Stranded at Solomons

After our vacation week, we returned to reality and Highwind in Baltimore, where we both promptly got sick with bad colds, David first and then me a few days after. Unfortunately that meant that we had to cancel David’s scheduled surgery (for the 2nd time…). Though we both tested negative for Covid throughout our illnesses, this was worse than a earlier in the year when we actually had gotten Covid! We laid low on the boat for the week.

We had been talking with Safe Harbor Zahnisers in Solomons, MD, for the last month, getting on their schedule to replace our two injection pumps as soon as we got back. So we headed down there on Thursday, the day they wanted us to arrive.

Sunrise cruise

Thus began a 5-week debacle of Hinkley levels of epic failure, though at least didn’t end with as ridiculous of a bill. The story’s not actually really worth telling, aside from the incredibly usual bits for shitty service departments. Guaranteed they’d have someone working on us full time (they didn’t), poor project management causing delays in needing things worked on by subcontractors, failing to track shipments ruining timelines, ordering wrong parts, breaking parts while installing and blaming it on us, taking apart way too much of an engine and charging us for labor to put it all back together, and culminating in a stuck valve requiring us to rebuild an engine that sure wasn’t stuck when we arrived. What was supposed to be a week and a half job to check and rebuild injectors and replace the two injection pumps turned into just shy of a 13k$ bill, rebuilt injectors, non-replaced injection pumps, and an engine needing a head rebuild.

So, while we were incapacitated with no engines for 4 weeks, and only 1 engine for 2 weeks, we set about amusing ourselves in other ways. We completed several projects on our list including:

Building a pantry cabinet into the hole where one of our fridges used to be (a project Hinkley failed to even start…)

Finding and fixing the last known leak in the boat – right over the helm, which took all of half an hour with a hose to narrow down, another thing Hinckley couldn’t figure out and charged us hours of labor for. Then we reupholstered the leak-damaged wall/ceiling panels in the master bedroom window and above the helm.

Having a fun evening with Jan and Jim who drove to visit us. Incidentally, we also ate out at every single restaurant in Solomons. Luckily there are more restaurants here than there were in Deltaville. Plus, Instacart was available for grocery delivery.

Dinner with Jan and Jim

Meanwhile, the weather was starting to turn and the days were getting colder. We were lamenting our lack of progress south towards sun and Florida for the winter! My office was permanently moved to the upstairs while the downstairs of the boat remained in disarray during the weekdays.

Thanksgiving was approaching and Zahnisers wasn’t making much progress (understatement of the year). Our friend Nick had planned to join us (originally in Charleston!!) for the holiday and the week afterwards. After some last minute changes to his flight, and due to a particularly epic mistake made by Zahnisers, we ended up with a rental car on the evening that he flew in, so we picked him up from the DC airport.

I had special ordered a tiny turkey that would fit into our convection microwave oven. With Matthew’s encouragement, we decided to spatchcock it, which helped it to fit in the pan, and we ended up with a full Thanksgiving feast with all the sides roasted on the BBQ!

Despite being stuck at Zahnisers for the entire time Nick was visiting, we still had a lot of fun hanging out and playing games together. We visited the local Naval Aviation museum, where we got to look up close at several different kinds of jets and helicopters. We also set a record at a local escape room :).

As we were approaching his time to leave, we also needed to make a decision regarding completion of the repairs on our Starboard engine. After Zahnisers strapped us with a completely unreasonable bill, we decided to cut loose and head back north to Baltimore where likely David would tear down the engine himself and we’d find a local machine shop to repair the head unit. On Friday morning, since David had the day off, we left Zahnisers on one engine, and after about 5 passes attempting to turn around in windy conditions with no maneuverability, we eventually made it up the river a little to top up on diesel. It only took us 2 tries to dock on the gas dock! That’s actually good – David is incredible at being able to drive the boat while it’s incredibly handicapped. Not an easy feat with something so wide and with so much windage.

We settled in for a long cruise (10+hrs at 6 knots) to Baltimore where we had arranged to return to Anchorage marina. The amazing dockmaster here, who lives onsite, had scrounged up some of his liveaboard friends, so we were received at 8:30pm, well after dark, by 4 guys to help us with the lines.

Since it was Nick’s last night with us, we decided to go out for dinner and found a lovely fancy restaurant which had an amazing view of the Baltimore Inner Harbor.

We settled in to our new slip in Baltimore, where we will likely be for the next month as we work on getting the starboard engine back up and running and head out for some work and holiday related travel around Christmas.

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Portugal – Coimbra and Lisbon

On our way south from the Duoro Valley to Lisbon, Francisco had recommended that we stop in Coimbra to visit the University library – the Biblioteca Joanina. Coimbra University is one of the oldest educational institutions in Europe. The library tour starts out in the University Prison, which is essentially the basement (did you know that university prisons were a thing? I did not) with two cells in it, and then takes you up a floor to an area that used to be used for manuscript preservation. Here the shelves were lined with old books – I was impressed, and we weren’t even to the good part!

The main library is made up of three different rooms. It is absolutely stunning, but unfortunately photographs are completely forbidden, so these are from wikipedia. The library was specifically designed as a vault to protect the books inside, including shelving made with oak, whose smell repels paper-eating bugs, and a resident bat colony who spend each night also eating these bugs. The amazing reading tables are covered with leather cloths each night in order to protect them from the guano!

After the library, in the same building complex we visited also the chapel which had some lovely azulejos (blue tiles) and then the Coimbra Palace which is where doctoral thesis defenses still take place.

We arrived in Lisbon in the late afternoon and decided to have a relatively low-key evening. I had to log on to work for a couple of hours to attend and present at a board meeting for my company and we ordered delivery dinner to the hotel since it was pouring with rain.

On Friday morning, I had booked a walking tour of Lisbon to give us a chance to hear a little of the city’s history and to help us figure out what to do with the rest of our time here. We saw some great viewpoints of the city, learned about the 1755 earthquake that leveled most of the city and about several of the country’s kings, including the one pictured in the statue below who abandoned the city after the earthquake and is now commemorated with a statue of him literally facing away from the city with several ‘private jokes’ included (the snakes at his feet and the people being trampled by an elephant. We also saw the changing of the guard at the National Guard museum.

