Sunday, 10 December 2017

A Cruising Conundrum - How To Find A Great Haircut

Joe Rocco Does The Cutting In St. Augustine

Travel the world for an extended period and sooner or later you'll find yourself in need of a hairdresser. Yeah, I know, it's hardly a deeply technical cruising discussion. 

Steven Heath With Admiral Ley
However if you've ever had a really bad haircut in, say, the back streets of Mumbai, then finding the right cutter takes on new meaning.

Every new country, each new port, provides the same challenges to the ocean traveler - and among them is finding the right cutter! So we ask around, seeking opinion and advice from locals and other cruisers, then we take a chance. In Cape Town I ended up at a men's only barber shop that serves Jack Daniel whisky with the cut, at any hour of the day. It was super cool, though every customer who left the shop seemed to have a similar cut. Too trendy.

Back in Australia our hair is expertly tended by our good friend Steven Heath - who not only is magic with a pair of scissors but also a great singer, guitarist and an impressive artistic painter. I played in a blues band with Steven for five years, so I can vouch for almost all of his talents. Almost all I said. Steven's salon contains his art and his musical instruments, with the latter often ready to play.

Desperately needing a clip, here in St Augustine, Florida, we played the research game on the local cruisers radio net, and were recommended to see Joe Rocco, "The Family Barber". Little did we know what was in store for us. 

Joe's Salon Guitars
It was just like Ground Hog day - freaky de ja vu - I walk into a salon with casually placed musical instruments and guitars, with original art on the walls (yes, by Joe Rocco).

He invites me to sit, turns and lifts the arm on a turntable, drops the stylus onto a wondrous Joe Pass jazz album (yeah, real vinyl) and I settled in for a great hair cut. Joe Rocco even looks a little like Steven Heath.

This was freaky - these two guys could actually swap premises, take a holiday in each others homes and salons, and all the customers would be happy.

Cruising the US East Coast ?  Don't miss Joe Rocco - he does both men's and women's hair, and you'll never forget the experience. Check out his diaries on the web link here.

Saturday, 9 December 2017

South To St Augustine, Florida

Atlantic Sunrise, Off The Carolina Coast
Too Small & Too Bloody - Mackerel Tuna
With winter rapidly setting in, we escaped southward last week, sailing offshore down the Atlantic coast in warm weather bound for St. Augustine, Florida. Light winds from astern were not helpful, so the Cummins engine worked hard once again, as we pushed south and west, staying close to the coast to avoid the north-setting Gulf Stream current.

I wasn't surprised to find the Admiral on deck early one morning, with a fish hanging off a lure ... but really, did she have to start fishing before breakfast? Unfortunately the first three fish that came in were low-value Mackerel Tuna, and they were all released. With this state of affairs the Admiral gave up in disgust - she wanted Mahi Mahi or Wahoo, or Spanish Mackerel. Dream on.

So the fishing tackle was stowed once again and relaxed cruising resumed. We arrived at the St. Augustine bar right on time, in the middle of a rising tide with a following wind. The entrance was therefore drama free and Crystal Blues found herself safely moored on a City Marina mooring ball well before it was time for drinks. Perfect!

Christmas Lights In St. Augustine

This town, reported as the oldest city in America, was once a Spanish outpost. Now, with Christmas approaching, it kinda feels like a Disney outpost. Trolley / tram rides clog the streets, carrying droves of serious tourists from sight to sight, from Ghost Tour to Spanish Fort, restaurant to restaurant. This is not at all what we expected. But the decorative lights are really nice, and the spirit of the place does eventually get to you. Music is everywhere! St. Augustine has an incredibly vibrant live music scene - we've enjoyed great bars and restaurants with excellent live entertainment and usually no cover charge.

Checking The Injection Elbow
However it hasn't been all glittering lights and music. Our beloved Cummins 4BT engine was due for a major 4,000 hour service, so this past week we've tackled everything that can be checked and refreshed on the unit. The standard lube oil and filters, fuel filters etc were ticked off early, before we moved on to the gearbox lube oil and filter, then flushing and cleaning the gear oil cooler and the engine heat exchanger. Then we inspected and checked the turbo, serviced the Walker AirSep filter system, serviced the syphon break, checked the exhaust injection elbow, replaced the drive belt and replaced the belt tensioner.

The Salt water pump was checked (all blades Ok after 500 hours) and the coolant was tested with a Fleetguard coolant test kit, then adjusted to the correct chemical mix using a measured concentrate. For good measure we finished off with valve lash adjustment today.

