05/01/2013, On Passage to Barbados
We are 976 miles from Barbados and covered 96 miles in the past 24 hours.
The winds is around 12-14 kts and the swell less than 2 meters. We are sailing on a broad reach with the triple reefed main and yankee.
We are continuing to enjoy more that adequate alternative energy for charging our batteries. There is some cloud cover today but there is still enough output from the solar panels to put significant amounts of power back into the batteries.
Last night at about 2AM Shawn yelled for me to get up on deck quickly.
It turned out that the problem was a large and well lighted fishing about that was not only within a mile of us but seemed to be changing his course and heading for us.
I think was was happening was that the captain of the fishing boat spotted us about the same time we spotted him and both boats were within in a mile of each other at the time. So he was changing course to avoid us which shawn had taken over manual control of the helm to change course and avoid the fishing boat.
It was very difficult to determine the fishing boat's heading because he had a lot of big spotlights that washed out the red and green of the running lights. The red was a little easier to spot but the green light disappeared, at times, in the glare of his spotlights.
We held our course and after a few minutes the fishing boat was safely behind us and we were sailing rapidly away from him.
So that was our big adventure for the past 24 hours.
Other momentous occurrences are that we are down to our last 4 slices of white bread so today's sandwiches will be the last before we get to Barbados. Neither of us wants to run the oven in this heat so baking bread is not an option under consideration.
04/30/2013, On Passage to Barbados
We are now 1072 miles from Barbados and covered 121 miles in the past 25 hours. I was late getting to the log entry and position reports today so our distance is for 25 hours instead of 245.
We are seeing 3 meter swell again and the wind has shifted a little more East so we took down the main and are sailing more down wind on just the yankee. It slows us down a little bit but is a lot more pleasant ride and requires less attention to the wind vane without the main trying to head the boat up all the time.
We have clear skies without a cloud on the horizon.
Our favorable current seems to be gone today so our speed over the ground is a little slower but still plenty for good progress.
We have had a lot of positive feedback about Puerto Rico and are looking forward to that stop in addition to our stop in Barbados.
We did not sight any ships or fishing boats in the past 24 hours.
Our wind generator and solar panels are doing a good job of keeping the batteries topped up.
Not a lot of additional information to report today.
04/29/2013, On Passage to Barbados
We are 1193 miles from Barbados and covered 110 miles in the past 24 hours.
Yesterday was a little bumpier than the previous days because of the large swell from the big storm in the North Atlantic. The swell got up to about 3 meters in height but the period was long so the overall impact was not that bad. So fare we have not seen any swell in the Atlantic that comes close to what we routinely experienced in the Pacific. Im sure the North Atlantic is another kettle of fish but the South Atlantic and tropics have been very comfy so far.
We must be getting to a choke point in the shipping lanes since Shawn saw two AIS signals on watch last night. These are the first AIS signals we have seen since leaving Ascension.
One was the Marida Mariogold which is a small tanker headed for TEMA (wherever that is) The ship was steering a couse of 97 degrees True (east) .
The other one was a cargo ship name Nord Harmony that was setter 95T and listed CIABJ as its destination. I am guessing that the CI stands for Canary Islands which would be a likely destination based on his course.
As we are getting closer to the new world the HAM radio stations in North America are becoming more and more accessible. A week ago we had one hour of acceptable propagation in the morning and a few hours after the sun went down. Now we only have about 3-4 hours in the very middle of the day where there are no stations we can reach.
The best we are experiencing now are stations in Halifax NS, Virginia Beach VA, Deltona FL. Rockledge FL, and Carlisle MA. We can still hit the stations in Switzerland for a couple of hours a day and I managed to get some emails out through a station in Slovenia a couple of days ago. Most of the stations limit each user to about 120 minutes per day but the one in Halifax renews the counter for 1440 minutes every day which means there is no limit except the length of the day itself.
As our course takes us a little farther north each day we are starting to experience a favorable current and has added about a kt to our hourly speed over the past 24 hours. I think we were seeing a counter current for several days because our speed over the ground did not seem to be as good as I would have expected looking at the speed of the boat over the water.
We can normally measure our speed over the water with our speed log. That is a little impeller that sticks out the bottom of the boat and has a wheel that spins faster if the boat sails faster. I cleaned while we were at Ascension but it stopped working again so it must have a hunk of weed or maybe a fast growing barnacle stopping it from spinning.
