About Our Boat

Orontes II under gennakerSailing on a light wind dayDSC02287Our Salon table

Lots of people have asked for details about our boat, so I thought I would take a few minutes to describe her.

First, she was built in 1989 in Surrey, Canada, near Vancouver.  She is a custom designed Amazon 49, and is literally the only boat of her design in the world.  The initial design was started by a naval architect named Grahame Shannon and she was finished by Robert Perry.  Robert Perry is a very famous naval architect with a long list of successful designs that are sailing the world’s waters today.  Grahame Shannon pioneered the use of computer aided design for ships and boats, and has designed numerous vessels.  There are a number of smaller Amazons that were built and they have a reputation as great boats with excellent construction.

She is built of steel with lots of teak woodwork below.  She is cutter rigged, which means she has a mainsail, a jib, and a staysail.  This provides a very flexible sailplan for the variable winds encountered in offshore sailing.  She has a very easy motion when sailing.  With her length and weight, she really smooths out seas and there is not a lot of sharp, jerking action that you may get from lighter and smaller vessels.  She has long legs, and can really cover ground when underway.

Living quarters consists of two cabins, each with double berths.  The forward berth is where we sleep when in port or at anchor since it is the largest, about equal to a queen-sized bed.  The berth in the aft cabin is a bit smaller but is much more comfortable when underway since it is closer to the center of the boat and therefore has a gentler motion.  Most 49 foot boats have three or more cabins, but Robert Perry and the original owners wanted a more spacious, open design.  Therefore the salon, galley, and navigation station are all in one very large open space.  When you first come down below, it is apparent that a lot of work and thought went into making the boat very livable for two to four people.

The galley is large, and features a large double sink that is similar in size to most house kitchens, a propane stove with oven, refrigerator, large separate freezer, trash compactor, and one of the smallest microwave ovens you have ever seen.  There is a lot of storage space for utensils, pots, pans, etc.  For cooking on deck, we have a propane grill and a real nice teak table for dining in the cockpit.  We have 300 gallons of water in tanks below the sole, and carry about 15 gallons of emergency water in pint and gallon jugs.

Almost everything on the boat is oversized and super strong.  The original construction was excellent, and if they had a choice, the yard installed almost everything one or two sizes larger than was required.  The result is a very strong boat that sails great with very sweet lines.

When not sailing we have a 100 horsepower inboard diesel engine.  We carry 300 gallons of fuel, which is a lot for most cruising sailboats.  We also have a diesel generator for providing 120 Volt power, but we don’t use it very much.

We have central air conditioning, but will only use it while in port.  At anchor, the tropical breezes keep us very comfortable.

We have been busy with lots of upgrades and improvements.  We have new sails, new canvaswork for the cockpit to protect us from sun and sea when sailing offshore, new opening ports (the old ones leaked), new VHF and HF radios for short and long-range communication, respectively, a wifi booster for internet access, and other projects too numerous to list.  A major upgrade of the electronics system was required to make navigation safe and easy and I’ll describe it in brief.

When we brought the boat to Texas from La Paz, Mexico, we sailed and motored 5000 miles using only a handheld GPS and paper charts.  The compass was off by 5 to 40 degrees depending on our heading, and was almost useless.  We could more accurately guess our heading by looking at the sun than the compass.  We now have a new compass at the helm which is designed for steel vessels and a large display to show our position, boat speed, water depth, radar, or almost anything else you may need.  There is a shiny new autopilot to steer the boat and working wind instrumentation to show wind speed and direction.  A second display down below at the nav station can show the same information.  Since this unit is so handy, the one at the nav station is identical to the one at the helm, so we can move them around in case one fails.  If anyone is interested, everything is manufactured by Simrad, except the AIS which is from a company named Sitex.  We are very happy with our new equipment and recommend it highly.

In summary, we are very happy with our new home.  She doesn’t have quite as much room as our home in Aledo, but the back yard is much larger!


