I don’t recall just when or how she acquired the moniker of Ruby the Wonderdog, but it was very early on as a pup and my First Mate aboard the Good Ship Learnativity as we sailed out of San Francisco back in 2007 and set out to explore the world together. This is my very first photo of her the day I picked her up on the 12th of October, 2007 when she was about six weeks old.
Today, almost 16 years later, Ruby weighed her last anchor and headed off on her final passage. As you might imagine, Christine and I are riding life’s rollercoaster of emotions today which includes a lot of sadness but if you chose to continue reading, I hope you will indulge me this personal detour. I’d like to remind myself just how much Ruby was THE Wonderdog as we celebrate and appreciate the profound joy she brought into our lives and that of countless others she met along the way. Like most of the awemazing events in my life, Ruby came into my life when the forces of serendipity and synchronicity combined to have us meet and be bonded forever after.
As I was preparing to head off sailing around the world singlehanded, I had thought I might get a cat at some point but my dear friend Grace happened to mention that her two dogs had just had a litter and she was looking for a good home for the last one. It was the classic love at first sight ,and we’ve been together ever since. Ruby was a “Spoodle”, cross between Poodle and Cocker Spaniel and both her parents, Grace’s dogs, were Spoodles. And when I say she was small I’m not exaggerating as you can see here in this picture with my daughter Lia’s little Papillion “Piglet”. And Oh, the places we did go! We started by sailing down the West coast of North, Central and South America to Rapa Nue aka Easter Island where we turned right and headed West to Pitcairn, Gambier and on through most of the Polynesian islands. Westward to more islands such as American Samoa, Niue, Tonga, Fiji, Marshall Islands, New Zealand, Vanuatu with multiple passages between all of these for about the next five years. Aboard Möbius this past year, the Wonderdog sailed with Christine, myself and her buddy Barney, along the coasts of Turkey, Greece and Sicily then across the Med and North Africa, across the Atlantic to Martinique in the Caribbean and up through the Bahamas to Florida and now her final port here in Portsmouth Virginia. Being all Black other than a small White blaze on her chest, Ruby was typically difficult to see in photos but if you look closely or click to enlarge, you’ll see her on the other side of me as we crossed the equator in 2009. This would be our first of seven times we crossed the equator together. In 2013 when serendipity and synchronicity again combined to have the awemazing Christine and I meet for the first time in Fiji, Ruby was there too as seen in this first photo ever taken of us a few hours after we met. That first photo above was taken on our dear friends Ian & Coleen’s boat Summer Spirit in Vuda Point Marina. Ruby fell in love with both of them, and vice versa, probably spending more time aboard Summer Spirit than Learnativity in all the years we were back and forth to Fiji and Vuda Point. Ruby loved running up and down beaches and this one in Majuro in the Marshall Islands was one of her favorites. In multiple passages up to Majuro from Fiji, we probably spent over a year’s time there, the last two with Christine aboard as well. The Wonderdog was always a marvel of balance that would make any gymnast or circus act envious and perched herself at the bow every dinghy ride no matter the conditions and never fell off once. Though she jumped off as soon as we got near the beach as she just couldn’t wait to swim ashore and hit the beach running. Another of her many skills, she became and expert and sniffing out and then digging out crabs no matter how deep down under the sand they went, and then eat with great gusto and lips carefully bared so as not to get bit by their claws. On rare occasion she would take a back seat to her best buddy Barney as long as it meant another trip to the beach. We soon became a family of four when Christine’s dog at the time Barney joined us, and he and Ruby became best buddies immediately almost more than did Christine and I. However it quickly became apparent that Barney was “my” dog and Ruby was velcro’d to Christine from the very first day they met. In any case, we were now a family of four. Both Ruby and Barney were great snuggle buddies, sometimes along side us sometimes alongside each other. Always at the ready for the next adventure, or the next meal. Can’t say that it was her favorite thing to do but Ruby was no stranger to dressing up for special occasions such as being Bridesmaid along with Barney as Groom at our wedding in 2015. And celebrating each Christmas with us as Santa’s little helpers. Along for the ride with all our family and friends such as one of Lia and Brian’s many times aboard starting with this first one in Puntarenas Costa Rico along with their little dog Piglet. Son Skyler on one of our many visits to Vancouver BC. And my apologies to SO many other friends and family I’m leaving out here.
If you believe in dog years, Ruby would be about 110 years old now and Christine and I have known for the past few months that age was beginning to catch up with her. She had lost most of her hearing the past year and was developing cataracts in both eyes, but she was still as frisky as a pup at times racing up and down the side decks, eating, drinking, pooping and sleeping well and seemed to continue to enjoy life together with us. So we’ve been keeping a close eye on her, and this past week she started to go downhill down rapidly. Barney noticed the change as well this past week and in an apparent common scenario, for the first time he began to give her some very serious grooming sessions licking her head to toe for half an hour or more multiple times a day. Ruby seemed to signal us as well as her appetite diminished as did her weight this past week, and she ate and drank very little the last 24 hours.
