Kathy and Bradley.
So, Bradley, tell us a little something about your cruising to date and where you have been so far?
We purchased our Nordhavn on 1 April 2010 – thinking April Fool’s day was a great day to purchase a boat. Just about 15 months later, we were http://shearmadness72.com/about/lightning-strike/ and basically spent a year recovering. We have cruised some of the U.S. east coast up to RI, the Bahamas and last year we did Nova Scotia with 4 other Nordhavns and had a wonderful time. We have just completed our most extensive season, cruising Labrador, Greenland and Baffin Island. Prior to our trawler, we had cruised extensively on our Oyster 56, also named Shear Madness, covering the pacific, New Zealand and Australia www.oyster56.com.
What has been your cruising highlight so far?
Clearly this year’s experiences will be challenging to top, but we plan to try. Not only did we have some amazing adventures and see some remarkable sights, but we cruised with the most incredible dog and his two wonderful caregivers on the Nordhavn 68 Migration. Trying to take a 72 foot trawler through 10 miles of icebergs, growlers and chunks to reach open water is very hard to describe. All the while there are rifle shots ringing out all around you, as the seal hunters are out. See the largest glacier outside Antarctica up close in a tender is daunting. Watching a polar bear swim next to the tender while doing 7 knots, gives one a new understanding of the power of these magnificent animals. And we had some spectacular displays of the Northern Lights – the Aurora Borealis. This season we travelled more than 6000nms in six months, so it was a lot of ground to cover and there was no shortage of great adventures and excitement.
On the sailboat I would put our circumnavigation of Tasmania high on our list, and hope to return there some day. We absolutely loved Australia and NZ.
Polar Bear in Labrador
Do you travel with an animal/s on board?
We absolutely love animals and had two dogs for many years. Our chocolate lab passed away two years before we sold our home, but our Border Collie Lab mix (the smartest dog I have ever known) is still living. When we rescued Jordan, the vet told us that due to malnourishment and mistreatment during his first year of life, he would have trouble reaching 11 years old. He is now almost 16. We are very lucky in that we had a special friend, Meg, who lived with us for 6 years and is extremely gifted with animals. When we sold our house and she had to move, she took Jordan with her – and they are both doing wonders for each other. Given our experience in many countries with animals, our off boat travel schedule, and other considerations we elect not to travel with our own animals. Our goal after this Nordhavn adventure ends would be to purchase some property out west and run a rescue home for large dogs. In the meantime, we enjoy OPD – Other People’s Dogs.
Kathy enjoys a cuddle with Captain Gulliver on Migration (photo by Marcianne Laycock)
Why did you choose a Nordhavn?
When we sold our Sailboat we had every intention of purchasing a new larger Oyster 655. However, as fate would have it, one of my very best friends from New Zealand, who is an accomplished boater, was visiting when the Annapolis boat show was on back in 2007. He dragged me on a Nordhavn at the show, which planted a small seed. In 2008, we went to both the Southampton and Dusseldorf boat shows, and came away favoring a switch to a trawler. Having been sailors, we did not have any issues with the cruising speed. We knew from experience how much one cruises a sailboat under engine and with age, I was getting tired of being wet and cold while reefing the main and climbing the mast twice a year to inspect and clean it, and we really appreciated all the extra room a trawler has for the same length. This summer we cruised the high latitudes in comfort, but used our old offshore sailing gear quite a bit when we went out in the tender!
The Shear Madness and Migration crews spent most of the summer bundled up
I hear that you and Migration (N68) have recently gone north, a long way north. I have to ask, what was the emotion of seeing your first berg aboard Shear Madness for the first time?
It was interesting, but the first one was fairly small. We were very excited and took about a million photos of it. Soon we encountered larger and more complex bergs and we were continually struck by the shear magnificence of nature and all her glory. For me, I did not tire of seeing Icebergs, except when we were overwhelmed trying to reach open water. But once out, we continued to see them all the way back down Labrador and enjoyed each one. They are the ultimate Rorschach test – we named them as we went: Lift-off, Ice cream cone, Arctic Disneyland, New York City, even an ice Nordhavn 62.
