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PJMcK

(21,755 posts)
Fri Jul 28, 2023, 08:50 AM Jul 2023

The Adventure of a Lifetime

A couple of weeks ago saw the fulfillment of a decades-long dream to take an extended sailboat cruise. My wife and I returned to our home port in Haverstraw, NY after ten months and nearly 4,000 miles aboard Pelagic, sailing down then up the east coast of the United States.

It was an experience unlike any other! Our boat is a 1988 Pacific Seacraft Dana 24. She's 27-feet long and rigged as a sloop (basically 2 sails) and has a Diesel inboard engine as the auxiliary. The deck and cockpit are comfortable and functional and we can control all of the boat's functions from the safety of the cockpit.

The cabin is comfortable and elegant and highlighted by the copious amount of teak in its construction and the stout brass portholes. It has an open-concept so there aren't any bulkheads (walls) separating the space. As you descend the companionway stairs, the head (bathroom) is to starboard and it's a small private closet with a toilet, sink and lots of stowage. The galley is to port and features a two-burner propane stove with an oven and broiler. It also has a deep sink and large ice box. There are cabinets for food, staples and shelves for spices and such. Our pots and pans nest together and can be stored in the oven.

In the center of the cabin, there are settees on both sides and the table slides out from under the Vee-berth towards the front. All told, it's like an RV or a tiny house.

We don't have the necessary electrical power to run a StarLink satellite internet receiver so we were limited to connecting through cell networks. This worked fine except in some of the remote areas in southern Virginia and parts of North Carolina.

Along the way, we met many wonderful people. Some were sailors heading south on their boats and others were local shore folks. Nearly everyone was friendly, encouraging and helpful.

The places we visited were fascinating and some were historical. The Revolutionary and Civil Wars are well represented by many forts, battlefields and museums. The slave trade is dramatically presented in many sites. The pirates and legitimate mariners obviously have a deep and rich history represented in the museums and the harbors. The natural areas are stunningly beautiful but desolate and the developed areas are impressive.

Both of us are foodies and the journey didn’t disappoint. We enjoyed excellent meals onboard and ashore.

The First Mate developed an extremely efficient food storage system for the boat. She kept dry and canned goods under the port side settee and plastic bottles and canned beverages in the lockers behind that settee. We had provisions for at least a month aboard. She kept ice in the bottom section of the ice box and kept all of the bottles and condiments (and beer!) in the resulting ice water. We removed all of the paper labels after one got stuck in the pump that drains the ice box. On the shelves she had plastic baskets for cheese, vegetables and other items. It’s a bit of work since the space is so tight but it’s entirely functional.

Before we left, I installed a 12-volt refrigerator/freezer made by Iceco. It’s about the size of a medium ice chest and I built a shelf for it in the wet locker behind the head. I hard-wired the power cord to the fuse block but I also bought a second power chord so we could use that when we were plugged into 110-volt shore power. We were able to run it continuously thanks to our solar panel and the engine’s alternator.

We also had many delicious meals ashore and the crab in the Chesapeake is absolutely addictive! We had lots of fresh fish and shrimp as well.

The starboard lockers were mine for tools, spare parts, navigation stuff and such. It is amazing how much storage is available on this micro-yacht.

Our route took us down the Hudson River through New York Harbor south to Sandy Hook, NJ. The next leg was in the Atlantic along the Jersey shore where we saw the first of many dolphins! We stopped in Atlantic City for 8 days to wait out Hurricane Ian. Since we're not gamblers, this was an interesting stay. Eventually, we went through the Cape May Canal, northwest in the Delaware Bay to the C&D Canal and then into the Chesapeake Bay.

We zig-zagged around the Bay for a month or so visiting friends, family and cruising destinations. Once we reached Norfolk, VA, we decided to take the Great Dismal Swamp route of the Intracoastal Water Way then continued mostly in the ICW because the conditions in the ocean were generally pretty tough during the late fall/early winter months. Additionally, the inlets were heavily shoaled and even with the Navionics and Aqua Map navigation apps we were fearful of running aground in such strong conditions.

The weather was a constant nemesis to our voyage. We dodged 3 hurricanes, 2 full gales, 3 half gales, 2 ice storms and numerous heavy rain and thunderstorms. From the time we left in mid-September 2022 until we reached Florida in early February 2023, we didn’t have a single full week of decent weather as there were storms every 4 or 5 days.

