Of Dreams, Ditches, and Bubbles

 

Richard Mojena and Cynthia Mello

 

(An original version of this account appeared in the Krogen Cruisers Newsletter, February, 2001, pp. 11-14)

 

 

It’s 4am and 9 degrees; the lines groan under 30 knots of stress; and it’s just the morning after Christmas.  Still, the near-seven-foot lighted tree on the afterdeck gives comfort through the frosty aft windows; it is cozy inside.  But we get ahead of ourselves…

 

The Dream

We LOVE that boat.  What is it?  She was moored in Oak Bluffs, Martha’s Vineyard.  It was 1988 and we were land-bound and boat-less.  Actually, we had never even owned a boat.  Sure, we had sailed with friends for years, but we weren’t boaters, not by a long shot.  Two years later we find ourselves tied to a palm tree on one end, gazing out in wonderment at the other… from the afterdeck of a 45-foot houseboat on the surface of Silver Glen Spring, on the St. Johns River in Florida.  It’s early November, it’s a warm spell,  and we have the place to ourselves.  Three days in that comfortable box, the best-tasting food we had ever cooked, thundering through the subtropical underbrush, diving the warm, crystal-clear waters, chasing down the odd cockroach, and several assorted, mutually-resolved crises later, all crystallized it for us:  Ya know… this ain’t a bad way to live. 

 

Two days later we’re mooching a cousin’s condo in one of those Long-Boat-Key marina and golfing complexes.  And there she was again… that same hull.  We practically ran to the marina office.  What kind of boat is that?  She’s a Krogen.  A what!?  A Kadey Krogen 42.  We were stunned… Cynthia had palled around with Kim Krogen during Newport’s America’s Cup glory days.  To be more accurate, Cynthia’s husband left to marry Kim, on his way to the third of four marriages… yet, Cynthia and Kim forged a deep bond… but we’re saving that story for our pulp-faction efforts.   Cynthia knew that Kim’s father was a naval architect and boat builder, but really had no idea what we had here.  Cynthia’s son Josh played with Kim’s visiting brother, Kurt, during those lazy, seaside summer days that kids enjoy best. 

 

Do you believe our luck?  We’re having lunch with Kim in Miami.  Kim, can we go to the boat yard and, you know, get the tour, go inside one of these?  Sure, I’ll set it up with Dad.   Jim was gracious, patient with the Greenhorns.  And we got one heck of a tour:  First the office, then the yard, a wide-body in its final prep stages, and finally Jim’s own Manatee.  We were hooked on the 42.  Can we ever afford one of these?

In late 1992 we bought an Albin 34, named her Frenesi, cruised and lived on her for seven glorious summers, making our mistakes, learning the “ropes.”  In 1999, after countless hours researching the Internet, talking to brokers, and corresponding with Krogen owners, we bit the bullet in March, 2000, culminating life-changing, pre-retirement transactions:  Sold the house of 30 years, sold the Albin, bought our dreamboat KK42 in North Palm Beach, renamed her Sinterra thanks to Josh’s take on “Without-land,” packed every possible nook and orifice in the 16-year-old Saab for its last trip, including our “cabin boy”, an eighteen-month-old Chihuahua, Benito “Beni” Juarez. 

 

The move up from a semi-displacement Albin 34 to a full-displacement KK42 is semi-quantum. This bad girl is big, tough, and beautiful.  Her curvy, soft lines belie her hardiness. She has a range of 5000 nautical miles at 6 knots, capable of crossing the Atlantic, and so rugged that she can recover from an 85% knockdown in rough seas.  At 42 feet with a beam of 15 feet she’s spacious: two sleeping cabins, two full heads with separate showers, and more storage than our house, in the lower level; main cabin (salon) with built-in leather couch, side tables, and room for a dining table, along with a galley outfitted with side-by-side Sub Zero refrigerator and freezer, microwave, propane stove/cooktop, all on the second level; roomy covered afterdeck through French doors from the salon; wheel house with queen-size watch bunk and two Dutch doors up another level; large flybridge at the top level; covered side decks leading to a big foredeck.  She sleeps six with comfort and amenities: central air and heat, combo washer/dryer, three televisions with DVDs, eight-speaker stereo system with CD changer.  Parquet floors and teak doors and joinery please the eyes.  And enough stores and mechanical systems to live on the hook for several weeks at a time.  She will be our floating, traveling home for years to come.

 

The Ditch

The new boat and trip up “The Ditch” (Intracoastal Waterway) back to Rhode Island presented intimidating prospects.  This is not just a coastal cruise of several days over familiar waters.  So much to do learning new systems, starting the changeover in safety, electrical, and navigation systems from a dock boat to a cruising boat.  We had three weeks to get the boat ready with new radar, gps, nav software on the Dell, and other fixes and refits either confirmed or uncovered by our surveyor.  And then there were the get-comfortable hours with practice maneuvers, equipment checks, poring over charts, guides, and equipment manuals.

 

And then… Beni died in a tragic, freak accident.  What can we say.  It enveloped our uncontained excitement with profound sadness and guilt.  It felt like losing a child must feel.  Not that it’s comparable, we do  have grown children, but it’s hard to imagine a more intense, devastating experience.  We buried him in a beautiful island park and marked the deep, sandy grave with a vibrantly-live gardenia shrub.