The decision was not easy but it was clear to all four of us that this fateful time had arrived. So a few hours ago, we snuggled together with our dearest friend and crewmember for one last time, shed more than a few tears and kissed Ruby the Wonderdog Bon Voyage for her final passage in this life, with us by her side.
Over our years together the boats Ruby and I have lived and sailed upon have changed, but I’d like to think that we have both stayed largely the same and as bonded together as ever.
This was us in Fiji in 2009 and ….. …… this is us this morning in Portsmouth Virginia, fourteen years later.
FYI, totally unintended coincidence but yes of course I’m still wearing the same shirt!
We have seen a lot of the world together and watched a lot of sunsets over the years, my dearest Ruby. My rough guesstimates are that together we’ve checked into more than 33 countries, flown almost one hundred thousand air miles, tens of thousand road miles in cars, trucks, RV’s and motorcycles, countless more miles on trains, taxis and busses and sailed over 60 thousand nautical miles.
Ruby, words can not possibly articulate how rich and charmed my life has been since you first entered it. I will never be able to thank you enough for all the many gifts and profound joy you have given me during our almost sixteen years together. I think I may be ready for a world without The Wonderdog in it, but I’m not at all sure if I will ever be ready for a world without my partner Ruby.
Lucky for me, there really is no such world as I will always have and cherish the treasure trove of memories from all our shared experiences in life together.
Thank you my friend, my partner, my beloved Ruby. Fair winds and following seas as you weigh anchor and set out upon your latest voyage with me at your side as always!
Another 2+ weeks go zipping by and May is already half over! Lots of changes for us in this time as we crossed over from the Bahamas where we left off in the last update, and entered US waters for the first time on Möbius as we begin to make our way North along the East coast of the US. Here is a quick summary of our travels the past two weeks.
Bahamas to Florida
In the last update we were anchored off of Coopers Town on the NE coast of Great Abacos waiting for a storm front to pass and provide us with a good weather window to make our second “Atlantic crossing” over to Florida.
We left Coopers Town on May 3rd and anchored for the night on the NE corner of a tiny little island Mangrove Cay which Christine knew from past visits here on her boat, would provide us with a good jumping off point for the crossing.
Speaking of jumping off, SpaceX was thoughtful enough to provide us with quite the send off as you can see in this great shot Christine captured with the twilight launch of their latest “Falcon Heavy” rocket on our last night off Coopers Town. It was much more spectacular when seen from this distance compared to the close up view she got when we were anchored off Cape Canaveral last week.
Not to be outdone, Mother Nature also helped to send us off on our crossing with this beautiful sunset as we were anchored off Mangrove Cay.
My reference to “skinny dipping” in the title is because we have spent most of the past month dipping our very skinny boat in the very “skinny” waters with depths of under 3m/10ft in most places. In the Bahamas this is known as “The Banks” and you can see this very vividly in the sat photo here with all that light turquoise coloured skinny waters. This is one of the many reasons we worked so hard to keep Möbius as “skinny” as possible with a draft of about 1.3m/4.3ft so we are good in up to about 5 feet of water. Seeing these skinny depths is a bit disconcerting at first but you soon get used to it and just pay a lot more attention to depths on the charts as you go.
Our spot off Mangrove Cay was very peaceful and next morning we had the anchor up by 7am and headed for West Palm Beach which was just a bit south of due West. In this heat map you can see the warm waters that create the Gulf Stream that flows North at up to 6 knots at times so we “crabbed” our way across it with the boat pointing ESE at times in order to make the straight line across to West Palm Beach. Our Furuno Auto Pilot worked well to make this very easy and the crossing went without any problems taking about 10 hours with an overall passage average of about 8.2 knots in spite of fighting the current a bit.
Back in the USA!
We have both been into West Palm Beach inlet on previous boat trips in the US and it provides a very easy entry and is an official Port of Entry which we needed as this was our first landing in the USA. As with most countries the checking in process is getting much faster and easier being done online and with aps on your phone. In the USA this is done with the “CBP Roam” app from US Custom & Border Protection which we have been using in the USVI and Puerto Rico so it all went without a hitch once we had anchored inside the inlet near the bottom of this photo.
With one more passage in the logbooks, it seemed worthy of a celebration so we popped the cork on a cold bottle of bubbly fresh out of the fridge and took in all the entertainment provided by all the commercial and recreational ships and boats in this very busy spot in the good ‘ole USA.
We anchored in the lower Right corner of what is labelled as the “Turning Basin” in this chart as this is where lots of the big cargo and cruise line ships dock over on the far Left of this chart. We were also back in more skinny waters anchoring in 5-8 ft of water but all worked out fine. Next day we took the dinghy ashore in the dinghy and I went to the nearby CBP office to get a Cruising License while Christine headed for the grocery stores to top up our fridges and freezers for the next few weeks.
Fun with Family & Friends
Our Grandson Liam lives just a few miles South of West Palm so Christine had made arrangements for Liam, Tim, Ashley to drive up for some more time aboard on the weekend. Ashley’s Dad Dan was also able to make the trip so he got his first visit onboard and even caught a feisty little Mangrove Snapper from the Aft Deck! Christine and Tim cooked up some burgers on our grill to top off the evening. Tim & Liam stayed for a sleep over to put the icing on the cake and then Ashley came and picked them up on Sunday afternoon. Way too short but a great visit none the less.
