Yesterday was the third day of our trip from Bermuda to the Azores. It was a lovely day with nice daytime and nighttime temperatures. It rained once last night for 40 minutes, otherwise partly cloudy skys. Those of you who are following our “LOCATION” section, must think we have overdosed on island rum, as our path is heading North for Canada, but we are trying to get north to stronger winds. I am on watch now, it is 5:00 AM local time, and the skies are just starting to lighten in preparation for the coming sunrise.
This part of the Ocean is home to the Sargaso weed. Indeed, it is called the Sargaso Sea. We see it floating by in basketball size clumps, several at a time. It is generally innocuous, but has a way of causing trouble in various ways. On the way to Bermuda, we were motoring through the Gulf Stream, and went through a patch of the stuff the size of a basketball court. Olive Oyl slowed down from 5 Knots to about 2.5 Knots, and wouldn’t resume her speed after breaking free. It seemed that some of the weed had wrapped round our prop and our small motor couldn’t slice through it. After pondering this situation for a minute or two, I put the engine in idle, then reverse for a few seconds, then back to forward. This procedure cleared the mess, and we were soon back at cruising speed. I have used this trick a few times since when I felt we weren’t going quite as fast as we should, and it has always restored a bit of speed.
We have a mechanical windvane, named Brutis, that we use to steer Olive Oyl any time we are under sail. It is manufactured by a company called Monitor. It monitors the wind direction, and makes adjustments to the rudder to maintain that wind direction. So long as the wind is steady, it will steer the boat better than Salli or I can do it. If the wind changes, say 40 degrees to Port, Brutis will blindly follow, and steer the boat 40 degrees to the left. This windvane is extremely reliable, but it has one weakness: seaweed. Yes, Sargaso gets wrapped around the windvanes water paddle, causing it to make weaker and weaker course corrections. The solution is to release the paddle, allowing it to swing back towards its storage position, and then immediately pull it back to its working position.
We also have a water powered generator that we use on long passages. It trails a rope behind the boat with a small propeller on the end. A reliable system, except for the proclivity to pick up, you guessed it, Sargaso. The generator is a bit harder to clear, since 75 feet of rope needs to be hauled in, and before that is done, the rotation has to be stopped. The procedure is to attach a 12 inch funnel around the rope and let it slide back over the prop and seaweed. The rope and propeller can then be hauled on deck, the seaweed cleared, and rope and propeller tossed back into the water. Last night, I was hauling the rope and felt an odd slimy bulge in the rope, the consistency of squid. In the dark I could just make out a tentacle trailing out from the rope. It seems we had picked up pieces of a Portugee Man of War. I did receive one small sting, while clearing this mess, and count myself lucky.


  1. Georgia Garrett Reply

    Doug, While cruising the Rapp, Reg and I are enjoying reading your tales, remember your home? May the Sargaso and the Man o wars be kind as you sail along. Georgia

  2. David Reynolds Reply

    We figured you were heading north to catch the wind. Do you need a Japanese jellyfish salad dressing recipe for the Sargasso? Glad you got off easily with the PMoW. We’re heading for the Sargasso free Mississippi Gulf Coast to watch grandbaby Otto take his first dip. The jellies are smaller for the most part, but will have to be avoided. Shrimp Maque Choux for dinner. Mach 1, Mach 2, Maque Choux. Keep a weather eye on Brutis. CHEERS

  3. David Reynolds Reply

    David here – now off the road. Hope that the sargassum eases up.
    I just had a look at NWS forecasts for the mid Atlantic for 72 and 96 hrs: Pretty good looking breeze out of the west. Nice!
    The ol’ prop reverse to take off veggies from the prop trick is one on mine too.
    Ah, life on the water!
    Smooth sailing,

  4. David Reynolds Reply

    Good morning. ‘Hope that your more or less following winds and seas are as streaky and pleasant as they appear on the NWS Atlantic reports and forecasts out your way.
    We are having a great blueberry year, but not much in a flying fish way, unless we nclude mullet, whose launching and awkward, flopping trajectories are not exactly flight..

  5. David Reynolds Reply

    Oops, I meant to type “steady” winds and seas above . NWS shows following seas with a period of 10 seconds or so as Olive Oyl tracks ESE. Looks like a nice ride.

  6. David Reynolds Reply

    We can picture you both meeting the pants challenge. Following seas don’t help., even with Brutis’ fine control.
    Yes, the salt is a bugger. I’ve never known other than rain to help.
    Thanks for the watch and repair anecdotes…

Leave a Response