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:
July 19, 2015
After dropping off our guests, we spent some time exploring Black Point and Great Guana Cay by bike. Much of this was mountain bike terrain on rocky, unpaved roads. I explored the site of the once-planned resort, which never actually got developed, enjoying some beautiful beaches, scenic views, and no people. Unfortunately, the bike ended up with a flat tire! Next, we headed over to Cat Island where we anchored at Bennett’s Harbor, about mid-way down the western side of this 40-mile long island. This gave us a good base of operations as there is a dock where we can take the tender to get ashore, good spearfishing to the west and north, and good protection from all but westerly winds. Our 50-mile trip over was in ideal conditions, even giving us a chance to wash the boat while underway!
First up was to head out for some spearfishing. Despite a weather forecast of light winds, we had moderate winds, so instead of heading to the reefs 8 miles out, we chose some closer ones. Good thing as the wind continued to build and it was a bit rough for a long tender ride. We had some success with spearfishing, getting one nice grouper before heading back. Later we ventured out to the further reefs on a calm day. Bradley speared 3 nice fish – 1 grouper and 2 snappers, but one snapper was lost to a shark – it grabbed it right off the spear just as we got it to the tender. While this sounds scary, it’s not an uncommon occurrence. Sharks and barracudas are pretty savvy, waiting for humans to provide them a free meal. They are not interested in the humans – only in the fish they can provide. Once they steal your fish, they generally swim away.
I set out on my paddleboard to explore Bennett’s Creek, a beautiful, shallow, crystal clear creek that offers spectacular paddling. It is filled with turtles, tiny sharks no more than 2 feet long, and bonefish, which dart away as you approach. This creek meanders along, eventually meeting up with another, even bigger creek. Mangroves and white sand beaches line the shores, with even more turtles – literally hundreds of them! Later we would take the tender up the larger creek at high tide, shut off the engines, and drift lazily along, watching the turtles and sharks, always amazed at how fast the turtles can swim when they are surprised. I spent several wonderful days in this spectacular setting, just me and Mother Nature.
We also met a group of teenagers that was here on a Mission trip from Florida and were invited to attend a basketball tournament they were organizing in Arthur’s Town. It sounded like fun – we just had to get to Arthur’s Town. The town dock there was destroyed by a hurricane many years ago and there is no place to leave a tender – and it’s quite a long tender ride from Bennett’s Harbor to boot. But we thought we’d have no problem getting a ride – usually when I go for a walk, I will have several cars stop to ask if I’d like a ride. Pastor Dan, the leader of the group, also gave me his phone number and said he would send someone to pick us up if we couldn’t get a ride. As we were tying up the tender, we saw a local woman walking near the dock. We introduced ourselves and we walked together the ½ mile to the main road. She is a Cat Island native, is 94 years old, and walks every day. She was quite a delight!
As we suspected, we did not have a problem getting a ride. As soon as we reached the main road, a bus appeared – it was picking up people along the way to take to the event. So we climbed aboard. At Arthur’s Town, we headed to the Hard Rock Oasis, which is not exactly like its namesake cafes in the US. However, it’s very clean and has wonderful, very fresh Bahamian food. We ordered fish and conch with peas and rice and fresh Bahamian bread. As they said it would take quite some time to prepare the food, we headed over to the basketball court to watch the preparations – there seemed to be some serious teams for this 3-on-3 tournament. At one end was the adult group and at the other the little kids – both were great fun to watch.
We enjoyed our dinner and watched some very entertaining basketball. We sat next to Kay, the nurse who runs the local medical clinic and who offered to drive us back to Bennett’s Harbor after the event. A fun night indeed!
We had one exciting night at anchor. A very large and very intense thunderstorm came through. We do get a bit nervous about lightning, but this storm also brought some intense winds of 45 knots along with very heavy rain. Worst, the winds were from the west (not predicted), the one direction where we had no protection. The storm came through at 3am, meaning we had to scramble to close all the hatches, secure everything that could possibly blow away or be thrown off counters inside, make sure the tender was well secured, and stand watch to be sure our anchor was holding. Waves whipped up and we were tossed around quite a bit – but the anchor held and after two tense hours the storm moved on.
Next, we headed back to Staniel Cay, where we met up with friends Carl and Leigh on the Nordhavn 76 Take 5. Carl is a very accomplished spearfisher so we headed out to see what we could do. Carl got a nice hogfish – a first for us – and we also got two large lion fish. We’ve noticed that the lionfish population has declined quite a bit from a couple years ago – this is good news as the lion fish is an invasive (non-native) species that was wreaking havoc on the reef systems. Lion fish are prolific reproducers and voracious eaters, so there has been a huge effort to encourage people to kill them and they have been marketed as a delicacy (they are quite delicious). This all seems to be working as we saw very few of them this year.
We followed Take 5 north to Compass Cay where we also caught up Bob and Melanie on the Nordhavn 47 Istaboa, enjoying drinks on their boat followed by some wonderful burgers at the marina grill. Then it was back to Staniel Cay where I finally met Samantha, a long time Facebook friend and daughter of someone I used to work with – we have never met in person and they just happened to stop in for one night on their way back to Florida. The we headed by tender to Black Point to pick up Amanda, an intern who is joining us for a short stint as a deckhand.
