So, Rick, tell us a little something about your cruising to date and where you have been so far?
Not very far at all. We are quite new to the Nordhavn (and trawler) ownership experience….we purchased N4748 in early August, then promptly dropped her off with James Knight & the Yacht Tech gang to tend to our long punch list, and we did not get on board again until October 1st. (That’s also when we finally quit our jobs, euphemistically known as “retiring.”) At that point we sortied her south from Palm Beach, around the Keys, and then up the west coast of Florida to our home port in Fort Myers. We make occasional jaunts up or down our coast, experimenting with what marinas we can squeeze into, or what anchorages we can exploit without running aground, but mostly we’re spending the winter learning, supplying, accessorizing and generally just dialing-in the boat.
Why did you choose Nordhavn?
Well, first off Michelle nixed my idea of buying a seaplane. So we spent a few years researching “boats you can live on” – reading books and magazines, going to boat shows & trawler fest, and talking to numerous folks who had already been through this experience. Eventually – once we combined “boats you can live on” with “boats that can go anywhere” – we narrowed it down to a few Kady-Krogen and Nordhavn models. And then it got really difficult. Owners of both brands were very passionate about their boats. But as we started to zero in on the 50-foot LOA class, the N47 began to stand out….its Portuguese bridge, pilothouse ergonomics, stand-up engine room and amidships stateroom layout won out over the KK 48.
What has been your cruising highlight so far?
We’re only half-kidding when we say “departing Palm Beach.” But after a couple of months and many boat units, it was just so very rewarding to get underway and actually go somewhere (else.) We spent a week going slow on that short journey, primarily focused on our training with Captain Bernie Francis aboard (his second week with us.) That was the best combination of education and fun I’ve had since I got out of pilot training 40 years ago.
Do you travel with an animal/s on board?
We do not. We are both animal lovers, and have owned dogs our entire lives up until a short time ago when our Golden Retriever of 16 years passed. After that, knowing we were approaching some wandering years, we both agreed we would wait until we settled down once again.
In your past life what did you and Michelle do?
Michelle graduated from Oklahoma State University and then spent her entire professional career working in the IT industry. She ran our company’s Program Management Office for her last gig, so if you ever need a very detailed project work plan, give her a call. But she also spent almost all of her leisure time during that entire period in boats and on the water, and still has a passion for it. She was a very accomplished water skier – which is good, because she was lousy at baseball, and was actually the poster child for “throws like a girl.”
My first job out of college (University of Missouri) was as a USAF pilot, flying a variety of combat aircraft for about 10 years. After separating from the service I also got into the Information Technology arena (and fortunately met up with Michelle as a result.) Like her, I also grew up around boats & water. We didn’t start salt water boating until a little over 10 years ago, and we discovered we both really enjoyed offshore fishing as well as coastal cruising in our Grady-White Express. That got us to thinking about a boat that could go farther, and had living spaces to match.
Hang on a second Rick, … Pilot? USAF? WOW…. So what planes did you fly?
The bulk of my time was in the B-52 (aka “BUFF”, aka Big Ugly Fat F….). But also some time in the T-38 & F-5.
What was the best plane you flew and why?
Compared to the BUFF the T-38/F-5 was like driving a Lotus vs a truck….or Nordhavn.
Michelle, if there is one thing Rick does that irritates you while underway what would that be?
It’s not so much irritating as humorous and messy – he’s a spiller. He talks using expansive hand motions and that often results in beverages being toppled. I’ve come up with a reasonable solution for now with the “Mighty Mug” which is difficult to knock over.
It’ only fair I ask Rick the same question, so Rick, if there was one thing Michelle does that irritates you what would that be?
There is just one thing. Michelle is very good at stowing stuff and explaining to me in great detail where that stuff is located; and just as soon as I’ve memorized where that stuff is, she’ll move that stuff somewhere else….without telling me. I am quite certain she enjoys doing that. (So does Jeff Merrill, by the way.)
Onto irritating things, have you ever run out of something while at sea that has caused problems?
Not yet, but give us time.
Would you describe yourselves as more hunters or more gatherers?
Rick: Well, based on Michelle’s propensity for moving stuff without telling me, it seems I’m hunting more and more often these days.
Michelle: Gatherer….and really, really good at it and also moving it around after I gather it.
Why did you name your vessel MV Ghost Rider?
Our previous boat was named “Tide Pirate”, but Michelle made it clear she wasn’t willing to contemplate world traveling in a vessel that had the word “pirate” in its name.
Anyway, we both truly believe we have some ghosts riding with us….specifically four very influential people who physically are no longer with us, but who gave us so much, including the adventurous spirit. Rather than just missing them, we want to remember and repay them.
What other names did you consider?
None. When I suggested the name Ghost Rider to Michelle, she said “that’s it.”
What’s the funniest thing that has ever happened to you while at sea?
That would be the time when Michelle & I did our version of a Marx Brothers routine while landing a fish about 30 or 40 miles out in the gulf in our Grady-White Express. We’d put out 2 lines & were slow-trolling our way home from Sarasota. It was late in the season, so we figured anything that hit would be small and thus fit in our drink cooler, so we didn’t prepare the regular fish box, leaving it full of equipment and supplies.
