Back In The Water

The last week, our patience wearing thin, we got down to business riding the shop pretty tightly on a daily basis. They actually got the running gear back together, the cutters came in and got installed, they fixed the fiberglass damage below the waterline from when Hannah wrapped the line around the prop, and we got dropped back in the water late Thursday afternoon! The whole week has been in the 90s and quite humid, so it has been pretty painful working from my little office on the boat. The fridges also haven’t been keeping up, hovering around 50 degrees in the heat, so we’ve had to throw away anything vaguely temperature-sensitive. Turning the A/C on Thursday night was lifechanging, and I slept for ~10 hours that night, trying to make up for almost two weeks of way-too-hot fitful sleep.

While they were working on our boat, we received two freight shipments. First arrival was replacement lithium batteries. We originally ordered a slightly different model of the batteries, but ECPC made a mistake and sent us the wrong ones back in February, so we’ve been waiting for the correct ones for a few months to swap back out. After a bunch of hernia-inducing hauling around of all the batteries, I swapped everything back out, and we’re basically exactly where we started, but I have the ability to tie the BMSes into the WS3000 now, for the future.

Next, we finally got our pallet of stuff sent from WA, with everything from the storage unit that we wanted out east — clothes, tools, knick knacks, records, etc. We’ve spent much of the week with the boat a complete disaster of a mess merging the stuff from Seattle with everything already on the boat, but by the end of the week we’d mostly sorted through everything and put a bunch into storage, merged wardrobes, etc. It was a good excuse to actually throw away a bunch of extra hoarded spares (used wiring, used plumbing bits, stained clothing, etc.) and get some weight off the boat, now that our projects are mostly done.

Donating ~70 lbs of wiring to Alex’s project, after still throwing a bunch more into a box to save

Friday, now that we were in the water, we got down to our big unknown — we’re at around 975 hours on the motors, and so I wanted to get the 1000 hour service done while we were here. They got started on checking the starboard motor and immediately found some bad news: the injectors are all pretty gummed up, and the turbo has significant shaft play. Hannah and I were busy with work so we couldn’t do any checking on things, but they checked their usual shops, and the turbo rebuilders are backed up by a month, and injector rebuilds are backed up several weeks.

Our poor dying turbo, an IHI RHC7W

While the news is bad, it’s also not surprising. Since we got the boat, the starboard motor has always consumed significantly more fuel than the port motor — over a gallon/hr more at basically anything above idle. And recently, it’s started surging a bit at idle even when warm. So I had an inkling that something was up with the fuel injection system. It’s annoying that we have yet more things that our fairly-useless engine surveyor didn’t find on the PPI, but at least we have some answers about why that motor’s been acting wonky. With how quickly the behavior has been worsening, it didn’t feel worth the risk to continue north without fixing it right away, so we decided to stay tight and get some more information, about both motors, before proceeding.

I spent some time this weekend doing some research on the turbo and injectors, and found some other options to call early Monday morning and hopefully get some more options. But we may have some uncomfortable choices coming up between being down for another month to get things rebuilt, or coughing up for new parts to get under way much sooner and send away used parts for rebuilding to come back as spares/sell them off later. We’re intending to be liveaboard on this boat for many years at this point, so it’s not the end of the world if we get some prebuilt spares for critical components like this ready to go in the hold. We’re going to be putting ~800-1000 hrs a year on the motors doing the loop repeatedly, which means we’ll need turbo replacements and injector rebuilds each in a year or two anyway, so it’s not totally wasted money.

A 7 lb can of nacho cheese sauce in the Deltaville grocery store that my unsupportive wife banned

In the meantime, we’ve been continuing to explore the Deltaville area a bit. The guy that I originally met here to sell the inverter to turns out to be a really nice guy with an interesting life story/mission, spending 3 years in the boatyard here completely rebuilding a 50 foot sailboat down to the hull and back up again, after sailing it 9000 miles from Europe. Check out their blog to read about their adventures. So we’ve been hanging out with Alex now and then in the evenings and exchanging stories of our respective projects.

This afternoon, we decided to check out the Deltaville Maritime Museum, since we’ve been riding by signs for it the last couple weeks. It was a neat museum talking about the extensive boatbuilding history of the area — from the 1700s through to the early 1900s, the extensive timber of the area bred an industry of affordable and reliable boats that serviced the Chesapeake for centuries.

The museum also had an outdoor sculpture garden!

After returning from the museum, we spent some time in the sun on the roof of the boat trying to decide on a solar strategy. The boat came with 800 watts of old 2008-era solar panels, but we’re looking to go way beyond that. I was originally going to go with a stack of newer rigid panels, but was getting uncomfortable with how much weight that was going to add way up high on the boat, so I’ve since leaned toward doing flexible panels again. The efficiency of the newer flexible panels is very similar to the solid panels, but they’re a fraction of the weight, and much easier to mount to the roof. After being up top with a tape measure for a while, we decided to go with 15 of the Sunpower 170W flexible panels, giving us 2550 watts of theoretical power. I also may be able to fit a 16th one, but it’s really close, so we’ll order 16 and possibly just have one spare panel for down the line.

