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You’ve all likely heard it. You might have even said it. “Any day on a boat is better than a day on land.” That, my friends, is a complete load of crap! Whoever first coined that saying had either never been on a boat in anything other than ideal conditions or led a very pathetic life on land. Believe me, as I hand steered our boat during my watches last night, I had more than enough time to think about this.

Having confirmed the weather from multiple sources, we didn’t really have high hopes for the passage from Trinidad to Union Island. We knew that the wind was likely going to be a bit too north to sail and that the ride was going to be bumpy. In spite of that, we opted to go anyway.

Although we didn’t plan on the squalls, they are always a possibility. The auto pilot not working was unexpected and that definitely made matters a lot worse as, from 8:00 PM on, one of us had to be glued to the helm. With a ride not unlike a cowboy bar’s mechanical bull, it’s no wonder our boat looked like a disaster area this morning. And the fact that I felt queazy for 85% of the trip was pretty much the straw that broke the camels back. Do you know what the only guaranteed cure for sea sickness is? To sit under a tree. Yes, it’s true, and that would be a tree on land, not on a boat at sea! Ask anyone who is seasick about their thoughts on this subject!

If my saying all this turns you off of living on a boat, it was never meant to be. Seriously! The real cruisers know that there will be some crappy days on the water but it’s a price that we’re all willing to pay. The people who never actually sail anywhere can continue to quote their romantic nonsense. They had just better not do it around me or they’ll almost assuredly get an earful.

As for the passage, we made it, of which I had little doubt, even during the moonless nighttime squalls with 30+ knots and driving rain. We are safely anchor down in Ashton Harbor, Union Island and the clean blue water is just as it was the last time we were here… perfect! Good thing cruisers have a very short memory or it’s likely that we’d never sail anywhere again.

We began the passage with a double rainbow…

…and ended with a double rainbow.

42 Comments

  1. Glad ya’ll made it safely! At least ya’ll started with a rainbow and ended with one … beautiful pictures. These days of sailing are not what we’re looking forward to, but we know they’re unavoidable. At least they don’t seem to happen too often. =)

  2. “In spite of that, we opted to go anyway.”

    A phrase that should come with it’s own foreboding/foreshadowing theme music.

  3. You had me at “Enough”

    There were many race nights where I wished that I had stayed home and read a book. As much fun that those 15 minutes of adrenaline shots at the start line were, when it was late September and you are soaking wet with frozen fingers, the fun factor was quickly lessened.

  4. When you aren’t too queazy I’d like to know what you would have done different in the planning stages. Leeward side of Grenada? Wait for less N of E wind? Stage at Tobago?
    Always helpful to learn from other’s experiences.
    Thanks!

    • Wait for better weather. That might have happened as early as Friday (so the forecast says). Then again, we could have had to wait much longer. We’re now into “Christmas Winds” season which means stronger trades with more North! Taking the leeward side of Grenada is a much longer route and you’d still have to pay the piper (head east) some time! Same goes for Tobago. That is a significant easterly passage of its own.

  5. One of my guiding princliples in life is “all’s well that ends;” passages can be like that.

  6. What type of cheese do you want with that whine, er I mean wine 😉

  7. Bummer about the autopilot. That sure makes for more stressful watch keeping, especially in the Atlantic. How far North are you headed?

  8. Mike,

    Very slow and very wavy conditions can make using the auto pilot use less. Try reseting, or using the motor for a few to create more speed then hit reset….up all night makes for a long day…glad you arrived in one piece….

    • The waves are definitely the issue. I think it is a mechanical problem and not an electronic one. Some investigation will tell. We normally do 3 hour shifts but with us hand steering, we switched every 2 hours. It was also 2 hours of HARD steering. I have calluses on my hand from the wheel!

  9. great pictures mike..

  10. Glad you guys and the boat made it safe and sound although a tad weathered. I was watching the weather too and knew you’d have a not so perfect overnight sail to the east of Granada.

    What’s the big deal about steering the boat? I just don’t get that, and your not alone. Why is it that so many today just want to push the button and let the auto pilot do the work? To steer the boat at sea is to be a part of the sailing, you feel it, your living and feeling it. It’s personally competitive to hold a course and a challenge for you to control the boat in the wind and waves. I’ve always loved my watches(unless sick) at the wheel or tiller. I’ve had some tough ones, but that’s all the more important to know what the boat is doing. It won’t hurt for you guys to turn that thing off more often . JMHO

    In over 18,000 miles at sea with many different captains on different boats that EVERY one of them had auto pilot, we steered all watches by hand and only used that tool occasionally for convenience. I’m not totally sure why that is, but I’m glad of it.

    OK now you can let me have it! Let me get a beer!

    • How many crew were on these boats you speak of?

      On a short handed boat (2 or less) an auto pilot is not a luxury, it is a necessity. Many ships undertaking a long passage would turn around if they found their auto not working, and rightfully so. With one of us sleeping, in the conditions we just had, the other was literally tied to the wheel, unable to effectively trim sails, go to the galley for a drink or snack, go to the head, check a chart, etc. etc. etc. I don’t mind steering when I want to steer. I hate steering when I HAVE TO steer.

