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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Portland, ME to Portland, OR

Our first stop on the way to Portland was a return to Boothbay where we met up with Russ and Jax after work for what might be our last Maine lobster at the wharf and a return to the waffle ice-cream shop.

Next we headed to The Basin where a former colleague of David’s lived nearby. While I was working, David’s friend took his boat out to meet us and they hung out on the balcony. The weather remained lovely into the early evening, so after work, we pulled out our inflatables and floated behind the boat for a little while!

We arrived in Portland for the weekend. We had made reservations with our usual marina there (South Port Marine), but when we arrived we were told that they would not honor a credit we had for one night due to the fact that “we had changed our reservations too many times” and could not point to any written policy where it said we were not allowed to make advanced changes on our reservations. We were told to either pay or leave, so we picked up our packages and headed across the bay to DiMilos, which is actually more convenient for access to the city anyway. We’ll never stay there again!

David’s hair was getting shaggy so I decided to book us both haircuts for Saturday morning, and after we were leaving we ended up walking through a local arts festival that was taking place in a nearby park! As we were walking back to the boat, we passed by a winery and went in for a wine tasting, not expecting much. In the end, we walked out with two cases (our supply on the boat was running low, and their rose was on super-sale!). In the afternoon, David worked on a boat project – replacing the captain’s chair. We are very excited about this as the old chair had a slight lean to the right, which made it rather uncomfortable.

That evening, we made reservations at Evo, which turned out to be an amazing portuguese restaurant. We sat at the bar that opened into the kitchen and had a tasting menu with wine pairings. The chefs were super friendly and answered questions and chatted with us during the meal. It was a fantastic experience!

On Sunday, I had booked a walking tour of Portland. Our guide was amazing and we learned a ton about the history of the city including the impacts of several large scale fires and the changing demographics. In the afternoon, we did an escape room and had a low-key meal on the boat.

As the work week started, we headed slightly north up to Handy Boat in Falmouth where we would stay for the week and then make our way across the country to Portland, OR for a wedding.

Our flights were early on Thursday, requiring us to wake up at 3am and dinghy to shore in the pouring rain to catch our taxi to the airport. We’d arranged with Handy Boat that they would tow our dinghy back to Highwind for the week, and then tow the dinghy back to the dock on Sunday so that we could return home at midnight!

We arrived in Portland safely and had a fantastic weekend hanging out with David’s friends from college at various pre- and post-wedding events.

We have a GPS tracker on our dinghy, which showed that Handy Boat had moved our dingy back to Highwind on Thursday, but as we were watching on Sunday the dinghy appeared to still be on the boat! We hoped for the best and arrived after midnight back at the boat yard. Luckily the dingy was there and we were able to get back on board where we promptly fell into bed!

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Western Penobscot Bay

Moored with InQuest in Port Clyde

After our dinghy adventure back to the boat, David and I decided to stay put in the anchorage for the next day to finish out the work week without moving. Saturday morning, we woke up and cruised to Belfast where the wind was blowing pretty hard as we secured to a mooring in the harbor. We drove the dinghy to pick up Russ and Jax and headed to the brewery in town. When we arrived a band appeared to be setting up for a show.

It turned out to be quite a large band with a variety of instruments including bongos, a violin, and a tenor saxophone. We decided to stay for the beginning of their show and they were very good!

We walked up through the town intending to eat at a local italian restaurant that everyone had recommended, but their wait was too long, so we ended up at a sushi restaurant, sitting at the bar. The sushi was delicious and the bartender was a born and raised local and shared a little of the town’s history with us while we ate.

On Sunday, Jax and I dinghyed to shore with scooters for a grocery run and then we all came back into town later to try the Italian restaurant again. The wait was extremely long again, and in the end, we decided to head back to the boat and I cooked pasta for the 4 of us on Highwind!

Next we headed to Camden, where we planned to stay put for the entire week since David had his long days of quarterly planning. This was a our fist opportunity to receive packages in about a month – so we had quite a few waiting for us when we arrived! We stayed for the first few days on a mooring with the Camden Yacht Club, and then switched half way through the week to a different mooring with Lymen Morse.

