We bought Serendipity in September of 2013. We moved her to La Paz, Mexico for the winter and then brought her up to her home port of Friday Harbor, Washington in April of 2014. We made the trip in two one week sprints, first to Dana Point in early February, and then to Friday Harbor.
Since then our cruising has been confined to the Puget Sound and British Columbia. In 2015 we circumnavigated Vancouver Island.
Why did you choose Nordhavn?
Our previous boat was a customized 68-foot Sea Ray Express Cruiser. It cruised at 40 knots. We took her to Alaska in 2000. Despite being a solid coastal cruiser, we found her vulnerable to sudden storms. When I retired from Microsoft I decided that we would trade speed for volume and robustness, and a friend had a Nordhavn. When I toured his boat I found strength and workmanship that seemed to be what we wanted.
Northern tip of Vancouver Island in this boat. Glacier Bay in the previous boat.
Do you travel with an animal/s on board?
What training or skillset would you consider a “must have” prior to buying a boat of?
To own/operate a boat like the 86 you need to be very comfortable working on a variety of mechanical equipment. In addition, I think it is very helpful to have some real training on radar operations. In the Pacific Northwest you can find yourself in fog for extended periods of time and being comfortable using all the facilities of modern radars, particularly when integrated with your navigation software, is of tremendous value.
There are actually three things we changed that we love. It is hard to pick the one that is best. Frist, I upgraded all the computers/networks and then added video switching to all video sources and displays. We have a dozen displays and about six computers permanently connected to the boat. I can select any source and put it on any monitor and this is very handy.
Second, we added an HMX waste processing plant in the lazarette. We love never having to deal with pumping out the black or grey water tanks.
Third, we added a sunshade that covers the aft cockpit area and the reduction in the “bake-factor” let’s us sit outside a lot more than we could otherwise.
Can you tell me more about the HMX system please?
HMX is a fully automatic waste processing plant that processes any combination of black or grey water up to 600 gallons per day. If you are in salt water it makes its own chlorine by electrolysis to do the disinfecting. It ingests a couple gallons from one of tanks every four minutes and passes it through a macerating pump then several washing and disinfecting stages before discharging it as a sterile output. I choose to put both the grey water and black water through the system for good measure, and to keep it more active which seems better and makes us legal anywhere in the world.
It would have been easy to put in during construction, but retrofitting it in the lazarette with the tanks and pumps mid-ship made it a real job, but we love the result. Here are photos of HDX control panel and processing plant.
I have been a tech entrepreneur since I was in college. My first start up was 47 years ago. My last “job” was as the Chief Research and Strategy Officer for Microsoft. I was there for 22 years. Since then I do some consulting for CEO’s and a bunch of pro bono work. I was also an advisor to the last three U.S. Presidents on national security and science and technology.
Marie has devoted herself to our family ever since our daughter was born in 1977. She is an avid quilter, and now very engaged with our four grandchildren who live close by us in Seattle.
Honestly, there is nothing.
And Marie, if there was one thing Craig does that irritates you what would that be?
We don’t seem to have anything that is a big irritation, either way…
What is the shortest trip you have made?
From Seattle to Tacoma.
What is the longest passage you have made?
The trip from La Paz to Friday Harbor, which was about 2700NM. I did that with the help of some professional captains since we ran 24×7 and Marie didn’t go on that trip. The next longest was the trip around Vancouver Island, about 1200NM.
Tallest seas were coming up the West Coast from Mexico. Three meter swell with 2 to 3 meter wind waves on top. We occasionally would get waves breaking over the bow (13 feet above the water) and blowing directly back onto the pilothouse windows which are 35 feet back from the bow. Strongest winds were in the Strait of Georgia where we clocked 55 Knots on a day when the forecast was for maximum of 15 knots…
If you didn’t own your current boat, what boat would you like to change to?
When you purchased your Nordhavn, what were the key features you were looking for?
Robustness and the ability to handle unexpected weather. We also wanted to be able to sleep the whole family.
Would you describe yourselves as more hunters or more gathers?
Why did you name your vessel Serendipity?
It was the name of our previous boat. I like the meaning of the word and always felt we were the beneficiary of serendipity in what we did in life and work.
What is the one lesson every boater should learn?
How important it is to be prepared for the unexpected. Things can get bad in a hurry on a boat. Having prepared for when things go wrong is critically important. Having tried to exercise those measures, at least mentally, is important.
What is your favourite anchorage and why?
We like Mink Island, near Desolation Sound in British Columbia. It is reasonably sheltered, at least for the prevailing winds in the summer. The water there is warm enough for swimming and the scenery to the East is wonderful.
I am meticulous about preventative maintenance, so I probably have not been that surprised at the costs of doing that. The only expensive repair came with the failure of a hold-down bolt on an injector in one of the main engines. I had just proactively had two injectors replaced due to excessive fuel dilution in the oil, and after they were changed one of the injector hold-down bolt sheared off during a maximum power test six hours later. In the end the cylinder head and camshaft had to be replaced. But to do that the entire engine had to be disassembled, cleaned, flushed and rebuilt in place because when the injector let loose it shattered one of the ceramic cam followers. The ceramic particles fell into the oil galley in the head and were promptly pumped into every bearing surface in the engine. MTU/Detroit learned the hard way on a Coast Guard boat that this quite quickly destroys the bearing surfaces when they are scored by the ceramic particles and the engine seizes up. After a full forensic analysis of the failure we could never identify any case other than the bolt breaking (it was re-used, but not over torqued), so I had to eat the cost of that entire adventure.
What is your favorite activity while aboard?
Sitting on the aft deck when at anchor and just tinkering with things on the boat…
We love our slip at Friday Harbor alongside the main dock. Locks of activity and a five minute walk to town…
What is your favourite quote and why?
Warren Buffet – When asked how much money one should leave to your children, said: “Enough so that they can do anything they want to do, but not nothing.”
Can’t think of anything funny at the moment…
What’s the biggest mistake you have ever made on the water?
Fortunately, in 20 years of boating, we have not made any truly big mistakes. Our little mistakes usually come from assuming that guests who are experienced boaters are really capable of performing docking chores (handling and tying lines) on an 86-foot boat that weighs almost 500,000 pounds.
What is your most hated boat job?
Craig – Anything that requires me to be wedged into a confined space. I am mildly claustrophobic and so working in very tight places can be uncomfortable both mentally and physically.
Marie – Hauling the provisions onto the boat…
Tell us a little something about Serendipity and what makes her so special?
Serendipity is like a comfortable second home. Our first boat was great for a week or so with two couples. This boat is large enough that we never feel cramped and even with four couples aboard there are places where you can still be alone to relax or rest.
Craig – Being hit by another boat whose operator doesn’t know what they are doing. Too many close calls in that regard already…
Marie – Crashing into another boat while docking.
What’s your favourite photo ever taken while at sea and why?
This is a great picture of what cruising in the Pacific Northwest is like…
My computers and emergency sat comm equipment. Food is nice too….
Marie tell us something about yourselves that nobody knows?
We met in high school in New Orleans, and have now been married for 47 years!
If you were to give one piece of advice to someone thinking of cruising, what would it be?
Try to avoid having a very rigid schedule. I have always had limited time and so we try to operate against a pretty rigid schedule. It would be great to not have to be somewhere at a specific time as it allows you to further reduce risks.
Good luck with your travels!
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