Kaizen - Final Blog Post
We arrived last night at 20:38 local time after 17 days, 11 hours and 39 minutes, covering 2736nm to finish first in our division and 5th amongst all cruising boats. We fulfilled our goal of arriving in time to crack open the Champagne for Captain’s birthday. And wow, did it taste good!
Today, we have had some bewildered ARC sailors popping over to congratulate us expecting to find a full on professional race crew but instead finding we’re just a family. Having had our COVID tests, we expect to be released from quarantine tomorrow and cement the friendships that we made in Las Palmas and over the airwaves enroute.
Our only breakage was our alternator mounting which we are pretty certain was caused by Canarias Multinautica S.L. in Tenerife when they hit it with a hammer. Although they admit to hitting it, they deny all liability. All we can recommend is that you do not use them.
This will be our last log entry. For those who follow our private blog, we will resume there shortly. Captain will detail his tips on having ‘always on’ WhatsApp at sea, whilst keeping data costs down.
We attach all our daily logs below in chronological order for easier reading. To see the accompanying photos, please use the drop down box above and filter by our boat name - Kaizen.
*20th November 2020*
Let’s do this! Only TWO days to go.
We are the Chung family and we are SUPER excited about passing our COVID test today because it opens our way to Saint Lucia. With only “two sleeps” remaining until we set sail, the adventure is becoming a reality - fast. Excitedly eager to get going and yet teeny bit anxious!!
*21st November 2020*
One sleep to go
Our fridge, freezer and cupboards are now well and truly full of food. We just need to fill up with emergency water and then we are ready to go. We leave at 1pm (local time) tomorrow. After years of planning, we are finally here. Amazing. The excitement is building!!!
*22nd November 2020*
And we are off!!
At 13:09 local time we crossed the start line under sail. The weather is beautiful; blue skies and warm. We are super excited to finally be underway on this amazing voyage. Wish us luck!
*22nd November 2020*
Enjoying sunset dinner
We are having dinner and admiring the superb sunset as we pass the southern coast of Gran Canaria. We chose to head further off shore than the fleet to find more consistent wind. Our poles are now set up for when we change course to dead down wind sailing.
*23rd November 2020*
A successful start
Our decision to head further offshore at yesterday’s start is paying dividends. We took the offshore route to find stronger and more consistent wind at the expense of greater distance. Kaizen is 26 tonnes fully loaded and needs 15+ knots to sail comfortably. The wind came and we were far enough south by sunset to turn dead downwind and pole out our two headsails. With the sails trimmed and chafe points hopefully eliminated, we expect to remain in this configuration for the days to come. We benefited additionally by being at the offshore edge of the ARC fleet making last nights watch-keeping more relaxing. Being double-handed with small children means a comfortable nights sleep is even more important.
In our first 24 hours we have covered 160nm with 2542nm remaining.
*24th November 2020*
Intercepting the conveyor belt to St. Lucia
We have had a relaxing day as we sail through an area of lighter airs and calm seas. Captain has been banking sleep in anticipation of a lively Wednesday and Thursday as a new high pressure system moves in from the NW. We have been heading west to intercept what should be the first of the trade winds this season. After an anticipated gusty two days with confused seas, we expect the trades to take us briskly towards St. Lucia.
Captain and I took advantage of the flattish seas to gybe our two headsails and poles. I have also secured any remaining loose items. Our sleeping arrangements are prepared. See photos with lee cloths.
*25th November 2020*
Wakey wakey, rise n shine
People have told Captain and I that we’re crazy having no crew to share the arduous burden of the watch system. This is coupled with the constant demands of young children. Sure, the incessant chant of “Are we nearly there yet?’ makes me wish I had a plank. Generally though, we find it easier to cruise as a family alone. Captain does 8pm-midnight and I have midnight to 4am before he takes over again. But we are both honest and flexible. Too tired and we do less and always strive to do more. The kids do a shift together in the morning while we nap and shower. So, Day 3 and we are already in the swing of things. We would find it substantially more tiring having crew to feign pleasantries with. This way, we are perfectly free and loving it!
163nm covered in last 24 hours with 2396nm to go. We expect to pick up the pace as a new high sets in over the Azores bring fresh trade winds from tomorrow evening.
