May 26, 2017
Our next blog will contain details of our upcoming trip north to the Artic for the summer. For now, we have taken Shear Madness off the market and will decide later this year whether we want to return to land soon, or continue to cruise for a couple more years. Stay tuned!
Warning – most of this blog is about maintenance projects. Not recommended for those who only want the fun side of the cruising life! Although we’ve remained focused on the maintenance tasks, we have had the chance to enjoy the town of Belfast. Our friend Gretchen came for a visit and we enjoyed some of the local shops and restaurants, including (of course!) Maine Lobsters! And we are enjoying a lovely (albeit sometimes chilly and rainy) spring!
We also chatted with a local reporter who writes about activity on the Befast waterfront for. See his story here (page down to second half of story).
We are working all-out on a list of maintenance projects at Front Street Shipyard (FSSY) in Belfast, Maine. This yard was recommended by several people we highly respect and so far have lived up to our expectations.
First, we were hauled out using their 440-ton lift! It sure makes Shear Madness look small! We’re now working long days, making good progress, but on a tight schedule. The good news/bad news is that everything we had on our list to service has turned out to really need that service or in some cases, complete replacement. Many items were at or arriving at end of life this season.
Among the things we are doing:
- ABT Stabilizer and bow/stern thruster system – Complete servicing, which involves removing stabilizer fins and shafts. The Stabilizers are indeed showing some wear, but did not show any signs of sea water intrusion. Although we had ordered anticipated parts back in October, we have had to order several more as we’ve progressed. We also had to have some special tools shipped to us on loan in order to remove the shafts. The Bow Thrusters showed very early stages of water intrusion but we had suspected and ordered the parts as part of original order. ABT has been OUTSTANDING to deal with. The level of technical support from their team and parts support from Steve are outstanding. Thank You!
- Shafts and Props removed. Props sent for re-balancing. Shafts sent for testing. They passed dye test (to determine any cracks/structural problems), but require a little work. Replacing Cutlass bearings. Working with FSSY, Bradley and their tech developed a new way to remove Cutlass Bearings, cutting the time in half!
- Raw Water exhaust for main engines – all 10” hose aft of water separators is being replaced. It is original – 12+ years old, was leaking in cold water and was showing signs of wear at the ends.
- New 140 Amp engine alternators are being added to main engines. The old alternators, 100 amp, were original and the starboard one was making some noises (bearings). We were even concerned it would fail on trip north. The new ones will give us additional power to charge batteries while running main engine, so will no longer need to run either generator or hydraulic Alternators, except for very high loads, like full boat A/C
- Crane service – Will be discussed in separate blog.
- Replacing some hydraulic struts leaking oil, on our hatches.
- Servicing hydraulic Alternator mounts and replacing rubber collar from hydraulic motor to Alternator. Also, some testing, as issues spotted by sharp eyed FSSY Tech.
- Some touch up wood work.
- Replacing Grey water pump that is 12 years old. Our project manager is amazed it is still working. Will carry old one as a spare.
- Servicing Vacuum pump on head sytem.
- Servicing all safety equipment. Life raft sent for testing/service. Fire extinguishers checked and serviced as needed. New flares ordered to replace expired ones. Ditch bag (abandon ship bag) reviewed/updated. EPIRB (emergency rescue beacon) tested and battery replaced.
- Large tender – full service on outboard motors (twin Yamaha 60HP). Fix to bimini mounting system top and bottom upgraded. Removal of old Navnet system and installation of holder for new iPad based nav system. Also removed and sand blasted tender chalks and leaving them raw aluminum – no more peeling paint!
- Small tender – inflate/test spare tender and service 15 HP outboard.
- Anchor chain – we inspected and decided to replace our starboard anchor chain (the one we use most frequently). We are also increasing length to 125 meters and will use new soft shackle to attach end of chain to boat and second one to attach extra 100 meters of anchor line to last link.
- Replacing one A/C air handler – Unit replaced under warranty due to a leaking coil, but we must absorb labor.
- Updated all charts and software.
- Several other projects we will discuss in subsequent blog.
