We have been so busy riding bikes and exploring Italy that we have not had time to write a blog.
But even if we had made time to write, we don’t have much internet.
So I’m just posting these three quick photos to give you a glimpse into the beautiful areas we are biking and to prove we are still alive and well.
Dolomites in the background.
More to come once we are back in the States…. and can upload more easily.
BTW, thank you T-Mobile for giving us at least some service anywhere we travel!
Our previous post concerning customizations for TTR seemed to be well received; so we will go forward with “Our Stamp, Part II”. Please remember that the decisions and changes we have made are not necessarily right, wrong, or suitable for everyone; they simply reflect our preferences. These aren’t necessarily the most exciting topics, but they are important when planning to live on a sailboat.
Dinghy davits – As much as we loved Let It Be, one of the Helia’s weakest features is inadequate dinghy davits. Frank and I removed the dinghy engine for any overnight passage and the dinghy remained a matter of concern on passages.
Improving on the dinghy davits seen on previous HH Catamarans was well spelled out in our contract for TTR. The redesigned davits in addition to carrying a sufficient load with a big safety margin would have to meet the following criteria 1. With the engine down, the bottom of the shaft had to be 38 inches off the water 2. Both davits had to touch the port and starboard inflatable tubes of the RIB for stability 3. The dinghy had to sit level from side to side when fully lifted into the davits 4. The stern of the dinghy had to be lower than the bow to allow water drainage.
Initial renderings of the modified davits.
Combining the design skills of Gino Morelli and James Hakes with HYM’s fabrication capabilities, dinghy davits have been created that are both esthetic and functional. The design and fabrication of the first set of davits was finished in time for installation on Utopia, HH55-04, which arrived in Newport, RI last week. The reports so far are very good. Many thanks to those involved, we look forward to a happy and stable dinghy.
Solar MPPT controllers – HH offers several solar package options and all HH solar installations include Solbian SP flex panels fabricated in Italy using ultra-efficient monocrystalline Sunpower cells and installed on the coachroof of the boat. HH’s standard install involves wiring 2 of these super expensive 12v panels in series to one 24v MPPT controller to charge the 24v house bank. All this makes sense except when confronting the shading issue which is inevitable in all boat applications. When only 2 of the total 72 cells (36 cells each panel) on these 2 series wired panels becomes hard shaded, the charging output drops by 60% or more. Genasun boost controllers to the rescue! TTR will have 1 Genasun MPPT boost controller for each panel boosting the charging voltage from 12 to 24v. Therefore, if 2 cells on any panel become hard shaded the loss will be only the output from that one panel not two panels. I know this all seems like a lot of mathematical gooble-dee-goop but that’s what my man does well! We are hoping that our solar charging will reduce generator run time to only 4 hours every third day at anchor. Thank you to Jessica Li, the HH electrical install team, and the onsite supervision squad for helping us to make this happen.
Installation of the solar controllers in the salon ceiling of TTR.
Folding propellers – HH offers a Gori 3 blade folding propeller as it’s standard; it’s shiny and beautiful. Nevertheless when researching folding props for Let It Be; we were overwhelmingly led to the Flexofold 3 blade folding prop and specified the same for Ticket to Ride. Yachting World Magazine performed the most objective testing of folding and feathering props and published the results in their March 2015 issue. These tests showed the Flexofold prop was the top performer in all categories including forward and reverse thrust, top speed, low side force, and low drag when folded. The Flexofold prop has an inexpensive off the shelf hub anode in comparison to Gori’s expensive proprietary anode. The Flexofold is simple and maintenance free without the gimmicky overdrive feature touted by Gori. And last but not least we were incredibly happy with the service provided by our Flexofold props on Let It Be. We could see no reason to change from what was working.
3-blade saildrive folding propeller by Flexofold
Antifouling Paint – During our 5 years owning Let It Be, we had antifouling paint applied 5 times. Three different paint brands, 3 different boatyards, 3 different islands and all the bottom paint work (sanding, preparation, application) for better or worse was performed by the boatyard. The paints ranged from Sherwin Williams (least expensive) to Sea Hawk Islands 44 (most expensive). Regardless, none of the bottom jobs looked satisfactory at 10 months much less 12; very disappointing. While living on LIB a bottom job cost $5000-7000, required planning, involves some risk for the boat, and moved us off for at least a week. Our cost involved haul, launch, blocking, paint, labor, yard days, lodging for us off the boat, kennel time for Captain, and eating out. We figured there has to be a better way. TTR will have CopperCoat brand epoxy paint applied to her clean hull undersides under the supervision of the Chinese Coppercoat rep and we hope to get 5 years out of CopperCoat. CopperCoat will add about 100 pounds, cost maybe 25% more, and only comes in a brownish/tan color that will patina into a blackish/green color; however, it could save us mucho dinero, is much more environmentally friendly, and could remove the hassle of annual bottom jobs.
LIB’s hull full of barnacles only 7 months after an expensive bottom paint job!
Yes, HYM really has worked with us to deliver a boat that meets our needs, plans, and expectations. I have saved the major interior customizations for a later blog when I will have pictures from TTR. I think the interior changes are as exciting and important as the outside changes that have now been discussed.
Please stay tuned and let us know if you have a question or comment. Check out our FB page for more frequent posts.
As we prepared to take off to China to check on the progress of Ticket to Ride, I was looking through some old photos and came across these of us using our Siesta Loungers.
We first used inflatable Siesta Loungers when we were boating on Lake Ouachita in Arkansas more than a dozen years ago. We thought these floating chairs would be fun to have on LIB. So we tucked them into a forepeak and used a kite board pump for easy inflation at various anchorages.
Apparently Frank was looking for shaded comfort on this particular day.
Frank’s photo was taken while in the Abacos.
I am demonstrating the Siesta lounger in a cool setting while reading a book on my kindle.
Comfy, quiet time in Bonaire.
Even Captain enjoys the Siesta Loungers. Sometimes she sits in one and we pull her along while we snorkel.
