seasons.

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Transat Part 3 – The Wait

We’ve been hanging around St. John’s for what feels like forever by now. There has been a low developing to our SW for days, which is forecast to bring gale force NE’ly winds to the Grand Banks. It will finally arrive tomorrow.

So, being the prudent mariners that we are, we’re sitting tight and letting it pass on by. Happily, we get to leave tomorrow evening. We need to go SE from here to get below the iceberg zone, so we’ll use the back side of the low to make some miles in that direction. The long-term forecast looks very good for the passage, so we’re optimistic that we’ll get across with decent wind and not too much excitement.

We’ve been making the best of our time here, but we’re honestly all going a bit soft in the head. Jenny bought a stuffed Dachshund named Roger, who has been accepted by all as an invaluable member of the crew, in addition to a little stuffed baby seal we’ve named Tate. It’s a bit of an inside joke. Sorry, Tate.

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Tim has become a Babylon 5 enthusiast, deeply engrossed in both the plot and amazing visual effects between games of solitaire.

Yup, it’s time to get moving….

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Transat Part 2 – Newport, RI – St. John’s, Newfoundland

After 3 days in Newport, our autopilot issues were finally resolved, thankfully under warranty, and we were able to get underway again.

I’m happy to report that in all of our digging into the pilot problem, we discovered that the NKE system does not send enough voltage into the clutch for the electric drive. The pilot had never worked right, refusing to develop enough power to steer the boat properly when the rudders were loaded up. Here was the root of the problem, and after some wiring changes, the pilot now works as it should. We put it to the test pretty well in some fast broad reaching in big seas, and it’s flawless now.

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So, the shorted out display ended up with a very good outcome.

Since we were all the way up in Narragansett Bay, our route to St. John’s was through the Cape Cod canal. This is a handy short-cut, avoiding all the shoals around Nantucket.

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We had a pretty comical display of waste of taxpayer money at the southern entrance. A small hard dinghy had been lost off of a passing boat, the owner of the dinghy had been identified, and there was no possibility of anybody in the water. Still, an inter-agency response had been organized, and we passed 3 state vessels, one USCG vessel, and finally a USCG helicopter also arrived on scene to assist in the recovery of a $200 dinghy. We got some good laughs out of this rather absurd display for some time.

We had a pretty mixed bag of conditions on the trip. The first 30 hours or so after Cape Cod had some strong winds and fast sailing, followed by hundreds more miles of dense fog and flat calm. The engine was called on for most of the trip.

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We made a single stop at Louisburg, NS, mostly for an oil change. We just spent a single night there, carrying on the next morning. There wasn’t a bit of wind for all but about 2 hours of this entire trip, and we had dense fog throughout.

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We didn’t see a damned thing until we were about a mile off of St. John’s. There, the fog abruptly lifted, and we were finally treated to a nice, sunny day.

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The foggy conditions have been more stressful than usual. Last winter, I purchased a new B&G plotter/radar. The radar is an absolute piece of garbage. I learned later that the 4G was much better than the 3G (which I got), but nobody bothered to tell me that at the time of purchase. So, we’re stuck with a total piece of crap until I can try to return the lousy radome for one which is hopefully better. I’m pretty annoyed by the whole thing. There’s only a few hundred dollar difference between the 2 units when you buy the whole setup, but to buy just the radome is a couple thousand. I really hope I can work out some kind of a swap.

Otherwise, all’s well on Rocket Science. We got through our work list in good time after we arrived in St. John’s, and we’re now standing by for a good weather window for departure to Ireland. We’ve got our eyes on a developing low, which may or may not bring strong to gale force headwinds on our route later in the week, so once that picture resolves itself, we’ll make the call on when to depart.

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St. John’s has been a pleasure to visit, as it was last year. Thanks to Tim’s SPOT tracker, some friends of friends, Ted and Karen, met us at the dock, valiantly took some really stinky laundry home and did it for us, and generally made us feel right at home here. Thanks, guys!

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A nice couple whom we met in Ramea last year also happened to be in the area, and we spent a pleasant evening with Louis and Joy. We also decided some exercise was called for and climbed up Signal Hill. Good times.

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That’s about it for now. There’s been a rotating cast of international boats passing through. We had the very capable Exploration 45 ‘Arctic Monkey’ alongside for a few days, enjoying hearing about their exploits in both the Arctic and Antarctic. We feel like we’re generally pretty accomplished in our sailing by now, but coming to places like this tends to remind one that there’s a whole other set of sailors out there who are doing some true adventure cruising. We’re feeling pretty lame by comparison.

Yours Truly,

Walton & Stettler (poor Jenny… she’s being tortured…)

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Transat, leg one-a bit shorter than planned

We left Charleston on Thursday, July 14th, with an intended destination of probably Halifax, but maybe all the way to Newfoundland if the weather looked good.

Our friend Tim joined us on Wednesday, we took care of some final boat chores, and got out of the 98 degree heat of Charleston just as soon as we could. Rocket Science has no AC, and life there in July is truly miserable.

The trip started out with some pretty good sailing. The first 24 hours saw us cover about 210 miles. Day 2 had some lighter conditions, so we dug out our smaller reaching spinnaker and picked up a bit of speed with it, for a little while, anyway. Jenny and I were down below when there was an unusual ‘boom’ up on deck, and we popped out to find the tack of the sail flying out over the water, no longer attached to the boat. This is usually a parted tack line, but in this case, the stainless ring on the corner of the sail had failed. None of us had seen this particular failure before. The soft bits generally are much quicker to go. But, the sail was undamaged. It did cause me to make the decision to make a pit stop in Halifax in order to have the loft there sew in a new ring. There is little if any service beyond there, after all. Oh well, these things happen.

Later this same day, we set the used racing code zero sail that I’d been boasting endlessly about, having scored a $10,000 sail for a mere $800. It lasted about 20 minutes and promptly ripped in half. Shit. We have 3 spinnakers, but this is the only zero we have, and I happen to really like the sail.

Jenny gleefully reminded me that there usually isn’t such a thing as a bargain when it comes to boat items (after all, BARGAIN contains almost all the letters to spell GARBAGE…). I concede that I might have let optimism triumph over experience in this case.

So, it was 1 sail toast, another in need of a minor repair. No biggie. Onward to Halifax!

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Finally, on the night of day 3, our new, high-dollar autopilot melted down. This was getting really tiresome, we are not really accustomed to a string of gear failures like this.

Anyway, we were 180 miles offshore, but straight south of Newport. It happens that the only dealer in North America for this particular French pilot is in Newport, so I made the very easy decision to divert north. I sent an email to them over our inmarsat straight away, and got a quick response that they had everything we needed in stock. What a relief. Being down a sail that we don’t really need is one thing, but being down our primary autopilot is entirely another. We have a spare unit too, but it doesn’t work as well as the newer one.

I’m thrilled to report that when we arrived in Newport harbor, we got buzzed by a friendly looking guy in a big skiff, and once he identified who we were, he came alongside to introduce himself as the rep for the pilot manufacturer!

Now, I’m sure that he wasn’t floating around out there just for us, but it was still pretty cool to have that kind of attention.

So, we’re here for a couple of days, getting our issues squared away, and getting some welcome rest to boot. Hopefully the pilot issue is as simple as I think, and we’ll be up and running quickly.

More later.

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