So now we just need to come up with a plan, once we talk to a million shops in the morning…

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Deltaville & Seattle

After spending a great weekend in Norfolk, we started thinking about our plans for heading north and the Chesapeake. Our shaft seal on the port side had started leaking again, so we knew that we needed to get hauled out sometime soon. We started calling around and managed to find a boat yard in Deltaville, VA that had an opening to be able to haul the boat with a couple of days notice and fix the seals and do some other work.

We stayed for a few extra days in an anchorage just north of Norfolk that we had been in before, so we knew it had good holding and was sheltered. We then headed straight towards Deltaville to get hauled. We decided to take advantage of our vaccinated status, and the time the boat would spend on the hard, to visit Seattle for a week. We would be able to organize our storage unit, which had been packed for us while we were here on the East Coast, and also see family and friends in person!

In a random coincidence, someone who had been chatting with David about purchasing one of the electronics that we have replaced turned out to also have his boat on the hard at the same marina! We made arrangements to meet him after we were pulled out of the water. He invited us to a drink that evening with some other boat-yard liveaboards and we enjoyed good company and a beautiful sunset on the dock.

Sunset over Deltaville

After a bit of a panic where our pre-arranged driver didn’t show up on time (and there are no ubers out here!), we did make it safely to the airport and were greeted in Seattle with beautiful blue skies and mountains.

Over the course of three weekends, we spent many hours going through all of our possessions (that are not on the boat), sorting out what to send to the boat, what to give away, what to donate and what to throw away. We gave away tons of our stuff to friends and family, so at least lots went to a good home. We went from a completely packed-to-the-gills 10×20 unit, to a not-even-filled 5×5 closet. It was emotionally draining letting go of so many things, but we believe that we will be on the boat for hopefully the next several years, or more, and it just didn’t make sense to hold on to all that stuff and have it hidden away. We pared everything down to the stuff we may need when we visit Seattle and family heirlooms/childhood memories.

In the gallery below, the first image is what greeted us when we opened the door of the unit – floor to ceiling all the way to the back of the unit! The second shows the actual size of that unit after we had kept only what was going to the boat and what was to be saved. All our remaining possessions after we shipped the boxes to the boat fit into a small van!

We ended up staying an extra week due to the boatyard delaying work on Highwind, and it was so lovely to be able to catch up with family and friends. My brother even flew up from California for a quick visit! I was also able to get to two magical classes at Divine.

Last weekend, we returned back to Virginia, and are now living on the boat while it is in the yard. They got virtually nothing done on the boat while we were gone, despite me calling every other day to check on status, so basically they straight-up lied to us about having availability for us. So now we just get to yell at them every single day until we can get out of here. It’s looking like we’ll be here for one more full week, but ideally start heading north again for next weekend, the 12th.

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Coinjock & Norfolk

You know you are in Norfolk when you see two aircraft carriers docked next to each other.

In favor of pressing northwards, and avoiding the bug situation in the Pungo and Alligator Rivers, we decided to do a long push all the way from RE Mayo to Coinjock, totally bypassing Belhaven. (Yes, we continue to avoid the Dismal Swamp). Coinjock Marina is famous for their prime rib, which you have to reserve in advance. They have a large outdoor dining area, where we enjoyed a lovely dinner when we passed through heading south. Unfortunately, the outdoor dining area was closed, so we ended up ordering our food to go and ate a lovely meal on the boat. We were a hair over a week past our second vaccine, and didn’t realize that the safety period was actually 1 week, not 2.

We stayed only one night here, as everyone does, and headed up to Norfolk the next morning. After you go through a wide expanse of nothingness north of Coinjock, you go through a tiny 1-foot-height-change lock to drop into the Chesapeake water system, and then enter the massive Norfolk naval complex.

This area is all relatively slow due to no wake zones through most of the Norfolk area. Some heavy winds were expected, so we decided to book a night in a marina, rather than anchor. We stayed just across the Elizabeth River from Norfolk, since the marinas were 40% cheaper. In the evening, we visited a nice local brewery and had our first indoor meal since pre-COVID in a little tapas speakeasy place in Portsmouth. We celebrated a little hard and the next morning was kinda rough.

The weather was turning more sour for a few days, so we decided to extend our stay in the marina so that we could explore Norfolk proper for the weekend. A great ferry service allowed us to easily cross the river to get to town, which we used several times. Our first time being on a boat not owned/piloted by us in a while!

At this point we were fully vaccinated, so we were able to enjoy several meals inside and also went to a museum for the first time in over a year and a half. We visited the Nauticus Museum and the USS Wisconsin. Quite a lot of the battleship was open to the public, so we were able to walk around both the exterior and the interior.

We really enjoyed exploring the city and were very glad that we decided to extend our stay. We look forward to doing more exploration and finally going into museums again!

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Quite a Lot of Places

Highwind at RE Mayo Seafood

The theme of the past two weeks has been the realities of both being quite busy with our jobs and therefore not having much time for living “the boat life”. However, I’m going to start off this post with a picture that I didn’t share in the last post when we were at Butler Island. I managed to convince David to make a gap in his meeting schedule so that we could enjoy a Happy Hour drink at actual Happy Hour, before the sun went down, on our Juliet Balcony. How lovely!

