Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

December 31st 2011

Position N 27° 22.225’,
               W 82° 37.075’.

Longboat Key Club Moorings, FL  

The last day of the year, phew! The past year has been a year of much excitement and change; it has also been one with happiness and great sadness. As I write this blog entry Lavinia & I are gathered with other family in Pensacola, FL offering comfort and some distraction to our daughter Lavinia and our three grandchildren from the sad recent event of the death of Joey Harrison our son-in-law. Joey passed on 27th Dec. at the young age of 41. Joey had been sick for seven months after a terminal cancer diagnosis. We will all miss him greatly... 

From the personal point of view never in our lives have we experienced such a transition? Starting the year living in a large four bedroom home surrounded with all the trappings that go with a home, gardening equipment and machinery, large home appliances including the house sized vacuum cleaner, huge ironing board, large food processors, coffee maker, toaster etc., None of these things would work on the boat. In spite of these challenges we are ending the year in a few hundred square foot boat! Remarkably we did it with little or no time off work. All we have left is to empty a small storage unit and two car trunks! We have found homes for our cars when it is time to leave so we are almost ready to ‘cast off’. I have written before that our target month to set sail south is late October/November 2012. Between now and then we will both be working hard at our jobs and continuing to outfit ‘Partners’ to the specification we want. One important addition to the navigation electronics is a new Simrad autopilot which will give us complete redundancy. Steering a boat hour after hour is not my idea of fun so the autopilot redundancy is a priority as far as I am concerned. I will be adding another laptop computer loaded with our Nobiltec Admiral 11 software and C-Map charts to give us triple redundancy in this department. The existing Simrad pilot is interfaced with a Garmin chart plotter so we will have three navigation software sources able to drive two auto pilots. We also have three GPS/WAAS sources. One other ‘quirk’ that will need rectifying is the searchlight wiring...during our trip to Florida from North Carolina we had occasion to turn the searchlight on and when we did the autopilot failed, the alarm went off the pilot disengaged and we were left bemused. Turning off the searchlight enabled us to reset the pilot so I am assuming that both the pilot and the searchlight share the same power source and the current taken by the searchlight was great enough to ‘starve’ the autopilot. I will be rewiring the searchlight to rectify this problem. I had the stabilizer actuator seals replaced at Sailcraft Service; these need attention every three years. Again, during out trip south from NC, we experienced a failure of the starboard stabilizer fin. The oil alarm sounded, we were leaking oil somewhere. Needless to say the weather was the roughest of the whole trip, movement was very difficult and we had to get to the bowels of the boat to try and identify the leak. With difficulty we established the starboard fin was the culprit. It wasn’t a hose which would have been a relatively easy fix, so we would have to wait until the end of the trip to further investigate the source of the leak. FOJ and I have now dismantled the unit and think that the culprit and problem is the sensor feedback unit. We called Naiad and ordered a new seal and some o-rings; we were delighted to find out that the cost was a mere $16! I hate to think what the labour charge would have been had we called in the Naiad rep. The parts have arrived now so I will be calling John/FOJ when we return to Sarasota and ‘Partners’. All quality boats come equipped with very good manuals which usually include schematics and explicit maintenance instructions. By following and reading the manuals most people can perform most of their own maintenance which dramatically transforms the annual maintenance budget. FOJ, an excellent electrician has taught me much the one big thing is ‘find the book first’. I, in the past, had a tendency to ‘look’ at the problem and to blindly start disassembly only to find later, after encountering a problem, I should have followed a different procedure. FOJ’s methodical approach doesn’t have instant gratification but it sure beats doing the job twice! One is never too old to learn. One thing I do have, built up over many years and three previous boats, is a comprehensive collection of tools. Before leaving the boat maintenance subject I must say that not only when we called Naiad did the parts representative talk us through the repair and advise on the parts we would need but when the parts arrived they came with an easy to follow instruction sheet. We replaced the transmission cooler in Palm Beach during our voyage home the same great service came from American Diesel on this occasion too. You see a pattern here, doing one’s own maintenance is possible, with each job confidence builds. I am still working but when we begin our cruising I will have time which will make more projects possible. 
6.7 Litre Ford Lehman

Tonight we will be raising a glass to all readers, friends and family...Happy New year everyone!

Friday, December 23, 2011

One month today - Christmas two days away!

December 23rd 2011

Position N 27° 22.225’,
               W 82° 37.075’.