Our guide had been so excellent that we decided to take his afternoon tour of the Alfama neighbourhood in the afternoon. There, we sampled Ginjinha, which is a sweet cherry liquor and most famously made in Alfama. We also saw some azulejos describing some miracles performed by the patron saint of Lisbon including telling a woman she would find love (she met and married someone after speaking with the saint) and proving a donkey was blessed by Christ (by starving it for 3 days, and then offering it sacramental wafers which it refused to eat).

For dinner, I had made reservations at Fifty Seconds, a michelin-star restaurant that turned out to be a bit of a jaunt outside of Lisbon. We did manage to take the subway and then discovered that this restaurant was at the top of a HUGE tower right on the water (the elevator ride takes 50 seconds). We had a fantastic meal.

The next morning it was a bit rainy, but we decided to head to Belem. We were originally planning to do a hop on-hop off bus tour, but decided to take public transport instead, not knowing if we’d want to spend the whole day in the rain. After some struggles with transfers and being passed by with full trams whose doors wouldn’t even open, we finally made it to Belem.

We had a delicious brunch and then headed to the maritime museum. It was HUGE!

Obviously, considering Portgual’s long history with maritime exploration :). After the museum, we headed across the street to the Padrão dos Descobrimento (monument to maritime exploration) that is right at the waterfront. We were a little perplexed at first about how to get there since there were train tracks between us and the monument and the nearest bridges looked to be 1+ miles in either direction. Eventually we discovered a pedestrian underpass that was being hidden behind a construction wall surrounding the botanical gardens on our side of the street!

While at the top of the monument, we watched a group of kids on lasers struggle to return to the marina as the wind picked up – one of which was towed back because they lost their mast!

After visiting the monument, we decided to head to the famous pastry shop for a treat. Pasteis de Belem is the original maker of the custard tarts that can be found everywhere around Lisbon. They had just made a batch when we arrived, so they were warm and absolutely delicious!

After more public transportation adventures where we again encountered several trams that did not stop due to being full, we eventually made it back to Lisbon. Rather than heading back to our hotel, we decided to wander around a bit and stoped at a couple of wine shops for some pre-dinner drinks. For dinner, we had reservations at A Severa which a blogger had told me was good for listening to Fado, but turned out to be extremely touristy. Next time, we will heed the advice of our tour guide and go to one of the places on his list in Alfama for Fado (we already had these reservations by the time we met him). Regardless, we had a delicious dinner for our last meal in Portugal.

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Portugal – Douro Valley

Incredible views everywhere in the Duoro Valley

For our two days in the Douro Valley, I had organized a private wine tasting tour for the first day and a group tour for the second day – both of which would pick us up from our hotel which was located in Regua – one of the larger cities in the valley.

The Douro Valley is absolutely stunning and we were amazingly lucky to have a beautiful sunny and warm day for our first day out. With Francisco, our wonderful guide, we headed away from the city and into the heart of the valley for 45 minutes of incredible views as we followed the river. Almost every surface in the valley is terraced – there are hand-made terraces from the Roman times (i.e. 2300-1900 years ago), through to modern day terraces that are made by machines. We learned that the harvest in this area is still entirely manual, even today, due to the fact that the terraces with the vines are too small for any machinery to do any of the work.

In order to be officially classified as a Port, the grapes must be grown in this region only, the wine must also be made here in the valley, and then it must be aged/stored in Porto/Gaia. Though the region is famous for Port (thanks England!), there are over 250 different kinds of grapes grown here, and lots of “dry table wines” (their way of saying normal wine that is not sweet/fortified Port), both whites and reds are made here too.

Everything in the region seems to be divided into different estates or “Quintas” some of which produce wine under their own label, but more and more of these Quintas are being purchased by a parent brand (often foreign). The first that we visited was Quinta da Gricha, which is owned by a British family that has been making wine in the region for hundreds of years. Their label was “Churchills”. We were given a tour of the estate where we saw the granite Lagare where they still manually smash the wine (with feet). They had only just finished this process when we visited, so they were still stained purple from the grapes!

Lagare where grapes are foot stomped

After the tour, we tasted their wines (table wines and ports) on a porch overlooking their estate.

Next we traveled to Quinta da Ventozelo where we had a tasting menu lunch of local dishes on another porch overlooking their estate. It was a day filled with amazing views. We learned that the area we were touring has been designated as protected heritage by UNESCO, which means that many of these estates are not able to build mega-hotels for tourism. They are only allowed to renovate buildings that already exist on the estate in the same volume as those buildings existed before. Many estates are building small guest-houses and restaurants to accommodate visitors. In fact, we learned that wine tasting is not actually common in the region until only recently. Most places are only open to private or semi-private bookings and many are on winding roads that are not navigable by larger vehicles!

For the afternoon, we first went to Quinta dos Frades, which was originally established by monks who were the first makers of wine from the estate. On their property, they actually have a marker that officially denotes them as one of the best wine estates in the region in terms of the quality of their wine. On the half of the estate where their reserve wine comes from, some of the vines were over 150 years old.

At the last winery, Quinta do Panascal, we drank a flight of ports to close out the day. We also learned that our group tour booked for the next day was being cancelled, but luckily our amazing guide was able to work out his schedule to return the following day for another private tour.

The next morning, the weather was not as good, but we met up with Francisco for another day of sampling amazing wines. We started out with Quinta d0s Murcas. They are one of the few wineries in the region to obtain an official organic certification, and also foot stomp all their wine. They are also unique in that their various wines are all localized from particular areas of their estate, each having their own amounts of sun exposure and altitude depending on the location within the estate. This made for a really interesting tasting flight.

Next up, we stopped for lunch in the town of Pinhao at a restaurant attached to a winery where we had wine parings along with all of our courses.

After lunch, we stopped at a Quinta whose winemaker was a good friend of Francisco. She had only just become their wine maker last year, so the wines that we sampled were actually from the previous wine maker, and due to being under new ownership, they were changing all their methods – so clearly we’ll have to go back in a few years to try some of her wines!

By the afternoon, the weather had cleared up and our last stop was Quinta da Gaviosa, one of the estates under the wine brand Alves de Sousa.

The Douro Valley was unbelievably beautiful, and everyone we met with was extremely friendly. The wines were so unbelievably affordable that we ended up with 3 cases of wine that we somehow have to get back to the United States!

