Friday, March 12, 2021

Jan-Mar 2021: Sold the Nordy, Bought a Grady

We concluded our previous blog entry in December with this:  With the arrival of December and south Florida’s version of winter, we’re now at a point where we may start contemplating what Rick calls “a different kind of boat.”

 Selling a Boat

Well, it all happened rather quickly.  Just a few days after discussing the potential sale of the Nordhavn with our broker, Jeff Merrill of JMYS (LINK), he brought us a very committed buyer.  The boat never even got formally listed.  Following two full days of surveys and sea trials in mid-January, the sale of N5021 Ghost Rider closed on 05-February, 2021.  After five and a half years, an ocean crossing, and over 10,000 nautical miles of Nordhavn “trawlering”, we had begun to miss the more casual ad-hoc boating and fishing style of earlier days.  And between the two of us we had developed three bad knees that were beginning to complain with pain. 

N5021, Ghost Rider, Getting Hauled out for the Survey

So, it was time to move on to a boat that didn’t have as many steps and levels, and which provided more southwest Florida flexibility.  But before describing what that looks like further below (hint: it looks a lot like our boats from 2005 to 2015), we first extend our very best wishes to the new owners of hull #21 of the Nordhavn 50 line of trawlers, Scott and Heidi Smith.  They are approaching their retirement later this year and plan to live aboard and sail extensively along the west coast of the US and Mexico.  They are quite excited and enthusiastic to embark on their new adventure, and we know the former Ghost Rider – now named Mi Casa – is in great hands.  N5021 will get many more miles under her keel and plenty of TLC under their watch.  We wish them smooth seas, sunny skies and a fabulous retirement. 

On the Fly Bridge of N5021 After the Offshore Closing:  Heidi on the Left, Scott on the Right, and
John Hoffman of the JMYS Brokerage in the Middle.

Buying a Boat

Over these past couple of months, we had been hunting for our next ride, focusing on an express style cabin boat in the 30-to-36-foot range, designed for both cruising and fishing, and with outboard power.  We first sea trialed an Edgewater 33 over in Palm Beach, and liked what we saw in terms of style and quality.  Powered by a pair of Yamaha 350 4-stroke engines, and built like a tank, it felt just a tad sluggish but handled a very sloppy mess out in the open Atlantic with ease. 

We also traveled to Key Largo to view and test drive an Everglades 36 with triple Yamaha 300 4-strokes; that, too, was a high-quality boat and handled exceptionally well.  Unfortunately, its cockpit configuration was set up more for entertaining, was a bit short on headroom in the cabin, and wasn’t particularly conducive to our fishing plans, so we passed on that.

Finally, we went back to our Grady-White roots and tested out a late model 330 Express that had a pair of Yamaha 425’s hanging off the back….and fell in love with that.  But good boats are going fast these days, and that one got gobbled up before we could make an offer.  Fortunately, we found another a short time later, and it was loaded with almost every option the factory offered.  Ultimately, after a smooth survey and sea trial, we closed on that on Monday, 01-March. 

The New Ghost Rider, a 2019 Grady-White 330 Express

Moving the New Boat

Unfortunately, our new-to-us boat was located in Ponte Vedra Beach on the east coast of Florida (near Jacksonville), which resulted in a 400-mile shakedown cruise to get the new Ghost Rider to our home base in Fort Myers.  So, on Tuesday, 02-March we splashed the boat around 1100 and began the trek south.

The weather was lousy – a cold front had moved through the area the night before, dropping temps into the upper 50’s, with rain showers and a brisk north wind…which also churned up the Atlantic into a frothy mess.  Busting through seas forecasted at seven feet wasn’t an appealing prospect, so we decided to take the inside ICW route.  We kept our first day short, going only about 70 miles to Halifax Harbor Marina in the Daytona area.  There we topped off the fuel tanks, reset the trip computer (it’s WAY more accurate than any fuel gauge) and tied up on a T-dock for a relaxing stopover.  While we still had grey skies and cool temps, the rain had finally stopped.

Leaving Ponte Vedra & Heading South on the ICW on a Cool & Rainy Day

Any experienced boater will tell you that a shakedown cruise is actually a breakdown cruise, and accordingly on the morning of Wednesday, 03-March we were greeted by nearly-dead starting batteries for the starboard engine.  Since we had a long 170 mile run to Stuart ahead of us, we decided to just join both battery banks together to start the #2 engine and get underway at 0900, delaying the troubleshooting until that evening.