From West Palm we made our way North along the coast before heading into the Intercoastal Waterway or ICW at Fort Pierce near Jensen Beach were our dear friends Steve & Kathleen live. A good anchorage on the South side of the bridge with a very well done dinghy dock to make it easy to come and go ashore and we spent three days anchored there enjoying some extended time with Steve & Kathleen both on Möbius and in their home where Kathleen treated us to a “low country boil” meal of shrimp, sausage, corn and more. Steve was kind enough to loan us his pickup truck for our stay so we were able to get lots done and had a great visit with them.
We continued up the ICW to Coco Beach that is close to where our friends Pam & Dave live and we were able to host them aboard Möbius for their first visit and then go ashore for a craft market that was going on that day. In the next few weeks we will be day-tripping our way North to Norfolk and we will do quite a bit of that travelling along the amazing ICW that you can see in the map above. The ICW is quite fascinating and though it keeps you busy steering the constantly winding narrow channel we enjoyed more “skinny dipping” our way along this scenic “Ditch” as it is often called.
The deepest sections are typically about 8-12 feet deep at best but is well marked on the charts and with Red/Green markers like this one to guide your way. Popular amongst the animal kingdom as well! Traversing the ICW involves going under lots of bridges, some that are fixed such as this one and others that are draw bridges where we have to time for an opening to get through. We have an air draft of about 8.2m/26.9ft so there are also some bridges with clearances of around 30ft that we can go through without needing them to open. From Coco Beach we decided to head back out of the ICW to make the jump up to Charlottesville South Carolina offshore and avoid the tighter sections along Georgia that Christine is not too fond of having spent a LOT of time cruising the ICW in many of her previous boats over the years.
Launching Off Shore
Even better though was that this gave us a chance to go have the very interesting experience of traversing the lock at Cape Canaveral and
….. have a truly front row seat of the launch of yet another SpaceX rocket in the wee hours of the 14th that Christine stayed up to grab this photo.
If you click to enlarge this photo, the one below and the chart above you will see how interesting this route out to the Atlantic was. We took a hard right turn off the ICW just North of Coco Beach as per the chart above, to traverse the canal you can see at the top of this photo. That involved just making it in time for the 17:00 opening of the bridge that is just off the top of the photo that is looing due West.
Here is the opposite view looking due East towards the Atlantic with Cape Canaveral off to the far Left. We anchored just to the Left of the breakwater sticking out near the bottom of this photo to put us right beside the entrance into the lock on the Left. The Canaveral lock opens for business at 6am so we had the anchor up about 5:50 to catch the sunrise and round the end of the breakwater into the lock just after six. Christine slid us alongside the well built rails on our Starboard/Right side and I tied two lines fore and aft just to secure us while the doors closed behind us and then soon opened in front. Not too dramatic as there is less than a foot of height change but still a fun experience. Exiting out of the lock we called the bridge keeper to ask for his next opening and soon slid our way through. Passing several large cruise ships and then some commercial docks you see here as the sun rose to welcome us back out into the Atlantic. As usual, Weather Wonder Woman Christine continues her masterful work at scheduling our passages in just the right weather windows. The passage up to Charlottesville was about 300 nm/345 miles/556 km and we had the anchor down in the ICW just North of Charlottesville just under 31 hours after entering the Canaveral Lock. That averages out to 9.7 knots which is our fastest passage time ever thanks to getting off shore enough to catch some of the Gulf Stream which had us doing up to 13 knots at times. Fuel burn for this trip was equally as great averaging 1.38L/nm or 2.75 USG/nm We knew when we left that we would likely get “spanked” a bit by Mother Nature just before arriving in Charlottesville and things were a bit more “sporty” for the last two hours as we made our way back to shore and into the welcoming arms of the breakwater. However we were soon back into calm waters once inside the breakwater leading into Charleston.
Back in the ICW
Once inside we turned Right to get back into the ICW for about an hour of smooth sailing up the ICW and pulled over into a small waterway in the tidal grasslands where we enjoyed a very peaceful anchorage and a great sleep that night. The green on this screen grab from Google Maps is all grasslands and marsh and will give you a bit of an idea of our fascinating scenery the past few days as we snaked our way along rivers that all interconnect to provide a shallow passage inland. We anchored for the night of May 15th just off the SW corner of Butler Island which I’ve tried to show on this crude little map. There was a big blow forecast for last night (Wednesday May 17, 2023) so we motored about 15 nautical miles (28km/17 miles) further up the Waccamaw River and then took a fork to the Left at Bull Creek where we have now been anchored for the past 2 nights just off to the side of this narrow river. So far we’ve only seen two small boats with local fishermen go by so we’ve been enjoying the eXtremely relaxing scenery and wildlife. The tidal based currents flowing through these rivers gently swings us around about twice a day and this our view looking South. It is quite the amazing feeling to be so truly isolated in this magical wilderness where the only sounds are the wild birds ashore, the buzzing of dragonflies like this one that wildlife photographer eXtraordinaire Christine managed to capture on one of our lifelines. and the occasional splash of alligators alongside the boat. Click to enlarge and look close in about the middle to see one that stopped by yesterday. Turned out to be a smart spot to lay over as we have been far enough inland that we hardly got any of the 40+ knot gusts apparently happing over on the cost beside us. Today (Thursday) has been an overcast and drizzly day so we’ve been enjoying a quite day in the SuperSalon surrounded by this ever so peaceful greenery surrounding us allowing us to catch up with some online jobs such as getting this update put together and posted for you. We’ll pick up the anchor tomorrow and continue to day hop our way up the ICW and various rivers as we make our way North to Norfolk where we have a reservation in a marina there starting on June first and where we will likely stay put for the rest of the summer. Lest you think I’ve forgotten I am still working on the second installment of what has worked out best and least well of the features and equipment on Möbius and will get that uploaded in the next week or so as time allows with cruising every day. The logbook says we just passed 7900 nautical miles in the past 8 months with an eXtensive range of experiences along the way and hope that sharing those with you will be of interest and use so do stay tuned for that and my chronicling of our travels as we work our way North through all these awemazing waterways.
