February 7, 2016
We’ve enjoyed a couple both nice and intense weeks in Morehead City, tackling some critical maintenance projects and catching up with good friends.
North Carolina is home to several herds of wild horses and our friend Pam volunteers to monitor the Beaufort horses. She invited me to join her, along with friends Diane and Josh on a trip to the island to set up motion-activated cameras to photograph the horses and to check on their welfare. We saw about a dozen of the 30+ horses in this group and set up the cameras. It was a great day and I learned a lot!
We also enjoyed what has become an honored tradition for us – an oyster roast at the Gilpin family estate. Steve, Clayton, and Dianne got a roaring fire started and when the coals were hot, a metal plate was laid on top, then came the oysters and a wet blanket to cover them until they were cooked and ready for a feast! Dianne made up a batch of Mom’s (Gilpin) renowned cornbread and Mom (Barbara Gilpin) made a brief appearance to sample some oysters. Susan and Beth, who don’t eat oysters, came out for a visit. Smores capped off a great evening!
I drove down to Southport to where I enjoyed a wonderful dinner with two good friends, Nancy and Lynne, then did a stop at Costco in Wilmington to continue the provisioning process for the next few months of planned cruising. Our freezers are near empty, so we have begun the process of re-filling them.
Lynne and husband Nick then drove up from Southport to visit us, stop in at the chocolate festival, and see the boat. We enjoyed a nice dinner out and a chance to engage in some stimulating discussions. Bradly and Nick could have been raised as brothers, they are so close in thinking.
We are pleased to be the featured boat on the Nordhavn Registry – check it out for an interview and some photos.
We are continuing with several maintenance projects – more on that in the next update.
January 26, 2016
We had a smooth trip down the Potomac River, spending New Year’s Eve at anchor on the Potomac River. No partying for us and we were in bed early to get an early start in the new year. We continued on New Year’s Day to Deltaville for another night at anchor, then on to Portsmouth, just across the Elizabeth River from Norfolk.
There we spent a couple weeks, using the time to catch up with good friends Gary, Cookie, and little Ruthie and new friends Larry and Susan. We visited the Virginia Beach Bridge Club a few times and played in their Sectional Tournament, where we accumulated some good Master Points. We also continued work on replacing a couple of our toilets. And we had a visit from good friends Ron and Wendy who may come with us for some cruising soon.
From there, it was time to head south to Morehead City, NC. Winter weather can be tricky and we wanted good weather to head around Cape Hatteras. It’s about a 30 hour trip and it looked like we had a good 36-hour weather window, so we set off on January 14th. The challenge was to get a weather window that lined up with the tides, but that was not to be. We elected to maximize the weather window and simply run at increased RPM to make up for the tides being against us on departing and arriving. We ran the whole trip at around 1200 RPM vs. our normal 1060, for an extra 2 gallons of fuel burned per hour. Once again, Captain Bradley got the weather right – we had a reasonably smooth trip all the way to Cape Lookout, where they were beginning to broadcast building seas and gale warnings. As we approached the Morehead City Yacht Basin, the rain came and the winds increased, but we were soon safely docked and the storm blew past, bringing a day of nice weather so that we could give the boat a good wash! We will be here for about a month, doing a bit more maintenance and visiting more good friends before departing for Charleston in February.
Here are a couple videos of our recent passages and some more photos (click any photo to enlarge):
December 30, 2015
Happy New Year to everyone! As another year comes to a close, we can’t help but reflect on how fortunate we are to be able to experience the cruising life! We’ve had another wonderful year filled with adventures, many new friends, and the chance to re-connect with so many old friends and family! We are still charting our our plans for 2016 but expect to spend some time in the Caribbean during the first half of the year. After that, who knows?
Thanks to everyone who entered the contest to win a T-Shirt! Lucky winners are Jennifer U, Ken M, Tony P, Myron S, Bryant K, and Tracie N. Your shirts will be sent shortly!
Our time at National Harbor is coming to an end. What began as a one month stop has turned into three months as we kept finding reasons to stay! We’ve really enjoyed staying in one place for so long – it’s been great to see so many friends and National Harbor is a great base – plenty to do here and very convenient to MD, DC, and VA. We’ve already booked a reservation for next fall so hope to visit even more good friends then!
I ran in the Ugly Sweater Run here at National Harbor – there were 6000 people and LOTS of UGLY sweaters! We ventured to Colorado for a short visit with friends and family. And our Hannukah, Christmas, and New Years gifts to ourselves and each other included a new waterproof camera and a Fitbit for me, and a new Apple watch and iPhone 6S+ for Bradley, not to mention 5 years of TSA-Pre clearance to make our air travel more tolerable! The boat will be getting a new Iridium GO! to replace our existing satellite phone and SPOT tracker. We’re having fun learning to use them all!
