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Latest Posts

  • West Highland Line

    The West Highland Line was voted the world’s best train journey by Wanderlust Magazine. ...

  • Glasgow

    Impressive Glasgow Cathedral is one of the few cathedrals in Scotland to survive the ...

  • Greenock Arrival

    We booked a berth at the James Watt Dock Marina in Greenock near Glasgow way back in February ...

  • Rathlin Island

    Rathlin Island is Northern Ireland’s only inhabited island and also is home to one of the ...

  • Causeway Coast

    Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland consists of over 40,000 hexagonal basalt stones that ...

  • Arranmore Island

    Our stop at Arranmore Island was as much to avoid an upcoming weather system as it was to tour ...

  • Donegal Bay

    The area around Donegal Bay has some of the most spectacular seascapes in Ireland, including ...

  • Rounding Erris Head

    The two-day run from the Aran Islands around Erris Head had an unusual diversity of sightings. ...

  • Inishmore Island

    Inishmore Island, in the Aran Islands near Galway, Ireland, has several attractions. By far the ...

  • Cliffs of Moher

    The spectacular Cliffs of Moher are one of Ireland’s most well-known features and popular ...

  • Valentia Island

    In 1866, the first transatlantic telegraph cable was completed between Newfoundland and ...

  • Cahersiveen

    16th-century Ballycarbery Castle is a modern structure compared to two other fortifications ...

  • Skellig Michael

    Skellig Michael is one of the most remarkable places we’ve ever visited. Sometime in the ...

  • Ballinskelligs

    Our day trip from Crookhaven Harbour to Ballinskelligs Bay took us past some dramatic coastal ...

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General questions & comments
  1. Stephen McDermott says:

    Just read through your stuff whilst on holiday here in Mallorca. My boat is moored at the marina in Greenock you visited and I was amused to see where you had sailed from.. Good luck sailing the dream !

  2. Jay Pulawski says:

    Hi James and Jennifer – love the site! Thanks for all you do. While you’re in Edinburgh, the National Library has a great photographic exhibit of Shackelton’s famous Antarctic expedition with original photo plates from Frank Hurley. Worth seeing if you have time!

    • Thanks for the tip Jay. Ages ago I read Caroline Alexander’s The Endurance, featuring Frank Hurley’s photographs of the expedition. The story itself is incredible and Hurley’s astonishing pictures really brought it to life.

    • Rob Heath says:

      Hi James & Jennifer, Looks like you are heading up the Sound of Mull, assuming you turn north at the end past Ardnamurchan point do try and have a look at the Small Isles ( Muck, Eigg, Rum, and Canna ) Canna in particular is stunningly beautiful with a good anchorage on a transit between the two churches. Looking SE from here you get a great view of Rum. Really enjoying reading about your adventures, as we cruised the west and north coast in 2014 & 2015.
      Hope you get good weather to enjoy to the max ( not great eat today I think ! )
      Regards
      Rob
      S/Y ‘Norman James’

      • Rob, thanks for the recommendation. We’re likely going to head southwest from Loch Spelve to Iona Island area, and then out to the south end of the Hebrides and work north from there, so we’ll miss the Small Isles. But if we do end up in that area, we’ll be sure to check them out.

        • bob hastie says:

          Hi folks
          Just passed you in Loch Spelve as I drove home, lovely looking boat.
          Enjoy your travels

          • It’s a nice area to call home Bob. We’re tucked away in here on 100 meters of anchor rode with enjoying watching the storm roll through. We saw winds to 38 kts last night. We’ll likely stay another day to let the low pressure system pass through and then head north. Thanks for saying hi.

  3. Timothy Daleo says:

    215 year old canal with 15 locks and 7 bridges in under 10 miles sounds awesome. You will be sitting close to the 2.2m limit? You get to do your locking? I cannot wait to see the video of this trip!

    • The speed limit is 4 kts rather than 4 km so it slow but not as bad as 2.2 MPH. Even the widest parts are pretty close so going 4 kts doesn’t really feel rediculously slow. Dirona runs 4 kts at about 1025 to 1050 RPM so we’re just loping along and enjoying the scenary.