Thanks for taking the time to join us here and please do leave any questions, comments and suggestions in the “Join the Discussion” box below.
We don’t set out to do so on purpose, but it seems to just regularly happen that our passages coincide with holidays. This has been the case for many years now and has continued to be the case this year with some of our most recent passages which have included:
Halloween Kalymnos Greece to Sicily
Remembrance Day Bezerte Tunisia to Saida Morocco
Our “First Kiss” anniversary (Dec 21) Tangier Morocco to Las Palmas Canary Islands
Xmas Eve Tangier Morocco to Las Palmas Canary Islands
New Years Day First day of Atlantic Crossing from Canary Islands to Martinique Caribbean
Groundhog Day Martinique to Dominica
Valentine’s Day Dominica to St. Martin
No particular significance to this, just a bit of synchronicity we find interesting.
However we have been on several non holiday passages the past two weeks and wanted to provide you with an update on those so here goes.
When I left off in the last blog Update we had just anchored in a small bay off Portsmouth on the NW cost of Dominica. Dominica was a particular highlight for Christine as she had sailed into Dominica back in 1994 with her husband Jim and son Tim (9 years old at the time) aboard their 54′ sailboat “Sunrise” so it was great fun to travel around this small formerly British island and revisit some of the same sights she had seen back then. Dominica is quite different from most other Caribbean islands as it is one of the youngest to be volcanically formed and so it is much more mountainous and covered in verdant jungle. It is also one of the least populated with a population of about 74k and mostly underdeveloped island but this is a plus for us as we prefer these kinds of locations, cultures and people. We drove down parts of both coasts and through the capital city of Roseau.
If you look closely (click to enlarge any photo) I think you won’t have any problem spotting Möbius anchored amongst the other sailboats in Portsmouth Bay.
We soon befriended the local “character” who goes by the name of Cobra and we hired him to take care of our whole check In/Out paperwork and then spent two other days having him show us around the home he was so proud of. One of the trips we took was on a relatively small rowboat that took us up the small river estuary that empties into Portsmouth Bay. This was something that Christine & Tim had done when they were here.
We also spent a very full day with Cobra driving through much of the island of Dominica and one of the stops was for a swim to some water falls inside a very narrow fissure in the cliffs. Can you spot Christine swimming back through the narrow inlet? Hint, her lifevest is red. Here is a bit more zoomed in as she was just entering the shot. What makes this area particularly interesting is that there are geo thermal hot springs everywhere. Some small little boiling mud pots like this and others creating whole heated streams and pools.
Morne Trois Pitons National Park is home to the volcanically heated, steam-covered Boiling Lake. The park also encompasses sulphur vents, the 65m-tall Trafalgar Falls and narrow Titou Gorge so we made stops in all of these. Apparently we aren’t the only ones how like these mineral rich waters. The younger topology and abundant rainfall also creates some spectacular waterfalls. This beauty was particularly fetching to me and the the double waterfalls were pretty great to see as well. Dominica benefits from the abundant sources of hydro electric power generation. No dams required when you have a vertical drop of water from the top like this example. Most of the pipes they use for this are created of wood strips held in a cylinder like a wooden barrel with large steel clamps to hold them all together. Amazing to see up close.