We then headed a short way south and anchored at the southern end of Great Guana Cay where we could take the tender down to Little Farmer’s Cay. It’s a lovely place but the Ocean Cabin restaurant was not open that day and the local store had not been re-supplied in over a week, so we were only able to get a few potatoes and onions. We did find some good snorkeling and fishing and Bradley was able to procure two nice hogfish and a grouper.
The weather was looking good and we decided to head back to Black Point and position for a crossing back to Cat Island. The plan was to anchor at Black Point, then take the tender to Staniel Cay for a quick shop for fruits and veggies, plus a top-up of fuel, then to load the tender on deck for the 50-mile crossing to Cat Island. But the weather was SO calm, we decided just to continue straight on the Cat, towing the tender. It was a very nice crossing and we did not even engage our stabilizers. The weather forecast remained positive, so we decided to anchor and explore Half Moon Cay, also know as Little San Salvador. A private island that is now owned by a cruise line and a regular stopping point for the cruise ship guests to play, there are also some fantastic reefs for fishing and diving. We anchored at the north end of the island – a little hairy given the massive system of reefs. The good news is that we could do a dive right off the back of the boat. We had not done any scuba diving in a couple years, so were anxious to get back into the swing of that and to be sure our equipment was working well. We organized our gear and experienced a wonderful dive in 30-40 feet of water with some very interesting coral formations.
Besides the density of coral reefs, the anchorage was also a bit uncomfortable due to some swell so we moved around to West Bay where the cruise ships come in. Carnival Pride was anchored nearby, but getting ready to depart soon so soon they and their 4000 guests were gone, leaving only a small cadre of workers on the island. We had a visit from one young man, who came out by kayak to say hello. He asked if we’d like some conch and came back later to bring us three nice fresh ones! Thus I had my first – successful – attempt at making conch salad!
We’ll hang out here a bit longer, then begin planning for our return to the U.S. Exactly when and where remains to be determined! We do tentatively plan to be at National Harbor in MD for a month or so in late September and/or October, so for our friends in that area, please let me know if you will be around and/or interested in scheduling some time to catch up!
Check out some updated book reviews here!
June 30, 2015
We had an uneventful passage from Charleston to Marsh Habour, Abacos in the Bahamas. We had originally planned to stop at Spanish Cay at the north end of the Abacos to clear in with Customs, but were making good time and had perfect conditions, so we decided to continue on to Marsh Harbour, another several hours. We anchored and launched the tender and Bradley set off to find Customs. He returned quite some time later with two customs officials who came aboard Shear Madness to complete their paperwork. It seems they had had to come from the airport as there is no customs office at Marsh Harbour. But soon we were cleared in, with immigration forms and fishing permits in hand and ready for some fun.
We had guests arriving so we planned to stay a few days until they arrived. I visited the Batelco (Bahamas Telephone Company) store and purchased a local sim card so that we would have internet access. Service with Batelco is good, but you pay about $10 per gigabyte of data usage, so we do limit our usage when we use that system. The Abacos has a pretty good wifi system which you can purchase for $37 a week – which is a real bargain for unlimited bandwidth and we got our money’s worth out of that!
We visited Maxwell’s Supermarket in Marsh Harbour to get some milk and a bit of fresh produce, it’s a REALLY nice store. Not only is it well-stocked, it is super clean, and items are painstakingly stocked on shelves in neat rows. I watched a man putting items on a shelf, lining them up precisely, stepping back to be sure it was perfect, and obviously taking great pride in his work. That pride seemed to be reflected in every aspect of the store.
Our guests, Ben and Amparo are a couple who are contemplating some cruising on their own in the next few years, but wanted to get a sense of what the cruising life is really like. Their adventure began when we instructed them to take a taxi from the airport to the Marsh Harbour Boatyard where we would pick them up by tender. Soon we had them and their luggage safely down a ladder and into the tender.
After getting them settled in the guest cabin, Bradley suggested we go out for some snorkeling, so we set out in the tender. Though Ben had been snorkeling before, it had been a long time and it was the first time for Amparo. This began a number of “firsts” for them. After a bit of time at a nice reef, we returned to the boat to dine on the mahi we had recently caught.
The next day, we were underway for a short 4 hour trip to Little Harbour, a little to our south. Though we were only going 12 miles south as the crow flies, Marsh Harbour is situated west of a number of small Cays (islands) with limited places where we can pass through. It is also too shallow for us to head directly south on the “inside”, so this meant we had to go north to the Man O’War channel to get out into the ocean, then head south, then back inside through another entrance to an anchorage at Lynyard Cay. So the trip was close to 25 miles in total. But is was great conditions for our guests’ first venture offshore and soon they were assisting with engine room checks and were getting familiar with the radar, sonar, AIS, and chart plotting systems.
One of the more renowned spots in the Abacos is Pete’s Pub, not far from our anchorage, so we headed there for a wonderful lunch, accompanied by the famous house drink, The Blaster. Pete’s is an outdoor (but covered) bar, with T-shirts from many visitors hung everywhere. We were proud to add a Shear Madness T-Shirt to the collection. Ben and Amparo also got a chance to try paddleboarding, another first for them, using our inflatable Sea Eagle board.