As we start to complete some of these projects, we’ll turn our attention to planning our summer excursion north – hopefully taking us back to the Arctic to Nunavut and Baffin Island.
May 9, 2017
This post will detail our trip from Morehead City, NC to Belfast Maine. It was written (mostly) en route by Bradley.
We departed from Morehead City Yacht Basin at 15:00 on Saturday, April 29th. Our crew was our good friend Neil from New Zealand who will be spending the season with us as our engineer, and Bob, a great new friend who was introduced to us by a mutual acquaintance. Bob is the previous owner of “The Good Life”, a very familiar looking Nordhavn 72 which is now named Shear Madness! Needless to say, Bob required almost no training!
As we got underway, the wind was 15 to 20 knots, out of the Southwest, which was 50 degrees off our starboard bow for the first 4 hours of our trip. The boat was freshly waxed, washed and chamoised. Of course it was an ebbing tide, so we had wind over waves, creating short, steep and very wet waves. Within 30 minutes Shear Madness was covered in Saltwater.
Once we turned north after clearing the Cape Lookout bar, the trip became wonderful. Over the next three days we had wind from 15 to 20 degrees off our port stern to dead on the stern blowing 15 to 50 knots. Waves were 1 to 4+ feet, but the ride was just great. For the first 36 hours we ran a generator and air conditioning, keeping the boat closed. By Monday morning early we were able turn off a/c and generator, open the boat and use the flybridge.
Tuesday morning was a foggy, rainy (pouring sheets) and cold day, with temps in the 10c/50F range. No morning swim today ☺. It poured, giving us a good boat wash. After anchoring just south of the Cape Cod Canal around 11:30am, it was a popcorn and movie afternoon. We watched Lion, and if you have not seen it, highly recommend. Bob prepared an absolutely wonderful turkey curry for dinner, which we enjoyed while watching a second very good movie, and true story, Queen of Katwe.
Today (Wednesday, May 3) we are heading through the Cape Cod Canal and on to Belfast Maine, stopping each night along the way. Some weather tonight we want to avoid. Weather now is great with stunning blue skies, 13c/55f with temperature rising by noon. Sooo nice to wake up slightly cold, rather than hot and sweaty.
It is now Wednesday at 16:00 and we have continued north. We had a perfect trip through the Cape Cod Canal. Based on projected weather patterns we elected to coastal hop up to Belfast, rather than a non-stop 200-mile trip. This is because they were calling for 30 plus knots of wind on our nose and even worse if we took the direct route. So, we hugged the coast and stopped at Cape Hedge/Milk Island bay. Just as predicted the wind started kicking up in early afternoon and by the time we anchored at 19:00 it was blowing in high thirties. The blistering rain on Tuesday had cleaned SM, but she was again covered in salt☹.
We had good wind protection and not too much rolling, all slept well. It was a 05:30 start this morning (Thursday), but was a beautiful sunrise. We had planned almost a 100 mile run today and the weather came through as predicted, Dead clam all day, with winds building to 10-15 on stern late in day. We have a great anchorage picked out north of Burnt & Allen islands. That will leave us a 42 mile run on Friday. Temp. this morning was 4.5c/40 this morning but made it all the way up to 15.5/60 this afternoon.
Our final day on the water began on Friday at 6:30am. It was a pleasant day, with many lobster pots to dodge, and we arrived in Belfast by noon. Ben from Front Street Shipyard came out to meet us for some sea trials in preparation for the maintenance work we will have done here. More on that in the next post.
All in all, it was a great trip. Good conditions, outstanding crew, dolphin and whale shows, great scenery, good food. Not much more we could hope for!
April 29, 2017
Just a short update to say we are back on the boat, have been frantically working to get ready for a passage, and plan to depart later today to head north to Belfast, Maine. You can track us beginning tonight (technology permitting!) at:
where you will hopefully see a track going north from Morehead City, NC.