After a week in Dominica we took the next weather window to make the relatively short 40nm hop North to the Guadalupe. These French Caribbean islands all use an automated DIY check In/Out system which consists of a PC setup in a marina office where you fill in the fields in a form and is then printed out. You show your passports to the person at the store, give them 2 Euros and they stamp and sign the printed form and you’re done! So we stopped first at the SW end of Guadalupe and anchored out in front of the marina to check in . Unfortunately their computer system was down so I took a taxi into the main town a few kilometers north and went through the process at the Government office there. That only took less than two hours and we weighted anchor and went up to a lovely little anchorage off the small town of Bouillante. Not to be outdone by their neighboring island to the South, the Bay here at Bouillante has a large inflow of geo thermally heated water that creates a large section of the rocky beach that heats the seawater to hot tub temperatures up to 45C/115F and a big hit with the tourists as you can see. As with many of the other Bays in this part of the Caribbean, there are frequent Karibatic winds that funnel strong gusts down the Western lee side of the mountains ashore and usually bring a lot gusty winds throughout the day and night and bringing a lot of the wet mist and rain with them. So after enjoying the big little Festival parade in Bouillante, we decided to move on and took the next good looking weather window to make the larger jump up North. This next passage would be a bit longer as we started to turn on the arc Westward to take us to the island of Saint Martin. This would be about 150 nautical miles and weather wise it was best to do this as an overnight passage so on the Lucky 13th, we left blustery Bouillante in the morning and took a short 10nm jump to a much quieter anchorage on the NW end of Guadalupe and enjoyed a very peaceful day at anchor there. Anchor up about 22:00 and we were off to St. Martin.
To help put this all in perspective, here is a map of the overall Caribbean on the Right. We wove our way through the islands of Montserrat, Antigua, St. Kitts & Nevis and Barbuda and completed the 150nm trip at an net average speed of just under 8 knots.
** NOTE: I’ve received a few questions letting me know I have caused some confusion about these boat speeds I’ve been posting. To clarify, these speeds are calculated by taking the total distance travelled anchor to anchor and dividing it by the number of hours from departure to arrival. Therefore this is what I refer to as our “net average speed”. With stops along the way to clear sargasso weed or dodging other ships, our typical boat speed at any given time is usually a good bit faster in order to produce this net average speed over the whole distance. For those wondering, our typical cruising speed is usually between 8.5 to 9 knots which we are think is the sweet or Goldilocks just right combination of speed and fuel economy. We continue to consume an overall average of 1.8 to 1.9 Liters/NM. As we make more passages we will continue to try out different engine RPM, propeller pitch and boat speeds to see how these affect the fuel economy and I’ll continue to update you here as we gather those data points.
Saint/Sint Martin aka SXM
We have both been to SXM several times before on different boats so this was somewhat familiar territory for both of us for a change.
This is another quite unique island as the southern half is Dutch and the Northern half is French. SXM is also unique for the large bay captured inside the island with two entrances, one on the SW corner at Simpson Bay for the Dutch end near the large airport and then another entrance over on the North side of the Lagoon by Marigot Bay for the French side. There is a draw bridge over each of these narrow entrances and so there are set times each day for 2 to 3 openings for inbound and then another set for outbound ships. We arrived on the South coast of St. Martin in Simpson Bay but were just a few minutes too late for the last inbound opening of the bridge at 15:00 so we anchored for the night outside. Worked out just great as we had a lovely view from our chairs on the front deck watching the planes take off and land literally right beside us as Best of all, we popped a bottle of Champagne, (well OK, Prosecco) to celebrate Valentine’s Day 2023 and remind ourselves just how fortunate we are to have found each other and be sharing this life of love, laughter and learning. Our latest Holiday Happiness at sea!
First inbound bridge opening the next morning was at 09:30 so we picked up the anchor a few minutes before and joined the lineup of boats waiting to enter into the lagoon. Here is a quick look back at the boat behind us just as we were approaching the bridge. It can look a bit narrow at first but we have been through before and our narrow beam (5m / 16.5ft) gave us plenty of room to spare. Just to put that in perspective, here is a shot as we entered into the lagoon and all these other “little” boats/ships had come through before us so there was LOTS of room for us! After entering we needed to go through one more bridge where the causeway from the Dutch side to the French side crosses the lagoon. We preferred the quick and easy check in/out process the French have compared to the Dutch. This is a newer bridge that is a causeway that goes across the lagoon and it was supposed to open at 11am but after holding position for over an hour they informed us that the bridge wasn’t working and would hopefully be fixed by later in the afternoon. So we anchored just off to the side of the bridge and waited and fortunately they got it working and we were able to cross over to the French side just after 14:00.
There is lots of room to anchor all over the lagoon and we found a good spot in about 5m/14ft of water with good holding sand below for our trusty Rocna anchor.
The gusty winds seem to have followed us throughout this trip and continues here in St. Martin along with short bouts of rain mostly at night. But we are very comfy onboard and have taken the Tender into both the French and Dutch sides to refamiliarize ourselves with this unique spot in the Caribbean. Christine has several sailing friends she knows here and we’ll get in some visits with them as well as some larger shopping expeditions for groceries in the well stocked Carrefour store as well as boat parts in the large marine stores here in this popular spot for all the super yachts so there are lots of amenities for us to take advantage of.
We will probably stay here for another week or so before we make our next jump over to St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands so stay tuned for that in the next update in a few weeks.
Sorry for the delay in posting this update of our Atlantic crossing but …………………….. we made it!!! and that is TAXing as in Trans Atlantic Crossing which was definitely NOT “taxing” as in difficult.
This is a quick and dirty sat view of our crossing.
I’ll provide more details below, but short summary is 2718 Nautical Miles/5033km/3127 miles in 13 days 23 hours. Zooming all the way out, here is a truly global view of our passage.
