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Horizon's Track Cate's site Links

Horizon is our 1980 Morgan Out Island 415 ketch with crew Mike and Cate and their feline children Rose and Ollie. We are getting ready for retirement to Caribbean cruising and through this site will be sharing information on our preparations, expectations, and maybe our snafus. Update: We left our marina slip for the last time on April 2, 2013. We will work to keep the blog and this site updated throughout our travels.

Horizon in Panama Canal (Click for old site)
In 1997 I started this site on returning from a 5-year cruise from San Francisco to Tampa and while busily writing WXTide32, our free world-wide tides program. Time passed, then in 2010 after 24 years of ownership, that Rafiki 35 named Horizon was sold. Shortly after that Cate and I bought this Morgan 415, made it our new home and began her refit. By this time svHorizon had become an integral part of life so it was an easy decision to change our new boat's name from Enchanter/Capricious to Horizon.

Almost two years late, I finally restarted updating this site. Please don't expect frequent updates though - for the most current news please see our blog.

Current Horizon News

About our Morgan Out Island 41 ketch

Type: Sail-Cruising, full keel, center cockpit LOA: 41' 3"
Year built: 1979 LOD: 41' 3"
Builder: Morgan LWL: 34'
Hull: Fiberglass Beam: 13' 10"
Model: Out Island 415 Draft: 4' 2"
Rig: Ketch Fuel: 140 gallons diesel
Displacement: 27,000 lbs Water: 170 gallons in 2 tanks
Ballast: 9,000 pounds Engine: 60 HP Perkins Prima M60

Morgan 415 ketch layouts:

Profile and Sail Plan
Deck Layout
Interior Layout

Current pictures
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svHorizon Morgan 415
Pictures from when we bought her
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svHorizon Original sales pics


We have certainly been busy on Horizon the past couple years! While we have hired some of the work done, much more than I ever would have in the past, a lot of this was our own handiwork. I am lucky to have prior cruising experience so a lot of the decisions in picking gear was based on that, but then my career as a computer enginerd makes me add other, more complex stuff that some see as superfluous which means Cate and our neighbors look askance at some of the things on this list. Sailors tend to have strong opinions and brand loyalty - I just hope all this stuff works together :) Yes I know that little of the expense of all the gear we are adding in this refit will be recovered when/if we have to sell her but we need a little higher level of comfort and safety that we did before.

Below are most all of our projects to date for Horizon loosely grouped into categories. As we write more about items they will turn into links that will click through to the description.

Engine spares list

I learned from cruising the last time that the part you do not have is the one that is going to break. I worked with a local shop to find and get the parts for our 1995 era Perkins Prima M60 diesel engine. Other engine spares I considered but will probably not take immediately are:


Subtitle: Why in the world would you use that????
Here we will try to describe what we chose for system components and our reasoning in doing so. As we get experience with the systems we expect to update with more real-life results.


Horizon is long on ways to stay in touch. Between the GPS communicator, ham/SSB radio, and the satellite phone we should be able to contact our peeps just about any time and from any place. When I cruised last time, the ham radio was a focal point, our lifeline to home, other cruisers, and the rest of the world. My dad lived in Fort Myers, FL and had a ham rig with a huge rotating beam antenna. There were few days we did not have some contact with him, if only through relays, during the entire 5 years sailing from San Francisco through Latin America as far south as Columbia.

Our on-board hamster is Mike, N6ULB, with an amateur Advanced Class ticket. We totally took the simple route and got the Sea Tech Communicator package that had everything needed for an HF radio communications system. The ICOM 802 is an HF radio legal for use on both ham and Marine SSB bands and, while it is very functional for either use, it does lack easy access to some of the useability features hamsters are used to like squelch, noise blankers, etc. With the Pactor III modem and a laptop, it handles email nicely via Winlink (ham/non-commercial) or SailMail (SSB/business) BBS systems. Our last boat had a manual antenna tuner and dedicated antenna and ground systems that took a great deal of care, effort and time to assemble and install. This time I chose more pre-packaged products with GAM split lead antenna that slides up an existing shroud, a sealed tube KISS SSB ground system that is draped along the inside of the hull, and an ICOM auto antenna tuner. The radio seems happy and shows the tuner is getting surprisingly low SWR. As we get experience with the system away from the dock and other boats, we will let you know how it performs.

