We arrived into Rodrigues, Mauritius from Dampier, Australia after 19 nights and 3,023 nautical miles at sea. The seas were a little rougher on the second half of the trip compared to the first half. But we still had several days of calm weather and the big seas didn’t last long.
Overall we had an excellent passage. All systems ran perfectly, we slept well and felt surprisingly energetic throughout, and generally enjoyed the run. The summary data from this trip are:
Fuel consumed: 2,366 gallons (8,956 liters)
Fuel left on arrival: 221 gallons (837 liters)
Total actual distance: 3,023 nm
Overall fuel economy: 1.28 nm/gal (0.34 nm/L)
Overall speed: 6.55 kts
Total trip hours: 461 (19 days, 5 hours)
Fuel rate: 5.12 gal/hour (19.40 L/hour)
Average RPM: 1682
The video below shows some footage taken when the seas were up. We’d been asked if our stabilizers were on during this time, as it didn’t appear they were from the boat motion. Our stabilizers are always on at sea and generally are very effective. But there comes a point when conditions overpower the stabilizers and the boat starts to move around quite a bit. Even in these conditions the stabilizers help, but as you can see, the boat motion can become quite noticeable.
Trip highlights from September 4th through 12th follow. Click any image for a larger view, or click the position to view the location on a map. And a live map of our current route and most recent log entries always is available at http://mvdirona.com/maps
On our routing, the biggest negative weather impact is high-pressure systems coming from the south that produce large, tight beam seas. This screen shot is of a GFS GRIB file displayed in ViewFax. We’re passing through the north quadrant of a high pressure system now, with beam seas and winds building. We expect this to last a couple of days. Then we’ll have a couple of days of calm weather, as a low-pressure system passes well to our south, until we meet that high pressure system over South Africa as it moves east and intensifies. The GRIB model indicates we’ll then be in 11ft beam seas on an 8-sec period for a day or two as it passes. That’s perfectly safe, but it won’t be comfortable. Overall conditions have been quite good on this trip, but when those high pressure systems hit, our stabilizers are getting a real workout.
The wind picked up to steady in the 20s yesterday as we entered the northern quadrant of a high pressure system. Seas have been 10+ ft on the beam, with an 8-second period for the past 24 hours and we’ve been rolling steadily over 10 degrees and occasionally to near 20 degrees.
Our forward-facing floodlight failed two nights ago and conditions finally are settled enough for James to climb the stack to replace the bulb. We’ve replaced several bulbs over the years. They rarely actually burn out on Dirona–typically they fail from vibration. Fortunately that takes a year or two. We consider the floodlight an important piece of safety gear when at sea in making us visible at night many miles before our navigation lights can be seen. We’ve seen fishing boats with their floodlights on eight and ten miles away, when we’d likely not see just their navigation lights until we’re within two or three miles. Most of our outside lights are LED, but for this application where brightness is important the halogens still outperform LED. We expect to be able to change to LED in the near future as technology continues to improve.
The BGAN terminal needs to be hand-aimed towards the satellite. This often is a little easier at sea compared to at anchor because the boat orientation remains relatively constant. On this trip, we’ve been able to strap the terminal to the boat deck table when in use to get a good, consistent connection without having to constantly hand-steer it.
We stow the bladders folded up in the flybridge brow. Here Jennifer is pushing them into position along the outside wall. We decided to keep them in their white protective covers when stowing them this time, to reduce the risk of abrasion damage.
After stowing the bladders, we repositioned the cockpit furniture to it’s normal location. Nice to have the cockpit functional again and the bladders stowed. That blue jug strapped to the aft wall is an emergency water supply should we need to abandon ship.
We just crossed down into triple-digit miles remaining with only 987 miles to go two weeks after leaving Dampier. This is the longest time we’ve ever been at sea before. Our longest passage previous to this was eleven nights over 2,000 miles from San Francisco to Hawaii. And our longest run between fuel stops was previously 2,650nm. But on that run we stopped at both Palmyra Atoll and Fanning Island. We’re enjoying the trip overall–we’re both feeling well-rested and surprisingly energetic.
With some help from a positive current and unexpectedly good fuel economy, giving us both a push and allowing us to run faster than usual, we’re making excellent speed at 8.2 knots burning roughly 1.2 nm/gallon. Once that high-pressure system passed a couple of days ago, conditions have been wonderfully calm again, with winds less than 5 knots and only a gentle swell. We’ll only get another day or so of these conditions before we get into that next high-pressure system though.
Each day a few large grey seabirds circle the boat, giving Spitfire a little entertainment. We’re surprised to see them when we’re 1,000 miles from the nearest shore. We haven’t seen much of anything else though. Only one ship has passed in ten days, the Stellar Ocean en route to China. We were expecting to see a lot of garbage and debris in the water, but we’ve only seen one small white float and a 3-inch circular plastic ring two days ago.
We use a Watch Commander Pro watch alarm as a guard against the person on watch falling asleep. If the alarm isn’t pushed within a preset time, the unit first flashes a light for 30 seconds, then emits a beep for 30 seconds, and then sounds an external alarm or siren. The external alarm on ours had failed, so we replaced it with a Klaxon spare (the red bowl-shaped device on the dash).
