One year ago, at this time, we were on our first leg of the Atlantic Crossing.
A lot has happened over the past year. Many people have been asking when Roberta and I will be cruising again, so I thought I’d write this email to provide a quick update.
As some of you know, we sold Sans Souci (our Nordhavn 62) in France. We wanted a slightly larger boat, which would be divided into fewer staterooms. We now have a new Nordhavn 68 on order. Check out http://n68.talkspot.com to see what we are buying. Our hope is to circumnavigate starting in 2007 or 2008, although our definition of circumnavigation is somewhat outside the norm. We’re only planning to cruise 3 to 6 months a year. Each year we’ll move the boat someplace new and interesting, and then explore the local area. It may take us 20 years to make it around the planet, but, what’s the hurry?
When we made the decision to swap boats, I hadn’t really focused on what it would mean to be without a boat for two years. From time to time I speak with people from the Atlantic Rally; Scott Strickland (Strikly for Fun), Braun Jones (Grey Pearl) and others. It is painful to hear them talk about exploring Barcelona, and working their way through the Mediterranean. I’m so jealous!
Scott mentioned, during one of our conversations, that some of the boats would be in Croatia this year, which caused me to investigate whether or not I could rent a boat there. This turned out to be much harder than I was expecting. Very few charter companies wanted to rent a boat bareboat (without a captain or crew). Also, NO company wanted to rent a boat bareboat to someone without a captain’s license. After a bit of research, I was able to find a company that would rent me a 47’ powerboat for a week of cruising, subject to my getting a proper license. Roberta and I spoke about it, and there were two important reasons to get licensed: 1) Even after we get our new Nordhavn, it would be nice to be able to charter from time to time around the world, and 2) When at sea, our lives depend on my ability to run the boat. Although I’ve boated many thousands of miles, I have essentially no formal training.
To make a long story short, I spent some time trying to find a power boat school that would issue a certificate that would be recognized around the world. I chose to take the International Yachtmaster Coastal Cruising course, which would give me a certification that would be valid to 200 miles offshore. I can’t say enough nice things about the course (http://www.bluewatersailing.com) , or the professor (Peter Damisch). Peter met me in Cabo (Mexico), where we spend two intensive days in ground school and then four days at sea. Certification also required getting certified in First Aid and CPR with the Red Cross (certifications Roberta also received). International Yachtmaster requires that the “final examination” be done by someone other than the professor, so we had to bring down a separate examiner to Cabo (Rags Laragione) to spend a day putting me through my paces. Certification was a huge project, but in a few short weeks we’ll be cruising the islands in Croatia, and it will all have been worthwhile.
Overall, it was definitely a course worth taking, and I could easily envision it saving our life someday. It was a hard, but worthwhile, week.
A lighter moment:
Very high wind in the marina. I’m phobic about parking in high wind in marinas. The examiner (Rags) says “let’s get fuel”. I look at the fuel dock, and see a nice long slot on the side of the dock where the wind will blow me to the dock. I do a little bit of work, to make it look hard, and let the wind land me smoothly at the dock. As I’m beaming proudly, the gas station attendant comes over and says “You should move to the other side of the dock; the gas pumps twice as fast”. Of course I say “No problem, we’re not in a hurry. Fill us up here.” (I’m sweating profusely as I say this). Rags response was a classic. He leans over and says to the gas station attendant: “No problem, we will be on the other side of the dock in just a minute.” Fidencio (our crew for the day) was laughing hilariously, and, even I had to admit it was pretty funny – after it was all over. I almost took out a megayacht trying to get off the dock and back onto the other side, but overall it went quite well. We survived, and I got my certification.
During our time at sea, we wound up anchored off a beautiful sand beach, at Bahia de Los Suenos, about 40 miles south of La Paz. It had been a long day; up at 4am, 14 long hours of cruising, and a difficult anchoring in pitch dark. The instructor (Peter) and I were worn out, but hungry. I felt I had earned a margarita, but was quickly reminded that alcohol is forbidden throughout the course. A mile up the beach was the only restaurant within twenty miles, and it would be closing soon. As luck would have it, the tender refused to start. Hungry people know no limits. We rowed the whole distance! Who would know this turned out to be the high point of the trip? 100% dark out, with about a million stars in the sky. Whenever our paddles hit the water they lit up bright green! Really BRIGHT green! There is apparently a fish (small) which is the nautical equivalent of the firefly. Whenever we disturbed them, they glowed. Each of our strokes was drawn straight from Fantasia. Stroke, and there was a bright green phosphorescent light. Very cool. 100% quiet. 100% dark. Every star in the sky. And, light with each stroke. Even Peter (the instructor) was impressed. We arrived worn out, but very happy campers. Life was good.
Cruising south from La Paz to Cabo, about a 150 mile run, we were in the middle of nowhere, getting pounded by the seas, going into the wind, when I noticed the navigation screen flickering. A few seconds later, all power on the boat went dead. The diesel engines were still running, but we had no power. Apparently, our alternator was dead, and the batteries weren’t charging. We had no power, no instruments, and would be arriving in Cabo in the dark. There were no marinas we could reach in the daylight. Diesel engines are wonderful, because they will run through virtually anything. If they have fuel, they are usually happy. Electricity is not needed, although I was worried that there might be a fuel pump that would need electricity (there wasn’t). My first comment to Peter: “I am very impressed that you were able to pull this off!” We had spent most the week working on my navigation skills, with Peter reminding me constantly that I shouldn’t be so dependant on the GPS and computerized charts. Often during the trip he had covered the computer display, to focus me on the old fashioned way of doing things (paper charts, a hand bearing compass, dead reckoning, etc). My immediate concern had been to track down the cause of our power loss. An electrical fire at sea would not be fun. Our problem was much more mundane, and resulted in a good test of my abilities to bring us in without fancy electronics. Peter had warned me that arrival at a marina in the dark, without a computerized map, would be a greater challenge than I expected. He was right! I know the cabo marina extremely well, and have walked virtually inch of it. However, it looked VERY different at night. Spotting the entry lights for the marina, and not being misled by all the stop lights, amongst the thousands of lights of the city, was much trickier than I had ever imagined.
I mentioned previously that Roberta and I were buying a 27’ power catamaran (Glacier Bay). We just took delivery last week, and spent the weekend aboard it on our inaugural trip to the San Juan Islands. Wonderful!!! It’s tiny, but we had a great time, and it was fun going fast for a change. It cruises easily at 25-30 knots. Unfortunately, there were a lot of floating logs out this weekend, so the speed meant very tense cruising.
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