Return to US

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Following METS, we spent a relatively quiet week in Amsterdam, completing a few boat projects and hosting some visitors. In early December, we returned to the US for a couple of weeks where James spent a week at the AWS re:Invent conference in Las Vegas and a couple of days at the AWS data centers on the east coast. On the weekends surrounding those two stops, we attended an NFL game in Miami, toured the Metal Shark Boats shipyards in Louisiana and Alabama, and visited the National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC.

Below are highlights from November 22nd through December 22nd, 2019. Click any image for a larger view, or click the position to view the location on a map. And a live map of our current route and most recent log entries always is available at

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Rob Westermann and Janet Sijperda departing City Marina for Harlingen on Artnautica 58 Britt. Dirona is partially visible at the left end of the Palais de Justice (the large white building). Click image for a larger view.
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Victron MK3
James investigating the Victron VE.Bus interface. We’re interested in being able to remotely power on and off the Victron 240V inverter.
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Proportional Control
Today we attempted to callibrate the proportional control on our Kar-Tech, but couldn’t get it working. So we tried callibrating the wired Steelhead pendant as a test of the proportional system. That didn’t work either. (Proportional control adjusts the speed of response based on how much the trigger on the remote is pulled.)
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Proportional Valve
Since we couldn’t callibrate the proportional control on either remote, we suspected a problem with the proportional valve. Here James is wedged in at the starboard forward corner of the lazarette, behind the hydraulics reservoir (left) and the freezer (right) to replace the valve with a spare.
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Kar-Tech Remote
In the end, the proportional valve was fine, we just weren’t understanding the Kar-Tech callibration instructions. We finally were able to successfully calibrate the proportional control on the remote and have documented clearer instructions at Kar-Tech Mini Guider Proportional Calibration.
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Soul Train
City Marina is a tight squeeze for a big catamaran like Soul Train. But in this case, the boat was too wide to fit between the piers.
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Adjusting Docks
The harbourmaster at City Marina in Amsterdam is an expert at fitting boats in. When Soul Train couldn’t fit into the slip, he brought someone down with a large wrench to detach the side dock and slide it over to make space. Problem solved.
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Inverter Control Switch
As part of our project to remotely control the Victron 240V inverter, we investigated a mechanical control via the remote panel in the pilot house. Here we are able to turn the inverter on and off by directly driving the remote panel circuit board. We also were able to get status information and turn the inverter off and on by programming directly against the Victron VE.Bus interface.
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The Chicken Club
Delicious rotisserie chicken at The Chicken Club in Amsterdam’s Rokin district, a one-stop train ride from Amsterdam Centraal Station.
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Looking south along narrow Voetboogstraat, where we had dinner at The Chicken Club, towards the brightly-lit atrium of the shopping mall The Kalvertoren. When we walked through there last year, the Volkswagen Beetle Sphere sculpture by Japanese artist Ichwan Noor caught our attention.
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Winter decorations along the shopping street Kalvertstraat.
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We love how so many Amsterdam streets have their own unique winter light displays. This is looking north along Rokin. The sign for the Rokin metro station for our train home is visible on the right.
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Windshield Wipers
On investigating a windshield wiper problem, the wiper arm literally fell apart in our hands due to corrosion. We’re now in the market for four Exalto EX2108 adjustable length pantograph wiper arms. It’s always fun to search for ten-year-old boat parts.
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A great meal of Scampi and Bolognese over a bottle of Chianti at Toscano on Haarlemmerdijk.
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Mark Mohler
Lunch at Harlem Soul Food on Haarlemmerdijk with Mark Mohler of Nordhavn 62 Gray Matter. We last saw Mark two years ago in San Francisco and it was great to see him again and catch up.
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Mark, Caren & Alan
At City Marina in Amsterdam with, from left, Mark Mohler of Nordhavn 62 Gray Matter and Alan Hannebauer and Caren Holtby of Nordhavn 57 ‘r Tidewalker, based in Sydney, British Columbia. Alan and Caren were passing through on their way to Berlin and stopped by to meet on Dirona. We enjoyed meeting them and had a great time talking boats, travels, and Canadian trivia.
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Christine and Mark
An excellent meal in great company at Mojo Japanese Kitchen overlooking the Amsterdam canals. With us are Christine Guo and Mark Mohler of Nordhavn 62 Gray Matter who are visiting from Paris. We were first moored next to Gray Matter in the San Juan Islands in 2011 and last moored adjacent in Brisbane in 2014. We’ve visited with Mark since then, but haven’t seen Christine since 2015.