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Portugal – Porto

Porto and Gaia from the Luis I Bridge

On our last night in Prague, I was on work calls and wrapping up emails until close to midnight, and David was working until about 1:30am. Our alarms were set for 3:30am for our flight to Porto. We both passed out on the airplanes and arrived in Porto around noon.

I had booked a walking tour of the city for 3pm, so with some time to kill after checking in to our hotel (which actually turned out to be an apartment), we ate some lunch – a Francesinha, which is a huge sandwich with 3 kinds of Portuguese meat, all covered in a special sauce. Delicious! After lunch, we wandered past a lovely view point of the Duoro River and then went into the Church Venerável Ordem Terceira de São Francisco. They had a museum, (creepy) catacombs, a private church (a smaller one used by wealthy families and the main cathedral, which was spectacularly filled with gold-covered wooden carvings.

On our walking tour, we passed by most of the main tourist spots in the city, and Diana, our tour guide provided lots of detail regarding the historical and social context. Not only was this our first time being in Portugal, but David and I both realized how little we knew of Portuguese history. A fair amount of our ignorance, we think, is due to the fact that Portugal was essentially closed off from the world during its years under the dictator Salazar. Diana pointed out the statue of Justice outside the court house. Unlike her common portrayal, she is not blindfolded and is not actively holding out her scales and sword.

Porto Justice

Our tour ended at a cathedral, so David and I decided to visit inside where there were some excellent examples of the azulejos (blue tiles common to Portugal). We learned on the tour that these tiles actually came from the time when Muslims occupied the region and were used for insulation and also (religious) education for the illiterate general populace.

We were both pretty tired after 3 hours of walking around the city, so we stopped for an early dinner on the way back to our hotel. David immediately fell asleep and slept for about 16 hours, and I stayed awake for a couple hours reading before falling asleep myself.

After a lazy morning and a delicious tapas lunch, where we sampled the local cocktail, a Porto Tonico (white or rose port wine and tonic), we headed towards the Duoro River, through the Ribera neighbourhood, and over the Louis I bridge to Gaia where there are lots of local port wineries.

We did cellar tours through both Calem and Burmester where we learned about the history, making, and storing of port wine.

In the middle of the day, I decided that I wanted to try to see some Fado for the evening, which is a traditional type of Portuguese music where a Fadista (singer) is accompanied by someone playing a special Portuguese 12-string guitar. We found a Fado restaurant in the Gaia neighborhood that had space. With a few hours left in the day before our reservations, we decided to take a boat tour down the river, to see the famous 6 bridges of Porto. Apparently we can’t be off a boat for that long!

After the boat tour, we started walking towards the restaurant and came across this amazing store called “The Fantastic World of Portuguese Can” which turned out to be a store selling a huge variety of canned goods – primarily sardines, which seems to be a local favorite food.

We also stumbled into another port winery and did another tasting just before they were closing. We finally made it to the restaurant which had a lovely small and intimate setting where we were serenaded by two fadistas and two fantastic guitarists.

Fado in Gaia

The next morning, we had another slow start and decided to walk to a few landmarks that we had not visited on our tour, including the Capela das Almas – another church with blue tiles. Unfortunately, the monastery just across the Louis bridge was not open for visitors, but it did provide an amazing view back over the river to Porto.

After a long walk, we picked up our rental car and headed east out of town for a couple of days in the Duoro Valley.

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Prague with Friends

Sunset on the Charles Bridge Tower

After a restful though busy 3 weeks in Baltimore, we were headed to Europe for a 2 week visit – the first week in Prague for David’s work and the second for a real vacation in Portugal.

As usual, I would be tagging along with David on his work trip and working myself on East Coast hours. What made this trip a little different was that our very good friends Tami and Jeff would also be visiting the city (the first time for them!) for Jeff’s work!

David and I arrived on Saturday morning and would be unable to check in to our hotel room until the afternoon. We met up with Tami and Jeff in the lobby and headed out to see some of the city! We wandered up to the National Museum, which I had not visited before.

We accidentally entered the exhibit at the end, so we ended up walking backwards in time from the twentieth century backwards to the medieval period. After walking around the museum, David wanted to head to the hotel to rest for a bit while Tami, Jeff, and I went to visit the Klementinum so that Tami could see the old Baroque library. However, we arrived just after a tour had started and didn’t feel like waiting, so we instead decided to climb the Charles Bridge Tower for a good view of the city.

After that we returned to the hotel to rest for a bit before going out for a nice dinner together.

The next day, we met up for breakfast with David’s colleague Zaq and their partner Charlie who had arrived late on Saturday evening. I had booked us for a free walking tour of Prague in the morning that would take us around the main tourist areas of Old Town and the Jewish Quarter. I had taken this tour on our previous trip, but with a different guide so I learned some new facts on this tour as well!

After lunch, we headed up to the Prague Castle complex to explore. We went into St Vitus’s Cathedral to admire the stained glass windows. We visited at a perfect time as the sun was pointing directly at one side and the cathedral walls were painted with beautiful splashes of light.

We also walked through the Royal Gardens to see the tree collection and found a peacock!

On Monday, back in the US it was Columbus/Indigenous People’s Day, so I had the day off. While our spouses all went to work, Tami, Charlie, and I got together for another tourism day. We met at the Klementinum on time for the tour this time and got to see the beautiful Baroque Library and climb the Astronomical Tower.

We at some lunch and then walked over the Charles Bridge and up the hill to the Strahov Monastery/Brewery. At the Monastery, we visited another old library that I didn’t even realize was there! There was also a huge display of illuminated manuscripts, so of course I was in heaven. After visiting the library, we went to the taproom to sample the beer (they had sour ale!) and we sat outside in the sunshine.

As we walked back to the hotel to rest, we took a short detour to the Lennon Wall where the graffiti that David and I added 8+ years ago was long covered up!

In the evening, we met up with Zaq (David and Jeff were both still working) and enjoyed a lovely classical music concert in the Church of St. Salvator (one of the Klementinum cathedrals). The acoustics in churches are amazing – a six piece string ensemble sounds like a much larger orchestra!

The next day my work would start at 3pm, but Tami, Charlie, and I met up again for the morning. We visited the Illusion Art Gallery where we had fun playing with perspective.

