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Sargassum, Water Ballast and an Uncomfortable Night

November 19, 2014

From St. Augustine to round Bermuda took six days. Alarm rang every hour and my first job was to clean the two hydro generators from masses of sargassum that was clogging then up.  No sooner would I lower the first and start on the second it would often clog again. I just could not generate the power I needed.  The batteries steadily declined from 100% when leaving St. Augustine to 20% rounding Bermuda. This meant no hot water, no refrigeration, freezer sealed shut but still the battery power dropped. Rounding Bermuda that all began to change, less sargassum and power has started to build again.

I was feeling good but as the wind gained strength I needed to fill my water ballast tank on the upwind side as without water in it (or crew to sit on the rail) and with winds of 22-28 knots the boat heeled over to some 50 degrees instead of say 20 degrees with full ballast tank. Problem, the pump that fills the tanks refused to cooperate.  Emails were sent to my team, instructions came back as to how to dismantle the pump and clean it out. I decided I could not do it at night in a rough sea, pounding off waves and anything unsecured taking flight.  Besides the autopilot was acting up and had "let go" three times during the day causing me to have to jump to the helm and get things settled down before turning it over to autopilot again. It was a sleepless and uncomfortable night.

The job went well but it was not sargassum that I found, but rather a metal chard the size of my thumb nail that was fouling the pump.  That and some other fine filings removed and I put it all back together.  I crossed my fingers and - sweet joy it worked. As I filled the windward tanks with the equivalent of eight husky men on the rails, the boat came more upright and gathered more speed as now it captured more wind.

With the power up, boat stable it seemed time for my first hot shower in ten days, do I feel good. Tomorrow, I tackle the primary autopilot.  The next day - oh yes there will be something. 

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