Longboat Key Club Moorings, FL 
Assuming we do have some readers, Good morning! It will be a month tomorrow that we have been in residence here at Longboat Key Moorings, so far so good. It is a quiet marina with normal daily activities of boat washing and occasional boat movement but all in all quiet. There is no traffic noise only an infrequent aeroplane taking off from SRQ international airport almost due east three to four miles away accross Sarasota Bay. We have met two of our neighbours Rudy & Teresa, weekend visitors to their motor cruiser and another live-aboard Jeff who has a sport fishing boat. As usual great first impressions; most boat owners are very friendly, very helpful and have interesting stories to both tell and learn from. Rudy & Teresa took a sabbatical from their careers in their 40’s, bought a Tayana 37’ sailing boat and headed south to the Caribbean, we are going to spend an evening together exchanging stories and hearing about their adventures; they did give us a taste of their adventure as we first met the other evening on the dock. You see, there are a variety of times in one’s life when ‘it is time’ Rudy and Teresa made a decision for whatever reason to ‘make it happen’ in their 40’s and not wait until retirement, the main thing is they made time to live life to the fullest for a few years and to make time to realize a dream of cruising before returning to the necessity of their career paths. One’s own life pattern and path will dictate the course, the main thing Rudy stressed is don’t lose sight of a life outside the one of your career. It is so easy to take each routine day for granted and not make time for ‘life’ or just be too frightened to make a difference for one’s self. More and more young couples with children are choosing the cruising lifestyle, experiencing the adventure, home schooling their children and at the same time exposing them to their own adventure of world cruising, which incidentally, I think, is the most marvellous education in itself. My own father always encouraged me to travel and after I joined the British Merchant Navy as a deck cadet for Trident Tankers, a subsidiary of P & O Shipping Company, he remarked on one of my leaves that “You went away a boy and returned a man”. I did leave for sea at the age of 16 so it was inevitable that I would ‘grow’ up some day! The Admiral, on occasion, however, may not totally agree with the last sentence though! Both of us feel it is necessary to take steps to stay young and stay in touch with the ever increasing pace of life. Messing around on boats definitely helps with the physical aging process and both of us have become a little more fit and agile as a result. Technology is another mental stimulation which we strongly recommend which stimulates ‘keeping in touch’ so there you have it, our philosophy for life, just kidding! There are so many ways of ‘skinning the cat’ the motto here is find your own but don’t just vegetate and waste your time away, there is only one ‘shot’ at this life thing, make it count. Okay, rant over...

Clean and golden teak
Port side deck
The past month has been a busy one going through ‘Partners’ correcting and tweaking this and that. The deck is now fully maintained every seam is caulked, every missing bung has been replaced and I spent the last day and a half on hands and knees cleaning it. By the way it is true what the cleaner bottles say...rubber gloves, and, if you are like me an on your knees cleaner, then knee pads. Oh, rubber boots are a must too unless you want skinned toes! Anyway it is now its original beautiful gold. Sailcraft Service in Oriental, NC did a marvellous job on our bottom peel and many other updating jobs which they undertook during the four months ‘Partners’ was there, however, everyone is human and two things were forgotten! The first was the refitting of the lower rudder post retaining ring which in the event a grounding would assist in stopping the rudder from jumping out of the shoe it sits in on the extension of the keel and the second was getting the new pilothouse pedestal table level. Sailcraft sent me a shaft zinc which comes in two halves and would tighten around the rudder shaft to act as the lower retaining ring. I will replace the zinc at the next haul out when we can slip the rudder down and put the original retaining ring back where it belongs. Chris the master carpenter at Sailcraft made a shim to fit between the top of the pedestal and the table thus levelling it out. All is well, the Admirals coffee will no longer slide away from her! 

I finally got the water maker pickled after again engaging FOJ’s help. The water in the marina is fairly clear but not clean enough that we intend to use the water maker and supply our own water. The marina water is very good and we have our own personal spigot at our slip. The new transmission oil cooler that FOJ and I fitted in Palm Beach on our way round from NC to Sarasota is now engine red to match the rest of the engine and while I was at it I touched up the other places in need, so we now have a beautiful shiny red Lehman as the centre piece in our ‘holy place’. I bought a supply of oil for the engine, generator and stabilizers. Two common causes of fire on a boat are loose battery terminals and old worn out shore power cables. The battery terminals have all been tightened and I bought brand new shore power cables and connectors in NC so this possible cause is not an issue for a while. A sink leak in the galley has been fixed, a simple one, just a matter of tightening the pipe fittings. This incident did prompt me to buy a small supply of PVC items as spares to meet future needs. We have a salt water spigot both forward and aft, both were frozen and needed new hose connections; a visit to the local Home Depot has solved these problems. So, you see slowly but surely we are getting ‘Partners’ ready for the adventure of our lives in 2012. 

In our effort to trim down our belongings and stow the necessities away we also embarked on a journey of exploration it turn out. We began discovering things that we were not aware of when we bought ‘Partners’; she had brand new canvas window covers for the pilot house tucked away which now are in place, many spare parts have been discovered and inventoried. The aft deck a/k/a the ‘back porch’ is now protected by the new enclosure curtains that Chet & Dixie, the previous owners, had just bought. Even though we are here in sunny Florida and have experience one of the warmest Decembers that I can remember in the 30+ years I have lived here, in the evenings the enclosure has enabled us to eat outside and remain comfortable in the cooler evenings of winter.

Christmas is only two days away now and ‘Partners’ will be hosting our two sons, one daughter-in-law and two of our grand children for Christmas Day. The Admiral is prepared; the boat is Ship Shape and Bristol fashion, ready for inspection. We will be visiting one of our favourite restaurants for a Christmas Eve luncheon with them all and then on Christmas Day have our Dinner on board. A Merry Christmas everyone.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The First Big Trip

November 25th 2011

Position N 27° 22.225’,
               W 82° 37.075’.