      Yesterday we went through 4 locks with help on three of them. When operating alone with only the two of us, it’s busy. I keep the boat where it needs to be with the engine and thruster controls and adjust the lines and Jennifer closes gates, releases the water, and open the gates in front. Since all controls are hand driven and hand powered, it’s a bit of work. I walked up and opened the second set of lock gates while we were waiting in the first lock and the gates require a strong back to push open. When they get open at 8:30am this morning, we’ll get started on today’s adventure. Dirona feels quite big in here.

      • Timothy Daleo says:

        Sorry, I meant the draft limit of 2.2M. I know you are close and it is freshwater so Dirona sits a little lower.

        • Timothy Daleo says:

          I am a fan of the Broom river cruisers over there. Are there many in the canal?

          • The Canal isn’t that busy right now and most boats are sailing craft so we definitely haven’t seen that many Broom River boats. However, ,I’m not sure I know the distinguishing characteristics well enough to know when I have seen one :-).

        • Yes, 100%, the Canal is quite shallow. We often see depths in the 8′ range and occasionally in the 7′ range. We’re currently against the dock at the Crinan end so it appears we have managed to stay off the bottom for the entire trip but you are right, the Canal is not very deep.

      • Greg Moore says:

        Hi James and Jennifer!
        Fascinated looking at your canal transit. Looks like quite a challenge! I’m curious about how Dirona handles at 4 kts – do you feel like you have adequate steerage? It looks like the canal is not only narrow, but isn’t exactly straight. Are you having to use the thrusters? I don’t recall but do you need to run a generator full time to have hydraulics for the thrusters?

  4. Rod Sumner says:

    James and Jennifer:
    Just curious. Why did you name your cat Spitfire?

    • Good question on Spitfire. He was actually named by a Seattle Vet on his first visit. He was running around the examination room and, overall, massively energetic. The Vet commented “he’s a little Spitfire isn’t he?” The name stuck and 14 years later, he’s still a little Spitfire.

      • Jacques Vuye says:

        Ah! And I always thought it was because he was purring like a RR Merlin 16 cyl engine! 😉
        Beautiful cat, my 10 year old black female cat Mokka is a big Spitfire fan and follows his adventures attentively watching the screen on my lap!
        Her favorite picture is from Wellington NZ where spit was hoping to catch a seagull!

        • Spitfire definitely does purr up a storm. On catching Seagulls, he’s a bit optimistic. They are bigger and meaner than he is. And Spitfire carries 4 loud bells on his collar since our previous cat Gremlin did successfully catch a baby rabbit. We would really prefer that he let them live so the bell policy was put in place. Spitfire carries the bells due to behavior a generation before him.

  5. David Andrews says:

    Good to hear that the Rathlin island visit worked out OK for you. I believe you sail North next but if you can fit it in your itinerary I suggest you consider North Wales especially Snowdonia and the fine medieval castles there. Conwy castle (and its walled town) and Canaervon castle are well worth a visit. There are others too if you are gluttons for punishment, including Beaumaris and Harlech castles. The Portmeirion hotel, village and estate will probably be unlike anything else you have visited – it is south of the two castles. You would need to rent a car to get around the area.

    • You are right we are heading north from here to explore the west coast of Scotland and the Hebrides. We will head around Scotland to the north but will take the Caledonian Canal back to the Scottish west coast before we head back south. We plan to stop in the Isle of Man and Dublin and are still investigating other stops along the way. Thanks for passing along the tip Snowdonia and other possible stops.

      • David Andrews says:

        I forgot to add that the Ffestiniog light railway runs from Portmadoc (near Portmeirion) to an old slate mine. If you like trains I expect you will Welsh narrow guage railways. Worth checking out. Waterford, south of Dublin, might be worth checking out too.

  6. Timothy Daleo says:

    Did I miss the picture of you two standing in front of a East Hamilton Street sign?

