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.
We continued to enjoy Cat Island where we met some more new friends, Peter and Donna. They have a house right on the beach at Bennett’s Harbour and invited us over for a wonderful dinner. We enjoyed getting to know them and invited them on board Shear Madness for coffee before we departed for Staniel Cay.
We were excited to head to Staniel as a group of Nordhavn’s were planning to converge for an unofficial rendezvous. This would be a chance to reconnect with some old friends and meet some who so far have only been virtual friends.
We were not disappointed! We had a great time with old friends Martin and Stephanie on the 60-foot Blossom, Allain and Michelle on the 62-foot Mahara, and Laust on the 76-foot L’Adagio. It was also wonderful to finally meet Jennifer and Mark on the 46-foot Starlet (the Cover Girl of the 2016 Nordhavn calendar!) and Robbie and Jo on the 47-foot Southern Star.
The ensuing days were great fun, consisting of much eating, drinking, snorkeling, diving, spearfishing, hiking, boat tours, story telling, a beach party and general exploring. Laust flew his drone and got some great video of all the boats (I will soon publish on Youtube – stay tuned!) A convoy of four Nordhavns traveled together from Staniel Cay to Shroud Cay and then on to Highbourne Cay.
Be sure to check out the latest book reviews – and please send me your recommendations!
May 11, 2016
We are continuing to enjoy our time in the Bahamas. We had to say goodbye to our dear friends Ron and Wendy, who had cruised with us for seven weeks! It’s lonely without them. But we have met up with some fellow Nordhavn’s – old friends Dee and Jerry on Grace of Tides, Martin and Stephanie on Blossom, and new friends Dick and Kathy on Castaway.
From Staniel Cay we headed east to Half Moon Cay, where the cruise ships come to play by day but leave again in the afternoon. But the north side of the island is deserted and home to beautiful beaches and fabulous diving and spearfishing. From there it was on to Cat Island, where we have met some wonderful new friends. We anchored near Bennett’s Harbour and decided to go to the School Fair in Dumfries and then possibly to Orange Creek for a visit to the local grocery store. All a bit hard with no land transportation, but hitch hiking has worked well for us. This was no exception, as the first vehicle to come along stopped to pick us up. It was Toni in a Can-Am (a serious dune buggy). She was heading to Orange Creek for groceries, then planning to stop by the school fair. So we tagged along. Bradley donned a headset so he could talk – it’s a noisy ride! A couple hours later, we had some new friends. Toni and her husband Gary live part time in Colorado and part time in a house here on Cat Island. Gary offered to take us all to the local caves – another ride in the Can-Am – and Gary was a fabulous tour guide. The cave was incredible and only infrequently visited.
We attended a beach party put on by the local restaurant/bar Yardies where we enjoyed great food, played football with some kids on the beach and learned to play dominoes. A visit to Da Smoke Pot with more friends we met on the beach allowed us to enjoy some Rake ‘n Scrape (local music). Our friend Edwin, a caretaker for a local resort, traded us some coconuts for fish.
Speaking of which, the fishing has been great! On the way from Half Moon to Cat Island, we got a strike on one of our lines. It was my turn to bring the fish in and Austin was bringing in the second line to get it out of the way when he also got a strike! So we both had big fish on the line – his a 28 pound mahi and mine an 18-pounder. Spearfishing has also been good, netting some nice grouper and snapper.
We departed from Brunswick, GA and had an uneventful trip to Spanish Cay in the Abacos, arriving on March 17th. From there we visited Marsh Harbour and some nearby Cays in the Abacos before heading south to Eleuthera and the Exumas. This will be just a photo blog as we are just kicking back and relaxing with our friends Ron and Wendy on board.
March 13, 2016
We were ready to get back on the water and just had to finish up a few remaining projects. We installed the re-finished flybridge table, put up brand new flags for the cruising season, and put everything back in its place, safe and secure for an offshore passage.
Bradley determined that we had a short weather window to allow us to get to Charleston, a trip of about 30 hours. We bid farewell to all our good friends in the Morehead City area and departed for what turned out to be a beautiful and uneventful passage. We arrived at the Ashley Marina, where we were joined by our good friends Ron and Wendy who will be cruising with us for a while. We were able to catch up with many good friends. Bobby and Patti, who recently moved from Virginia to Charleston, took us to a wonderful dinner at The Grocery. Rich and Kate joined us onboard for dinner, Fletcher and Jetti invited us to their boat for a wonderful meal, David and Debbie introduced us to a wonderful Italian restaurant and Brad and Lorraine stopped by on their way north to hang out for a couple days.
We were delighted to find that the annual Wine and Food Festival was in town and we were able to get tickets to two events – the “Roasted Goat”, featuring goat and many other meat and vegetable dishes and the closing night BBQ. Both were wonderful events with guest chefs preparing interesting and delicious dishes and interesting wine, beer, and even bourbon to taste.