Have to admit, Cappy has a pretty nice life aboard!
Looking back at pictures makes us even more excited to move back onto a boat and search out new Siesta Lounger spots.
Thanks for stopping by. We will try to post some new picture of TTR from China! Look at our Facebook page for more regular posts.
One of the benefits for us of buying an HH55 catamaran is the opportunity to customize the boat to our liking. No doubt that Morrelli and Melvin designed an incredible boat and HH is doing a fabulous job of fabricating that boat. But we still have been able to add our own little stamp to the boat we will receive in a few months.
Beginning on the outside and forward at the bow, here are just a few items we have changed from “the norm” on previous HH55s.
Trampoline – The standard trampoline supplied by HYM is a 1 1/4 inch knotless dyneema material that is attached with individual lashings to the many, many attachment points on the hull. The 1 1/4 inch reference relates to the size of the hole between the strands of dyneema line. This dyneema trampoline is an excellent, lightweight choice for offshore and racing, the getting there part of sailing; however, for both the getting there and the being there part of sailing we chose an alternative. We wanted a trampoline comfortable for bare feet, dog paws, knees during yoga and relaxing at anchor. Simply put, we wanted to make the trampoline serve as both a useful and comfortable outdoor space. Sunrise Yacht Products to the rescue! Richard worked beyond his duty to properly size and manufacture an offshore trampoline that would have all the benefits of dyneema with a host of other advantages. We settled on the Sunrise Offshore Polyester Open Net with 3/8″ net openings and attachment grommets to match each of the hull attachment points. We are super excited to play and work on this trampoline. By moving to this trampoline we did add 22 pounds to the overall weight of TTR.
Left represents the weave we chose for TTR. Right is a 1″ dyneema open weave.
Generator – Hudson Yacht has been installing a 12KW Fisher-Panda generator on the previous HH55’s and this was simply a deal breaker for Frank, my favorite mechanic. We have had different gensets on previous boats; however, the Northern Lights 9KW genset on Let It Be far surpassed any generator we have owned. The NL was quiet, easy to service, incredibly dependable, and NEVER failed to start. When we sold Let It Be, the genset had over 8,000 hours, ran beautifully, and the only part we had replaced was one alternator. Frank feels that the key to the NL genset success is that it has No, None, zero green circuit boards, only relays, and it runs at 1800 RPMs not the 3200-3600 RPMs seen with the Fisher-Panda. The NL genset is about 40 pounds heavier than the FP which makes zero difference to us. Our boat, for better or worse, will be electrically demanding and we accept the need for a generator; however, we absolutely wanted a machine on which we can depend.
A brand new Northern Lights Generator for TTR.
Bow Thruster – HH offers a bow thruster located in the starboard forepeak with a dropdown lower unit when the thruster is in use. All 3 of the previous HH55s have opted for the thruster; however, we chose to delete the thruster from TTR. Having the experience of Let It Be with no bow thruster and the fact that we expect to spend very little time coming to and from marina docks; we feel very comfortable with no bow thruster. The financial savings was big and eliminating the thruster saved us over 440 pounds!! However, we did build a monolithic patch in the forward hull allowing for easy installation of a bow thruster if desired in the future.
450 mm Extended longeron (bowsprit) – Since our sailing plans and reason for buying Ticket To Ride include a tropical circumnavigation, we realize that much of our sailing time will be spent with the wind aft of the beam. On Let It Be some of our favorite sailing days had the wind TWA at 130-170; however, we also found that to be a challenging wind direction for sail configuration. Alas, with Gino Morelli’s advice and working with our sailmaker, Matt Bridges, from Doyle NZ, we decided to extend the longeron / bowsprit by 450 mm and fly a large furled reacher from the very end of the bowsprit. This bring the headsail further forward into cleaner wind, less blanketed by the mainsail.
Longeron installed on TTR.
Cableless Reacher – The mainsail, genoa, and self tacking staysail on Ticket to Ride will be supplied by Doyle NZ (our choice) and will be very similar in size and cut to the previous HH55s. The reacher/Code sail is where we have changed course from the previous HH55s. Again, since tropical circumnavigation is our plan we talked at length with anyone knowledgable about appropriate sail configurations for such plans. Matt Bridges from Doyle NZ is an excellent listener and his first proposal included a cableless reacher. “What is that animal?,” we asked. In brief, a cableless reacher eliminates the very thick torque rope around which a removable, furled headsail is normally wound when furled. Instead of the 3/4 inch torque rope tensioned to sometimes over 5 tons, the cableless reacher has additional spectra and carbon fibers built into the luff of the sail and is tensioned to about 1/8 of the torque rope specs. The trade off with a cableless reacher is that it will not go upwind as well as a torque rope and will never be a Code 0 or an A1. Rather the cut is more A2 or A3. WOW, that’s exactly what we want!
Cableless reacher production drawing from Doyle Sails.
Considering all the above features of the cableless reacher, we also did not order a gennaker at this time. We feel the cableless reacher will be much easier for us to handle alone and it provides 80% of the benefit of a gennaker. Eliminating the gennaker is a huge dollar, weight and storage savings.
Another view of the reacher drawing.
Spade Anchor and galvanized chain – Hudson Yacht’s standard spec for anchor and chain is a Stainless Lewmar Delta anchor and stainless chain manufactured in China. I don’t know about you, but, we say thank you to our anchor every morning when we wake up to find ourselves in the same spot as when we went to bed. Let It Be was delivered with a Lewmar Delta Anchor which worked fine in ideal conditions. Sailors know that ideal conditions are seldom found! After 3 weeks on Let It Be, much anchor research, and a boat show special, we chose to give Let It Be a new Spade Anchor and we never looked back. Grass, mud, sand, wind, or any combination of the above and we were always set. So why would we want to return to the past with Ticket To Ride? TTR will be sporting a beautiful stainless 1 piece Spade anchor. Concerning anchor chain, Practical Sailor says it best, “Steer Clear of Stainless-steel Mooring Chain.” Stainless chain, in addition to being inherently weaker, suffers from crevice corrosion leading to failure with no warning. We have spec’d 10 mm galvanized Acco chain for Ticket To Ride.
