Monday, November 17, 2014

Welcome to Sarasota

Sarasota is not new to us and neither is Marina Jack, where we stayed for 21 days during our Great Loop adventure (12/22/14 to 1/10/11).  What is new is that we will be spending the winter at Marina Jack (three and a half months 11/13/14 to 3/31/14).

Marina Jack is a modern well maintained marina with a number of very nice amenities:
  • Floating concrete docks
  • Excellent security
  • Protected waters
  • Close to Sarasota downtown (less than an 1/16th of a mile to Main Street)
  • Three restaurants at the marina (four if you count O'Leary's Tiki Bar)
  • Pump-out facilities on the dock
  • Adjacent to Sarasota Bayfront Park (where Kodi can run off leash)
  • Close to Selby Gardens Botanical Gardens (3/4 of a mile)
Marina Jack and adjacent Bayfront Park that provides protection from wind and waves on Sarasota Bay
View looking no
Coming back to Sarasota.  Why Sarasota of all places on the eastern seaboard?  The answer starts in 2010 when Diana, Kodi and I walked up Main Street to explore Sarasota's downtown.  As we passed a building just south of S. Orange Ave, Diana noticed a sign in the window that said "hug a puppy." We walked into Southeastern Guide Dog's Discovery Center only to discover there were no puppies (false advertising).  The volunteers at the center commented about how cute Kodi is and, as is our custom, we put on a show.  The hubbub attracted the attention of Marjorie Singer, who officed at the center, and Kodi got invited to a puppy play date with Marjorie's two labs at her home on Bird Key. We became friends with the Singers.

Marjorie, Dick and Diana in January 2011

Kodi and Wolfie (November 2011)
Ten months (October 2011) later as we headed south from New England to Florida we stopped in Mystic Connecticut where we had also made friends with Dutcha and Doug and their 95 pound doberman, Wolfie.  Before leaving on the morning of the 10th we stopped for a puppy play date. Short version of the story.  Wolfie was chasing Kodi and ran into Diana's leg fracturing her tibial plateau. Two weeks in Yale New Haven Hospital, two surgeries (one 5 1/2 hours long), three weeks at Apple Mystic Rehab and a month at Jerry and Cathy's home in Westerly (RI) and it was now December and getting cold.

Our Palm Aire rental home
We could not go back to our three story Chicago town home as Diana, on crutches, was unable to climb stairs.  So the question was where to go.  Sarasota got the nod.  We liked the town and we had two sets of friends, Dick and Marjorie and my late associate Ron Markovitz and his wife Linda. VRBO to the rescue and with a little scouting from Ron we had a 4 month rental for a 3 bedroom house on a golf course in Palm Air.  We stayed in Palm Air until mid April.

Plans for Guided Discovery taped to the walls (March 2013)
A short 3 1/2 month visit to Chicago and then it was back to Branford Connecticut where the boat had spent the winter.  We then completed the Great Loop returning to Chicago in Mid September 2012.  We enjoyed the Chicago fall but did not intend to do another Chicago winter.  Where to go? Sarasota, of course.  So back to the Palm Air Rental, this time December to June.  The winter of 2012/2013 was spent in Sarasota with plans for the 63 now under construction taped to the walls of our study.  Back to Chicago for 5 months enjoying the summer and fall and then back to Sarasota in early December for the winter of 2013/2014.  Two months later we moved to a hotel in Fort Lauderdale for two weeks and then on to the 63 which had "splashed" in Port Everglades on February 2nd.

Guided Discovery showing Sarasota as her hailing port
Guided Discovery was christened at the Miami Boat show in late February.  On the stern she shows Sarasota, FL as her hailing port.

Sarasota officially becomes are new home as the champagne bottle breaks (on the 1st try)
Now to our surroundings.

Let's start with the Bayfront Park.  75% of the park surrounds Marina Jack providing shelter from wind and waves.  At the north end of the park is a lighted fountain visible from our boat and the marina restaurants.  Kodi loves the park and especially the squirrels that she constantly chases and does not catch.  There's a tiki bar (O'Leary's) and a jet ski / kayak rental on the south end.  Walking the loop at Bayfront Park is a distance of a 1/2 mile.

Marina Jack in relation to Sarasota downtown and the Ringling Bridge to Longboat Key
Selby Garden is in the lower left hand corner
Walking south from Bayfront Park and about 3/4 of a mile from the Marina is Selby Gardens (lower left hand corner of the above photo).  The walk itself is along busy Route 41, the Tamiami Trail, but the walkway is separated from the street by a park that runs south to the Gardens.  All told a stroll through Bayfront Park followed by a walk to Selby Garden produces a lovely 2 mile walk.

Selby Gardens grounds map
The Marie Selby Botanical Gardens (7 acres) are extensive botanical gardens dedicated to research and collections of epiphytes, especially orchids and bromelaids, and their canopy ecosystems. They are located on the grounds of the former home of Marie and William Selby (of the Texaco Oil Company) at 811 South Palm Avenue, in the heart of Sarasota.  We are members.  The grounds are beautiful and fun to walk.

