Friday, October 11, 2019

Catch&Lift Rescue System

Aboard any vessel it is mandatory to have a MOB (Man overboard) device that will be:

  • Getting buoyancy to the victim.
  • Keeping the victim in sight.
  • Returning to the victim.
  • Connecting the victim to the boat.
  • Retrieving the victim on board.

There are so many devices on the market at the moment it is a little dizzying to figure out which one is best. Also, let’s not forget that they all range in prices as well. Some are a little too affordable you’re thinking they are probably not great and some so expensive you’re suddenly full of Faith and praying that it will not happen to you!

As per Canadian’s safety at sea regulations, we do have on board the classic O-ring, attached to a floating rope with a strobe light on it and a whistle. That’s the law. We had to use it once last Summer for a real rescue and we were glad to have it. It can truly save lives!

                                           Picture from Google

We have been asking advice from sailors (people that have been doing extensive cruising in the ocean) what they recommend. Many opinions out there. It’s okay.

Examples of some devices out there. Keep in mind my 5 previous criteria at the beginning!

—The Self-inflating stick (which is basically a tall fluorescent stick that inflates upon touching the water and allows you to locate the person in the water). But, for $350 US, that is ALL it does.
It is up to the crew still on board to manage to get you back up on board in, usually, rough seas.

                                          Picture from Google

—You have the recovery ladder latched to the side of the boat that allows the person in the water to “Easily” (more easily) get back on the boat. But first, they have to be able to swim back to the boat to be able to climb back on it. In rough seas, it isn’t always the best solution. If you have been floating in frigid water even for 10 minutes, your core temperature started dropping and you probably already feel the effect of hypothermia. Not easy to climb aboard a ladder then on a moving boat. Sometimes, the person is unconscious, if they were hit by a crossing boom or else. In this case, they wouldn’t be able to climb back up and you wouldn't be able to get them close enough to the boat for such a maneuver.

                                              Picture from Google

—You have the Lifesling (which is mandatory on all American-flagged vessels). It will keep the person afloat and will also allow the crew on board to hoist the person back up. You need to have good man power to be able to hoist a full-grown man and pluck him from the sea using your “big guns” :-) But it does meet all the criteria mentioned above if it is also equipped with a strobe light and a whistle. (To be visible and heard.)

                                                 Picture from Google

Obviously, there is so many more options available in the market. A combination of them all is also a good plan if you have an endless budget… Which we do not have.
However, we certainly do not want to underestimate the sea, its strength, its power and its nastiness at time. We do understand that visibility at night isn’t the best also.

From Dan’s experience on Tall ships, sailing in the tail of Hurricane Alberto in 2000, he was told by the captain at the time that: “In 40 ft swells, if you fall overboard, say your prayers and let yourself go!” That was the warning before entering bad weather. The captain knew that in the darkness, in 40-foot swells with the wind whipping at you and the curtains of rain obstructing the little eyesight you have left, it would be foolish to endanger the lives of 39 people to save one! Tough luck, I guess…
After one swell passing you by, even if the fall overboard was witnessed, the chance of locating you in the ocean is zilch.

So, all of this to say that after many hours of discussion and debating what we should invest in, a couple of months away from ocean travels, we still only had the O-ring/whistle/strobe light… and the PLB.
And then, we met K&A … wonderful couple that did cross the Atlantic Ocean, just the two of them and sailed the Caribbean as well. From Europe, they found this little wonder called: Catch&Lift Rescue System, made in Germany.
They showed us the video and I must say, we were pretty sold on the idea… Amazing device.

I could explain it in detail, but nothing better than a video to prove my point.

Basically, if someone falls overboard, we would still throw the O-ring, but someone would open the yellow case, clip the device to the shroud or the boom, throw the harness to the person in the water and let the boat do the rest. If someone is unconscious, a crew member (in calm waters) can jump in, clip himself and the unconscious person in and the boat will bring one or two people back on board with no man power needed. Only the power from the boat in motion. Pretty cool.