Bedroom window view in Camden

Wednesday was our 9th Anniversary and David’s schedule allowed for us to head to town for a dinner celebration. I had made reservations, which was fortuitous since the town was packed with people and most restaurants had a wait!

9th Anniversary Selfies – Adventures with my Love

On Friday, David was finished early and after my meetings ended, we headed to land for an escape room (which unfortunately wasn’t very good) and some amazing Thai food (the best we’ve had in several years) to celebrate the end of a long and busy work week.

Escape Room in Camden

The weekend finally arrived and we headed to Rockland to meet up again with Russ and Jax who had discovered that there was a Maine Lobster Festival happening just in town. We ate some delicious lobster for lunch while enjoying some live festival music, and then wandered into town to spend the afternoon at a brewery playing Hanabi!

Russ and Jax had heard from a brewer that the brewery on Monhegan was worth a visit, and a friend of David’s had also told him that Monhegan would be a good stop, so it had been on our radar. This is an island 10 miles south of Port Clyde. The weather was not looking good on Sunday for us to cruise their in our boats, but we discovered that there was a ferry from Port Clyde. With the weather closing in, we decided to return to the boats and do an afternoon cruise to set up in Port Clyde, and then we’d take the ferry to Monhegan the next day. As soon as we pulled out of Rockland, the fog descended and we had an extremely low visibility cruise (maybe only 150ft) all the way to Port Clyde, where the visibility opened up just in time for us to anchor and Russ and Jax to pull up alongside.

The layers of fog made for an atmospheric sunset and we sat on the bows to watch.

The next morning, we dinghyed into town to catch the ferry to Monhegan. The ferry ride was about an hour and we sat on the deck enjoying the warm weather and a perfect breeze. The number of people who live on Monhegan year round is sub-1o0 and the island is mostly hike-able preserved wildlands. There is an excellent museum that covers the history of the island which includes a guided tour of their lighthouse.

After visiting the museum and lighthouse, which had an amazing view over the village, we hiked the width of the island to the cliffs on the other side, which were beautiful. We closed out our visit with beer at the brewery (yes there’s even a brewery on the tiny island) and ice cream.

We returned to the boat in the evening after a wonderful day! With the work week ahead, and some windy days predicted David and I decided to stay put in the anchorage outside of Port Clyde for the beginning of the week when we’ll start making our way west towards Portland.

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Penobscot Bay – Dinghy Adventures

After Matt and Amy left, we decided to re-connect with Russ and Jax of InQuest, who were heading towards Penobscot Bay. We hadn’t visited much in this area when we were in Maine before and we were only too happy to explore with friends.

Our first stop was Stonington, where we picked up a mooring. David and I worked for the day, and then Russ and Jax picked us up in their dinghy and we went to town for dinner at the local ice-cream place that also served lobster :). David wore his full rain gear, partially as a joke since he’d gotten soaked in the last dinghy ride, but that turned out to be a smart move since as we were about 15 feet away from the dock, a lobster boat drove by at full speed and swamped the dinghy again!

Ice-Cream, and oh yeah lobster

David and Russ had noted that just around the corner from Stonington was a locally famous Portuguese restaurant called the Cockatoo. We decided the next day to head around the corner and anchor in Webb Cove just outside the restaurant for dinner after work. Once again, our amazing friends picked us up in their dinghy to take us to shore. As we neared the restaurant (at low tide) the water shallowed out and we couldn’t see an official place to tie up the boat. There was a washed up dock structure near the restaurant, so we headed towards that. As we approached the dock, we ended up ‘floating’ in about two inches of water and used the paddles to push our way towards the dock gondola-style. I used my splits flexibility to step ashore and pull the boat in the rest of the way. We tied up the boat and used a sketchy looking ladder to climb to land.

The good news was that the tide would be coming up as we ate, so we’d have more water below the boat when we would leave. Adventures in boating! Dinner was excellent.

