My Life as a Power Boater
Although I've owned a number of dinghies and outboard motors, even part-owned a 20' center-console fishing boat, I've never considered myself anything other than a sailor.  That in spite of using the engine on Sarah more than I normally admit.  Then this past May (2010) I got an email from another sailor friend asking me if I would like to crew for him on the delivery of 54' Bertram Sport Fish from Orange Beach, AL to Belfast, ME.
That offer just happened to coincide with my putting Sarah into the Deaton's yard in Oriental, NC for the installation of new V-Drive.  Sarah would be out of commission for a couple of weeks, and I would be living onboard in the boat yard not a Marina.  It seemed like a good time to get off the boat (and onto another).  Also I was really curious to find out what it was like to drive one of these high-powered yachts whose wakes I have been cursing since my first sailboat.
So I immediately signed up.
Trying to Leave Organge Beach

Beechcraft Baron at New Bern Airport
On Wednesday, June 9 I was picked up by the owner (on the left) and my friend (in the center) in the owner's Beechcraft Baron at the New Bern airport and flown to Gulf Shores, AL.  That is one sweet airplane.
To have flown commercial to Orange Beach would have likely taken all day (New Bern to Atlanta or Charlotte, then to Mobile or Penasacola and then a taxi/shuttle bus/rental car to Orange Beach). 
Flying to Orange Beach, AL

Flying to Orange Beach, AL
This flight was a little over four hours and we landed at a General Aviation airport about 10 miles from the boat.
The other advantage was that I did not go through airport security and could pack some boat tools and my cigar lighter, none of which would have been allowed on a commercial airliner.
We were met at the general aviation airport by the Captain who had been hired to over-see the restoration of this yacht and the preparations for delivering it over 1,500 nm to Maine.  On the way to the Orange Beach Marina we could see just a small portion of the activity dealing with the BP oil spill.  The following day oil was detected in Perdido Pass and that inlet from the Gulf was shut down with oil booms until well after we left Organge Beach.
Oil Speel Crews at Perdido Pass

Bertram 54
The original schedule for departure when I signed on in May was June 9.  The boat was supposed to be ready on June 1 at which point we would arrive and spend a week becoming familiar with the boat and checking it over before departing.  That schedule was pushed back to a June 16 departure, hence our arrival was pushed back to June 9.
That first afternoon on the boat, it was apparent the boat was no where near ready for departure.  The new tower for the Flying Bridge was far from complete, work had barely begun on installing the new electronics.  In the cabin saloon one had to step over boxes and tools.
The plan was for the two of us in the delivery crew to remain onboard and push things to a state where we could depart ASAP.

Main Saloon During Commissioning
Two weeks later things had progressed, but completion was a long way off.  The owner returned for an update and several of the vendors started talking about needing another month for completion.  The owner was being bled to the tune of over $10K per week.  Another month of such charges wasn't going to work for him.  He consulted with us on what was vital for departure and then put the vendors on notice that those tasks must be completed within one week.  Any other tasks that could be completed in the time frame would be accepted and payed for; however, their billable hours would cease in one week and regardless of the boat's condition it was leaving.  We were willing to navigate this boat with hand held GPSs, which we actually did. 

Oil Booms in the GICW
When the owner was ready to return to Maine we took him to Lulu's the tourist trap on the Gulf ICW owned by Jimmy Buffet's sister.  That is right next to the airport, so at least he could drive the boat a short distance.  On the way we had to navigate the very shallow channel allowed by the oil booms strung across the Bayou.
After dropping off the owner we headed back to the marina.  Halfway there we were stopped by an Alabama Marine Police boat and told we could not return to Orange Beach as the waterway was closed to all but BP-contracted and governement vessels.  It took a lot of pleading and grovelling (only way to deal with government officials), but we were allowed to return to the marina after a suitable lecture.  Apparently a notice was posted at the marina office that the waterway was closed.  The office is a long way from the boat berth and nothing was posted near the boat.
A week later, on July 30, good to our word we finally departed the marina heading for Maine.  The Furuno radar and MFD were working, the Flying Bridge tower was completed and the canvas and vinyl enclosure of the bridge was partially completed.  Although boat had two working GPS, the captain elected to do his navigation on two hand-held Garmin GPS that he had brought on board.  
Fantastic Voyage Before Departure
Orange Beach to Panama City
Since the boat was barely commissioned we elected for a short run down the Gulf ICW to Panama City on the first day.  That was not really a choice as the Perdido Pass was still closed to all but BP and Government vessels.
We still had to run the guantlet of oil booms and skimmers making our way from Orange Beach to the ICW.

