Throw back Thursday – The Hull and Transom.

The Hull and Transom.

Rather than dwell on what we still have to do, lets see how far we’ve come. 

When we first saw Nomadica, then Kata Brava in October 2012 she was unfortunately in a bit of a sorry state.  Pretty much rotting away and destined for the scrap yard.   

 

I for one will admit that I wasn’t at all interested in her, I remember driving up to the back of the boat, the transom, and looking up at a lot of holes.  Her lines were beautiful there’s no denying that but I just saw a lot of work. 

Morgan on the other hand was not phased by it at all, he’s not afraid of a lot of work and he got more excited as we looked around.  He saw the potential in her before I did and it took a little persuading on his part for me to agree to finally put in a offer. 

 

We worked on Nomadica full time for an approximate 11 months in total in the yard.  Four months back in 2013 and for seven months this year (2017).  This is what we have achieved so far.

The day we purchased her we also got the hull audio gauged to check for thickness and weakness’s.  Apart from the obvious which was the transom there was just one weak spot on the stringer in the pilot house that had had water sitting in for god knows how long.  So this piece was cut out and renewed.  Also there was a cut out in the keel that we assumed was done to inspect inside of it.  Otherwise apart from small pitting everywhere she was in good shape.

Of cause with any welding work that could infiltrate into the interior we had to get access to this area from the inside as well. So there was a lot of cutting out of panels to do this.  Whilst the welders worked on the outside I would sit on the inside with a fire extinguisher just incase.

Once the welding work in this area was done we got the entire bottom of the boat sand blasted.  When this was completed and cleaned we added 4 coats of primer to the hull almost immediately.

 

We practically had to rebuild an entire rudder as the existing rudder was of the boat when we bought it and in a sad state also.  We had originally thought we could repair it but as Morgan looked at it further he felt it was better and probably easier to just rebuild the entire piece.

 

This year when we returned to the boat we gave the entire bottom a light sand again a little more TLC before adding another two coats of primer.

 

Days prior to the launch and the day after the last coat of primer we finally got the anti-fouling applied.  This was the part I was so looking forward to.  I had dreamt of what she would look like with a black bottom.  We were not disappointed.

 

The transom was our biggest issue on the hull.  As I mentioned it was full of holes which meant water was getting into the boat.  We looked at cutting out the various sections but then in the end we decided to change the entire plate.

 

With a clean slate we figured we could do anything we wanted with the transom.  We didn’t want to have the same as what was originally there and Morgan came up with the idea of adding the back steps and platform.  Which is just a fantastic feature.  I’ll have more about this finished product in another post.

 

The topsides were in fairly good condition.  There had been a few dinks on the port side, but nothing that a grinder and filler couldn’t fix.

 

We didn’t do very much else to the top sides until this year.  Then the mammoth job of sanding it all down came.  We spent hours, days, perhaps even weeks doing it until we were happy.

 

After the initially sand down then Morgan would go and add filler to any spots that was slightly uneven.  Any slight cracks was grinded out and fillered in.  The process seemed never ending at the time.  Once we were happy with this we finally got a coat of primer on it.  It was great to see the uniformed hull again, even though it was a sickly grey.

Over the course of a few weeks the hull changed colour again and again with the meticulous sanding and fillering in.  It wasn’t easy working out in the elements and with the intense Summer heat and with the notorious bugs.  We were happy the day we finally got the first top coat on.

Here’s a summary of the hull colour change in the last few months.

In all we applied six thin top coats in total before we called it a day.

We are completely happy with the vivid red.  It definitely stands out here in the Caribbean.

Nomadica
On anchor here in the Caribbean.

I think that gives a good summary of what we have done in regards to the hull and transom.  Stay with us for the next Throwback Thursday.

Cheryl.

The last few weeks in Charleston.

Its crazy to think that it has been over six weeks already since we arrived in the Caribbean.  Time has just flown by.  I’ve been slacking, so before I get lost with tropical scenery, sunshine, sandy beaches and amazing sunsets, I figured it was time to look back on the last few weeks that we were in Charleston.  I know it feels like such a long time ago already.

However quite a few important jobs got done those last few weeks, and for our own sake it would be a shame to not document this.  So here goes in no particular order.

Aft Starboard Cabin.

IMG_9969Originally we had hoped our departure from the USA would have been a relaxed one and we would have been able to hop down the coast to Florida and get to see my Aunt and Uncle in Florida again.  However things didn’t pan out that way so my Uncle came up for 6 days to see us and to also help us out.

It was perfect timing.  Back in February we had ordered our wood for the interior work thinking we would be working on that first.  However priorities changed with the Immigration restrictions and interior work was pushed aside.  So there was still a good 10 sheets of wood that was sitting in our container waiting to be used.  The thought of carrying that load was making us cringe. 

My Uncle is also a carpenter by trade so of cause this was his area of expertise.  So the idea was to get as many wood panels up in the aft starboard cabin as we could.  Now this sounds pretty straight forward and if you were doing four straight square walls it would be pretty easy.  But we all know that things on a boat is far from straight forward and not many walls are straight.  So for 4 days they worked tirelessly on that one cabin.  Taking measurements, going out to the dock to cut panels, bringing them back in for dry fitting numerous times, and then finally securing the panel’s in place. 