March 16, 2017
Shear Madness is still resting comfortably in Morehead City, NC. Before departing for some land adventures, we completed a few boat projects. First, the motor that lifts the TV in the salon had failed and needed to be replaced. Of course, that motor is no longer made, but the same company had an alternative which we finally procured. The problem was getting the old one out and the new one installed. With the help of the local carpenter, Robbie, Bradley was able to get the new motor installed and the TV now goes up and down as it is supposed to. The next project was to get some of the headliners in the pilot house and salon re-covered. These are the removable ceiling panels, covered with a material that over time deteriorates, resulting in sagging patches. Fortunately, we were able to order the same material in the same color. Removing the panels is not an easy task, as they are large and bulky and have light fixtures that need to be removed (and kept track of so they can be re-installed. Cathy and Cory from Crystal Coast Interiors assisted with the removal and soon had the newly covered panels ready to install. Finally, we replaced a failed bilge pump in the engine room.
If you read this blog purely for boat adventures, you may want to stop reading at this point as the rest concerns adventures on land and travel with friends and family. Before leaving NC to head to Colorado for some winter skiing, we attended a birthday party for our friend and electrician Steve and also attended a Christmas Eve celebration with his extended family. Since Hanukkah coincided with Christmas Eve, we also lit a menorah.
My friend Pam volunteers to keep an eye on the wild horses at nearby Rachel Carson Reserve and invited me to join her in servicing the cameras used to track the horses. This involves a bit of hiking, retrieving cards from the cameras, replacing batteries, and ensuring the cameras are placed in spots that will produce good info and secured so that they remain operational for several weeks. The cameras are motion activated and capture not only horses, but a variety of other wildlife including raccoons, foxes, rabbits, and more.
Finally, our friend Tony from St. Augustine stopped by on his drive back to Florida from DC and brought Otis, his gorgeous black lab. Otis was just a little puppy when we last saw him but he’s all grown up now, though still very much a puppy!
We headed off to Florida for a visit with family and friends. My two awesome “amigas” Nancy and Cynthia joined me in Florida for a long girls weekend. We also had nice visits with Bradley’s mother and sister and caught up with our friend Richard and other friends Wolfgang, Christeen, and daughter Sophie.
For New Years we traveled to the DC area where we visited Bradley’s daughter and grandkids, my stepmom, and various other friends. The new MGM casino at National Harbor has opened, so I paid it a visit. My old elementary school, Thomas Addison, is now the MGM Employment and Training Center.
Next it was off to Colorado. We rented a condo at Copper Mountain from mid-January through the end of March and are spending weekdays there skiing and snowshoeing. On weekends we travel back to Denver where we visit various friends and family. I’ve spent most Saturdays with my niece Vicky and her daughter Sophie, who is the same age (4 ½) as our friends Wolfgang and Christeen’s daughter Sophie T. Wolfgang and Christeen came out to visit us for a week of skiing so the two Sophies were able to meet.
Sophie T. came to Copper with her parents and spent some time in ski school where learned enough to ride a lift and ski down a green hill with her Papa. I introduced Christeen to snowshoeing and we had a wonderful time.
Our friend Ken and his son Elliott also came for a visit. All was going well until the morning we had about 4” of fresh powder. Bradley, Ken, and Elliott planned to head off to the back bowls while I was going to stick to the Blue trails. He boys were taking their sweet time getting ready, so I go dressed, grabbed my skis and set off for the short walk across the parking lot to the nearby ski lift. Unbeknownst to me, there was black ice under the fresh powder. Suddenly my feet flew out from under me and I fell – Hard! Unfortunately I fell on my left wrist. I returned to the condo and Bradley drove me over to the local Urgent Care Center where I received excellent care. The X-rays showed a Colles fracture of my left wrist and the doctor referred me for an emergency appointment with an orthopedic surgeon, who saw me the same day. The following day I had surgery to repair the break with a tiny titanium plate. Two days later I was back to snowshoeing, but skiing is on hold for a bit.
Cathy and Cory from NC also came for a visit. Cathy, a NC native, has seen snow, but never skied before. After a couple lessons, she was navigating green hills like a pro. Bradley and Cory explored the mountain and we introduced them to snowshoeing with a beautiful trek at Mayflower Gulch.
