Captain’s Corner: Equipment Review And Other Thoughts

So far So good….

There is not much to report on equipment failure etc.  All the replaced systems are doing well. There are a few things which were not replaced that are having issues,  but all have been easily identified ahead of time and repaired or monitored, not causing any real problems.

Some people have asked about anchor selection and performance after Caroline’s post.  The anchor is an 88# Rocna attached to 400′ of 3/8″ chain without a swivel.  This might seem like overkill, but I wouldn’t change it at all.  I like the weight of the heavier chain, up to about 15 knots the anchor doesn’t do much.  After sustained 30 knots for days and gust to 46 knots:

The solar array has been fantastic, even on cloudy days.  660 watts takes up our entire pilothouse roof.  It averages around 170 Ahrs. Good days are over 200 Ahrs, and an average cloudy day is around 60 Ahrs.  It does not eliminate generator run time, but significantly reduces it and gives a lot of flexibility as to when I want to run the generator.  We do laundry etc. on the sunny days when we have excess energy.  The other benefit is if we run the generator in the morning, the batteries only take bulk charge to 80% (after that we shut down the genny to eliminate light loading), the solar then brings them up to full by days end.  This greatly improves battery longevity.

Our watermaker from CruiseRO has been great.  Model# SM30 regularly has been producing 36gph of product.  We run it at anchor and underway, using the inverter when needed.  Our only complaint is that the water is noticeably soft when showering, but that means it is working!  Our water consumption is higher then expected, I contribute it to using all residential fixtures instead of marine fixtures during the refit.

The Paravanes have performed as expected. The only downfall is deploying and retrieving.  Except for Charleston harbor, we always seem to have to bring them in before we reach sheltered water, due to depth.  However, at a total cost of under $10K, vs. $50K, compromises were to be expected.

The  Kadey Krogen hull has been good to us. The layout is great, I couldn’t imagine having the widebody.  The salon is plenty roomy, and walking around the boat on both sides for one reason or another is a daily activity.  The widebody would also not allow use of paravanes.  Head seas are not the best, following seas are wonderful.  It is also too easy to load up the cockpit and lazzerette, causing the stern to drop down because of its underwater shape aft, but that is what gives it the efficiency.

I am really happy with the engine room layout, after moving components around.  Do not skimp on lighting!  I have plenty of access and storage for everything that goes on down there.  Because it is so nice, I find myself not reluctant to go down there, which keeps everything in great shape.

The Raritan crown heads, even though a bit loud and primitive, are working very well.  They macerate right at the bowl, preventing clogs of any kind developing downstream.  They also save us freshwater.  As for the raw water flush smell complaint:  The secret is too flush vinegar through the inlet line right at thru hull on occasion.  I think people pour vinegar into head itself, thinking that the smell is at the discharge end of things.  Small amounts of living organisms get stuck and die on the intake side and under the rim. This is where the smell seems to originate, and is easily eliminated by the vinegar flush through the intake.

More to come, as we go along.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”







Hel-LO Bahamas!!

After two frustrating, patient-testing weeks, we are in the Bahamas! We left our anchorage in Key Biscayne at 4:30 am yesterday. Waiting and delaying paid off. The winds and waters for our trip over were good, and we were lucky to dodge the many squalls that were in sight all around us as we crossed. A pretty sunrise greeted us in the gulf stream.

The day was mostly cloudy, but as we approached Bimini, the sun came out to welcome us!

We traveled through waters that were 2,600 feet deep! That’s approximately half a mile, and some of the deepest water we’ll travel in over the next few years.  And, I watched NBC tv , clear as a bell,all the way to the channel!

It wasn’t dead calm, and with the possibility of having to pass through a squall line, we put the paravanes out as a proactive measure. Here’s what I’ve learned about the paravanes: they are great at keeping our roll down when we’re in bigger seas that I’m not comfortable with. However, to put them out or bring them in, you have to bring the boat to idle speed. So now your “in neutral” in the same waters that made you want to use the paravanes! It’s a race for Scott to get them in as fast as he can, while we roll and flop.

We always try to put them out before conditions get too bad, and ideally we pull them in when we’re already in a harbor, or when the waters have already calmed. That’s not always possible though. We need a certain amount of water depth to put them in or out, and sometimes there is too much boat traffic in a harbor or an entrance channel is too narrow. Overall though, the positives far outweigh the negatives. I’m so glad that we have them!

So back to yesterday. We put the paravanes out ahead of wind and squalls. The squalls missed us, but because they were in the area the winds and water picked up (winds also tend to pick up in the afternoon). We were rolling pretty good, and glad that we had the paravanes out, but the options for pulling them in were low. The harbor in Bimini had the room, but not the depth. So I had to do my best to keep the boat into the waves (to avoid flop and roll) while Scott brought the birds in. As the wind and waves pushed us sideways, I had to put the boat in gear and “goose” the gas.

