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.
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.
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…
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.
Yes, Boston University!
Strolling along SW Caye doesn’t take very long, but it is very pretty.
Shaded cabins, hammocks and the sound of the sea are very restful.
Even Captain enjoyed the swings at the bar.
Cappy 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.
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.
So 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 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:
Picturesque bungalows at the edge of Tobacco Caye.
An artist captured sea life.
Not every building is in good shape but it adds character.
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!)
I wonder what they see?
They were watching giant stingrays!
$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.
Lots 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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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Our final sunset on Bonaire.
Well it was hard to leave Bonaire and say so long to the great people we met as well as the beautiful island. We spent our last few weeks taking advantage of the wind for kiting and the fabulous reefs for diving.
We also said goodbye to many people we had the fortune to befriend while visiting. Jerome, Aga, Sebastian and Basi invited us to their home for dinner in their back yard. Aga made a delicious dinner and we enjoyed it in while watching the sun set beyond their dock as the boys played in the surf. Thank you all so much for sharing your lives, your local knowledge and your home with us!
Bonaire shirts and a mug depicting our day of sailing!
We also received this fun memento from the BSSA sailors! Now each morning we are reminded of them as Frank has his coffee. Thank you so much for the shirts and mug but mostly for welcoming us into your group.
Frank passed a Gatorade to Rudo, that day’s winner.
We loved having the BSSA kids sail by LIB and Frank often tossed them Gatorades. These memories are very special to us! Keep sailing kiddos. We look forward to hearing how you are progressing and we will truly miss seeing you sail or hearing you call to us from the shore!
In addition to leaving shore friends, we had to say so long to many cruisers. Because we were in Bonaire a long time, we made some very dear friends in the cruising community. We can only hope our wakes cross again in the future!
A huge pod of dolphins!
We left our Bonaire mooring ball for the last time on Sunday morning. Just past Klein Bonaire, we saw a large pod of dolphins in the distance. I’m guessing there were nearly 50 dolphins in the pod and we decided to turn a bit in their direction and get a little closer. Soon part of the pod came to play in front of LIB’s bow!
How cool is this?!
Perhaps 15 dolphins came to play and were cavorting just in front of us, looking up and smiling as Captain went crazy, barking at them from above.
I so wish I could jump in and swim with them.
The water was perfectly clear so I could get this picture of two dolphins swimming just below the cross beam of LIB. I, and nearly everyone I know, seem to smile any time dolphins come to play. Somehow they manage to raise the happiness level of the boat, even when we weren’t unhappy about anything!!
Our plan was to stop at Klein Curacao for three days and two nights and take the opportunity to be away from any city lights or traffic. The day we arrived, our plan looked golden. We knew there were some serious swells north of us but we hoped they wouldn’t arrive for a day or two.
A wide angle view of Klein Curacao from our mooring spot .
We grabbed a mooring ball and settled in for a quiet day. Klein Curacao has perhaps two little places to grab a lounge chair and drink. These are visited mostly by the day boat passengers and are fairly crowded until late afternoon.
Cappy’s friend is left on shore.
Frank paddled into shore with Captain and she managed to make friends with the only dog on the island. But after romping along the beach and rolling in the sand it was time to come back to LIB.
Private boats anchored off of Klein Curacao
Since we arrived on Sunday, there were several private boats from Curacao anchored or rafted up and enjoying the day. But we knew that before dark most of the boats would head back to Curacao and we would be nearly alone.
By late dusk only a few stragglers remained and they left just a little later.
The sun looks like it is melting into the ocean.
We watched the sun set from the deck of LIB and loved having a completely quiet evening. Bonaire is fabulous, but the street does have a good deal of motor noise in the evenings. It was a nice change to hear only the water playing across the beach and hear the fish jumping nearby while watching the sun wave goodnight.
The buildings on Klein Curacao have character.
While this old light house looks kind of charming, I wasn’t sure if it actually functioned, but sure enough, her beacon flashed through the night warning sailors of Klein’s shores.
We planned on scuba diving off of Klein Curacao Monday, but when Frank took Cap to shore that first morning, a group of surfers were unloading their gear. The arrival of serious surfers did not bode well for the comfort of our anchorage. Sure enough those northern waves began to roll in around 11 am. Rather than stay on Klein, we decided to finish our morning chores and head to Curacao and a protected anchorage.
Our decision was a good one as is evidenced by these surfers loving the waves on the north end of Klein Curacao as we motored by.
The waves were pretty close together.
The waves we saw were a decent size and they were expected to become larger over the next 24-48 hours.
That boat is partially hidden by the waves.
If our sons had been on board, I am sure we would have stayed on Klein so they could catch a few waves, but Frank and I aren’t surfers, so we think our decision to leave the unprotected shores of Klein Curacao and find a protected anchorage on Curacao was a good one.
So our big news is color! We have chosen the exterior paint color for our new boat. HH has kindly put together a rendering of the HH55 with an approximation of the color we have chosen.
A rendering of our pretty, unnamed, future boat.
I actually think the paint will be a slightly darker blue than this rendering shows. We are pretty excited! It seems like the HH66 owners have chosen bold and unique paint colors and the HH55 owners have chosen very subtle colors. We decided to go with something in between. How do you like our color choice?
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Bonaire has an active youth sailing group and we invited them to join us on Let It Be for an afternoon of sailing.
Fifteen kids and two adults from the Bonaire Sailing School Association boarded LIB around 2 pm. After covering a few guidelines, we released the mooring lines and took off.
LIB was in the hands of some very good sailors! It only took a few minutes to cover basic differences between the small boats the kids sail and the particulars of this catamaran, then the kids were completely ready to take the sheets, lines and throttles!
I was truly impressed with how well these sailors worked together and shared responsibilities. As is always true with a group, some children were very interested in sailing and others preferred to romp around the boat.
Once away from the mooring ball, we raised the main, unfurled the jib and sailed south toward Pink Beach. The auto winch and chart plotter were big hits. But once our sailors learned how to engage and work the autopilot, it was much more interesting to helm manually.
Any child who wanted the helm had a chance and the more experienced kids stayed right there to guide those who needed a little help.
After about an hour of sailing, we dropped the sails and grabbed a mooring ball at Pink Beach on the southern side of Bonaire. We broke out the snacks, lowered the ladder and unleashed the energy. We had already thought these kids were exuberant, but adding the snacks and allowing them to jump from nearly every surface of LIB caused the energy level to increase another watt or ten!
After a refreshing swim and plenty of sustenance, it was time to pop the chute. LIB’s spinnaker is slightly larger than the sails the kids are accustomed to and they loved letting her fly.
Our cat cruised down wind quickly and the kids monkeyed around on this smooth point of sail. Very soon it was time to drop the spin and raise the main and jib once again. Second time around for the main/jib and the kids were all over the job with little help.
I loved watching the kids access the sails, turn to Frank or me and say, “I think that main needs to come in a bit.” Then proceed to make the necessary adjustment. It is easy to see that some of these kids really have caught the sailing bug and they like their sails to be well adjusted.
Several of our sailors have folks who are expert fishermen and that knowledge has been passed along. We brought out the fishing poles and the kids worked the lines hard, but alas, we were not in prime fishing spots. Catching a fish would have been icing on a sweet day, but I’m not sure we needed the additional activity anyway!
Our awesome helmsmen and sheet handlers managed to sail around Klein Bonaire and, with only one tack, they sailed LIB on a perfect line to catch our mooring ball.
We absolutely loved having a chance to share LIB with the BSSA and having the opportunity to get to know these young people. I was incredibly impressed with so much about these kids; they were polite, they were appreciative, they were avid about learning and passionate about sailing, they cared for and watch out for one another, the older ones gently reined in the younger ones if things became unsafe or too wild, they worked well as a team, they were engaging and just plain fun! I could go on and on!
LIB has never housed as much energy as she did for those few hours with the BSSA kids on board and we loved every minute of it. (I would love to hear how other boaters have reached out to get to know the communities they visit. Please tell us in the comments.)
Thank you to the kids who participated and to Anneke and Thijs who took their afternoon to chaperone.
To the parents of this very fun group of sailors, we appreciate your trusting us with your precious children and allowing us to get to know them!
A special thank you to Anneke who took so many great pictures and videos while Frank and I were busy. We are so glad to have these photos! Also, thank you to Charles of Tusen Takk II for the group photo.
The construction of our new catamaran is moving along nicely and we continue to spend a lot of time working with the staff at HH to refine and define our future boat. It has been super fun to receive updates and a few photos from the builder showing us the progress of our boat.
She was just the bare hull when we visited in China.
Since our first visit in August, Frank has returned once to China and was able to be on board for the sea trial of an HH55 with the aft steering. That sea trial further solidified our choice for an aft helm arrangement.
Vacuum infusion of the bulkheads. (Exciting, I know)
While touring the factory, we were able to see vacuum infusion in process for another boat. Per the HH brochure, “the hull, deck and structure are all 100% carbon fiber composite foam sandwich and use post cured epoxy resin for super light, super strong structures.” It is fun to see this processing happening for our own cat.
Those partitions may be confusing to you, but to us they look like our future home.
She doesn’t look like a boat yet, but there is definitely progress being made. We worked with HH and Morrelli and Melvin to arrange the salon and galley to meet our needs and it is fun to see the one dimensional lines and boxes on paper become a reality.
Since this boat is being built in China we obviously can’t just drop by to see how things are going, so we really appreciate the progress reports generated by HH.
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If you were reading closely, you may have noticed a soft mention of a recent trip to China in one of our blog posts. And if you saw me with my kiddos, you would have noticed that Frank wasn’t with us because he was once again in China. And if you had followed us around the Annapolis Boat Show, you might have noticed that we spent a lot of time on one particular sailboat.
And IF you put all of that together, you might have guessed that we have decided to buy a new boat! W H A T ? ? ? ?
Yep, it’s true.
She doesn’t look like much ~ yet!
Here is the skinny. We love our Helia and think that LIB is a well built, comfortable sailboat. We have put a lot of work into her to make her function perfectly for us and make sure she is reliable, capable and prepared for long passage making.
So why would we change boats? The truth is that we want a boat that is faster than LIB. We have been discussing the idea of circumnavigation and I am in favor of having a sailboat that can make long passages shorter. I like the idea of being “out there” less time and being anchored and exploring longer.
LIB is absolutely blue-water ready and very capable for circumnavigating. But honestly, we have been looking for a boat that can sail upwind, can sail faster and sails well in light winds. We love to sail and we want a sailboat that can comfortably tick off 230 miles per day with a crew of 2.
After months of discussion, we had narrowed our focus to three boats; the Outremer 5X, the Balance 526 and the HH55. Because we did not have an opportunity to sail any of those boats, our research stalled until May of this year. Apparently in May all of the stars aligned just perfectly because in the space of two weeks we had the chance to sea trial and carefully evaluate all three of these boats.
The Outremer, the Balance and the HH each have some excellent features, are solid boats and are performance oriented. But after reviewing our options and sailing goals, and after sailing all three boats, Frank and I were hooked on the HH55. Full carbon construction, cutting edge hull, daggerboard and rig design as well as full customization options are just some of the many features that set the HH apart from other performance catamarans.
We spent a lot of time working with Gino Morrelli, renowned naval architect of Morrelli and Melvin, and with Mark Womble, broker extraordinaire, discussing the HH55 and what we wanted in a new boat. We had conversations and e-mails with Paul Hakes of Hudson Hakes Yacht Group talking about our interests and questions.
In August we flew to China, visited the HH factory, created a preliminary interior layout, then pulled the trigger. We signed a contract and officially placed our order for an HH-55!
Frank and Paul make it official!
Frank and I recognize that sailing the HH will certainly be more complicated than sailing our Helia, but we have always enjoyed challenging ourselves mentally and physically, and we believe this boat will further our sailing experience and knowledge.
Minnehaha, HH55-01! (Photo courtesy of HH Catamarans)
The HH55 has been designed with performance and comfort in mind and we believe this sailboat fulfills both of these roles very well. Our plan is to take delivery in Long Beach, CA, spend six to 12 months getting to know our new boat and making sure all of the systems work well, then set off for our circumnavigation.
HH55-01 sports an inside helm station.
As with all changes, there is great excitement and a pretty large dose of nervousness. We have absolutely loved Let It Be and she has been a sturdy and steady vessel. It will be very hard (read sad) to let her go, so we hope to find buyers who will love her and care for her as well as we have. Let It Be has brought us much joy and I’m sure whoever owns her next will create equally wonderful memories!
So there you have it; we are making some changes, expanding our experience and looking forward to the delivery of our HH55 sailboat.
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