*25th November 2020*
Winding our way through the waves
Day 4: The waves have certainly built and become "lively". Approx 3 meters at 6 second intervals. With 20-22 knots of wind gusting 27 knots, we have put in an early reef on both our headsails as we expect the weather to continue to build into midnight. The kids are kept mostly inside doing homes-chooling and watching movies whilst Captain still insists on maintaining his two showers a day routine. With the grace and elegance of a slinky, I had to leave the cockpit to retrieve a dangling fender off the stern quarter. My coffee also bid for freedom and flew across the kitchen earlier, so I suspect cooking lunch is going to be a battle - I need octopus arms.
Average speed over the last 4 hours: 8.5kts If we continue at this pace, we'll have our first 200nm day of the passage!
Enhancements to our sail setup
*26th November 2020*
Making new friends across the airwaves
We have been participating in the ARC SSB net everyday. The net is where boats fitted with SSB (long range radios), call in at set times twice a day to announce any problems and to share information such as weather. Dangers like the coordinates of migrant boats and abandoned fishing boats adrift have also been shared on the net over the past days. Captain acts as one of the SSB net controllers which means he kicks off the call at the appropriate time and moderates the conversation, so that all boats get an opportunity to talk.
Today, we learnt from the net that another boat, Songbird of London, had seen a large pod of Minke Whales which stayed with them for 45 minutes last night. So we moved today’s classroom upstairs. Alas - no whales for us...yet.
*28th November 2020*
Enhancements to our sail setup
Our deep / dead downwind strategy is to go as fast as we can with as much sail area from our twin headsails as we can safely handle. The logic is that fast means minimising apparent wind onboard hence less loads on our sails and rig. Furthermore, lateral stability increases with speed (imagine riding a bike fast vs slowly) and exposes us to fewer total number of wave hits for a given passage.
However, having sailed full time on the twin headsail setup for a week, there are some drawbacks:
1) being pulled from the very front of the boat by the headsails means that the stern can sometimes have a mind of its own. This imposes unneccesary stress on the autopilot and reduces comfort in our aft cabin. Captain calls this fishtailing.
2) in light winds (below 15 knots) our heavy headsails flap. So the setup doesn’t work. To switch over to sail a higher course using single headsail with mainsail, we have to leave the cockpit to detach the leeward headsail sheet and its block from the end of the boom. The boom acts as our second pole. Being short handed with young children, this is not something we want to do - especially at night.
3) the same headsail sheet and block at the end of the boom gets in the way and doesn’t allow us to deploy the mainsail whilst they are on the boom.
So this morning in true Kaizen style (for those who do not know, Kaizen means “always learning, constantly improving” in Chinese, Japanese and Korean), Captain and I brainstormed for a solution. We then planned, spliced lines, and implemented an improvement that allows us to have two axis control over a permanent snatch block on the end of the boom. The addition of a third headsail sheet dedicated for boomed out sailing reduces reconfiguration when we switch to other points of sail. We now have the full flexibility to deploy the mainsail whenever we want, even when both headsails are deployed. YES - 3 sails!
This solution will hopefully solve our problems above and life on board should become safer and more comfortable.
The three sail setup pictured dampens the roll considerably and increases stability. This is because the boat is now being pushed from the mast as well as being pulled from the bow. We’ve noticed less amount of rudder needed when hand steering so there should be less strain and power consumption from the autopilot. The most important benefit is that we can now transition for sailing twin headsails, dead downwind, to broad reaching with a single headsail plus mainsail, single handed and all without needing to leave the cockpit.
The glamorous life
*29th November 2020*
The glamorous life
When you flick through a glossy yachting magazine, you’ll be greeted with photos of models sunning themselves on the foredeck of super yachts. Aspiring yes - but not realistic. Instead, I’ll share with you an insight into my morning. I was woken by the whiiizzzzzz of Captain putting the fishing lines out at 8.15am. Groggy-eyed I headed directly for the coffee (my shift last night was 1am-5.15am). Having cleaned both bathrooms (“heads” in sailor language) I set about hand washing some much needed underwear. It’s Sunday, so I fried up a bacon and egg bonanza to keep the family contented. Then I joined the daily SSB long range radio call for a quick chat with our fellow ARC boats. The morning is finished off juggling the kids’ homeschooling whilst cooking a glorious ribeye steak with black truffle sauce, rice and vegetables for our Sunday lunch. There’s nothing like checking the internal temperature of succulent meat whilst having questions fired at you about the square root conversions of volume and cubic length. The kids are having a jolly time helping us keep watch, searching for whales, assisting with fishing, and watching way too much Netflix downloads.