Once that was done, we entered the channel while the current came out and the winds blew in. When the two oppose each other, it creates a washing machine effect. So we had to work a bit to get to the finish line, but it was worth it!

Scott put a line in the water as we traveled, hoping to catch us some dinner. He had me on watch, so he could keep an eye on the line, and be able to hear it if something caught. I went to see how things were going, and here’s what I found…

Seriously?!? This is fishing? Now I realize that Howard is an avid fisherman..

No luck yesterday, which is good for me, since I’m the one who has to clean and fillet it (still have to learn that)!

After tying up in our slip at Brown’s Marina, we unloaded our bikes and peddled to immigration, followed by customs. They both went off without a hitch, and we now have a 60 day permit for the Bahamas. After that, we headed to Batelco (Bahamas Telephone Company) to get a sim card for my phone, so we could use it for internet data. Turns out, can’t use my phone, so we  bought a cheap one and put data on it. We can use this one now, as we travel to other countries.

Lastly, we went to the liquor store. There is a brand of rum here that you cannot get in the states, and Scott loves it. He bought two cases. Leaving only one bottle in stock between two stores; it took two trips on the bike. He purchased containers to bring with us, to act as rum tanks. They hold eleven bottles worth, needing far less storage! Now he’s set for his stay here. After that, back to mango rum withdrawal.

At our second stop for rum, I noticed a bottle opener tied to the checkout counter. The man in front of us bought two single bottles of beer, paid for them, opened them at the counter and headed out the door. As Scott was checking out, I decided that I too would like to take a single beer with me. I walked toward the refrigerated cases, but the woman behind the counter called out to me to get one out of the freezer. Freezer?! It was the size of a mini van, and full of beer. God bless her! My teeth hurt it was so cold! I was so happy, that I went back this morning, to get another before we left…and to get some pictures!

We gave Howard a chance to stretch his legs. He was anxious to get off the boat, once he realized that there was a pier next to us. I think he was eyeballing the boat next to us, and planning a boarding. He is now restricted to supervised outings with a leash, after his escape onto the 3 million dollar boat

By this time, we were starved. Big John’s was right next to our marina, so we walked over. Our dinner was terrific! Scott had grilled lobster sandwich, and I had fried snapper. Delicious!

We woke up to a beautiful Bimini sunrise.Today we’ll continue east, toward the Berry Islands.

Internet is great here, as we’re right ear a Batelco tower. I’ll post as I can, when I can get a good signal. A few photos

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

Our First Ocean Leg: Beaufort, North Carolina to Charleston, South Carolina

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Please forgive me, this one is long. A lot of hours and details to cover…settle in.

Our ocean journey took us out of the Beaufort inlet, and then straight for a point off of Cape Fear, where we would make a turn to put us in another straight line before making the turn toward Charleston inlet and harbor.

I started out planning to document our ocean journey every so often, save it in  my lap top, and then just upload it to the blog when were in internet range again. It was a good idea, just not feasible at the end of the trip. Here’s what I started with:

6:30 am: We planned to leave at the first crack of light on the 15th. When the first crack of light came, it became clear that we weren’t the only ones with this plan. Two others boat near us fired up their motors, and other stuff went past the docks as well (ferries, fishing boats, etc). We waited until the big guys left, to avoid them passing us while pushing a wall of water in front of them, and leaving a painful wake.

7:00 am: The Beaufort inlet is very wide, much more so than what I’m used to in Ocean City, MD. And, thankfully, there is much less traffic coming out to fish. We are currently officially in the ocean, and things are good!

7:30 am: At 6 am, I gave Howard something to “calm” him, and hopefully prevent nausea, as we’ll get more “roll-ly” toward the end of the day. At first, It took the edge off enough that he wanted to walk around, jump up onto the “dashboard” area of the helm, go downstairs to look for food (he can’t have any for 6 hours), wander around the saloon and jump up onto the counters. All while wobbling around, and just missing falling and cracking his head. He is now fighting a coma sleep, with much eye squinting.

8:00 am: We are currently in one foot waves and 3-4 foot swells. There are almost always swells in the ocean, caused by far away winds. We don’t have any weather to speak of where we are, but weather happening farther north drives the swells south. This happens all over the ocean. In addition, local wind causes waves to develop on top of, and along with the swells. For the moment, this swell/wave combination is very tolerable.

