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.
February 7, 2016
We’ve enjoyed a couple both nice and intense weeks in Morehead City, tackling some critical maintenance projects and catching up with good friends.
North Carolina is home to several herds of wild horses and our friend Pam volunteers to monitor the Beaufort horses. She invited me to join her, along with friends Diane and Josh on a trip to the island to set up motion-activated cameras to photograph the horses and to check on their welfare. We saw about a dozen of the 30+ horses in this group and set up the cameras. It was a great day and I learned a lot!
We also enjoyed what has become an honored tradition for us – an oyster roast at the Gilpin family estate. Steve, Clayton, and Dianne got a roaring fire started and when the coals were hot, a metal plate was laid on top, then came the oysters and a wet blanket to cover them until they were cooked and ready for a feast! Dianne made up a batch of Mom’s (Gilpin) renowned cornbread and Mom (Barbara Gilpin) made a brief appearance to sample some oysters. Susan and Beth, who don’t eat oysters, came out for a visit. Smores capped off a great evening!
I drove down to Southport to where I enjoyed a wonderful dinner with two good friends, Nancy and Lynne, then did a stop at Costco in Wilmington to continue the provisioning process for the next few months of planned cruising. Our freezers are near empty, so we have begun the process of re-filling them.
Lynne and husband Nick then drove up from Southport to visit us, stop in at the chocolate festival, and see the boat. We enjoyed a nice dinner out and a chance to engage in some stimulating discussions. Bradly and Nick could have been raised as brothers, they are so close in thinking.
We are pleased to be the featured boat on the Nordhavn Registry – check it out for an interview and some photos.
We are continuing with several maintenance projects – more on that in the next update.
January 26, 2016
We had a smooth trip down the Potomac River, spending New Year’s Eve at anchor on the Potomac River. No partying for us and we were in bed early to get an early start in the new year. We continued on New Year’s Day to Deltaville for another night at anchor, then on to Portsmouth, just across the Elizabeth River from Norfolk.
There we spent a couple weeks, using the time to catch up with good friends Gary, Cookie, and little Ruthie and new friends Larry and Susan. We visited the Virginia Beach Bridge Club a few times and played in their Sectional Tournament, where we accumulated some good Master Points. We also continued work on replacing a couple of our toilets. And we had a visit from good friends Ron and Wendy who may come with us for some cruising soon.
From there, it was time to head south to Morehead City, NC. Winter weather can be tricky and we wanted good weather to head around Cape Hatteras. It’s about a 30 hour trip and it looked like we had a good 36-hour weather window, so we set off on January 14th. The challenge was to get a weather window that lined up with the tides, but that was not to be. We elected to maximize the weather window and simply run at increased RPM to make up for the tides being against us on departing and arriving. We ran the whole trip at around 1200 RPM vs. our normal 1060, for an extra 2 gallons of fuel burned per hour. Once again, Captain Bradley got the weather right – we had a reasonably smooth trip all the way to Cape Lookout, where they were beginning to broadcast building seas and gale warnings. As we approached the Morehead City Yacht Basin, the rain came and the winds increased, but we were soon safely docked and the storm blew past, bringing a day of nice weather so that we could give the boat a good wash! We will be here for about a month, doing a bit more maintenance and visiting more good friends before departing for Charleston in February.
Here are a couple videos of our recent passages and some more photos (click any photo to enlarge):
December 30, 2015
Happy New Year to everyone! As another year comes to a close, we can’t help but reflect on how fortunate we are to be able to experience the cruising life! We’ve had another wonderful year filled with adventures, many new friends, and the chance to re-connect with so many old friends and family! We are still charting our our plans for 2016 but expect to spend some time in the Caribbean during the first half of the year. After that, who knows?
Thanks to everyone who entered the contest to win a T-Shirt! Lucky winners are Jennifer U, Ken M, Tony P, Myron S, Bryant K, and Tracie N. Your shirts will be sent shortly!
Our time at National Harbor is coming to an end. What began as a one month stop has turned into three months as we kept finding reasons to stay! We’ve really enjoyed staying in one place for so long – it’s been great to see so many friends and National Harbor is a great base – plenty to do here and very convenient to MD, DC, and VA. We’ve already booked a reservation for next fall so hope to visit even more good friends then!
I ran in the Ugly Sweater Run here at National Harbor – there were 6000 people and LOTS of UGLY sweaters! We ventured to Colorado for a short visit with friends and family. And our Hannukah, Christmas, and New Years gifts to ourselves and each other included a new waterproof camera and a Fitbit for me, and a new Apple watch and iPhone 6S+ for Bradley, not to mention 5 years of TSA-Pre clearance to make our air travel more tolerable! The boat will be getting a new Iridium GO! to replace our existing satellite phone and SPOT tracker. We’re having fun learning to use them all!
We arrived back at the boat just in time to watch the Redskins defeat the Eagles to become NFC East Champs and earn a spot in the playoffs!
We are hoping to depart from here and spend New Year’s Eve at anchor en route to our next destination Norfolk/Portsmouth, VA.
So below are a bunch of photos, including some tests from my new camera!
Happy New Year!!