Skipper’s Tips #7 – Chart Plotter Rules, OK?

Hello all!

Please excuse my prolonged absence, I’ve been rather preoccupied with work lately and everything else has had to take a back seat.  However, I have finally managed to find the time to sit down and post a new Skipper’s Tip.

I do hope you enjoy this tip and also that you find it informative.  If you have any questions or are at all confused by what I write, then please contact me and I will try to explain.  

This tip is all about paper charts and the tool we use to extract navigational heading information from them. Electronic chart plotters are amazing pieces of technology these days and they hardly ever go wrong.  Nevertheless, we must not forget that as good as these pieces of equipment have become, they are still no substitute for knowing how to navigate ‘manually’.  You should always plan on a paper chart and always keep a paper chart with you when you are on your passage and you should make a regular note on the paper chart of your position.

The single best tip I can give you regarding navigation, is to know exactly where you are, at all times!

The Chart Plotter

When you first see a paper chart and start looking carefully at the detail, it can be a little awe-inspiring. Imagine all the work that went into collating that information.  Especially impressive, is the fact that charts have changed very little since the world was first mapped.  I have a mental image of a couple of men in naval uniform in a small boat with a long piece of string and a heavy weight, a big pad of paper and infinite patience.  Today, we take for granted the effort that must have gone into making the world’s seas and coastlines appear in 2D, so that we can safely navigate in our boats. However, if it weren’t for the efforts of these determined explorers we wouldn’t stray very far from home would we.

To use a chart effectively you need to understand a few basic rules.

  • Always measure distances from the side of the chart nearest to where you are planning to sail
  • Look at the compass rose shown on your chart to determine what the allowance for variation must be
  • All the numbers peppered across the chart are ‘charted depths’ or ‘drying heights’ and as such make no allowance for tidal height
  • These depths or drying heights could be in feet, fathoms or metres and you need to look at the key for the chart to know what you are dealing with
  • Make sure the chart is designed to be used with GPS, if that is how you intend to navigate
  • The squiggles, lights, lines, abbreviations, etc. are all explained in the Admiralty publication ’Chart 5011’
  • The tide stream data will be referred to one specific port and will be listed as ‘true’
  • In fact, everything shown on the chart is ‘true’ not ‘magnetic’
  • Pay particular attention to the scale of the chart

In order to work out which way to point the boat or indeed, to describe a line on the chart to show where we have been, we will need to employ an accurate process.

Enter the ‘chart plotter’.

There are many incarnations of the modern chart plotter, a great improvement I have to say on the ‘parallel rules’ of the past. Essentially, the one I am going to describe using in this example looks like a very large and wide rule with, in the centre, a dial that you can swivel.

There are two key things to remember with ’chart plotters’. Firstly that whenever you place the plotter on your chart, the centre dial, which spins, must always have ’N’ (North) pointing to and aligned accurately with, true North on your chart.  The second rule is that the big arrow at one end of the plotter will always indicate the direction or heading of the bearing.

If you are trying to draw a line in an easterly direction, i.e. 090 degrees and yet the arrow on the plotter is pointing west (270 degrees), then you have it upside down…  It will be really helpful if you try to think of these numbers as directions, rather than just random numbers.  000/360 is North, 090 is East, 180 is South and 270 is West.

So, the way it works, is that you lie the plotter on the chart, parallel to a line which you want to know the bearing of, spin the dial until the ‘N’ at the top aligns with North on your chart and then read the bearing figure from the dial, which lines up with the large arrow at the end of the plotter.  This will tell you the ‘true’ bearing of that line or indeed, the bearing between two points on your chart.  The next thing you will need to do, of course, is to convert this ‘true’ bearing to a ‘magnetic’ or even ‘compass’ bearing, so that you can use it with the ship’s fixed compass to navigate your course.

If you are using the chart plotter to show your course travelled on the chart, in the way you might if you were showing your passage as part of your log, then you will need to do all this is reverse. Firstly, assuming you know the direction you have been travelling in, convert that direction from compass or magnetic back to true. Then align this number with the chart plotter dial and the large direction arrow.  Lastly, place the chart plotter on the chart, being careful not to turn the dial and align the whole plotter with true North (use the N on the dial for alignment; DON’T TURN THE DIAL, TURN THE WHOLE PLOTTER) and then draw a line down the length of the plotter to show your track.

I have to say, trying to describe this process in words is not easy.  It is much easier to actual show someone this but if you sit down with my explanation, your chart plotter and a chart you will soon get the idea I’m sure.

I think my next Skipper’s Tip had better be about True, Magnetic and Compass bearings!

Until then,

Happy Boating!

What price a life?

My most recent adventure has been a bit of a long, drawn out affair, forcibly punctuated by high winds and many hours spent looking at weather forecasts.  This time, I’m going to break from my usual method of chronicling the trip on a daily basis and instead, I’m going to consider some of the more pertinent points.

The brief was to deliver a Beneteau Swift Trawler 50 from the factory where it was constructed, on the island of Noirmoutier in the Pays de la Loire region of western France to Southampton docks, where it was to be put on a ship bound for Turkey.  A simple three day trip, with the first leg planned to take us from Noirmoutier, up the Brittany coast to Brest.  Then from Brest, around the peninsular to Jersey and finally a quick hop across the Channel to the docks at Southampton. On the face of it nothing out of the ordinary, unless you consider that the Bay of Biscay is a notoriously hazardous stretch of water during the winter months.  As it happens, we encountered a period of continuously bad weather, the like of which I have never seen before.

Incidentally, it has been suggested to me that the long line of depressions, tracking across the Atlantic one after the other and totally disrupting our plans is due to the extraordinarily prolonged and fiercely cold spell of weather that is currently affecting North America.  It seems ‘Global Warming’ manifests itself as extremes of weather rather than the new found ability for those living in Newcastle upon Tyne, to start cultivating Olives and having terracotta tiled roofs on their white painted villas.

So, to the first point of interest on our adventure.  We arrived at the Beneteau factory on Noirmoutier just as it was getting dark.  To make life just a little more interesting, the heavens decided to open at the same time and we got thoroughly soaked as we made our way to where the boat was moored.  After going through the paperwork and getting used to the layout of the boat we made our way back to the hotel.  Then, naturally, we had to find somewhere to eat.  The port of Herbaudière is on the northern tip of Noirmoutier and at this time of year seemed totally uninhabited – hardly surprising as Christmas was only a few days away.  It soon became obvious that Herbaudière was shut!  In fact, the more I think about it, we were really lucky to find a hotel. Nevertheless, the pressing problem was where, in this one horse town, were we going to find food. 