12:26 pm: My 7 hour watch started at noon. I took a nap for about an hour, while Scott was on watch. Trying to sleep is a bit weird. The rolling motion below is  not completely from one side or another. Compounded by the noise of the waves and water down below, it was unnerving.  At Scott’s recommendation, I laid diagonally in the bed, to try an offset my movement. I wasn’t rolling all over the place, but  definitely moved. I didn’t get into a deep sleep, it was more of an in-and-out nap-state. It would have to do, because I wanted to allow enough time to wake up and go over some things with Scott, before my watch.

When I came up, Scott was munching on pasta salad, and watching a movie. Since there are no immediate things to watch for, this is completely feasible. He’ll watch for 20 minutes or so, and then pause it, to check horizon, instruments, radar, etc. He showed me what to be aware of on the radar, and we set up our two way radios, so I could wake him up if needed, without going downstairs. He went off to sleep, and I’m with Howard, who is now in a full-on coma.

Ok, so the thought/sight of the water depth and distance from shore that I was concerned about is not affecting me, which is great. So far, the movement is very tolerable. Every few minutes, swell and wave sync up, and we do a pretty good roll from side to side. We have the doors on either side of the pilot house open for ventilation, and there is considerable surf noise; makes sense, considering we’re rolling around and traveling through water!

The water color is gorgeous blue, with maybe a tinge of green. I’m sure our photos won’t do it justice. The color of the surf at our side, and in our wake is pure white, unlike the tea-brown of the Chesapeake. The Dismal Swamp was brown, but that was from tannins in the water. The good old mid–upper bay color is from pure ick. The water is also really, really clear. You don’t notice how clear, until some brown sea grass floats by (again, pretty brown), and it just pops in the clarity of the water.

We, especially Scott, are seeing a ton of flying fish out here. They are almost translucent in color, and their wings flap like some kind of remote control toy. Sometimes whole schools jump off to our side. They can really get some distance.

I have seen two boats pass us on the horizon, so we’re not the only ones out here. So far….ok.

That’s all I was able to “pre record.” Here’s the rest:

My watch was pretty uneventful. I got used to the rolling, which varied from side-to-side, to corner-to corner and back to front; it was never severe or jerky. As I mentioned before, there isn’t anything immediate to watch for. We only had to make two or three course changes, and there was little to no other boat traffic. What there was, never got closer than the horizon.

This made it very easy to leave the pilot house to use the bathroom, make something to eat or drink, etc. I also used the laptop to pour through our refit pictures (which will be added to the blog soon!) Scott slept off and on. He also did several engine room checks, spent time out on the bow and in a chair in the cockpit (one of his favorite spots to view the waves).

Eventually, we deployed the paravanes, with stronger winds predicted overnight. The “bird” in the water is actually 15 feet below the surface!

The birds make a vibrating sound, as they go through the water. It almost immediately drew a big pod of dolphins. Some were huge! They stayed and played of of our bow for at least an hour! Video coming…currently having technical difficulties.

We made our turn off the coast of Cape Fear, at Frying Pan Shoals before dark. There is a shorter route, closer to shore, but it also takes you closer to the shallow water. Swells can get pretty nasty there, so we chose to stay out in the deeper depth, and take a bit more time. We had no problems passing by. Now we were on the second straight course to Charleston inlet.

By 6pm, it was time for Howard’s second dose of “calming” meds. Since the first dose had worked so well, and we still had 18 hours left to go, I wanted to keep on schedule. Getting dose number two wad way more of a challenge. I tried mashing it up in some avocado, and putting it down his throat. This worked great the first time, but now he was wise. Then I tried dissolving it in water, and giving it to him with a dropper. I think a drop or to got into him, the rest went everywhere. I finally went back to the avocado, with more force, and was successful.

His second transition was much worse. I think that with all of my trying, I may have given him more than the required dose. In addition, I think that dose one was still somewhat in his system. He stared off for awhile, eyes slits and mouth a gap. Then he jumped to the floor suddenly (again, nearly cracking his head), and wobbled to the steps. I was betting it was the litter box that he was after, and I was right. The poor thing could barely stand up long enough to do what he had to, before slumping down in the litter. I pulled him out, cleaned him off, and placed him on our bed, making a pillow nest around him. Thankfully, he stayed there and the drugs leveled off.

My watch ended at seven, but I stayed up with Scott until it got dark. I wanted to avoid a panic attack, coming up at midnight to pitch black all around me. “Nautical” dark happens considerably later than on shore. I watched it slowly come on, and went down to sleep  at about 8:30, before pitch black happened….too tired.