Since we left Seattle, Mark and Christine have taken Gray Matter from San Francisco across the Pacific to live in Brisbane for several years. Last year they moved back to the US and are based in Boston with Gray Matter moored at Charlestown Marina in Boston where Dirona was in the summer of 2016.

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Het Catshuys
Spitfire checking out his new digs at the Het Catshuys, where he’ll be staying for a couple of weeks while we make a trip to the US.
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Stadium Hotel
The view north over the pool from our room at the Stadium Hotel in Miami. We stopped here for a couple of nights en route to Las Vegas to catch a Miami Dolphins NFL football game.
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Miami Dolphins
A great time watching the Miami Dolphins take on the Philadelphia Eagles. The Dolphins haven’t been playing so well this year, so we weren’t expecting much of a game. But the Dolphins won in a very closely-fought match.
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Peter DeSantis
Peter DeSantis, VP of AWS Global Infrastructure and Customer Support Vice President, on-stage in Las Vegas for Monday Night Live, the first keynote of re:Invent 2019. It was an excellent presentation focused on the infrastructure that forms the foundation for all of AWS. Peter’s talk is at Monday Night Live with Peter DeSantis.
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Cris Collinsworth
Monday Night Live had a slight football theme this year, with Peter DeSantis wearing a Seattle Seahawks shirt and having an opening skit where Peter was a little disappointed that his talk was during the Seattle Seahawks Monday Night Football game. Throughout the talk, notable football commentator Cris Collinsworth, who is also an AWS customer, provided “play-by-play”.
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Andy Jassy
Andy Jassy, CEO of Amazon Web Services, on the stage during his keynote at re:Invent 2019 in Las Vegas. The conference drew an astonishing 65,000 attendees this year. Andy’s talk was, as always, incredibly action-packed, going through the most important of the new AWS products and services. Andy’s talk is at AWS re:Invent 2019 – Keynote with Andy Jassy.
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re:Invent House Band
The re:Invent House Band playing as part of Andy Jassy’s keynote at re:Invent 2019.
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Thursday night at the re:Invent after-party re:Play at the Las Vegas fairgrounds. It wasn’t warm, but it was fun to move between the three live stages where bands were playing throuhgout the evening.
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Jamestown Revival
Texas-based Jamestown Revival entertaining the crowd at re:Play 2019, the re:Invent after-party.
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American singer-songwriter Beck on stage at Intersect, an AWS-hosted musical festival held over the weekend at the same venue as re:Play.
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Intel Drone Show
A jellyfish drawn in the sky during the fabulous Intel Drone Light show at Intersect. The technology behind the show is quite impressive—we were lucky to be able to see the purpose-built drones and speak with the pilot and show designer. It’s an innovative approach, where 500 independent drones execute a choreographed display forming and reforming shapes like the jellyfish pictured and a gigantic Intel emblem. In the normal case, the pilot actually doesn’t do anything during the show and is just there as a range safety officer so that if something goes wrong, the faulty systems can be safely downed.
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Metal Shark Jeanerette
With our friend, Metal Shark Boats President Chris Allard, on a tour of their Jeanerette, Louisiana boat yard. If you have ever been just a bit too close to a high-value US Navy facility or in areas protected and patrolled by the US Coast Guard, there is a very good chance you will have seen a Metal Shark Boat at speed. These boats are used in coastal patrol missions in Navys, Coast Guards and law enforcement organizations world-wide.

When we visited nearly four years ago, the Jeanerette yard was in the process of completing a US Coast Guard order for 477 next-generation Response Boat—Small (RBS), one of the largest buys of its kind in the history of the USCG. They’ve long-ago delivered all boats in that contract, but still are building many a year for deliveries around the world. Metal Shark is becoming more well-known outside of military and law-enforcement as one of the primary suppliers for the New York City ferry system where they have delivered 150-passenger, 85-foot and 350-passenger, 97-foot high-speed catamarans.