 

 

 

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And so we moved on… and what a move it was!  North Palm to Wickford, RI in 25 cruising days over 34 total days and 1464 nautical miles.  From the ship’s log:

Text Box: SYNOPSIS
Complex (navigation, boat handling at bridges & marinas, communications, planning), intense trip on one-month schedule.  Typical cruising day: Up 4:30-6:00, underway within hour, motor 6-10 hours, into marina or anchorage before dark, plan next day’s leg (1-2 hours), maybe nap, eat, maybe repairs/maintenance, bed.  FL to VA serpentine rivers and creeks, shallow, shoaled, strong currents & tides, with wide sounds subject to steep waves, thunderstorms… but also beautiful, remote, peaceful sections with playful dolphins and many seabirds.  Chesapeake and Delaware Bays potential severe squalls.  Offshore in NJ subject to high seas and lee shore, followed by intensity (and excitement) of passaging through NYC (and Hell Gate!).  LI sound to home easy.  Cruising days broken up by layovers in attractive cities/towns, but not restful playing tourist and stuffing ourselves in fine restaurants: St Augustine, Savannah, Beaufort, Charleston, Myrtle Beach, Annapolis, Atlantic City.

TRIP STATS
Main engine		216 hours total trip
Generator  	  	 97 hours total trip
Fuel			445 gallons trip
Efficiency…		3.3 mpg 
			2.1 gal/hr (includes gen)

Yes, we did ground the bow just north of Charleston, but backed off easily enough.  Richard spaced it, thinking he was looking at a Course Up display that he had changed into a North Up.  Don’t leave home without it:  Nobeltec’s Navigation Suite (or other navigation software) interfaced to a differential GPS considerably reduces the likelihood of taking wrong turns and straying into shallows and other obstacles.

 

The Bubble

The security of the home slip in Wickford felt good, not to mention the relief of getting back without sinking or otherwise damaging our new year-round home.  Our first summer aboard disappeared fast, with refits, redecorations, three-steps-forward-two-steps-back activities, some local cruising, and showing off the boat to family, friends, and interested strays.   And… we have new “cabin boy” Eduardo “Eddie” Juarez.

And then came Winter… Non-boating acquaintances ask: Just what do you do all day on a boat?  The response goes something like:  Just what do you do at home all day?  Actually, there are some differences.  We don’t cover homes in a plastic bubble, unless we’re chasing down termites.  On boats, we have to keep water taps dripping when temperatures fall below freezing, unless we relish thawing the dock’s water feed hose with boiling water or dangerous heating appliances.  Houses don’t have brown juice flowing out of their pores from condensation in strange places.  Keep the inner spaces heated! 

 

And, oh yes, we do have to count our amps.  We slept six over Thanksgiving and fried both ends of the two 30A power cables.  These can be serious sources of fires, especially at the boat inlets.  The aft circuit lives on the amp-edge, falling off a cliff if a 750W space heater competes with simultaneous demands from the Sub-Zeros, hot water heater, inverter, genset charger, TVs, and microwave or toaster oven.  The circuit breakers protect the boat’s internal circuits, but not the outside hookups.  And while the reverse-cycle air worked great until the harbor’s water temperature plunged below 45, the manipulation of appliances challenged Richard’s multitasking deficiency.  

 

So, here’s how we stand mano a mano with what looks like a serious Winter ahead.  The first line of defense is the bubble, shrink wrap that covers the entire boat.  It’s like we live in a fancy tent, but it’s bright and not claustrophobic. The plastic is translucent, has strategically placed plastic zippered windows (that were later replaced by large Plexiglass windows), and promotes a greenhouse effect at 55-70 degrees inside the afterdeck, on sunny days with ambient temperatures of 10 to 30 degrees.  Plants live here.  The two sleeping cabins are easily heated to 65-70 degrees by small electric space heaters at their low 750W settings. 

 

Two heaters live in the main cabin (heating the pilot house by default), although just one is required at any one time:  an electric space heater, with its own #12 outside extension cord running to a separate 30A dock box with a 30/15A adapter, and a catalytic propane space heater, fed from a 20lb tank on the dock.   We scoured the RV Internet discussion sites and came up with the catalytic heater of choice: Olympian.  These heaters are placed on floors or mounted to bulkheads, don’t require venting, are silent, cool to the touch, mostly give off radiant heat, and operate at low temperatures that generate heat by the catalytic reaction of propane flowing over platinum.  This flameless process does not create carbon monoxide directly, although it can if oxygen is depleted in the space.  We crack the galley port, a saloon window, and a pilot house door to supply the necessary oxygen… and have propane and carbon monoxide sniffers on board.  As an additional precaution, no heaters are run while we’re away.  Over eight-hour or so periods the temperature drop has not exceeded 15 degrees.  More elaborate alternatives include either a propane or diesel cabin heater such as those put out by Force10 or Dickinson or a diesel central heating system made by Webasto or Espar.  We passed on these expensive alternatives, as the new dream beckoned:  “Let’s retire and take the boat to Florida.”

 

Richard & Cynthia

“Sinterra”   KK42.91

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Epilogue

We lived aboard in Wickford for seven terrific years (2000-2007) and cruised summers from Mass to the upper Hudson River, including many memorable trips and adventures (misadventures?) with family to anchorages, moorings, and marinas, including Newport, Watch Hill and Block Island, RI;  Boston, Provincetown, Wood’s Hole, Cuttyhunk, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, MA; Montauk, the Hamptons, Sag Harbor, Port Jefferson, Greenport, NYC, and up the Hudson River to Athens, NY.  Then we retired and headed south in our floating home.  See the Sinterra and Bambi Sojourns blog for the cruising sequence in 2007-2008.  And then… it was time for (wild)life back on land in Naples, Florida.  Reluctantly, sadly, but prudent financially, we sold Sinterra in 2010.  (Click here for boat sale specifications pdf file.)