Friday, June 17, 2011

Weather Links

I've been recently asked by a lot of cruisers as to what we used for checking marine weather while we were out cruising and sailing.  While I did an entry on this while we were still out, I thought I'd update the information.

First - onboard weather access without a computer.  In other words - how did we get weather when we didn't have an Internet connection.

First, we have a Raymarine Chartplotter and we bought the Sirius weather module for it.  I can't say enough good things about having this.  Not only could we get NEXRAD radar information - both stills and animations - that gave us storm density and direction, but it also has lightning strike information.  The lightning strike information is great (it displays a lightning icon in every location that it is detected) as it can tell us the severity of a storm and whether there is potentially hail involved.  Plus, a lightning heavy storm generally has significant winds, so it lets us prepare for upcoming conditions.  It also shows individual storm cells and lets you see the clocked winds in each cell.  Less useful or the NOAA/NWS marine forecasts as we never have found them to be overly accurate.  The satellite weather definitely saved us on several occasions, including once when we were off the New Jersey shore with no place to duck in and we could track when a storm packing 70kt winds was going to hit us - almost down to the second.  We had plenty of time to reef the sails and tie down loose items both on deck and below.

Second, we have an ICOM SSB.  We signed up for a subscription with Chris Parker ( for the "low" price of $295.  This gave us access to not only listen to Chris's broadcasts every morning on the SSB, but to also give him our current location and destination (whether we were at anchor or in the Gulf Stream) and get forecasts of weather, weather windows, routing, Gulf Stream info, etc., for the entire east coast of the US (and he does the full Caribbean too).  Chris has been a weather forecaster/router forever and he knows what quirks each region has and how they react to different patterns.  He was over 90% accurate with regards to wind speed and direction, waves, precipitation, fronts, pressure systems, etc.  I would highly recommend that anyone who is cruising the East Coast of the US down through the Bahamas and the Caribbean at least listen to Chris (for free) each day.  He also sends e-mails on a daily basis containing all of the forecast info, and during severe weather (tropical depressions/storms/hurricanes) he is on the radio and e-mail more than once a day.

We didn't ever contact him, but Herb Hilgenberg ( does free weather routing for  the North Atlantic between the Eastern Seaboard and Europe, including the Caribbean Sea, the Bahamas Islands and the Gulf of Mexico.  He has been around forever and is probably best known for his assistance with helping people with weather routing for Atlantic crossings.

Last (and probably least) as an on the water weather source was the use of the VHF based weather.  Most VHF radios have the ability to listen to WX1-WX7.  This broadcasts the NWS/NOAA marine forecast for the local region and offshore (within range).  We found this weather to not be overly accurate, mostly from a wave height prediction perspective.  We found if we doubled the predicted wave heights, the forecast was closer to accurate.

There are a ton of Internet based weather sources that are excellent.  Here are the ones we mostly used:

There are probably a bunch of other resources I missed, and I welcome you to comment on this post to add new and useful ones - I'll add them as you send them to me.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Chris here... Sorry we didn't update you after we left Liberty Landing.  We had a nice time there, albeit expensive as their "reduced" Winter rate was still $2.50 per foot + $18/day for electric.  We went to the Liberty Science Center which is about a mile long walk from the marina and checked out a lot of their very cool exhibits with the kids.  On Friday night we had a few of our good friends from Haverstraw take us out to a great Portuguese restaurant in Newark.  Saturday was a quiet day - just a lot of hanging out on Pelican, relaxing, and eating leftover turkey.  I sure do miss those relaxing days on Pelican, and will gladly take any day on Pelican - even without the clear waters underneath us.

Sunday turned out to be a nice day - not incredibly warm, but the wind was down and our full enclosure created somewhat of a greenhouse effect.  I would highly recommend that ANYONE cruising get a fully enclosed cockpit - even in the Bahamanian sun it was great to reduce the heat and protect us from rain.  In the cold it's even better.  We never even really needed to run our portable propane cockpit heater, although Kristen did turn it on just because she likes to be toasty.  She would have used it in the Bahamas if we had brought it with us.

Statue of Liberty
We left Liberty Landing at around 8:30 or 9am or so and did our "standard" course - we headed for the Statue of Liberty before we went to the East River.  There's nothing like seeing the statue from your own boat, right up close.  The picture above above just doesn't do her justice.  We were right up to the security zone and could almost reach out and touch her.  It must have been amazing for the immigrants of another time to sail through New York Harbor and see her majestic stance, awaiting their opportunity in a new world.

Hell Gate
Anyway, once we saw the statue we took a hard left turn and headed to the East River.  Traffic in the harbor wasn't bad at all - only a few tour ships and barges to dodge - so it was easy to enter.  Holiday weekends in the Winter are definitely a good time to come through.  For those of you that haven't had the pleasure of hearing about traversing the East River, it's not too bad a trip as long as you take into account that the entire Long Island Sound pours into it on one side and the Hudson River pours into it from the other.  In other words, currents can be a bit tricky and strong so you have to time your traversal correctly.  The most "difficult" section to get through is an area called "Hell Gate" which is the convergence of the East River, the Harlem River, the Hudson River and The Long Island Sound.  You can get whirlpools and riptides through here, and if you are trying to get through against the current, which can sometimes be north of 5kts, life can get interesting.

Some people prefer to enter the Hell Gate area when there is no current (i.e. slack).  Liking a little adventure on a sailboat, however, I prefer entering Hell Gate with a full on current in the direction I'm going.  To make this happen, you enter the East River just as the current turns slack, and the current picks up as you go along.

Tug traversing the East River

Riker's Island
Anyway, this is what we did.  There was a bit of traffic on the river, but we monitored the commercial channels (Channel 13) and spoke to the tugs as needed.  It's pretty cool passing under the Brooklyn Bridge and by the original Domino's Sugar factory (painted to look like a big box of, well, Domino's Sugar).  We came close to dropping the kids off at Riker's Island, a high security prison facility that's supposed to be pretty nasty, but we decided there might be too much paperwork.

Traversing Hell Gate at 10.3 Knots

Going through Hell Gate ended up being pretty sane.  We got stuck behind a tug going slower than us (we had about a 4kt current in our favor, so add our 6.3kts of boat speed and we were doing about 10.3kts over ground - not our fastest, but still fun for a 26 year old sailboat!) so we had to throttle back some.  With the currents and the turns through the gate you really don't want to pass anyone.  I'm glad we did this since as the tug approached the exit from the gate he slewed sideways some from the riptides.  Exiting the gate we had to stay behind the tug for quite some time as there was a lot of BIG oncoming traffic.  That's OK though - we're a sailboat, even if we're motoring.  Relax, take it easy, and enjoy being out on the water.

Leaving NYC behind
The ride through the East River was fast.  So far we had averaged over 8kts on this trip, so it wasn't even noon by the time we hit the Long Island Sound.  As you can see above, the seas were pretty calm and the day continued to be beautiful.

Stamford appears a bit empty
By around 2:30pm or so we had arrived in Stamford, CT.  We had slightly incorrect directions as to where to go for our slip, but it all worked out and I got a great opportunity to practice my back and fill one hundred and eighty degree turns.  We pulled into our slip, tied up and cleaned up some.

Here's where the dance and logistics got fun.  Our car was in Haverstraw, our kids needed to get home for school the next day, and we were in Stamford - not even our final destination.  Our good friend Dan from Haverstraw drove our car to Stamford for us and met us at the marina.  Another friend, Robyn, came along for the ride.  A few minutes after they showed up my mother, who lives in Stamford, also showed up.  We all hung out in Pelican's cockpit for a few minutes, and then Kristen departed back to Haverstraw with the kids, Dan and Robyn.  I was able to convince Dan and Robyn to make the drive back to Stamford, so as soon as Kristen dropped them off they turned around and came back.  While Kristen drove back to Albany with the kids, Dan, Robyn, my mother and I all went to an All You Can Eat Sushi place in Stamford (Sushi X).  $20 for all you can eat sushi, kitchen appetizers, udon, tempura and more!  How can you beat it?? This is one thing we could never get in the Bahamas unless you caught it yourself - cheap sushi.

Robyn and Dan ended up staying for a few more hours and we ended up finishing a bottle of Rum.  Well, actually, pretty much just Robyn and I started and finished the bottle of rum.  Kind of scary!  Kristen got back at around 10 or 11 and proceeded to open a new bottle.  Dan didn't drink, so at about midnight he and Robyn took off back to Haverstraw.  It's always nice to hang out with friends!

The next morning it was just Kristen and I and we headed for Branford.  This was a fairly easy 38nm jaunt - exit Stamford Harbor, turn east, go 15nm, turn slightly north, and then go another 20nm, then turn toward the Branford River.  It was another great day out, and the weather cooperated well.  Our only issue was dodging lobster pots - many of which were black (scum from being out all season?) and difficult to see.  We ran over one, but it didn't catch.  We certainly weren't interested in diving on our prop in 45-50 degree water!

Branford Harbor/River

Dutch Wharf Boatyard is an interesting place.  It resides on a quiet river off the Long Island Sound.  To access it you have to follow a fairly narrow channel showing on our chart with depths of six feet - Pelican drawing six feet.  Speaking with Dutch Wharf, however, we knew that the depths were closer to eight or nine feet at low tide.  Regardless, it's nicer to enter the harbor when it's mid or high tide, and that's what we did.

Entering Branford River
I wish I took more pictures, but Branford River is just a completely serene world during the off season.  On season, there's a large marina at the entrance to the river with boats zipping in and out all day long.  Today, however, we were one of two boats on the river, just ghosting along and barely running a wake.  Several people waved at us to welcome us as we passed the breakwall at the entrance.  What a gorgeous area with a complete New England feel.  The picture above is of the widest area of the river, just before the breakwall shown on the map.

As we approached Dutch Wharf I realized that we had a 1kt current or so moving with us upstream so I contacted Dutch Wharf and they had a couple of people waiting for us at the docks.  The slips are perpendicular to the current so it can be somewhat tricky entering them.  It's kind of like a controlled crash - you have to turn your boat sideways about 20 feet or so before getting to your slip, let the current carry you along, and then floor it to get forward momentum as you close in.  It often seems like you're going to slam your bow into the boat in the next slip over, but if you don't do this you'll miss your slip and be in a world of hurt.  Anyway, I was able to line up well, zoom in and perform a solid, yet gentle, landing.  We tied up, checked in and then relaxed.  We were a day late due to the weather, but that was OK.

Sunset from our slip in Branford
Over the next two days we had a ton to do.  On Tuesday morning Kristen took the train from Branford to Stamford, CT to pick up our car.  As they were predicting nasty rain and wind for Wednesday, we opted to do the outside work on Tuesday.  We pulled the sails off and folded them.  Since we were going to pull the mast out for the Winter, we pulled all of the running rigging, the vang, the boom and other pieces and parts off.  We labeled and disconnected all of the multitude of wires that run through our mast.  It was a long day, but we did it and everything went well.

Gross flatworm
Wednesday was nasty as predicted - sheets of rain and winds gusting to 50mph.  We went out to Walmart and bought out their supply of pink antifreeze (non-toxic so you can use it in your drinking water system) and then proceeded to Winterize everything - the fresh water pressure system, the engine, the generator, the bilge and several other items that we didn't want damaged over the Winter.  This is the first time we've done it ourselves and it worked out well.  Our only "moment" was when we opened up our AC/Heat system and a disgusting pink gelatinous mess slid out.  It then unraveled itself into a pulsating twelve inch long flatworm.  Ick!!!  Kristen threw it into the river and then proceeded to find its kids in our AC/Heat filter, which she also threw into the river (the kids, not the filter).  After we thought about it, we hope we didn't introduce a non-indigenous species to Branford!

After Winterizing we packed up box after box of "stuff" from Pelican and moved it through the driving rain to our car.  We had decided to get as much off of Pelican as possible so we could give her a huge cleaning in the Spring.  I'm not even kidding - our waterline was changed by over four inches once everything was off!  Overall, not a fun day, but definitely a productive one.

Pelican has now been hauled and her mast removed.  She should also be shrinkwrapped by now.  We have a lot of work to do on her over the Winter.  The boatyard will be fixing an issue with the rudder cage that is known to Passport boats (it's pretty corroded through) and we'll be doing some work on the mast (new wiring, cleaning up some corrosion, etc.).  We might also take the opportunity to do a little work on the teak decks.

Several people have asked why we moved Pelican all the way to Branford, CT instead of having the work done at Haverstraw.  It has nothing to do with a concern over the quality at Haverstraw.  Two years ago when it was recommended that we use Dutch Wharf to get some work done to Pelican we dropped her off in October.  They had estimated that the work would cost about $9k.  A few days later we decided to go cruising and asked them if they could complete the repairs in two weeks as opposed to taking the entire Winter like we had originally given to them.  They were able to, and as we were about to pull away from their docks the owner came running up to me with an envelope.  "What's this?" I asked.  "Well, the work didn't come out to $9k so it's a partial refund."  I was amazed and delighted.  The work was done very well (these guys don't just repair boats - they build new wooden ones from scratch and completely renovate older vessels), done in record time and it was done well.  That's why we use Dutch Wharf and recommend them to everyone.

Here are a few pictures for everyone's enjoyment of some of the boats at the Dutch Wharf yard.  You may get an idea of the type of work they do by looking at these vessels.  I'll try to post some updates over the Winter.

Can't forget Pelican!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Liberty Landing to Stamford Sunday...

Boy was it blowing today... small craft warnings, winds to 30kts+.  If we were heading down the coast it would have been perfect - beam wind at 20-30kts and 4-6 foot seas.  But alas, we're not heading down the coast, and it would have been a miserable trip down the East River.  Sunday is supposed to be much better so we'll be leaving around 8:30ish to catch the flood tide through the river.  The currents can get to be upwards of 4-5kts, higher in the Spring, so you pretty much have to go with them when on a sailboat.  You follow the flood tide on the East River when going west to east, and the ebb when going east to west.  Anyway, we expect to be under the Brooklyn Bridge between 8:45 and 9am, Williamsburg 10 minutes later, 40th st. around 9:25, 81st st around 9:45, Whitestone 10:20ish, Throggs Neck 10:45ish, in sight of Rye, NY (my hometown) around noon, and Stamford between 1:30 and 2pm. Follow along via satellite by clicking on the follow us link on the right side of the page.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Day one - Haverstraw to Liberty Landing

Chris here... Just a quick update.  We're probably going to be staying here at Liberty Landing for a day or two.  We didn't leave today since it was raining and windy, and didn't feel like running the East River and Hell Gate when it was difficult to see through the dodger.  Unfortunately, now it looks like tomorrow, while it won't be raining, will be REALLY windy with 20kt winds and gusts to 30kts, meaning 25kt+ winds and gusts to 40kts once you "reinterpret" the National Weather Service forecast.  So... we're probably going to stay here tomorrow too, and then head out to the East River and Stamford CT on Sunday which kills our logistics a bit, but such is the boating life.

Yesterday's trip was fairly uneventful which is a good thing.  It was so incredible being behind the wheel again with a real "destination".  It's going to be tough peeling myself away from Pelican next week and going back to the day job.  What's going to be tougher is when we have to make the turn from New York Harbor into the East River not continuing south instead, through the lower harbor and then into the ocean and south.

Here are a few pictures from yesterday.

Pelican prepped to head out - looking like
a cruising boat again.
Almost up to the Tappan Zee bridge
And past the Tappan Zee...

Almost to the George Washington Bridge.  Starting
to rain a little.

For those of you that know the book, here's the little
red lighthouse under the great grey bridge!
The start of the Harlem River. If we didn't have that
 big stick on the top of our boat we could
have shaved a day off our trip.  I'm glad we can't
fit through :)
In our slip at Liberty Landing
Thanksgiving Dinner.  Kristen is awesome at boat cooking.
We even had a 14lb turkey cooked in our oven.  It was

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Echo echo echo :) And we're heading to CT

Chris here... I don't know if anyone is still reading our blog, but I thought I'd post a short update if you are.  We left you kind of suddenly, and I've received numerous e-mails over the past year asking "What happened?  What's the end of the story?"

If you don't read the entire post, just know we're moving Pelican to Connecticut, leaving either Thanksgiving day or the day after.  We'll be running our SPOT tracker if you want to follow along for fun.  Click on the "Tracking Us" link in the upper right section of our blog.

Last we left you it was almost exactly a year ago - December of 2009.  We were in Haverstraw, NY, on the Hudson River.  We had planned on being two night transients on our way to Baltimore but it never came to be.  Business wasn't great and I needed to stick around.

Pelican braving a Winter storm
Our house was still rented out, so we ended up living on Pelican for the Winter while at Haverstraw Marina.  It was actually great!  Yes, we had to deal with excessive moisture inside, and the fact that our diesel heater kept most of the boat very comfortable (we could get it to 90 if we wanted to) but since the vents weren't at the extremities of Pelican (i.e. not at the foot of our bed or the kid's bed) our feet would get a bit chilly.  We had to shovel snow off of the docks at times and use jerry cans to fill our diesel tanks.  But - we were still living on our home on the water, and it was great.

We shrink wrapped Pelican so we never had to deal with snow or ice in the cockpit or on deck.  As a matter of fact, we could use our entire deck as additional storage.  The marina placed bubblers in the water to keep the ice from fully encroaching on Pelican's hull.

Pelican Shrink Wrapped, Ice in the Water
We met some great people at the marina over the Winter and made some truly great friends.  I had to work in Albany at least three days a week, so we would pile into our car and stay at our home away from home - the Marriott Townplace Suites in Albany.  The kids weren't crazy about it, but since we didn't have a TV on Pelican they were excited about being able to use the one in the hotel room.  We became platinum members since we stayed there for so many nights, and we were experts at packing and unpacking every week.

I spent a significant amount of time working towards selling my company and was finally successful in finding the right partner in June of 2010.  I now work for the company that bought mine.  It wasn't a windfall, but it was good for us and gives my family the stability they need in today's turbulent economic times.  Unfortunately, it does mean the end of our cruising - for the moment.

At the beginning of September, this year, our renters moved out of our house and we moved back in.  They actually took phenomenal care of our house with it being in better shape in certain ways than when we moved out.  We had continued homeschooling Casey and Kaitlin while we lived on Pelican over the Winter, but when we returned to our house we sent the kids back to public school.  It has definitely been an adjustment, but they are enjoying being around their friends.

Being back in our house is also a huge adjustment.  To tell you the truth, I much prefer our 250 square feet on Pelican to our 2500+ square feet at our house.  We're back to having "stuff" although we never ordered cable TV (we do have cable Internet though) and we don't have a landline telephone.  We've worked to replace energy eating appliances and have replaced many lights with CFL's.  We've decided to keep many of our economizing boat habits - not because we have to, but because they make good sense.  I truly miss having our kids sleeping six feet away from where my wife and I sit at night, and listening to them laugh, giggle and talk while they are supposed to be going to sleep.  It has been really difficult for me to adjust back to life on land.  I constantly want to be back on Pelican.

We did go back to being weekenders on Pelican.  We made a ton of friends at the marina (Haverstraw rocks!) and I felt like I was back in my college days with the amount of partying we did over the Summer (I can officially tell you, for example, that Sunny D and Rum is NOT a good combination).  Pelican rarely left her slip though - after ocean sailing and being in clear, warm water for so long, we were rarely motivated to take her into the current filled river and sail her back and forth.

Some of our amazing Haverstraw Marina friends.  Left to right - Dan,
Robyn, Kristen (you know, my wife), me (the guy in the orange
hat), Dana and Terri.
The upside is that we recognize what an incredible opportunity we had - we made great friends, we saw beautiful places, we learned about the history of our country and became part of other cultures, and most importantly - we spent close to a year and a half living every day, all day, with our kids.  It was, well, indescribable.

What are our cruising plans moving forward?  Well, right now I plan on continuing to work for my company and to regrow it to its past glory.  If things don't work out for some reason, we plan on moving south to Virginia or the Carolinas.  Our current thinking is that if that happens (and it would only happen for an extraordinary reason) we'd buy a larger boat and live on it.  Casey is now as tall as I am (almost 6'3"), fourteen years old, and needs his own room.

In the absence of something happening between now and when Kaitlin goes to college, we plan on moving back onto a boat the day after she leaves.  As we've told her, don't let the door hit you on the way out :).  "When we send you off, you can visit us in faraway lands for the summers," we've told her.  This would be a little over eight years from now, but hopefully we'll get out there sooner.  By the way - Side by Side, who we met in the Bahamas and became close friends with, has moved back to Saratoga, NY, about 30 minutes from our house.  It's great having cruising friends so close!    They are actively working on selling their Manta 42 catamaran, so if you have an interest in an excellent cruising cat that has been well taken care of, please let us know.

So that brings us to our immediate plans.  We found some structural issues with our rudder cage (a known issue on Passports) and have to get a new one fabricated.  Our first trip after we decided to start cruising was to bring Pelican from Dutch Wharf Boatyard in Branford, CT to Annapolis.  Well, this weekend, we're completing the circle and bringing Pelican back to Dutch Wharf for the Winter.  She'll get some much needed pampering while there, and be hauled for the Winter.  We're going to take the opportunity to take her mast down and do some work on rigging, the VHF antenna, put a tricolor on top, fix the rudder cage issue and check for any other metal issues while she's there.  Dutch Wharf is the most honest yard we've ever been to in our entire cruise, and we highly recommend everyone go there to get work done.  Last time we were there, they actually gave us money back from our prepaid estimate, did a high quality job and completed the work (which was fairly major) in under two weeks.

We'll be leaving either Thanksgiving morning or Friday morning from Haverstraw and will head to Liberty Landing Marina.  The next day we'll shoot up the East River, through Hell Gate, and plan on reaching Stamford, CT.  After that we'll head to Dutch Wharf in Branford, CT.  We'll be running our SPOT tracker, so feel free to follow along if you're bored.  Click on the "Tracking Us" link in the upper right section of our blog.

We'll keep you updated every so often on what's happening, so please stay tuned.  If you have any questions, or are planning on going cruising yourself, we'd love to talk to you so please write us at

All the best, and Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, December 3, 2009


Chris here... First off, I'm sorry to everyone for not posting.  We're still in Haverstraw, NY, and it looks like we'll be spending the Winter here (in the snow and ice, and with the water turned off on the docks).  We're fine, but I've returned to work.  I'd love to post what's going on, but it's somewhat competitive in nature and, apparently, many people who work for my company's competitors read this blog.  Right now, we're still not 100% sure what the future holds for us, so I would suggest subscribing to the blog via e-mail using the link on the left hand side of the page.  Once we have any firm updates, we'll do a new post.

Saturday, October 24, 2009


Chris here... Day two was another *almost* no brainer with a fairly quick run down to Haverstraw from Kingston.  So what made it an almost no brainer?  Well, our engine was up to its old tricks where it just didn't want to turn over due to a partial hydraulic lock.  It eventually did start, though, and we left at around 7:30am and made it to Haverstraw by 2:30pm or so.  The highlight of the day was Kristen's chicken soup and matzoh balls.  Yes, my wonderful Catholic wife made matzoh balls, and I so love her for that.  It was quite chilly out, and she made the soup in the pressure cooker, so it warmed us up from the inside out in a most wonderful fashion. 

We pulled into Haverstraw and were assigned our slip.  While Kristen and Casey cleaned up the boat and hooked up the shore power, I took care of signing us in and checking in with Samalot Marine - the shop that was recommended to us by a friend to look at our Yanmar (for those who asked - it's a 4JH3E).  I called my mother and two uncles, all of whom live within an hour of Haverstraw and wanted to visit us while we were here.

On Thursday, Walter (the mechanic from Samalot) showed up at around 10am.  We walked through all of the issues we've been having.  Every time we've had a mechanic on Pelican since our problems started cropping up, our engine has started right up.  We were absolutely sure the same thing would happen this time.  So.... switch in, turn, press the start button - and - it didn't start!  I don't think I've ever been so happy to NOT have our engine start!  Walter agreed with us - it sounded like a partial hydraulic lock. 

(I'm not going to go into a ton of detail in this section, so "getting from point A to point B in our diagnosis might not always make complete sense.  I am including it because a lot of people have been following our engine troubles and want to know.  Skip these paragraphs if you just want to read about what else we've been up to)

We brainstormed together on the best way to get the water our of the engine and to determine how it was getting there in the first place.  We ended up taking the hoses off of the mixing elbow, and out poured water.  We had already replaced the anti-siphon, but regardless of this we started disconnecting various pieces of the engine to trace the water issue.  Anyway, long story short, we seemed to be getting immense back pressure from the antisiphon and beyond, and since the tube is not that far above the waterline, we decided that we would move the valve portion higher on the boat.

On to one of our other issues - unburned fuel coming out of the exhaust.  The combination of the water and the unburned fuel, plus some oil loss and blue smoke, was making me think that we had a broken piston ring or worse.  This would require the entire engine to be pulled out of the boat to be overhauled.  Well, first, the mechanic pulled out all of the injectors and found that there was significant carbon buildup.  This could cause fuel to be sprayed in a poor pattern, restricting combustion.  He then did a compression check on all of the cylinders and found that they all showed decent compression.  The compression level of the first cylinder was somewhat lower than the rest, but it was still OK.  He reinstalled the injectors and bled the air out of the system and had us try to turn the engine over again.  After listening to the starter, he felt that it wasn't turning fast enough so he had us switch to the house batteries.  We did so, and he thought the starter sounded better.

Regarding the carbon buildup, we have been concerned about that all along.  Diesel engines are made to run fast and hot, and with the propeller we use (Gori) and its overdrive mode (which allows us to dial down the RPMs and still maintain speed), we don't run it fast and hot.  As a result, carbon doesn't burn off and builds up in the cylinders and injectors.

We also thought we were burning oil, but it may be due to the fact that the engine was overfilled.  Kristen did an oil change in Norfolk, and it's possible we didn't completely fill it there (although she's fairly confident, as am I, that it was filled).  If it wasn't, that could explain the oil we had to add en route from  Norfolk to NYC, and the oil we had to add in NYC.  Then, we next checked the oil while the engine was turned on in Albany, and you can't do that since it's circulating.  We added oil at that point in time.  When we left Albany, the oil was a 1/4" over full on the dipstick, but the boat had been sitting for two weeks since the engine was last run, so every last bit of oil had filled the pan.  Then we checked it again in Kingston, 12 hours after we had run it, and it showed a 1/4" UNDER full, so we thought we may have burning oil.  We then checked it again in Haverstraw, and the level hadn't changed.  So... we're not sure if we are burning oil or not, and if the engine WAS overfilled, it would naturally burn the oil.

So... the partial hydraulic lock MAY have been due to the fact that our antisiphon valve is too close to the waterline (only a few inches above).  The unburned fuel MAY be due to the fact that the carbon buildup is preventing a proper spray pattern within the cylinders.  The oil burning problem may not actually be having.  The starter MAY not be getting the proper cranking amps from the starting battery.  We really liked the mechanic because he didn't try to be a miracle worker and give us a false diagnosis, but rather pulled things apart and told us what he would recommend to try, and what to do if those things failed.

We now have a project list: 1) Raise the vented loop/antisiphon to a higher level, 2) Add treatment to the fuel to clean the injectors, 3) Run the engine at higher RPMs, and 4) Soundproof the engine compartment so running at higher RPMs doesn't keep us from being below.

One last note regarding the engine - we never checked the impeller to see if the water was possibly entering the system from the intake side.  Kristen's Dad pulled it today and we found that several of the vanes were curved in the opposite direction from the rest.  This could definitely cause problems.

So that leads me into fate.  As I've mentioned before (maybe?), my 97 year old grandpa was diagnosed several months back with Leukemia.  He was receiving blood transfusions, but a week ago he decided to stop doing them.  He came to terms with his mortality, and said it was time to move on.  This past weekend, he attended my cousin's wedding, and he had a huge smile on his face during the whole event.  Not only that, but he stayed until the end as opposed to leaving early on.  We were all very impressed, and very glad to have the time with him.  My assumption was that it would be the last time I would see him.  Kristen and I drove him back to his home that night, and saying goodbye to him took on a whole new meaning. 

My mother and uncles were supposed to visit us on Pelican on Thursday.  At around 12:30pm I received a call from my mother that my grandpa had taken a turn for the worse.  His blood pressure was rapidly dropping and he was in a lot of pain.  She suggested I come right over.  I called up my uncle who lives about 15 minues from Haverstraw and spoke with his wife, and she drove us to my grandpa's home.  All of my cousins, aunts, uncles, sister, mother, nieces, nephews, second cousins and other family showed up through the rest of the evening.  My grandpa was on morphine at this point, but he was still waking up every so often and we could communicate with him.  All of the grandkids and great-grandkids took turns going up to him and giving him hugs and kisses.  Each time he would put a smile on his face and react positively.

Throughout the night, we all stood watch over him, taking turns holding his hands (if you let go, he would become agitated and seek them out), rubbing his back, and talking to him.  My mother was constantly repeating, as she stood vigil over him, "It's OK.  Everything is OK.  You can go now."  The morphine caused continuous nightmares.  He kept sitting up and screaming "Help me! I'm paralyzed!", and we'd gently lower him down, hold his hands, stroke his back, and tell him that everything is OK.  That we're all there, and we're making sure that everything is fine.  At times, when he appeared to be in pain, we'd give him a dose of morphine.  At around 3am, he calmed down.  His legs stopped trembling and his nightmares appeared to have gone away.  This was the last time we heard him speak.

Kristen and I left the home at around 6am to get some sleep at my uncles.  We left my uncles at around 10am to head to the boat.  We had never told Poppi that we were staying over, as we hadn't expected to, and we needed to pick up some clothes.  We were on our way back from the boat at around 2pm when I got the call from my mother - my grandpa had passed away.  She said that he was peaceful and that it was gentle.  He took a last few labored breaths, and then just stopped.  The nurse had opened the window to my grandpa's room a couple of hours earlier.  She said that this would allow the angels to come in to take my grandpa to heaven.  I'm not a religious person, but I'd like to think that's true, and that he is now dancing away with my grandma in a much better place.

My grandpa was Jewish, and "Bashert" is the Yiddish word for fate. When people don't have an answer to why something happened, they say it's bashert. We've been travelling up and down the coast of the US and the Bahamas for almost a year now.  We've been in many ports and been both in touch and out of touch.  The day before my grandpa passed, we happened to be sitting 30 minutes away from him.  We happened to have left Albany on a certain day, and to have engine troubles leading us to stay in Haverstraw for an extra day.  We happened to of had to attend to business in Albany which led us up here in the first place.  None of these things were good on their own, but they came together to allow me to spend one extra day with my grandpa, and that is something that I will never regret.  It's bashert.

Tomorrow is the funeral.  I'd love to get up and speak about what my grandpa meant to me, but I know I'll be far too emotional.  My parents were divorced when I was only four, so my grandparents took care of me a lot of the time while my mother worked full time.  My grandfather has been a huge role model in my life, as some of my earliest memories, and ones I am most fond of, are of being at the textile factory he owned and watching all of the people who worked for him treat him with respect, and him, in turn, talking about their families and how happy he was to be able to employ them.  A lot of my approaches to running my business come from those memories - the people who work for me are like an extended family to me, and I care as much (actually probably much more) about their happiness and well being as I do about how much money they make for my company.  The memories I hold of my grandpa are good ones, full of family, richness of life, enjoying oneself while the opportunity is there and respecting those around you.  He was a man full of vigor almost to the end of his life, and a person who (in my eyes) didn't let adversity get the best of him.  He lived through the Great Depression, two world wars, the invention of the television and the computer, and me living on a sailboat (although he told me I was an idiot and crazy for doing it), and I love him dearly, and will miss him greatly, but I will always have the memories.

Good bye grandpa, and I'll see you again one day.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Day one and an excellent day it was

Chris here... We're here in Kingston, NY.  We're doing day hops down the Hudson since, while the buoys are lit, the river is narrow in this part and there is a LOT of debris (large trees, logs, lumber and other nasties).  We actually hit one board which went under the boat, but we don't think there was any damage as there were no vibrations that weren't there already.

We left this morning at around 7:30am.  We were originally going to head to Haverstraw in one shot, but it was cold out and we would not have arrived in Haverstraw until 10 or 11 tonight.  We thought that it might be nice to stop and take things a little slower in the cold, so here we are in Kingston at the Maritime Museum (again).  Pelican did great today, though.  It was wonderful being on the move again.  We've had a great time in Albany and wish we could stay longer (we truly do), but when they pull the docks out it makes it kind of difficult to maintain station.

Kristen made incredible sandwiches for lunch today (corned beef, provolone cheese and a hoagie roll, toasted, and then with cole slaw and mustard on top) so I'm hoping for more of the same tomorrow!  The kids pretty much stayed down below all day, watching movies and doing projects.  They had no interest in being in the cold.  Poppi (who is with us again) hung out in the cockpit and on the foredeck looking for logs.  Kristen worked on school planning for the kids since they keep pestering her to start school (perhaps pestering is a slightly too strong word).  Kristen bought a pressure cooker while we were in Albany, so tonight we're having chicken done in the cooker.  She's very excited about the pot.  Me?  I'm trying to stay out of the way of possible explosions, although she assures me that won't happen.  I wonder if it's time to call our insurance company?

Oh yes - a little patting myself on the back here.  When we docked they put us between two boats in a 47' spot (we're 40' long).  I docked like Captain Ron!  I spun Pelican into the current as we approached the dock, and then just placed her right in the spot without even having to put a spring line in place.  When I was done, we just gently bumped into the dock and you could step right off.  The woman who runs the museum/marina said I get the "Docking maneuvers of the year" award for my job bringing her in.  Kristen said her eyes had tears (as in crying for joy tears) when she stepped off of Pelican.  The reality?  I haven't docked Pelican for almost two months and I was completely freaking out as to how I would do!  I had visions of slamming nose first into the face of the dock and then plowing into all of the boats around us!  I figured I would top the whole maneuver off by having to do man overboard recoveries of everyone on board that fell off when I slammed into shore.  I won't tell anyone else my fears if you don't!  By the way, did I mention that one of the boats I had to dock between was a multi-million dollar 70 foot sailboat???

Tomorrow will be a long day - the current turns against us at around 11am-ish, so we'll be going slow for quite some time.  That's OK though - it's nice to be on the water.  When we get to Haverstraw we're going to get our engine checked out AGAIN to see if we can figure out what's going on with it.  It keeps developing different symptoms.

Chris Parker is predicting that by Sunday evening we may have winds from a favorable direction, albeit at 20kts or so.  I checked Sailflow and it shows Monday and Tuesday being pretty light wind days.  We just can't win - it's either 30 knots and on the nose, or no wind and motoring.  Well, Monday is a long ways away, so anything can happen between now and then.  More tomorrow...

Monday, October 19, 2009

We're outta here!

Chris here... I had meant to write a post a few days ago, but it's been a whirlwind of activity around here. This past weekend we had my 20th high school reunion (surprisingly fun!), my cousin's wedding (I'm soooo happy for her) and my Mother's birthday (I won't say how many years). I don't think I need to tell you how insane the weekend was, but it was all good.

Anyway, I just thought I'd update you on our plans. They yank the docks out at the Albany Yacht Club on the 24th, so we need to move along. I reached out to a few places on the Hudson, but everybody is shutting their water off very soon due to freezing temps. On top of that, if we don't go south soon, we won't be able to go period. So - we're heading out tomorrow, Tuesday.

The current pseudo-itinerary is to head from here to Kingston, NY, then to Haverstraw, NY. In Haverstraw, we're going to have ANOTHER Yanmar mechanic take a look at our latest problems (eating oil, blue exhaust smoke and some fuel in the exhaust) which could potentially be pretty serious (piston blow by is on the list of possibilities, which would require removal of the engine and reboring of the cylinders). On the other hand, it may be nothing. Before everyone runs to "it's the head gasket", we're not seeing any oil in the coolant, nor are we losing coolant. I know that's not the ultimate test, but problems will generally show up there. Anyway, I'm not going to worry about it until a mechanic reviews it. Supposedly the Yanmar mechanic in Haverstraw is pretty good (I got a referral from someone I know).

From Haverstraw we'll head to NYC for a day or two. Then, because NYC is ridiculously expensive ("Winter Rates" don't kick in until November), we'll probably head to the Atlantic Highlands around Sandy Hook, NJ. There's a weather window that started today and goes through Wednesday, but we'll miss it. It's supposed to be blowing 30+ knots from the south for a while, so we'll hole up in New Jersey until we have a window to head to the Delaware River. Once we're in the river, we'll go to the C&D Canal, and then down the Chesapeake a little ways to Baltimore. We'll probably stay there for a little while.

Why Baltimore? Because I'm about to become a frequent flyer on Southwest Airlines. They have a direct flight to Albany, and I'm not ready to completely leave work yet. Things are going pretty well, but it's still important for me to be involved. Baltimore will be fun though - there's a great Aquarium, science center and lots of other stuff. We'll spend some time there, and then maybe head to Washington DC.

All I know right now, however, is that we untie our lines tomorrow and head south down the Hudson River. At least it's supposed to warm up to 60 degrees or so (balmy!). Follow along on the SPOT by clicking the link to the right...

We'll get a good post up soon with info on the boat show, this past weekend, etc. Thanks for your patience!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Feeling Melancholy, Always Reminders

Chris here... Sorry it's been so long since we last wrote. We'll get a post up shortly about our trip to the Annapolis Boat Show and our time with our cruising friends while there, and about the fact that we head out from Albany on the 20th, but I just want to share another story first.

As everyone who has been following our blog knows, our reasons for getting out cruising weren't all about seeing the world, or to take time off from work, or because we've had grandiose dreams for years about getting away from the grind. As a matter of fact, it was only five or six years ago that I even suggested to Kristen that we do this, and she had only sailed once before in her life before I made the suggestion.

The reason we're out cruising is because of family.

Today I had another not-so-gentle reminder of the importance of family. The nine year old son of one of my friends passed away from cancer two days ago (Click Here). There is a website dedicated to him at Here's an excerpt:

"Earlier today he started to have difficulty breathing and we knew he was getting really tired when he stopped allowing visitors we knew he really enjoyed talking with. Stacey and I stayed in bed with him as much as possible all day today. We took turns holding his head and stroking his brow or rubbing his back. He would open his eyes and stare lovingly at his Mom. We continued to tell him how much he was loved and how much we knew he loved us. We shared the postings and emails of friends. We promised to take care of James and each other and told him not to worry about us. At 6:20 PM he quietly stopped breathing. Dr Pearce waited a little bit and listened for heart beats or breathing sounds. Ben left us. He reached the end of the journey that he was on. At the time of his last breath Stacey and I were holding him. We are so blessed that his passing was gentle."

I don't even know what to say, except that I'm glad - no, far more than glad - that we're taking the time to spend with our kids and each other. Once again, life can throw you curve balls at any point. You never know what tomorrow can bring. You have to seize the moment the second you have the opportunity, and you have to reflect on what is truly important in your life. Yes, it's hard to untie the dock lines and cast off, but when you're surrounded by your family you have everything you will ever need.

"Donations may be made to the Ben Fund at HSBC Bank(494 Troy Schenectady Rd, Latham , NY 12110). Originally set up to help the family with medical bills, it will be renamed the Green Drakkoman Foundation and the funds will be used to help other families."