David and Russ had also independently discovered that also on Deer Isle was a tasting-menu only restaurant called Aragosta. They both tried unsuccessfully to make reservations, but while we were eating at the Cockatoo someone must have cancelled, because we discovered there was an available reservation for 4 for the next night! We booked it.

The next morning, we did another short cruise to Crockett Bay, where we dropped anchor. We were a little nervous since a storm was predicted that night (which was why we decided not to take the two moorings outside the restaurant which were more exposed to the predicted wind direction).

After work, we dressed fancy, then pulled on our full weather gear and hopped in the dinghy to head to shore. We were able to use the bungie anchor to beach the dingy, but Russ’s bow line was not long enough to reach to shore, so David constructed a sand anchor by moving a driftwood log down the beach. The tide was rising, so we knew in an hour or so, we’d have to go out and move the log further up the beach.

Dinner was absolutely excellent. The food was delicious, and they made the necessary accommodations for Russ and Jax who are pescatarians.

David and Russ ducked outside half-way through dinner to check on the dingy and move the driftwood. Just as they were coming back inside, it began to rain and the wind picked up.

We enjoyed the rest of our meal. After we finished, we all changed back into our weather gear and loaded into the dingy. It was quite windy with a good deal of chop in the water.

Returning to the dingy at night

I took up a spot on the bow to watch out for lobster pots, while Jax held up the light in front of the boat. Meanwhile David used Navionics on his phone to shout directions to Russ in order to navigate us safely out of the cove. I was getting face-shotted with waves up front. Luckily we weren’t going that far, and we got back to the boats safely.

Back on Highwind, safe and only a little wet
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Northeast Harbor and more Acadia National Park

Sunset over Northeast Harbor

We left Bar Harbor and headed for Southwest Harbor as some more weather was predicted for the week and we wanted to hole up somewhere safe from southwest winds. We ended up anchoring in the next bay north of Southwest Harbor, as we’d spent quite some time in the harbor proper two years ago, and remembered getting waked to hell and back again, so we tried the less-trafficked area just north, and it paid off. Despite several days of high winds, it was our calmest anchorage in months, and the anchor held perfectly through it all.

That’s what you like to see after a few days on anchor

We had been hanging out nearby because we needed to be somewhere that some friends could meet us by car and hang out for the weekend, so as the winds died down, we made our way into Northeast Harbor once a mooring freed up on Thursday. The little town here is cute and the mooring field has a launch, which made it a great stop to receive the guests. David and I both had extremely busy work weeks, so we basically leave the boat the entire work week until the weekend!

Friday arrived and so did our friends Matt and Amy who were in the area picking up a new car. Matt and David know each other from autocross, but this was actually all of our first time meeting in person. They are a lovely couple with similar nerdy and adventurous spirits as us.

On Saturday, since they had a car, we decided to drive into Acadia and do some hiking. Unfortunately there was no parking at the first hike we tried to do, so we found an alternative option and went up to the “Bubbles”, which miraculously had one spot open up just as we drove by. At the top of the first part of the hike was a huge boulder that appeared to be precariously perched on a ledge, although it is really quite solid.

After returning, sweaty, to the car, we decided to drive to Bar Harbor for lunch where we ate our food in the park overlooking the mooring field where we’d been last weekend! We got some ice-cream and then headed back to Acadia to drive the Park Loop Road one more time and then up Cadillac Mountain. David and I had e-biked up this mountain on our last trip, so I knew the view of Bar Harbor would be good!

We returned to the boat for the evening and taught Matt and Amy to play Hanabi.

On Sunday, we had hoped to take Highwind to Valley Cove – a favourite anchorage of ours in the area, but there were some high overnight winds predicted that would make it precarious to get Matt and Amy back to their car, so we decided instead to take the dinghy all the way there and back and hike from the beach.

Back on the boat for the evening, we played some more games and enjoyed the sunset from the bow of Highwind.

Thanks to Matt for a large portion of these photos from the weekend! We had an amazing time with them and hope that we are able to host them again sometime.

