Dinghy Handling

One of the more potentially dangerous activities aboard is launching and retrieving the our large aluminum bottomed rigid inflatable. At 16 feet with a 70 HP Yamaha outboard, it weights in just around 1000 pounds. While the FPB 78 and FPB 64 both use the booms to launch and retrieve the dinks, each boat differs in various ways and poses its own unique issues.

As things are set up on our 78, the booms are controlled with traveler cars much like the travelers on a sailboat. Lines from he cars are lead down to a winch mounted on the mast close to the aft deck. The winches are used to crank the booms in and out. The large dinghy is actually lifted up and down by a drum winch in the starboard side wet locker.

Until now, we have been lifting the dinghy over the starboard life lines and then down on to the cradle. There have been a number of issues with this system.

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In this picture, you can see how much further up the dink was to be lifted to clear the lifelines by looking at where the dink is positioned as compared to the lifelines and stanchions at the boarding gate. (Note – the lines typically ran all the way aft from the boarding gate to the aft corner of the deck – in this pic they are removed).

The higher you lift the dink, the more problematic things get so keeping it lower makes a big difference. There have been situations where controlling the dinghy was like trying to contain an angry billy goat. The other factor that compounded things was how tight things got as the dink cleared the lifelines. The aft corner of the solar panel array over the back deck created an interference problem.

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The arch on the dinghy had to be brought right up to the corner of the array, the dink pushed outboard slightly, and then raised again to clear the lifelines. The same issue occurred on retrieval as the dink had to be lowered slightly once over the lifelines to clear the corner and then pulled further inboard so it could be lowered without hanging up on the lifeline. Clearance at this point in the process was only a few inches. Add a bit of roll and it was almost impossible to prevent the dinghy from hitting something.

Our next iteration was to remove the two stations between the boarding gate and aft corner of the boat. We had partially anticipated this by using pelican slips to connect the lifelines to the stations which simply unclip with the pull of a pin. The mid stanchion also had a fast pin which makes it simple to remove. The aft station was bolted in place but we will add a fasten to that as well.

This is how things look with the stations removed.

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The procedure with the stanchions and lines removed consists of hooking up the lifting halyard to a bridle on the dinghy.

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The dinghy is then hoisted up to deck level.

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At this level, the dink can be brought directly aboard just a bit higher then the chocks on deck.

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A line around one of the overhead supports forward and one around aft and the dinghy bow is brought aboard first.

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The stern is similarly pulled in and the dink is lowered on to the chocks.

Using this method, no one is under the dink while trying to maneuver it aboard and only a few cranks on the winch to start bringing the boom and dink inboard are required.

Once on board, the dinghy completely seals off the open side deck. There is only one small area at the bow where someone could potentially slip between the dink and the starboard boarding gate station and go overboard. We secure this are with the dinghy painter. Obviously, there is a hazard down the side and across the starboard aft deck when the dink is off the boat but it is a simple matter to insert the two stanchions and clip the lifelines in place to secure the deck.

We also have discovered that the dink can be left outboard and secured against the belting in secure anchorages when the weather is benign.

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No doubt there will be additional refinements but this is a huge improvement over how we have been doing things.

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Te Kouma

As we have been delayed getting into the Viaduct Marina in Auckland, Steve has a a lot more pleasant anchorages for us to explore. We spent two nights in Te Kouma Harbor on the Coromandel Peninsula. Beautiful little spot with added benefits of great protection from yet another blow, mussel farms where we could pick up a bucket of same and the opportunity to get off the boat and do a little walking.

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The terrain is extremely steep so the best strategy was to find cow paths which traverse the hillsides switchback fashion.

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It blew for 30 knots most of the day but around 4, we decided that I should take the dink to the nearby mussel farms while Steve stayed with the boat to keep and eye on things. It was really quite rough out in the channel and I was really pleased how well our Swift Inflatable handled it all. I was able to stay on plane even into it and the boat was very dry and had a nice soft ride.

The mussels are actually grown on drop lines hanging down from long lines on the surface which are supported by buoys. You are permitted to harvest the mussels yourself within an arms length of the surface. Naturally, the ones further down on the drop lines are much bigger and nicer. I really wasn’t looking forward to hanging over the side of the dink trying to collect them by hand in 30 knots of breeze. Fortunately, a work boat had just arrived and were kind enough to give me a large bucket for dinner.

This is what we had after cleaning them up.

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Dinner was quite a feast with steamed mussels prepared in several different ways, rustic bread and roasted baby potato.