Hopefully our anchor will never land in such a shallow spot!
Watermakers – We really did not vary too far from the HYM standard Spectra watermaker. What we did change is its location. Frank and I had a love/hate relationship with the huge storage capacity below the berths on Let It Be. On the love side it allowed us to carry ample spares, tools, and toys. On the hate side it seemed like every time we needed something different it was stored below a bed requiring the removal of bedsheets, mattresses, mattress support boards followed by digging. The watermakers on HH5501 and HH5502 were installed below the master berth…. a much less than ideal location in our opinion! Considering filter replacement, checking for leaks and the noise generated while making water, my maintenance specialist began an earnest search for a different location. After many emails, evaluation of drawings, and support questions to Spectra, the decision was made to put the Spectra 24v Newport 700 in a purpose built compartment in the port side forepeak. The HH crew is confident this will be an excellent long term home for the watermaker due to access for service, weight distribution and water spill cleanup. Only time will tell for this untested location.
It’s very fun to share the construction of a new boat with our friends and readers. The items above really only scratch the surface of the changes we have made to TTR to meet our needs. In a future blog post(s), we will share other custom changes to solar, electronics, seating, general arrangement, and so on.
In just a few days we are heading to China for the ‘soft launch’ of TTR and we look forward to seeing her in person! During soft launch, Ticket to Ride is placed in a pond so most of her systems can be tested. Soft launch allows HH to review all of the components of boat systems and it will give us our first chance to begin learning about the systems on TTR that will be new to us. (And I get to see how the interior colors I chose actually work together. Fingers crossed!)
Many, many thanks go to the HH crew, Gino Morelli and Mark Womble (Morelli and Melvin), Matt Bridges (Doyle NZ), Paul Hakes, and at the top of the list is Let It Be. She was much more to us than a platform for learning but WOW we did learn a lot from Let It Be.
As always, thank you for stopping by our blog. We love hearing from you, so feel free to add your comments. And if you want to hear from us more often, check out our Facebook page.
The view of Caye Caulker from LIB at anchor.
Belize was such a fun place for us that we were sorry to leave. Plus we had very mixed emotions about our arrival in Galveston since that would be where we would say goodbye to our dear boat and turn her over to the new owner.
But once we found a good weather window for passaging we could not delay our departure because we had promised to deliver LIB to Galveston by mid-May.
We made sure LIB had plenty of fuel and that meals were pre-pared so that if our first few days at sea were rough we wouldn’t have to put much effort into cooking.
We estimated the trip would be about 850 nm or seven to eight days and we hoped to optimize the use of the Gulf currents rather than work against them. We didn’t have the upgraded version of Predict Wind that shows the current, so we had to preview the currents before we left and do our best to aim for the anticipated location of the flow. We also sent internet links to our sons and while at sea hoped they could help us adjust course to maximize the current.
The yellow line shows our approximate exit from Caye Caulker.
Leaving Caye Caulker was a bit dicey because the charts were unreliable and there were only two breaks in the Belize Barrier Reef. I was at the helm reading the water and Frank was on the foredeck reading the water and directing me around shallow spots and coral heads.
It took us about an hour to travel the short distance around the southern side of Caye Caulker to the outside of the reef, but caution was certainly called for when the depths were sometimes only two feet under the keel!
Once we were outside the reef, we heaved a great sigh of relief and headed north. We hoped the wind would continue to blow and stay in our favor because the forecast showed a distinct possibility of little or no wind as the week progressed.
Our first two days were remarkably uneventful and the seas were very calm in light winds. We were able to raise the main and jib and were making nice progress, aiming toward the gulf currents.
Look how close to the bow the dolphins swim!
Dolphins came to play, wish us well and add a little sparkle to our day.
There were more than these four dolphins but this pic showed the most.
We were about 200 miles offshore when our first barn swallow hitched a ride. Before long we had six swallows hanging out on LIB.
Such colorful little visitors!
I enjoyed seeing the birds until they decided they preferred to be inside LIB instead of staying outside. We had to shoo them outside and keep the sliding door closed until the birds huddled up and went to sleep for the night.
Unfortunately not all of the birds survived the trip…. when we adjusted the traveler, two of the birds didn’t move and were sucked into the block!! We assumed they would move and weren’t watching them as we monitored the sail position and adjusted the lines to maximize trim. Frank was pretty surprised when I yelled “stop” after noticing two of the birds had been killed and the other two weren’t moving to avoid the same demise. That was SO sad!!
Barn swallows at sunset.
We were moving along quite nicely, enjoying calm seas and reasonable winds, and were beginning to catch some of the benefits of the current. We were perhaps three days into our sail and were hoping we might reach Galveston in time to meet up with Amy and David of Starry Horizons who were in the States for a visit.
Frank had just gone below for a nap when the fishing line started zinging!
Can you say Mahi?!
Frank happily came back up to reel in this pretty fish. No concerns about running low on food this trip!
We were sharing a late lunch when we heard a loud snap and the main sail started flapping… upon inspection, we realized the webbing that attached our clew to the mainsail had broken away! What?! Frank quickly reefed the main and tucked the loose foot into the sail bag. Once again our main was functional, if a tad bit shorter than we wanted.
I have heard that 90 percent of sailing is boredom and 10 percent is terror! Well, that wasn’t exactly terror, but it certainly increased our heart-rates!
After settling the main and finishing lunch, I went downstairs to take a nap so I would be rested for the first watch of the night. I hadn’t been there long when an unusual sound interrupted my decent into dreamland. Minutes later Frank came to tell me the head of the sail had just ripped out of the main!!
No way to fix that one! Frank tucked the mainsail into the bag where she would remain for the trip.
