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Our Final Visit to HH in Xiamen, China

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We anxiously await the delivery of our new home.

Frank and I have just returned from three weeks in China and what is probably our last visit to that country.  When our oldest son decided to study in China, I was apprehensive about his being so far away in a country where I could not communicate if he had trouble and whose government is so different from ours in the U.S. But having now visited China several times, I admit I feel very safe there.  I have never felt I was in danger of anything other than getting lost.

Our visits to China have been very positive. The people are nice and willing to help, though we have to play charades to ask a question, order food or generally get around.  Sometimes the charades, combined with the small amount of English a local might speak will allow us to communicate. But often, our communication doesn’t really work.  If you have any interest in visiting China, I strongly recommend a guide if you don’t speak Mandarin.

On the whole, I find the Chinese to be a happy population. I see a lot of laughter and I enjoy how playful and unsophisticated some of their interactions appear. I also enjoy their love of cartoon-like characters.  Somehow these things make me feel that the people here are young at heart and it makes me wish I could communicate with them more.

HH has taken excellent care of us during each of our visits, making sure we have transportation and are very well fed! We sincerely appreciate the service and care HH has provided and we will miss seeing the staff who has always been welcoming and accommodating.

This trip, Frank and I spent most of our time in Xiamen at the HH factory. If we weren’t there, we did not venture very far from our hotel but instead spent our down time studying for our next level of captains licensing or working out in the gym or enjoying the scenery from high in the hotel.

I wish I could capture the flavor of China to share with you, but the variety of experiences is broad. Instead, I will share a few photos I took while walking or being driven by the HH driver. (Please excuse the less than excellent quality of the photos.)

 

Doors are an important feature of buildings.

Although Feng Shui is a concept I learned about only 15 years ago, it is entrenched in Chinese society and beliefs.  According to this belief, direction and appearance of the front doorway is especially important because it allows energy to flow freely into the home and throughout the interior. Even on relatively modest homes or places of business, the doorways were often elaborate.  I could only catch a couple as we were driving.

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Landscape is lush and well maintained.

I don’t know if the soil is exceptionally good or if the Chinese have a special talent for gardening, but so much of the surroundings are beautifully tended and sculptured. The sides of highways were often tiered with a variety of plants, parks are sprinkled among high rises and flowers are often in planters outside of homes or businesses.

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Although Xiamen has a ton of tall apartment buildings and buildings in general with the definite feel of a large population, there are also green spaces to relieve the density of the buildings.  Admittedly, there are also many buildings with laundry drying from balconies, or tall, new buildings near shorter, older ones that look near collapse, so the city doesn’t feel pristine, but instead feels very much “lived in.”

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Older buildings in foreground, newer buildings past the highway and green space mixed in.

But as I’ve said before, China is defined by both the old and new, the modern and the traditional.  Daily life is a juxtaposition of repurposing old things and embracing new ones.

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A belt driven engine of some kind.

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A young woman was pedaling these wooden crates.

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I’m not sure how this is steered.

In addition to these unique vehicles, there are plenty of new cars including some extremely expensive ones, but I would not like to navigate any of the roads myself. Lanes seems to be simply suggestions and not a hard and fast rule in China. I have never seen people drive cars SO close together, on purpose, without a bunch of horn honking. I have complete respect for the folks who drive in Xiamen!

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More cranes than Dallas!

For a while, when we lived in Texas, we used to say the state bird was the crane because there were so many building cranes being used for construction.  But I am certain there were more building cranes in use in Xiamen than I ever saw in Dallas!

Xiamen University is large complex of buildings and they are still adding facilities. I read that there are over 40,000 full time students at Xiamen University, though with such a large campus I never saw it look at all crowded although we passed it ever day on our way to the HH facility.

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Xiamen University is huge and brand new.

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All of the red roofs in the background are part of Xiamen University.

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Interesting architecture on newer buildings.

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Zoom in on the necklace, earrings and hat!

I just had to throw in this photo session we saw while visiting Piano Island.  I have no idea what the purpose of the ‘shoot’ was, but I found this woman’s whole outfit intriguing. Now I certainly wouldn’t want anyone to assume that my fashion taste was anything like that of most advertisements I see, so I am not assuming that this is representative of the average Chinese consumer. But I did love the mixture of elements in this outfit!  The bustier top combined with the socks and high heels, along with the power fist necklace and the giant earrings?! Pretty interesting.

To me, this speaks of the combination of sophistication yet playfulness I tried to allude to concerning the Chinese.

Please do NOT think I am being derogatory of the Chinese.  That is not my intention. I am simply trying to show what I observed and interpreted as a childlike quality retained by the people that I found heartwarming and likable.

One last photo…. what do you notice is missing from our hotel?

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Do you see a pattern here?

I had no idea why these floors were missing. Turns out the Chinese believe in avoiding what they consider unlucky. In this case, it is the number 4. Therefore there was not a 4th, 14th or 24th floor in our hotel.  I’m not sure how they managed to eliminate three whole floors, but it was very tricky!

In conclusion, my initial concern for my son’s safety while he lived in China changed completely after I visited him there in 2013. Today, after several additional visits to China, I have become quite fond of many aspects of it, although I do not really know much about China because when language and reading are not understood, a culture cannot truly be absorbed. The only judgement I have is based on my interaction with those who could speak to me and my general impressions and intuition, both of which were favorable.

