While anchored in Los Frailes we noticed the pelicans gathering in one spot and figured there must be a school of fish and it was meal time. I grabbed my camera hoping to catch the action.
Was there a school of bait fish?
Soon we saw a seal surface below the birds and I wondered what the relationship was between them. My camera revealed that the seal was very busy procuring his afternoon snack and the birds were looking for handouts.
Several birds spying for pieces from above the water.
It wasn’t long before I saw the seal break the surface and thrash about with a fish in his mouth. I’m guessing he smashes the fish against the water to kill it?
From far away it looked like play, but this seal was serious about his fish.
You can see how the fish is breaking apart in the thrashing process and the birds are ready to pounce on any scraps that fly free.
The pelicans were jockeying positions to get close to the seal.
I think the birds are hoping the seal accidentally lets go as he slings this fish!
Apparently seals consume four to six percent of their body weight each day, so these birds are pretty savvy to follow the seal feast!
I found watching the interaction between the seal and the birds pretty interesting and I hope you do too. That fish looks pretty gross though if you zoom in on the pictures. Next time you see birds gathering, maybe a seal will surface and now you know he isn’t just playing around and splashing water at the birds! There is food to be had!!
As always, thanks for reading our blog. You are welcome to hop over to our FB page if you want to hear from us more often.
One of the mantras of a cruiser is to write your schedule in sand because the weather dictates departure dates. Not so for racing sailors.
The class before us jockeying around the start line.
We were scheduled to depart Newport Beach on Sunday, March 17th and regardless of the weather, the race would begin. However, at the last minute our race start was moved up to Saturday and the only other boat in our class bowed out of the race. We believe the forecasted lack of wind was the reason for their withdrawal.
We had “six souls” on board TTR for the race and we divided into two groups of three for watches. Although most race boats seem to keep a four hours watch schedule, we asked our crew to take one 6 hour watch each night and two three hour watches during the day.
I don’t know if everyone liked that rotation, but it has worked for Frank and me when we are passaging without others on board because we get one longer period of sleep which helps us feel rested.
Gino looks on as Rogan goes up the mast.
Early in the race, Rogan went up the mast of TTR to make certain all the lines and sails looked good and that the hardware was nicely tightened.
Gino, James and I took the first night watch from 7 pm to 1 am and Frank, Rogan and Kristen took the 1am to 7 am shift.
Moonrise was beautiful at the start of my evening watches.
I’m not sure who had the bad mojo on our watch, but on several nights the wind dropped from reasonable to almost nothing. Our instruments actually read “0.0” for several minutes at a time before jumping all the way to 1knot. You know the wind is light when you are excited to see 3 knots of true wind speed.
Though I would have enjoyed better winds during our watch, I learned a lot from Gino and James as they discussed tactics to optimize the conditions.
Gino used a flash light to check sail trim at night and I was able to watch the path of his light and try to learn by observing the areas he checked and the changes he made based on his observations.
Wide open sunset at sea.
From my perspective it seemed like each night about 15 minutes before our watch ended, the wind would improve, we would set the sail trim, then Frank’s shift would take over the helm.
Once Frank’s group took over the watch, very few adjustments were made to the sails for the next few hours! That makes for an easy watch, if a little uninteresting.
Looking at the speeds and miles covered you would think Frank, Rogan and Kristen were the heroes on board, but my watch was really helpful for four reasons: 1. I had a lot of sail raising and trimming practice, 2. The watch went quickly because we were constantly changing sails and trim 3. I learned a lot by listening and observing Gino and 4. It was easier to sleep during our off watch time because Frank’s group hardly had to adjust the sails while we were sleeping!
Gino toasting sunset with a touch of merlot.
We managed to be very comfortable on TTR during the race and we all sat down to dinner each night. I am pretty certain this is the first time Gino had a glass of wine while ‘racing’ and I know that was true for Rogan.
Thanks for this pic of Frank, Gino!
Most race boats don’t grill hamburgers during the race! But comfort and speed blend well on Ticket To Ride.
Happy birthday, Gino!
We had the added pleasure of celebrating Gino’s birthday during the race. Laura Morrelli snuck a tiramisu on board before we left and we all enjoyed the treat.
For those who are interested in the numbers here are a few and I am including our log so you can see just how light the wind was and our notes during the race.
Nautical Miles: About 900 (sorry forgot to note that) Official Duration: 5 days 17 hours 47 minutes Average speed: 6.5k Max speed: 24.3k Sea Conditions: very mild.
By far our most common sail configuration was the mainsail and reacher.
Reacher, jib and mainsail at one time.
One night Gino, James and I added the staysail to try and maximize the tiny puffs of wind. That configuration lasted several hours.
We also had one day when the wind and waves piped up so we dropped the reacher and flew the jib; we had a great time at the helm as we practiced surfing TTR down the waves.
A bright moon reflecting off the water and boom.
We were really fortunate that the moon was waxing and the skies were clear so night time was well illuminated.
As we sailed south, the water temperature increased slightly and we knew it was getting warmer when we began seeing flying fish.
One afternoon Kristen spotted something floating in the water and thought it might be a log.
In the pic, the seal’s flipper is down again.
It turned out to be a seal floating on its’ back with a flipper pointed up acting a bit like a sail. The seal was totally chilled floating in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. I really wished I could pass him an umbrella drink to rest on his tummy as he drifted along!
This pod of dolphins jumped a lot!
We also so dolphins several times jumping in the distance. Only once or twice did a dolphin play near our bow. It seems like the Caribbean dolphins were more likely to swim with our boat, but we have seen a greater number of dolphins on the west coast.
We saw the blow of a whale once or twice and James saw one breach, but I didn’t see it.
All in all the Race to Cabo was a great time. Everyone on board contributed so the work loads were shared. Best of all, everyone meshed well, there was good input for decisions, the personalities complimented one another and no one on board dominated the discussions or decisions.
The whole race thing is a different mind set than Frank and I are accustomed to and I am not certain how I feel about it. I like that races force you to be committed to sailing and making use of the environment and wind. BUT I found it really frustrating to be at a complete standstill when we have two perfectly good engines ready to move us forward.
Though I have no experience, I think day races would be more interesting since the strategy of each boat is apparent much more quickly, thus the reward or penalty is more immediate.
We were on our way to Cabo with or without the race and I am glad we participated in it. Since we were racing what is actually our home, our team motto was “Party Not Podium.”
Ironically, we earned the podium but arrived too late for the party!
With only ourselves in the class we managed to take the award for first place!
Celebrating our finish of the NHYC Race to Cabo!
Frank and I are very impressed with how well TTR sails in light wind. The ability to sail in light air is one of the features that sold us on the HH55.
Yes, TTR can sail fast, but it is also exceedingly pleasant to sail well in lower wind speeds and calmer seas.
Several people had asked for details about our Race to Cabo experience. I hope this answers your questions. If not, ask and I’ll try to answer what I missed.
Thank you for reading our blog. Look to our Facebook page for more posts.
So, the pace has not slowed one bit since TTR was put in the water!
After waiting several days for the port of LA to have room to unload the ship carrying Ticket to Ride, we had to wait four more days to have the mast raised on our boat. The crane operators at the yard next to the marina do not work in the rain, so we waited and waited for the rain to stop.
We were not idle as Chris (of HH), Scott (of Rigging Projects) and Francois (of Pochon) worked on various items around the boat preparing for the mast stepping, setting up electronics, instructing us about the boat, etc.
The mast on the HH55 is different from many sailboats in that the shrouds and stays are prefabricated from carbon fiber strands and are a fixed length. The mast is actually on a hydraulic lift and its’ height is adjusted to make the tension of the rigging correct.
Here are a few photos from the day we stepped the mast on TTR:
Chris attaching the crane to the mast.
Lift off from the cradle.
Swinging the mast over to land so lines and electronics can be sorted out.
Lauren and Scott guiding the mast onto the stands.
Once the mast was on the stands, Scott and Chris worked on the lines and attachments while Francois worked on the electronics on the mast (radar, antennae, etc). Lauren and I waxed the mast since this is the most accessible it will be for quite a while. I know, kinda strange to wax a brand new mast, but one last coat might help protect it and keep it shining.
After all of the electrical conduit, halyards, etc were run, reviewed and settled, it was time to lift the mast and actually put it up on TTR.
The first crane was adequate for moving the mast to shore, but it was not tall enough to easily lift this 80 foot mast into proper position so a bigger crane was brought to the yard.
Raising the mast again to move it back onto TTR.
Frank, Gio and Lauren have guidelines attached to spreaders to help orient the mast.
The taller crane allowed the mast to be completely upright while moving.
Francois is in the hatch to guide electronics wires downward.
Scott and Chris preparing the jack and shims for the mast.
Scott attaching the second shroud.
Chris attaching the forestay and third point of balance for the mast.
Checking the pressure and shims before the mast is finally lowered into place.
Still in the yard, Scott goes up the mast to check out the rigging.
In this picture you can see that the boom has not yet been attached. That was done the following morning while I was away so I don’t have pictures. But I can tell you that a bridle was made using the topping lift. The bridle was attached to the center of the boom and used to lift the boom so it could be attached to the gooseneck.
The boom is on, mainsail attached and Scott is checking things out again.
After running a few errands, it was very exciting to come back to the dock and see Ticket to Ride dressed with a mast, boom and mainsail!
We were very fortunate because although there was some rain, the next couple of days the winds cooperated well and allowed us to progressively test TTR and the rigging. Our first day out was fairly mild and was used to make sure all the lines were running properly, the rigging was well tuned, the reefs and all the sails were working well.
Of course we let the professionals take the lead and Chris, Scott, Gino, Erik, Mark, Gio, Lauren et al took the reins. Every sail configuration was tried a few times. This crew was accustomed to working together and the sails were raised and dropped, adjusted and reefed, tweaked and tested more quickly than seemed possible.
By the third day of sea trials, the wind had filled in and we had TTR stretching out like a race horse in the home stretch. We saw a top speed of 24.7 knots speed over ground!
Kind of long, but skipping the hull on TTR.
The boat feels surprisingly stable even at high speeds! When we were skipping the hull and on the verge of flying it, Ticket to Ride felt secure and solid. But I was very glad the pros had the reins and knew how to immediately de-power if necessary.
With sea trials over, it’s time for Frank and me to learn how to sail TTR without extra hands on board. HH understands that this type of performance sailboat takes some learning and they allow Chris and Lauren to stick around to take care of issues that arise and to teach us about our sailboat.
Having Lauren and Chris with us for a little while has been invaluable! In addition to being good company, they are patient and excellent teachers. We are truly fortunate that HH provides this service and that Chris and Lauren are so talented!
Thanks for reading our blog. It has really been busy on TTR and I have not had time to write, so if you are interested, please look at our FB page for more regular postings.
If you haven’t been checking our HH55 Ticket to Ride Facebook page, you might not know that after seeing the container ship holding TTR anchored in the harbor for 7 days, our sailboat was finally unloaded! The process of unloading a sailboat and setting it up again has been very interesting! Well, I have found it interesting, but it is my home, so that could add to the appeal.
First, I must tell you that the week Ticket to Ride was delivered, L.A. was experiencing more rain than usual. In fact they received almost as much rain that week as they usually receive in a whole year!!!
This was not perfect weather, but we were so happy that TTR was arriving, it didn’t bother us a bit during the off loading process.
Chris Bailet, Gino Morrelli, Frank, Mary Grace, Mark Womble, Scott Gray
Chris Bailet, HH commissioning skipper, Gino Morrelli and Mark Womble of M&M and Scott Gray of Rigging Projects and Frank and I arrived at the port bright and early wearing our foul weather gear. We were escorted to the container ship immediately. TTR was in the hold of the APL Sentosa which was in the process of being unloaded by cranes.
(Video of a crane unloading a container.)
I was amazed at how huge and fast and organized the process of offloading the containers actually occurs. But when you consider that the APL Sentosa can carry 13,892 containers, they better load and unload quickly.
Midway up the stacked containers – the photo doesn’t really capture it.
We climbed ladders and gangways in the Sentosa until we were about midway up the height of the stacked containers where the ships’ bosun met us and unlocked the doors where TTR was secured.
TTR was snuggly wrapped and strapped down inside a locker all to herself.
Our first step was to unwrap the lower half of the shrink wrap protecting Ticket to Ride so the U.S. Customs officers could board and inspect her. We were not allowed to board TTR until Customs gave us the all clear.
Seeing “Ticket to Ride” written on the stern for the first time.
Once TTR was inspected, the crane operator removed the three sections of roof covering Ticket to Ride. Chris Bailet, commissioning captain for HH Catamarans, had wisely directed us to leave the top of the shrink wrap on the boat until the container tops were lifted. The noise of that process was deafening and dirt and rust rained down on the boat. I was super happy Chris had told us to wait to unwrap the boat!
After the roof was gone, we unwrapped the remainder of the protective plastic and unstrapped TTR from the Sentosa. The crane hooked into the HH shipping cradle and began rising to tighten the straps while Chris verified that TTR was properly balanced before actually lifting her out of the ship.
Shrink wrap off and ready to lift.
Chris had just signaled the ‘go ahead’ to lift TTR when suddenly the electricity to the whole port of L.A. went out!
How could that even happen?
Mort, the foreman from the port, told me that almost anytime it rains they experiences ‘brown outs.’ Seriously?!
We were surprised and disappointed the electricity had gone out but we were really, really glad the outage happened before TTR was lifted!!! Can you imagine the stress of having your boat suspended 100 feet above ground and having the electricity go out?!
About 30 minutes later the electricity was restored, the crane was recalibrated and the lifting process began again. While we waited for the electricity to be restored, the wind and rain settled down which made hoisting Ticket to Ride a good bit safer.
TTR was gently lifted out of the confines of the ship and hoisted over the side of the Sentosa above the concrete loading area of the port.
(Video of TTR being moved sideways above the port loading road.)
The crane move sideways, parallel to the Sentosa until it was aft of the container ship and across from an area of the dock open to the water.
Gino Morrelli, Mary Grace and Frank.
Since TTR was still strapped to the shipping cradle, she had to be lowed to the peer and unstrapped so she could float free when the platform was in the water. Chris removed straps and once more verified the balance of the boat on the cradle while Frank and I took pictures and celebrated that TTR was finally here in the States and almost in the water.
Finally entering the water!
We watched as Ticket to Ride was lifted one last time and moved toward the water, then we scrambled over to the Towboat USA boat which ferried us the few meters over to TTR while she was still slightly suspended in the water on the cradle.
Chris made short work of starting the engines and making sure all was well aboard before asking the crane operator to release TTR to the water.
Chris piloting TTR away from the port of L.A.
Amazingly, after TTR’s 7,035 mile trip on the Sentosa, she was in perfect condition and the engines started up without a hitch.
The rain had included a good bit of wind and kicked up the sea state, even behind the breakwater it was quite rough as we motored to the Alamitos Bay Marina. But HH did an excellent job of securing the mast and boom and they didn’t budge a bit even with the steep waves.
Waves breaking over the breakwater.
If you look beyond the TowBoat, you can see the spray of the waves pounding against the breakwater. The swells were pretty big where there were breaks in the sea walls but even with the slippery shipping rudders, Chris handled TTR without any difficulty.
Needless to say all of us exhaled a sigh of relief after Ticket to Ride was off the ship, back in the water and safely at the dock.
Next up would be swapping out the shipping rudders for our spade rudders, stepping the mast and tuning the rigging. BUT California had another surprise in store for us…. the shipyard won’t operate the cranes in the rain so we actually had to wait four days before we could begin that process. Which I will share in the next blog.
After waiting what felt like a very long time for the delivery of TTR, Frank and I are excited to feel like this dream is really coming to fruition. We couldn’t wait to move on board, so we spent that very first night on Ticket to Ride and have been here every night since.
We are thrilled to be back on a floating home and hear the sounds of water at night as we drift off to sleep.
Once more we must express our sincere gratitude to the many people who have and are helping us with TTR. Hats off to HH Catamarans for building our very special home with excellent quality and high standards. AND for understanding the need for and providing the help of the commissioning team. A huge thank you to Morrelli and Melvin for designing such a great catamaran and incorporating the modifications we wanted so TTR would suit our needs very well. Innumerable thanks to Chris Ballet and Lauren Battaile as they spearhead the commissioning and teach us to make this cat purr – or roar!
Thanks so much for stopping by to read our blog. We welcome your comments. For more regular information, please visit our FB page.
Sailing TTR in China
Needless to say we have been impatiently awaiting the delivery of our new HH55 Catamaran. We signed a contract in early September 2017 and waiting for Ticket to Ride to arrive has been a challenge.
Let It Be floating in the Bahamian water.
That isn’t to say we have not enjoyed ourselves while TTR was under construction! We absolutely loved our last sailboat, Let It Be, and the exploring we did on her.
Watson Falls, Oregon
Having a chance to drive around the U.S. and see so much of this country has been really eye opening and we have seen amazingly beautiful places.
Crater Lake, Oregon. And yes, that blue is the actual color of the water in certain light!
However, we do miss living on the water and we are super excited to move on board TTR.
Based on what we heard today, the container ship carrying Ticket to Ride will arrive in Los Angeles on January 8th!
TTR wrapped and ready to be loaded on the container ship.
Once the ship arrives in Los Angeles, TTR will be unloaded onto a dock where we will dispense with the shrink wrap currently protecting her. After the shrink wrap is removed, TTR will be lowered into the water and we will motor away to our temporary marina in Long Beach.
The mast will remain on the coach roof while we motor to the marina. Stepping the mast requires a crane which we were able to schedule for Friday.
HYM employs the services of a young captain, Chris, who will help us commission TTR and make her ready for sailing and life aboard. Chris has been involved with the commissioning of all of the HH55 cats and has experience commissioning and racing the HH66. So in addition to making sure everything is functioning properly on TTR, we are counting on Chris to teach us a few tricks and secrets about handling the HH55.
Racing the HH66 Nala. (Photo from HH Catamarans)
Although the HH55 is built to fly a hull like in the picture above, that is not of interest to me, and I will not be asking Chris for advice on this maneuver! (Yet.)
In addition to Chris’s proficiency, experts from Rigging Projects and Pochon Electronics will be on hand to set the rigging properly and get all the systems up and running.
Fortunately for us, Morrelli and Melvin office in Newport Beach which is only a stones throw away from Long Beach. That means we will have additional support and knowledge from M&M, who designed the HH catamarans.
We will certainly offer greater detail about what is happening on TTR as things progress and I have time to write about the experience of taking delivery of our HH55. But for now, getting TTR ready will keep us busy for the next little while!
What a fun way to begin 2019!
Check out our FB page if you would like to see more frequent posts about TTR.
Thanks for reading our blog. And thank you for hanging out on land with us while we were between boats. We look forward to getting our sea legs back and sharing our cruising lifestyle once again!
“It isn’t the size of the tree that matters, it’s the love in your heart that counts!”
Quotes made up by me. 🙂
Our Christmas tree this year is 20″ tall!
We hope you have a Merry Christmas this year and we especially hope it is a blessed one.
Surprise! We will be mountain biking in Santa Cruz!
Our Christmas be spent in the RV in Santa Cruz, CA and will include our kids this year. Since we consider them, and our families, our greatest blessing, we know Christmas will be wonderful.
Just one of the amazing things we saw traveling the U.S. (Arizona)
Needless to say, 2018 has been a year of change for us, but thankfully they have been good changes and changes of choice. We have thoroughly enjoyed our time exploring the U.S. since selling Let It Be back in May.
Photo taken on a bike ride in the Dolomites, Italy
Another pretty view from our VBT bike tour.
In addition to traveling the U.S., we had the opportunity to go to Italy for an excellent bike trip through Vermont Bike Tours. A special thank you to Terrie and Brad for inviting us to join them and their friends. The people were really fun and the places we visited were great.
Frank at the helm of TTR.
We also traveled to China to oversee the progress of TTR and to sail our boat. We expended a LOT of energy in the building process of Ticket to Ride throughout 2018 and we can hardly wait for her delivery to the West Coast which is expected just days into the new year!
TTR being hoisted to the shipping dock.
TTR is the culmination of the vision of Morrelli and Melvin being brought to life by HH Catamarans, with slight changes to accommodate our specific preferences. There are far too many individuals who contributed to this project to name them all, but we are very grateful to every single person who has helped us along the way.
Ticket to Ride wrapped and ready to load on a container ship.
As we conclude 2018, we are thankful for our many blessings and for the opportunities we have to see so much and meet people from all over the world. We are thankful for prayers answered, especially those for friends who have battled illnesses or who have lost homes to natural disasters. We are conscious of our losses this year, especially of our sweet dog, Captain.
As we transition into 2019, we do so with thanks and great excitement. We can hardly wait to move onto Ticket to Ride! For us, there is something magical about living on the water and we look forward to doing so again.
Thank you to those who have traveled with us through our blog this year, especially since our focus was temporarily directed away from cruising which is the basis for our journaling. We look forward to learning about our new boat and resuming the cruising lifestyle and we hope you enjoy our musings as we move forward.
Once again, Merry Christmas to all who celebrate the birth of Christ and blessings to those who celebrate differently. We hope 2019 is filled with joy and contentment for you.
As always, thank you for visiting our blog. If you would like to hear from us more often, please check our FB page: HH55 Ticket to Ride. We look forward to returning to the water in 2019!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?!
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.
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?!
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.
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!
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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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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.
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:
Captain’s first trip to shore after our passage. That is a happy Cappy!
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.
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.
The aqua, shallow water of Half Moon reminded us of the Bahamas.
Walking the path to the bird observatory on Half Moon Cay
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.
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.
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?
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!!
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!
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!
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!
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!
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:
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…”
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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