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Monthly Archives: April 2014

One thing that sticks in my craw are boats that never leave the dock. What’s even more annoying to me is to talk to the owners of these boats. Their boats are perpetually in refit mode. For the past six months or so, however, though we work on our boat almost every weekend others could possibly put us into the same irksome category as those I mention above. Our boat hasn’t left the dock since last Fall…until yesterday.

Our propulsion (engine) has been down for months. The last time we took our boat out we blew out (melted) our muffler. The muffler itself was in such a position that we had to remove the generator to even set hands on it. So, we took the time to do major maintenance on both our engine and genset. New hose, fittings, clamps, gauges, throttle cable, etc were the order of the day. That work has been complete for about a month or so. Though we felt absolutely certain the work my husband did had repaired our engine, until we actually took it out and ran it that hadn’t been proved…until yesterday.

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Yesterday was proving day. To avoid the wind, we uneventfully left the dock around 8:00 in the morning. We never had any intention of actually sailing, just testing the engine. After leaving Clear Lake Channel, we increased the engine RPMs to 2200. That is the speed in which the Perkins 4.236 should be able to run for days and days and days on end, limited only by the 180 gallons of fuel we carry. Running against a slight chop and 15 knot wind, 2200 RPM pushed the boat at just under 7 knots. When the RPM were increased to the “two hour” maximum of 2400 RPMs (wide open) the boat speed increased to around 7.2 knots. For a couple of hours we just ran around the bay. The engine ran smooth and cool. We suspect the anti siphon device on the raw water line is restricting the cooling water flow at maximum RPM for there is still a bit of steam exiting the exhaust pipe at that speed, but the brand new engine gauges show most normal operating temperatures.

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Honestly, I hesitate to write about this.

For the past five days the tragedy of Rebel Heart has played out across the internet. So much has been written already that I probably can’t add much to what has already been posted. Still, much of what has been said about the event seems to miss the point. I’m going to weigh in.

SITUATION

As background, in case one missed the drama, a sailboat with four aboard set out from the Mazatlan area on the West coast of Mexico for the 3,000 mile, non-stop passage to the Marquesas Islands in the South Pacific. For those in the United States, the passage to the Marquesas from the West Coast of North America is the first leg for those attempting a circumnavigation of the planet…or sailing around the world, if you will.

THE BOAT

The sailboat in question was a Hans Christian 36 …a thirty-six foot sloop. The yachts name was Rebel Heart. Hans Christian sailboats are known as dependable blue water cruisers. They are designed to go far offshore.

THE CREW

Crewing Rebel Heart was USCG 50 Ton Licensed Captain Eric Kaufman, his wife Charlotte, and their two daughters, Lyra and Cora, aged one and three. The boat belonged to the Kaufman family.

THE EMERGENCY

After a couple of weeks or so at sea, last Thursday, April 3, the boat notified the United States Coast Guard that their one year old daughter, Lyra, was critically ill with a rash, fever, vomiting, and diarrhea…and wasn’t responding to antibiotics the family had on board. The family was 900 miles or so off the western coast of Mexico.

THE RESPONSE

The USCG notified the California Air National Guard. In an initially complex scheme, the National Guard arranged for four pararescue jumpers to parachute on the boat and administer medical attention. Upon boarding the boat the four PJs (as they are evidently called) found little Lyra in stable condition but the boat was said to have lost both its power and steerage. The boat was made good and the decision was made not to evacuate Lyra unless her condition worsened. Instead, Rebel Heart was to steam East to rendezvous with a US Navy frigate that had been dispatched from San Diego.

THE OUTCOME

The US Navy Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate USS Vandegrift met up with Rebel Heart and the entire family was evacuated to the Navy vessel. Rebel Heart was then scuttled…sunk…unmanned boats are navigation hazards. The Kaufman family is well; baby Lyra continues to improve. The family arrived in San Diego yesterday.

THE COST

Undoubtedly hundreds of thousands of dollars in USCG and California Air National Guard expenses will have been incurred. The family has lost its home…the sailboat. And, whatever cost can be attributed to the men and women of the Coast Guard and National Guard who risked their lives for the family…thankfully there were no additional injuries associated with the rescue. The family will not be charged for these expenses as the services performed by the National Guard and Coast Guard is “what they do” and they don’t charge for a rescue like this.

So…what a freaking brouhaha, huh?

If one wants to know the gist of the sailing community’s take on the above I would suggest you follow these links to the comment section of the Kaufman’s Blog HERE and HERE, Cruiser’s Forum HERE, and Sailing Anarchy HERE.  Some of the comment sections run pages and pages long. If one takes the time to read some of them it becomes apparent this whole situation is one big hot mess.

My concern right off the bat is not that of most of those who commented. It is pretty obvious that most of those who commented on the Kaufman’s own blog were not sailors and had been led to the blog via a link published by the huge media coverage.

Those who have followed all of the drama, predictably, seem to fall into two main camps. There are those who almost seem to want to burn the Kaufman’s at the stake for what they perceive as the irresponsible, selfish, endangering act of taking their two daughters out into the open ocean…a lot of this group are non sailors. And, then there are those who defend the Kaufman’s to the end as prepared, experienced sailors being somewhat crucified by those who simply don’t understand the need for sharing their life dreams and adventures. A lot of this group are sailors…or claim to be.

Let me be clear on my position: I support the Kaufman’s decision to attempt an ocean passage with their two young children. With that said, and knowing full well that hundreds of families are, as we speak, sailing our oceans…if I had two young daughters the age of theirs I would not take my own children on such an adventure. In short, if someone else wants to do such a thing then I applaud them…but I wouldn’t do it. As I said in my blog post Babies and Boats: “Now, let me say from the outset that as much as I’ve always loved kids, I can think of few things less appealing than raising a baby aboard a full time cruising sailboat.”

