The Off Season Part 2

Happy New Year!
Off Season – continued

Hi Everyone! Hope you had a terrific holiday season and your new year is off to a fantastic start!

We have made a bit of progress on our “off season to-do list” so we thought we would check in and bring you up to speed.

To recap, we are making our way through a long list of preparations for ourselves and on Gratitude to prepare us for our mid-May departure to Europe. Upon returning from our summer trip to Nova Scotia, we evaluated ourselves and Gratitude for changes that we felt were necessary to improve our safety, comfort or knowledge before we leave in May for Europe. These changes range in importance from simply cosmetic to mechanical maintenance.

One of the big dream items on our list – purely cosmetic and comfort related, was the hard top on the fly bridge. As you can see in the pictures below, when we purchased Gratitude, she had a soft “bimini” type top. Reluctant to spend the time and money changing this before our summer trip, we decided to “live” with it and decide exactly how important it really was. Well, after the summer trip, we decided that it needed to be on the top of our “To do” list. Alec and I enjoy every morning on the fly bridge having coffee, praying, meditating or just contemplating the day ahead. We can’t overemphasize the enjoyment that this morning ritual brings us. On days when the dew was heavy or it has rained over night – or was raining still, we really couldn’t comfortably sit there. Also, my elliptical machine was exposed more to the elements which, once the hard top was installed, added a great deal more protection from both the sun and the rain. While we hated to make the expenditure on a non-necessary creature comfort item, neither of us could be happier with the results. Below is a before and after photo. We had the work done by Pipewelders in Fort Lauderdale. We had contacted Nordhavn to try to have one factory made in Asia and then shipped over on a new boat but this would have taken several years in production with their current new build schedule.

The Old Top (St. Michaels, MD)


The New Top


The wing Engine Stuffing Box before and after…

2 other smaller cosmetic improvements include turning a locker into a dedicated kitty “head” complete with air vent. This summer we used the guest head for the kitties but when guests came to visit, it was a challenge re-training Pratt and Whitney to use their box in the “new spot” – and finding a place for this rather unpleasant aspect of cat ownership was a challenge. And there is a perfect place in the galley for an additional shelf – I would love a place to put herbs growing in the light of the port.

Chief among our mechanical items on the list was to do a thorough “Bottom Job”. This is pretty involved process but there is nothing more important, in our opinion, before crossing a large ocean. Inspecting the bottom was done to ensure that the bottom is clean and to strip off 12 years of paint through a bead blast and then repaint the bottom with a special paint that resists (to some extent) marine growth. A contaminated bottom can significantly affect fuel burn. Part of this job is to remove and inspect the shaft log, stuffing boxes, propeller, drop the stabilizer fins and replace seals and hydraulic cylinders, replace the seals on the bow and stern thrusters and finally, remove both hydraulic pumps and steering cylinders, Below are some pictures of Gratitude coming out of the water and then getting a good cleaning. The large inflated plastic enclosing the bottom is done to minimize the environmental impact of all of this old paint coming off.

Crew preparedness is an important component of embarking on a trip of this magnitude. In some ways, there is no way to really prepare for 12 continuous days at sea without actually doing it. But we did attempt to make longer coastal passages so that we could build up our muscle and affirm ourselves that we are ready to do it. But a couple of items on the “To do list” for the off season were for Alec and me to get our Captains License. While it was more difficult than either of us thought it would be, we are happy to report that we passed it and all that remains is to receive the final credential from the Coast Guard. We will both be receiving our 100 Ton Captain License which will permit us to charge passengers on an un-inspected vessel. Of course, we have no interest in doing that, but we wanted to gain as much knowledge as possible before our departure. Adding to our bag of knowledge, Alec and I are both signed up for ABTrac Owner Hydraulic school in San Francisco, CA. A two day class we have taken before, it encompasses everything from maintenance, diagnostics and repairs to effect underway. This is a refresher for us to build on our current level of proficiency. This class is schedule for the end of March.

And finally, electronics: The plan here is to upgrade the Furuno Black box to the TZT Black Box, add another PC loaded with Nobeltech TimeZero Pro so that we will have 2 PC’s running simultaneously allowing for triple redundancy. 2 new radars, new transducers for bottom contours and depth, satellite compass antenna, satellite communications of some sort – either a phone or Iridium Go or both.

Electrically we will replace both inverters with new Magnum Inverters. This is scheduled to be done next week.

Some challenges have arisen on the homeschooling front. The program that we had planned to use (Calvert) has gone to a fully digital format requiring the near daily interaction on the internet. Since we have no idea what our connectivity will be, but certain that we don’t want to forgo a trip to the museum in place of the internet cafe to do school work, we have had to find a substitute program. One which showed promise was Unfortunately this program limits the counties in Europe where we can use it. This is a little odd to us but the research continues. If anyone has a suggestion, we would love to hear it.

There is a You Tube video of a group of Nordhavns who crossed in 2004. I have watched this video a few times, each time gleaning some small nugget of wisdom from their experience. Basically, the preparations both mental and mechanical continue daily.  Speaking of You Tube, we have our own channel.  One of the additions we are looking forward to going forward is sharing video on a limited basis.  This channel will allow us to connect the blog to bits that we have filmed underway.   There isn’t much there yet – but going forward we hope to connect you to some of the more interesting aspects of our journey.

Thats all for now!  Thanks again for reading.