Once we reached northern Florida, our luck with the weather changed and we had mostly beautiful weather for the next several months. We got to the top of the Keys where we were planning to go offshore to the Bahamas but family and business issues intervened and we decided it was time to go home.

Heading north, we retraced our route revisiting some places and finding others we missed earlier. The most frightening sailing experience I’ve ever had occurred as we traversed the shallow Currituck Sound in North Carolina. An unexpected squall erupted with 30+ mph winds following us resulting in 4-5 foot waves that were fiercely trying to broach Pelagic. I was terrified of losing control of the boat. But the well-designed yacht and her auxiliary helped me keep us within the narrow ICW channel. In contrast, on our last day in the Atlantic heading into New York Harbor with beautiful sunshine on a comfortable broad reach, we saw whales breaching. It was a lovely welcome home sight!

The Dana 24 is a wonderful and powerful small yacht, built for ocean cruising. Some sailors have taken this design across oceans and even around the world. (While I don't personally desire such a voyage, there are some folks who wish I would!) The boat is seaworthy and strongly built with excellent equipment making it a fine sailing vessel. Our Yanmar Diesel, a 2GM-20F known as “Herr Diesel,” was reliable and gave us dependable service. Although I'm a musician, I’ve become an amateur mechanic and it’s necessary to take good care of this important piece of machinery. Each day, we would check the water intake strainer, oil level, transmission oil, coolant level, belts and fuel filters to make certain we were set for the day.

The boat sails responsively and handles well in all of the conditions we encountered. Our mainsail has 3 reef points but we never used more than the first set. We had our 130% Genoa jib aboard but mostly used the roller-furled yankee as a headsail. It doesn't overpower the boat and it gives better visibility than the genoa. Even in stormy conditions, we felt safe in the cockpit, on deck and in the cabin.

It was a remarkable experience. We plan to continue cruising on Pelagic and northern New England and Canada beckon.

The cabin is very comfortable for two people for an extended voyage. We each had one side of the boat for our individual clothing, books and other stuff and we each got one drawer of the dresser. We shared the shoe and hanging lockers. The Vee berth is okay for sleeping and it's about the size of a queen-sized bed. But it narrows towards the bow and as long as you don't mind playing footsie, it's quite comfortable.

The head gets a special hat-tip. It's smaller than a lavatory on a small commuter jet yet it was entirely functional. We have hot & cold pressure water so the evening sitz baths were most refreshing. For a 24-foot sailboat to have a private head is an extraordinary luxury!

Since we’ve had Pelagic for several years, we were comfortable moving around one another in the cabin. It was tight but quite cozy. On Thanksgiving, the First Mate made a full dinner of turkey with stuffing and gravy, sweet potatoes, roasted Brussel sprouts and we even had little pumpkin and apple pies. It was a delicious feast!

I could write pages about our journey but I wanted to share this overview of our voyage.

Fair winds and following seas,
PJMcK
S/V Pelagic, Hull #106

16 replies = new reply since forum marked as read
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PJMcK

(21,755 posts)
7. Our house is rather small at 800 square feet
Sat Jul 29, 2023, 09:46 AM
Jul 2023

It felt like a castle!

Two bathrooms! Woo woo!

A rectangular bed!

Heat. (We were cold a lot during our southbound trip.)

Everything was stable. On the boat, there was almost constant motion from the currents and waves.

It was a thrilling trip but we're glad to be home.

Today, we're buying a car as we sold both of ours before we left. How does one store a car for 6+ months?

LT Barclay

(2,575 posts)
12. I'd love to sometime. Right now my wife is 4 years into a cancer battle so this is the second
Sat Jul 29, 2023, 05:08 PM
Jul 2023

season we haven't launched.
I'd really like to find someone experienced like yourself who I could follow on a voyage. I'm wanting to sail from either Chicago or Sauginaux, MI and hit Door County WI, Macinac Island, Grand Traverse Bay and then down to Sandusky Ohio (stopping first at the islands off of Sandusky, especially the one with the world's largest freshwater research facility in the world).
I really appreciate the invitation. I'm fairly familiar with with the Dana 24. It just wasn't in my price range so I had a Compac 23/3 and now a Compac 27/3 that I was able to convince the Hutchins folks into adding an electric motor. I've heard that someone at Pacific Seacraft literally shot a gun at one of their hulls!