Finally, we stumbled across a bar that was open.  I’m going to do something which I don’t normally do in my Blog and that is, make a recommendation – actually, two.  The bar we walked into is called ‘Le Mistral Gagnant’. It was quite busy and full of cheery banter, right up until we appeared and then a hush fell over the place.  We’ve all had this happen at some stage I’m certain but on this occasion a feeling of ‘Deliverance’ instantly came over both Lynn (Welsh name for a chatty bloke) and myself.  However, I quickly pulled out some of my school-boy French and as soon as the glasses of red wine turned up in front of us, the conversation started to come back to life.  In a mixture of French and English we started asking the lady behind the bar if she knew of anywhere we could get something to eat and were there any taxis available.  It soon became apparent that all the taxis on the island had chosen to take the weeks running up to Christmas off and the only restaurant still open was 5km away.  Lynn is not exactly what you’d call sprightly and a 5km walk was definitely out of the question…

I would like to take my hat off to the folk in that bar.  Within 10 minutes and after many calls to taxi answerphones, we had secured a lift from the restaurant owner to his restaurant, been given many words of advice about our impending trip from the fishermen at the bar and made a whole raft of new friends, who almost understood what I was saying in my best Franglais!  

Artur soon arrived to pick us up and after working out what we wanted from his menu whilst en route, we eventually found ourselves sat in his lovely restaurant, with a nice Bordeaux open in front of us.  If you are ever in Noirmoutier, make a point of going to visit Artur at ‘Le p’tit Noirmout’.  The steak was stunning, the wine exquisite, the dessert to die for and the lift back to the hotel a massive relief.  Best of all though, the gentleman that he was, he made us some food and gave us a bottle of wine to take on our trip the following day!!

Deliverance!  How utterly wrong can one be?

The only way I can properly describe the trip we made the next day is that it was rough!  So rough, that we gave up on any thoughts of getting to Brest and ducked into Concarneau instead.  The boat was too big to go into the marina, so we ended up on a pontoon in the fishing port and there the boat stayed all through Christmas as depression after depression tracked its way across the Atlantic and lashed Western Europe with an unprecedented series of storms.  At this juncture, I would like to say a few words about the assistance we received in Concarneau.  Sadly, for one reason or another, I never got the name of the man from the port office who bent over backwards to help us but I would like to say a big thank you to him.  Without his help we would have struggled to find a berth and we would have been fretting all the time we were back on Jersey, about the state of the boat during the storms that we had over Christmas. I would also like to extend my heart-felt thanks to Guirec Soudee, who was moored on the boat a few places down from us and thankfully spoke excellent English and without whom we would have struggled to get fuel and water for the next leg of our journey.  Guirec is intending to do a solo passage on his steel-hulled yacht. he starts of by going across the Atlantic and then heads up, as far north as he can go, into the regions where ice is a normal occurrence – brave man.  Apparently, you will be able to follow his exploits by searching on the internet for ‘Voyage d’Yvinec’.

Finally, a big enough gap in the weather appeared and we rushed back to Concarneau. Having brought the boat back to life, we set off for Jersey at 08:30 on the Wednesday morning. We had a bumpy ride going around the Brest peninsular and 100 nm later moored up in St. Helier harbour at around 20:30.  After a comfy night’s sleep in a real bed, we set off again the next afternoon at 15:00, getting into Southampton at 23:00 on Thursday night.  Then a short ride from Ocean Village marina to the docks the following morning meant that it wasn’t long before we walked away from the boat as it sat in its cradle waiting to be taken onto the ship for Turkey – three long, rough days at sea made this particular trip more of a trial than an adventure but we’d done it.

This brings me to the second point I’d like to consider.  What price a life?  We studied the weather long and hard before putting out to sea and we considered the risks to be acceptable.  Despite the fact that we were under some pressure to get the boat to the docks for a specific date, we had made the decision to leave the boat tied up over the Christmas period when the storms were at their worst.  Commercially, this was a hard decision to accept.  Booking a place on a ship and getting a boat to its destination on time are obviously important to shipping companies and their clients but there comes a point when you have to stand back and look at the bigger picture.  Losing the boat, not to mention possibly our lives, by putting out to sea in ‘stupid’ weather would not have been a sensible move.  If the boat had ended up arriving late, which incidentally now it won’t, it would still have been a far better result than the alternative.   During my time as Principal of Sealine Sea School, I told students time and time again, that this is a leisure pursuit and there is never a time when you can justify going out in rough conditions; if nothing else, it’s simply not much fun.  Now that I am working as a freelance skipper, I have to balance the risk of not putting out to sea because it’s a bit lumpy, against the need to get the boat somewhere at a specific time.  These days, the pressure of meeting a schedule means that I am more likely to go than not but nevertheless, there are times when just slowing down and taking twice as many hours to complete the journey isn’t going to prevent a catastrophe.

My advice to you, as a leisure boater, is still going to be: This is supposed to be fun, if it is forecast to be F4 or more and the wave heights are going to be more than a metre and building, go to the pub instead.  There is no room for machismo in boating – always think of the weakest member of your crew and base your decision to go on that person and not yourself.

The other thing worth remembering is, it is always going to be worse at sea than it is on your mooring.


The weather was so bad and the sea so rough that I didn’t bother trying to take pictures this time.  I did snap a couple of shots of a pod of Dolphins that raced up to the boat at one point but they came out blurred so I deleted them.  I do have a couple of pictures I took as we motored round to the docks on the last morning of our trip, so I’ve posted them here.

10 01 14_0024 low res

10 01 14_0025 low res


Keep checking in to see where I go next or learn a bit more about boating from my Skipper’s Tips.  Even easier, you can now tick a link that automatically sends you an e-mail when I post something new – it’s on the right-hand side, underneath the calendar.

Until next time… “Stay safe and enjoy your time afloat”

Seeking Sun in the Med

© Richard Corbett 2013                               Genoa, taken from Marina Molo Vecchio

It was a miserable winter’s day on Jersey when we set off for our Med delivery trip.  Nevertheless, we were all charged up and ready for an exciting few days delivering a Sunseeker 82 from Mallorca to Genoa.  The weather forecast for our trip was quite unbelievable;  all the weather sites I was watching indicated little or no wind and possible temperatures in the high teens.  Given that it was December and winter had arrived with a vengeance in the UK, this was going to be a very enjoyable few days.

After a short hop from Jersey to Gatwick we met up with Tony, our fourth crew member and stayed overnight at the airport hotel for a ‘crack of dawn’ flight to Mallorca.  When we arrived at Palma the sun was out and it was definitely milder than the UK – it seems weather forecasting is improving these days.  The taxi dropped us in Puerto Portals and it wasn’t long before we’d found our vessel and were crawling all over her.  We’d arrived early on the Sunday morning and were planning to depart at 8 o’clock the following morning, so we spent the time we had checking that everything was working, planning the route, fuelling the boat up and making sure the heating was working – as the sun went down it became a tad chilly!

© Richard Corbett 2013                               Puerto Portals, Mallorca

So, the next morning we set off.  Our route took us around the SW corner of Mallorca and up the channel between Mallorca itself and Sa Dragonera, a beautiful, uninhabited island, which is almost in the shape of a dragon, if you squint a little and have a good imagination for mythical creatures.

© Richard Corbett 2013                               Sa Dragonera

As you can see, the water was like glass and coupled with the gorgeous hull on the Sunseeker 82, it was like gliding through butter – this was definitely going to be a glorious and most enjoyable trip.

