May 18, 2014
On April 18, April, my step-daughter, departed to head home to Maryland and Gary departed to meet a friend in Nassau for a long weekend. We dropped them ashore at Fernandez Bay for their flight out of Old Bight airport, then pulled anchor and headed north to Arthur’s town. We had some perfect weather and took the tender out near Little San Salvador where we enjoyed some very nice snorkeling. Bradley speared a couple of nice size grouper and we saw plenty of fish, a large turtle up close, and several sharks.
When we returned, a large mega-yacht, Wheels, had anchored in the same bay. She’s a 150-foot or so boat, apparently owned by a prominent Nascar guy. She was loaded with toys – an 80-foot fishing boat, a smaller tender, jet-skis, kayaks, and more.
I took the kayak for a long paddle up Orange Creek, a shallow but very scenic creek that runs north from Arthur’s town. On the way back to the boat I stopped in at the grocery store at the Orange Creek Inn. As I was securing the kayak to a dock, I noticed a man nearby with a very nice camera taking photos of the boats at anchor. We struck up a conversation and he introduced himself as Darren. His mother is the owner of the Orange Creek Inn and Grocery Store. He walked with me up to the store and introduced me to his mom. After picking up a few fresh veggies and some milk, we walked back down to my kayak and I invited Darren to come out to Shear Madness later that day.
Darren didn’t have a boat so we arranged to pick him up in the tender at 5pm. But that was low tide and the entrance to Orange Creek is so shallow that even the tender can’t get in. So Darren had to wade out to meet the tender but soon we had him aboard. We spent a wonderful couple of hours in the flybridge and learned a lot. Darren was born in Nassau but had grown up on Cat Island after his parents decided to move there. He has been living in the US for the past few years and had returned to Cat Island six months ago to help his parents when his youngest brother had moved to Turks and Caicos to take a job. He was planning to return to the US soon, but had a lot of great insights about the Bahamas and Cat Island in particular. We greatly enjoyed our discussion with him.
We enjoyed some more nice weather and some snorkeling but all too soon it was time to head back to the US. Our destination was North Palm Beach, FL, where we planned to stop in for a week to address a few boat projects and drive to Naples to visit some friends and family.
Our passage was about as good as it gets! We had prefect weather (for a trawler that is) with very little wind and seas that often looked more like a lake than an ocean. Our trip was 270 miles, taking about 36 hours. Along the way, we caught a 20-pound Mahi-mahi (aka Dorado or dolphin fish). That was quite exciting as even when we slowed to idle speed we were still doing 4 knots. I had to turn the boat around to head back towards the fish the while Bradley reeled it in and Gary stood by with the gaff to bring it aboard. It was a beauty – I think the largest fish we have caught so far. Soon it was filleted, vacuum sealed, and in the freezer and we were back underway. The rest of the trip was uneventful, but we arrived at the entrance to Lake Worth inlet at night. Hoping to anchor for the night just inside the inlet, we were disappointed to find it crowded with boats, leaving no safe place to anchor. So we decided to continue on to Old Port Cove marina, a little more than an hour away. We prefer to go to and from Old Port Cove at high tide or on a rising tide as there are some shallow spots where we can easily touch bottom. But the tide was falling and it was a dark night. Fortunately we had good track lines from our previous entrances and exits and with careful navigation and Gary on the bow using his young and sharp eyes to look for any possible trouble, we made it to the marina with no problems. Just after midnight we secured to the dock, celebrated our safe arrival with a drink, and settled in for a good night’s sleep. We had several issues to address in Florida and had scheduled people to come to the boat so that we could hopefully turn everything around in just over a week. For a list of projects and technical issues, scroll down below photos.
For the weekend, we rented a car and drove across to Naples to visit Bradley’s sister and mother for an early Mother’s Day. We watched the Kentucky Derby and I got to play golf after many months of not touching a club. I’m thinking I should have long layoffs more often, as I had 3 birdies in the first 5 holes! I think that’s more birdies than I had in all of 2013! I also drove to Vero Beach to visit my sister Joan, her husband George, and our cousin Bri and daughter Katie, who drove from Central Florida. We had a great visit, including some leftover Kentucky Derby mint juleps!