That’s a LOT of blue water! This is our GPS track since leaving Turkey/Greece back on Oct. 31st with 5766 NM/10,678 km/6635 miles
Zooming back in to provide some context of the Caribbean Islands that we will be in for the next few months. OK, now that you have all that for context, I’ll do my best to provide a summary of the passage and some of the more detail stats that many of you have been waiting for.
When we left off in the last update back on New Year’s eve, we were tied up in the Las Palmas marina on Gran Canarias Island all ready to head out New Year’s Day for our Trans Atlantic crossing. After going through the check out process New Year’s Day, we headed we cast off the dock lines at 11am and motored out of the well protected bay on the NE corner of Gran Canarias Island and put Las Palmas in what little wake we produce. Timing worked out great as you can see from the SkyBridge helm station as we we sailed into setting sun and more flat seas.
Passage and Paravanes Overview
As the nautical miles and days ticked by, we got into the typical and predicted Tradewinds that would help propel us across the Atlantic. Wind speeds averaged a bit more than 20 knots and swell averaged a bit more than 3 meters. All downwind sailing with both wind and swell coming from behind us and we had blue skies for almost the entire passage. Following seas are great because we get to surf down them as the pass under the hull and adds a bit to our overall speed. However, following seas also produce some side to side yawing and rolling that creates what Christine refers to as “corkscrew” type motion as the boat crests the top of the swell and can turn to one side as it surfs down the wave. It is really difficult to capture this in photos and video that conveys what it is like in person but here is a short video looking back from the Aft Deck to help show a bit better. For reference the top of the AL entry into the Workshop where the White LED light is mounted, is about 3m above the waterline.
This is pretty much the same physics in following seas for any monohull so nothing new to us just not the most comfortable and so we deployed the paravanes in these conditions, learned a lot and developed techniques and rigging to improve their performance and ease of launching, retrieving and clearing. When not in use, we stow the paravanes upright and tied to the aluminium gate stanchions which worked well. Deploying them is a simple matter of slowing the boat down to under 4kts and then I lower them over the side and into the water. I use the White nylon retrieval line you can see here connected to aft end of the AL fin. This suspends the Paravane in a vertical position and makes it very easy to raise and lower. As soon as they are in the water and trailing aft, I can just let go of the retrieval line and the Paravane immediately dives down in an arc the radius of the fixed length Orange/Black Dyneema lines that each Paravane is suspended from the outer end of the A-Frame boom. You can see the White triangle of the Paravane flying through the water about 6m/18ft below the surface. I shot this short video to try to do a better job of showing how our Paravane rigging works and how they fly along through the water.
I came up with this method of running the White retrieval line through an AL low friction ring embedded into the Orange/Black Paravane lines. These White retrieval lines run slack and if you look at the photos above you can see how they trail out behind the Paravanes so as not to have any effect on the position of the Paravanes until I want to retrieve them. Christine grabbed this shot from up at the bow looking aft which makes it easy to see how the Paravane lines run off the A-Frame booms on either side. We have not ever had a boat with active stabilisers so we don’t have any experience to compare the performance to. However I know enough from reading and talking with those who do have active fin stabilisers that they tend to reduce the rolling by about 80-85%. Based on our limited experience with Paravanes so far and in talking with others who have them, the estimate for more like 60-65% reduction. Plus of course each hull and boat is very different in its ride characteristics taking into account hull shape, boat speed, displacement, length, beam and a long list of other factors that determine how any given boat reacts to various sea conditions. Whatever the numbers there is no question in my mind that active stabilisers would reduce the roll more than passive Paravanes and I think we would all take less rolling and motion underway than more. So it becomes a matter of setting expectations and so far for me I have been very pleased with the degree our Paravanes improve the ride. Overall I would say the most accurate description is that they dampen the roll by making it much slower and less number of degrees and we have been very glad to have them as an option to deploy whenever we wish. On this downwind Atlantic crossing I would estimate that we had the paravanes in the water about 60% of the time. By having them in and out multiple times we were also able to get a much better sense of the speed reduction from the drag they produce and this ranged from .5 to 1 knot of overall boat speed.
Atlantic Ocean should be called Sargasso Sea!
A new challenge we literally ran into on this crossing was an enormous “bloom” of Sargasso seaweed that began part way through the first week of the crossing and continued all the way over to the Caribbean. Everywhere you looked all you could see were these yellow/green masses of Sargasso weed and all their “grapes”. Some of these were the size of small lakes and there was no avoiding them, you just held course and went through them. No harm to the boat but over time we started to slow down as these masses of seaweed started to wrap themselves around the Paravane lines. We evolved a technique for clearing these lines that worked very well. Christine would slow the boat down to about 3-4 knots and I would then hand pull the White retrieval lines through the hand winches on either side. The retrieval line would pull the Paravane into a tail up vertical position and as I kept pulling in a bit more line the Paravane would “pop” up out of the water like you see here. This would whip the two lines attached to each Paravane as it surfaced and jumped up out of the water and shake off most of the Sargasso. If there was some still remaining, I could quickly repeat the process by letting the retrieval line out until the Paravane dove down in its arc and shed a bit more Sargasso and then pull the line back in until the Paravane popped out of the water again and shook of the remaining Sargasso. Worked very well and the whole process of clearing both sides would take less than five minutes and the Captain would bring us back up to our regular SoG (Speed over Ground) of about 8-9 knots.
