We have been underway for 24 hours. Could not ask for more perfect weather so far. Cloudy with fog leaving Hong Kong yesterday morning rapidly clearing to bright sunny skies. Made our way through fishing boats, long line buoys, and container ships. About 30 miles offshore put in a tuna feather and promptly caught 2 skipjack tuna which we bled, filleted, and iced. Lines were stowed as there was more than enough to eat. Passed a huge school of tuna breaking the surface with birds working everywhere. I was forced to admire them and keep the rod in its holder. Felt like Clarence in a sit-stay with a milk bone on the floor across the kitchen. We did enjoy a plate of tuna nori rolls as the sun set and we glided along. Were we not "dry" underway, we all could have used an ice cold Sapporo beer to wash it down. Passed a city of oil rigs around 12 hours out with gas flares burning and supply ships all around. Surreal! As night fell, multiple squid boats lit up with their sodium vapor lights burning, making them visible over the horizon and destroying our night vision as we passed them, like miniature baseball stadiums lit up for a night game. A crescent moon soon set leaving a pitch black night with stars blazing. Gentle rolling swell, phosphorescence sparking in the wake, the John Deere humming. Pretty nice beginning of the trip!
Anders has joined us for this first leg. He is building a Diesel duck and is busy finding ways to improve his boat with the experience of cruising. We've begun our formal watch system with 2 hours on and 8 hours off. Presently perfecting the log entry form to include all pertinent data points for navigation, weather, engine, electrical and watermaker. We do hourly log entries and engine room checks which are lovely as it stays in the 120-130 degree range, but it has finally begun to feel like home as I have a pretty good understanding of how things should look and act. By the way, the autopilot has been working flawlessly.
Today more of the same. Watch schedule is the only regimented part of our day. Lots of time to read, nap, gaze out onto the sea, play cards, watch movies, and talk endlessly about boats, past experiences, and life in general. Will cook the rest of the tuna today giving us reason to go fishing again!
04/14/2013, Between HK and the Philippines
Position: 22' 04" N 114' 37"E
Course over ground: 131 degrees
Speed over ground: 7.8 kts
Wind: NNE 6kts
Sea state: light chop
Swell 1M E
Whoopie! Crew all thrilled to be underway. Heading for 100NM out of Bolineo the first shelter if weather deteriorates. At that waypoint will head S for Subic Bay if conditions are good. Regards to all!
04/13/2013, Hebe Haven Yacht Club
Looks as though we've had the last "How can I miss you if you haven't gone away" Party. Tonight Anders and Christina brought over a great dinner and Aiden , Tjasa, and Nela came over for a last good by and gave us fuel for the trip--really good chocolate and wine!.
Yesterday was spent at the marine department securing documentation to leave Hong Kong waters. Today all of our passpors went through immigration. Berry did the finishing touches on the auto pilot which worked like a dream on the 3 hour run back to Hebe Haven. We stopped along the way to fuel up at Clearwater Bay, known for both crystal clear water, and hopefully similar diesel. 1000 gallons later, Shearwater was a bit lower in the water but had a regal motion over the swells as we motored back to Hebe Haven.
The weather looks about as perfect as it gets in these parts. We are just between the NE and SW monsoons and this week has light winds from both directions. Dave N has experienced less ideal conditions in his 6 previous runs and is very happy not to have to do battle with 4-5 meter seas.
We plan to leave at 5 a.m. tomorrow morning and will try to post simple messages during the passage. Underway at last!!!
04/12/2013, Aberdeen Typhoon Shelter
If I only had an angioplasty balloon!