G&Ts on the balcony at Butler Island

We cruised up the Waccamaw stopping in another familiar anchorage for one night. Anticipating some high winds (harhar) over the next few days, but still wanting to make progress, we planned to do several marina hops for save overnights. This is a section that in the past we had blasted through on some long cruising days during the Covid shutdowns where it made no sense to stay in marinas and/or they weren’t accepting transient visitors.

Our first stop was in Myrtle Beach. We did a short scooter ride for some amazing wood fired pizza and along the way saw an advertisement for Dolly Parton’s circus pirate extravaganza show. Sadly we were only partially vaccinated, but I’ve told David that it is a MUST for next year. :). I was also able to get in a quick pole session after work.

We did a quick stop at Ocean Isle Marina next, but didn’t leave the boat for the evening.

One night stay at Ocean Isle Marina

Our next stop was the St James Marina in Southport, for an uneventful though windy night. At this point we were nearing our second shot appointment and after much coordination (see previous post) we decided that Wrightsville Beach was the place. On our cruise to the anchorage, the starboard engine started throwing a warning and was having trouble when we tried to change speed. It was a Sunday, so I started leaving voicemails for every boat mechanic/service/repair place in the Wrightsville Beach area. On the Monday morning, we woke up early, dingyed with the scooters to get our second vaccine shots, and returned to the boat. I started to get calls back from folks and amazingly there was someone in the area able to service Yanmar engines who would be available to help us out the next day! Yay! But also a little worrying since that would still be within our potential second shot recovery period. Luckily I didn’t suffer too much overnight, though David did have a tough time. In the morning, we woke up, pulled anchor and headed to a nearby marina where the mechanic had found us space where he could come aboard and check things out.

Unfortunately, he had issues with the software on his laptop that prevented him from being able to update the engine software, but we did determine what new parts would need to be ordered.

Since the slip we were in was due to be occupied later that day, we had to leave and had back to re-anchor for the night and await news for when new parts could be delivered and they could fix their software issues.

A day later, the parts had arrived and we found a slip at a different marina that had availability for an overnight stay. The mechanic came aboard, updated the software on both engines, installed the new parts on the starboard motor and in theory we were all set. By the time that he had finished, it was a bit late for a trial run, and we were blocked in from both sides in the marina. We decided we’d wake up early the next day and do a quick sea trial (with the mechanic on board) to confirm the fix. If we were good to go, we’d continue on our way north.

Luckily the next day we did a trial and everything seemed good, so we continued onwards!

Delicious and HUGE oysters at a steakhouse somewhere along the way!

On our way south, we had stopped at a small town called Swansboro, and were charmed by it’s feel, despite everything being closed due to Covid and the fact that we’d arrived at sunset and left early the next morning. We resolved to spend longer on the next time through, so we had made a 2 night reservation there. As we pulled into the dock on Saturday afternoon, there were a ton of day-boaters hanging out who helped us with our lines and welcomed us to the town. Southern friendliness at its best! We headed to a spot just by the marina for a local beer and cider and where treated to some live music from a band playing just below us!

This week, David had quarterly planning meetings making his schedule hard to plan around, so we’ve been doing lots of short hops early in the morning and parking for long days of meetings (for the both of us!). After Swansboro we stopped at Beaufort where we revisited the rooftop bar and Oriental where we previously stayed and then today we arrived at RE Mayo Seafood.

So far we are a couple of weeks behind our trip last year (so my Facebook memories tell me), and we’re enjoying seeing a few more towns along the way now that things are more open. We are so looking forward to next week when we will consider ourselves fully vaccinated!

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All of Georgia and Charleston

Someone sent us a photo of Highwind underway!

After buying all the available O-rings within a 10 mile radius from our marina (only slightly joking), David was able to find one that fit, and with much effort was able to get everything back together! With the oil leak fixed, we were finally ready to head out of St. Augustine. Our last stop in Florida was Fernandina. Despite this being quite a popular spot for loopers, we have yet to actually see the town. We dropped anchor and since it was both a weekday and we didn’t even slightly trust our repairs, we didn’t leave the boat!

However, I did enjoy a lovely sunset from the cockpit and a quiet evening with my kindle.

Since David had Friday off, and the weather was good, we decided to run outside the ICW for a stretch. We wanted to do do some anchoring, and also get to Charleston, and unfortunately most of Georgia waters in the ICW fall into a no-anchoring zone (silly laws that were intended to reduce the number of derelict boats on anchor but make it impossible for boaters like us to stay one night anywhere). The weather and conditions were about as good as you could hope for, and while I discovered that working in David’s office with only a very high window while underway makes me a bit queasy there were no other incidents.

Next up, we made a reservation at Isle of Hope Marina, the marina just south of Savannah. Since we spent several days in Savannah, moored right in the historical district, on our way South we decided we didn’t care too much about visiting the city this time around. At this point, we are only partially vaccinated and in the downtown area the restaurants were crowded, with limited options for outdoor dining – most on the street right by passers by. We pulled in to the marina right behind another looper boat and had a good conversation with the couple aboard. I blew her mind by running off to pick up my grocery delivery that I had placed while we were underway!

More sunsets! From our anchorage outside of Charleston

Next up, we were headed to Charleston where we had made a reservation for the latter half of the week. Unfortunately the marina could not accommodate us to arrive early, but we decided to take advantage of the weekend weather and do another hop outside the ICW. These two hops outside the ICW meant we basically blew past Georgia in a weekend :). There are plenty of anchorages around Charleston, so we planned to hang out on anchor for a couple of days until we could fit in the marina.

