Monday, November 10, 2008

New Jersey Blows

New Jersey blows - the wind, that is.

What a night! We made good time down the coast with a combination of sailing and motorsailing. Unfortunately, the waves picked up significantly again as we headed down. Once again, we were seeing 6-9 footers and were slamming through them, nose up 35-40 degrees at times and us hanging on to our tethers for dear life! We were whooping and laughing though. We had a lot thrown at us, we were down a crewmember, but it was still a good trip, albeit a long one, to the Delaware.

I was off until midnight but went topside at around 11:30pm. As I went up, one of our crewmembers asked me - "How much fuel do we have left in our port tank?" I said we were probably pretty low and we should change it after we entered the Delaware. We rounded Cape May just as the current turned to flood and headed toward the channel. It was at this point that our engine randomly revved and then stopped. Apparently, you need fuel to keep an engine going. Who knew??

We called all hands on deck, let out the genoa (the sail in front for those non-sailors) and picked up a little speed. The base of the Delaware is NOT a good place to have a breakdown. Remember the game "Frogger"? It's kind of like that - trying to avoid freighters and tankers bringing their loads to Baltimore and Philadelphia. Not only that, but it was nighttime, the sky slightly lit by a moon behind clouds, but still dark.

Diesels often have a problem when they run out of fuel and break down - they get air in their system (I'm sticking to the fact that running out of fuel is a breakdown. There's no avoiding it, right?). The air doesn't allow more fuel to enter the system, so you have to bleed it out. We were thinking that we would be bleeding our diesel while heeled over 30 degrees and pounding through rough seas. One of our crewmembers switched to our other fuel tank (we have two tanks, totaling about 110gals of fuel - yep, not fun to pay for a fillup). We prayed, turned the key, pressed the start button and the engine started. I got a few glares as the off-watch crewmembers headed back below for rest, but all in all it turned out to be a non-issue.

At 2am, I came off the wheel to stand watch. If I haven't yet described our watch schedule, I'll describe it now. We had four crewmembers. The first crew member would stand on the wheel. The second crewmember would be on watch (you know, for the random fishers and freighters that like to appear out of nowhere). The third and fourth crewmembers are down below (unless all hands is called, and when does that ever happen??) napping. Yes, it is possible to nap with the boat leaning crazily over and pounding through the waves, while the diesel engine screams along at 2,400RPM's right next to your head. You get THAT tired. Each person has a two hour time period for their "station". At the end of the time period, the person on the wheel moves to watch, the person on watch moves down below for a nap, the person who has only been down below resting for two hours gets another two hours, and the person who has been down below for four hours comes up and takes the wheel. It's not as confusing as it sounds. It only took me 30 minutes on a spreadsheet to figure it out. I wrote it up with each position being marked A, B, C and D, and created a matrix to post so everyone could know when and what their role was. I did receive a couple of comments that the matrix must have been made by a real computer geek. I don't understand.

Anyway, as I was saying, I came off the wheel at 2am and went on watch. The Delaware was throwing its best at us. We rounded it at just the right time - about 30 minutes after the tide turned and the water was rushing up the river. It allowed us to add an extra couple of knots, and sometimes even three knots, to our boat speed. Extra speed on such a long trip is great, as every extra knot can shave hours off the length of the trip. Unfortunately, however, the wind was coming the opposite direction from the current. When this happens, it pushes the water up into fairly huge waves. We thought we might get a rest going up the Delaware, but it was behaving as its usual self - nasty. We had short period 6-8 footers at its base, and once again (not that we ever had much rest), we were pounding hard. We would go up a steep wave, nose high, just to come down on top of another one. The whole hull was shaking and pounding. Several times our crewmembers joked that we lost the keel. Since the keel is integrated into the hull, this would be pretty difficult. I just didn't get the joke :).

The person who came up at 2am for their turn on the wheel was pretty tired. I watched him nodding off some as he was holding on, wave after wave. After a couple of minutes, I offered to take the wheel for him, and fifteen minutes later he handed it over to me, curled up, and proceeded to take a much needed rest. Apparently, he hadn't slept a wink for his four hour "off period", so he was pretty exhausted. Something about wondering how much fuel we had...

We kept the mainsail up all the way from off of Manasquan. We had to roll the genny in somewhere around Atlantic City as we headed closer to the wind, but the mainsail helped steady Pelican from rolling while going up the Delaware. We pounded hard, and broke a few things loose (including our anchor, which we had to then tie down a second time since it was coming loose from the pounding), but at least we weren't rolling from side to side. At 4am, I went off watch, went below and tried to grab some shuteye.

1 comment:

JMM said...

Chris - Sounds like the usual mess when you're stuck on a schedule (all the cruisers - and you guys are going to be cruisers shortly) say you're only in trouble when you can't take a couple of days and sit it out until the weather clears. Glad you've finally warmed up and sorted out the forward leak issue - odd that Bob Perry allowed a vent that didn't have a screw in plate for green water over the bow.

Also - your comment on the confusion of lights up the Del Bay and in the Chesapeake is so true - on a clear night distance to lights is so tough to figure and it is so easy to confuse one for another. Then, natch, you get so fixed on the lighted markers that you forget the unlit markers and suddenly they appear out of the darkness next to you (or in my case one night in the Hell's gate actually biting the cap rail...!)

Best of luck with the retooling in MD and for your next steps. - JMM