Next it was time for a longer trip, this time 50+ miles to the Island of Eleuthera. Conditions were again very nice, meaning we could put out the fishing lines! We could also open up the flybridge and enjoy a wonderful breeze and fabulous views. Ben and Amparo were soon doing hourly engine room checks on their own and updating our underway logs. And it wasn’t long until the first fish was on the line! Bradley took the rod for this one and we slowed the boat down until a nice size Mahi Mahi was landed. Once it was cleaned and secured in the fridge, the lines went back out. Before it was even done being set, another fish was on. This one was Ben’s – his first time catching a fish and he soon had it on board. It was a bit small to keep so we decided to release this one.
Soon we were anchored at Meeks Patch, near Spanish Wells, Eleuthera. Spanish Wells is a charming fishing village and we went ashore to explore. There is a good size fleet of commercial fishing boats in Spanish Wells, mostly very well maintained, neat and tidy. The town is lovely too, with some amazing white sand beaches, devoid of people, and lovely homes. There are few cars – the most common means of transportation is golf carts but it takes only a few hours to walk through the whole town. It also has a well stocked grocery store where we picked up some fresh milk. And there are coconut palms everywhere, so we found a nice coconut on the beach which Bradley later opened using a machete, hammer, and various other tools. Again, it was the first time Ben and Amparo had tasted coconut fresh from the tree!
The winds were supposed to shift a bit to the south and intensify a bit over the next couple days, so we decided to move to an anchorage a bit more protected near Current Island, just a few miles away. I also saw, through Facebook, that another Nordhavn, the 47-foot Oliver, was also in Eleuthera, so we made contact. Although we were only about 10 miles apart as the crow flies, they were on the east side of Eleuthera at Harbour Island and we were on the west side. To reach each other by boat was a trip of at least 20 miles by tender, or even more in the big boats. So that was not feasible. We decided that getting to Harbour Island would make for a good adventure. We were not far from a place called The Bluff Settlement, where we thought we might be able to get a taxi over to the Ferry Dock where the ferry runs from the mainland to Harbour Island. The first challenge was where to leave the tender. We reached The Bluff at near low tide but found no dock or convenient place to leave the tender. We left it barely afloat in shallow water and tied off to a fishing boat that was not going anywhere until the tide came in.
Getting ashore was interesting as we had to traverse shoe-sucking mud, but we made it. We met a couple local guys who said the tender would be safe where it was. They even called a taxi for us and it arrived within ten minutes. From there, it was a ten minute ride to the ferry dock where 15-year old Oliver picked us up in his tender and took us to his boat Oliver. There we met his parents, Marc and Natalie who explained that young Oliver actually runs the boat and that’s why they named it after him. He gave us a tour of the boat and we were all impressed with his knowledge and expertise. Then we borrowed their rented golf cart for some exploration of Harbour Island, a beautiful and charming place with beautiful beaches and several nice resorts. We sampled some cracked conch, conch fritters, and peas and rice, all Bahamian staples, for lunch. Next it was back to the ferry docks, another taxi ride, then Bradley had to strip down to his “speedo” to fetch the tender as the tide had come in since we left!
Next it was time to head south to the Exumas, with our first stop Highbourne Cay, a trip of just over 50 miles. Again we had ideal conditions, arriving just in time for happy hour and our patented Shear Madness cocktails. The next day it was time for some more snorkeling with Bradley nabbing his first spear catch of the season – a nice snapper which, with Amparo’s cooking skill, made a nice dinner indeed! We then did a short move of just a few hours down to Compass Cay where we anchored at Fowl Cay. This put us close to the underwater caves at Rocky Dundas which are well worth the visit. We also visited an underwater airplane, most likely from the old drug running days, but now an interesting snorkel site. The currents in that area are quite strong, so we had to run a line from the tender to hold onto as we looked over the plane. Then Ben and I did a drift snorkel, moving along at quite a rapid pace over some interesting reefs while Bradley followed along in the tender, eventually picking us up.
The last stop with our guests was at Big Majors, the anchorage just around the corner from Staniel Cay. Here we visited the famous swimming pigs, enjoyed some meals at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club, visited the numerous and friendly sand sharks at the Yacht Club, and snorkeled at the famous Thunderball Grotto. We also once again met up with Oliver, who anchored nearby for a couple days and joined us for some tubing and a wonderful dinner aboard Shear Madness. Ben and Amparo made good use of our tandem kayak with several long expeditions to explore. We continued to have Shear Madness cocktails, lounge in the flybridge, and enjoy some spectacular sunsets. Ben and Amparo also got to experience some of the “realities” of cruising when our primary freezer and the toilet in their cabin decided to quit working. The freezer problem was troubling as we had filled our four freezers to capacity prior to departing and it was our two sub-zero freezer drawers (and ice maker!) which were not working. Bradley removed the drawers and found ice on the compressor. Using a blow dryer he melted it and the freezer worked – for a little while. Then it stopped again. Once again it was taken apart but this time we let it sit for half a day, moving its contents to the other freezers and the less important stuff to the fridge. Fortunately this time the freezer came back and has worked fine since. We may just have had it too full. As for the toilet, we fortunately have 5 toilets on board, so decided just to take that one out of commission until we get back to the US as it will likely need some parts.
