June 22, 2013
On June 10th we departed from Jamestown in a classic New England fog. Visibility was less than a few hundred yards and it was an eerie feeling to see big ships on AIS and radar but not to see them until they were passing by.
We sounded our fog signal – one prolonged blast every two minutes, which fortunately can be done automatically through our VHF radio and loudspeakers mounted on the deck. We kept a sharp eye on radar, listened intently, went slowly, and established radio contact with anyone in our vicinity. To complicate matters, the Annapolis to Newport sailboat race was concluding and there were several sailboats just coming into Newport, including one that was disabled. But we slipped safely out of the channel and by mid-day the fog had lifted. We had a pleasant 35-mile trip to Stonington, CT where we anchored for the night. Then it was on to Mystic, CT for a rendezvous with other Nordhavn owners at the Mystic Seaport, a museum/marina/park located on the Mystic River. Navigating the river is tricky – the local guide says “the channel is narrow and twisting;
shoals abound just outside the channel”, meaning we had to pay close attention. We also had to pass through two bridges, the first a railroad bridge which “will open on call, unless a train is expected” and the second a highway bridge that opens once an hour at 40 minutes past the hour.
The railroad bridge is a “swing bridge” meaning the span swings 90 degrees to open while the highway bridge is a “bascule” bridge, or drawbridge. The bridges are 3/10 of a mile apart and there is little room to sit and wait for the second bridge to open. Thus, the trip needs to be timed so that you can pass through the first bridge just in time to make the opening of the second. No problem, we had it timed well and as we approached the first bridge we saw a train just passing over it. We contacted the bridge keeper on the radio to request an opening. After calling twice for the “Mystic River Swing Bridge” (which is how the bridge is labeled on charts) and getting no reply, I tried “Mystic Railroad Bridge” and got a response. “We’d like to pass on your next opening” we said. He replied “the bridge only opens after a train passes over it”. We replied that we had just seen a train pass over and just wondered when it would next open as we were trying to make the next opening of the highway bridge. “We are separate bridges and we don’t work together” he replied. “OK sir, but can you tell me when you might be able to open?” to which he replied “There’s a train one minute away. Whaddya want me to do, open it now?”. I’m not sure what he would have done if we had replied “yes, that would be nice”, but we waited until the train had passed, then asked if the bridge could open soon. “Observe the bridge Cap’n, it’s opening” he said gruffly and soon we were through, remembering to call and thank the nice gentleman for opening for us. The next bridge was a bit more polite, but indeed there was little room to wait and there were boats on the other side waiting to come south. We coordinated with the bridge and other vessels and easily passed through and soon were safely docked at Mystic Seaport.
Here we would meet up with old friends and make new ones as 12 Nordhavns and their owners, along with several owners who came by car or plane congregated along with industry experts and representatives from Nordhavn/PAE. There were some wonderful educational seminars and we were happy to catch up with “Lugger Bob” Senter, who stayed onboard with us. Tyler attended Bob’s one-day diesel engine maintenance class and accompanied Bob on several engine room tours. We all attended seminars on stabilizers, electrical systems, and a life raft demo. There was plenty of time to socialize and discuss cruising plans too. The Seaport itself was a wonderful setting with a chance to learn a lot about the history of the area. We also visited the nearby Submarine Museum at Groton and were lucky to have fellow Nordhavn owner and former submarine office Barry along to provide a personalized tour. The moderator of the Nordhavn Dreamers Group, Ed, also joined us onboard as our guest for a night. Having known Ed online for years, it was great to meet in person!
A former colleague from my Landmark days, Beth, who now lives in RI, came by for a visit along with her parents and her son Jared. Beth’s father Rich spent 30 years in the Navy as a submarine officer and was the captain of several subs so the timing was perfect as we had plenty of questions. We had a great visit and it’s hard to believe it’s been ten years since I saw Beth (she doesn’t look any older of course!). Following the rendezvous, we departed for Block Island, successfully passing through both bridges without incident. It was a short trip in good weather so we ran without stabilizers. Of course, the wind picked up and the little 3-foot waves came at the most uncomfortable angle, sending us scurrying to make sure everything in the galley was properly secured and making us glad when we safely anchored at New Harbor in Great Salt Pond. We arrived on Monday, June 17 to a nice anchorage with boats scattered here and there. But Block Island Race Week is next week and every day more boats have been arriving. As I write this, our anchorage is downright crowded and yesterday we even had a fly over from the DirecTV Blimp! Lots of beautiful sailboats and crew are now in town for a week of serious sailboat racing (and a bit of partying). We’ll be departing before the racing gets underway as we will head to the Nordhavn dock in Portsmouth, RI to pick up a replacement part – an inverter for our electrical system – which we need to install before heading further north. But that’s a story for the technical section!