There were a few times when we noticed that we did not return to full speed after clearing the lines so we knew that we must have also fouled either the hub of the prop or more likely the top front edge of the rudder where it is close to the hull. When this happened we would stop the boat completely and run in reverse for about 30 seconds and also disengage the clutch so that the CPP prop would come to a full stop and then take the boat back up to speed and continue. First time this happened I dove down off the aft end of the boat by the Swim Ladder with my mask on to confirm that the rudder and prop were clean and clear, which they were, and so we brought the boat back up to speed and continued. This added procedure to clear the prop/rudder was only needed about 3-4 times in the two week passage and the rest of the time we only needed to clear the Paravane lines.
About the only breakage we had on this crossing was a SS shackle that attached the Paravane fixed length line to the outer end of the Starboard/Right boom which meant that we were down to just the one Paravane on the Port side. In these sea conditions it would have been a bit risky to bring the A-Frame into its vertical stowed position and climb all the way up to replace the shackle with a new one so instead I simply tied a bowline loop into the end of the Dyneema line and was able to climb up on the Arch and loop it over the end of the boom with our long boat hook. These Dyneema lines I had purchased were made to go on electric winches on the front of off road vehicles and if you look closely (click to enlarge any photo) you will see that they had some very tough reinforced anti chafe tubes wrapped around each which worked out just perfect for my use and no visible chafe by the end of the passage.
That was about the extent of the “excitement” on this passage so I am very happy to not have much else to report. All four of us quickly settled into our rhythm and the 14 days slowly ticked by until we arrived off the SE corner of the French island of Martinique where we anchored off of the small village of St. Anne. When we left the Canary Islands we thought we were going to head for Grenada but a good friend and long time sailing collegue from Switzerland, Philip, had flown into Martinique for a few weeks of kite foiling and we had not seen him for several years so we changed course to land here in Martinique. I’ll provide more details and photos of this lovely spot in the next update and now go back to providing more details on the passage that many of you have been asking for.
Passage by the Numbers:
Along with many of you, we have been looking forward to compiling some of the real world data of the boat’s performance as we put more and more nautical miles under the keel and more hours on the engine and all the systems. Easy to skip over for those not interested, but below is my summary of the overall performance of Möbius so far. I’ll try to keep it simple and just list all the measurements that I think will provide the best overview. We do everything in metric units but I’ll provide some conversions for US and British as well.
Total Passage Distance, Las Palmas Gran Canarias to St. Anne Martinique: 2718 nm / 3128 miles / 5034 km
Total Elapsed Crossing Time: 13 days 23 hours
Average wind speed & direction: 19kts @ 160 degrees to boat (almost behind)
Average seas: 0.8M surface waves + 3M Swell @ 165 degrees to boat
Overall Average boat SoG Speed over Ground: 8.1 kts/hr / 9.3 MPH / 15 Km/Hr
Average NM per 24 hour day: 195 nm
Total Diesel Fuel consumed: 5072 L / 1340 USG / 1116 Imp. Gals
Average Exhaust Gas Temperature EGT: 335 C / 635 F
It is worth noting that all these numbers are actual directly measured units, not estimates or calculations. Fuel totals for example are the sum of every refill of our Day Tank as measured using a sight glass tube. Distances are as measured by our GPS. Elapsed times are from the time we left the dock in Gran Canarias until we arrived at the anchorage in St. Anne Martinique.
To my way of thinking, using such direct measurements throughout the passage and totaled at the end of the total passage time frame and distance provides the most accurate and realistic numbers possible.
Our design goals for Möbius included being able to average 8-9 knots SoG enabling us to cover 200 NM per 24 hour day while burning less than 2 Litres per NM and so we are very happy with these real world numbers. Our sincere appreciation to our brilliant designer and NA, Dennis Harjamaa at Artnautica Yacht Design in Auckland, NZ for designing our hull and boat that met and exceeded all our design goals so well. Thanks Dennis!
I will continue to keep logging all the extensive amounts of measurements for every nautical mile we cover and will update these as the months, years and nautical smiles go by.
Mr. Gee v2 Performance
I’m also delighted to report that Mr. Gee v2 performed flawlessly. We’ve never had a power boat before and so having an engine running 24/7 for two weeks was also a new experience. In total Mr. Gee’s hour meters recorded 337.3 hours and he purred away every one of those hours without a problem. Needless to say we are particularly delighted about that performance figure!
Similarly, our Nogva CPP or Controllable Pitch Propeller and Gearbox also exceeded expectations and performed flawlessly so our overall propulsion choices continue to be one of our best decisions in designing this boat. This propulsion duo has given us a “set it and forget it” kind of combination where we pretty much just set Mr. Gee’s RPM at 1450 and let his governor keep it there, adjusted the Pitch until the EGT was at about 340 degrees C and didn’t need to change it until we put the anchor down in St. Anne two weeks later.
