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Sailing for Sustainability

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The Sailing for Sustainability Campaign - Week 2
Dear Friends:
We arrived safely in Mindelo on Sao Vicente, one of the Cape Verde Islands on November 29 and have been here in the harbor for the last three days. After our genset (generator) broke on 11/23 we set our course for the Cape Verde Islands in search of the simple water pump we needed to repair it. We had a wonderful Thanksgiving day and dinner, and then on 11/25 at 2335 smoke began to pour out of the cockpit locker and engine compartment. The captain sent out a May Day call on VHF radio and SSB radio and received no response. The crew readied fire extinguishers and prepared the abandon ship bag. Once we fully understood the extent of the smoke/fire, and established that there was no immediate danger, we canceled the May Day. One of the two alternators on the engine had overheated and melted/burned wires all around it. The crew worked hard all the next day to clean up the damage and make repairs, but were unable to start the engine. Without a working engine and without a genset we were unable to recharge our batteries, so we switched into power conservation mode, and sailed a "dark ship" for the next three days. Our arrival in the Cape Verde Islands was slowed by three days and nights of light to non-existent winds, which finally began to build early in the morning of 11/29. We sailed into Mindelo on a beautiful sunny day in NE winds gusting to 35 knots, and anchored under sail. Here in Mindelo, we have found a marina that does repairs and have ordered the necessary parts from Sweden. Now we wait. In the best case scenario, the parts will arrive by DHL next Wednesday, and we hope to be underway later next week.
Best wishes,
The Speranza Team (Ed, Gene, Nina and Robert)
P.S. We thought you would like to read a wonderful journal entry written by Robert Williams, one of the Speranza team members. It captures some of the excitement of our first ten days at sea.
Nov 30 05
Mindelo Bay, Sao Vicente
Cape Verde Islands
What an interesting week.
It all started with a great send off in the start of the ARC the Atlantic rally for cruisers. We had worked hard to get the boat ready for the crossing. We kept saying we were going to have business meetings at the yacht club which was code for kick back and relax but those meetings never materialized. Wether it was provisioning, stowing the 2000 Euros of food that we bought or getting safety gear together it seemed that we were on the go almost non stop for the entire week. The pace did not slacken until we actually cast off our lines on what was purported to be a cushy ride on a brand new boat with all the 'toys' that I may never be able to afford.
The start was fantastic. 250 boats started in two classes; the racing division and the rest of us in the cruising division. It was a reaching start so of course every boat was barging. As we were starting near the boat end the way was closed and we actually had to engage the engine in reverse so as to not hit the solid pack of boats in front of us. Some boats forged ahead into the pack and there were some minor collisions. Finally 8 minutes late we crossed the line and the rally was begun. We set the code 0 (a light air sail) and blasted away in 10 knots of wind. It was an awe inspiring sight - all the boats reaching off to the south. We passed some bigger boats and patted ourselves on the back.
A couple of hours after the start we noticed a wind line up ahead and boats reducing sail and going to weather. It was on us before we knew it. We rolled up the code zero just before the 30 - 35 knot winds filled in. Unfortunately the code 0 did not furl tightly and began to whip wildly in the wind. Nina and Gene went up on the now wildly thrashing foredeck as I reached off to ease the motion. They were able to subdue the big sail as Ed put 3 reefs in the main. Shortly thereafter we rigged the staysail and finally we were going to weather with the rest of the fleet. Our spirits were high as we anticipated a quick 3 week crossing to St Lucia.
The following day the winds decreased and so did our boat speed. We had figured out that as far as the race (or friendly competition for the cruising boats) was concerned, it made sense to motor if our boat speed decreased to under 2.8 knots. We sailed lower speeds than this quite often because of our aversion to the motor but we did motor for about 9 hours one night to recharge our batteries and to seek out stronger winds. We had considered going straight west to take advantage of a low that was moving east across the Atlantic instead of the normal high that sits in the middle. But the day before we left it began to deepen and we chose to avoid the forecast 40 knot winds (a good choice as this eventually became hurricane Delta that eventually hit the Canary Islands that we had left just a few days before). So we chose the southern route that we dubbed the cork route as even if there were no winds the current would eventually push us to St. Lucia like a cork in a stream.
Now the problem of having so many toys on the boat (water maker, auto pilot, computer, chart plotter, multiple radios, dvd player, you get the idea) is that it takes a lot of energy to keep them all going. So, when the genset (generator) shut it self down we were not happy. Upon crawling into the hot engine room Ed discovered radiator fluid sprayed about the engine room. We opened up the case to the Panda genset and discovered that the fresh water pump had failed. Ed removed it from the panda and took a look. The impeller had eaten its way through the housing until it failed. Over the next day Ed and Gene preformed a magnificent McGuyver job and put the pump back together with fiber taken from a strap and epoxy. The next day( It took a long time for the epoxy to cure) we reinstalled the pump, refilled the radiator and turned it on. The hum of the Panda was promising for a couple of minutes and then it shut itself down as it became too hot. Once again radiator fluid sprayed about. Ed under went the contortions necessary to remove the pump again and finding a small hole in it we added more epoxy and reinstalled it. We started the Panda once more and held our breath for two minutes to see if it would instantly shut it self down again. Two minutes when by and smiles emerged on our faces. We started thinking of the showers that would be possible if the water maker was running. We started to relax and think the trip would be a sizzling success after all. Then 30 minutes to an hour later (depending on who you ask) it shut down again. The impeller had eaten through our fix and we were finished.