So we were half way to Galveston and we no longer had a mainsail. The wind direction was not workable for our spinnaker so we would have to resort to motor sailing with the jib and hope we had enough wind and fuel to complete the trip.
SPECIAL NOTE: When we arrived in Galveston and reached out to North Sails, they were top notch in responding to our problem with the sails. Look to the end of the post if you just can’t wait to hear how North Sails made things right for us.
With the loss of our mainsail and the winds falling, we resorted to using the engines and resigned ourselves to a slightly longer trip than expected. And we realized there was no way we would be able to get to Galveston in time to meet Amy and David. That was a bummer since Amy and David are so far ahead of us in their circumnavigation that we will not be able to catch them at sea.
Although we didn’t have much wind, the weather was beautiful, the sea state was very calm and the moon was full ~ which is always a treat on passages.
A perfectly clear sky and a full moon!
The only real concern we had was the fuel level since we had planned on relying primarily on our sails and we did not store any extra fuel jugs on LIB. We monitored the diesel level and tried to balance its use with our progress. Unfortunately, only hours after our main was blown, the wind died completely and our jib was no longer of help. We would have to reach Galveston under engine alone unless the wind returned.
We tried to catch each extra puff of wind and we unfurled the jib every chance we could but we found no relief for our engines.
Days before we were close to Galveston, we knew we would be extremely short on fuel and might even loose engine power. The last thing we wanted was to enter the very busy harbor of Galveston and be adrift!
LIB is circled in red….
As you can see from the screen shot of the chart on LIB, there are plenty of boats in Galveston and we did not want to be without power among all of these ships.
Our fuel gage arriving to Galveston Harbor!
TowBoat US to the (potential) rescue!
As soon as we were within cell phone range, Frank called TowBoat US and explained that we were precariously low on fuel and asked if a tow boat could escort us just in case we did loose our engines. TowBoat US was responsive and awesome!
These friendly and professional men were a very welcome sight!
We kept TowBoat US appraised of our position and they met us on the outskirts of Galveston Harbor to escort us all the way to the fuel dock. Fortunately LIB was able to make it all the way to the fuel dock under her own power, but having TowBoat US with us reduced our stress level immensely! I don’t think we have ever been so happy to pay for fuel.
People often ask if we get bored on passages or if the scenery becomes too repetitive but we don’t find that a problem. Or at least we haven’t so far. Perhaps if we were on a three week passage we would be tired of the sea, but we have found enough to keep us entertained.
Here are a few pictures of things that keep us enthralled with the ocean.
Yahoooooo, it’s Wahoooo!
Yes, these colors at sunrise are true!
We rarely see ships, but Frank caught this cool shot!
Barn swallow at sunset.
North Sails Report: Our very special thanks to Jay Lutz of North Sails. We contacted Jay and told him of the issues we had with our North 3Di sails and Jay responded immediately and professionally. Although our sails were technically out of warranty and Jay wasn’t from the loft that sold us our sails, he came to our boat in Kemah, TX and inspected the sails. After looking at the sails, Jay took both the main and jib with him and had them analyzed by North Sails.
The conclusion was that the webbing used on our sails was faulty. North completely replaced the webbing both sails! The repair was beautifully done and the main and jib are now in excellent shape…. probably even better than originally since the faulty attachment material has been replaced.
We were very impressed to learn that North Sails keeps tabs on which lots are used for every sail they make. Rather than wait for other sails made using this same lot of webbing to have problems, North is reaching out to their customers and fixing the webbing before it becomes a problem for other sailors.
The theory is that our sails were more heavily exposed to UV deterioration since we were in the Caribbean and as a result, we suffered the problem with our webbing before other sailors had issues. We are seriously impressed that North Sails not only identified the problem for us and repaired our sails, but they have taken proactive steps and are making their product right before an issue can arise for other customers.
We are hugely impressed with Jay Lutz and North Sail. We sincerely appreciate your high standard of care!
This post pretty much concludes our travels on LIB! We are now land locked until our new boat, s/v Ticket to Ride, is delivered in the next few months. We hope you will hang on with us as we spend the next few months traveling on land until TTR is launched. As always, thank you for reading our blog.
We look forward to seeing sunsets from the water and sharing them with you soon.
Thomas inspecting the paint job on HH55-03.
Things are really starting to Come Together on our new boat. We couldn’t have made it Without A Little Help From My Friends (Gino Morrelli and Mark Womble of MM and Paul Hakes just to name three).
Working hard and taking good care of the boat.
We have driven Long and Winding Roads in our RV while HH works Eight Days A Week building the boat to our wishes and keeping up their excellent fabrication standards.
Do You Want To Know A Secret? We can’t wait to move onto our new boat and Follow The Sun. When we are out on the water, we feel good in a special way. We love to take our dinghy, Day Tripper, to shore. She never takes us half way there!
We were very happy sailing along in Let It Be and enjoyed having people spontaneously sing to us when they read the name of our boat. So we hoped to find another Beatles song title that we liked as the name for our new boat. Several friends suggested Yellow Submarine, but we don’t want any part of a sinking boat!
I love the contrast between the teak steps and the hull color!
This new boat will be our Ticket to Ride the oceans and explore the seas. Yep, if We Can Work It Out, we want to circumnavigate and she will be our s/v Ticket to Ride.
But we don’t want to be part of Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, we want our friends and family to visit us on s/v TTR! The beauty of the world is much more fun when shared with others!
s/v Ticket to Ride is going back indoors for more work.
We thought a lot about what to name our boat and we hope this name is fun and fitting… and that it might inspire singing along the way!
Thank you so much for reading our blog. We look forward to returning to the water and sharing those travels. In the mean time, thank you for keeping up with us as we explore the U.S. by land.
We left Kernville and made a long drive to Santa Cruz, CA. The KOA there was really nice with reasonable sized spaces and many activities for families to enjoy. They were pretty strict on the rules, but we are finding that to be true everywhere! Once again the golf cart patrol was quick to tell us if we had an extra car in the space or if the dog had gotten out of the RV without her leash on.