We were also thrilled to learn that the local Dock Street Theater was putting on a production of the play Shear Madness! Sadly, we planned to depart before it opened. But wait – I was able to make contact with the director who invited us to attend the very first dress rehearsal and we enjoyed an excellent show! We’re happy the folks in Charleston will get to experience our favorite play!
All too soon it was time to move on to our next stop – Brunswick, GA where diesel fuel prices are the lowest on the east coast. Since we need over 3000 gallons of fuel, its worth a special trip. After another wonderful passage with flat calm seas, we arrived at Brunswick Landing Marina. Here we were able to visit more good friends – Jim and Esther who live on nearby St. Simons Island. Esther treated us to a wonderful lunch at the Cloister Hotel. We were also delighted to find that we arrived just in time for the Elvis Festival! This event features dozens of Elvis tribute artists from all over the world, with a variety of free events in addition to events that require tickets. On opening night, I even got to meet the Mayor of Brunswick. We also took a trip to the St. Simons lighthouse where we walked up to the top, strolled around the shops, then stopped in to watch the evening bagpipes at The Lodge.
We spent half a day pumping 3000+ gallons of fuel into our tanks – at 14 gallons per minute, it does take a while! But now we’re set to depart for our next destination – The Bahamas, followed by other parts of the Caribbean.
February 24, 2016
We’ve continued to enjoy Morehead City and catch up with old friends. We’ve also experienced some interesting weather. On Super Bowl Sunday, we had a pretty intense storm pass through, with winds as high as 57 knots – that’s tropical storm strength (65 MPH). Fortunately, we are at a reasonably protected dock at Moorehead City Yacht Basin and did not sustain any damage. More importantly, we never lost our DirecTV signal so were able to watch the whole game! Bradley got bored with the game by the third quarter and was very disappointed in the ads. Just last week, we had an early morning severe storm, resulting in some nearby tornadoes and winds here at the marina of 65.8 knots (75 MPH)! It was intense but again no damage. More severe weather is expected today.
We would also like to take this opportunity to send our thoughts and blessings to a good friend and leader within the Nordhavn community. Braun and his charming wife Tina have crossed both oceans in their Nordhavn’s, first a 62 and later a 64, and have explored more of the world that most owners. In December he was struck by a combination of health issues, that has put him in the hospital for many weeks. The latest update indicates that he is slowly on his way back to health, but still faces many challenges. We are sending our best wishes and blessing for full and rapid recover. Good Luck Braun.
We hope to be back to cruising within the next few days. We’ve been doing some provisioning with trips to Costco, Walmart, and the Nahunta Pork Center to stock the pantry and freezers and are anxious to get back on the water!
But while here in Morehead City, we decided to tackle a few maintenance projects. The rule of thumb on a boat is that for every project you start, you find several more. This time was no exception! We’ve ended up with a very tight timeframe to get a lot done. Don’t worry, we won’t be offended if you don’t read the rest of this as it describes our maintenance.
Here are a few of the projects:
A/C repairs – Shear Madness uses a reverse-cycle CruiseAir system with two compressors and eleven air handlers. We had previously replaced one air handler, but have had various problems with the system, including several leaks, As the air handlers are now 11 years old, we decided to replace 4 more of them. This is no easy task, as the units are tucked into spaces with limited access and newer models are never the same size as original. In addition, we decided to have our ducts cleaned, resulting in debris being blown out all over the place! Of course several other issues developed during the process; we also discovered problems with a keypad and with the installation of the prior unit we had replaced and one of our control boards was bad. But all is now working well.
Electrical – when we arrived here, we were unable to connect to shore power. The problem turned out to be a Charles AB switch which had failed. Our electrician came to the boat, found the problem, and was able to bypass it. We called Charles and they said there are very few parts inside the unit, so they would send replacement parts which the electrician could install. When the parts arrived, it turned out not to be so simple. The parts were not the right ones and proved impossible to install. So instead, we decided to order a new unit. Which of course is NOT the same size as the old one. Nevertheless, it was finally installed and works.
We have an ongoing problem with our sonar unit, which has controls in both the Pilot House and Flybridge. Whenever the flybridge unit is connected, the sonar would not work at all. We had previously sent the flybridge control unit back to Furuno for evaluation but it was returned with no problem found. Further diagnosis revealed a different component that was the likely cause – it too had to be sent back and repaired, then re-installed, solving the problem. Untold hours spent last year and this year on correctly resovling.
We also decided to upgrade our onboard wifi/cell data system with a new Pepwave HD router. This device will pick up local wifi networks and also use cell SIM cards to provide internet access. It essentially combines the functions of our older Wave Wifi and broadband router into a single device with much better software and management options. However, it requires one wifi and two cell antennas. We determined that we could use our existing Wave Wifi antenna for the wifi part, and order antenna and cable for the cell antennas. Running new wires is always an adventure, as is placing the device in a place that is both secure and accessible.
While we were at it, there was a VHF antenna that had some loose wiring that was addressed.
