Blog Archives

Reading Without Words – Picture Sailing

Every time we move LIB from one location to the next, we read.  But I’m not talking about cruising guides or even charts, I’m talking about water.  Visual Piloting is extremely important when sailing shallow areas like the Bahamas or the Turks and Caicos.  Fortunately, the clear waters here make “reading” the water much easier than you might expect.


Visual Piloting helps you know where to go and when to stop.

Understanding the color of the water and what it is communicating can make the difference between floating and being aground.  Now don’t get me wrong, there is a boating expression that says, “You have either run aground or someday will.”  We have had our experience with grounding in the ICW.

In our defense, on the ICW, the water is not read the same way as it is in clear water, and charts are the primary source of navigation.


Breaking waves are often a “stop sign.”

Understanding the color of water dictates changing course, sometimes even when we are far from shore.  These breakers are hundreds of feet from shore, but indicate shallows that we had to avoid.

On LIB, our favorite way of teaching inexperienced water readers is with the following rhyme:

Brown, brown, run aground,

White, white, you just might.

Green, green, in between,

Blue, blue, go on through.

While this isn’t Wordsworth, it is a handy way to remember what to look for here in the Bahamas or other areas where the water is clear and often shallow.


Enlarge this picture to see the shallows in the back.

Today we were exploring the NE area of Providenciales in LIB.  The water under the keel as we motored through this channel varied between 9 and 5 feet. (We have a 3.5′ offset so we know how much water is between our lowest point and touching ground.)  Slowly we moved forward but we did not go beyond the opening between these two protruding land pieces.  The depth at the opening was back to 8 feet, but we could tell by the water color ahead that it would shallow very quickly.  I was on the bow, wearing good polarized glasses, to confirm what we thought would become shallow water.  About three or four boat lengths past where we turned around between the protruding rocks, the water was less than a foot deep.


Deep Bay, BVIs

This picture, taken from a hill above Deep Bay in the BVIs, shows the deep water in the far distance.  Close to shore you can see the water is more green and more shallow.  Midway out in the picture are the brown patches where there is too little water to boat across.  You can also see a dark blue strip between two brown patches…. that narrow opening may be an opportunity to slip back out into the deep water beyond.


Warderick Wells Park

This final picture from Warderick Wells Park in the Exumas is stunning for it’s beauty but also teaches color.  You can see the boats moored in an arc of deep, blue water.  To the right is a white beach that is covered in water at high tide but much too shallow to enter.  The inside of the crescent to the left shows lighter blue/green then white water;  this area becomes a sand bar during low tide.  Any boat that tries to cross it will be hard aground!

So there you have s a quick overview of reading water based on our experiences.  Memorize the poem, don a good pair of polarized sunglasses, step to the bow of the boat and read away….

Is this similar to how you read water? Any tips you want to share in the comments? I would love to hear them.

As always, thank you for stopping by to read our blog.  If you want to see what we are up to more often, check out our FB page: Let It Be, Helia 44. We would love to hear from you. 

Backtrack to The British Virgin Islands

We skipped ahead in our blogging to tell you about the sail that earned us our “Big Boy Sailor Pants” and the fun we had with our guests in The Bahamas. But we never had a chance to share the joy we felt when we backtracked from Martinique to the BVIs.

We left the beautiful, very French island of Martinique and 44 hours later spotted the familiar beauty of Virgin Gorda, BVI.  Our sail was comfortable and uneventful with some dramatic sunset paintings.

BVI-1Gold sunset at sea.

Then the stunning hues of water and land greeted us as we entered North Sound, BVI via Oil Nut Bay channel. There were scattered clouds but the sun pierced them and the air was clean which allowed the full pallet of colors to show.

BVI-1To say seeing familiar land was welcome is a inadequate as saying the view was “nice.”

After anchoring and swimming to shore with Captain so she could enjoy some terra firma, we “had” to go to Saba Rock for painkillers and bushwackers.  The drinks were cold and the waitresses friendlier than usual. Or maybe the alcohol was strong and we were just happy to be back?

