Because of the amount of time from the last post, a synopsis of our voyage is perhaps in order. In January 2003, Sandy and I, together with Captains Ann and Tom Caywood, completed the voyage from Dana Point, CA to West Palm Beach, FL via the Panama Canal. In addition to assisting with the delivery, the Caywoods provided navigational and seamanship instruction to Sandy and I. Together, we learned about the many systems aboard our new Nordhavn 50 "Boundary Waters". The combination delivery/instructional voyage (provided with patience and good humor by the Caywoods) enabled Sandy and I to transition from fresh to salt water boating and to move up to a much larger and more complex vessel than we had previously operated. It also gave us a chance to experience the Panama Canal, which is truly one of the man-made wonders of the World. An unexpected bonus was Ann's voyage reports and photos, which will grow more meaningful to us over time.
As scheduled, Ann and Tom departed Boundary Waters at West Palm Beach. The first order of business for us was then to address the warranty and maintenance "to do" list. The Nordhavn people were absolutely first rate in the level of support. The major items we addressed were:
- A new inverter was waiting for us and quickly installed when we docked at WPB. Subsequent discussions with Nordhavn indicated the probable cause of inverter failure may have preceded the inverter failure by several days when a wiring connection on the generator came off resulting in a sudden loss of ground and automatic shutdown of the generator.
- A hydraulic hose was reconnected and system refilled. While cause of failure is not known, it is believed that a very heavy plastic bag (think cement bag) removed from aft thruster tube may have been the culprit. The thrusters and hydraulic system now operate normally.
- The very puzzling issue of intermittent running of the fresh water and bilge pumps while underway was solved. (Readers of earlier posts will recall that approximately once a day, we would notice that the fresh water pump was running when no one was using fresh water. This water was ending up in the bilge and then pumped overboard. After some trial and error, we found that simply shutting off the fresh water pump at the circuit breaker for a time and then turning it back on would result in normal operation. A day or so later, the cycle would be repeated.) The problem was the water heater pressure relief "pop-off" valve, which may have been overly sensitive to the higher water temperatures resulting from engine heating of domestic hot water.
- With respect to the vexing problem of fresh water storage and the issue of timing the switch between each of the four water tanks without running out, Nordhavn addressed this by plumbing the three aft tanks together. Now we draw from the lowest lying tank and the other two simply drain into it as needed. (The location of the fourth tank did not permit hooking into this "fix"). While the actual total storage of some 230 gallons is, I believe, a little light, we at least are avoiding the very annoying problem of running out as each individual tank ran dry.
With completion of the work at WPB, Sandy and I were ready to take Boundary Waters out on our own! The first trip was a short run up to Ft Pierce, FL. We had checked out the Municipal Marina the winter before and it proved to be everything we hoped for. The crystal clear water and number and variety of fish visible were an endless source of fascination for the relatives and friends that visited us at the marina. Also, a library and a number of restaurants within easy walking distance make this a worthwhile stop if you can spend a few days. I should, however, point out that there is a brisk tidal current running through the marina. Some boaters had difficulty docking but it worked out for me. The dock personnel are very helpful. Ft Pierce has an excellent inlet for ocean access and a very nice beach is a short drive away, which was a hit with our 3 year old grandson. One unexpected surprise at Ft Pierce was the existence of a Farmers Market every Saturday only a block away from the marina. Locally grown-vine ripened strawberries were our favorite.
There are not many "day trip" destinations one can take on a boat from Ft Pierce, just up or down the ICW and return. Very few anchorages that I could see. One side trip of note was to the Trawler Fest at Melbourne, FL where we again met up with the Caywoods. We assisted them with a presentation about our trip from CA through the Canal. Great fun! Also we had the pleasure of having Boundary Waters voted the "Queen of the Show".
After the Melbourne Trawler Fest, we returned Boundary Waters to Ft Pierce as Sandy and I had a scheduled flight to our home in Michigan. Our appreciation for Ft Pierce and the FL weather was reinforced during this return trip to Michigan. Because of an ice storm, we lost electricity for the last four days of our stay. Fortunately, we had gas hot water for showers and a gas fireplace which gave some relief. Nevertheless, 40 degrees gets old fast-particularly when one is trying to finish taxes! The power was still out when we left for our return flight to Ft Pierce. The outside temperature was not so low as to risk freezing our water pipes and no damage was done to our house.
