Fast is fun!

Harmonie took off from Fort Lauderdale like a race horse out of the barn. Perfect winds, and a fast running Gulf Stream had us running 10, 11, even 12 knots over ground. In the first 24 hours we covered more that 250 nautical miles, a new best for us.

Overnight the weather gods decided to punish us a bit for the fun we had. What was forecast to be a spot of rain, turned out to be 6 hours of winds between 30 and 40 knots. While it kept our speed up, it was a bit more than we consider comfortable.

The winds brought us a small visitor, a tiny yellow and black Cape May Warbler who sought refugee status on board at the height of the storm. This is pretty common offshore, but this little guy has made himself at home. He darted into the cabin, and after exploring a bit, decided that our bananas are just the perfect thing to refuel with after 200 miles of flying. Every once in a while, he pops up on deck, decides he doesn’t like all that water, and goes back to the bananas. Since these guys migrate from the Caribbean to Canada, he might be less a refugee than a hitchhiker, even so we haven’t found the heart to kick him off.

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The Water is Blue

As good as it gets.

After too many months of landlocked life, we are once again in what feels like our natural element. The sun is shining, the sky and the water are blue, the breeze is blowing, the flying fish are flying, and we are making 8 knots in the direction we want to go.

We are off Palm Beach, Florida just entering the Gulf Steam and from here, all looks good in the world.

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And Off We Go!

This afternoon we left the world of large crewed superyachts, and made our way down the New River to an anchorage in Hollywood, Florida. This is a trip we have made a number of times, and it was surprisingly busy, given everything that is going on. Something is always new to see on this bustling waterway.

A Boat of Boats

As we were passing by Port Everglades, the main shipping terminal in Fort Lauderdale, we noticed this strange scene being played out.

For people who have a boat HERE who need or want it THERE and the boat is unsuitable for making the trip itself, you can have it shipped. In this case literally loaded on a ship to cross the ocean. The ship is a bulk cargo carrier that is loaded with something like grain, or ore, or coal, and then yachts and other “stuff” is loaded onto the flat deck after the cargo holds are closed. I am not sure where this one was going, but it has deck cargo of construction equipment as well as these trawlers and sportfishers.

We are now comfortably at anchor, and it is a delight to feel the boat moving that little bit under foot as she comes to life away from the dock.

The wind today is still from the north, but that will be changing over night, and bright and early tomorrow we should be seeing a nice breeze from the southeast carrying us in the direction we want to go.

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A Piece of Nautical Trivia

This one certainly surprised me. In our enforced isolation and idleness I am sure you have all come across some piece of information in your web browsing that surprised or amazed you. Well, here is mine…

The Astoria photographed in 2016

The picture here is of the Astoria. She wouldn’t have attracted much of my attention if we crossed each other at sea, except maybe for a comment on her design, so much more stylish than modern cruise ships.

She is actually a very famous ship, although you’d likely not know it. She is currently in service (or at least was until the current troubles started) as a cruise ship, and her most recent routes were in Baja, Mexico. Yet in an earlier incarnation she played a key roll in one of the most infamous nautical events of the 20th century.

She is an older ship, originally launched in 1946. To be still sailing almost 75 years later is remarkable, but that is not what makes her special.

She was originally the pride of the Swedish America Line and was one of the great romantic Atlantic Ocean liners of the 1950’s when ocean travel still was competitive with the upstart airlines. But that is not why she is special.

She served under many names for many companies, and countries, as a liner, and then reconfigured as a cruise ship. Some of her names were: VölkerfreundschaftVolkerFridtjof NansenItalia IItalia PrimaValtur PrimaCaribeAthena, and Azores. But that is not why she is noteworthy.

Here is a picture of the Astoria when she was first launched. Anybody with even a passing interest in matters nautical might be a step ahead of me now. If you look closely at her bow, you will see her original name, and the one with which she entered the history books for all the wrong reasons: The Astoria began life over 70 years ago as the Stockholm.

Here is the most famous picture of the vessel known as the Stockholm:

This photo was taken while she was limping back into New York Harbor after putting her re-enforced ice-breaking bow to unfortunate use: Accidentally ramming, and sinking, the great Italian liner Andrea Doria off Nantucket in thick fog on the night of July 25, 1956. Fifty-one lives were lost.

I was amazed to find out she was still sailing.

On the home front, we are going to be moving tomorrow! We’ll be getting out of the boatyard as soon as we complete our last preparations. We’ll be anchoring down close to the ocean overnight. It looks like we have an outstanding weather window for our passage north with a Thursday departure.