 Picture from Google

 Picture from Google

After looking online for the supplier in the United States, we found the ONLY one in Florida. Super nice guy, but the price was… OUCH!!!
We were looking at almost $1100 CAD for the device. We were a bit bummed.
I then decided to shop in Europe and oh the difference. For almost half the price, we were able to get it shipped to the USA in 4 days via DHL and there was no tax … yeah!
After a bit of deliberation, I clicked on the button.

The great thing about this device is that if you ever have to use it, you send the case back to the manufacturer and they replace the whole thing for free!!! Isn’t that great?
It can be deployed by one person on board as well.

To sum up, to meet all my previous criteria:
  • Getting buoyancy to the victim. (Lifejacket/O-ring/harness from C&L)
  • Keeping the victim in sight. (Strobe light attached to O-ring and life jackets.)
  • Returning to the victim. (Catch & Lift plus floating rope from O-ring)
  • Connecting the victim to the boat. (Catch & Lift/PLB)
  • Retrieving the victim on board. (Catch & Lift)
Also, let’s not forget that everybody on board is equipped with an inflatable life jacket with harness integrated, a whistle, a strobe light and a PLB beacon that is connected via satellite to alert the Coast Guard.

We pray and are hoping that we never have to deploy this beauty, but if we do, I know it can save a life!

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

It's a windy one... and more!

As predicted, we have been rocked by North/East winds for the past 2 days. It’s grey out and coolish (18-19 degrees).
Small craft advisory on the Chesapeake as we speak.

What Is a Small Craft Advisory? A Small Craft Advisory is issued by the National Weather Service as a warning when winds have reached dangerous speeds. Sustained wind speeds that govern the issuance of a Small Craft Advisory vary depending on geographical areas, but are generally between 20 and 33 knots.

And this is our forecast.
URGENT - Marine Weather Message
National Weather Service Baltimore MD/Washington DC
1158 AM EDT Wed Oct 9 2019

ANZ531>534-537>543-100000-/O.EXT.KLWX.SC.Y.0182.000000T0000Z-191010T2200Z/Chesapeake Bay from Pooles Island to Sandy Point MD-
Chesapeake Bay from Sandy Point to North Beach MD-
Chesapeake Bay from North Beach to Drum Point MD-
Chesapeake Bay from Drum Point MD to Smith Point VA-
Tidal Potomac from Cobb Island MD to Smith Point VA-
Patapsco River including Baltimore Harbor-
Chester River to Queenstown MD-Eastern Bay-
Choptank River to Cambridge MD and the Little Choptank River-
Patuxent River to Broomes Island MD-
Tangier Sound and the inland waters surrounding Bloodsworth
* WINDS …18 to 33 knots within the Small Craft Advisory.
A Small Craft Advisory means winds of 18 to 33 knots are imminent
or occurring. Boaters operating smaller vessels should avoid
navigating in these conditions.

We are staying put for now. There are 6 sailboats ranging from 25 ft to 55 ft anchored in our little bay, waiting for the weather to pass before moving on. 

Hubby is working on making our cooler area more functional for us and will allow me to preserve about 4 dozen eggs coated in mineral oil (more on that later) to make them last longer in about 6 degrees temperature. We will also be able to keep some root veggies like potatoes, yams and carrots longer. I will send pics and probably post on that when the project is completed.

The batteries are installed and working great. Since we have been screwed over by the previous company (Rolls), we are extremely cautious and taking frequent readings to monitor discharge and such. So far, they are doing excellent, the voltage reading is the same for both and they seem to be coping really well with the consumption demand. Time will tell. (Go East Penn!)

Yesterday we received our new filter for the water maker. 
That purchase was never supposed to occur ($380 US) for a membrane for a brand new water maker. 
However, we were sold a bill of goods by the salesman that sold us the water maker bragging that 
it could be left without being used for a couple of years… Liar, pants on fire! 
When we initially purchased the water maker a couple of years ago, we told the salesman that 
we would not be using it in fresh water and would install and start it only once in salt water. 
Well, to secure the sale, he told us: “No problem” as long as you don’t open the capsule it should be fine. 
Now that we installed it, Dan called the technician and was told: “Your membrane is ruined!”
You’ll need a new one before you even think about starting it.

Well, isn’t that great!!!
 Obviously, when we got the crook on the phone his answer to our questioning was: “I cannot confirm
nor deny  that I said such a thing!” Wow… No accountability left in this world!