Perdido Pass, AL

Practicing for Oil Skimming
Virtually every boat in Orange Beach was operating under contract to BP.
Once in the GICW we moved quickly through Pensacola, FL.  We stopped to top off the fuel tanks at Destin, FL
Destin, FL
Wide Open Throttle (WOT)
As sailors we did enjoy the incredible amount of power on this yacht.
Then we entered the canal from Destin to Panama City.
In the Canal to Panama City

Throttled Back, Sorta
Although we really enjoyed pushing this yacht at 15-18 kts (it is capable of 30kts), we did have to slow down and reduce the wake when passing close by other vessels in a restricted space such as the canal. 
That night we anchored in the bay at Panama City.
Panama City to Apalachicola 
We got underway from Panama City just before dawn and headed out into the Gulf for the run to Apalachicola
Panama City, FL

Departing Panama City
At first conditions were ideal as we headed SE out of Panama City.  There was a 12-15kt breeze out of the east which was kicking up a steep chop, but the big Bertram was handling it easily.  We expected an easy run to Apalachicola.  However when we turned due east into this chop conditions changed dramatically.  We were in shallower water (35'-50') and the chop built from 2-3' to 4-5' with occasional 6' chop.  Now the boat was falling off these waves and crashing into the troughs. 
Also during this run the autopilot powered down and could not be powered up.  It took nearly four hours of hand-steering into these seas, and working the throttles to get over the crests and minimize the impact of the troughs before we would turn north for the entrance to Apalachicola Bay.
With the seas on the quarter we could go below and see how the cabin took all this pounding.  It was not a pretty sight.

Cabin Mess
We spent two nights in Apalachicola cleaning up this mess and securing the cabin for a longer passage in the Gulf to Punta Gorda.
Apalachicola to Punta Gorda, Ft. Myers 

Securing the Refrigerators
After straighening up the cabin, fabricating a bar to latch the three Sub-Zero refirgerators (which dumped their contents during the ride to Apalachicola), and filling the fuel tanks we departed on our first long run (240 nm) of this delivery trip to Punta Gorda. 
At this point we did not have confidence that the fuel guages were correct and we did not have good metrics on fuel consumption.  We believed with full tanks and throttled back to 1500 RPM we would have a range of over 300nm, but we didn't know how much over.

We got underway before dawn from Appalachicola and headed SSE toward the entrance to Charlotte Harbor and Punta Gorda.  That run was pretty uneventful, but long.  Once more we hit that steep chop south of Apalachicola, but this time we had a better angle on it.  By the time we were off Tampa/St. Pete that chop was down to 3' or less and the ride smoothed out.  We arrived off Charlotte Harbor after dark.  Before sunset I had turned on the navigation, instrument and compass lights.  When it became dark we could see that the compass and instrument lights were not working.  Without investigating we just assumed another shortfall of the boat preparations in Orange Beach.  We planned to investigate the problem the next day, for now we just wanted to find a place to anchor the boat and get some sleep.
We ran up the harbor and turned into the ICW.  About 1 nm into the ICW we found a wide spot in the ICW and decided to anchor just out of the channel.  I went on the foredeck to lower the anchor, but the windlass would not pay out the chain.  I went below and opened the hatch to the chain locker and found the that chain was hopelessly entangled.  The rough passage to Apalachicola had shifted the chain in the locker.
Fortunately we had purchased a backup anchor and rode before departing Orange Beach.  That backup was a 22 LB Danforth with 15' of 3/8" chain - not something on which we would comfortably ride on this large yacht, but at least it would hold the boat in one place while we sorted out the chain locker.
Untangling the chain required moving all of it (300') into the forward cabin.  This took several hours.  Then we pulled up the backup anchor and re-anchored using the primary 55 LB Fortress and the chain.  By this time it was after 1:00AM  and we were both exhausted.  Before going to sleep I went on the bridge to turn on the anchor light - nothing came on.  Then I noticed the navigation light switch was still on.  I checked the navigation lights and they were off as well.  We had run up Charlotte Harbor and a portion of the ICW with no lights showing!

