Summer is over and we’re getting closer to November 1, a magical date noted by the insurance gods. Change is in the air! But, what have we been up to? And what’s next for our cruising plans?
The Summer of Projects
One of our goals in spending the summer in San Diego was to take our learnings from 7 months in Mexico and translate it into projects that would support cruising in hot weather, and more remote cruising south of Mexico. We’re from the Northwest after all. We arrived in Mexico with down comforters on our beds. Hot! Not sure what we were thinking there. A few of our summer projects:
New inverter/ addition of solar panels – While we anticipated adding a new inverter, solar wasn’t in the original plan. I was a big fan of solar panels but Kevin took some convincing. Well not much really. All he had to do was gawk at Vincent’s (N60 Last Arrow) cool app on his iPhone showing how he was making power while drinking Modelos, and Kevin was sold. Want to read all about it? Check out Kevin’s story from July. Now that we’ve been out and about a bit, we can report back that the solar panels cover the house load for a full day, keeping the batteries full and ready for the night ahead. That’s what we were looking for and we are quite pleased with the result!
New VHF and AIS antennas – When we were cruising with our Nordhavn Taco Run friends, some boats could hear conversations and join in from incredible distances – up to 80 nm! We heard none of this. We needed new, higher performance antennas, and more importantly, higher shield/low loss cabling. With our new VHF antennas we can hear conversations well over 40+ miles away (in our limited cruising with the new equipment so far – we anticipate this to be even better as we go). And our AIS reception and transmitting is much improved. Awesome!
A second watermaker – One of our observations in cruising Mexico was that watermaker problems stop cruisers quickly. Most of the marinas in Mexico do not have potable water. There are a few that do, but most do not. We did not choose to use marina water, even when potable and stayed with our own watermaker water. As we intend to cruise further south in Latin America, we felt that a second watermaker would be an excellent addition and insurance policy. This is one of the few systems that was not already redundant on Red Rover. We took over a problematic watermaker from a fellow Nordhavn and worked with techs in San Diego to get it fully functional. Kevin then installed it in the forward machinery room, adjacent to our existing watermaker. The very cool part of this is that we now have two sibling watermakers, both are Village Marine machines – equalling one set of spares! And, if we run them at the same time, we can make approximately 80+ gallons of water an hour. Bonus round!
Interior things – We’ve now owned Red for almost 4.5 years! Red has beautiful teak floors but they were hard to see hiding under carpet. In warm weather, Zoe swims every day. Zoe + saltwater + sand + carpet = not a great situation. Or a great smell. We had all of our carpets cleaned and then removed some, taking them to Seattle for safekeeping. We had already done this in the salon, with a fun new colorful area rug, and continued the trend into the master stateroom. The carpet on the stairs (incredibly important to not slip and slide when out at sea) was fraying on the edges and needed to be re-surged. It is so tidy now! To adjust to hot weather we moved away from down comforters to quilts (which of course meant new throw pillows – yaay!). After seeing how other owners installed photos on their walls, I felt inspired to do the same. One very special image came from a Nordhavn Dreamers art contest. Keddy Pavlik painted this gorgeous image of Red Rover, inspired by her dad, Dave Pavlik. Her beautiful art now hangs in our galley where I smile at it every single day. Thanks so much Pavlik family!
WhatSUP? – I spent last winter watching with extreme jealousy as my friends and fellow cruisers in anchorages paddled effortlessly around on their paddle boards. Green envy be gone! I now have my own inflatable paddle board. I’m still a beginner but we’ve discovered that Max and Zoe both seem quite comfortable hanging out on the board.
Maintenance, spares and spares organization – As mentioned, we’ve been preparing to cruise beyond Mexico. One of the things we learned this past winter was that it isn’t super easy to get parts when you need them. We didn’t have any major issues with Red Rover, but we did watch others struggle to obtain key parts. We can only assume this becomes more challenging as you cruise further afield. We use Wheelhouse Technologies to manage our boat maintenance, systems and parts. Wheelhouse works with PAE (Nordhavn) to enter all of the vessel’s information (systems, parts, etc.) into a personalized database for the boat. In our case, as we are the fourth owners of Red, we then went through and updated all of the equipment that had changed from the original build. As we add new components to the boat, we continue to update Wheelhouse. Wheelhouse also stores all of the user manuals for every system. And it spits out a big list of maintenance steps for every system as timelines and use requires. (We always seem to be catching up on that list.) Wheelhouse is awesome. Truly. So after working through our maintenance needs, we pulled all of our spares out from everywhere (literally everywhere) around the boat. And we compared our stash with Wheelhouse to see what we were missing (Wheelhouse recommends the number of spares to have if you are coastal cruising, or cruising offshore). A shopping spree then began, adding to our already robust selection of spares. The poor people at the UPS Store at Shelter Island in San Diego are amazed at what two people can buy and have delivered! We spent multiple days labeling, reorganizing and storing spares, noting carefully in Wheelhouse where they are so we can find them again!