We arrived back at the boat just in time to watch the Redskins defeat the Eagles to become NFC East Champs and earn a spot in the playoffs!
We are hoping to depart from here and spend New Year’s Eve at anchor en route to our next destination Norfolk/Portsmouth, VA.
So below are a bunch of photos, including some tests from my new camera!
Happy New Year!!
December 11, 2015
It’s time for another T-Shirt Contest! If you’d like to win a collector’s edition Shear Madness T-Shirt, it’s easy to try! Just leave a comment with the word T-Shirt in it and you’ll be entered in a drawing (click the comment button or REPLY if you get this by email). You can also include other stuff in the comment – we always love to hear from our friends – virtual and other!
We’re still at National Harbor, MD with a steady stream of friends and family coming by to visit. We’ve had a few people mention that they saw the boat on a local TV station. It turns out that NBC Channel 4 has a camera here at National Harbor that they use for periodic weather updates. Here’s how we look:
Good friends and newlyweds Tom and Marina came by for dinner, joined by Mike, a boater we met here at National Harbor. Though it was a week after Thanksgiving, we cooked a turkey as it is one of our favorite meals! Tom mentioned that he had a spare ticket for the upcoming Redskins-Cowboys game on Monday night so I got to tag along. Alas, the (who would believe it) FIRST PLACE Redskins lost a nail-biter to the LAST PLACE Cowboys on a last second field goal. But it was great to get out to a game and I got to visit with step-daughter April and her nephews (and my step-grandsons) Kevin and Calvin. And, however brief it may be, the Skins are still in FIRST PLACE.
Bob and Karen also stopped by for a boat tour and lunch. I somehow am a participant in Bob’s Friends and Family March Madness (college basketball) pool, which I actually won one year. At that time the only prize was bragging rights, but now there is an enormous trophy that the winner gets to keep for a year. So I showed Bob where I plan to mount that trophy – right up on the bow! We also met Bill and his friend Warren. Bill, who was introduced by a mutual friend, is thinking of buying a boat and possibly living aboard post-retirement. We enjoyed meeting them and talking about the cruising life.
Tracy F., President of Shenandoah University, stopped by with her three kids, a couple of their friends, and Knox, a mutual friend of ours. So there are a couple of additions to the Shenandoah Flag collection. Good friends Sudhakar, Bina, and daughter Divya also came by and we hope to see them onboard for a cruise soon!! And Earl, who was a long time captain of a good friend’s boat, came over for a tour.We journeyed out to Margy and Bryant’s house for a Hannukah celebration with grandkids Tyler and Austin, where we cooked brisket and latkes.
It’s also been a time for fixing a few of those little things on the boat. We’ve ordered some new hinges for a cabinet in one of the heads, a couple new door handles, and some “fiddle” parts – this is for the bars that keep things secure in open shelves. We also have had one large inflatable fender repaired and have replaced another.
The boat will be here until just after Christmas – we hope to once again spend New Year’s Eve on the water, en route to Norfolk.
December 7, 2015
A Recycling Story
This update is not about cruising – it’s a story about our house batteries and an interesting project where they found new life.
Some of you may recall that back in May we replaced our house battery bank (see the video here). These are the batteries that power the boat when we are at anchor, away from shore power, and not running our generator. We have 16 Lifeline AGM GPL-8DL batteries which provide 2040 amp hours of power when charged, enough to power the boat for about 18 hours between charges. However, our batteries were five years old, not lasting as long as they used to and taking longer to charge. So we decided to replace them.
Each battery weighs 156 pounds and each can be sold for re-cycling at about $30 per battery. But these batteries weren’t completely used up – they still had some life in them. So I decided to see if we could find a better use than sending them straight to the re-cycle facility. This ended up taking some time, and in the end I got only marginally more for the batteries than I would have by sending them to re-cycle, but I found good uses for the batteries and met some interesting folks in the process.
To start, I took several batteries to the local Intersate Battery store where I had them tested to determine their Cold Cranking Amps (CCA). They all tested out just fine – not like new, but still plenty of power. So this was some confirmation that the batteries should have some life left in them. Then I posted an ad on Craigslist and got several responses from people who were interested. In the end, two people purchased our used batteries. First was Billy, who has several boats he uses to take his grandchildren out and needed some engine start batteries. He wanted three of them. He couldn’t afford to pay much and lived 2 hours south of Beaufort. But I had a trip planned to Southport and was going to pass right by where he lived. So I was able to deliver them to him on the way!
