April 14, 2015
WARNING: This update is about the “other” side of cruising – boat maintenance! If you are mostly interested in sunsets, rainbows, dolphins, fish, or adventures on the water you may want to skip this and the next couple updates as we are busy doing some boat maintenance. But if you want some of the details, read on!
Many of our projects are still in progress and I will provide a more comprehensive list of more of the things we have done next time. This post will deal with just one project – replacing our house battery bank. What’s that, you may wonder. Well, when the boat is not connected to shore power and we are not running a generator, power for everything – lights, refrigeration, TV, appliances, comes from sixteen large batteries, collectively referred to as the House Battery Bank. When we are at anchor or not at a marina that has shore power for use to connect to, we run a generator twice a day to re-charge these batteries. The batteries themselves are deep-cycle marine batteries, made to be used in this fashion. The life expectancy of these batteries varies but is typically measured in cycles – how many times they are used and re-charged – rather than by years. With the amount of time we spend away from shore power, our four-year old batteries were ready to be replaced.
Our particular batteries are called Lifeline AGM GPL-8DL and each of them weighs 167 pounds. To get to our battery bank, from the Pilot House you go down a set of stairs, then open a hatch, which leads you down a ladder to the Machinery Space (also known as “the hole”). Thus, replacing these batteries isn’t quite like putting a couple new AA’s into your remote control.
First, you have to buy the new batteries. As the price is close to $600 apiece, it pays to shop around a bit. By calling several Lifeline dealers in different states, we were able to be sure we would get the best price and we actually ended up getting them from the dealer in New Bern, NC, though they were shipped to us from the distribution center. The batteries weigh 2600 pounds, so they arrive stacked on a pallet. We had arranged for the use of a forklift to bring them to the boat and to raise them up high enough to unload into the Pilot House (the boat is still out of the water).
The day of installation arrived but there was a problem – heavy rain forecast all day. So we had to postpone until we had better weather. The next day was better and a crew from Offshore Marine Electronics – our local electrical and electronics gurus – arrived ready for a fun day. Soon we found that the forklift came about 2 feet short of reaching the door. So we made a slight alteration to our plan – someone would have to step out onto the pallet to get batteries on and off the boat.
Before starting, protective blankets was laid on the pilot house carpet, blue plastic protective material taped to the stairs, and protective cardboard taped to all walls and bannisters to lessen the possibility of dings to the interior.
Because of a limited staging area, we planned to remove four batteries at a time from the battery bank, lift them out of the hatch, get them up the stairs to the pilot house, bring four new batteries in, get them down the stairs and into the machinery space, then get the old batteries out, onto the pallet, and lowered to the ground. The weight of the batteries meant that lifting straps had to be used to get them out of or into the hatch. The hatch then had to be closed before the batteries could be brought up the steps, and that required coordination between two lifters. Because the forklift didn’t quite get high enough, lifting straps again had to be used to get the batteries onto the pallet. Once the first four were done, the system was working well and was repeated three more times.
All in all, it went pretty smoothly. It took about four hours to get the old batteries off and the new ones in. Soon they were connected up, secured in place and put into service. It was quite a day and I’m sure all the lifters slept well that night!
If you’re still reading at this point, you may even want to watch the video
And here are a few more photos:
March 20, 2015
As much as we enjoy living aboard Shear Madness at sea level, we do miss seeing the mountains. So this year we planned to spend a little time in the Colorado Rockies to enjoy some winter sports and to visit friends and family.
Before I get to that, I realize that I forgot to post a couple important photos from our stay in Deltaville. Just before we left there in December, our good friends Milt and Judy along with the faithful Schipperke Katy, stopped by in their new American Tug. Milt and Judy own a Nordhavn that they have cruised extensively, but wanted a smaller boat to base in Florida, while keeping their Nordhavn in the Northeast US. We had a wonderful visit and a tour of their very nice new boat!
In February, we traveled back to Northern Virginia and visited some friends and family. I was FINALLY able to pry grandson Tyler away from his trains, Wei, and other important games to teach him to play some cards. He learned War, Go Fish, and Concentration, and soon was playing with Grandpa Bradley and claiming to beat him.
I also visited with our good friend Jean who we had not seen in way too long. And I was invited to an “intimate” lunch with Governor Chris Christie – along with 100 other people! But that provided a great opportunity to catch up with many past business associates. And no, it wasn’t a fundraiser!
I have a high school reunion coming up this year, so many of my classmates have been re-connecting in anticipation of that event. While in the area, I was able to meet a couple classmates for a wonderful dinner. Becky attended Oxon Hill High School and I last saw her 20 years ago at our 20th reunion. Mike and I were among the 28 people who started first grade together at Thomas Addison Elementary School and progressed through 12 years together, culminating at Oxon Hill High School. It was great to see them and to meet Mike’s wife Barbara.