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Cheers for now.

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Waiheke 2018

From Kawao, we went out to Flat Rock and had a go for some Snapper. Lots of fish but no keepers. Late morning we moved on south to Waiheke Island. In days gone by, it was kind of a hippy drop out place but now functions as a high end suburb of Auckland with the addition of high speed ferry service.

No pictures this time but you can see a prior post on Waiheke from our 2012 circumnavigation of NZ on the first Iron Lady by clicking here

Deb is ashore and hit one of the local bars to watch the end of the Super Bowl. Got a radio call that said the Eagles won – sorry Pats fans – as a Steeler fan I am no fan of the Pats.

I have also spent some time relearning MapsMarker Pro and I have updated the Chart Table tab to show where we have been recently for those who have an interest.


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NZ 2018

Off the dock again – had enough of that. Plan was to bunker 16000 liters of fuel at the automated self serve dock next to us. The tank ran dry after 7300 liters. Oh well – the commercial guys at the wharf told us that was pretty typical. Save some of the pain as fuel fill ups are horribly expensive. 16000 liters here comes in around $14000 US. Glad we don’t have to do it often.

Finished bunkering at 1500 and the plan was to head off to the the Hens and Chicks Islands and hide out behind the Hen from southeast winds until morning when it was supposed to die out and go variable.

Plans change – we got the the Hen and there was a large northerly swell and wind waves from the south that wrapped around that made things untenable. Made the call to head further south to Kawou Island (about 3 hours) to escape things. As we headed south, the winds came up to gale strength plus higher gusts (35 to 40 knots) and Metservice changed the forecast from variables to another 30 to 45 knot blow. The low that had been impacting us was projected now to make a return trip north. We made Kawou around 2030 at dusk at dropped the hook at Two House Bay. Turned out to be the right decision as today was windy and rainy all day.

When we dropped the hook, the welcoming committee was already on hand.

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The next day, Deb and I got off the boat and went for a 2 hour walk which ended in the rain. It was still warm so great to get off the boat. A few pics of the Gray Mansion – he was governor of NZ during the British colonial times and this was his home.

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At the time, he had a managerie of animals including monkeys, African animals and a variety of others. Most were shot and killed as the monkeys were nasty and the others interfered with the natives. A few peacocks remain,

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Before we got rained out, we walked the path to the old copper refinery which has some very nice views,

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That is the remains in the background.

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There are numerous fallen down pines that folks have had some fun with – including Deb.

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Have to include a pic of IL sitting in Two House Bay.

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A full in rainy afternoon so the emphasis was on boat chores and dinner. Tonight we did a smoked Salmon in a Kiwi style smoker. It uses alcohol burners under the unit with a pan for wood chips and then the fish over that. It only takes 1/2 hour – we marinated the Salmon with salt, brown sugar and whiskey. That was served with a home made potato salad and veggie salad. Really good.

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Rainy night so a good sleeping night – hopefully improved weather tomorrow.

Tomorrow I will also try to update the Chartlink tab to show the area we are cruising so you can get a sense of where we are in NZ.


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Interesting day today. I composed this yesterday and tried to upload it and I was denied access to my blog. After four hours of working with various tech types at Hostgator (my web hosting service) and wordpress (my blog outfit with two different logins for my blog and my account with them), I finally discovered that somebody had hijacked my blog. From there it got worse as I tried to reconstruct who they were and how they had changed my user name and password. Once I got that sorted, it then became a matter of removing their privileges and restoring mine. No gory details but is was basically awful as when I went to delete them, wordpress wanted to delete my access to all my old posts as well. Lesson learned – make sure I log out as administrator ever time I log in. Anyway…………….

Our time has been a mix of being dockside at Pacific Disgraceway Marina and off enjoying some of the North Island’s sites. The emphasis, however, has been on commissioning and dealing with the inevitable issues that come with a new boat. Each time out, our list grows shorter as we spend more time away from the dock. Our runs have generally consisted of heading north to Whangamumu and Whangaroa as well as south to Great Barrier Island among other places.

The following two pictures were taken off the sometimes fearsome Cape Brett on an unusual flat calm day.


To give a sense of scale, the hole thru the rock is large enough for Iron Lady to sail thru. Larger tourist boats do so routinely but we took a pass on even a flat calm day.


The following three pictures were taken in Whangamumu. An interesting contrast between the dead tree and the surrounding bush.



And Iron Lady looking back from the bow.


Whangaroa is a beautiful harbor with very unusual rock formations.