We then walked to the Municipal Library where we saw the book well sculpture, which is actually also an illusion artwork!

We had crammed in so many things for these first days, that the rest of the week, I pretty much took it easy in the mornings before working for the afternoon and evenings. David had a lot going on and was working 14 hour days while we were here, so he was very much looking forward to a well-deserved week off as we headed to Portugal!

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Seattle and Baltimore

Our visit to Seattle was only a few days, just for a work event for David, so we didn’t have much chance to see people while we were there. Coincidentally Mum and Dad were in the city living on their new boat on Lake Union while it was being shown in the Seattle Boat Show. Since I work on east coast time while we’re in Seattle, I was able to take one afternoon to visit with them and finally was able to see English Rose!

David and I had decided not to extend our visit to Seattle into the weekend because the weather was looking good for the weekend and we thought that there would be a chance to be able to do the New Jersey coast and Delaware River portion of the cruise south – the only required exposed open-ocean section, which really requires a 2-day weather window (when we are going slow to conserve diesel!). We took a red-eye out of Seattle late on Friday evening and landed back in New Jersey early Saturday morning. We dinghied back to the boat and essentially immediately cast off from the mooring.

The weather was predicted to turn later on Sunday, so we were glad for the plans we had made. The weather remained good on Saturday and our cruise down the New Jersey coast was uneventful, which is exactly how you want it to be!

We made good time, and with weather predicted to turn south later in the day (and into Sunday), we decided to keep going as far up the Delaware as possible rather than stop in Cape May for the night. We pulled into our anchorage just after sunset, and completed setting the anchor minutes before last light. After a quick dinner, we went straight to bed, completely exhausted!

Having gotten so far up the Delaware the night before, we were able to get a bit of a later start on Sunday and completed our cruise up the Delaware and through the C&D canal, arriving at Baltimore just before dinner time. We arrived on fumes, both tanks showing 0% as we pulled into the fuel dock. Our injection pump issues are getting worse, and so even our hull speed fuel usage was significantly higher than it should have been, and all of our usual fuel math with safe margin is no longer applicable. We’re hoping to get this repaired while we’re in the Baltimore area for a while.

We had made arrangements to stay at Baltimore for the next several weeks – to complete some boat projects, hang out with a bunch of other Endeavour owners who also happen to be here as well, and have a safe place to leave Highwind as we do some additional work travel. It has been lovely to be in one place – where I can do in-person grocery shopping and we can actually get to know the area! I even found a local pole studio and have been able to take several classes there!

One of the major projects that we have done while here is to replace the gas stove with an induction stove. I love cooking on gas, but it is safer not to have propane running through the interior of the boat and with the power system on the boat, I do not have to generate just to use the electric stove. It has been quite an adventure replacing my pots and pans with an induction-compatible set that doesn’t buzz. I also gave David a haircut – although I realized that he could just as easily have found a professional on land!

There are quite a few power cats at the marina, and a large number of them are Endeavours. We organized a potluck one evening with everyone who was in town and then listened to the live music that they have on the dock here every Saturday night.

On the weekend, we decided to visit the old ships museum with Russ and Jax, where we were able to tour a Coast Guard vessel (the last floating ship to have survived the attack on Pearl Harbor), a submarine, and a tall ship. Each ship was almost fully open and the exhibits within were really well done.

We visited a local brewery, Ministry of Brewing, with Russ and Jax that is in a renovated church.

Of course we also checked out a local escape room with Russ and Jax and escaped with plenty of time to spare!

The weather here has been progressively getting worse and colder, and we’ve had several days of rain, which are the remnants of Hurricane Ian passing over us. We’ve been watching news of the devastation in Florida – several marinas that were destroyed were ones we visited while we cruised down the west coast of Florida completing our loop.

Jan and Jim joined us for a Sunday afternoon, where we ate lunch at what accidentally turned out to be a sports bar in the middle of a Baltimore Ravens game! Everyone here is serious about their football :). We then enjoyed an afternoon catching up on the boat, drinking hot drinks and avoiding the cold weather!

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New York with My Brother

Highwind and the Skyline

Ever since we moved onto the boat, Matthew and I had been talking about how cool it would be for him to be able to visit New York with us. Then Covid and other life-busyness happened, but this year we managed to make it work. It was great exploring Long Island Sound with Matthew, but the original purpose of his visit was to be able to have a weekend together in NYC. I decided to take Friday off so that we could hang out together.

The past couple of times we’ve driven by NYC, I’ve been on work calls and essentially missed this cruise, which is one of my favourites! It’s always amazing to be cruising in your home down past all the familiar landmarks. It was particularly special to be able to share this with Matthew!

We had woken up early to make this cruise for two reasons – one being the tide at Hell’s Gate – a narrow passage near the north of the East River, and two to go a little past the Brooklyn marina in order to be able to get “the shot” of the statue of liberty with Matthew. David was working, so we needed to be able to do this before his first meeting started.

After snapping this photo, we turned around and headed straight to the marina where we were delayed a few minutes by another boat exiting, but managed to pull into our slip with about 1 minute before David’s first call began. Matthew and I got us settled into the marina with power etc. and then he and I set off to find us some lunch. We decided to walk from the marina over the Brooklyn Bridge – very touristy!

We grabbed some pizza after that and returned to the boat to feed David. For Dinner, Matthew wanted to experience NYC Sushi, so we were able to make reservations at Ondo Omikase. OpenTable said it was BYOB, which we thought was a little weird, but I packed a bottle of sake and a really nice rose (Mum and Dad – it was Azur) in my backpack and we headed out for the evening.

It turned out that they had been open for only a month and didn’t yet have their liquor license! Because we were there a little later in the evening, after David had finished his work calls, we essentially got our own private chef with whom we chatted while he made us AMAZING sushi.

On Saturday afternoon, we had booked an escape room. The room was really well done, and we escaped with only about 4 minutes left on hard mode. It turned out that our game master was relatively new and we were his first group to have escaped that room!

We escaped!

For dinner, we had reservations at Atera, a 2-michelin star restaurant that is one of David and my favourites. We were excited to share the experience with Matthew. The meal did not disappoint and we enjoyed a lovely evening together.