  7. Michael & Frances, N40 Coracle says:

    Hello again – I am in the last stages of making an anchor buoy + trip line and realised that I haven’t noticed your “Wilson” (http://mvdirona.com/technicalarticles/WilsonAnchorBuoy.htm) in any recent pictures of Dirona at anchor. Have you stopped using an anchor buoy?
    Best wishes

    • We mostly use Wilson when anchoring in high anchor loss risk areas. These are area where logging or other activity has left spirals of steel cables or other debris on the bottom and snagging is a significant possibility. It’s also helpful in crowded anchorages to help others avoid tangling with your anchor and rode. Generally, we view an anchor buoy as a good idea but it’s more work to deploy so it’s a risk/benefit decision. For many years, especially when boating in British Columbia, we used it every time we anchored but, of late, we’ve been spoiled by locations where the risk of anchor loss is low.

  8. Euan Garden says:

    Quite the journey James, glad you got to visit Glencoe one of my top 2 or 3 places in Scotland. I seem to remember you posting that you had tickets to the Edinburgh Tattoo, hope you enjoy it I know of no other event like it and the setting is spectacular to say the least.

    • Hey Euan, your 100% right about the Edinburgh Tattoo. We just got back from a couple of days in Edinburgh. It’s a great city and the Tattoo was excellent. We had a really good time and stopped off at the Falkirk Wheel on the way back to our boat in Glasgow.

      • Karen says:

        We really enjoyed the Festivals last summer…I would go back in a minute, especially as we now have the hang of navigating and ticket buying.

        • Hey Karen. Edinburg was a ball. Massively busy but still lots of fun. We’re we to go there again with more time flexibility we would probably go less close to the center of the tourist season. But, in some ways, the massive crowds were part of the vibe. The combination of the Tattoo and the Festivals absolutely fills the city.

          We just did a few weeks back in Seattle and, this morning, got back underway in the boat for some time in the Crinan Canal, the Hebrides, the Orkney’s, and the Caledonian Canal.

  9. Peter Mathew Van Aardt says:

    Hi James,
    I’ve just been introduced to to your very informative Web site and have found it to be a wealth of information! Thanks you for all your hard work! I am about to purchase my first yacht, (either a Nordhavn 55 or a 60. Not quite sure which yet as I intend to do much of the same type of exploration you have. I in tend to first explore the Mediterranean and Black Sea before going down the East Africa coast then a cross to Madagascar from beira in Mozambique. After exploring Madagascar for a month or two I’ll be heading to Reunion then the reverse of your journey. Do you have any suggestions in terms of which yacht between the two 55 /60 (myself, my GF and for longer stretches 1 crew member) and particularly regarding the reverse journey from Reunion across that part of the ocean. I’ve been told it can be rather rough!
    Your advice would be much appreciated when you find some free time.
    Blessings!

    • Sounds like a really fun trip. As you know power boats can got whatever direction their owners wish. However, heading into weather can end up a bit slow, consumes more fuel, and the pitching can get annoying. With either boat you have the range to make the trip you describe but you might enjoying heading in the opposite direction.

      Another thing to keep in mind it’s a long way between South African and Australia with some real gems between but they are all a long way apart so you will end up with a lot consecutive sea miles on that trip. If you go through the Panama Canal and the South Pacific, you have a higher density of fun stops. But, one of best features of a small boat is you can do whatever you want and having covered much of the area you plan to cover, we know you will have fun on either possible routing.

      The 55 and the 60 are very similar boats coming out of the same molds. The 60 has a bit more waterline length, more storage in the Laz, more space on the boat deck, and a much larger cockpit. We love spending time outside in the cockpit so the space of the 60 is super attractive. If we were making the decision again today, we would likely go with the 60.

  10. Foster says:

    A little late, but the fender boards that are Schedule 80 pipe look great, I’m currently dragging around 2×12′ and they are a pain. But we have a favorite marina that they really help at.

    Can you post some more about the diameter, lengths, and if you stack 2 or 3 or how that works. I have a place to put them since they will be so much smaller.

    Thanks!

    • We are using 4″ diameter schedule 80 PVC. We have 4 each 5′ long. We store them standing up in the anchor locker strapped to the bulkhead. When we use them, we attach a fender line to the bottom of the fender, knot the line to hold the fender board in the middle of the fender and then feed the line through the top of the fender. This forms a integrated unit of two fenders with the fender board on the outside stretched between the the two fenders.

      • Foster says:

        Super, I wasn’t sure if you were trying to make wide ones to help with the load supports. In my case two 4″x5′ sections of pipe will be easy to store and deal with than my existing wood. Thanks for the tip!

