November 29, 2012
Although we were anxious to leave Portsmouth to begin our journey south, we were not going to depart until the weather was reasonable. Day after day the forecast for around Cape Hatteras was 30+ knots of winds and seas of 8-10 feet. So we stayed put and planned to have a Thanksgiving dinner on board. We went to Costco and bought the smallest turkey they had – a mere 17 pounds! We figured that was enough for three people. Well, at least we like leftovers! The forecast looked promising for the Friday following Thanksgiving, so we planned an early morning departure.
On Wednesday, what should appear in the marina but a beautiful Oyster 56 sailboat! This was the same kind of boat we had previously owned and Bradley went to have a look. He met the owners, Tom and Christian from Norway. They had built the boat, named Astahaya (meaning sunset in Thai) in 2008 and recently sailed it across the Atlantic. Bradley invited them over for Thanksgiving dinner the next day and they were thrilled – they had just spent an hour walking through town looking for a restaurant where they could experience this American tradition. They were delighted to know we would have turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce.
Thanksgiving was great. The food was wonderful and the company perfect. We enjoyed introducing our new friends to our tradition of giving thanks and all shared some of the things we are thankful for. Tom and Christian had spent the summer in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, where we hope to cruise next year, so they gave us much advice and a wonderful set of charts. The best part of the day (for me) was getting to watch the Redskins beat Dallas (American Football). Tom and Christian were planning to head south to Charleston and we agreed it would be a good idea to “buddy sail” at least past Cape Hatteras. That means we would stick together, maintaining visual contact when we could and radio contact on a regular basis. We confirmed our departure for the morning.
Friday morning we checked the weather. It looked OK – winds were diminishing but we knew there could be some rough seas around Hatteras. But it looked like it would get worse again in that are in a couple days, so our best bet was to go. We departed Portsmouth in company with Astahaya. It was a 40 mile trip to reach to ocean with 720 more to go once we were offshore. Although the forecast had initially called for winds from the north, we found them to be from the southwest and soon the forecast was updated. That meant we’d be sailing into the wind, slowing us down a bit and potentially resulting in a more uncomfortable ride. It also meant Astahaya would likely have to motor sail. Nevertheless, we started out in quite pleasant conditions with all systems performing well. Taylor, our new crew member, was now able to do engine room checks on his own and was quickly learning the other systems on board. We talked by radio to Astahaya and enjoyed a beautiful sunset.
As we made our way towards Cape Hatteras, the wind picked up and the waves increased in intensity. Soon we were seeing 30 knot winds and 6-8 foot seas. Nothing dangerous, just not ideal cruising conditions. We were staying less than 15 miles offshore, trying to ensure we did not get into the Gulf Stream. As we passed Cape Hatteras, we were still getting bounced around pretty good and we debated whether we should duck into Cape Lookout for a night to let the seas settle. But the boat was handling it just fine and after about 15 hours, conditions began to improve. We were over the worst of it without any mishaps – no broken dishes or flying objects. We had prepared well! And we had plenty of turkey leftovers, so no need for cooking.
Soon the temperatures started to rise and the seas settled nicely. We were treated to our first dolphin show and it was nice to get out on the bow and enjoy these magnificent creatures, jumping with joy and playing in our bow wake. We had taken a lot of salt spray and had to clean our windows in order to be able to see! As we continued south, the conditions continued to get better. By Day 3 we were out with buckets, cleaning mitts, and chamois giving the boat a nice washdown. Dolphins came to play with increasing frequency! Astahaya had been able to sail once the conditions improved and had pulled away from us and headed on into Charleston.
It was Sunday so we decided that with all three of us on watch in the Pilothouse, we could turn on some football. Since our favorite teams (Redskins for me and Bradley, Patriots for Taylor) had played on Thursday, we watched DirecTV’s NFL RedZone – a great way to watch football as it switches between games and shows whatever team is about to score! We also put the fishing lines out, hoping for a nice tuna or mahi-mahi. As I went down for a routine engine room check, I stopped to check the fishing lines. Nothing yet. I completed my engine room check and a few minutes later went down to the galley to get a drink – that’s when I noticed that the line on one reel was completely gone! Not just pulled out a ways but GONE! Nothing was left on the reel and some poor fish is now out there with hundreds of feet of line and an expensive lure in his mouth. Another lesson learned – we cannot adequately hear the line being taken when we are in the pilot house – from now on we will only fish if we are in the flybridge or have someone in the salon where they can hear the line being taken.
As we continued south the water got bluer and the dolphin visits more frequent. On days 3 and 4 we ran the engines at Wide Open Throttle for 15 minutes, a standard practice which allows us to look for potential problems and run the engines at full load as recommended by the experts. During the trip we had a few minor technical issues – details as usual below the photos. After 104 hours we arrived in North Palm Beach where we will stay for a couple weeks, doing a little land travel and making preparations for winter in the Bahamas! There are two videos from the passage – the Short Version (3 minutes) and the Long Version (10 mintues)
WordPress – thanks to everyone who posted comments last time. A lot of them were posted, but I have no way of knowing if ALL of them got through. I also was not able to REPLY to most of your comments and WordPress is working on solving this (I replied to most of them, but the replies never showed up). I would like to ask your help one more time. Please reply to this email by hitting the REPLY button on this email, type a comment, and add a cc to “email@example.com” That way I will get a copy of your comment via email. Everyone who does this correctly will be entered into a drawing to receive a Shear Madness shirt – we’ll be giving away one Polo shirt and one T-shirt.
Engine Valve covers – you may recall the cracked valve cover from the last post. We were able to get a “loaner” valve cover for the trip – functional but not the pretty chrome version. We have come to an agreement with the manufacturer and service provider to replace the cover that was damaged and the chrome version is on order.
Watermakers – during this trip we made water and it had been quite some time since the Watermakers had been used. When not in use, we flush them weekly with fresh water to ensure that water doesn’t sit in the system for too long. When Bradley began the process of making water, he was not getting any water pressure in the media filter, the first filter in the process. We checked to ensure the power was on and the valve from the sea chest was open to enable water to flow to the unit. We weren’t sure if the problem was that water was not getting to the pump or if the pump was not working and was not sending water to the filter. Bradley was able to disconnect the input hose from the pump to determine that water was not coming through. That allowed us to trace the problem to a stuck valve at the sea chest. A little moderate tap unstuck the valve and we were soon making plenty of nice fresh water.
Autopilot – we are continuing to diagnose problems with autopilot in NAV mode. We had changed some of the NMEA data being sent from Navnet to the AP and had no re-occurrence of the problem during the trip. We’ll be doing some fine tuning and hopefully another sea trial before departing for the Bahamas and I will report more details after that.
SSB – we were testing our SSB radio with another Nordhavn (with mixed results) but noticed that when we had the sonar displayed on our port-most monitor in the Pilot House, broadcasting on the SSB caused that display to cut out and return to the Closed Circuit TV display.
Stern light – we noticed that our stern light was not working and discovered the bulb had burned out. It was replaced while underway with no incident. However, we discovered it while in rough seas where it would have been unsafe to change, so we ran with our deck lights illuminated, keeping an eye on traffic so that we could radio to alert any boat approaching from our stern that the light was out. No boats did until we were able to change the bulb.
Hydraulic Alternators – we ran the hydraulic alternators most of the way and they did a good job of keeping the batteries charged. We do occasionally experience some anomalies with the alternators – sometimes they seem to “pulse”, causing the engine RPM’s to fluctuate and the alternator itself to shake. Usually, re-starting it solves the problem. We’re not quite sure what the cause of this is.