Safety equipment updates – Part of maintenance is engaging with our safety gear. We updated online registrations for EPIRBs and PLBs, checked our flares, added some more items to our ditch bag, added even more to our huge first aid kit, and took our liferaft to be recertified once again. While we hope we’ll never need any of these items, we will be so thankful to have them working if we do!
Insurance – Oh insurance. Sigh. We originally were planning to go to Panama this next cruising season (see below) and we spent a whole lot of time working on insurance for this kind of trip. There were a few challenges. One – we don’t own a home. Some insurance companies aren’t interested in liveaboards. At all. Two – many of the marine insurance companies have sustained huge losses from hurricanes, particularly in the Caribbean. Some have left the US market altogether, and others won’t insure a US flagged boat while in US waters. Three – not all insurance companies will consider insuring vessels south of Mexico, or south of certain portions of Mexico. All of this equates to…. money. We created a marine resume for ourselves, showing our diligence in education, maintenance and continuous boat upgrades as well as what is now pretty significant offshore experience. I think this has helped, but the end result is still pricey. Our insurance in the PNW was reasonable. Let’s say a few thousand dollars for a year. We went to Mexico. It tripled. We wanted to go to Panama, it was going to double again. We still want to go to Panama, but we’re going to hold a year – see below.
Of course, there is more to do – We’re waiting to complete a few additional projects when we get back to Mexico. These exciting efforts include: dinghy overhaul with new seats and most importantly some work on the steering system; a canvas sunshade for the cockpit (afternoon sun can be so incredibly hot – a new concept for us); a new canvas top for the flybridge; a wax appointment – like many of us during COVID, Red is in need of a little personal attention – another impact of cruising in a sunny location, wax doesn’t last as long.
The safe yet social side – We were lucky to have a multi-week visit from our daughter, a surprise Father’s Day visit from our son and daughter-in-law, dinner with the Southern CA contingent of Nordhavn friends, meeting new Nordhavn friends and a meet-up with my cousins who live in San Diego. Kevin helped Mike and Nicole with a few things on N62 Pendana, and Mike helped Kevin with projects on Red Rover! That’s how our community works. Love! We caught up with our buddy boaters Scott and Abby (formerly N47 Epoch now N55 Orenda) while they were in San Diego and did some bike riding and “beer tasting.” We miss them! While we didn’t get much boating in, we did enjoy our time in the beautiful city of San Diego!
Roadtrips without Autopilot
What would summer be without a roadtrip? Typically our roadtrips avoid dashed lines and rest areas and instead involve wandering about in the ocean on autopilot, making a sandwich when you are hungry, taking turns having naps, etc. This summer we reacquainted ourselves with the automobile. Did someone make the lanes narrower while we were gone?
Trip #1 – Skedaddle to Seattle
Trip #1 was in August, a two week expedition to the homeland – Seattle. We rented a “real” car (vs. our “rent-a-wreck that we had for the summer in San Diego) and hit I-5 first thing in the morning. With a stop in Ashland, Oregon for the dogs to enjoy jumping from one bed to another in the hotel room, we powered on up the coast to Seattle where we stayed with our beloved friends, the Jims. Zoe dropped her ball off of their high-rise balcony, we met up with other good friends who we haven’t seen in forever, Kevin spent a bunch of time working at his company, and I went through our storage items, getting rid of at least another 50% of our stuff. We are down to a very small number of plastic tubs, one Eames lounge chair and one table. Not much remains!
After some work and play in Seattle, we visited Kevin’s parents in Wenatchee, WA, and motored on down to Bend, OR stay in our friends’ Sara and Jak’s incredible guest house. This was our first time in Bend and we loved it. We rode the chairlift at Mt. Bachelor, ate s’mores in Sara and Jak’s adventure backyard, went to an awesome pop-up drive-in movie featuring Maiden (haven’t seen it? definitely a must watch for the boat crowd), and had breakfast with our long-time friends and Kevin’s previous business partner, Richard and Stacy. Leaving Seattle and Bend we felt all warm and fuzzy having seen some of our most awesome long-time buddies. While we have made some amazing friends in our cruising life, it is so wonderful to pick right back up with the people we’ve known for over 20 years.