And the cherry on top, as Dan was installing the system, he noticed that there was a vented cap missing. 
Without that vented cap we can’t safely start the water maker without breaking something… 
Dan is looking in the box, in the wrapping, everywhere … it is nowhere to be found! 
We called the company and explained the situation, the lady says: “no problem, we will send you one.”
 I send her our address here in the United States by email specifying our location (not in Canada, but
in the States). We get an email with an invoice. So first, they forget to put it in
the box and now they are charging us for it and we have to pay for the shipping…
We submit ourselves to the charade, we do need that cap. We pay and wait for the small cap to arrive. 
One week later … nothing. Two weeks later … nothing. I checked the tracking number and realize that
the idiots 
have sent it to our old address (like 3 years old) in Ontario, Canada!!! Basically, she didn’t even bother
looking  at the email I had sent with the “different” address, she just went on our old file
and used the old one! 
Whatever, we are all humans. We call back and point out the mistake. She realizes her error and sees the email 
that I had sent. Confronted with the obvious, she said: “I will send you a new one today!”
A week later, no confirmation email, no tracking number, nothing. Now, I am very suspicious. Dan calls back 
to inquire about our little vented cap to be told by the same lady: “Oh, sorry! We don’t have any left. 
You’ll have to find one and purchase it online.”
 We don’t even know what the vented cap looks like! Da!
 She tells Dan that she will reimburse us for the previous one that never made it here and send the part #.
One week later … still no email for the parts and no reimbursement. Now, I’m livid. They are giving us
the runaround and I do not appreciate. Dan calls back… AGAIN to speak to a very embarrassed
woman who was probably hoping we would forget all about it… NOPE. She has obviously
never met me… I don’t give up easily. In the end, she did reimburse us...

So without knowing part # or what it looks like we go on the hunt on the Internet trying to figure out
with the pump serial # and model what the vented cap looks like and where we can buy it. 
After many hours spent in fruitless attempts and frustrating hunt, I told Dan: “Call the company that makes 
the water pump, they’ll know what we are talking about and what we need.”

So, Dan called General Pump and spoke to Ron. There is still hope in this world after all. 
We explained our situation and Ron knew exactly what we needed. He told Dan: “I am sending you one
right now you will be getting it on Thursday.” Curious about the price he replied:
“No charge. My pleasure and email me when it arrives safely.”
That my friends is customer service!!! From a company that we never did business with, 
that never even received money from us. We were both elated. Thank you Ron for giving us hope in humanity.

After all of this, we still needed the membrane so we bought one (not from that wretched company,
let me reassure you). Let me tell you one thing though. 
We will never do business with this company ever again… And it is unfortunate that we found other 
people all over the United States and Canada who were defrauded by this company… Shame! 
Fortunately, the equipment is of good quality, but the customer service is abysmal… 
what else is new? From battery company to clean energy company… 
You can’t escape it. Nobody honours warranties anymore or even back their words. It’s the Wild, Wild West!!!

I’m done ranting! I have to go back to work… Words await :-)

Monday, October 7, 2019

No rain for almost 4 weeks...

There are no complaints here, the weather has been wonderful and I think the last time it rained (like not droplets here and there but a real downpour), was during the passage of Hurricane Dorian.
It rained and it was cool and it was windy and it was miserable…

Since then, however, the weather has been gorgeous. A couple of cloudy days here and there but mostly sunny, blue skies and a high of 20–35 degrees.

It has been awesome for us since hubby is working on re-seaming the teak deck to prevent leaks and I have been working from the cockpit.
We have been truly blessed with nice weather.
However, we have also been hit by a couple of nor'easter and spent a couple of nights at anchor listening to the howling of the wind in the shrouds and the wind generator spinning filling the battery with lots of juice. :-)

We are looking at another week of nor'easter blowing hard (45–55 km/hr) with rain this time… We knew it was coming. It's October after all…

On another happy note, our new batteries have arrived and we are leaving the anchorage to station ourselves at the service dock for the transfer of 300 lbs of battery on the boat and down 6 feet via the companionway. We are lucky Dan is getting help from another strong man!
That should be quite the task…
More on that later.

