This post is long on sailing information and short on photos, but those who want to know about the HH55 Catamaran might find it interesting.
Ticket To Ride was offloaded from the container ship on January 14th and life has been busy since then…in a good way.
The first two months were all about commissioning our HH55 and having people visit the boat. TTR is one of only 4 HH55s on the water, and the first one on the West Coast of the U.S., therefore several people came to see the boat and sail on her. We were happy to meet new people and help Hudson Yacht Group and Morrelli & Melvin show off their 55’ design.
On March 16th we left LA with the Newport Beach Yacht Club Race to Cabo and we arrived in Cabo San Lucas on March 22nd.
After our last guests departed on March 30th, it was time to settle into life on board Ticket To Ride and figure out just how we feel about her.
Hands down the answer is that we are pretty much in love with our new home. We enjoyed sailing our Fountaine Pajot Helia 44, Let It Be, but we wanted to find a catamaran that was faster, sailed upwind and had a tad more space.
We found exactly what we were looking for in the HH55. The fit and finish of TTR is great and we are very comfortable. However, some boats are built to be very comfortable but they sail like dogs. Happily, this boat can really sail!
True wind angle: 134 degrees, true wind speed: 10.6k, SOG: 9.3k, boat speed: 9.6k
We have now had several experiences sailing Ticket To Ride at various wind angles and we love her performance. TTR’s sharp reverse bows allow her to cut through the water cleanly and the dagger boards help maintain her course without much slippage at all.
One afternoon we left Ensenada Grande to sail to Isla San Francisco (Sea of Cortez) which is about a 19 nm trip. The sea was choppy and the waves confused. The wind was fluctuating around 15 knots. Our destination required us to sail with a true wind angle of 50-53 degrees which translated into 30 degrees apparent wind.
We were flying the main and genoa and averaged well over 9 knots! AND we sailed directly to our destination – without slipping. We are definitely fans of the daggerboards.
Oh and not to show off, but we made lunch and sat in the salon to eat it while we sailed!!
Another day in the Sea of Cortez, we were sailing from San Evaristo to Los Gatos and we were tucked in fairly closely to the land, which turned out to be a good thing. Here are the notes I made after that sail:
The early sail was quite mild with 8 knots of wind and we had the reacher and full main up. Not long into the trip, the wind kicked in and we furled the reacher, put one reef in the main and unfurled the jib.
The wind continued to climb and soon we were seeing 25 knots of wind.
On Let It Be we used to be able to “reef” the jib by rolling in some canvas but that didn’t work at all on TTR. When we rolled in a bit of the jib, it wobbled wildly and we quickly unfurled it again. The winds were very strong so we spilled the main a bit to reduce pressure in the main sail. We had to keep a close eye on the main and jib sheets and be prepared to release them as we didn’t want to fly a hull!
Our true wind angle varied between 100 and 65 because we altered our heading when we had lighter winds (20K) so we could make our course. It was a very sporty day and we saw Ticket To Ride move along at 15+ knots for much of this trip!
Frank was LOVING the sail! I was a little nervous at first but I enjoyed the speed once we were prepared to release the main or jib if we had too much power.
I am amazed at how quickly 20 knots of wind seemed mild after bursts of 30!
We reached Los Gatos quickly and had our choice of spots to anchor.
The beautiful anchorage in Los Gatos.
Later in the day as boats we had passed while sailing set their anchors, several called us on the VHF and asked just how fast TTR was sailing. (Did I tell you we passed several boats as we sailed?)
Anyway, our AIS and VHF are only working intermittently (at the moment) and apparently the other boats were unable to contact us or see our speed through AIS. They were very interested to hear how fast we were sailing because they “felt like they were standing still” in comparison to TTR.
Yep, this boat can move!
FYI, in hindsight, although we had a reef in the main we should have hoisted the staysail and furled the jib. But the winds were not in the forecasts and we had no idea they were coming along.
Here in the Sea of Cortez, we have found that the winds vary often and suddenly. The boats that contacted us on VHF were in the center of the channel and saw winds up to 35 knots. They were also caught off guard by these unexpected winds.
The fastest we have sailed TTR is 24.7 knots when we had professionals on board and pretty perfect conditions in Long Beach, CA behind the breakwater. We have not replicated this speed on our own and I’m not sure we will try to anytime soon.
In light air with true wind angles of 85-125 degrees, Ticket To Ride often sails very close to wind speed. It is exciting to be able to put the sails up in 8 knots of wind and sail at 8 knots!
True wind angle: 96 degrees, true wind speed: 8.3k, SOG: 8.3k, boat speed: 8.7k
TTR feels like a race horse that wants to take the bit and ruuuunnnnn! She gallops through the water and is capable of more than I am willing to do. Probably Frank should go out with some guys and put her through her paces just because he wants to and I don’t.
As I mentioned earlier, TTR easily moves through the water. I believe we have less motion on this boat than we did on our Helia and the cleaner motion makes the ride more enjoyable to me.
