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Sea Trials On HH55 Ticket To Ride

After a 15 hour flight we arrived in Xiamen, China at 6 am. Between a long flight and flying into a whole new day, we could have been tired, but our excitement to see Ticket to Ride in the water and ready to sail precluded any fatigue.

HH has been extremely generous on all of our visits and provides us with transportation so we never have to try to communicate our destination to a driver.  A car arrives at our hotel, we say hello (almost the extent of our Mandarin) and we are whisked away to our destination.

This trip was no different and a driver picked us up at the airport. As soon as we dropped our luggage at the hotel and picked up Gino Morrelli, who had arrived the previous day, we headed out to see TTR.

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China blends ancient and modern everywhere you look.

It was quite a thrill to see our boat floating in the harbor waiting for us to climb aboard! The culmination of more than a year of planning and monitoring the construction of our future home was incredibly exciting for us.

We have spent hours with Gino and Mark, of Morrelli and Melvin, refining the boat for our cruising needs and for sailing TTR with just Frank and me on board.  Frank spent countless hours reviewing drawings HH created as the boat was being constructed. Thomas, Ricardo, Emma, James, Taka, Jessica and so many, many others at HH poured untold numbers of hours into actually fabricating this vessel and we were finally going to sail her!

The weather was a bit overcast, but the winds were perfect for our purposes. The first day we had light breezes, the second day were a little stronger and the third day the winds gusted as high as 23 knots.  The progressive increase in the wind was perfect for testing the rigging on Ticket to Ride.  Matt, from Rigging Projects, was on board with us the first three days examining and tweaking the rigging to make sure everything was stable and strong.

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TTR flying the full main and solent.

Mark, with Doyle Sails, joined us for a bit to review the fit of our new canvas. With the exception of a few minor changes needed on our mainsail, we are extremely pleased with the fit of our new Doyle sails.

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Frank, Mark and Matt messing with sails.

After Matt was comfortable with the rigging, and we had spent two days progressively testing the boat, Gino, Thomas, Matt and James took advantage of the winds and pushed TTR a bit to see what she could do.

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TTR felt solid and stable even at 19.5 knots!!!

And sail her we did!! As you can see from the screen shot above, we managed to get TTR moving along nicely.  This shot was taken while we were sailing the full mainsail and the solent…. imagine if we had had the reacher up?!

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David and Frank discussing boats as Gino helms.

The final day of sea trials, Frank and I had a chance to “take the reins” on Ticket to Ride. Thomas walked us through raising the main and furling the solent and reacher. We certainly weren’t race boat crew fast, but we did manage to accomplish the tasks.  Fortunately we didn’t have any issues, but I can tell you that TTR is ready to run! She can load up quickly and we will have to be very aware of changing wind conditions as TTR will ramp up much faster than Let It Be did.

HH is very conscientious about caring for our boat. The interior and exterior cushions are still wrapped in plastic, the floors are protected with cardboard, the cabinetry tops are protected, etc. As a result, I don’t have interior shots to share, but we are very pleased with the quality of the workmanship…. and with the colors we have chosen.

One of the challenges HH is facing right now is that the marina they used for sea trials is closed due to some financial issues. The result is that TTR is moored in the harbor and two people from HH stay on board at all times.  Another example of the level of care taken to protect the HH boats.

Ricardo didn’t want to risk having the mooring ball damage or scratch TTR, so he wrapped the whole mooring ball in padding.  I captured this shot of him refining his work.

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Ricardo wraps the mooring ball to protect the boat.

The closure of the marina also makes access to the boat more challenging.  Almost every time we went to TTR, we met the dinghy at a different spot on land. Frank and I actually find these changes funny and interesting, though I guess some people might be annoyed by it.  Still, each time we catch the dinghy at a different location we are driven through a new and interesting part of Xiamen, so we kind of enjoy the adventure of not knowing what to expect each day.

Here is a picture of the steps we had to climb down to get into the bow of the dinghy our first day in Xiamen. Isn’t this a kick?!

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 That is our driver watching from above to make sure we are safely aboard.

