AT SEA AGAIN…
MUSINGS ON THE JOYS OF PASSAGE MAKING
By Dan Streech, PAE President
“I christen thee My Lady. May God bless all who sail aboard you.” These were the wonderful and poignant words spoken by Maureen Doherty as she swung a champagne bottle into the bow of Nordhavn 62 #26. Within an hour, we were heading Southbound from Dana Point on one of the world’s most wonderful passages; the 900 mile downhill trip to Cabo San Lucas.
I have made this trip at least 10 times on numerous boats ranging from my first passage on the family yawl Malabar VII 33 years ago to various Mason sailboats and Nordhavns. I can safely say that every trip that I have made south to Mexico has been nothing but absolutely wonderful- a respite from business pressures and daily routine, a rebirth of the spirit and a reaffirmation of my love of the sea and passage making.
This is the kind of passage that just gets better each day. The air grows warmer, the water gets bluer, food tastes better, sleep is deeper and more delicious, and blood pressure goes down. A sense of well-being develops as the lyrics of Jimmy Buffet songs begin to make perfect sense. A busy working person has a thousand reasons why he can’t or shouldn’t break away to make the trip. Within 24 hours of departure that same person can’t recall a single one of those reasons.
A week earlier, I didn’t know that I was going to make this trip. The Dohertys had hosted a dock party on their new boat to thank the PAE staff who had helped them thru the process of buying and commissioning My Lady. PAE people noted for their fine help were: Larry Gieselman- salesman, Trever Smith- project manager, Michelle Leroy- Trever’s assistant, Kirk White- head of commissioning and Russell Barber- lead man on commissioning this boat.
The Doherty party was a classy affair with uniformed staff, catered food and fancy wine. The mighty Nordhavn 62 was, of course, the center of attention. She had finally come to life this day after 10 months of building and two months of commissioning. With lights ablaze and Jimmy Buffet playing on the Bose system, happy children squealed as they scampered up and down the ladders and adults philosophized on what adventures lay ahead for this tough long legged passagemaker.
Sometime during the party, Larry Gieselman suggested that I join them on the trip south. Of course I had my “thousand reasons”, but after clearing it with my wife Marcia, the Doherty’s and my partners Jim Leishman, Joe Meglen and Jeff Leishman (all of whom said YES!), I jumped at the chance. There were several compelling reasons. One was to get back in touch with the N62. At one time when PAE was smaller, I was the N62 project manager and knew every nut and bolt from stem to stern. Over the last 5 years, the N62 has been managed by Trevor Streech, Trever Smith and Justin Zumwalt. These young men, together with their Chinese counterparts, David Jen and Al Liu have been brilliant in their efforts to continuously improve and develop the boat.
Another important reason for making this trip was simply to get to sea again. Incredibly, it has been 18 months since Jeff Merrill, Mike Gregovich, Kevin Ryan and I completed our leg of the ATW voyage in Acapulco. I have not been on an over night passage since stepping off of that boat.
The final reason for saying yes to the persuasive Larry Gieselman was to make another passage with him. Larry is a great shipmate and absolutely hilarious. He has been a loyal employee of PAE for 22 years and for most of those years as the top commissioned salesman. Larry and I last sailed together in 1989 in a wonderful 13 passage to Hawaii aboard the powerful Mason 54 #5 Blue Yonder. Also on board were PAE naval architect Jeff Leishman, owner Lenny Barad and two of Lenny’s friends. It was one of those perfect sailing trips (which are unfortunately rather rare). We departed from Ensenada Mexico with 25 knots of wind on a close reach and never slowed as the wind clocked around behind us and the temperatures rose day by day. We relished every minute of that beautiful trip as we pushed the big Mason along under full sail day after day. There were plenty of pranks and jokes on that trip, but the best was the one we pulled on our good friend Lenny. Being the owner and Captain, Lenny set the rules and announced prior to the passage that since he was the navigator, he wouldn’t be standing a watch. Since “navigation” on this open ocean passage amounted to looking at the Sat-Nav for about two minutes per day and recording the “fix” on a paper chart, the rest of us were a bit rankled. After dinner, Lenny would retire to his quarters in the lovely aft cabin of this center cockpit layout and sleep like a baby until breakfast was served. On the second or 3rd day, Lenny announced that there was ghost in his cabin saying his name Leeennnnneeee in a low haunting voice. In fact, the noise was coming from the steering gear, which is located under the owner’s berth. Just too good to pass up, we decided to play a joke on him. We took the hand held VHF, turned it to channel 9 and put it under his mattress (Yes, yes: I know that this violates radio protocol- but we were in open ocean). When we figured that Lenny was about to drift off to sleep, we would begin transmitting from the ship’s radio in our best falsetto voices; Leeennnnneeee, Leeennnnneeee, where are you?? I need you… Lenny would bolt upright in bed and call for us to come listen. Of course, the voices would never perform when we were listening. We “messed” with Lenny for the entire passage. Six months later we finally came clean with him. He was furious at first but later said that it was one of the best jokes ever played on him. Lenny was in his 70s when we made this passage. He passed away about 3 years ago, and we miss him very much.
It is 6:00AM on Saturday morning as I write this sentence. At 1:00 PM this afternoon, My Lady will have been at sea for 48 hours. The commanding Nordhavn 62 slides along effortlessly on her southbound course: life aboard is good. All systems are humming perfectly and the TRAC stabilizers are taking the sting out of the lumpy following seas. The Dohertys are a joy to be with.