This was the fanciest KOA we have seen. They had activities scheduled for most days, including one yoga class which I enjoyed. There was a small, semi-outdoor bar/restaurant and a nice playground. The vibe was positive and it was great to see so many families enjoying the activities available on the beautiful, shaded grounds.
Happily, Hunter’s place of employment was close enough to our RV spot that he chose to commute to work from Temporary Digs. We missed Clayton, but were glad to have the extra time with Hunter.
The days were filled with activity; biking, surfing, kite boarding and exploring Santa Cruz in between walking the dog and hanging “at home.” Unfortunately I didn’t take many pictures, but I’ll share some I did take.
This double track leads uuuupp to the start of some trails in Santa Cruz.
I mentioned that Hunter had finally been bitten by the mountain biking bug as is evidenced by this picture of him with his new “toy.” A big shout out to Scotts Valley Cycle Sports where Hunter made his purchase. This is an excellent bike shop with nice stock and excellent customer service. We highly recommend them!
Love this retro van which is as old as I am!
Speaking of toys, take a look at this vintage van we saw in Santa Cruz. This is the first time I have seen a Chevrolet Greenbriar which was built between 1961-65. Pretty cool looking. We spotted it outside of the Santa Cruz Bicycle Factory.
We took a tour of the Santa Cruz Bicycle factory, which was interesting, but the guide would benefit from a script to include more facts and information. 🙂 (No pictures were allowed.)
The town of Santa Cruz was surprisingly interesting to us. It has a population of around 65,000 and there are many outdoor activities to enjoy. Because of its size, there are plenty of restaurants, bike shops, surf shops, grocery stores, etc, so we didn’t lack for anything. We were even able to have routine maintenance on our truck while in Santa Cruz.
A blustery morning in Santa Cruz.
The morning we had our truck worked on, we brought out bikes and toured the town while the truck was otherwise occupied. It was fun just to tool about and take in Santa Cruz. We had the unusual experience of needing a jacket! What a delightful change from the temperatures we always had during summer in Texas.
As if great biking, surfing and kiting possibilities weren’t enough to make us enjoy Santa Cruz, there is a marina as well!
Perhaps one day we will come back in our sailboat?!
Our RV site was about a 45 minute drive from Santa Cruz, but we found ourselves returning to SC almost every day. If possible, the next time we visit this area, I would find an RV site closer to Santa Cruz even though the Costanoa KOA was a very nice place.
The Fourth of July Holiday fell during our time in Santa Cruz and Clayton was able to join us for the day. We celebrated by, wait for it…… riding bikes!! SURPRISE!
Pics from our rides in Santa Cruz:
Frank is a tree-hugger!
Maybe not everything is bigger in Texas.
We did branch out (haha) a little from Santa Cruz when we visited Google in Mountain View, CA. Working “conditions” are certainly different from when I worked in downtown Dallas. My employer did not provide any of the perks that are standard at Google…. onsite places to eat (for free), bicycles to commute between buildings, entertainment on site, green space to “refresh” your energy, etc.
Google was empty due to the July 4th holiday.
We also drove to San Francisco to see the city with Hunter as our tour guide. Rather than contend with parking, we took our bikes on the subway into the SF and spent the whole day puttering around.
Lunch spot, Mission Delores Park – we were the only ones with this idea!
Hunter found us a spot in the family friendly section of the park which is pictured here. This section was full of interesting sights, like the camping tent with a big “30” on top for a birthday celebration, the guy carrying a h-u-g-e python around his neck (which apparently is a chic magnet?!), a little girl walking a cat, a few games I was unfamiliar with and a wide variety of dress styles. The other side of the park was a little more revealing in terms of skin and lifestyle choices. All in all, very interesting. It was very fun to see so many people out enjoying the fresh air. (Side note, Frank and I were slightly above the average age in the park!)
Hunter and I enjoying a view of the bay…. or maybe I was resting at the top of a hill?
What trip to SF is complete without seeing this icon?
This picture was taken from Crissy Field, a spot where many people hang out and is fairly popular with kiteboarders as well. Unfortunately kiters here often need to be rescued because several factors are less than favorable: gusty winds, currents, ship traffic, etc. We were only at Crissy Field for about 15 minutes but we saw one kiter returned to shore by the SF Marine Police.
Hunter and Frank considering the kiting possibilities?
Although we didn’t hit all the highlights of SF, since it was only a one day visit, we did see quite a bit of the city, including Fisherman’s Wharf. The Wharf itself was overrun with people!! Even on bikes it was hard to move through the streets and weave between the tourists. I was glad to see the area but was happy it wasn’t a major part of our agenda.
Gratuitous photo of the bike trails because they are pretty.
We spent a lot of time on these pine needle strewn paths, listening to the sounds of the woods and getting a little exercise during our time in Santa Cruz. With so little time in Santa Cruz, we were only able to scratch the surface of available trails for mountain biking or hiking, but the trails we did ride were very fun and had enough variety to satisfy me as a cautious rider and the guys who are much more adventurous.
I don’t know what wintertime is like near Santa Cruz, but I wouldn’t mind spending more time here if the weather is mild. I’m not sure our Caribbean spoiled bones would survive snow and I know we don’t have the clothing for freezing temperatures but perhaps we will consider returning here before the new boat is delivered.
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I’ve decided to begin doing short posts because we have had surprisingly limited internet speeds and that makes blogging very time consuming. Plus, those who know Frank know we always have to stay busy and finding time to write when we aren’t driving or doing is difficult.
Once we left Grand Junction, we high tailed over to California, choosing to save exploring Utah for the fall when it might be slightly cooler than it is now. Everyone knows California has some beautiful places and we wanted to explore a few from the RV.
Scenes as we drove to Kernville.
Kernville is on the southern edge of the Sequoia National Forest about 50 miles east and slightly north of Bakersfield, CA. The drive to Kernville was scenic and easy with a one night stop in Hurricane, UT just to break up the drive.