Walking north toward the Ringling Bridge you pass Unconditional Surrender, a statue by J. Stweart Johnson based on an iconic photo that marks the Japaneses surrender and the end of WWII.  The walk north leads to a neighborhood by the bay called Golden Gate where we can walk with no traffic.  Up and back to the marina is 2 miles.

Cross the Tamiami Trail (Route 41) and you are at the foot of Main Street and Sarasota's lovely downtown shopping district.  Within easy walking distance are at least 40 restaurants, a Regal 20 screen movie theater, three playhouses and a Whole Foods Market.

Back to Marina Jack.  This is a destination marina due to it's proximity to downtown stores, restaurants and culture.  Most recently, the Boca Grande Yacht Club held a rendezvous.  I snapped photos of two unique boats.

Down east style cruiser built in Maine in 1980
Wood transom on a fiberglass hull

The Eagle, a 1960 Hinckley 68 foot wooden motor yacht in pristine condition

She shows a Woods Hole Massachusetts hailing port
The captain sailed her down in October
Marina Jack is a prime location and a great place for us to spend the winter.  We barely need a car.

Written by Les.

Hingham to Sarasota: The Final Leg

Reader Note: We arrived at Marina Jack in Sarasota on Thursday, November 13.  I started this article on the way to Sarasota.  Today, as I finish it, it is Monday the 17th in the late afternoon.   Diana often jokes by saying "how did you ever find time for work.  Given the above I can say with all sincerity I do not have a clue.  Retirement is great fun.  I just need more time.

Guided Discovery at sunrise on November 13
Now to the journey.  At 5:00 AM I checked the weather and to no surprise it was perfect for our short 50 NM cruise to Sarasota. Below is the official NOAA forecast and the forecast map on Sirius Satellite Weather


Notice the cold front crossing northern Florida
We departed South Seas at 7:15 AM.  As a general rule I don't speak to docking maneuvers but today is different.  Leaving South Seas required backing straight and pivoting the boat in a very narrow area - essentially backing out and taking a right turn to back the stern into a narrow fairway.  Fortunately the winds were very low.  This should have been an easy maneuver and it was until the starboard engine quit. Fortunately the engine restarted and the maneuver was completed successfully. Note: I had to run down to the pilothouse to restart the engine. I think the problem was related to a short warm up time. Going forward I will extend the warm-up period.

Guided Discovery at sunrise on the last day
The photo does not fully depict the close quarter
I had to back the stern around the stern of the sailboat
Excitement over, we exited South Seas and proceeded north to Redfish Pass where we met up with a 45 foot sloop named La Vie en Bleu (Life on Blue).  The owner, Guy, a member of Bird Key Yacht Club, had graciously offered to cruise north with me so that he could guide us into Big Sarasota Pass.

La Vie en Bleu running west of our position
Explanatory Note: Passes (aka inlets) seem to fall into two categories.  Ones that are well marked with deep water, which are often commercial inlets, and those that require local knowledge.  Big Sarasota Pass falls into the latter category.

At 8:48 AM we passed R2 off Boca Grande and turned northwest on a course of 344 degrees for Big Sarasota Pass.  Our speed was 7.4 knots, which allowed us to keep pace with Life on Blue. The winds were northeast at 12 knots and we were experiencing a lovely ride on a 2 foot head sea.  As we proceeded north the waves subsided just as forecasted.

Phil at the helm
At 2:05 PM we arrived at Big Sarasota Pass.  The photo below shows the pass.  The channel starts in the lower left hand corner and runs northeast into Sarasota Bay.  Notice the sandbar along the channel.  Compare the color of the water in the lower left-hand corner to the water in the channel. There is plenty of water in the channel.  The problem is the approach.  The locals tell me the approach keeps changing resulting in the "private buoys" being moved.

Big Sarasota Pass
I followed La Vie en Bleu through the approach as shown in the photo below.  Blow up the photo and look closely at our tracks (aka bread crumbs).   The private buoys dictated a course over what appears on the chart as an area with a 2 foot depth at mean low water.  I registered 4.0 feet as I passed over that "bar," which means I had 2 feet of water under the keel. (Note: Last April my friend Darrel and I determined that the transducer was 2 feet above the keel - somewhat scientifically using a lead line).

Following La Vie en Bleu on the approach to the pass
Shallow water to our left as we follow La Vie en Bleu
Siesta Key homes to our right
Once in the pass and in deep water I called Marina Jack to determine our slip assignment.  Still more excitement (OK, well not exactly.  How about just a touch of frustration).  I requested a 65 foot slip so that we could pull in bow first with a starboard tie, which is necessary if I want to board from the swim platform and launch the dingy.  Problem: Marina Jack has 60 foot slips.  The next size up is 85 feet and they will not put our "little" boat in an 85 foot slip (nor do I find fault with that). Solution: Back into a stern in starboard tie.  Problem: They only had a stern in port tie on a 60 foot slip.  After a bit of discussion I conceded that the 60 footer stern in port tie would do for the short term.

Our temporary slip is 3 in on the first pier on your lower right
Explanatory Note: The problem with the dockage arrangement was my fault.  We had told them we would arrive on December 1.  We were 17 days early.