However, even if I could speak Mandarin, I would never trade the U.S. for China. Frank and I thoroughly missed our home country.  We prefer the culture and manners of our native land and were happy to return.

Now that our last visit to the HH factory is completed, we are counting the days until Ticket to Ride will be delivered to the U.S. via container ship!

Thank you HH and Morrelli and Melvin for creating our awesome future home!

Putting Our Stamp on TTR ~ Part I

One of the benefits for us of buying an HH55 catamaran is the opportunity to customize the boat to our liking.  No doubt that Morrelli and Melvin designed an incredible boat and HH is doing a fabulous job of fabricating that boat.  But we still have been able to add our own little stamp to the boat we will receive in a few months.

Beginning on the outside and forward at the bow, here are just a few items we have changed from “the norm” on previous HH55s.

Trampoline – The standard trampoline supplied by HYM is a 1 1/4 inch knotless dyneema material that is attached with individual lashings to the many, many attachment points on the hull. The 1 1/4 inch reference relates to the size of the hole between the strands of dyneema line. This dyneema trampoline is an excellent, lightweight choice for offshore and racing, the getting there part of sailing; however, for both the getting there and the being there part of sailing we chose an alternative. We wanted a trampoline comfortable for bare feet, dog paws, knees during yoga and relaxing at anchor.  Simply put, we wanted  to make the trampoline serve as both a useful and comfortable outdoor space.  Sunrise Yacht Products to the rescue! Richard worked beyond his duty to properly size and manufacture an offshore trampoline that would have all the benefits of dyneema with a host of other advantages. We settled on the Sunrise Offshore Polyester Open Net with 3/8″ net openings and attachment grommets to match each of the hull attachment points. We are super excited to play and work on this trampoline. By moving to this trampoline we did add 22 pounds to the overall weight of TTR.

 

Left represents the weave we chose for TTR. Right is a 1″ dyneema open weave.

Generator – Hudson Yacht has been installing a 12KW Fisher-Panda generator on the previous HH55’s and this was simply a deal breaker for Frank, my favorite mechanic. We have had different gensets on previous boats; however, the Northern Lights 9KW genset on Let It Be far surpassed any generator we have owned. The NL was quiet, easy to service, incredibly dependable, and NEVER failed to start. When we sold Let It Be, the genset had over 8,000 hours, ran beautifully, and the only part we had replaced was one alternator. Frank feels that the key to the NL genset success is that it has No, None, zero green circuit boards, only relays, and it runs at 1800 RPMs not the 3200-3600 RPMs seen with the Fisher-Panda. The NL genset is about 40 pounds heavier than the FP which makes zero difference to us. Our boat, for better or worse, will be electrically demanding and we accept the need for a generator; however, we absolutely wanted a machine on which we can depend.

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A brand new Northern Lights Generator for TTR.

Bow Thruster – HH offers a bow thruster located in the starboard forepeak with a dropdown lower unit when the thruster is in use. All 3 of the previous HH55s have opted for the thruster; however, we chose to delete the thruster from TTR. Having the experience of Let It Be with no bow thruster and the fact that we expect to spend very little time coming to and from marina docks; we feel very comfortable with no bow thruster. The financial savings was big and eliminating the thruster saved us over 440 pounds!! However, we did build a monolithic patch in the forward hull allowing for easy installation of a bow thruster if desired in the future.

450 mm Extended longeron (bowsprit) – Since our sailing plans and reason for buying Ticket To Ride include a tropical circumnavigation, we realize that much of our sailing time will be spent with the wind aft of the beam. On Let It Be some of our favorite sailing days had the wind TWA at 130-170; however, we also found that to be a challenging wind direction for sail configuration. Alas, with Gino Morelli’s advice and working with our sailmaker, Matt Bridges, from Doyle NZ, we decided to extend the longeron / bowsprit by 450 mm and fly a large furled reacher from the very end of the bowsprit. This bring the headsail further forward into cleaner wind, less blanketed by the mainsail.

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Longeron installed on TTR.

Cableless Reacher – The mainsail, genoa, and self tacking staysail on Ticket to Ride will be supplied by Doyle NZ (our choice) and will be very similar in size and cut to the previous HH55s.  The reacher/Code sail is where we have changed course from the previous HH55s. Again, since tropical circumnavigation is our plan we talked at length with anyone knowledgable about appropriate sail configurations for such plans. Matt Bridges from Doyle NZ is an excellent listener and his first proposal included a cableless reacher. “What is that animal?,” we asked. In brief, a cableless reacher eliminates the very thick torque rope around which a removable, furled headsail is normally wound when furled. Instead of the 3/4 inch torque rope tensioned to sometimes over 5 tons, the cableless reacher has additional spectra and carbon fibers built into the luff of the sail and is tensioned to about 1/8 of the torque rope specs. The trade off with a cableless reacher is that it will not go upwind as well as a torque rope and will never be a Code 0 or an A1. Rather the cut is more A2 or A3. WOW, that’s exactly what we want!

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Cableless reacher production drawing from Doyle Sails.