With my injury garnering a bit of sympathy, Bradley – being the competitor that he is – decided he needed to do something. So, while skiing with the “Over the Hill Gang” in Hallelujah Bowl, he took a spectacular fall, flipping and landing on his left shoulder. He got to ride down the mountain in a ski patrol sled and was then transported to the same clinic I had visited. He too received excellent care and X-Rays showed that he had a grade 2.5 separated left shoulder. Although his injury was far more painful than mine, he fortunately did not require surgery. Time alone will heal his injury.
We both hope to make a return to the slopes next week. The weather at the mountain has warmed up and it’s definitely Spring skiing now. Hopefully we will get a little more snow before we leave.
We head back to NC on April 3 where we will work on a few boat projects and get ready for a trip north to Maine at the end of the month.
November 30, 2016
Although NC suffered some serious flooding from Hurricane Matthew, Shear Madness survived just fine. We headed back down to re-launch and move her back to Morehead City Yacht Basin. Aside from the expected dirt from being in a boat yard, there were no other issues.
Once the boat was secured, we headed back to DC for a while, catching up with lots of friends and family and even attending some events where we had to put on “grown up clothes”! Then it was off for a stint in Colorado, where we visited more friends and family and rented our ski gear for the upcoming ski season. Biggest problem is that so far there is no SNOW!! But we are planning to spend a couple months at Copper Mountain beginning in mid-January, so are keeping our fingers crossed!
Sadly, the Washington Nationals didn’t make it to the World Series – I had some tickets at the ready if they had made it! But it was nice to see the Cubs win. Maybe the Skins will make it to the Super bowl! LOL, one can dream.
After Colorado, we spent a bit more time in DC and I even got to play some golf. Then it was back to the boat to finish up a few small projects. Although the boat is still listed for sale, we are expecting it to take some time, so have begun planning a trip back to the Arctic next summer. Hmmm, that means winter in the snow and summer dodging icebergs! Will have to make sure to stock up on hot chocolate!
It’s been a while since I’ve updated our book reviews, and there are 35 new books in this update. If you’re looking for good books, anything on our 4-star (150+ books) or 3-star (200+ books) list is recommended. And if that’s too much to sort through, or you just want a few suggestions for your book club, check out our short list of current recommendations!
October 6, 2016
In the last post we mentioned how living on a boat means your life is heavily influenced by weather. Now with just weeks left in the official hurricane season, Hurricane Matthew has proved our point! We were in the Washington, DC area and had planned to depart for a week of R&R in Colorado, but last Saturday, the track of Matthew showed some potential for impacting North Carolina where we had left the boat. So we reluctantly at 5:00 AM canceled our 8:15 flights and by Monday knew we had to return to Shear Madness to make sure she was safe and secure. We departed at 4:30am on Tuesday morning and arrived at the boat by 11am.
The marina where we left the boat is not hurricane safe and has a mandatory evacuation policy in the event of a hurricane forecast. That meant we had to decide how and where to put the boat. Ideally, the safest thing is to haul the boat out of the water, storing it safely on land or move out of the storm track completely. Our primary hurricane plan for Beaufort NC was to run north into the Chesapeake Bay. However, wind speeds were 25 to 30 knots from the north, blowing against the Gulf Streams, so it would be almost as bad as heading out into a hurricane. Plan B was to get lifted out of the water, but the size of our boat means the yard must have a large (200-ton) boat lift, limiting our options to only one place, Jarrett Bay Boatworks. Jarrett Bay was fully committed to customers who hold Hurricane Policies – contracts for which they pay to guarantee space (extra insurance) and time for their boats to be hauled out if a hurricane is coming. When we approached Jarrett bay they indicated it was very unlikely could haul us but would let us know if they could find a way to squeeze us in.
Plan C, which we have done multiple times, was to find a safe, protected anchorage in the area. After talking to several locals who were very knowledgeable boaters, including our good friend, David, we identified an good protected location on the Neuse River. Because Bradley was fighting a very bad Staph infection, from a poison ivy encounter, this past weekend, we wanted to recruit a third person to join us. We recruited Brian, a local friend with knowledge of the river, to help us get there safely and prepare the boat.