Then it was off to Denver for more visiting and some fun in the snow. And upon our arrival we were treated to 8 inches of fresh snow in Denver. This allowed me to try out my Valentine’s gift from Bradley – a set of beautiful new snowshoes! They were wonderful! After a couple nights at my stepson’s Mike’s, we headed up to Copper Mountain for ten days. The conditions were great and we enjoyed our first downhill skiing in many years. I signed up for a free snowshoe tour, led by a volunteer ambassador. Turns out I was the only one signed up that day so I had a private tour with a guide who was 77 years old. I could not keep up with him! So the next day I decided to take a group ski lesson. Starting with a group of four, I was soon assigned for the morning by myself to Dick, who had just celebrated his 85th birthday! I could not keep up with him either.
Our friend Ken from Maryland flew out to join us for a few days and he had great fun wearing Bradley out while I was taking my lesson and cross-country skiing on my own. We were also joined by good friends Alan and Kathleen who live in Golden and we spent a day at the nearby Nordic Center where we cross-country skied. It was an awesome day!
Then it was off for some family visiting. While Bradley headed to Golden with Alan and Kathleen, I set off for Sidney, Nebraska to visit my niece Robin, her husband Eric, and my soon-to-be-great nephew who is scheduled to arrive in June. I had met Eric only once at their wedding in 2013, so it was great to spend some time with them and get to know him. He made a great first impression, cooking wonderful chili rellenos the first night and perfect steaks the second night. We also played some 3-way cribbage and I attended both rural churches where Eric is a pastor. I was also able to enjoy some great local hiking.
From there it was back to Erie, CO (near Boulder) to visit my other niece Vicky and great-niece Sophie. I had agreed to stay overnight with Sophie so that Vicky could have a mom’s night out at a local hotel. Despite some initial skepticism, Sophie turned out to be a complete angel and we had great fun watching Paw Patrol and Spongebob Squarepants, reading stories, going to the playground, and going for a very long hike. On the way back from the hike, we came across a fire truck parked on the side of the road. One of the firefighters emerged with a fire hat for Sophie. She was delighted, though later when she tried to tell her Daddy about it, Fire Truck came out sounding like, well, use your imagination. A few letters got lost there.
It was then time for some more classmate reunions. Joel, another of my elementary school comrades, lives near Denver so we got together for dinner at a local BBQ place. We had not seen each other since high school 40 years ago. It turns out that Joel, like me, spent most of his career in the Software/IT field. Now retired from that, he and his wife Sheryl are opening the first Hungry Howie’s pizza franchise in Colorado. So anyone in the Denver area, keep an eye out for that!
We returned to Copper Mountain for a few more days. The weather had turned spring like, so we decided to practice our cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. This gave us plenty of good exercise and a chance to explore the local area.
Then it was time to re-unite with one of my best friends from high school, Cheryl. She is now a pathologist and has been in Denver for many years. Our good friend Cyndy had invited us to her house for St. Patrick’s Day and welcomed Cheryl and Dan to join the party. It was a wonderful night. Cyndy is a great cook and wonderful entertainer. Cheryl and I have not seen each other in 40 years, but it was as if we had never stopped being friends. I really felt that if I had just met Cheryl for the first time, she and I would become friends – we still seemed to have that connection all these years later. It was great to meet her husband Dan as well and I can promise it will not be 40 years until the next time we see each other.
Our month in the mountains seemed to fly by and suddenly it was time to head to the airport for a flight back to the east coast and a return to the boat. We enjoyed our mountain fix, but are looking forward to being back on the water!
We spent a few days back in Virginia, visiting friends and family. Bradley also had a chance to re-connect with old high school friends Martha and Buddy. We will have a few weeks to finish up our maintenance tasks and test everything out with some sea trials in April before heading off for some water adventures.
March 13, 2015
Shear Madness is still in Beaufort, NC and I’m still in catch-up mode with our blog! Let me pick up in Deltaville, VA where we were in November and December. While in Deltaville, we did a few projects on the boat and the tender. All routine. Our good friend Susan, a high school classmate of Bradley’s, came to join us for a month. She did an amazing job of helping to clean the boat and she’s also an incredible cook! It was great to spend some time with her.
We had a chance to catch up with several old friends. We spent Thanksgiving with old friends Gary and Patty and watched the Dallas Cowboys – I even got to try on Patty’s Cowboys shirt – it didn’t fit and looked awful (I am a Redskins fan – a difficult thing to admit these days). We met several new friends, including Sean and Louise on the steel-hulled boat Vector and Graham and Wendy on Oyster Mist, an Oyster 42 sailboat. We also met Nancy and Ron of Mandala. We had been introduced by a mutual friend two years ago and had been in touch by email but had never met in person. They arrived in Deltaville for a short stay and we had a lovely time with them. We also caught up with Deltaville locals Bill and Mary and Mike and Maxine who joined us for a party aboard Shear Madness. We also had a lovely time with Brad and Lorraine from the Nordhavn 55 Adventure (who were with us in Nova Scotia for the summer) and Ray and Susan from Copeing (Outer Reef 65 who are based in Deltaville).
