After a 15 hour flight we arrived in Xiamen, China at 6 am. Between a long flight and flying into a whole new day, we could have been tired, but our excitement to see Ticket to Ride in the water and ready to sail precluded any fatigue.
HH has been extremely generous on all of our visits and provides us with transportation so we never have to try to communicate our destination to a driver. A car arrives at our hotel, we say hello (almost the extent of our Mandarin) and we are whisked away to our destination.
This trip was no different and a driver picked us up at the airport. As soon as we dropped our luggage at the hotel and picked up Gino Morrelli, who had arrived the previous day, we headed out to see TTR.
China blends ancient and modern everywhere you look.
It was quite a thrill to see our boat floating in the harbor waiting for us to climb aboard! The culmination of more than a year of planning and monitoring the construction of our future home was incredibly exciting for us.
We have spent hours with Gino and Mark, of Morrelli and Melvin, refining the boat for our cruising needs and for sailing TTR with just Frank and me on board. Frank spent countless hours reviewing drawings HH created as the boat was being constructed. Thomas, Ricardo, Emma, James, Taka, Jessica and so many, many others at HH poured untold numbers of hours into actually fabricating this vessel and we were finally going to sail her!
The weather was a bit overcast, but the winds were perfect for our purposes. The first day we had light breezes, the second day were a little stronger and the third day the winds gusted as high as 23 knots. The progressive increase in the wind was perfect for testing the rigging on Ticket to Ride. Matt, from Rigging Projects, was on board with us the first three days examining and tweaking the rigging to make sure everything was stable and strong.
TTR flying the full main and solent.
Mark, with Doyle Sails, joined us for a bit to review the fit of our new canvas. With the exception of a few minor changes needed on our mainsail, we are extremely pleased with the fit of our new Doyle sails.
Frank, Mark and Matt messing with sails.
After Matt was comfortable with the rigging, and we had spent two days progressively testing the boat, Gino, Thomas, Matt and James took advantage of the winds and pushed TTR a bit to see what she could do.
TTR felt solid and stable even at 19.5 knots!!!
And sail her we did!! As you can see from the screen shot above, we managed to get TTR moving along nicely. This shot was taken while we were sailing the full mainsail and the solent…. imagine if we had had the reacher up?!
David and Frank discussing boats as Gino helms.
The final day of sea trials, Frank and I had a chance to “take the reins” on Ticket to Ride. Thomas walked us through raising the main and furling the solent and reacher. We certainly weren’t race boat crew fast, but we did manage to accomplish the tasks. Fortunately we didn’t have any issues, but I can tell you that TTR is ready to run! She can load up quickly and we will have to be very aware of changing wind conditions as TTR will ramp up much faster than Let It Be did.
HH is very conscientious about caring for our boat. The interior and exterior cushions are still wrapped in plastic, the floors are protected with cardboard, the cabinetry tops are protected, etc. As a result, I don’t have interior shots to share, but we are very pleased with the quality of the workmanship…. and with the colors we have chosen.
One of the challenges HH is facing right now is that the marina they used for sea trials is closed due to some financial issues. The result is that TTR is moored in the harbor and two people from HH stay on board at all times. Another example of the level of care taken to protect the HH boats.
Ricardo didn’t want to risk having the mooring ball damage or scratch TTR, so he wrapped the whole mooring ball in padding. I captured this shot of him refining his work.
Ricardo wraps the mooring ball to protect the boat.
The closure of the marina also makes access to the boat more challenging. Almost every time we went to TTR, we met the dinghy at a different spot on land. Frank and I actually find these changes funny and interesting, though I guess some people might be annoyed by it. Still, each time we catch the dinghy at a different location we are driven through a new and interesting part of Xiamen, so we kind of enjoy the adventure of not knowing what to expect each day.
Here is a picture of the steps we had to climb down to get into the bow of the dinghy our first day in Xiamen. Isn’t this a kick?!
That is our driver watching from above to make sure we are safely aboard.
While there are still a few bugs to iron out and finishing touches to complete, we are extremely happy with our HH55. We can hardly wait to actually move on board and resume our life as live aboard sailors.
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After Susan and Kevin left us in early April, it was time to leave Placencia and move north through Belize and begin watching for a weather window to make the leap to Galveston, TX. Originally we planned on stopping at Isla Mujeres, Mexico, but we had heard all kinds of things about the complications of checking into and out of Mexico. We were only going to have a day or two to visit there, so we decided to skip Isla Mujeres this trip. Our thought is that we will have a lot of time in Mexico on the western side when we move south from California on the new boat, so our visit would wait.
Anyway, instead of spending two days in Mexico, we decide to stay a bit longer in Belize and see a couple of islands on our way north. We set out from Placencia and sailed about 29nm to Twin Cayes. We were the last boat to arrive in this beautiful anchorage because we had waited until late in the morning to leave Placencia to make sure a weather system had passed. Also, we think overnight passages inside the barrier reef of Belize are a bad idea because the charts are poor and there is a lot of shallow water.
Three other boats were anchored in Twin Cayes
Twin Cayes is very well protected and an excellent place to hide from weather as evidenced by one of the boats which had been anchored there for three days before we arrived. There was a pretty decent wind storm predicted along with unruly seas and Twin Cayes was a prefect hiding place.
The next morning we left Twin Cayes and sailed 41nm to Dronwed Cayes. Drowned Cayes is another island of mangrove trees with inlets running through it and no development that we saw. We meandered through the twisting inlet, closely watching our depth sounder since our charts were unreliable or unmarked, and found a perfect spot to drop anchor.
Once anchored, we grabbed our masks and fins and jumped in the water to see if we could get close to the dolphins that were playing near the boat as we settled the anchor. Frank was the first in and I quickly followed. But just as I was beginning to swim toward the dolphins, Captain jumped in the water to give chase as well.
Cappy was not going to help us get close to the dolphins, so I grabbed her and we swam back to LIB. Frank continued toward the dolphins, but they quickly swam away.
Although this panoramic picture is a little distorted, it offers a good view of Drowned Caye.
Drowned Caye was perfectly quiet and we felt like we were all alone in an undiscovered land. We pulled out the SUPs and explored some of the narrow fingers of water until they dead ended or exited to the ocean. What a delightful end to a fairly long day of sailing.
The red route to Caye Caulker and the yellow was a very challenging route out of the reef.
The next morning we picked up early and headed toward Caye Caulker. The route we took from Drowned Cayes to Caye Caulker had a several shallow spots and we had to pick and choose our way through the water including a skinny cut at Hicks Caye where we passed two barges coming the opposite direction. I am very thankful that we have a good amount of experience reading the water. It certainly augments chart information and the depth sounder!
Caye Caulker has charming streets and few automobiles.
Caye Caulker was absolutely delightful! This was by far our favorite stop in Belize. Although we were watching for a weather window, we enjoyed a week on this pretty and laid back island. Cay Caulker is small, but has a ton of things to offer. Along the dirt streets are plenty of shops and small groceries, restaurants and tour companies. The people were happy and very welcoming!
Stressless Tours was excellent!
We chose to take a snorkeling tour from Stressless Tours and we had a perfectly amazing day. Everyone we interacted with from Stressless was positive, welcoming and accommodating. Our day began with a stop to see a seahorse hanging out by a peer, which was great since that brought my seahorse in the wild count up to three.
Our day with Stressless included a stop to swim with manatees, with specific instructions that we were not pester or approach the manatees.
All together we stopped in five places during our tour and got in the water in three of them. Our guides were superb! They jumped in the water with us and pointed out all kinds of coral and fish, teaching about their surroundings and sharing their efforts to protect the reefs and marine life.
Mr. Manatee is very chill!
We were extremely impressed with Stressless Tours. They even asked us to refrain from using sunscreen and they provided a special lotion which is designed with protection of the reefs in mind. It is great to see a forward thinking company like Stressless.
The fish are cool, but I loved that turtle!
Plenty of fish and sharks where another boat was chumming.
Because of the storm system just prior to our arrival at Caye Caulker, there were no other boats in the anchorage when we arrived. But there was plenty (in a positive way) of activity with fishing, snorkeling and diving boats coming in and out of the area.
This boat carrying cinder blocks to a building site motored past us one morning.
We heard that San Pedro, an island right next to Caye Caulker, was a lot like Caye Caulker before it became so populated so we took a 20 minute ferry ride to that neighboring island to see it for ourselves.
It didn’t take long to decide we much preferred the less crowded and slower pace of Caye Caulker to the hectic crowds of San Pedro. We rented a golf cart and found San Pedro teeming with cars, bikes and golf carts.
Sorry it’s blurry….no stopping for pics without getting honked at!
We did find a very pretty Catholic Church in San Pedro and we took a minute to look inside and be thankful for the opportunity to explore so many places.
San Pedro Roman Catholic Church
We drove the golf cart from one end of the island to the other and stopped at a poorly attended market where we didn’t find anything we wanted to buy. But we did chuckle when we found a Boomer Sooner graduate had set up a cafe! Of course we sent a picture to our youngest son who graduated from the University of Oklahoma.
A taste of Oklahoma in Belize!!
Pretty quickly we decided to head back to the ferry dock and return to Caye Caulker where the vibe was slower and more laid back. Since we had to wait an hour or so for the ferry we took refuge at Palapa Bar. I can definitely see the appeal of this bar where you can order a drink from your inner tube and have it delivered from a bucket on a pulley system!
Definitely bring your swim suit if you stop at the Palapa Bar!
Back in Caye Caulker, we decided we should sign up for a dive tour since this would be our last opportunity to dive for quite a while. We found a very good tour company and signed up for a two tank day.
We saw a fish ball/circle. Pretty cool.
This grouper came right up to me while filming.
Oh hello! Mr. Shark came swimming right toward me from over this reef.
The reef walls created a canyon like feeling underwater.
I’m turning to keep this shark in view….no sneaking up behind me, please!
The bar by The Split.
After a day under water, we decided to relax in the sun and hang out at a bar near “the split.” The split is where, in 1961, Hurricane Hattie caused a break in Caye Caulker Island. The locals use the split to boat to the opposite side of the island and a smart business man opened a bar where folks can hang out. The split is a perfect place to grab a drink, watch people enjoy the water and check out shallow draft boats going through the channel.
Our time in Caye Caulker was a fabulous way to end our time in Belize. We couldn’t have asked for a more relaxed and comfortable place to prepare for our passage to Texas. If you have a chance to visit Belize, make sure Caye Caulker is on your list of places to spend a few nights!
Sunset from the anchorage at Caye Caulker.
Next time I’ll talk about our passage from Caye Caulker to Galveston. We had a great sail, but we definitely had some interesting times. And the beginning of our journey getting out of the Belize Barrier Reef was a bit of a challenge!
Thank you for reading our blog. We appreciate your taking time to share our travels. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.
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?
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.
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.
Photo credit: David V Baxter/awaygowe.com
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.
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.
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.
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.
This bird’s nest has a perfectly round opening!
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?
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?
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!
Watching traffic or just hanging out?
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
So the last blog was short on pictures and long on words because there aren’t many things to take photos of when out on a passage. But the eastern islands of Belize were beautiful and I took a few pictures to make up for the lack of photos in the last blog.
Long Cay in the distance with the rim of the reef visible (the brown coral and white sand).
If I were to think of Belize as a person, I would say that Belize is a bit shy and hides her qualities so that one must try hard to get to know her. I think of the line from the movie Shrek where Shrek tells Donkey that ogres are like onions, they have many layers.
I think Belize is also like an onion. She is not well documented and you must either spend time finding the best water spots or make friends with people who are willing to share the secrets of Belize.
Although we don’t have enough time to uncover the layers of Belize, we have seen many beautiful places and the people of Belize have been wonderfully friendly and happy.
Here are some photo highlights of our first two islands in Belize:
Captain’s first trip to shore after our passage. That is a happy Cappy!
Strolling along the sand road on Long Cay you can see the island is lush.
Long Cay was a welcome sight and we all enjoyed walking on the stable island instead of on the boat. It was a hot day but the shade of the trees really helped reduce the temperature.
Crop circles in the ocean?
We decided to move over to Half Moon Cay which is only about a 40 minute motor. The island is a preserve for turtles, birds and marine life.
The aqua, shallow water of Half Moon reminded us of the Bahamas.
Walking the path to the bird observatory on Half Moon Cay
Fluffy headed baby bird.
There are a ton of Frigate Birds and Red Footed Boobies on the Half Moon. The observatory is right up in the trees and it is easy to observe the nests. Some of the Frigates still had inflated gular pouches. Male Frigates inflate their bright red pouches to attract the females. I wrote a little about the Frigate birds when we visited Barbuda.
Tents for rent on Half Moon Cay.
Since Half Moon is a sanctuary, it is not developed, but there is a research center and these tents are available for rent. I spoke with a person staying in one the island and he told me he was part of a NatGeo tour and this was one of their stops.
Arial view of the tent area on Half Moon Cay.
Doesn’t a NatGeo tour sound like a really cool way to travel and learn about the area you are visiting?
A ship wrecked on the reef outside Half Moon.
After a few hours on land Frank and I decided it was time to cool off, so we snorkeled from LIB toward a wreck out by the reef. The coral was in good shape but we didn’t see very many fish…. except the shark that I saw while Frank was swimming elsewhere!!
LIB on a mooring at Half Moon Cay.
Unfortunately, the wind direction shifted and came out of the north which made the anchorage much too bumpy, so we moved back to Long Cay. We would have preferred to stay a bit longer at Half Moon and scuba dived to explore under water.
We have a bit of a schedule to keep thus we don’t have time to really linger in Belize, so we upped anchor and headed to our next planned stop at South Water Cay. South Water is a darling island with several resorts on it. We returned to South Water later, so I’ll share those pictures in another blog.
Except for this one!
My first seahorse in the wild!!
Every single time we dove in Bonaire I looked for seahorses and every time I failed to find one. But on our third stop in Belize, at South Water Cay, I saw a seahorse right by the dock!! Of course I would never have spotted him myself. I noticed a man pointing out something in the water from the dock and it was this seahorse. I didn’t even get in the water to see him!
In addition to South Water Cay, we stopped at Tobacco Caye and at Hideaway Cay. We revisited both South Water and Tobacco with friends and I’ll cover those islands in the next blog.
Our final stop before heading into Placencia was at Hideaway in the Pelican Cays. The only people on the island are Dustin, Kim and their daughter. Dustin and Kim actually built their home, dock and restaurant/bar themselves over several years. They live on Hideaway for like six months of the year, then they go back to their home in Florida. I absolutely cannot imagine how much work is involved in building on these islands and how hard it is to prepare your home to leave it for six months. In these salty, harsh conditions, the repair necessary upon return must be great!
Part of the Hideaway.
Maintenance thoughts aside, Hideaway was lots of fun. The crew of three other boats were at the bar and four of them also stayed for dinner. The six of us were seated at one table and shared a delicious dinner of fish Dustin caught and Kim prepared. This was the second restaurant we visited in Belize and at both places, you make the reservation and you eat whatever dish is served. That certainly saves time reading a menu and trying to decide what to order! I rather enjoyed not making a choice and I know my eldest son would really like that feature too!!
At Hideaway everyone was served fish, but it was a variety of species. I had sheepshead for the first time, while Frank was served snapper and someone else had hogfish. Everyone seemed to enjoy his meal. When I first spied Hideaway, I was a little skeptical, but after enjoying the atmosphere and food, I would definitely recommend it!
This tiny piece of sand was all we could find for Captain one night.
For those who have dogs on board, Dustin and Kim have two dogs and I don’t think they would like other dogs on their turf. Better to take your dog to this little bit of sand pictured above. This island is across from mooring balls Hideaway generously installed for visitors.
So there you have our first few days in Belize. Now we are off to Placencia to meet Susan and Kevin, friends we made on the 2016 Sail to the Sun Rally. We are super excited for them to visit!
Just a gratuitous sunset.
A special thank you to Frank for flying his drone and capturing a couple of pictures of Half Moon Cay. The arial photos are such a cool way to get a better feeling the beauty of these islands and the water.
~HH55 Catamaran Update~
When we decided to buy the HH55 rather than other boats on our list, one big factor was that the HH is made of carbon fiber. We knew that with a larger boat, strength of materials becomes increasingly important and that carbon fiber brings strength without an increase in weight.
Because carbon fiber is the current darling of light, strong sailboats, I decided to ask preeminent marine architect and the designer of our HH55, Gino Morrelli, to offer insight into why carbon fiber is so valuable. (Read this article from March 2017 for more information about Gino’s thoughts on performance catamarans.)
I asked Gino if he could tell me, in a few sentences, why he prefers carbon fiber and he quickly shot back this response:
2. High specific strength (strength divided by density) Carbon is 2-3 times stronger than E-Glass ie, we can use half as much carbon to equal the same strength! less resin too! Lighter boats, more payload..
3. Extremely low coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE) boat does not grow and shrink in hot and cold weather. Again the windows and deck hardware stay put, and leak less…”
Post cure completed on our HH55.
If post cure is complete, can paint be far behind? Nope!
We anticipate our hull will enter the paint booth for the external paint application in mid-May. I’m excited to see her when she is all gussied up and sporting her color.
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Curacao to Belize. More than a thousand miles at sea. Nervous? Yep. Ready? Yep.
We left the ‘big city’ of Curacao around 1pm on Thursday, March 22nd. Ideally, we would have left much earlier in the day to allow us the greatest number of daylight sailing hours for our passage to Belize and to give us a better chance of arriving in Belize during daylight.
The view leaving Willemstad, Curacao.
However, our satellite communication system, IridiumGo, was delayed at the Customs office in Curacao for over a week! By the time we received the system and had it up and working, we were very ready to leave; thus our midday departure.
Using a weather prediction application called Predict Wind, we anticipated this trip would take approximately 7.5 days. Our experience in the past has shown that we often are a bit faster than predicted, but I always mentally prepare for a slightly longer than expected trip. That way arriving early or on time is lagniappe.
When we exited the canal of Willemstad, the seas were a bit rough and mixed, probably a combination of the wind, current and land mass. The wind was quite sporty with seas of five to nine feet and we immediately put up our main and jib to begin our trip.
Sunset on our third night at sea.
As is usually the case, the first 24-36 hours of a passage, I have to reestablish my sea-legs. This means that Frank takes the bulk of the work and watches during this time. Thankfully I was not sick, but I can get a little queasy so I limit my activity to mostly sitting at the helm or sleeping the first day. I am very lucky Frank is exceedingly patient and supportive as I acclimate. Plus he is usually pretty jazzed when we set out, so his energy is high while mine is a bit low.
After the first day, I felt a bit better and I improved as the trip progressed. We were extremely fortunate with the wind and seas this trip and were able to sail the whole time. We flew the full main and jib during the day, then reefed at night as a safety precaution.
The wind was a little more east than was forecast which resulted in a slightly more downwind sail, especially after the third day at sea. However, even with less north in the wind than was predicted, we managed this whole trip with zero engine hours! That is pretty exciting.
We were making very good time Thursday through Tuesday and hoped we might arrive the afternoon of Wednesday thus making 1200 nm in less than seven days. We even managed to have a 200+ nautical mile day on LIB.
Our average speed was a very nice 7.8 knots for the trip until Tuesday when the winds dropped significantly. And as the wind fell, so did our average speed. In one day our average dropped .6 knots.
With our speed in decline, we knew we would not be able to reach our planned anchorage in daylight so in the early hours of Wednesday we had to slow down significantly. Of course, once our destination was out of reach for Wednesday, the wind kicked into gear! All of Wednesday afternoon and night plus Thursday morning the wind was consistently 25knots!
This tiny bit of jib is the only sail we had up our last night of the passage.
We dropped our main sail and had only a tiny piece of the jib out and still we were moving along at 5 knots. In fact, we were unable to slow down enough to arrive in daylight and ended up having to sail back and forth outside of the reef surrounding the anchorage at Long Cay, part of the Lighthouse Reef of Belize.
The tracks show how many times we sailed back and forth waiting for daylight.
I laugh when I see the tracks LIB made on our chart. For two hours, until the sun was high enough for us to see into the water, we tacked back and forth outside the reef. When we were finally able to see a bit into the water, we furled the jib and motored through a break in the reef and into the anchorage.
Sunrise with Long Cay to the left and Half Moon Cay in the distance.
Frank and I agree that even though this was an excellent passage, it felt great to drop anchor and feel the boat settle into a gentle rocking motion protected from the ocean waves. After seven days of constant motion in the waves, it was really nice to be almost still!
People wonder what we do to occupy our time while on passage, after all, there is no internet, it is just Frank and me and we are in a rather confined space. I will not say the time just flies by, but the days don’t drag past either.
Sunrise was a welcome sight as we waited to enter the anchorage.
Audio books are my go to entertainment while on a passage. I had downloaded four books for this trip but sadly two of them had download issues! Sometimes I listen to music as I observe the night sky and ocean. The moon was waxing this trip and added so much light to our night watches that we cast a shadow when outside. Plus the ocean is dazzling at night as bioluminescence sparkles in the waves created by LIB. I find night watches are the perfect place for prayer as well. How can I not spend time in prayer when I am surrounded by the vastness and beauty of God’s creation?
Some afternoons we played cards and this trip we taught Captain how to play five card stud. But she is one lucky dog and Frank and I got really tired of loosing to her! I think it was all beginners luck.
This is a boat, so there are things to be maintained and passages are a good time to tackle things like scrubbing the cushions of our portable chairs. Fun abounds aboard!
Captain was a champ during our passage. I really don’t know how she can sleep as much as she does but anytime one of us was downstairs sleeping, she was right there on the floor nearby! When awake, she kept herself busy barking at imaginary things, spotting dolphins and asking for treats.
I’m not sure what this swallow was doing so far from land.
This cute little bird came to rest on LIB during our passage. We were glad to offer him a respite from his flight. I cannot imagine how far he had come before resting with us!
We also saw dolphins three times but the pictures were lousy…capturing moving dolphins in rough seas on a moving boat ~ yeah, the pictures weren’t good!
So that is the long story of our passage to Belize. We are very thankful for the safe passage and the great conditions. And we are grateful for calm anchorages!
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When we first sailed to the entrance of Willemstad, Curacao, the sky looked like a movie depicting the pitfalls of pollution. The combination of the brightly painted buildings, the smokestacks emitting greenhouse gases and a few gathering rainclouds made us wonder if we were sailing into a grisly movie set recreating the industrial age! Our first impression of Willemstad was negatively affected.
The walking bridge swings open to allow LIB access.
But in fairness to Curacao, during the remainder of our stay, the sky was mostly clear and blue and that first sky was the worst one by far. On a positive note, Curacao has an active group called GreenTown that is working hard to raise awareness among Curacao citizens, children and industry of the opportunity (read need) to clean up the island. This is a very important step and one of the only groups we have seen in the Caribbean trying to affect change! So, even though Curacao has an issue right now, there is hope that GreenTown will manage to make a big impact on the future of the island.
As you know from our last blog, we moved to Curacao to meet Deneen, who has bought LIB. Our first few days were spent preparing for the survey and haul out, then meeting Deneen and her broker, Robert. (We were very impressed by Robert and thought he did an excellent job.) Kind of surprisingly, we had a great time with the haul out and survey and especially getting to know Deneen. The fact that Curacao Marine did such a careful job lifting LIB made the whole process much easier.
Every boat owner gets a little jittery watching his boat lifted out of the water and over concrete! But LIB was carefully tended and the survey went well, so our girl was only out of the water for about an hour.
At the end of a fairly long day, Deneen, Robert, Frank and I went to dinner at Kome in Willemstad. The dinner was excellent and the company even better. It was super fun getting to know Deneen and Robert over a relaxed dinner.
Deneen agreed to join us the following day for a stroll around the quaint shopping area of Willemstad. The pictures will do more justice to the walking area than I will….
Willemstad along the canal.
This picture shows a bit of the walking bridge that crosses the canal and is shown above as it opened for LIB to enter.
Frank and Deneen strolling along; probably talking boats.
Pretty examples of the colorful buildings.
Lucky for us, Deneen had been to Curacao and remembered this cute restaurant from her previous visit. She didn’t get a chance to try Mundo Bizarro on her last visit so we agreed we had to make it happen this time. Great choice as the food was excellent. I should have taken a picture of the bar inside. It is worth a look if you are ever nearby!
Aren’t these great?
I have no idea what this building actually is, but I loved the artwork and had to capture it.
“Lock your love on the Punda Love Heart.”
Although I do not know how effective it is to lock you love on the “Punda Love Heart,” it seems to be a popular thing to do. What happened to setting your love free and if it comes back to you it is yours forever? Different cultures or do we live in a possessive era? Just kidding ~ that is way too deep for my frivolous blog! 😉
Just a little wave action in the harbor.
The first 10 days in Curacao, the wind just howled! The water was kicking up so I thought I would try to show the power demonstrated in these waves.
But really, a still shot doesn’t capture the strength of the water and wind.
After Deneen flew back to Texas and the survey was completed, we had a few days to chill and drive around Curacao. Frank and I find it interesting that in the two weeks we have been on Curacao, we have rented a car perhaps six days. During our whole stay in Bonaire we only rented a car four days. This alone demonstrates how different each island is for a cruiser!
Eveline sent this pic of Cap searching the tall grass in the yard.
Captain went to stay with Eveline of Yuka’s Dog Services & Training because we didn’t want her wandering around, untended during the haul out and sea trial. Eveline is fabulous and I strongly recommend her for boarding your dog and for training or agility classes. Cappy had a great time and came home happy and tired.
We wanted to take Captain with us while we explored the islands since she had been away for a couple of days. Unfortunately all of the beaches and the national park we saw prohibited dogs!
This made for an abbreviated day but we did get a chance to see the island, take a few pictures and have lunch.
Fishing boats at anchor.
Although here at Curacao Marine the water is not pretty, Curacao does have some beautiful beaches.
A perfectly protected bay for swimming.
The sand was fine and white and the water crystal clear, but very few people were swimming. Instead they were stretched out on lounge chairs or hiding from the sun in the shade, enjoying a good read.
If Cappy had been allowed on the beach we would definitely have been in that water!
One last fun sight we found was a darling kids’ playground where the nature had been decorated or painted to make it look like a sea-scape. Look how clever this artist is!!
What a creative and happy place to play!
Currently we are waiting for our new IridiumGo to be released from customs so we can begin our journey back to Texas. Unfortunately, between eZone and Customs, our package has been seriously delayed! We await the release of our new IridiumGo and we won’t leave Curacao without it. Two thumbs down on this delayed delivery!
For those who don’t know, IridiumGo is a satellite communication system that allows us to access weather and send limited e-mails while in the middle of the ocean. A very important safety measure that we want to have working for our passage from Curacao to Belize since it is about 1,200 nautical miles! We will be at sea for approximately seven nights and we want to use the IridiumGo to update the weather.
Until the IridiumGo is up and running, we will simply wait in Curacao and enjoy our surroundings.
Now that Let It Be is sold, we will be even more anxious to take delivery of our new catamaran. We are working very closely with HH to set up our boat so it will work well on long passages with only Frank and me on board and for continuing our lives as sailboat cruisers.
I absolutely cannot stress enough how important it has been to have Morrelli and Melvin working with us on the purchase of this boat. Gino Morrelli has been an amazing resource and we are thankful beyond words for his guidance and help! (And patience!)
On his recent visit to China, Gino sent us a couple of picture of our HH55 in construction, including this one of the master cabin bed area. I really like the large window at the head of the bed and along the outboard side in our master cabin.
Here is our aft, port stateroom area under construction.
The completed room looks a lot prettier as seen here on Hai Feng, HH55-02.
When we visited HH55-01, Minnehaha, in Ft. Lauderdale a year ago, owners Deb and Doug were very generous in allowing us to poke around their beautiful boat. While Frank was opening every engine and electrical compartment, I took myself off to the master hull to check out a few of my own “wanted” items. Sitting up in bed and reading is a luxury I have missed, so I was delighted to see there is a generous headboard/backrest on the HH55 ~ perfect for reading. And I love that I will be able to see outside while reading in bed!
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The documents are signed, so now I can tell you that the reason we moved to Curacao was to meet the prospective buyer of LIB, take her on a sea trial and have our boat surveyed.
I am happy to report that all went well. Our floating home passed inspection with flying colors, the buyer loved Let It Be and our home has been purchased.
As LIB was lifted out of the water a man watched how she sat on the trailer. (See him?)
We were very impressed with Curacao Marine, the yard that pulled LIB out of the water for the dry portion of the survey. The men were extremely professional and careful about the haul out process. The trailer is well maintained and they even put plastic over the support pads so LIB would not have any scuff marks. One of the guys was in the water using a controller to manipulate the support pads precisely where they needed to be under LIB. We have been very impressed with Curacao Marine during our stay here!
The surveyor had a few minor comments about Let It Be which we have already addressed. The starboard engine was vibrating a bit at idle and we had a Volvo mechanic address that issue. We actually thought the idle setting of both engines was a little low, so while the mechanic was here, he adjusted them to meet the Volvo specifications. The tiller arm on the port rudder was a little loose, so Frank went to work and fixed it the very next day! The surveyor came back by and has inspected and approved that work already!
No moss growing here!!
We are very pleased with the results of the survey of Let It Be and if I were buying a boat that received this kind of report, I would be thrilled. Big kudos to Frankly for his excellent and detailed care of our boat!
Ironically, the person who has bought LIB is a woman I had “met” through the FB group Women Who Sail. We had texted a couple of times about a few subjects over the last year or two. (But she didn’t realize LIB was my boat when she decided to make an offer!) She is also friends with our friends, Amy and David of s/v Starry Horizons (who have the excellent blog and vlog Out Chasing Stars.) AND! our buyer lives in Texas, so we have that excellent connection as well.
An evening sail in Bonaire. Thanks for the pic, Clayton.
During our discussions about selling LIB, we agreed to deliver the boat to Galveston, Texas which will be her future port. Frank and I think this is a great arrangement because it saves our buyer the expense of having LIB delivered, we get to explore the western Caribbean along the way, and we can return to the U.S. via boat instead of airplane.
Arriving by boat is much easier than flying with Captain!
Per our agreement, we will arrive in Galveston by May 15th. This gives us ample time to find excellent weather windows and allows us to explore a few anchorages along the way to Texas. This May delivery time frame allows us to break up the 2260 nautical mile trip from Curacao to Texas into several shorter passages.
Our tentative plan for returning to Texas is to make three stops between here and Galveston. The first leg will be to the San Blas Islands of Panama; about 650nm. The second leg to Belize will be approximately 760nm. From Belize we will sail to Isla Mujeres, Mexico which is a quick 200nm. And our final leg to Galveston will be about 650nm.
Needless to say we are happy and sad about the sale of Let It Be. She is a fabulous boat and has taken great care of us. We have had very few issues with LIB and we have made many changes to make her perfect for our sailing needs.
It’s hard to let go of a boat that is in great shape, sails well, has been our home, and functions well for our purposes! (Plus I still love the cushions we had made for the cockpit and helm area!)
So, there you have our news about Let It Be and our anticipated route through the May delivery to Galveston.
I guess soon we will have to figure out what to do while we are ‘boatless/homeless’ until our HH55 is delivered to California!
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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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From the Bilge is where we post picture(s) that we have not used, that don’t fit into any specific blog post or that highlight some of our favorite places. The pictures might not be stunning, but they will recall something we think is worth sharing. We hope you enjoy these non-chronological items as they pop up From the Bilge.
Perhaps my favorite excursion during our travels has been our trip to 27 Charcos de Damajagua in the Dominican Republic.
First we followed a trail beautifully shaded by an arching canopy of trees, then the real adventure began…
We swam through streams…
climbed over rocks….
slid down water smoothed rocks….
and jumped from cliffs to return to our starting point.
The whole return trip was made through fresh water that was just chilly enough to be invigorating. And the jumps, slides and swims were just daring enough to make one stop occasionally to take a deep breath….. and go for it.
I highly recommend this trip if you stop in the Dominican Republic!
As always, thanks for stopping by to read our blog. What do you think of our new section, From the Bilge?