After exchanging multiple calls, a welcome call came in. Jarrett Bay would be able to haul us after all. What does that mean? Everything that can be impacted by hurricane strength winds (cushions, covers for kayak and tender, etc) has to be removed from the decks and stored safely inside the boat or in some kind of secure storage. Antennas have to be secured. Selected outside cabinets need to be taped to prevent water intrusion in heavy, pounding rains. The goal is to have as few wind resistant objects outside as possible.
Compounding the challenge, we would not have power once we were hauled out. That means no refrigeration and no charging for our batteries. So even though we have not bought any significant new provisions since March, we still had quite a lot of food in our freezers which would have to be removed and transported elsewhere. Additionally, we needed to turn everything off to conserve our battery power. We were able to get the draw on our batteries down to 2 amps per hour, giving us approximately 21 days before the batteries are down to 50%, the lowest level one should drive their batteries down.
All of Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning was spent preparing the boat. At 8:30am on Wednesday, we headed to Jarrett Bay where thankfully they were on schedule and able to haul us as promised at 10am. An hour later, the boat was safely out of the water and we continued making preparations. By 4pm, we were done. All that remained was to load the heavy coolers containing the contents of our freezers and refrigerators into the car for the 6 hour drive back to DC.
All we can do now is wait to see what Matthew decides to do. Once he passes, we’ll head back and move the boat – either to another spot on land where we can get power, or back into the water.
September 10, 2016
Bradley and I constantly remind ourselves how fortunate we have been to be able to experience what many only dream of. We have spent much of the past 16 years cruising all over the world, first on our Oyster 56 sailboat and since 2010 on the current Shear Madness, our beloved 72-foot Nordhavn.
It’s been an amazing journey. Retiring in our 40’s to tackle the challenges of expedition cruising has taught us so much – about the world we live in, the wonders of nature, and mostly about ourselves. Time after time we’ve have to employ our ingenuity, deal with things way out of our comfort zone, test our physical and emotional limits, and learn to rely on each other and to literally trust our lives to one another We’ve been rewarded with the most spectacular adventures we could ever imagine – from the Great Barrier Reef in Australia to the frozen Arctic in Labrador and Greenland and everything in between. And the people we’ve met along the way have been amazing. Sometimes it’s a memorable one-time encounter and sometimes it a new lifelong friend met at some point along the journey. It’s been an incredible adventure!
But it’s also an all-consuming one. Our lives for so many years have revolved around weather, maintenance projects, and trip planning, while also trying to maintain important relationships with friends and family from afar.
As we both approach milestone birthdays next year, we’ve started to think about what we want the rest of our lives to be about. So many people wish they could have the adventures we’ve had and we often tell them, it’s all about planning. If this is what you want to do, you have to plan for it and make it happen. Similarly, we feel we have to plan for the rest of our lives and there are still so many things on our bucket lists that this seems a good time to take stock and evaluate a change.
And so we have made the decision to list Shear Madness for sale. She has taken remarkable care of us over the past six years and has shown that she is capable of safely venturing anywhere in the world one could imagine cruising. She deserves to continue that journey. As for us, we have no intention of moving into assisted living. We have many more adventures we are considering, just not ones that involve living full time aboard a boat!
We will continue to keep you informed of our plans. In the meantime, Shear Madness is listed with Northrop and Johnson and you can see the listing on Yachtworld here or on the broker’s site here. Contact Michael Nethersole for more information.
Here are a few photos to remind us of our incredible adventures!
August 1, 2016
We departed from Staniel Cay (Bahamas) on June 9, spending a night at anchor off Norman’s Cay before heading on to Morgan’s Bluff on the island of Andros where we again anchored for a night to prepare for the 2-day crossing to St. Augustine. After setting the anchor we went for a snorkel and, as we usually do, swam out to take a look at the anchor. The crystal clear water gave us a great view but we didn’t like what we saw! The anchor was lodged beneath a steel beam lying on the bottom. We anticipated some challenges in getting it raised in the morning!
After a good night’s sleep, we got ready for departure and developed our plan for raising the anchor. Austin would get into the water to direct, with Bradley at the anchor controls on the bow and me using engines and bow and stern thrusters to position the boat. We would try to maneuver in order to be able to pull the anchor free. With a bit of current adding to the challenge, it took us nearly an hour to get the anchor freed and up, but patience and teamwork did the trick.