All too soon it was time for Ben and Amparo to depart. It turns out the airstrip at Staniel Cay is closed for repairs, so we had to drop them at nearby Black Point about 8 miles south. We decided to move over there with the big boat rather than take them in the tender. That gave us a chance to enjoy lunch at Lorraine’s Café, which turned out to be very fresh and tasty! After lunch, Lorraine even gave us a ride to the airport where we bid a fond farewell to Ben and Amparo. We hope to see them again!
Here’s the route we covered with Ben and Amparo, totaling about 225 miles:
June 5, 2015
We were all fueled up and ready to go. Our first destination is Charleston, SC. This is a trip of just over 200 miles and will allow us to thoroughly test everything to be sure we are ready for longer range cruising. We have some good friends in Charleston we want to visit and it will be a good departure location for a run to the Bahamas. Warm water, here we come!
The day before we departed from Portside Marina in Morehead City, a small American Cruise Line ship arrived and docked across from us. It made for a nice photo opp!
We departed the marina late afternoon headed for anchor at Cape Lookout, a short trip to allow us a bit of time to relax and prepare for the passage to Charleston. Once anchored there we launched our inflatable paddle board and Bradley and I took turns paddling ashore, hiking, and swimming. After two pleasant nights at anchor, the weather looked perfect. We departed in the dark at 4am and were soon underway. Joining us on this passage is our new crew member, Richard, who joined us in Jarrett Bay and will be cruising with us for awhile.
Conditions offshore were ideal with calm seas and light winds. We opened up the flybridge and put out a couple fishing lines. It wasn’t long before we spotted some dolphins coming to play – always one of our favorite parts of a passage. Once they were gone it wasn’t long before we heard the zzzzzzing of the fishing line! Bradley took control of the reel while I slowed the boat by backing off to idle speed with a single engine. Slowing to 3 knots allowed him to land a beautiful mahi-mahi, which was soon filleted and in the fridge. The lines were put back out and soon it was Richard’s turn to reel in another nice mahi-mahi, a bit smaller but weighing 10 pounds and making a few good meals.
After another nice dolphin show, a beautiful sunset, and a great night underway, we approached Charleston Harbor and anchored near the St. James Yacht Club. We launched the tender and went to pick up some friends of Richard’s who were there to greet us. Sandy, Lanny, and Wendy came aboard for a brief visit, then we had a nice breakfast and naps. We returned ashore for some exercise, then enjoyed a nice fresh fish dinner, picking up our friends Fletcher and his wife Jetti from nearby Ashley Marina. We had a great evening with them. With the strong currents in the area and the winds picking up, we decided to move the next day to an anchorage up the Wando River near Daniel Island. Here, we visited with some good friends, Liz and Brown and their kids. We picked up Brown and the kids and brought them to the boat for some tubing, swimming, and diving and had a great time. Later we went to their house for a wonderful dinner.
From there we headed in to the Ashley Marina, timing our arrival for 7 pm during slack water – the period between tidal shifts when the current is minimal. The current in the Ashley River is very brisk and it can be great entertainment watching boats that try to arrive or depart during its height! At slack water, we had no problems docking and were soon secure. We ended up docked directly behind Fletcher and Jetti’s classic Hatteras yacht.
Bradley and I headed off for the local famer’s market. It was Sunday and the market, usually open only on Saturday, was open because of the Spoleto Festival taking place in the city for the week. This is a festival of many activities, including art, shows, and various entertainment, some free and some not. We picked up a few things at the market, and I met an artist by the name of Kathy Clark!
We met another Nordhavn couple, Kristin and Wayne who were also at the Ashley Marina. They have been email friends so it was great to meet them in person. We planned to do dinner and a Spoleto Festival play about building an amusement park. The dinner at the Lebanese restaurant Leyla was fabulous – we cannot say the same about the play! At least the seats were comfortable enough for us all to enjoy a nap! I also trekked over to the Charleston City Docks – right next door to Ashley Marina but 3 miles round trip once you walk all the docks – and met Tom and Bonnie on the “other” Migration, a Nordhavn 47 (not to be confused with the 68-foot Migration who we cruised with last summer). It was great to put faces to names as again we only knew Tom and Bonnie online.
Friends from Beaufort, SC (pronounced BEW-fort as opposed to the NC town which is BOW-fort but spelled the same), Preston and Trish drove up to join us for dinner. First we had drinks aboard Fletcher and Jetti’s boat, then Kristin and Wayne joined us aboard Shear Madness to help with a 9-pound fresh ham roast we had bought at Nahunta Pork Center before departing NC. It was a fabulous night. I had not seen Preston in close to ten years, we had just met Wayne and Kristin, and they had never met Preston and Trish, yet it was like we had all known each other for years and were the best of friends. Preston and Trish stayed overnight and promised to come and visit us “out there” someday. All that remained was a quick run to Costco to stock up on fresh produce for the next few weeks!