During this process we loss one of the sides to the main companion way doorway to.  All rather stressful when we were weeks away from departing. Even my Uncle commented that everything was taking a lot longer than he would have anticipated.  Ha that’s life on a boat for you. 

We didn’t get all the area’s completed that we wanted to, but at least a fair majority was done.  That lessoned the amount of sheets we ended up carrying.

Rigging.

We had absolutely no clue how old the rigging was on Nomadica.  At best it could have been 12 years old, which is as long as she had been roughly sitting in the yard and at worse it could have been as old as the boat itself, which is 31 years old.  So we decided to get all of this changed.  Originally our plan was to take the rig down, remove all the parts for servicing, repaint the mast white and then reinstall with new standing rigging.  We had estimated that this job could take us an easy 6-8 weeks plus.  Time we didn’t have so we went with just changing the Standing rigging and will hopefully get to the rest when time allows. 

Unfortunately we couldn’t measure the standing rigging or go up the mast when the boat was on the hard so we had to wait until we were in the water before we could get the current rigging measured.  We did this on the 4th July when there was no one around and a slightly quieter day.  Morgan went up the rig in his harness and I stayed below with the end of the tape measure. It wasn’t easy with the slight breeze and it took us a few hours to get all 13 cables of rigging measured and documented. 

A week later our rigging slowly arrived. It was perfect timing as my Uncle was still with us.  One by one we took the existing standing rigging down, cut the new rigging to size, we fitted the mechanical end fittings to the cables and then hoisted the new standing rigging into place. Again it sounds straight forward but it took the three of us about 3 days to get it all completed.  I was grateful to have my Uncle there to help as it was quite hard work hoisting the cables which at the longest was 69ft.

At least we now know the Standing rigging is good for a while.

Running Rigging.

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Working until late at night. 

We had quite a few second hand halyards and sheets.  Alot of the existing halyards and sheets were left on the boat for years in the elements so these were all pretty fried and useless.  So in the evenings Morgan would spend his time splicing the new halyards and sheets.  It felt at the time like he never stopped.

Bilge pumps.

We got two out of the four manual bilge pumps installed along with 3 out of four electric pumps.  We figured with a boat that hadn’t sailed for nearly 12 years this was a must.  There was already mounting holes for the two manual bilge pumps in the cockpit.  One situated on the port side of the aft cockpit combing behind the steering wheel and another by the lazarette locker.  The aft is to pump out the aft steering locker and the lazarette one has hoses ran to the engine room.  So along with the pumps being installed all the plumbing for these had to be run to. 

For the electric bilge pumps we installed one in the forward peak under the master bed.  The anchor chain locker that is in the peak runs aft to a small section under the master bed.  Not quite practically but easily accessible, so there’s a pump there.  The second pump was installed in the engine room at the lowest point and the third pump was installed in the steering locker.  Again plumbing had to be run for these.

image1 (2)We also invested in a Honda water pump which can act as a fire aid to get water into the boat quickly or to speed up the process of emptying a water filtrated area.  We had one of these pumps on Louise.  It wasn’t until our last passage up the Atlantic that we utilize it, but that one time having to use it justified having one on board. 

Although structurally sound we know all to well that things happen fast and if they get out of control water enters a boat super fast to. 

I’m kinda hoping that if we have it, we won’t need it.  We were fortunate that in our first and last passage from Charleston everything stayed dry.  But you can never be too safe right.

Electronics/Navigation.

Our electronics package that was received weeks earlier was installed prior to our departure.  This took Morgan a few days to do.  He wants to eventually make a new dash board for the instruments, but again pushed for time we made do with what we had. 

The entire installation he carried out himself, running all the electrical wires require.  This installation included a new B&G Radar and Chart Plotter Display, new B&G wind and depth instruments, Garmin AIS, Icom VHF, Iridium antenna and radar. He fired all the system’s up before departing and everything worked great.

Along with the instruments installed we also got the navigational lights on the pilot house replaced and a stern light installed on one of the aft poles, along with a new Tri-colour light installed at the top of the mast. 

Whilst working up the rig installing the new Tri-colour light we also ran a new cable for the new wind indicator.  It wasn’t much fun trying to squeeze a wire in an already filled conduit. 

Refrigeration & Freezer System.

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Early 2013 when the system was removed. 

The Compressor, RFD and Condenser for the Refrigeration and Freezer system was taken out of the boat in 2013.  Not thinking we would keep this system Morgan cut all the copper pipes and removed the entire system from the Engine Room compartment. 

Once we learnt that this was a fairly new system and that Glacier Bay was in fact a good system we decided to give the unit a try, not really knowing if it would work or not.  You will remember a few months earlier I took everything apart, cleaned all the components, and painted the majority.  Not really knowing how it would all be put back together again I just left everything in a container for Morgan to deal with.  It baffled me how he was thinking of putting it all back together again with the hope of it working.