It was approximately 170 NM to our first stop on the Spanish mainland, Palamos.  The crossing took us almost exactly 8 hours, running at around 20 knots.  You know, it’s surprising how quickly 8 hours passes by when you’re in good company. We all got along famously and everyone did their bit.  I especially like the fact that Davide is a dab hand at cooking – you all know my penchant for food!  That first day, Davide prepared us pasta and salad ‘on the hoof’.  Not only had he cooked lunch at 20 knots but we all took it it in turns to sit at the dining table to eat – this was pure cruising luxury.

© Richard Corbett 2013                                 Flat seas as we head away from Mallorca

By the time we’d arrived in Palamos, organised re-fuelling and berthing for the night, it was getting dark.  I have to apologise for the lack of pictures of Palamos but there’s not an awful lot to see in Palamos when it’s dark and besides that, we just wanted to get our heads down for an early start the next day.  Just before dawn, the local fishing fleet appeared from South of the marina and glided out to their fishing stations in the darkness.  I had every intention of beating them out and as such, had arranged to depart at 7 o’clock.  Incredibly though, the fleet still managed to beat us out.  At the precise moment we started the engines, I noticed the first fishing boat pass the harbour entrance.  Then one by one the others followed, until there was huge mass of red and white navigation lights passing the marina entrance and heading North.  It seems the next time I go into Palamos I’m going to have to get up even earlier.

We slipped the lines, left the dock and headed out into the mass of boats.  Our next stop was going to be Beaulieu sur Mer in the South of France but first we had to cross the Gulf de Lyon.  A word of advice for anyone attempting to cross this body of water; wait until it is calm.  Anything more than a F3 and it is like being in a washing machine.  The winds can be very confused and as such, the waves will be too.  I remember one trip on a Sealine T60, when we had to pass right around the inside of the bay, hugging the shore as we went.  However, this time, the wind was so light that we wafted along at 20 knots, with barely any indication that waves even existed.

© Richard Corbett 2013                               Some down time

Normally, in the Med, there’s a good chance you’ll get to see Dolphins and I once saw a whale, which, as regular readers of my Blog you will undoubtedly know but this time we actually saw a shark!  I glimpsed it from the helm but soon lost sight of it as it passed down the side of the boat.  The others reckoned it was about 9 or 10 feet long and was simply snaking it’s way across the surface of the water at a leisurely pace.  I was really pleased to see a shark in the wild.  I know, simple things please simple minds and all that but I’m not a huge fan of zoos, despite what they do to preserve endangered species.  I prefer to see my wildlife in the wild and this was my first ‘real’ shark!

This leg of the journey was a long one.  Eventually, we got across the Gulf de Lyon and started to head up the French coast. As we approached the Pettite Passe we were interrogated by French border control but they seemed happy enough with who we were and where we were going.  I would like to say at this point, well over 300 NM into the journey, that the boat hadn’t missed a beat. The engines were purring along at 1900 rpm and by now, we were doing a steady 21.5 knots. The autopilot had us on the perfect course and it was simply a matter of keeping watch.  With a schedule in place, we all got an opportunity for some time at the helm.  The lower helm can be a little claustrophobic on some flybridge boats but on the Sunseeker 82 it was comfortable and roomy, the visibility was great and all the controls were within reach – well done Sunseeker.

© Richard Corbett 2013                               Lynn at the helm and Tony keeping watch

As the sun was dipping into the sea we made a sweeping turn to port around Cap Ferrat and slowed down to enter the harbour at Beaulieu sur Mer.  George was waiting for us on the fuel berth and we ‘quickly’ splashed 2000 litres in to get us to Genoa the next day.  I have to say, Beaulieu sur Mer is gorgeous.  The locals call it ‘Little Africa’ because of the fabulously mild micro-climate they have here.  Do yourselves a favour, if you are ever in the locality, whether on a boat or on the land, drop into the port and enjoy the surroundings.  It is so pretty and there are a host of wonderful restaurants to while away some hours in.  You might drop into Sunseeker Beaulieu and say hello to Mary too – tell her Richard sent you!

© Richard Corbett 2013                               Still waters in the marina

© Richard Corbett 2013                               Sunseeker 82, with Lynn doing some seamanship stuff!

© Richard Corbett 2013                              Wednesday morning, looking towards Italy

When we arose the next morning it was another stunning day in paradise.  After a quick tidy up, dealing with the berthing dues (France requires original paperwork remember, copies won’t do!) and sorting out the route planning for the passage to Italy, we were off on the last leg of our journey.  This was the shortest run of the trip, only 80 NM to Genoa from here.  Yet again the sea was super flat and it wasn’t long before we started to see some large commercial vessels heading in and out of Genoa.  The port is huge and there is a lot of commercial shipping moving between this part of the Med and the rest of the world.  Do make sure you know where you are going when you arrive in Genoa, as ‘Genoa Traffic’ and the port authorities take a dim view of leisure vessels passing through the commercial areas of the port.  We had arranged to stay in Marina Molo Vecchio and a quick call on VHF channel 71 caused a rush of helpers to see us safely onto our berth.

© Richard Corbett 2013                  As soon as the lines were on and we were plugged into the shore power, Davide set about cleaning the boat

If ever you are in Genoa on a boat, try and get a mooring at this marina. Fabrizia, the lady on the other end of the VHF was so helpful and she speaks excellent English too!  One tip though, make sure you give her all the crew details to pass on to Italian Immigration or you will be getting a visit from some very disgruntled officals, so I hear!

It was here that we encountered our only hiccup of the journey; a delay with the loading of the boat onto the cradle on which it was to sit during the voyage to her final destination.  So the decision was taken to send half the crew back, which left Davide and myself to complete the last job of getting her around to the docks and into the slings.  It was sad to see Tony and Lynn leave us, as they had been excellent members of the team but it didn’t really make sense for all four of us to hang around in Italy.  We dropped them at their hotel and joined them for a last crew meal before saying our goodbyes and waving them farewell.

The following day, Davide and I set about making the boat look gorgeous and I have to tell you, there is a lot of boat to work on.  It took us the best part of the day to get her spruced up and ready for shipping.  All the potentially ‘flappy’ things had to be removed and stowed as did all the fabric seating and chairs from the outside areas of the boat.  When we’d finished she did look a picture and in fact, here is one to show how magnificent she looked as we set off for dinner that night…

© Richard Corbett 2013

Friday morning, armed with a piece of paper authorising us to travel into parts of the docks that are normally forbidden to leisure craft and the VHF channel numbers for ‘Genoa Traffic’ and ‘Genoa Pilots’ (why we had to call both, heaven alone knows – you’d think they would talk to each other!) we headed for the dock.  A bitter wind was blowing from the North and despite the cloudless sky it was absolutely freezing on the flybridge as we arrived at Ponte Libia for the lift onto the cradle.

Thankfully, it wasn’t long before we were tied alongside and then began the wait to be lifted.  I must say, they have a strange work ethic in Italy.  Clearly, it works for them but I fail to understand why less than half an hour after having a tea break, the port crew changed shift, ho-hum…

© Richard Corbett 2013                                The strops passing under the boat

Finally, things started to happen. Lifting strops, held by the truly giant crane, were passed under the hull, positioned and then checked by the diver.  Then all of a sudden she was airborne!

