Welcome to Nancy and Randy’s website. In Keeping Up With Zephyr we’ll be sharing tales of our retirement adventure aboard our 60′ Sundeer sailboat, SV Zephyr as we see new places and meet new people. Nancy has brought along her art studio and cameras and will add color by presenting her creations on the Studio page. We also do a lot of reading while sailing. Much of what we read we pick up at cruiser’s book exchanges and library sales, so the genres are quite eclectic. We’ll try to keep track of everything we read with maybe a note or two on individual merit (demerit?) in the Book Nook. Who knows what all you’ll find, so come back often and share the adventure!
Follow our progress! This link will show you where in the world we are at any time. https://forecast.predictwind.com/tracking/display/SVZephyr
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Sep, 2021. So, hi there! We are currently sitting in the Sassafras river in the Chesapeake Bay waiting out the remnants of yet another hurricane. This time it’s Ida. We were in Narragansett Bay for Henri. It has been a fun-filled summer. I thought I’d take this opportunity to tell you a bit about Nancy and I and our water-bound home.
We both decided to retire fairly young, I served many years as an infantry officer in the Army and then a stint as a paramedic for Anne Arundel County Fire Department in Maryland. I also worked as a boat builder and joiner for others before setting up my own shop in Des Moines, Iowa. Nancy, who is a financial genius, worked as an IT project manager for NASA and Wells Fargo. We both grew up in Iowa and met when I was leaving the Army and she was getting her MBA. My sister has a coffee shop where Nancy was working, and I introduced myself over the dish rack. I went to work on a schooner and when I came back we were married aboard it. We decided to leave Iowa and bought a Tayana 37 in Tortola and sold everything but our dogs and books and spent several years aboard, mostly in Annapolis as we still needed to work.
Now, after 22 years of concluding we’re compatible we are full-time aboard ZEPHYR, having rented our house in Des Moines through a property manager. Let me tell you about this boat. She is a Sundeer 60, designed by Steve Dashew, a brilliant, if opinionated, guy who has been designing and sailing off-shore yachts for a long time. His philosophy is to have a boat that is fast, comfortable and easily worked by a middle-aged couple. I wanted this boat when we bought the Tayana, but it was then ten times the price of the Tayana. It still is, but I will refer you to the “financial genius” portion of Nancy’s bio.
ZEPHYR was built in 1995 by TPI in Rhode Island. You probably see their products if you travel the highways and byways of America. Not boats mind you, only those giant wind generators that have sprouted in fields everywhere. She was laid up using the SCRIMP method, which was novel at that time but is ubiquitous today. It is basically a vacuum-bagged infusion method which reduces resin weight and increases strength while also eliminating the release of VOCs into the atmosphere. The hull and deck are balsa-cored fiberglass with Kevlar reinforcement at the stem and other critical areas. She is 60′ long overall and 59’10’ at the waterline. She is only 13’6″ wide though, so long and lean. The mast is 72′ above the water and the keel is 6′ below the water. NO ICW for her, she is made for the open ocean. We are the third caretaker, the previous owner circumnavigated on the 2010-11 ARC. So she was well equipped. However, most everything was old and worn out when we purchased her.
*Note to prospective boat buyers: You will spend an additional 1/3 the purchase price to repair/replace/refit all the things that are fricacta on that perfectly equipped boat you just bought. More if you don’t do most of it yourself.*
Mar, 2022. So, it is six months since the above installment. We are in Pointe a’ Pitre, Guadeloupe. Here are just a few of the things we replaced since our purchase in 2017: We installed a new mast and all standing and running rigging right after purchase. We have a new radial main, jib and staysail by North Sails. That puts everything above deck in new order. We had a “stack pack” style sail envelope made for the main, no more schlepping a heavy, awkward sail cover. Mechanically, we replaced the derelict water maker with a new 37gph Rainman unit that runs on 110v generator power. I installed a new Webasto hydronic diesel fired heater to replace the unit which failed shortly after buying the boat. It is a great addition that not only heats the cabin but the water heater as well. It will heat the 20 gallon tank to 185 in 15 minutes using less than a pint of fuel. We installed a dive compressor for filling SCUBA tanks, which has allowed us more opportunities to dive..
I replaced the windlass motor, which gave up the ghost at a most inopportune time. Both fridge and freezer control units went bad within 2 months of each other; fortunately I had purchased a pair for back-up. Now I need 2 more for back-up. The main engine alternator needed replacing last fall, just as we were departing for the islands. I replaced the battery system, which was woefully inadequate, with 6 6v 400 Ah Lifeline AGMs for a total of 1200 amp hours capacity, ran new battery cabling and a power monitor. We replaced the Magnum 2,000w inverter/charger when it failed beyond repair just before we went to New England.
I fabricated and replaced, with Nancy’s able assistance, the Lexan in the hatches and the doghouse windows. We put gas lifts on the hatches and lazarette lids. I built a fiberglass hard Bimini top to replace the ratty canvas one, it also provides the platform for 4 110w solar panels each with its own controller. We installed a D400 wind generator and a Watt and Sea hydrogenerator which provides power when we’re under sail. So far, under sail we rarely need to run the engine to charge batteries, and at anchor, depending on the sun and wind, we go 5-6 days without the generator. That works fine as we generally do laundry in our new Splendid washer/dryer and make water at the same time. We also use that time to charge the battery of the marine electric outboard, which has been great for harbor jaunts (it only goes 5mph) and it is light weight; three pieces total about 35#. It augments the Tohatsu 15hp 4 stroke which is the main driver for the 9″8″ aluminum RIB we use as the family car. Oh yeah, I fabricated a hoisting crane for lifting the outboard onto the stern rail from the dinghy. Dad and I also fabricated a gin pole hoist to raise the dinghy onto the foredeck without straining muscles. Nancy and I have fine-tuned these operations into standardized routines.
We replaced the chart plotter with a new Garmin since the old unit didn’t support the new software. Then we replaced the radar since it couldn’t keep up with the new software. Both were good decisions. The plotter works through bluetooth with our I Pads and the radar is clear, concise and colorful. We added an Iridium Go for receiving satellite data while underway. The glorious fleet broadband unit that came with the boat was only marginally faster and 8 times more expensive to use! I’m writing this on our iMac with a 22′ screen which doubles as our movie theater. We put in a nice Marantz stereo with speakers inside and out. Pure sonic bliss! Every light on the boat is now LED, replacing the fluorescent, halogen and incandescents that were original.
I built more shelves, drawers, dividers and compartments (including a stunning art cabinet for Nancy’s tools of the trade) than I can name for the organization of food, dishes, clothes, and gear. I don’t know how 6 people went around the world the way it was before. Total disorganized chaos, I guess. I had to fabricate all new canvas, since the old Sunbrella had passed into dust. Hatch covers, winch covers, sun awnings, cockpit cushions, seat covers for the salon, and various other bibelots for the convenience of the crew. Plus two spiffy helm seats to ease driving fatigue.
These things on top of the usual pumps, hoses and wires that are part of preparing any boat for sea duty. The A/C units are still useless, but that is a future task. We’re adding a new autopilot to back-up the venerable WP (Hammie) which has its moments, but is fairly easy to troubleshoot. Dad and I worked through the engine fuel feed problem so it runs at a respectable rpm/power/speed balance. I almost forgot; the propeller shaft strut failed from galvanic corrosion two weeks after purchase! We had a new one patterned and cast at a foundry in New Bern, NC.
So, how close was I to my note about an additional 1/3 purchase price going to refit? Well, lets just say it was an even 2/3. And I did most of the labor myself! Had I paid someone else for all the fabrication and installation I did, well, even at my low midwest hourly rate (which is about 60% of East Coast boatyard rate) it would have brought it up just above the purchase price.
Are we glad we did all the things we did? Yes, absolutely. It kept me busy for four years while we finished other duties. It has transformed an old tired boat into a comfortable, reliable, and efficient home that we are quite proud of. On top of that I know how everything works, and can repair or replace nearly everything myself; because I installed/built it myself.
Would we do it again? Not to this degree at my age now! We’ll just keep sailing and maintaining ZEPHYR until we’ve had enough fun. Then we’ll go on to another challenge.