A couple of years ago I saw a new time of boat speed sensor that eliminated the little impeller and instead used Doppler effect electronics to sense the speed of the boat through the water. Im going to check that option out again when we get internet access.
We still do not have all our research done on Puerto Rico but what we have learned is interesting. One of the islands off the east coast of PR has the worlds highest density of dyno flagellates in a lagoon. These phosphorescent single celled animals team up and put out large amounts of light when properly stimulated by something mixing oxygen in surface of the water. There are kayaking trips available to go into the lagoon and experience the show. One visitor described swimming in the lagoon at night as like swimming in the milky way.
The same island has a nesting population of leather back turtles which are the largest turtles alive today.
So PR is sounding interesting. It also has the second oldest colonial city in the new world in San Juan. Only Santo Domingo in the Domincan Republic is older. St Augustine is the oldest city in the US but will loose its claim to that if PR becomes a state.
I think I have mentioned that part of the reason for our interest in PR is that it has domestic priced US postal service which will make getting gear shipped in much cheaper than elsewhere.
Our biggest need is for a new membrane for our watermaker. The old one is letting salt through and it needs to be replaced. The amount of salt getting through is not that much but impacts the taste of the water. Even if we used the less than pure water for drinking it would only add about a gram of salt to our diet each day, which is very little. But it tastes weird so we have bottled water for drinking until we get the new membrane installed.
Marine watermakers dont actually make water. They purify it thorough a process called reverse osmosis where only the water molecules pass through the membrane and salt from the incoming supply of seawater is discharged overboard.
The product of a properly functioning watermaker is so pure that people who live off reverse osmosis (RO) water have to be careful to take mineral supplements because they are not getting the trace minerals they need for healthy fingernails and hair.
Our original membrane has generated over 12,000 gallons of water for us since we left the states so it can be retired without our feeling like we did not get adequate service out of it.
We have a village marine Little Wonder watermaker. It works fine but the manufacturer did something in the design that I really resent.
Village Marine designed the system with lower flow rates than most membranes require. As a result we are forced to buy a village marine membrane for a couple of hundred dollars more than industry standard membranes that work fine at slightly high flow rates.
Village Marine has been bought by Parker Hannifin, since we bought our watermaker, and I would not be at all surprised to see at least the low end of the recreational marine business dropped from their product line. The barriers to entry in the water maker business are just too low for a big multinational.
If I were going to do it again I would build my own watermaker from readily available parts. Not only would we have saved a lot of money but would have ended up with a system that was more appropriate to our needs, There is an excellent article on a web site of a boat names ┬"Soggy Paws┬" that discusses the technology (not rocket science) and sources for the needed components. The skipper on that boat build a 30 gallon per hour system (as opposed to our 7.4 gallon per hour system) for about ┬╝ the price I paid for our watermaker. He drives his off his engine but it would not be hard to have both electrical and engine driven pumps on the same system. It's just a matter of a few plumbing fittings and valves.
Some of the home made watermakers on boats use the high pressure pumps from the high pressure car washing devices that are on the market. Its a mass market product so the components are cheap and people treat the pumps like consumables. Instead of buying a $150 service kit for my watermaker I could have just replaced the entire pump.
I could also see the benefits of two separate 15 gallon per hour systems. If we had that option we would probably not be worried about carrying bottled water right now. Finding space for multiple membrane vessels would be an issue on a boat as small as ours.
A much more productive system would also let us have a lot of fresh water for washing of the varnish on deck and cleaning stainless steel. The later would be a good project for slow days while underway but we dont make freshwater fast enough for that. The cost per gallon would also be a lot lower.
The instruction manual for our water maker lists all the routine maintenance chores in terms of hours of use when the maintenance should be performed. But they dont include an hour meter in the system. I guess they expect you to keep a written long of watermaker use. For $20 I bought a little digial hour meter on the McMaster Carr web site and wired into the watermaker power circuit so it keeps track of the hours for me. You would think that a $6,000 watermaker would include a little detail like that.
I guess I'll end my watermaker rant for now. When I finish the pressure canning book Im going to start one on the things we would do different based on what we learned in our circumnavigation. Watermaker technology will have a prominent place in that book.