In early December, my step-grandson, Kevin, joined us for a couple month stint as our deckhand. Kevin is hoping to join the Navy but in the meantime wanted to spend some time away from home and learn a bit about boats. He was soon busy with cleaning, waxing, polishing, and learning a whole new vocabulary! It was time to depart from Deltaville and head down the Chesapeake Bay to Portsmouth, VA. The trip was uneventful and was a good chance for Kevin to learn more about the boat systems. Soon he was able to do engine room checks and complete log entries on his own.
Our friends Gary and Cookie invited us to a holiday party at their home and it was a wonderful event! It was mostly work colleagues of Gary with lots of children. Good food, fun people, and some games and singing Christmas Carols made for a great time. Gary was also kind enough to invite me and Kevin to attend a basketball game at Old Dominion University. Front row seats no less! It was a great game – ODU won handily – and I made friends with the mascot! We also met up with another of my step-gransdons, Brian, who was working for the week in nearby Chesapeake, VA. Kevin and I also had a chance to get out for a round of golf.
We made a trip to Northern Virginia for Kathy to have some business meetings and to visit friends and family. We met Bradley’s newest grandson, Austin, for the first time. We spent Christmas Day with Lloyd and Arlene and our dear friend Fatiha, who had lived with us for many years in our Oakton house and took good care of us and our dogs. We all watched the movie The Interview, which turned out to be much funnier than we had expected. We then had a wonderful dinner.
Upon returning to the boat it was time to head south to Beaufort, NC where we planned to haul the boat out of the water for a few months of maintenance and for us to spend some time in Colorado. Just before we were to leave, fellow Nordhavn owners Bob and Jan on the 57-foot Emeritus pulled into Tidewater Marina. They are an amazing couple – still handling the boat on their own well into their 80’s. We enjoyed a wonderful dinner out with them. It looked like we had a good weather window on New Year’s Eve, so we departed to head around Cape Hatteras and on to Cape Lookout. Conditions were ideal and we enjoyed our New Year’s Eve at sea, as we were able to see a few fireworks displays on shore. We also saw plenty of dolphins – Kevin’s first time seeing them up close! We also saw several whales. We made it to Cape Lookout where we anchored for the night before heading to the Beaufort Town Docks for a few days before moving to Jarrett Bay for our haul out. Soon the boat was safely out of the water and we had moved all our food, clothes, and various other things into the house we rented in the nearby Sea Gate community where we have stayed before.
February 2, 2015
Congratulations to Mark H. who was the winner of our Nordhavn Calendar contest in December. Thanks to everyone else who entered. We’ll run another contest for something else soon, so stay tuned!
We are now in Beaufort, NC where the boat is out of the water and we are doing some routine maintenance. More on that in the next post!
For now, I’ve posted two more videos from our summer adventures.
This is a photo slideshow of Shear Madness in Labrador and Greenland. Beautiful scenery, lots of ice, and some fog. Every day was, indeed a “Beautiful Day”.
And this one is a slideshow of our trip to Nova Scotia and Newfoundland with the Nordhavn 55 Adventure and our friends Brad and Lorraine.
More videos are available on our youtube channel. Please feel free to share them!
January 3, 2015
This is the final post from our summer cruise written by Bradley in Sept as we headed from Nova Scotia to the Chesapeake Bay.
As I write this (Saturday 27 Sept), we are halfway between the southwest tip of Nova Scotia and Provincetown, MA. We have been having a perfect passage with wind in the single digits, sea swell less than half a meter from the port with 8 second period and most importantly, clear skies. No fog, no clouds, nothing but stars. We are one day into a new moon, so it is very black outside. Like a pilot, one must trust the instruments, especially our two radars. One is set for 2 to 3 miles and the other 12 to 16. Throughout the night, we have been dodging long line fishing buoys (high flyers with radar reflectors). Luckily for both the fishermen and us, they now set open ocean lines/pots with special radar reflecting poles 8 to 10 feet tall. One several occasions last night I was called on watch as we approached multiple targets. They are impossible to spot even with our huge spotlight without the radar to help direct the beam.
The sun just came up and it was a beautiful red morning sunrise.
Red sky at night sailor’s delight.
Red sky in morning, sailors take warning.
We know that weather is coming up from the south in the next couple of days. The only real question is will it arrive on Monday or will we get lucky and it arrives late on Tuesday – just as we enter the Chesapeake Bay.
I guess I need to start at the beginning. As you know from a previous blog we were in Port Au Choix, Newfounland. From there, we traveled non-stop to the Bras d’Or Lakes in Nova Scotia where we had to stop at St. Peters for a day. The St. Peters Canal had just gone to winter hours and does not operate on Wednesday, so as we arrived on Tuesday, we had to tie up and wait for the next opening. This was great as we had a chance to meet locals Greg and Dawn and an owner of several local fishing boats who generously gave us some wonderful halibut for our freezers. The it was on to Mahone Bay where we were able to catch up with several friends and have a wonderful dinner at the German restaurant with our fellow cruisers Rob and Tish from Kittiwake. Then it was on to Halifax, where we spent 6 days. Over all it was a wonderful stay.I was able to get a 30 mile bike ride in last Saturday, even with the wind blowing 25 to 30 knots all day.