Longboat Key Club Moorings, FL   

The time has arrived for the ‘big’ trip…it is Nov. 3rd 2011 and Admiral Lavinia and I are about to receive FOJ John and his wife Carol at our rented villa to pick up the items we are taking to Oriental, NC for our adventure. I call it an adventure as in spite of the experience that both FOJ and I have had this will be the longest non-stop trip that either one of us have made in the smallest boat that we have cruised on. ‘Partners’ is capable but she is a new boat to me and we don’t ‘know’ her yet so we want to be prepared. Our inventory includes tools, lots of them, the boat, fortunately, has a fairly good inventory of spares already on board and I have had Sailcraft Service check the systems for the trip.
FOJ and Carol picked up all our stuff and will again arrive at 05:15 tomorrow, the 4th, to get us aboard for the trek to Oriental, NC. A quick plug for the Honda Ridgeline that FOJ has and will be carting us and the ‘stuff’ to NC, it is cavernous. It took all the luggage and supplies without encroaching into the passenger accommodation; it is very comfortable and was a pleasure to drive. John and I shared the driving and the journey seemed to fly by, what with the constant boat/trip related conversation interrupted only by meal and fuel stops, the 12½ hour journey was over. We found ‘Partners’ afloat alongside at the dock, heater on, it was cold around 50°F, lights on and very welcoming. The yard staff had cleaned the whole boat which was such a welcoming treat. We were able to unload in short order and head into the small town of Oriental for a well deserved dinner. We decided to go to the Broad Street Grill where we had a great meal and even met some of the ‘local’ and other out-of-town visitors, what a friendly place, we all loved it. For any beer lover that may pass through Oriental, boater or traveler, sample the local brews they are definitely worth a try! A long day but fun, time to go back to the boat for a good night’s sleep.
Saturday was a provisioning day with the Admiral and Purser Carol taking a trip to the grocery store and ensuring us men were supplied for what could be three weeks. John and I busied ourselves with boat chores, lashing this and that down and doing the best to stow all ‘movable’ items in preparation for the trip. The boat deck also needed attention as some items including the bimini top sticks, which were loose, needed lashing down too. We re-attached the boom to the mast with all its rigging as Chet and Dixie, the previous owners, had travelled much with the mast down to avoid bridge openings on the ICW. ‘Partners’ is 34’ 6’’ tall mast and antenna's up reduced to about 14' 6" with the mast down. My idea of fun is to travel in the open ocean 24/7 doing approximately 144 NM per day as opposed to the 60 NM that are possible in daylight hours using the ICW. I won’t travel at night in the ICW, too many hazards and changing ones at that. Having said that, if our progress, due to bad weather, is to be prohibited in the Atlantic Ocean, then, of course, I would make way during daylight hours using the ICW. Saturday afternoon FOJ and I used our time to familiarize ourselves with ‘Partners’ checking all systems. I also set up my laptop in the wheelhouse with the installed Nobeltec Admiral software and the necessary C-Map Megawide charts to get us home to Sarasota. The girls would be leaving us in the morning to drive back to Sarasota leaving FOJ and me to make ready the boat and get all the last details together before setting off south on the 10th. The weather was not looking good for going out into the ocean from Beaufort, NC so we have made a decision to leave earlier than planned and do two days in the ICW as far as Cape Fear which would put us in a position to take advantage of a good weather window due on the 12th.
We enjoyed two more of the local restaurants; on Saturday night the four of us visited M
& M’s for a farewell dinner, it was great. A great breakfast on Sunday was had, before the girls set off, at Brantley’s Village restaurant. In fact Lavinia commented that including our previous trip to Oriental as well as this one how good all the food had been and how reasonable the prices where too. Sarasota really has nothing to compare and all this from a village of around 875 people!
Monday arrived quickly and mild weather returned which was lucky for these two southern boys who had come from 60°/80° temps in Florida to the weekend weather of 40°/60° so Monday brought temps back into the 70’s. A few jobs remained so we entertained the electronics guy and watermaker technician on board. FOJ is the self elected cook for the trip and thank goodness because to rely on me for our grub would provide all the material an author would need to write a bad diet book!
11/10/11 ‘Partners’ left the dock at 06:30 having said good bye and thank you to the wonderful crew at Sailcraft Service. Our first stop at 09:30 was Jarret Bay along Adams Creek on the ICW from Pamlico Sound for a fuel stop. By the way, we used Active Captain to determine this stop, the information that other cruisers supply including fuel prices, we found invaluable. Jarret’s was easy in and easy out. I say easy out, it should have been! When we went to leave the engine wouldn’t turn over. After the required complaining (#$%^@^) diagnosis took place and revealed, or so we thought at the time, a faulty starter solenoid. We ‘jumped’ the starter and we were on our way. Our first night was not good and was definitely not peaceful, we stopped at Hammock Bay near Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, the wind was blowing 25 knots our anchor would not set and during the night we dragged ending up aground albeit not badly. Fortunately in the morning the tide was incoming and we were afloat! At 06:30 we were under way again on our way to Wilmington and Cape Fear. Along the ICW there are some sights! The picture you see caused both of us to do a double take, was it real or not? It was in fact a full size statue of a giraffe. After seeing this we would not be surprised about other sights yet to be seen, you will be aware of this reference when we get to the Ft. Lauderdale – Miami section!
We anchored our second night in an estuary leading south to the township of Carolina Beach just south of Snows Cut which, in the morning, would take us through to the Cape Fear River and the Ocean. Our choice of anchorage turned out to be great, the wind had finally dropped, the holding was good and finally we had a peaceful night.  

Saturday November 12th fog! Proceeding through Snows Cut on radar was a focusing start to the day. The weather was good and we knew that the fog would burn off and we would be in for a beautiful day. After two days of travel FOJ and I were learning more about each other! I realized John is a very good cook; he had taken ownership of the galley and was producing ‘look forward to’ meals on a three square meal a day schedule…great! I adopted the roll of running the boat and ‘washing up’. The arrangement seemed to work well all trip. 