Shear Madness at “The Goalposts”; photo by Marcianne Laycock
Do you know of any other Nordhavns that have been as far north as you?
We do not know them personally, but we know one Nordhavn that did the Northwest Passage several years ago. We also know Ocean Pearl took the northern route to Europe last year, so they were close. And Egret was recently in Greenland too, but further south than we were.
In your past life what did you and Kathy do?
Kathy and her partner created a software company from scratch in 1983, before most people even knew what software was. They co-wrote their first software product for mainframe computers and ran that business for nearly 20 years. I took a more traditional path, becoming a CPA and a CFO, but quickly became bored with the repetitive routine of the job. It seems I had one interesting skill – all the companies I worked for early in my career had really screwed up financial departments and I ended up cleaning up lots of messes. Then one day, I got a break and was asked to try and turn a small company around. I had some success and continued doing turnarounds until I retired 2000, when we purchased our sailboat. We are both graduates of the Executive MBA Program at George Mason University and although we went in different years, it is actually through that program that we met.
We once owned business clothes. Here we are on the right at an event at George Mason University along with the Dean of the engineering school, Lloyd Griffiths and wife Arlene and President of the University Alan Merten and wife Sally.
I see from your website that you are both avid readers. What is yours and Kathy’s all-time favourite book?
For me, it is very hard to pick a single book – it is like asking what is one’s favourite food. I read predominately Non-fiction or Historical Fiction. However a better question for me is what books have I elected to read more than once, which is very rare for me. Several are The Source, Guns, Germs and Steel, A World Lit only by Fire and The Little Ice Age.
Kathy has many favourite books. Her favourite boating related book is Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea, other favourites are Lonesome Dove (fiction), Pillars of the Earth (historical fiction), and Atlas Shrugged. We (70/30% Kathy/ Bradley) maintain a list of book reviews which can be found here: http://shearmadness72.com/book-lists/
Bradley, if there is one thing Kathy does that irritates you while underway what would that be?
She is smarter than me. Yet she can be very unfocused on the little details that are often important on a boat. There is no way I could run this boat successfully without her and vice versa I believe.
And it’s only fair I ask Kathy the same question, so Kathy, if there was one thing Bradley does that irritates you what would that be?
Bradley thinks he is smarter than I am and sometimes forgets that I am always right. And sometimes I put very detailed notes in the ship’s log and he doesn’t even read them when he comes on watch!
Onto irritating things, have you ever run out of something while at sea that has caused problems?
Lightening protection – LOL! We keep Shear Madness over-provisioned. It is kind of like the backpack rule. You will fill whatever size backpack you purchase. The biggest challenge for me in switching from a sailboat to a trawler, is the fear of running out of fuel or having a major breakdown. On the sailboat, everything can go to hell in a hand basket and I can still somehow rig a sail, keep the boat comfortable and make some progress. A trawler is different. As a result, we may be guilty of a little over preventive maintenance to insure we do not have any major problems. We carry a lot of spares and so far have not run out of anything important. We did come close to running out of chocolate once. And sometimes we run out of fresh milk and have to use that Ultra-high pasteurized long-life milk, which I don’t like.
Fueling up from a tanker in Port aux Choix, Newfoundland
Would you describe yourselves as more hunters or more gathers?
Definitely hunters. I love to spearfish when I can and we love trolling a line when underway and catching what we can. Is collecting mussels and scallops considered hunting or gathering? Whichever it is, we enjoy that too.
My core personality is more of a hunter, but I have spent my whole life moving around. I moved every year from 1st grade until 10th, and travelled extensively for my job. I can feel myself wanting to settle down in one place at some point in the future.
Bradley with a 20-pound mahi-mahi caught while underway.
So which one of you is the photographer, as most of the photos on your website are superb?
Kathy does most of the photography but I will grab the camera on occasion, and this year I have started writing about 50% of the blogs. Occasionally I have taken one of the pictures that were posted, but we do not keep track.
Kathy does all the videos and has developed a bit of a following on her YouTube channel which can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/user/nordhavn72
Why did you name your vessel Shear Madness?
