Monthly Archives: April 2016

Kickin’ It Old Style ~ Classic Boat Week Antigua

Our visit to Antigua to pick up our new North Sails coincided with Classic Yacht Week which meant we had the opportunity to watch old style sailing vessels.  Classic week draws sail boats in a variety of sizes and all of these aged beauties reflect an era of pre-fiberglass boating.

These wooden boats have a lot of teak which makes them look beautiful, but I imagine the TLC required to keep it bright and shiny is tremendous. It was fun to walk the docks and imagine the history of these old timers.

It was even more fun to watch them race. The crew from Sail Pending; Kristie, Richard, Tyler and Kristie’s parents, joined us on LIB and we motored out to watch a day of classic racing. As the old boats were hoisting sails and jockeying for positions, we relaxed, shared stories, took pictures and had lunch.  It was very fun to be right in the middle of the race as an observer and share the experience with Sail Pending.

Unfortunately, winds were very light so the boats didn’t have ideal condition but there was enough wind for them to raise sails and we enjoyed seeing them flying all the canvas they could hoist as they tried valiantly to compete with little wind.

Here is a  bit of boat “eye candy” for those who love sailing and those who appreciate sailing from a different era.

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Antigua was a beautiful back drop for the races.

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Classics in a variety of shapes and sizes.

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“Mini-me” – the sailing variety.

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I thought this helicopter was pretty low…

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Until he decided to get even closer!

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I can’t imagine tacking all these sails to round the buoy.

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A close-up of this pretty girl.

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That is a LOT of sail area on one boat!

Spiffy-do! LIB Gets New Cloth and a Polish

Not to state the obvious, but boats in charter, especially popular models like the Helia, get used a lot by many different people. As a result, LIB has seen a good amount of traffic and has been handled by a wide variety of captains.

Frank and I did many things to “de-charterize” LIB in September, October and November last  year, and we have been very happy with our efforts.

One thing we really debated about was new sails. Charter boat sails get raised and lowered very often, especially in the BVIs where a sail might be just an hour or two. We believe this high usage and variety of captains resulted in some extra stretch in LIB’s sails. While we knew we could keep our original sails, we began researching sail makers early in 2015 when we went to the Chicago Boat Show.

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Rolling up the old sails.

All of the major sailmakers were represented at the show, so it was a convenient way to compare the different materials and begin to get comfortable with what we wanted if we chose to buy new sails. Since we were still more than six months away from moving on LIB, we weren’t there to make decisions, which was good because we walked away from the show dissatisfied with the information we had received.

What we definitely learned was that sails for warm weather climates and high UV exposure needed different consideration than those used in more northern areas.  We decided we  wanted to find a representative who knew the needs of warm weather sailing and whom we felt listened to our specific wants and needs.

Frank did a lot of reading and we spoke to a variety of sailmakers in the Caribbean. It wasn’t until we met Andrew Dove with North Sails, Antigua that we found the combination of sailmaker, sail material, service and personality that met our requirements.

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New sails in the bag.

We were looking for sails that would perform a bit better than our original ones. Since sails tend to stretch and loose shape over time, we specifically wanted to find sails with a flat degradation curve i.e., sails loose shape and performance over time, we wanted to find sails that maintained performance for several years not sails that lost performance quickly initially, then maintained that reduced level of performance over the life of the sails.

We also wanted the loft representative to come on board LIB, make specific measurements for our boat, explain his sail plan model and sail with us after delivery to teach us the best way to use the new sails.

Once we met with Andrew and began discussing what we wanted and hoped for in new sails, Frank and I were immediately comfortable with the idea of having North Sails craft new cloth for LIB.

December 2015 we placed an order with North Sails and this week we have taken delivery of our new 3Di sails.

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On goes the jib.

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Andrew takes a close look at the main sail.

The sails look very different from our original sails both in shape, stretch and color. If yesterday’s test sail is an accurate indication, we believe we will be able to head about 7 degrees higher into the wind. During the test, the wind varied between 6 and 13 knots. It was mostly light and swirly but we managed to sail at almost half of wind speed on a 42 degree port tack. With our previous sails, in similar conditions, we would probably have sailed at 48 or 50 degrees. We are very pleased with the improved performance.

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Frank and Andrew during our test sail

Using the feedback from our sail yesterday, we are making some minor adjustments so we can tighten the main halyard a bit more. I think we will be very happy with our new sails.