Before we knew it we were free of the ICW restrictions and cruising south in the Atlantic Ocean. Our next waypoint would be approximately 54 NM due east of Sapleo Sound, Georgia. Our idea was to cut as much of the ‘corner’ as we could without battling the northerly flow of the Gulf Stream. I think we did partially manage to achieve this goal although next time I would take a course slightly closer to shore.
The weather was perfect, seas smooth and the sun was beginning to gain some warmth. The long pants and sweaters were discarded in favour of shorts and t-shirts. Pantaenius, our insurance carrier, would allow us passage south of 30.5° N on November 15th with our normal deductible or earlier with an increased deductible. I had made a decision to cross the ‘line’ a day early due to the excellent weather window which prevailed and deteriorating forecast for later in the week. We enjoyed being on autopilot and having the luxury of a relaxed cruising day. Dolphins came to our bow and it was the first time since 2003, when we sold our last boat, I had experienced this… always fun. FOJ had been trolling a line and yes, it went ‘off’. After a short fight a good size Bonita was boarded.  On the 14th we were off Jacksonville and, oh boy, the weather was now rough. We learnt very quickly about the things that we had not stowed properly and also, on the plus side, how well ‘Partners’ could cope with a seaway. We tried to make some water with the watermaker but alas something wasn’t right with the plumbing and the attempt failed. We also discovered a leak! The transmission cooler had a pinhole leak in the water jacket and would need replacing. A plan was made to head for Lake Worth (Palm Beach) Inlet so repairs could be done and also for FOJ and I to recuperate a little after what would be two rough, tough, sleepless days at sea. 

November 16th. We sailed through Lake Worth Inlet at 06:30 and into calm waters, which brought a smile to our faces. We sailed North around Peanut Island to New Port Cove Marina Center. I had ordered our part, the transmission oil cooler, from American Diesel and they would have it to the marina the next day. Two very helpful line handlers had us docked, safe and sound, which was not easy in the 20 knot wind that was blowing, by 08:30. Our day was filed with a walk to the grocery store, working on the watermaker and taking a well deserved sleep after the previous sleepless nights.

November 17th. Our part arrived right on schedule and by 12:00 it was installed and we were ready to depart south again. With the wind still blowing hard we decided to make way south via the ICW, so off we went. It would take us two days to reach Miami. That evening we anchored in the shadow of Trump Tower in West Palm Beach. A great anchorage with good holding that afforded us a good night’s sleep.
November 18th. Under way again at 06:30 for the last ICW transit to Miami. Today was a Friday and fortunately this normally busy stretch of ICW was quiet and easy to navigate, one exception however, as we approached the 17th Street Bridge in Ft. Lauderdale I followed what I thought was the ICW only to hear the very helpful bridge tender calling me on the VHF advising me that I had taken a wrong turn! He could obviously see us from his high up vantage point and even held the bridge an extra few minute to allow us to pass through. Soon the highlight and entertainment of the day was to appear. This picture tells the story. As soon as the ‘jet man’ saw us at the pilot house door cameras in hand the performance began. He cruised over to our port side and ‘flew’ 20’+ in the air and waved. A pod which obviously containes a prepulsion system and a very high pressure water pump is all controlled from the hand grips the operator holds onto. The black hose carries the water to the jets. The amount of control seemed amaizing as ‘jet guy’ showed off the device. Fun! On we continued towards Miami, only one more hold up while we had to wait for a ship to dock in Port Everglades. We arrived at our anchorage just north of Belle Isle, in the designated ‘activecaptain’ marked anchorage. After difficulty in getting the anchor set we had a night of anchor alarms going off and not the greatest night’s sleep. My youngest daughter Georgina lives in Miami and although we didn’t have a visit we did talk on the phone. By 06:30 we were off again…the plan was to continue south in Biscayne Bay and then cut through to Hawk Channel. We were not sure which channel to use however. Ever since 2004 and the NAR( Nordhavn North Atlantic Rally) I have been an avid reader of ‘Voyage of Egret’ the blog of Scott and Mary Flanders on board ‘Egret’ their Nordhavn 46’. I had just written to Scott telling him that the inspiration and prodding he had been delivering over the years advocating the cruising lifestyle had finally helped us take the plunge. As I have previously written we are now ‘dirt less’ and are full time live aboard cruisers. Scott published part of my email in his November 14th blog. This is the part of my e-mail he published:-

 "You and Mary have both been a great inspiration to Lavinia and I and I would like to thank you for all the writings, information and `prodding' that you have delivered over the years. The strange thing is that now we have completed the selling of our large family home and all the furniture etc. we feel refreshed and `free'. The trepidation, especially from Lavinia, that we experienced preceding the disposal exercise we now realize was unnecessary. Now, being free of the dirt dwelling life style, we have grown and take deep breaths not because of any anxiety or stress but because we are out of breath from some fun activity, isn't life great. It is our time…

We will be cruising in 2012 and who knows, it is a small world, and I hope that our paths do cross."
The purpose I reiterate is that soon after we passed under the Rickenbacker Causeway Bridge, guess who was on the opposing course, yes, it was ‘Egret’. Indeed our paths were crossing. I hailed on the VHF and Scott and I conversed for a few minutes. Scott comes from Ft. Lauderdale and I leant on his local knowledge to ask his suggestion of which inlet to traverse into Hawk Channel. Scott’s suggestion was Biscayne Channel so that was it we made an immediate course change and headed towards the inlet. As quickly as ‘Egret’ had appeared she disappeared, she quickly became a dot on the horizon on our port side as we entered Biscayne Channel. The channel is well marked although in the big waves the bar presents a challenge. Short steep waves battered us as we cleared. In Hawk Channel the seas were not too bad although without our stabilizers which had failed just before we arrived in Palm Beach we did rock and roll for the first part of the trip to Key West. The Channel is very clearly marked and an easy 24/7 transit. One thing, however, lobster pots! Yes, we hooked one on our starboard stabilizer fin which I discovered on my 01:00 – 04:00 watch. I cut the trap loose leaving the buoy and line jammed in the fin. I tied off the line to our rail with the intension of freeing it once we were anchored in Key West.