The wind allowed for a quick kite set the next day. Frank has become a huge fan of launching and landing his kite from the boat thereby avoiding sand, so we moved LIB waaaay up by the reefs in front of Saba Rock to allow boat departure and landing.

BVI-3That little building back there is Saba and Frank is to the left.

BVI-2Bitter End Hotel huts are in the background.

A big highlight of our return to the BVI was meeting up with Dave and Renee of Alegria.  We first met them in Puerto Rico and we were looking forward to catching up with them and swapping stories about travels over the last 6 months.

Of course I dragged Renee on a hike so Captain could run around and we could have some much desired “girl talk.”

IMG_2537Sweat, laughter and stories shared while hiking Bitter End.

Frank and I made sure to visit Norman Island where we enjoy walking the deserted trails and seeing the uninterrupted expanse of ocean from the hilltops.

BVI-2We hiked on Norman Island to get Cappy some exercise and to enjoy the view.

We even saw some famous people from our childhood while we were hanging out near Pirates.

BVI-3Gilligan and crew!

These “youngsters” dressed the part well, but we had to teach them the words to the TV theme song.  Apparently they were part of a group of 25 or so and this was their entry into the costume contest.  Others in their party had dressed as Poseidon which was very cute as they arrived to the dock, but once on land they dropped their inflatables and they looked like any other tourist in a swim suit.

IMG_2501Poseidon had an unusual following

We had noticed that our spinnaker had some transparent areas so we returned it to Doyle Sail Loft and they repaired it during our stay in the BVIs.  Since Doyle is directly above TMM, we had a chance to visit our former charter management company. It was great to see everyone at TMM and hear all about what was happening.  TMM has a ton of new sailboats so it was fun to look around and see some of the most popular new cruising sailboats which they have available for charter.

Jost Van Dyke and that people watching mecca of White Bay was where we met up with Dave and Renee again. We spent the day strolling the beach, lolling in chairs and generally enjoying ourselves as we observed the antics of adults at play.

Foxy’s Taboo has some of the best food available in the BVI, at least according to my taste buds. So while we were anchored off of Sandy Spit, we dinghied over for lunch. There was live entertainment, excellent food and the usual post card view.

BVI-4View from our lunch table.

The familiarity of the BVIs ratchets up our relaxation and removes the slight stress that accompanies new places. Frank and I loved absorbing the surroundings and taking in the plethora of beautiful anchorages.

BVI-5Dusky sunset on Jost Van Dyke

We visited most of our BVI favorite spots and enjoyed sailing within the calm that is the Sir Francis Drake Channel.  Seeing all the vacationers and their intense joy in their surroundings reminded us how fortunate we are to be “living the dream.”

BVI-6Our weather waiting spot – not a hardship!

Our final few evenings were spent in Cane Garden Bay as we waited for a good weather window to leave for the Bahamas.  Those last few days we definitely questioned why we were so intent on leaving the Caribbean and heading to the U.S.  Neither of us has spent any time on the east coast in a sailboat so we don’t know what to expect. We are leaving a comfortable, sailing paradise for the unknown conditions of the east coast…

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Can anyone tell me about this tree?


Periodically, covered benches offered resting stops in Mustique.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Friends, Christmas Cove and the BVI.

We were so happy to reach Christmas Cove, USVI and meet up with our friends Amy and David of Starry Horizons.  We first met them just after we had taken deliver of LIB and Starry Horizons was still in production in France.

While we have met Amy and David a few times on land, this is the first time we have been able to meet on our boats and compare our Helias.

We had a great time sharing dinner a few times, including a delicious dinner of tuna that Amy and David had caught on passage! Very fun to share time and their yummy catch!

We were able to share our “catch” of fresh coconut water, which is quickly becoming Frank’s specialty as he searches out low hanging coconuts anywhere we go!

david and amy-1.jpg

David, Amy and Frank share coconut water.  David likes his straight from the nut.