On board in addition to Larry and me are the owners Pat (Paddy) and Maureen Doherty the patriarch and matriarch of a large Irish Catholic family, and two of their five children, grown sons Bill and Dennis. Despite the success of their business empire, the Dohertys are unassuming people, in touch with their humble beginnings and guided by their deep religious faith. Their kindness, generosity and gentle sense of fun are the cornerstone of the goodwill that exists aboard this happy ship. The only dark side to this story is that I do believe that Maureen is trying to kill me…. with food. My feeble attempt at a low fat, low cholesterol diet has completely gone out the window. Dinner the first night was gorgeous big thick tender fillets BBQed by Larry on the aft deck together with baked potatoes (with everything) and salad. Breakfast yesterday was eggs benedict absolutely drowning in hollandaise sauce. Dinner last night was beef stroganoff (of course drenched in sour cream) and I suspect that breakfast this morning will be pancakes. Fine red wine flows freely at dinner (actually before dinner- beginning precisely at 5:00 PM), and desserts of cookies, ice cream and See’s candies are forced down my throat as I kick and scream in resistance. The only saving grace is my firm belief that fat, sugar and cholesterol consumed on a happy ship making an offshore passage don’t count….. really, I am serious.. I do believe that…
The day has dawned, beautiful and windy. The sea is covered with “popcorn” as the prevailing Northwesterly has picked up strength. This is the wretched devil wind that plagues northbound travelers thru out the year and can blow along any stretch of the west coast between Cabo San Lucas and Cape Flattery. It is at its most vicious as it accelerates around the various capes and points along the coast, especially the notorious Point Conception and its evil twins, Point Sur and Cape Mendocino. Over the years, I or my shipmates have fed fish at each of these places on northbound deliveries. Today of course, we are running from it and hardly feel a thing as My Lady is gently lifted and pushed by the 8 footers as they pass under us. We passed Cedros Island last night and decided to slow down by 100 RPM after calculations showed that we were too far ahead of schedule. Our intention is to arrive in Cabo mid morning on Monday. At the speed (high 9s) that we were making, the GPS was predicting a predawn arrival, something that we don’t want.
I am missing my lovely wife Marcia and am looking forward to her arrival in Cabo on Tuesday. She will arrive on the morning Aero Mexico flight and we will vacation in fun filled Cabo San Lucas for a few days before heading back to the grind.
Several days later… It is 1:00 AM Monday morning November 17. We will arrive in Cabo at 9:00AM (at least I hope that we do because it means I win the arrival time pool of $20). This is my last watch on the last night of what has turned out to be a wonderful trip. It is a warm balmy night with a half moon shimmering on the water and indistinct lightening in the distance adding drama to the moment. The water temperature has steadily risen day by day and is now sitting at 81 degrees. This is one of those lovely nights that you don’t want to end. My Lady is purring along at 1375 RPM making 9 knots. The pilothouse doors are open; the mesmerizing sound of the gentle following seas passing under us gives me a wonderful sense of well-being. I have 3 boats on ARPA and also visually. We are all going the same speed, so we have been together within a 4-mile circle for the last 6 hours. I think that two of them are Mexican fishing boats. The other is a DeFever by the name of Mi Amour. I chatted with the owner for a while and found out that they lost their radar. He asked if he could close in on us and follow us thru the night, so we slowed for him to catch up.
I am monitoring the performance of a new hydraulic oil keel cooler which was installed on this boat. The cooler was designed by PAE and built by my son’s company Prime Fabrication. The warmer water was “the test” and happily, it is performing well. Last trip to the engine room with the infrared gun showed an oil temp of 108 degrees and it hasn’t ever risen above 135 degrees. The temperature varies depending on the loading on the hydraulically driven alternator. Paradoxically, the lighter the load on the alternator, the more waste heat ends up in the hydraulic oil.
The boat has performed beautifully with very few problems. The biggest has been the failure of the 12V equalizer, which supplies power to our 12V items from our 24-volt system. We were able to parallel over to our 12V engine starting battery and its alternator, so life went on unaffected. Marcia will carry a new one with her on Tuesday.
The highlight of the trip has to be Maureen’s cooking. Unbelievable. Saturday night we had a 16 lb prime rib cooked to perfection along with mashed potatoes and gravy. Last night was breaded chicken. Breakfast for the last two mornings was pancakes, bacon, sausage and fruit. Yesterday’s pancakes had freshly whipped cream and sliced fresh strawberries. Lunch yesterday was smoked salmon with 5 kinds of cheeses, onions and dressing. It just goes on and on.. I am leaving out half of it. The counter is constantly laden with fruit, cashews, pistachios, cookies, crackers, cheeses and See’s candy. I feel like King Henry the 8th and should probably go in for preemptive bypass surgery as soon as I get home. Oh, and the wine… nothing under $70 per bottle. Suitably, the wine glasses are crystal. The Doherty family have been wonderful hosts and a joy to be with. We have gotten to know each other better as we have laughed and joked and talked about life’s more serious things: children, business, aging, boats, airplanes, auto racing, money, friends and family.
It is 1:55 AM. Larry just came up the stairs to relieve me. Those of you who have stood night watches know that the last 30 minutes seems like eternity as you nod off, wait for your relief and dream of your cozy bunk. This time I wish that Larry had been late.....