Repeat after me… Conserve fuel!

After years of doing the whole “north-south” thing, I have talked ad nauseum and written plenty about the number of hours that I run the engine on the Antigua run.  On some runs, I have clocked as many as 140 hours of engine time and have often found myself worrying about running out of fuel. 

Two years ago, when one of my three built-in fuel tanks sprung a leak in Antigua, dumping a full tank, 35 gallons, into the bilge and over the side, my total fuel capacity was reduced from 135 gallons to 100, not nearly enough to make a run, if history was to be any guide.  

As I could not have a new fuel tank fabricated before I made it home, I decided to get a 50-gallon flexible fuel bladder and bring it back, following a state-side visit.  Fortunately, Pandora has three vented lockers in the cockpit and two of them are large enough to hold a bladder that is about 5’ long, not a small thing to stow.  As an added benefit, unlike plastic jugs, the bladder can be folded up when it is empty and takes up very little space in the locker.

I had to work out all the fittings for the bladder, a fill port, line for transferring fuel and a bleeder hose to get any trapped air out,  as well as to find a way to get the fuel from the bladder into the deck fittings for the three, (at that time, two usable) tanks.  This involved a long enough piece of hose to reach each deck fill as well as a high-capacity electric transfer pump.  Curious about all that?  You can see all the stuff that made up my “kit” at this link

With the new tank, the addition of the bladder and my usual six 5-gallon plastic jugs, I now carry 180 gallons of fuel, enough to run about 9.5 days under power.  You would think that would be more than enough fuel to get to Antigua but this year I could very possibly motor as many as 170 hours, using perhaps 140 gallons with just 40 to spare. 

Many of the over 80+ boats that are making this trip will have to divert to Bermuda just to get fuel and I am pleased to be able to pass it by. (Oh boy, I hope that I am not jinxing things by saying that) It has already been a long run and I do not want to add any more days at sea between me and Antigua.

Despite being into our 6th day at sea, we have only made it about a third of the way south.  So, with 500 miles between us and Essex, as the crow flies, we have logged almost 650 miles through the water.  That is an additional 150 miles of bucking currents and sailing in the wrong direction 🙁 

On the bright side, slow or not, the sunrise today was lovely.  It began slowly with spot of light to the east.  It was darker than this photo suggests. Then it began to brighten.

Became brighter and brighter as the sun appeared.

A dramatic beginning to a new day.

And, better than that, sailing!

I will enjoy it while it lasts as soon enough we will be motoring again.

When we were first heading out, I thought that perhaps it would take 10-12 days but it is not looking like at least 13 days, as many days as my longest run. 

When I am talking to folks about this run, a question that inevitably comes up is “how long does it take to get to Antigua?”  My answer is generally “well, that’s sort of like asking, how much does a car cost?”  It depends, but I will say that the southbound run takes anywhere from 10 to 13 days and this year will not be a big difference. 

It is generally a mix of great days and slow days but we get there eventually.

One way or the other, It is going to be a long trip.  And, speaking of S-L-O-W, I log our position and many other stats every two hours on passage, and when we were jogging along with adverse currents and the need to wait for better conditions for more than a day and a half, we logged 144 miles under the keel and managed to gain mere 60 miles south in the direction we wanted to go, about 40 miles a day. A pathetic showing. 

Not great given the fact that when conditions are good, we can make about 250 or more miles in the same timeframe.

Anyway, we are now sailing toward our destination, and have been for hours now, but by tomorrow, early Tuesday morning, I expect that we will again be motoring, and that could continue for as many as 3-4 days based on the current forecast of very light winds to the south of us.

The good news is that the weather models suggest that the last 500-600 miles of the trip will be great sailing so fingers crossed that it holds.

I am not particularly concerned about running out of fuel, well, not yet anyway, but to be estimating that we will use more fuel on this run than any other to date is a bit sobering.  I guess that my little “guardian angel” is still with me and perhaps that is why she decided to make that tank leak two years ago so I would have to purchase a fuel bladder. 

If it were not for her, I would surely be making a stop in Bermuda for fuel and then guarantee that the run would extend to at least a full two weeks.  All I would be able to say to that would be ugh, no make that double-ugh.

So, as we continue to move along under sail, it is clear that we will be doing plenty of motoring before we get to the trade winds and ultimately to Antigua.

With that in mind, the “thought of the day” and for days to come will be conserve fuel!

Yes, repeat after me “conserve fuel”, and I will.

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