It is always better to be lucky than good.

I left the cabin lights on (125VAC) as the best I could do for an anchor light.  Did I mention that one of the two generators had to be running all the time as everything on the boat, except the instrument and navigation lights run off AC?  The only time the generators are shut down is when on shore power.

The next morning we discovered a GFCI circuit breaker that had tripped.  That was the reason the navigation, compass and instrument lights had not come on.  I guess we can't blame all of the vessel short comings on the crew back in Orange Beach.

That morning we moved to Ft. Myers and stopped at the city marina, once more filling the fuel tanks.
Ft. Myers to Stuart and Ft. Pierce
We depated Ft. Myers about 1 hour before dawn the following day with the plan to make it all the way across to the east coast of Florida by way of the Lake Okeechobee waterway.  We made good time on the Caloosahatchie River and Canal, inspite of the tender of one bridge being late for work and numerous areas were we had to slow down to avoid damage to property and boats from our wake.

Fantastic Voyage in Stuart, FL
The crossing of Lake Okeechobee was uneventful as the water depths are near maximum this year.  The we followed the St. Lucie Canal to Stuart where we took a berth for the night at a marina. 
The next day we did not get underway until the late morning as we were only going to Ft. Pierce, about 20 nms.  We were stopping in Ft. Pierce to have the 50 hour service performed on the port engine, which had been re-built over the winter in Orange Beach.
On the way up the ICW to Ft. Pierce we struck a submerged object, possibly a tree trunk.  We anchored off Ft. Pierce and the captain dived on the prop to confirm that it was damaged.  Fortunately only one of the blades was bent, but now we had two reasons to stop in Ft. Pierce.
We took a berth at the Harbortown Marina and immediately made contact with a diver who would try to fix the prop in the water.  The owner had already made arrangments for a mechanic from the local Detroit Diesel reps to perform the 50 hour service.  We arrived on Thursday afternoon and hoped we could get everthing accomplished on Friday for a Saturday departure.
At first things went well.  The diver arrived at 8:00 AM and within a fiew hours declared that the prop had been straightened.  The mechanic arrived around 9:00 AM and immediately began the 50 hour service.

