Monthly Archives: July 2016

Highfield CL-290 inflatable RIB dinghy

Southport NC
Posted by Bill

As written in previous posts, our old Zodiac Zoom dinghy finally bit the dust this year, and we purchased a new Highfield dinghy in June. I thought that it might help other cruisers who are looking for a dinghy if I dedicated a post to review the Highfield, as we benefited from the posts of others before us.

Our selection criteria:
We wanted something that was a little shorter than our Zodiac which was 10′ 3″ long. It frequently got caught or bumped in to stuff when docking Island Bound, and we thought a smaller dinghy might help. We also wanted an aluminum hull, which is rigid but less weight than the fiberglass models. We wanted something that was designed to be dry in choppy/rough seas. The Zodiac was very very wet, and there were times where we could not leave the big boat because it was too rough for the Zodiac. A bow locker to store our crap was not a requirement but was a nice to have.

The evaluation process:
We talked to lots of people that we met in our cruising route about what they were using and/or considering. Based on our experiences it seems like AB is the current dinghy of choice with the cruising community. We were told that before AB was founded, Caribe was the most popular, and employees of Caribe left and formed AB. In the process they built upon the successes of the Caribe design and made further improvements. Highfield was founded by employees of AB with the idea of making further design improvements and providing a lower price point. We found the price of the Highfield to be around $1,000 less than the equivalent AB model, and the Highfield comes with more accessories as well. We were a little nervous about Highfield because there aren’t as many out there yet, and we didn’t find a lot of public reviews online, but after talking to owners we saw while cruising we didn’t find one person that was unhappy with their Highfield.

What we got:
The following features, specifications and options for the CL-290 model are from the Highfield web site.
Highfield CL290 Standard Features
Highfield CL290 Options
Highfield CL290 Specifications
We purchased a Hypalon version with a bow locker. It came with oars, a dry bag, one seat, a seat cover with padding and extensive storage, a patch kit, and a well designed foot pump.

Our review:
Overall, we really love this dinghy. It has 17″ tubes and a deep keel in the bow that becomes more shallow as it goes back to the stern, but it provides a deep, well protected interior. We have taken the dinghy across and through the lower Cape Fear River, which can be very rough on an ebb tide and can have large wakes from ships and high boat traffic. We would never have been able to do this in our Zodiac. The ride is dry and stable. This dinghy is very robust and stable. The design category of C is rated for 6′ waves, which we hope we never have to test, but we have taken on wakes and waves of 2-3′ with no problem at all. There is a flat double floor with rubber non-skid…I love the double floor. It keeps the dinghy dry and helps support stable footing. You can also run the fuel line under the floor if you keep the tank in the bow locker (we haven’t done that yet).
There are very robust lifting points built into the hull…2 sets on the transom, one low on the floor, and one high on the top of the transom; and two on the floor in the bow. This allows us to lift the dinghy very high on the davits (arms on the back of Island Bound), another improvement over the Zodiac. There are plastic protective rings inside the lifting points to protect the paint on the aluminum…nice design. The oars can be stored on top of the side tubes, ready for deployment, or can be stored inside along the sides with velcro straps. There are 3 large, robust, cleats attached to the outside of the tubes, one on each side of the stern, and one on the bow. They are excellent!
The bow locker is a nice feature. It provides lockable storage, a step to board the dinghy, and a seat. We keep our anchor and safety gear in the locker.
We have a 9.9 HP 4 stroke Yamaha outboard on the dinghy, and it takes about 20-30 seconds to get up on plane with Tricia, myself, a full tank of fuel, and a couple of beach bags of crap. I am not sure if we could get on plane with any more weight on board. It planes really well, but I wish we could get on plane a little faster. A fellow cruiser was able to improve the planing ability with prop modifications and fins on the engine, so we might experiment with that. Our only other negative is the seat. It is great that you can put it in 2 positions, but the plastic is slippery and it is hard to stay in place when you get in anything but smooth water. Also, the really nice seat cover, which has copious storage and is padded, slides back and forth. Maybe we need to do something different than we have. We will experiment with ways to improve the seat experience.

I would definitely buy this dinghy again and also recommend it hands down as a great cruising dinghy.

DSC_0051 fixed

Congratulations….we bought a turd

Southport NC
Posted by Bill

When we set off on our cruising voyage, one of the primary goals was to evaluate places to live on the coasts. Our major criteria were: 1) A short drive to the beach, but not necessarily on the beach; 2) Within walking distance to bars and restaurants; 3) Within walking distance to our boat, if not behind our house; 4) Not necessarily in a large city, but close to big city amenities.