So at 3:00 PM I backed her into the slip and brought a 9 day 1,450 nautical mile trip to a close.  My frustration with the docking arrangement took the edge off (slightly) to what would otherwise have been a very celebratory moment.

The crew poses for a final photo after 1,450 nautical miles
Dick, Les and Phil
Final Statistics - Hingham to Sarasota:
  • Total Distance: 1,450 nautical miles (1,667 statute miles
  • Time Enroute: 9 days
  • Total Fuel Used: 1,619 gallons (includes approximately 45 hours of generator)
  • Efficiency: .90 nautical gallons per mile (NGPH) (1.03 SGPH)
  • Hingham to Stuart: 6 days, 5 nights
  • Stuart to Captiva (Okeechobee Waterway): 2 days (no nights)
  • Captive to Sarasota: 1 day (54.1 NM)
  • Total Expense: $7,388 (fuel, dockage, food, travel reimbursement)
Written by Les

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Hingham to Sarasota: Crossing Florida on the Okeechobee

Reader Note: You may have noticed that I have caught up.  This is the direct benefit of being in lovely weather with calm waters and a competent crew.  Thank you Dick and Phil.

We departed Sunset Bay Marina (Stuart) at 6:33 AM on Tuesday and headed west on the St Lucie River.  The weather forecast for the two day 135 nautical mile trip on the Okeechobee Waterway was for sunny skies with moderate winds our of the northwest.  We were in for two perfect days of cruising.  Time to use the flybridge, which up to now was only used for docking.

Today's destination was the city of Clewiston at the south end of Lake Okeechobee.

The day got even better and very quickly.  Dick noticed a large Hatteras cruiser astern and suggested we call and find out if they have local knowledge.  Turns our the folks on the Hatteras had the same idea but for a different reason.  They wanted to keep pace with us so as not to get delayed at locks.

80 foot Hatteras following us in the St. 
We connected with them and agreed to cruise together.  The yacht, Vegas Girl out of Miami, was a 1998 80 foot Hatteras captained by Capt. Jim Ellinor.  He had a crew of two and was headed north to Sarasota.  Jim indicated that he had crossed the Okeechobee Waterway at least a hundred times.  We agreed that he would take the lead.

Garmin MFS configured for running the Okeechobee

Vegas Girl takes the lead
More good luck.  The St Lucie Lock was open and we cruised right in at 7:40 AM.  St Lucie lifted us 14.5 feet into the canal.  The process took 40 minutes and the lock master was friendly and helpful.

Vegas Girl and Guided Discovery approach the St Lucie Lock

Vegas Girl entering the St Lucie Lock
Explanatory Note: Their are 5 locks on the Okeechobee Waterway. From east to west there's St Lucie, Port Mayaca at the eastern edge of the lake, Moore Haven, Oronto and Franklin at the beginning of the Calooshahatchee River.  These are clean and extremely well run locks.  The lock masters were friendly, informative and helpful.  Negotiating these locks was actually a pleasure.

Okeechobee Locks and Lift:
  • St Lucie: Up 14.5 foot into the canal
  • Port Mayaca. Up 1 foot into Lake Okeechobee
  • Moore Haven:Down 4.5 feet
  • Oronto. Down 8 feet
  • Franklin: Down 2 feet into the Caloosahatchee River
We traversed the Port Mayaca Lock at 11:40 AM and entered Lake Okeechobee. Winds were out of the northwest with 1 foot waves.  The cruise across the lake took 2 hours and 30 minutes.  The route is well marked which makes handling the tricky waters off Clewiston very easy.

Earlier, after consultation with Captain Jim, we decided to bypass Clewiston and continue of to Moore Haven.  The docking situation there is first-come-first-served on the City Dock.  Jim agreed to let us raft with Vegas Girl if there turned out to be no more room at the inn.

Moore Haven Lock
We ran from Clewiston to Moore Haven in an hour and 25 minutes.  The Okeechobee canals are wide and almost completely debris free.  We negotiated the Moore Haven Lock at 3:40 PM and by 4:05 PM we were tied up at the Moore Haven City Dock.  There was plenty of room and there was 50 AMP power.  Note: A representative from the city came by and collected the one dollar a foot docking fee.

Guided Discovery at the Moore Haven City Docks
Jim and his crew mates, Melissa and Charles, joined us on the aft deck for drinks.  Then we gave them a tour of Guided Discovery and they reciprocated with a tour of Vegas Girl.  The crew ate on the boat owing to the fact that there was no restaurants or, for that matter, any other useful stores nearby.

  • Distance Today: 61.1 NM
  • Total Trip: 1,321.8 NM
  • Locks: 3
  • Fuel Consumed: 56 gallons
On Wednesday morning we departed at 6:37 AM for the Moore Haven to Captiva leg of the trip.  Our plan was to stay at South Sea Resort on north end of Captiva and there connect with friends.  I had planned a dinner with Jerry and Cathy Swerdlick who live on Captiva.  They are my oldest friends (circa 1968). By sheer luck a group from Bird Key Yacht Club, where both Dick and Phil are members, were holding a rendezvous at South Seas.  Phil had arranged dockage at the club rate.  This was great as Jerry and Cathy live no more than a mile from the resort.

