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In Transit - June 2, 2020

We are now closing in on 72 hours into our passage and things are going relatively well. But there’s always something… The first thing we discovered was that our (practically brand new (2 year old) satellite RADAR system has decided to put its feet up, so we have zero Satellite RADAR for the crossing. This is not ideal. We are blind (especially at night) to sea traffic and we can only rely on visual sightings to make sure we are clear from a traffic perspective. But it’s a big ocean and there is not too much traffic where we are at this point, so the net effect right now is extra vigilance in our visual checks, and that every 20 minutes on overnight watches, we have to go topside and scan the horizon 360 degrees for ship traffic. We do still have our AIS system, which is helpful, but sometimes vessels are not on AIS so without a visual check, we wouldn’t know if they were there.

The bigger problem is that we are blind to weather. With the radar we can see dangerous squalls and weather systems to watch out for and avoid. Without it, we are flying blind and hoping for the best. Not really an ideal situation on an ocean crossing at the beginning of hurricane season.

Hopefully in Ft Lauderdale we can fix whatever is up with the RADAR or get a new unit if we have to.

Then, in other exciting news, last night while I was off watch (since we are double handed, we are doing 3 hours on / 3 hours off), I awoke to Dirk yelling for me and it turned out the auto pilot had gone out. This is one of my BIGGEST fears on passage because without auto pilot, you are steering manually 24/7, which must be done outside on the flybridge regardless of conditions. It is exhausting and inexact so it will take much longer to reach your destination and the lack of precision introduces challenges crossing some of the shallow banks that exist, especially in Bahamian waters. So, I came flying out of our stateroom still 2/3 asleep, and Dirk asked me to take the helm. Now this is just before 11:00PM and it is PITCH black, and the moon had not risen and the skies and seas blended together into just a black mass. The seas were not huge, but they pushing the boat from port to starboard and it took me a minute to settle in and get a feel for the helm in these conditions, but I was able to keep the boat on course, plus or minus about 25 degrees. Dirk went into the engine compartment to troubleshoot. He came out saying the pump for the autopilot was extremely hot and THANK GOD we had a spare autopilot pump and he installed that. IT WORKED! But for some reason the pumps were wired differently, so now, when you turn the wheel right, the boat goes left and vice versa. Fortunately, that was a quick swap of some wires and then the auto pilot behaved perfectly. Thanks to our Guardian Angels out there! That would have not been pleasant to make the remainder of the passage double handed steering manually the entire time. But we could do it if we had to.

After that, things thankfully settled down and by the time we were back underway on autopilot it was time for my watch to start, so Dirk went down to try and rest while I took the next 3 hour watch. All went well, it was beautiful sailing, the moon rose (half full) and there was not a vessel on the horizon. The moon stayed with me throughout the watch, setting just after 3AM. I stayed up to watch the moonset and then went down for some sleep.

During these last few days at sea our Gurty has developed four sturdy sea legs. She is actually becoming a little bit too brave for her own good! She has no fear of trotting around the deck and sticking her head out between the lifelines to watch the water and seaweed go by. She is happy to do this at any time, even at night, so after dark we keep her in the salon with the door closed. She prefers being outside in the cockpit, even if she isn’t walking all around on deck, but I am afraid she’ll slip by me at night somehow and go topside alone, so last night we just stayed in with the door shut. Every time I went topside to do checks she looked at me longingly from behind the glass, and I really appreciate her wanting to keep me company and keep a watch over me, but she’s still a Junior Officer and she has more to learn. We tried to get a life vest for her, but we could not find one on St Thomas, St John or St Croix, so we tried to fashion one from a child’s life jacket, but it hampered her mobility to the point that I felt like it could actually cause her to fall overboard, so we quickly gave that plan up. Now, when she needs to go potty, we stay topside with her at all times and if conditions warrant, we put her harness on. Now that she’s gotten brave enough to stick her head through the lifelines, we will probably start using the harness all of the time.

One thing we missed out on with Gurty was catching a lobster while she’s been aboard. I think it would have been hilarious to bring a lobster aboard and have her take a look at it. I can’t begin to imagine what she would have thought of that creature! We also have yet to catch any fish! I think Dirk has reeled in a couple of small barracuda, but absolutely NOTHING worth keeping! Gurty is very interested in what the reels are all about, so I hope we can land a fish as part of her big adventure. We will keep trying! After all of this time at sea, I wonder if she thinks she will never see land again. What I wouldn’t give to know what this pup is thinking!

Tonight, we are hoping to squirrel away in an anchorage off of a deserted island in the Bahamas. We are going to try to do a couple of things to see if we can get the radar going so we are hoping to take refuge. More to come I’m sure. It’s been a beautiful passage and there’s always gotta be some level of adventure, right?


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