Diva Di's Cruising Adventures

Reflections on the Cruise

26 September 2015
Overall -
It was a great cruise and we are very happy we did it. We have no plans to repeat it, however, as it is a long way to travel. Aside from all the wonderful things about being on the water, seeing new places, and helping to strengthen the relationship between partners, we continue to espouse that the people you meet along the way are the best part about the cruising life. This one was no exception.

The Challenges -
As always, weather plays the biggest role. Even massive oceans can be flat calm under the right conditions. Since you can't control the weather, you have to be smart about when you move the boat. The 'when' could mean not going anywhere for a few days, or it could mean leaving at 0500 to get the tidal current and wind in the best combination for safety and comfort. Firm schedules are not good to have on a cruise.

With modern electronics, navigation is pretty easy, even in dense fog, but you don't want to make an error that takes you onto a rock. The bottom is generally not forgiving for much of this trip.

The Destinations -
I deliberately only planned about a week in advance, but there were times when I wished I had researched more of the options to know in advance where we wanted to stop if we could. Many times, it was upcoming weather that dictated how far we went on any given day. If we are going to get stuck somewhere with this weather forecast, where should we be?

We spent almost half the nights at marinas (or docks/walls where we had to pay). That turned out to be close to my estimate for both number and overall cost. Since most of the trip was in new locations for us, we wanted to maximize the time we had to explore ashore and not worry about a wet, cold dinghy ride from an anchorage. It also reflects us aging and desiring more creature comforts.

The Boat -
There were a number of unfortunate surprises after the purchase that kept me much busier than I expected while getting ready. Once we left, we had two separate failures that caused us some delay and expense - the starter, and the starter relay, both on the port engine. The port engine also developed a small water leak and moderate oil leak that I elected not to try to get fixed until we reached our destination. I had to replace a fresh water pump and a windshield wiper motor that failed, and the seawater washdown system is not very useful as it clogs frequently.

Overall, the reliability of the boat once we started was pretty good. From a liveaboard comfort perspective, it was considerably better than the previous 36 foot sailboat. We have about three times the interior space, and a huge flybridge to use in good weather. It is much more like a tiny house than a boat in that respect. Just the visibility out the windows eliminates that 'living in the basement' feeling we always had before.

This boat will not take heavy seas as comfortably as the sailboat, but if you are careful about when you move and in what direction the waves impact the boat, it obviously proved to be quite capable. We certainly don't regret the decision to get this boat.

Our 55 pound Rocna anchor with only 50 feet of chain worked very well. It set easily and securely and we were never concerned about it holding us. The generator is great and allowed us to anchor or moor away from shore power and still have the comforts of heat, cooling, microwave, hot water, etc. as long as we were careful about when we chose to use those amenities.

We miss the significant amount of solar energy we got from the system on the sailboat. It was too late to add that to this boat in the time I had available and I wondered at the time whether it would be cost-effective. Since the water heater, microwave, and heating/cooling would only be available with the generator, the main benefit from the solar panels would be just to keep the batteries charged, so perhaps a simpler, smaller system might be in the works for the future.

Having an inside steering station was pretty important for the kinds of weather and conditions we had much of the trip. The visibility from below is not quite as good, but it is much more comfortable when the boat is rolling or pitching in seas, and obviously warmer and drier. Despite the conditions, I always chose to leave or approach a dock or mooring from the flybridge because of the extra visibility it offered.

Provisions and Clothing -
With no regard to weight, we stowed plenty of canned goods and adult beverages before we left. This allowed us to save on the purchase price and avoid the hassle of obtaining and transporting a lot of that along the way. With some good pre-planning by Diane and adjusting meal choices, we completed the cruise with only about 4 of the 96 cans we started with. When I speak of canned foods, I am referring only to things like tomato products, beans, olives, canned milk (for recipes), coconut milk, etc. We only ate 2 cans of corn; all the rest of our veggies were fresh, plus one bag of frozen peas.

No matter how many times we make long cruises, we always bring too much clothing. You get a few favorites that you put on day in and day out and you wash them (often by hand) as needed. The amount of clothing that I needed/used aside from jackets would have fit in a paper grocery sack. The heavy cloth jacket, foul-weather jacket and windbreaker took up twice that much room, of course. That is another reason to cruise in warm weather/water. Diane used all her outer garments, too, but only about one third of the rest. She is taking a lot off the boat and leaving it off.

I must comment (yet again) that I was in short pants the entire cruise, with one brief exception while my favorite travel shorts were being washed. I threw on a pair of sweat pants on a cold morning. I had told Diane that this cruise to the far north would be done in the historical peaks of the local summer weather, so I proved that by wearing shorts every day, even if it did occasionally get into the 40s.

Things that worked well -
55 lb Rocna anchor
stainless steel chain hook (for anchor bridle) that securely clips on chain and will not fall off
running on one engine when only 7 kts of speed was needed in calm waters
crockpot to cook meals while underway (using inverter)
plastic ice cube trays with sealing lids
all-plastic, heavy duty clothes pins (useful for many things)
Soda Stream soda maker (eliminates carrying heavy soda bottles or cans)
pitcher-type water purifier to make tank water even better for drinking, coffee, tea, soda, etc.
convection microwave that (when adequate power is available) will cook like a home oven
having Skecher slip on shoes for the boat only (land shoes stayed near the boarding area)
folding table in saloon (allowed easy access around table to windows and storage)
Wi-Fi booster to get good signals at greater range

Things that did not work so well -
ProSine 2K inverter/charger seemed to draw a lot of current for the loads it was carrying and dragged our batteries down more quickly than I liked
too-wide spacing of dinghy lifting points on the davits made it awkward
narrow, fuel-efficient hulls make for very tight access around engines

Surprises -
I learned after the purchase that this is a 2-speed boat. You can run efficiently up to 8 kts, but if you want to go faster, you pretty much have to run the engines near maximum power and then you go 13-15 kts, depending upon boat weight and sea and wind conditions. Running in between 8 and 13 kts just wastes a lot of fuel. I elected to take the economy of 8 kts for much of the trip and saved several thousand dollars in fuel cost.

The hydraulic steering uses independent cylinders on each rudder. If there has been a lot of maneuvering, it is possible for the rudders to progressively get out of alignment. I was told about this, but was surprised to find it was necessary to re-align them (an easy job, once stopped) about every 10 engine hours.

While many of my cost estimates were good, and we spent only 82% of my estimate, I consistently underestimate the amount we will spend on provisioning and transportation. Food is often a lot more expensive in the places we stop and we find ourselves getting things in downtown specialty shops instead of the far away grocery store. The two reasons we were so far below budget was running the boat at its economical speed instead of fast, and the 30% advantage we enjoyed in Canada with the currency exchange. Otherwise, we would have been over by a more than a $1,000.

Things we had and didn't need -
Spare laptop computer
The TV got such little use that it was a waste to bring it
Our collection of DVDs (we found reading to be a better fit)
Most of the spare parts and First-Aid kit (but we're still carrying them)
Secondary anchor (still carrying it)
SCUBA tank and hose (still carrying it)

Things we wished we had -
Actually, considering the realities of a boat this size, there is nothing extra we wished we had brought.
Vessel Name: Diva Di
Vessel Make/Model: PDQ MV34 Power Cat
Hailing Port: Punta Gorda, FL
Crew: Duane and Diane

Diva Di Crew

Who: Duane and Diane
Port: Punta Gorda, FL