On Sunday, Matthew and I had tickets to go and see a matinee show. We had made reservations for lunch at Momofuku Noodle Bar for lunch before the show. David was going to come with us, but the weather was not great, and since he wasn’t joining us for the show afterwards he decided to stay on the boat (more time playing video games!).

Lunch was across the street from Central Park, so we decided to do a quick walk through the park before heading to the theatre.

Central Park in a little rain

The past couple of years I have been going through a mourning period after deciding to “break up with” Harry Potter due to JK Rowling’s views on the definition of “women”. Since the Harry Potter play was Matthew’s particular request for what show to see, I decided to make this one exception. David and I had gone to see it in London when it opened when it was a 2-night event. The play is now condensed into one night. Many of the amazing stage magical elements were still in the show, though the plot now moves incredibly quickly. I was incredibly conflicted during the experience, which is such a shame that something that used to bring me such joy and wonder has been tainted by something so harmful. However, I still enjoyed the time hanging out with my brother.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

After the show, David joined us in Manhattan and we grabbed a casual bite for dinner after a weekend filled with excessive food experiences! After dinner, we wanted to have a cocktail, so we found a bar nearby, which turned out to be attached to a swanky movie theatre, and also had a live 5-piece jazz band. We then went back to the escape room place to do their other two rooms! Overall it was a fabulous weekend in the city with Matthew.

On Monday morning, we said goodbye to Matthew, who was headed into Manhattan to spend the morning at Accenture’s office before catching his flight home. David and I were headed to New Jersey, where we would be leaving the boat on a mooring in Sandy Hook as we flew to Seattle in the evening for a work trip for David.

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Newport to New York with Matthew

We arrived in Newport on Friday morning of Labor Day weekend, with plans for my brother Matthew to meet us Saturday evening and stay for a week. As per Matthew’s usual curse, a few days earlier, our convection microwave/oven had decided to spontaneously perish, and we were having a hell of a time finding a replacement less than 2 weeks away. David eventually managed to find an appliance store a few towns over with one in their warehouse that they could get in stock on Friday, so the first stop after arriving was taking an Uber out to pick up the new microwave, since David had the day off work.

David has been wanting to re-organize the back lazarette storage for a while, so on Saturday morning we took a trip to Home Depot to pick up some new storage crates. As with any organization project, everything is always much messier before it is clean again!

After some flight delays and last minute plane changes, Matthew finally arrived around midnight. The next day, I cooked a full English breakfast on the boat, and then we set off to do the mansion cliff walk. When David and I were here last time, we just walked along the cliffs, but didn’t go into any of the open-to-the-public mansions. This time, we decided to visit the Breakers, which is supposed to be the grandest of all of them. This was the summer “cottage” for the Rockefeller family. I was expecting it to be extremely garish in it’s luxuriousness, but it was actually incredibly tastefully beautiful. Each room’s theme was carefully thought out and exquisitely executed.

When we returned to the boat, our original plan was to visit a brewery before our dinner reservations, but it turned out we didn’t really have enough time, so we decided to open a bottle of champagne on the boat instead. David did take a photo of this, but it is so bad that I cannot publish it!

With it being Sunday night of Labor Day weekend, I had had a hard time finding any dinner reservations for a party of 3. We ended up with reservations at the Dining Room in the Vanderbilt. We had a fabulous table in the corner and we had an absolutely fantastic meal there.

The next morning, we left Newport and headed for Block Island where we would be meeting up with John and Joan on their new boat Tryst (their first ever power boat!). Block Island is a very popular Labor Day spot, but most people leave the island on Monday, and as we were approaching the island, people were indeed leaving in droves. As a result, the harbor was relatively empty when we arrived and we had no problem finding a mooring. However, as soon as we were set up, we discovered from the harbormaster that we were actually on one that was too small for our boat and we were instructed to move. Matthew hopped on the dinghy while we located the right mooring!

Matthew on the dinghy

We headed to land for lunch at “The Oar” with John and Joan, after which we walked around to the main town where Joan had recommended that we get a taxi to give us a tour of the island. Near the ferry terminal we found a taxi driver who agreed to take us around. We learned a lot about the island, including how they had moved the lighthouse (necessary due to cliff erosion). We were able to get out at the cliffs and take in the amazing view.

The taxi driver dropped us off at the dinghy dock and we did a quick stop to take a tour of Tryst before heading back to Highwind. For the evening, David had found a ghost tour of the island called “Spirits with Spirits” that was essentially a pub crawl with ghost stories. John and Joan joined us, so we went for an early dinner first, and then did the tour, which was fun!

We had only planned to stay at Block Island for the one day as we wanted to get to New York for the following weekend and it looked like there was some bad weather coming in, so on Tuesday morning, we left early and did a long ride to Port Jefferson. We had a bit of a bumpy ride leaving Block Island, and apparently went through an incredibly large standing wave in The Gut where we nose dived a rush of water over the bow. I missed all this as I was downstairs on a call (rolling all over the place in my office chair!). Once we turned the corner, the water had some protection from the wind by the tip of the island and the remainder of our ride was calm. However, the weather was pretty gloomy and it rained all evening, so we stayed on the boat for the night.

The next day, the weather cleared a bit, so after I finished working, Matthew and I headed into town and hung out at a brewery while we waited for David to finish his work day. We then met up with Russ and Jax for an amazing Indian dinner at a local restaurant.

The next day we cruised to Port Washington where we again did not get off the boat due to rain and bad weather, though Jax sent me a lovely picture of Highwind at sunset.

Luckily good weather was forecasted for the weekend and I had planned to take Friday off so that I could spend a long weekend in the city with Matthew, so on Friday morning, we left Port Washington and headed towards New York!

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New England and Cleveland

Our next fixed destination was Boston for the end of the week, where we’d be flying out once again for another wedding. We had planned to take most of the week to get there, but decided instead to make the trip in only two hops, which put us in Boston a few days early. We were staying on a mooring with a marina in a different part of Boston, which was actually much more convenient for walking into town. Russ and Jax also happened to be in town, so we met up with them at a brewery and of course, did an escape room.

We also managed, after a couple of aborted attempts due to long lines, to visit Mike’s Pastry for some of their famed cannolis. We made sure to send a photo to Anna and Aaron, who recommended this place to us 2 years ago when we were in Boston the first time, just to make them jealous! 🙂

Our flight out to Cleveland for the wedding was uneventful and we arrived on Friday morning. I holed up in our bedroom in the Airbnb for the work day, while David drove out with some of his friends to the wedding site to help construct a giant trebuchet. We were invited to a Friday night wedding event at a local bar that had bocce lanes. The bride was another of David’s Reed friends, so I had already met a few of the guests and we had a good evening catching up.