Cruising on Orontes – 1997-1998

Our current boat is named Orontes 2 because there was another Orontes, a Moody 40 center cockpit.  We bought her in 1996 and cruised the Caribbean in 1997 and 1998.  Cory was 14 and Christy 4 during this time.  Laura and I took sabbaticals from our jobs, or as I said, took a “weather leave”.  In other words, I was leaving weather (sic) they said yes or no.

When we were cruising, things were quite a bit different from now.  First, we were novice sailors.  We learned quick, but made a lot of mistakes.  Second, we had kids on board. That makes a ton of difference, and almost all of it good.  Cruising with children really opens doors for meeting people. Third, there was no internet to speak of.  We actually wrote letters on out laptop, printed them, and MAILED them from wherever we were.  A lot of times we met people who were in the Caribbean on vacation, and we would ask them if they would carry mail for us and mail it when they returned home.  This was a lot faster than than using island postage services!

I was requested to post those old letters on this blog.


Here are the letters we sent home to our family:

1 Bahamas

2 Dominican Republic

3 Dominican Republic

4Dominican Republic

5 Haiti

6 Puerto Rico BVI

7 BVI St Croix

8 St Croix to St Lucia

9 St Lucia to St Barts

10 Culebra turtle watch



New Sails and furlers!

Edit – upon reading this, I realized not everyone knows what a “furler” is.  My Mac certainly doesn’t.  It keeps wanting to change it to “furrier”, a word I’m not sure I’ve ever used in my life.  The furler, or also called a “roller furler”, rolls up the genoa and the staysail very similar to the way a window shade rolls up.  This makes it very easy to stow the sails when not using them.  Instead on having to drop the sails, fold them up, and stow them, you can simply roll them up by pulling on a line that leads back to the safety of the cockpit.  This is really handy when offshore or in poor weather. – End Edit

We are finally coming to the end of a major part of our refit.  We replaced both of our old Profurl furlers (staysail and genoa) with new Schaefer units.  They are very robust and built to take the marine environment.  We replaced the headstay at the same time.  The staysail stay was replaced two years ago and is in very good shape.  Thanks to Stix “N Rig’n of Kemah which supplied the furlers, ancillary equipment, and a lot of advice!

C&C Sailmakers in Houston built us a new mainsail and staysail.  Both look really good and we are anxious to try them out.  While doing this work, we also replaced staysail sheets and halyard, the mainsheet, outhaul, and mainsail reefing lines.

With new sails and furlers, our sail plan is just about ready.  This was a big project that we are glad to get completed!

Settling into life aboard

So we have sold our house and moved aboard.  We are getting to know our dock neighbors better and feeling more at home.  One thing that really helps is having a comfortable bed.  Last year we had new custom mattresses made that fit our berths and are thick and comfy.  They are so much b ether than the four-inch thin worn out mattresses we had before!

We continue to stow things and thin out belongings that we no longer need.  Yesterday Laura found several pieces of mesh and canvas that were made to fit an earlier version of our cockpit shade (called a “bimini”).  We had no use for these, so off to the trash they go. For once, we actually REMOVED ten pounds from the boat!

Our gifts to each other have probably taken a different turn than most people.  For Mother’s Day, Laura got a shiny new 22 inch LCD TV and DVD combo.  It is mounted up on a bulkhead in the salon so we can watch movies at night. It is also 12 Volts, so it runs on ship’s batteries instead of shore power.  She was thrilled, as you can see below.

Laura with TV


For our anniversary (35 years!) Steve surprised Laura with a Wi-fi antenna and booster.   Since we have a steel boat the wi-fi signal here in the marina just can’t find its way down below.  We could get an internet connection sitting outside in the cockpit, but it was just so-so. On hot or rainy days, it was miserable.  Now I can sit at our salon table in air conditioned comfort typing away and drinking this really tasty coffee my daughter got me for Father’s Day.  It is a great improvement!  For the boaters out there, I purchased the Groove router through Island Time PC.  Great service and I highly recommend them.

The careful observer may have noted an increase in the frequency we are updating this blog.  This is directly tied to the wi-fi booster being installed and the fact we now have a much better internet connection.  Did I mention the part about sitting at the table drinking coffee?