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Road Trip to Seattle: Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon has long been high on our list of places to visit, and we finally got there on our cross-country road trip from Charleston to Seattle. Even after seeing countless pictures and reading many descriptions, Grand Canyon still appears unbelievably immense when first seen in person. We spent most of our visit on an…

Four great products to enhance your winter cruising

 Here’s an edited version of an article to appear in Pacific PowerBoat’s next issue.


We really enjoy our winter cruising, but when it’sdark from before 1800hrs until first light arrives about 0700 the dynamics are quite different to summer cruisingwhen we’re still on the beach or BBQing until much later. These four products have helped keep us safe, warm and entertained during those 13 hours of darkness aboard Rapport.

See the lightTechlight hand-held spot

In days gone by our hand-held lights were usuallya 12 volt spotlight with a halogen bulb connected through a cigarette lighter socket anda trusty battery powered Dolphin . Whenusing these duringnight searches as Coastguard volunteers we often found the boat’s wiring to the power socket was too light for sustained use of the spotlight, due to the heat generated, while the Dolphinhad limited range and runtime plusexpensive batteries to replace. Also if the Dolphin hadn’t been used for a while we needed to remove and replace the (same) battery, presumably to provide a better connection. 

But a technical revolution has been occurring during the last 15 years or so not only with LED bulbs, that provide brighter light, give a higher quality beam and consume less power, but with rechargeable lithium batteries that continue to improve as well as becoming lower cost. I can distinctly recall when I first became seriously aware of this. Technical guru Chris aka MacGyver, our most frequent visitor to Envoy made his first visit in late 2010. We were sitting in the cockpit after sunset in a bay near Bodrum when Chris showed me a black aluminium flashlight about 130mm long, with an LED bulb and powered by a rechargeable lithium battery. This compact light easily illuminated trees on the foreshore, which I guess was about 250 metres away. By comparison the light from my largest flashlight – a clunky unit with 4 x D cell batteries and conventional bulb couldn’t even reach the shore. Flashlights using conventional dry cell batteries lose their brightness early on as the batteries start to lose their charge, however lithium battery powered lights can lose much more charge before their brightness reduces. We now carry one of the new generation MK 7 Dolphins with an LED bulb aboard as one of our low cost general purpose flashlights together with a rugged, no-nonsense looking TeklightST-3329 we bought from Jaycar Electronics for $159. The Techlight has an incredible 480 metre rangeand its 4,500 lumens of light (the Dolphin has 200 lumens) provides amazing brightness. It’s waterproof and floats, has a convenient wrist security strap and its lithium battery pack is rechargeable using either a mains charger orUSB cable, both supplied. Its full power option provides 75 minutes use while its still very bright low power option increases this to 150 minutes. If the proverbial hits the fan the unit can also emit a continuous SOS signal. In essence the Techlight provides the power of a hard wired spotlight with portability and we love it.

User tips: it takes about 40 minutes for human eyes to completely adjust to darkness so using low level red lighting at the helm and reducing brightness on navigation screens helps maintain night vision. Don’t try to use any spotlight through windows and avoid directing the beam on reflective surfaces.

Have we moved – Anchor Watch HD app for devices

When the wind is howling at 40 knots with the boat moving around during squalls as we encountered during early July’s “weather bomb” it can be difficult to tell if your anchor’s dragging during the night, especially as distance is far more difficult to estimate during night time. Most plotters incorporate anchor alarms, but as with our boat these may be on the flybridge and difficult to hear below. Enter Anchor Watch HD – a free app allowing you to maintain anchor watch from below or even while away from your boat.

When you open the app while connected to the internet it shows a Google Earth view of your current location and while Google Earth is not essential to use the system, being able to see your position on a map provides additional reassurance. This view is historical, so boats shown on the map will not be there now. You can change the scale using normal two finger zoom.

After your anchor is set press the anchor button and an anchor icon with an orange circle around it appears at your position. Now while the anchor icon remains in the original anchored position a blue/white/blue circle shows your current position. There are two on screen buttons to the right of the anchor button that increase and decrease the alarm range, which would typically be about 15 metres to allow for some sideways movement. The actual range displays on top centre of screen together with the distance and bearing from your current position to the original anchored position. If your vessel moves outside the set alarm range a volume adjustable (seriously loud at full volume) siren sounds and a dialogue box appears allowing you to ignore the alarm for 30 seconds while you adjust the scale or “raise the anchor”. The app can also send an alarm message by sms or email allowing you to monitor your anchored position while going ashore.