From Bend we drove to Healdsburg, California, one of our favorite towns. Despite a massive thunderstorm that took out the electricity and started some of the horrible California fires, we were able to do a little wine tasting, and wine pick-up from a few of our beloved wineries. We were running low on wine! Not an acceptable situation! From wine tasting we drove the Sonoma County coast over the Golden Gate Bridge, into San Francisco and down the coastline to Carmel by the Sea, where we spent a lovely evening. Having driven the boat up and down the west coast twice now, I wanted to drive Highway 1 and Highway 101 along the California coast and see how the view was from land. It was beautiful. Except… wildfires and smoke moved in obscuring the view, and destroying acreage and homes. Hoping we see this pattern change in the coming years. We managed to get a free run around the 17-mile drive after a security guard seemed to think we were residents (in our rental SUV?) and then drove south through Big Sur and into Santa Barbara. We hit a few memory points from our first trip in Red Rover, with a quick stop in San Simeon (wow there is a beach there?) and lunch in Morro Bay.
On the last day of our trip we visited the Mothership in Dana Point. Becky, who runs the Nordhavn mileage pennant program among other things (even though she is supposed to be retired!), put together a socially distant lunch to greet us. Sue made sure every detail was perfect. And Jan even had a Red Rover cake made! What what!?! We felt super loved. Dan Streech presented us with our 15,000 nm mileage pennant and we all sat and chatted on the PAE patio. We even met Paul, who now owns Hull #1 of the Nordhavn 475 with his wife, Michelle (we are looking forward to meeting her too). How fun!! Nordhavn put out a fun article summarizing the day. Awww… Check it out here.
Trip #2 – Operation Move Daughter to California
While the 3,000 miles of wandering in August took 2 weeks, the 3,150 miles of intensive driving in September took 4 days. In September, I (Alison) got my required COVID test (negative) and flew to Boston to pack our daughter up and move her across the country. As I grew up in Boston, I was able to visit my parents, my brother, sister-in-law and niece and also see my good friends Debbie and Craig and their daughter Julia. Debbie and Craig came to La Paz for my 50th birthday so it was only appropriate to visit them just prior to Craig’s big 50! Lobster rolls had to be eaten.
Kirsten and her roommate and college BFF Gina and I packed a rented Dodge Ram 1500 truck and I watched as the two rowers tied the contents down like the pros that they are. At 5 am, Kirsten led the way west in her car, and I followed her across the country for 3,150 miles in my huge truck. We were able to make it to Chicago in time to watch the second half of the Seahawks game, 997 miles in the books. On the second day we drove another 987 miles to our son and daughter-in-law’s home in Colorado Springs. They had tacos and take-out margaritas for us! And we got to meet Andy the rescue dog! He’s so sweet. From Colorado Springs we drove on the most gorgeous ride through the mountains and into Utah, where at every turn I would call Kevin and say “this is so stunning!” Unlike my cross-country roadtrips with Kirsten when she was in college, we actually stopped to see something interesting. We went to Bryce Canyon National Park and enjoyed a gorgeous sunrise and wander along the canyon’s edge. Beautiful. And then we were off! LA bound. Kevin and the dogs greeted us at the boat in San Pedro with margaritas. It was good to be home.
Kirsten is now settled into her new home in Marina del Rey, and is having fun learning her new role as Women’s Rowing Assistant Coach at Loyola Marymount University. She’s a Californian!
Cruising Southern California
With boat projects mostly done (are they ever really done?), we set out to do a little California cruising.
Our first trip was from San Diego to the famed Catalina Island. We had heard so much about Catalina, and we were excited to visit! Our first couple of nights were spent in Avalon Harbor where we learned the art of “the pick up stick” and the two mooring ball set-up. High-fives and margaritas all around when we did it on the first try! We then moved over to the backside of Catalina, anchoring in Cat Harbor and awaiting our friends Mike and Nicole (and their friend Lauren) on N62 Pendana. It was Labor Day weekend and Catalina was buzzing. And it was super hot. We did some dinghy cruising, some swimming, some hiking, some margarita drinking and some relaxing. From Cat Harbor the two boats moved over to Cherry Cove to experience the island from the other side. We ended up back in Avalon where we did some dining, some golf cart driving and some excellent people watching. It was interesting to visit Catalina after all the stories we have heard. We definitely preferred the backside and Cat Harbor – quieter, less political flags on boats, and less swell moving everyone around. More like home.