We also had our challenges – because we decided to equalize or condition our batteries. Lately they had been showing their age, and only lasting 8 hours between charges. Without getting too technical, as batteries age, they can develop a buildup in the internal plates that reduces their effectiveness. By turning up the charging voltage from 28.8 to 31.4, you in essence slowly cook the growth off the plates. As it turns out we must have had a lot of growth, because as ours cooked overnight this past Sunday they created huge amounts of heat and more rotten smelling sulfur gas than expected. At one point the batteries were 150 degrees and the smell of rotten eggs permeated the boat. This meant that Kathy and I spent all of Monday and Tuesday wiping down the entire boat, including giving the Mechanical, Battery and Tank deck a very detailed cleaning. We spent hours and hours wiping everything down and changing our buckets of water, which were turning black very quickly. After the cleaning, I wiped all the metal items, like through hulls, and stainless with Corrosion Block a special marine lubricant and protectorant we use.
Also while in Halifax Matt – the deckhand who had joined us for the summer – decided the fun part of the trip was over and he was not going to remain with us through October as he had committed. Matt’s parents were hoping to replace Matt and do the trip south with us, but the timing was off by a week. We suspect we would have very much enjoyed the time with them. Instead, Matt’s father Peter very kindly put us in touch with a RNSYS member, Phil, who has extensive cruising experience and unlimited time, as he is retired and Phil signed on for the passage back to the US.
As we cleaned up Shear Madness, we were of course watching the weather for a window to continue our trip back to the USA. One of the primary differences between cruising north in the late spring and south in early fall is the general weather pattern. On the way north, one basically has periods of good weather, interrupted by short periods of unfriendly cruising weather. Heading south in late Sept, one has much longer periods of cruising unfriendly weather interrupted by opportunities to move south comfortably. The second major difference is the amount of daylight vs darkness, as we are now at 12 and 12, vs 15 & 9 on the way north. I key on sunlight and the more of it there is, the less I sleep. By Tuesday 23 Sept, it had become clear a weather window was going to open for a crossing. We decided to depart Thursday morning around 9:00 and move the boat south stopping someplace just before the sunset to anchor and have dinner on board. We knew the weather was not going to be perfect for this leg, but it would help position us for a move on Friday and then the 36 hour crossing on Saturday morning. The weather was looking like we would have single digit winds and flat seas, just what we were seeking after the last several moves had provided us double digit plus winds and seas on the nose.
We got underway about one hour behind schedule at 10:00 on Thursday 24 Sept, but it was a promising morning. The wind was less then predicted and since it was going to be on our nose that was good. Just that morning I received an email from Jerry and Dee, the new owners of the Nordhavn 68 Grace of Tides. They were only 60 miles away at Herring Cove near Liverpool & Brooklyn (Nova Scotia). They expressed an interest in trying to catch up, and we had been hoping to cross paths with them on the way south. We had met them early in the year in Old Port Cove Florida, just as they had taken possession of GOT. She was the first 68 to be resold. At first we were making such good progress, we thought it would be no problem to arrive at their bay by 18:00. As often happens, the wind decided to build and the currents were also working against us, so our average speed was in the 6.5 to 7 knot range – even with the RPM up a little higher than usual. What’s an extra 10 gallons, other than $40.00. It looked like we would not make it in until between 19:30 and 20:00. They very kindly indicated, No worries, they would like to invite us to dinner and even offered to pick us up in their tender, to save us having to launch our tender.
After dropping anchor we had a stunning evening with them. Dee prepared a wonderful meal of huge steaks & asparagus on the barbie, a very fresh salad, perfectly cooked polenta and ice cream Sundaes with fresh chocolate dipped strawberries. They served such a stunning wine, that I even broke my normal rule (24 hours bottle to throttle) imbibing 1½ glasses. We had come much further south than originally planned, so we would have only a short cruise on Friday to position ourselves for the Saturday crossing – or so I thought at the time. We very much look forward to returning their hospitality as they head south later this year.
Jerry returned us to our boat, which was safely anchored in the magnificent and calm Herring Cove around 23:00. So far, the newly cooked batteries were looking very promising, as their voltage was still above 26. Since we did not have a set departure schedule we elected to let the battery alarm wake us, expecting it to go off around 0500 or 0600. By 0700 it had not gone off, and the battery voltage was still well above 24, which is the indication that it’s time for a charge. We lazily got up, did the engine rooms checks, prepared SM for passage and did a weather download. We ended up with over 12 hours on the last battery charge, before we cranked the Generator and started the main engines. So the conditioning did seem to help!