User tips: the app consumes a lot of power so keep your device charging when it’s using this app. Make a note of your GPS position after anchoring so that if you suspect dragging you can compare that with your current GPS position.

Stay warm as toast – Gasmate heater

Even on cold nights,once we start cooking the boat warms up quickly and when using ourgenerator we can also run our 2.4Kw electric fan heater. At other times we use our Gasmate portable heater with its ceramic burner providingan atmospheric warm glow. We bought ours from Bunnings costing $140 and usingdisposable 220gm butane gas canisters costing about $1.40 and lasting about 90 minutes. It’s very safe as a simple lever disconnects the butane cartridge when not in use and gas supply automatically stops if the unit should be accidentally knocked over, the oxygen level becomes too low or the flame goes out. It’s piezo ignition works well and it’s compact and smart with the butane cartridge housed within the casing.

User tip: when using the Gasmate allow some fresh air into your boat and never use it while sleeping.

Gasmate butane cartridge heater and Techlight spotlight

Entertainment during those long nights – RSE Mini-Lite Plus

We promised ourselves our next boat would have Sky TV capability to watch favoritessuch as Super Rugby. When we bought Rapport she already had an Avtex flat screen and a TracVision TV5 satellite dish enabling us to watch free to air TV. Our friend Chris suggested buying anRSE Mini-Lite high definition digital satellite receiver enabling us to plug in our Sky card from home.Theunit is easy to install, attaching to the rear of the flat screen and wired to our AC power supply. It’s performed welland accessesSky channelswherever we are, except for some unknown reason Oneroa.The RSE unit costs $199 and can be bought through RSE in Takanini orproviders of caravan accessories.

User tip: the power to the Mini-Lite and screen must be off beforeyou insert and remove the Sky card. If you don’t do this the Sky card will no longer work until after it’s used again in your box at home.

Enjoy your winter cruising!

Envoy to resume cruising

 We sold Envoy in late 2019 and her new owners, Larry & Catherine Wood from Queensland, planned to start some cruising in Spring 2020. However the world changed in early 2020 with covid and that plan changed along with it. For one thing G…

Road Trip to Seattle: Tucson

Tucson, Arizona’s second-largest city, has interesting historical architecture, a number of diverse attractions, and a college-town vibe from the 46,000 students at the sprawling University of Arizona campus. Area attractions include the Pima Air and Space Museum, the “aircraft graveyard”, and the Arizona-Sonora desert museum. The Pima Air and Space Museum is one of the…

Road Trip to Seattle: Texas

We spent three nights in Texas on the next leg of our road trip to Seattle, first in San Antonio and then in El Paso, traveling 1,097 miles (1,765 km) from New Orleans. This brought our total trip distance up to 1,897 miles (3,052 km) across seven states (South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana,…

Road Trip to Seattle: New Orleans

On the second leg of our road trip to Seattle from Charleston we traveled 202 miles (325 km) from Pensacola, FL to New Orleans, LA bringing our total trip distance to 800 miles (1286 km) across sixstates (South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana). In New Orleans we stayed in a 43rd-floor room with…


I’m always impressed with people living their adventurous boating dreams in small vessels.

My younger brother Charles is a yachtsman who’s done lots of daunting sailing adventures. Among others he cruised from Perth around the northern coast of Australia to Sydney, sailed from Sydney to Lord Howe Island and back and then sailed from Brisbane to Scotland via the Med over several years while altogether racking up 14 years living aboard his 34ft van de Statd sloop, Acrobat, with his then partner, later wife Marie for.

Charles was our inspiration to embark on our own Med adventures following a visit to Turkey and a short cruise aboard Acrobat. He’sa very practical guy beinga qualified builder, cabinet maker and shipwright as well as being able to undertake many mechanical and electrical projects. Consequently Acrobat is immaculately fitted out to the high standard needed for ocean passages. But she’s quite basic by our standards having only hand-pumped fresh water, no hot water, no refrigeration and only a cockpit shower. I can’t imagine how Charles and Marie spent all those years living aboard in the Med without cold beer! He jokes that with Scotland’s cold climate lack of refrigeration is not a problem. As Marie is still working Charles does solo voyages from his home port of Lossiemouth in the Firth of Forth (close to Loch Ness and the Culloden battlefield) and is currently on a month long trip North Sea cruisenorth to the Orkney and Faroe Islands. This is serious sailing – The Orkneys are about half way from Scotland’s north coast to Iceland and the Pentland Firth between Scotland and the Orkneys has some of the planet’s strongest tides – up to 16kn.Quote “the force of the tides gives rise to overfalls and tidal races …. and often give rise to extremely violent sea conditions …. the races are highly visible with overfalls and whirlpools.”

Imagine Charles’s surprise when anchored at Fair Isle a Wayfarer sailing dinghy with two POB comes alongside for a chat. A Wayfarer is a popular UK 4.8m open sailing dinghy and they had sailed about 70nm from Wick to Fair Isle. Then they sailed about another 40nm north in open seas to Lerwick in the Shetland Islands.

That’s what I call adventurous boating. As I write this we’re sitting aboard Rapport on a very chilly but fine Saturday morning, safely anchored at Waiheke’s Owhanake Bay– and that’s adventurous enough for me.

Road Trip to Seattle: Florida

In early June, we loaded Spitfire and our luggage into a rental car and set off on a 4,200-mile (6,760 km) road trip from Charleston, SC to Seattle, WA. We spent the first two nights in Florida, first in Jacksonville and then in Pensacola, after passing from South Carolina through Georgia and traveling 598 miles…


We really enjoyed our first week back in the US at Charleston City Marina after our month-long passage from Dublin via Horta. It was hard to believe that a few months earlier we were in Farsund, Norway and frozen in with ice so thick we could walk on it and now we were in Charleston,…


We’ve owned Rapport now for a year and a half, finding her to be a great cruising vessel, however when you buy a pre-owned boat you inevitably make compromises compared to your perfect desired boat. In our case there were three compromises, which I’ll discuss.

1. Rapport has a large flybridge with full headroom and our compromise here was having plastic clears as opposed to glass. Particularly facing forward, glass is a big plus especially in heavier seas when there’s a lot of spray reducing visibility. However Rapport’s clears are exceptionally good being polycarbonate which appears to retain its clarity for longer than vinyl and we’re just about to treat these with RainX-Plastic which should considerably increase visibility with rain or spray. In general we’re pretty happy with these clears and won’t consider glass as an option until it’s time to replace the clears.

2. We prefer gas cooking to electric. There’s a lot said about gas safety issues, but we’re perfectly comfortable with professionally installed lpg systems with gas detectors. The main plus with lpg is you can cook without running a generator. Rapport has electric bench top hobs and a convection microwave. It took a while to get used to the convection microwaveand while Di says she would still prefer a “proper oven” we find it adequate, supplemented by an electric frying pan. To avoidhavingto start the generator just to make a morning cup of tea or coffee we bought a small bench top single hob “Gasmate” stove. This uses disposable lpg bottles which are cheap and last one or two days. We also use this for boiling vegetables etc. There’s no problem using electric cooking while the main engines are running and charging the batteries. Using the generator for cooking in the evening is also not a problem as we often need to run it to charge our house battery bank, particularly if we haven’t run the main engines that day. In the summer most of our cooking is on a lpg BBQ and we really enjoy using that. So in conclusion we’ve adapted and will continue with the present system.

3. As you will have read in our last posting we really enjoy using our dinghy and ideally wanted a 3m rigid-hulled inflatable with a 15hp 4-stroke outboard, lifted on board by crane. Rapport came with an old TakaCat inflatable that after a few weeks we literally threw away as it had so many air leaks. In any case its 6hp Mercury outboard was too heavy for us to comfortably lift on and off the dinghy.

As Rapport came without a crane and we needed something in a hurry that the two of us could lift onto the foredeck cradle we bought a very lightweight (33kg) Aquapro SLR 2.6m rigid-hulled inflatable with a Honda 2.5hp air cooled outboard. We had one of these Hondas in the Med and found it to be super – very reliable and nearly always starting first pull. This package has worked well but was always a temporary solution. We’re now going to sell the Aquapro/Honda and upgrade to an approx 3m rigid hulled inflatable with a 15hp 4-stroke outboard. This will give us planing ability with at least two adults, more room when we have often have four adults aboard, longer range and better rough water capability. Not to mention much more fun! Bear in mind that on a typical coastal cruiser your inflatable is also your life raft in a worst case scenario. In order to lift this dinghyaboard Rapport we’ll need to install an electric crane and we’re researching whether we can store the dinghy on a new rack to be built behind the flybridge (preferred option) or on the existing foredeck rack. Also researching which inflatable to buy and whether to fit a Honda, Suzuki, Mercury or Yamaha outboard – watch this space.


In many European and North American boating locations Autumn is time to winteriseyour boat and leave it until Spring, however in Auckland there’s no reason not to swap shorts and tee-shirts for jeans and sweatshirts and enjoy most of what cruising has to offer throughoutourwinter.

Average weather statistics willsurprise you. For example Auckland’s average daytime winter temperature is 14-15dC while bycomparison popular cruising destination Scotland has an averagesummertemperature of only 15-17dC. Also surprisingly, on average January is Auckland’s windiest month while the least windy are March and May throughAugust. In Auckland showers are more prevalent than constant rain and the weather out among the Gulf islands is invariably sunnier than on the mainland. For example we often look back from Waiheke basking in the sunshine to see the mainland shrouded by cloud.

Auckland is New Zealand’s most populous boating area where the Hauraki Gulf’sMahurangi Harbour and Kawau Bay to the north-west, Great Barrier Island to the north-east and the string of islands from Rangitoto to Ponui in the south offer safe shelter in most weather conditions all year round.

Cruising in winter offersless crowded anchorages, good fishing and also means using your boat regularly, thereby reducing the chances of unexpected problems. I often see owners starting their diesel engines at the marina during winter, however engineers tell me there’s no substitute for using your boat regularly and working your engines under load at normal operating temperature, which can’t be achieved in the marina. In fact I’ve been told that starting your engines without loading them can do more harm than good.

The winter nights are of course longer from around 1800 to 0700 hours. We find keeping warm not an issue with heat from the galley, an electric fan heater powered from our generator and a portable gas heater. Other systems such as diesel heaters are also available. Ensure adequate ventilation when using gas heaters to avoid dangerous build ups of carbon monoxide.

We had planned a ten day family cruise for late May and as departure approacheswe watch theforecast with some consternation. The approaching weather system isso unusual that the media describesit as a “weather bomb,” caused by a ridge of high pressure in the eastern Tasman Sea combining with a deep low pressure trough north-eastof the North Island to cause south-easterly winds in excess of 40 knots and exceptionally high swells in excess of four metres. A gale warning is issued forthe Hauraki Gulf, but only a strong wind advisory forthe Waitemata harbour, so we modifyour plans to avoid the outer Gulf and enjoy the Waiheke area.

We leave on a Friday afternoon in a light south-easterly breeze and cruise to Owhanaki Bay on Waiheke’s north-west-coast. Here is perfect for the forecast strong south-east winds and we find only a handful of boats anchored here providing us with plenty of all-important swinging room. We’re cautious about this as having anchored many nights over the years in adverse conditions our only problems have ever been caused by other anchored vessels coming adrift and hitting us. The rocks either side of the bay’s entrance are awash with a larger than normal swell, but where we’re anchored there’s just a gentle lift. With the wind predicted to increase to 25 knots we elect to stay here for the next couple of days finding it perfectly comfortable and secure.

ByTuesday it’s a beautiful sunny day, albeit a bit colder as the wind increases and temporarily shifts a bit to the south. We anchor off Oneroa Bay, slightly further east, where our family members join us having arrived by ferry at Matiatia. We want to cruise east to the Waiheke Channel and it’s decision time. Do we take the route to the north of Waiheke enjoying the sheltered northern coast, but risking heavy south-east seas when we turn south into the Firth of Thames, or do we cruise east along the Tamaki Strait on thesouthern side of Waiheke expecting a large wind-driven chop for most of the way but no heavy seas? We elect the latter and cruise south down the west coast of Waiheke in tranquillity before turning east at Park Point into the full brunt of a steady 35 knot south-easterly gusting into the 40s. Although the wind-driven chop is about two metres high it’s directly on our bow so Rapport’s 16 metre hull handles the conditions well at about 8 knots with plenty of spray but little discomfort and with conditions gradually improvingas we approach the Waiheke Channel. Normally with a south-east wind we’d anchor in Ponui Island’s Chamberlin’s Bay, but with the exceptionally strong winds we find residual swell from the Firth of Thames so anchor slightly further to the east in the more sheltered Te Kawau Bay.

During the next few daysthe south-easterly isfar too strong to venture out into our favoured fishing areas of the Firth so we seek out new fishing spots in the more sheltered waters ofthe Waiheke Channel finding two locationsthat provide plenty of action.

Faced with the “weather bomb” it would have been all too easy to cancel our cruise, but we enjoy ten great days away confirming that winter cruising even in poor weather can be enjoyed.