Considering all the above features of the cableless reacher, we also did not order a gennaker at this time. We feel the cableless reacher will be much easier for us to handle alone and it provides 80% of the benefit of a gennaker. Eliminating the gennaker is a huge dollar, weight and storage savings.

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Another view of the reacher drawing.

Spade Anchor and galvanized chain – Hudson Yacht’s standard spec for anchor and chain is a Stainless Lewmar Delta anchor and stainless chain manufactured in China. I don’t know about you, but, we say thank you to our anchor every morning when we wake up to find ourselves in the same spot as when we went to bed. Let It Be was delivered with a Lewmar Delta Anchor which worked fine in ideal conditions. Sailors know that ideal conditions are seldom found! After 3 weeks on Let It Be, much anchor research, and a boat show special, we chose to give Let It Be a new Spade Anchor and we never looked back. Grass, mud, sand, wind, or any combination of the above and we were always set. So why would we want to return to the past with Ticket To Ride? TTR will be sporting a beautiful stainless 1 piece Spade anchor. Concerning anchor chain, Practical Sailor says it best, “Steer Clear of Stainless-steel Mooring Chain.” Stainless chain, in addition to being inherently weaker, suffers from crevice corrosion leading to failure with no warning. We have spec’d 10 mm galvanized Acco chain for Ticket To Ride.

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Hopefully our anchor will never land in such a shallow spot!

Watermakers – We really did not vary too far from the HYM standard Spectra watermaker. What we did change is its location. Frank and I had a love/hate relationship with the huge storage capacity below the berths on Let It Be. On the love side it allowed us to carry ample spares, tools, and toys. On the hate side it seemed like every time we needed something different it was stored below a bed requiring the removal of bedsheets, mattresses, mattress support boards followed by digging.  The watermakers on HH5501 and HH5502 were installed below the master berth…. a much less than ideal location in our opinion!  Considering filter replacement, checking for leaks and the noise generated while making water, my maintenance specialist began an earnest search for a different location. After many emails, evaluation of drawings, and support questions to Spectra, the decision was made to put the Spectra 24v Newport 700 in a purpose built compartment in the port side forepeak. The HH crew is confident this will be an excellent long term home for the watermaker due to access for service, weight distribution and water spill cleanup. Only time will tell for this untested location.

It’s very fun to share the construction of a new boat with our friends and readers. The items above really only scratch the surface of the changes we have made to TTR to meet our needs. In a future blog post(s), we will share other custom changes to solar, electronics, seating, general arrangement, and so on.

In just a few days we are heading to China for the ‘soft launch’ of TTR and we look forward to seeing her in person! During soft launch, Ticket to Ride is placed in a pond so most of her systems can be tested. Soft launch allows HH to review all of the components of boat systems and it will give us our first chance to begin learning about the systems on TTR that will be new to us. (And I get to see how the interior colors I chose actually work together. Fingers crossed!)

Many, many thanks go to the HH crew, Gino Morelli and Mark Womble (Morelli and Melvin),  Matt Bridges (Doyle NZ), Paul Hakes, and at the top of the list is Let It Be. She was much more to us than a platform for learning but WOW we did learn a lot from Let It Be.

As always, thank you for stopping by our blog. We love hearing from you, so feel free to add your comments. And if you want to hear from us more often, check out our Facebook page.

 

Do You Want to Know a Secret? (1963 Beatles Album “Please Please Me”)

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Thomas inspecting the paint job on HH55-03.

Things are really starting to Come Together on our new boat.  We couldn’t have made it Without A Little Help From My Friends (Gino Morrelli and Mark Womble of MM   and Paul Hakes just to name three).

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Working hard and taking good care of the boat.

We have driven Long and Winding Roads in our RV while HH works Eight Days A Week building the boat to our wishes and keeping up their excellent fabrication standards.

Do You Want To Know A Secret? We can’t wait to move onto our new boat and Follow The Sun. When we are out on the water, we feel good in a special way. We love to take our dinghy, Day Tripper, to shore. She never takes us half way there!

We were very happy sailing along in Let It Be and enjoyed having people spontaneously sing to us when they read the name of our boat.  So we hoped to find another Beatles song title that we liked as the name for our new boat.  Several friends suggested Yellow Submarine, but we don’t want any part of a sinking boat!

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I love the contrast between the teak steps and the hull color!

This new boat will be our Ticket to Ride the oceans and explore the seas. Yep, if We Can Work It Out, we want to circumnavigate and she will be our s/v Ticket to Ride.  

But we don’t want to be part of Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, we want our friends and family to visit us on s/v TTR! The beauty of the world is much more fun when shared with others!

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s/v Ticket to Ride is going back indoors for more work.

We thought a lot about what to name our boat and we hope this name is fun and fitting… and that it might inspire singing along the way!

Thank you so much for reading our blog.  We look forward to returning to the water and sharing those travels. In the mean time, thank you for keeping up with us as we explore the U.S. by land.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

South Water and Tobacco Cayes with our Quickest Visitors Ever.

Although we had hoped to have a few visitors this season, the changes in our location and the devastation wrought by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, plus the possible sale of LIB, caused our plans to change and discouraged visitors.