Ticket To Ride is very comfortable to sail deep downwind, but she isn’t as fast as she could be because we do not have a spinnaker. We decided that handling such a large sail with just the two of us would be extremely taxing so instead we bought a Doyle Sails Cable-less Reacher which is cut deeper and is on a continuous line furler. It is this sail that we use when sailing downwind and so far it has worked well. A spinnaker would sail faster, but the reacher is manageable for us.
L-R: Boat speed: 10.6k, true wind angle: 149 degrees, true wind speed: 18.9k.
We made a long sail from San Juanico to Bahia Conception, about 58 nm, and the wind was deeper than forecast. As a result, we were sailing with a true wind angle of 155-165 in 8-11 knots of wind. In these conditions, we averaged between 6 and 7 knots of boat speed.
At 150-160, our reacher stayed well filled and the ride of the boat was extremely comfortable. Frank and I spent the day cleaning the decks, doing laundry, reorganizing a closet or two, etc.
The bottom line is that our HH55 Catamaran is an excellent sailing boat and sail handling is easy with just the two of us on board. We have high speed winches that allow us to quickly raise sails and make the large sails easy to change or adjust. TTR moves so well in light air that we find ourselves sailing most of the time, even when other boats are motoring. In fact, often we sail much faster than we can motor.
We sincerely appreciate the excellent design Morrelli and Melvin created and the few modifications they made at our request to make TTR an excellent sailing and cruising sailboat for our needs. The design by M&M and the fabulous build quality by HH Catamarans has resulted in a boat home we can sail easily and live in comfortably.
Please understand that Frank and I still have a LOT to learn about our HH55. We have not made an overnight passage by ourselves on TTR and we have not faced adverse conditions. Clearly these observations and comments are based on our current level of experience with our new catamaran. We do not expect our opinion to change much, but we still consider ourselves inexperienced on this boat.
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While anchored in Los Frailes we noticed the pelicans gathering in one spot and figured there must be a school of fish and it was meal time. I grabbed my camera hoping to catch the action.
Was there a school of bait fish?
Soon we saw a seal surface below the birds and I wondered what the relationship was between them. My camera revealed that the seal was very busy procuring his afternoon snack and the birds were looking for handouts.
Several birds spying for pieces from above the water.
It wasn’t long before I saw the seal break the surface and thrash about with a fish in his mouth. I’m guessing he smashes the fish against the water to kill it?
From far away it looked like play, but this seal was serious about his fish.
You can see how the fish is breaking apart in the thrashing process and the birds are ready to pounce on any scraps that fly free.
The pelicans were jockeying positions to get close to the seal.
I think the birds are hoping the seal accidentally lets go as he slings this fish!
Apparently seals consume four to six percent of their body weight each day, so these birds are pretty savvy to follow the seal feast!
I found watching the interaction between the seal and the birds pretty interesting and I hope you do too. That fish looks pretty gross though if you zoom in on the pictures. Next time you see birds gathering, maybe a seal will surface and now you know he isn’t just playing around and splashing water at the birds! There is food to be had!!
As always, thanks for reading our blog. You are welcome to hop over to our FB page if you want to hear from us more often.
One of the mantras of a cruiser is to write your schedule in sand because the weather dictates departure dates. Not so for racing sailors.
The class before us jockeying around the start line.
We were scheduled to depart Newport Beach on Sunday, March 17th and regardless of the weather, the race would begin. However, at the last minute our race start was moved up to Saturday and the only other boat in our class bowed out of the race. We believe the forecasted lack of wind was the reason for their withdrawal.
We had “six souls” on board TTR for the race and we divided into two groups of three for watches. Although most race boats seem to keep a four hours watch schedule, we asked our crew to take one 6 hour watch each night and two three hour watches during the day.
I don’t know if everyone liked that rotation, but it has worked for Frank and me when we are passaging without others on board because we get one longer period of sleep which helps us feel rested.
Gino looks on as Rogan goes up the mast.
Early in the race, Rogan went up the mast of TTR to make certain all the lines and sails looked good and that the hardware was nicely tightened.
Gino, James and I took the first night watch from 7 pm to 1 am and Frank, Rogan and Kristen took the 1am to 7 am shift.
Moonrise was beautiful at the start of my evening watches.
I’m not sure who had the bad mojo on our watch, but on several nights the wind dropped from reasonable to almost nothing. Our instruments actually read “0.0” for several minutes at a time before jumping all the way to 1knot. You know the wind is light when you are excited to see 3 knots of true wind speed.
Though I would have enjoyed better winds during our watch, I learned a lot from Gino and James as they discussed tactics to optimize the conditions.
Gino used a flash light to check sail trim at night and I was able to watch the path of his light and try to learn by observing the areas he checked and the changes he made based on his observations.
Wide open sunset at sea.
From my perspective it seemed like each night about 15 minutes before our watch ended, the wind would improve, we would set the sail trim, then Frank’s shift would take over the helm.
Once Frank’s group took over the watch, very few adjustments were made to the sails for the next few hours! That makes for an easy watch, if a little uninteresting.
