The Argonaut: Embarking on the Dream Voyage (BLOG)

Meet Rebecca and Randy Tisch as they embark on an eight month voyage from Stuart, Fla. to New Zealand on their Nordhavn 68.
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Follow along with Rebecca and Randy Tisch as they travel from Stuart Fla. to New Zealand over an eight month voyage on their Nordhavn N68, Argo.

February 18, 2014

It is dark now. The sun has set beneath the waves in a beautiful coral halo and I am alone on the bridge. I will be on watch for a few more hours. The sea is calm and a breeze is blowing from the east. It is completely dark outside save for the stars. The night is as black as pitch, which is disorienting since we cannot see where we are going: as the ship rolls, you feel like you did as a kid when someone put a bag over your head and spun you around. Tonight we are bound for The Bahamas, intending to make landfall at a little island called Chubb Cay. This is the same track we took on Argo’s maiden voyage about a year ago when she so roughly treated by the Gulf Stream and bounced around in a way that I never experienced before.

Today is an important, or rather an auspicious day in that we are embarking on a cruise that will take us literally half way around the world and eight months to complete. Ultimately we plan to make landfall at Auckland, New Zealand in early October, but from here to Auckland we will visit 16 countries and island groups, travel nearly 12,000 miles. It is a big undertaking that has occupied a lot of our time for the past several months and our dreams for many years. It is the reason we bought Argo.

Our chariot, Argo.

Our chariot, Argo.

We got underway this morning at 10:15 and passed under the Roosevelt Bridge, which could be a metaphor for the moment: the beginning of the trip and an end to the planning and preparation phase. As we passed under we caught a glimpse of a couple waving frantically to us: they were Melanie and Curtis Hoff, dear friends from Ann Arbor who surprised us by driving down from Vero Beach (where their beautiful boat is now moored) to wave good bye and take our picture for posterity. What a wonderful gesture!

Our route for the trip will take us from Florida to The Bahamas, south along the Exhumas, perhaps to Turks and Caicos, then through the Windward Passage between Haiti and Cuba on to Port Antonio on the northeast tip of Jamaica. This should take about a week to ten days. From there we will cross the Caribbean to Santa Marta, which lies on the northern coast of Columbia. From there we will go to Cartagena, the Rosario Islands, then to Panama. Once through the canal we will head 1,000 miles west for The Galapagos Islands where we plan to spend three weeks before heading to the Marquesas Islands 3,000 miles to the southwest. This is the longest leg of the trip requiring two and a half weeks at sea. From the Marquesas we will head south through the Tuamotus, then to Tahiti and famed Bora Bora, Papeete, and Moorea. After a few weeks we will head northwest to American Samoa, The Kingdom of Samoa, Fiji, Vavu U, Tonga, and finally a thousand miles to the south lies New Zealand.

Our official starting gate - crossing under the Roosevelt Bridge in Stuart, Fla.

Our official starting gate - crossing under the Roosevelt Bridge in Stuart, Fla.

Preparation for the trip was extensive. I first considered single points of failure on the boat and tried to create alternative systems or at least carry spare parts. We have a special software program from Wheelhouse Technologies that contains a data base of all the machinery and equipment on board as well as electronic versions of the manuals. It provides a maintenance schedule for everything in maddening detail and inventories our spare parts as they are used. When we need parts either Nordhavn or Wheelhouse will ship them worldwide to us wherever we are. In determining what parts to buy, I called each of the manufacturers and asked their opinion in light of our ability to repair things at sea. All of our electronic systems on the yacht are backed up with two of everything. We have two radars, three sonars, two VHF, two chart plotters, two autopilots, two engines and drive systems, two generators, two computers, and two sat-com systems (although in the South Pacific only one will work most of the time). Of course we needed charts and cruising guides to all the places we are going to visit, courtesy flags and customs information. Fuel was a big concern for the 3,000-mile leg as well as obtaining it in distant ports. We retained a fuel broker to help us acquire fuel along the way and we bought a fuel bladder to augment our fuel tanks, which hold about 3,000 usable gallons.

Of course becoming shipwrecked is a possibility so all sorts of other considerations were required. We had our life raft refitted, and we bought a waterproof ditch bag that will float with 100lb. of supplies. At this point we have 20 days of rations for three people, water, a seawater desalinater, fishing gear, blankets, and a whole list of things that many other people have thought of. We have dive and snorkeling equipment as well as two Sharkshields, devices thought to interfere with a shark’s sensors and cause them to turn away. I will let you know (or not) if they really work. We bought a “lift-bag” to hoist the anchor if the windless fails and a number of other specialized things to avert potential disaster. We even equipped our tender with an electric get home motor. Looking back, it seems the list was endless.

We have an able crewmember, Tyler Sumner, who hails from Birmingham, Alabama. He is a delightful person and we look forward to having him help us take care of Argo and share our adventure.

PassageMaker Magazine is doing an article on us. Their associate editor, Mark, is meeting us in Panama and doing an article on the canal transit. With that, we will be world famous navigators!

Tonight the sea is calm and the breeze warm. Maybe it will stay that way for the rest of the trip!

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