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Boothbay and BAH HABAH with Mark and Robin

I was finally able to get the perfect sunset shot of this tour boat in Bar Harbor!!

We arrived in Boothbay with plenty of day left for exploring. While we had anchored here on our last visits, we wanted to do everything possible to ensure low movement for Mark’s seasickness, so this time we grabbed a mooring closer in to the harbor. We dinghy’ed to shore, along with the crew of InQuest, and spent the afternoon exploring the town. When David and I were here before, it was the height of Covid, so most places were closed. This time, we enjoyed an afternoon at the brewery, and then walked over the bridge to the other side of the bay to the Lobster Wharf where we ate our first Maine lobstah! We walked back across the bridge and had amazing ice-cream waffle sandwiches before waddling back to the boat for the evening.

Delicious lobster!

The work week started, and David and I settled in to our daily calls. Mark and Robin enjoyed relaxing on the boat. Russ and Jax even offered to dinghy them to shore while we were working and I picked them up after I wrapped up work in the evening. Such lovely friends! The predicted weather rolled in and we did have a little rain, followed by an amazing rainbow.

Later in the week, the weather was nice enough to allow us to cruise again and we headed to North Haven where we dropped anchor. David and I worked while Robin, Mark, Russ, and Jax all explored the tiny town.

Sunset at North Haven with Highwind and Inquest at the right

On Friday (Robin’s birthday!), we finally made it to Bar Harbor. David and I finished up the work week while the retired folks headed into town. I finished up in time to dinghy in to join Happy Hour before we returned to the boat and got fancy for a lovely dinner birthday celebration for Robin.

Happy Birthday Robin!

On Saturday, we went back into town and took the free bus into Acadia National Park (there’s an amazing free bus system that covers Mount Desert Island and all through the Park). We did a hike which was on mostly paved or gravel path where we could walk holding hands, so Mark was very happy!

Acadia National Park

We enjoyed having Mark and Robin on the boat for the week, but had to say goodbye on Sunday morning as they began their marathon home from Bar Harbor via airport shuttle, rental car, and flight.

We were invited to join Russ and Jax on a whale watching tour for the morning. Though I had no expectations of the trip, it was actually a lot of fun and I learned a bunch from the naturalist who was narrating the experience. We ended up going 50 miles off shore, and did actually end up seeing whales – a group of 4, 3 adults and a baby. This was apparently the first sighting of so many whales at once for the season, so the naturalist was pretty stoked. Several of them did tail flips as they dove and she was able to identify two of them as known individuals.

In the afternoon, we rented an electric golf cart for a tour of Acadia National Park. It was fun driving around and the views in the park are spectacular.

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Maine without Fog

Morning cruising up to Portsmouth alongside Inquest

After Boston, we continued north toward Portsmouth where our early morning cruising is directly into the rising sun, which makes it quite difficult to see and therefore dodge the lobster pots that get denser and denser as we head deeper into Maine. The good news is that we have not seen any fog yet – quite different than our last time here! (Maine is Foggy). We set up on anchor just outside a mooring field since David had been told we were too big to go on any of their moorings. The hold wasn’t great and needed to be reset before we found purchase, but we needed to join our work meetings, so we called it good. At around lunch time, David checked the weather and realized some wind was predicted for overnight, so I called the harbor master and told him we are 50′ (we normally say we are 52′; our boat model is officially a 48′, but the swimstep with the dinghy adds the extra length). He told me we would be able to go on their strongest mooring, 7000lbs of concrete! We moved the 100 yards and felt much better.

After work, Russ and Jax picked us up in their dingy and we headed in to Portsmouth for the evening. We hit some strong currents as we were entering the town harbor and the dinghy got swamped. I had managed to jump to my feet, but David was still sitting down and he got drenched.

In town we had dinner at a brewery while David’s butt dried out and then did a pirate-themed escape room.

The weather did indeed turn and we stayed for another day of rain and wind with evenings on the boat.