Sat phone
The GSP-1700 satellite phone uses the GlobalStar system which has had its share of problems - coverage is not continuous and has varying windows of satellite visibility ranging from a few minutes to most of an hour. Because of the coverage problem, GlobalStar is offering a good lock-in rate for a year of $40 per month for their Evolution II plan with unlimited voice, text, and data. That easily beats the $1-$2 per minute with the other carriers. Call quality is crystal clear while the satellite is well above the horizon. For missed calls, incoming voice messages can be left anytime and we will get them when next we connect. Unfortunately incoming text messages seem to be ignored if the phone is not connected at that moment. Also our calls out do not send our caller ID so we will look like telemarketers when we call.

GlobalStar does have a handy tool to calculate satellite visibility. A sample for Tampa on 9/25/2012:
Start End Duration
09:03:46 AM 09:28:46 AM 25 min 0 sec
09:33:06 AM 09:48:36 AM 15 min 30 sec
09:54:26 AM 10:28:36 AM 34 min 10 sec

Email and Data
We can handle email with either the sat phone or the ham radio with the caveat that data speeds are really really slow. Both the Pactor III modem on the ham radio and the sat phone transfer data at a, ahem, blistering 9600 baud in the best case. That is 9,600 bits per second in a world where my Galaxy Nexus cell phone sees 4,000,000 bits per second! Needless to say, we will not be surfing the web while at sea. Using email we can get GRIB wind and weather forecast files from Saildocs and the ham radio can also receive Weather Fax. All that should help bolster the weather forecasting skills we learned in the USPS weather class :)

SPOT on!
The Delorme inReach communicator and the SPOT GPS Messenger are intriguing. The features we most like are the ability to send "We are fine and here is where we are" messages at any time and to also maintain a breadcrumb trail of our travels that can be viewed online. While the inReach has a lot of interesting features including message confirmation and two-way texting, for what we need we are leaning toward the SPOT Messenger with its lower subscription rate of $100 per year.
UPDATE (12/12): We did get the SPOT after all.

Bullet WiFi
We picked up a Bullet M2HP WiFi radio and a SS omni-directional antenna that should give us a pretty significant WiFi reach. When in port, from an anchorage we hope to be able to pick up WiFi connections from on-shore hot spots. Unfortunately we keep hearing that more and more WiFi connections are going secured so the system may not be that useful for us. Well, unless we sidle up and make friends with the locals and garner a password or two.

Snail mail
We decided to go with St. Brenden's Isle service to take care of our mail forwarding and other home port needs such as USCG documentation renewals. We especially like the option they offer that scans mail covers so that online we can pick which mail to have forwarded to us, or have opened and the contents scanned, or which ones to shred.

We still haven't decided which service to use for this either but the thinking is a paid provider might be safest. All we know is that securing internet communications across the public systems we will be using will probably have huge safely benefits.

Power system

We went with Trojan T-125 6V lead acid batteries instead of AGM. They just (barely) fit in the built-in battery box replacing the 3 current group 27 batteries. The need for 6 volt is for weight and size. I can't imagine trying to lug a couple 8D or even 4D batteries into the engine room. We added a 600 Amp ground bus bar to which each and every battery load ground is connected. This replaces the daisy-chain serial connections prior owners had saddled us with. Next, to reduce the risk of electrical fires, we have a pair of 400 Amp battery fuses, one between each battery bank positive terminal and the house battery switch. A 500 Amp shunt for the Link battery monitor rounds out the major battery system components.

Power generation
We have two eco-friendly ways to maintain power for the toys: solar panels and wind generator. One great feature of a hard dodger is it gives a huge flat area for mounting stuff. We used about half that area when we mounted two 240 Watt solar panels up there. I started to do a real analysys of wattage per size and which ones were likelier to hold up under the marine environment. ... then I whimped out and went with cost per watt figuring the solar panel market is likely to really change quickly as the world comes to rely less on fossile fuels. We settled on the model HiS-S240MG made by Hyundai because they were only 1.4" thick instead of 2" normal, and they were at a cost point of only $1.35 per watt. Thickness is a factor since the main boom swings just above them. The panels are 30 volt so the Blue Sky MPPT controller was needed to keep from wasting 1/3 of the total power. The four individual #10 wires come down the inside one of the dodger support tubes so it is a neat installation. Inside the cabin are diodes to isolate the two panels so if one gets shaded the other will continue to function.

We also have an older model Rutland 913 wind generator. It does not put out as much raw power as some newer units but it kicks in at lower wind speeds than most and is almost silent while operating. We have it mounted on the mizzen on a KISS wind generator mount with a rubber isolated mounting tube tall enough that the wind generator swivels 360 degrees. We do have one problem in that we do not yet have steps on the mizzen to be able to quickly scamper up and tether the blades for major storms.