November 20th arrived in Key West accompanied up the main channel by the pictured cruise ship. We anchored just north of Sunset Pier in the protection of Fleming Key. We did not go ashore although lowered the dinghy so we could free the lobster pot line and buoy from the stabilizer, not as easy as we thought, the clearance between the fin and the hull is minimal and the line was hard jammed. With me hanging from the side of the dinghy, giving myself profane encouragement, I finally cut the line free. As the dinghy and I drifted back to the stern I noticed another object streaming in the tide flow. It was a black plastic garbage bag stuck on the rudder. FOJ, from the swim platform, was able to reach the offender and that was the extent of our ‘fishing’. We spent two days in Key West enjoying the 80° weather and a water temperature which was still 79°.
Our final leg to Sarasota would take 30 hours of non-stop cruising and the wind abated enough on the 22nd for us to set sail. The beginning was still pretty rough with 30° rolls frequent but soon the sea calmed to an acceptable motion and the trip was uneventful. I had originally intended using Longboat Key as the inlet to access Sarasota Bay but a front was fast approaching from the north so we decided to use Venice Inlet which would put us in protected water and not loose us any time. After a little altercation caused by lack of attention to the chart and transiting a green marker on the wrong side we ran aground. Fortunately we were able to back off and had no more excitement for the rest of the journey.

We arrived at the fuel dock in Longboat Key Club Moorings at 13:00 right on schedule. I wanted to get an accurate measure of our fuel consumption for the trip before transiting to our mooring. We made it back for Thanksgiving which was a goal, subject to remaining safe, that we both had. This picture is taken by Admiral Lavinia as she stood on Siesta Key Bridge watching as we came home…

The figures could have been a little better if the Gulf Stream had not affected us for so much of the trip, the seas had been a little calmer and the speeding up to make as much distance as possible in the ICW was eliminated. On a longer open water voyage I expect the figures to improve. Having said this I am still pleased with the numbers. Even at this consumption under these conditions on our 600 gal of fuel, at 6 knots, we would have a range of 2,300 NM with a 10% reserve.  (During 2010 the previous owners had replaced the old black iron tanks with new stainless steel ones and the original capacity of 700 gals had to be reduced to 600 in order to be able to get the tanks back in place).
Here are the statistics for the trip:-

Hours run – 185.7
Total Distance travelled – 955.2 NM
Average speed for trip – 5.14 knots
US gals consumed – 262.154
NM per gallon – 3.6436598
Gals per hr – 1.411707

TofP moves to a different phase now, we are aboard living our dream and we will continue to report about interesting places and things that we encounter. In the inimitable words of Scott Flanders upon his return to Ft. Lauderdale November 25th2011 after a circumnavigation and voyage of discovery – “Two thousand, six hundred eighty eight days ago ‘Egret’ passed under this bridge (17th St.) in Ft Lauderdale on her way across the Atlantic as a participant in the Nordhavn Atlantic Rally. Let's make this easy on your conscience shipwrecked by VofE. We'll just say places our little white fiberglass ship has taken us, the sights we have seen and the people we met are beyond anyone's comprehension unless they have done it themselves. Mary and I have done a few out of the ordinary things in our past lives and these days were certainly the best of the best. And the best part? We can do anything we want because we are free. What will the next 2,688 days bring? We don't have a clue except we will make it as interesting and adventurous as we wish. Isn't that great? And you know the best part? You can as well...”

Saturday, October 22, 2011

More Preparing

Today we will be having dinner with FOJ and his wife Carol to go over the last details of our trip. Agreeing a menu, clothing, tool requirements etc., etc., John and Carol are leaving the day after tomorrow, (Monday 24th. Oct.) on a trip out to Salt Lake City and will only be back a day before we travel to Oriental, NC so busy busy busy.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Nearing the Launch and making the final preparations.

The latest pictures arrived from Sailcraft on Monday this week and ‘Partners’ is starting to look seaworthy again. We had the hull pealed and some blisters repaired along with a complete new barrier coat applied. The coffee table is made and is ready for installation in the pilot house; this was an Admiral request, while on watch or first thing in the morning Lavinia must have her cup of Joe.
             I have plotted the course and have pawed over the charts many times in excited nervousness making sure that all is well – I am supposed to be the professional and I don’t want First Officer John (FOJ) to catch me out! The real ‘trick’ is the weather. I have consulted Omni Bob and will be engaging his services to give us the Go, No Go suggestions at the beginning of the trip. What we will be looking for is a four day window as this will be how long it will take us from leaving Beaufort, NC to transit the Atlantic Ocean leg and enter Hawks Channel, once there we will be continuing west to the Dry Tortugas where we will take a rest day. From there to Sarasota, FL we will be our own weather forecasters for that final 30 hour leg. All together, if the weather cooperates, the trip should take us eight days.  We hope to leave Oriental on the 13th November  and cross the 30.5° N line on the 15th so all being well we should be back in Sarasota by the 21st. We will be giving up our rental villa on the 2nd December so I will be able to have a few days on land to get organized before the move. Our new ‘digs’ at Longboat Key Moorings appear fabulous and we can’t wait to be aboard there.