Because our friends and co-workers thought we were MAD when we elected to retire in our 40’s and go cruising. It is a long story, and one can find it at http://shearmadness72.com/the-shear-madness-name/
What other names did you consider?
What’s the funniest thing that has ever happened to you while at sea?
Having raced large sailboats for 15 years I had some wild and very funny times. Once when I had to go up the mast in the middle of the ocean, I informed the owner I would not do it if he was driving, as he had terrible focus. Everyone understood my position, except him.
Needless to say, that even though I rescued a $15K spinnaker wrapped around the mast (by him) that was my last race on his boat. On SM I think it is some of the emails we get from the “experts” (aka Safety Police”) telling us what we are doing wrong when they view one of Kathy’s videos. Often they have yet to leave the comfort of their recliners, but they have all kinds of commentary on our safety violations.
Our favourite story this year occurred in Assiaat, Greenland where we were rafted up to Migration at a commercial dock and on board her for happy hour. We are in the Salon and hear the distinct sound of someone stepping onto the fly bridge deck and then opening the pilothouse door. George goes racing up the outside, and I go up the inside steps. As I arrive in the pilothouse there is a rather rough looking local character inside waving an unsheathed 8” inch knife. When I inquire as to what he is doing on board, he says and I quote “Do you want to buy this knife?”. Knowing George was coming around the outside and not feeling overly threatened with this guys marketing approach, I tell him, sorry, but I cannot take something that big back to the states and suggest that it is time for him to depart Migration. It certainly was one of the more interesting sales approaches I have come across in my extensive travels.
Shear Madness rafted up with Migration in Aasiaat, Greenland
What’s the biggest mistake you have ever made on the water?
Once I develop confidence in the accuracy of a chart, I will go to great efforts to shorten each leg of the trip, sometimes taking unwise risk for the sake of saving a mile or two. This year shortly after launching the boat after some maintenance we were departing from Charleston Harbour, and the chart showed a southern exit with plenty of depth. We took it and of course managed to touch bottom. While we did not do any real damage – other than scraping some brand new bottom paint of the keel and stabilizer, we also had to turn around and go back to the main channel, turning a “shortcut” into several extra hours. Why is it that the only time I ever touch bottom is within the first month of two of a brand new bottom job? The same thing happened on our sailboat, we were sailing a very challenging short cut through a channel in the reef in Australia and my mind wandered for 1 to 2 minutes. I just scratched the side of the keel, but it was of course shortly after launching her with a new bottom job.
Tell us a little something about MV Shear Madness?
I think she is one of the best boats in the Nordhavn fleet. She was commissioned by a couple named Dudley and Adie and this was their second Nordhavn. They got it almost all right in many respects. She is designed with a lot of thought to expedition style cruising with plenty of redundancy in systems with a bit of a preference to function over style. She is a forward pilot house design with twin engines and though initially we might have chosen something different, we are now VERY pleased with her design. We have now cruised with many other Nordhavns and I believe we are more stable than the rest of the fleet. I will grant you the 57 is faster and I love the 68, but I believe we are the most comfortable boat while underway or at anchor.
Shear Madness is built and equipped for expedition-style cruising
Are you scared of spiders?
Kathy does not like spiders and bugs (though she is not afraid of them) while I do not enjoy snakes. That is not to say I have not swam with them. While diving and spearing in Australia one of the world’s pretty & deadliest snakes, the Coral snake, is extremely curious. It will come up and swim all around you, including tapping your mask. However the good news is that their mouth is so small and their venom so valuable to them, they rarely bite humans which one just has to keep repeating while the coral snake swims through ones legs, checking things out!
What’s your favourite photo ever taken while at sea and why?
I (Kathy) took this photo while snorkeling in Australia. We had just watched some turtles mating which was quite interesting – at least for a while – they do take a long time! We had left to return to the boat and I was looking down at my new digital underwater camera fiddling with some settings. I happened to look up and saw this turtle coming straight towards me. I lifted the camera and snapped one shot before the turtle saw me and dived. I think we both startled each other. I was sure there was no way the photo would be in focus so I was amazed when I saw it!
What would you never leave behind (besides each other) when heading out to sea?