We weren’t really ready to buy a house again, but we found that Southport continues to feel like home to us. We have been looking at real estate for the last couple of years, and almost 10 years ago when we first came here. One thing we have realized….the market is crazy here. The prices are lower than any other coastal sea port towns on the east coast, but in the last 4 years, the market has been catching up very fast. There is a part of Southport that is considered “old town”, especially the first 100 lots in the original town called Smithville. The old town lots are all taken, and when they come up for sale, they sell within a day. We quickly realized that to meet our criteria, we needed to move NOW, quickly, as soon as opportunity presented itself. We also ultimately wanted something that had a small yard, and somewhere that we could build a new house. In the last couple of years we have missed out on several opportunities where we were outbid, as we had a hard time wrapping our heads around the prices that things were selling for, but we grew to understand that this is an east coast, waterfront seaport, that demands a different price than we were used to. We finally found something that pretty much satisfied all of our criteria, and at a decent price for the current market. The house needs to be torn down as it is a disaster…but the location and lot are perfect. It is 3 blocks from the Southport waterfront, 4 blocks to the marina, and 2 blocks to downtown Southport, and on one of the 100 original lots. Our good friends Matt and Shirley can build us a small Low Country style home that will look like it has been an original historic Southport home, and we will stand a good chance of making a decent profit when we sell it. It is very close to the Carolina beaches, so hopefully we can provide a stopping place for friends and family when they vacation to their favorite vacation spots. The current plan is to tear the existing house down this summer, and build something new next summer after we return from the Bahamas.

Lord St Map

The turd:

We closed on Friday, and today we had someone come and take the appliances out. Next, Matt will have someone give us a quote on demolishing the house and hauling it off. Searching and buying this place has consumed quite a bit of our time since we got back in town. Hopefully we can get busy on some boat work in the next few months! Stay tuned.

Fish on!!!

Southport NC
Posted by Bill

The last week was full of fun stuff for us. We had a run over the the secluded beach again, this time trying to do some fishing as well as wallowing. The mullet (bait fish) have started to appear and we thought we could catch some in the surf and fish off the beach. Alas, the mullet were somewhere else, so we settled for wallowing.

The next day we went fishing on our friends, John and Mary Ann, boat. They have a 1960 Merit. An all wood boat that was built specifically for sport fishing off shore. The boat is immaculate, and is a joy to drive. They win awards at the wooden boat show every year. We went about 40 miles off shore and had 5 lines in the water as we trolled along. The ocean was really calm and it was a beautiful day on the water. It was fun to travel at over 20 knots, and in 2 1/2 hours we were as far as it takes us almost a full day to travel in the sail boat! Tricia reeled in all 3 of the fish we caught, first a Mahi Mahi:
Then an Amber Jack:
And lastly a Barracuda, that we thew back. Mary Ann wasn’t able to go, but we had a great time with John. He and Tricia tended to the fishing and I drove the boat. It was a good day on the water.

The day after, we made a dinghy trip to the sandbar to wallow, and then rode over to Bald Head Island.

We have also been having some great get-togethers on the dock and at Matt and Shirley’s house. We have been eating and drinking very well! There has been some work as well. Tricia used a boat cover that was in the trash, and made some covers for our jerry jugs (diesel fuel and gasoline).
They get brittle over time when exposed to the sun, so this will help them last longer. She also used the material to make a bag for our dinghy anchor, so it won’t scratch the finish on the floor of our new dinghy.
She is awesome! We also sent her up Matt’s mizzen mast to bring down parts of the wind generator, and then take them back up after repairs. Boat wakes from passing boats in the ICW caused the boat to roll quite frequently, and it didn’t make it easy for her.

We also received the bulk of the parts for 2 big additions to the boat: a Marine Kinetix wind generator, and a water maker (to make fresh water from sea water while in the Keys and Bahamas). I need to get some more parts and will get busy, probably after our trip north in August.

Secluded beach, the Revenge house and a reunion

Southport NC
Posted by Bill

Well, it has been a few weeks since the last post. We survived the hectic 4th of July festival and had a 4 day long party on the dock! Wore us out!!! It has been so hot here that it has been difficult to motivate ourselves for boat projects outside, but we have been chipping away at it. Also, we have been looking at and negotiating real estate here in downtown Southport. It has been taking all of our time. More on that in a future post.

One of the fun things we did was going to a 7 mile secluded beach on the ocean…yes, amazing that one still exists on the eastern US coast. You have to take a small boat (like our great new dinghy, which we love) through a series of back creeks to get to the back side of the beach, and it is not well known. I was sworn to secrecy before the track through the creeks was divulged to me, and I had to record it on a GPS so I could find my way by myself later. It is absolutely beautiful and secluded. A ranger patrols it a couple of times a day, but the only way to get to it is by water. We have been there a couple of times, taking our chairs, swimming and wallowing. We are planning a fishing trip there this afternoon.

Mark and Jan, on the other Island Bound, arrived back here from there trip back home in Kentucky. We have been having fun with them on a regular basis, and had a great reunion dinner on their boat the other night. All we needed was Byrd Ketcher…we miss you guys!!!

Yesterday, we went to the wedding of the daughter of our good friends Mark and Jane. We met them in Marathon last year. They live here in Southport and also run the Southport Inn. They just built a house in a subdivision right on the Cape Fear River, and are friends with the people that own the Revenge House at the end of the subdivision road that dead-ends into the river. The Revenge House was the house that was used in the filming of the pilot for the TV series Revenge. Their daughter had the wedding ceremony and pre-reception gathering at the house, so we got to check it out. It was a really cool wedding, and the house was beautiful.

If you watched the show, you will remember a double infinity symbol that was carved into the railing on the back porch of the house. The film crew repaired the railing, but the owners got to keep the piece that had the symbol carved in:

Keep cool and enjoy the summer!!