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Metal Shark Franklin
At the Metal Shark shipyard in Franklin, Louisiana. This yard went operational in the summer of 2014. Unlike the original yard in Jeanerette, this one is on the water with direct access to the Gulf of Mexico. This allows them to build boats bigger than can efficiently be moved on public roadways. Metal Shark is one of the primary suppliers for the New York City ferry system where they have delivered 150-passenger, 85-foot and 350-passenger, 97-foot high-speed catamarans.
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The machinery room inside one hull of an aluminum catamaran that Metal Shark is building at the Franklin yard for a private owner. Most catamaran hulls we’ve seen can barely hold an engine—this one can hold most of Dirona.
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Metal Shark Alabama
In June of 2018, Metal Shark acquired a 35-acre shipyard north of Mobile, Alabama and is currently constructing three steel 120ft x 35ft river towboats for Florida Marine Transporters. Two of the builds are visible in the foreground.
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600 MT
The massive 600-tonne Travel Lift at Metal Shark Alabama.
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Washington, DC was the last stop on our whirlwind US trip through Miami, Las Vegas, Lafayette and Mobile. Here James was attending work meetings and a friend had accepted some packages for us that we’ll bring back in our luggage. It looks like a lot to bring back, but not as bad as our summer trips to Seattle.
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It usually seems almost impossible that we’ll fit all our packages into our luggage, but the volume always decreases substantially when we upack the boxes. Here’s our three large suitcases, plus a rolling carry-on for valuables or other items we don’t want to check.
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National Air and Space Museum
Before an early evening flight out of Washington to Amsterdam, we visited the National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. Featured are an SR-71 Blackbird (pictured in foreground), the Space Shuttle Discovery (visible in background), a Concorde, the B-29 Superfortress bomber Enola Gay (delivered first atomic bomb), and an F-14 Tomcat.
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Back on Dirona
All our luggage made it back to Dirona with us. Time to unpack.
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One of the items we brought back with us from the US was a new UPS, an APC BE850M2 to protect the nav computer from power loss and voltage surges. The old one, a ten-year-old APC Back-UPS ES 750, had suddenly dropped the load this August, bringing down the computer and corrupting our on-board telemetry database. We replaced it with a previously-used spare (also ten years old). The replacement unit had a weak battery, but was functional. We could replace the battery, but decided to replace the entire UPS, since it’s a critical component and was getting old.

Fortunately the APC UPS Daemon software we use to gather telemetry on the device was compatible with the new UPS, so the main work was just digging out the old one and replacing it with the new one.

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Removing Built-In Vacuum
One of the options we’d selected when purchasing Dirona was the standard built-in vacuum, a Nu-Tone CV350, installed port-side in the lazarette. But we haven’t been very happy with it—the air-driven power head frequently rusted up or seized and we were constantly messing with it.

This July in Stockholm we bought back from the US a Shark Navigator upright vacuum as a test and have been super-impressed with the amount of dirt and dust it continually pulls up each time we vacuum. We brought a spare Shark Navigator back with us from the latest US trip, so it’s now time to remove the “backup” Nu-Tone vacuum and free up the space for storage.

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It’s a bit unusual to have both a spare vacuum and a spare power-washer. But both are important to us and we can’t buy 120V, 60Hz appliances in most of the places where we spend time. In the space left by removing the built-in vacuum, we were able to store the spare power-washer and vacuum that we brought back on our recent trip to the US.
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James replaced two daisy-chained Ethernet switches with a single, 16-port all-POE switch (a NETGEAR GS116LP) that we brought back with us from the US. As always, Spitfire is interested in the new configuration.
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240V Inverter Control
A few weeks back we investigated ways to remotely control the Victron 240V inverter. Today we added a relay to drive the remote panel circuit board and updated our control system software to turn the inverter on and off. The inverter draws 40 watts when idle with no load, so one application of this feature is to turn the inverter off when it’s not in use.
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Happy Holidays
Wishing you all a Happy Holidays and best wishes for the New Year from City Marina IJDok in Amsterdam.
Show locations on map Click the travel log icon on the left to see these locations on a map, with the complete log of our cruise.

On the map page, clicking on a camera or text icon will display a picture and/or log entry for that location, and clicking on the smaller icons along the route will display latitude, longitude and other navigation data for that location. And a live map of our current route and most recent log entries always is available at


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2 comments on “Return to US
  1. Wyatt says:

    Re: your windshield wiper problem – I had similar challenges sourcing arms for my boat and AM equipment ( was able to help me out with arms, blades, and even a new motor. They can fabricate most to spec.

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