And yes - we are back online on WhatsApp! Captain found the time this morning to rebuild the firmware on our Fleet Broadband satellite system. He thinks it died through rejecting the constant stream of requests for YouTube, Minecraft, Apple updates and the like. Having spent the last week on a horrendously slow Iridium connection, we are back online at beginning of the century internet speeds.
A foot from death in the Atlantic
*30th November 2020*
A foot from death in the Atlantic
A series of seemingly minor errors culminated into a serious incident.
Last night, Captain was super tired so I pulled an all-nighter (12.30am-6.30am) to alleviate some of his exhaustion. However, my son was really excited to hear that today we had reached our halfway mark in crossing the Atlantic Ocean. His joyous calls were an alarm clock hard to resist.
Mistake 1: I started the day way too early following far too little sleep.
We needed to gybe all our poles and three sails, which as double-handers, takes an exorbitant amount of planning, time, and effort. In the final stages, there was an element of speed required.
Mistake 2: I rushed and started letting the highly tensioned Genoa sheet off the winch before I was really ready.
I took too many turns off the winch and suddenly the rope was whizzing out of control at full speed as an unexpected gust of the wind dragged the sail forwards. I was inadvertently sitting on the diminishing pile of rope when horror struck, my foot became entangled in the mess and I was hoisted upwards from our deep centre cockpit. Screaming and in agony, I tried to hold onto the rope to stop myself from being taken away feet first. An image of my body being whipped overboard, Drag Drowning, made me panic! Captain added some muscle to try and stop the rope whilst I held onto the wall of the cockpit with all my might. Thankfully, my daughter raced upstairs just in time to tear the tightening noose from my foot.
The shock made me shake and nearly vomit. Once calm and tears wiped, I noticed Mistake 3. In my haste to help with the gybe, I had forgotten to clip my lifejacket on to the cockpit tether - something I’m usually so OCD about - perhaps I really could have been dragged along the deck.
With time to evaluate the lessons learned, I see now that I probably wouldn’t have been thrown into the ocean. Most likely my foot would have been shredded through the 20mm block bolted to the deck, a bit like meat through a mincer. Would we have been ready to deal with such an incident? Sure, we have the medical supplies of a small hospital and a telemedicine service but lack the confidence and training for major blood loss surgery on a rolling yacht.
The ARC are amazing for organising the social events and are the best logistical backbone you could ever want. And whilst there are other ARC boats within radio distance, we are all responsible for our own adventure. This not a package-holiday coach trip and nor would we want it to be. We were lucky on this occasion but next time we may not. I’ll celebrate our milestone of reaching half-way across the Atlantic, by painting my toe nails this afternoon. All ten of them.
*1st December 2020*
How we consistently catch fish
As members of our private blog will have previously read, we spent a few days this Summer rethinking our fishing method from basics. In the Med, we caught an abysmal single, solitary fish across an entire three year span. More luck than skill on our part. Now, we consistently catch fish almost every time we dip the hook in the water. This new method is not specific to a “fishy area” but has proven results on every one of our passages from the Aegean through to the Canaries and currently in the Atlantic. In fact, I often beg Captain to put the fishing lines away because we’ve caught so many, the fridge and freezer are completely full. Even our friends have ‘Christmas Turkey’ feeling because we’ve given so much away.
Kaizen’s fishing philosophy revolves around tapping into the innate, animal desire to join a chase. We set out a series of different lures at varying depths and distances to mimic what happens in Mother Nature. This inevitably attracts interest from down below and entices a quick strike.