While there are still a few bugs to iron out and finishing touches to complete, we are extremely happy with our HH55.  We can hardly wait to actually move on board and resume our life as live aboard sailors.

Thanks so much for reading our page. If you want to hear from us more often, please visit our FB page: HH55 Ticket to Ride.

 

Missing the Twin Cayes, Drowned Cayes and Especially Caye Caulker

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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The fish are cool, but I loved that turtle!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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We saw a fish ball/circle. Pretty cool.

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This grouper came right up to me while filming.

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Oh hello! Mr. Shark came swimming right toward me from over this reef.

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The reef walls created a canyon like feeling underwater.

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I’m turning to keep this shark in view….no sneaking up behind me, please!

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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!

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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.

 

 

Comparing Life on Land to Life Afloat ~ Seven Weeks into Our Temporary Land Life.

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!!

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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.

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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!!!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

Thank you for visiting our blog. Feel free to comment or ask questions. We love hearing your thoughts.

 

 

Atolls and Islands of Belize; Our First Few Days.

So the last blog was short on pictures and long on words because there aren’t many things to take photos of when out on a passage.  But the eastern islands of Belize were beautiful and I took a few pictures to make up for the lack of photos in the last blog.

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Long Cay in the distance with the rim of the reef visible (the brown coral and white sand).

If I were to think of Belize as a person, I would say that Belize is a bit shy and hides her qualities so that one must try hard to get to know her.  I think of the line from the movie Shrek where Shrek tells Donkey that ogres are like onions, they have many layers.

I think Belize is also like an onion. She is not well documented and you must either spend time finding the best water spots or make friends with people who are willing to share the secrets of Belize.

Although we don’t have enough time to uncover the layers of Belize, we have seen many beautiful places and the people of Belize have been wonderfully friendly and happy.

Here are some photo highlights of our first two islands in Belize:

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Captain’s first trip to shore after our passage. That is a happy Cappy!

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Strolling along the sand road on Long Cay you can see the island is lush.

Long Cay was a welcome sight and we all enjoyed walking on the stable island instead of on the boat. It was a hot day but the shade of the trees really helped reduce the temperature.

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Crop circles in the ocean?

We decided to move over to Half Moon Cay which is only about a 40 minute motor. The island is a preserve for turtles, birds and marine life.

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The aqua, shallow water of Half Moon reminded us of the Bahamas.

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Walking the path to the bird observatory on Half Moon Cay

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Fluffy headed baby bird.

There are a ton of Frigate Birds and Red Footed Boobies on the Half Moon. The observatory is right up in the trees and it is easy to observe the nests. Some of the Frigates still had inflated gular pouches.  Male Frigates inflate their bright red pouches to attract the females. I wrote a little about the Frigate birds when we visited Barbuda.

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Tents for rent on Half Moon Cay.

Since Half Moon is a sanctuary, it is not developed, but there is a research center and these tents are available for rent. I spoke with a person staying in one the island and he told me he was part of a NatGeo tour and this was one of their stops.

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Arial view of the tent area on Half Moon Cay.

Doesn’t a NatGeo tour sound like a really cool way to travel and learn about the area you are visiting?

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A ship wrecked on the reef outside Half Moon.

After a few hours on land Frank and I decided it was time to cool off, so we snorkeled from LIB toward a wreck out by the reef.  The coral was in good shape but we didn’t see very many fish…. except the shark that I saw while Frank was swimming elsewhere!!

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LIB on a mooring at Half Moon Cay.

Unfortunately, the wind direction shifted and came out of the north which made the anchorage much too bumpy, so we moved back to Long Cay.  We would have preferred to stay a bit longer at Half Moon and scuba dived to explore under water.

We have a bit of a schedule to keep thus we don’t have time to really linger in Belize, so we upped anchor and headed to our next planned stop at South Water Cay.  South Water is a darling island with several resorts on it. We returned to South Water later, so I’ll share those pictures in another blog.

Except for this one!

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My first seahorse in the wild!!