The weather forecast had indicated it would be a perfect day with winds in the very low single digits, little to no waves or swell and not a cloud to be seen. We hailed Grace Of Tides on the radio, saying our goodbyes and headed off around 09:00. Once underway, we realized just how perfect the day was looking and started to wonder why would we want to stop in less than 6 hours. After carefully reviewing the weather and looking closely at the very strong tides around Cape Sable, we elected to continue non-stop on our crossing. Depending on our speed, we would arrive at the entrance to the Cape Cod Canal with favorable tides on Sunday morning around 0300. This would provide us with a great advantage as we are expecting adverse weather to develop by Tuesday morning, so it would be nice to be entering the Chesapeake Bay before then. This jump-start by 18 hours would help greatly with that goal.
It is now 09:12 and I have been on watch since 05:00 maintaining a watch, performing hourly engine room checks, dodging long line fishing buoys (high flyers with radar reflectors) and writing this blog. We just had an incredible dolphin show, with a large school feeding and coming straight for us from the port side. Hopefully one of the 100+ plus pictures I snapped off will be a keeper. Thank goodness for digital cameras.
Wow – we had a stunning crossing. The weather never got above the single digits, even if it was on the bow. We opened and used the fly bridge for the first time in 3 months, except when we used it to map a course through the ice flow in Greenland. We made such good time, that we even had to pull the throttle back as we approached the Cape Cod Canal. While our original plan had been to stop for the evening at Provincetown, it would have meant missing the tide at the Canal and in Buzzards Bay. Five hours out from the canal, I realized we would be arriving approximately 1 hour early. We pulled back on the rpm but our speed just did not fall enough. We arrived about 30 min. early, and experienced a 1 to 1.5 knot current against us, for the first couple of miles of the canal. However, it may have been a blessing in disguise, because as we came out of canal, we had a great push all the way down Buzzards Bay.
I came on watch at 00:15 Saturday morning and turned the watch over at 07:15 Sunday. I do not think I have had such an intense watch in a very long time. Coming through the canal at night was interesting and required a little more focus than cruising through in the daytime. Just as we exited the canal, while still in the control channel, we passed a tug pushing a fuel barge. Buzzards Bay is extremely well marked and on this Saturday evening was extremely busy. We had two tugs with barges that were anchored due to mechanical issues, one directly in the channel. Working outside the channel while shorter is easy in daylight, but at night the lobster pots and fish traps are much harder to spot – especially on a moonless night. In addition we were back in waters with extensive bouys, lights, markers and depth – pieces of information we had not had in several months of cruising up north. I was so busy moving between the pilot house where we have better information and the fly bridge where there is better visibility on dark nights, that at the end, I felt like I had a good workout. I went to bed and slept for 3 solid hours before hunger roused me.
The rest of Sunday was a wonderful day, with the winds staying in the single digits. We had a bit of excitement just before midnight. Phil was on watch, dodging the high-flyers when we were awakened by an ominous bang. We had hit one and its line became stuck on our stabilizer. All hands were on deck within minutes and the throttles were pulled back to neutral as we assessed the situation. Unfortunately, despite going in reverse and trying to maneuver our way out of it, the line remained wrapped around the stabilizer. We had no choice but to cut it free. In the meantime, the Norwegian Breakaway, a cruise ship, called on the radio. He had noticed that we had stopped and wanted to know what was happening as he was rapidly approaching us. We explained the situation and he said he would alter course to give us good clearance. Once the line was cut, we were free and continued on course. No damage done, but we kept a very vigilant eye on the radar after that!
After a near perfect passage, we entered the Chesapeake Bay where we anchored for a night before heading to Tidewater Marina in Portsmouth. On the way in, the Navy gave us a nice show, with a small aircraft carrier and a submarine passing close by! After giving the boat a good cleaning, we said goodbye to Phil, who flew back to Halifax. It was time for some relaxing after a strenuous summer.
December 8, 2014
Below are links to two new videos – the first features some beautiful polar bears, including an incredible swimmer (3.5 mins) and the second is a tribute to Migration, our cruising buddy for the summer of 2014 (3.5 mins). These and previous videos are available on my youtube channel.
We have received the beautiful Nordhavn 2015 calendars, which feature Shear Madness as Miss January. This is your chance to win one of the calendars. All we want to do is hear from you. Leave a comment or reply to the email you receive if you are a subscriber and mention the word Calendar. You’ll be entered in a drawing to win one. Please include a little more in your reply – with our lifestyle this blog is one of our prime ways of keeping in touch with everyone, so we love to hear from you! Entries close Dec 15th.
One last thing – we have improved our location tracking – you can see our current location, or a map of our travels since 2011 under the About tab.
Where You Lead
December 3, 2014
Note: This blog was written in September when we were still on our way back from Labrador. We are now in Deltaville, VA and will head soon to Norfolk/Portsmouth, then on to Beaufort, NC by year end.