Yesterday, I told Captain that my meal planner called for two fish that day. After catching up on much needed sleep, Captain put the lines in the ocean. Two hours later, one of our reels screamed whizzzzzzz. “FISH ON!” we shout, as we hasten to our duty stations. To our surprise, we land two Mahi Mahi, a male and a female, on one single lure. “You’re welcome” says a satisfied Captain smirking, as he eyes my meal planner request once more. A first for us - taking our concept of joining the chase to an extreme!
*2nd December 2020*
Our first boat breakage
We expected that there would of course be some boat problems during this crossing. It is said that an Atlantic crossing is equivalent to three seasons of coastal sailing. We prepared and preempted this as much as possible by carrying out our scheduled maintenance projects early. We made lists of likely problems and made sure we had plenty of spares onboard.
However, what went wrong today did not even feature on our lists. During Captain’s routine check this morning, he discovered that one of the three mountings that hold our brand new Mastervolt 4.2kW domestic alternator to the engine had broken. We switched out the 17 year old existing one to keep as a spare back in February. The function of an alternator, if you are not familiar, is to charge our main batteries whilst the engine is running.
Captain quickly got on WhatsApp with the Oyster Technical Services team. Although we carry a spare alternator, we decide the safest option is to simply disconnect the alternator drive belts, support the mounting with 4mm dyneema and wait until we reach St. Lucia for repairs. With other means of battery charging through our 7kW generator and solar panels, we assessed that trying to install our spare in a rolling sea isn’t worth the risk of injury. These things are super heavy even for two burly Montenegrin men to manage! So the likelihood of Captain, myself and the kids doing it without resulting in mutiny was a no-brainer.
One of the main reasons we were attracted to an Oyster yacht is the benefit of lifetime technical and after-sales support. Even though Kaizen is coming up to her 18th birthday, we still receive the same support as an owner of a yacht just out of the factory would expect. The brand has one of the highest number yachts completing circumnavigations, so the Oyster team has pretty much seen every problem. They are also very good at shipping spare parts to remote destinations at short notice.
We think the breakage originated through our engine service by Canarias Multinautica, the Yanmar master dealer in Santa Cruz, Tenerife last month. Captain recalls watching in horror as the technician took a hammer to our new $3000 alternator to get a loose bush back into the mounting. This is the exact place where the breakage has been discovered today.
*3rd December 2020*
Becalmed in the great blue
Last night, we had some exciting sailing as we meandered between some sporadic squalls and their lightning displays. The rain was greatly welcomed as it pressure washed salt off the boat. This morning, we have found ourselves becalmed and have put the engine on to power through. Analysis shows that most of the fleet has no wind today and we believe that over 50% of the fleet are motoring like ourselves. We expect the extended becalming to last a few days, maybe even as far as St Lucia, especially to our NW.
With our alternator broken, we need to motor for best economy rather than best speed because of the added fuel consumption required to run the generator to charge the batteries rather than using the engine to do this. Captain has been working out how far our remaining 625l of diesel can get us based on different motoring speeds. The advantage of running the generator is that it produces ample power so we can run the air conditioning - it’s getting pretty hot.
A benefit of this warmer weather is that Captain has been able to use his deck rain shower for the first time since leaving Greece this Summer.
Our daughter is determined that she’ll land her first fish before we make landfall. She reeled one in to within sight yesterday before mistakenly letting off the pressure and it unfortunately got away. Lesson learned.
Someone wrote in to ask what we eat onboard during our ocean passage. Well, so far today, we’ve had freshly baked bread and cold cuts for breakfast. We spotted dolphins frolicking on our bow as we ate. Then for lunch, I made ceviche from the Mahi Mahi that we caught earlier in the week. Tonight we will have yellow fin tuna (more on this tomorrow!) I keep a food planner to ensure that we minimise wastage by using up leftovers, make use of soon to expire dry foods tucked away out of sight, and keep the family happy by ensuring we have a variety of frozen foods defrosted in time to eat during the week.
*4th December 2020*
100lb fish: What a WHOPPER!!!!