Block Island Race week is one of the major racing events on the east coast. Sailboats come from all over, using the Annapolis to Newport RI as a key feeder race. The boats will spend a week racing during the day and partying hard during the evening. If it was not for our need to continue to sort through our problems with Mastervolt, we would stay here for some of race week and Bradley might have even found a boat to race on. Race week has a combination of one design racing (boats identical by rule) and Class racing where similar boats are given handicaps, seconds per mile, that is applied to their time to determine “Corrected Time”, thereby determining the winner. This is a great event, usually with plenty of wind, that can be very challenging for boats. Both the Air Force and Naval academies have boats in the race. There are also a number of very well financed racing boats, which have mother ships here. That way the crew can live in comfort, have lots of toys and the sailboats can be stripped of all legal weight. The one pictured below has a fishing boat, two lasers and multiple tenders.
We’ve had a great time exploring Block Island. We’ve kayaked, used our new paddleboard, and launched the tender so all the toys are out! Our Nordhavn friends Atle and Kristina from Summer Star are here and we’ve had some great meals and card games with them. I’ve also been geocaching – a great way to explore the island – and have so far found 11 caches (see
www.Geocaching.com). Beth and her parents are also here for the weekend, aboard her dad’s Grand Banks trawler Brilliant. We’ve had spectacular sunsets and a wonderful full moon – actually a Super Moon. And we are seeing more of the famous New England fog – one morning we went ashore for some exploration and exercise and returned to the boat after lunch. It was a nice sunny day and we took a short afternoon nap, awaking to find that a heavy fog had settled over the anchorage and we could barely see the nearby boats. A reminder to never let yourself be unprepared.
There are two new videos meant for those who want more technical info. The first shows how we do an engine room check while underway and the second features “Lugger Bob” Senter giving some tips on how to conduct an engine room check safely. After watching, looking for your thoughts and comments!
Photos below – click any to enlarge. A brief technical section follows.
Before departing Florida, we began experiencing a problem with our Mastervolt Inverter. This is the component of our electrical system that converts DC power from the battery bank into AC power for use onboard. The inverter was a new unit installed as part of our lightning strike repairs in early 2012. Suddenly, it just began to fail. It would be running quite happily, then just shut itself down with no error lights or indication of a problem. It then would not restart until it had sat for some period of time. The failures occurred somewhat randomly – sometimes it would run for a few days, other times for only a few hours before failing. We began a series of diagnostic steps in an attempt to determine the cause of the problem. James Knight from Yacht Tech came on board and, working with Mastervolt support, determined that there was likely a problem with the inverter. We were asked to package up the inverter, along with the two DC to DC Converters, which work together with the inverter, and ship them all back to the factory in Holland for testing. We reluctantly did so, worrying about how much time it would take and whether it would impact our plans to depart. Without an inverter, we would need to be connected to shore power or run our generator 24×7. Off they went to Holland, where they got stuck in Customs for a week before being released. Once at the factory, the inverter refused to fail, leading the engineer to conclude there was no problem with the inverter and it must be something else on the boat. The inverter and converters were shipped back, re-installed, and promptly failed again, even after making all the recommended changes the engineer advised. Oh yeah, did I mention that this inverter is no longer made and that there are no spare units available? Since the inverter worked most of the time, we decided to depart from Florida as planned, to run the generator when needed if it failed, and to continue problem determination efforts. After much frustration, we were able to convince Mastervolt that there was indeed a problem with the inverter and they have now found and are shipping us a replacement, which we will install this week. Our cruising plans are now a week behind, as the promised shipment date of Monday lapsed until Friday.
One thing we are very happy with is a modification we made to our tender. Despite its large size, the tender had very little room for carrying dive gear and other toys as it had large seating structures. We decided to remove the center seat and replace it with a custom made “lean bar” for driving. Since we always stood up and leaned against the seat when driving anyway, this gives us much more space inside.