The next day, I headed over to the wedding site early with David. He and the boys would be completing the trebuchet construction while I assisted with with other setup. The wedding site was on the Groom’s family farm located in the heart of Amish country outside of the city. David managed to fly his drone into a tree, wrecking it, trying to take some video, so that will be out of commission for a while.

While helping to arrange the flowers (a DIY project), one of the neighbors, a lovely Amish girl offered to help. As it turned out, she was a professional florist! She instructed us as best she could, but as I pointed out to some friends later, if you looked closely you could tell which were the bouquets I had done, and which were the ones she had done!!

The ceremony was very simple (they’d actually already gotten married during Covid after postponing the event several times over the past 2 years!) and the evening was extremely fun. The trebuchet successfully launched many watermelons.

We returned to the boat early on Sunday morning and immediately headed out of Boston, where we would be working our way towards Newport to meet Matthew for the next weekend. We spent most of our week on anchor, spending low key nights on the boat after working. Towards the end of the week, we arrived in Battleship Cove, Fall River, MA, along with Russ and Jax. This bay is aptly named as it is the resting place of several battleships and a submarine – all now museums. We tied up to a mooring about 100ft from these impressive ships – so cool!

The museum opened early enough that David and I were able to visit for an hour or so before heading back to the boat for the rest of the work day. We were there so early in fact that they hadn’t yet turned the lights on, so we toured the ship using our phone flashlights while we waited for the power to turn on. Spooky! Russ and Jax stayed on land to run some errands in town and then we met up with them later in the evening for dinner on land. This was a great stop before we headed to Newport for Labor Day weekend.

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48V Lithium Power System, Updated

General overview of the power system, including the large loads

After over a year with the power system, and several tweaks, I’m at the point that I’m very happy with where things have landed, and figured it was time for an update. I also convinced a buddy boat of ours, Inquest, to do the same system, and we’ve been iterating with each other for the last year, which continues to be helpful. The original post from last year has more details on some of the history on why I went in this direction, if you’re interested, but this post will be self-contained about the current system if you just want to know where we landed and the benefits.

Why 48V?

Let’s get the basic question out of the way — why the heck did I go with 48V? Most boats are 12V, with some natively 24V, but no one is doing 48V.

So, I don’t just hate myself. I mean, obviously there’s a little of that, but there are some tremendous advantages. If you look at off-grid systems for homes, they’re all 48V, and my target was a lot closer to an off-grid home than a traditional “boat”. And a lot of that is because converting back and forth between 48VDC and 120VAC is more efficient than to/from 12VDC. Similarly, for MPPT conversion off solar, downconverting to 48V is more efficient than all the way down to 12V. But even moreso, at house-level loads (i.e. regularly dipping into multiple kilowatts), the sizes of cables that you need to run to safely transfer power to/from 12V batteries is some combination of absurd, heavy, and somewhat dangerous.

Running 5kVA inverters with 12V batteries, we would need to run four 4/0 cables each for the positive and negative terminals (and, realistically, to be safe, another set of four for the ground), to each inverter — they need around 1000 amps! With 48V batteries, we only need to run one each. Simpler, cheaper, far less inflexible cable to run around the boat, and generates much less heat at the terminals from 1/4 the amp load. I only have to run 4AWG wires from each battery to a common terminal, because 100 amps is more than they will ever see.

This is a picture from the Slowboat article from a couple years ago, showing high temperatures from a very-carefully-engineered 12V all-inverter system under load.

Finally, because of the low amp loads, battery chargers are simpler, cheaper, and more efficient. The same Quattro in 48V that charges at 70A will only do 120A at 24V or 200A at 12V (28% less power). Where I would need multiple MPPT chargers for my solar bank, I can instead use a single not-horribly-expensive one. Basically, everything in the 48V world is smaller, lighter, cheaper, and more efficient.

The downside to 48V, of course, is that you now need some way to feed your native 12V loads, but that turns out to not be too bad of a problem to solve, as I’ll discuss later. That said, many devices are coming natively in 48V these days — we have a native 48V windlass that plugs right into the house bank, POE networking gear uses 48V, there’s a new generation of thrusters out that use 48V, and even watermakers are starting to come out in 48V. So it’s becoming more standard in the marine world, but I would say it’s still in the “bleeding edge” territory for most things.

Batteries

The core of the system is a 600Ah 48V house bank, made of six 100Ah BestGo packs in parallel. I picked these packs because they, at least at the time, were the best value in US-company-warranty-backed Lithium packs available (the 6 batteries were around 11k$ shipped to my door). They’re also IP66-rated, which, on a boat, in a cabinet right under the A/C drip tray, next to a washer/dryer unit, and with the A/C water lines running literally right over them, seemed like a good idea. Lastly, Will Prowse did a teardown on them and found the build quality to be unmatched in their price range. They’ve been working flawlessly for me, with very little temperature buildup even under heavy charging and discharging.

The batteries form the core power storage for the system, which is then mostly transformed to the other working voltages around the boat (12V and 120/240VAC), though more and more native 48V equipment is coming available. I’ve converted to a larger 48V windlass which pulls directly off the batteries and I’m running Starlink directly off POE from the batteries.

You can read about lithium batteries and what a different world they are than any sort of lead-based batteries, but you really have to live with them daily to appreciate how amazing they are. There’s no memory, so you don’t have to worry about equalizing or seeing your capacity dwindle every day since you last equalized. You can happily draw them down to 20% or lower and still get thousands of charge cycles out of them. You can pull huge loads off them and the voltage sags by a couple percent, not 10-20%. You just treat them like a big dumb bucket of power — you charge up by filling the bucket, you use it by taking power out of the bucket — and there’s nothing else to think about. It’s just that easy. We will never go back to lead after living with lithium for a year.

Inverters

One of the goals of my system was to run 100% of AC loads through the inverters, and hence have no difference in anything on the boat between running off batteries and off shore power or the generator. I wanted to build the system to just leave the inverters on 100% of the time and not have to care. Leave the water heater on full time, it’ll be fine, and you can shower whenever you want and not have to think about it, basically like you’re living in a house.