What about the cost of the rescue…aren’t you outraged? Well, hardly. I’d rather my money go to their rescue than to fund our military killing brown people in other countries under the guise of national security. I don’t have a problem with the cost…I’m extremely glad the Kaufman’s are out of danger.

But…the boat was so small? It could be argued that a thirty six foot long sailboat is not a very big vessel, however, a Hans Christian 36 is a very well made and capable blue water cruiser. Many circumnavigations have been completed in this and other sailboat this size and smaller…it’s done every single day actually.

However, when boarded by the paramedics it was reported that the boat had lost power and steerage as well as taking on water when the engine ran. They were having some mechanical problems but the boat still had the ability to sail. None of the reports indicated Rebel Heart was in any immediate risk of sinking.

But, surely you agree such an act was dangerous and irresponsible? Not really. One doesn’t see a flood of sailboat accidents each night on the evening news. The fact is that it is fairly rare to hear of a cruising sailboat getting into big life threatening situations offshore. It happens for sure, but in the big scheme of things it doesn’t happen very often.

On the little/big adventure scale, crossing the Pacific most assuredly falls into the king-size category and there is obviously some risk involved. Often this passage is the longest passage of a circumnavigation. But it is not a monumental challenge that only a select few have accomplished. Thousands and tens of thousands of recreational blue water cruisers have crossed the Pacific before. Most people who attempt a Pacific crossing succeed. But, even if they don’t there is nothing irresponsible about making the attempt. In my mind, even with toddlers…again, though I wouldn’t do it with them.

Don’t you think the Kaufman’s are bad parents? I certainly do not think that. There is nothing I’ve read that even in the remotest sense suggests the Kaufman’s are anything but the greatest of parents.

Well, then, what do you think happened? The truth is, like everyone at this juncture, I don’t know for sure. But, I do speculate on the cause of the incident. Like everyone, I’m just very glad they are OK. However, being grateful for their rescue does not prohibit me from being curious.

If Eric Kaufman is the dedicated sailing community source that he somewhat set himself up to be I’d think he would find it incumbent upon himself to tell the story…accurately tell his story. I think if Mr. Kaufman explains the situation simply, accurately, objectively, and truthfully his sailing community will forgive him. If the story, if and when it’s told, is sprinkled with BS then maybe not so much forgiveness…

Regardless of what happened out there I must say once again that it is wonderful that the family is all OK. It’s terrible they lost their boat in the process. I also want to say that I don’t judge the Captain’s decisions. He, for whatever reasons, threw up the white flag and called for help in the name of his family’s safety. And, for that, I think we all should applaud him.

I wish the entire family nothing but the best.

There was work to do in our engine room. Not much work, but required nonetheless.

In our engine room there are three major pieces of equipment. There is the engine, the genset, and the refrigeration. The work to be done was pretty straightforward. All of the equipment hoses, in all three areas, needed to be removed, inspected, and then either repaired or replaced. The engine muffler needed to be replaced. The throttle cable needed to be replaced. And, additional engine room soundproofing needed to be added.

As mentioned in an earlier post, all of this work falls under the category of maintenance…even major maintenance.

Initially, because of the time involved, we’d decided to contract this work out and had a couple of firms come out and look at things. But, typically, unless we were willing to write them blank checks they weren’t interested in the job. Choking on the time factor, we decided to take on the generator and engine ourselves. The refrigeration unit is being refurbished by our next door neighbor, an HVAC tech.

For the record, we have a Perkins 4-236 diesel engine and a Kohler 8kw genset. The task at hand was straightforward, we were going to remove all of the hoses and inspect/replace/repair them…on both the engine and genset. All three heat exchangers on both the engine and genset had already been removed and serviced. The muffler had to be replaced. All wiring was to be inspected, etc. A few other ancillary items also needed to be addressed, i.e., sea chest, sump.

There really was not that much to do. The issue – and isn’t there just always an issue – was the space we had to work in. To say it was cramped was understatement. To replace the muffler, the genset had to be completely removed (we’d have had to remove it anyhow to inspect and service as we wanted). The same went for the refrigeration unit.

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Now, the refrigeration unit turned out to be relatively easy to remove…we slid it out over a couple of boards. The total time to remove from the boat and place on the dock was maybe an hour or so, tops. Removing the genset was an entirely different proposition.

The genset was estimated at 500 pounds or so, twelve to fourteen inches wide, maybe just a bit higher, and two to two and a half feet long. Imagine a medium size foot stool or ottoman…a stool so heavy one can’t even pick up one end. But, then try to imagine lifting it up about three inches, turning it catawampus…and sliding it fractions of an inch at a time, out of its engine room space onto a wooden pallet…and, only then, slide it down our passageway to the main salon. It took my husband the better part of three full days just to disconnect the generator and move it that 15 feet or so. Believe me when I tell you that we made great use of our college physics as we improvised inclined planes, levers, and jockeyed for mechanical advantage getting the genset in and out of its engine room compartment. Even using what we learned getting the genset out, it still took us almost eight hours to get it back in.

The girl, here, was quite pleased to have finally gotten the genset out of the middle of the main salon. We couldn’t even go to the boat and have a drink with the genset where it was.

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Yesterday, we brought some of the seat cushions back down to the boat in anticipation of a girlfriend of mine coming for a day or so; having the cushion covers dry cleaned really helped out. We also brought the engine room doors I’d refinished back down to the boat…and a refinished fold out table. The salon table has been refinished…but hasn’t been reinstalled yet…pending the installation of a flat screened television.

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It takes time…

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