Friday, October 4, 2019

NOAA forecast on Iridium GO

For the past 2 weeks, I have been learning a lot about how to get forecasts from NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) for coastal/offshore/wind&waves/Sea state/weather fax/etc. emailed to me via our Iridium GO.

It’s my first encounter with the satellite communication technology and it is a learning curve. If you think your Netflix movie in 4K/HD doesn’t load quite quickly enough, don’t even think about satellite Internet. We are still in dial-up speed…
The average Internet call can take up to 5 minutes to complete… LOL
I know!!!
The instructions provided for the Iridium GO are good, but the challenge is always to find the missing information that makes it all work well in the end.

I must say, Predictwind has been AMAZING for the download of files and the app using Iridium GO is GREAT. No complaints there. However, I like to have a second opinion so I can compare and analyze the data to make an informed decision.

I browsed the Internet and the NOAA website trying to figure out how to use the free forecast service using email. In one word… Archaic… I feel like I'm writing codes in DOS…
They call it FTP mail format.

FTP: FTP mail is the term used for the practice of using an FTP mail server to gain access to various files over the Internet.[1] An FTP mail server is a proxy server which (asynchronously) connects to remote FTP servers in response to email requests, returning the downloaded files as an email attachment. This service might be useful to users who cannot themselves initiate an FTP session—for example, because they are constrained by restrictions on their Internet access. (Wikipedia)

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. I can receive emails from NOAA with weather forecasts and all of it for free. It is pretty good. But, via satellite Internet at sea, it is extremely slow…

So, after failing to code my email correctly the first time, I was able to get them to email me all the codes required to get various types of forecast information. Ex: wind and wave forecasts, rain forecast, hurricanes and cyclones, barometric pressure and such.
As long as I know the codes for each and I write them correctly in the email request, I get the forecast I required.

After spending hours trying to catalogue them all and figure out which zones is coded how and such, I wrote my own code book to use as a reference when we are doing passages and such.

Lots of work went into doing that, but I think in the end, we will appreciate having the information at our fingertips.

The initial challenge was to send my first email, which I fail at doing until I got help from my wonderful brother-in-law whose knowledge in IT is vital to our survival I must say. (Thanks J!)
I was doing everything correctly except that I was expecting an immediate answer, just like when you send an email via gmail. No, no, no. With satellite Internet, it can take up to 20-25 minutes from the time you turn the device on until you receive your precious email information.
Let’s be honest here, I am learning to be patient…
There is no immediate gratification in this process.

I’m glad it’s all figure out now and I can proceed at teaching hubby how to use it :-)

Here is an example of coding required:

-In plain text format-
Send an e-mail to:
Subject Line:      Put anything you like
Body:              open
                   cd data
                   cd forecasts
                   cd marine
                   cd coastal
                   cd an
                   get anz200.txt
                   get anz230.txt
                   get anz231.txt

I must admit though, I am going to bed every night a little bit smarter than I was getting up in the morning...

Monday, September 30, 2019

Provisioning... the art of stuffing food in small cupboards!

Alas, October is upon us and in no time, we will be on our way to the warm weather of the South. But, before we can do that, there is much to do and one of this very important step is: provisioning.

We have been told by several people that did cruise the Caribbean in the past that yes, the food is scarcer, the choices are not as varied and it is indeed more expensive.
So, while we are in the States and have access to grocery stores, Walmart and such, we decided to fill the boat with staple food and enough food for the next 6 months. (We might need a second trip before we leave to complete the list :-)

Equipped with a list three pages long, we drove to Gloucester, VA and started putting stuff in our cart.
We do realize that at sea, we won’t be able to keep fresh produce for 2 weeks especially not in our small fridge. However, thanks to canned goods, dried fruits, UTH milk and such, we can keep a scurvy-free diet and be loaded with fibres, proteins, vitamins and everything we need. We just have to be careful and creative.
I have 2 cook books and several recipes that should give us enough options.
We are, however, very cautious of the sodium intake which is the plague of all canned food.
The good news is that in all the islands, we will be able to buy fresh veggies and fruits!