And it’s worked — every night, Hannah and I charge our phones off outlets with integrated USB ports that are powered off the inverter, because it’s easy and the tiny efficiency gains by going directly to DC don’t matter to us anymore.

It looks like a Victron ad in here

I went with two of the Victron Quattro 48/5000/70 units. The Quattros have several neat features for us:

  • Auto switching between shore power and a generator, with different input power limits for each.
  • Supports constant draws of 4kw each, and burst up to 8kw for a brief period of time, like for A/C compressor startup.
  • Charges at up to 70A each (though with the 4kw limit, this tends to actually be more like 60A, in our experience).
  • PowerAssist — if you’re on shore power/generator, and you need to pull more power than the input power gives you, it will simply augment the extra load from the batteries. When we’ve been stuck in situations with only a single 15A 120V outlet available on a long extension cord, PowerAssist has been awesome — run the A/C for a while, batteries slowly drop, turn it off, batteries charge back up.
  • Handles split phase power, even when we’re plugged into single phase power — one inverter charges and the other inverts, but the boat still has 240VAC available.

I was thinking there would be a lot of nuance to getting this system to work correctly in a wide variety of circumstances, but there was actually only one semi-hidden thing I had to figure out. You really need to fire up their ancient Windows-based administration software and specifically change the two inverters to disable “Switch as Group” — this means that, if one leg has power and the other doesn’t, or if the second leg isn’t actually split phase (i.e. run in parallel with the first leg due to lazy marina electricians), the first inverter will still switch to using that external power, but the second one will stay as an inverter, providing that second leg of phased power for the boat. We have used this feature dozens of times at this point in the last year and a half, and it really is what makes the system set-it-and-forget-it under virtually all possible shore power electrical wackiness.

12V System

This area has undergone the most iterations since getting this boat. My original system was basically using the Port start battery as a “12V house”, and using DC-DC converters to keep it charged/fed, with the converters feeding all but burst-overloads (i.e. dinghy lift, windlass, etc.) However, this system had two primary categories of downsides:

  1. Your “house” is your start battery — if something goes wrong with the dc-dc converter, you’re rapidly going to nuke your start battery. There was an ACR that would keep the other start battery isolated, but still, one of your motors would be dead for a while until you got enough stuff safely running to nurse it back to life.
  2. When you crank the motors or otherwise pull high current (windlass, etc.), the lights in the boat dim, some sensitive devices reset, etc. The DC-DC converters don’t keep up with engine cranking, so the voltage sags down to ~11V, which isn’t enough for many devices. I kept having to put small buck-boost converters on sensitive electronics like the router and the N2k network to keep them from dropping out every time I fired up in the morning.

I ended up wanting to move to a completely isolated 12V house setup that had nothing to do with the start batteries, and, ideally, was not, itself, battery-backed at all. I spent too much money on a 3000W 48->12V converter from Zahn, but after a couple weeks of being frustrated at how it did not respond well to transients (flushing a toilet made all the lights in the boat dim), we dinghied back to the boat one afternoon to find the entire 12V system dead with the Zahn board having completely died.

Final system setup of the Orion-Trs in parallel

I returned the Zahn and decided to go with the tried-and-true-and-cheap Orion-Tr converters, and am now using three in parallel. That gives 90A of continuous and up to 120A of burst capacity, which is more than if we had every house-DC device on the boat turned on at the same time, and a bunch of redundancy (2 of them can die and we can still survive on a single 30A Orion-Tr). I have a backup switch to link the 12V house back to the port start battery if I need to, for some reason, which is also very helpful — if something goes wrong in either direction, I have another 12V system waiting. It also means I can do maintenance on aspects of the power system without actually having to turn the lights off, which has come in handy a few times.

Charging from the Alternators

One of the weak points of the original power system was charging the 48V house system off the alternators. My engines don’t have any sort of kit available to mount a second 48V alternator on them, and there’s not really a good place for one to hack one in, so I’ve given up on that route and am sticking with 12V alternators so that the motor systems are still self-contained for safety/redundancy.

So, with 12V being where I was stuck, the factory “80A” (I never saw them able to put anywhere near that amount of current) alternators weren’t gonna cut it. For the port side, I ended upgrading to a Balmar 94LY 210A alternator, which required a little custom hacking on the alternator bracket to make it fit, but ended up nestling in there just fine with the factory belts.

So, now I have the ability to generate something north of 200A while under way. But how can I utilize that when it’s at 12V and my batteries are at 48V, and how can I make sure it only tries to pull that charging current when there’s actually alternators providing that current, and not just drain the battery down?

I originally got in on an early alpha test of the upcoming WakeSpeed WS3000 bidirectional DC-DC converter, which was something that you would plug between your 12V start battery and your 48V house battery. When the 12V system was charging, it would pull current from the low side and send it to the high side to charge the house batteries. Then, when the motors were off, it would send power from the 48V high side to the low side to trickle charge any of your 12V loads (or, in my original case, “my entire 12V house load”).

To control the alternator itself, I first tried using a WakeSpeed WS100, a simple 3-stage charger. However, we quickly found that, the way the WS3000 was working, it was basically fighting with the charging algorithm of the WS100 and confusing the hell out of it, since it wasn’t responding like a battery would. I ended up converting to using a stupid-simple automotive adjustable-fixed-voltage regulator, which worked great for a while and I just locked to outputting 14.5V. After several months, though, that unit just magically stopped working and I switched to a Balmar BRS-2T, which is just a beefier adjustable-fixed-voltage regulator, and that’s been solid ever since.

Unfortunately, after working extensively with Wakespeed for around 9 months to tweak the WS3000, we both came to the conclusion that the way they were approaching the charging algorithm needed some fundamental reworking. They were more focused on other product areas, as a tiny company, so they had to put the project on ice for a while and come back to it at some point, but it had left me without a particularly usable solution here.