We are both very excited about first, sailing, and second getting further north where we can enjoy at least a few weeks of weather cooler than we have been suffering with here in sunny Florida! Our next landfall will be in the town of Deal, Maryland. Halfway up the Chesapeake Bay.

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Who are those masked people?

One of the rules in the city of Fort Lauderdale is that when you in an “essential” business, you have to wear a face mask. Since this is Florida, marinas are “essential” so anytime we are out and about in the boat yard, we are masked up.

We are more than ready to get out of Dodge. We have been here way too long, and need to stretch our sealegs again. We are ready, and we have Harmonie ready too. Before the end of next week, we expect we will start sailing north. We have a couple of marinas in the Chesapeake Bay who will take us in. It’s about a five or six day trip for us from here to there. It has been amazingly hot and humid here for days now. The prospect of cool ocean breezes is really, really appealing.

When we get to Maryland, our expectation is within days we will be on an airplane, heading–right back to Florida to pick up another boat to deliver–right back to Maryland!

Except for sweating a lot, we are comfortable, happy and healthy. We sincerely hope all of you are too!

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Less than “Super”

It might be the rantings of a curmudgeon, but the world of journalism has decayed dramatically in recent years. (I’d have said “old curmudgeon” but that would be redundant.)

Once upon a time, most people bought a newspaper without knowing its contents beyond the Page One headlines. They expected to be informed and entertained with stories chosen by the editors. Once you got “below the fold” on the first page headlines really had very little to do with the economics of the newspaper, and more to do with informing the reader about how they should spend their time reading.

With the internet, almost nobody reads a single news source from cover to cover anymore. News stories are picked at whim from a Google news page, or a Facebook feed, or Reddit list. People click on those stories that attract their attention, and those clicks are how the news suppliers make money. Headlines, even for trivial and unimportant things are trumpeted and inflated.

Super? or Meh?

My pet peeve, which shows up like clock work, is making “news” out of the full moon. Really??? The moon is full EVERY MONTH, without fail. But if your advertiser is paying you $0.005 per click, you need to drive those clicks. I am guessing that in what passes for the press room these days, the assignment to write about the full moon every month is close to the lowest job on the ladder. Down where the obit writers used to live.

If you printed the above image the size of the typical business card and held it about arm’s length, it would be a good representation of the size of the full moon in the sky. I know the moon seems bigger than that, but a 1/4 inch circle, 2.5 feet away, is about right. For those of you more mathematically inclined, that is about 1/2 of a degree of arc. If you find that hard to believe, hold your hand up at arm’s length next to the full moon. The moon will cover an area about the size of your smallest fingernail.

Now look at this one. Isn’t that SUPER? I mean really, amazingly, awesomely, SUPER-DUPER? Maybe? …Not. The first image is the SMALLEST the full moon ever looks. When the sunlight side of the moon faces the earth, and the moon is as far away from the earth as it ever gets. The second image is the same, except now the moon is as close to the earth as it ever gets. If you didn’t put them next to each other could you even tell which was bigger?

Now… imagine you are some poor cub reporter, and you have been given the job of hyping the “SUPER MOON!” and if you don’t generate at least 200,000 clicks, you’re fired! And now you have to do this every month, over and over… Kind of like the movie “Groundhog Day.”

In other news, we continue to be hunkered down on the boat in Fort Lauderdale. While this is a convenient place to be, it is also expensive, and we need to have a plan to get at least a little bit north before June 1, the start of hurricane season according to the Weather Service and, more importantly, according to our insurance company. Not sure yet where or when we’ll be targeting that. When we are comfortable leaving, and finding a place that will take us, we’ll be making those decisions.

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It’s a bit of a cliche that everything grows in Florida, but it is kind of true. Being a warm, usually damp, semi-tropical climate with lots of bugs, there are a lot of critters that eat bugs, including a wide selection of native and exotic lizards.

In a suburban environment, lizards are a lot easier to spot than they are in the wild. This is especially true in the late afternoon as they gather what warmth they can from sun-heated concrete walls and sidewalks.

Here are a set of photos from one afternoon’s hour long walk, featuring just a few of the many kinds of lizards we see around here. Identifying these is a challenge. I doubt there are any resources that are really comprehensive since new species are introduced all the time. Then add to that the ability of many of these guys to change color and color pattern, and an ID from a photo is really tough for us non-herpetologists.

Haven’t figured out a name for this one…
Maybe a Cuban Brown Anole?
As distinctive as this one is, we still haven’t come up with an ID we trust…
Another mystery lizard
One of the native guys, a Green Anole
This guy ready to dart back into his electric box home, looks like a Large-Headed Anole (non-native)
Maybe a northern curly tail?
Maybe another color form of the Brown Anole?
No good guesses here…
This well camouflaged guy might be a Bark Anole, non-native.
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Flying the Q-Flag

In the traditional sailor’s flag code a plain yellow flag represents the letter “Q” and is flow by a ship entering harbor to show that they are “healthy” and wish to be cleared in to enter the country. We fly ours every time we enter a new country until we have been cleared in by customs.