But as luck would have it, something big hit the flat line and started to peel off line, and while I fought the fish Michelle tried to clear the other lines and the cockpit. In the ensuing melee we got the lines crossed & couldn’t find a way to disentangle them. So as I brought the fish to the side of the boat, she had the other rod/reel between her legs and a gaff in her hands. If that sounds dangerous – it is. That’s when we saw the size of the fish (eventually measured out as a 38” bull mahi.) Her gaff shot was a good one, and we managed to get about half the length of the fish into the drink cooler, with the other half hanging out. But we lowered the lid anyway, and I sat on it while the fish tried to bounce me off of it.
Eventually we got the boat’s large fish box emptied, transferred the mahi into it, fired up the refrigeration plates to keep it chilled, and sprinted for home. Too bad we didn’t have the GoPro at the time, we could have marketed the video as “how NOT to catch a really nice fish.”
What’s the biggest mistake you have ever made on the water?
Fortunately there have not been all that many (again, give us time), but the most recent and memorable case of the dumb-dumbs was when I attempted to reactivate the chilled water air conditioning system on Ghost Rider after closing the corresponding sea cock. Doh.
That’s one way of testing the system’s fail-safe self-protection mechanisms, but definitely not recommended…especially when it’s 90F outside with no breezes, and you have no clue how to reset the system. The boat got warm very quickly.
Tell us a little something about MV Ghost Rider?
She is hull #48 in the N47 line, and was meticulously cared for – and well-equipped – by her previous owners. We were very fortunate to be looking for just such a boat when John & Diane decided to move on to their next adventure. One very unique aspect is her hull color – Awlgrip’s “Fighting Lady Yellow”. We’ve only added a few things – the more significant items are a 2nd radar unit, another MFD on the fly bridge, a computer with flat screen display (running Nobletech), and the stern thruster.
What is the one lesson every boater should learn?
You need equal doses of patience and anticipation. Those are both required to learn what you need to, and to prepare you & your vessel properly, and not to get forced or hurried into unsound decisions or unsafe manoeuvres. Just like the flying game.
What is your favourite anchorage and why?
Well, first of all this has to be qualified by stating we’ve yet to get out of Florida’s surrounding waters with Ghost Rider….so we’re anticipating the answer will change in the near future but so far, in the dead of winter (only…and down here that’s January & February) it would be the mouth of Little Shark River; that’s on the south-western edge of the Everglades where the wildlife is entertaining, the fishing is good, and the serenity of the isolation is so very soothing. It’s a very protected anchorage with good holding, but you may have to play the tides to get in there – the entrance features some pretty skinny water, especially with a northerly wind vector. If you go there in any non-winter month, the wildlife down yonder will include an astonishing population of flying bugs that will eat you alive and eventually all end up in your engine room as you bleed out from their bites.
Otherwise (and at any time of year) we’ve developed an affection for the anchorage between Useppa & Cabbage Key islands. It provides good depth & holding, adequate protection if you’re not too fussy about some occasional bobbing around, gorgeous scenery & sunsets, nice breezes, and lots of playful (and somewhat noisy) bottlenose dolphins. The local natives on Useppa, while generally too wealthy to be healthy, are quite friendly, and it’s an easy dinghy ride to Cabbage Key for a meal. You can get the infamous “Cheeseburger in Paradise” there, and since the only way to get there is by boat, it may qualify as the most expensive burger you’ll ever eat.
What is your favourite Marina and why?
Once again this has to be qualified with “ain’t been outside of Florida with the boat yet”, but within those confines the easy answer is South Seas Island Resort on Captiva. While docks are wooden & fixed, the tie-ups are all along-side, the tides and current are negligible, depth is acceptable for us (or up to a N55/60), and the facilities, staff and amenities are first rate. If you go, be sure to hop on the (free) trolley and dine at Doc Ford’s. Just don’t let them park you all the way in on the sea wall, else you’ll be sitting on the (soft) bottom at low tide….been there, done that.
What are you afraid of?
Rick – Missing something important in the planning & preparation stages; also hurricanes…been though several, and they still scare the hell out of me; also currents that run faster than our boat can.
Michelle – Sharks…ever since my Dad took me to see “Jaws” many, many years ago.
What’s your favourite photo ever taken while at sea and why?
We’ve only been at this for a very short time, but this pic was taken by Jeff Merrill right after we set the anchor between Useppa and Cabbage Key islands….and we just love the tranquillity of hanging on the hook.
What would you never leave behind (besides each other) when heading out to sea?
A good chardonnay for Michelle, and a good bottle of scotch for Rick. Forgetting either of those would qualify as a mortal sin.
Michelle tell us something about yourselves that nobody knows?
Rick has an attention deficit disorder, and I am deathly afraid of the two of us getting bored in retirement; thus, a Nordhavn solves two problems.
Finally, where to next?
In the early spring we’ll throw off the lines and start more serious cruising. The plan for the first year is up & down the east coast of the U.S. – that will allow us to continue learning the boat in relatively familiar waters, and not too far from help should we break or otherwise mess up something really important. After that we want to explore the Bahamas and further out into the Caribbean. If health and wealth hold up following that, then we’ll pick an ocean. Michelle wants to do Hawaii and the Marquesas and other points west, especially Australia. That’s assuming, of course, we figure out the range calculus.
Thank you very much for your time, will be watching this year’s progress closely.
Don’t watch us too closely, we’ll need some space to screw up & learn from our mistakes!
Good luck with your travels!
Roger that. Thanks.
Please visit Ghost Rider’s blog for more information at: Ghost Rider