© Richard Corbett 2013

This was essentially our part done.  We had safely moved her from Mallorca to Italy and it was now, simply a matter of helping out with straps and making sure the boat was shut down for transport.  After a couple of hours of aligning, switching off, strapping and checking, the job was finished and she was ready for her next big adventure.

© Richard Corbett 2013                                 Big, isn’t she?

I am very impressed with this boat.  She is extremely comfortable and feels very strong and safe at sea.  Admittedly, the water was supremely flat but you can tell when a boat is going to perform well whatever the weather chucks at you.  This is a perfect cruising boat and will comfortably accommodate 8 people plus crew.  The cabins are spacious and well laid out. The socialising spaces are equally well thought out and one of my biggest gripes with modern motor cruisers, the number of spaces at the dining table compared to the number of berths is well attended to.  I believe the new owner of this magnificent vessel is going to have many, many happy hours cruising on her.


Keep popping in to follow my adventures and stay up to date with the Skipper’s Tips.  Has anyone got any requests for the next Skipper’s Tip – leave a comment and I’ll arrange it for the next post?

Until next time, have a Happy Christmas and New Year!

Skipper’s Tips #6 – Anodes

As we head into Winter anyone with a boat should be thinking about servicing, anti-fouling and whether or not the sacrificial anodes need replacing?

“What on earth are sacrificial anodes?”

Let me explain in terms that even I can understand.  Different metals immersed in water will suffer corrosion as electrons erode.  The zinc sacrificial anode used in seawater, being less electro-negative than the metals used for props, shafts, rudders etc, will corrode and protect the running gear of your vessel. Vessels which are regularly taken from fresh water into salt water or even brackish water, will need to have a zinc/magnesium combination and those boats moored and used exclusively in fresh water will need to use magnesium sacrificial anodes alone.

If you were to let your anodes become completely eroded, the rest of the underwater metals on your boat would start to erode and as you might imagine this can get costly.  A few years back I bought a yacht which had not been properly protected and my first job looked like it was going to be replacing the prop. Fortunately, once I’d had it professionally checked and polished it turned out to still be usable but any more erosion and it would have been beyond repair and I would have had the additional expense of replacing it.

Therefore, my advice to you is for the first few months you own your new boat regularly check your anodes and indeed, the wiring on the inside of your boat that connects the anodes to the various bits of machinery which come into contact with the water.  Having regularly checked the erosion rate of your anodes you will start to understand how fast they are disappearing and be able to schedule less frequent checks going forward.

You may also find that there are plugs screwed into your engine block that will need replacing as they erode; check with whoever services your engine(s) that checking/replacing these particular anodes is part of the service and if it isn’t then you will either have to do this maintenance yourself or pay the extra to get it done on the engine service.

There is also likely to be an anode associated with your bow -thruster and if you have one, your stern-thruster too.  Clearly, you will need to check these anodes when the boat is out of the water.  If you decide to leave your boat in the water over Winter, then you will most likely be checking the underwater anodes twice a year – in November, as you prepare for Winter cruising and then again in April/May as you make your boat ready for the Summer; it is entirely your decision if you want to pull your boat out more frequently than this to check the anodes which are not visible from the pontoon.

Please bear in mind that, in some situations, anodes may degrade very rapidly. For instance, where you keep your boat can have a dramatic effect on the speed with which your anodes ‘disappear’. Anodes will often but not always, last for anything up to a year. However, in extreme cases I have heard of anodes having to be replaced every six weeks.  This can be due to electricity leaking into the water near your boat and speeding up the erosion process.  Most likely, this is from a pontoon power supply or other electrical source connected with the pontoon or mooring.  Equally, it could be due to the type of metals used on the underwater gear on your boat in conjunction with insufficient anodes to provide effective protection.  Either way, you must surely see why I suggest regularly checking your anodes when you first get your boat.

As a rule of thumb, if the anodes you can see by looking at your boat from the pontoon look as though they are 50% or more degraded then it is time to organise the replacement of the anodes – unless there is a localised electrical fault causing faster than normal erosion, all the anodes fixed to your boat will all degrade at approximately the same rate, so the visible ones are your benchmark.


Thank you for following my Blog.  I do hope you find my adventures interesting to read about and I also hope you find the Skipper’s Tips instructive – if there is something specific you’d like me to explain, then please let me know and I’ll do my best.

Coming up soon will be some more Skipper’s Tips (#7 The Gas Man Cometh) and I’ll also be sharing my forthcoming adventure, taking a Sunseeker 82 from Mallorca to Genoa, definitely not one to miss!

Zeelander 68 – when a boat becomes a ship.

© Richard Corbett 2013

I recently had the opportunity to visit Holland as a favour for a friend of mine.   My friend is seriously considering buying this vessel and he asked me to check it out for him – so I did!

The weather on my arrival at Amsterdam airport was unseasonably sunny and warm – perhaps an omen.  Bob Fritsky from MarineMax, who are selling the Zeelander motor yachts, was waiting for me in an open top car would you believe, yes, it was that sunny!

On the drive down to where the Zeelander 68 was moored, Bob was telling me about her and the more I listened the more excited I became.  This is no ordinary 68 foot boat.  It seems the boat is actually owned by the man who founded Zeelander, to use as his own boat.  This man has a reputation for fastidious attention to detail, which apparently is reflected in the 68.  By now I was champing at the bit – Bob had done his job and I couldn’t wait to get on the boat.

Finally, after an hour, we arrived and there she sat, in all her splendour.  It’s funny, but from pictures taken of her, you don’t get the feel that she’s nearly 70 feet long but as I walked up to the dock I could see for myself how majestic this boat actually is.

Now, I’m a pretty cynical chap and I’ve been in the boat manufacturing industry long enough to know what to look for.  I immediately set about searching for flaws in this ‘amazing’ boat.  In the end I have to admit that I was disappointed and elated all at the same time. Disappointed, because I simply couldn’t find anything to speak of which was wrong with this boat.  Elated, because this boat was amazing after all. The attention to detail is on a different level to anything I’ve come across previously.  Simple stuff which you would take for granted, you can take for granted – unlike some boats I’ve been on before, when you come across things that stand out like a sore thumb and you wonder why somebody hasn’t picked up on it and fixed it; it’s not rocket science guys!

There were some lovely touches on this boat too.  The master’s cabin was truly excellent and the en-suite had a bath – a must in my opinion, although, not to everyone’s taste.  There was also a ‘walk-in’ wardrobe – nice touch and plenty of room in front of and around the bed for dressing and undressing.  The VIP cabin forward was well appointed, with plenty of space and a roomy heads area.  There were also two other double cabins, sharing a ‘day-heads’, which again, was nice and roomy.

Also on this deck was the entrance to the engine bay.  It was like walking into the engine room on a ship and this gave me my first clue as to what I was dealing with here.  The systems in the engine room were clearly designed with a professional and knowledgeable approach to long distance cruising.  I’m not going to go through everything in detail but suffice it to say that the equipment and layout in there was a level above your normal motor yacht and more in keeping with Atlantic crossing vessels that go to sea in extraordinary conditions without batting an eyelid.  Moreover, with the door shut, it was absolutely silent throughout the rest of the boat and with the measures taken to reduce vibration it was almost impossible to tell if the engines were running.