(By Bradley) I put “home” in quotes, because we basically live on board Shear Madness. We have a wonderful little place in Naples Fl, but we do not consider it home. Shear Madness is our home. However, we also follow the methodology of scheduling a maintenance period every 12 to 18 months, where the boat is hauled from the water and we address a long list of both preventive maintenance items, repairs from our list and at this point – minor upgrades. Our goal when cruising is to have as few breakdowns as reasonably possible. Sitting for a week or two stuck while we wait for a part or even possibly a service tech to arrive is not our idea of cruising. We try to treat Shear Madness more like an airplane, with scheduled maintenance cycles. We have also found, when possible, having the same people we trust who know our boat, perform the work has added benefits. One of which is that in an emergency we can reach out to them via phone and they can often be extremely helpful.
We reached the northern most Latitude of our adventure (N 69. 23) in late August and now (8 Sept. 2014) are heading south down the coast of Labrador. We heading back to the Chesapeake Bay and ultimately Jarrett Bay, NC where the boat will be hauled out from January through March 2015. Part of this process is also beginning to plan our 2015 and 2016 cruising seasons. After this extreme season of cruising, we are leaning towards taking it easy in 2015, heading to Colorado for some skiing and visiting friends and family, then just cruising the east coast of North America in 2015 but then having the boat fully ready for another extreme season of cruising in 2016.
The goal of this blog is to give those who do not live and cruise on a boat some insight into the challenges we face and how different this is from living in a house, where your doctor, dentist and repair techs are available with just a simple phone call and where stores, neighbors and internet are within easy reach. For those who live aboard and/or cruise, you may want to skip this blog.
Also, let me state clearly we are not complaining. We have a wonderful life and are extremely lucky. We have our health and are living our dream. However we often get asked a lot of questions relating to: What do you do all day – don’t you get bored? And non- cruisers seem to think each day is filled with fun, play and relaxation.
While we do have lots of time to read, write, explore new places and meet new friends, there is more than meets the eye. Just two nights ago while in Makkovik, we were tied up at the dock for two days, because we knew bad weather was going to arrive. The second night the weather was so bad that I had to get up every two hours, go outside in pouring rain and bitter cold to adjust our fenders, check our docking lines for chafe and in one case, fish a broken 2×4 out of the water, that was banging on the hull. When we are in cruising mode, it is quite common for me to get up at least once a night to check our situation out. Often it can be done from the comfort of the pilot house, but not always. When I know I want to check our situation in the middle of the night, rather than go to sleep worrying, I just drink a large glass of water before going to sleep. I sleep soundly, knowing nature will wake me, and not some nasty alarm clock, in 3 to 4 hours.
This season we had the added pleasure of having to check for drifting ice to make sure none was headed for Shear Madness while at anchor. There was no dashing outside in my birthday suit, as in the Bahamas, to make the adjustments or check on things – way too cold! I tried to just throw on some pants once or twice, but within minutes you are so cold, you becomes less effective at what you are doing.
I suspect that most people can relate to the heading home Blues. After a wonderful vacation, where you had unlimited energy, you have to pack up and head back. Getting on that plane or in your car for the 1 or 2 day trip home, life starts to creep back into your head. Issues you set-aside for a week or two return and you get that combination feeling of tired and trepidation. For us the trip back will be over a month long. Most of it involves very carefully selecting weather windows to make 2 to 3 days hops, in this case away from the shore, to shorten the trip. And often when in port or at anchor the weather is not all that conducive to shore activities.
For us, we are beginning to plan our maintenance cycle and making lists. Lots of lists. We have the maintenance items, the personal items we need to remember to purchase – we both need new boots, Kathy’s hiking boots had the soles fall off. The first time, George was able to use some new magic adhesive he discovered in at the yard in Maine, to reattach the front of the sole, now the back has fallen off. For me, I will need new foul weather boats – mine dry rotted and leaked. We also have to track what inventory items we used, like filters, spare parts etc. and make sure we replace them –often having discovered some new spares we need to carry. This year we are planning on attending the Fort Lauderdale boat show for the first time in several years. We already have a list of 30 plus items to research before and at the show. We also have to figure out how to get our doctors, dentist and other personal appointments scheduled in a fairly short window. We have elected to keep most of our medical care in Northern Virginia, so appointments have to be pre-scheduled to match when we are in town to visit my charming daughter and her family. We have to make sure we have our taxes completed timely, often planning well ahead to sign them, and we have to figure out where we will be so we can vote. Not that there are many good choices from either party.
Once back in the US, with cost effective high speed internet, we will also begin researching our next cruising adventure. What charts, books and other specialty items (like the bear repellant) do we need to purchase. During the maintenance cycle, we will also need to re-inventory the boat, checking on our spares to make sure they remain ok and verifying our inventory is accurate.