Then things started to go down hill.
The mechanic discovered one of the support for a valve lifter was loose and needed to be replaced, then he found oil in the coolant.  Suddenly we were no longer dealing with a scheduled service, but the repair of a re-built engine.
The owner reasonably expected the cost of the repair to be born by the yard in Alabama who performed the re-build.  However it was now late on Friday afternoon and nothing would be resolved until the following Monday.  We were stuck in Ft. Pierce for the weekend and much of the following week.
By Tuesday the Alabama yard had agreed to send a mechanic to resolve the engine issues.  He arrived on Wednesday and had the engine ready for a sea trial on Friday afternoon.  We took the boat out the Ft. Pierce Inlet and all seemed well except for some overheating of the port enginge at WOT (wide open throttle).  The mechanic felt that needed to be checked so we returned to Harbortown with the plan for the mechanic to resolve the over heating problem the next day.  The most likely solution was to replace the oil coolers.
Over the weekend the Alabama yard and the owner reached an impasse on the engine work.  The yard felt they done more than required to resolve the problems and that the oil coolers had not been touched during the rebuild.  They were willing to continue to work on this issue only on a time and materials basis.  The owner believed the yard owed him a resolution to the problem based on the level of effort and cost for the re-build.  He was willing to consider payment only when the problem was resolved and it had been established that the problem was not something that should have been detected and repaired during the rebuild and was not caused by the rebuild itself.
The owner and the yard resumed negotiations on the issue the following Monday, but could not come to an agreement.  Finally the owner terminated the work by the Alabama yard and contracted with the local Detroit Diesel reps to replace the oil coolers.  By Thursday afternoon the new oil coolers had been installed and the coolant flushcd serveral times to remove the oil and we were ready to depart.
We decided the sea trial for the engine would be a passage from Ft. Pierce to Charleston, SC, and planned to depart early the next morning after nearly two weeks in Ft. Pierce.
 During this stay in Ft. Pierce the owner was able to purchase a replacement for the autopilot control module and sent it to us.  With the installation of that control module we once more had an operational autopilot - an essential piece of equipment if we were to push this yacht to the limit of its fuel range.
Ft. Pierce to Charleston, SC and Beaufort, NC
Around 4.30 AM we went out the Ft. Pierce Inlet for the final time and turned NNE toward Charleston.  This was a trip of over 330 nm.  We still did not have reliable metrics on the range of this vessel, but based the amount of fuel we took on at Ft. Myers we were confident we could make over 350 nm at less than 1500 RPM. 
A little over halfway to Charleston, the captain removed the fuel guage sender from the aft tank and sounded it with a stick, which showed a fuel depth of around 3/5 the tank depth.  This was not a flat bottomed tank, but it showed we had a range significantly greater than 350 nm.
We arrived in Charleston and tied to the Charleston City Marina Megadock around 1:00 AM Saturday morning and spent an hour cleaning the salt off the boat before crashing for the night. 
The next morning we re-fueled and departed around noon on the 225 nm trip to Beaufort, NC.
Most of this trip was uneventful except the final 50 or so miles.  Between Cape Fear and Cape Lookout we encountered a US Navy exercise with what appeared to be a small carrier task force.  Staying well clear of these large maneuvering vessels took a lot of attention and course changes.  Finally we arrived of the Beaufort Inlet with about 20 kts of wind on our tail.  We had already discovered this boat was a beast to steer with a following sea.  It was all the captain could do to keep the boat in the channel as the seas threw the stern hard to one side or the other.  We also nearly hit a barely lit channel marker that appeared to be well within the channel defined by the range lights in Beaufort.
 We arrived in Beaufort around 4:30 AM, tied to an open space on the Beaufort Docks, did our usual clean up then crashed for a few hours.  We used one of the Beaurfort Docks courtesy cars to do a little re-provisioning and then planned to depart the next morning, possibly for Cape May, NJ.
When the captain payed the marina bill that afternoon he discovered that we were charged for two nights at the marina even though we were really spending only one night at the dock.  This marina implements its check-in and check-out times very rigorously.  They considered the time at the dock from 4:30 AM to 11:30 AM a complete day and we were charged accordingly.  This not only made us resolve to never use the Beaufort Docks again, but also to not spend another night in a marina on this delivery until we arrived in Belfast, ME.
Beaufort, NC to Belfast, ME via Ocean City, MD and Sandwich, MA

Approaching the Damnond Shoals Light
Around 10:30 on Monday, July 26 we departed Beaufort and headed east around Cape Lookout and Cape Hatteras.  On this day conditions were so light that we were able to closely approach the abandoned Diamond Shoals lighthouse off Cape Hatteras.
It appears this huge facility is now being allowed to deteriorate and eventually fall into the sea.
The Abandoned Diamond Shoals Lighthouse

The Lighthouse Replacement
It has been replaced by single lighted sea buoy.
By the time we had rounded Cape Hatteras, Cape May was no longer our destination.  On the run up the coast from Ft. Pierce we briefly had the lift of the Gulf Stream, but even out of the stream we were able to maintain over 14 kts of speed.  On this run we were not even making a consistent 13 kts.  So we put into Ocean City, MD to re-fuel and then immediately headed north toward Cape Cod.
We passed east of Block Island at dawn the next day and headed up Buzzards Bay for the Cape Cod Canal.
Entering the Cape Cod Canal

Transiting the Cape Cod Canal
We had the current with us in the canal and quickly completed the transit, then stopped at the marina in Sandwich, MA to re-fuel for the last time.
When we exited the canal a little after noon we were only 180 nm from Belfast.  This would be the last stop on the delivery.
Exiting the Cape Cod Canal
We entered Penobscott Bay a little after dark and tied to the marina dock in Belfast around mid-night.  This delivery was finally complete after nearly 2 months.  We enjoyed the owner's hospitality in Belfast for one week, then he flew me back to New Bern.