OK, I'm slow, but it has taken almost six days to work through the job, in between shopping trips and the essential cruising social activities. The weather here has now turned to winter again, with a series of small cold fronts moving in. Predicted 2 degrees Centigrade overnight tomorrow evening. So we'll probably move aft and turn our attention to the Northern Lights generator - its now ready for service.

Valve Lash (Tappet) Adjustment On The Cummins 4BT

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Things That Work For Us # 09 - CUTCO Shears & Knives

I just love it when a company is so proud of its product they put a lifetime warranty on it.

After twenty years of hard use on board a cruising sail boat, it's even better when that same company stands by it's word. So hat's off to CUTCO, a manufacturer famous for their knives but who also make a really mean pair of shears.

Last month we sent our 20 year old CUTCO bread knife back for the free sharpening service they provide - that knife will slice hot bread straight from the oven and does a mean job with foam insulation. We also shipped our favorite CUTCO shears for service.

The bread knife came back beautifully sharpened, and the shears came back - well, brand new. They gave us a new pair (I guess we had worked them pretty hard), no charge. These shears will cut almost anything, including bones, light sheet metal and coins. Of course they work beautifully on heavy duty sail cloth and canvas, perhaps not so good on finer lightweight fabrics. They are so good that the admiral does get antsy when she can't find them ....


Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Light Weather, Heavy Boat, Off The Carolina Coast

The Admiral Enjoys The Warmer Atlantic Glow

Crystal Blues is heavy, real heavy. Absolutely stuffed with provisions, fuel, water and of course more than a little grog, she slid away from the dock yesterday after nine days in beautiful Beaufort, North Carolina. We  planned to stop in Beaufort for a week of provisioning, preparing for cruising the Bahamas and Cuba over the next five months.  It was a fine choice.

A Tough Career Choice -So Many Shrimp, So Little Time
Berthed at Homer Smith's Docks & Marina, we found ourselves in a family run marina that is relaxed and low key but with a great location and the support that only a family business can provide.

The berthing rate is only $6.00 per foot per week, including power and water. In US terms this is great value, but the deal gets better when they pass over the marina truck keys so you can do your shopping, then pass over a couple of pounds of fresh shrimp....

In fact the business still buys and processes shrimp and sea food direct from the trawlers, shipping fresh product to markets in the south. Within an hour of arrival I walked out of the marina office to find shrimp processing in full swing - where my questions lead to a quick stint on the production and sorting line.  Never ask questions.

Diane Tetreault (center) With Visiting OCC Cruisers
As members of the Ocean Cruising Club, there is another great bonus to being in Beaufort. Local OCC Port Officer Diane Tetreault is incredibly welcoming and supportive. There were several OCC boats in town, and nothing was too much trouble for Diane, who organised social events and repeatedly helped out with transport when needed. Hats off to Diane!

Amazon Calling
And then there was the shopping...

The admiral, with daily access to the marina truck, ran a fast provisioning schedule that saw Crystal Blues sinking lower into the water each day. Every cupboard and locker was audited and re-stocked, goods rotated, some thrown away and yet more purchased. To all that we added 900 liters of diesel and 900 liters of fresh water. She is now a seriously heavy boat.

We also discovered that Amazon was a great value source for bulk food supplies - tinned butter, milk powder. coffee, tinned foods and the like. All delivered to the marina within 48 hours at great prices.

Beaufort also provided us with another gem - while watching activity in the seafood processing area we met locals Libby and Jack Cox. Libby was up to her elbows in fish sorting at the time, and Jack was working with one of his boats that had just delivered the catch - they harvest bottom fish by line fishing. Next thing we knew they visited Crystal Blues, so we then joined them for Thanks Giving lunch. Libby & Jack are dreaming of a future on a cruising sail boat, so we had a lot to talk about. Friendships are born this way.

Crystal Blues should be in St. Augustine, Florida, by Thursday evening.
The Admiral & I At Dinner With Libby & Jack

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Southbound For Winter Sunshine

With the thermometer dropping to Zero degrees centigrade in Reedville, Virginia, one evening, we really needed to head south for the sunshine. Local friends spoke of early season snow in New York and they didn't need to remind us that the creek we were in often freezes over in winter - time to move.

A Chilly Arrival In Hampton Roads
So ten days ago we fare-welled our gracious hosts in Reedville, Walter Keith & Mary Frazer, and sailed south down Chesapeake Bay towards the Atlantic Ocean. That was possibly the coldest daytime sail I've ever made, though we did manage to cover 60 nautical miles in the shortened winter daylight, anchoring overnight in Hampton to allow the weather offshore to swing in our favour.