The next deck up has the saloon, galley and lower helm.  The lower helm position afforded a good view forward, all the equipment necessary to control the boat systems and a comfy seat for whiling away the hours when on passage.  For me though, the most impressive area on this deck was the saloon.  Immediately aft of the helm position is a table capable of accommodating all the passengers and more.  It is so nice to see that this has been thought through.  I dread to think how many times I’ve been on a vessel that sleeps 8 and has the space to feed 4.

By now you must be wondering if there was anything I didn’t like about this boat.  Well, in truth, there were a couple of issues.  For one, the boat seems to be missing a giant fridge.  There is a good size fridge in the galley, a large wine cooler and down on the lower deck, opposite the entrance to the engine room is a cavernous freezer.  Nevertheless, I think given that the whole point of this boat is it is designed to be self-sufficient and more than capable of making extended passages in huge comfort, the chilled storage space could be more extensive – 8 people consume a lot of food and drink in a day, especially when they are sat around relaxing.

The other issue I have with this boat is the lack of hand holds and the low height of the rail running around the deck.  This boat is designed to move comfortably through rough seas – stabilisers of course!  If you are out in rough weather, stabilisers or not, there is always the chance of being swept overboard and low rails and lack of hand holds shows up as an omission to me.

Also, and this is a personal preference of mine, the decks had fake teak on them – I am not a fan of this product and you will have to decide for yourself which is best for you.  I guess I’m a bit of a traditionalist but there is a lot to be said for having this finish instead of real teak.  Firstly, the finish will always look the same and simply doesn’t weather in the same way that real teak does. The other real benefit is therefore, that maintenance costs are minimal compared to the scrubbing and teak oil application required for real teak.  There is one down side;  the fake teak does get hotter than real teak and some will find this uncomfortable under bare feet.

Now the really interesting bit – how does she perform at sea.  Well actually, we didn’t go to sea but headed out into a small inland waterway instead.  This is when I discovered that this is not a boat but a ship.  The Royal Navy, apparently, define a ship on the basis that a ship leans out on a turn and a boat leans in – this is why submarines are referred to as boats; they lean in.  This ship, leant out!  That is not to say it was disconcerting.  In fact the lean was barely discernible and that was without the stabilisers.  No, far from it, this is probably one of the most comfortable vessels I have been out on the water on.  It was windy enough for the water to be choppy but with a little encouragement and some nifty work on the wheel I made some waves of our own and the Zeelander just cut straight through everything. There was a good view all around from the flybridge and plenty of space for socializing too but I did think the seat could have been more supporting for those longer passages!

In conclusion, I suggest that this is the perfect ship to make long, interesting, sociable, comfortable, safe and confident adventures on.  Do not expect to go whizzing along at break bank account speeds as this is not designed to be the craft for that type of cruising.  Instead, enjoy the peace and tranquillity, enjoy the scenery, enjoy the company of your friends and family and enjoy the economy as you waft along at a graceful 11 knots consuming minimal fuel.

Here are some links to check out if I’ve whetted your appetite for a Zeelander:

Pass it on…

This made me smile, in a ‘Grumpy Old Man’ sort of way, so I thought I’d share it with all of you…


At the store checkout desk, the young cashier suggested to the much older woman, that she should bring her own shopping bags because plastic bags weren’t good for the environment.

The woman apologized and explained, “We didn’t have this ‘Green thing’ back in my day.”
The young checkout girl responded, “That’s why we have a problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save the environment for future generations”.


Was she right – did we not have the ‘Green Thing’ in our day?


  • Back then, we returned milk bottles, pop bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled. This way, it could use the same bottles over and over again – they really were recycled.
  • Grocery stores bagged our groceries in brown paper bags, which we reused for numerous things, most memorable, besides household garbage bags, was the use of brown paper bags as book covers for our schoolbooks. This was to ensure that public property (the books provided for our use by the school) was not defaced by our scribbling.  In fact, we were able to put whatever graffiti we liked on the brown paper covers instead of using railway bridges and canal tunnels and everywhere else the young people of today decide is a suitable place to display their ‘art’.


But we didn’t have the “Green Thing” back in our day, did we?


  • We walked up stairs because we didn’t have an escalator in every store and office building.
  • We walked to the shops and didn’t climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to travel two streets away.


But we didn’t have the “Green Thing” back in our day, did we?


  • Back then, we washed (heaven forbid) the baby’s nappies because we didn’t have the throwaway kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy-gobbling machine burning up 220 volts of electricity – wind and solar power really did dry our clothes.
  • Children had ‘hand-me-down’ clothes from their brothers or sisters, not the brand new, ‘branded’ clothing they get every time their current wardrobe starts to stand up on its own.


But we didn’t have the “Green Thing” back in our day, did we?


  • We had one TV or radio in the house, not a TV in every room. The TV had a sensible sized screen, a screen the size of a pillow perhaps, not a screen the size of Wales.
  • In the kitchen, we blended and stirred by hand because we didn’t have electrical machinery to do everything for us.
  • When we packaged a fragile item to send in the post, we used screwed up old newspapers to protect it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap.
  • In our day, we didn’t fire up an engine and burn fuel just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power. We exercised by working so we didn’t need to go to a brightly lit health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity.


But we didn’t have the “Green Thing” back in our day, did we?


  • We drank from a water fountain when we were thirsty instead of using a plastic cup or bottle every time we had a drink.
  • We re-filled pens with ink instead of throwing the old one away and buying a new one.
  • We replaced the blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor.


But we didn’t have the “Green Thing” back in our day, did we?


  • In our day, people took the bus to work or the shops and children rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their parents into a 24-hour taxi service in the family’s £50,000 ‘off-roader’, which incidentally, is the same price as you’d pay for a small family estate in our day.
  • We had one or maybe two electrical outlets in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power the dozen appliances that nobody can possibly do without these days.
  • And we didn’t need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 23,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest ‘fast food’ takeaway.


But we didn’t have the “Green Thing” back in our day, did we?


I actually find it rather sad that the current generation laments how wasteful we, the older generation were and all because we didn’t have the “Green thing” back then.

Furthermore, I suggest this must be especially disappointing when confronted with a tattooed, multiply pierced, ideological, tree hugging, dread-lock sporting, going to put the world straight all on their own, smarty-pants, who has to get the cash register to tell them what change to give.

Oh dear, how sad, what a shame, never mind – as a close chum of mine once said!


Grand East Coast Tour – Final installment

Day 6

We gave ourselves an easy day on day 6.  We reckoned we’d deserved it after the particularly long previous day – another 12 hour day if my calculations are correct.

For day 6 our target was to be Charleston.  This was a short hop of 120 miles, which should take just under 6 hours.  The sun was peeping over the horizon, the sea was flat and we motored on, singing away to the iPod for all we were worth.