Again the weather was perfect, the canals were wide and deep (relatively speaking) and the locks were easy.  We drove from the flybridge all day.  It was glorious.

Cruising on the Okeechobee Canal
At 11:45 AM we departed the Franklin Lock and continued west on the Caloosahatchee River. The Caloosahatchee is wide with lots of shoals.  However it is well marked.  The navigation is straight forward until you get to the "miserable mile," which while clearly marked is very narrow.   We traversed this segment late in the afternoon with the sun in our eyes. Actually the stretch, which allows you to make a direct line to the east side of Sanibel is considerably longer than a mile.

Skinny water at the junction of the ICW and the Caloosahatchee
At 4:30 PM we departed the Gulf ICW and turned west toward the channel that leads to Red Fish Pass.  The entrance to South Seas' harbor is just before you get to Redfish.  This channel is particularly narrow with a tricky turn at R20.

We arrived at the beautiful South Seas harbor at 4:45 PM.  It was truly the fitting end to an extraordinary day of cruising.

Statistics - Moore Haven to Captive:
  • Distance Today: 75.3 NM
  • Total Trip: 1,395 NM
  • Locks: 2
  • Fuel Consumed: 55 gallons
Guided Discovery at South Sea Resort
Now started the evening's activities.  Phil had invited his sister in law, Sue Miller, and her husband, John, to tour the 63. Shortly after they arrived my friends Jerry and Cathy arrived.  Turns our the Millers knew the Swerdlicks and there was a joyful reunion.

Sue, Cathy, John, Phil and Dick
We all adjourned to a Dock Ford restaurant for dinner.

Cathy, Les and Jerry pose for an after dinner photo
Statistics - Stuart to Captive via the Okeechobee Waterway:
  • Distance: 144 NM
  • Total Trip: 1,395 NM
  • Fuel Consumed: 110 gallons
  • Time Enroute: 2 Days
  • Locks: 5
  • Total Trip Time Enroute: 8 days
Written by Les.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Hingham to Sarasota: Life in the Slow Lane

Back in may I wrote a series of articles entitled Life in the Fast Lane reporting on the run from Fort Lauderdale to Albany New York in a new 2014 64 foot Pershing express cruiser.  The Pershing, which is equipped with twin 1,626 HP diesels, covered 1,341 nautical miles in five (5) days.  With a top speed of 55 MPH and a cruise of 48 MPH it makes tracks fast.  However, the ride was not always fun as the Pershing pounded in the constant head seas encountered.  The Pershing used 5,025 gallons of fuel.

Our run from Hingham to Stuart covered 1,258 miles in 6.3 days with five overnights.  Fuel burn was 1,475 gallons.  Likewise the ride was not always smooth with head seas off Long Island and a full blown gale off Cape Hatteras.  However, the 63's stabilized semi-displacement hull handled the heavy seas with panache.

Side Note: Had we encountered the gale in our 48 Sundancer (express cruiser) the ride would have been difficult and, perhaps, a little scary. The 48 would have rolled violently in the 7 to 9 foot beam sea and would buried her nose when we turned north to run toward shore after rounding Diamond Shoal.

Essentially both boats covered the same distance with the Pershing having the advantage of saving one day.  From a cost standpoint the difference is significant.  The Pershing burned approximately 2,500 gallons ($10,000) more and stopped every night racking up docking fees (approximately $600) for a total additional cost of $10,600.

The express cruise folks would say "well, we did not have to run at night."  Running at night is more challenging especially if you do not have the right equipment.  But with modern electronics the risk element is greatly reduced.  Using GPS chartplotter in combination with AIS, radar and FLIR night vision allowed us to "see" where we were going (including other vessels, land and obstacles in the water).  Running at night also takes maximum advantage of weather windows.  I have for years slept at a dock as the good weather turned sour.

Then again one could argue that the folks on the express cruiser has dinner every night at a restaurant while the trawler folks had dinner in the boat.  We ate Trader Joe's prepared meals and fresh salads. Not exactly gourmet but quite acceptable.  Note: We could have cooked three out of the 5 nights had the spirit moved us.

Oh well so much for comparisons.

The theme of today's article, Life in the Slow Lane, also describes the run from Morehead City to Stuart Florida.  Life was GOOD!  With the Cape Hatteras storm behind us and winds now out of the north we now had the benefit of a following sea and that condition lasted all the way to the Fort Pierce Inlet. Wind speeds were less the 20 all the way. Here's a few log entries:

  • Fri 10:21 PM. Off Hampstead NC, Dist: 50 NM, Wind: NE 12, Following sea <1
  • Sat 04:08 AM. Off Cape Fear, Dist: 98 NM, Wind: NE 12, Following sea <2
  • Sat 13:30 PM. Off Georgetown SC, Dist: 176 NM, Wind: ENE 14, Following sea 1-2
  • Sat 17:14 PM. Off Charleston SC, Dist: 209 NM, Wind ENE 13, Following sea <2
  • Sat 22:32 PM. Off St Helena, SC, Dist: 254 NM, Wind: ENE 17, Following sea 2-3
  • Sun 04:38 AM. Off Midway GA, Dist: 307 NM, Wind: NW 16, Following sea 2 ft
  • Suy 08:10 AM. Odometer reads 1,000 NM
  • Sun 10:35 AM. Off Fernandina Beach, Dist: 358 NM, Wind: N 12, Following <2
  • Sun 16:18 PM. Off St. Augustine FL, Dist: 409 NM, Wind: N 17, Following sea 2-3
  • Sun 22:11 PM. Off Daytona Beach FL, Dist 461 NM, Wind: N 21, Following 3-4
  • Mon 06:18 AM. Off Palm Bay FL, Dist: 532 NM, Wind NW 20, Following 2-3
  • Mon 10:22 AM Fort Pierce Inlet, Dist 568 NM, Wind N 15. Entered inlet

At 4:08 AM off Cape Fear I wrote the following: "Beautiful moon lit night with the moonlight on our course line.  Checked weather with Phil.  We have a perfect window to Stuart with north winds throughout the period of travel (3 days) and at least one day's margin.  High pressure over North Carolina and another high over the south dominate the weather along our route.  Night vision is excellent at present electronics settings and blue tape covering other light sources, No traffic at this time.  We are off shore 21 nautical miles south east of the Cape Fear Light."

I continued: "It is very clear that I have as a consequence of this trip and the two coastal runs in April/May reached a new level of understanding about piloting and especially night cruising with this boat.  It's almost like an epiphany where all of a sudden it all comes together.  Up to now I would estimate that I was using 50% of my electronic's capability (Garmin Multifunction Screens).  All of a sudden I figured out "buttons" (it's a touch screen) that were a mystery.  I'm now using 80% or more of the capabilities. Here's just one example: There is a "List" button under "Other Vessels (AIS) which I never used.  Tonight it dawned on me that rather than searching the chart (which is difficult with a low backlight level) all I need to do is hit "List" and I can see what is in range."

As we cruised toward Stuart we were faced with a decision as to which inlet to use.  Chart information such as the location of buoys is missing at the St Lucie inlet suggesting it can be tricky. Active Captain confirms that the buoys are frequently moved and in rough water the approach can be difficult.  The alternative is the Fort Pierce Inlet, which is clearly marked.  Interestingly, there is no loss of time.  We entered the Fort Pierce Inlet at 10;22 AM and turned south on the ICW.  At 12:58 we rounded R24 and headed west on the Okeechobee Waterway toward Stuart.  We arrived at the Roosevelt Bridge at 1:50 PM and pulled into the Sunset Bay Marina fuel dock where we took on 635 gallons of diesel (at $3.559/gal plus tax). We had completed the second major leg of the six day journey to Stuart.

Here are the vital statistics since departing Hingham on November 4:
  • Distance: 1,260.6 Nautical Miles (1,323 Statute Miles)
  • Total Traveling Days: 6.3 since leaving Hingham
  • Days on the Water: 6.3
  • Fuel Used: 1,474.46 gallons
  • Average Throttle Setting: 1,400 RPM at 8.4 knots (per sea trial)
  • Fuel efficiency According to Cat Engine Monitor: 1.07 NMPG
  • Average Marina Cost: None
  • Total Fuel Cost: $5,066.24
  • Average Price Per Gallon (including tax): $3.43
  • Actual Fuel Efficiency: .85 NMPG
Notice the "Actual Fuel Efficiency" in bold red.  We seem to have a bit of a discrepancy between what Caterpillar's engine monitor report and reality.  This will be the subject of a future article.  I think I will title the article "Here We Go Again" marking my frustration with fuel consumption and fuel remaining information that boat manufacturers provide.

With the help of the crew we gave the boat a quick wash.  A project that take about three hours when I do it by myself took one hour with three guys.

Written by Les.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Hingham to Sarasota: Crossing Cape Hatteras in a Raging Storm


Southwest winds at 15 to 20 knots and head seas of 1-2 feet continued as we approached the Chesapeake Bay shipping lanes on a southwesterly course to Cape Henry and the Virginia Beach / Norfolk area.  It was just after noon.  In terms of our cruising strategy this is the stretch where we would need to make our third major route decision.  Whether to continue on the open ocean around Cape Hatteras, delay at Virginia Beach waiting for favorable weather or continue to Norfolk and take the ICW from Norfolk to Beaufort.

There were two other critical decision points earlier in the trip.  One as a crossed out of Buzzards Bay where we needed to decide whether to tuck in to Long Island Sound and one at Cape May where we would elect to cruise up the Delaware River and then down the Chesapeake Bay.  Both of these decisions effectively increased our time enroute by increasing the distance and limiting our night travel.  If we had elected both we would have added over a hundred of miles (12 hours) and at least three days.  We opted to run outside as the conditions, while not perfect, we easily within the 63's capability.

Weather, as always, is the key ingredient in these route decisions.  The decision to go to Norfolk and take the ICW increases the trip by one full day as we can only run during the day.  It also has the potential to add another day if the decision is related to high winds.  The Alligator River Swing Bridge will not open when winds exceed 30 knots.  This proved to be a problem on the trip north last spring when we were delayed by high winds in Belhaven (Dowry Creek Marina).