Back at Old Port Cove Marina where there are always plenty of Nordhavns, we met Spirit of Ulysses, a 76-foot Forward Pilot House design. This is the exact same boat as Shear Madness, except with a four-foot extension of the aft deck. Next to Ulysses was Tango, a 76-foot Aft Pilot House. It was the first time we had been together with three boats of the 72/76 series. We had a great time getting to know Richard from Ulysses and we also met three new couples who have recently purchased or are in the process of purchasing Nordhavns and enjoyed dinners out with each of them.
We also caught up with friends Tom and Marlene from Jupiter and Bina from Singer Island for a wonderful Thai dinner. Tom and Marlene had just returned from a trip to the Bahamas aboard a friend’s boat – named Shear Madness! This is a boat owned by Bruce and Rhonda Shear and we had met them briefly a couple years ago during another dinner with Tom and Marlene. In all our cruising, this is the only other Shear Madness we have ever met, and Tom and Marlene just happen to be good friends with both!
Then it was time to begin the next leg of our journey – 720 miles north to the Chesapeake Bay. The trip was pleasant – we had winds of 10-20 knots most of the way but mostly from the southeast or southwest, so it was a comfortable ride, though not quite calm enough to put out the fishing lines. We were in the Gulf Stream, a strong current which flows south to north, so our speed was over 9 knots for much of the trip (we normally average 7.5 knots). We arrived at the entrance to the Bay just around midnight and dropped anchor for the night, in what we dubbed the “heavy metal pasture”. This is an area near the Bay Bridge tunnel where large ships anchor, waiting to go into port to take on loads. There are often more than a dozen of them waiting for something and we snuggled up among them for a comfortable night. In the morning we headed in to Portsmouth, VA, just across from Norfolk. Unlike our passage where we rarely saw other boats, this short trip required quite a bit of attention as there were big ships, tugs with barges, sailboats, and small motor boats everywhere!
Soon we were docked at the Tidewater Yacht Marina and soon another Norhavn came in – it was the 50-foot Serenity. Serenity and Shear Madness have one thing in common – they both began life as “The Good Life”, both built by a couple named Adie and Dudley, who owned several Nordhavns. Both these boats are now being greatly enjoyed by their new owners and we are very fortunate indeed to have a boat that was commissioned by people as knowledgable as they were! Another boat soon arrived that we also have something in common with – it was the other Shear Madness! They are on their way north to Nantucket but stopped in to wait for some better weather. We had a chance to go out for a fabulous dinner with Bruce and Rhonda and really enjoyed getting to know them. Their Shear Madness is a 90-foot Ocean Alexander, a beautiful boat but much different than ours. They cruise at 13 knots, burn 60-70 gallons per hour, and primarily do coastal cruising as they carry about 3000 gallons of fuel. We cruise at 7.5 knots, burn 8 gallons an hour, and go wherever we want!
In Portsmouth we also had a chance to visit friends Gary and Cookie and little Ruth, who is now 21 months old and already an accomplished swimmer! Gary and Cookie have a pool, so Ruth has been getting swimming lessons for several months and can already turn herself over to float and propel herself short distances through the water. She is also awfully cute!
We left the boat in Portsmouth so that we could do a short trip to DC and NY for some family visits and business meetings. There is a video of our passage from Cat Island to Florida (6.5 minutes) and one showing some underwater shots of our anchor and snubber line (2 minutes). Scroll down below photos for more technical information. Please send us emails or comments – we love to hear from you!
Below are a few of the issues we had to address in Florida:
- Computer crash. Our Dell Optiplex computer that acts as our primary data server for functions other than navigation died. While in the Bahamas I was able to contact Dell support and diagnose the problem. A tech with a new motherboard and I/O port was dispatched to meet us upon our arrival and within half an hour of his arrival the computer was back up and running. We have had very good service from Dell in the past and this was no exception. The computer is 2 years old and we fortunately had the 3 year Pro-Support plan, making it a very hassle free experience.