The next afternoon we sailed out of Hampton Roads, around Cape Henry at nightfall and proceeded southward toward Cape Hatteras in 25 knot winds and boisterous seas. A useful counter current helped us along, staying inshore to avoid the Gulf Stream, and by lunch the next day we had rounded the cape and were positively zooming south west towards Beaufort, North Carolina.

So much for our carefully calculated voyage plans - it looked like it would have to be a night time approach into Beaufort....  Sure enough, midnight found us motoring toward the shipping channel while trying to decide on an anchoring point - for such a large port, this place has very few credible anchoring locations. We did find a safe place just west of the entry channel and caught some sleep before motoring into a welcome marina berth at 7:00am the next morning.  Beaufort will be our provisioning port as we prepare for the next few months offshore in the Bahamas and Cuba, and we're hoping it will be quite a bit warmer.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Returning To The Boat - What Do You Carry ?

After two busy weeks in Melbourne we returned to the boat with over 120kg of luggage - thank heavens for Qantas being generous on the allowances. The flight landed in Dallas, where we loaded the super-Chevy truck and proceeded to drive back to Virginia, via Little Rock and Nashville.

We're frequently asked what do we carry back to the boat, so for those who are serious about this, here are our answers for this trip.

12 x 0.5kg jars of Vegemite (yeah, 6kg in total)
New 26kg regrigeration compressor
New electric jug
New electric toaster
1 x green cow hide (we like to leather things)

The electric items cannot be purchased in the USA, as the supply voltage and frequency are different ....
The balance of our monster cruising shopping list is below.

Cruising To An Oyster Roast In Reedville

Mary, Ley & Walter Sharing The Good Wine
Our journey back to Reedville was planned around a critical date - the annual Fisherman's Museum Oyster Roast. No true cruising sailor could miss this!

The simple little affair was planned to allow just 1000 people to fess up 50 bucks and then eat all the oysters they could ...... which is a lot of oysters.

While it sounds like a simple concept, in fact it takes a lot of effort to cater for 1000 people, while also providing unlimited beer, wine, BBQ meats, clam chowder, hot dogs etc. This is the major fund raiser for the museum, so dozens of volunteers chipped in.

We were among them, doing our duty serving wine to the masses for an hour or so.  Before that we managed to consume our fair share of delicious roasted oysters, which are heated over hot coals until they are hot and almost ready to open.

The Reedville Fisherman's Museum is the social hub of Reedville village in Virginia, a town that welcomes visiting cruisers and provides peaceful, sheltered anchorages.

The Next Crystal Blues ?

Crystal Blue, Image Courtesy Rolls Royce

OK, so it's not very likely, but in their wisdom the guru's at Rolls Royce have named their new 62 meter concept super yacht Crystal Blue. The cheek of them. You can read the full story of this amazing design here, note that it's hybrid powered by LNG and batteries, and does't (normally) anchor anywhere - instead, the thrusters linked to a dynamic positioning system simply keep it in place. It's planned to be accompanied by a 42 meter "tender" that will carry the water toys and act as a refueling barge for the LNG. The best part is that it doesn't have a conventional bridge - instead the crew helm the boat from below decks, using a range of sensors and vision systems. Oh joy.

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Cruising Families

The Langford Boys - Dean, Peter & Neil, Onboard Pete's Power Boat, Just Cruising Again
A Warm Welcome In Williamstown !
After 12 years at sea, coming home is precious. However just two weeks in Melbourne wasn't enough time to catch up with everyone - it felt like speed dating, though we did cover a lot of people, ground and water. And of course it was very social, from the moment we arrived.

We based ourselves in our home town and stayed close to family, while working through a busy social diary plus a long list of items to be purchased and carried back to the boat in the USA. On the list was a new refrigeration compressor (only 26kg!) plus a big spring for our rod-kicker, a toaster, and dozens of other specialty boat items. The final tally was over 100kg of luggage for the return flight.

The family time was joyful, specially seeing how fast the grand kids and nieces are growing up. So we chased kids, played with dogs, kissed parents, repaired cars, planted trees and drank more than a little wine .... what joy. A special treat was the "long lunch" at Rovina, the beautiful property owned by our friend James Farrell (check the photos below).

Then on Thursday it was back to Dallas onboard QF07, an A380 flight out of Sydney. Right now we're shooting eastward in the Chevy truck, having crossed the Arkansas border at Texakarna. We're heading for Little Rock tonight and Nashville tomorrow night. Bring on the music!

Three Young Rascals, Plus An Older One

Monday, 30 October 2017

Navionics Is Sold To Garmin, Autonomous Ships Are Here Next Year

In sailing industry news, my most interesting events of the month are these ...