PJMcK

(21,755 posts)
14. Oh, my. I'm terribly sorry to hear about your wife's condition!
Sat Jul 29, 2023, 11:28 PM
Jul 2023

I hope she's comfortable and receiving good treatments. My best wishes to her and to you.

It's been an ambition of mine to sail the Great Lakes as I'm a cheesehead, born in Wisconsin, and when I was a kid we lived in a suburb of Chicago. Accordingly, I'm a lifelong Packers and Cubs fan! Lake Michigan is a special challenge, I believe.

When we were planning our voyage, we originally thought of making the Great Loop through the Erie barge canals, the Great Lakes, the Mississippi, Gulf coast then the east coast returning to NY. The problem for me is that we'd have to unstep the mast for the trip through the barge canals then re-step it in the Lakes. It's a big pain and a lot of work (mostly because of the electrical connections) so we decided to just do the NY to Florida and back trip. It was still an amazing adventure!

Compac makes excellent boats with very nice accommodations. The cabin layout of the 27/3 is very similar to the Dana's with the minor exception that the hanging locker is just forward of our head compartment instead of next to the Vee berth. I've admire their boats for years and almost considered buying one with a trailer. The 27/3 is a sweet little yacht and I'm sure you have a wonderful time with her!

By the way, when I was looking for a Dana, I found them in a wide range of prices from $32,500 to $95,000. Pelagic was well-founded and priced in the middle of that range.

Perhaps in the future, if you want to come east for a few days, we could take a short cruise on Pelagic. In the meanwhile, I hope you and your wife enjoy your lives and will sail together again.

LT Barclay

(2,575 posts)
16. Thanks for the encouragment and if I'm in the neighborhood I'll look you up. If I can talk her into
Sun Jul 30, 2023, 10:55 PM
Jul 2023

the Great Lakes trip it will be in 2025. We hope to uproot and move, the boat will be paid for, and we'll have my USCG retirement and her disability to carry us financially for a summer.
Next year I'll have to join the Great Lakes Cruising Association and see how feasible my plan is. My original plan was to sail from Duluth to Chicago, but Lake Superior sounded far more challenging, and at the time the wolves had all but disappeared from Isle Royale (US FWS has since introduced more). The kicker was when I realized I'd have to push against prevailing winds in the Strait of Mackinac. Plus I promised my wife we'd marina hop the whole way and it wouldn't work in Superior.
I know I can take the challenge and the boat would handle it, but still not sure about the wife and kids.
I'm always glad to hear that folks have a good opinion of Compac. The 27 is definitely more complex than the 23 I had originally, but I love the stability and my wife likes the AC we installed and a real head.
Are you going to submit a longer write up with pictures to any magazines? Currently I only take SAILING. SAIL and Cruising World were working a bit too hard to protect the feelings if the right wingers who subscribe. But that's another long discussion.

c-rational

(2,563 posts)
5. Sounds like a wonderful adventure. I know of Pacific Seacraft and they have a great reputation.
Fri Jul 28, 2023, 12:11 PM
Jul 2023

My sailing is limited to a Colgate 26 and we sail out of the North Cove not far from Freedom Tower. You passed us on the way out. Keep the adventures going.

PJMcK

(21,755 posts)
6. Colgate 26!
Fri Jul 28, 2023, 12:25 PM
Jul 2023

Years ago I lived on City Island. Steve Colgate and his wife were my neighbors and he had one of his schools there. Those are terrific and responsive boats. Sail well and enjoy the Hudson.

LNM

(1,063 posts)
10. What a fabulous journey!
Sat Jul 29, 2023, 09:50 AM
Jul 2023

I've been aboard a Dana and compared to other boats it's size I thought it seemed very seaworthy. Question about the ICW: Do you need to step your mast at all for any bridges? I've never been on it.

PJMcK

(21,755 posts)
11. Bridges along the ICW
Sat Jul 29, 2023, 10:30 AM
Jul 2023

One reason we decided not to take the Great Loop (north to the Erie barge canals, through the Great Lakes, down the Mississippi then the gulf coast then the east coast) was because unstepping the mast and its electrical wiring is such a pain.