As far as parting with all our worldly possessions: initially much trepidation prevailed and we both viewed the task as an awesome job neither one of us, especially Lavinia, thought it would be an easy thing to do physically or emotionally. Now that we are well into the process it transpires that most of the ‘stuff’ we had accumulated was not necessary to our happiness and an air of relief has taken over now we are becoming free of so many of the earthly obligations which go along with possessions. The hard copy photographs that took up so much space in both frames and albums are now digitized and are on a computer hard drive. We do plan to buy one of those electronic picture frames which will actually enable us to look at the pictures more often than in the past; both of us agreed that we couldn’t remember the last time we took out an album and looked at it! The treasured china sets (5) and the many different cutlery sets we possessed for every conceivable occasion would obviously not fit on Partners so they have gone, does the food taste any different, no…and so on with clothes, shoes, Tchotchkes, doodads and all the things we thought we would never be able to live without. As they say necessity is the mother of invention. Heading towards a simpler life free of the habitual encumbrances’ is now appealing to us both and we are reveling in the adventure. We, for the first time I can remember, are starting to appreciate and value life for what it is rather than for what we have. The future will be all about what we do with our time, what we see, explore and enjoy…smell the roses...


Friday, September 30, 2011

Getting Closer

We are in constant communication with Sailcraft Service in Oriental and work is progressing well, we are getting closer to the day we can sail 'Partners' south. As I have written before we are using the time that we are waiting for hurricane season to pass, when our insurance company will let us head south, by having the yard do some essential survey reported items and other elective work. As with any new boat owner whether a new boat, or like us, a pre-owned boat it is nice to start off with the boat in as good shape as can be. Our first trip and ‘shake down’ cruise will be one of 1,014 NM and most of it in the open Atlantic ocean or so we hope, I say this as, weather permitting, we plan to sail non-stop to the Dry Tortugas where we will take a rest day to recuperate and adjust our arrival time before continuing on to Sarasota, our home port. My friend John Buzilow and I will be the crew; John has much sailing experience in the Caribbean and is a practical sailor to boot. John and I hope we will not have to fix anything but if the need arises I have total confidence in him to help me ‘right the ship’. John also professes to be able to cook and fish! Depending on weather will determine the level of gourmet cuisine we will be consuming. It could be Coq au Vin, or Mahi Mahi washed down with a bottle of Pinot Noir or Sauvignon Blanc or - if it gets ‘lumpy’ peanut butter and jelly sandwiches! Aside from the difficulty of being many hundreds of miles from our boat which has been tough we are excited planning our trip. For me it will be the longest non-stop run I have made since leaving the British Merchant Navy some 30 + years ago. We bought ‘Partners’ on July 6th 2011 so we have owned her nearly three months now, our target for launching her at Sailcraft is November 2nd. John and I plus our ‘better halves’ Lavinia and Carol will arrive the evening of the 4th so only another month to go, tempus fugit! In fact I am getting a little worried that we will not have disposed of all our furniture and the lifetime of ‘stuff’ we have accumulated that won’t be coming with us on the boat. When we get ‘Partners’ back to Sarasota we will move aboard and have no land based home with nothing in storage. It is our intention to have no land ties at all which we feel will give us the freedom to wander wherever we choose and to settle, once the boating days are over, wherever we want. We are hoping we will fall in love with a beautiful spot in our travels but we have no preconceived idea of where that may be! The girls will not be cruising with us and will drive back to Sarasota after spending just a day or two with us at Oriental; Lavinia must be back in Sarasota, where she is an RN at Sarasota Memorial Hospital, for work on Tuesday. 

Let’s talk about Oriental and Sailcraft Service for a moment...Ellen, our liaison at Sailcraft, has been marvelous she has patiently communicated the work list progress and no question or request has been too much trouble for her, a real gem. Talking of gems if any cruisers out there are considering a stop in the Neuse River area and Oriental please try Sailcraft Service, they are a great bunch and have all the equipment for hauling and the experienced artisans to do excellent work. The town too is a super small friendly place with a selection of B & B’s, restaurants, a West Marine and grocery store. Local to the marina are a selection of services including canvas workers, sail makers and many other specialties’, after all Oriental is known as ‘The Sailboat Capital of NC’. Almost everything is within walking distance and Sailcraft Service has a courtesy vehicle for making short shopping trips when you need a 'mule', all in all a place to remember.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Visit to Oriental, NC

We are back from our visit to see the progress being made on ‘Partners’. We travelled up from Sarasota, FL to Oriental, NC on Thursday 8th and arrived there at 19:30, we checked in at The Inn at Oriental and were greeted by Lorie who made us very welcome. I made the reservation and received a compliment from the Admiral “you picked a good one here”. The B&B was very nice and Lorie showed us around and eventually to our room which was spacious with a large four poster king sized bed; we had Wi-Fi and a comfortable chair in which I couldn’t wait to sit after the 12½ hour drive...a snooze would have been wonderful. There was, however, little time to linger as Lorie had explained that if we wanted supper now was the time to go out to find a restaurant before they all closed. We drove for 3 minutes to arrive at the Broad Street Grill, everywhere is 3 minutes drive! Oriental has a population of about 875 so it is small. Notwithstanding its size, during our visit we sampled two of the restaurants, the other being M&M’s down by the waterfront and both were great; real tuna instead of canned etc, we were impressed…the people of Oriental were extremely helpful and friendly. They were so upbeat considering only the week before hurricane Irene had made a direct hit there. In M&M’s they had had two feet of water up the walls and in just a week had completely redecorated and rewired in order to open up again, very resourceful people.