For the weekend we headed to Portland where we docked on the t-head just in front of InQuest.

On Saturday, we all took a scooter ride into town where we visited the farmer’s market, had brunch and played Hanabi in a brewery for the afternoon. Sadly we neglected to take photos of any of these activities!

On Saturday evening, Mark and Robin joined us in Portland to visit for the week. They arrived in the evening (after flying in to Boston and taking the Amtrak to Portland) just in time for dinner at a nearby brewery. Though we wanted to spend Sunday visiting in Portland with them, a bunch of wind was predicted starting on Monday for the next few days. Getting to Boothbay and Bar Harbor was a priority for Robin, who grew up visiting these places in the summers and wanted to return, so instead we set sail and made our way east directly to Boothbay to set up on a mooring there for a few days while we rode out the wind.

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Fourth of July in Boston

After finishing work on Friday, we met up with Russ and Jax at a nearby brewery and another Endeavour-owning couple whose boat is named Bella Gato. After dinner back on the boat, I decided that I wanted (finally) to go and see the new Top Gun Maverick movie before we missed the opportunity to see it in a cinema. I found a late night showing at a movie theatre that was just over a mile away from the marina via Google Maps. As we were walking, we passed by a movie theatre that was much closer to the marina!! We are both big fans of the original movie and the new one was excellent – a great blend of gripping action, emotional notes, and call backs to the original.

Approach to Boston Harbor

When we returned to the marina, it was about midnight and there was a young couple with suitcases sitting outside the locked gate to the docks. They made as if to follow us through the gate, but noticed that we were somewhat uncomfortable with letting them in. I asked what was the problem and the guy told us that his dad was waiting for them on a sailboat and must have fallen asleep because he could not be reached by phone. We asked for the name and description of the sailboat and said that we’d go and knock on a window. The marina was HUGE and after about a quarter of a mile walk to the entire other side, we were actually able to locate the boat and wake up the father. We returned back to Highwind and let the couple in to the marina as we passed by the gate – they were very grateful to not have to spend the night outside!

Fireworks across from the marina

The next morning, we woke up early enough to be able to get to the farmers market in the middle of Boston. We were planning to host dinner on Highwind that night and with the company of vegetarians, I wanted to pick up an assortment of vegetables for a curry. Since we’re really bad tourists, we forgot to take any photos, but the prices in the market were incredible!

We had an absolutely lovely dinner that included homemade Chunky Monkey ice-cream from Jax.

Crew of Highwind, InQuest, and Bella Gato

Every evening of the weekend, we were treated to (probably illegal) fireworks from the stern of Highwind across the harbor. These displays included huge fireworks that were essentially launched in quick succession – probably since they wanted to make a quick getaway. One evening, we noticed some debris on fire afterwards and watched them swiftly kick the flames into the water!

More fireworks from the marina

The following morning we walked with Russ and Jax to the USS Constitution Museum, where we were able to board the ship that was completed in 1797. It was quite busy, given that it was the holiday weekend, but most of the ship was open for exploration and it was very interesting to walk around.

In the afternoon, we introduced Russ and Jax to the amazingness of escape rooms. We enjoyed the first room so much and after chatting with the owner/game designer regarding our appreciation for the quality of the puzzles/storyline/build that we were convinced to do a second room!

In the evening we had a lovely Italian meal followed by cannolis and pastries from Modern Pastry. This was our opportunity to compare the cannolis against Mikes (these two pastry shops are across from one another and are apparently rivals for the best cannolis in the city), which we had eaten and fondly remembered from our last visit to Boston. The verdict is that Mikes is definitely the winner!!

For the holiday Monday, we didn’t make too many plans. Jax invited me to join her for a mani-pedi in the morning and we had a fun girls-outing. We were re-joined by the boys for a walk to Bunker Hill to see the monument and managed to catch the tail end of a re-enactor discussing the events.

For the evening, we walked north to the marina where Bella Gato was moored which had a fantastic view of the official Boston firework display.

Boston Fireworks

All in all, it was a fantastic holiday weekend!

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