At 10:30pm I came back up into the pilot house, wanting to give myself enough time to come awake (after more nap-sleep) before taking my watch. We have dutch doors on either side of the pilot house. Scott had the bottoms secured for the night hours, but the tops were open and our screens were pulled, so you could still hear the waves going by us in the dark. The darkness and sound of the waves outside the doors was pretty creepy to me. Scott was getting pretty tired by 11:30, so I told him to go ahead and sleep; I would start my 12-3 watch early. I asked him to sleep on the bench eat to me, because of the creepy factor.

Eventually, I became used to the night noises. We actually had some light pollution off of the starboard side; port side black. The moving horizon would catch my eye, making me realize that we were in a big roll. I decided to stop looking out. I’d check the radar and the other instruments, and then focus on things inside.

We had our ipod hooked up to the pilot house speakers, so I played a “mix tape” of songs. I kept the volume at sleep level for Scott, and dusted off some stuff I hadn’t heard in awhile (Better Than Ezra and Crowded House – a nod to my Bussing Court roommates!). I also chose to stand versus sit, to keep more awake and alert. Focusing on the music and my dashboard tasks kept my mind off of the dark rolling ocean outside, and I was on watch from 11:30 until about 3:15 with no issues. I woke Scott up, and went down to try and nap.

Scott was on watch until 6 am, and then it was my turn again until noon. Keeping the watches shorter overnight reduces the chance of falling asleep. Case in point, by the time I came back upstairs, Scott was fighting sleep. I came back up at 5:30, wanting to watch the sunrise. By now, I was very ready for light; it took forever (nautical dawn). The winds had increased overnight, so I was now nervous about the state of things outside the windows once it got light.

Today, was my birthday, and in addition to being irritated that the sun was taking so long, I was also complaining that I’d ushered in my birthday on watch in a dark ocean, and would be spending the next several hours still at sea. Scott surprised me with a slice of peanut butter pie, with a candle in it. Yum! That should hold me over.

We’d been hearing thuds outside the boat throughout the night. Scott discovered that flying fish had crashed into us, and to their death. In the am light, we discovered more than a few casualties!

We were now in bigger swells (6-7 feet), so I again asked Scott to sleep on the bench. The idea of him right there was calming. After an hour or so I acclimated, and told him to go down below.

My nap sleeps were catching up with me as well, and I was having trouble fighting sleep as I tried to do some computer work, so I went back to the iPod music plan. Food was also not cutting it; I wasn’t seasick, thank goodness, but just felt off.

At about 9 am, things started to deteriorate outside. Scott was up, so he took over, as we had to start  making our turn to Charleston inlet. We turned bit by bit, to reduce the amount of time that the boat had to be in a beam sea (side to side, everyone’s least favorite). Eventually, Scott told me that we were in for 90 minutes or so of nasty crap. Since he didn’t need me (thank God), I went down below with Howard. If I can’t see the big waves and impending pitching of the boat, it’s better for me.

For the better part of the next two hours, Scott maneuvered through 8 foot swells, with 2-3 foot breaking waves on top of them. Autopilot is useless in situations like this, so he was steering by hand. He said it was like driving over cargo vans. He admits that he was quite nervous about it at first. He’d steered in seas like this on a sailboat, but not in this boat. At one point, he looked over to the pilot house door, and saw a wall of water. He was convinced that it was coming inside, and right for him, but the boat rolled up, and then back down away from the wave.

Luckily, I didn’t notice nearly the pitching and rolling that I’d expected. I was, however, wearing ear plugs. Water that angry is damned noisy on the hull! Howard, who was more alert now, handled it like a champ. In his pillow nest, he didn’t move around, and he did well with the loudness that my ear plugs were muffling.

Sea life handled the sea state like a champ.We chose this boat for it’s hull design and weight, to handle well in big seas, and installed the paravanes to help in these situations. Both decisions proved right, and we were now coming through Charleston inlet, at approximately 11:30am. By 12:30, the motors were off; 30.1 hours after we turned them on in Beaufort.

We maneuvered our way into Charleston harbor, and then Scott slowed to bring in the paravanes. As of now, we are in a slip at Ashely Marina, which is on the west side of downtown. We’ll spend a week here, doing some boat work and projects. I have yet to organize the cabinets in both heads (stuff is just shoved in there), and our guest stateroom looks more like a basement, with all of the stuff that’s been thrown in there “for now.”

I ushered in my birthday on watch in the pitch black ocean, so once we got tied up and cleaned up, Scott took me out for a birthday dinner. He took me to FUEL in Charleston, where he’d eaten when here for a conference. It’s located in an old Esso gas station building. The atmosphere, food and service were all awesome. I highly recommend it:

Here are the photos of our ocean leg…before things got too dark and then too bumpy.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”