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PJMcK's Journal
PJMcK's Journal
July 28, 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,
S/V Pelagic, Hull #106

Profile Information

Name: Paul McKibbins
Gender: Male
Hometown: New York City
Home country: USA
Current location: Catskill Mountains
Member since: Mon Jun 5, 2006, 04:16 PM
Number of posts: 21,201

About PJMcK

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