The New River

A couple months ago Wanderbird was struck on the New River. It’s a busy river; at least one captain on Waterway Guides suggested it could be ‘The Most Challenging Waterway on the East Coast‘.

After a long, hard refit it’s been painful to haul out again to repair the damage. To keep busy I completed my Part 107 FAA license to fly the drone and started putting together a guide for the New River from the Stranahan River to Safe Harbor Lauderdale Marine Center. I found a Google map and modified that to show each of the bridges and plan to add the various radio call markers.

While we were docked downtown I started flying the drone to watch the large yachts move up and down the river. One of these took off on YouTube and resulted in over 130,000 views, which was fun.

Inspired by this growing and attentive audience, I spent more time and energy on subsequent videos and was feeling proud to create a story from something as mundane as boat traffic. This video garnered a mere 1,500 views and was far more interesting than than the earlier one.. so the algorithm continues to be a mystery!

Now I have a pretty good collection of Yacht traffic on the New River. Eventually we’ll be back on the river and hopefully I’ll get the next episode of the Wanderbird Chronicles up – where we lose the starboard anchor in a storm off the Jumento Cays! In the meantime, here is my playlist of New River videos. Note the button in the upper right – opens a side bar with all the videos to choose from and if you like this kind of video, please do subscribe on YouTube and click the bell to be notified when I post new videos.

Go for Launch

We joke about the two week project that took two years. Two years and a month, to be exact.

On February 1st, Steel Tow pulled the catamaran out from in front of us and we took a moment to reflect on the many, many changes made to the ship’s systems. Luke considered the changes in the hydraulic system, the new navigation and autopilots and all new engine monitoring, alarms and sensors. Finally, he took a breath, checked the bow thruster one last time and called ‘I think we’re ready’ into the radio mic.

You think? Good enough for me!

No one knows better than Luke. Over the past two years he had worked on nearly every system, replacing major components on everything from refrigeration to navigation. Even the dock lines I was casting off were new. We wouldn’t need those until we reached the New River just a few miles away, but we would need that bow thruster.

A little breeze had kicked up and that thruster seemed to be slightly beleaguered, perhaps not getting enough hydraulic flow. Something for the sea trials. We eased out of that muddy hole we’d been in since May 2020, and out into Dania cut, announcing to the world with a loud blast of the horn that Wanderbird was back under way.

We made our way past the port into familiar waters, under the 17th street causeway and up the New River to a beautiful and more bustling spot in downtown Fort Lauderdale.

Now, to finish the repairs and make way for the open sea – or at least the Bahamas before hurricane season comes.

I found time to start a GoPro on the flybridge, if you’d like to see the short transit:

Wanderbird running from Harbour Town Marina to New River, downtown docks, Fort Lauderdale

Minor Repairs/Major Refit

We went into the yard in early February for two weeks of repairs, what is now eight months. Some minor repairs turned into a major, mechanical refit.

Some things were in desperate need of attention, but we waited until we had time to do them the way we wanted. We were given quotes for our ‘brightwork’ – the exterior woodwork on the railings, which varied widely and went as high as $55,000. Most of the vendors also wanted to do it their own way and Luke was insistent on stripping everything back fully and using many coats of All Wood.

We had one group even go so far as to treat one of the boarding gates and now that we’re done, by comparison, it looks like it was painted. The end result is quite spectacular and as long as we apply a new coat every six months or year, it should last a very long time.

Design began on this boat in the late 90s and was finished right about 2004. At the time the systems were exceptional for a world cruiser and she was loaded with spares of everything. Now however, with connectivity and electronics being what they are, we were struggling with some issues tied to antiquated systems.

Fresh bottom paint before splashing back down at Lauderdale Marine Center

When the Pandemic hit, the boat was ‘on the hard’, out of the water and in the shipyard. The shipyard was deemed ‘an essential service’ so we were able to continue working.

With the new Maretron electronics and remote monitoring we hope to never come back to her from a few days away to find the power entirely shut down and the batteries wrecked. Instead, we’ll receive a text message as soon as the power is cut! We can monitor things remotely and program safety systems to prevent flooding and other disasters. These updates make the boat considerably more manageable for a small crew or owner/operator.

The list of improvements includes updated refrigeration, navigation systems, autopilots, air conditioning, radar, battery banks, rebuilt alternators, a new hydraulic cruise generator, refreshed bang irons, LED conversion and much more.

I’ve been grabbing bits of video here and there, so there may be a video coming soon to show the work we’ve been doing.

The refreshed brightwork (Mahogany Wood Railings) on the bow