We wrote a few days ago that Kaizen’s approach to fishing is to attract fish to “join the chase”. It is no surprise therefore that we hook more than our fair share of “alphas” - including a rare white marlin in the Aegean. Yesterday, we set our pattern of lines out and within just two hours, we hook a massive beast. Captain fought it in his harness for over an hour. Both fish and Captain were completely exhaust by the time we got it alongside. We then spent the next half hour struggling to get such a big fish onboard. At 45kgs (almost 100lbs), it weighs only 3kgs less than myself! Determined not to be defeated, we finally managed to get a dyneema line through its gills and used an electric winch to hoist it up using our outboard crane. YES - we have landed our largest fish to date and first ever Yellowfin Tuna.
The 150cm fish (5 foot) was a lot more food than our partially empty fridge and freezer could handle. So I proceeded to take off the best bits of meat for keeping. Instead of letting the remainder of the fish go to waste, Captain made a call on the VHF for any ARC boats nearby. Peter von Seestermuhe (PvS) could not resist the temptation of this highly prized yellowfin. We agreed a rendezvous point and met at nightfall. To our huge surprise, Christoph (Captain of PvS) rowed over in the dark, through large waves, in his tiny wooden dinghy (no outboard). It was great to meet Christoph after hearing him on the radio waves daily. Captain had his first handshake since COVID began. Surely such a non-essential fresh fish transfer must be a first for an ARC rally???
The fish filled any remaining space in his dinghy as he rowed off happily back into the darkness. He must have been given a hero’s welcome as he rejoined his ravenous crew. It was good to hear on this morning’s SSB call that he and his crew enjoyed the best tuna carpaccio they have ever tasted. Having had our lines out for only a few days this crossing, we are again forced to put them away until the next passage.
After yesterday’s becalming, we were grateful to find 18-25 knots of wind all night taking us SW. We have decided upon a more southerly option to avoid the risk of further becalming. 800nm to run and surely I’ll be a culinary expert in creating various tuna dishes by the time we arrive!
Your questions answered
*5th December 2020*
Ever since Captain got our satellite broadband back up and running again, I have been delighted to see so many WhatsApp messages of support and encouragement from friends and family. It seems that in this COVID environment, many of you are living very similarly to us - isolated at home with your family. Socialising only in the virtual world. The only obvious difference being that we are removed by hundreds of miles of water. So today’s blog will be used to answer your top five burning questions:
1) Tanya in England asks: “At night, why don’t you just drop the anchor and all go to sleep?”
Sadly, this is not possible because the sea is quite deep and we don’t carry enough chain to hook the seabed. But a lovely idea nonetheless.
2) Monica in Brazil asks: “Do you feel seasick?”
We’ve been sailing for four years now so Captain and I are immune to seasickness. The children used to get sick, especially my son. However, our horrifying voyage from Gibraltar to The Canaries was something of a baptism of fire and everything in comparison seems bland, weather wise. So thankfully, none of us have been seasick this passage and we have not needed to take seasickness tablets at all during our Atlantic crossing.
3) Barbara and Goris in Switzerland ask: “Aren’t you scared of the weather? I’d be worried about huge waves and strong winds”.
Kaizen is a 25 ton blue water boat designed for durability and comfort on ocean passages. To refer to our Gibraltar trip again, having survived that experience, I know that the weakest link is the crew not the vessel. This is hugely reassuring - having the right boat makes the world of difference in terms of trust. The waves have at best been only 3-4 meters (we have previously been in 6 meters). The waves have mostly been from behind so this has not caused much rolling. I’ve zigzagged around some squalls a few days back and saw a bit of lightning but nothing that made me worried. I just took some precautions - like putting our phones and a VHF radio in the microwave (Faraday’s Cage). Being such a heavy-weight yacht means we actually seek out strong wind. Kaizen comes into her own in winds of 15 knots plus and whilst sailing downwind, we do not reef until beyond 25 knots of true wind. The hardest part is, in fact, being in light winds because it makes the boom and sails thwack distressingly so we get frustrated with the lack of progress.
4) John from Hong Kong asks: “Do you guys live off Pot Noodles?”
Absolutely not. Captain is a bit of a foodie so I provisioned excessively to include luxuries like caviar, fois gras, and dry aged steak. To name a few of our recent meals: pork loin in ginger and soy sauce with rice, yellow fin tuna ceviche, scrambled eggs with Pata Negra and caviar, Thai red lamb curry and lentils, paprika chicken and couscous, rogan josh curry and poppadoms. We have been collecting the best ingredients from across Europe as we have ventured through the Med on our way to The Canaries.
