WOMAN AGAINST ELEMENTS, WOMAN AGAINST MACHINE

Baby, if your uncomfortable in the ocean then you just gotta change your relationship to the motion of the ocean!

THE ELEMENTS

Wait, before I get into the red light, can we talk about yesterday again real fast? About how it just went on and on and on, all night and throughout today. About how that white horse threw Juniper down so hard onto starboard that the whole side of the boat was underwater. The portholes were underwater. I was looking underwater! I saw a fish swim by. I know I already told y’all that but it scared the sunbeams out of me. I mean, at one point, I was on my knees shouting Psalm 107:30 “He calmed the storm to a whisper and stiller the waves.”

I’ve been sailing with only a double-reefed main for three days now. The wind has been steady blowing between 20 and 35 knots since the night before last. I see the higher numbers every time a squall rolls by. The squalls are long and frequent. Most of the ones I’ve seen don’t have rain. The worst are the ones without rain, because they are packing more wind and they smash it all over the ocean.

All last night I was stuck inside a storm prison cell getting creamed by wind. Every once in a while there would be a hole that let the stars in, other than that it was white and waves for as far as I could see.

When I woke up this morning I had a rainbow to windward and I knew it was gonna be another rodeo ride of a day.

The first thing I did today was eat ocean. Flew right into my mouth. Not too long after that, another wave turned the cockpit into a swimming pool. Saltwater up to my knees. Everything was floating. The worst is when a wave throws the boat out of the water and up into the air, and for five seconds your on a spaceship, then bam the boat slams back onto the ocean and everything shakes and your a tambourine.

The waves will make a boat move a lot of ways.

In the past 48 hours. I’ve slept 5 hours, had 5 crackers, one orange and two cups of coffee. It’s been a journey.

Ruby, my hydrovane, never could hold course through the squalls of last night or today or the day before, so I have been steering up a storm. There is one setting Ruby needs for big swell and mine is all jammed up it seems.

On top of all of this Juniper is haunted by even more spirits now and y’all should have heard their chitter chatter last night. I laid down at 2 a.m. and not 10 seconds later I heard voices. I thought a radio was on. People were talking as clear as day. One female kept saying, “Bring me my water, water, water” in a real smoke and glass voice. And I was like “Honey, just stick your head outside the boat and open your mouth. A wave will fall right in it.”

Between those voices and the depth sounder alarm that goes off every 10 minutes, it’s a wonder I could even take that nap. And you know how I woke up from it? A wave lifted me from the settee and slammed me straight onto the wood floor. Face-planted. Looking like a chewed piece of bubblegum. I am so tired that it didn’t even hurt, but I have an eggplant bruise to show for it.

Oh and I still can’t find my honey that spilled onto the floor, but when I find the ghost that stole it, I’m gonna kick them to where the sun don’t shine.

Ok so here’s where the lesson comes in. I hated sailing through the disordered waves and so did Ruby. Yet, I jibed further into them towards Samoa. I was heading towards Samoa because everyone says get up there and make sure there isn’t a system developing over Fiji, before sailing to Fiji. So I’m sailing up there in a dreadful sea state, it’s getting worse and worse as I get closer and I’m not even looking around at the sky because all I can see are waves and waves and waves and it’s all I can do to steer from one to the next.

Then I get a message from my weather router, “As you can probably see, there are squalls N of you, they are nearly stationary over American Samoa. More could develop in the next 3-6 hours. Staying a bit further South (closer to 16S) could help you dodge them.”

I look up, the entire sky looks like it’s about to start raining wind and wild cats and I didn’t see it! I didn’t see that I was sailing further into the blue labyrinth. I didn’t even think about a system hanging over Samoa. In my mind, it was the safe haven where the sun always shines.

There were so many signs to get out of dodge- down to the rainbow in the sky- and I ignored them all to get to the place that everyone said I should get to. And hanging over that place was the very thing I was trying to avoid by not sailing rhum line to Fiji.

Anyway, around 2 p.m., I jump ship and jibe towards the southwest. As soon as I’m on the other tack, I feel finer than frogs hair. Ruby is holding course, Juniper is taking waves on her stern quarter- which is a way more pleasant of a ride, the boat speed is high, and the waves are shrinking smaller.

All it took was the acceptance of a new destination and a jibe to get there. I learned to ask myself if I like where I am and to pay attention to signs indicating that I should not be there. I learned to look where I am going. I learned to ask myself why I am going there and if it’s worth it. I learned that you can spend a lot of effort fighting the wind and swell to get to a destination, but there’s always another destination where the elements are in your favor, and the struggle is up to you. Do you want to struggle?

Why stay uncomfortable? Why keep heading towards more discomfort? Baby, if your uncomfortable in the ocean then you just gotta change your relationship to the motion of the ocean!

Ruby and I are both naked on the new tack because we are going through a massive squall with enough rain to wash an elephant, but I’m still smiling and I can see blue skies on the horizon.