We have been watching the weather intently since departing Hingham so it was no surprise when we reviewed the weather from Cape Henry to Ocrakoke Inlet. (Note: Cape Hatteras is in the center.)  The forecast was not good.  Below is the synopsis:


Below are the NOAA forecast maps.

Thursday night show the cold front crossing over Cape Hatteras
with a low pressure center moving up the northeast coast

!2 hours later the low deepens and a low pressure trough forms west of the coast.
Isobars close together indicate high northwest winds over Cape Hatteras

24 hours out shows the low weakeing over the northeast with a low pressure trough west of Cape Hatteras.
The following is the near shore marine forecasts for the Cape Hatteras:







Notice the 25 to 30 knot winds and 6 to 9 foot waves forecasted for Thursday night. This would have dictated stopping and that probably was the prudent thing to do.  However, the wind shift to NW after midnight influenced my decision.  Since we would be running close shore the shift to NW would put the wind on our starboard aft quarter in effect putting on a lee shore.  The only question I could not precisely answer is when the frontal passage would occur.  

Explanatory Note: Waves are a product of wind and there are three factors that effect their formation; the speed of the wind, the time of the wind and fetch, the size of the area over which the wind is blowing.  The higher the wind speed, the longer it blows and the amount of open water dictate wave height.  On Lake Michigan a 20-25 knot wind blowing out of the north east produces 10 foot waves on the Chicago lake front.

As we proceeded south just past Currituck Light at 4:45 PM we had south southwest winds at 18 to 20 knots with a 1 to 2 foot head sea.  Sunset occurred at 5:07 PM and at 5:59 PM we lost nautical twilight.  At 8:18 PM just south east of Bodie Island Light I noted head seas of 2 feet with SW winds running 25 to 30.  The 63 in not noticeably affected by head seas under 4 feet.  Hence at 10:18 PM we were riding smoothly even as the the head sea built to 3 feet in the continued 25 to 30 knot southwest wind,  At that point we had covered 532 nautical miles since leaving Hingham.

Shortly thereafter satellite weather showed the area between Currituck Light and southwest of Cape Hatteras under a severe thunderstorm warning.  Cells were visibile both on sat weather and also on my radar screen moving northeast and were northwest of our position. Satellite weather showed the cold front 157 NM west of our position. 

As a general rule thunderstorms and rain showers occur ahead of the front.  Further, frontal information unlike Doppler radar is not immediate.  Hence the front’s exact location was unclear.

At 10:51 PM a cell visible on our radar crossed our position with heavy rain and gusts to 39 knots (45 MPH) and the wind shifted northwest. Nine minutes later we crossed our next waypoint and changed course to 186 degrees putting the wind on our starboard aft quarter. At 11:00 PM I recorded 30 knot winds out of the north northwest and a peak gust of 49 knots (56 MPH).  Between 10:51 and 11:00 seas quickly built to an estimated 6 to 8 feet.  Fortunately we were experiencing a following sea.

Approaching Cape Hatteras with a thunderstorm on radar.  Next to radar is our night vision.

We were in big seas with gale force winds just 2 hours northwest of Cape Hatteras.  Clearly a raging storm.  However, we experienced its intensity by looking at the waves through the window, which is not easy at night, and reading numbers on the instruments.  We could not hear the wind due to the integrity of 63’s construction.  It was surreal.  The photo below is of my notes for the hours before the frontal passage and for two hours afterwards.  Notice that the legibility of my writing does not change.  This speaks to the amazing stability of the 63.  Thank you Outer Reef.

Our next challenge was Diamond Shoal.  From Cape Hatteras, Diamond Shoal juts out 17 miles to the southeast.  Noticeably there are no depth numbers on the chart suggesting that bottom tends to shift around.  Bottom line.  You have to go around Diamond Shoal.  In our case, we wanted to round Diamond Shoal and then immediately head northwest into the wind to get close to shore and take advantage of the lower seas created by the lee shore (i.e., reduced fetch).  The question here was how would the 63 perform in the different points of sail as we rounded the shoal.

At 2:13 AM we turned to starboard (266 degrees) which put us on a beam sea.  Waves were 6 to 7 feet with winds out of the northwest at 25 to 30 knots. The stabilizers were giving us a stable ride.  An hour later (3:04 AM) were turned northwest into a 6 to 7 foot head sea.  Again I recorded “stable ride despite high winds and seas."  The rounding of Diamond Shoal (Cape Hatteras) demonstrated the 63’s sea worthiness. 

At 4:03 AM we were off Hatteras Inlet in a head sea of the starboard quarter.  Winds were northwest at 40 knots but owing to being close to shore the waves were only 3 to 4 feet.   Lots of spray from the wind but a very stable ride.

At 6:19 AM we were off the Ocrakoke Inlet Open Water Buoy on a course of 237 degrees.  Winds were NNW at 29 knots.  We were enjoying 1 to 2 foot seas as we cruised within one mile of shore.  We were finally getting the full advantage of the close-to-shore strategy.

