It’s 2 p.m. on Friday and I’m stowing my camera gear carefully in the salon of this big yacht when I hear a sudden muted rumble from below decks. Our captain, Kadey-Krogen Project Manager Gregg Gandy, has started the John Deere diesels. We’re ready to depart our Jensen Beach, Florida, marina and head north to Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina with this brand new Krogen 58′.
Our departure has been delayed for a couple of hours, courtesy of the U.S. Postal Service, who somehow figured out how to take four days to make an express delivery from Tampa to Stuart of our radar set. But that’s behind us now; Gregg and a local technician have the old Furuno unit hooked up and running well. This is a brand new yacht that Kadey-Krogen has been using as a company demonstrator and now they’ve decided to sell it, so it’s on its way up to the Annapolis, Maryland, office. So naturally, we don’t want to be making holes in the beautiful helm panels for this temporary gear. We’ve got it installed on a removable panel offset to the right side of the helm, along with the new Furuno autopilot and the VHF radio.
We’ve got full (1,760 gallons) fuel and water (400 gallons) tanks; the galley lockers are loaded with fruit, cereal, granola bars and microwave meals and we let go the lines and head east from the marina into the ICW, then turn north and head for the Fort Pierce Inlet. We could have turned south and gone out the St. Lucie inlet, but the tide isn’t high and Gregg “hates” backtracking, so north we go.
A bottlenose dolphin swings by while we’re in the waterway, just checking out the nice lines of the big Kadey-Krogen. I’m adjusting to steering the yacht from the flybridge. It takes a few minutes before I stop over-correcting and adopt the smaller, more anticipatory movements that keep this deep-keel boat on track. In short order we turn east into the Fort Pierce inlet and get ready to head offshore. Gregg takes the wheel, transferring command from inside the pilothouse and I head below to join him and Greg Kaufman, Kadey-Krogen’s newest sales team member, himself a long-time sailor and captain.
From well inside, the inlet looks calm enough, but the aerial antics of a couple of kite surfers suggest that more is going on at the mouth of the inlet than we can see from here. The tide is still going out and a strong east wind is piling up wickedly steep waves. Gregg has a firm hand on the wheel as the bow starts to rise and fall with the increasingly short-period waves; some breaking now. The TRAC stabilizers have the roll element handled nicely but we’re pitching markedly as even our big, heavy yacht can’t defy the physics of tons of green water completely. It’s a tad dramatic and a crash from somewhere aft in the saloon reminds us that we forgot to latch the refrigerator doors. The lovely Jenn-Air has neatly emptied itself during one of our uphill climbs. Oops.
Just when the ride is getting to be a little tiresome, we approach the boundary of the inlet outflow, marked by a decidedly sharp line between the murkier water of the inlet and the blue water of the ocean. We’re still in for a bit of a head-bash as we turn north, with the long ocean swells from the northeast and an east-northeasterly wind mixing the sea surface up. Full confession — I’m a tad green around the gills by nightfall and find I need to stay topside while my inner ear, brain and stomach negotiate a settlement. I have the 10-2 watch and by my turn I’m feeling better and slip into the routine. My two shipmates decide to get some sleep and head below to the guest stateroom amidships, which has twin bunks.
The helm routine on watch is simple. Let George (the autopilot) steer, while you watch the course track on the GPS-linked laptop, monitor the VHF and watch the radar. We periodically change the radar range to ensure we don’t miss a small boat up close, but mostly we’re focused on keeping a lookout for the big stuff; large freighters, warships and cruise ships, moving a high relative speeds and sometimes seemingly oblivious to anything else in their way. Gregg is running MacENC on his Mac laptop, while I’m running the latest version of Fugawai Marine ENC on my Windows 7 laptop over on the other side of the helm. Our SPOT Messenger is velcro’d to a forward pilothouse window where it reports our position every 10 minutes. Friends and family follow our trip by checking in on a website that displays the last 50 position reports.
We keep an hourly manual log of time, position, heading, speed, engine RPM, and comments. It’s standard practice offshore and allows you to pick up a dead reckoning position should you lose your electronic fix. The paper charts we would need to do so are in the wide chart drawers to either side of the helm. We do an engine room check every two hours, looking for leaks, loose belts, odd vibrations, expected fuel levels in the sight glasses, etc. The John Deere diesels are in their element, however, and run on and on at 1,850 RPM for virtually the entire trip. These are continuous duty-rated engines that are built to be started and run forever. At that RPM, we’re getting somewhere just north of 8.5 knots of basic hull speed, but the Gulf Stream will add to that significantly once we get in the middle of it.
Toward the end of my watch, the wind and waves have both veered into the southeast, easing the ride considerably and I hand over the helm to Gregg, who has the 2-6 watch. It’s a dark night, with no moon and lots of clouds obscuring the sky. I settle back onto the comfortable settee behind the helm and close my eyes, listening to the symphonic rhythms of a boat at steady cruise — the steady thrum of the engines, the constant rush of water by the hull, the occasional splash of an errant wave. I’m tired, and it’s all very. . . sleep. . .inducing. . .
Copyright © 2010 by OceanLines LLC. All rights reserved.