Ruby is fighting to stay on course through the squall even in the smaller swell. Once it scatters, a straggling wave reveals to me that my wheel lock for the ship’s rudder is slipping when big waves come and spin Juniper into a fishtail. I bet that‘s why Ruby couldn’t hold course! I made a new wheel lock using some spare line and a wench and Ruby is holding course like a guru again.

Tonight, I’m gonna really get some shut eye. And I feel like skin and bones and I’m exhausted and my body is so cold that two blankets aren’t enough, but I’m so content to be here, instead of back there.

THE MACHINE

The mystery of the red oil pressure indicator light. Sometimes it comes on, sometimes it doesn’t.

I don’t want to run the engine, until I know why that light is coming on. For those who don’t know, the light is this itty bitty thing. It’s red when I first turn the key to start the engine, but should go off once the engine has started. If not it indicates a problem with the oil pressure.

My trouble is I need the engine, because I need the alternator. I don’t even have enough power to run my running lights without it. I just have my anchor light on right now, so I’m out here looking like a shooting star. And the poor fridge hasn’t been on for days and all the produce I had left has turned to mushrooms.

Me and Nigel Calder have had a lot of fun trying to figure the light out, but the light is still there and Nigel is getting cranky and so am I, so I closed the book on his face.

Maybe somebody knows something? Here is the series of events:

Two weeks before departure: I drain and change oil + all filters

Between then and departure: I motor for a total of 5 hours. I see smoke one morning. I message a mechanic friend, we chalk it up to old fuel. I don’t see the smoke again after that.

Day of departure: I’m trying to keep up with S/V Beaver’s Yanmar or whatever Gucci engine they got and I’m maxed out, throttled all the way up. And I see smoke again, and the red oil pressure indicator light comes on for the first time, and the gauges are all fogging up, like mirrors do when you get out of the shower. Water temperature was around 160 Fahrenheit (which isn’t too high right?). Anyway, I was like heavens to betsy, I better turn this thing off. And that’s what I done did. Turned it off.

Every day between departure and today: I ran the engine for one hour to charge the batteries. No oil light, no smoke, clean fun.

Today: I get the light. Now, the light is really bright red when I click the key of course and it dims a little when I start the engine, but then it never goes away. Just gets dim. It should go away. Or at least it does the other times when I start it.

So fist I check the oil levels. They were low, not too low. A little low. I added oil. Nigel said they can be low after changing oil if the oil filter is not screwed on well or if the o-ring is willy-wonkie. I see no sign of leaking at the oil filter. According to Nigel, another issue could be that the viscosity of the oil, if the engine got over heated it can change the viscosity.

This afternoon, after adding oil, I turn the engine on, no light! Tonight, I turn the engine on, light.

I’m trying to sort out what is happening.

A- Is it the viscosity? How do I know? Do I taste it? Do I rub it on my face? Do I try to paint a picture with it? Furthermore, how do I resolve it, if the viscosity is low? Nigel didn’t tell me how to resolve it. Do I have to drain all the oil? I don’t have enough oil onboard to fill the entire casket again. Wondering if I drain a little out and add a little more? Would that thicken it? Or is that a bad idea?

B- Is it just the oil pressure light shorting out? Nigel doesn’t even propose this as a possibility. But it could be! If so, how do I confirm that’s the issue? Like how I determine if it’s shorting out? I’m really bad with electrical stuff, but I have a multimeter. Tell me what to do. Please don’t judge me. Thanks.

C- Is the engine overheating? I don’t see any signs other than the smoke those two times. I don’t think it’s a coolant issue. The levels look good and I’ve had a coolant leak before, so I’m very familiar with how the engine responds when coolant is low. I don’t think it’s raw water either, sea water is flowing aft when the engine is on, but maybe something is clogged on that end? Maybe it’s not flowing enough?

Anyway, I need to sleep. But that’s where I’m at with that, which is nowhere.

*Charles Wilson, that entry is dedicated to you, in case the title didn’t give it away *

****************************

P.S.- Bill Taylor thank you for sailing along and reaching out to point out about the serpent current speeds! I think I just accidentally flipped them when I wrote them down. So my speedo / STW / the paddle wheel attached to the boat, was registering the higher number. And on my chart plotter / SOG I had the lower number. So I was being robbed right? Or am I all confused?

P.S.S. – Thanks to everyone else who comments too! Love reading them. Also I’m not sure who wrote the Dostoevsky one, but your my hero. Thank you.

* If you dig the ramblings of my wanderings and want to follow along on the map, click the contribution page on Wilderness of Waves, send any donation amount you desire, and my tracker password will be automatically emailed to you. Check your spam folders and/or send me a message on my sea email, if you have any issues receiving.

7 Replies to “WOMAN AGAINST ELEMENTS, WOMAN AGAINST MACHINE”

  1. Viscosity can only be changed by changing the oil. Fact isgien the fact your not losing oil it is probably safe to run the engine and assume the problem is the light, but that is what I would do with my knowledge, and your results may vary. Being Captain is O so challenging. My crew once asked in the sea lane off southern Mexico, “We sure have to pump out a lot is that dangerous?” my Reply, “Not as long as the pumps keep working.” Diesel engines are simple things made complex by fears.