While underway, our high water alarm on the port side kept going off. Since we purchased the boat, there had always been a fair amount of water in the port engine bay, so we knew we had an issue somewhere that we’d eventually need to debug. I went downstairs to run the bilge and this time took a look in the engine bay. To my great dismay, I saw a LOT of water spewing in from the spot where the propeller shaft goes through the hull to the propellor outside the hull. David went downstairs to take a look while I took the helm and he confirmed that we definitely had an issue with our prop shaft seal. Luckily our bilge pump was easily able to keep up with the water and David had spotted that we did have a spare seal around the shaft.

We were about 8 miles offshore and all of the nearby inlets were pretty sketchy, so we had to make a call on what to do — risk an inlet or keep going to Charleston. After checking with some more experienced boaters on the risks of running on a dying shaft seal, we decided to maintain our plan to reach Charleston, and try to replace the seal when we arrived. If needed, we’d be in a populated area to arrange for further intervention if required.

After we dropped anchor, David prepared to make the swap. This was a little risky, being after 5pm, and afloat, but he felt that he had it in hand after watching a youtube video on the process. The swap went smoothly and after a quick test of running the prop forwards and reverse while still on anchor, it looked like there was no further leaking! Huzzah!

Everything seemed to hold for our quick run to the marina where we set up shop for the rest of the week. We both had extremely busy meeting days through the rest of the week and basically didn’t emerge from the boat until Friday evening when we headed into town on our scooters for dinner.

On Saturday we did a scooter ride around town, had a delicious brunch, hit a distillery for a tasting (oops, purchased some vodka and gin) and then settled in to a brewery to play some cards. It was a lovely day!

This game is Hanabi, where you don’t get to look at the cards in your hand. People who have played this game before will understand David’s pain at my current hand.

Though we tried to extend our stay for another couple of days, unfortunately the marina was already booked, so we headed out as we originally planned on Sunday to a familiar anchorage, Butler Island, just at the southern end of the Waccamaw River.

Sunset selfie at Butler

The last couple of weeks have been marked by a lot of very busy working days, a focus on progressing northward, much coordination around vaccinations (I’ll tell that story in the next post!) and ongoing boat projects/fixing issues; hence the decided lack of photos in this post! We’ve mostly completed the large projects at this point, so I’m very much looking forward to getting back to “normal” as much as is possible when you live on a a boat!

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Leaving Cocoa, New Smyrna Beach and St. Augustine

On the … road? again

We finally wrapped up most of our projects, and got to see a launch (ish), so we decided it was a good time to set out northwards for our second attempt at the loop.

We had everything stowed away and were ready to set out for New Smyrna, where I hoped to actually get some time at the beach! There was a bit of wind as we were heading out of the dock, and as I untied the last line and hopped aboard, I saw that the other side of our swim platform was currently destroying the piling behind us. I quickly sprinted over to push us off. However, I neglected to fully pull the stern line aboard, and unfortunately as we were backing out of the slip, it fell into the water and promptly got entangled around our prop. Luckily David felt the vibration, right around the time I said something along the lines of “oh no, it’s really bad” and he stopped applying throttle to that propeller. Unfortunately, we discovered that a catamaran does not go straight when it only has one prop working. Nor does it turn in that direction. After a panicked 15 mins of drifting around the marina, we finally managed to get ourselves tied up to the outside of the breakwater near the entrance of the marina. After calling and leaving messages with about 10 divers in the area, we finally got a call back from someone who was available to free the prop later that day. He arrived, suited up, and in about 5 minutes had freed the line. This is totally my fault, and I’ve learned a valuable lesson about line handling in the new boat!

Though delayed, we were able to leave later that afternoon and headed towards New Smyrna. We have decided that we can never return to Cocoa Village Marina, what with all the delays getting there, the constant stream of packages “filling up” (except not really) their mail room, and then the leaving disaster, we think that they must hate us!

We arrived at New Smyrna right before sunset, and since this was our first night on anchor with the new setup, we decided we didn’t want to leave the boat. We also looked at the weather and the next day was set to be pretty strong winds, so we decided to see if we could arrive at our next stop, Palm Coast, a day early, rather than stay in New Smyrna. So, no beach for Hannah :(.

Since our plans changed and we now had a Sunday to spend at Palm Coast, I did a little bit of hunting and discovered a local waterfront winery not too far from the marina. It turned out to be an 8.5 mile distance, but we decided to give the Scooters a true run for their range. (If they died on the way home, it wouldn’t be that far to walk or grab an uber). We decided to limit our speed and loaded up the chargers in the hopes that we could plug in at the winery. It was a lovely ride along the water front. Unfortunately the winery didn’t have any outdoor outlets, and wouldn’t let us charge inside (despite it being empty!), so we put them into “limited” mode, which sets the max speed to ~9mph, and puttered our way back. We knew there was a brewery near the marina and since our return trip took so long, we decided to stop for dinner (both down to 1 bar of battery!).