Taking a hint from Starry Horizons, Frank moved the lazy lines for our sail pack to the outside of our spreaders. The result is that the bag opening is wider when unzipped and our main sail can move up and down more easily without getting involved in the lazy lines.

We still have our original sail stack-pack as new ones are quite pricey and this one does an adequate job. I like the gray sail color with the cushions material I so painstakingly chose, so  I would like to replace the tan stack-pack for a silver/gray one. This would make the color of the sails, stack-pack and cushions work together well.  I might have to wait a bit for that change though.

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Gray main and red spinnaker – not bad.

Two additional pretties for LIB were refinishing the teak on the cockpit floor and refinishing the cockpit table.

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I like the rich tones of this sealer.

Our teak floor had worn down a bit and the grout was slightly more raised than the teak giving parts of it an uneven feel. We had the teak professionally sanded and the caulk replaced in a few spots. Then Frank and I applied a tinted sealer.  The darker color makes the floor a bit hot on the tootsies at times, but we really like the look.

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The table looks and feels much nicer.

We use our cockpit table for most meals and plenty of projects, so it gets a ton of use. TMM did a good job of keeping the table charter ready by using cetol since it is such a durable finish.  We found the cetol to be a bit soft and sticky, so we wanted to have the table stripped and varnished.

Tejean, a wood worker in Rodney Bay, St. Lucia, spent days sanding and varnishing the table. His effort made a huge difference and we love the way the table looks now.

Hopefully these few projects will be the end of any major ones for a while. It’s time to get some time in with our new sails before we head back to the States in a few weeks.

 

 

 

Best Week Ever On LIB? Probably.

For the first time since we moved on board in September, we had our whole family aboard LIB! We had such a great time just hanging out and being together that it was really hard to see the kids leave again.

We are truly fortunate that all of us get along so well and enjoy being together. We spent the week in Antigua and managed to hit a few places Frank and I had not visited.

Kiteboaring (surprise) was a major component of the trip, though the wind did not cooperate all that much. We did manage to have two really great kiting days and one other that was fair.

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Hunter and Clayton kiting near Bird Island

Bird Island was our anchorage of choice for kiting. It is well protected by reefs, but the little islands between us and the wind are so low that they don’t interfere with the wind.

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Synchronized jumping? Needs some work.

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Here’s what the bottom of Hunter’s board looks like….

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Clayton hadn’t kited in over two years, but it came back very quickly!

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Hunter found enough wind to pull a few tricks.

Captain made sure she got plenty of attention from the kids and managed to find spots close enough for plenty of pets and scratches.

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Helping Clayton with his reading.

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Holding Hunter down in case it was wavy while sailing.

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Walking Captain was a good excuse to stroll the beaches.

Our time was spent walking beaches, paddle boarding, reading and just generally relaxing.

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Clayton at the helm and Hunter, reading or working?

There is a general attitude in our family that we don’t really like our pictures taken, so I had to sneak photos when I could. I am certain I will catch some grief for these, but, oh well.

I think all of us truly relished our week together and recognize that with the kids working and us on a boat, it is pretty challenging to have all of us together. It is really difficult for me to let go of my sons, but I am thankful that they are healthy, independent, motivated and responsible.

Thank goodness modern communication allows me to remain in touch. Not sure I could be gallivanting on a boat if I couldn’t stay in contact with my kids.

 

Six Months Afloat. How Are We Faring?

Wow, it is really hard to believe that it has already been six months since we moved onto Let It Be.  This “milestone” deserves a blog post to document it, though I am afraid it may not be interesting to most readers. Still….

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Hanging out on LIB.

24/7 life with a spouse can be challenging. Frank and I definitely went through a period of adjustment when we moved onto LIB. Our lives in Dallas used to run more parallel than together, so we would go about our daily activities, then catch up at the end of the day.

Living together all the time means we have fewer different experiences to bring to the table each evening but our everyday goals and visions are much more similar.  I would say this means that we now focus on the same goals and we work as a team rather than individually.

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“The List” had 88 items!

Initially, all of our energy was put into transforming LIB from charter to live aboard so we had list upon list of changes or additions to the boat. This meant that Frank was the “lead” on all projects as I was seriously less knowledgable about what was to be done and how. I found it difficult to submit to direction and always need help but Frank was patient and taught me a lot. No one will be surprised to learn that the amount we accomplished during our two months in Puerto Rico was amazing! (Changes to LIB part onepart two and part three.)