Primordial BoatKit — now controlling the Calex board full time

I ended up buying a Calex 3000W Bidirectional DC-DC converter board as a bit of a hail Mary and built some software to control it with a Raspberry Pi. I was thinking that a basic PID control loop would work really well to have the unit basically self-report how much current you could pull off it — if voltage dropped below X, pull less current; if voltage goes above X, pull more current; and just keep continuously tuning. Turns out, this idea actually worked unbelievably well. The very first outing, I watched the telemetry with joy as we started out idling and watched the converter fill in the current that the diesel preheaters were using. Then as we added RPMs, the motors heated up, and the preheaters turned off, it switched to charging the high side and the current quickly jumped up and found its happy place all on its own, every time we changed RPMs.

One of the early BoatKit test runs, slowing down into a bay and dropping anchor

At this point, when at hull speed, I can safely pull ~180-190A from the 12V side to charge the high side at around 45A, for hours on end. When we’re on plane at higher RPMs, I easily cap out the 3000W converter around 225A of low side draw. It’s fully automatic, and just works, running in the background, doing its thing.

It’s really a game-changer for us — when we’re moving every day, we can usually get pretty close to fully charged with every trip, combined with solar. We’ve put very few hours on the generator since getting this system tuned around late June, despite spending almost two full months without plugging into shore power in Maine this summer. Inquest also installed this same system and has been beta-testing the BoatKit setup and has ended up in the same place — very little generator running required anymore.

Solar

The present-day setup

The boat originally came with four older rigid solar panels that were nominally rated at around 200W each. That just wasn’t gonna cut it — we go through a lot of power. Also, the rigid solar panels are heavy.

I’d had very good experience in the past with flexible solar panels and using Eternabond tape to hold them down to fiberglass — the panels on our last boat survived a (non-direct-hit) hurricane just fine, and installation becomes non-permanent and super-easy. After measuring really carefully and deciding how much to work around the radar tower and FLIR on the front, I settled on putting 15 of the SunPower 170W flexible panels up top, for a nominal power capacity of 2550W. To help with shading issues, I connected them up in five parallel groups of three panels. This put the panel voltage at around 90V, with a peak current of around 28A. Better still, the total weight of the 15 flexible panels, including installation tape, is still less than the 4 rigid panels they replaced.

Getting the wiring routed semi-cleanly was not a fun endeavor, but in the end it looks pretty decent, and no one can see it from below anyway! It’s all running through a single Victron 150/70A MPPT charge controller, which seems to be doing a great job, after replacing an initial buggy one with an RMA’d one that’s now fine.

A month in Maine — roughly 15kWh a day of solar on sunny days!

As you can see, solar is covering a significant portion of our usage. We basically only went significantly over on hot days when we had A/C on or overcast days where solar was bad. But even with running A/C regularly (it was a hot summer, even in Maine!) and all the other crazy things we do, we only averaged around an hour a day of generator usage (usually 2 hours every other day). So, the solar system is a complete success.

Generator

The boat came with a Northern Lights 12kW generator, configured to output two phases of up to 50A of 120V. It’s a simple but known-to-be-reliable generator with fully analog controls and simple maintenance. This is actually a pretty perfect setup for the boat, because it matches the shore power input size (50A/240), and the two inverters want to pull around 8kW from it when charging the batteries. Running a diesel at high load is much more efficient than running at low load, so in our setup, we only run the generator when we need to charge the batteries, not just to run loads.

To keep us from having to think about generator timing, for the most part, I’ve set up a full autostart/stop system. Since the generator is fully manual/analog, I had to install a DynaGen TG410, which can be configured to take a single input line of high/low voltage and trigger a start/stop of the generator. It runs the preheater for a set interval, cranks, checks for voltage, etc. — it’s a full generator controller, basically.

The dynagen on our main power panel — ignore the sensors that don’t read correctly!..

I then configured our Victron Cerbo GX’s generator start/stop module with simple simple parameters — fire up when we go below 40% SOC, stop at 85%, and during quiet hours (middle of the night) only start in an “emergency” of 20% SOC. With this setup, we basically don’t have to think about charging. If it gets lowish at any point, the generator charges back up. Or we can easily manually trigger timed generator runs if we want to take control of the situation. Super helpful.

Monitoring

One of the key reasons my cabinet looks like a Victron ad is because of how nicely the whole system plays nicely together to tie into the Cerbo GX. It’s a cheap box you add onto your Victron setup that you can plug a little touchscreen (Touch 50) into for your power panel, and it displays all kinds of neat info, also allowing you to control important aspects of the system. But it also connects to your boat’s internet and can stream your data to the VRM online system for monitoring reasons (it can email you with issues) and digging into data in more detail.

With VRM, you can look back in time at incredibly important things like your holding tank levels!

After over a year of having this system, the sheer novelty of the monitoring system has worn off, but it is still incredibly useful. Especially after installing a third party modpack called GuiMods, you can fit a pretty crazy amount of critical data on one screen. We have detailed info about the shore power and usage, what the inverters are doing, AC and DC loads at present, state of the batteries, the solar array, our pile of temperature sensors around the boat, and our tank levels.

Cramming a pile of info onto one little screen

The Cerbo is really what seals the deal on the Victron suite, at least for me. The rest of the equipment also appears to be top-tier, but the Cerbo tying it all together is some sweet icing on the cake.

Summary

The system is really honed-in at this point. We can plug into any power source from 15A/120V to 50A/120-240V and the system just works. Speaking of plugging in, unless you already have a motorized shore power cord setup, just go get a SmartPlug. It’s just worlds better and safer, in every way. Stop delaying or saying it’s not that important. It is. Just do it.

We very rarely have to pay attention to power in the slightest unless we want to run A/C for a while, at which point we usually want to plan a generator session to make sure we start the night with pretty-full batteries to make sure we can keep the A/C on for the whole night and still be fine in the morning. Power stats are a fun thing to watch, rather than something to be carefully managed. There’s always hot water and ice in the icemaker, the TV can go on whenever, and I play computer games on a desktop computer with a giant monitor all night.

The system’s mature form is now designed around redundancy, with many different ways to do everything from charging the 48V batteries to powering the 12V house system to starting the engines or generator. It’s being run full time on two boats that are both techy liveaboards that spend more time at anchor than in marinas.

Hopefully sometime in the next year I’ll be able to get the BoatKit stuff out to the wider world so this last piece of the 48V puzzle can be accessible to the masses. But even without that piece that ties the 48V system to the motors, the rest of this setup is still something to consider if you’re looking at rebuilding your power system. Hit us up with any questions!

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