We had a very pleasant crossing to St. Augustine with great weather. We had tried to time our arrival to coincide with high tide as we could only enter the Conch House Marina at high tide. But once we got into the Gulf Stream, we made excellent time, so we arrived just at sunrise, several hours too early to attempt an entry to the marina. This was due both to the lack of depth at less than high tide as well as the serious currents and very narrow channel we had to traverse. We did a bit of a tour of the St. Augustine Harbor, finally choosing a spot near the Vilano Beach bridge where we napped for a couple hours. When the time was right we made it to the marina without incident.
This was our first visit to St. Augustine and we greatly enjoyed America’s oldest city. We took in plenty of the local sights and activities, enjoying early morning runs, walks, and bike rides throughout the area. We also met up with some old friends and made some new ones. We took a few land trips to visit friends and family. I even got the chance to play several rounds of golf. (see photos for details).
After six relaxing weeks, it was time to head a bit further north, to Morehead City, NC. Aboard for this 2-day trip was our new friend Tony, who we had met in St. Augustine (because he had an adorable new puppy). We had a great passage with perfect weather and calm seas. The only disappointment was the fishing. We caught one barracuda and several bonitas, all of which we released in the hopes we would get something better. We did lose 2 lures to fish which must have been big, but never landed a keeper!
Finally, I’m pleased to report that we have received Nordhavn’s newest pennant awarded for High Latitude cruising which we earned with our trip to Greenland two years ago, reaching a latitude of 69º23”N.
We will be here in NC for the next few months, doing some boat projects, taking some more land trips, and catching up with friends.
June 10, 2016
After bidding farewell to all our Nordhavn friends, it was time for a family visit. My (Kathy’s) cousin Bri and her daughter Katie, came for a visit. Katie earned her Girl Scout Silver award two years ago, doing a project on coral reefs. That interest in the reefs led to her getting her Scuba diving certification and she wanted to see some coral reefs up close and personal. Bri is also a diver, though it had been more than 15 years since her last dive. With three sets of dive equipment on board, this meant that Bradley, a certified Rescue Diver, would lead dives with Katie and Bri.
After a 4am start to get to the airport in Orlando, where they would connect through Miami and Nassua, Bri and Katie arrived at Staniel Cay by late afternoon. We picked them up in the tender and headed right to the boat where we prepared to go snorkeling at Thunderball Grotto. The Grotto is a fabulous coral reef and cave, famous for the James Bond movie Thunderball, which had some scenes filmed here. It is truly spectacular and we all enjoyed it. We also visited the famous swimming pigs, who enjoyed the fresh water we brought them even more than the food most people bring.
The next day we went back to the Grotto for the first dive – in shallow water where Bri could reacquaint herself with diving and Katie could practice her buoyancy control while enjoying beautiful scenery.
From there, we took the big boat about 15 miles north into the Exuma Land and Sea Park where we did two dives on Jeep Reef, a beautiful coral reef with an old Jeep sunk nearby. These dives have to be be timed to coincide with tidal changes – ideally at “slack water” which it the period during which tidal flow changes from incoming to outgoing or vice versa. During slack water, current is minimal, but during the peak of tidal ebb or flow, the currents can be significant, meaning it is impossible to swim against. So we planned carefully and timed the dives just right. Each dive lasted just over 45 minutes and by the end of the last dive, Katie breathed a big sigh of relief and broke into a big smile. She had been quite apprehensive about diving, but had learned a great deal so was able to relax and enjoy herself on that last dive. It was great to see her go from anxious novice to a more confident diver, able to control her buoyancy and really enjoy her underwater time! Likewise, it didn’t take Bri long to get back into the swing of things, looking like an expert by the third dive.
We also played hearts and rummy, Bradley and Katie played some chess, we enjoyed some good food (recently caught Mahi-Mahi, grouper and snapper, a roasted chicken, pork roast, and some wonderful desserts), and spent some time hiking around Staniel Cay.
Our time in the Bahamas is at an end and we are now heading back to the US. First stop will be St. Augustine, FL.