I particularly wanted to stop at Charleston as I had been once before and was really quite impressed with the place.  The French influence on the architecture is plain to see and refreshingly different too.  The food is equally novel, although shrimp & grits at dinner that evening was most definitely something I’m glad I tried but I’m not in a hurry to order again.

Sadly, we didn’t venture into town to see the lovely architecture as yet again we wanted an early start and felt an early night would be prudent.  Therefore, I don’t have any pictures of Charleston for you but I do have one of a fishing boat that looks as though it should have starred in a Hitchcock movie…

© Richard Corbett 2012

Day 7

Another trip down the ICW, was the decision we came to the following morning.

As much as we both wanted to keep going down the outside, the weather had turned and it was just too rough.  However, what should have been a fairly uneventful trip suddenly became very exciting!

I spotted a Sealine F44 moored up in a marina!  How fantastic is that?

© Richard Corbett 2012

We slowed right down to take the picture and then after a big smile and a wave we were back on our way to Beaufort, which was to be our stop for the night and most likely the last stop in South Carolina; State #8.

Day 8

Early start again, would you believe and we’re off down the river.  No coastguards, no tree stumps, no shallow channels, just a wide, fast empty river – 20nm later, we pushed our nose out into the Atlantic.

I wish there were all sorts of exciting anecdotes for this penultimate day of the trip but sadly it was an uneventful cruise.  8 hours on a heading of 185 degrees and we came across the entrance to Ponce de Leon inlet.

The most notable incident of day 8 for me, was the return of the dreaded ‘Noseeums’.  I was positively eaten alive as we tied up to the pontoon – my legs and arms were covered in little red dots for days afterwards.

As much as day 8 was unremarkable the start of day 9 was much more exciting.

Day 9

© Richard Corbett 2012

This is turned out to be a Delta IV rocket with a GPS IIF-3 satellite, launched for the U.S. Air Force from Cape Canaveral – only 40nm down the coast from where we were in Ponce de Leon

Yet another calm day at sea meant we were on course to reach Fort Lauderdale before sunset.  It was going to be a long day, given that Ponce de Leon to Port Everglades is 200nm give or take, so a midway stop at West Palm Beach was required.

You should know that you can get the most brilliant cheese-burger from the restaurant right by the fuel dock at the Riviera Beach marina!

Yes, another non-event trip – except for the cheese-burger of course…

OK, boat full of fuel, stomach full of cheese-burger and we’re off again.

40nm and we pulled into the Port Everglades channel.  The 4 red and white striped chimney stacks, which have now disappeared as they were knocked down in early 2013, are hardly the prettiest sight in the world unless you’ve just done 1392nm, consumed 2433 US gallons of diesel, averaged 16 knots, passed through or around 10 US States, run for 92 hours, over 9 days… and then they are more than a brilliant landmark seen from miles out to sea; they are manner from heaven in fact!!!

© Richard Corbett 2012

I bet you’re wondering about the boat?  Bloody marvellous!  She looked after us the whole way – protected us from the weather, hot or cold, windy or wet.  She was comfortable and spacious, light and airy.  The engines?  The engines never missed a beat, not once!  This boat gave us the confidence to set out into the Atlantic, knowing that 6, 7 or 8 hours later we would arrive at our destination.

Do yourselves a favour, if you are into cruising and you get a chance, take a look at a Sealine!


That’s the last of the cruises I made with Sealine but I am still getting out on the water occasionally, so I will try and compile another cruise story for the Blog when I next get a chance.  However, I will still be putting skipper tips up from time to time, so keep popping back in.

Hopefully, I’ll be at the Southampton boat show on Friday 13th September (2013) and I daresay I’ll be visiting the Sealine stand, so perhaps I’ll see you there…

Grand East Coast Tour – 3rd installment

Day 4

As I suspected the weather was less than inspiring.  We crept out of the Waterside Marina in the rain; rain that got steadily worse and worse.  Fortunately the wind wasn’t bad and as we were driving from inside – which the huge windows on the F48 make it a pleasure to do – we were all snug and warm so it really didn’t matter too much at all.

There were going to be a number of bridges to negotiate on this section of the ICW and thankfully the kind folk at Waterside Marina had furnished us with a list of bridges and locks, plus the opening times, VHF call-signs and the distance between them.

It wasn’t long before we got to our first bridge.  There was a flotilla of boats drifting around, trying not to bump into each other and waiting for the bridge to open.  As if by magic, as we pulled up the bridge opened.  This was the way it worked all the way down this stretch of the ICW.  Bridges just opened as we approached, our timing must have been absolutely perfect.

Not long after we passed through the first couple of bridges I noticed a sign saying ‘The Great Dismal Swamp’.  Apparently, this route is regularly travelled by those making the trip up and down the east coast but generally only by those hardy folk who don’t mind brushing away overhanging trees as they pass by and who also don’t worry about the odd snake falling on the deck – I breathed a sigh of relief as we steered to port, away from what should be renamed, ‘The Trial By Death channel’.

We snaked (sorry) our way down the channels and bit by bit covered the 35 or so miles to our next stop Coinjock, which was for fuel.  Handy tip: Don’t use your last drops of fuel getting to Waterside Marina in Norfolk…

© Richard Corbett 2012

Coinjock is in the middle of nowhere.  There’s a long straight stretch of the ICW, with a high bridge in the distance (if you’re going south, that is) and a huge line of moorings to tie up to.  I guess this is a well-known and equally well frequented stopping off point.

As well as that all important fuel, there’s also a small shop and a restaurant.

The shop sells Coinjock t-shirts, would you believe.  I was sorely tempted to get one but then I remembered I’d already lashed out $25 on a Stars & Stripes hard hat I found in Home Depot, that was enough reckless expenditure for one trip:


It wasn’t long before the tanks were full and we were on our way again.

Mile after mile we wound our way south. Then all of a sudden the channel started to widen and open out into the North River, closely followed by a huge expanse of water which turned out to be over 40 miles wide and 15 miles across.  This massive ‘lake’ is known as Albemarle Sound.  I still find it weird to be almost able to touch the trees at the side of the channel one minute and then to be on a body of water so large that it has an horizon the next.

On the opposite side of the sound is the start of the Alligator River.  I’m not certain whether there were alligators in this river and I certainly wasn’t in any hurry to find out but one thing I can tell you for certain, the water was the most amazing colour.  I pondered on this for a while and came to the conclusion that it must be to do with the process of decay and petrification that was happening to all the fallen trees in the river.

© Richard Corbett 2012

The great hazard on the ICW, that nobody seems to mention, is the tree stumps lurking just beneath the surface. These must surely be the result of the clearing that took place to create the waterway in the first place – never go too close to the edge; stay in the middle!

All of a sudden the river becomes a canal.  Straight as a die for almost 10 miles and then, after a sharpish left, straight as a die again for nearly 10 more miles – surreal!

Eventually, we came out into another ‘ordinary’ river, the Pungo River.