      • I passed 18,000 miles some time ago (just hit the 5000 mark (!)on the PDQ, though all within 250 miles of home), virtually all of it without crew to help steer. Mostly it was good.

        I also have a PDQ 32, and I’m with Mike, on this, particularly the last 2 sentences. Sounds like it was just too much work for the pilot. I think I get more pleasure from balancing the boat so that it rides well than fighting the wheel.

        I’d love to hear a few more details: sail or motor, what course, could sail balance have been an issue (the self tacking jib is just too small with a full main), and what the mechanical problem turns out to be. I seem to fry a belt every 1000-2000 miles; I think that is normal and easy to fix. Sometimes the pilot just can’t keep up, but that’s generally off the wind. Give us the skinny!

        • I understand completely about balancing the helm and I agree about the full main/jib combo. In this case we had a single reef with full jib, close hauled, both with and without engines running. The sea state was pretty ugly though.

          I have never changed the belt. Perhaps that is the problem. It seems the wheel slips when under pressure and it makes a loud sound when it does so.

      • Big ships don’t count. And if you tried it, you’d see that you can get a lot done alone on watch after you check the chart, grab your coffee, trim the sails all while the other crew is still up. Learn the boat, that’s my point. I personally, disagree about it being a necessity seeing how I single handed without one on a five day passage and numerous offshore over nighters from Charleston to Maine, I knew exactly how long I could let go of that tiller and managed trim, sail changes , reefs, boiling water,etc.

        And with just two crew, as my wife and I have sailed two different boats without auto pilot, if something HAS to happen, sail change etc. the other person is so not asleep any more.

        I’m just trying to suggest you think outside the box of your experiences so far. There is much to know!

        • Sorry, I still disagree.

          You would not have done a single thing except maybe pee down the cockpit drain on this passage, unless you decided to heave to. There would be no letting go of the tiller, I guarantee it.

          The tiller boats I have been on had methods for locking the tiller in place. I was not even able to lock the wheel in place, the wheel pilot would not allow it.

          As for single handing a long passage without one, that’s just silly IMO. Just because something can be done, doesn’t mean that it should be.

    • We once hand steered 37 hours from Tom’s River, NJ to Block Islnd in 10 ft stbd stern following seas and a good bit of it at night. Not fun and completely exhausting. I feel your pain. We’re installing a Cape Horn steering vane this year.

      Deb
      S/V Kintala
      http://www.theretirementproject.blogspot.com

      • Our single-handing friend just bought and installed a used wind vane and he loves it. Unfortunately, as I understand it, they’re a little more difficult to add to a cat.

  11. Hi Mike and Rebecca.

    I’ve been a lurker … meaning I only recently came across your website (Being a fellow Canadian, I decided to read all from day 1 before I revealed myself (because that would be the only polite thing do, being Canadian and all).

    And (tada) I finally accomplished that today.

    I won’t bore you both with the usual accolades. Suffice it to say that I’ve really enjoyed catching up on your journey, and will be a “follower” (not to be confused with the IHerd!).

    Thanks for sharing.

  12. Hey Mike,

    There is a saying in aviation that “being on the ground wishing you were in the air is better than being in the air wishing you were on the ground”. I think those sorts of situations occur in just about everything worth doing. In the end I think it comes down to doing what you want to be doing and accepting the bad that comes with the good. And I’m willing to bet that you wouldn’t trade the last year (including this passage) for riding a desk in an office somewhere.

    As for the autopilot…again I’ll go back to my aviation knowledge (sorry…it’s what I know more than sailing). I’ve seen the argument that typically boils down to “real men don’t need autopilots”. But in aviation they are a useful tool and I can’t imagine a boat will be different. You still need to know how to work without one because mechanical things fail (don’t ya know 😉 ), but when they are working they make life easier. In fact, many (most?) airlines consider an inoperative autopilot to be sufficient reason to ground an aircraft. So, is “otto” a required crew member on a boat…it’s a personal decision, but I’ll have one on ours.

    Thanks for writing about all of this day-to-day good and bad stuff. Helps those of us following to better understand the real lifestyle. Thanks!

    -Mike

    • You are of course right, we would never trade our experiences. We fully accept the good with the bad. After a good night’s sleep I’ve almost forgotten the bad passage already.

  13. Sorry Mike. Sounds like you had one of THOSE passages. Good for storytelling a year or two from now. However, just now, not so much. Glad you two made it okay.

  14. Hey Mike,

    Out of one of your less pleasant passage came one of your most entertaining update!

    I can totally picture you sitting there in the morning, groggy, all wet and without a cup of coffee writting all that. Seems like you were inspired by the god of frustration.

    I don’t post comment often, but I read your blog regularely. Cheers and keep on truckin’ errr boatin’.

    • hehe… thanks, Hans. I wish I had a tape recorder or someone to have taken dictation as I steered through one of those squalls. The post would have turned out even better if I had those thoughts down in print.

  15. Most people think if you live on a boat it’s glamorous . Really it’s just a few steps above camping. In my opinion.

  16. I dunno Mike, would you rather hand steer or get me the correct cover sheet on those TPS reports….?

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