Looking at the speeds and miles covered you would think Frank, Rogan and Kristen were the heroes on board, but my watch was really helpful for four reasons: 1. I had a lot of sail raising and trimming practice, 2. The watch went quickly because we were constantly changing sails and trim 3. I learned a lot by listening and observing Gino and 4. It was easier to sleep during our off watch time because Frank’s group hardly had to adjust the sails while we were sleeping!
Gino toasting sunset with a touch of merlot.
We managed to be very comfortable on TTR during the race and we all sat down to dinner each night. I am pretty certain this is the first time Gino had a glass of wine while ‘racing’ and I know that was true for Rogan.
Thanks for this pic of Frank, Gino!
Most race boats don’t grill hamburgers during the race! But comfort and speed blend well on Ticket To Ride.
Happy birthday, Gino!
We had the added pleasure of celebrating Gino’s birthday during the race. Laura Morrelli snuck a tiramisu on board before we left and we all enjoyed the treat.
For those who are interested in the numbers here are a few and I am including our log so you can see just how light the wind was and our notes during the race.
Nautical Miles: About 900 (sorry forgot to note that) Official Duration: 5 days 17 hours 47 minutes Average speed: 6.5k Max speed: 24.3k Sea Conditions: very mild.
By far our most common sail configuration was the mainsail and reacher.
Reacher, jib and mainsail at one time.
One night Gino, James and I added the staysail to try and maximize the tiny puffs of wind. That configuration lasted several hours.
We also had one day when the wind and waves piped up so we dropped the reacher and flew the jib; we had a great time at the helm as we practiced surfing TTR down the waves.
A bright moon reflecting off the water and boom.
We were really fortunate that the moon was waxing and the skies were clear so night time was well illuminated.
As we sailed south, the water temperature increased slightly and we knew it was getting warmer when we began seeing flying fish.
One afternoon Kristen spotted something floating in the water and thought it might be a log.
In the pic, the seal’s flipper is down again.
It turned out to be a seal floating on its’ back with a flipper pointed up acting a bit like a sail. The seal was totally chilled floating in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. I really wished I could pass him an umbrella drink to rest on his tummy as he drifted along!
This pod of dolphins jumped a lot!
We also so dolphins several times jumping in the distance. Only once or twice did a dolphin play near our bow. It seems like the Caribbean dolphins were more likely to swim with our boat, but we have seen a greater number of dolphins on the west coast.
We saw the blow of a whale once or twice and James saw one breach, but I didn’t see it.
All in all the Race to Cabo was a great time. Everyone on board contributed so the work loads were shared. Best of all, everyone meshed well, there was good input for decisions, the personalities complimented one another and no one on board dominated the discussions or decisions.
The whole race thing is a different mind set than Frank and I are accustomed to and I am not certain how I feel about it. I like that races force you to be committed to sailing and making use of the environment and wind. BUT I found it really frustrating to be at a complete standstill when we have two perfectly good engines ready to move us forward.
Though I have no experience, I think day races would be more interesting since the strategy of each boat is apparent much more quickly, thus the reward or penalty is more immediate.
We were on our way to Cabo with or without the race and I am glad we participated in it. Since we were racing what is actually our home, our team motto was “Party Not Podium.”
Ironically, we earned the podium but arrived too late for the party!
With only ourselves in the class we managed to take the award for first place!
Celebrating our finish of the NHYC Race to Cabo!
Frank and I are very impressed with how well TTR sails in light wind. The ability to sail in light air is one of the features that sold us on the HH55.
Yes, TTR can sail fast, but it is also exceedingly pleasant to sail well in lower wind speeds and calmer seas.
Several people had asked for details about our Race to Cabo experience. I hope this answers your questions. If not, ask and I’ll try to answer what I missed.
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I would love this post to be about the arrival of HH55 Ticket to Ride, but it is about delay instead.
I wish that was the California coast in the background, but…
Unfortunately this photo is not TTR with Los Angeles in the background. This is from our time sailing in Xiamen, China.
We have been tracking the container ship carrying TTR as it crossed the China Sea and the Pacific Ocean. We were excited to see it getting close to LA and knew the ship was arriving around January 7th.
But close is all we are at the moment.
So close and yet so far….
This is a screen shot showing the location of the container ship carrying TTR. The ship arrived on January 7th, but the port is backed up and the vessel is anchored just outside of the unloading docks.
Yesterday we were told “our” container ship would dock on Friday and the contents would be unloaded on Monday, January 14th. About a week later than expected, but we had an expected date.
This morning we received notice that although the contents of the ship had been released, Customs has pulled back on that decision and wants to inspect the ship. I have no idea why this decision has been made. I only know that it means TTR will not be unloaded Monday.
Our agent has assured us that all the paperwork is in order and has been turned into the authorities. We have done all we can to make the delivery go smoothly.
We no longer have an off load date.
So now we just wait. And we wait. And wait.
Thanks for reading our blog. We hope to have better news soon. Please look to our Facebook page for more up to date information.
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?
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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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