The next morning, we woke up to a louder-than-usual humming noise coming from upstairs, which turned out to be the air conditioning compressor for the master bedroom stuck on and coming close to freezing itself (down to 39 degrees), so chalk another thing up on the broken list. I’m getting pretty sure that we’re going to replace everything on this boat before we get much further north, at this rate.

After a work day at Palm Coast, we headed out for a morning cruise to St Augustine, which is our boat’s official “home” port. (We have registered this boat in Florida and had to choose a city). This is our third time here, and we know we like the town, so we planned to stay through the weekend, so we could further visit. The first time we were here, it was the first day of the Covid lockdowns, and the second time we stayed only for weekdays and didn’t get to do anything.

We found a craft-distillery a block away from our Marina that’s open for late-night cocktails and has a cute patio and live music, so we were able to go out for drinks one night. After the sun sets, it gets a little colder here, and we’ve both become Floridian snowflakes, pulling out our puffy jackets and hats when it’s in the high fifties! On Friday night, we re-visited a favourite restaurant (Preserved) and had a lovely dinner in their garden (with a heater pointed at my chair!).

For the weekend, we booked a walking tour of the city, which was very informative. We returned to the boat and David wanted to do work on a few projects (of course!) that were still remaining. The alternator on our port engine had not been working, so he tried to do a replacement. We had a lot of trouble trying to take apart the old one, to transplant the pulley to the new one, so David jury-rigged the new one up on a single belt for now, in case we were able to leave in time. Unfortunately, after putting the new alternator on, it still wasn’t working, which devolved into an hour of debugging the engine wiring harness to eventually find and repair the true problem.

After all that fun, he also looked further into the source of an oil leak that we have on that engine as well. The one hour of project turned into several hours as the oil leak turned out to be worse than expected, and we realized that Sunday would be easter with potentially even fewer shops open than normal for finding everything we’d need to continue with the projects. Since we’d intended to leave on Sunday and now were sitting with an unusable engine on Saturday night, we called the marina and extended our stay one more night.

The next day, we went on a scooter around town to Home Depot and West Marine, and bought basically every o-ring kit we could find for the oil leak issue and a big impact driver for the alternator project. I made David stop at BBQ for lunch on the way back, which then required rolling us the rest of the way home.

Returning back to the boat, David was able to immediately get the alternator pulley swapped out using his new toy! However, none of the o-rings helped with the leaking issue, unfortunately. The leak was pretty bad at this point, so we didn’t trust going anywhere without losing a ton of oil, so we’re not going anywhere until we can get this fixed. David placed several overnight orders for other parts, and we resolved to call the nearest Yanmar dealership on Monday morning.

On the bright side of things, we’ve been selling older parts one by one that we’ve been replacing with our new projects. Living on a boat, it’s been an adventure getting some of the larger items to the post office. The scooters have been taking it like a champ, though. And the yoga studio (skylounge) is finally emptying out, bit by bit.

Someone in Chile apparently wants to upgrade to a Raymarine E120 AND pay international shipping!

This morning (Monday), we extended our stay in the marina again, and David was able to scooter to the Yanmar dealer, who amazingly had the part in-stock. Unfortunately, the o-ring doesn’t even slightly fit in the groove, so David ended up taking apart the entire area of the engine to get better access, and in doing so sheared the head off of a valve-bolt. So, we aren’t going anywhere right now. We made the cutoff for ordering next day parts by 2 minutes, and with luck, tomorrow afternoon we’ll get the new valve bolt and fix that problem. Later on, David thinks maybe with the better access he made another o ring fit properly, and maybe the oil leak will be fixed, but we can’t run the engine until we get the new fitting, so we won’t know until tomorrow…

In the mean time, we are trying to enjoy our extra few unplanned days in St Augustine, and we hope to be on the move again on Wednesday!

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Projecting in Cocoa Village

Highwind at Cocoa Village Marina

We moved across the ICW to the new Ft Pierce Marina (Causeway Cove) and settled in for the week of the work on the bow/anchor area. Other than working, some more unpacking, and receiving many packages, not much of note happened, other than it being the worst week of rain we’d seen in perhaps the last year…which of course made it difficult for the project (fiberglass work on the bow) to take place. We of course experienced a few days of delay, which meant that the folks at Cocoa Village Marina were getting a little annoyed at us at having filled up their mail room already, despite us not being there on our scheduled arrival date.

Hipster breakfast – according to David

The work was finally completed early Sunday afternoon and we were able to cast off and head north. We have planned to spend the next month in one place – Cocoa Village – in order to receive all the packages we need for completing the primary boat projects, and also waiting out the winter in the warmer southern weather before we attempt to Loop again.

So far, we have been at Cocoa for over a week now, and are going through the project checklist. David finished his office area with a temporary desk to which he has mounted his enormous monitor and installed new ceiling lights in the room. The new Garmin unit has been installed in the dash upstairs. I mounted our burgee poles on the bow. We have a temporary internet solution mounted (waiting for the new mast to arrive into which we’ll install the antennas). I installed some slide out drawers in the kitchen for accessing our alcohol and have completed various other internal organization projects. David replaced the blown speakers in the flybridge, installed the new radio unit, rewired all speakers to attach to the new unit and we installed a new sound cable from the TV to the radio unit so we can use the boat sound system for the TV (that was quite a difficult wire run and required most of the starboard stern corner wall and ceiling panels to be removed!!). We figured out a solution for storing the bikes. Phew!