This boat business is way too much like the Interventional Radiology practice I just retired from. Case in point:
Symptom: Secondary Autopilot was blowing fuses and showed high voltage as the rudder turned to port (to the left, for you farmers)
Our master electronics guru, Berry Ng from Skywave Electronics in Hong Kong, was evaluating the situation. He was testing the autopilot by activating the hydraulic pump which moves the rudder back and forth, all controlled by a computer which is linked to navigation devices. Suddenly the rudder stopped moving and Berry ran down to the aft stateroom and I heard him utter an oath. CODE RED!!! The main seal on the pump had ruptured and there was red hydraulic oil sprayed over the aft bilge and running forward in red streams. We stemmed the flow by turning off the valve on the hydraulic reservoir and placed oil absorbent rags to soak up the bright red fluid. Way too much like work!! The pump was toast, however--useful only as a source of spare parts for the new one which Berry fortunately accessed via a short sampan ride. Berry thought it was a problem caused by blocked internal valves in the pump. After hooking up the new pump, however, the voltage asymmetry persisted. Using his best diagnostic acumen, Berry deduced that the problem had to be in the tubing from the pump to the ram (the device which turns the rudder). He removed each hydraulic hose and voila, one was blocked. Above picture shows, at autopsy, the tube cut in half and a light shone through the affected side with only a pinhole of lumen visible. This likely resulted as the connector fitting (metal piece to connect the tube to the pump) was being swaged (compressed with a machine) onto the tubing and the lumen was inadvertently narrowed--the high voltage was a result of the pump working against the stenosis and the code red occurred when the high pressure pump overcame the integrity of its own gasket seal and self destructed. The oath uttered has common usage in the English language and is ideal for situations such as this.
So I suffered the consequence of a stenosis in the vascular tree, but the whole thing reeks of medicine. Need a degree in boat neurology to sleuth out problems with the electrical AC system which has both 220V and 110V systems and the DC system which has both 12V and 24V components. Throw in multiple battery banks, charge controllers, alternators and inverters, not to mention isolation transformers and miles of wiring and you can see the possibilities for nervous problems--and I use that term broadly. Essential diagnostic tool is a multimeter and amp clamp which allows one to check voltage, current, resistance, and connectivity. Good we have Wade aboard who has seen it all.
One needs no imagination to link gastroenterology the boat life! One sobering episode involved our holding tank, which I thought had been effectively pumped out the day before, but was actually up to its limit and when the toilet flushed just one more time, its foul contents sprayed over the dock. Picture this scene:
Our lovely boat neighbors, Kevin and Irina, on their 50' gorgeous sailboat....bright sunny Sunday morning, drinking coffee and serving brunch to a group of friends and family, laughing and enjoying the lovely day. You get the picture! He was a prince about it and called it a rite of passage of boat ownership but I was not easily consoled. "Howdy neighbor!"
Will post again before shoving off to describe final preparations and give details of the first leg.
04/11/2013, Aberdeen Typhoon Shelter, HK
When Lillie graduated from high school we took a trip on a Turkish Gulet, sailing on what our captain referred to as the "Agency" ? (turned out to be the Aegean Sea). His frequent refrain, using the little English he spoke, when we were about to get underway seems particularly apt for our current situation in Hong Kong-- "SO, SO, WE GO!!!!"
• 6 years of dreaming
• 2+ years building Shearwater, a George Buehler designed Dieselduck 462, built strong and safe to take us across the Pacific Ocean by Seahorse Marine in Doumen, China.
• http://dieselducks.com/ http://www.yachtworld.com/seahorsemarine/index.html
• 3 diesel maintenance and repair courses at Alaska Diesel Electric with Bob Senter, an amazing educator and coiner of the phrase "a service opportunity".
• A Captain's course to pass exam for 100 ton near coastal license, and a celestial navigation course which is necessary to convert the license to all oceans at Crawford Nautical School in Seattle. Thank you Patsy and all the Crawfords!
• Bedtime reading of books like, "Voyaging under power" by William Bebee and "Boatowner's illustrated Electrical Handbook" by Charlie Wing
• Shopping trips to Fisheries Supply, West Marine, Captain's Nautical, Hatton Marine, Sure marine, Boat Electric, SeaMar, Hardwick's and numerous web sites to buy gear and spares which I shipped by barge to Hong Kong in 2 huge crates and 3 pallets--special thanks to Barb from Hatton who developed lists and supplied spare parts for my engine and generator and arranged to ship all my assembled gear out of their company! She is the best.
• 6 trips to Hong Kong and Doumen, China during the process of building and commissioning MV Shearwater with help from Marine Surveyor extroadinaire, Ray Wolfe.
• Time spent on the boat in Aberdeen Typhoon Shelter and Hebe Haven Yacht Club in Pak Sa Wan, Sai Kung learning about the boat and planning to become self sufficient for the 9000 mile trip to Seattle!