The weather looked good for a departure early Wednesday, June 3 for a passage to The Abacos in the Bahamas! Slack water would be around 3:30am, so we had an early night, looking forward to the next leg of our summer cruising!
Here is a video of our passage followed by some more photos:
May 29, 2015
We are finally out of maintenance mode and ready to begin our cruising season! Despite a couple delays – Tropical Storm Ana and a malfunctioning lift at Jarrett Bay – we finally got back into the water. As soon as the boat was back in the water, Keith from Western Branch Diesel came aboard to assist with the initial start-up of the engines. We breathed a huge sigh of relief when both engines started with no problem. So we decided to depart right away for some sea trials. There was quite a bit to test – most notably the new exhaust system on the engines and all the work to replace watermaker hoses. Fortunately the only problems we discovered were very minor and easily resolved. We docked at Portside Marina in Morehead City where we finished up a few minor details, then returned to Jarrett Bay to take on 3300 gallons of diesel fuel, then headed out to Cape Lookout to spend a night at anchor be sure everything was working.
It was with mixed feelings that we said farewell to North Carolina. Moore’s Marine and Jarrett Bay have become our primary maintenance base and we now have so many good friends here that’s it’s hard to say goodbye! We are especially indebted to Pam and Lenny, who we met on our first visit here in 2011 and who have become like family to us. This year when we were delayed by Tropical Storm Ana and had to move out or our rental house, Pam and Lenny offered their guest suite. Not only did it make our lives much easier, but it gave us time to spend with Pam and Lenny and really get to know them. We had several great dinners, including one of Bradley and Pam’s favorites, soft shell crabs which we got from a seafood market at Harker’s Island.
We will also miss all our friends at Offshore Marine Electronics (the Gilpin family), Crystal Coast Interiors, Moore’s Marine, Western Branch Diesel, Mayda Marine, and all the wonderful people in the community of Sea Gate. Until next time!
Our next update will return to detailing cruising adventures.
For those of you seriously interested in gory details of maintenance, here are two new videos. A few more photos are below the videos.
This one is 13 minutes long and details replacing the exhaust risers:
This one is 7 minutes long and shows work on the Interior, Electrical, and Deck.
May 14, 2015
We’ve just experienced a double whammy! We were all set to launch the boat last week on May 5 when a subtropical depression made an appearance in the Bahamas. Though it had a low probability of developing into a tropical storm or hurricane, we decided to play it safe and delay our launch for a week. Good decision as it soon developed into Tropical Storm Ana and being safe in a boatyard was much better than in the water and exposed. So, we were all set to launch the boat this week when the 200-ton travel lift at Jarrett Bay developed a leak in a hydraulic seal, resulting in an unfortunate spraying of a beautiful Trumpy yacht with a whole bunch of hydraulic fluid during a lift-out. The lift won’t be repaired until Saturday, so we are delayed yet another week. You know you’ve been in the boatyard too long when birds decide to build a nest in your exhaust!
At least we’ve had time to tidy the boat up a bit, verify our inventory of spare parts and such, and do a variety of lower priority projects. Bradley was able to do a quick trip to Florida to visit family while I traveled to Southport to visit my friend Nancy and a high school classmate I had not seen in many, many years, Lynne. We had a great visit!
We also met up with John and Tina, owners of Sockeye Blue, a Nordhavn 75-foot EYF (Expedition Yachtfisher). We had met John and Tina a few years ago at the Miami boat show when they had purchased this boat – a real project. Shortly after taking delivery, the original owner had a modification to the boat made in Mexico, which went horribly wrong, causing the boat to sink at the marina where it was housed. The boat was written off as a total loss by insurance and John and Tina subsequently purchased it as a salvage project. The entire engine room had been submerged in salt water, requiring new engines and all electrical wiring to be replaced. John and Tina were up to the challenge and have done an incredible job of bringing this boat back to life. It is absolutely spectacular! We enjoyed seeing them again and hope to catch up with them later this summer.
And now, the remainder of this update is for those geeks and techies who are interested in boat maintenance! This will cover Interior Upgrades and Engine and Generator Maintenance. First, here’s a video (8 mins) of work on Plumbing, Caulking, Engine Maintenance, and Bottom Prep and painting covered in previous posts:
When we purchased Shear Madness in 2010 we were so overwhelmed with learning how to run the boat and systems, we did not even think about making changes to the interior. While the boat was out of the water for 6 months after the lightning strike in 2011, we found a great company at Jarrett Bay – Crystal Coast Interiors – and started making some changes. Each year we have attacked a new area. Previously we have re-covered the sofa in the salon, re-covered the dining chairs, added new carpet in salon and pilothouse, and re-covered and upgraded our Stidd Captain’s chairs in the Pilothouse. This year we completed the following projects:
1. Pilot house Table – removed and re-finished table and base
2. Pilot house settee – new cushions for seat and back
3. Pilot house bunk – new cover to match settee
4. Master sheets – our master bed is a custom size, larger than a queen but smaller than a king. We’ve been using king size sheets which are a bit too large, so we finally had some king size sheets cuts to fit properly
5. Both Tables in Salon were removed and re-finished
6. Fly Bridge Table – the finish on this table is very cloudy due to age and moisture but re-finishing it would be very expensive. We don’t like the table that much, so we will eventually replace it, but for now decided not to do anything. We will just use it as is for awhile longer.