So we were very happy that our Sail to the Sun friends, Susan and Kevin, managed to adjust their plans and come sail with us in Belize. They were only able to stay for a few days, but the wind was cooperative and we had an excellent time.

Some visitors are all about the land, others enjoy the water and some are focused on the sailing aspect.  As avid and experienced sailors, Susan and Kevin were very happy the winds cooperated and we could explore under sail.  It is especially nice to have guests on board who understand sailing and all its’ capriciousness because they know we are limited by weather, wind and seas.

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Kevin and Susan are right at home at the helm of LIB.

Fortunately those three aspects came together and allowed us to sail to South Water Caye the first full day Susan and Kevin were with us.

Frank and I had “pre-visited” South Water Caye and Tobacco Caye and we were really happy to return to them and explore with Susan and Kevin.

South Water is about 12 acres in size and has pretty cottages and bars on white sand.  It also boasts an IZE (International Zoological Exploration) location on the island. IZE is best described as educational travel in the rainforest or reefs of Belize. Open to high school and university students or families interested in learning about Belize, the setting is absolutely beautiful and the marine life around South Water Caye unique.  We spoke with a group of high school students from Georgia who were having an incredible experience with IZE.

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Steps leading to the open air dining area of IZE.

 Kids who come to spend a week or two here have to suffer through these harsh accommodations! And in between snorkeling and diving excursions, the kids are stuck finding ways to entertain themselves…

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Resting after a grueling day?

So although I am poking fun, this really does seem like a very cool experience that could help raise awareness and knowledge in younger generations.  Boston University even has a facility for lab work and study.

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Yes, Boston University!

Strolling along SW Caye doesn’t take very long, but it is very pretty.

South Water Caye-5Shaded cabins, hammocks and the sound of the sea are very restful.

Even Captain enjoyed the swings at the bar.

South Water Caye-3Cappy met up with her friend Hurley again.

 

Conch shells lined the “streets” and faith is evident where the locals live.

After strolling around South Water Caye, we headed back to LIB to enjoy a relaxed afternoon and dinner on board.

South Water Caye-7Prosecco buddies.

The following day we took advantage of the shallow area on the southern end of South Water Caye where we sat in the azure water and watched Captain alternate between rolling in sand and swimming in the water.  We took turns snorkeling and sitting in the shallow water and just idling away some time in a beautiful place.

After water time, we hoisted the sails and sailed to Tobacco Caye.  It was an easy day and a great opportunity to just relax and enjoy having the boat pushed along by the wind.

South Water Caye-8So many places to relax on LIB.

Until, Cappy sounded the alert…. dolphins had come to play at our bow!

No great pics this time, unfortunately.

South Water Caye seems huge compared to Tobacco Caye which is only 200 feet by 400 feet and all of it is in use!

Tobacco Caye-8Tobacco is tiny but mighty nice!

Do not let the fact that this island is crowded discourage you from visiting! We had a great time walking around and seeing how well the space is used.  Here are some photos:

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Picturesque bungalows at the edge of Tobacco Caye.

Tobacco Caye-4An artist captured sea life.

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Not every building is in good shape but it adds character.

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Such a pretty setting and I love the matching boat and house!

Apparently seeing the wonders of the sea doesn’t get old even when you live on an island.  The local children attend school on another island so they are only home on Tobacco for the weekends.  I would find it hard to have my young children away all week long. (I find it hard to be away from my grown children!)

Tobacco Caye-5  I wonder what they see?

They were watching giant stingrays!

tobacco-1$20 for a delicious dinner at Reef’s End.

The first time Frank and I visited Tobacco Caye, we had dinner at Reef’s End Lodge. It is an upstairs, small, open air spot with one dinner seating at 6 pm.  I was surprised to learn that there was no menu ~ dinner was whatever was available that evening. At first I was hesitant about the lack of choice, but it was actually really nice to sit back, enjoy the sunset and not even concern myself with what to order.

Tobacco Caye-7Lots of activity near Reef’s End.

When Susan and Kevin were with us, Reef’s End was pretty busy and we all preferred to hang out in the water and cook on LIB instead of dinghying to a restaurant.  After walking around Tobacco Caye, we headed back to LIB for more water time.  We had snorkeled the day before at South Water, so we decided it was time to pull out the paddle boards.  Kevin and Susan have not done much SUPing, so they took the dinghy up toward the reef and anchored in the shallow area while Frank and I paddled up to them. Once we were close to the dinghy, Susan and Kevin hopped on the SUPs and paddled around the clear shallows while Frank and I swam about with Captain.

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Lounging at anchor off of Tobacco Caye.

Of course all that exercise earned us nice warm showers and sundowners on the top deck before preparing dinner.

Unfortunately, Susan and Kevin had to fly back to the States rather quickly so we didn’t have time to explore any other islands.  But happily the wind was our friend again and we had a very nice trip back to Placencia.

Our last day in Placencia, Frank and Kevin hung out on LIB while Susan and I explored the sidewalk shops I mentioned in this blog.  Susan bought a really beautiful wooden cutting board that I think will be put to use on s/v Radiance very soon.

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Fresh tamales wrapped in jungle leaves.

