After more than a decade of voyaging, Harry Hungate and Jane Lothrop are still going strong

Harry Hungate and Jane Lothrop purchased their boat Cormorant, a Corbin 39 aft cockpit cutter, in early 1997, resigned their jobs (he, in international sales of industrial process control systems and she, director of upper school at a girls’ boarding school) and moved aboard Cormorant in July. Their plan was to “not have a plan” and to “cruise as long as it is fun.” As Cormorant had just completed a world circumnavigation with its previous owners, a major refit was called for. The refit was done in Annapolis and it included a new engine, completely new standing and running rigging, lifelines, all pumps, installation of an electric anchor windlass, new dinghy and outboard motor, and several other smaller items.

They spent the next two years sailing around the tip of Florida and across the Gulf of Mexico to Louisiana, exploring the east coast of Mexico, Belize and Guatemala’s Rio Dulce in the western Caribbean, and then back up to Florida and down to Trinidad via the “thorny path.” A watermaker and solar panels were added along the way. After several months in the San Blas Islands of Panama, they transited the Panama Canal in early 2000. Visits to mainland Ecuador, Galápagos Islands, Marquesas, Tuamotus, Society Islands, Palmerston Atoll, Niue, Tonga, and finally New Zealand completed their cruising for 2000.

Both are amateur extra class ham radio operators and American Radio Relay League (ARRL) volunteer examiners. They organized ham exams in Trinidad, Tonga, and New Zealand for fellow cruisers. The next two years were spent in beautiful New Zealand, improving their boat even more and coastal cruising. In 2003 they voyaged to Fiji, Vanuatu, and New Caledonia, before returning to New Zealand to wait out the cyclone season. The entire 2004 cruising season was spent in Vanuatu, the best voyaging grounds so far. Highlights of their voyages have been the San Blas Islands, mainland Ecuador as well as the Galápagos, New Zealand, and Vanuatu. Trips to Vanuatu in 2004, 2005, and 2006 ended with arrival in Sydney, Australia. In 2007, they sailed from Sydney to Singapore with several stops in Indonesia.

Now in their early sixties, they have encountered a few health problems. Harry had recurring bouts of vivax malaria in 2004 and 2005, and prostate surgery in Brisbane, Australia, in 2007. Jane had hand surgery in Auckland, New Zealand, to repair arthritis damage. Beginning their twelfth year of voyaging, they are winding up their visit to Southeast Asia. In 2009, they will cross the Indian Ocean and sail up the Red Sea to the eastern Mediterranean.

OV: What is your philosophy regarding voyaging gear? Do you like to add as many systems as possible or do you prefer to keep it simple?

HH&JL: Our thinking lies somewhat mid-range between “all the bells and whistles” and “bucket and chuck it.” One of our first purchases when we moved aboard Cormorant in 1997 was an Interphase Probe forward scanning sonar. By far it has been the most reliable (and useful) piece of electronic gear aboard and has saved us from groundings several times. It never failed in 11 years, but we have just replaced it because it has had very hard use and we are preparing for some major miles this year. So far, we have resisted buying a satellite phone, but do have a quad-band cell phone for which we can buy SIM cards for any country. We don’t really like telephones, though, and we only use ours to call family when we are in an affordable place or to contact businesses if we need supplies.

Four years ago, we somewhat reluctantly purchased a Raymarine C120 multi-function display when all we really wanted was a good radar display. We now freely admit to being addicted to the Navionics electronic charts on the chart plotter function of the C-120 display, although we still insist on having paper charts at least for route planning and harbor approaches. In 2007, we added an AIS receiver which displays on the plotter, and it has been wonderful. It was especially useful in the crowded and constricted waters of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and in the waters around Singapore and the Malacca Straits. We highly recommend the AIS equipment for all boats. We have refrigeration (12-volt Waeco/Adler Barbour) and do enjoy our ice cubes. The actual freezer is small, but it also cools a “cold” box and flows over into a large “refrigerator” which is really a cool box.

Hot and cold pressure water are also a pleasure to have. On the less complex side, we only use the pressure water to take a shower &mdash usually with the hose in the cockpit.

Otherwise, we have foot pumps on both the head and galley sinks. These keep water usage down and also draw no power. We have a Spectra 180 watermaker which we installed in 1998, and it has been a champ. It really does make water just off the solar panels and wind generator, and we very rarely run the engine to charge batteries or make water, even when we are at anchor for weeks. We like making our own water and not worrying about the safety of shore water in many less-developed parts of the world.

We upgraded our old Aero4Gen wind generator to the larger Aero6Gen in 2005. It is whisper quiet and does not offend neighbors like another well known brand of wind generator. We also have two 75-watt solar panels permanently mounted atop the bimini, and a third 80-watt panel that we tie to the top of the furled mainsail when at anchor.

OV: How do you decide what spare parts to carry? Has your mix of spares changed as you have voyaged more widely?