Every single time we dove in Bonaire I looked for seahorses and every time I failed to find one.  But on our third stop in Belize, at South Water Cay, I saw a seahorse right by the dock!! Of course I would never have spotted him myself. I noticed a man pointing out something in the water from the dock and it was this seahorse.  I didn’t even get in the water to see him!

In addition to South Water Cay, we stopped at Tobacco Caye and at Hideaway Cay.  We revisited both South Water and Tobacco with friends and I’ll cover those islands in the next blog.

Our final stop before heading into Placencia was at Hideaway in the Pelican Cays. The only people on the island are Dustin, Kim and their daughter.  Dustin and Kim actually built their home, dock and restaurant/bar themselves over several years. They live on Hideaway for like six months of the year, then they go back to their home in Florida.  I absolutely cannot imagine how much work is involved in building on these islands and how hard it is to prepare your home to leave it for six months.  In these salty, harsh conditions, the repair necessary upon return must be great!

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Part of the Hideaway.

Maintenance thoughts aside, Hideaway was lots of fun. The crew of three other boats were at the bar and four of them also stayed for dinner. The six of us were seated at one table and shared a delicious dinner of fish Dustin caught and Kim prepared.  This was the second restaurant we visited in Belize and at both places, you make the reservation and you eat whatever dish is served.  That certainly saves time reading a menu and trying to decide what to order! I rather enjoyed not making a choice and I know my eldest son would really like that feature too!!

At Hideaway everyone was served fish, but it was a variety of species.  I had sheepshead for the first time, while Frank was served snapper and someone else had hogfish.  Everyone seemed to enjoy his meal. When I first spied Hideaway, I was a little skeptical, but after enjoying the atmosphere and food, I would definitely recommend it!

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This tiny piece of sand was all we could find for Captain one night.

For those who have dogs on board, Dustin and Kim have two dogs and I don’t think they would like other dogs on their turf.  Better to take your dog to this little bit of sand pictured above. This island is across from mooring balls Hideaway generously installed for visitors.

So there you have our first few days in Belize. Now we are off to Placencia to meet Susan and Kevin, friends we made on the 2016 Sail to the Sun Rally. We are super excited for them to visit!

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Just a gratuitous sunset.

A special thank you to Frank for flying his drone and capturing a couple of pictures of Half Moon Cay. The arial photos are such a cool way to get a better feeling the beauty of these islands and the water.

~HH55 Catamaran Update~

When we decided to buy the HH55 rather than other boats on our list, one big factor was that the HH is made of carbon fiber.  We knew that with a larger boat, strength of materials becomes increasingly important and that carbon fiber brings strength without an increase in weight.

Because carbon fiber is the current darling of light, strong sailboats, I decided to ask preeminent marine architect and the designer of our HH55, Gino Morrelli, to offer insight into why carbon fiber is so valuable. (Read this article from March 2017 for more information about Gino’s thoughts on performance catamarans.)

I asked Gino if he could tell me, in a few sentences, why he prefers carbon fiber and he quickly shot back this response:

“Advantages of Carbon Fiber over E-Glass:
1. High specific stiffness (stiffness divided by density)  Carbon is 6-8 times stiffer than E-Glass for the same weight, less stretch = less flex in platform… ie windows and joinery stay glued in longer, hatches don’t leak…. We can use less carbon to have the same stiffness or add stiffness very easily. Lighter boats, more payload. more performance..
2. High specific strength (strength divided by density) Carbon is 2-3 times stronger than E-Glass ie, we can use half as much carbon to equal the same strength! less resin too! Lighter boats, more payload..
3. Extremely low coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE) boat does not grow and shrink in hot and cold weather. Again the windows and deck hardware stay put, and leak less…”
Well that all sounds excellent to me and it sounds like our new boat will be very strong and light! (Plus any time a guy throws around formulas it sounds pretty impressive, right?)
This week we learned that our HH55 has undergone and completed the “post cure process.” I was not sure why that was important, except that I knew it gets us one step closer to painting the boat our color of choice!
So I asked Gino to fill me in on what the post curing process accomplishes and here is his response:
“Post curing is essentially baking the boat in an oven. The epoxy resin these boats are built with cures to 75-80% of its strength in the first 24-48 hours when cured at 78f… Baking it in an oven after this initial curing (post curing) process accelerates the curing process to near 100% in 8-12 hours of additional heat of 150-160f. Post curing also improves the resins “toughness” ie more flexibility. This improves damage tolerance. We also post cure to allow us to paint the boats dark and they “print” less. They don’t show the underlying layers and foam joints through the paint and primer, if the boat is “post cured’ to a temperature that is not exceeded by the Sun out in the ocean later on…” 
Some of this might be slightly above my pay-grade, but I definitely have a better idea of why the post cure is necessary. 
And, ta da!      Our future boat is pictured here after the post cure is complete. 
  