On the 10th of April, we departed Ft Pierce for the trip north on the ICW. Because of commitments in Michigan, our plan was to move directly up to the Norfolk area and dock the boat. Our voyage soon settled into a rhythm, traveling approximately 70 miles a day. For us, the ICW was a destination by itself. Many others have written of the diversity of shoreline, from magnificent homes with extensive landscaping, to areas of more modest dwellings to remote wilderness areas. Many wilderness areas reminded us of areas along the Canadian border. Of course, seeing an alligator quickly changes the scene. Perhaps the prettiest area was the Waccamaw River region of South Carolina. We loved it!
The ICW also passes through many historically significant areas of our country. Because of our schedule requirements on this trip, we could not take full advantage of the opportunities offered. However, we did spend some time in Savannah so have some idea of what's available. Our future trips will be at a more leisurely pace so we can enjoy each area.
Navigation on the ICW presented its own challenges. Foremost among them is knowing exactly where you are relative to the channel and watching the depth sounder. Draft on Boundary Waters is 5' 2'' which is within the depth the ICW is (reportedly) to be maintained by the Corps of Engineers. However, I understand that a prolonged wind from one direction can lower the water level as much as 2 or 3 feet. Also, shoaling can occur faster than the Corps can dredge, particularlty in areas of high tidal ranges. Reflecting back on our voyage, we estimate that we had less than a foot of water under the keel once every day-on average-while on the ICW. And this was in the spring at times of higher water!
Because this was our first trip (and having read about the numerous areas where caution is needed), we took our time and developed a navigational routine that worked for us. Each evening, after we were set for the night, we would read about the upcoming section of the ICW in the Waterway Guide. This was our "Required Reading". We then applied "Post-it Notes" next to areas of concern on the paper chart Sandy followed. Underway, I would hand steer and watch our progress on the Raymarine chartplotter (with C-Map) and Nobeltec's Navigation Suite computer charting system. We rotated assignments from time to time. For many, this may seem like overkill. For us, two heads were certainly better than one.
With respect to traveling the ICW or making a passage offshore, we let the weather be our guide. We were offshore several times including one overnight passage. The third time we tried, it was uncomfortable so we came back inside at the next recommended inlet. Offshore voyaging presents a nice contrast to the constant steering required on the ICW. Just set the autopilot and enjoy the experience! I expect our future ICW voyages (south of the Cape Hatteras area) will follow the same approach.
In speaking of personal comfort, I am very pleased with the pilothouse/flybridge layout of Boundary Waters. We navigated the many tropical and wilderness areas (think heat, rain, spray, and bugs of all sizes and types) from the comfort of the air-conditioned pilot house. Also, in areas of complex navigation, we have excellent visability foreward and 20 or so degrees aft of beam with all the charts, guides, instruments, etc. immediately at hand. However, in periods of good weather, nothing beats the flybridge. It's wonderful! I expect it will get much more use as we become more familar with the boat and our cruising areas. The flybridge also provides the ideal spot for close quarter manuvering and docking. In backing into a slip, Sandy stands at the rear of the flybridge deck and guides me in. With the thrusters, and the main engine at idle, I can hold the boats position until she descends to the main deck and secure the lines.
No "travelogue" of our voyage would be complete without mentioning the many wonderful people we met on our journey. All were willing to share their knowledge and experience with us and made our voyage all the more enjoyable. We look forward to seeing everyone again in the years ahead.
Our near-term plans are to complete the dock extension at our retirement home in Virginia ( to get the necessary depth). After Thanksgiving, we will return to the ICW seeking warmer climate and some of the many points of interest we passed on our way north. Summer of 2004, we look forward to the Erie Canal and Michigan (including the North Channel) before returning to VA and points south. Lake Superior and the remainder of the "Great Loop" will be later. Somewhere in the schedule we anticipate cruising the New England area where we also have friends and family. And I have yet to mention the Caribbean. If I am more specific with my plans they begin to look like objectives at work-and after 33 years-that is not what I am about to do!
Boundary Waters is now under cover in Great Bridge, VA. As of this writing, Hurricane Isabel has passed over the area, but we have not yet received a report of how the area (and our boat) fared. It is in the hands of very qualified people. We got out of town (and returned to Michigan)! Now it's in the hands of the good Lord.