I suspect with the exception of those few of you who live in high power outage areas, when you return to your house from being out, you do not give a second thought to power, water, food and fuels. For us, we are managing those resources each day. Every time we leave the boat for more than 5 or 10 minutes we turn off our water and head (toilet) pumps, so if they fail we do not end up with dead batteries or no water. We are constantly checking how much water and fuel we have, and what is the state of our batteries. When will we next run the generator to charge them, and do we need to make water, do the wash, cook, heat the boat or all of the above.
Just to reinforce an earlier point – we are not complaining about the challenges one faces living and cruising a boat. In fact, right now we are cruising south from Makkovik, Labrador to Battle Island or most likely Port Au Choix, Newfoundland. We departed Sunday 7 Sept at 16:00 and have been having an incredible trip. We faced some waves for the first couple of hours until we could turn south and then for the most part they were off our stern or port stern. Last night they got as big as 6 to 8 feet, but with the light winds, they settled right down. We have been averaging in the low 8 knot range, which for us is blazing speed. After three days of clouds, rain and wind, the skies cleared last night to reveal a full moon, which was stunning. We have not really seen a moon in several months. This morning, Kathy’s log entry states – “Beautiful morning blue skies and sun shining”. The sea remains comfortable with 15 to 20 knots of wind filling in off our stern, pushing our speed into the low 9’s this morning. Right now we are doing 9.4 and we are scheduled to arrive in Port Au Choix early Tuesday morning. I estimate we will in fact arrive around 13:00, as this speed will not hold. Looks like we will in fact make Port Au Choix, before the next weather front arrives Tuesday afternoon/evening.
Just as I was getting ready to do the 10:00 hourly engine room check, I did a careful scan of our situation, paying special attention to both the 12 and 3-mile radars. I will be in the engine room for 3 to 5 minutes, which even at this speed is less than a mile. On the 3 mile radar I note a very fast moving object off our port stern heading toward us. I scan the water but cannot find a boat. Looking up, I realize we are getting buzzed by some type of aircraft. It was so close, I could read the tail numbers. Not knowing if it was official or just a private sightseer, I elected to postpone the engine room check for 5 minutes. It is not uncommon for official aircraft to contact us via the VHF radio for some information. A few minutes later Speed Air 104 hails me on 16 – they are a twin-engine plane on pollution patrol. They have checked us out and in particular our wake confirming we are perfectly clean. No oil from the engines, or dirt from the bilges. What do they expect – WE ARE A NORDHAVN!
That is a first. We have been checked out by Customs, by the various coast guards, locals and by private aircraft, but never by a pollution control plane – good on you Canada!
As I sit here with a big smile on my face, one key aspect of our life, that is really different from living on shore is the potential penalty we pay for mistakes, or little mental slip ups. We always tell our guests, the sea is very patient, it will wait quietly for you to make a mental mistake. Some are major, others minor, but frustrating. If you end up with a dead car battery, locked out of your house, or caught in some bad weather on the way to work, it is an inconvenience, but for the most part not life threatening. Out here, things are a little different. Things do happen and contrary to perceptions we are not perfect, but we really work very hard to prevent major mistakes. Cruising is a mental game, more than anything else. These boats are complex machines and as anyone who has ever run one knows, it is very easy to do something in the wrong order, fail to open or close a value in the right order or make any of several hundred mistakes that can damage or destroy critical equipment. Shortly after we purchased Shear Madness, we made a mistake with a fuel return valve, that cost us close to $10k to fix. Luckily we were within Charleston harbor and were able to limp back to the docks to have the engines serviced.
When we are underway, everything has to be secured. We may start out in calm conditions, but sooner or later, the weather changes, waves arrive and things go flying. All cabinets must be secured and remain secure after each use. Refrigerator and freezer doors need to be locked and opened VERY carefully, as, like an airplane “contents may have shifted” while we were underway. Every item in the galley has to be cleaned and put away after use, or it may end up on the floor shattered. We do not use plastic tableware, as I cannot stand eating or drinking out of plastic. In fact on our sailboat we had a complete set of Wedgewood China – the only dish we lost was a washing accident. Even the simple things, like having a drink underway requires a closed cup, and the lid must be closed after each drink or it will spill at some point. The Sea is patient. We have special protocols for trash, discussed in an earlier blog, and while underway, meals have to be coordinated with watch schedules. Everything we do, we try to think though, anticipate what could go wrong and approach with caution. On our sailboat, in heavy weather, we sometimes boiled water while wearing our foul weather pants for protection in case of a spill. On this boat with the stabilizers on, it can be amazingly stable, but we still feel the waves.
As our many blogs demonstrate, this is a wonderful way to see the world, meet and truly get to know locals, and learn much about new countries, but it is very different lifestyle. It is not for the faint of heart, nor for the lazy. We have now been 3 months without live TV and for the most part news. It is not for those who like 8 to 10 hours of continuous sleep at night, waking up to a warm cozy room. Going out to eat can require a very wet ride in the tender and a severe limitation on drinking. However, we would not trade this lifestyle for anything. We love it and I hope this blog gives those who wonder about our sanity a little better understanding of what life is like living and cruising on Shear Madness. Be sure to let us know if you’d like to come for a visit and experience the cruising life for yourself!