Autonomous Ships

The worlds first autonomous electric powered ship, Yara Berkland, will be in service on the Norwegian coast next year. Read all about it here. She will apparently replace 40,000 diesel truck journeys on southern Norway roads. And quite a few commercial seamen will not be required of course.

Garmin Acquires Navionics

The full release is here, but two days ago Garmin announced they had purchased Navionics. Now we may see the dangerous Sonar Chart issues finally fixed.

It will be interesting to see how Raymarine enjoy having to buy Navionics charts from their biggest hardware competitor.  Ouch, that must hurt.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Land Cruising, Chevrolet Truck Style

For us Aussies, cruising in the USA is all about the timing - timing to avoid tropical storms and timing to work within the limited 6 month visa that most of us have.  In our case, our visa "window" started when we arrived in Puerto Rico back in May, so we have to leave the country before November. The result is that Crystal Blues is resting securely on her own in Reedville, Virginia, while we have headed off on a cross country land cruise with a flight back to Australia thrown in for good measure - there is no rest for the wicked. We'll be camping in the back of the truck for the next 10 days, have tent, air mattress, camp stove and pepper spray for the bears. What could possibly go wrong!

We drove out of the northern neck of Virginia just three weeks ago, heading west into the Blue Ridge Mountains. By nightfall that first day we had gained a lot of altitude and adopted a new weather paradigm - fog, cold and torrential rain. We woke next morning to a flooded tent, with our air bed almost floating inside the tent. Ok, so we were still learning how to setup the camping rig.

After drying out (we found a coin laundry at the next town) we traveled about 450 miles southward on the Blue Ridge Parkway over 5 days, reaching the Smokey Mountains, camping each night in Park Service camp sites, mesmerised by the staggering colors of fall in this part of the world. Then, crossing into the Carolinas, we climbed and climbed to the highest point in the eastern USA, before entering western Georgia as we continued south through spectacular country.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Avoiding Hurricane Maria, Working On Electrics

Back in Reedville, Virginia, we secured ourselves to the dock just two days before Hurricane Maria was scheduled to touch the coast south of here. Fortunately she lost some of her "oomph" and stayed well to the south, so we only saw winds of 20 knots or so and little rain.

While Maria blew herself out we decided it was time for a little electrical therapy. Mastervolt had replaced a three year old inverter for us, under warranty, when it started to show signs of not starting our AC refrigeration system. Excellent support from them, as usual. The new unit was delivered to us back in Rockland, Maine, and this was our first chance to swap the old unit out for the new. While working in that (difficult to access) part of the boat I also wanted to replace some of our battery interconnect cables - we had a good supply of size 4/0 ( tinned wire and all the necessary lugs, so we spent an afternoon making up interconnect cables to measured lengths.

It took us two days to swap the inverters over, upgrade the battery interconnects and also to replace a bilge pump sensor switch. That was just long enough for hurricane Maria to bounce off the coast and head away from us.

Right now we're preparing for the boat to stay here while we head off on our road trip, so we're checking all the bilge systems, shutting down and preserving the watermaker, servicing essential equipment etc. In case another hurricane sneaks in we've doubled up on all the dock lines and removed both the furling headsails and stowed them below.

We've been warmly welcomed back into the local community, the weather has also remained warm (at least in the daytime) and the social life has been great. Importantly, we're getting a good share of "dog time", walking the neighbours dog and even graced with a visit from our favorite sailing dog, the lovely Flaco, who as you'll see below is very interested in all things "boat". 

Three Boys Looking - Image By Chris Burry

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Heat, Biting Flies, No Wind ..... We're Lovin' It!

The Admiral Escaping The Flies & Heat
Welcome to Chesapeake Bay in the summer time. Heat, biting flies, no wind. But there are no lobster traps and very few rocky reefs, much to our delight. We had traveled overnight from New York down the coast, then up the Delaware River and through the C&D Canal, to enter the Chesapeake and pause for two nights in Annapolis..

Go Aussie !
A local told me that there are at least two rocks in Chesapeake Bay, but everyone has forgotten just exactly where they are. The bay is over 150 nautical miles long from north to south, and little more than 20nm at it's widest. A haven for yachting and boating in general, it is typically quite shallow with a deep water channel running up the middle of the estuary.

The world 505 sailing championships are running here at the moment. This morning, before we departed Annapolis, we had breakfast in the cockpit watching all 90 of these compact but high performance racing yachts breeze past us. The crews were from the USA, Canada, France, Great Britain, Poland and Australia, among many other nations.