It took us all day, it was a very long day, an exhausting day…
Thanks to Aldi (and cheap wine in Virginia), we were able to buy the equivalent of 30 bottles of wine for $120. That task alone would have been impossible in Canada due to huge taxes applied on alcohol.
We bought more than 100 cans of various fruits, vegetables, meat and sauces and such.
Flour/sugar/rice/couscous/pasta/oatmeal/cereals/coffee/tea came to join the dry food category. Nuts/granola bars/chocolate/crackers were also purchased for snacking. UHT milk and juice were also purchased. 30 litres of milk and powder milk just in case. The list goes on...

After spending big $$$ in food, we then went to Walmart (against my will, I'm not a big fan of large surface stores like that, but desperate times call for desperate measures!) in order to buy the essentials like toilet paper/shampoo/dish soap/laundry soap/Lysol wipes, etc.
Also, we do know that in the pharmacy/medication departments, the islands are very limited so we stocked up as much as we could in Canada and completed our list here in the States.

After buying all our supplies, it was up to us to find room in the Mini Cooper and then in the dinghy (it took 2 full trips) to bring it to the boat at anchor. And then, the art of taking everything out the bags, cleaning to make sure we are not introducing bugs like cockroaches/fruit flies and such into the boat. And finally, the tedious task of making an inventory of everything, writing all the expiration dates and storing everything where it needed to go.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

EPIRB...emergency positioning-indicating radio beacon

After cruising the Chesapeake for 20 some days, we are back in Virginia for the last preparations before the grand departure.

With that came the registration of all our radio beacons.
Like most offshore sailors know, there are a lot of various products out there available, either as PLB (personal locator beacon) which is attached to your life jacket and if in a Man Overboard situation, you can activate your beacon and it sends a distress signal via satellite using your GPS location and they can send the Coast Guard to rescue you! Or as an EPIRB, which is also an emergency locator beacon that can either be activated manually or by automatic activation when the beacon comes in contact with water or when removed from its bracket. It will send a radio signal to the satellite and the broadcasted position is usually accurate within 100 metres.

We never wish that on anybody and we hope never to find ourselves in such a position but it would be irresponsible not to plan for every eventuality.

Our sailboat is now then equipped with 2 EPIRB beacons. One for the ditch bag in case of an “abandoning ship” situation and one attached to the boat in case of an emergency.
We also have one PLB each attached to our life jackets just in case we end up in the water and needed rescuing.

After much time shopping for the best product out there, we decided to purchase from the line of products by the company ACR. They are a well-respected company in the industry and we have heard good things about them.
I was also able to find them in the USA for a really good price, as part of a package and with the coding for Canada for free!!! (Different coding for different countries… I know!)

So, on Thursday, I tackled the registration ordeal with the Department of National Defence, which is the governing body for all registered beacons in Canada.

When registering any beacons, a list of contacts must be added and attached to each device. This way, if any beacon is activated, the Coast Guard can call our contacts and ask them if it is at all possible that we could be in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and in need of rescuing…
They also have our Iridium Sat phone number so they can try to contact us as well to make sure it isn’t a false alarm or the beacon wasn't activated by mistake!

We pray never to have to use those devices, but I sure am glad they are on board just in case.

No, we are not paid by ACR to advertise their products.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Perfect sailing day!

There is freedom in sailing…
The wind in your sails, complete utter silence, only the waves breaking on the hull as she glides through them.

We sailed back from the Potomac on Tuesday with a perfect blue sky, sun shining high and a perfect 28 degrees weather. Steady wind 16 knots to 20 knots on the beam.

We left early in the morning and sailed all day to arrive at our next anchorage at 17h30.
We were sailing hard and fast reaching the boat’s max speed of 8.4 knots as she cut through the waves with the salt spray splashing on the foredeck.

After sailing 9 years on the Ottawa River, always worrying about shallow areas, shoals, proximity to other boats (heavy traffic) and the constant need to tack, first because we always had the wind on the nose and secondly, because the River was so narrow. I’m not complaining, but now, that we have LOTS of room to sail, barely any traffic and a steady wind, I’m falling in love with sailing all over again…

Catch&Lift Rescue System

Aboard any vessel it is mandatory to have a MOB (Man overboard) device that will be: Getting buoyancy to the victim. Keeping the victim...