- Fresh Water Pump – in the Bahamas, our main freshwater pump, a Headhunter Mach 5, quit working. We switched to our backup pump, a Headhunter Excalibur, which initially worked but with very low water pressure. We discovered, with the help of the Nordhavn Owners forum, that the bladder in our accumulator tank was not at the correct pressure. We re-pressurized it – similar to inflating a tire on your car – and the backup system worked fine. The primary pump still would not work. Given that it is 9 years old, we elected to acquire a new pump, which we picked up in Ft. Lauderdale on our way back from Naples. It was installed but initially kept getting air into the system and shutting off. It took a few tries to get everything tightened up just right, but its now working just fine.
- We had been having some problems with our Sonar. While in NC back in January, we had begun getting a “Tilt/Train” error on startup. We called our local expert who began trying to diagnose the problem and during the course of his work, the sonar began working again. Against the advice of the Furuno sonar expert who we consulted by phone – because quote “those boards never fail” we ordered a new “Train/Tilt” circuit board which we believed was the problem. As we did not need it at that time, we just put it into our spare parts inventory. We had no further problems until we were in the Bahamas and Bradley was diving to work on the bottom of the boat. He asked me to lower the sonar, which I did. A short time later he came back up and said “would you lower the %^*$# sonar!”. I replied that I HAD lowered it and we soon realized that, although the lights on the control panel indicated it was down, it was not actually lowering. A call to the Furuno expert was not encouraging. He again did not think the circuit board was the problem (again saying they never go bad) and expected that we had a problem within the sound dome, the physical unit that controls the raise/lower and tilt/train functions. Fixing a problem there would involve the need to haul the boat out of the water. Back in FL, Brian from Celtic Marine came aboard and after some diagnostics; he believed it was indeed the circuit board. Since we had the spare on board, we swapped out the old and – voila – the sonar was back in business. The faulty board has been shipped back to Furuno so they can determine what happened.
Panasonic phone system. We have a small Panasonic PBX phone system, which provides an intercom in each cabin and other spots in the boat and also ties in our satellite phone. We don’t use the system a lot – mainly when on passages to give each other wake up calls when you’re next up for watch or to call when you need an extra set of hands or eyes while on watch. We noticed as we started out on the trip north from Florida that all the phones were dead. It wasn’t a high priority until we decided we wanted to make a call on the satellite phone. When the PBX is operational, it connects to the sat phone docking station which in turn connects to the sat phone external antenna, so you get great signal and can make a sat phone call from anywhere on the boat. With the PBX down, you have to make a call using the sat phone handset, which requires you go outside and point the little teeny antenna at the sky as you yell into the phone to offset the wind. So we were motivated to diagnose the PBX problem but were stumped. It was plugged in and had power but was dead as a doornail. The on/off switch had no effect and nothing we could do would bring it back to life. We further learned that this unit is discontinued and not supported by Panasonic – bad news in that it seems also difficult to get this unit repaired and any replacement would entail changing all the phones as well. We called the local distributor in Norfolk, who referred us to a local dealer, “Quality Ed”, who arranged to come to the boat the next day. We removed the unit from its home under the pilot house bunk, carefully disconnected all the phones and inputs and the unit was ready for Ed. He took it apart, determined that there is no internal fuse that could have blown, removed the power supply and inspected it but saw no obvious problem. Parts for this unit are not available but he knew of a unit at a warehouse in Norfolk that he though we could get. Before doing that, though, we decided to just plug it in one more time and lo and behold – it worked! Seems like there must have just been a loose connection somewhere. Ed stayed until we re-installed the unit and had all the phones re-connected and tested and everything was working fine. As Ed was departing, I said “Wait, how do we pay you?” His response “Well, I didn’t really do anything, so you don’t owe me anything. Besides, you gave me a shirt”. All he would take was a Shear Madness T-Shirt and a photo of him with the boat. No wonder they call him “Quality Ed”!
- Hydraulic Hoses. We decided to replace some of our hydraulic hoses. We have had some periodic issues with some pulsing in our hydraulic system and some of our hoses are run such that you cannot visually inspect them, nor reasonably replace them. (All hose runs and wires on a boat should be laid with the expectation that they will have to be replaced at some point in the future.) Given that they are nine years old, it was recommended that we replace them, which of course is easier said than done. But with patience and persistence, mixed with many unprintable words, the old hoses were removed and new ones installed.