Then there was Luis. He lived in Charlotte, a four-hour drive from where we were in Beaufort, NC. Luis has been working on a project to install a solar farm at his home. He needed a large battery bank that would provide power when the sun was down, but could not afford the cost of these batteries new. He was willing to drive four hours each way to pick up eight of them.
He arrived with a small SUV and we loaded the eight batteries on board. We could hear the SUV groan, but it made it back to Charlotte where Luis installed and tested them.
I still had five batteries left and Luis called back a few days later, saying he would like to drive back to pick up 4 more! They turned out to be perfect for his project. So back he came and he took the remaining five – they need to be installed in groups of 4, but he took the additional one as a backup.
I asked Luis to provide some more details of his solar project and here’s what he said:
There are 20 Unisolar PVL-136 flexible solar panels in two sets (10 to the left and 10 to the right) connected in pairs to make them 48 volts 4.13 amps. Each side is independent and produces 72volts at about 20 amps. The two circuits go to a 60amp dual pole disconnect switch next to the panels and from there to the garage using 6 AWG PV wires.
In the garage the two lines go to two 30 amp DC breakers and from there to two 1200 watt Power Jack grid tie solar inverters; the output of these inverters is then combined and goes outside to a main AC service disconnect switch and back in to the house main breaker box.
The inverters pump around 2kwatts per hour into the grid and this covers for just about everything we use during the day including the Trace Voyager 2500 watts marine inverter with 3 stage 120 amp battery charger that charges the very nice GPL-8DL batteries courtesy of my friends at Shear madness.
With the help of an external automatic relay, when there is sun light the inverter goes into charge mode when the sun goes down. It assumes that there is no power and it takes over the load on the house till sun is up again.
As of Dec 1, the batteries are working great! They are now working 24/7 and running 70% of the house and being charged by solar power. They hardly go to 30% discharge over night and reach full charge by 2 or 3 in the afternoon. I’m extremely happy with them!
So there you have it, a modern recycling saga!
November 30, 2015
Aside from stops for maintenance, our stay at National Harbor has been our longest ever at a marina! We are continuing to enjoy our time here, which has been packed with visits from friends and family. We plan to be here another couple weeks, so if you are one of those friends who haven’t yet visited, please contact me! We’d love to see you!
I’ll mostly let the photos tell the story – here are just a few highlights:
- National Harbor is a great place with lots of events, many of them free. We attended the lighting of the Christmas tree, ICE at the Gaylord hotel (not free), and a Christmas dance show. If you live in the area and haven’t been to National Harbor lately, you should make plans to visit. It’s an amazing place!
- Many local friends have come to visit and we also had a visit from two Nordhavn’s who came for a couple nights at National Harbor. I don’t have photos of everyone but you know who you are!
- I got to play some more golf! Thanks Mary Irene!
- We left the boat and flew to Florida to visit friends and family in Naples and to attend the Ft. Lauderdale Boat Show where we caught up with many good friends. We also had a memorable (not good!) restaurant experience – read the review here.
- Bradley’s daughter Margy and family came for a night at the Gaylord and to attend the ICE show – an amazing city constructed of fantastic ice sculptures.
- On Thanksgiving we visited former neighbors Allen and Mary Ann, whose children were visiting – they are now all grown up, out of college, and living in New York. Great to see them! We then spent the day with Margy and her husband Bryant’s family where we had a fantastic turkey dinner.
- We had a special visit from Mitch and Meagan, their daughters Elise and Alexa, and Mitch’s cousin Ryan and daughter Molly. Meagan is the daughter of Dudley, the original owner of our boat, then called The Good Life. Sadly, Dudley passed away not long after taking delivery of the boat. We’ve been in touch with his family by email for many years, but this is the first time we’ve had a chance to meet in person! It was wonderful to make this connection and we really enjoyed the visit. In one of those serendipitous turns of fortune, Ryan is a marine electrician and was able to diagnose and solve a big problem that had recently cropped up – turned out to be a bad relay in our A/B Bus system.
- We visited my step-mother Virginia, who still lives in the house I grew up in. She is a great cook and loves to make Filipino food for Bradley! She and daughter Ela also came to the boat for a visit.
- I decided to go for a long run one day. Setting off from a park in Old Town Alexandria, it was a beautiful day and I decided to do a one-way run. It turned into a half-,marathon (13 miles, but I did walk a couple of them) as I decided to go all the way to Arlington Cemetery, where I visited my father-in-law Army Colonel Ted Rosenberg and my father, army Private Austin Clark. Uber took me back to my starting point!
And finally, here are some new book reviews.