Again just before leaving he got this unit put back together.  It was a tight squeeze getting the very heavy unit back in to its location.  He then soldered the copper pipes back together again. 

He had wanted to hire a Refrigeration specialist to come in and check and charge the system but unfortunately it would seem that no one was interested in coming out in the South Carolina heat to deal with refrigeration when their priority at that time of the year was air conditioning.  So he went and bought the gas and equipment and did it himself.  Low and behold when he fired the system up it all worked.  Amazing.

There’s been a few continuous adjustments but we are happy with how everything works.  The freezer in particular holds the cold well and anything close to the plates freezes pretty quickly.  So ice is always readily available. 

Sails.

Our sails we put on just before our departure.  It took the two of us a day and a half to get everything on right and we were absolutely amazed and delighted when all three of our sails fitted perfectly. 

Our sail package was ordered months before through Zoom Sails in Malaysia.  Morgan had made the order via email with Zoom Sails Owner Phil Auger.  Our sails were received 4 weeks after the order was placed and we can both say we are absolutely thrilled with them. 

We went out for a two hour sail trial in the harbor the last Friday in Charleston and was pleased with everything and how Nomadica performed. 

Thats about it, the last four crazy weeks in Charleston.  We were running around like headless chickens for most of that time and our days were long and tiring.  Gladly its all well behind us now and our new work location is like a world away. 

Cheryl.

The Maiden Voyage.

We woke early on the 2nd August before light and our friend Lane was there on the dock to see us.  Frantically we rushed around, basically loaded up the last of the items from the dock and cleaned up our mess.  Did one last quick weather check jumping on Lanes 3G hotspot and then said our goodbyes and released the dock lines.  Just like that we left, we were on our way.  It was a real surreal moment and I am forever grateful to Lane for coming out at such a hour to see us of.  It made it feel like we were really leaving, it was for real. 

For days before I kept saying to Morgan are we really going to do this?? We weren’t ready and realistically Nomadica wasn’t quite ready either. Half of her interior is still in a mess, there was minimum plumbing, minimum electric’s connected and a ton of material packed chucked in the boat.  But what choice did we have.  Morgan’s 2 month visa was due to expire the following day on the 3rd of August.  We have always been people that stuck by the rules and although realistically we could probably have stayed a few extra days, the thought of being controlled leaving later outweighed our readiness.  We had done everything in our power to make Nomadica safe, the rest was up to us and the weather a head.  We were also tired of working against the clock.

As we motored down the channel, I thought back to 4 years ago when we watched our friends on ‘Silver Shoes’ motor down the channel out of sight and thought ‘Wow this is happening, its our turn’.  We exited the breakwater and continue slowly out of the channel.   We didn’t look back.  We tried to do some auto pilot calibrations, but it just wasn’t working, so we hoisted the sails and started slowly sailing east.  There was a gentle 10-11 knots of wind from the north and we sailed slowly away from shore.  It was quite a liberating feeling. 

Originally we had toyed with the idea of heading south along the coast, and then hang a right towards Mexico and Belize.  This would have been the quicker 1000 mile trip.  However the days leading up to our departure there was a tropical depression forming in the Gulf of Mexico and we had to delay our departure as it was by a day to wait on the weather to pass up the East Coast.  The long range forecast showed more disturbance in the area for the days to come to.  Not wanting to risk it, we just thought East.  Head East. 

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Dolphins of the bow.

It was a great first day.  We even had a pod of dolphins play of Nomadica’s bow.  Something that hasn’t happened in years.  It was beautiful.  With no auto pilot we found that if we trimmed the sails right and tied the wheel in place, she held a steady course.  As the day turned into night the wind slowly dropped of.  By Midnight that same wind came from the East and we were plowing into a light breeze and building sea.  We were being tossed around under low RPM’s.  The night turned dark and squally. It wasn’t at all what we imagined our first night out would be like.  With each squall the wind would intensify and we would have to take over the steering.  We were soaked more times than I wished to remember.  Winds often reached 30-35 knots in these squalls.  As dawn came in the skies around us stayed dark and heavy and the day carried on relentless and squally. By the end of the day we were both a little exhausted.  As we prepared ourselves for another long dark night a head I really wondered if it was really the right direction to be going.  Luckily the second night was better and the squalls became less and less and the skies slowed cleared and the winds once again shifted back in our favour.  Friday we were back to sailing slowly east with a beautiful sunny day. 

The next few days the winds dropped completely and the ocean became like a milk pond.  The only thing with no wind was that we had to hand steer which in the heat of the day became pretty intense.  At one point whilst I was at the helm I saw a whale heading straight for us.  I clicked the engine in neutral and watched in awe as this magnificent creature approached within twenty meters of us, it was a Sperm Whale.  It hovered on the surface for a few seconds before diving into the depths.  We stayed drifting for a few minutes more and watched as she surfaced again.  Its moments like these that will stick with us forever.  A few days when we both got tired or jobs aboard became over whelming we just switched of the engine and drifted.  This allowed us both to fix, clean and sleep.  At this point we also took the time to put out the fishing lines and caught two small Mahi Mahi’s.  It was nice to have fresh fish again and something we both have missed about life on the sea. 

The forecast that first weekend showed a possible depression building in the Atlantic with a possible trajectory of the northern Islands of Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic.  Well there went our second possible destination.  No way were we able to head south at that point as the winds around the system would be against us.  So we continued East until it had passed and in fact by that following Wednesday it had dissipated.  By this point we had headed East for a whole week and had covered nearly 1000 nautical miles. 

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1000 miles down 1000+ to go.

The next day on Thursday we had our window to point south.  There’s something about Thursday’s as this was another black and squally day.  As we altered course we found ourselves in a stiff breeze and another 24 hours of squall after squall. 

Conditions pointing South was completely different to the week before.  As we continued the easterly trades really kicked in.  Luckily Nomadica held a good course in a stronger breeze.  Anything from 7-25 knots and we could get a hour or two of not touching the wheel before having to untie and re-adjust.

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Beautiful night skies. 

Originally we wanted to go as far east to allow a course outside of the Island chain.  However conditions didn’t allow us to point that far.  Once again looking at the long range forecast for the week a head we could see yet again another system forming in the Atlantic  and once again heading towards the Island chain later in the week.  This gave us only a short week to get pass the depressions trajectory.  Not wanting to waste anymore time struggling against the winds, we decided on a course to cut directly through the Island chain. 

As Sunday became Monday we entered the Caribbean Sea and with it conditions stiffened.  As we observed the the glow of Anguilla and St Maarten in the distance we were reaching along in 25-30 knots of breeze.  With waves breaking over the side of the boat.  It was a wet and windy ride.  The days weren’t a lot better and as we pushed on through the Island chain the conditions persisted.  We saw very little of the Islands themselves as there was a thick haze all around.  Making a bee line south we pushed on during the day with as much sail as we felt safe and then at night was vigilant with our sail choice based on the nights skies.  A few nights Morgan slept in the pilot house so that he could assist me quicker when the winds picked up out of no where.  The last few days was pretty tiring, it felt like we did sail changes with every passing cloud, and they rolled through quickly.  Finally on Wednesday, exactly two weeks after we had departed we broke through the barrier of weather with a good 40 knot blow and driving rain.  Luckily we had rolled up both head sails and reefed the main significantly.  We saw the grey thickness approaching and the force in which it hit was impressive.  The rain stung our skin and we had to turn our backs against it to function. Nomadica heeled over and stood her ground.  And then just like that it was gone and conditions lifted.  At this point we were running parallel with the Island chain but 40 miles of shore from them.

Land was sighted just before lunch on Thursday.  In the distance the silhouette of the Island came into view.  The winds had dropped at this point and we were being headed so progress was slow.  It was a wonderful sight to see the grayness of the distant Island turn to colour.  The sun started to set behind us as we pushed the last few miles and the pinks and oranges lit up the sky a head.  As the last of the day faded we slowly made our way into the crowded anchorage.  The lights ashore started to light up the coast line and the smell of lush vegetation was a welcoming change.  After exactly 15 days and 12 hours here we were for the first time with Nomadica dropping anchor in the shallow waters of the Caribbean. 

We couldn’t have been more happier.  We keep grinning at one another in disbelief.  We did it, the hardest part is over.  Most of all we couldn’t be more please with Nomadica.  She performed brilliantly and proved to be strong and steady.  We kept saying she felt a live.  Who would have thought she had spent the last 12 years in a ship yard and 4 years ago prior to us buying her she was destined for the scrap yard. 

After a 2 hour motor trial and a 2 hour sail trial back in Charleston here we are having just completed a 2000 nautical mile maiden voyage.  Sitting in the cockpit gently rocking on anchor and looking up at the stars….this is what we have been dreaming of. 

Grenada couldn’t look any prettier.

 

A new beginning…….a new name.

Tonight we bid farewell to KATA BRAVA and ask that Neptune the god of the sea welcome into his Kingdom NOMADICA.

Nomadica

We ask the mighty and great ruler of the seas and oceans to keep her and all who sails upon her safe.

We ask the gods of the winds, Great Boreas (North Wind), Great Zephyrus (West Wind), Great Eurus (East Wind) and Great Notus (South Wind) to grant this worthy vessel NOMADICA the benefits and pleasures of your bounty. 

May there be fair winds and smooth seas.

Cheryl & Morgan

 

 

What is it like arriving in the USA – Our story.

Warning LONG POST a head.

The most common question’s we seem to be getting these days are how much longer are you here for and where are you going next? 

Well I thought it was time I answered these questions or at least tell our story.

In August of last year when we were in Madagascar we decided it was time to quit our job and come back to the USA to complete our project.  We were absolutely ecstatic to finally be making plans to do something for ourselves.  We couldn’t wait.

We had the vision that we would arrive, find a place on land to stay, work on the boat during the week and enjoy our weekends exploring this country.  Enjoying some land time whilst working towards getting our future home fit to live in.  It all sounded easy enough and I had hoped it would have been a fun relaxing time finally working at a slower pace towards our future.

How far from that dream has the last six months been.