Lots of good books and some chocolate for me! Also hats, sunglasses, and plenty of sunscreen.
Kathy, tell us something about yourselves that nobody knows?
We got married because of a dog. When we met, neither of us was interested in a “relationship”. After a couple of dates, we had a talk about this and were both relieved that we were in agreement. We met in May 1993 and agreed to date through the summer, and then go our separate ways in September. Bradley thought he would move out of the area and I was about to begin an intensive educational program while also running a company so I wasn’t interested in a long-term relationship. At the end of the summer Bradley had found a local work opportunity and we were both too busy to do anything else, so we agreed to keep seeing each other a bit longer. We found that we shared a dream of adventure and loved the idea of cruising, but knew that buying a boat and retiring was a ways off. Although we loved dogs, we knew our lifestyle wouldn’t allow us to have one – we were both traveling over 50% of the time for business, working long hours when we were home, and we both lived in townhouses with no room for dogs. So we used to borrow other people’s dogs on weekends.
Through an acquaintance, we met a family that had an 18 month old chocolate lab that was very rambunctious and a real handful. They didn’t know what to do with him. We worked out an agreement to take him on weekends where we could exercise and work on training him, then return him during the week. The first weekend we had him we were supposed to return him on Sunday night, but were unable to reach the family. So we kept him an extra day. We did not hear from the family until Tuesday when they said there had been a medical emergency and they couldn’t take the dog back until the next weekend. Then there was another excuse and it was clear they did not want the dog back. By that time we were in love anyway and decided that even if our situation was less than ideal, he was still better off with us, so we adopted him. But that meant we had to move in together, which led to buying a house, which led to getting a second dog, which led to “what the hell, we might as well get married”! Mocha was a wonderful dog and lived to 13 ½ giving us many years of joy and many funny stories to tell.
Kathy, what is the most valuable lesson you have learnt since being aboard Shear Madness?
Always check that you know which burner on the stove you have turned on, never leave a plastic container on the stove, and know where the fire blanket is! Life on a boat is different from life in a house and, especially if you are going to be going to remote areas, you need to be very self-sufficient and you can’t rely on others to get you out of a jam. So teamwork is very important – setting up a routine that plays to each person’s strengths and minimizes their weaknesses. Little mistakes can have much more serious consequences on a boat than they might in a traditional home.
The other important thing we have learned is the importance of not being on a schedule. One of my goals is to be the person in the bar at the marina listening to everyone else talk about all the horrendous weather and big waves they encountered on a trip and to say, “Gee, good for you, that’s amazing. We hardly ever get more than 2 foot waves”. We take great care to plan our trips to take advantage of weather windows and avoid being in rough seas. We used a weather router for our trip to Greenland to try to make sure we avoided anything uncomfortable or dangerous. While you can never be completely sure of having perfect conditions, especially on passages of more than a few days, you can increase the odds by refusing to leave until the window looks good.
Bradley, what is the most valuable piece of advice you could give someone contemplating going to sea?
One, never move faster than you are willing to hit something! Two, be willing to change your plans. Recently we started on a passage leg and the weather was not what was forecast. It was on our nose and building into the 20’s. We elected to find a nice anchorage and sit out the day, waiting for the weather to settle. A second correlation to changing plans – when docking or manoeuvring in tight quarters, if you get uncomfortable, back out reassess and start over. Boats gets themselves in trouble when they in inflexible.
Lastly for those trying to determine what boat to purchase – Decide what your objectives are and make sure you have the right boat for the job. The boat required for crossing oceans is very different than the boat required to do the great loop or cruise the Chesapeake Bay.
And finally, where to next?
We think we will take 2015 easy and just cruise the east coast of the US. We are considering doing the Cuba rally, but that is a very short trip. The rest of the summer we will cruise the eastern US. Then in 2016, we hope to organize 1 to 2 other boats that want to do some extreme cruising around Labrador and Baffin Island. Cruising with Migration was a truly special experience. We hope to find some others who would like to join us for a very long and extreme trip in 2016.
Thank you very much for your time, will be watching this year’s progress closely.
Good luck with your travels! Shear Madness website can be found at: http://shearmadness72.com/
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