When I think of California, I envision the coast, so I enjoyed seeing the arid, mountainous aspects of the state.
Can you imagine trying to cross this terrane in a covered wagon?
Our RV park in Kernville was the Kern River Sequoia RV Resort. The campsite backs up to the Kern River and our particular site had a small stream behind it. The stream was a very popular spot for neighbors to plop their chairs in the stream while the kids played in and around the water.
I forgot to take a pic of the campground but you get an idea in this picture.
Our sons joined us for the weekend so our family was together for the first time since Christmas in Bonaire. That was quite a treat!
As usual, we stayed very busy, mostly mountain biking. Frank transferred the mountain biking bug to Clayton way back when he was in high school, but Hunter was slower to get hooked. However, after this trip, Hunter has also succumbed to MB Fever.
Three amigos prepping for a ride.
I dropped off the guys at the top of Cannell Trail and they spent the next several hours bombing down the mountain then riding back to the RV. Cannell is listed as an Epic Trail by IMBA (International Mountain Biking Association) and it needed to be done. Frank reports that this isn’t the best Epic he has ridden, but they still had a great time.
Cappy really wanted to run the whole trail!
Captain really wanted to run the trail, but it was too long for her. She trotted along behind Frank near the drop off point until it was time for them to leave. The trail was beyond my comfort zone and I was the designated drop driver, so once Frank, Hunter and Clayton left, Cappy and I hiked a bit and enjoyed the scenery.
Clayton, assessing the mountain?
Hunter looks very serious about this ride.
Do those cute ears make you think of Yoda?
Our campsite was well shaded and the little creek behind us was great for cooling off for both us and the dog.
Why don’t you get wet instead of taking my picture?
Floating the Kern River was pretty popular but we only had a couple of days in Kernville and biking took precedence over all else. In addition to two mountain bike rides, Frank and I enjoyed a few excellent road rides after the kids returned to work. (It is really strange to have our kids leave for work and we just continue to play!!)
Not a bad view as we biked along the road.
I find it very difficult to reconcile the visual effects of the mountains and the streams when I am biking. Often it looks like I’m riding downhill but feels like I am riding uphill because of the illusion the landscape creates on the incline. Generally Frank reads the grade better than I do, so I follow his lead on which direction to ride first so I’ll have a downhill ride on the way back. But it is hard to believe him when my eyes are trying to tell me I’m going downhill!
I guess this is a gentle way of increasing my trust in Frank’s decisions because once I turned around on the rides, I was very surprised to find just how uphill the ride was on the way out. Going home was definitely downhill ~ woohoo!!! Even when the road appears to be going downhill, if I am riding against the flow of the river, I know I am moving uphill….
Does anyone else experience difficulty determining uphill from downhill when the mountains converge near the road you are riding?
Anyway, Kernville was an excellent first stop in California. Of course it was heavily influenced by having the family together! I’m very happy we will be in California and in closer proximity to the kids for a few weeks!
~HH55 Catamaran Update~
Although there is a looonng way to go, the most recent update from HH shows some exciting progress on our cat. Apparently the interior painting is now complete and exterior paint will begin this week. Very exciting! I just have to remember that even though these steps make it look like we have made a big leap toward completion, there are many less obvious and vital steps before completion.
Starboard aft berth.
Facing forward in the master hull; two sinks inboard, the head outboard, then the shower.
In the second photo, you can see some of the customizations HH has made on our hull. LIB was set up as a four cabin, four head boat which was perfect for chartering and actually was very comfortable for us while we lived on board. However, on out HH55 we have chosen to reduce the number of heads and showers to just one in each hull.
In an effort to retain personal space and convenience when we revert to sharing a head, we redesigned the forward area of the owner’s hull. We changed the head from an enclosed area that included one sink, one shower and a toilet in the following way: 1. we removed the doorway into the whole area to make it feel less congested, 2. we enclosed the head for privacy but still allow access to the shower if someone is using the toilet and 3. we added a second sink so we have our own spaces.
Although we had our own heads on LIB, we think these small alterations to our HH55 will allow us to easily share one bathroom and reduce the total number of heads on board.
We very much appreciate Gino Morrelli’s help reworking the spaces in our Morrelli and Melvin designed HH55. Gino knows every space and weight of these boats and he was instrumental in helping us figure out where to make interior changes that would make this awesome boat work for our purposes.
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After Susan and Kevin left us in early April, it was time to leave Placencia and move north through Belize and begin watching for a weather window to make the leap to Galveston, TX. Originally we planned on stopping at Isla Mujeres, Mexico, but we had heard all kinds of things about the complications of checking into and out of Mexico. We were only going to have a day or two to visit there, so we decided to skip Isla Mujeres this trip. Our thought is that we will have a lot of time in Mexico on the western side when we move south from California on the new boat, so our visit would wait.
Anyway, instead of spending two days in Mexico, we decide to stay a bit longer in Belize and see a couple of islands on our way north. We set out from Placencia and sailed about 29nm to Twin Cayes. We were the last boat to arrive in this beautiful anchorage because we had waited until late in the morning to leave Placencia to make sure a weather system had passed. Also, we think overnight passages inside the barrier reef of Belize are a bad idea because the charts are poor and there is a lot of shallow water.
Three other boats were anchored in Twin Cayes
Twin Cayes is very well protected and an excellent place to hide from weather as evidenced by one of the boats which had been anchored there for three days before we arrived. There was a pretty decent wind storm predicted along with unruly seas and Twin Cayes was a prefect hiding place.
The next morning we left Twin Cayes and sailed 41nm to Dronwed Cayes. Drowned Cayes is another island of mangrove trees with inlets running through it and no development that we saw. We meandered through the twisting inlet, closely watching our depth sounder since our charts were unreliable or unmarked, and found a perfect spot to drop anchor.
Once anchored, we grabbed our masks and fins and jumped in the water to see if we could get close to the dolphins that were playing near the boat as we settled the anchor. Frank was the first in and I quickly followed. But just as I was beginning to swim toward the dolphins, Captain jumped in the water to give chase as well.
Cappy was not going to help us get close to the dolphins, so I grabbed her and we swam back to LIB. Frank continued toward the dolphins, but they quickly swam away.
Although this panoramic picture is a little distorted, it offers a good view of Drowned Caye.
Drowned Caye was perfectly quiet and we felt like we were all alone in an undiscovered land. We pulled out the SUPs and explored some of the narrow fingers of water until they dead ended or exited to the ocean. What a delightful end to a fairly long day of sailing.
The red route to Caye Caulker and the yellow was a very challenging route out of the reef.
The next morning we picked up early and headed toward Caye Caulker. The route we took from Drowned Cayes to Caye Caulker had a several shallow spots and we had to pick and choose our way through the water including a skinny cut at Hicks Caye where we passed two barges coming the opposite direction. I am very thankful that we have a good amount of experience reading the water. It certainly augments chart information and the depth sounder!
Caye Caulker has charming streets and few automobiles.
Caye Caulker was absolutely delightful! This was by far our favorite stop in Belize. Although we were watching for a weather window, we enjoyed a week on this pretty and laid back island. Cay Caulker is small, but has a ton of things to offer. Along the dirt streets are plenty of shops and small groceries, restaurants and tour companies. The people were happy and very welcoming!
Stressless Tours was excellent!
We chose to take a snorkeling tour from Stressless Tours and we had a perfectly amazing day. Everyone we interacted with from Stressless was positive, welcoming and accommodating. Our day began with a stop to see a seahorse hanging out by a peer, which was great since that brought my seahorse in the wild count up to three.
Our day with Stressless included a stop to swim with manatees, with specific instructions that we were not pester or approach the manatees.
All together we stopped in five places during our tour and got in the water in three of them. Our guides were superb! They jumped in the water with us and pointed out all kinds of coral and fish, teaching about their surroundings and sharing their efforts to protect the reefs and marine life.
Mr. Manatee is very chill!
We were extremely impressed with Stressless Tours. They even asked us to refrain from using sunscreen and they provided a special lotion which is designed with protection of the reefs in mind. It is great to see a forward thinking company like Stressless.
The fish are cool, but I loved that turtle!
Plenty of fish and sharks where another boat was chumming.
Because of the storm system just prior to our arrival at Caye Caulker, there were no other boats in the anchorage when we arrived. But there was plenty (in a positive way) of activity with fishing, snorkeling and diving boats coming in and out of the area.
This boat carrying cinder blocks to a building site motored past us one morning.
We heard that San Pedro, an island right next to Caye Caulker, was a lot like Caye Caulker before it became so populated so we took a 20 minute ferry ride to that neighboring island to see it for ourselves.
It didn’t take long to decide we much preferred the less crowded and slower pace of Caye Caulker to the hectic crowds of San Pedro. We rented a golf cart and found San Pedro teeming with cars, bikes and golf carts.
Sorry it’s blurry….no stopping for pics without getting honked at!
We did find a very pretty Catholic Church in San Pedro and we took a minute to look inside and be thankful for the opportunity to explore so many places.
San Pedro Roman Catholic Church
We drove the golf cart from one end of the island to the other and stopped at a poorly attended market where we didn’t find anything we wanted to buy. But we did chuckle when we found a Boomer Sooner graduate had set up a cafe! Of course we sent a picture to our youngest son who graduated from the University of Oklahoma.
A taste of Oklahoma in Belize!!
Pretty quickly we decided to head back to the ferry dock and return to Caye Caulker where the vibe was slower and more laid back. Since we had to wait an hour or so for the ferry we took refuge at Palapa Bar. I can definitely see the appeal of this bar where you can order a drink from your inner tube and have it delivered from a bucket on a pulley system!
Definitely bring your swim suit if you stop at the Palapa Bar!
Back in Caye Caulker, we decided we should sign up for a dive tour since this would be our last opportunity to dive for quite a while. We found a very good tour company and signed up for a two tank day.
We saw a fish ball/circle. Pretty cool.
This grouper came right up to me while filming.
Oh hello! Mr. Shark came swimming right toward me from over this reef.
The reef walls created a canyon like feeling underwater.
I’m turning to keep this shark in view….no sneaking up behind me, please!
The bar by The Split.
After a day under water, we decided to relax in the sun and hang out at a bar near “the split.” The split is where, in 1961, Hurricane Hattie caused a break in Caye Caulker Island. The locals use the split to boat to the opposite side of the island and a smart business man opened a bar where folks can hang out. The split is a perfect place to grab a drink, watch people enjoy the water and check out shallow draft boats going through the channel.
Our time in Caye Caulker was a fabulous way to end our time in Belize. We couldn’t have asked for a more relaxed and comfortable place to prepare for our passage to Texas. If you have a chance to visit Belize, make sure Caye Caulker is on your list of places to spend a few nights!
Sunset from the anchorage at Caye Caulker.
Next time I’ll talk about our passage from Caye Caulker to Galveston. We had a great sail, but we definitely had some interesting times. And the beginning of our journey getting out of the Belize Barrier Reef was a bit of a challenge!
Thank you for reading our blog. We appreciate your taking time to share our travels. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.
So I thought others might be interested in our comparison of RV Life to Sailing Life. BUT I must first acknowledge that we are only a few weeks into this RV adventure and we are FAR from experts. I hope we will improve as time passes and our experience increases.
CROWDS: Perhaps the most glaring difference between RV Life and Sailboat Life for us is the sheer number of people “doing it.” We are amazed that there are so. many. people. on the road! And consequently in the camp sites!!
Our very first RV “Park” was a rude awakening!
RESERVATIONS/SPACE: Having lived on our sailboat for three years, we are accustomed to choosing a place to visit, checking the available anchorages on a chart and heading in that direction. Once we arrive, there may be other boats in the anchorage but we always found plenty of room to drop an anchor.