We continued on toward Morehead City rounding Cape Lookout at 11:57 AM.  Winds were now 19 knots.  At 2:20 PM we entered the Morehead City Inlet.  We had covered 661 nautial miles since leaving Hingham three days ago.

Heading into the sunset as we start our second leg to Stuart
We stopped at Morehead City Yacht Basin, refueled and by 4:00 PM we were headed outbound to continue on to Stuart.  Stay tuned for my next article “Life in the Slow Lane – Morehead to Stuart."

  • Distance Traveled: 661 nautical miles (760 statute miles)
  • Time Enroute: 3 days (62.2 hours)
  • Fuel Used: 839.1 gallons
  • Generator Time: 38.4 hours (47 gallons of diesel)
  • Efficiency: 0.78 Nautical GPM (0.91 Statute GPM)
  • Efficiency Without Generator Time:0 .83 GPM (0.96 Statute GPM)
Below is the note that I wrote to Jeff Druek, President of Outer Reef. 

Dear Jeff,

We transited Cape Hatteras Thursday night during a very strong cold frontal passage with wind gusts as high as 49 knots.  Seas built very quickly to 7 to 9 feet with sustained winds of 30 to 35 knots.  All this happened as we were circumventing Diamond Shoal, which puts us at least 17 miles offshore and required course changes encompassing 270 degrees.  We went from a following sea to a quartering sea to beam sea to another quartering sea to a head sea at the height of the storm.

Notwithstanding the flaw in my judgment for being out there (I took a calculated risk), the 63 showed no flaws in terms of its sea keeping regardless of the point of sail.  The experience is almost surreal. You cannot hear the roar of the wind due to the boat's amazing quietness and since it was night, it was hard to see the wave heights.   The boat just moved through the turbulence with sure footed stability.

Sir, you and your team build an amazing boat.  I was confident that the 63 could handle heavy seas when I bought it but now I know from experience how stable she is.  While I will continue to adhere to my conservative approach to heavy weather I will have the confidence that should the unexpected happen the boat can handle it.

Written by Les

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Hingham to Sarasota: On the Way to Cape Henry

READER NOTE: I'm publishing this article on Sunday, November 9 with our position just north of St. Augustine Florida.  As of this moment we have covered 1,060 total miles and have been cruising non-stop for 5.5 days.  We are scheduled to arrive in Stuart at around 5:00 PM on Monday.  Our goal of cruising non-stop for 6 days to Stuart is within sight given the favorable weather conditions.  I had expected to publish articles as the journey progressed but as you can see I am, as usual, behind. Cruising 24 hours a day is actually an active process especially when one is the person responsible for the safety of the endeavor.


The extremely strong northeaster that arrived on Friday afternoon (10/31) with high winds and torrential rains began to move northeast late Sunday with clearing skies and continued high 25 to 30 knot winds.  The weather on Monday was as forecast, clear skies with blustery winds for most of the day.   Tuesday called for calm winds and flat seas.  Those who follow this blog will recall that the weather folks were showing a weather window starting on Tuesday morning and that proved to be the case (at least on Tuesday)

Diana and Kodi departed on Monday morning for their 4 day car trip to Sarasota.  They were off by 9:20AM. 

The crew arrived late Monday afternoon.  Dick flew in from Sarasota and was picked up by his sister, Betsey, who drove him to the marina.   Phil flew in from Philadelphia and arrived by ferry.  They arrived at the same moment.  I took this as a good omen. 

We spent the afternoon on Guided Discovery chatting about our May Norfolk to Hingham adventure over Mount Veeder 2010 Cabernet Savingnon with cheese and crackers and then adjourned to a lovely dinner at Alma Nove, the 3 star restaurant at the Hingham Shipyard. This was followed by a briefing on the ships equipment, electronics and emergency procedures.

Explanatory Note: We have outfitted Guided Discovery with safety gear to deal with a wide range of emergencies.  In addition to all required Coast Guard gear, we carry a 6-man emergency life raft, an EPIRB, a defibrillator. oxygen, an advanced medical kit and extra high capacity fire extinguishers strategically located throughout the boat  My thought process is it’s better to have it and not need than need it and not have it.  That said, if the crew is not familiar with the equipment, where it’s located and how to use it then the reality is it is not worth having.  Hence the pre-departure briefing.


Sunrise over Hull Mass as we deaprt
Perfect weather with an on-time 5:58 AM departure.  I love it! The cruise from Hingham to the Cape Cod Canal was picture perfect.  We arrived at the canal at 11:32 PM noting an average speed from the dock of 8.3 knots to cover the first 45 nautical miles.  Our passage through the canal was with the current and took about 50 minutes.  Pure luck.  We hit a top speed of 12.1 knots and boosted our average speed to 8.5 knots.  We gave some of the gain back as we transited Buzzards Bay in southwest winds and an unfavorable change in the current.  However, unlike the canal where currents run at 2 to 4 knots, the current in Buzzard Bay is measured in tenths of a knot.