We consoled ourselves that we still had an alternator on our diesel engine and even though it wasn't as efficient, if we conserved energy it would certainly get us to St. Lucia. During the process of getting the genset repaired we had let the batteries get depleted a bit while we were messing about in the engine room. So, we started up the diesel and began charging the batteries at a slower rate than the genset had provided. We also set about the task of figuring exactly what our energy needs were and how much fuel the diesel would require as it is not as efficient as the genset. As we pondered this the diesel ran on. Early in the evening Nina said that she smelled something funny so we opened up the engine room and had a look. It looked fine and did not have any particular bad smell. It just smelled like a hot diesel engine. The evening wore on and near the end of Nina's watch the skipper Ed asked Nina to shut down the engine so that the off watch could sleep. Ahh quiet at last. There is nothing better than the silence that remains after the engine turns of and we could sail along in peace. Twenty minutes had passed when we heard Nina "Ed..... ED..... Smoke..... SMOKE! There's smoke coming out of the lazerette!" Hearing this we all tumbled out of our berths. Indeed there was smoke pouring out of the lazerette as well as the engine room. Gene and I grabbed fire extinguishers and stood by to fight the fire. Ed shut down the batteries and we waited while Nina hove-to. The engine room was not hot to the touch and the smoke was not increasing. We held our breath in the choking smoke. Ed turned the batteries back on and put out a MAYDAY on channels 16 and 77 ( the ARC channel) as well as out over the single side band. We got no response. We were alone. We opened up the lazerette and got the ditch bag out. The smoke was still decreasing and upon feeling the engine room cover we were convinced that it was not hot inside. Finally, we ventured to open the engine room with extinguishers ready. There was no fire in sight. We relaxed a little. After ascertaining that there was no lurking remaining danger we stood down from the emergency and canceled our MAYDAY on the radio (still no response). We opened all of the hatches to let the acrid smoke dissipate. We would be smelling it for days. With the danger over we continued our watches and tried to get some sleep.
The following day brought some harsh realities. We were still weeks away from St Lucia, had very low batteries and no way of generating more electricity and no motor. There had been an electrical short somewhere in the engine and we had burnt up all of the wiring on the motor. It looked pretty grim. We shut down everything in order to save our last remaining battery power for communication. This meant no lights at night and the absolute conservation of our remaining water. Our life was also changed dramatically by the fact that we could no longer rely on Auto (the auto pilot) to drive. We switched our watch system around to accommodate driving 24 hours a day. Now our game plan was to go to the Cape Verde Islands off of the coast of Africa. We had flirted with this idea when the genset broke down but had dismissed it when we had been able to make a plan to use the diesel to charge our batteries. At that point Roland from Halberg-Rassy had warned us not to go there. "It's a hell hole' he said. "It will take weeks to get parts there." Well, now there was no choice. We were off to see what this particular hell hole had in store for us.
For three and a half days we sailed as Columbus sailed. Well not exactly. We had flash lights, battery powered GPSs (to confirm how agonizingly slow we were going) and we had our emergency power reserve for communications. We had some beautiful days and nights but overall it continued to be a slow trip. One night we finally took down all the sails as they slatted with the swell, not moving us forward but threatening to beat themselves into shreds. The days went by and our estimated time of arrival kept getting extended day by day. Finally yesterday morning as the sun rose I saw an irregular cloud formation. As the sun rose the apparition of an island in the middle of the Atlantic became more and more real. As the day progressed the island grew larger and larger and the wind got stronger and stronger as it was funneled through the slot between two islands. We took down the code 0 and before we knew it we were screaming towards our destination at a solid 7.5 knots with 2 reefs in the main and a jib up. My top speed in our heavy cruising boat was 8.4 knots on the GPS.
As we approached our harbor we reached some one at the boat yard on VHF and they gave us a hint as to where to anchor. Now came the stressful part. We had to come into the very crowded anchorage under sail with winds gusting to 35 in the harbor and anchor under sail. If we misjudged or if the anchor didn't catch we would fetch up on the lee shore after bouncing off of numerous ships at anchor. We made a couple of abandoned approaches and on the last one we committed. On our finial approach we headed up into the wind, and our boat speed slowed. We now had no more choices. We did not have the maneuverability to tack or gybe. This was it.. The anchor went down and time stood still. We drifted back. The anchor seemed to catch but not bite hard. The ranges were still moving and our anchor wasn't holding. We let out more scope and we slowly came to a stop very close to a 130 foot ship at two anchors. Would we swing into each other? What were our options if we did? What if we dragged? We talked through all the options as we stood tense watching our ranges and Vera the ship swing to within 50 feet of us. As the minutes passed we became more confident that the anchor would not drag. With wind steady at 20 and gusting to 30 knots in the harbor we felt that we were dug in well. It took a few hours however to feel confident that Speranza and Vera would not do a grinding crashing dance. We were anchored and feeling moderately safe at last.