Happy Hattereen!  Our First Offshore Voyage on the Outbound: Norfolk, VA Around Cape Hatteras to Beaufort, NC

“Hattereen” was definitely an easy way to remember it.  Phillip and I weighed anchor in Norfolk, VA preparing to head out into the Atlantic for the first time on our new Outbound on October 31, 2021, Halloween.  It was a spooky day as we were preparing to make the voyage that had caused us the most fear of our entire cruising this season—the arduous passage around Cape Hatteras.  The name of this body of water around the Cape—the Graveyard of the Atlantic—definitely conjured ghosts and goblins.

Sunk ships give me the heebie jeebies.  While I have mentioned my thalassophobia here before, one particular item that I do not like to see submerged is a ship.  My mind populates it with the sailors that may have sunk with it, their souls lurking below in the dark bellows.  Knowing the Diamond Shoals which we would be sailing over has claimed over a thousand ships (a thousand!) with its uncharted shifting sand ridges hidden beneath the turbulent sea did give me a healthy dose of nerves mentally preparing for the trip.  And, yes, “uncharted” is accurate.  Even in this day and age the area is considered technically uncharted because the bottom shifts so often that hydrography and charting is out of date before it gets published.  These waters deserved some serious respect. 

Also, rounding Cape Hatteras would be our first offshore sail on the Outbound—not quite the first jaunt you want to make on your new-to-you boat, but we were dying to take her offshore.  We technically have a mast height (63.5′) low enough to allow us to utilize the protection of the intracoastal waterway, so that was an option.  ObiQ’s former owner had utilized that option in a pinch previously.  However, we wanted to embark offshore and SAIL south rather than motor. 

Phillip and I spent a (very fun) week in Norfolk watching the weather patterns and planning our trek around the deep jut of Cape Hatteras out into the Atlantic Ocean.  Two major ocean currents—the Labrador Current (a weaker current flowing to the south) and the Gulf Stream (a wicked, strong current flowing to the north)—converge off the Cape.  Combine that with the shifting shoals, depth in the mere teens, and low-lying hard-to-spot barrier islands and we had ourselves a very challenging body of water to sail through.  As for weather, we wanted enough wind to sail—because: a) we like to and prefer to sail; and b) the boat would have better steerage and make better, more steadfast headway if she was under sail as opposed to trying to motor through a formidable sea state—but not so much wind that we would be uncomfortable.  While wind behind the beam would be ideal, the north fronts that kept coming during that time of year typically carried stronger winds than we wanted to sail offshore in: 25 knots or more.  In the end we found a two-day window of winds that were predicted to be out of the NNW to W at 12-17 knots. 

It looked like a nice passage window and both Phillip and I were giddy at the thought of finally (finally! after our summer-long saga with the lost riser/elbow) sailing our new Outbound offshore.  Her offshore performance was one of the main reasons we purchased this boat and, after a summer living aboard, we were finally going to be able to truly feel what she could do when she got out there in the ocean and stretched her legs.  Damn, does she have some legs.

The voyage kicked off with a boding omen when I raised the anchor out of the water to find it cloaked in this dreary, haunted cloth.  Turns out our anchor had dressed up for Halloween!  A pretty nice ghost rendition if you ask me.  This was October 30th. 

We weighed anchor that morning to get the two-hour motor over to Comfort Point behind us and get staged up there just for the night so we could jump out before sunrise the following morning.  We were planning on 200 nautical miles for the voyage.  Estimating a boat speed of approximately 5-6+ knots (although we were hoping to go faster, we’re always conservative when voyage-planning) that would be, roughly, a 30-35 hour trip.  So, leaving at 5:00 a.m. on October 31st would put 24 hours behind us at 5:00 a.m. the following morning and give us the entire day to log the remaining 6-10 hours and make our way around and into Beaufort so we could navigate the inlet and get anchored in the remaining daylight hours. When voyage planning, one of our primary goals is to arrive in daylight and with a favorable tide.

We spent an incredible day sailing.  The winds were a little more WSW than W or even NW.  We were surprised to see NO north in the wind.  None.  That put it a little forward of our beam, but not uncomfortably so.  The Outbound just absorbs and picks up speed without the old groan and heel we would typically feel on the old boat at winds approaching 15 knots on the beam. 

We had the Gulf Stream pushing against us which slowed our actual speed, but she was making 7-8+ knots speed through the water with such ease it was astonishing.  This voyage told us we were definitely going to have to re-plan our voyages at a much faster average speed.  While our new super-sonic sail speed took some getting used to, boy, the boat did not.  She is unbelievably comfortable underway.  Solid, sound, and just in her element out there.  After all the work and struggle that went into this decision to buy a new boat, the purchase of Ubiquitous, and the summer we spent aboard, THIS was our reward: the bridle off and our gal galloping out in the Atlantic.  You couldn’t wipe the smiles off our faces. 

As night approached, so did the Cape. 

We were poised to round around 1-2 am.  Of course.  The diciest part of the passage was set to occur at nightfall, but we were prepared for that.  What we weren’t expecting was the shift in conditions. 

Night view aboard UbiQ

Although Phillip had read that the temperature gradient around the Cape can cause its own local weather pattern, with the possibility for sharp storms and shifting winds, it’s one of those little facts you tuck away hoping it’s not entirely true.  Turns out, it is.  As we neared the Cape, the temperature fell at least ten degrees and the winds picked up from the 12-16 knots it had varied between during the course of the day and evening to 20+ and rounded further south, even more on our nose.  Phillip and I decided to furl in the genoa and pull out the jib to get the boat more comfortable.  The solent rig on the Outbound offers a great option in that regard in that it’s easy to switch from a larger headsail to a smaller one (or vice versa) as they’re both rigged and ready to deploy.  Furling the genoa took some effort as the winds continued to increase, but once we got the jib out and trimmed, we knew it was the right call because the winds continued to climb to 23-24+ knots.   

UbiQ took it in true stride.  She picked up speed and pushed thousands of gallons of water out of her way.  While we found we were spending most of our shifts under the protection of the dodger, watching intel on the display mounted above the companionway, when I stepped out during our most severe conditions to check the rigging and look for chafe, I was shocked by what I found.  The experience under the dodger, and particularly below, was worlds away from the reality of what the boat was doing out there.  She was thundering along, charging through the salt and spray.  It was surprising to see and experience the exciting, noisy, wet world topside but thoroughly comforting to know a mere step down below the dodger seemed to pack all that away and close the lid on it.  I knew then and there, wherever we wanted to sail on Ubiquitous, she was capable of taking us comfortably.  I felt like UbiQ and I got our deepest introduction to one another out there.  I hope she was just as pleased with what she found in me as I was with the strong, salty spirit I discovered in her. 

Our auto-pilot also found this the perfect moment to introduce himself as well.  We have Sirius satellite radio on the boat and we’ve found it is an everyday asset for nice dinner-making or morning-coffee music but it’s also a great entertainer during offshore passages.  We would often listen to not only music, but podcasts, interviews, and particularly stand-up comedy (my favorite during night shifts).  We had the Sirius playing while we were switching from the genoa to the jib and as soon as we got it dialed in and the boat took off—making 9.2 SOG—it felt like a bit of a record scratch moment when the radio kicked over to a new song at a seemingly louder decibel than it had been, all on its own.  Or, all at the direction of “Maestro” we later concluded, when we decided that was the name of our auto-pilot as he orchestrated our passage and hand-selected the music that would accompany it. 

As we whipped around the Cape at record speed at two in the morning, Maestro picked the perfect song to kick off.  “IN YOUR HEEE-EAAAD. IN YOUR HEAAA-EEYAA-EAAD.  ZO-HOM-BIE.  ZO-HOM-BIE!” Phillip and I shouted the lyrics into the wind, our voices swallowed by the Atlantic.  “ZO-HOM-BIE.  ZO-HOM-BIE!”  This trip around Cape Hatteras had definitely got in our head in the weeks prior, picking at us, worrying us, stressing us.  And, here we finally were, thundering around the bend in the new boat just slaying it.  Phillip and I couldn’t sing loud enough to match the exuberance that was flowing out of us.  We were doing it!  Really doing it!  Galloping offshore in our new boat.  It is a moment I will not soon forget. 

And, it was in that same moment that Maestro reminded us, with his wickedly clever music selection, who’s in charge and who decides the vibe of our voyages.  As the last Zombie lyric slowly spun out and the winds seem to calm just a bit to match it, Maestro strolled his fingers through his record collection and picked the next perfect record. 

“Party in the city where the heat is on … ” pumped out as we put that infamous Cape in our rearview mirror because that’s exactly what we were in the process of doing.  “Going to Miami.  Welcome to Miami”  It was as if the boat knew.  Maestro knew.  UbiQ knew.  And, Phillip and I knew.  This boat was going south.  Finally. 

Amazingly, we sailed almost the entire voyage around the Cape.  With winds mostly forward of the beam but it wasn’t uncomfortable.  Ultimately, we sailed 210 nautical miles in about 32 hours and recording our fastest offshore speed yet at 6.6 SOG, average.  We made our way into the inlet to Beaufort, NC around 2:00 p.m. and, many thanks to the enormous tankage on the Outbound, we were able to give the boat a nice rinse-down and scrub. 

She certainly deserved it.  The scrub was our thanks to her (and Maestro) for carrying us safely over the Graveyard of the Atlantic, while handling mostly everything in the process, including the entertainment and song selection.  The boat had no tricks for us.  Only treats.  And, she gave us a Halloween for the books! 

Sailing Down Chesapeake Bay: Annapolis, MD to Norfolk, VA

“Boat show, then it’s time to go!” was our motto.  After our infuriating saga (part one, part two) with the lost elbow/riser that pretty much consumed our summer in the Chesapeake, Phillip and I vowed— once our Yanmar was finally reassembled and roared back to life—that we would be leaving Annapolis as soon as possible after the October Boat Show.  Our good friends, Megan and Chris (who purchased our impressive Niagara) were coming into town for a week to stay aboard, experience Ubiquitous, and do the boat show with us.  It was kind of surreal to be welcoming them aboard our new boat—one Phillip and I never dreamed, even within months of our purchase, we would be buying—while talking to them about “their boat,” our Plaintiff’s Rest.  The swiftness with which time changes, moves, and molds us sometimes baffles me.  It can be a little frightening, but, for me, also comforting, to know things are always changing. 

One of the wonderful things about UbiQ (and one of our reasons for purchasing) is the ease with which we can host other “boat people” (aka cruiser-minded folks) aboard.  While Phillip and I always felt our 35-foot Niagara was plenty of space for the two of us, we would be the first to admit she was not enough to space to share comfortably with others for passage or visits.  The Outbound, however, to be only 46 feet—actually 44 with a 2-foot scoop off the stern—is not only a comfortable size boat for two people to handle, it also offers comfortable space for others to join intermittently.  Megan and Chris snapped in beautifully and, we hope, felt like they were treated to an elegant waterfront vacation on the Chesapeake. 

Chris and Megan even treated us to a circus show to boot!

We also had a great time reuniting with other friends, our former dock neighbors, Stephen and Beth, from Pensacola, who ran into these folks you may recognize at the show!

As well as Neil and Janet, with crew Larry and Tracy, who sailed across the Atlantic on their newly-built Lagoon 40, behind us from La Rochelle, France to the Caribbean in 2018-2019. 

Now that I’ve introduced the cast and crew, roll that beautiful boat show footage!

As much fun as it was to have Chris and Megan aboard and visit our many friends who came to town for the boat show, I can’t lie in saying Phillip and I were looking equally forward to the next phase of our fall: when the boat show was behind us and it was time … finally … to cast UbiQ off for good and sail south to warmer climates.   Immediately after the show, we made some massive runs to the store for paper goods and non-perishables.  Also, with the new age of things and Whole Foods who delivers through Amazon Prime (what a wondrous thing), we were able to have a large fresh food delivery made to our former owners’ Jim and Ann’s condo in Annapolis to stock the boat. 

In addition to our usual boat spares as far as zincs, fuel filters, impellers, gaskets, etc. (the small, common stuff), Phillip and I also decided to stock some larger, more critical boat parts this time.

  • For the generator: a spare riser and elbow and raw water pump.
  • For the engine: a spare riser and elbow, starter, raw water pump, and fresh water pump (because we’re never letting that happen to us again).
  • For the auto-pilot (the most important crew member on the boat): a back-up drive unit and computer for our Raymarine hydraulic auto-pilot.

We must send out a huge thanks to UbiQ’s former owners, Jim and Ann, as well as Peter and Patty on Outbound Hull No. 7, Serendipitous, who went above and beyond during these hectic weeks to help Phillip and I run around town to get all of the necessary parts, food, clean clothes, spares (and wine!) aboard for our passage. It never ceases to amaze me the generosity of fellow cruisers.

UbiQ, up to some of her old tricks, decided to throw us a curveball the day before we were set to depart by emitting a rather large brown pool under the engine that freaked me out.  Turns out it was transmission fluid rather than oil.  I do not like that the transmission fluid in the Yanmar is the same color as oil as opposed to the obvious pink I’m used to.  I’ve written a strongly-worded letter to Yanmar about it … haven’t heard back yet. But, what we discovered was that this transmission fluid leak was likely caused when the dipstick/cap on the transmission fluid bin, at some point (we don’t know when exactly) got mis- or over-threaded and broke off.  Part of the yellow plastic cap (plastic threads) were still lodged in the metal threads on the bin, while the other half came off with the cap. 

Thankfully, we were able to connect again with Bayshore Marine there in Annapolis who had a replacement cap in stock that we could pick up that day to replace it … that is, after we dug the plastic threads out without dropping them into the bin (not a super easy feat). 

It was annoying, though, to find Bayshore carries an adamant supply of this cap because “that thing breaks all the time,” the gal at Bayshore told me.  Apparently, its plastic design causes it to break frequently.  C’mon Yanmar … step it up with a metal cap/dipstick next time, would ya?

Once that mini-crisis was averted, our plan was to make our way down the Chesapeake in essentially two hops, each roughly 60-70 miles (day sails, if we left early each morning).  Following the advice of fellow cruisers in Annapolis, we decided to sail first from Annapolis, MD to Solomon’s Island, MD. Our next hop would be to Deltaville, MD then on down to Norfolk, VA.

October 22, 2021:

While it is strange to look back and see us in three layers of foulies what feels like just a few short months ago, temps were in the upper 40s and low 50s when we left Annapolis in late October.  Phillip and I decided, in the future, we will probably get further south quicker.  While we certainly love boat shows.  What we love more is sailing in warmer climates.  But, this was our first time beginning our cruising season on the upper east coast of the U.S.—as opposed to Pensacola, FL where we usually depart—so we had plenty to learn.  Our first morning heading out from Back Creek in Annapolis and down the Chesapeake was quite memorable.  Cold, crisp pre-dawn light.  An engine warming to life.  Still, calm waters in the creek.  We slipped out at 5:00 a.m. like a cat in the night.  Our first sunrise on passage on the new boat is not something I will soon forget.  One small sail for UbiQ; one giant leap this new Outbound 46 crew!  We were finally doing it!  Sailing south for the winter. 

While we had intended Solomon’s Island as just a quick tuck-in for us—a place to drop the anchor for the night to relax and pop back out at dawn the next morning—we arrived rather earlier in the afternoon than had planned (UbiQ is definitely faster than our Niagara 35) and found ourselves quite pleased with the sleepy little coastal town we found ashore.  There is a nice waterfront with lots of history and a wide promenade to stroll the coast. 

A few little shops and eateries along the way and, most importantly, a tiki bar just a short dinghy hop from the boat.  Phillip and I rarely miss the opportunity to belly up to a little tiki bar. 

And, UbiQ seemed rather happy on her hook as opposed to the dock.  It seemed she was just as eager to get this maiden south voyage underway as we were. 

Although I could have seen us spending a few quiet days at Solomon’s Island, Phillip and I were too eager to beat feet south.  Deltaville was just an easy day-sail away and a quiet, protected place to drop the hook for the night. Next up was Norfolk, VA—Hospital Point up the Elizabeth River, to be exact, which our new Outbound cruising buddies, Peter and Patty, had recommended to us—where Phillip and I expected to spend a few days, at least, waiting for a good weather window to jump out and round Cape Hatteras. 

We rose again around 4:30 a.m. to utilize as much daylight as we could to sail down the Chesapeake from Solomon’s Island to Norfolk.  The sunrise that morning was even more stunning.  Probably my favorite of 2021 I can now easily say, bathing both our faces in neon pink and vibrant yellows.  Despite the bundles of layers, our faces, at least, look warm in the photos … because they were!

And boy did we sail that day!  With a nice WSW wind, we flew down the Chesapeake at an average of 7.0 knots—a seemingly impossible speed on our Niagara.  Ubiquitous was quickly showing us what a difference a longer waterline makes.  I think Phillip and I both could have just kept on sailing, had the weather window been right, for us to round Hatteras.  With the months of work and toil we had put into not only finding and purchasing the Outbound 46, but also breaking our budget (with the unexpected riser/elbow drama) and breaking her in over the summer, this was our reward.  Voyaging on the Outbound 46. 

I’m quite confident, weather permitting, Phillip and I could have kept going that day all the way down to the Bahamas or beyond.  Maybe next time … weather permitting.

This time, it was not only weather that required we tuck in to wait for a better weather window for Hatteras, it was also our desire to check out as many cool new spots along the Chesapeake and the east coast as we could on our way down.  Neither of us had done Virginia by boat and we were eager to see what Norfolk had to offer.  Coming into the Elizabeth River put us face-to-face with some rather large container ships.  The riverfront there is a very industrial space but beautiful in its own way.  The size and scale of the shipping industry there is mesmerizing. 

We found the anchorage near Hospital Point fairly full but with enough space left to afford us a nice spot to join the pack and settle in for the night.  Seeing big city lights from our portlights was definitely a new sight for us.  One that took some getting used to.  Phillip and I both spent a good bit of time anchored that night just staring out the windows in awe. 

The next day we were also pleased to find a large city dock on the sea wall across from Hospital Point where dinghies are welcome and it allows you to step off the boat right into the heart of downtown Norfolk, a city that surprised us with its overflowing food, art, history, and night scene. 

We toured the Battleship Wisconsin, one of the largest and last battleships ever built by the U.S. Navy that earned five battle stars during WW II. 

We walked through Asian/Thai-inspired Pagoda Gardens.

We ate at the Glass Light,

And checked out their art gallery.

We drank at the rooftop bar at the Hilton, The Grain.

And, we made a new friend …   

We named him Peta (pronounced “Pee-tuh” like the character in Hunger Games, because he seemed like a Peter Rabbit, only a far more dramatic version).  If I had to guess, this guy is a major drama queen.  Just look at him …

We ended up staying in Norfolk for over a week waiting for the right window to round Hatteras.  That voyage was easily the one we stressed over the most on our way down the coast.  I mean, anything that has the word ‘graveyard’ in it—Hatteras is known as the “Graveyard of the Atlantic”—does not give me the warm fuzzies.  We’d heard some grueling tales from fellow cruisers of horrific passages made whipping around that rough, jagged, somewhat uncharted edge of the coast that juts out into the Atlantic.  This was not a voyage we were taking lightly, and it required patience and time to wait for the right window.  But, boy did we have a helluva time flying around the bend.  UbiQ is an absolute beast in the Atlantic!  Next up on the blog: Happy Hattereen around our wicked whip around Cape Hatteras.  Stay tuned!

“Tacking On a Header” — Article in SAIL Magazine

This was an incredibly fun article to write for SAIL. And, perfect timing on its publication as Phillip and I are just about to come up on a year from the time we bought our 2015 Outbound 46, s/v Ubiquitous (lovingly called “UbiQ”), in March, 2021. How time flies … The idea for this article—Tacking On a Header—came to me as I was sitting one day, working, at the end of Ego Alley in Annapolis (where we spent most of our time last year) and I saw a little sailboat tacking back and forth up the tight alley, harnessing the wind brilliantly. As soon as the old sailing adage hit my brain it felt like the perfect analogy for what Phillip and I had done in making the very difficult decision to sell our old 1985 Niagara 35, which we absolutely loved, and buy a newer, more complicated but spacious and capable boat. We tacked on a header and now, a year in—with the beauty of hindsight—we have found it was most definitely the right call. Our Outbound 46 is … well, to put it frankly, a dream boat.

I hope the article helps explain some of our thought processes when making the transition and what we considered our top priorities in shopping for a new(er) boat. Be sure to pick up a copy of SAIL’s March issue and let me know what you think. Many thanks to the entire crew at SAIL Magazine for selecting my piece and putting together such a nice spread. It was a lot of fun to share with the former owners of UbiQ—Jim and Ann—when the issue came out! (You’ll find Jim in several photos in the spread sporting his bright orange toboggan! : ). Phillip and I were lucky in that we didn’t just get a boat in the deal, we made two very good new friends as well. Enjoy the piece!

Snapping a fun pic with UbiQ’s former owners, Jim and Ann, with the SAIL March issue!
There’s Jim in the orange toboggan!

Our survey/sea-trial (back in March, 2021) was such a memorable day. Both brokers and the surveyor, who have all participated in dozens, maybe hundreds, of survey/sea-trials, said it was the most congenial, fun, smooth-and-easy survey/sea-trial any of them had ever attended. I think all parties involved just knew this was the right move for UbiQ! I like to believe that anyway! We certainly love her and can only hope we take equally good care of her as Jim and Ann did. They’ll be joining us aboard here and there to make sure we do! : D

Our Riser/Elbow Saga (Part 2): A New One Out of Thin Air, and a Yacht-Delivered Spare!

Every bone and organ in my body slid downward.  Phillip and I couldn’t quite wrap our heads around it at first.  UPS had lost our package.  The big, 15-pound box that contained both the old and new riser/elbow we’d had fabricated for the Yanmar engine on our new Outbound.  It didn’t seem entirely possible.  Lost?  Like forever?  Lost?  While that news was bad enough, the reality of the situation sent an even colder realization up my spine. 

It was later September in Annapolis.  That meant two things.  The boat show was coming.  And winter was coming.  That also meant every marine vendor within a 50-mile radius was booked for months trying to get boats ready for the show and ready to go.  If our engine didn’t get up and running soon, Phillip and I wouldn’t be going anywhere, much less south, for the winter.  All this work and effort and money and hours we put into getting our new Outbound and planning our getaway to the islands for the 2021 cruising season was about to be shot.  Like a flailing duck in the sky.  Boom.  Done.  Although Phillip and I had jokingly said our loose plan for the season had been to simply “not winterize the boat,” that off-hand remark was quickly morphing from a joke into our new reality.  Phillip and I could not ignore the very real prospect that if we didn’t find someone to magically concoct a new riser/elbow out of thin air for us and get our engine running, our new beautiful offshore, island-bound boat was about to be hauled back out at Jabin’s yard and wrapped for the winter.  Wrapped?  Nuh-uh.  Nope.  The answer was no.  There was only one solution to this problem. 

I got desperate.  I got dressed.  I got cookies. 

Late September, 2021: Running Out of Time; Running Out of Options

As I mentioned, we had tried our previous fabricator to see if he could re-create another new riser/elbow one from scratch (i.e., without the old one to use as a template).  He was having cataract surgery.  One eye, then the other, over a three-week period.  So, nope.  We tried Collection Yachts, the outfit that had purchased Outbound Yachts.  The Chinese yard in Xiamen, where Outbounds are built, was on holiday.  *sigh*  But, Ryan Dunham with Collection, was surprisingly sympathetic.  He offered to search the Collection warehouse and then contact other owners to see if he could find us one.  While it was certainly a generous offer (he didn’t owe us anything).  That wasn’t a guarantee or a quick, immediate answer, both of which we needed.  I knew it was time to break out the big guns. 

Cookies. 

I’ve often found these work wonders when you’re headed to a shipyard to ask a marine vendor for a favor.  Never underestimate the value of a cookie.  Or some humility.  I was well-stocked on both that day.  I whipped up a batch of home-made cookies (insert, I picked up a box at Publix), donned a spandex workout number (don’t judge), and headed to Jabin’s to beg any vendor who would listen and who might have a sliver of time to help us.  I spoke to several vendors who were super nice (and enjoyed their cookie!) but who simply didn’t have the time—with all the immense demands the boat show brings—to squeeze an entirely new fabrication job in.  I am sad to say I left the yard with an empty Tupperware, some cookie crumbs, and no hope.  Until …

September 23, 2021: A New Fabricator Is Available

Around 4:00 pm that day my phone dinged with an email.  It was from Steve Madden with M Yachts at Jabin’s.  His primary fabricator, Don, had unexpectedly had another project fall through which left him with a 5-7 day opening that he could fill with our project … “if we wanted,” Steve wrote.  Oh … we wanted!  My fingers fumbled typing him back.  Of course we wanted!  Thank you, Steve!  And, thank goodness I’d stopped by that day with cookies.

Don showed up at our boat the next morning, full of stories about how he got into fabricating (by making potato guns that he and his cousins would fire across the creek in Annapolis).  He took a long look at the empty gap between our heat exchanger and exhaust tube (that needed to be filled with a custom, stainless riser and elbow) and he set to work, taking measurements and photos. 

Don, accessing the engine from our port aft berth

Don was at our boat for about an hour, full of three piping hot cups of coffee I’d fed him, when he said he had everything he needed.  I didn’t want to push Don, but I really wanted a rough ETA.  “It can be super rough,” I told him.  “I just want an idea.” 

It starts to get cold in Annapolis (like freezing cold) in late October, early November.  For this reason, Phillip and I had been planning to leave Annapolis immediately after the boat show, the week of October 18th to stick with our plan for the winter to “not winterize the boat.”  We had friends coming to Annapolis to stay aboard UbiQ and visit during the show Oct. 14th – 18th.  (You might remember the amazing Megan and Chris who purchased our Niagara 35!).  They were scheduled to come into town on Oct. 11th. 

While having a working engine so we could take Megan and Chris out sailing on the Chesapeake would be nice, we knew they would understand if the boat was immovable while they were in town.  They’re boat people; they get it.  But, we hoped beyond hope it could all come together before they arrived.  However, the after was the most important part.  While we were super excited to host Megan and Chris and share the new joys of life aboard UbiQ with them, immediately after sending them off, our goal was to start provisioning, weather routing, and planning our passage south down the Chesapeake, around Cape Hatteras, and on down the coast eventually to a jumping off point for the Bahamas.  One critical component to that plan was … a running engine. 

“About a week,” Don told me, jerking me out of my mental math.  I blinked.  Swallowed.  Blinked again.  “Like, one week?” I asked, stupidly.  “You’re sure?” even stupider.  “Yeah, a week to ten days.”  Don assured me he could do it, would do it. 

September 24, 2021: New Fabrication Promised in 7-10 Days

I wanted to believe Don.  I really did.  But, from our experience when you dig into any complicated fabrication, or other big structural, project on a boat, it’s like having work done on your house.  Whatever time frame the contractor gives you, multiply it (both the timeframe and the price – ha!) by three.  That way you set your expectations realistically and avoid surprise or disappointment.  But, it was September 24th.  A week to ten days would have us turning the engine over around Oct. 5th … ish.  Little gears in my brain that had been cloaked with disappointment and my new-found hatred for UPS started to shake themselves off and turn.  For the first time since our “sortation delay” I began to think things might still work out according to plan.  Up and running by the show; headed down south the week after.  Could it …  Don didn’t know it was coming, but I hugged him.  Full on.  Big, Annie bear hug.

September 28, 2021: The Boat Show Outbound Offers to Bring a Spare

It seemed perhaps some tectonic plate shifted that day.  Our boat karma was bubbling up from under murky oil slick UPS had caused.  A few days after Don stopped by and claimed to be started on a 7-10 day timeframe in fabricating a brand new riser/elbow for us, Ryan with Collection Yachts gave us a call.  Turns out they did not have a spare riser/elbow in the warehouse for our boat, but the new Outbound 46, Hull No. 74, s/v Orion, which was going to be the Outbound 46 in the Annapolis Boat Show was carrying a spare aboard that fit our engine, and the owner, Leo (bless his soul), was willing to sell it to us.  Phillip and I joked that we would never trust UPS to send an important boat part again.  “No, Sir!” we shouted in jest.  We trust a hand-delivery via an Outbound over UPS any day of the week. Orion was set to arrive at Jabin’s on Oct. 6th … with a spare riser/elbow in tow.  Could it …

Phillip and I were trying not to get too excited.  We hadn’t seen Don since he first stopped by, now, four days prior.  I had no idea if he was actually working on our riser/elbow or not.  I wanted to believe he was.  He seemed super nice.  Honest.  But, you can’t get to know a guy over a few cups of coffee and some potato gun stories.  We also were not 100% sure the spare riser/elbow that was coming via s/v Orion would fit.  Ryan with Collection said the engine room layouts on our 2015 model, Hull 58, and the 2021, Hull 74, were the same but until you actually bolt it on … you never know.  We floated our own hopes, however.  Until this guy showed up. 

October 4, 2021: The Newly Fabricated Riser/Elbow is Coming Along

My God, she was beautiful.  Shiny stainless.  Custom weld joints.  An impressive new height, which meant a safer design.  Don was really proving himself.  Day 9 of his “7-10” day timeframe and he had a piece that was damn-near done.  Don did some last-minute measuring at the boat to make some final tweaks on the new piece, and he promised to be back in a couple of days with our completed 316 stainless steel riser/elbow, custom-fabricated for our engine space. 

It couldn’t be stopped.  Even if I wanted to.  I hugged Don again. 

October 6, 2021: The Newly Fabricated Riser/Elbow is Complete!

Don and I were getting used to this coffee-cup routine.  He showed up again on the morning of October 6th to ensure the final fit of his newly-fabricated riser/elbow.  It was a thing of beauty.  Don’s unique design, beginning with a sharp bend of the riser moving it immediately aft out of the heat exchanger and up high in a tight 180-degree turn (the elbow) back down to the “water jacket” (that was a new term for me) where Don would add a raw water intake tube for the salt water and hot air exhaust to mix (hence the term, “mixing elbow”) and then exit the boat as hot raw water exhaust.  Everything bolted on beautifully.  It was a bit hard to believe Don had conjured this glorious piece out of thin air.  He took it off one last time to take it back to his shop to spray an anti-corrosive coating on it and wrap it for the install.  He kind of had to pry it out of my hands.  Having lost one already, I didn’t want to let it go.

Phillip was back in Pensacola during this time trying a case in Bay County.  It was a big moment for him, but that left me by myself on the boat to handle all this riser/elbow drama.  While we were confident I could install the riser/elbow myself and turn the engine over, we were new to the Yanmar 4JH80.  I’d never worked on an engine with a turbo charger and an air cooler, and I’m still not 100% sure exactly what those things are and do.  The guilt would totally consume me if I didn’t connect one hose the right way and I blew up the engine (yes, that’s what I imagined could happen).  So, we scheduled a mechanic, Dave from Bay Shore Marine who had helped us remove the old riser/elbow back in the yard at Jabin’s (the one that UPS lost!), to come back on October 8th to help with the install and first turn-over of the engine since August 2nd. 

It was perfect timing, too, as the new Outbound, Hull 74, Orion, was making his way to the dock at Jabin’s that evening and I was set to meet Marcello with Collection Yachts at the dock the following morning, October 7th, to pick up the riser/elbow spare that Leo had graciously brought us as well as a tour!  This called for one thing:

An invite to our former owners, Jim and Ann, to join me so they could tour the newest Outbound 46, too!

October 7, 2021: Outbound 46, Hull 74, s/v Orion, Brings a Spare

She had a deep blue hull.  A wooden bulwark.  All things I wouldn’t want to maintain, but boy did I love to ogle them. 

Our former owners, Jim and Ann, joined me that morning on the short trek over to Jabin’s yard to pick up the spare riser/elbow that Orion’s owner, Leo, had offered to sell us and that Collection Yachts had coordinated for us.  Of course, any time you step up to a brand-new boat, there’s one thing you must get.  A tour! 

Marcello with Collection devoted an entire hour to us that morning offering us an in-depth tour of the newest Outbound 46.  I will say it was quite comforting to see not much had changed in the design of the Outbound from Hull 58 (ours, built in 2015) to Hull 74 (Orion, built in 2021).  That told us they did it right the first time.  The primary differences we saw were owner-elected: a hard versus soft dodger, an AC versus DC generator, the electronics, an in-boom furling mast, the blue hull and wooden bulwark, etc.  All of which I think would make for an excellent comparison article (Hull 58 versus 74) in a future blog post. 

The Collection Yachts team had also brought the newest build out of Elan Yachts, the GT6, to Annapolis for the boat show and Marcello was generous enough to offer Jim and Ann and I a private tour of that boat as well, which was docked alongside Orion at Jabin’s yard.  Talk about a streamlined racing beast.  Not a boat I would choose to cruise, but a boat I’m confident would win in an offshore race.  She was sleek.  I hated to tell Phillip, who was back in Florida wrapping his jury trial but—that day—he definitely missed out! 

I hugged it like a child. I couldn’t believe our good fortune when Marcello handed over the spare riser/elbow that Leo brought us on Orion.

A side-by-side comparison once I was back aboard Ubiquitous showed two very similar, but in many ways very different design approaches to reach the same end goal. In analyzing the two we decided to go with our newly-fabricated piece as we preferred the higher-rise design and we knew it was constructed out of 316 stainless steel. With the Outbound 46, we were not entirely sure what type of stainless had been used.

October 8, 2021: Our Yanmar Finally Roars to Life!

It was Annie on deck.  I met with Dave from Bay Shore Marine early in the morning, who quickly became our “go to” mechanic that summer, to help install the newly-fabricated riser/elbow and turn our engine over for the first time since August 2nd.  That was two months too long ago!  Although our fabricator, Don, had mocked up the install during his fabrication process, having had a newly-fabricated piece not fit (by centimeters only!) last time, I was a bit nervous about the install and anxious to see everything bolted and clamped back tightly.  Thankfully, it was a perfect fit.  I can’t thank Don and his potato-gun skills enough.  Our new riser/elbow is a thing of meticulous beauty. 

Once all the hoses were wedged on, all the clamps tightened, the sea cock open (I will never forget that again), and the oil checked, it was time.  Time to turn our badass 80-hp engine over.  This was it.  Go, Engine Annie Go! 

I can’t tell you what a relief that was.  Was it just an engine part?  Maybe.  Or was it our cruising plans for the season, on our new boat that we’d spent all year planning, saving, and prepping for?  More likely.  Just a few short weeks prior we had lost both the old and (first) newly-fabricated riser/elbow to a UPS “sortation delay.”  Now, after some cursing, crying, and cookies, we ended up with a newly-fabricated, better-than-before riser/elbow, a running engine, and a spare!?  While I never cease to forget in the moment—when it seems all signs are telling you your luck surely has turned south—with hindsight I’m always reminded that maybe it was just rearing back for a massive turn in the right direction.  Like a crow-hop before landing that nice big punch.  Oftentimes when things seem to not be working out at all the way you planned, they may just be gearing up to work out even better in a new direction.  Never forget that.  Keep the faith! 

Next up, we’ve got the new Niagara owners coming for a visit, all the Annapolis boat show fun, and prep for our voyage south down the Chesapeake, out at Norfolk, and around Cape Hatteras—all new terrain for us on our new Outbound 46.  Now that we were … you know … able to get outbound.  Boats.  Always an adventure.  Stay tuned. 

Our Riser/Elbow Saga (Part 1): Oops … UPS Did It Again!

The telling of this tale.  Where to begin?  This was quite possibly one of the most frustrating boat projects Phillip and I have ever taken on.  And, this comes from a couple who has re-rigged their boat (switching from rod rigging to wire) and replaced the portlights (which was way worse than the rigging) …

While those projects were infuriating at times, I don’t think they came with quite as many punches to the gut.  Not quite the emotional roller coaster that this one launched us on.  Followers, it’s time to share.  I give you …

Our Riser/Elbow Saga (Part 1): Oops … UPS Did It Again!

August, 2021:

B.O.A.T.  “Broke Or About To” I think the saying goes.  This applies equally to new boats, as well as old … IF … you don’t keep up with the maintenance.  (And sometimes even when you do.  It is a boat, right?).   The same was true with our Outbound 46.  A 2015, it had only been built six years prior, but it still had several maintenance issues we were aware of going in.  Minor things that were openly discussed during our purchase negotiations, but still items we needed to deal with and most of which our former owner, Jim, even offered to help us with over the summer. Jim was truly top notch in that regard. We got a heck of a draw with our former owner.  A few of the items required we haul the boat to tackle, so we scheduled a haul-out at Bert Jabin Yacht Yard (known locally as “Jabin’s”) in Annapolis August 2, 2021.  And, for us as I’m sure it is the same with many cruisers, once you decide to haul the boat to do “a few things,” you’ve just given the proverbial mouse a cookie.  The list grew.  These were our main items:

8.2.21 – 8.13.21 SHIPYARD LIST

  1. Rebuild the Auto Prop (one blade was sticking a bit, not spinning quite as freely)
  2. Repair the Speedo valve (to stop the geyser it created when taking out the transducer)
  3. Bottom job, buff, and spruce up boot stripe and hull
  4. Unseize manual bilge pump seacock in port lazarette
  5. Replace Spurs (crab pod) cutter on prop
  6. Replace prop anode
  7. Replace (or clean out) the galley drain hose (that was occasionally clogging)
  8. Repair/rebuild the Yanmar riser and elbow

During our survey/sea-trial in Annapolis in March, 2021, both our surveyor, Robert (“Bobby”) Noyce, and Steve D’Antonio, who we hired to conduct a pre-purchase inspection (highly recommended), both found the seizing wire on the wrap around our riser/elbow on our 4JH80 Yanmar engine was rusted and needed to be removed and inspected to determine whether the elbow was leaking and needed to be replaced. 

Excerpt from Robert Noyce’s Survey for Ubiquitous

Yanmar recommends you replace the riser/elbow on their 4JH80 every 500 hours or two years (whichever comes sooner), which did seem pretty extreme.  But, in an effort to be prudent boat owners, Phillip and I pulled the riser/elbow on our Yanmar when we were hauled out so we could inspect it, determine if it was corroded or leaking, and, if so, have a new one fabricated by a skilled marine fabricator who came highly recommended to us through the Outbound community.

August 3, 2021 – We Haul and Send the Old Elbow to the Fabricator

Once removed, we found the riser/elbow wrap was highly corroded and indicated a likely leak at the weld where the tubes were joined. 

We sent the old, corroded elbow to a skilled fabricator in Norfolk, VA for inspection and, we presumed, necessary fabrication of a new riser/elbow we could install on the boat to have her running good as new.  Our fabricator advised the turn-around on a newly fabricated riser/elbow would likely run a week or two so we were hopeful we could get the new one back and slapped on the boat before our splash date of August 13, 2021.  [Insert fingers crossed emoji here].

While he worked, we had plenty of other projects to distract us:

Rebuilding of the Auto Prop (with exceptional help from Roderick at King Propulsion and Jim in his Severn House Boatworks workshop! : )

Re-painting the bottom, buffing out our hull, fixing our Speedo valve, unseizing our bilge pump seacock, installing our prop cutter, and a dozen other little things by Greg with Annapolis Boat Service

I will say the one thing I did conquer myself was unclogging the galley drain hose.  Turns out it was just clogged with oil and gunk so we didn’t have to snake a new hose in.  Whew! 

August 13, 2021 – We Splash Back Engineless

Unfortunately, our fabricator—being in very high demand in Norfolk—had a client emergency come up in August that he had to devote his time to and he wasn’t able to turn our newly-fabricated elbow/riser around in two weeks as we had hoped.  That was an impressive prospect to begin with, so Phillip and I weren’t too disheartened.  He did send us some fun pictures of the progress he was making in the interim which was exciting.  The new riser/elbow sure was shiny!

Not wanting to spend more costly days on the hard waiting for a riser/elbow that wasn’t critical for the splash, we decided to drop the boat without a working engine and have the team at Jabin’s tow us safely back to our slip, which was just across the way in Back Creek.  They were exceptional, too, in their white-gloved, ginger delivery of our boat safely into her slip.  Can’t say enough good things about Roddy, Nacho, and all the guys there.

September 10, 2021 – We Receive the New and Old Elbows Back from Our Fabricator

What a day!  After a month not running, sitting in her slip, our beautiful new Outbound was finally going to be turned over, revved up, and ready for the races.  We even had a fun raft-up planned with our former owners, Jim and Ann, who were sailing a friend’s Beneteau at the time, Moltobene, and owners of another outbound (Hull No. 7, Serendipitous), Peter and Patty, out at Shaw Bay on the east side of the Chesapeake.  I first introduced these fabulous new friends—Jim, Ann, Peter, and Patty in our Fourth of July blog.  The raft-up was going to be the perfect way to celebrate our hard work on the hard and our newly commissioned riser/elbow.  Everything was falling right into place until … it wasn’t. 

When we tried to install the newly-fabricated riser/elbow, with the help of David from Bay Shore Marine/Diversified, also at Jabin’s, it was just a smidge off.  A smidge!?  Unfortunately, the work space in our old engine room on our Niagara 35 really puts our new engine room to shame.  Where we used to have pretty decent 360-degree access to our Westerbeke (I could literally sit crossed-legged behind the engine and work), on the Outbound … well.  It’s super tight quarters, likely a computer designed space, where every component on the engine fits within millimeters of space. 

And, the riser/elbow on the Yanmar in our Outbound is not one you can just order online from Yanmar.  It’s custom fabricated to fit in our computer-generated tight engine room.  And, without being able to lay his hands on the space, using only our old riser/elbow as a guide, our fabricator got it within centimeters.  But, the angle of the downward tube (that’s what Annie called it) was just a little tight and would not allow the air handler to bolt back on the engine.  David and Phillip wrangled and wrestled and tried to make it work but we had to face the bad news.  Our weekend raft-up on UbiQ was a bust.  At least we thought that was the extent of our bad news. 

We marked the spot where the new riser/elbow needed to be bent just slightly and shipped it back (from Annapolis) to our fabricator (in Norfolk) overnight on September 10th.  Feeling terrible, although he shouldn’t have—our fabricator had graciously offered his entire weekend to fix the problem, bend the new riser/elbow, and ship it back to us, overnight as well, on Monday.  He was exceptionally devoted to us on this project. 

September 10, 2021: We Ship the Old and New Elbows Back to Our Fabricator for Modification

Everything went remarkably smoothly.  (Especially considering we were still able to join the raft-up, albeit not rafted on our boat, but Peter and Patty were super gracious to invite us to join them aboard Serendipitous for the weekend out at Shaw Bay with Moltobene, and we had a blast!) 

Our fabricator called us on Saturday morning to let us know the new and old riser/elbows had arrived at his shop in Norfolk, VA and he set immediately to work.  He was able to bend the new riser/elbow to more closely match the old one and was prepared on Sunday evening to ship them both back to us first thing on Monday when UPS opened.  So, it seemed like the “slight bend” issue was just a minor setback.  “Just a weekend.  No big deal,” Phillip and I said, remaining cheerful.  Little did we know …

September 13, 2021: Our Fabricator Ships the Old and New(ly Bent) Elbows Back to Us

September 14, 2021, Phillip and I are waiting eagerly to hear from our local UPS location in Annapolis that a package had arrived at our box.  The newly bent riser/elbow was scheduled to arrive via overnight shipping on the 14th, and we were eager to see her fit beautifully so we could finally turn the engine over—snow six weeks after we had removed the old riser/elbow—and, hopefully, just in time for our planned offshore cruise.  One of the primary reasons Phillip and I bought the Outbound was for her offshore performance and we had yet to even take her out of Chesapeake Bay since we got her.  For this reason, we had planned to take a little ten-day excursion out into the Atlantic, make a loop, and come back into the C&D Canal for our first offshore shakedown on the boat before—what we were planning at the time—our two-week trip to the Bermudas and the Caribbean for the winter.  Our calendars were miraculously cleared for two weeks in the last half of September to do it.  All we needed was the riser/elbow back from our fabricator to make it happen. 

Nearing late afternoon on September 14th, however, we received no notification from UPS.  Not a beep, not a ding on our phones.  Nothing.  We finally decided to just stop by the store in hopes of finding a big box from our fabricator sitting there waiting for us.  When I gave the guy at the desk the tracking number, his first response worried me.  “This wasn’t sent overnight.  It was sent UPS ground.”  That didn’t sound right.  Our fabricator had shipped it overnight.  He told us he even talked to the supervisor guy at his location to be sure it was sent overnight.  He was adamant about it.  But, by some weird UPS glitch it had been sent ground, which meant it likely would not arrive for a couple of days.  “Just a couple of days.  No big deal,” Phillip and I said.  We’ll just head offshore a little later than we had planned.  Little did we know …

September 14-18, 2021: The Package Suffers a “Sortation Delay”

That’s what the UPS tracking site told us.  We had already called the UPS folks probably 10 times by now, trying to figure out what the status of the package was and we were told, time and again, “By 10 am tomorrow the website will show the newest information.  We can’t tell you anything before that time.”  Well, 10am came, and the “new information” was the package had suffered a “sortation delay.”  No one could really tell us what that meant.  Other than, the package was somewhere (either on a truck or in a building somewhere, they would not tell us where) between Richmond and Norfolk, VA, and that it could not be properly sorted to be sent to Annapolis. 

This “sortation delay” continued to show day after day after day on the UPS tracking website.  Phillip and I emailed.  We called.  We waited on hold.  We shouted to “SPEAK TO A HUMAN!”  We both knew our tracking number by heart.  We recited it in our sleep.  After all this trouble, I should have had it tattooed on my arm.  (Yes, I can still recite it to this day – I did not have to look this up: K2519996757).  To say UPS was sympathetic would be a stretch.  We begged to speak to supervisors.  We told them each day our package was delayed it cost us to stay in a hotel or AirBnB (as we could not stay aboard the boat where she was docked at the time, so each day we could not leave the dock and live aboard cost us lodging).  We told UPS it was a custom part that could not be replaced.  We implored and pleaded and tried not to shout (to the people – the robots got earfuls).  We were in UPS purgatory, or some version of shipping hell. 

I begged the UPS people to just tell me where, physically, the package was.  Norfolk was just a few hours’ drive from Annapolis.  I would have been more than thrilled to rent a car and haul my happy ass over there to pick it up, without a complaint even.  But, I guess UPS has been bombarded before by angry customers.  They had wised up and would not divulge the location of the package, no matter how many times I asked, begged, cried. 

September 19, 2021: UPS Assigns an Investigation Team

Phillip and I were excited, at first.  An investigation team.  Like trackers.  They were going to find our box.  “It’s not like it’s a little envelope,” one of our good friends said who was following our tragic tale in real time.  “It wouldn’t just slip between the seats.”  And, he was right (nod to you, Stephen).  This was like a 2- by 3-foot box!  It weighed 15 pounds!  And it was just sitting somewhere.  Suffering a “sortation delay.”  All the while, mine and Phillip’s plan to go offshore was melting away like a dream when you wake up and can’t recall the details.  We knew that wasn’t happening anymore.  UPS had **cked us on that one.  But, at least we had an investigation team!  They were going to find it.  “It’ll just come two weeks later.  No big deal,” we told ourselves. 

But, on day two of UPS’s alleged “investigation,” during one of my ten daily calls to UPS—“Tracking number K2519996757” I said strictly from memory—the gal (likely working in a cubicle somewhere overseas) said something that slapped me in the face.  “After the investigation, they’ll send you a form and you can submit a claim.”  Send me a form?  A claim?  But I need my package?  There was something in the way she had said “after the investigation.”  All of a sudden it sounded like a formality.  Just a box to be checked.  “An investigation.”  Even though I’d spent another 20 minutes of waiting and shouting “SPEAK TO A HUMAN,” just to reach her, I hung up.  For some reason, I just knew then that it was over.  They weren’t really looking for our package.  What had I been thinking?  Investigation … Pssh!  It was laughable.  Somewhere deep in a little dark crevice of my heart I just knew …

September 22, 2021: UPS LOST OUR PACKAGE

And this package did not contain just the new riser that we had fabricated.  It contained the old one, too.  The only piece of metal we had in the world at the time that actually fit in the weird, quirky space that made our engine run.  We had lost both in one foul blow from UPS. Lost.  I still couldn’t half believe it.  How do you seriously lose a big package like that?  Just lose it!?

Now, Phillip and I just had a gaping hole in our engine room, one from the heat exchanger to the exhaust hose that ran out the back where a custom riser/elbow was supposed to fit.  All we had was empty air, no template to work from, and a shallow one-sentence email from UPS advising us they had lost our package and that we could file a claim for the “cost of the item lost.” The cost?!  We were livid.  Money couldn’t fill the hole in our engine room and make the Yanmar turn over.  It had cost us two weeks of lodging.  A lost offshore opportunity.  Maybe even …

It was then that the paralyzing thought struck us …

September, 2021: Winter Is Coming and Our Boat Isn’t Going Anywhere

The thought of our new boat, our beautiful offshore champion, our island-bound luxury home, sitting in freezing Annapolis for the winter was just … sickening.  Phillip and I needed solutions.  Hell, we needed a miracle.  We asked our fabricator if he could make a new one from scratch.  “I’m sorry, I’m having cataract surgery,” he told us.  Of course you are!  We called Collection Yachts (who now owns Outbound Yachts) to see if they could ship us a replacement from the yard in China, where our boat was built.  “The yard is closed for a week.  It’s Chinese holiday.”  Of course it is!  We called and begged multiple marine vendors in Annapolis.  “It’s boat show time.  We’re booked for months,” they scoffed.  Of course you are!  It was getting laughable at this point.  Except there wasn’t anything funny about the thought of our new badass boat getting hauled back out and sitting sadly up on jacks, wrapped and frigid, for months.   That’s when I got desperate. 

It was time to run around with cookies. 

Stay tuned to find out how this riser/elbow saga wraps!  (Teaser, there may be a brand new Outbound involved … just sayin … ).

Bahamas Travel Update: Checking In and Out Under the New Covid Restrictions

Ask any cruiser Phillip and I met while traveling down the east coast where they were headed and 99.42% (give or take) would tell you:

“WE’RE GOING TO THE BAHAMAS!”

It’s also what the majority of the trawler folks I talked to when I spoke at the Trawlerfest in Baltimore back in October, 2021 told me as well.  It seemed everyone had the same plan as us, which is not surprising.  Some of the most beautiful islands in the world are just a day-sail (or motor) away from Florida’s east coast.  Who wouldn’t set their sights there?  But, traveling to/from the Bahamas, particularly in these weird new Covid times, puzzled a lot of folks, us included. But, we did it!  In early December, our schedules and the weather lined up to allow Phillip and I to make a short (20-day) preliminary hop over to the Bahamas and back, so I thought I would share our experience for those of you planning to sail there and as an update to my Bahamas Top 10 Slides that I prepared for the Trawlerfest.  Phillip and I hope this offers some insight into current international travel procedures and an update on the status of (a portion of) the Abacos post-Dorian since this was our first time traveling there since 2019. 

This is an overview of our route. 

We sailed across the Gulf Stream from Palm Beach, FL to West End on Grand Bahama in the Abacos to check in.  Then we dotted around the remote, northern Abaco islands, making our way eventually to Green Turtle Cay before turning around and making our way back through the northern Abacos and out again at West End.  In all, we visited West End, Mangrove Cay, Allens-Pensacola, Manjack Cay, Green Turtle Cay, Powell Cay, Foxtown, Grand Cay, and Double Breasted Cay.  I will share more info (as well as fabulous pictures and wonderful stories) from these travels at a later date as this post is meant primarily to share travel tips and the check-in/check-out procedure for traveling to/from the Bahamas.

Here’s what we learned:

1. Click2Clear is Mandatory – Register Your Inbound Trip ONLINE Before Leaving the U.S.

Registering online in advance via the new Click2Clear program is mandatory.  We met several cruisers in West End who thought this was optional.  The Customs Officer in West End (who was quite friendly and helpful) promptly advised them it is not and sent them to the Click2Clear website to register before their permit and request to enter could be processed.  The good news is the Click2Clear program is very easy to use, and your registration can be edited and updated as needed as your travel plans change (because that happens!).  Visit the Click2Clear website and click Request Cruising Permit > Pleasure Craft > Create Inbound to get started.  There are also many online articles and online videos the Bahamian Customs Department has put out to help you through this process.  Once your “Create Inbound” profile has been completed, your cruising permit payment made, and your application submitted (it will read “pending approval” on the website), all you need to complete your cruising permit process at customs in the Bahamas is your Click2Clear “Rotation Number.”  Be sure to write that one down.

Here is the info you will need to start your Inbound online registration:

2. Get Your Travel Health Visa (and Upload It to Click2Clear) Days Before Leaving the U.S.

Travel health visas are required for entry into Bahamas.  But, the good news is, with a negative Covid test, they are rather easy to obtain via a simple online process and payment of $40.00.  You can start creating your Bahamas Travel Health Visa profile here

Note that current Covid travel requirements are constantly changing.  Visit this website for up-to-date Bahamas Covid travel requirements. When Phillip and I made the trip, a negative Covid test was required within five days of entry.  As I write this, the requirement has been reduced to three days and may change again before you read this.  We also know getting Covid tests in the U.S. has recently become quite chaotic and more difficult, and many more people are testing positive daily.  It’s not ideal, but … welcome to travel in 2022!

Thankfully, when Phillip and I underwent this process in early December, we were able to get free tests at a CVS location in West Palm Beach that provided online results within a few hours.  Once we obtained our official negative Covid test results—digital pdf documents—we simply uploaded them to our Travel Health Visa profiles and paid the online $40.00 fee to obtain our Bahamas Travel Health Visas (also online digital pdf documents).  Each Visa has its own profile number and QR code to make it unique to each applicant.  For Phillip and I, the process of testing and obtaining our digital Travel Health Visas took one day to complete.  Once obtained, we then uploaded our pdf Travel Health Visa to our “Create Inbound” Click2Clear profile and our pre-Bahamas online process was complete.

3. Documents Needed for Entry at Bahamas Customs

Phillip and I decided to check into West End, Grand Bahama, as we have been there before (in 2017, check out some videos on Crossing the Gulf Stream to West End and West End to Mangrove Cay).  It’s a great, convenient entry to the northern Abacos.  The channel to enter is also well-marked and very easy to navigate with a nice marina there if a day or two to wash the boat, do some laundry, and enjoy their wonderful restaurant, tiki bar, and beach are high on your list upon entry.  (It was on ours!)  Once we arrived at West End, we tied up at the fuel dock and Phillip, as our designated Captain, went to the Customs Office to check us in.  He brought the following documents with him:

  1. Our passports
  2. Our USCG vessel registration
  3. Our Rotation Number from Click2Clear
  4. Copies of our Travel Health Visas (although he did not end up having to provide these)
  5. Copies of our negative Covid tests (although these, again, were not needed)

Phillip said the process, because we had completed our Click2Cleark online profile in advance, was very straightforward and easy. Once checked in, unless you’re headed straight out through Indian Cut (which we did) or around Memory Rock into the Grand Bahama Bank, stay a bit at West End and enjoy all that they have to offer.

4. Post-Dorian Update

Phillip and I have not been to the Bahamas since we scurried over in March of 2020 simply to bring our Niagara home before Covid shut the world down.  Before that, our amazing Niagara had miraculously survived Dorian while docked at a fabulous hurricane hole in Great Harbour Cay in the Berry Islands. This tight little alcove in Great Harbour offers 360-degree wind and storm surge protection and has proven itself time and again—including with our boat during Dorian—that is one of the best places in the Bahamas to keep your boat during hurricane season.  We were lucky, grateful, and wildly humbled that she survived that monster at Great Harbour Cay, as we know many other islands of the Abacos and sadly, many boats, did not.  That said, a chance to see some of the Abacos post-Dorian was actually one of the reasons Phillip and I decided to pop over for a quick trip to the Abacos as weather allowed in December, as opposed to the more southern Bahamian island chains.  The Abacos have always held a special place in our hearts and we wanted (hoped) to see that they had recovered from that horrendous storm in 2019. 

After returning from those beautiful islands, Phillip and I are thrilled to report … THEY HAVE!  While we only made it as far south as Green Turtle Cay (this time) what we saw along the way definitely showed some evidence of the monster that came through but, far more apparent, was the spirit of the Bahamian people to rebuild and recover.  We were thrilled to find some of our favorite little places in Green Turtle Cay—Pineapples, Sids Grocery, the Green Turtle Club (and Tipsy Turtle Bar), and other little bakeries and storefronts, looked well and alive despite the devastation that Dorian doled out only a few short years ago. 

Many more stories to share in this regard, in due time, but know that Dorian did not wipe out the Abacos entirely or the spirit of the Bahamian people!  It was exceptionally comforting to see some of our favorite Abaco islands in such good shape post-Dorian. 

5. Finding We Had the (Northern) Abacos to Ourselves

This one really surprised us, considering the number of cruisers we met along the east coast who said they, too, were planning to sail to the Bahamas this season, but to be quite honest we really had the place to ourselves.  At most of the northern Abaco islands we stopped at (Allans-Pensacola, Powell, Manjack, Green Turtle) it was typically our friends aboard s/v Turtle, Spandana and Dev, with whom we buddied around the Abacos, and us.  Just two boats.  We will be excited to share more about the creative and entertaining crew aboard Turtle, with whom we shared a wonderful couple of weeks in the Abacos, as I mentioned, much to ourselves.  But, simply as a travel update, know that we (strangely), throughout December, were surprised to see very few cruisers in the Abacos compared to previous times we have traveled through.  This is likely a product of Covid and Dorian, but it was not a bad outcome for us at all.  The place was serene and quiet, and there was plenty of room!

6. Creating a Click2Clear Outbound profile to Check Out

Unlike when we previously traveled to the Bahamas, you are required to physically check out of the country before leaving.  Before, we simply weighed anchor and sailed back to the U.S.  But, with the new Covid requirements, you are required to check out.  Again, some great news: the process is wildly easy.  Click2Clear comes back into play.  The check-out process in West End required a simple login to Click2Clear to load our Inbound profile and duplicate it to create an Outbound profile (under Pleasure Craft > Create Outbound).  This assigned us a new Outbound Rotation Number that we used to check-out at the Customs Office in West End.  Once checked out, we were free to leave the Bahamas and sail back to the U.S. 

7. Checking Back Into the U.S.

To check back into the U.S., we used the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol’s CPB Roam App on our phone.  You can download it here

We also needed to purchase a DTOPS decal that was needed for checking back in via the CBP Roam app. 

This was, thankfully, another simple process with everything submitted and approved online.  Much of the same information (vessel registration, crew list, port of departure and arrival, departure and entry dates, etc.) is needed to submit your check-in application via the app.

BAHAMAS, WE’LL BE BACK!

Just a few short weeks in the Bahamas is never long enough, but Phillip and I are grateful that our schedules and the weather lined up to allow us a quick preliminary trip over to check out the Abacos and get used to the new Covid check-in/check-out process.  We hope this information helps some of you who are planning to sail there soon.  Remember to check the latest Bahamas Customs postings for updates.  We’re hoping to sail back to the Bahamas, perhaps the more southern island chains this next time, later in the spring, but all plans are fluid—as it seems they must be, more so than ever, these days.  But, we’re not complaining!  With just a few extra hoops to jump through, the beautiful Bahamian islands are there and waiting for you, too! 

The Fourth Brings Friends, Fireworks, and Our First Gale Aboard UbiQ

When you decide to buy a boat (or a bigger boat) and start cruising (or cruising further and longer) one of the first things to cross your mind will be: friends and family.  When will I see them again?  When will I be back home to visit?  When/how can they come visit me?  Can they stay aboard?  These questions will impact the type of boat you might think is right for you.  Do we need/want to cruise a boat that can easily host 4-6 people?  Or, is that too much unused space/systems for the perhaps rare occasion(s) when we’ll have company aboard?  These are tough decisions.  Just as deciding to leave shore and start a new chapter aboard (and perhaps abroad) is a tough decision.  When Phillip and I were deciding to sell our smaller Niagara 35 to upgrade to a larger boat that would let us cruise further, more comfortably, one of our desires was a boat that was not too big for us to handle alone but that would also allow up to two people to visit and stay aboard comfortably with us as we were planning to leave our local friends and family for longer stints.  This meant an additional cabin, comfortable and spacious enough for two, additional storage, and (perhaps) two heads would be welcomed.  Not required, but preferred. 

The Outbound 46 and the impressive layout and design of Ubiquitous, easily checked these boxes.

As Phillip and I were shopping and negotiating for Ubiquitous back in Dec 2020/Jan 2021—it’s wild to think that’s coming up on a full year ago—we told friends and family who feared we might sail off over the horizon (because we might! : ) that they would be welcome to visit us anytime or any place.  You just can’t pick both,” we would always tell them.  And, we were excited and thrilled when the first brave souls stepped up to come join us aboard UbiQ in July, 2021, a couple I have written about before on this blog as their humor, resilience, and thoughtfulness have endeared them to us: Stephen and Beth, the Cattywampus crew.  In all, the Fourth brought us our first friends aboard, fireworks, and our first gale on UbiQ! July was quite an adventure. Let’s let this story roll! : )

July, 2021:

After our surprise, boisterous Eastport Oyster Boys on-the-water concert in West River back in June, Phillip and I eventually made our way across the Bay over to St. Michaels on the eastern short for a week-long retreat on UbiQ.  It was a small cruise, but our first time to leave the relatively known waters of Back and Spa Creek in Annapolis and venture out on our own on the new (to us) boat, so it was exciting.  We were thrilled with the quaint little town we found in St. Michaels, the inviting little downtown strip (Talbot Street) with its colorful shops, restaura