We are still learning our own strengths and divide our duties along those lines, while trying to make sure both of us are capable of anything critical. Because so much of this is new to us and there are so many factors that influence our sailing decisions, we have a lot of learning and plenty of conversation.

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Of course there have been a multitude of adjustments that have already become ingrained to the point that we forget they are unusual. Like, my last mode of daily transportation had a 450hp engine, but now we drive an inflatable dinghy with a 15hp engine.  And nearly every time we go to shore some part of our body and or clothing becomes wet before we arrive – from waves splashing us or from sitting on a wet spot left by rain or the dog.

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Time to eat?

Surprises have occurred, like our svelte, muscular dog has gained 8 pounds! since moving onto the boat. She is still an energetic and healthy dog, but we have had to cut back on her food intake because we want her to remain healthy. I guess not having squirrels to chase has seriously diminished her “steps per day.” Time for a puppy “FitBit?”

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Frank’s daily attire used to be a button down shirt, slacks and a tie. These days he wears a swim suit 90% of the time with flip flops or no shoes: thus achieving his pre-retirement goal of never wearing socks again.

Dallas was a pretty chic place to live with some serious emphasis on personal grooming, but less personal maintenance is a way of life on a boat. When we lived on land, Frank had a standing haircut the first Tuesday of every month and I routinely visited my favorite hairstylist, Kim, every six weeks to have my hair highlighted and trimmed.

On board, I cut Frank’s hair on the back deck every 6 weeks or so and I no longer color my hair. Fortunately the sun has lightened my hair a bit and gray has not made too much progress yet.  I did cut off about 5 inches of my hair as it was way too long.

I can’t say our lack of grooming has “improved” our appearance, but we are saving time and effort, and we definitely “fit in” with this life style.

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Frank helps a dock neighbor with his bike tire.

Activity: Anyone who knew us in Dallas, knows we were pretty dedicated to exercise. Frank routinely managed about 150+ bike miles per week and I was committed to tennis or other exercise several times a week. Happily we do have our bikes on board, but we have only used them a handful of times.  I brought a beautiful tennis racquet I have yet to touch since moving onto LIB in September. 

Both of us miss our sports, but we find plenty of ways to exercise here. The physicality of boat life compared to the conveniences of land life adds activity without even trying, but we augment this with swimming, snorkeling, paddle boarding, scuba diving and hiking. Plus we have resistance bands that we try to use regularly, though I admit, we tend to skip them when we have guests on board.

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Laundry – Igloo style.

Laundry used to be such an easy way to multitask while I was handling the office accounting from home. Dump in a load, go about my business and listen for the buzzer announcing it is finished.  Now laundry is a labor intensive activity in our modified ice chest. Combine limited space with limited water and laundry is a no longer the purifying, sparkly clean result it was on land.

Along these same lines….stains. For the life of me I cannot figure out how all of our clothes begin to look stained and worn so quickly here. Maybe it is because we can’t clean them as well or maybe we wear the same clothes more often, but our clothing definitely looks older and tired.

Sometimes I miss my excessively large land kitchen where I could spread out along foot upon foot of countertop space. Our galley on LIB is about a sixth of the size of the one I loved at home, but I actually cook a wider variety of food on the boat than I did on land. This is partially because we don’t have as many choices when grocery shopping and partly because we often anchor in remote places where we have to make whatever we want to eat. Necessity has demanded creativity and because we have more time, cooking is more of a planned activity than something I throw together at the last minute.

That said, more than anything in my galley, I miss the granite counter tops. Little did I realize how convenient it is not to worry about hot pads and a cutting board for every single thing I put on the counter. Hmmm, I guess granite is too heavy for a sail boat????

Air Conditioning was an absolute necessity in Texas, but here we rarely use it. The breeze coming across the water is cooled and we have found we rarely need our AC. There are times when it has been especially hot or humid that it is a relief to turn on the cool air and sit in the shade inside.  Or on excessively humid days, it is a treat to dry out the dampness that clings to the boat and even leaves footprints on the floors.  But in general, our bodies have adjusted to the temperatures and we tend to be cold if the grocery or restaurant is air conditioned.

Some days living on a boat seems “normal” and others I wonder if I have made the right choice, especially when I miss my family and friends.  But on the whole, I am happy with the change in our lives and I enjoy living with greater awareness of nature and our natural surroundings.