  11. Hi Jennifer and James,
    I am following your blog form a while now and really appreciate your writing in full detail. Very interesting and also very helpfull!
    What I didn’t find and what would be a “need to know” thing for our future plans of boating is what costs with mooring you had cruising the world. At least in Europe’s hot spot harbours they are charging a lot for this size of a boat.
    An article about that would be great!
    Enjoy your time in Europe and greetings from Germany,
    René

    • Moorage ranges from incredibly cheap to super expensive. Sydney Australia over Christmas was $300/night before power. The busy season in Newport RI and Boston can run $5 to $6/ft. Florida was very inexpensive at just over $0.50/ft at the monthly rate. Off season rates are usually less and often negotiable.

  12. Steve Bruckner says:

    Good idea for the fender boards. Tried the same thing several years ago but found that a 52 ton trawler leaning up against them on a dock in a storm snapped them like tooth picks. Back to wooden boards – 2×6 size.

  13. Gary Reed says:

    Hi James &a Jennifer,

    Living vicariously through your travels as we await our trawler to be commissioned this September. Reviewing your most recent posts, we have two questions …

    1. Agree 100% with your Sch 80 PVC fender boards. Noted the holes. How have you configured? How do you deploy? I was thinking of short line simply looped around whip line on each fender but could not tell how you deployed on Dirona.

    2. Linda (wife) loves your cockpit table and chairs (Jennifer at lunch). Would you mind providing manufacturer?

    Thanks,
    Gary &a Linda
    M/V Unwinding

    • Gary & Linda,

      Congrats on your trawler purchase–hope all goes well with that.

      For the fender boards, we followed the design at “https://www.tropicalboating.com/2010/12/making-your-own-fender-boards-in-2-easy-steps”

      Our teak furniture is by Westminster teak. We stripped all the furniture and the caprail, sealed it with Mar-X-Ite, then applied Cetol Marine Light and Cetol Marine Gloss. This lasts a good two years, even in the tropical sun. See “http://mvdirona.com/Trips/southafrica2015/SouthAfrica3b.html?bleat=12%2F5%2F2015%3A+Sanding” and “http://mvdirona.com/Trips/NewZealand2013/Northland.html?bleat=12%2F9%2F2013%3A+Painting” for more info.

  14. Timothy Daleo says:

    Sitting out the storm has a silver lining in that it gives you time to see where leaks and puddles develop. Strainers, lines and grates are always fun to clean 🙂 It is always interesting to see what crap from the factory fell into the bilge and at some point years later has worked its way down to the pump intake. I hope the three of you are doing well and having some wonderful beverages while you clean!

    • It’s amazing how much debris is found when sloshing water around for a while in rough seas. Seeing that really emphasizes the importance of high volume pumps that can pump through a bit of debris. We just took delivery of 185 lbs of Amazon Prime so now have the parts we think we need for the new bilge pump installation. It’s a super tight location so it’ll be work to get it installed the way we want it but having the parts is step one.

      • Timothy Daleo says:

        We just replaced a bilge pump and a float switch and I did all the wiring before on the galley counter. I left a big service loop and then just tied it above so I only needed to make two connections in the hold. Your bilge pump wiring runs all the way to the bridge? Did I read that you moved another switch point to the engine room?

        Love me some Prime. I am amazed at how many of my boat parts I can get from Amazon. I hope they make a Marine category someday and move the parts out of sporting goods!

        • My plan is to do pretty much the same thing you did where I will wire up the pump and float switch and attach plumbing on the bench and then lower the assembly into the bilge and finish the install of the assembly. For bilge pump off/on detection and cycle counts, I’ll use the raspberry Pi that I installed some weeks back and there is a junction box near the bilge pump that leads back to the Pi.

  15. David Andrews says:

    Re America’s Cup the elimination rounds were, I thought, more interesting than the final itself with some close racing. The Red Bull series in 45 ft boats was also fun to watch, but that was regatta rather than match racing. Much of it is available on YouTube; the best was a very close race between NZ and Artemis when the lead changed hands some eight or nine times.

    NZ has just announced the first of the rules for the next series, to be held in Aukland. These include that each boat should be built in the country of each challenger (without defining what proportion – perhaps just the hull(s)), and that the crews should be citizens of the challenger. Apparently there was only one US citizen in the Oracle USA team! Other rules are expected to be announced in September.

    • It is true that Team Oracle is about as close as you can get to “Team Australia” given where many of the crew were born. But, as long as dual citizenship is allowed, team Oracle will be fine in the next America’s cup even with the proposed new rules.

      What would be really cool is if Australia fielded a team. It’s a country full of great sailors and it would really be good to see them with an America’s cup team. While New Zealand is working on changes, one that would be nice to see is annual racing. I’m OK with waiting 4 years between Olympic events but the America’s cup really needs to be run more frequently.

      • David Andrews says:

        Five of the competing teams in this year’s America’s cup had agreed a framework agreement for an event every two years with series events in between and the aim to reduce the cost per team to c$35-40 million. NZ did not sign up to this. As the winners they now call the shots; among other things saying the next event will be in 2021 (vs 2019 per the framework agreement). It remains to be seen what else they will specify and how many countries are likely to stick around to compete. It is evident, as the experience of the French and GB teams showed, that it is very difficult if not impossible to get up to speed in a single campaign.

        • I would have loved to see critical mass to have emerged behind this effort: “Five of the competing teams in this year’s America’s cup had agreed a framework agreement for an event every two years with series events in between and the aim to reduce the cost per team to c$35-40 million.”

          • David Andrews says:

            Yes, it looked as though it had the makings of a viable format both in design and presentation. Some, like Martin Whitmarsh (ex McClaren F1 MD and now MD of Land Rover BAR) made an explicit comparison with the way F1 motor racing operates in which the participating teams agree the basic specs and develop from there.

  16. Neil Russell says:

    Hi James, Welcome to the UK. Just a quick note that we are here to help with anything Nordhavn and or cruising related.
    My mobile number is: +44 (0)7793 582905.
    All very best

    Neil.

    • Thanks for the welcome comment Neil. We’re looking forward to exploring Scotland and we hope to be down in London early next year. Hope to meet up with you and the Nordhavn Europe team while we are in the area. All the best!

  17. Michael & Frances, N40 Coracle says:

    Re: Lifeboat

    I’m glad to see pictures of our lifeboats popping up here. Your are in Lifeboat Country while coastal cruising in the the UK, the Republic of Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man and you’ll see many RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) boats of all shapes and sizes providing cover right around our coasts. All crews and support staff are volunteers except that the big boats usually have a salaried full-time mechanic. The RNLI receives no government funding whatsoever – its money comes from members (including Frances and me!) and legacies. And they don’t charge for salvage. If they tow you to safety it’s all part of the free service. I know this sounds like an advertisement, but we absolutely love our RNLI. Frances’s son in law and his father were lifeboat crew members at Rosslare.

    • Michael & Frances, thanks for the background information on the RNLI service. Impressive that it can all be volunteer and self-funded–those are really nice boats. Its a beautiful coastline but the weather is far from forgiving. Life saving services are important world-wide but particularly important in this area.

  18. Colin J Ely says:

    What was your impression of St Helena in the South Atlantic? It is on my bucket list. Hopefully will get there before RMS St Helena is taken out of service?
    Cheers
    Colin J Ely
    Melbourne, Australia

    • Better hurry Colin. The RMS St. Helena was due to be out of service and scrapped prior to now. It’s life is temporarily extended by the the wind sheer problems at the new airport that was intended to replace the mail ship. I find it hard to believe that they can’t ever use the airport — I could see some conditions being insufficiently safe but last reports has the airport not being used under any conditions. I suspect it will go into at least limited use in the near future and the RMS St. Helena will be taken out of use.

      We really enjoyed St. Helena. Walked everywhere we could get to (http://mvdirona.com/cache/TravelDigests/Trips/atlanticocean2016/atlanticocean2_TravelDigest.html) and then scheduled a tour with No Limits Travel and Tours (http://islandimages.co.sh/our-tours/) to get to the rest of the island that we hadn’t yet seen. We enjoyed our visit.

  19. David Andrews says:

    As you like bird watching, you may wish to include Rathlin Island on your itinerary (if it is not already on it). It is a special conservation area and home to thousands of sea birds including common guillemots, kittiwakes, puffins and razor bills. You will need your bicycles to get around or hire a local minibus – it is about 8 miles long in the shape of a boot, off the NE corner. It is just off Northern Ireland. The Giants Causeway is not too far away (on the main island) and it too is well worth a visit.

    • Hi David. Thanks for the travel advice. We did visit Giants Causeway yesterday and had an amazing visit. We also got to Dunluce Castle, Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, and the Grianan of Aileach fort. Today we are picking up a load of fuel at 9:30 and we’ll plan to get underway as soon as we have enough water to float Dirona at the marina entrance. We have been talking to the Marina at Rathlin Island and will stop there if schedules line up and they have a spot for us. Thanks for sending along the travel tips.

      • David Andrews says:

        While travelling around the British Isles you might find it useful to download the Met Office app onto your phone. This will give you useful local weather forecasts, including rainfall, surface pressure and weather warning alerts. I have found it very accurate, especially in predicting when rain will arrive. The latest version has a nice feature which gives an hourly prediction for the area you select on the map, zooming in or out.

        PS I hope Rathlin Is lives up to its billing!

  20. Jamie says:

    You are really spoiling us with amazing pics and now drone video! Ireland looks so beautiful, I had no idea. I for one am inspired to work harder today to get ‘out there’ one day, even if on a smaller scale!

    • You are 100% right Jamie. Ireland is a world class cruising destination and very much worth a visit even without a boat.

      • Robin Black says:

        James, welcome to the wild west!
        Hopefully, the weather in Donegal is being kind to you so you can make the most of these long summer nights. I spotted your boat in Baltimore and we seem to have managed to find our way into one of your photographs. We live in Ireland and love both Cork and Donegal, last year we spent some time on Friday Harbour WA and felt very at home so I am sure you are settling in well. West is best!
        Thanks for the blog, you have gained another avid follower.

        Safe travels
        Robin

        ps the gate code was 1234 going in and coming out !

        • Hey Robin thanks for the comment. We used to visit Friday Harbor frequently and loved boating in the San Juan islands and north into British Columbia’s Gulf Islands. We even wrote a cruising guide on the less traveled areas of western BC: http://mvdirona.com/WaggonerSecretCoast/.

          We are loving Ireland and especially the Wild Atlantic Way. Incredible views, great walks, great biking, lots of history, and a pub to visit in even the smallest towns. We are really enjoying the boating here. The west coast of Ireland is a world class destination.

          P.S. Both Jennifer and I tried various combinations of 1234 with reset before, not before, etc. and climbing the fence ended up being the more expedient solution 🙂

          • Robin Black says:

            Hi James
            So Sorry we can’t fix the weather for you guys, but this summer is turning out like most here in the Uk and Ireland. I am following your blog with interest and you are about to enter into a fantastic cruising area when you leave Crinan. One spot I can highly recommend as an anchorage as you head north is Plockton, stunning views and very good food ashore in several pubs. There are so many bays and anchorages to be explored but not all have pubs with good food within dinghy distance!
            Hope the weather improves soon, thanks for the wonderful resource.
            Robin

            • It’s true that it has rained most days but it’s usually short and it’s actually been sunny most days as well. On some days it might alternate back and forth multiple times. We got a bit unlucky in that the day where we did most of the locks through the canal was solid rain the entire day ranging from a light sprinkle to a torrential down pour. Even in the pouring rain we still had fun working the locks. We won’t have gotten as many pictures that really do justice to the incredible beauty of the Crinan Canal but I’ll bet we still got a few good ones.

              In fact the wind and rain may have made some aspects of the trip more interesting. We haven’t looked at the video we recorded yet but I’ll bet the two of maneuvering the boat and operating the locks in the pouring rain in winds as strong as 30 kts probably is interesting and potentially more interesting for the wind and rain. It turns out operating the manual locks with a two person crew is a busy operation.

              We would have preferred a sunny but we ended up at a tiny secluded dock along the side of one of the most beautiful parts of the Canal and some friends came by to welcome us to Scotland. We ended up having an incredibly fun day and really enjoyed the canal.

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