While walking Captain in Placencia, Frank came across someone selling tamales.  The tamales were wrapped in leaves that our Monkey River guide, Percy, had mentioned were used in cooking. So Frank bought the tamales and we shared them with Kevin and Susan….  you have to have at least one authentic meal when in a different country, right?  Anyway, it was neat to see the local leaf used for cooking and the tamales were a nice change.  The outer layer of the tamale was thicker than we were accustomed to in Texas, but I rarely complain when I don’t have to do the cooking. 😉

We were sorry to say goodbye to Susan and Kevin, but we hope to catch up with them at the Annapolis Boat Show in October.  Or perhaps they will join us somewhere along the road in Temporary Digs.

In closing, I thought I ought to include at least one sunset so you can enjoy the beauty we shared at sundown on LIB.

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Sunset on our first visit to Tobacco Caye, Belize.

~ HH55 Catamaran Update ~

In May, Frank traveled to China to take a look at our HH55 catamaran which is under construction in Xiaman.  The really good news about Frank’s visit is that everything looks great on our boat.  Similar to building a custom home, there are many unique details to every build project and sometimes communication which appears clear just misses the mark.

Happily, Frank found that our communication with HH has progressed very well and the special requests we have made look like they are being handled accurately.  However, Frank was disappointed to learn that our HH55 is behind schedule and will be delayed an additional month.  Based on what he learned while in China, we hope our new boat will be delivered to California by mid-December at the latest.

One specification we have requested on our catamaran is a different counter surface for the galley.  I guess I was spoiled by the granite we had in our home and I hoped to find a material we could use in our HH that would work well but was of a reasonable weight. Gino Morrelli suggested a product called Kerlite and we forged ahead with this tile product.  It has not yet been installed on our HH55-03, but Frank had a chance to see our selection while at the HH site.

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Kerlite ceramic tile for our galley counters.

I wanted to find a product that doesn’t scratch as easily as the surface we had on LIB and that won’t be marred if someone sets a hot pot on it. I am hopeful that Kerlite will accomplish both aims.  What do you think? Do you like the look? Do you think poured ceramic will accomplish our goal?

Thank you so much for stopping by to read our blog. We would love to hear your comments.  If  you would like to hear from us more often, please see us on FB.

 

 

S/V “Let It Be” to RV “Temporary Digs” to S/V HH55 “??”

 

libLIB, Temporary Digs and ???

So things have been just a little bit crazy around here and I thought I better jump ahead in our blog to catch up on where we are and what is happening.

P1010702So many fun times on this great boat!

We expect to close on the sale of LIB this week! (Paperwork complications.) We are both happy and sad about this. We are happy because the new owner, Deneen, will love the boat and create great memories on her. We are happy because we are moving forward with our plans.  But it is very sad to say goodbye to such an excellent boat that has taken good care of us and on which we have learned so much and had so many truly wonderful days.

IMG_5050Deneen and Danny at the helm in Kemah, TX.

We sailed from Belize to Galveston and arrived back in Texas on May 1st.  We hit the ground running and in the space of four weeks we: packed up LIB, shipped boat specific items to California, drove to Mississippi to visit Frank’s mom for Mother’s Day weekend, searched for and bought a used truck and RV,  performed final oil changes and other maintenance on LIB, Frank flew to China to check on the progress of our next boat, I drove to Dallas and back to retrieve from storage a mattress that belongs to LIB, cleaned up LIB, spent a delightful day on the water with Deneen and Danny putting LIB through her paces, moved the remainder of our belonging into “Temporary Digs” and organized it all.  Then we drove away from Galveston on May 27th.  Phew!

Of course our plan is to be back in the sailing life, but our future HH55 is delayed and will not be delivered until November or December. She will be shipped to California for final commissioning and from there we hope to head to the South Pacific.

Since LIB was our home, we had to figure out where to live until our the next boat is completed and delivered.

We had some very generous offers from various friends to stay with them, but we firmly believe the old adage, “Fish and relatives smell after three days.”  Unless, you are flying to an exotic location to visit us on our boat, of course!! Then you need to stay much longer!

So we bought an RV and truck and will spend the next several months exploring the U.S. We are calling our RV “Temporary Digs” since it be where we hang out between stays with friends and family who have invited us to visit.

Our first RV park was in Kemah, TX and was chosen strictly because it was only one mile from where LIB was docked. That RV park was not a great introduction to RV sites because it was way too crowded as this picture shows.

KemahThe tight quarters at USA Resorts Marina Bay RV Park made us question our RV decision!

Since leaving this RV park, things have improved tremendously! Our first stop was at the home of our friends Blaine and Belynda. Though they were away, they generously opened their home to us and allowed us to park in their beautiful yard.  The setting was gorgeous and the accommodations first class.  Icing on the cake was that they let us use their washer and dryer.  What more could we ask for except their company?!

IMG_3710A lush and quiet setting for Temporary Digs.

After only one night we drove to Dallas where we had a reservation at Twin Coves State Park which is only 12 miles from the home we lived in for 20 years! Dallas was a whirlwind of activity as we tried to pack in as much visiting as possible in between routine doctor visits and getting essential land toys i.e. our road bikes, from storage.

IMG_5061 2Twin Coves State Park restored our confidence in our decision to RV. 