The bed was comfortable and after a well needed rest our morning started with a great breakfast of eggs and ham, Lavinia had french toast. Immediately afterwards we headed for the marina where we met with Alan, the owner of Seacraft Service, and went through our work order item by item. A surprising amount of the work had been done considering the distraction of ‘Irene’. After the office visit it was time to climb aboard and for Lavinia to either approve or disapprove of my purchase with her first view of ‘Partners’. The boat was not looking her best because of the work going on, the water maker was in pieces in the galley sink for example and the back deck was cluttered with our dinghy outboard motor and other gear which would normally be stowed elsewhere. Our dinghy was missing and I was concerned, not for long, however, there it was high and dry stacked and lashed down to one of the rakes; thank goodness. We had no damage from the storm and both of us were relieved. Lavinia liked the boat, sigh of relief, she said it was as described and just like the pictures. Both of us looked at each other knowing each other’s thoughts…this was our future home and we are impatient to begin the adventure. We had two additional appointments, one with Donny the sign writer who was going to paint the name Partners, and hailing port Sarasota, on the stern and also on the port and starboard name boards up where the navigation lights are situated. The other appointment was with the canvas lady Elizabeth from Down East Canvas who was to measure and give us an estimated for a complete compliment of new canvas, if the cash flow allows us to do it while the boat is in Oriental. We were going to have it done in Sarasota but it would be nice to have it all done while we are not aboard. We haven’t had the estimate yet so have not decided if we will have it done now. Elizabeth, I must say, was thorough and seemed very professional, both Lavinia and I had no doubt that she would do a great job. It was hot and we were thirsty so it was time for a lunch break so off to M&M’s we went, the first Blue Moon didn’t even touch the sides, so yes, I had two! Duly refreshed we went back to ‘Partners’ where we met with Chris the master carpenter and went over the design of a pilothouse table he would be making and also the caulking of the deck seems he would also be doing. He pointed out one leak that we had around the port side deck prisms which I agreed should be fixed. We left at 16:00 as we had to get ready for a trip into New Bern where we would be meeting our daughter Jennifer and her husband Paul for dinner; they live in Raleigh and were driving to their weekend apartment in Morehead City. Busy, busy we were definitely on a time table. Our venue for dinner in New Bern was Capt. Ratty’s. We enjoyed a really good dinner and had a conversation filled evening. We drove back to Oriental and were in bed by 22:00 as we would be up, out and on the road by 05:30. Alas, our visit to ‘Partners’ was over. During our drive back we were already planning the next return visit in about a month…

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Hurricane 'Irene'

Monday 29th August.

We are still awaiting the all important telephone call from Sailcraft Service in Oriental to give us the official report of whether we still have a boat or not. ( The hurricane passed directly over Oriental and we watched the whole thing happening on television but could do nothing to protect our 'baby'. It was just the worst feeling, the unknown of what was actually happening, whether we still had a boat. Visions of destruction, boats on their side on high ground, boats sunk; about every terrible visions of destruct were being mulled over. After a good day when your head hits the pillow, a wry grin settles in as pleasant thoughts sends one off to sleep and the land of nod. Not this night, torment was firmly in place no convincing would give the assurance that our boat and future home had survived, we needed the call.

Tuesday 30th.

I posted two notices on Krogen Cruisers and Cruiser's Net and one member, Steve, who also had his boat in Sailcraft fortunately, saw my post and e-mailed me yesterday. His news that 'Partners' appeared, at least from the ground, okay was a relief. Sailcraft chained the stands to stop them moving and, hurrah, it worked! Power, telephone and internet were all unavailable through Monday but reports tell us that the utility companies expect to have services restored by today.

Lavinia and I will be travelling to visit our future home on the 8th, 9th & 10th; we have made reservations at a quaint B & B on Church Street called 'The Inn at Oriental'. Oriental is a small town on the north bank of the Neuse River, the widest river in the USA, leading to the vast sailing waters of Pamlico Sound and on to the Atlantic through North Carolina's barrier islands. Oriental is known as 'The Sailing Capital of North Carolina'. The area is easily some of the finest boating waters on the East Coast. Oriental is midpoint on the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) and a destination for hundreds of cruising sailors travelling North and South with the seasons. The population was 875 at the 2000 census so a very small town with a big boating reputation. It is part of the New Bern, North Carolina Micropolitan Statistical Area. Oriental is a town in Pamlico County, North Carolina, USA. Believe it or not Oriental, although small, lays claim to being the largest city in the county, and home to most of its motels, bed-and-breakfasts, restaurants, marinas, boat brokerages, the newspaper, several sport fishing charters, and the county's cultural center.

It is ironic that 'Irene' made a direct hit on the Outer Banks as the reason why our boat is still there and not with us in Sarasota, FL is that our insurance company didn't want us to bring her back to Florida during hurricane season, go figure! Murphy lives!