A short distance down the river and we had arrived at our night stop, ‘Dowry Creek Marina’.  We had a lovely welcome, made extra special by the free bottle of Black & Tan beer which we had thrust into our hands.  The ‘marina’ backed onto a wood of epic proportions.  It seemed to me that these kind folk were the only human beings for miles but apparently we were welcome to borrow their car and go into town if we so desired – TOWN!  There was nothing there; we might as well have been on the moon!  Well, that’s how it looked from the dock.

© Richard Corbett 2012

Fortunately, Chris knew the captain and crew on another boat which was just behind us and they were stopping here for the night too.  We had an invitation to dinner and this was one invitation we were not going to turn down.

After a wonderful evening swapping tales of the high seas and the low ICW, we dashed back to our boat – raining again – and went straight to bed.  We had an early start and a long day ahead of us if we wanted to make some decent progress the next day.

Day 5

And here’s the sunrise that greeted me as I stepped onto the dock the next morning…

© Richard Corbett 2012

And another shot for good measure!

© Richard Corbett 2012

Our new friends had left early.  Yes, even earlier than us!  The best speed they could make without using a serious amount of fuel was 9 knots, so it’s only to be expected that they were keen to get going.  We knew we’d catch them up and over take them again – it had become a mutual challenge!

It wasn’t long before we’d left the marina and were heading towards the end of the Pungo River.  Part of the way down another amazingly straight stretch of canal, we came across the RE Mayo Co, Inc.

© Richard Corbett 2012

They don’t seem to sell much there but the signage advertises the fact that you can buy fuel and seafood; unlikely bedfellows I reckon, but hey-ho.

The Bay River eventually came into view and ordinarily there wouldn’t be much to say about this stretch of the ICW, just another bit of river.  However, as we rounded the last bend we saw our friends stopped in the middle of the river and hanging around at the stern of their boat was a US Coastguard boat with its blue light flashing.

This was too funny.  There had been some friendly banter going back and forth between our two boats, as you might imagine and this was going to be material worth its weight in gold!

© Richard Corbett 2012

As we glided past, exceptionally slowly of course, trying to disguise huge grins and nodding sagely at the same time, the VHF came to life, “I wouldn’t go too far, you’re next”, came across the airwaves.


© Richard Corbett 2012

As it turned out, the Coastguard officers were stopping everyone for a routine safety check; which we passed with flying colours of course!

Mind you, Chris couldn’t believe it when I stopped them getting off our boat to take a picture!

Once we had said our goodbyes and waved a hearty farewell to the USCG, who Chris insisted on giving our last Snicker bars to, we quickly made our way down to Morehead City.  A short fuel stop and a bite to eat and we headed out into the Atlantic once more.

Cape Fear is notoriously rough, in much the same way as Cape Hatteras is.  However, the sea was virtually flat and this was an opportunity not to be missed.  Frankly, any more driving through ditches would have driven me nuts.

Chris was determined that we needed to go around the bottom of the Frying Pan Shoals and I was happy to defer to his local knowledge but as we got closer it became apparent that the sea was so flat it wouldn’t hurt to go across the shoals; so we did. We stayed out quite away – far enough down that we wouldn’t fall foul of any underwater obstacles but high enough up that we could claim to have defeated the ‘monster’.  OK, it’s not really a monster but it’s surprising what banal conversations you have when you’ve just spent 4 hours driving in a straight line at 20 knots!

Anyway, we rounded the cape and headed into Bald Head Island Marina.  This is a beautiful and exclusive island, only reachable by water. Everyone drives around in golf carts and looks as though they are having the time of their lives – what a splendid place to pull up for the night.

So, a quick re-cap:  Thus far, we had travelled from Connecticut, passed through New York, along the New Jersey shore, skirted Delaware, stopped in Maryland, run through Virginia and now we were moored up in North Carolina – 7 States in 5 days and we’re feeling pretty smug!

I don’t have a picture of Bald Head Island marina as it was dark when we arrived and dark when we left but as we’re celebrating how about a picture of a very colourful house where the owners look as though they like to celebrate too?

© Richard Corbett 2012

Into the Carolinas and onwards to Florida – check back in for the next exciting installment!

Grand East Coast Tour – 2nd installment

At the end of the channel, waiting for us, was the Atlantic Ocean.  From where we were sitting it looked fairly flat but as we got closer it soon became apparent that the rest of the day’s journey was going to be less ‘spectacular’ and more ‘bouncy’.

In actual fact, it became very bouncy indeed.  We soon adjusted our plans and decided Ocean City was a none starter and Atlantic City looked a much better prospect besides which, there is a very nice restaurant in the Golden Nugget Casino in Atlantic City – mmm, food!

A few hours later and the mountainous waves started to get smaller.  We eased the throttles forward a tad and managed to get to 18 knots for all of 10 minutes!  Then, for an unfathomable reason, they suddenly got a whole lot bigger and we had to back off to 9 knots.  Our planned TTG (time to go) suddenly shot up to 3 hours.

Chris and I glanced at each other and our plan changed yet again.  There was no way either of us relished the thought of rattling around inside the F48 on a sea like this for the next 3 hours, that was for sure!  Thankfully, just 5 miles to the right was an inlet, which lead onto the ICW (Intra-Coastal Waterway).  The inlet was the Barnegat Inlet and the feeling of bliss as we entered the channel and the pounding stopped was palpable.

There was another feeling now though, a new and equally tangible feeling, one of apprehension and uncertainty.  The depth gauge seemed to be telling us that we had less than a metre under the props! This issue was easily solved, we adjusted the depth instrument to read in feet – these figures were much bigger numerals and made us feel a whole lot better…

Atlantic City was still 30 miles as the crow flies but as anyone who has travelled down the ICW will tell you, crows tend to fly in reasonably straight lines and they don’t have to keep stopping every time the depth sounder says 0.00 feet – aaaargh!  I’m not sure how long it took us to get to Atlantic City as we were both concentrating like mad on the channel, the markers, the plotter, the depth sounder and watching very carefully for birds standing up in the water.  Apologies for the lack of pictures but we had other things on our mind.

When we finally arrived in Atlantic City we both virtually collapsed with exhaustion.  We had been motoring for 12 hours non-stop and the only thing we wanted to do was eat and sleep, so we did!

Day 2

Today we were definitely going to get to Ocean City.  It was to be the first stop on my planned route and come hell or high water (apt, don’t you think) we would make it before the end of the day.  The sea had subsided enough for a run down the outside and so after re-fuelling we headed out of the channel.

The distance to Ocean City wasn’t huge and within a few hours it came into view, the buildings appearing as silhouettes against the moody sky.

Ocean City

We made our way in and tied up at White Marlin Marina for the night. This was where I first encountered ‘Noseeums’.  Please excuse the spelling if I have it wrong but as far as I am concerned the correct spelling of the name is irrelevant.  These invisible little monsters set about munching their way through my arms, legs, face and any part of my body that was exposed as I stepped off the boat!

Alongside in Ocean City

Here we are tied up in White Marlin Marina

Fortunately, the ‘Noseeums’ weren’t the only wildlife in the Ocean City inlet.  We glimpsed a brief but beautiful sight of some dolphins making their way against the fast flowing tidal stream that runs past the marinas.  In fact, during the trip I saw quite a few dolphins and porpoises.  I also saw a whale and even a turtle, swimming for all it was worth just under the surface.  But these were all glimpses and in accordance with ‘Sod’s Law’ I only had a camera in my hand on one of these occasions and that was for the whale.  A whale which happened to be so far away that it appears as a small hump in the middle of the picture I took.