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Post cure completed on our HH55.

If post cure is complete, can paint be far behind? Nope!

We anticipate our hull will enter the paint booth for the external paint application in mid-May. I’m excited to see her when she is all gussied up and sporting her color.

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1200 NM at Sea ~ Our Longest Trip Yet!

Curacao to Belize. More than a thousand miles at sea.   Nervous?   Yep.    Ready?    Yep.

We left the ‘big city’ of Curacao around 1pm on Thursday, March 22nd. Ideally, we would have left much earlier in the day to allow us the greatest number of daylight sailing hours for our passage to Belize and to give us a better chance of arriving in Belize during daylight.

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The view leaving Willemstad, Curacao.

However, our satellite communication system, IridiumGo, was delayed at the Customs office in Curacao for over a week!  By the time we received the system and had it up and working, we were very ready to leave; thus our midday departure.

Using a weather prediction application called Predict Wind, we anticipated this trip would take approximately 7.5 days.  Our experience in the past has shown that we often are a bit faster than predicted, but I always mentally prepare for a slightly longer than expected trip.  That way arriving early or on time is lagniappe.

When we exited the canal of Willemstad, the seas were a bit rough and mixed, probably a combination of the wind, current and land mass.  The wind was quite sporty with seas of five to nine feet and we immediately put up our main and jib to begin our trip.

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Sunset on our third night at sea.

As is usually the case, the first 24-36 hours of a passage, I have to reestablish my sea-legs. This means that Frank takes the bulk of the work and watches during this time. Thankfully I was not sick, but I can get a little queasy so I limit my activity to mostly sitting at the helm or sleeping the first day.  I am very lucky Frank is exceedingly patient and supportive as I acclimate. Plus he is usually pretty jazzed when we set out, so his energy is high while mine is a bit low.

After the first day, I felt a bit better and I improved as the trip progressed.  We were extremely fortunate with the wind and seas this trip and were able to sail the whole time. We flew the full main and jib during the day, then reefed at night as a safety precaution.

The wind was a little more east than was forecast which resulted in a slightly more downwind sail, especially after the third day at sea.  However, even with less north in the wind than was predicted, we managed this whole trip with zero engine hours!  That is pretty exciting.

We were making very good time Thursday through Tuesday and hoped we might arrive the afternoon of Wednesday thus making 1200 nm in less than seven days.  We even managed to have a 200+ nautical mile day on LIB

Our average speed was a very nice 7.8 knots for the trip until Tuesday when the winds dropped significantly.  And as the wind fell, so did our average speed. In one day our average dropped .6 knots. 

With our speed in decline, we knew we would not be able to reach our planned anchorage in daylight so in the early hours of Wednesday we had to slow down significantly.  Of course, once our destination was out of reach for Wednesday, the wind kicked into gear! All of Wednesday afternoon and night plus Thursday morning the wind was consistently 25knots!

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This tiny bit of jib is the only sail we had up our last night of the passage.

We dropped our main sail and had only a tiny piece of the jib out and still we were moving along at 5 knots.  In fact, we were unable to slow down enough to arrive in daylight and ended up having to sail back and forth outside of the reef surrounding the anchorage at Long Cay, part of the Lighthouse Reef of Belize.

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The tracks show how many times we sailed back and forth waiting for daylight.

I laugh when I see the tracks LIB made on our chart.  For two hours, until the sun was high enough for us to see into the water, we tacked back and forth outside the reef. When we were finally able to see a bit into the water, we furled the jib and motored through a break in the reef and into the anchorage.

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Sunrise with Long Cay to the left and Half Moon Cay in the distance.

Frank and I agree that even though this was an excellent passage, it felt great to drop anchor and feel the boat settle into a gentle rocking motion protected from the ocean waves.  After seven days of constant motion in the waves, it was really nice to be almost still!

People wonder what we do to occupy our time while on passage, after all, there is no internet, it is just Frank and me and we are in a rather confined space. I will not say the time just flies by, but the days don’t drag past either.

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Sunrise was a welcome sight as we waited to enter the anchorage.

Audio books are my go to entertainment while on a passage. I had downloaded four books for this trip but sadly two of them had download issues! Sometimes I listen to music as I observe the night sky and ocean.  The moon was waxing this trip and added so much light to our night watches that we cast a shadow when outside.  Plus the ocean is dazzling at night as bioluminescence sparkles in the waves created by LIB.  I find night watches are the perfect place for prayer as well.  How can I not spend time in prayer when I am surrounded by the vastness and beauty of God’s creation? 

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Seriously, Captain!!

Some afternoons we played cards and this trip we taught Captain how to play five card stud. But she is one lucky dog and Frank and I got really tired of loosing to her! I think it was all beginners luck.

This is a boat, so there are things to be maintained and passages are a good time to tackle things like scrubbing the cushions of our portable chairs.  Fun abounds aboard! 

Captain was a champ during our passage.  I really don’t know how she can sleep as much as she does but anytime one of us was downstairs sleeping, she was right there on the floor nearby! When awake, she kept herself busy barking at imaginary things, spotting dolphins and asking for treats.

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I’m not sure what this swallow was doing so far from land.

This cute little bird came to rest on LIB during our passage. We were glad to offer him a respite from his flight. I cannot imagine how far he had come before resting with us!

We also saw dolphins three times but the pictures were lousy…capturing moving dolphins in rough seas on a moving boat ~ yeah, the pictures weren’t good!

So that is the long story of our passage to Belize.  We are very thankful for the safe passage and the great conditions.  And we are grateful for calm anchorages!

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Stiltsville ~ History Can Be Interesting.

From the Bilge is where we post picture(s) that we have not used, that don’t fit into any specific blog post or that highlight some of our favorite places. The pictures might not be stunning, but they will recall something we think is worth sharing. We hope you enjoy these non-chronological items as they pop up From the Bilge.

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Stiltsville as seen from the bow of LIB.

 During our ICW travels in Miami-Dade County, we saw buildings in the distance that were built over the water.  At the time, I had no idea what they were, but I have since learned a bit about their history.

Approximately a mile south of Cape Florida on the “Safety Valve,” the shallow sand flats that run along the Florida coast near Biscayne Bay, is a group of buildings built on stilts.

In the early 1930s a man named “Crawfish” Eddie Walker built a shack on stilts and from there he sold fish bait, beer and his own famous crawfish dish called chilau. “Crawfish” built his shack toward the end of Prohibition and because it was a mile off the coast, gambling was legal. Although I didn’t read that gambling actually took place there, one imagines there was a reason “Crawfish” chose to be a mile away from shore.

Soon a few of “Crawfish’s” friends also built buildings on stilts.  The area took on a life of its’ own and at is largest, around 1960, Stiltsville had 27 buildings!

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Image taken from Google search.

Fairly early on, some clubs were built in Stiltsville including The Calvert Club whose members were from the Miami Beach Rod and Reel Club.

The most upscale club I read about was The Quarter Deck which was built in the 1940s. Membership for The Quarter Deck was by invitation only and required a membership fee of $150.  The Quarter Deck became one of the most popular spots in Miami and I would wager the crowd was considered a bit ‘racy.’

An excerpt from an article about Stiltsville in a 1941 LIFE magazine read, “extraordinary American community dedicated solely to sunlight, salt water and the well-being of the human spirit.”   The club was described as “a $100,000 play-palace equipped with bar, lounge, bridge deck, dining room and dock slips for yachts”.[4]Stiltsville was immensely popular with the well connected and monied crowd in the 1940s and ’50s but the area was damaged by Hurricane Betsy in 1965 and other subsequent storms.

Fortunately before Stiltsville declined completely and the Florida government abolished the rights of owners to maintain the remaining buildings, a last ditch effort to save Stiltsville and claim it as historically significant succeeded.

Today Stiltsville is part of the Stiltsville Trust whose stated purpose it to preserve the seven buildings that remain of the area.

Follow this link to learn more about the Stiltsville Trust.

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It’s Official ~ LIB Has a New Owner.

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The documents are signed, so now I can tell you that the reason we moved to Curacao was to meet the prospective buyer of LIB, take her on a sea trial and have our boat surveyed.

I am happy to report that all went well. Our floating home passed inspection with flying colors, the buyer loved Let It Be and our home has been purchased.

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As LIB was lifted out of the water a man watched how she sat on the trailer. (See him?)

We were very impressed with Curacao Marine, the yard that pulled LIB out of the water for the dry portion of the survey. The men were extremely professional and careful about the haul out process.  The trailer is well maintained and they even put plastic over the support pads so LIB would not have any scuff marks.  One of the guys was in the water using a controller to manipulate the support pads precisely where they needed to be under LIB. We have been very impressed with Curacao Marine during our stay here!

The surveyor had a few minor comments about Let It Be which we have already addressed. The starboard engine was vibrating a bit at idle and we had a Volvo mechanic address that issue.  We actually thought the idle setting of both engines was a little low, so while the mechanic was here, he adjusted them to meet the Volvo specifications.  The tiller arm on the port rudder was a little loose, so Frank went to work and fixed it the very next day! The surveyor came back by and has inspected and approved that work already!

No moss growing here!!

We are very pleased with the results of the survey of Let It Be and if I were buying a boat that received this kind of report, I would be thrilled.  Big kudos to Frankly for his excellent and detailed care of our boat!

Ironically, the person who has bought LIB is a woman I had “met” through the FB group Women Who Sail.  We had texted a couple of times about a few subjects over the last year or two.  (But she didn’t realize LIB was my boat when she decided to make an offer!) She is also friends with our friends, Amy and David of s/v Starry Horizons (who have the excellent blog and vlog Out Chasing Stars.)  AND! our buyer lives in Texas, so we have that excellent connection as well.

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An evening sail in Bonaire. Thanks for the pic, Clayton.

During our discussions about selling LIB, we agreed to deliver the boat to Galveston, Texas which will be her future port. Frank and I think this is a great arrangement because it saves our buyer the expense of having LIB delivered, we get to explore the western Caribbean along the way, and we can return to the U.S. via boat instead of airplane.

Arriving by boat is much easier than flying with Captain!

Per our agreement, we will arrive in Galveston by May 15th.  This gives us ample time to find excellent weather windows and allows us to explore a few anchorages along the way to Texas. This May delivery time frame allows us to break up the 2260 nautical mile trip from Curacao to Texas into several shorter passages.

Our tentative plan for returning to Texas is to make three stops between here and Galveston.  The first leg will be to the San Blas Islands of Panama; about 650nm.  The second leg to Belize will be approximately 760nm.  From Belize we will sail to Isla Mujeres, Mexico which is a quick 200nm. And our final leg to Galveston will be about 650nm.

Needless to say we are happy and sad about the sale of Let It Be.  She is a fabulous boat and has taken great care of us. We have had very few issues with LIB and we have made many changes to make her perfect for our sailing needs.

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It’s hard to let go of a boat that is in great shape, sails well, has been our home, and functions well for our purposes! (Plus I still love the cushions we had made for the cockpit and helm area!)

So, there you have our news about Let It Be and our anticipated route through the May delivery to Galveston.

I guess soon we will have to figure out what to do while we are ‘boatless/homeless’ until our HH55 is delivered to California!

Thank you so much for visiting our blog! We appreciate your time and hope you will drop us a line in the comments.  If you would like to hear from us more often, please visit our FB page.

27 Cascadas ~ Falls

From the Bilge is where we post picture(s) that we have not used, that don’t fit into any specific blog post or that highlight some of our favorite places. The pictures might not be stunning, but they will recall something we think is worth sharing. We hope you enjoy these non-chronological items as they pop up From the Bilge.

Perhaps my favorite excursion during our travels has been our trip to 27 Charcos de Damajagua in the Dominican Republic.

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First we followed a trail beautifully shaded by an arching canopy of trees, then the real adventure began…

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We swam through streams…

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climbed over rocks….

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slid down water smoothed rocks….

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and jumped from cliffs to return to our starting point.

The whole return trip was made through fresh water that was just chilly enough to be invigorating.  And the jumps, slides and swims were just daring enough to make one stop occasionally to take a deep breath….. and go for it.

I highly recommend this trip if you stop in the Dominican Republic!

As always, thanks for stopping by to read our blog. What do you think of our new section, From the Bilge?

 

Is LIB Stuck? Why Are We STILL in Bonaire?

When we sailed away from Puerto Rico to escape Hurricane Maria in September, we chose the ABC Islands for their location and accessibility from PR.  We did not realize that we would fall a little bit in love with Bonaire. But we have.

And we are not alone.  We have met many cruisers and land lovers who return to Bonaire year after year.  We understand the attraction! Bonaire provides a great location for several activities we love.

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Frank kiting near the mounds of Bonaire salt.

Kiteboarding: the wind is almost always great for kiting. We can launch and take down our kites right on LIB so we don’t have to deal with sand on the kites and us when we finish the day.

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French angel fish and a photo bomb by the Spanish hogfish.

Scuba diving: Bonaire is years ahead in their protection of the reefs and their efforts are apparent in the health of the marine life.  These are the best reefs we have seen during our cruising life.

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A fabulous view while biking.

Biking: there are bike paths on some of the streets here and many people ride bikes. The terrain is varied so you can have different types of bike rides. No, you won’t find downhill biking or epic mountain bike rides, but you can ride off road or on road and have excellent views and get plenty of exercise.

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The string along the sand is a “lane line” for swim practice.

Swimming: the mooring area is crystal clear and an excellent place to take an afternoon swim. Plus we joined the swim practices and three times a week we reel off laps as we watch the ocean bottom for sea life.

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LIB sporting her spinnaker.

Sailing: the wind is generally from the east and we are on the west side of a low lying island which usually means pretty flat seas with generous winds. These conditions make for some very fun sailing!

Education/Giving Back: occasionally there classes about local sea life or island history and we hope these resume soon so we can attend.  Also, once a quarter, the local dive shop puts together a reef clean up day. They provide the tanks and bags and divers volunteer to gather debris from the ocean.  We will definitely participate as soon as we can.

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Volunteers for the parrot count.

Recently we participated in the annual count of the yellow shouldered amazon parrots on Bonaire. Approximately 50 volunteers were assigned observation points around the island and one Saturday morning we all assumed our positions by 5:45 am and counted how many parrots lifted from our designated area and which direction they flew.  This year the estimated count, which is really an estimate to determine if the parrot population is increasing or decreasing, was up from 700 to over 1,000 parrots spotted. Good news for this endangered bird.

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BSSA kids spend the afternoon on LIB.

We have also met several people from the Bonaire Sailing School Associaltion (BSSA).  We invited the kids out to sail with us on LIB and Frank organized a work day where cruisers volunteered and made repairs to the BSSA sailboats.

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Even in the rain, Bonaire is beautiful.

Another plus is that the weather and water are a little warmer in Bonaire than in the Virgin Islands or Bahamas this time of year, which makes water activities way more inviting. Further north, the weather patterns are more unsettled in the first quarter of the year than they are in Bonaire.

Bonaire may be a small island, but it has plenty of activities, excellent grocery stores, tons of restaurants and a variety of shopping available.  Even though we have stopped here longer than anywhere else, we feel like there is much more to explore and learn about Bonaire.

Even so, our time in Bonaire is coming to an end. We have plotted our next move and surprisingly, it will be westward.  We are off to Curacao in a week or two.  We didn’t explore Curacao at all as we traveled between Aruba and Bonaire, so we will take a look around that island for a week or two. By the time we see a little of Curacao, mid-March will have arrived and the weather should allow us to leave the ABCs.  We have a few weeks to determine which direction the wind will take us after Curacao.

~HH Update~

This week at the Miami Boat Show, the first HH55 with an aft helm station, Hai Feng, was on display.  We have chosen to have our HH55 with the aft helm version. From what I have heard, at times there were lines of people waiting to see the Hai Feng at the show.  Though I have not seen her in person, I am sure she is quite fetching! Frank actually was aboard Hai Feng for her sea trial in China a few months back and he was impressed with the boat’s performance. During the sea trial, sails were lifted and lowered several times to make sure all was in order and the Hai Feng was put through her paces.  The highest SOG Frank saw was 18 knots!  Pretty awesome.

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Hai Feng wrapped and ready for shipment!

We are really looking forward to the day our boat will be wrapped and ready for shipment to California!

For those interested in a slightly smaller performance cat, HH has introduced the HH48 and she looks stunning!

Thank you so much for visiting our blog! We appreciate your time and hope you will drop us a line in the comments.  If you would like to hear from us more often, please visit our FB page.

Cruisers Workday for Bonaire Sailors

If there is one thing a sailing cruiser learns, it is how to make repairs; often with creative solutions.

Frank decided to put cruiser know-how to work and organize a volunteer repair day for the BSSA (Bonaire Sailing School Association) sunfish sail boats.  He posted a plea for help on the Bonaire Cruisers FB page and went from boat to boat in the anchorage asking cruisers if they would help with some simple repairs needed on the local sailing school boats.

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Patrick, Lawrence, Dave, John, Sue, Malcolm, Ernest, Derek, Mary Grace, Dave and Frank

The result was that on January 23rd, 11 cruisers volunteered and spent about 3.5 hours working on the sunfish owned by BSSA.  Twenty two hands were busy with all kinds of maintenance that the working BSSA parents don’t have time to do.

Boats were cleaned and polished.

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Initial wash…

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Sue polished until the sunfish shone!

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Malcolm and Dave passing off the new bungee.

Main sheet tie downs were replaced with spliced dyneema and bungee cords for centerboards were replaced.

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Derek and John fixed a dozen tires.

Attachments for loose tires on hand trailers were replaced and there was even a little gel coat work done.

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Ernest removes a hiking strap.

Frayed and fragmented hiking straps were removed.

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And replaced with new straps.

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Derek and Frank making sure all the water is out.

There were a few sails that needed some repair and Frank brought those back to LIB. Since we don’t have a sewing machine, Frank asked our friend, Barb, to help us out.  Barb pulled out her sewing machine and made the needed repairs and now BSSA has two more sails in working order and another repaired hiking strap!

In just a few short hours, cruisers were able to make a decent impact on the boats used by BSSA.  We worked on 11 sunfish.  Seven were in use but needed a little maintenance. Three were not being used because they needed attention and the cruising volunteers were able to address the issues.  (Those three boats are now in use.)  One boat we worked on still needs a little more TLC before it is useable.

Frank did a great job of organizing the volunteers and the sailors were fabulous to spend their time contributing to the sailing youngsters of Bonaire.

It is pretty cool to see the kids out sailing and know their boats are working a little better because of our efforts. Plus BSSA had an open house a few weekends ago and added 10 or so kids to their ranks.  I think they will need those extra working boats!

A very special thank you to Anneka, a BSSA mom and board member, who met us to unlock and lock the storage area and give us access to water and power. Anneka has been a warm and welcoming liaison for BSSA!

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