Skies had cleared and temps has warmed considerably, but with some very long stretches of go-slow zones on this leg (we got passed by several dolphins), we didn’t arrive at Pirate’s Cove Marina in Stuart until 1700.  After situating the boat with a quick washdown and topping off the fresh water tank, Rick went to work on the battery issue.  All four AGM’s had stayed at normal charge levels throughout the day, suggesting that the engine-driven alternators and the batteries were not the issue.  A quick glance at the onboard battery charger revealed the problem: its red “Fault” and “Reverse Polarity” LEDs were glowing brightly, and the unit would not respond to the reset button. Since the device had checked out fine on the survey, and we verified our AC power connection was of the correct polarity, we were fairly certain a circuit board had gone wonky over the last 48 hours.

Our Route From Ponte Vedra to Fort Myers.  The Red Line is the First Day's Path When the inReach
Tracking Device Refused to Track.  The Blue Lines are Actual Tracks Following a Reset-Reboot
of the Misbehaving inReach Unit.

With prudent DC power conservation overnight (lots of flashlight usage) the batteries retained enough juice to provide normal start operations the next morning, Thursday, 04-March.  We were underway by 0815, with a plan to cross the state via the Okeechobee Waterway (Lake O) and reach Legacy Harbour in Fort Myers before sunset. While morning temps were still cool (jacket weather) winds were light under partly cloudy skies.  We reached the first lock – St. Lucie – at 0930….and we were still there at 1145.  So much for the day’s planned schedule. 

 With its 14 feet of level change, passing through the St. Lucie lock is never a quick process, but there was a lot of dredging going on just east of that lock, and the barges got prioritized over all recreational traffic.  So we sat dormant for several lock cycles before finally locking through.  The only bright side to that frustrating morning was that the Yamaha Helm Master’s fly-by-wire “Stay Point” feature got thoroughly tested, and it worked well; just stab that button on the joystick and the computer-controlled engines automagically hold a position for you. 

Locking Through St. Lucie

There were a few more, although less onerous, delays at the next three locks, and in between a very sloppy Lake Okeechobee gave the Grady a chance to show off its rough water capabilities (holding a steady 30 MPH / 26 knots, albeit with lots of trim tab deflection.)  But even the Grady’s power and speed couldn’t compensate for the lost time at the first lock; that long delay meant we would be about 15 minutes late for the last lock-through time of 1630 for the final Franklin lock facility.  And that meant we would not make it to Fort Myers until the next day. 

Of course, that also resulted in a mad scramble to find a place to park the boat for the night.  Marina facilities are scarce along that particular stretch of the waterway, but eventually Michelle found a vacant slip at the LaBelle City Docks.  While far from fancy – no finger pier, no 50 amp power, no shore facilities – the price was right (free.)  We had to park Ghost Rider bow-in because of skinny depths at the shoreline, and then get creative with the dock lines, but we made it work.  We also had to run the genset all night for AC power, but overall it sure beat trying to anchor in a dark and narrow ICW channel. 

Tied Up at the LaBelle City Docks Along the Okeechobee Waterway

We awoke to bright sunshine, light breezes and warming temps on Friday, 05-March, tossed off the lines around 0830 and continued west towards the final lock and then Fort Myers.  We decided to stop at Calusa Jack’s cozy little transient marina for fuel, and enjoyed a conversation with the attendant and his two parrots, Billy and Nauti while pumping in 245 gallons.  After enduring several more lengthy no-wake zones (it’s manatee season in south Florida) eventually we made it to our new home port, Sanibel Harbor Yacht Club (SHYC LINK), at the eastern end of the Sanibel Causeway just after high noon. 

We Stopped at Calusa Jack's Small Marina (Fuel Dock) to Top Off Tanks and Have a Chat with
the Parrots Billy & Nauti (the One Hanging Out on Chelle's Arm.)

We chose SHYC for several reasons, one of which was every other yard within a hundred miles was at capacity and with long waiting lists.  But their hurricane rated storage barn, proximity to the Gulf, similar proximity to our condo (10 minutes), and broad range of quality splash, concierge and maintenance services also checked all the right boxes.  Javier, the yard manager, and his crew forklifted the boat and spent about an hour fitting the storage barn bunks to Ghost Rider’s hull.  In the interim, our good friends, Jim & Susan Hill, ferried Chelle back to our condo to pick up our SUV, and then we spent another hour transferring all our gear from boat to car.  It was good to be home.

The New Ghost Rider Getting Forklifted at Sanibel Harbor Yacht Club

About the ‘New’ Boat

This is our third Grady-White, although at 33.5 feet long (more with the outboard engines & bow pulpit) it’s the biggest of those.  There is one aspect of this vessel that Rick is not wild about, and that’s the blue hull….down here in south Florida, that will be prone to fading in the hot sun, and it retains heat; we’ll eventually find out how well the air conditioning works.  But Michelle loves it, and that was the end of that discussion.

The original owner had tricked it out with every option but one.  The options list includes: a motorized sunshade for the cockpit area; an electric sunroof above the helm area; air conditioning for the helm as well as the cabin berth; an electric grill in the cockpit area; refrigerated chill plates for the big fish box at the stern and a for a cooler under the port side passenger seat.  The boat also sports custom SeaDek flooring on all exterior decks (LINK).  The one option it is missing is outriggers, which Rick is already planning to add. 

The Big Forklift About to Insert the Big Grady into its Slot in the Barn.

For propulsion power it sports a pair of Yamaha’s latest and largest outboard engines, a pair of 4-cycle, 8-cylinder 425 HP beasts.  Standard power on the 330 Express is a pair F350’s, but Rick wanted to avoid those given their history of flywheel issues.  (Yamaha gave up trying to correct that issue and now just installs new flywheels on them at no charge at regular maintenance intervals.  But we did not want that hassle.)  The 425 XTO 4-stroke engine is all fly-by-wire, and that includes both the throttles and the steering – there is no helm pump, and no hydraulic lines between the wheel and the motors.  That, in turn, enables the use of joystick steering via Yamaha’s “Helm Master” control suite, with independent movement of each engine.  That enables very precise close-quarters maneuvering capability without the use of a bow thruster, as well as the aforementioned “Stay Point” feature.

The nav/comm equipment, however, is pretty average consumer-grade Garmin gear.  The 8616 MFD is serviceable, and the additional CL7 display provides some redundancy, but in typical Garmin fashion it’s all touch screen, and you are subjected to “death-by-layered-menus” to do anything other than basic navigation.  It does, however, integrate very nicely with the Garmin autopilot (GHC 20 control head with Reactor 40 computer.)  The VHF is also a Garmin device (a 215 model) with GPS and (theoretically) AIS…the latter has yet to be tested; regardless, it’s the lowest of low-end VHF options on the market, and hopefully will eventually become just a backup to a higher quality radio.  Finally, there is a Garmin Fantom 24 dome radar on the hardtop; after considerable tuning it seemed capable.  The network backbone is all NMEA 2000, and that also interconnects with a Fusion sound system. 

Sanibel Harbor Yacht Club

It all works well enough for coastal cruising, offshore fishing and occasional trips to the Bahamas.  But If any of the Garmin stuff ever dies, Rick will be happy to rip it out and install come commercial-grade Furuno gear.

Punch List?

Oh yes, there’s always a punch list, even on a lightly used two-year old vessel.  The main item right now is getting the battery charger replaced, and we’ve got a new unit on order.  The survey produced a relatively short list of more minor infractions that need to be remediated, and we’ll have more on that in the next blog post.  A pair of outriggers are also high on the list, along with a Sirius/XM weather overlay for the chart plotter.

What’s Next?

Once we get this boat reconfigured, our goals are more frequent sorties, including coastal cruising, marina hopping and fishing trips.  We’ve targeted mid-May for the first journey back down to the Florida Keys and a week-long stay in the Marathon area for some serious dolphin and tuna trolling excursions.  The summer season cruising plans will, of course, be gated at least partially by how active the hurricane season gets (likely to be another active one), but there’s plenty of time to figure that out later.  Stay tuned.

Chelle Relaxes in the Spacious Helm Area While Docked at LaBelle

Afterword:  After the recent reminder that American democracy is still very much an experiment and still quite fragile…shouldn’t we try a little harder not to fuck it up?  Mask up & get your shots, we're not out of the woods just yet.


  1. Congratulations on your new baby. We are mostly full-timers here on Big Pine Key. If you make it down here, give us a holler. They've started to see some mahi this week off Big Pine, we plan to go out and look for some. Bruce

  2. Bruce....thanks, maybe we can RZ down there -- we'll be at KCB just east of the Vaca Cut the week of 16-May. Will stand by for mahi scouting reports.

  3. Can't wait until the border is opened and it's safe to visit again. Enjoy your travels!

    1. Sounds good. Get your shot(s), too. Got my second poke last week, Chelle gets her first tomorrow. Yay.