Charleston Arrival

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Photo courtesy Pierce and Janet Guyer

We completed the final leg of our passage from Horta to Charleston in the same conditions as we started, with light winds, calm seas and great speed. In the middle, we had two weather systems to contend with, including the first named storm of the year, tropical storm Ana. With the storms behind us, the last week at sea was enjoyable and uneventful from a weather perspective, but we did discover a problem with our main engine accessory drive belt. This required stopping the main engine and running on the wing engine briefly to replace the drive belt.

Ship traffic slowly picked up as we approached the US, and we heard our first US Coast Guard radio transmission in four years when still 300 miles out. We cleared through underway via the US Customs mobile app and were able to get our first COVID-19 vaccinations within two hours of landing. We also took Spitfire to the vet for a thorough examination, and took delivery of dozens of Amazon packages. It’s great to be home.

At 2,933 nautical miles, this was our third-longest passage (compared to 3,689 nm from St. Helena to Barbados and 3,023 nm from Australia to Mauritius). We’d routed the passage to run south of the near-steady procession of intense low pressure systems flowing eastward from the US Atlantic coast. This strategy had been successful in keeping us out of dangerous weather, but did add hundreds of miles to the trip compared to a direct run.

The summary data for the passage from Horta to Charleston is:

  • Fuel consumed: 2,519 gallons (9,535 liters)
  • Fuel left on arrival: 178 gallons (674 liters)
  • Total distance: 2,933 nm
  • Overall fuel economy: 1.16 nm/g (0.31 nm/l)
  • Overall speed: 6.35 kts
  • Total travel time: 19 days, 5 hours
  • Fuel rate: 5.45 gal/hour (20.65 l/hour)
  • Average RPM: 1718

We arrived into Charleston almost a month to the day after departing Dublin. The overall statistics for the entire Atlantic crossing, from Dublin to Charleston with a two-day stop in Horta, are:

  • Fuel consumed: 3,670 gallons (13,892) liters)
  • Total distance: 4,263 nm
  • Overall fuel economy: 1.16 nm/gal (0.31 nm/l)
  • Overall speed: 6.54 kts
  • Total travel time: 27 days, 4 hours
  • Fuel rate: 5.36 gal/hour (21.31 l/hour)
  • Average RPM: 1723

Below are highlights from May 23rd through 27th, 2021. 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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700 Miles
We’re only 700 miles out of Charleston now, and should be there in four days.
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Storm Ana
Subtropical storm Ana, the first named storm of the season, to our northeast near Bermuda. We’re really glad to have put several hundred miles between us and that system. We figure it cost upwards of 200 additional miles, but from the size of that storm, worth every one of them.
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7.7 Knots
Our speed has been as low as 5.5 knots in the past 12 hours, but we’re currently humming along at 7.7 knots with a fuel economy of 1.13 nm/gallon. The winds are less than 5 knots and our pitch and roll is a comfortable 5.8° and 6.1° respectively.
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Grapefruit with our breakfast this morning.
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City of Hamburg
The cargo ship City of Hamburg, en route to Hamburg, Germany.
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Sunset on our 16th day out of Horta.
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8 Knots
We’re now up to 8 knots. If we can maintain this, we’ll arrive in three days (but there’s absolutely no way we will maintain 8 knots.)
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500 Miles
Only 500 miles to Charleston. We’re getting close.
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We’re seeing some really beautiful sunrises and sunsets on this trip.
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Gas Can
We’ve not seen much of anything in the water on this run, but did see a gas can today.
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400 Miles
Only 400 miles left to to reach Charleston. Conditions are good and we’re comfortable, but we’re looking forward to getting in.
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USCG Radio
Amazingly, we’re picking up US Coast Guard radio broadcasts more than 300 miles out of Charleston.
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Spring Hawk
A sudden flurry of traffic with the cargo ship Spring Hawk overtaking us from astern en route to Wilmington (bottom target), the tanker Morning Glory passing astern en route to Houston from Antwerp (top target), and the 62-ft (19m) sailing yacht Shaima en route north from the Bahamas.
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JS Ineos Insight
Our next traffic sighting was also a multi-ship one, this time with two large ships passing on front and behind. The tankers JS Ineos Insight heading to Houston, TX and Yasa Golden Marmara en route to Galveston, TX.
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5.8 Knots
Conditions are excellent, but we’re making only 5.8 knots at 1634 RPM with a fuel economy of 1.10 nm/g, which is far below what the boat normally gets.
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8.2 Knots
Conditions certainly are variable. Seven hours ago we making only 5.8 knots with a fuel economy of 1.1 nm/g, now we are doing 8.2 knots at 1895 RPM with an even better fuel economy of 1.18 nm/g, but still far below what the boat normally gets.
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Wonderfully calm conditions about 225 miles out of Charleston at 1am, with less than 5 knots of wind.
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8.5 knots
Conditions remain excellent with only 2 knots of wind (well, excellent if you’re passagemaking in a power boat :-)) and clear skies. We’re making 8.5 knots at 1.19nm/gallon and expect to arrive tomorrow morning.
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Under 200 miles
We’re less than 200 miles from Charleston now. It’s exciting to see the US coast so close on the chart.
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Supermoon setting over ulitersa calm seas.
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Deadline Mode
Now that we’re a day out of Charleston, we’ve set our “drive to lights” system into deadline mode to arrive at the marina at 8am. Instead of indicating we should speed up or slow down based on a fuel economy goal, the system now guides us to arrive on at 8am.
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Another fabulous Atlantic sunrise.
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The last of our celery with shrimp salad pita pockets for lunch today. It’s amazingly fresh for being purchased in Dublin five weeks ago.
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Hidden Failure
In a great example of one failure hiding another, we both noticed some black dust around the front of the engine and both assumed it was due to the exhaust leak. But when bigger pieces such as the long narrow one roughly at center started showing up, we noticed it, picked it up, and found that it was rubber rather than soot. If it weren’t for that larger piece, we might not have noticed. The rubber is obviously from the main engine accessory drive belt.
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Running on Wing
To check on the main engine accessory drive belt, we need to stop the main engine and run on the wing. With only had 20 hours of run time left to reach Charleston, it would be easy to just hope that the belt could hang on that long and not go to work on the 180°F main engine in the 117°F engine room. But if the belt breaks, coolant stops flowing and the engine overheats very quickly and it’s possible to do serious damage before an operator acts on it because it happens so quickly. So we started up the wing and shut down the main to investigate. The wing tachometer is visible, showing 2342 RPM, below the main engine tachometer.
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Belt Separating
It’s a good thing we did check on main engine accessory drive belt condition. It was in rough shape.
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Belt from Top
Another view to the main engine belt from the top. It’s in astoundingly poor shape. None of the idlers appear to have bearing problems, but there’s no way a belt this new should fail. We only have a used belt in stock, since we just changed this one. We’ve got a couple of more belts on order, but we need to investigate what caused this failure in more detail. It’s possible that a new belt stored 12 years could break down, so it’s conceivable that its just a belt failure, but we won’t conclude that until we check everything else carefully.
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Used Belt
We don’t have a new belt in stock, so we put the best used belt back on. It’s in very good condition and should last well. We’ll watch closely to see if there’s any signs of wear, and we’ve got a couple of belts on order. Once we get those, we’ll put a new belt on and very carefully check for any sources of problems.
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Spare Cat
We found another “spare cat” underneath the master stateroom berth where we stow the spare main engine accessory drive belts.
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Gulf Stream
About to cross the Gulf Stream on our final night before arriving into Charleston. All the PredictWind-recommended tracks angle slightly north of the direct path as we cross the current.
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A US Navy Spearhead-class high-speed catamaran heading south at speed against the Gulf Stream. Most boats would run outside the main stream, but they’re not paying the fuel bill, so 17-knots upstream it is :-).
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Grey Water Sensor
Our grey water tank sensor was tangled in hair and not reading properly. We cleaned it up and it’s now functioning properly again. The grey water sensor seems to hang up every 4-6 months.
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100 Miles
We just crossed under 100 miles left to go and are seeing lot of traffic, likely fishing boats.
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Dirona’s water maker is equipped with a media filter (essentially a small sand filter similar to those used for swimming pools) prior to the pre-filter. This has the upside of allowing our media filters to last an entire year, and we just have to backflush the media filter every couple of months. It’s due today and so it’s being back-flushed overboard. the slight color visible in the water means it’s not quite clean yet.
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A spectacular sunset on our final night at sea.
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3.7 Knots
We initially were doing over 7 knots as we entered the Gulf Stream, but now have slowed to a crawl at 3.7 knots. Fighting the Gulf Stream is slow work.
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X-Press Anglesey
The cargo ship heading towards us from Charleston with the container ship Santa Loretta approaching from the north.
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Q Flag
Raising our Q flag as we approach the US coast to indicate we require clearance. This is the first time since 2016 that we’ve raised a Q flag without another country’s flag as well.
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7.9 Knots
Our speed picked back up once we escaped the Gulf Stream and we’re now doing 7.9 knots in the flood current.
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Reporting our arrival through ROAM (Reporting Offsite Arrival—Mobile), the US Customs and Border Patrol reporting app.
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Conversing with the skipper of another pleasure craft who radioed to welcome us home.
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Clearing Through
Normally US Customs would clear us through via a video conference using the ROAM app, but it wasn’t fully functioning that day. They instead interviewed us by phone and we’re now cleared in.
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Empty Fridge
A very empty fridge, especially compared to how full it was when we departed Dublin a month earlier.
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Charleston pilot boat heading to sea. We’re seeing a ton of traffic now, mostly pleasure craft, as we near Charleston.
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Fort Sumter
Flag-raising at Fort Sumter, where in 1861 confederate soldiers fired the first shots of the American Civil War on the Union-held fort and captured it the next day.
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Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge
The cable-stayed towers of the the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge. The bridge opened in 2005 and at 1,546 feet (471 m) is the third longest cable-stayed bridge in the Western Hemisphere.
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Safe Harbor Charleston
Approaching the Safe Harbor Charleston marina, our home for the next few weeks.
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Back in US
We’re definitely back in the US—nowhere else in the world have we seen center-consoles with such massive horsepower. This boat has 3,135 HP from its 5 V8 engines.
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Getting our first COVID-19 vaccinations within 2 hours of landing. It’s great to have that process finally underway.
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Spitfire having his blood pressure checked at Charleston Harbor Veterinarians via a cuff on his tail. He’s been having trouble with his hind legs collapsing, so we took him in for a full examination and bloodwork. We suspected possible low potassium levels, a common problem for cats with kidney disease, but all his blood readings were close to normal. He’s still playful, and gets around fine, but he’s getting a lot more cautious since sometimes his legs let go.
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Wortham House
Passing the garden at Wortham House on our way back from the vet. The striking property is listed in the Garden Conservatory of America’s top 50 American Gardens.
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Flying Fish
We found one more flying fish in the cockpit as we set out the table.
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Amazon Packages
We had a lot of Amazon packages waiting for us at Safe Harbour Charleston. Here we are returning to Dirona with our first load.
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Second Load
Our second load of Amazon packages.
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Last Load
The final load of packages for the day. We’ve got lots more coming over the next few days though. It’s great to be back in the land of 2-day and overnight shipping.
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Enjoying our first evening back in the US at Charleston after a big day of clearing through, getting vaccinated, taking Spitfire to the vet and unpacking dozens of Amazon boxes. Picture courtesy of Nordhavn 41-11 owners Pierce and Janet Guyer, who stopped by to welcome us home.
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US Sunset
Dirona‘s first sunset in the US since departing Newport in May of 2017.
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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32 comments on “Charleston Arrival
  1. Jeff Frick says:

    James and Jennifer,
    Welcome back to Charleston.
    Sounds like a few bumps along the way, but nothing you weren’t prepared for. Always amazed by the constant care needed even in the most well maintained state

    • Thanks Jeff. It’s great to be back. I’ve not been in Seattle for the 16 months so we’ll spend a couple of months there over the remainder of the year. We’re looking forward to being back in Seattle as well.

  2. Henry says:

    Spitfire loves his new bed but would have preferred the box it came in.

  3. Welcome home Jennifer, James and Spitfire! Good to see you are healthy, been vaccinated ánd got the check-up from the vet!
    I’ve enjoyed the boardings of Spitfire in the cathotel! Give him a big hug from me! ?

    • Wonderful to hear from you Monique–we sure miss the excellent care Spitfire had with you at Het Catshuys. We wish we were still in the Amsterdam area. Any interest in moving to Seattle? It’s quite nice, and we could really use your help there. :-)

      Jennifer, James, and Spitfire

      • jan-kees says:

        Monique, if you go to Seattle, I’ll throw in free use of our boarding and medical practice management system for veterinarians, hosted on Amazon AWS. NO I am NOT mentioning our name here, since this is not an advertising medium.

  4. Dean Russell says:

    Welcome Home, Long time follower.
    I was wondering about the amount of fuel you had on arrival. How close was that to your estimate.
    When you got close to the coast, is there a tendency to speed up, consume more fuel because you know you are going to make it, or rather a slow down or steady due to desire for the trip not to end.

    • Our arrivals will just about always be exactly as aimed for since it’s all monitored automatically but, your right, there is a human tendency to consume more when close. In this case we were aiming for 200 gallons of reserve fuel but when working across the Gulf Stream in 20 kts of wind it was fairly rough and very slow going so we ran at full speed through the final segment to get back on schedule since we had appointments that day for vaccinations and a Veterinarian visit. As a consequence of pushing a bit harder for the last 12 hours, we arrived in with 178 gallons (

  5. Per-Ola says:

    Welcome back!
    As always, amazingly interesting to read and follow the adventures of Dirona, Spitfire and the two of you.

    Any plans to come back to Seattle in the near?

    And as a Seattle Swede, I’m of course curious to hear if you ever got a chance to try this ( when you were back in in my native waters two summers ago?
    (I totally forgot to ask back then)

    • Thanks for the welcome home. The boat will be staying on the East Coast but we will be back in Seattle in July for a month. We did considerable boating in the Stockholm Archipelago. We never tied off as the local do but we can confirm it is common.

      We were planning to spend the summer in Sweden and Finland this year but as we neared from Norway, the border to Sweden was closed to non-essential traffic so that trip will have to happen at another time.

      • Per-Ola says:

        Well, you did select wisely, as Sweden last week (5/28) decided to keep the borders closed for people from outside EU/EES until at least August 31st.
        Plus we got to read about yet another Atlantic Crossing (and not the Norwegian CrownPrincess’ – reference to a great series on PBS).

        Knowing you’ll be more than busy back in Seattle, but if you have time for a coffee meet while here, I’m all game (I’m in Kirkland but of course mobile)

  6. Adam Jacob says:

    Welcome home!

  7. Luc van Herle says:

    Welcome back to the US. I have been following you on YouTube for quite some time. I love how methodically you approach problem solving. Watching you replace the generator was like watching master class. Always fun to see Spitfire coming to inspect and supervise your work. I know you prepare to the n th degree for these things, but you sure make ocean crossing seem routine.
    Welcome home!
    Amazon is glad you are home as well.

  8. Michael Crofts says:

    Concerning the serpentine belt failure, I dislike the belt covers on our LP668D engine because I cannot inspect the serpentine belt in any meaningful way. Have you ever thought about having perspex covers, or even perspex windows in the solid covers?

    • Hi Michael. I find with a flashlight, I can see in through the front grating to inspect the belt fairly effectively with the current covers. That’s how I saw this fault. Annually I remove the covers, remove the belt, inspect it carefully, and then inspect each idler, tensioner, and accessory for noisy or loose bearings. Seen in this video:

      Since I believe that the cover have to come off at least annually for full inspection and I can see through the front fairly well for between major inspections, I’ve not considered creating windows or moving to a clear cover. There is no question that a lighter and easier to handle cover would be nice.

  9. Erik says:

    Thank you very much for sharing your travels and stories. It is really great reading about your Atlantic crossing just like the other passages with Dirona. The technical bits and all the things you encounter when planning and making such trips are very valuable. With the belt failure that you had the other day; does it take long before things have cooled down enough on the main engine to replace the belt? I guess for the tension it is also important that it is mounted when the engine is cold. Thanks again for the great reports. Regards from Amsterdam

    • I didn’t wait for the engine to cool down and changed the belt immediately and, yes, the engine is really hot. I have a set of thick leather gloves that slow me down a bit by limiting dexterity but it does allow me to work on a hot engine. Unlike V-belt designs with fixed tension that is set by moving the alternator or some other accessory, serpentine belts (flat belts with longitudinal grooves) usually have spring loaded idler pulleys which require no adjustment. With these idler’s, you can just engage a wrench in the tensioner, pull it back, and lower it back down on the belt and the tension is set and correct.

      In this particular case, the belt is changed and the covers are all back on in 10 to 15 min, so the engine has barely cooled at all during the job and only needs to be off for 15 min.

  10. Alexander says:

    Hello and Welcome to the US!

    I have been reading and following you guys for many years. Thank you for all of your time, effort, patience, and guidance during your passages, it has been a game-changer for me truly understanding the world travel on a Nordhavn in real time, I appreciate everything!

    Q: Now that you had your N52 for a while, do you have any plans to upgrade for a newer Nordhavn model?

    • Thanks for the feedback on the blog. We appreciate it. You asked if we plan to upgrade Dirona? It’s certainly possible but not likely for the next year or so. We still really like the boat and find it continues to serve us well. We still feel like to have it.

  11. Pete Jarvis says:

    Welcome home. Good karma flying your way. An amazing experience.

    • Thanks Pete. We’re both happy to be back and thinking of doing a cross country road trip in the near future so you may see an SUV rather than a boat for a couple of weeks :-).

  12. Wyatt says:

    Welcome home!

    • Thanks. It’s great to be back. If you noticed the Amazon stock price climbing suddenly, it’ll be the impact of our ordering. It’s amazing how much is needed after 18 months. Love Prime shipping!

  13. George Hanna says:

    I have been following your blog for a very long time and i truly enjoy it. is there a software or any type of app that help passage makers, especially small boats vs ships, that can help the users make better decision based on a large set of data and real time access to weather information and historical crossing. Maybe Amazon can come up with an AI solution, where we can simple file our trip before we leave docks and then get updates as need to, to minimize data usage from satellite. We have the auto driving feature in Tesla and autonomous vehicle and even trucks in the future, and why not assist boaters in their ocean crossings. Just wondering, i learned a lot from what you have published in your blog. I appreciate it.

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