From NY to Florida, we traversed something like 160 bridges! About half were fixed bridges of 65-feet, (our mast is 41-feet above the waterline), but the rest were draw bridges of one kind or another. Generally, we would call the bridge tender on the VHF radio and they would open for us. Many of those bridges had restrictions and would only open at certain times, (often on the hour and half hour), which required some planning and waiting. It wasn't really difficult but it often meant we'd have to wait for the next opening as Pelagic can only travel at 5-6 knots. There were dozens of bridges south of Ft. Lauderdale making that leg a bit slow.

Our bigger concern was the depth of the water. Pelagic draws 4-feet and because of shoaling and lack of maintenance, the ICW has some notorious shallows that require vigilance. The Aqua Map app displays the most recent sonar scans of the bottom and that was helpful to steer around the dangerous spots.

In South Carolina, we went through the Socastee Bridge around 10:00 am heading north. About an hour later, a terrible accident occurred when a young man driving across had a seizure and crashed off the bridge killing him and closing the bridge for several days. Other boaters we knew were stuck south of the bridge for days until it re-opened. Quite a sad story.

Much of the ICW is in open waters that traverse bays, rivers and sounds. The rest is made of of creeks, canals and cuts. It's all well-charted and well-marked but it still requires careful attention to navigation.

NJCher

(35,205 posts)
13. thanks for writing this up
Sat Jul 29, 2023, 11:12 PM
Jul 2023

Since I know next to nothing about boats, I did an image search on your boat and was surprised at how big it was. It's a very attractive boat.

I had to look up a lot of terms because I didn't understand or remember them, not being a sailboat person. I do recall when the RG took sailing lessons out on Long Island. He told me that when you're sailing you're always busy doing something of a physical nature. I'll bet you are in super shape after doing this for so long. (Yes, I realize you had an inboard diesel engine.)

How long did you shop for your boat?

The refrigerator sounds ingenious. Did you always have ice from it?

I have a few other questions, too, but it's 12:10 a.m.

Thanks for writing this up. I enjoyed it and I can see that many others did, too.

PJMcK

(21,755 posts)
15. I lost almost 10 lbs. on our voyage!
Sun Jul 30, 2023, 12:01 AM
Jul 2023

It was all flab from sitting at my desk before we left. I feel great without the pudginess! And I feel a little stronger and little more confident about our abilities.

The RG is correct: You're always doing something on a sailboat. Hoisting and lowering then adjusting the sails, climbing up and down from the cabin, setting or retrieving the anchor (it weighs 20 lbs. and has 30-feet of chain weighing another 20 lbs. then 250-feet of rope weighing about 40-50 lbs.), and more really gave us quite a workout. The First Mate has always been in terrific shape so she didn't have quite the dramatic weight loss I experienced. But even when we were running the engine, we still had to be moving around and taking care of things.

I've been looking at boats for years but this search took about three months. I looked online for the four boat designs that I felt would serve our goals then visited several of each design. I've admired the Dana 24 since it was introduced in the 1980s so it was at the top of my list. We found Pelagic in Salem, MA and made an offer that day. It's been a joy to sail her ever since. It's not really a big boat but it has spacious accommodations for two adults. Since we pay for docking and servicing by the foot, it's good to have a shorter boat!

The refrigerator/freezer is quite brilliant. It's designed with an insert that creates two zones for cooling that have independent temperature controls so one side can be a freezer and the other a refrigerator. After some experimentation, we decided to remove the insert and use it just as a freezer. It draws a modest amount of current so our two 12-volt batteries can keep it running provided that the solar panel and the engine's alternator keep the voltage levels up.

Here's a link to Iceco and the 21-quart unit we bought:

https://icecofreezer.com/products/21qt-go20-dual-zone-fridge-freezer-white

It wasn't great for making ice even though the unit can get down to 15º F. We would buy ice at a marina, put it in Tupperware-type containers then put those in the freezer. The ice would last 4-5 days so we had ice for our drinks. The side benefit was that it helped to keep our food frozen.

I have to give a lot of credit to Courtney for figuring out how to take care of our provisions and ice. She wasn't experienced at boating when we bought Pelagic but she's become a pro in the galley and a fine sailing partner. We ate exceptionally well for the entire journey.

It's unlikely we'll take another trip as long as this but we'll continue to cruise. New England is my old sailing ground and it would be quite a trip to sail to Canada.

Of course, I'd be happy to answer your other questions if I can.

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