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A pretty little stream with several large waterfalls leads off from the anchorage. Time did not permit a big explore this time but there are some nice pictures in our older post of our circumnavigation of New Zealand in the first Iron Lady.

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The new Iron Lady has several water toys – among them a 15 foot aluminum bottom inflatable with a 70 HP Yamaha and a smaller rowing dinghy patterned after the salmon fishing boats that were traditionally used in the Pacific Northwest.

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We occasionally get unwelcome visitors that we ask to move on.

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I had another shortly after moving aboard while Steve was down in Auckland. I got up one morning and found a fellow sleeping on the matrix deck on our coach – couldn’t believe it. He said he had been in the hospital and had been discharged late at night and had gotten lost. His cell was dead and he couldn’t call his mate. He did have a bandage where an IV had been inserted so his story was at least partially true. Either way, I told him to leave in no uncertain terms.

Anyway, I will close for now with a picture of our dinner aboard in Whangaroa.


Vegetable skewers with havarti cheese, roasted corn and snapper (caught that afternoon) saviche Peruvian style with red onions marinated in lime and lemon juice and sweet potato. It tasted even better then it looks.

I will close for now with a typical NZ sunset from the land of the glowing skies as the Maori say (technically Rakiura which is Stewart Island). Anyway – please enjoy.


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Iron Lady Dockside

I arrived in New Zealand December 27th to begin the move aboard process on the new Iron Lady. Steve Parsons, our long time Captain, has been engaged by Circa Marine to do the commissioning of all the new FPBs including 78 1 Cochise and 78 2 Grey Wolf. Steve was also aboard Cochise on the transit from NZ to Panama and aboard Grey Wolf for her first cruise to New Caledonia. He also spent 3 days with us in Pittsburgh in early December which, in addition to having a good bit of fun, was a great opportunity to review all the items I had purchased for Iron Lady and sent to NZ as well as review additional items we would need to source. As such, we had a substantial leg up on getting Iron Lady ready to cruise.

Steve and I spent the first week moving aboard thousands of pounds of gear including everything from spares to tools, bedding, artwork and decorations. Car and van load after van load of stuff which Iron Lady just seemed to gobble up with her tremendous storage capacity.

Anxious to get on with things, we headed off for 3 or 4 days of cruising locally. The yard was on holiday from December 20th to January 8th so we wanted to get some more hours on the boat before their return and break as much stuff as possible so they could deal with all the inevitable infant mortality issues. First it was up the coast to Whangamumu – a beautiful little anchorage. The following day is was a run down to the Mokuhinau Islands where we tried our hand at a little snapper fishing (without success – it was pretty rough). Then on to Great Barrier. A major blow was forecast and Met Service kept upgrading the forecast to a full 60 knot blow from a passing 985 Millibar low.

It seemed like all of Auckland was anchored up in Port Fitzroy in advance of it. When you looked at the boat density and the quality of their ground tackle, it had all the makings of a night of bumper boats as one after the other dragged anchor. We stopped briefly and threw the dink in the water so I could buy some more bait at the local store – the dinghy dock was even worse with pure chaos as people tried to land. Once back to the boat, we quickly moved a few bays to the north where there was just one other sail boat, good protection and lots of swinging room. The herd mentality seems to apply to boating as well.

We broke out the rods and boated a bunch of snapper – two of which were invited to join us for dinner. After dinner, the evening forecast update had only gotten worse projecting a number of days before the low moved on and the wind dropped. True to our mission, we had begun to experience a number of new electronic issues – one of which took down both of our radars and the second of which compromised the effectiveness of our hydraulic stabilizers. After a good bit of discussion, Steve and I agreed it would be better to be at the dock then trapped at Great Barrier and possibly lose valuable time needed for Circa to work on our issues.

Around 9 PM we pulled the hook and headed for South Pacific Gateway Marina – our home for now. Those who have followed us for awhile may remember that the old Iron Lady was commissioned at NZ Ship Repair which is just up the road from Pacific Gateway. Our affectionate name for Ship Repair was Ship Despair. Pacific Gateway sounds like a bit more of a going concern but it really is just a working yard as well. They do boast a painted palm tree on their office and a few painted fish on the shoreside head but that is as close as gets to luxury digs. We finally made the dock at 0300 in flat calm conditions. We must have looked like a bunch of squirrels coming down the harbor with our noses planted against the glass watching for the channel marks in addition to using our chart plotter.

Turned out we had made the right call as the winds rapidly built the next day to 60 knots with higher gusts.