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  2. At -16 latitude, it is still winter in the southern ocean. Time to find a gentle place to park yourself for a month or two. Take care!

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  3. Say . . . I don’t mean to get personal or nothing but what kind of oil, exactly, did you use: what weight, brand, and did the container have “DS” (diesel severe) printed anywhere on it? Seems to my thinking that the viscosity of relatively new DS oil shouldn’t be affected by normal operation . . . and if the crank is full of oil, and the engine temp is normal (160-180) that leaves the uncomfortable question about sender reliability. Of COURSE you have a spare sender on board! Why? . . . because having spare engine parts on board is how you tell your diesel you love it and you’d rescue it from the ends of the earth, and no matter what words pass between you, well, it was all in good fun. This is what is meant when a bearded pirate looks ya straight in the eye and says, “you could eat dinner straight off my engine . . . “. Never fear . . . keep the oil topped off, check frequently, look for engine oil in the engine pan, and feel around under the engine, to see if you can detect leakage. Keep your eye on engine temperature . . . (hum, I’m wondering how much a 4-108 will fetch at an antique auction?) 🙂

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  4. damn, girl… you got it, saying the destination is not important. not odd that when you flipped into the NOW and let comfort and rest be your guide, it all smoothed out. like letting go of the oars and just going with the flow. rowing upstream has little reward. congratulations and may the rest of your voyage become filled with pleasant anticipation rather than the fear of missing that date or place at the end.
    we are all with you all the time.
    aloha
    barry
    run your motor, and imagine you have a bad light or sensor. just keep a watch like rcameron sez. charge up the batteries. cool a beer. you will know if something goes bad by increased temp, lotsa smoke, oil in the bilge, etc.

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  5. Hey, Olivia! I’m sorry that I’ve been away for awhile, the seas have been rough for me the past few months. I am so happy that you’re back on the water again; I think the last time I had checked in with you, you were just getting back to Juniper after French Polynesia finally opened back up. Engine issues are no fun — I am having problems with my outboard engine dying on me and Sunny. I desperately need to improve my skill sets on how to deal with engines and especially when they break down. When it comes to oil pressure lights on engines, I tend to be extra cautious as I learned the hard way with that on my very first car. I was driving back home for Christmas break, my senior year of college, when that darn oil pressure light came on. I was about 90 miles before I reached my destination. I thought it strange that it’d come on as I, literally, had the oil changed the day before my trip to make sure all was good-to-go. I had a long drive, almost 1k miles, to get home for the holidays, and I didn’t want to have to dicker around with worrying about oil problems (I had an older car). Anywhoooo, I figured it must be a light sensor thing when the light came on since I had just had the oil changed the day before. About 10 minutes later, back on I-80, I heard a terrible screeching, enough to make your ears ring, from my car engine. I made like a jackrabbit and pulled onto the shoulder as quick as I could. Once stopped, I took note of the fact that I had landed in the middle of no-where. It was 9:30 pm and I had been driving in near blizzard conditions that evening. I had no cell phone. I figured the best chance I had was to hoof it to find help, so I donned by baseball cap on and headed out into the storm. I was about 1/4 mile down the road when giant moonbeams of light swallowed me up and a huge semi-truck pulled over in front of me. First ride I ever took with a trucker. Turns out after the car was towed back to the garage in my hometown, there was no oil cap on my tank. Oil was everywhere on top of my engine, and there was not a lick of oil inside the tank, My engine had seized. Learned my lesson the real hard way on that. Fast forward 30 years later, my husband took my car in for me to get the oil changed. Don’t you know it, but the jokers at that garage didn’t the oil cap back on my tank. Again, oil — all over my engine. Mercifully, the drive back to the house was short enough that there was enough oil to get home without the engine seizing and ruining my car engine. That all said… whenever I have my oil changed, I always, always make sure the oil cap is secure. I know that my silly story won’t help in what’s happening with Juniper’s engine right now..but just know that I’m very sympathetic. I know you will figure it out — do you have enough oil to reach your destination if you have to keep topping it off? I am not sure how much further you have to go before land-ho. Hope to hear from you when things calm down — miss your correspondence. Stay safe and sending you light and love. ~ Chelle and Sunny

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  6. Olivia, I’ve been a diesel mech for 43 years. I believe you have an old engine.
    Smell your oil. Rub it between 2 fingers. Make sure you don’t have any white oil on anything. I think it’s the light screwing up.
    If you have a cap on top of the valve cover take it off while the engine is running you should see oil lubing the valve train. BUT IF YOU LOST OIL PRESSURE ITS A VERY QUICK END TO YOUR ENGINE. I think it’s the light. If you feel better take a few quarts out and add fresh. 160 degree water temp is not hot at all. So no harm there. We all love you . Be well

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