Day Tripper Eats Insects, Then Departs.
As the Aussie boats sailed past we gave them a big welcome cheer, waving our large jar of Vegemite. What would the neighbours think?

After breakfast we headed south, working our way through the racing fleet and then motoring all day - no wind, but plenty of biting flies to kill. The deck is patched red with blood splotches. Just days back, cruising from Greenport to Port Jefferson, we had a beautiful Golden Finch on board. It stayed with us all day, ranging around the boat and carefully devouring every single insect on the boat. We really needed that bird with us today...

As I write we're approaching the mouth of the Patuxent River, where we'll spend the night anchored in Solomons harbor, just across the river from the Naval Air Station (remember Tom Cruise in Top Gun ? That's the place). The naval aviators aren't flying today, no super loud noises as we approach, so we'll look for them in the local bar when we arrive.

505 Sailboats Ready To Race In Annapolis

Monday, 25 September 2017

Dodging Hurricane Jose, Ducking Under Bridges

At The NYAC Yacht Club - What Hurricane ? Who Is This Jose ?
Hurricane Jose wimped out on Long Island Sound, very fortunately for us. Planning for the worst, we headed for Pelham in New York. With the help of OCC Port Officer Thomas Delaney, we arranged a berth on the pontoons in the pond at the New York Athletic Club Yacht Club. There, in the best hurricane hole north of New York City, we rode out the barely 15 knot winds that Jose finally rent down upon us. It was a fortunate anti-climax.

Determined to head south quickly, chasing warmth and sunshine, we planned a passage off-shore from New York to the Delaware River, just as soon as Hurricane Jose had passed by. To access the ocean we needed to travel down the East River of Manhattan, only then we discovered it was closed for security reasons during the United Nations General Assembly session last week. What next ?

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Urgent Boat Repairs In Rockland

After colliding with the rocky ledge some weeks back, we needed a place to haul the boat out of the water and make good the damage. Luckily we found just the place we needed in Rockland, Maine.

Journey's End Marina is well managed, clean and very well equipped. Besides marina berths they have a 55 metric tonne travel lift and hard stand areas, plus indoor storage for hundreds of boats and a complete range of repair and maintenance services.

Clad Welding The Damaged Area
Crystal Blues was efficiently lifted out of the water and blocked onto the hard stand among the many large sheds. Then, without us lifting a finger, they arranged for an engineer from their associated shipyard to inspect our damage and recommend a repair process. Given that Crystal Blues is a steel boat, this was a very welcome response.

Grinding Back
Our own local surveyor also inspected the damage. He agreed with the shipyard proposal so we proceeded with clad welding the dented keel and grinding back to a fair surface.

The shipyard also correctly insisted that we empty the keel fuel tank and test the bottom area of the keel for fuel leaks, using an electronic sniffer (that little operation added a few days to the job!). We also ground back the entire keel base and the sides of the keel for about four inches up from the base, as it was dinged and scratched up on the rocky ledge.

Then we sand blasted all the damaged areas and primed with 3 coats of our standard Jotun epoxy primer.  Obtaining the paint was a major effort - to speed the process we rented a car and drove south to New Jersey to collect it from the nearest distribution center, then drove back to Maine - 8 hours each way.

Epoxy Fairing Compound Going On
After priming the keel was faired with epoxy fillers - we mainly mix our own using West System epoxy and the purple colored phenolic micro-ballons. Then two final coats of Jotun primer before the joy of anti-fouling - three coats of Jotun Sea Force 90.

Keel Finished
At that point we lifted the boat and moved the keel blocks so we could start the process all over again, on the areas that were previously covered by the blocks.

Gori Propeller Service
Another week went by .... the weather in Maine was cooling rapidly, the thick duvet was on the bed and we were often rugged up in 4 layers of clothing.

While out of the water we also serviced our Gori folding propeller - it had served almost 4000 hours since 2005, without more than changing anodes and rubber stoppers, so we figured it was time.

That job turned out to be relatively easy - the hub and blade assembly came off the shaft hub quite easily and we stripped the assembly to replace the thrust washer under the crown gear. Putting it back together was simple, so long as all the parts were numbered... The plastic thrust washer wears over time, creating some sloppiness in the gearing, replacing it tightens up the whole assembly.

We polished the top-sides and made ready for the water, and finally the job was complete, 3 1/2 weeks after we hauled out. We were lucky we found a fantastic yard to work in, willing to let us do our own finishing work and to plan the project the way we wanted it done, while supporting us with their own team every step of the way.. Hat's off to Journey's End Marina in Rockland!

While the team at Journey's End Marine were exceptional, the real moral of this story is to never, ever, use or trust Navionics Sonar Charts!