Here is the shot – don’t laugh!


I’m no authority on whales but I do know that Right Whales migrate along the east coast of the United States at this time of year, so you have to wonder if this was a Right Whale.


Day 3

It was an early start today, as we had a good distance to cover.  The sea was flat enough for an ‘outside’ run, which was just as well because our target was Norfolk in Virginia.  Norfolk is one of the US Navy’s bases. It supports a staggering number of ships and planes and takes up what appears to be miles of waterfront.

The trip down was pretty uneventful and after about 5 hours running we turned into Chesapeake Bay, we could see the Chesapeake Bay Bridge ahead of us and the gap we were going to pass through.  This gap runs over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, which excitedly for me, I have driven through!

It seemed to take for ever to get to the gap in the bridge.  From the moment we first saw the bridge, it turned out to be over six miles distant, it took us nearly half an hour to reach.  Distances at sea can be so deceptive, especially at night.  If you’ve ever tried to approach a buoy at night you’ll know exactly what I mean. (Maybe I should have re-phrased that – ho, hum!)

Once through the bridge we made a left and aimed the boat in the direction of the Naval dockyards.  Obviously, we were careful not to aim too directly at the warships and we slowed down in very good time – let sleeping dogs lie.  These particular sleeping dogs have guns and some of them are huge!  Creeping past at 6 knots we were in awe of the size of these ships and the activity going on all around the dockyards.  I thought that the military area would finally come to an end as we headed down the river towards our stopping point for the night but it just carried on and on.  Finally, we arrived at the Waterside Marina, which is on the Norfolk side of the river and would you believe, we were still in the heart of the military zone.  Exactly opposite was a dry dock with a massive ship in it…

Dry dock in Norfolk

The marina was only small but right on the edge of the city.  We ‘parked’ next to a lovely couple on their home built yacht, which they had sailed all the way down from Canada.  They too, were ‘en route to Florida’.  I had a sneaking suspicion we would make it before them.  To my embarrassment, I uttered a derogatory comment when retying the lines to the dock – something about the knot being unconventional, a ‘Canadian Snow Hitch’ I believe I referred to it as… this was before I noticed the Canadian flag flying on their backstay.  They took it well and we made amends by showing them around the F48.  You know, everyone says the same thing, “Are you sure this is 48 foot, it feels so much bigger?”

Moored in Norfolk

The highlight of the early evening was a free concert playing in an adjacent park and actually, the music was pretty good. The highlight of the late evening was a splendid bar on Granby Street called Mo & O’Malleys Irish Pub.

The live entertainment was very enthusiastic, almost as enthusiastic as the audience at times!  One little tip if ever you find yourself in this establishment, when the clapping stops, don’t be the last one clapping…

After we’d finished clapping and singing (mostly out of tune) we made our way back to the boat and hit the hay.

The next leg of journey would take us down a part of the coast which is notorious for being rough and worse still, there would be no ducking into the ICW and therefore, little in the way of assistance if we had a problem.  Instead, we intended to pass Cape Hatteras on the ‘inside’.

It was going to be a long slog down the ICW and the weather was going to be ghastly too.


Keep checking in for the next installment of the Grand East Coast Tour and some more of my world famous ‘Skipper’s Tips’


The Grand East Coast Tour

Well here it is folks – the one you’ve all been waiting for, I hope…

This is the closest I’ve ever got to being a full paid up member of the explorers club!  I know that for some this adventure is just another average summer trip but for me it is the longest journey I have ever made by water and the memories of this journey will live with me forever.  In fact, if I had any grandchildren, I would definitely sit them on my knee and tell them all about it, again and again and again!

This journey epitomises what having a boat and going exploring is all about – do it now, is my advice!

I’m going to serialise the adventure, as it’s too long to put up in one hit, so keep popping back to make sure you get the latest instalment as it’s posted.


© Richard Corbett 2012

‘1000 miles’ that’s what I was told.  Take the F48 from Norwalk in Connecticut down to Fort Lauderdale in Florida, it shouldn’t take long, 5 days maybe…

In the end it took a little longer than that and it was a few more miles too.

Much planning and preparation later, the day finally came to set off.  It was a little bit of an anti-climax actually.  There was only Neil left to see us off and we nearly took him with us. I thought he was off the boat as I pulled away from the dock we’d occupied during the Norwalk boat show but after much shouting and gesturing I realised we had a stowaway! Once I was certain he had left the boat we motored out of the mooring and waved goodbye.

We couldn’t have asked for a nicer day to start our epic journey.  The sun was shining, there was a light breeze on the nose and as Long Island Sound is fairly well sheltered from the west the waves were hardly noticeable.

New York City was our destination, as we had a journalist with us, who was trying the boat for an article he was writing about cruising.  The trip to New York City would be the perfect opportunity to get all the experience he needed.  There was just one small hitch… The UN Assembly was in town and our ‘best laid plans’ had to be changed to plan B.  The East River was closed and we had no choice but to pull up short and wait for the next day to pass through the city.  A stuttering start if ever there was one – hopefully, not an omen of things to come!

The World’s Fair Marina in Queens found us a berth for the night and we bade farewell to our journalist friend.  He was quite sanguine about being dropped off short of his intended departure point but I did feel sorry for him as I knew the trip down the East River was going to be spectacular –  if only those folk from the UN knew how they’d inconvenienced us, I’m sure they’d be suitably contrite…

Well, here it is; the view that greeted us as we made our very early way down the river the next morning.

© Richard Corbett 2012


Chris, also a skipper, although in the States they would call him a captain, was on the VHF checking with the USCG (United States Coast Guard) that the closure was no longer in force and we could, in fact, transit the river.  Whilst he was doing that, I was up top clicking away for all I was worth on my camera.

Sadly, we had to go down the east side of Roosevelt Island, as the police were still preventing people from getting too close to where the UN Assembly was being held.  Mind you, it did prevent my camera from almost catching fire!

Even so, I managed to snap a few shots of the sun’s early rays painting the Manhattan skyline.

© Richard Corbett 2012

And the odd iconic piece of advertising too

© Richard Corbett 2012

But this shot of the ESB really took the biscuit for me

© Richard Corbett 2012

The next shot I wanted was of the Statue of Liberty as we left the city and from this angle, which could only have been taken from on the water, this special landmark looked spectacular…

© Richard Corbett 2012

Then finally, after all the picture taking we picked up speed, headed out into the channel and set our sights on Ocean City in Maryland for our first overnight stop.

One last look over our shoulders, one last shot and we were off…

© Richard Corbett 2012


At the end of the channel, waiting for us, was the Atlantic Ocean.  From where we were sitting it looked fairly flat but as we got closer it soon became apparent that the rest of the day’s journey was going to be less spectacular and more bouncy…

Keep an eye out for the next instalment, when we work our way down the New Jersey coast and end up having to go inland!