Nov 4 – Through the Gulf Stream and heading south

Hi all,

We had a lumpy ride through the Gulf Stream, with waves in the 12-15 foot range and winds of about 25 knots. Sailing on a broad reach under full genoa and reefed mizzen, we were consistently making about 8.5 though the water and a little less over ground as the 2 knot Gulf Stream current pushed us north as we tried to head southeast. The combination of waves and wind was too much for our autopilot to handle, so we hand steered for about 12 hours. Needless to say, out arms were well exercised by the time we got through the 60 odd mile stream.

By about noon yesterday, the worst of it was over and the seas began to subside. The wind dropped down to about 17-20 and we kept sailing at around 7 knots.

Then, I decided to start the engine. First to charge the batteries, but also to clear any water that would have crept into the exhaust.

(Our engine, like most sailboats, has a wet exhaust system where the exhaust is mixed with water from the cooling system and both are shot through the muffler and out the back of the boat. In a following sea – like we had in the Gulf Stream – the waves can shoot up through the exhaust, then up through the muffler and then back down through the cylinder exhaust valves and into the cylinders. Water in the cylinders will categorically stop the engine from cranking. Period. By periodically starting up the engine, we can avoid this happening because starting the engine will send exhaust and cooling water up through the muffler and out the back of the boat.)

When I tried to start the engine, I got a single “CLUNK” and then nothing. I was too late. The water had done its damage.

After a few choice words were uttered, Dwight and I removed the fuel injectors and were greeted with water gushing out of a couple of them. We then cranked the engine (whilst fuel injectors were still out) and shot the contents of the cylinders about the inside of the engine room. We replaced the injectors, bled the fuel lines and then pressed the start button — “CLUNK”.

Obviously, more water remained. We repeated the process again. CLUNK. Then again. This time making sure that the cylinders were dry and also shooting a little WD40 in them for good measure. (FYI, diesel engines can run on WD40). Finally, she fired up and we all could breathe a little easier.

We had a nice dinner of beans, sausage, and mash – accompanied by ice cold Heineken – and then went into our evening watch schedule through the night.

By midnight, the wind picked up to 20 knots again and we had a beautiful broad reach sail under a full moon. This was the classic “Fair winds and following seas” conditions that people talk about.

As I write (~1:00 pm) these conditions continue, although the winds are moving around to the NE a bit, putting us on a port tack beam reach making about 8 to 8.5 knots. We’ve got two other boats in sight – one about 5 miles ahead that we’ve been gaining on since last night, and one about 5 miles behind that is falling into the distance.

In sum, the boat’s sailing well and fast. Spirits are high. Weather is warming up nicely (I’m in shorts and T-shirt). So far, so good.

Let’s hope it continues.


Leave a Reply