Completed office

We also had a bit of a disastrous first dingy delivery – they were not anticipating us needing a water delivery and the nearest boat launch ramp was a mile away. It was raining and pretty windy, and one of their guys – with no jacket, or life jacket – had to drive the dingy over to the marina. He was not happy! David was on non-interruptible calls, and unfortunately he and I could not figure out how to get the boat onto mounts in the platform properly, despite me standing on the submerged platform, peering under the boat!. We tied it off to the end of the swimstep for David and I to figure out later, but as he was handing everything off to me, we noticed that the bilge pump was pumping water into the storage space under the seat…not good! After a few panicked phone calls to his Dad (family business), they decided that he needed to drive the boat back to the ramp and they would take it back to the shop for repairs. I loaned him some lines and a life-jacket and he went on his way! Over the weekend they were able to get everything fixed up and David handled a smooth delivery yesterday, so now we have a dingy!

On Saturday, after a long day of projects, we decided to head into town to the “Hofbrauhaus” (not its actual name) at the recommendation of some other Loopers. They had a large outdoor seating area and very loud club music was playing when we arrived. Shortly, a performer came out on to the stage and began playing polka music while a couple of people danced. He was actually pretty entertaining, even though the music was so loud we could barely hear each other talking and the food was amazing. We will probably go back there :).

We continue to receive a steady stream of packages and the boat is filled with tools and boxes. We hope to get quite a few projects done this weekend, so perhaps soon we’ll have a live-able space :).

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Final Week in Key Largo and Moving Onto Highwind II

We spent the last week in Key Largo in the house surrounded by boxes full of our things, but it was a nice relaxing time. The sun came out for long enough that we w even found a moment for a dip in the pool – our first and last of the stay at the house.

On Wednesday we rented a uhaul and spent the evening loading everything up. David and I woke up early the next morning to drive up to Stuart, where the new boat had been moored for the month.

The dock hands at the marina were extremely nice and assisted us with their golf carts in unloading all the boxes and gathering them in the new boat for unpacking, making the whole frantic-morning-move fairly smooth, in the end. Later that day, Mum and Dad joined us among the boxes. I had taken the day off to deal with unpacking, but David had important meetings in the afternoon that he could not miss, so he set up shop upstairs while Mum and Dad and I unpacked most of the boxes downstairs. Since I had done most of the box packing, this worked out well – everything was jumbled together with kitchen, bedroom, and random boat things in each box!

We were able to get quite a bit sorted and organized, and made enough room to enjoy some takeout on the boat for dinner in the evening – our first meal aboard!

On Friday, both David and I worked while Mum and Dad hung out, ran a few errands for us and did a bit more unpacking – what way for them to end their trip! They headed out on Saturday morning, leaving us to spend the weekend getting further unpacked and settled in.

It wasn’t long before David had started dismantling the walls and ceiling of the skylounge for installing the first phase of internet on the boat! Once the project was complete, we settled in for the evening and I found my new reading spot and watched a gorgeous sunset.

On the survey, it was discovered that the bowsprit of the boat, around the anchor and windlass had significant leaking/dampness and was in need of repair to replace the sodden plywood core with a stronger material and re-fiberglass everything. We had made an arrangement with the previous owners for this to be fixed, but unfortunately the contractors kept delaying and it was not able to be repaired before we received the keys. We had been put in contact with the contractors and organized to take Highwind II (hereafter referred to as Highwind…) to their shipyard the next week. Since they would not allow us to remain on the boat, we also had to secure a nearby AirBnB. We were watching the weather closely as it was extremely windy at the beginning of the week and we didn’t want our first voyage to be in adverse conditions, especially considering that the slip in Stuart was extremely tricky to get out of in the best of conditions. By the middle of the week, the wind had calmed, so we headed out. It was smooth waters for the 5 mile trip and we pulled into the new slip with no problems (after 3 attempts – it had only an inch of room on either side – Highwind is fatty!).

Thursday morning, they started investigations on the bow and soon discovered that the job extended much further than they originally estimated. As such, they actually did not have anyone available to do the repairs, since they’d put us in a tiny time slot, but he put us in contact with one of their 3rd party contractors to do an assessment. We had an uneventful night in the AirBnB, which included wandering out into the freezing evening (55 degrees) for some dessert.

The next day, we found out from these new contractors that the work would take 7 days, which was longer than we had planned – we had been told 3-5 days and had been planning to head to Cocoa Village where we intend to stay for a month completing the first phase of boat projects. This was much longer than we wanted to stay in a place where we would not be allowed to sleep aboard. We decided to head to Ft Pierce in the next morning as there was a chance this new contractor would be able to find us a place near there where we’d be able to keep the boat, sleep on it, and have the work done. If that didn’t pan out, then we’d keep heading north to Cocoa and make arrangements with some more advance warning with a shipyard further north.

We arrived at Ft Pierce and David made a beautiful docking. David had the day off, so he got started on the bedroom to office conversion project while I worked. It was a lovely day, so in the evening we headed over to Pierced Cidery (we’d visited before) where we enjoyed another sampler of all their flavours and some live music.