5) Tom from England asks: “What do you do all day? Aren’t you bored?”
Gosh, no! We are far too busy to be bored. Whilst I have banned Captain from fishing for the remainder of the crossing, my daughter is still determined to catch one. So far, she’s caught a plastic bag and some highly interesting seaweed. I have a daily schedule for the children so that they do four sessions of homeschooling, a ridiculously long four hours of “screen time” (movies, computer games, tapping to friends), and at least two hours of being on watch. My daughter also manages the health temperature charts (a requirement for entry into St Lucia) and the ship’s log. They otherwise entertain themselves with reading, playing Lego, fighting and bickering, making storybooks, weaving ARC coloured bracelets to sell in St Lucia, plus their household chores. I am the Galley Slave so I am cooking, cleaning, being a strict homeschool teacher, killing fish, reading, and doing a big chunk of the night shift whilst listening to music. Recently, I have been listening to Billie Eilish, Adam Lambert, Leona Lewis and randomly, Linkin Park (the latter pairs well with squalls). I suspect Captain has ADHD because he is constantly fiddling, tinkering, and pressing buttons. He loves looking for things to improve on the boat - whether its trimming the sails to eke out a fraction more speed or conceiving new ways to make our lives even more happy onboard. He is currently focused on checking the weather and calculating how much fuel we have to play with under different scenarios if we need to put the engine back on.
Thank you to everyone for following our adventure and taking the time to send such kind words of support. Please continue to send in your questions. Keep your fingers crossed that we can complete this journey in time for Captain’s birthday on Wednesday. Having been tee-total since Las Palmas, I’d love to crack open some champagne to celebrate!
Rendez-vous with the wind
*6th December 2020*
This morning, we have awoken well rested and with a spiralling sense of excitement as today marks the final 500nm to go. We kick the day off with some bread making and pancake flipping.
As most of the fleet are recovering from the mid Atlantic becalming and head in a straight line for St. Lucia, we decide to go off the beaten path, heading south-west at the expense of extra miles to seek the certainty of more stable and consistent wind. On the horizon, we can already see the typical trade wind cumulus clouds that mark the presence of stable airflow which will hopefully carry us all the way to St. Lucia. As we approach the bunched up clouds, surely and steadily, the wind speed elevates. Captain patiently monitors the historic one hour wind speed chart as he ponders over when to deploy our twin headsails.
Our goal has always been overly optimistic but now appears to be actually achievable. We want to be in St Lucia on Wednesday 9th December to celebrate Captain’s birthday. I really hope we haven’t jinxed it but the champagne is in the fridge, chilling. Keep watching the fleet tracker map over the next few days and have your own drink ready if you want to help us toast victory!!!
*7th December 2020*
After catching the wind yesterday, we have deployed our twin headsails and are relaxing and simply taking it easy. Our course is now taking us direct to St. Lucia. I thought I was being optimistic with the amount of homeschooling I’d downloaded for the trip but actually the kids finished everything at lunchtime today. So I’ve given them the afternoon off to watch movies and play computer games. Captain and I have been catching up on sleep, reading, and we have sent off our pre arrival health declaration forms. With only an expected two nights left until we reach our destination, our thoughts are beginning to wander towards land-based activities. It’ll be strange to speak with people who are not us - we’ve been hermits for what seems like an eternity crossing the Atlantic.
*8th December 2020*
The finest sashimi
The wind is nothing more than a fluttering breeze today so we are motoring along at a steady 6-6.5 knots. We can see another ARC boat, Neuroseas, on the horizon. As we get closer to St Lucia, we expect to see more of our friends as the fleet begins to converge on the final destination.
We’ve made good use of the calm seas by preparing some sashimi. The huge yellow fin tuna we caught last week has been frozen at -18c for over 72 hours now, enough to kill off any parasites. This is the method that the Japanese follow to ensure that their raw fish is safe. For dinner this evening, we’ll enjoy a ribeye steak and Captain has requested bacon, eggs, Cumberland sausages and black pudding for his birthday breakfast tomorrow. If all goes to plan, this will be our final night at sea.