We stayed at Twin Coves for four nights before taking off for Amarillo, TX. We wish we could have spent more time there, but the park was very full and could only accept us Monday through Friday morning. We strongly recommend this beautiful, quiet and roomy park.

IMG_5106Hardy and Dawn allowed us to stay at their ranch.

Our friends, Hardy and Dawn, have a beautiful ranch near Amarillo that includes portions of Palo Duro Canyon. Palo Duro Canyon is approximately 120 miles long with an average width of 6 miles and is the second largest canyon in the United States. The setting was unique and interesting and the house was very comfortable. But once again our hosts were not there and had simply allowed us to make ourselves at home. (I’m beginning to wonder if we are scaring away the owners?!)

The views from the ranch were absolutely stunning so I am including several!

hardy's-1First a picture with Frank and Cappy for perspective.

hardy's-4This view is great at midday, think about it at sundown or sunrise?

Hardy'sHow about that flat top and valley?

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 I just had to add one more picture from the ranch.

While staying at the ranch, we caught up on a bit of rest after such a busy May and the hectic schedule we had in Dallas. We did manage to go to Palo Duro Canyon State Park and catch the show “Texas!”

IMG_5098Guns up in Texas – though we are TCU grads, not TX Tech grads.

I don’t think there is another state with as much pride as Texas and this play portrayed that pride in spades!

hardy's-7No photos are allowed during the show, but here is the stage!

If you ever have a chance to take in this show, it is an amazing one with the canyon wall as the backdrop, live animals on stage and a mix of humor, music, integrity and patriotism.  Truly, the staging, costuming and special effects are amazing and first rate!

hardy's-5Intermission during the show in case you forget you are in Texas!

Amarillo was our last Texas stop and now we are in a fabulous RV park in Angel Fire, NM. The park is called the Angel Fire RV Resort and it is very nice. Extremely clean, large drive through pads with enough space between them to be very comfortable.  There are nice amenities including a club house, hot tub, laundry, etc and almost every day there are activities on site if you want to participate.

DSC00874Angel Fire RV Resort is a great stop.

We have spent much of our time exploring and riding bikes. Captain is thrilled to be a trail dog again, though all of us are a bit out of shape so we are trying to be a little cautious as we try to regain lost fitness.

IMG_5139Garcia Park is one section of the Epic bike ride South Boundary Trail

Frank had to convince me to go with him on this trail as I am a chicken but it was beautiful ~ especially in hindsight when I was back at the truck without a fall. 🙂  I hope we get to ride it again.

IMG_5136Dorks on wheels with pretty scenery all around.

When we bought Temporary Digs, I thought the whole fireplace thing was kind of silly so imagine my surprise when we used it our first night in Angel Fire because the temps fell to freezing! WHAT? This is not anything like living in the Caribbean! But change is good and fun.

IMG_5117Captain was perfectly happy to take advantage of the fireplace.

So there you have it. We have begun our new adventure on land and look forward to seeing the beautiful US of A  for the next several months.  We will continue the blog from land until we return to water.  We welcome you to follow along or offer suggestions for our travels.

hardy's-6Amarillo sunset because sunsets are beautiful on land as well as sea.

For a little while we will post about the end of our LIB time in Belize and back to Texas. And, of course, we will keep you up to date with the build and delivery progress of our HH55.

Thank you so much for reading our blog. We love hearing your thoughts so feel free to post a comment. And if you want to hear from us more often, please visit our FB page.

 

 

 

 

Placencia ~ Tourist or Local? A Little Bit of Everything.

Placencia provided at once a feeling of being part of the local scene and opportunities to play the tourist. The town has created two ways to progress from the public dock north to the other end of town.

The eastern path is the well known One Mile Sidewalk lined with stores, restaurants, tiny hotels and local vendors.

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Photo credit: David V Baxter/awaygowe.com

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Daily raking keeps the beach beautiful.

The sidewalk and premises are clean and new and the beaches to the shore are well tended. If you walk this sidewalk, you will find local artists have tables with wood carvings, jewelry, paintings and woven goods on display.

If you take the western path toward the north, you are immersed in feeling like a local. The dusty, dirt road sports weathered shops, small produce stands, a sports field and a few autos.  Locals stroll along and call out to one another as they go about daily life.

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Photo credit: realliferecess.com

Though they are only a block apart, the sidewalk and the street feel like different worlds. It is fun to be able to choose the experience you prefer each time you stroll through Placencia.

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Not the usual scaffolding, but it definitely works.

While in Placencia we saw a good amount of building and improvements. It appears this area is experiencing a bit of a boom. I wonder how long these glimpses into using local resources will last before being replaced by “higher tech” alternatives.

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I don’t know why they needed SO many supports while building this.

We found it interesting to see the use of indigenous materials and liked that these would naturally recycle and not add to trash issues.

Placencia has a lot to offer outside of the town too. We chose to take the Monkey River Tour so we could see the howler monkeys and some of the local beauty. Barebones Tours delivered a fabulous trip and our guide, Percy, was entertaining and informative.

Here are several pictures that attempt to capture a bit of our tour.

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This bird’s nest has a perfectly round opening!

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I see  you, Mr. Crocodile.

Belize is known to have many crocodiles and we saw several on our way to find the howler monkeys. Perhaps that nest above is empty because of this crocodile?