7. We sold our Hobbie Kayak and replaced it with a newer version that has much improved seating and other upgrades.
8. Replaced some cushions we lost from Tender in the far north winds.
9. Replaced and upgraded some pillows throughout the boat.
10. Replace three of our door open catches with new Magnetic ones
11. Artwork – the boat came with some lovely art prints of Venice. They were nice, but of no special meaning to us. So we decided to replace them with photos of some of our favorite adventures over the years. The hardest part was deciding which of more than 35,000 photos to use! One we agreed on some nice ones, I got prints made and found a local art gallery – Art & Things – to put the prints into our existing frames.
12. Engine Room Carpet – We replaced the old black mats in the engine room with nice new carpet designed for engine rooms.
Engines & Generators. We have MTU Detroit Diesel 400 HP twin engines and two Northern Lights Generators. We have our generators serviced each 12 to 18 months when we visit Deltaville Boatyard, because we very much enjoy working with Neal at Deltaville. They also service the outboards on our engines. However, we prefer to have Keith at Western Branch Diesel here in Jarrett Bay work on the main engines. On our way to be hauled out, Keith jumped on board for a sea trial to review our engines and found several items in addition to the standard maintenance items, based on 6300 hours on the engines. The approximate cost of all the work on the engines including exhaust system was over $30K.
1. Exhaust Riser System. We knew prior to arrival this was the year we were going to replace the exhaust units. One of the key reasons we went to the Fort Lauderdale boat show in Nov. was to meet key vendors. After securing 3 bids and consulting with Steve D’Antonio, we selected Metcalf Marine. The only problem is they are located in Florida. After taking extensive measurements and pictures, we removed our old units and shipped them to Metcalf in Dec. They manufactured new ones and shipped them back to us several weeks early, the last week of Feb. So the first major job was to install the new units. Over all it went very well; there was one unit where we had to make a small modification to the vacuum break to have it line up correctly, but it turned out not to cost more than 1 hour of labor. The real test will come when we perform the sea trials.
2. Our fuel and water heat exchangers are mounted on the front of the engines. Keith noted the mounts had collapsed and should be replaced. This was not easy as it required we completely remove the units, remove the mounts and replace them. Working with Keith for most of the day, we successfully got the heat exchangers remounted.
3. We had a number of leaking pipes on the engines that were scheduled for replacement, which we integrated into the other repairs.
4. Charge Air Cooler Replacement – This is one of those “service opportunities” designed into the engines to keep MTU earnings up. It is recommended that the units be replaced every 4000 hours. We had 6300 hours on them, but they looked in good shape and we were not going to replace the units. However in the middle of this we received word of a fellow MTU owner who had his units tested with ~ 2500 hours on them, only to have one fail less than 100 hours later. The failure caused salt water to flood the engine. Total cost for that was ~ $125K, total cost to replace units ~ 9k. As Bob Senter likes to say, that is a service opportunity.
5. Zincs were replaced
6. Oil & Filters were changed
7. Clamps were upgraded
May 3, 2015
Before we get into more technical stuff, here’s a great video from last summer in Labrador. One of our cruising partners had a quad-copter drone which he could launch and retrieve from his boat and this video has some great aerial shots of the boats and icebergs. Sadly the drone is not amphibious.
Now for more on our maintenance. This update will cover all the electrical projects we have completed. We worked with the crew at Offshore Marine Electronics – Steve, Clayton, Buddy, Fran, Scott, Beth, and Sue who, after working on lightning strike repairs and other projects over the past few years, are now like family. The next updates will cover engine work and interior upgrades.
- Starboard engine room alcove – replace two open terminal strips with proper junction boxes and attempt to label wires.
- Port engine room alcove – install marine grade Junction box with terminal strips and move open splice wires in box. (Note rerun some of the wire runs.) We continued to make progress and of course Murphy paid us a visit, but it was very fortuitous. We were installing at junction box in port engine room alcove, where 5 wire runs were just spliced together, including some 120V. We wanted to reroute some of them and install a junction box. To do that we had to move Jabsco bilge pump and in the process the brass outlet barb broke off. It was very pink, meaning the bronze has leached out and it has lost its strength. So it would have been just a matter of time until it failed. Although they sell new bases with the inlet/outlet barbs, the price was $250 and our suppler offered to construct a new 24V unit for only $550, so we went with that. While we do carry many spare parts and one complete spare pump, the 24 V is no longer manufactured. This is the primary shaft bilge pump and was 10 years old. Other than replacing the internal valves a few times, it has been reliable and now should be in good shape for a long time to come.
- Review some grounding questions. This turned out to be a very complex discussion that ended up involving Steve D’Antonio, our electrician Steve Gilpin and Keith our MTU (Detroit Diesel) expert. In the end, we ended up adding some grounding wires to some Stainless Steel fittings in our raw water hose runs. We also ended up changing some existing grounding runs from series to home runs to new grounding terminals. All of our through hulls had been daisy chained together and run back to a grounding brush on the shafts. They now connect directly to new grounding terminals, one each port and starboard.