Answering more Questions:
To answer a related question I’ve received a few times about drive line noises and vibrations we might have given that the Gardner engine is directly bolted to the Nogva Gearbox and then a direct connection between the output shaft of the Nogva CPP gearbox and its propeller shaft.
This is in contrast to many boats which have a constant velocity universal joint or CV arrangement in their driveline but this is not possible with a CPP as the pitch adjustment rod needs to travel all the way from inside the gearbox through the center of the prop shaft and back to the hub of the CPP prop.
Instead, the Nogva gearbox input connects to the Gardner crankshaft via a large flexible rubber CentaMax coupling like this.
The loudest engine related noise we have is actually that of the extraction fan which runs at all times and is part of our fire suppression system and this is something I am looking into replacing with a quieter fan. The Gardner itself cannot really be heard at any speed from either helm station. There is no audible sound from any driveline vibrations but if you really focus on it you can feel a slight vibration when we are underway. It is very steady and smooth so not something either Christine or I have noted.
Difficult to know how to measure and better answer this question and I don’t have a similar hull with a fixed prop and CV setup for comparison but I can say that one of the features we have been most impressed with and appreciative is just how quiet Möbius is both underway and at anchor. Indeed one of the most common unsolicited comments we get from our guests and others who come aboard is the almost complete lack of any noises on the boat and just how quiet is is while on board.
However, I too was curious about noise overall and so during the passage I used a sound meter app on my phone to take some readings at various places on Möbius and found the following averages all taken while cruising at 9 knots in 22 knots of following wind and about 3 meter seas:
Inside Engine Room 80db
Workshop 73db with ER door open
Guest Cabin 57db (which shares a bulkhead with the ER)
Main Salon 55db
Master Cabin 50db
Aft deck 64db
This chart will help make some sense of these db decibel numbers. As another frame of reference, right now, sitting in the Salon typing this message with the door open while at anchor with about 21 kts of wind outside my sound meter is showing 21.5db
You can draw your own conclusions from these numbers but one of our better decisions was to put in so much EPDM and acoustic panel insulation in Möbius and we appreciate this literally every day we are aboard.
Observations from this Atlantic Crossing
Many people ask about a day in the life when we are on these passages and about our watch schedules. During the daylight hours we are quite informal about our watch schedules and just take turns being on watch and at the helm until we feel like a change and a break. In these mild weather conditions we spend most of our time up in the SkyBridge as it has such great views with its height above the water and 360 degree views all around. We have super comfy helm chairs from Llebroc at both helms which are fully adjustable to recline, change lumbar support and have a good foot rest so spending hours in these is a joy. We are both voracious readers and so we probably spend the most hours reading our wildly diverse range of book genres from romance and murder mysteries to quantum physics.
We find 6 hour night watches work best for us so we tend to have dinner around 6pm and then I start my watch at 19:00 and Christine comes on at about 1am through 07:00 when I get up and take over again. Christine will often go down for a few hours in the morning and then we settle into our relaxing day mostly lounging about and reading.
For me the biggest surprise of the passage was how much I missed the challenges that come from sailing. It is just little things like the satisfaction of adjusting your sail trim and getting a bit better boat speed. The drill you have to go through to adjust or douse sails when you see a squall up ahead and then put them back up after it passes. Or that calm that comes over you when you turn off the key after having to motor for some time and the sounds of just the water on the hull takes over your whole audio spectrum. I just felt a degree less personal satisfaction at the end of the passage having not faced those sailing types of challenges I had for so many years. However this is also the very first passage under power I’ve ever experienced so time will tell how this evolves and what new challenges lay ahead as our world voyage continues.
One thing that did not change was one of the things I have always marveled at and enjoyed about ocean crossings; being alone in the world’s vast ocean expanses for days or weeks on end. Where every one of the horizon’s 360 degrees is nothing but water meeting sky. We saw less than five other boats the entire crossing so we had these vistas all to ourselves and you truly felt blissfully alone. I am so grateful for these experiences where I feel like I am the most insignificant teeny little speck of dust on the planet and yet simultaneously also the most significant bit as I am all the only speck there is. I had that profound joy for almost all of this passage.
At night, the complete lack of any other light sources meant that I once again had night after night of stary stary skies that not even Van Gough could have captured. One interesting difference this time though was that I did become much more aware of the increased number of satellites taking over the night sky so I was glad to have this chance to take in all those stars against such a black background the likes of which I may only see in reduced degrees in the future.
Our timing worked out such that we had a lot of moonshine the whole passage so that was an extra bonus we both enjoyed on our night watches.
As well as our first crossing under power, this was also a first crossing of the Atlantic for both of us and so that felt great to add these experiences to our lists. I think the only other major ocean passage neither of us have done is now the Indonesia and the Indian ocean so we still have those adventures ahead.
Not sure how well I have been able to capture and convey our latest experience but I hope you found parts of it interesting and worth reading. If you have other questions or topics you would like me to cover in future posts please just put those in your comments below and I’ll do my best to cover these in future posts and comments.
We have now been at anchor here in St. Anne for almost two weeks and so stay tuned for an update on that in the next post. Until then, thank you VERY much for your patience with me in providing you this overview of our Atlantic crossing and I look forward to your comments and questions below.