We have recently replaced our old satellite phone and SPOT Satellite tracking device with a new Iridium GO! device that combines satellite tracking, calling, email, and text into a single unit with more flexible airtime plans. We tested the unit on our trip down and, deciding it meets our needs, wanted to mount it permanently in the old sat phone spot. This of course is in a tiny cabinet, and required a different power source, meaning it was a bit more complicated than just plugging it in. But it at least can use the existing external antenna and is now securely mounted.
In the process of all this, our microwave quit working. This is an 11-year old GE Microwave and Convection oven which we use often. The convection oven is a great alternative which uses much less power than the large standard oven, so I use it often. We would have been happy to replace this with a new unit, but it’s not that easy. Every single new model microwave/convection oven is either four inches deeper or three inches wider than our existing one, making it impossible to replace without extensive re-modeling. Fortunately, parts are still readily available and a local repairman was able to fix it – though the cost to do so approaches the cost of a new one!
On another appliance note, our small refrigerator in the flybridge has been making awful noises. Again, we had to be careful to select a new one which would fit into the existing space. We eventually selected a GE compact refrigerator with small freezer which we ordered from Lowe’s. Somewhere in the process, the “home store” got switched so instead of coming to Morehead City, the new fridge went to Naples, FL. That meant we had to cancel and re-order, this time having it arrive here in Morehead City. The crane was employed to take the old fridge off and get the new one on. Once in the new space, it has to be secured and sealed, but is now in and working.
We had another challenge in finding a part – our table in the flybridge has a hydraulic gas spring (strut) to allow it to be raised and lowered. The strut blew a seal and was not repairable but finding a replacement proved difficult. Our unit was made in Taiwan and we could not find one that was the same size with the same thread pattern. We were finally able to get one that was close enough – a local machine shop was able to adapt it to fit.
We also needed to stock up on motor oil – main engines and generators require periodic oil changes and we carry oil in two oil tanks which we typically fill from 5-gallon buckets of Rotella-T. Walmart often has the best pricing, but we needed 16 5-gallon buckets and they did not have it in stock, so we had to order online. No problem, except that Walmart then sent each bucket separately by FedEx. No problem with 13 of them, other than they all arrived at different times and were packed in boxed with lots of bubble wrap. But 3 of the shipping labels came unattached to their packages, resulting in long delays, many calls with FedEx to track them down, and ultimately not receiving two of them (which Walmart of course re-funded, but it’s just a typical experience of trying to source and order stuff).
We’ve had some ongoing issues with our Vacu-Flush heads and had ordered a new toilet back when we were in Portsmouth, VA. But it had arrived damaged and had to be re-ordered and sent here to NC. Unfortunately, the toilet expert we had in Virginia is not here! And as this is an electrically controlled toilet it requires some complicated wiring. And of course, replacing an older toilet, it of course is a slightly different size and cannot use existing holes. We ended up having to replace the actual mount to the hose, and redrill new holes in the floor to secure. Luckily the old holes in the tile are covered by the new toilet so we only had to fill them and not worry about matching 12 year old tile.
We’ve had all the remaining old caulking around windows and seams replaced– this has been an ongoing project over our last several stops. We use 3M 4000 Polyether Adhesive Sealant for this. We also wanted to address the vents in our outside cabinets – these are stainless steel vents which allow air flow through the cabinets. They were painted and have begun peeling and show some rust spots. The question was what to do and how. After much research and an original idea from Steve D., we arrived at a plan – remove the vents, sand blast them, and have them electro-polished rather than painted. We did one as a test, sending it to a shop across the state, and liked the result. So that meant taking off each door and removing the vent – they are very tight and required the use of a press to remove. While the vents were being worked on, each cabinet had to be covered with a temporary cover – saran wrap, cardboard, and tape! Once the vents were returned, they needed to be re-installed and sealed with caulk (3M 4000 again). Of course no matter how careful we were, in the process 4 of the doors were damaged during the process of removing the vents and need to be repaired, gelcoated and polished.
Our good friends from Western Branch Diesel did some main engine maintenance, including replacing water pumps on both engines. Looks like we did this just in time, as when the old pumps went back to the shop for evaluation as spares, they were found to be not worth keeping. During the process we found some broken sensors, very poor design by Detroit Diesel and also a leaking fuel pump on our port engine. The starboard fuel pump was replaced last year.
In our ongoing quest to replace energy consuming halogen and fluorescent lights with LED, we found new lights for the engine room and outside deck lighting. While the new LED replacing the Fluorescents do not appear to save as much power as we hoped, we like the lighting much butter. Also we can now use the LED ceiling lights when operating so there will be substantial power savings while underway.
One the tech side, we’ve updated all our electronic charts and finally have gotten almost all our technical manuals downloaded onto our boat computer and iPad. So we got rid of all but the most important or most obscure paper manuals as well as the folders and boxes they were in, freeing up more space for other stuff!
For those who continue to believe cruising is all fun and cocktails, I can tell you we have been working 10 to 12 hours days to get all projects completed prior to month end, which turned out to be 1 to 2 weeks past our original hope date.