HH&JL: If a part is critical enough to stop us or cause us to put in to port for repairs, we usually carry a spare. We practice comprehensive maintenance and as a result, unexpected repairs are thankfully infrequent. We carry most critical spares such as bilge pumps, float switches, alternator and spare alternator drive belt, starter motor, sea water cooling pump, spare impeller for main engine and outboard engine, spare propeller for main engine and outboard, spare anodes, three changes of oil and fuel filters, engine oil and transmission fluid.

We also carry a complete spare electronic autopilot, VHF radio, LPG pressure regulator, fuses, wire, coax and connectors, etc. We also carry sail repair material, one spare forestay which can replace any of the other stays, spare furler, spare Norseman fittings, cotter pins, etc. Our spares list hasn’t changed much in the 11-plus years of voyaging except for the spare laptop computer added a couple of years ago. As our engine ages, we will increase the spares to include a set of injectors and coolant hoses.

OV: What types of tools do you carry on the boat? Are you better equipped for certain types of repairs?

HH&JL: We carry a complete set of mechanic’s hand tools in both imperial and metric sizes, including a torque wrench, digital calipers, impeller extractor, compression gauge, refrigeration gauges and refrigerant, various wood-working tools, battery-powered drill, drill bits, taps and dies, temperature controlled soldering station, Fluke 73-III digital multimeter, MFJ-259B antenna analyzer, vinyl and rubber electrical tape, Coax Seal, J-B Weld, silicone grease, polyurethane caulking, etc. We are equipped to repair just about everything on the boat, including ourselves, with a well-stocked medicine chest.

OV: How much repair work do you attempt yourself? What kinds of repairs do you think all voyagers should be able to handle?

HH&JL: We prefer to do all of our repair work ourselves, with the exception of sail repairs. A voyager who can repair his own vessel is a happy voyager. At least be able to service your engine and outboard motor, and have a basic understanding of the DC electical systems. This should get you to a place where professional help is available.

OV: Do you use a wind vane self-steerer or do you rely exclusively on an electronic autopilot?

HH&JL: We have a Hydrovane self-steerer which is very reliable and works quite well. We use its rudder to assist in maneuvering astern and in close quarters. We also carry a tiller pilot which can steer the boat using the wind vane rudder. It works well in light winds when the wind vane wanders, and it does not draw much power. Our main Raymarine electronic belowdeck autopilot gets more use each year, however. So far we have been able to economize enough on power drain from other sources to keep using it &mdash and it is easy.

OV: Do you have a watermaker? How easy is it to use and maintain?

HH&JL: We installed a Spectra 180 reverse osmosis water maker in 1998, and we cannot imagine voyaging without it. We have had very few problems with it, and Spectra factory support has been superb. It is easy to use, and provided that it is used often or flushed or pickled when not being used often, it’s as simple as turning on the inlet valve and turning on the feed pump. The original membrane still meets full performance specifications. We just had the Clark pump rebuilt at the Spectra factory in California. The pump still worked very well, but after 11 years and facing a 4,000-mile trip to the Med, we just didn’t want to press our luck.

OV: How extensively do you use a computer for navigation, and for keeping track of supplies and spare parts?

HH&JL: We use the computer for route planning and then transfer the waypoints to our Raymarine C-120 chart plotter. Jane keeps inventories of food, medical supplies, spares, etc. on the computer, but uses a paper copy of the food inventory in the galley to record consumption. Since we do not keep our computer on all the time, it makes more sense just to use “hash marks” on a paper inventory.

OV: What kind of communications gear do you use when voyaging?

HH&JL: We are both extra class hams (Harry is N1UDE/ZL1HAH and Jane is AB0T/ZL1JRL). Two years ago we installed the Icom IC-M802 single side band transceiver which can operate on ham frequencies and the marine single side band frequencies. We have an SCS Pactor III modem and run SailMail and Airmail on our laptop computer. We use e-mail every day, both to communicate with friends and family and also to get weather information. GRIB files give wind and pressure forecasts and have practically replaced the old reliance on weather faxes sent on set schedules by shore stations. We often participate in nets and we also post our position on Yotreps.

We maintain a listening watch on VHF Channel 16 while at sea. We also carry marine and ham VHF handheld radios. Last year we purchased two personal radios for use when docking or anchoring. They are full duplex, which means that they operate hands-off &mdash no need to press a transmit switch. We have an ACR 406-MHz EPIRB and also carry a Class B (121.5/243-MHz) EPIRB in our life raft.

OV: What new gear do you plan to purchase for your boat and why?

HH&JL:We have no immediate plans to add any gear. Most of our purchases in recent years have been replacements of existing gear. Now that the Class B AIS transponders have been FCC-approved, we might purchase one in 2009, but it is a low priority. We are very happy with what we have, but maintaining it all takes all the time we have to devote to that chore. It’s important to allow time to just kick back and enjoy the voyaging lifestyle. Some people get so involved in adding new systems, changing old ones, and making lists of boat chores that they never leave the yard. Our advice is to learn all you can about what you have, be able to fix it or do without it, and go.

By Ocean Navigator