August 31st

All is well, thank goodness, we finally received the call, there was a lot of damage to the surroundings, equipment tools etc., a five foot tide surge occurred which apparently floated some boats off their stands! Fortunately we were not one of them. Our heartfelt feelings, commiserations and very best wishes go out to the many that were not as fortunate.

There will be more to come after our visit...

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Getting her ready...

‘Partners’ is in very good condition and had few item requiring attention on her survey. Like any new boat, 'new' to us that is, there are lots of things we want to do to her so that she will be 'ours'. There is new saloon furniture, updated electronics in the pilot house and maybe a davit/crane to lift our 12' Nautica/40 hp Yamaha dinghy which we kept from our last boat; we are not sure if the mast boom/spar will cope with the 1,000 lb plus weight, we will see. There is another smaller 10' Novurania/15 hp Yamaha hanging from transom stern davits. Having the two will give us a touring boat for those longer day trips and a smaller one that the two of us can run to the beach with and is light enough to be pulled clear out of the water away from the reach of the tide while we are doing a little exploring. Being on the stern davits this dinghy will be convenient to 'drop' down for quick visits to the neighbours or running to the dock from an anchorage for the 'eggs and milk'. Our idea of ‘cruising’ is one of self sufficiency and passagemaking rather than coastal cruising from a home base. We do not have a land base anymore and do not have anything in ‘storage’. With this starting approach we felt that we could then call everywhere home and eventually when the cruising is over, (a sad day) land anywhere we want or find in our travels, and make it our final ‘retirement’ location. We have no anchors, we are free. Back to the job list, new canvas for the bimini top and sun shades for the ports, dodgers for the boat deck and so on. I will be commenting on each of these jobs items as we go through the personalization process.

‘Partners’ is in Oriental, NC and while she is there at Sailcraft Marina awaiting the end of hurricane season so we can bring her back to Florida, (insurance requirement while we are in hurricane season) we are going to use the time to get a lot of the work done. The first job is to peel the bottom and apply a barrier coat. There were a few bubbles in the gel coat below the waterline and, although expensive, we felt it wise to address this now, especially as she is at Sailcraft Marina where they have the experience to do this job. They are also doing most of the updates in the engine room like bringing all the hose clamps to double instead of just a single, replacing none ABYC fittings and hoses and getting fire extinguishers serviced etc. The electrical system lacks GCFI sockets in the galley and heads so we are having those fitted and are generally getting all her systems to ABYC current standards. The yard is also installing a watermaker which is new and was on the boat when we bought her but was not installed by the previous owner. Our frustration is we are not close and cannot visit ‘Partners’ on a daily basis to follow the progress. We are settling for periodic trips to Oriental when our work schedules allow. Lavinia has not even seen the boat yet! She is very trusting of my buying decision! I am confident she will approve although a little nervous of the initial comments when they happen at the beginning of September when we will make our first trip up together.

We are so excited with the prospects of cruising and the unknown adventures we will be experiencing not long from now. We fill our spare time with fun talks planning trips and itineraries although everything is ‘written in sand’ so until the day we cast off comes and we ‘really’ know where we are cruising to this is all just ‘talk’ and not a plan.

The most difficult prospect is leaving our friends and family, so far everyone has been full of well wishes for which we are thankful. Sarasota has been our home together for more than twenty years and we have been very happy here. Most of you who know us have known our ‘dream’ of going cruising. We have continually worked hard towards the 'dream' and have waited a long time for it to materialize, well, it is finally here, we are going to live it!

I will be visiting ‘Partners’ on the 5th August so there will be some more news then.

Monday, July 11, 2011

She's Ours!

On July 6th 2011, my birthday, we closed on our purchase of 'Partners' a Kadey Krogen 42'. She is currently in Oriental, NC and we intend to bring her to Sarasota, FL at the end of November this year. Our insurance company prohibits the vessel from being in FL during the hurricane season. For the next few months that she is in NC we are having some work done at Sailcraft Marina in readiness for her first long trip back to Florida. She will become our only home; we have sold our house and are renting a small villa in Sarasota until 'Partners' arrives here in Sarasota and then will move aboard and be 'live aboards' in Longboat Key Marina. As many have said before me, we have simplified our lives and will now only have 'one key'. It is no easy task 'letting go' of all the chattels that one accumulates over a lifetime. The process has taken a full year and is still not quite complete. So many of the ‘treasures’, which for so many years have been impossible to part with, have simply had to go. The plus side of all this is 'freedom'. Most people are programmed to build a nest and accumulate 'stuff' we were no exception and over the year’s one acquires more and more 'stuff' that requires a bigger and bigger home to accommodate it. Again we are no different! Try getting rid of all the belongings that fill a 3,000 sq. ft. home and condense it into the few important things that will fit into a 42' boat! Not an easy task. We also decided not to rent storage so we would be totally free from any land based 'anchor'.

Our initial plan is to cruise locally around Florida in early 2012 and get used to the boat and also personalize her with this and that. At the end of November we will cruise to the Bahamas and probably spend the winter there. No plans, however, are 'carved in stone'. Eventually we will cruise south and end up in the lower Caribbean by June of 2013 having visited as many of the beautiful islands as we can on our way. Both the Admiral and I love the Caribbean and were married there on a little island called Young Island just off the coast from St. Vincent in the Grenadines. We have promised ourselves since our happy day that one day we would go back but this time under our own steam. So, the promise will be fulfilled.

This first entry is a quick introduction to our Blog that, I hope, will be interesting and also inspirational to others who share a 'dream' to go cruising.