- Lazarette – small exhaust Fan. This was a combination enhancement and preventive maintenance. It is the original fan and was showing lots of signs of wear. We also added a temperature switch so that it can run in Auto mode, rather than having to remember to turn it on or off.
- Pilot House VHF – when we run our hydraulic alternators we get noise through the Pilot house VHF. We are installing some noise suppression to eliminate the annoying whine.
- Upgrade Alternators on main engines from 100 to 175 – 225 range. This turned out to be an extremely complex issue and in the end we ended up deciding not to proceed with this project. The key challenge was running some 2.0 wire (about the size of your thumb) to some existing switches.
- Replace all house batteries. This was covered in a separate post, but after the new batteries were installed, we had to reset our Mastervolt system and ensure all settings were correct and all chargers were working properly. This involved several interactions with Mastervolt tech support and in the process, one of our chargers began making noises. It was just like the noise a prior charger had made when we suspected the fan was bad. So we ended up getting a new charger from Mastervolt and returning the noisy one – all under warranty, but of course creating a bit more work. To top it off, when the new charger arrived, one of the Silica Gel packets using in shipping to prevent moisture had broken open and the little beads had made their way into the charger where we could hear them rattling around. It took a bit of twisting and shaking to get them all out, plus some phone calls with Mastervolt to make sure that any stray ones would not cause a problem. In the end, everything was installed, testing, and working and we have a very good understanding of all the settings and how they work.
- Electrical Panel Meter Displays on our electric boards. We have been having issues with these digital gauges going bad since we purchased the boat. All of them were replaced after the lightening strike and they still were randomly going bad. We discussed with our electrician about adding a add resister. In the end, Kathy end up tracing down the original Manufacture in Taiwan, who took our old ones back, serviced them with some type of upgrade and returned them to us. We are hopeful this has solved the issues but more importantly, we now have a direct contact to the manufacturer in Taiwan who has been very responsive and helpful.
- Spot lights (4) – 1 on Bow, 2 on Tender Deck & 1 on Stern. They continue to burn out after little or no use. We evaluated LED and instead decided to try one more solution and purchased special reinforced (Rough Service) bulbs. Time will tell.
- Replace engine room lights to conserve energy. We investigated LED options but it was not cost effective so we did not replace them.
- Battery Deck Ballast on Stbd light. Replace or convert to LED. We replaced as LED not cost effective in this configuration yet.
- Lazarette Ballast on Starboard light replaced.
- Upgrade lighting in Master Convert to LED to conserve energy. Of course this was more complex than hoped, as the LED we wanted to be consistent with the ones added after lighting strike were no longer available. We were able to come close and ran into problems with lights mounted in wood panel ceiling vs panels. Successful in the end.
- Upgrade Galley Lights. Convert to LED to conserve energy. Same challenges as above. Also had to find and swap out dimmers for lights.
- Master Head Light Switch replace – it was wearing out.
- Tender Upgrade Navigation System. We have an old NavNet system in the tender and the display is virtually impossible to see in daylight. We have limited space to install an alternative so decided to defer any changes for now given all the other projects we had in progress. We have purchased a BadElf GPS and waterproof case for our iPad and will use Garmin BlueChart on the iPad. That may turn out to be the best solution.
- Improve monitoring of key temperatures in Engine Room. In a perfect world we wanted to monitor in pilot house the following items: Exhaust Temperature just after water mixer, Shaft Temperatures and bilge pump cycles. Maretron makes a great system for doing this but we faced two significant challenges. (1) getting a wire from the engine room to pilot house computer and (2) over all cost of this system over $10K including installation. If building a new boat a Maretron system or similar would be installed. With Steve D’s guidance we ended up going with a simple Borel Manufacturing sensor that will monitor Exhaust Temperature on both engines, the most critical part, and dropping the other requirements. Total cost, including installation was less than $500.
- Tighten all Electrical connections and check for any signs of heat damage
We are approaching the end of the maintenance cycle and plan to launch the boat this week. Ready to get back to cruising!
April 28, 2015
This is the first of several posts about the maintenance we’ve been doing over the last several months. Please feel free to skip these updates if you are not interested in details! BUT, for those not interested in maintenance, we do have UPDATED BOOK REVIEWS so check them out. I’m currently downloading more audiobooks and iBooks, so if you have any recommendations, please let me know! Many of these reviews are the result of recommendations from our friends!
And we did take time for some fun – we attended another wonderful Gilpin Family (Offshore Marine Electronics) oyster roast including some good southern cornbread!
Now on to the maintenance list.
We took Shear Madness out of the water in early January 2015, with a long list of maintenance items and upgrades. Over the next few posts we will share with you what was on our schedule and how things turned out – these blogs will be jointly authored by Bradley and Kathy. One has to also keep in mind Murphy’s Boat Repair rule. For every job you start at least 2 to 4 other tasks are found.