The solar panels feed into a Blue Sky MPPT charge controller and the wind generator is wired through its own controller. If we are lucky enough to have excess power, the solar controller has a diversion output connected to an auxillary 12V element in the water heater.

Energy budget
With wind and solar power we expect to harvest between 150-180 Amp Hours per day when it is sunny and only moderately breezy. So unless we want to run the engine to top up batteries, that is the target we hope to keep under with all the energy draw devices.

Our pre-cruise estimated daily Amp Hour consumption is:
60 Adler Barbour built-in fridge, 5 amps runs about half the time
60 Adler Barbour upright fridge with the same Danfoss compressor
45 Isotherm DR-55 freezer specs say average 1.5 amps but we rounded up
18 Watermaker, 12 amps running 1.5 hours a day
10 Ham radio
20 Torqeedo outboard battery charging
20 Pumps, lights, sundries
173 AHs per day estimated total usage

It looks like we will be running a deficit unless the wind is really blowing so we may end up running the engine a few hours a week after all. We do have options though - for example found we really will have little need to run the upright refrigerator now that we have dedicated the build-in to just fridge and the dedicated drawer freezer. (We really like not having to defrost either :) It is still early days though and this is only an estimate. We will refine these nunbers as we get more time on the hook.

Cruising budget

Any plan has to start somewhere. For our budget planning we realized my 1990's actual cruising expenses for Pacific coast and Latin America of $200-$500 per month would be nowhere near what we could expect in the Caribbean in the '10's with the lifestyle we have come to enjoy. We started haunting forums and found the wisdom in recent years seems to be that $1,000 per month is a minimum comfort point for most areas of the Caribbean mainly because there are so many resort islands with rich tourists. We also listened hard to cruisers at SSCA seminars who gave details of their actual expenses while cruising the islands within the last couple years.

Our criteria for estimating cruising expenses are rather specific. We expect to be on our own anchor most all of the time which greatly reduces, but does not totally eliminate, outlays for dock fees and moorage - we will still have to put in once in a while and we hear that dinghy dock fees can be quite high. With so much new gear we hope that there should be a few years with less major breakage of things that we will find critical and anything that does break will hopefully be fixable using on board spare parts. Many of the "toys" we are leaving with at the start are obviously non-essential and when they break, we will likely not be beating a path to the shop to fix or replace them. Only time cruising will tell just which things we will continue to find critical and which will become less essential. We are certainly not expecting to give up much during our traveling retirement beyond being tied to a dock for long periods of time and having the luxury of instant internet access. Okay, I think constant internet access we will miss the most :)

Horizon's monthly cruising budget categories:

Boat maintenance/fuel
Transportation (bus, cab, occasional moped)
Misc medical (medicine, doctor/dentist visits)
Satphone Evolution II (inc tax and fees)
SPOT GPS Messenger ($100/yr)
St. Brenden's Isle mail forwarding
Miscellaneous (ice cream, shoes)

To these day-to-day expenses we have to add a sizeable chunk for insurance of various types and, of course, taxes to the feds. While we have obviously made an attempt to estimate each of these expenses, I am not going to publish them just yet. We might do that later.

Why 'Horizon'?

I originally chose the name Horizon when preparing for global cruising in the 1980's. At the time there were several reasons for choosing that name: the first letter matches the first letter of my last name so finding mail in port captain's offices would be easier; the word Horizon is the same in English, French and Spanish; the word is common and does not need to be spelled over the radio; and it was easy for me to say, even in an emergency. That last was critical because until about the second year cruising, my stutter was really impressive - the movie "The Kings Speech" was an accurate representation. I credit the laid back cruising attitude with getting me over the speech hump that plagued the first 40 years of my life.

Links - Cruising involves a great deal of leisure time and reading books can help keep you occupied. This site lists all the Kindle books Amazon is currently offering for free. Amazon changes that catalog frequently so check back often to see what is on the list that day. I have downloaded about 40 books so far and use the Kindle app on my Galaxy Nexus Android phone. - Lots of good info and free cruising guides for the Caribbean. - Free open source chart plotting and navigation software that supports many chart formats including the free NOAA raster and vector charts. - I have been a member of Seven Seas Cruising Association since about 1985. I always used to say "I would never join a group that would have me as a member" but the SSCA is my exception. They are an excellent resource for info and ideas and the GAMs and seminars are the best. We rarely miss the monthly SSCA breakfast meetings here in St. Petersburg.

This page last updated March 2017.