I will start at the beginning cause it does require some understanding of what is like to get here. There is several different visa’s for visiting the USA.  With the exception of once on a 10 day holiday, we have always come here boating related. Even then in the marine categories there is various different visa’s. The both of us have always had B1/B2 American Visa’s. These visa’s are valid for 10 years and normally allows entry into the country for up to 6 months at a time.  You have to apply in advance for these visas, which is a fairly lengthy online process that can take 2-3 hours and it asks some of the strangers of questions.  I’m not sure if someone who had a plan to do some wrong doing here in the US would actually answer those questions honestly.  Hmmm well we have no intention of doing anything wrong here, we have a clean record and we have always been approved.  After the lengthy on line application process and after paying the approximate processing fee of $160 you have to make an appointment from the online schedule.  Then you go to your appointment and prove why you want to enter the country.  Just going to an American Embassy is a process in itself and really puts you on edge.  I’ve gone through this process four times to date, first in Belize, then in Singapore, last year in Capetown and most recently in France.

After getting married last year and getting a new passport to carry my new maiden name I needed to apply for a new American Visa.  This I did on arrival in Capetown in October of last year.  Under occupation I have always put ‘Yacht Cook/First Mate’. When at my interview last year in Capetown I was asked why I wanted a new B1/B2 visa. My reasons was because I work on boats and have my own boat in the USA to.  At the end of the interview I was told by the official that my visa was approved and I would be receiving a 5 year B1 visa within a few days. I questioned why just B1 and not the B1/B2 that I applied for and was told ‘they don’t issue those visa’s to people like myself anymore’. We all know not to argue with an American in authority so just assumed things had changed and this would all be OK.  After all American was in for big changes with the presidential election and new President announced. 

So fast forward to December when we arrived in the country.  We had just completed a circumnavigation, done a 10 day extensive crew handover and had packed up our lives from the last 3.5 years and arrived at busy Miami International Airport.  It was a few days before Christmas and our plan was to spend Christmas with my Uncle and Aunt in Florida before coming up to Charleston to start on our project.  As we approached the American Immigration line Morgan realized that in his haste he had packed his old passport containing his visa’s in his check in luggage.  Crap. Not a problem though as we had also gone through the online process to apply for a Visitors Esta Visa which allows up to 3 months stay over a 2 year period.  When the official asked what Visa’s we had we explained that Morgan had forgotten his B1/B2 visa in his old passport that had been checked in.  He said not a problem just use your Esta.  So I asked should I do the same as I had a Esta and a my new B1 visa.  So he said no use your B1 thats better.  Not thinking anymore of it we had arrived in the USA.

In February we had to go to Antigua for 10 days for Morgan to be part of the race crew on Louise.  He had committed to this for months before.  On arrival back into the country on the 25th February, things didn’t go as smoothly.  We arrived back at about 9pm in Charlotte North Carolina.  When we went through the initial immigration line the officer starting asked questions.  ‘You were here before for nearly two months, why are you back again’?  Then he took our passports and handed us a red card instead and sent us on our way.  With the red card in hand we soon got ushered of to the side and into another room where there was a Indian guy and a Mexican family.  Well secondary inspection isn’t a great deal of fun at all.  The Customs and Border Protection official was not very happy with us.  I remember his words like it was yesterday. He said ‘You two will need to explain yourselves. I will deal with you first (pointing at Morgan) and then you after (thats me).  They have such a way of talking it makes your knees start to go soft. We were both scared and trying to figure out what we had done wrong.  They were not happy that we had just left the country 10 days before and were trying to come back in again.  He proceeded to tell us that going to Antigua was not classed as ‘out of the country’.  All neighboring countries and Caribbean Islands were not classed as being away from the US and especially not considering the time frame we had been gone for.  Like seriously…….all these countries have their own governments, flags, money and even language, but hey you can’t tell an American official that when he’s on a roll. He kept repeating that even though we had gone to Antigua for 10 days this wasn’t classed as leaving the country for any significant time.  So then he wanted to know why Morgan had come into the country in December on a Esta, so we explained why, then he asked why I had come in on a B1 so I explained.  Then the big problem came to light. He explained that B1 is for Business or working in the US on a boat, had I been working here? Well on my own boat but not making money.  I told him that the officer told me in Miami to use that visa. They try to twist things around and said had we said we were working here and of cause we told them the truth which was no, why would we say that when Morgan had come in on a Esta.  Its amazing how intimidating this whole process is.  They kept asking the same questions over and over, ‘what were we doing here, how can we stay this long in the country without working and where were we getting the money from to support ourselves’.  Seriously, we’ve worked our butts of for the last 12 years, we don’t own the big American house, or have the fancy American car, or the crazy American loan and we unfortunately don’t have a family either. This is how we can afford to be here.  However how can you tell someone on a power trip this though, at this point you know not to speak unless you’re asked.  Apparently because I am here on my own boat working this was classed as pleasure and therefore I needed the B2 section of the visa.  So I again explained that I had just applied for a B1/B2 in the American Embassy in Capetown (I had all the paperwork to prove it) and was told they don’t issue those visa’s to people like me anymore (not sure what that actually meant).  Anyway the officer said that was ridiculous and that I would need the B2 to stay here for pleasure.  So thanks American Embassy in Capetown for screwing up on this.  By this point I was nearly in tears as we explained we were here fixing up our boat which was a project and we would need at least 6 months to get the work done.  We told them that no way would we get the work completed in three months and that we would have to leave the country again to come back.  We asked ‘what was considered out of the country and for what period’.  His answer was basically that we needed to go back to our country of residence or birth ie. the UK or France. However he wouldn’t answer how long we would have to go for.  After over a hour and the same questions being repeated he finally said ‘I could just send you packing however I will be lenient on you and let you in for 3 months only on the Esta.  Wow.  He said he could give Morgan 6 months stay on his B1/B2 visa but advised us to stay together, which we agreed on, so he got three months to.  At this point the officials were getting tired and even said its getting late its been a long day, yet they proceeded to ask why we had taken a one hour flight from North Carolina to South Carolina when we could have driven the 3 hour drive. Honestly you’re made to feel like you’re doing wrong no matter what.  Our passports were finally handed back to us and we had to make the dash to our connecting flight which at this point over a hour later was about to take of. 


So there we were totally deflated with just a three month stay in the country.  A lot of pressure to try and get things done in such a short time.  We always knew this project could take 6-8 months uninterrupted, and that was being optimistic. To now have this time pressure on us was not a lot of fun.  Morgan worked 7 days a week the entire time, literally putting in 12-14 hour days.  It was stressful and far from what I imagined our time here would be like.

By the end of March we could see how our progress was going and decided we needed to try to see if we could get a extension or something.  So we booked an appointment with US Immigration Services.  Although I had seen on line that there was no way to get an extension with a Esta, it was worth a try.  The official was very nice and explained that Morgan could possibly apply for an extension however the paper work could take months and months to process and she would advised against it. We told her about our experience with the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and she basically said that its up to the individual we got at the time.  The lady told us that basically they won’t say what is the time frame we needed to leave the country for because there was no rules on this and that the officer we get determines how long we can stay or not.  She was very sympathetic to us however said at the end of the day the CBP officer has the power to make the decision he wants.  Wow can you believe this is how the system works.

During the month of April we often saw CBP officers near the yard going out to the ships. One day we decided to approach an officer and ask him what was considered out of the country and for how long. He didn’t understand why we had been given a hard time.  He confirmed that Antigua where we went was ‘out of the country’ and 10 days out of the country was fine. 

At the end of April we went to the CBP office at the Port to enquire about what we would require to do when we wanted to leave with KB.  We had a very nice lady CBP officer deal with us.  At the end of our conversation she asked what was our ‘Immigration status’ so we explained the situation to her and what had happened on arriving in the country back in February.  By this point we knew we would have to leave the country by the 25th May to then return.  So we asked where would we need to go and for how long would we need to go for to come back to the country without any problems.  She didn’t see why we had had any problems coming into the country however took our passport details and said she would enquire this to a CBP officer in the Immigration section.  The next day she called to confirm that we shouldn’t have a problem coming back into the country.  We didn’t need to go to France or the UK and could just go to the Bahamas for a week and that should be fine.  Again we would just need to prove to the official that checked us back into the country that we didn’t want to live here.  We made the decision to go to France to see family before our time expired.  Whilst there I also applied for a new B1/B2 visa at the American Embassy.  I explained my situation and presto was issued a new 10 year B1/B2 visa.  We felt confident at this point that this would make our lives much easier.

5 weeks ago on the 3rd June we arrived back from 2 weeks in France (Morgan’s country of Birth) and entered the country via Miami International Airport again.  We got asked the same questions at the immigration booth, ‘why are we coming back into the country, how long do we want to be here, how can we afford to be here’.  You are really made to feel that they don’t believe you and its intimidating process.  The CBP officer looked at my passport and new visa and stamped my passport for 6 months.  Phew a sign of relief, then he looked at Morgan’s and slipped a Orange card in his and told us to wait. Here we go again.  This time we got escorted through to another office and was made to wait with a bunch of other people of mix origin.  There’s a movie we saw years ago based on a group of people in a Secondary Inspection room. I forget what its called but its a horrible movie but its a true portrayal of what it can be like in secondary inspection.  You are treated like you have done something wrong. You are literally barked at.  Why they don’t realize they can get the same message across without shouting or being so authoritative is beyond me.  Based on our previous experience of nearly losing our flight, we had booked to have a 6 hour lay over in Miami. It was a good thing to as nearly two hours later Morgan was finally called up to the window for his interview. I went with him holding my passport but was told in such a way ‘to go sit over there’.   Therefore I don’t know exactly what was said but Morgan explained to the CBP official why we were here.  Apparently this official was not interested in anything Morgan had to say.  He told Morgan that he didn’t have to explain himself as he could see his records of being in the country.  We had all the paper work to back up why we were here, boat papers, letter from the yard, but he didn’t want to see any of it.  Instead he told Morgan that he had been in and out of the country too many times in the last 10 years.  Morgan explained that previously it was mainly because we worked on a US flagged vessel that we had been here and prior to December we hadn’t been in the country for 3.5 years.  Nope this young CBP officer had a attitude and was clearly on a power trip.   The only reason that this officer had for not allowing Morgan in for longer was because he had been in the country too many times in the last 10 years. Really.  Which is absolute bullshit as we have been traveling together for the last 13 years yet I got a six months stay granted.  Knowing I had already been approved in the country by the previous officer he then asked Morgan what was the minimum time he needed to finish the boat.  Morgan said two months hoping we would at least get three. Nope he was stamped in for just two months.  The officer also told him that should he try to leave the country again to come back his visa would be revoked.  Morgan asked him what was seen as a ‘reasonable time frame out of the country’ but again that question was ignored. On top of only stamping him in for two months he also wrote on his stamp ‘Limited Stay’ and stamped Morgan in on B1.  B1 means for business or work, even though we had explained we were here for what is considered ‘pleasure’ B2. So if an officer was to look at our passports now Morgan would be considered to be here working.  Seriously the system is completed screwed.