Isolated Walks and Amazing Beaches Just Might Be Our Favorite Things.

I think some people imagine cruisers go from one beach bar and umbrella drink to the next. Perhaps this picture of Jost Van Dyke’s infamous scene in the BVI is the image most people have of those who cruise the Caribbean in a boat.

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Jost van Dyke; adults on spring break?

On LIB, we seem to have a knack for finding some pretty stellar places that are the antithesis of spring break at the beach. Some of our favorite days are those when we find beautiful trails that wind up through island fauna and we see nary a person.

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Cliff side trail on Mustique.

Now don’t misunderstand me, we love hanging out with other cruisers and part of the pleasure of this lifestyle is meeting people from all over the world. And if we have too much time alone, I “need” to seek out others and have some social time with someone other than Frank.  And I am quite sure he feels the same way!

Today, I thought I would share pictures of a couple of isolated places we’ve explored.

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Views from a Mustique trail.

On Mustique, we took a taxi to the beginning of our trail, then hiked for about 90 minutes back to our anchorage. The terrain ranged from open cliff side vistas to scrub covered shade and dramatic sea level views.

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The power of nature on display in the waves and the clouds

Bar none, the trails on Mustique were the best tended we have seen and we truly appreciated that the owners allowed us to enjoy the island.

For those who don’t know, Mustique is a private island and owners generously share their beautiful island with visitors. Recently some yahoos from a boat supposedly entered Mic Jagger’s home there and started taking pictures. Needless to say, those hoosiers were escorted off the island. I have heard that because of this incident, the island access will be restricted. I can’t express how angry the trespassing by these boaters makes me! This demonstrates a complete lack of courtesy, manners, respect, class, etc, etc, etc!!

Ok, rant over…

We saw a most unusual tree while hiking on Mustique and I have not figured out what it is. It looks like it is growing rhino horns.

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Can anyone tell me about this tree?

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Periodically, covered benches offered resting stops in Mustique.

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Stone “sidewalk”

Instead of pouring concrete, volcanic rock walkways in deep colors were added to the edge of this trail. The effect was a natural looking walkway along the coast line. This was an excellent choice as the rough surface of the somewhat porous rock kept it from becoming slippery. This particular trail led to a beach that was private, so we turned around and headed back to Mustique’s nature preserve area around a salt pond.

PSV, Petit St. Vincent, is another private island, but this one is a “boutique” hotel. Boaters are welcome to visit the restaurant and bar, but are asked to remain in very limited areas. We found PSV to be very pretty, but the anchorage was a bit rolly so we only stayed one night.

From PSV, we did dinghy across to Mopion at the end of our first day and had this little sand spit to ourselves.

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This is the whole of Mopion.

Just off of Mopion is a half moon shaped reef which makes sort of a pool around the sandy knob. We had a great time playing in the clear shallow water. And we jogged the circumference of the island just so we could say we “ran a whole island.”

While visiting the Tobago Cays, we kept eyeing another small spit of land that made us think of Gilligan’s Island, but was actually used as the background when Johnny Depp was marooned in Pirates of the Caribbean.

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Petit Tobac with 7 boats at anchor

We bided our time and one day dinghied over to Petit Tobac. I guess we sent off bad vibes because within an hour of our arrival, the two boats that were anchored there sailed off and we were left alone on this fabulous little place.

Frank, Captain and I shared a picnic lunch, added to the rock totem, snorkeled in the perfectly clear water and generally had a fabulous day.

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Adding to the rock totem

I don’t really know why people build these rock piles, but we see them very often. These are some of the larger ones. Others, along trails, are often just four or five stones and a foot high. Much better than graffiti and fun to see in a variety of places.

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Departing Petit Tobac – stunning, right?

We are pretty good about getting off the boat and exploring, especially since Captain appreciates visiting shore. But there are days when we find ourselves with less energy than usual or when we need a break from the sun. If the anchorage is clean and somewhat calm, you might just find us chillin’ under Let It Be.

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Floaties for grown ups.

Frank found these great “Siesta Lounger” floating chairs that we inflate, then tie to the boat so we can float in the shade under the hulls of LIB. These chairs are the bomb! They even have drink holders on each arm. A cruiser’s dream – to stay hydrated, of course.

Random thought notice: we have now lived on LIB for six months! I’m not going to say we have been cruising for six months because the first few months were all about preparing to sail. But that’s a pretty significant milestone in my opinion.

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