WHEN RVing ~ DO NOT ARRIVE WITHOUT A RESERVATION. Period!!!
We have learned, these last few weeks, that RV sites are in great demand and you must have a reservation or take your chances of not finding a spot to stop. So far we have not had to resort to a Walmart parking lot, but that might still happen.
We will never experience this much space when our RV is parked.
RULES: I am not certain if my travels outside the U.S. have caused me to become aware of how many rules there are in the U.S. OR if there are just a TON of rules in every RV Park.
Regardless of which is true, we are amazed at just how strict the rules are in RV campgrounds and how zealously they are enforced.
~Keep you dog on a leash at all times (Yes, even if she is well trained and lying at your feet by the picnic table.)
~Only one vehicle per campsite. (Yes, even if you are just unloading a bike that your son brought with him and will be stored on the RV.)
~Changing your reservation means a default of your downpayment. (Yes, even if you cancel weeks in advance).
Eccetera, eccetera, eccetera!!!
There were at least five more rule signs along this short driveway.
WEATHER: RVing takes less awareness of weather and conditions than sailing requires. While sailing, we were always aware of the sea state, incoming storms, what the wind and weather forecast were at our destination and along the way to our destination.
When we pack up our RV and prepare to drive, we just point and drive and allow the weather conditions to bring what they may. So far we have been very fortunate that the weather as we drive has been mostly dry with little rain. But still, we aren’t nearly as aware of upcoming weather as we were while living on a sailboat.
One of the few days we experienced rain as we drove.
CONVERSE CONCERNS: RV and Cruising have opposite concerns. For many sailors, top priority is having enough fresh water, food and energy on the sailboat and management of waste is relatively easy. While RVing we have ample access to water, electricity and food but limited ability to evacuate waste and gray water!
Food is plentiful in the US grocery stores and buying more or whatever you desire is never an issue. In our sailing travels, we could always find food, but we might not be familiar with the foods we found or how to cook the food we bought.
AUTOPILOT: The greatest convenience that we miss from our sailing life is autopilot. We loved setting the sails and course and allowing Jude (the name we gave our autopilot) to take the helm (wheel). With Jude on the helm, we could relax, walk around the boat, read, cook, etc and simply make periodic checks to insure that Jude was on course, the sails were still well set and there weren’t any ships or objects in our way.
Now that we are on land, the RV requires full time attention from one of us as we are driving from one destination to another.
We really miss autopilot!! (Maybe I will embrace driverless cars after all.)
DAILY EXPENSES: The initial cost of buying a sailboat is much greater than buying an RV, especially if you buy a new boat compared to a new RV. Of course, there is a big range of initial costs available for both a sailboat and an RV depending on size, quality, etc.
However, we have found that the daily expenses of living in the U.S. and traveling from one RV campsite to the next is much higher than we experienced while sailing. On our sailboat, we refueled perhaps once every six to eight weeks if we ran our generator often. Diesel at a boat dock is more expensive than on land, but we usually spent about $250 when we refueled s/v Let It Be.
Driving our RV, we try to make our location changes a maximum of about 300 miles and we will spend about $115 on diesel each day that we travel that distance. If we had a smaller RV and truck we could reduce this figure, but we chose this RV so we could easily carry our bikes and other toys and so our kids could comfortably visit us.
When we dropped anchor on our sailboat, we did not incur any fees. If we picked up a mooring ball, the fees varied by location with the least expensive being $0. per day and the most expensive $35. per day. Ninety percent of our time on LIB we spent at anchor and incurred no fees for our location.
RV campsites range in price as well. We prefer to have full hookups so we have fresh water and can dispose of waste and gray water. We have found campsites run anywhere from $45 to $110 per night with full hookups.
We have joined a few ‘clubs’ to reduce our RV park fees, but many sites disallow discounts during peak season, which is now. Also, we might find campsites are less expensive during the off season. Time will tell.
BTW, our RV is not equipped to survive ‘off the grid,’ so long stays without electrical support is unrealistic at this time. IF we decide to RV long term, we would consider fitting our RV with solar power and additional batteries to give us the opportunity to find unsupported campsites.
After only a few weeks on the road, these are our thoughts when we compare RV Life and Cruising on a sailboat. Frank and I enjoyed the space and flexibility we found while sailing. As we await the arrival of our next boat, we are going through an adjustment period as we learn to live with very close neighbors and arrange our locations far in advance as required in an RV.
The magnitude is amazing.
However, we have truly enjoyed having the opportunity to travel the US with our own stuff in tow and stay with friends along the way.
We have enjoyed being in our “home” country and being completely at ease with the nuances that come with being in your homeland.
Easy communication because we are native speakers is a nice change too.
Dramatic and majestic.
Finally, the beauty and breadth of the United States is truly a wonder and we are blessed and happy to have this chance to visit a small portion of our country. As we adjust our thought processes, plan our travels further forward and move into a slightly less busy RV season, I think we will enjoy RV Life more.
~ HH 55 Catamaran Update ~
The news from HH concerning the progress of our catamaran has been a little quiet lately, but I’m pretty sure that is because they are currently sea trialling HH55-04, s/v Utopia.
s/v Utopia during sea trials in China. (Photo credit HH Catamarans)
This picture of Utopia shows some of the choices her owners made that differ from our choices. Obviously, one difference is that Utopia has been painted white and our boat will be blue. Utopia has been outfitted with North Sails but we have chosen to have our sails made by Doyle Sails. Also, Utopia, has a super sleek, removable bimini over her aft helm stations. The owners wanted light weight, minimalistic biminis that they can remove if they are racing. We have chosen to have more substantial binimis and alter the helm seat itself to make it more comfortable for long passages.
Sea trials will take place over a three week period, then s/v Utopia will be hauled, packaged and shipped to the U.S.
Seeing Utopia on the water makes us very anxious to take delivery of our new catamaran!
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