Squalls show up clearly on our radar and we can track them as ARPA (Automatic Radar Plotting Aid) targets. This one is moving at 20 knots, which is quite common. Some are faster, some are slower, but it shows why it can sometimes be a challenge to avoid the path of a storm at trawler speeds. These squalls don’t pose quite the same risk to us as to boats under sail, as we don’t have to reduce sail or make any other equipment adjustments when sudden gusts hit.
The winds are picking up and we’re starting to roll more as we enter the eastern edge of that high-pressure system we’ve been tracking. Conditions are predicted to deteriorate over the next couple of days, then slowly improve as we close on Rodrigues. The good news is that we’re doing 9.1 knots with a push from the current.
It’s time to change the main engine fuel filter. Our normal replacement indication is 5-7 inches of mercury on the vacuum gauge. This one was only running 3-4, but once it gets to there, the rest comes fairly quickly so we figured we might as well change it. The Racor design used in all Nordhavns allows for an easy change by pulling a lever to switch between two fuel filters so the other can be changed without shutting down the engine. It seems like we just changed this one, and in fact we did in May of this year, but that was 700 hours ago, so its due. The shortest interval between changes was 200 hours on low-volume fuel from Vanuatu and the best was 1,800 hours from the very high-volume Covich and Williams commercial fueling dock in Seattle, but most get changed in the mid hundreds of hours.
We’re well into that high pressure system now, with 12′ beam seas on 11 seconds, and have been rolling steadily up to 20 degrees with occasional rolls over 30. This is perfectly safe, but not particularly relaxing.
When conditions get rough, we slide around on the berth too much and have trouble sleeping. Jennifer sleeps well by wedging herself on the floor between the berth and the port side wall. James does the same, but in the larger walkway to starboard of the berth.
The waves tightened last night to 12 feet on 9 seconds, but also shifted from the beam to more on the stern. The end result was we’re rolling slightly less than before, and no longer are seeing swings to 30 degrees. But we’re in steady 15-degree rolls and frequently over 20.
We’re down to only 427 miles left to go and likely will arrive into Rodrigues in two days. Unfortunately conditions likely will be similar to now for the remainder of the run. The weather models indicate the wave height will gradually fall to 9 feet, but on an 8-9 second period, so we’ll still see a fair bit of boat motion.
This morning we found the first sea life to land on the boat the entire passage: a half-dozen squid were along both walkways. On most passages we usually get a landing or two every couple of days. We’ve learned to look carefully for those that land in tucked-away or difficult-to-find spots. If you don’t, you’ll find them by the aroma in a couple of days. Apparently a stressed squid is able to spray ink more than a yard up the walls. In the picture you can see it running out on the deck. The ink bakes on to a persistent stain.
We had a moment of concern when the BGAN terminal would not hook up at all today. Then we realized we’d traveled outside the range of the satellite we’d been using and now need to aim the terminal westward instead of eastward. This direction is much better as the terminal can be strapped to the flybridge helm chair, with less risk of flying overboard or taking spray than on the boat deck table.
The winds and waves settled down a bit last night, but ramped up again this morning. We’re again seeing 25 kts of wind with waves about 9 ft on 9 seconds and we’re rolling between 15 and 20 degrees. The waves still are mostly from astern, which reduces boat motion somewhat. And we’re making good speed between 7 and 8 knots. We’ve been running with a 300-gallon fuel reserve for most of the trip, but have reduced that to 250 so we can speed up and have a better change of reaching Rodrigues before nightfall on the 12th.
The 751ft cargo ship Ocean Garnet en route to Singapore–the first ship we’ve seen since Ocean Ace ten days ago. We saw about ten ships in the course of twelve hours as we crossed the shipping route between South Africa and Asia and went almost two weeks without seeing any.
Our instructions were to contact the Coast Guard about a mile out of Port Mathurin, but they picked us up on AIS much earlier and contacted us to ask our destination. After we supplied boat and crew information, we were cleared to enter the harbour.
The last official to visit us was a government veterinarian to inspect Spitfire and check his paperwork. Spitfire continues to lead the pack in paperwork. We have a single sheet of paper between us with a scan of our two passport face pages and another with the ship’s registration. Spitfire has four pages: a two-page Australian health certificate, an Australian rabies vaccination certificate, and a USDA health certificate showing previous vaccinations and test results. Before arriving at a foreign port, we print out multiple copies of all our paperwork to give to the officials, which often makes the check-in process smoother. Here the government vet could just take a copy of our passports and Spitfire’s papers with him rather than transcribe all the data into his log book while we waited.
All cleared through at Port Mathurin with our Mauritian courtesy flag flying. About ten other pleasure craft are anchored off, with two more on the jetty with us. We can stay here until Monday morning, when the supply ship arrives and all boats must clear the jetty and the inner harbour while it docks.
Click the travel log icon on the left to see these locations on a map, with the complete log of our cruise.
On the map page, clicking on a camera or text icon will display a picture and/or log entry for that location, and clicking on the smaller icons along the route will display latitude, longitude and other navigation data for that location. And a live map of our current route and most recent log entries always is available at http://mvdirona.com/maps.