So there you have it, it would appear that going to our country of residence or birth being France had no pull in the matter. Basically that last CBP officer contradicted everything the previous officer in February had told us. According to the CBP officer we spoke to at the Port non of that is true anyway. There is no time frame needed out of the country or any preferred locations that we would need to go to to qualify being out of the country.  Its all just ridiculous.  The power is in the CBP officer’s hands, the first American contact you have when arriving in this country.  Its amazing to think that your life is in the hands of this one individual, and if they are having a bad day, going through a divorce or perhaps even racist then your day could probably end up bad to. Aren’t we human, isn’t this how it works. If you’re not happy everyone around you feels the vibe.  For weeks this whole ordeal has angered me as we are not doing anything wrong here.  We have tried to explain ourselves until we are blue in the face, all we are doing is spending our hard earn cash here and trying to get our boat ready to leave.  We have the paperwork and the boat to prove it.  We have no intentions of living in this country. I have always said entering the USA was not fun and you could think that perhaps arriving by plane to join a boat you get this experience. However back up to five years ago when we sailed into the USA on a US flagged vessel.  We arrived in early February (Winter) in Newport. It was a cold frosty morning with temperatures at minus degrees.  We were the only boat there as we arrived early to get a massive refit done.  When we saw the two officers coming down the dock, Morgan and Ronan our crew stepped onto the dock with one foot on the boat to pull the boat in for the officers. Immediately they were shouted at to get back on the boat.  So honestly in our experience I don’t know if there is a difference.

We can say we have officially sailed around the world, and have dealt with corruption, bribery and cultural difference.  The United States of American for both of us takes the prize for the worse treatment.  This whole experience has left a horrible taste in our mouths.  Our plan was to return next year to do the North West Passage.  Honestly I don’t know if I want to come back to this country again. 

So the bottom line is we have to be out of here by the 3rd of August.  We still don’t know exactly where we are going yet.  North or South. Although North would be out of the hurricane season, South might be easier on us.  So for now we are leaning in that direction.  Right now we are thinking Belize.  We are not ready to leave, the boat isn’t ready to leave, we still have a ton of things to do, but what choice do we have.  We have to leave and this time we are taking our boat with us. 

So the next few weeks we are going to have our heads down to try and do as much as we can to make the boat safe for our departure.  For those that follow us I will give you an update in a few weeks.   

Thats our story.  Welcome to the USA.

Week 20. – Phase 2. – A big week.

This week has been a massive week.   We can finally see the light, although the tunnel is still long. 

Monday was our big day and our big girl got launched.  We are still on a high from the fact that she is actually in the water.  Not a day has gone by where one of us have said ‘can you believe it, she’s in the water’.  We had been talking about this day and dreaming about it, and perhaps having a few nightmares about it for the last four and a half years.  To see and feel her bob around to the motion of the ocean is just fantastic. 

Monday we also started the process of moving out of our rented apartment, so late afternoon we went back to the apartment and bought a car load of stuff back.  Then I found myself spending the rest of the evening and following morning packing away and organizing things. 

This was basically the pattern the entire week.  In the afternoons we would drive to the apartment, get a car load of stuff and then come back and pack it away. 

Morgan spent the first two days tinkering around with the engine and generator.  Fine tuning as one may call it.  He also started to bring some of his stuff from the container in the yard back to the boat. 

Wednesday morning we got a email from the supplier of the engine and Cummins representative that they would be coming by around mid day to do the engine trials.  There was lots to do to prepare for our first motor trial, so we got the tender pumped up and engine on, just in case we needed it.  For this to happen I also had to install the two of the 5 winches back on the mast to enable us to launch and lift the tender.  Everything in the interior had to be secured or stowed away.  At 12:30 the representative Ed arrived and started his checks.  Its amazing how much they actually have to check and the amount of information he had to supply.  He literally had a whole book full that he needed to full out.  I guess this is all required for the two year warranty. Once he was happy with everything we fired the engine up and prepped to leave the dock.  On such short notice we wanted a extra pair of hands to help us, so a friend lent us one of his workers for the afternoon.  Not knowing how the boat would respond in gear or once moving we were both a little apprehensive.  However she did amazing. 

Getting of the dock was a piece of cake and she responded well.  We motored down the channel at various speeds so that Ed could check the engine, RPM output, temperature and various other things.  The maximum speed down the channel topped at nearly 10 knots.  Happy with everything we came back to the dock a few hours later.  Ed was impressed with the entire installation and we got the green light for the engine.  Yay another weight of our shoulders, especially Morgan’s of cause. 

With the engine box ticked of Morgan could finally move on to other jobs that needed doing.  Since Monday we have been living aboard.  Its not all fun and games as half of the boat is still gutted and we still don’t have running water, electricity or a toilet yet.  Luckily the yard has supplied all of this on the dock and a toilet and shower is just a few hundred meters away.   Since Tuesday we have been eating on board as well. Just like that our stove worked perfectly.  I haven’t used gas in over 4 years and I’m just amazed at the heat our stove gives of. 

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Lighting the stove for the first time. 

Friday we officially moved out of our flat that we had rented for the last 6 months. It was a bittersweet moment.  Being between the boat and the flat all week was tiring and we were happy that the move was finally over.  However I wished I had enjoyed the flat more or the apartment complex facilities more, but I guess that wasn’t to be.   

Other jobs started or completed this week :-

With cooking on board Morgan made a support for the gas cylinders outside.   Originally there was a designated locker in the stern compartment for these, but right now we will make do with the both gas tanks being harnessed to the push pit. 

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Making a support for the gas cylinders.

He also made a support for the tender engine.  Both of these are made out of wood for now.  Once we get a spare moment we will also get these painted white.

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Tender engine support.

The Jon Bouy and Life Sling was mounted on the port stern quarter. 

The silent wind generator was assembled and dry fitted.  We still need wiring for this but right now its another box out of the container and another item on the boat.

The Glacier Bay fridge and freezer compressor was assembled and dry fitted into place.  This was quite a task as I had originally dismantled it, cleaned it and then resprayed the parts.  So there was Morgan left with a box of parts to put back together again.  Fingers cross this will work.  We had intended to redo the entire refrigeration system, however we recently learnt that this was a new system installed prior to the boat being put on the hard, so we’re hoping it works with a little persuasion. 

So lots have happened this week.  We still have a ton of work to do to make it comfortable. Our days are long being on board and starts before sun rise and ends when we stumble into bed at night.  However unfinished things are its still nice to be in our home.

Have a good week.

Cheryl

A day worthy of its own post …… Launch day.

Yep thats right, Kata Brava is in the water.  You’re probably thinking we kept that quiet, although anyone who knows boats would have guessed that we were close from last weeks post.  We set this date to launch two weeks ago.  Last week I was still second guessing whether we were ready or not.  But as Morgan constantly tells me, we will never be fully ready and the fact is we need to get her in the water to get all her systems checked.  Plus once living on board we might actually progress more to.

To say the last few days have been stressful would be an understatement, I have woken up every night for the last week at 2am and find my mind racing until nearly 5am. 

We bought Kata Brava whilst she was sitting on the hard four and a half years ago, and as far as we understood she had been on the hard for 6-7 years prior to that.  So that comes to approximately 11-12 years out of the water.  She’s an impressive sight on land so to be honest I struggled to imagine what she would look like in the water.  We have just one copy of an old article on her to go by.   I kept saying to Morgan ‘Will she float’ 🙂 .

Our anxiety about the launch meant we couldn’t say anything in fear of jinxing things.  What didn’t help either was that a month ago whilst we were in France the sea wall along where the travel lift pit is collapsed. This meant that boats are being hauled and launched via crane and then travel lifted the 200 meters or so round to the yard.  This all sounds reasonable until you have a boat like Kata Brava.  A heavy steel boat that is too heavy for the resident crane.  So a bigger crane had to be hired for the job and Friday we got notified that our launch would cost over four times more than what it would if we had been launched via the travel lift.  This made us both pretty pissed of and angry to say the least.  We don’t see it as being fair, but what can we say……our backs are up against the wall. We needed to get in the water and start thinking about getting out of this country.

So this morning at 8 am the 200 ton (imperial) crane arrived along with his truck full of weights to act as counter weights.  KB was prepped for the ride from the yard to the new launch area and then it started.  It was quite a process to get the whole operation set up.  Fortunately everyone seemed to know what they were doing and everything went smoothy.  On transferring her from the travel lift to the crane slings we got a accurate weight reading of 55 000 Ib’s which is approximately 25 tons for us Europeans.  Everything happened pretty fast from there and at 10:35 she touched the water.  What a wonderful sight and a wonderful feeling.  We checked and still continue to check her, seacocks, transducer, shaft and rudder stem are all dry.  YAY we have a floating boat.

To top it all of this evening Morgan wanted to connect the batteries for both the engine and generator and start them both up.  The generator had to be kicked over 2 times before it roared into life.  All systems checked…..all systems go. Next it was the engine and of cause first turn of the key and she came to life to.  Once again all systems checked and all systems go.   Its been a good day on the water and tonight we spend our first night aboard our home.

Cheryl & Morgan