Once the boat was out of the water, we also elected to fully unload the boat of everything, all food, provisions, clothes, most of our spare parts, and all cleaning provisions. They only thing we left on board was tools and paper towels – LOL.
Shear Madness is now 11 years old and while we have worked hard since purchasing her to ensure she is kept in mint condition and does not break down while in cruising mode, boats require substantial annual maintenance. We are very strong believers in aggressive preventive maintenance. So we design our maintenance schedule to take advantage of the experts available to us here at Moore’s Marine and the Jarrett Bay complex, rather than in remote ports where we do not know the quality Techs. Most of the people who work on Shear Madness here know the boat and have been working with us since 2011.
In this post, we will detail some of the General Repair items. Later posts will cover engine maintenance, electrical systems, and interior upgrades. Our last post covered replacing the house batteries.
General Repair Items:
- Find and repair leaks in chilled loop (heating/AC) system – We first started on this at Deltaville, where we found and repaired several leaks in valves and fittings. We thought we had the system repaired, but once we pressurized the system a new leak developed in the heat exchanger from the Kabola heater to the chilled loop. This required we remove a substantial amount of equipment from the lazarette to access the heat exchanger for repairs and pressure testing. As we were back in the space we decided to replace all of the hoses we had access to:
- All hoses on Kabola system.
- Deck Drain
- Generator water and air exhaust hoses.
- Bonding strip connections with terminal strip.
- All 2.5” and 3” raw water hoses (these bring sea water into the boat to cool the main engines) from engines to Dual Groco Strainers and through dual through-hull connectors. This included all raw water hoses on the exhaust system. Of course in the process we discovered the Groco Strainer needed a full service.
- Replace two hose bibs. Of course access to the back of one required we disassemble one of our 50 amp power cord systems. While back in that space, we found many hose clamps that needed to be tightened including two on a deck drain that have clearly never been tightened. We also added some insulating tape to the chilled loop system.
- Change Oil in Vacuum (toilet) pump – last year we did a full service on our Vacuum pump system, replacing all duck bill valves, seals and fixing other issues. The one thing left to do this time was to replace the Oil in the primary vacuum pump.
- Complete Water Maker hose replacement – while working in the engine room, we noted that several of the clamps were showing signs of rust and wear. Upon closer examination we also found that many of the hoses were weakened. We ended up having to replace all the hoses on the water maker system. It was great timing, as upon inspection of the old hoses, we could have expected a failure any moment!
- Sea Chest – We had two valves on the sea chest that were becoming impossible to close, so we replaced them. In the process we found the A/C raw hoses were deteriorating, so we replaced the A/C raw water hoses from sea chest to both pumps and beyond. This led to needing to do some work on the pump selection switch wiring. We also cleaned and painted the actual pumps to stop some rust that had started.
- Fuel Tanks – We had wanted to upgrade the values on our engine room fuel tank sight glasses along with the actual sight glasses. While the sight glass replacement went well, including those on the oil tanks, we had to give up on valve replacement. While our manual valves still work, we wanted to upgrade to self-closing types, but did not want to risk creating more issues, when the existing valves did not want to come out. We also discovered a cracked bowl on our Racor (fuel filter system) and replaced it. We also noted some leaks around connections on fuel lines that had to be resealed. (For items 1-7 we worked with Mayda of Mayda Marine, a truly miraculous marine plumber)
- Servicing Windlass (anchor winch) – While at Deltaville, we serviced the rollers on the bow, but did not have a weather window to disassemble and grease the windlasses. This was accomplished in a busy afternoon.
- Microwave Repair. We got very lucky here, as our model of microwave convention oven is no longer made and all of the new models are too big (depth) to fit into the existing slot. There is/was a local repair tech, who we have used in the past. When I called his office to schedule a service, we found out he was winding down the business to retire. However, after we explained the problem, he agreed to look at our Microwave if we would bring it to his shop. We got very lucky as it was fairly easy to remove – it came out with only 4 screws. He looked at it and we hit pay dirt; he had a similar unit in the shop for sale and was going to toss it. So he was able to cannibalize the parts required for repair. We would have liked to just purchase the new unit, but it was the wrong color and the face plate was not interchangeable.
- We have been progressively replacing all of the caulking on the decks. This process continued with removal of old caulking from the tender deck, flybridge, and roof and application of new caulking. Sergio from Moore’s Marine, is a real artist with 3M Marine Sealant, which can create a huge mess in the hands of an amateur!
- We had to replace a “winglet” on our starboard stabilizer that had sustained some minor damage.
- Bottom paint. The bottom was sanded and new bottom paint applied. Bow and stern thruster props were removed, sanded and painted.
- New zincs. All zinc anodes were replaced.
- Teak decks. Over time teak decks wear down, resulting in the caulking between teak strips rising above the wood. The caulking periodically needs to be shave down to bring it back to even with the teak. We have teak decks in our aft cockpit, in the flybridge, and along the starboard side of the boat. Shaving the caulking is a manual process, followed by a light sanding of the teak. We do not treat our teak decks with any kind of product – we leave it natural as this increases its life.
- Several miscellaneous repairs.
Please let us know if you have any questions!
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: