Friday, December 28, 2012


The concept of time is one that has fascinated scientists and philosophers for years. Whether time exists or whether it is an intellectually convenient concept of measurement derived from regular physical movement or repeating events. For us humans however we are all too aware that our life spans are measurable and that we are only going to see a finite number of sunrises.

The Admiral and I had been discussing for some while how we would design our forward schedule. We have other projects in mind and there is a great deal happening in our lives. Looking back over the last three years aboard Last Mango we had traversed the North American continent from Alaska to New England, some 15,000 miles, in distance more than half way round the planet. For us it has been one of those superprojects that had been in genesis for a number of years; a series of personal challenges which we had never before had the luxury of tackling and enjoying - we had never had available to us the limited resource required - time.

Our continuing wish list included a trip across the Pacific, exploring Australasia, and getting around the Mediterranean. I spent a while analysing the logistical implications and realised, regrettably, that we would need to commit a fair number of years to such a plan if we were to continue to do it by sea. Considering our responsibilities to ourselves and family we started developing the idea that we would need to move on from our cruising life. We had great regrets from doing so - we wanted the adventure to go on and on! I put feelers out as regards listing Last Mango for sale. The Nordhavn 55 market has been pretty active lately with a new generation of Dreamers taking the wheel from previous explorers. We arrived in Old Port Cove, Florida and spent some days running through our routine of cleaning, polishing, maintaining (we always do this before we start the social blitz). I discussed with James Knight the possibility of listing the boat and suddenly we were getting our things on board packed and into store............our forward schedule was that we would travel soon to Memphis, Tennessee to stay with friends for the holidays so something was running out - time. It transpired that the stars were in alignment. A buyer out there was keen to find his 55. All too soon we were walking away from the dock leaving our beloved boat for ever. Today the sale completed. No doubt she will have many more adventures and help future owners live their dream but for us the time was up.

Looking back over our journey I want to thank many friends along the way. Captain John Clayman; our mentor over the whole piece. Captain Jerry Taylor; who oversaw Last Mango's renaissance when we bought her. Captain Bernie Francis; our ever patient and knowledgable trainer and adviser. Our friends on Gabriola Island and in Vancouver who looked after us so well while we were based in the PNW. All our West Coast friends from Alaska to Haida Gwaii to Panama. The FUBARistas on the Mexico Rally. Fellow guitar players and jammers. Our family crew; Jo and Dan, Vik and Paul, Luke and Amy, Spenser and Jenny, cabin girls Ellie and Evie-Jane. All our friends who came on board. My Panama Canal crew - Dad, Chris, Bernie, Pete. All our East Coast friends. James Knight; who knows more about looking after Nordhavns than just about anyone else on the planet and who executed one of the fastest sales on record. I salute the Admiral; who ten years ago had no idea that she was going to (a) get her own captain's licence (b) become an accomplished mariner (c) put up with me and my project stream. Last but not least, the Nordhavn Community, a vibrant and energising group of entrepreneurs and adventurers, we will miss you.

As to forward plans, we have none. Time with family especially grandchildren. No doubt some chartering and crewing. More explorations by land. What a luxury having time to fill! Knowing us, we will think of something to keep us just as busy as ever. Now, what project shall I work on first....................


Friday, December 14, 2012

Cape Hatteras on a Bad Day

We planned a long run south from Charleston; the schedule was calling and there were gales forecast up in the Cape Fear area later in the week. We made preparations for a departure on Sunday morning and then we just needed to wait for the tide to stop running so we could get out of the town marina safely. They have depth issues and very few slips have over 5 feet at low tide so we were shoe-horned between an evening cruise boat and the pilings. To exit demanded slack tide and sideways movement of some 30 feet which would have been impossible with the outgoing tide; as it was all was good and the exit was smooth.
Day 1, Night 1 and Day 2 were fine, in fact the weather was excellent with wind less that 10 knots. An issue arose at dusk on Night 1 when I discovered that our port light bulb had blown. I had checked it was working only an hour earlier but it would not be practicable to change it underway with the daylight going. It was on my mind all night. Around midnight somewhere ahead Warship 66 announced a live firing exercise and an exclusion zone of 15 miles so we had to change course to go around the area. All you need is to know that the navy are launching shells somewhere near you in the middle of the night! And it was all very well but, thinking about it, all vessels in the 30 mile corridor would be making the same course changes .............. yes, it meant that we were all going to converge in the dark and go round the same corner. Sure enough a couple of hours later a German tanker was coming up quickly to overtake us at 17 knots with a CPA of only 300 yards. Mindful of our less than perfect port lighting (in spite of having AIS) I turned on the boat deck lights and the floodlights. Never seen a more rapid change of course. In the morning I constructed a suitable harness and climbed up and changed the bulb. That certainly felt a lot better.

Closing on the Florida Coast I tuned into the Coastguard weather forecast as usual around 5pm. Some increase in wind forecast, and veering across us from SE to SW unfortunately (ie head seas); then we heard an announcement that there was a possible tornado warning in the North Florida area. That did not seem to be too much to worry about but we had been experiencing a general increase in wind speed as the afternoon passed.

The storm hit us exactly at sunset with very little warning some 25 miles north of Cape Canaveral. The radar burst into life with a huge red rash and, worse, the storm was full of lightning. Rain and wind are fine but a lightning strike and a boat full of electronics don't mix.The first wave of the storm was between us and the shore and was just full of lightning; we changed course towards the SE and increased to full speed to stay away from the front; I ran the wing engine just in case we needed it and also the generator for AC since the temperature increased substantially.


The picture on the right shows one of the storm waves advancing on Last Mango; the storms were moving at around 25 miles per hour and changing all the time. Just when one died down another sprouted to take its place. The wind increased very swiftly from 25 knots to a maximum of 42 knots (the picture above shows a read of 40 on the wind speed indicator). The barometer dropped 7 mb in four hours. Aboard we had already carried out our routine of securing loose items but we had to revisit that quickly since the sea was getting up and we really needed to get anything that had the potential to become airborne into a cupboard or somewhere secure. It turned out to be a long night. The first phase lasted for some 5 hours from 6pm to 11pm; at that point we were nearly round the Cape and away from the worst of the storm waves; but the fronts kept coming through until around 5am. We had decreased speed and were turning 5 or 10 degrees away from the wind and the head seas from time to time but still the wave heights were very significant, we have no idea how high in the darness but the pilothouse was taking constant spray and the bow dipped into the sea every few seconds. The tensioner securing the anchor came undone in spite of having a locking nut so that was another excursion for yours truly at 2am to crawl onto the deck and resecure the anchor with a mooring line. (The tensioner was retrieved later from behind a fender tied to the deck) We saw only 3 other vessels. A fishing boat did not seem too troubled but another cruiser shadowed us through the night as we dodged the storm fronts; a northbound sailboat was assisted by the Coastguard as they were taking on water over the bow in the heavy seas. A Coastguard storm warning was issued at 2am so not really much help by then.

Looking back on it all it is hard to see how we could have forseen this one. Of course it would have been easier to just cruise in daylight down the coast in short hops but that would have taken more than a week to work down the coast or the ICW. In the end the analysis is that we had an uncomfortable night; once in a while you will get caught. What was impressive, again, was how well our little ship shrugged off whatever Cape Canaveral threw at us. One thing is for sure, I would not like to have been out there on any boat less seaworthy than ours.

Arriving in Old Port Cove we hear tales of the weather being rough out there ............ 25 knots! Mmmm we think ............ that sounds like a cake walk!

We have been away on our summer cruise and adventures from OPC for eight and a half months and it is like coming home. The social calendar is filling up rapidly from the Nordhavn network of other boats here....... the Small World of Cruising.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Charles Towne

The sunsets and sunrises we see while on the move are really quite something. This picture is when we were rounding Cape Fear during our 206 mile run from Beaufort Inlet to the Cooper River at Charleston, carefully timed to arrive at the Maritime Center at high slack in view of the potential for strong current. The colony of Carolina originated in 1629, named after Charles 1. Subsequently  in 1663 Chales II granted the colony to reward eight Lords Proprietors who had helped restore the monarchy after Cromwell. Charles Towne settlement was established in 1670 and it thrived on trade initially with the West Indies. In the early years the prosperity of the Carolinas was founded on the export of deerskin, rice and indigo. In 1676 Magnolia Plantation was founded, a few miles up the Ashley River; this property has been owned by the same family for some 336 years and has been open to the public for well over a hundred years.

We enjoyed our day at Magnolia; the Admiral was in her element photographing life in the swamp (me) on the Audubon boardwalk and marvelling at the Spanish Moss on the Live Oaks. The once grand house at Magnolia is no more; it was originally burnt to the ground after a lightning strike and then
again by Union troops after the Civil War. Charleston was the main colonial port involved in the slave trade and the place where fighting started in 1861. At that time the population of the United States was 31 million of whom more than 4 million were slaves; within five years 600,000 soldiers died let alone uncounted civilian casualties. The fortunes of Charleston declined after the American Civil War; agriculture was much less profitable. However the region recovered as a center for the arts and tourism - the latter is now the number one industry.    
Gershwin was here in 1935  - he was even a visitor at Magnolia - and wrote his opera Porgy and Bess in fictional Catfish Row. It was not a commercial success at the time and subsequently was attacked for its stereotypical racial overtones. "Summertime" has been recorded over 25,000 times and I even used to play it with my earlier rock bands. What connects it to Deep Purple? Well, the riff in "Black Night" was copied from Ricky Nelson's performance of "Summertime". True. Strolling around Charleston is a delight, many miles of streets and avenues of southern style property.The properties South of Broad are all still in single occupation; no convenience stores, no modern developments, timeless.
Checking the weather I find that it is going to be unsettled towards the end of next week so tomorrow we plan to press on South while we have a weather window.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Cape Hatteras on a Good Day

The run down the Bay was smooth until near Cape Charles harbor when a small storm came in making for a windy and rainswept night. Fortunately we can just put the heating on and relax with Eric Clapton on the DVD. The prospect of exploring the small town of Cape Charles (pop 1,134) did not seem too interesting but, as we usually find, when you scratch the surface of all communities you will find intriguing things and interesting people. Investment = Return. The Admiral met the Mayor (of course!) while I networked around the local businesses; in the general retail wilderness I discovered a wonderful gourmet wine shop about the size of a tobacconist which even had Cloudy Bay in stock.....cheaper than Fortnum & Mason.  The town is close to the foot of the Delmarva Peninsula (DE, MD, VA ...........) and was founded as the railway terminal. Curiously enough the line ran down the peninsula and then the rail cars were loaded onto barges
to be towed by tugs across the mouth of the Bay to Norfolk. You can't make this stuff up. On one side of the main street of the town are the shops and on the other are the rail cars. The barges are around since the rail line still operates. It would be quite surreal to take the
train south from New York and wake from a nap to find yourself crossing the Chesapeake on a barge. I wonder if they have life jackets on the train, railway cars are not known for their buoyancy.  Of course now one can drive across the mouth of the bay via the Bridge/Tunnel, one of the longest in the world (over 25 miles). For the tunnel sections, a ditch on the sea bottom was dredged; tunnel segments lowered, divers bolted these together and then the water was pumped out. Rather like the Battery Tunnel in New York last month. Looking at the chart of the mouth of the Chesapeake we pay particular regard to Note F "Maneuvering in close proximity of the bridge-tunnel complex is discouraged". You bet.
Ahead we had a 215 mile two day passage around Cape Hatteras. The cape is the junction between the Mid-Atlantic and South Atlantic Bights, and the meeting place of the cold Labrador Current with the warm Gulf Stream. The notorious Diamond Shoals have claimed more than 600 shipwrecks since records began and earned the name "Graveyard of the Atlantic". I have been looking closely at the weather and tomorrow there are forecast light North winds (behind us) and seas of 2-4 feet and falling. It seems that the Coastguard, PassageWeather and Windfinder are all in synch. The Diamond Shoal buoy wind forecast is in low single figures.
I should mention that to journey south from the Chesapeake one can either head outside - round Hatteras, or inside - along the ICW. We came inside on the way up earlier this year. With the weather forecast so good, the outside is the best choice. The inside alternative involves 2 or 3 stops for the night, because running the ICW in the dark is impossible. Additionally the inside run entails a great deal of vigilance in driving the boat; taking care in the narrow and shallow ICW, and the endless succession of bridge openings which require close attention to speed and timing. However, on the outside run there are no places to stop and you are at the mercy of the weather. 
Our departure from Cape Charles was, as usual, low key. 8am; the wind had disappeared and so had the clouds. But it was damn cold; a freezing temperature and thick frost all over the docks. We ran the lesser known North channel down and under the bridge; the tradesman's entrance to the Chesapeake. The radio was busy; the pilots were snaring any foreign-flagged vessel. Every foreign-flagged vessel over 100 tons requires a pilot North of Baltimore and anywhere in the Delaware Bay..........a run up or down the latter will cost a minimum $3,576. Ouch. Another pitfall for the unwary who registers their vessel overseas (Last Mango is 60 tons by way of comparison). Outside the bay a warship was conducting a live firing exercise.........the captain was re-inforcing his warning on Channel 16 to a fishing vessel close by - even I could hear the machine guns chattering away in the background to his broadcast. The Coast Guard were grilling a local fisherman over his licence and his catch. All in a day's work. We cruised directly across the mouth of the bay, pausing briefly to let a thousand-container ship pass in front of us on its way to the Panama Canal.
Our route was approximately 5 miles off the Outer Bank shore all the way to the Cape. The weather forecast was right on; the seas reduced to that glassy quality when all is calm. Eventually the sun disappeared West and straight away the moon appeared East, almost as if they were joined together on a piece of string. There was very little traffic, just one tug with a tow ahead of us. We were doing 3 hour watches, and rounded the Diamond Shoal buoy at 2am in a dead calm, the Cape Hatteras lighthouse pulsing away in the background. An experienced captain was saying to me recently that all the hard work should go into the preparation, maximising the probability that the passage will be relaxing and uneventful. Amen to that. 
Research ahead gave us the choice of Beaufort or Morehead City for a rest up for a couple of nights. Some more research with Active Captain and we booked into the MC Yacht Basin. Friendly folk; cheaper than Beaufort and no current. And we certainly have left the snow behind in Maryland; here in North Carolina the temperature is in the high 60's. With a local IPA in my hand in the Ruddy Duck things were looking good. Tomorrow there is the local craft fair, the Christmas flotilla, the art walk................
Next - Charleston.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Southbound on the Chesapeake

At the time of my last post we were monitoring the oncoming storm, Hurricane Sandy. As readers will know, the Admiral and I were home in Panama at the time. Firstly I will say a sincere thank you to our kind friends and followers who gave us early warning of the storm and that we should organize some assistance to prepare Last Mango. We were very lucky to have nearby available expert assistance to go on board, re-tie lines and carry out other essential preparation work. When the storm hit the New Jersey coast Last Mango was indeed fortunate to be the other side of Chesapeake Bay in a very sheltered marina. The boat was tied some six feet away from the dock, as for another Nordhavn, Sweet Hope. The water level rose above the level of the fixed docks; the marina staff slept in the office for four days, touring the dock each hour. No damage was suffered in the storm I am pleased to say, although there were sustained winds of some 50 knots with gusts of 60 knots. The whole experience was a salutary reminder of how difficult it is to leave one's boat somewhere; you can never account for the unexpected.

Our time in Panama was well spent attending to another demanding mistress, one's land life! We look to have had the medical check-ups, brought the admin up to date and dealt with plenty of unexpected things along the way. And a fair amount of socializing was done. Returning to Last Mango last week landed us in prime holiday time and we met some delightful new friends to join celebrations with.

The weather was unsettled through last week and the weekend but cleared today. After running all the systems on board and carrying out our checks we made a short run of 45 miles today down to Solomons Island in the centre of the Chesapeake. It was a very smooth ride and the best kind of journey - uneventful! I am looking carefully at the weather over the next few days and it remains good - relatively light northerly winds and fairly calm seas, so tomorrow our plan is to head down the bay to the last stop - Cape Charles - and from there we shall make our decisions as to proceed South.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Hurricane watch

Where is the blog! I guess you have been asking this question ..............

Well, the Admiral and I have taken a cruising break. We took Last Mango to a marina near Annapolis and have flown home to Panama for the Land Based Chores. Yes, real work. Like catching up on the dentist and the health check ups; getting the admin under control, doing some essential maintenance in the apartment; maybe some sewing, some guitaring - guess who does what......... you will be surprised how much there is to do to get one's lives back under control!

All is fine until one looks at the weather. Here is the current image projected for Tuesday from PassageWeather:

Yes, that is Sandy. We will only travel when the image is light blue, let alone yellow, red, or PURPLE! That is from 50 to 100 miles per hour. Annapolis is in the Chesapeake, just left of the purple tail. Put it this way, I am monitoring the situation!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Guest Blog.....Evie-Jane's own - a Cabin Girl's Story

Well this boating is a lark isn't it! I was wondering what Grandpa was up to on that boat of his and now I know. He has been telling me how much hard work it is but really! We've been partying just about every day!
Anyway I have soon learned how to drive this boat. As far as I can see you just point it in the right direction and you fiddle with this little dial, autopilot or something. We have been going round this big bay called the Chessa Peak, Daddy has figured out that it was created over 35 million years ago by a "bolide impact event" - trust Daddy (huh!). Anyway I thought that the chillest place we went to was the aquarium.........yes, dolphins. The jellyfish were weird too, they are older than dinosaurs - even older than Grandpa.

Mummy has been to America many times but this is my first visit, and Daddy's. It is all a bit larger than life..........we spent the first few days shopping - can you believe it! The Mall.........well, not really my favorite pastime. But I did enjoy trying out Coca Cola (caffeine-free of course), Dr Pepper,

Root Beer (ugh), Ice Cream - wowiee .............and Susie's cooking has been wonderful. Pureed salmon; roast chicken and veggie bake; yum. Actually it is not all that bad here with these old folks.
Baltimore was my first American City. Then Annapolis. Then St Michaels. All these places are getting smaller, but they are very nice and it is great that everyone speaks English although we are overseas. I am thinking that Geography might be a good thing to do at school, especially if we can go on some trips somewhere. But music is great too - I really like Grandpa's guitar and the Eric Clapton DVD's, but Mummy is not so sure!

Daddy has gone a bit wild and I think he is really trying to learn the language. He is really into his Ham 'n Eggs and Pumpkin Ale (?!&?)........ we are still wondering how many ways you can actually get your eggs cooked apart from Over Easy and Sunny Side Up. Anyway I don't like the runny bit on the top, it is so yukky.


Well I am going to sign off now. I have my own cabin with my own bed, so there! Along with Ted and Grandpa's old T-Shirt (after Mummy had her turn with it) I will now let Last Mango rock me to sleep. Goodnight all.