• Debugging the boat, which although beautifully built, is like every new boat with many complex and interconnecting systems which must be used to reveal "issues' (service opportunities)--which we would rather remedy in Hong Kong than while bobbing in the mid Pacific. It is not like buying a car off the assembly line as each boat is essentially custom built and like any machine, is subject to failures. The trick is to identify likely points which could malfunction and procure spares to cover that possibility. The hope is that if it doesn't fail in the 6, 12, and 24 hour runs we do while here, it is likely to last for a long time if well maintained. Crossed fingers, toes, and eyes.
• Finding food, water, fuel, lube, coolant, diesel biocide, pumps for air conditioners, fresh water system, bilge, and toilet, tools of every description, the most beautiful stainless steel shackles, pulleys, wire and saddle brackets, electrical supplies, electronic parts, fuel fittings and tubing, lines, fenders, dinghy and outboard to name but a few -all in Hong Kong, which does not subscribe to the Home Depot school of centralization. There are innumerable tiny shops which sell very specific items and we are becoming experts on finding the shop, communicating to non English speaking staff , drawing pictures and diagrams, and tasting the sweetness of victory as we leave with a 5/8" fuel fitting with barbed connector and a length of flexible fuel hose! Awesome!
• Taking care of boat papers, Marine department hoops to jump through, trip insurance for Shearwater, and planning for upcoming ports of call-- arranging for entry procedures, finding courtesy flags, making sure fuel is available, and taking screen shots of upcoming harbor entrances on Google Earth.
• Rigging pfd's (personal floatation devices), trying on survival suits, running salvage pumps, and performing safety drills including procedures for dealing with fire, man overboard, lightening protection, heavy weather preparation, night traffic management, sea anchor and drogue deployment, EPIRB management and abandon ship to name a few. (don't worry mom)
• And last but not least, coming together as a crew, working together and earning trust, appreciating each other's contributions and expertise and enduring finely honed senses of very dark humor???. Much more on that later.
We really are close to heading off. Weather has turned a bit stormy but it looks as though this weekend may be opportune to cross the South China Sea to Subic Bay, Philippines, a 4 day crossing, where we will regroup, do final provisioning and head West. You can follow the weather at http://passageweather.com/ We are in the Northern Pacific and you can see 7 day forecasts for wind, atmospheric pressure, and wave height for the initial leg between China and the Philippines.
A few acknowledgements and thanks:
First and foremost, thanks to my family who have supported me in this process in every way imaginable. I love and appreciate you more than I can express! Miss you all but see you soon!
To Bill, Stella, and Fido at Seahorse and all the managers and crew-- it has been a pleasure to get to know all of you and witness the construction of such a fine craft and become part of the diesel duck family.
To the live aboards at Hebe Haven Yacht Club, especially Aiden, Tjasa, and Nela, Dave and Karen, Kevin and Irina, and Andy and Kate. Thank you for redefining the concept of hospitality, sharing your encyclopedic knowledge of boat systems, guiding us to Yau Ley, letting me share in the experience of surgical strike missions to the Mong Kok hardware district, and welcoming all of us into your enviable live aboard lifestyle in this beautiful place.
All the Diesel Duck people including Andrew and Celia, Anders and Christina , Jef , Kurt and Marcia, John and Jeri, Don, and Randal.
And finally to Dave and Dorothy Nagle. Who knew when I stumbled onto their boat in Lake Union, Seattle, that I would be here, poised to sail on Shearwater home from China! They have become first and foremost great friends but their enthusiasm, teaching ability, generosity, exhaustive emphasis on safety and professionalism, and expertise through experience have made this journey possible for me--there is no way I could have done this without their help, despite a lifetime of boating on a smaller, less complex scale. Dave has rounded up two of his good friends, Wade and Roger, and the four of will take the boat to Hawaii before taking a break on the way to Seattle. You will hear all about them and their background and talents in future posts. Check out Dave's blog at:
It chronicles the adventures they have had on their Diesel Duck over the last 6 years and has postings from our preparations here as well.
O.K. The blog is started. Will post with details and pictures when we have internet access in port. Underway, we will post daily reports of weather and conditions via a satphone which has limited data capabilities. Next blog entry will describe final preparations and our projected course and time table.