Interesting how a few weeks change perspective. It wasn’t that long ago we were sitting right here fussing and fretting over how long we had been stuck in port. We wanted to go SOMEWHERE. Now… we are really happy we stayed put!

We have a number of sailing friends who are in various stages of being stuck somewhere. The worst difficulties are faced by people who left one port, heading for another; then at the end of the trip, are told they can’t enter the country–go away.

Right now, we are comfortable and reasonably isolated here in Fort Lauderdale. We have been keeping busy by working on other boats, some recently sold, others being prepped for market. Ironically, this situation has turned into a minor financial surplus for us, while a disaster for most others.

We have a boat full of food, and in a place we can comfortably stay for the foreseeable future. We are good.

As bad as this first wave might be, I worry that the damage to the economy around the world, like the second wave of an ocean tsunami, will prove a bigger, and more dangerous problem in the long run. But time will tell…

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Things are busy!

I have finally completed the written description of the window replacement project on Harmonie. Hopefully, the details with help someone else with the same effort! Read all about it here: Harmonie‘s new windows.

We have been working with new owners of an Amel 54 getting their boat ready to sail. A fun project, working with great people, that is helping put at least a little bit of green back into the cruising kitty after several months of serious drawing down.

We are also working on having some custom parts made locally for Amel owners who, like us, need to replace rubber inserts on our rub rails. They are available from the Amel factory, but the shipping costs from Europe increase the cost by 300%. We have found a local outfit who can custom manufacture these for us at reasonable cost.

Last, but not least, we have the potential for a couple of deliveries: bringing other people’s boats from where they are to where they need to be. A chance to sail other boats, in other places!

Almost like work!

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Quite the frustrating ride we have with insurance. I suspect a lot of the issues come from the basic assumptions of the insurance business. It is about spreading risk between a large pool of more or less similar customers. Some customers are percieved to present a bit higher risk, and they pay more, and lower risk customers pay a bit less. In theory, the (Cost per unit of Risk) is as close to a constant as the actuaries can calculate it.

Then along comes a boat like Harmonie. They ask us some questions, and they don’t quite know what to do with our answers.

  • “What is your Home Port? Where do you keep your boat?” No one place, we travel all the time.
  • “What will you do if you are in the path of a large storm?” That greatly depends on where we are.
  • “Where do you live?” On the boat.

It’s not that NOBODY does these things, but very few people do, and the data set that is available calculating risk is actually quite small.

We have gotten a lot of advice from many people. Some of it very helpful, some… not. Frequently the advice consists of “my policy is really cheap, you should check it out.” So far, we have yet to find a “really cheap” policy that meets even our basic needs, but if one does happen to turn up, we’ll be all over it!

Several companies we talked to were based in the UK or Down Under, and had no interest in an American flagged vessel in American home waters.

Several companies had policy language that was unacceptable to us, especially around “latent defect,” and “inherent vice” losses. Some did not handle depreciation issues around repairs in a fashion we thought was reasonable.

Of the few that survived this far down the weeding out process, it became clear that the “home port” issues were going to be a big stumbling block. Basically, you tell the insurance company that in the event of a “named storm” your boat will be located at your home port, and secured exactly as you described in your storm plan. They use that information to develop the risk and cost of the policy.

If you are NOT in your home port and suffer damage during a named storm, your policy is not valid–so sorry! The way around this is to tell the insurance company every time you are in the path of a storm where you are, and your detailed storm plan, and hope that is acceptable to them, maybe with a rate modification. This is a very different consideration than the allowed “cruising range” in the policy.

We also found that most were “coastal” policies with coverage limited to less than 200 miles offshore.

In the end, working down the check lists for what we wanted, there was ONE policy still in the running. The Jackline Policy from the Gowrie Group. The coverage wording was mostly what we were looking for. It has true world-wide coverage. With a few reasonable limitations, we can go anywhere. There is no home port issue to fret over. They also offered the kind of general liability coverage that most people get through a homeowner’s policy, which is very hard to come by from other venders. This insurance program has been around for many years, catering to the few boats who do exactly what we do.

On the downside, it is expensive. We went from 2.5% of hull value for a limited cruising area to over 4% for worldwide. You get what you pay for.

Of course the REAL measure of any insurance company is how they handle claims. We hope we never find out…

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