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Hanging nests built by gold tailed Orioles?

Percy told us that these nests were built by the largest Oriole; I think he called it the golden tailed oriole. But I have not been able to verify the identity of the builder of this nest. The bird we saw was black with a yellow tail. A yellow winged Caciques is the closest bird I have been able to find, but I am by no means well informed about birds!

Any birders know what type of bird makes these nests in Belize?

Monkey River-4

Is he smiling for the camera?

This dinosaur looking thing is known locally as the “Jesus lizard” because it runs across the water! I found him pretty creepy looking and was glad he was very small and not the size of a dinosaur!

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Watching traffic or just hanging out?

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You are very well camoflaughed Cryptic Heron.

I found an app called Merlin through the Cornell lab and, using this photograph, I learned that this is a Cryptic Heron and is actually rather rarely spotted. Since I don’t study birds, I probably don’t appreciate this little fellow as much as I should, but the picture turned out well.

Monkey River

Nothing like a termite snack to satisfy hunger!

Percy showed us several interesting plants and bugs that are eaten by locals and these termites were one of them.  Yeah, I didn’t want to spoil my appetite so I didn’t have one. )

Percy also told us about some natural remedies found among the plants and trees. It was interesting to learn about the natural remedies but I would not trust myself to know one plant from another well enough to treat any ailments!

Monkey River-2

A tree that satisfies thirst.

Percy chopped off  a small tree branch and passed it around for all of us to taste the water that flows from the center. Pretty cool.

Monkey River-8

Howler monkey!!

Just one of the many howler monkeys we saw swinging and walking through the trees above us. The guides would beat the trees and yell and the howlers would start howling! The noise was very loud and would be frightening if I was alone in the jungle! But since I was in a group and had a guide, it was fascinating to see and hear these primates.

Monkey River-15Manatee!

The tour included boating out to an area well known for manatees and we saw several of them. These slow and gentle animals have to surface for air and it was fun to guess where one would pop up next.

Frank and I don’t often take formal tours, but this one was an excellent way to see some of the local wildlife and learn a bit about them and the plants.  Belize is lush and beautiful, but it is not as well documented as some places we have visited, so this tour was really helpful in learning about the area.

After a full day of touring, we decided to explore on our own via the dinghy and we stumbled across this cool little place called Sail Fish. It is a small hotel with a swimming pool that just happens to have a bar on one end.

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Sail Fish hotel and swimming pool.

We spent one afternoon lounging there, then convinced our friends, Sue and Geoff, to join us there for BBQ and pool time later in the week.  The anchorage in Placencia is not clear and inviting like Bonaire, and it was very hot, so pool time was a great way to spend the day.

 

Sue wanted to make sure this fellow walked on by.

It appears the pool was attractive to this rather large iguana too.  He was a big ‘un and pretty interesting to look at, but we weren’t too excited about his getting any closer!

Monkey River-14

A man-made private island!

While exploring, we also saw this man-made private island. It is only a stone’s throw from Placencia and clearly they take advantage of solar power.  It is so pretty floating alone in the blue water, but I can’t imagine living there.  Perhaps it is just a vacation spot. How many people do you know who build their own island??

Placencia is easily accessible from the States and our friends, Susan and Kevin, flew in to join us for a very quick visit. These fellow sailors understand that winds are capricious and we couldn’t promise we would leave Placencia, but winds were favorable and together we explored South Water Caye and Tabacco Caye.  We packed a LOT into a four night stay. But I’ll cover that in the next post….

~HH Catamaran Update~

Exciting news about our future boat…. it is getting very close to being painted.

Unfortunately this does not mean she is close to finished! We still have another six months before she will arrive in California.  The more complete she looks the more impatient I become for her arrival!

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HH55-03 being prepared for paint.

Thank you for reading our blog. I apologize for the delayed update, but things have been extremely busy with a lot of changes. We love hearing from you, so feel free to leave us a message!

 

 

ARUBA! An Easy Place to While Away Time.

Wow, sorry for the lack of blog posts.  I would say it’s been super busy here, but that is a relative term.  We have been busy, but a lot of what we have been doing is researching things for the new boat.  (Skip to the bottom for that news.)

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Our view when anchored off Nikki Beach.

Aruba is a beautiful island with a population of a little ever 100,000 as of 2016.  The locals are extremely nice and cheerful, so we feel very welcome here.  However, the focus is certainly on the tourists who arrive via cruise ship or plane and we little cruisers are sort of an afterthought.  Which is understandable when you consider that just yesterday there were four cruise ships in port which is probably about 20,000 visitors!

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In this picture I captured 3 cruise ships and an airplane!

Checking into Aruba by private boat is a bit of an adventure. Boaters must tie up to the large commercial dock which is not well situated for a small boat.  When we arrived, the wind was beating us up against the concrete wall and the only protection besides our boat bumpers were old tires.  Let It Be came away with a lot of black tire marks on the side and we were tense the whole time we were at the commercial dock, but thankfully we didn’t have any other damage.

All of the paperwork was completed at the dock and immigration and customs came to us; but it took a while!

There are pretty much only two marinas available here and currently they are very full with boats from Puerto Rico that ran from Hurricane Maria and boaters who have escaped Venezuela.

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The Renaissance Marina.

We stayed in the Renaissance Marina for a few days before our trip to the U.S. and it is a nice place to stay. The marina is right across from all of the action of town and there are two hotels associated with the marina where we were welcome to swim and use the restrooms.

Since returning from the U.S., we have been anchored off Nikki Beach which is right next to the airport.  This is not a calm and quiet anchorage, so don’t expect flat water.  But the beach is nice and it is easy to pull the dinghy up on shore.  We have enjoyed taking Captain for walks twice a day on the beach and we have been swimming or SUPing most afternoons to get some exercise.

There are other beaches along the west coast of Aruba that are even prettier than Nikki Beach, but they are not well protected either.

We have rented a car a few times and explored most of the island by car.

Aruba-7

How many animals could survive here?

Driving around Aruba, the east coast is rugged and dry. Although years ago, there were supposedly a variety of grazing areas for cows, goats and other animals, we didn’t see any areas that looked capable of supporting cattle; and we are here during the rainy season.

Aruba-6

The east coast water was pretty but rough.

We are still considering moving up to Palm Beach on the northwest shore of Aruba so we can dive some of the shipwrecks, but much depends on the winds.

Aruba’s two largest visitor populations are from the cruise ships and repeat time share owners.  Both visitors seem to really enjoy their time here and many of the people I’ve spoken with make Aruba a multiple repeat vacation destination.

Aruba-9

Prada? Cartier? Ralph Lauren? Gucci?

I think Aruba is so popular because it is an easy place to get to and there are many familiar amenities that make it perfect for those who like a taste of home when they travel.  You will find most recognizable restaurant chains here and every upscale designer seems to have a store front.

Aruba-4

A “ying/yang” lounge chair?! Suits us pretty well.

We have certainly taken advantage of several of the restaurants and enjoyed many delicious meals here in Aruba. We have enjoyed access (by car) to very well stocked grocery stores. We have loved swimming nearly every day.

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Dinner at Elements was one of the best meals we had in Aruba!

We have also enjoyed spending time with our friends Shelly and Greg of s/v Semper Fi, who also sailed away from Puerto Rico just before Hurricane Maria.  Greg and Shelly have spent a lot of time on Aruba and they have been really helpful in learning what Aruba has to offer.

One other thing we appreciate about Aruba is that we were able to have the bottom of LIB cleaned and repainted.  LIB was on the hard for three weeks while we were traveling in the U.S. and we are very pleased with the work performed at Varadero Aruba Marina and Boatyard. Once again LIB is clean, painted and ready to sail.

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It has been pretty interesting to watch the constant coming and going of the cruise ships at all times of day and night.  More than once we have awakened to Captain barking at night and when we look outside, there is yet another ship leaving with all lights blazing.

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The picture is poor, but you can see how amazingly bright these ships are at night!

If I have to summarize my thoughts about Aruba, it is a bit like living at anchor in a small city.  If you are a city person at heart who is living on a boat, Aruba might be the perfect place for you!  Frank and I are both looking forward to getting back to a little quieter anchorage if we can find one.  Next week the wind is forecast to lighten up so we will probably leave here and sail back toward Curacao and Bonaire.

~HH55~

One upside to the HH55 is that there are many ways to customize the boat, everything from choosing aft or interior helm stations to designing the cabinets in the galley and hulls.

It is really fun to have these options but it takes a good deal of thought, planning and research.  Unfortunately when we have s-l-o-w internet, research is very time consuming.  But we are plowing along and making decisions.

The folks at HH have been very responsive to our questions and they are working hard to help us build the boat we think will work best for us when we circumnavigate.  Also, Gino Morrelli has been amazingly helpful with the details of the boat and with catching things in the renderings that we need to consider.

The very first decision we had to make was which helm station configuration we wanted: the interior, center helm station or dual, outdoor, aft helm stations.

The interior helm is a very cool feature and we thought it would be really nice to sit inside during passages and helm from indoors. Whomever is at the helm would remain part of the activities indoors and would not be isolated at an outdoor helm station. We have some concern that during ocean crossings, water could come through the trampoline and swamp the pit by the mast where lines are adjusted in the interior helm configuration.  Plus the interior helm is a great way to reduce sun exposure and help prevent skin cancer.

The outdoor helm configuration is familiar and comfortable. With dual helm stations, docking would be easier because you could be in the helm station closest to the dock so you can see easily.   Removing the helm from the salon would allow for another sitting area indoors and make the salon more open physically and visually.

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Image from HH55 layout page.

Both configurations have positive features, but for us, the dual, aft helm is our choice. When sailing LIB, Frank and I love to sit at the helm together and watch the world go by, so we have a hard time imagining ourselves sitting inside the salon as we sail.

HH and Gino Morrelli are working with us to make sure the outdoor helm station seats are comfortable and will accommodate both of us as we sail. Perfect – for us anyway.

So there you have it. Our HH55 will be the dual, aft helm stations. FYI, this was not a difficult decision. I think most people know instinctively which would be better for their preferences.

Thanks for reading our blog. If you have any questions, feel free to ask.  If you want to see what we are up to more often, please visit our FB page: Let It Be, Helia 44.

 

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