October 26, 2015
Our friend Cyndy from Colorado was flying into Baltimore to meet us, so we departed the Sassafras River to head to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. As we approached Baltimore, we cruised past Fort McHenry. Here’s a little video tribute (click to view):
There’s little to no room to anchor in the harbor, so we tied up to the city wall, placing us within walking distance of many wonderful shops and restaurants. Cyndy arrived and we headed off to get her some crab cakes – very delicious!
Next it was time to head south down the Chesapeake Bay towards Solomon’s, MD. A little bad weather was approaching so we wanted to be somewhere safe. We decided to anchor in St. Leonard’s Creek up the Patuxent River, where our friends Amy and Barry have a beautiful property (its for sale!). We stayed for several days, using the tender to explore and to go ashore for walks and visits. I caught up with Karen, my best friend from 5th and 6th grade who lives nearby and we had a wonderful dinner with Amy and Barry.
After the windy weather passed, we continued down the bay to the Potomac River. We had a great day for cruising so decided to make the most of it, covering more than 70 miles and cruising quite a ways up the Potomac River, anchoring for the night just outside Mt. Vernon, historic home of George Washington. Though the weather was gray and rainy, we took the tender over for a visit and enjoyed seeing many of the recent renovations and improvements that have been made.
Our next destination was National Harbor, located in Oxon Hill, MD, my hometown. Now a thriving mini-city, with a convention center, high-end residences, restaurants, and soon even a casino, the beautiful waterfront here used to be woods and trails where we rode our ponies. It’s amazing to see the many changes that have taken place here, yet some things remain the same. While there is a new Oxon Hill High School now (a beautiful, state of the art building), the old Seitz Liquors and Hovermale’s Ice Cream stand remain virtually unchanged. It’s a nice combination of new and old. It’s simply amazing to be here, docked at a beautiful marina with amazing facilities with the Capital Wheel as our backdrop.
Our main reason for coming here is to attend my high school reunion. Though I haven’t stayed in close touch with many friends from high school, some of us have recently reconnected via Facebook and other means. A couple of my wonderful classmates also decided to organize a reunion of our elementary school classmates. We had 28 people who started first grade together at Thomas Addison Elementary School in 1963 and went through high school together. Incredibly, 17 of those classmates came to the reunion, coming from as far as Canada and California!
Our old elementary school is currently being renovated and is to be used as a training facility for the new MGM hotel and casino being built nearby. We were able to visit the school and take some photos before heading to National Harbor for a get-together aboard Shear Madness. It was wonderful to catch up with so many classmates and to share our memories of our school days.
Next up was the high school reunion where even more old friends would gather for a wonderful evening. Most of my “best friends” from 4th through 12th grade were in attendance and it was so wonderful to see them all.
It was also a time to catch up with friends and family. Bradley’s daughter Margy with husband Bryant and little ones Tyler and Austin came for a visit to National Harbor and we got to attend some of Tyler’s soccer games, where we saw him score two goals. We also attended a football game at DeMatha High School, where my godson Jaylen is a starting linebacker. Good friend Christeen stopped by with daughter Sophie. Former neighbors Allen and Maryann came for a wonderful visit. Our good friend Fatiha, who used to take good care of us, our house, and our dogs, also stopped in. Another friend, Ann, brought us a wonderful Pho Noodle lunch. And I even got in a couple rounds of golf with Carol, Mary Irene, and Anne at Riverbend and with Larry at my former club TPC Potomac at Avenel Farms. Anne and Mary Irene come by for a visit and wonderful lunch. Fellow cruisers Sean and Louise stopped in for a night on their way up the Potomac to Washington. And sailors Nancy and Ron are in town without their boat, catching up with us for lunch.We also visited our good friends Sudhakar and Bina, enjoying a great dinner at their home.
We also attended some notable events – an amazing Indian Sikh wedding, complete with amazing food and spectacular entertainment. I also attended the annual Fall banquet of the Northern Virginia Technology Council, catching up with many former business associates and friends.
We had a bit of a scare as Hurricane Joaquin formed and could not seem to make up his mind which way he wanted to go. We felt pretty safe here and prepared for the worst, but fortunately he remained well offshore, bringing us only rain and some modest winds. It did rain out a golf outing with my good friend Min and her husband David, but they came for a visit to the boat, bringing us a generous helping of Min’s kim-chi, a favorite!