We spent two days snorkeling, sharing Pizza Pi, comparing post factory changes to our boats, paddle boarding and just generally enjoying time with these two awesome friends.  Then we had to say goodbye as we needed to report to TMM for some warranty work.


Double rainbow in Christmas Cove

It was great to be back in the familiar and beautiful BVIs. Our first evening was spent anchored off Peter Island, one of our favorite spots!

Peter Island

I love the water colors here and the lush hillside.

There were soooo many butterflies! I bet we saw 500 in a 24 hour period.


Frank and Mark loosen the shroud.

A big thank you to Mark, of TMM,  for helping us replace our roller furler drum which had some issues with metals seizing.  Thankfully Facnor replaced this under warranty so we only had the cost of labor.  Again, a big thank you to TMM for helping us even after we were out of charter with them!!

After TMM we sailed around Tortola and spend a day or two anchored off Sandy Spit and Frank was able to kiteboard ~ a much needed play session for him!

We have not spent any time in Cane Garden Bay and decided to zip over there. It is a lovely bay and we enjoyed it’s beauty and the access to the white, sandy beaches.

Cane Garden

Cane Garden Bay at sunset


My cute dog and very handsome husband out paddling.

An unexpected and fabulous event was meeting Frank’s cousins who happened to have chartered a boat in the BVIs. Unfortunately I failed to bring a camera, so I don’t have any pictures.  We spent a wonderful evening on their boat and had a great time catching up on each others kids and lives.  I really hope we are able to meet up with them all again sometime.

After Cane Garden Bay we spent a two nights on Norman Island just relaxing.  Then we went back to TMM where we picked up a wind scoop modification from the Doyle Sail Loft and worked with our favorite BVI electrician, Dave Gibson.  You will hear more about Dave and his greatness in another post.

sunset-1 4.13.03 PM

Sunset off Norman Island.

Now we are settled in at North Sound waiting on a weather window to skip over to St. Martin.  We know this will be a motor rather than a sail as we will be heading into the winds.  We hope to have winds less than 10 knots… but we shall see.

For now we will spend a few days enjoying Saba Rock, Bitter End Yacht Club and all the other great things North Sound has to offer.  Hopefully we will be lucky and have a nice light wind day to go to St. Martin this week.  In the mean time, this isn’t a difficult place to wait.


Our “back yard” while we wait in North Sound, BVI.

3 Houses and No Place to Nest…

The decision to move to Let It Be was made more than two years ago.  Since then, many changes have been accomplished. Our plan to move aboard is close and will be realized within 8 weeks. Yet I have found myself a bit muddled and out of sorts.

Have you felt this way after making a major decision even though you still believe the decision is a good one?

Currently our house in Texas is for sale, which means we maintain it like a House Beautiful photographer is on the way.  To escape the model home syndrome, we are vacationing off and on in a darling VRBO house in Durango, CO.  As for Let It Be, she is finishing her charter life in the British Virgin Islands, taking happy folks from one beautiful beach to the next.

So in a sense, we have three “homes” in three very different places right now.  I know LIB will become our one home, but right now I feel like a three legged stool with a foot in each location.


And as happens in these situations, I am not perfect at keeping up with which things are where.  Like my one remaining pair of dress pants which I needed in Durango, but I realized I had left in Dallas. Only when I got to Dallas I learned that one pair of pants was accidentally put in a box headed for Let It Be via Puerto Rico!!


The pants are not a tragedy, but they have allowed me to finally put a finger on why I feel so muddled.  I am not the type to decorate and redecorate my home, but I really like knowing what I have and where it is.  “Nesting” for me means I have one place for my things.

This doesn’t mean I have to have a lot of stuff, but it does mean that what I have is in a single location and I can put my hands on whatever I am looking for.

A few people have wondered how we can think about letting go of a land home to live on a boat. Or they think we should have a small land place somewhere so we can “go home” if we want.

Well, I think this feeling of wanting all our toys in one sandbox might just be the answer to why we think owning only a boat sounds like a great idea.

KidKraft Backyard Sandbox - KidKraft 00130

(Google Image)

We want to travel and see new places and by living on LIB, all our toys, clothes and doodads will travel with us – including my one remaining pair of pants!

Admittedly choosing a boat as our residence is not a mainstream choice and it means a significant reduction of ownership, but right this minute, I am soooo ready to put all my possessions in one house boat!

How about you – do you prefer just one sandbox? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Longest Sail Yet….


Our last evening in Deshaies, Guadeloupe.

Okay, let’s admit right now, we do not have much passage experience, so “longest yet” for us is nothing for many others.

Still, we are doing our best to build our experience at a reasonable rate and not jump from square one to 10, thereby skipping the learning in between.  This sail was an excellent next step for us.

Our first overnight passage was from Virgin Gorda, BVI to St. Martin (84 nm) and that went very well.  We had a great weather window with almost flat seas which made our maiden overnight excellent.

Our second passage was from St. Bart to Antigua (80+nm) and, like the first one, was an upwind sail. So the wind angle and seas weren’t perfect but we made it and added to our experience.

This last sail was from Guadeloupe back to Virgin Gorda, BVI and a total of 202 nautical miles.  I know that isn’t a long distance for many cruisers, but it was a perfect step for us since we are fairly green and we don’t yet live on Let It Be.

Happily, once again we had an excellent weather window and this time we were with the wind and waves which made me a very happy 1st mate – especially since I did not get sea sick this time!

So what do cruisers see and do on passages? Well, of course we see a lot of this:


Ocean, ocean and more ocean.

But often we saw other islands, some we had visited on our way south and others we just didn’t have time for on this trip.


Hmm, I am pretty sure this is Montserrat.

We spent the night listening to music or audiobooks, but also staring at the sky because the beauty there is beyond description. The stars are truly innumerable when earthly lights don’t interfere and the sundeck is the perfect spot to watch for shooting stars.

This trip Frank trolled for fish and managed to land a skipjack tuna! We have had several hits on the line and were unable to land any fish, but success was finally ours.


Frank is thrilled with his catch!

Some friends have asked us what the difference was and how Frank was able to land this fish. In other words, do we now have the “secret” for catching fish?   Well this picture might give away the secret:


Frank kneeling to the sea gods as he reels in the fish. 

Truly I jest…. we do not have the secret, but hopefully just as our experience will make us better sailers, practice will make us more successful fishermen.

This trip we had our first and second visit by dolphins! So often I have heard about dolphins visiting boats but experiencing it firsthand was thrilling. They glide and jump and dart about with so little effort and with amazing speed.


Jumping in front of the bow.


They are literally right below the forward beam!

Both times the dolphins played alongside and in front of our boat. The first pod consisted of about 10 dolphins. The second pod had closer to 15 dolphins and they swam with us for a solid 10 minutes.  We both wished we could jump in the water and swim with them.

Other activities that consume time on a passage…. sail handling! Those who know Frank, know he has plenty of energy, so we tend to tweak and test sails often. We sailed with a main and jib, we sailed with a jib only, we sailed with a spinnaker.  Yep, we played with all the toys.  But that keeps Captain Frank busy and we learn in the process.


Virgin Gorda, BVI

After a pleasant 28 hours of sailing, Virgin Gorda was in sight.  We had survived our longest sail to date with no serious issues, thank God.

Returning to the BVIs was similar to returning to familiar streets after a long driving vacation; you have had a really great trip, but it’s also nice to be home.


St Martin

St. Martin

Fair or not, St. Martin will not be remembered as my favorite place, at least from this trip. While the island is beautiful, I was sick the whole time we were on St. Martin, thus my impressions are negatively colored.

This trip we really only experienced the French side of St. Martin.  Still even when sick, this is a beautiful place and we did manage to see some rather lovely spots.  I am certainly interested in stopping here again later this year as I am certain St. Martin will be even more fun when I am feeling better.

For now, here are some photos to show you some of the beauty of the areas we visited this time.


Leaving Virgin Gorda, BVI

IMG_1152 IMG_1162

                     Arriving in St. Martin at dawn….. Captain is ready for land!


      Exploring pretty little ocean side towns by foot.

 P1000099 P1000103

Stopping for lunch and watching the Ski School teach with LIB in the background.


How about the Pink Iguana – with the Texas flag to represent?!


A narrow and beautiful entry to Anse Marcel marina

There is so much more to share, but my internet is very limited and I had a hard time loading this much. With luck, we will have better internet and I can post more often.

Hope you enjoy the views!

From Neutral to Eye Popping…

Let It Be has now been in charter for a bit over 2 years (already!) and she has been an excellent boat.  Many people have enjoyed sailing her from one beautiful BVI hot spot to the next.  We have been very fortunate because most of the maintenance has been routine and expected.  In other words, Let It Be has been reliable, fun and predictable.


LIB patiently awaits us.

However, there is one purely cosmetic item we have been anxious to improve ~ the exterior cushions on LIB.  The cushions currently aboard have been workhorses, but I think it is almost time for them to be put out to pasture.


Perfectly neutral and acceptable cushions.

We hope to have new cushions fabricated in September so they will be ready for the post hurricane 2015 season. While choices are not final, the current front runner of color pallets is the one pictured below:


This could add a lot of pop!

I think that teal blue with lime green piping could make some beautiful cushions. Add some accent pillows in the stripe material and a few others in the tangerine and LIB will look mighty pretty, I think.

We plan on taking a sample of the teal blue with us on our next trip, just make sure it doesn’t get too hot in that Caribbean sunshine.  We sure don’t want our guests getting scorched each time they sit at the helm!

Do you think those colors will be beautiful or do you prefer a more traditional, single color theme?

Happy Tax Day 2015

Okay, so there isn’t much happy about April 15th in the U.S., so I thought I would just post a few pretty pictures to brighten your day.  Tomorrow will be here soon and you will have another 364 days to forget about whatever preparations you had to do to meet today’s deadlines.  Hope these turn your thoughts to more pleasant things…


A beautiful start or finish to a day.


Near Scrub Island


Jaunty red spinnaker.


Beauty in the land and sea.


Nothing like kiteboarding to take you away.


A spectrum of blues.


Day’s end at last.

Nothing weighty here today. Just a wish that your April 15th isn’t too taxing. 🙂

Sharing is Fun

I’m not sure all parents are this way, but we love to share our “toys” with our kids.  Seeing them become proficient and learn new skills is something we focused on while raising our two sons.


Clayton and Natalie

We were thrilled when our son, Clayton, asked if he could spend his senior year spring break on Let It Be with some of his friends.

DSC01007 (1)

A few of our friends thought we were crazy to lend our future home to our 22 year old and 7 of his closest friends for Spring Break, but we think trust and responsibility go hand in hand.  If we can’t trust our kids with our things, we failed to teach them responsibility as they grew.

Well, Spring Break is over, the trip is in the books, and the kids had a great time.  Jonathan Healey generously shared his photos from the trip and said I could share them here and on FB.  It looks to me like Jon has a pretty good eye for photography. Here are a few of his photos:

Route planning

Route planning.

bathing beauties

Bathing Beauties.

Jon & Andrew

Jon (photographer) at the helm and Andrew tending lines.

Leaving via Oil Nut Bay

Taylor keeps a look out as they pass Oil Nut Bay.


Andrew – come back!

near foxy's

Outside of Foxy’s Taboo.

walk from bubbly pool

Returning from the Bubbly Pool.

N sound at night

Nighttime comes quickly.

I am hoping Clayton will guest post in the future, share more photos and tell us about spring break, on a boat, in the BVIs, with a bunch of college kids and acting as captain.

I’m so happy to know this great group of young adults. They are interesting individuals and very caring people. Let It Be was in good hands.

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