November 17, 2014
Two new videos are available for your viewing pleasure.
This one shows what it was like to navigate through heavy ice in Greenland (6 mins)
This one is a tribute to the beautiful sled dogs in Greenland (4 mins)
Every year, Nordhavn creates a glossy calendar with a boat featured each month. This year, Shear Madness is “Miss January” with this photo:
And, with our aggressive summer cruising, we have now officially cruised over 20,000 nautical miles on this Shear Madness. We received our latest “Distance Pennant” from Nordhavn at the Ft. Lauderdale Boat Show. See photo and write-up here.
November 6, 2014
As September approached, it was time to begin our journey south down the coast of Labrador. On Sept 1 we departed our anchorage in Williams Bay at 5:45am to head towards Nain, the northernmost town in Labrador but still a 36 hour trip for us. The base camp at Torngat Park, between our anchorage and Nain, closes down on August 31st, so there was no reason to stop in there on the way. At 10:00am we spotted 3 more polars bears on shore, bringing our total bear spottings to 18! These would be the last we would see. We did, however, continue to see some icebergs – not a lot, but enough to keep us on our toes. We did encounter one large one which had recently calved, creating lots of smaller growlers we had to avoid.
Conditions for this leg were ideal with calm seas and beautiful clear nights. We approached Mugford Tickle, a very narrow passage, during the night. But we had a good track line from when we had come through it on our way north in July and it was a very clear night, so we proceeded through with no problem. Despite being very narrow, with shear cliffs on either side, the water is actually very deep – several hundred feet!
At 10:00am on September 2nd, our log notes “spotted trees for the first time since July 27th”! Our latitude for that log entry was 57.13.9 and for the past six weeks we had seen only moss and small bushes – the environment is too harsh for trees to grow. As we approached Nain, we encountered a 2 knot current against us, bringing our boat speed down below 6 knots. But we arrived in Nain and docked at the large commercial wharf with no problems.
We visited the Parks Canada office and met with Judy who we had met on our previous visit to Nain and also Gary, the Parks Canada manager for the Torngat Base Camp, who we had met during our stop there in July. We met with them to brainstorm on some ideas about promoting the park as a great destination for cruising boats and hope that more cruisers will visit Torngat in the future. We also invited Gary aboard Shear Madness where we enjoyed a chance to relax and catch up.
In Nain, there was a groundbreaking ceremony for Illusuak, the new Inuit Cultural Center that is due to open in 2016. Nain is in a part of Labrador known as Nunatsiavut, which means “our beautiful land” and was created under a land claim agreement with the Inuit. It has its own government “to represent the residents of the land claim area and any Labrador Inuit living elsewhere in Canada. Nunatsiavut remained a part of Newfoundland and Labrador, but the Government of Nunatsiavut acquired the jurisdictional authority over health, education, and justice in the land claim area. Nunatsiavut operates under a consensus government within the parliamentary system of Canada.”
We attended the groundbreaking, where there were several speakers including the President of Nunatsiavut. We spoke to many locals at the well-attended event and enjoyed learning more about the Inuit culture. It seems that there is a resurgence of interest among the younger generation, with many young people learning the native language and customs. For us, there is a bit of a conundrum. We are in favor of preserving the culture, but there seems to be a lot of unwise spending going on with funds from various governments and trusts. For example, in Makkovik, a town of 360 people with no roads connecting it to any other town, they are building a $12 million ice arena. I’m sure it will be a nice facility, but really, is that the best use of that kind of money?
After our one-day stop in Nain, we continued on to Makkovik, departing on Sept 4th with an overnight stop at an anchorage near Hopedale before heading into the Makkovik town dock on Sept 5th. Here we would wait a couple days for some bad weather to pass. On a trip to the grocery store, I encountered a friendly man who struck up a conversation. He seemed vaguely familiar and we soon discovered we had met on our stop here in July. His name is Reg and he has two golden retrievers – we had stopped and talked to him while exploring the town. Reg offered me a ride back to the boat as it was now raining. First we stopped by his house to drop off his groceries and to check on the seal he was cooking! And yes, he did share his seal meat with us. It was interesting – a very strong flavor, very gamey but would be good with plenty of mashed potatoes! I gave Reg a tour of the boat and we exchanged contact information. He and his wife run a small bed and breakfast in their home so can provide accommodations for anyone wanting to visit Makkovik.
Once the weather passed, we were ready to continue on, destined next for Port Au Choix, Newfoundland. As for Labrador, it was simply a magical place. It is a vast, enchanting, scary, interesting, amazing place. Our only regret is that we had so much ground to cover in order to get to Greenland that we did not get to spend nearly enough time there. Thus, we are thinking of devoting the summer of 2016 to cruising Labrador at a more leisurely pace. Anyone looking for a great adventure, please let us know! We’d love to have other boats and/or guests join us!