The reunion theme continued, with a get-together of my former colleagues from Landmark Systems. Although Landmark was acquired back in 2002, we still have a strong group of folks who remain in contact and love to get together on occasion to catch up and reminisce. It was a good turnout and we all had a wonderful time. And not to be left out Bradley had a couple reunions of his own, with high school classmates Michael (Buddy) and wife Catherine and Martha with husband Tom coming over for a boat tour and dinner out. Bradley’s good friend Alan was in town on business from Colorado and along with mutual friend Ken and two work colleagues came by for a visit and dinner.
We’ve still got more friends to catch up with and despite being here for a month, will simply not be able to fit in everything we want to do and everyone we want to see. Maybe we’ll just have to stay a little longer!
September 22, 2015
I must confess I haven’t been in much of a writing mood, so here is a very brief update on our last month and a bunch of photos.
We left Morehead City, traveled around Cape Hatteras to the Chesapeake Bay, left the boat in Portsmouth to travel to Portland, Oregon for my niece Mary’s wedding, visited Bradley’s cousin Mark and wife Kris in Bend, Oregon, fixed a problem with our heads (toilets), moved the boat to Deltaville, caught up with friends Brad and Lorraine and Steve D, moved the boat to Georgetown, MD, drove to NYC, saw a show, attended a Rosenberg family lunch, came back and are now heading to Baltimore to pick up a friend who is flying in tonight.
In a week or so we will be at National Harbor in the MD/DC area where we plan to hang out for a month. So if you are in that area, let us know if you have time to drop by!
August 15, 2015
Half Moon Cay turned out to be a great place to hang out for awhile. The north end of the island is a gold mine of reefs, perfect for snorkeling, spear fishing, and diving. We stayed anchored in West Bay, where cruise ships come several times a week to deposit guests for a day of fun on the white sand beach and inner lagoon. They arrive around 9am and the beach becomes a vibrant place, teeming with guests until late afternoon when they return to their boat and depart for their next destination, leaving our anchorage very peaceful and beautiful. While we are not allowed to go ashore to the cruise company facilities, we can paddle board and swim in the bay, walk on the beach when there is no cruise ship there, and take our tender around to the north side of the island where there are more beautiful beaches, totally deserted!
We enjoyed several wonderful dives and had the best spearfishing we’ve experienced so far in the Bahamas. Spearfishing can only be done with snorkel equipment, not SCUBA gear, so the big decision each day was whether to go diving or spearfishing! There was no bad choice!
Several other boats came and went from the anchorage. We spent a couple fun days with Jerry and Nola from the sailboat Moonsong. They joined us for a couple dinners and some snorkeling. They travel with a Labradoodle who also likes to snorkel – it was great fun snorkeling with a dog! He wears a life vest and has a special ramp so that he can get in and out of their tender – unfortunately the photographer neglected to get a photo of that!
Next, it was time to head back to the Abacos to begin to position for a crossing back to the US. This was a trip of about 120 miles, so we planned a late afternoon departure with an overnight crossing around the east coast of Eleuthera and then in to Marsh Harbour. We spent a couple nights anchored near Marsh Harbour and enjoyed some time ashore, visiting Maxwell’s Supermarket to stock up on fresh produce and enjoying a dinner out at Curly Tails where we had an excellent meal. Our crew intern, Amanda, also had fun meeting some locals and enjoying some Bahamian culture. I also searched for some geocaches in Marsh Harbour, and in the process discovered Abaco Grocery, the Bahamas equivalent of a small Costco – it even had some Costco brand products!
Our next stop was at the north end of Great Guana Cay, another anchorage with spectacular reefs for diving and snorkeling. There is also a fabulous beach, an easy paddleboard trip from the boat. But this end of Great Guana is part of a private development called Baker’s Bay. It caters to the rich and famous, is not friendly to cruisers, and is also not welcomed by many of the locals for the environmental impact it is feared to be having on the reef system.
After adding some more fish to our freezers, we headed for our next destination, Grand Cay, which would position us for the shortest crossing back to NC. This also turned out to be a great spot, with several other boats in the anchorage, a beautiful beach to explore, and a nice town not too far away. Our tender was up on deck for the passage back to the US, so we explored by kayak. Swimming in the anchorage was deterred by a very large population of jellyfish, but they did not seem prevalent closer to shore. Though we did not do any snorkeling or spearfishing here, others in the anchorage confirmed that it’s a great place for that, so we will add it to our list of stops for next time!
The weather was looking good for a passage to NC, a trip of about 470 miles with would take 2 ½ days. We departed on Tuesday, August 4 and arrived at Portside Marina in Morehead City on Friday afternoon. We gave the boat a thorough cleaning and have been catching up with a variety of friends. From here, we will head north to the Chesapeake Bay.
Here are a couple new videos:
This one is our guests, Ben and Amparo during their visit in June:
And this one is a video tour of Shear Madness: