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Dolphin Reef

As Frank and I were leaving Isla Coronados on Thursday, we saw waves in the distance we thought might indicate a reef or shallow area.

We double and triple checked the charts, which are completely incorrect here. But we saw nothing.

Binoculars revealed the disturbance was a huge pod of dolphins! We estimated about 500 dolphin in this pod.

Needless to say it was a blast watching these guys swim around.

We idled in the area of the dolphins for about 30 minutes just watching them jumping and cavorting.

We could hear them chattering to each other as they swam. We were surprised how much noise they created.

Wow! I only wish I could share with you how fun it was to see these guys.

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LIB is a Sailing Vessel Once Again!

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Poor “neutered cat.”

After watching our Rally friends leave the marina, Frank and I prepared for our trip up the Miami River to M & M Boat Yard.  Back in September, Frank had arranged transportation for LIB’s mast from Jabin’s Yacht Yard in Annapolis to M & M Boatyard in Miami.  After three months of being a “power cat,” we were very ready to have our sailing vessel back.

mastMiami harbor with at least six cruise ships.

Motoring toward the Miami River, we were amazed by the number of cruise ships in the Miami Harbor.  Each of those cruise ships is a small town…. think of the number of people who move in and out of Miami when you consider these ships and the international airport!

mast-2Fixed bridges are easy.

I have mentioned several times how smart it was to have our mast removed from LIB before our trip down the ICW because of the bridges, and that was driven home when we motored up the Miami River.  M & M was only about 3 miles up the river, but we had to cross under 15 bridges! Some of the bridges were fixed but probably nine of them would need to be opened once the mast was back on our boat.

mast-1At least three bridges in this picture.

Below is a photo layout of the mast being returned to Let It Be. I did have to put down the camera and help, so it isn’t as complete as it could be..

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Attaching and tensioning the shroud.

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Attaching the boom.

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Sail bag and lazy jacks up; now for the sail.

By the time the mast and boom were in place, we only had time to attach the sail bag and put on the main sail before dark descended. 

***A special thank you to John Sheldon, who rigged our mast.  He was very professional and timely.  He did an excellent job of stepping the mast and we really appreciated his efforts and expertise.

 The next morning we got up early to wash the decks which were filthy from so many shoes during the mast stepping and the general dirtiness of a boat yard.  As soon as we finished, we pointed LIB out of the yard and toward the ocean.

Happily, our motor out of the Miami River went smoothly and the bridge tenders were very accommodating.  We did have one instance when a barge, being pulled by tugboats from the bow and stern, needed to go through a bridge at the same time we did.  Needless to say, we stood down and gave him the right of way! 

Other than the huge barge, we didn’t have any issues clearing bridges but our perspective was certainly different as we watched the mast and antenna passing under the fixed bridges.  Even though we knew we had a couple of feet of clearance, it looked closer from down on the deck.

Several of our Rally friends were hanging out in No Name Harbor in Biscayne Bay, and they reported that the anchorage was excellent so we headed there to finish our work returning LIB to a full fledged sailboat.

mast-21The view just outside the entrance to No Name Harbor

No Name is a pretty little anchorage with one restaurant and several paths to walk or bike.  Both mornings we were there, dolphins swam around the anchorage very close to the boats. 

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Cappy thinks she is herding those dolphins.

Captain was going crazy barking and running around the boat following the dolphins, so finally we told her she could go swim…. and she did!  For about an hour Captain swam around the anchorage trying to catch those illusive swimmers!

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Frank offers support for herding activities.

As you can see, Frank put a paddle board in the water and paddled nearby so that when Cap was tired she could swim back to him and rest.  Of course, once she spotted another dolphin, she jumped back in the water to give chase.

Captain is an English Shepherd and I swear, with this breed, if you don’t give them a job, they will create one.  Apparently Cap has decided that dolphin herding is her new responsibility!

I would guess that several of the Rally boaters have more experience racing sailboats than making ocean passages on them.  When it was time for a discussion about when to cross to the Bahamas, they gathered on LIB to discuss options and weather windows.  Although we were not planning on leaving at the same time our friends were, we wanted to hear their thoughts and share the weather tools we use when planning our passages.

mast-18Conveyances tied to LIB as we discussed weather services and windows.

No Name was a pretty and very well protected anchorage.  We would have enjoyed staying a bit longer, but we were heading toward Key Largo where our friends Mary and Glenn live.  Our plan was to have the boat in Key Largo when our son, Clayton, arrived for a short Christmas weekend.  That would allow us to sail a bit with Clayton but also be in a good location to wait for a weather window to travel to the Bahamas.

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So fun seeing our spinnaker flying again!

We left No Name Harbor, put up our beautiful red spinnaker and SAILED to Key Largo.  It was great to finally turn off the engines and zip along using the power of wind. 

Even though we live on LIB, this was our first sail in FIVE months! Between the repair time required after our lighting event and shipping our mast so we could traverse the ICW, we had almost forgotten how to be sailors!

Thankfully, LIB has not forgotten how to sail.  I think she was as delighted as we were to fly sails and glide quietly through the water.

mast-20 A huge thank you to Mary and Glenn for finding us this awesome place to wait!!

This well protected canal is where we docked LIB for several days as we waited for a window to go to Bimini.  We both enjoyed the Key Largo area and think this would be an awesome place to spend a hurricane season!  Perhaps this will be our location for hurricane season 2017.

Grr and Growl… I Miss My Swims!

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Hey y’all, it’s me, Captain.  MG said I could have the computer today since I have been a really good dog. Plus, everyone was really complimentary about my first sneaky blog, so I didn’t even get in trouble. (Big tail wag for that!)

Boy has it been hot and boring here in this marina. I don’t really understand why we are staying in one place for such a long time and I’m a little tired of it. But I keep my tail up and make the best of it.

With so much down time here, I have plenty of time sleep and think about the fun stuff we have been doing since moving onto Let It Be.  I really like boat life these days because I spend so much time with my humans.  I mean, they are with me so much more than when we lived in a house. So I guess if I had to choose between land life or boat life, I’m fine with giving up squirrel chasing on land and spending more time with “mom and dad” on the boat.

Probably my favorite time so far was when Hunter and Clayton came to stay on LIB with us. I know I mentioned it before but everybody was so glad to be together and we had such a great time that it is still my favorite time.

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I went to shore for walks with the boys and made sure they knew the way back to LIB.

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I also kept Clayton company when he was reading. I’m pretty certain that having me with him made the reading a lot more fun.

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Hunter understands that I get really hot with my life vest on, so sometimes he would take it off and just hold me. Gosh I love those extra scratches!

I will admit, I was a little tired on the days Hunter and Clayton flew those kite things and skimmed across the water.  I ran from one side of the boat to the other, barking warnings at them but they didn’t listen at all. I was so tired when they finished, I just plopped down on the front of the boat and went to sleep.

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I really love sleeping on the trampoline where the wind can cool me from underneath and on top! The wind just tickles through my fur and it is delightful!

Hey, I’ve learned a new job here on LIB. I don’t really understand why, but MG and Frank get all excited when they see these dolphin things in the water.  Every time they come to swim, my humans go to the front of the boat and watch those dolphins swim and jump. (Hello, I can swim and jump too!)   For some reason, Frank and MG always laugh and feel happy when they see those dolphins, so now I keep my nose and eyes on alert for them.

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These days, I am always the first one to spot dolphins and I sound the alarm if they are coming.  It took a few times for my people to learn why I was barking in the middle of the ocean, but now they know that if I bark “at nothing” to keep an eye out because probably there are dolphins…. It’s nice to have trainable humans!

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I just love running as fast as I can on the beaches. I pound across the beach, then I splash right into the water and cool off.  The water in the Caribbean was so pretty and cool.  But it’s also weird  because it tastes terrible!! I can’t figure out why and I keep tasting it when we swim. But nope, it always tastes salty!  Blah!

When I don’t feel like swimming but it is hot, I dig in the sand and find the cool parts down deep.  I just love to roll around and scratch in the sand.  It’s all wet and cool and sticks to me everywhere.

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This is my sandy raccoon look!

I love that sandy feeling but Frank usually sloshes me around in the water before we go back to the boat. What a waste! If he would just let me bring the sand back in my fur, I’m pretty sure the boat would be a big sandbox by now.

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When we first moved to the boat, mom decided to shave my belly hair because she thought it would cut down on the hair in the boat.  Oooh boy, that thing tickled my tummy.  You can see in this picture that it kind of made me laugh.  I liked it and I really liked all the attention. But there was just as much hair as ever, so we gave up on that.

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Phew, this picture really makes me miss the water.

When we were in the Bahamas, there were a lot of nice shallow places.  Sometimes we would go for a dinghy ride, then just stop in the middle of the water, not even on the land! Dad would drop the anchor and we would just walk around in the clear water.  That was really fun.  I could see fish swimming, but they always stayed away from me. It’s hard to run in that water! Look how pretty it is! 

Not all of our trips to land are fabulous.  Sometimes we get caught in a sudden rain storm. One afternoon, Frank and I had gone out for a nice paddle. It was cloudy which was kind of nice because it was like shady everywhere.  Well, I guess we got a little too involved in exploring the island because the rain started gushing down.  I hid in the trees, but dad was kind of stuck on the beach in the rain; so mom came and rescued us in the dinghy.

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One of MG’s friends took this picture of us.

Nobody got hurt and we laughed on the way back to LIB.  I was really glad we didn’t have to paddle back in all that rain.

One thing humans are always asking about is where I go to the bathroom. I totally don’t understand why people care because when we go for a walk, the humans never inspect any tinkle or poop spots! So why do they care? I mean really, who cares where you “go” it’s what you learn from smelling it!!!

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But, just to answer your question, here is a picture of the “grass” MG got for me to use on the boat. For the record, this does not fool me one little bit and I do not like it. But if we go on long sails, I will use it when necessary.  BUT only if we are on long sails. Otherwise, I still wait for Frank or MG to take me to shore so I can sniff and tinkle and poop like a proper land dog!

So there you have it, these are the things I dream about while staying at this marina. As much as I enjoy having land right here and plenty of sniffs everyday, I think the Islands are now in my blood because I miss the beaches.

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Guess I’ll just take a nap and dream about where we will go next.

Tail wags and doggie kisses to anyone who reads this. Be sure to stop by Let It Be and give me a little scratch if you are nearby!

 

Bar~beautiful!

Barbuda has been described as a large version of Anegada in the British Virgin Islands.  At first glance this appears to be true. But I found the two islands very, very different.

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First view of Barbuda

Anegada has a lot to offer visitors and certainly caters to tourists in the usual BVI way, which I very much enjoy.

Barbuda seems to have chosen to remain staunchly independent of visitors and prefers to retain its’ local flavor.  My understanding is that the island is owned by the residents and if a company wants to build something, say a resort, the whole town votes to accept or decline the plan. So far it appears few, if any, outsiders have managed to develop Barbuda. The result is that Barbuda is unspoiled and beautiful, but it is also difficult to find services or restaurants.

When we walked through Codrington Village, few of the stores had signs so it was difficult to tell what was available. The grocery was pretty well stocked, but because there was no sign, I would have walked past it if a woman had not walked out with bags of food.

The children here have the freedom of roaming a hometown where everyone knows each other and they are safe to explore. I watched one boy upright a bike much too big for him and serpentine up the road; another child skipped into the grocery and asked for clothes pins for her mom; two young boys were gently scolded by a lady sitting on her porch as she reminded them their mothers expected them to go straight home from school. I felt like I was looking back to a time when computers and smart phones and stranger danger didn’t exist.

The water clarity and colors of Barbuda are beyond belief. Our first anchorage was Gravenor Bay. Navigating into this bay is tricky because there are a lot of reefs. It is very important to only enter when the sun is high and the visibility excellent, but once through the maze of reefs, the settled anchorage and amazingly clear water is worth the effort.

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Watching a storm from Gravenor Bay

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Another dramatic storm that passed beyond us

I tried to get a picture of how clear the water is by taking a picture while standing on the bow of LIB. You can see the coral and sand!

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The water is about 15 feet deep in this photo

We decided to move to Low Bay to see the NW side of the island and get close to Codrington Village.  We motored around Coco Point before raising the sails. To our delight, a few dolphins came to say hello! They didn’t stay very long, but we sure enjoyed seeing them.

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Dolphins swim under the bow of Let It Be

The 11 mile expanse from Palmetto Point to Low Bay is a beautiful beach where the sand is so fine you sink as you walk. We certainly didn’t walk the whole length but we did enjoy hanging out appreciating its’ beauty.

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Sand so fine you sink as you walk

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Captain is always up for a roll in the sand

As you can see, Captain dives right in to the beach scene. The more sand she can dig in and roll in and generally grind into her fur, the happier she is!

Moving to Low Bay allowed us hire a guide to take us on a tour of the Frigate Bird Sanctuary.  I wasn’t quite sure what to expect of this tour but ended up thoroughly enjoying it. . Our tour guide, Clifford, took us to the sanctuary via his long boat, then he walked the boat through the area so we had an excellent view of the birds. Ornithologists estimate that there are 5,000 birds in this colony which makes it one of the largest in the world.  The pictures offer more than I can describe.

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The male Frigate enlarges his gular pouch to attract females.

In addition to inflating the gular pouch, the male Frigate rapidly taps the pouch to create a drumming sound which adds to his attraction.

Come on, lady readers, you think those pouches are pretty sexy, right?

Females do not have pouches but instead have a white chest.

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Young Frigates are downy white

When born, the babies have downy, white feathers which are gradually replaced by the black plumage. In the picture above you can see two very young Frigates. Toward the back you can see a Frigate that is a few months old; it has begun to grow some of its’ black feathers but still has a good deal of baby down on the chest.

Wind forecasts were beginning to pick up so we lifted anchor and headed back to Green Island, Antigua  to be in place for kiting should the predicted winds materialize.

Happily, the winds did blow and we arrived at Green Island with plenty of time to get in an afternoon kiteboarding set.

For the kiters out there, here are two pics…..

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Frank chilling as he heads back toward the beach

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Hunter boosts off the back of LIB to start his session

Next stop Guadeloupe.

Longest Sail Yet….

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Our last evening in Deshaies, Guadeloupe.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ocean, ocean and more ocean.

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

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Hmm, I am pretty sure this is Montserrat.

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

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

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Frank is thrilled with his catch!

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

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

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

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

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Jumping in front of the bow.

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They are literally right below the forward beam!

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

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

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Virgin Gorda, BVI

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

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

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Balloons, Birds, Turtles and Us

Who doesn’t love balloons? They represent so many positive and happy occasions from the birth of babies to birthday parties, carnivals, weddings, car sales and so many other important or pleasant events.

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But there is another side to balloons; one that is forgotten or never even considered….. thousands and thousands of balloons end up escaping.  Is there a secret party “out there” where all escaped balloons meet and party? No. It isn’t that pretty.

Picture the darling little 4 year old, playing with a balloon, laughing and joyous over such a simple toy. Then the balloon escapes, up it flies out of reach and the child cries, heartbroken.

Understandably, the parent spends his or her time comforting the child and the balloon is long forgotten.

But the balloon now seeks its own life’s path floating higher and further as the wind carries it along an unknown route. After a beautiful, carefree flight of perhaps hundreds of miles, the balloon slowly looses air and begins it’s descent wherever it is blown.

A sad end that is actually the beginning of tragedy because now that faded, deflated balloon with it’s bright colored ribbon still attached is about to begin a one balloon death campaign.

Perhaps the bright color will fool an unsuspecting sea turtle that will eat the balloon thinking it is food.

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Photo credit to NOAA/Blair Whitherington

Perhaps the turtle is smart enough to realize the balloon is plastic and not food, but in it’s curiosity it swims around the balloon and becomes entangled in the brightly colored string. Soon its movement is restricted and it can no longer swim.

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Photo credit to NOAA/Blair Whitherington

These two simple examples will result in the eventual starvation of one turtle and the death of the other as well.

Dolphins, whales and seals have all been found with balloons and other plastics in their stomachs. See this short article by John Metcalfe for additional information and links about balloons in the oceans and on the shores.

Actually, you might be surprised just how many birds, turtles, fish etc end up dying as a result of balloons, strings, fishing lines and other waste that someone simply didn’t recognize as a death trap.

Of course, this was not intentional.  A 4 year old has no idea her balloon could cause such havoc.  But we, the adults, need to raise our awareness.

I am not advocating that you stop celebrating! I love to celebrate, but next time, perhaps alternatives to balloons can be used.

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Bubbles are pretty and fun to pop.

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Ribbon streamers come in different lengths and colors.

Or perhaps you could have ribbon streamers on wands – they are engaging and make beautiful dances as children and adults wave them around.

This article Environmentally-Friendly offers many alternatives to balloons.

I’m not posting horrific pictures of dead birds or turtles in this blog, but I am asking that you help increase awareness of your own choices and perhaps share your decisions with others.

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