Since then we have continued the move aboard and Circa has been addressing our laundry list of issues. Deb arrived last Saturday and we are now prepared to head out and put more time on the boat. Hope to be off the dock this afternoon. Winds are up again and we have seen 25 gusting 35 but it should be dropping by tomorrow. Hopefully there will be some residual swell so we can get in some surfing – early indications are that Iron Lady will be very good at it.

People have been prodding me for some pictures as well so I did take some time and shot a few yesterday. Much more to come but for now, I will just throw some in the post and identify where they were taken.

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Several shots of the galley area. Tall cabinet is the refer, adjacent to that under counter are two large freezers,Cooktop is induction and under it is a full sized dishwasher. Aft counter area has storage, oven with micro and other small appliances.

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Salon area including the lower helm and a partial view of the L shaped settee.

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Matrix Deck overview showing seating including day bed and remote portable helm in the pedestal.

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View of the Matrix Deck helm area.

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Aft deck showing our big inflatable dink, rowing dink and BBQ area.

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Aft swim step and storage lockers.

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For the technically inclined, the Port Systems room in the lower companionway.

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What Steve Dashew calls the Executive Lounge – the lazarette that sports a double berth, wet head and complete workshop.

More next time.


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78-3 Build Update May 2017

Work is progression nicely in NZ and I thought I would share some of the latest pics from the yard. As an aside, it has been wonderful receiving frequent picture updates to monitor progress. Another technological marvel has been Skype – when questions arise based on the pics I am getting, the yard takes an iPad out to the boat along with the appropriate personnel and we do a video conference to address questions and concerns. Wonderful – and it avoids unpleasant surprises.

I’ll start at the stern which is still under construction. You can see three large lockers running across the transom. The right will be for petrol for the dinks, the center will house the diesel fire control pump and lots of other things given the size of the locker. The left will be for trash and more storage. The stairs from the aft deck to the swim step will come down to the left of centerline.

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Moving to the aft deck, the trapezoidal hatch to the left leads to the lazarette. Forward of the hatch is the built in that houses a sink and the BBQ along with lots of storage. The open area to the bottom of the locker is part on the engine room air induction system which is powered by several large variable speed fans. All engine room air intake and exhausts are protected by fire dampers as well in the event of an emergency.

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The trash compactor and 6 man offshore Solar life raft will live under the stairs to the matrix deck. The locker to the left of this area houses the refrigeration compressors and will also have serve as a day head. the locker to the right is a wet locker and also has houses the dinghy winch for the large dink.

The next shot is looking down into the lazarette thru the hatch on the back deck. Behind the ladder you can see the large stainless tool chest. To the right is a sink/vanity to serve crew when stationed aft – more on this in a bit. Since this area can also be accessed thru the engine room, the ladder folds up against the headliner so it is out of the way when no in use.

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Continuing with the lazaretto, the following is a picture of the aft end and the housings for the massive rudder posts.

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This following shows the tool chest and work bench located along the port side of the lazaretto. I will be making modifications to the sink area to make it more user friendly. Notice the little cubby added by Circa to house all those spray cans we all have aboard.

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Opposite the work bench is a double V berth and wet head for crew so they have their own escape and living space when needed.

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Turning to the engine room, most of the major components have been set.

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Visible in this shot are the 17 KW genset which can be run at either 50 or 60 Hz. Above the genset is the housing for the air induction fans and fire damper. Both exhaust risers for the 6068 JD engines are also visible.

The following shows the black and grey water tanks and in the background is the water maker.

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In this shot you can see the part of the hydraulic system, fuel filtration and manifolds and, in the background, the Webasto heater which provides heating and domestic hot water along with an engine heat exchanger and electric elements – the Webasto being the primary device unless underway and then the engine waste heat will be all that is required.

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The following is a shot of the Electrodyne air cooled rectifiers. With two double ended alternators producing upwards of 12KW, beefy air cooled rectifiers mounted separately form the alternators are required to handle the massive loads. In conjunction with the Victron inverters, all 240VAC, 120VAC, 24VDC and 12VDC loads can be comfortably handled when underway by the alternators. When at anchor, 14 high output solar panels will feed the 1600 amp hour 24 volt traction battery bank so the genset really should not be required very often.

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Lots more to show you but I will save that for next time.


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Marquesas Slide Show

I finally got around to doing an iMovie slideshow of our time in the Marquesas in French Polynesia. You can access it by clicking here.


Posted in Marquesas 2013 | 4 Comments