On Saturday, we heard from the new contractors that they had found us a place just on the other side of the ICW and we’ll be allowed to stay on the boat, so we’ll head over there on Monday and hope that the work doesn’t take longer than 7 days!!

After months of taking it easy, remote phsyical therapy, doctors visits from Boston to Miami, in-person PT in Islamadora, I was finally cleared to get back on the pole. I pulled it out once at the house in Key Largo, but then we had a few busy weeks of moving, so yesterday I was finally able to get it out again. I’m taking things slow, but it’s very exciting to hopefully get back in a regular routine of training, yoga, etc.

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Key West and Marquesas Keys

Marquesas Key

When originally planning our stay in the Keys, we decided to take a week off work in the middle, when Matthew was there, to fully enjoy ourselves. We had been looking at either chartering a boat or taking Highwind to the Dry Torguas, an island with a fort 80 miles off shore from Key West. This would be the furthest Highwind had ever gone off shore! As the week approached, we kept a close eye on the weather to see if there would be a window for the trip. Weather was looking a little windy, but decent enough at least to get to Key West, so we loaded all 5 of us onto Highwind, with 5 days worth of meals planned and cast off from the house.

We arrived safely at Key West at the Galleon marina. We headed into town to find a nearby brewery. Since it was a holiday weekend (MLK), it was pretty busy, which made us somewhat nervous. We did manage to find an open air restaurant with plenty of space that had an upstairs deck with fewer people. We settled in for dinner and as our cocktails arrived, a live guitarist started setting up on the small stage down below – behind a perspex screen. He was great and we enjoyed a lovely dinner while the sun set.

The next day, we decided that the weather was not quite good enough to go all the way to the Dry Torguas, but we would be able to get to Marquesas Keys, a cluster of islands only 15 miles off shore. It was a bit of a bumpy ride, and we dropped anchor in a little shelter from the wind off the south western corner where we were completely alone! We all piled into the dingy – the most people it’s held – and had a very wet ride to the beach. Matthew and I sat up front and got drenched from waves cresting over the bow. The water was extremely shallow very far out from the beach, so I ended up hoping overboard and wading up to the beach dragging the boat behind me!

We spent some time wandering along the beach, trying to find a path to circumnavigate the island, but the vegetation turned out to be too dense. The wind was pretty strong, making it a little chilly, and since the water was so shallow for so far, we decided not to swim.

The next morning, the wind was still blowing, making it still too rough to be sensible going to the Dry Torguas and too dangerous to snorkel off the boat, so we decided to head back to Key West and stop at Marathon on the way home to see if we could snorkel there.

As we were pulling into the Key West harbor, we see a Coast Guard zodiac zooming towards us. They circled around behind us and then we heard them hailing us on the radio. “When was the last time you were boarded by the Coast Guard?” “Never,” we responded. They pulled up along side us and three officers hopped on board. One of them was only wearing a one-layer gaiter mask, so Mum immidiately told him to stay on the swim step – which clearly surprised him so he complied! As it turns out, it was a training exercise – for that guy, so a bit sad since he wasn’t allowed to do anything!! They were very friendly. Also, they had forgotten their official checklist, so they were working from memory, but we showed them our paperwork, fire extinguishers, flares, lifejackets etc. We were officially cleared and they handed us our report and headed off.

Mum wouldn’t let the guy in the middle go anywhere on the boat!

This time, Key West was a little less busy, since it was now mid-week. There are loads of wild chickens and roosters wandering around the streets!

The next day, we headed to Marathon, stopping at Sombrero Reef on our way. Though it was still pretty wavy, some of the crew hopped in the water for some snorkeling.

We dropped anchor just outside of Marathon and had another fun night on the boat.

Being silly in the evening

The next day, we headed back to the Key Largo house and began the lengthy process of packing up and cleaning Highwind. Everyone pitched in to help with the scrubbing and schlepping of boxes up to the house, and by Friday evening we had everything packed and stacked ready to load into a Uhaul sometime next week to head up to the new boat.

We said goodbye to Matthew 🙁 that evening as we’d be setting out early the next morning to deliver Highwind to Ft Lauderdale where she will be listed for sale. We’ll spend one last night aboard, and Mum and Dad will pick us up tomorrow morning after they drop Matthew off at the Miami airport. This week of vacation was a great break from work and a fantastic last hurrah on Highwind. We were so glad to be able to entertain one more time after the last year of unexpectedly not being able to have any guests join us.

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Key Largo and a New Boat

After our lovely new year’s eve on Key Biscayne, we had a pretty uneventful cruise over to the house on Key Largo. On advice from some other boaters the previous week, we took the Angelfish Creek cut through from Biscayne Bay out to the Hawk Channel.

First look at the tropical water of the Keys – such beautiful colours!

There’s very few passages through the Florida keys that have more than a few feet of depth, so you have to choose carefully and aim for high tide. After all of our careful planning, we never saw fewer than 5 feet under the keel through the passage, so maybe we didn’t need to be so careful, but better safe than sorry.

The rest of the trip was uneventful. The house is on what turned out to be a tiny tiny channel, and our boat blocks a distressing amount of it, so we have large fishing boats passing feet from our windows every morning full of charter customers. The house has some … interesting decor. But it’s a good place for us to hang out for the month with Hannah’s folks.

On Jan 4th, we got the final survey results back for the new boat, and everything looked good. We negotiated over a few things and signed some final agreements. A couple days later, we finalized insurance and the sale closed, and we find ourselves fleet owners again, but in the really undesired way. So now we can finally unveil our new boat.

We have purchased a 2008 Endeavour TrawlerCat 48. Endeavour is (well, was, really) a small boatmaker in Florida, which spent a little over a decade making sailboats from 1974-1986. After going bankrupt in the recession, it eventually got purchased by new owners who renamed it the Endeavour Catamaran Corporation and started producing cats. They made several models from 36 through 44 feet through the earlier years, and in 2008 started making the 48. The boat we just purchased actually turns out to be hull #1. From years in software design, I thought I was smart enough to never get the V1 of something, but here we are. Only 11 of the 48s were ever made, and the company ended up getting bought by ArrowCat several years ago. Shortly thereafter, the owner, Bob Vincent, passed away, and they haven’t produced any hulls ever since.

The few 48s out there are mostly with their original owners and rarely change hands. One of the 48 owners is a semi-retired boat broker and has basically kept track of every 48 owner and tries to connect them with interested buyers, so only one has actually ever made it to the public market. He’s how we ended up finding this one — since we had expressed interest in the middle of the summer in getting on the list, we got word that one was coming up for sale near where we were passing through, so the timing worked out for us to stop in and take a look.

It has several attributes that we’ve been looking to upgrade to:
* A structural “flybridge” area (second floor), for more comfortable weatherproof cruising
* More beam (width), but not enough that we will have trouble finding slips. The Endeavour cats are kinda mid-width. This boat has an 18 foot beam, which gives a bunch of extra room over our current boat. But many cats around this size have 22+ foot beams, which starts to be really difficult to fit in a marina.
* A third bedroom that we’ll convert into an office, so that we can have two isolated work spaces. Both Hannah and I tend to just be on zoom calls for the majority of every day, so we’re constantly jockeying for space and taking calls from a bed.
* Stability of a catamaran — just gets thrown around a lot less in rough seas
* Just more room, everywhere — the 48 has 850 sq ft of climate-controlled fiberglassed-in living space. Much bigger kitchen, bigger master bedroom, bigger flybridge, etc.
* Hydraulic dinghy lift — really easy in/out of the water to go for a jaunt.

We don’t really have any useful pictures right now, but if you want to see some video to see why we bought it, there’s a marketing video from 2013 on youtube.

We were originally planning on swapping boats mid-month so we could spend half of our stationary month on Key Largo outfitting the new boat. Unfortunately, after seeing the size of the canal outside the house, we canceled the plan. The Meridian is wide enough that we’re really close to blocking the channel for the biggest boats to get by, but the 4 more feet of the cat would really be aggressively blocking things. So we decided to just leave the cat in Stuart for the month and slowly get Highwind ready for sale, while also starting to plan out purchases for the new boat. It’s not a perfect solution, but these things rarely are. So we made one long day trip up to the boat right after the sale closed, took a ton of measurements, looked at some dinghies, and then left it to sit there for the rest of the month.

Anyway, after dealing with all of that, and deciding to just settle in, Key Largo has been lovely. It’s great to see Hannah’s parents after a year away, and spend the month hanging out. Hannah’s brother flies in for the middle 2 weeks of the month as well, so hopefully we all have a fun month and no one brings COVID to the party by accident. We’ve all been isolating as much as we can, but you never know.

On our first full day in the Keys, we went to John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park for a picnic lunch. It was a little crowded, but we managed to find a picnic spot. It wasn’t super warm, so we didn’t swim – only waded in up to our knees.

Key Largo is pretty chill — a few fun outdoor restaurants, the usual grocery stores/chains, and a lot of boaters. We’ve largely been working all day then drinking beer and wine and hanging out on the porch all evening, every night. It’s a rough life. After 10 straight months on the move, it’s nice to just relax once in a while.

A few days after we arrived was Hannah’s birthday. Since it was mid-week, we celebrated with a home-cooked dinner and my parents sent a lovely bouquet of flowers.

After a lovely first week, Matthew arrived. Since we had taken the car up to Stuart to receive the keys for the new boat and take some measurements for ordering new parts for the internet setup, we picked him up from Miami airport on the way home and stopped for Cuban dinner. It was a little chilly and Hannah had to wear all the spare clothing we could find in the car!

Delicious Cuban sandwiches

The next day Matthew and Keith went on a fishing charter. They returned home with about a dozen fish – largely yellowtail and tuna. This resulted in Hannah and Matthew making several delicious home-made fish and chip nights and amazingly fresh sashimi appetizers!

Brent and Elizabeth sent us, via my parents to Hannah’s parents, a custom puzzle of a photo from last year’s Christmas holiday – the one we wrote about early on in this blog! We spent a lovely evening putting together the puzzle. Hannah wouldn’t let anyone look at the picture after we opened the box, which everyone complained about, but it actually made the completed result more satisfying! It was fun to spend the evening piecing together a photo of all the family, back when we could be together. Hopefully we’ll be able to reunite next year.

We started hatching a plan to potentially take Highwind out on her last hurrah to Key West, or possibly out to Dry Tortugas, if the weather cooperates. That will be Matthew’s last week at the house before he heads back to San Jose.

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