From Catalina we made the quick 17 mile trip to Cabrillo Way Marina in San Pedro, where we were greeted by Tom from N6201 Saumlaki! We last caught up with Tom when we were on the Taco Run and we ran alongside each other (but 20 miles apart) off the west coast of the Baja, chatting as we cruised. It was great to meet him in person! Kevin stayed at Cabrillo Way while I went off to the east coast, working on boat projects and business projects.
Once Kirsten and I returned from our sprint across the country, we moved the boat to Marina del Rey so we could be closer to her for a week. House projects followed with painting, cleaning, shelf installation and more. In the meantime, we dinghy cruised, met up with Norm and Mike, two fun dreamers, and had brunch with Mike and Nicole Potter (N62 Pendana) who were in town for the weekend. Scenes from a movie were being filmed at the public dock at Burton Chace Park, so that gave us something fun to watch as well! Marina del Rey has 6,000 boats so the boat peeping is awesome.
Last weekend we left Kirsten to her new world and cruised north to Ventura Harbor. We entered the harbor in dense, thick fog and found our way (boating by braille) to our end-tie. Ventura Harbor has been fun so far. There’s a neat small village of shops and restaurants (and ice cream) on the harbor, and a beautiful beach just across the road. And, as an added bonus, friends from SV Spirit, Tom and Shauna, who we met in Mexico are just down the street in Channel Islands Harbor. We’ve enjoyed a night out in downtown Ventura, running around with the dogs on the beach, and walking the area.
We plan to stay here in Ventura a few more nights and then move onto Santa Barbara. Santa Barbara is first-come, first-served marina so we call them every few days to see how our chances are looking! We plan to be in Santa Barbara for a few weeks, followed by a trip to Santa Cruz Island in the Channel Islands. From there we’ll be wandering back to Marina del Rey for early Thanksgiving with our kids.
What about the upcoming cruising season?
We have gone back and forth and around and around on what to do with the upcoming cruising season. And we have a plan. At least for today. We may change our minds!
Some background on the decision. We’re signed up for the 2020 / 2021 Panama Posse and we were fully intending to go this year. But… we are still in the midst of the COVID pandemic. We understand that the countries on our route to Panama (inclusive of Panama) are now open to cruisers, but many require a 14 day quarantine and a COVID PCR test upon entry (totally understandable and we respect that). Colombia is anticipated to open its sea border in November. But… that said, insurance is expensive (see above) and if we cannot be certain that we can explore the countries along the way in the in-depth way we’d like, while being respectful of the local communities, we would rather wait until we can have more certainty. We feel like the best part of traveling is meeting the people in each country and experiencing their culture. This might still be hard for a bit with COVID as rules and regulations change quickly as countries react to the virus’ impacts. All understandable, and respected. At the same time, we’re also looking to stay a little closer to home to support Kevin’s company as we move into 2021 and see what excitement a new year brings. 🙂
So! We’re going to punt on Panama for a year. But we’re heading back to Mexico after celebrating an early Thanksgiving with our kids in mid-November in Marina del Rey. We’ll scoot down the Baja and head up to the Sea of Cortez for the winter. While it is a little cooler in the Sea in the winter, that works for our Seattleite-temperate-weather-selves. We plan to cruise farther north than last year, hoping to explore Bahia Los Angeles. We CANNOT WAIT to get back to Mexico. Not long now!
After a winter and early spring in the Sea we have an audacious plan to roll north. Like really north. Home to the Pacific Northwest, the springtime gathering of NAPS (Nordhavns Around Puget Sound) in Victoria BC (if Canada is open), and then point the bow north again to Alaska. Maybe even to Prince William Sound. North north. Really north. This seems crazy and it probably is, but hey, we’ll get a new distance pennant faster!
The 2021/2022 cruising season will hopefully be our year to really begin our big adventure, with a transit of the Panama Canal and a visit to Cartagena, Colombia. Here’s to hoping that all countries in the world have access to a COVID vaccine and that our communities can become healthier in every way by then.
Nordhavn Calendar Photo Submissions
Red Rover has been selected as Miss April in the 2021 Nordhavn Calendar. This will be our third appearance in four years. Wahoo! We submitted a lot of photos because, well, we couldn’t decide. Kevin set some of them to some music – enjoy! Which photo do you think PAE (Nordhavn) selected?
Here’s a link to a little video made up of our photos
(a few candidates below)