Plymouth Light

Houses and fall color on the Cape Cod Canal

Passing commercial traffic as we approach the Bourne Bridge at the west end of the canal 
The evening was a different story.  As we crossed into Block Island Sound the winds continue to build from the southwest reaching 18 to 20 by 9:00 PM as we passed Block Island Light.  Now we were in a head sea with 3 to 5 foot waves.  This continued as we ran southwest along the Long Island coast.  We passed Shinnecock Light at 12:30 AM and Fire Island Light at 4:25 AM. The overnight passage saw seas build to 4 to 5 feet.  By sunrise (6:33AM) we were 16 NM southeast of JFK and entering the New York City shipping lanes.  Our average speed for the first 24.5 hours since departure was 8.3 knots and we had covered 203 nautical miles, which is right in line with our predication of 100 NMs every 12 hours.  Fuel consumption was 193 gallons.  Note at 1400 RPM we cruise at 8.4 knots on a clean bottom.  To compensate for the head seas and current we upped the RPM to 1480, which had a noticeable effect on the fuel burn.

We approach the NYC shipping lanes

We were off Massapequa at Sunrise (6:33 AM) still in a 4 to 5 foot quartering head seas and entering the New York City Shipping Lanes.  There were lots of targets of the radar and several ships in sight.  We elected to take a short cut at 7:15 AM and turned southwest to bypass the traffic in the shipping lanes and intersect with our course along the Jersey Shore.  Winds started to diminish at sunrise and by mid morning we were enjoying diminishing seas.  This continued throughout the day.  By the time we reached Cape May and crossed the Delaware Bay seas were 1 to 2 feet.  Unfortunately, visibility reduced due to haze.  Oh well.  You can’t have it all.

Off Cape May New Jersey
On Wednesday evening we refined our after dark watch policy and agreed that each of us would take a two hour watch between the hours of 6:00 PM and 6:00 AM.  That gives each person 4 hours of uninterrupted sleep and a total of 8 hours each night. We followed our plan and everyone got a good night’s rest while still maintaining an active watch.  Two hours on proves the perfect watch period as it’s over quickly thus reducing the chance that the watch person falls asleep.

Crossing the Delaware Bay means crossing another major shipping lane.  As we crossed the lanes we encountered two ships one heading inbound and the other outbound.  We had both on radar and the question was could we continue to make way at our current speed or did we need to take evasive action (e.g., reduce speed and/or turn) to avoid a potential collision.  Using radar in combination with our new Raymarine (FLIR) night vision device and a visual collision avoidance technique where you compare the target’s movement to a stanchion rail we determined that we could hold both course and speed. By 11:49 we were off Ocean City Maryland after an easy crossing of the Delaware Bay.

Garmin MFS set for night cruising
Port Screen: Chartplotter with AIS.  Starboard Screen: Radar and FLIR Thermal Imaging

Knowing that we were anticipating a 6 day nonstop cruise I gave a lot of thought to night vision.  Night vision for us has both a systems and a human component.  System wise we are well equipped with AIS, radar and, most recently, thermal imaging night vision.   However, that equipment plus all of the other “stuff” on our panel put out a lot of light and that light effects the eye’s ability to see in the dark.  Essentially, the more light on the control panel the less human night vision. 

Sitting at the dock on Sunday night with the lights out and all of the electronics and equipment operating I considered a strategy for dimming or eliminating every light source.   The first part of the solution involved  determining the low light setting for each instrument that could be dimmed.  The second involved blue painters tape and thin black cardboard sheets.  The tape alone worked well for dimming certain lights without eliminating their utility.  See photo below.

Note pretty but very effective

Note the blue tape on the Glendenning Engine Control
During my second watch on Wednesday evening I gave a lot of thought to what goes into night cruising and as a result found myself using the electronics capabilities to an even greater extent than ever before.  Necessity is the mother of invention.


We continued through the night along the Maryland shoreline in relatively calm seas (2 to 3).  I took the 10 to 12 and 4 to 6 watches.  Around 5;00 AM I encountered an AIS target dead ahead.  AIS identified it as US Navy 841 and I also saw it on radar.  When we got within a mile and a half I was able to the see ship on the night vision device.  The photo below shows the target on all three systems and also shows how we use our system at night,

Port Screen: Chartplotter with AIS.  Starboard Screen: Left: Radar, Right: Night Vision
As the morning progressed the head seas we had been confronting since entering Block Island Sound began to build slightly as the winds continued out of the south southwest at 15 to 20 MPH. The ride was still pleasant despite taking lots of spray.

At 9:00 AM I performed an engine room inspection and following that proceeded to transfer approximately 300 gallons from the auxiliary tanks in the lazarette.  The process took about 50 minutes per tank.  This was my first en-route fuel transfer.  It went very well thanks to Outer Reef's incredibly thorough orientation by Captain Randy.

Explanatory Note: I wear sound deadening ear muffs made by Remington that almost totally deaden the diesel engine noise. The process involves a visual inspection of all equipment along with temperature verification with a pyrometer.

At 11:00 AM we were off Cape Charles Maryland preparing to cross the Chesapeake Bay shipping channels.  Winds were still out of the southwest around 15 knots with 1 to 2 foot seas on our nose.

Stay tuned for the next article which I've titled "Crossing Cape Hatteras in a Raging Storm."  It's exciting.

Written by Les.