Wow, sorry for the lack of blog posts. I would say it’s been super busy here, but that is a relative term. We have been busy, but a lot of what we have been doing is researching things for the new boat. (Skip to the bottom for that news.)
Our view when anchored off Nikki Beach.
Aruba is a beautiful island with a population of a little ever 100,000 as of 2016. The locals are extremely nice and cheerful, so we feel very welcome here. However, the focus is certainly on the tourists who arrive via cruise ship or plane and we little cruisers are sort of an afterthought. Which is understandable when you consider that just yesterday there were four cruise ships in port which is probably about 20,000 visitors!
In this picture I captured 3 cruise ships and an airplane!
Checking into Aruba by private boat is a bit of an adventure. Boaters must tie up to the large commercial dock which is not well situated for a small boat. When we arrived, the wind was beating us up against the concrete wall and the only protection besides our boat bumpers were old tires. Let It Be came away with a lot of black tire marks on the side and we were tense the whole time we were at the commercial dock, but thankfully we didn’t have any other damage.
All of the paperwork was completed at the dock and immigration and customs came to us; but it took a while!
There are pretty much only two marinas available here and currently they are very full with boats from Puerto Rico that ran from Hurricane Maria and boaters who have escaped Venezuela.
The Renaissance Marina.
We stayed in the Renaissance Marina for a few days before our trip to the U.S. and it is a nice place to stay. The marina is right across from all of the action of town and there are two hotels associated with the marina where we were welcome to swim and use the restrooms.
Since returning from the U.S., we have been anchored off Nikki Beach which is right next to the airport. This is not a calm and quiet anchorage, so don’t expect flat water. But the beach is nice and it is easy to pull the dinghy up on shore. We have enjoyed taking Captain for walks twice a day on the beach and we have been swimming or SUPing most afternoons to get some exercise.
There are other beaches along the west coast of Aruba that are even prettier than Nikki Beach, but they are not well protected either.
We have rented a car a few times and explored most of the island by car.
How many animals could survive here?
Driving around Aruba, the east coast is rugged and dry. Although years ago, there were supposedly a variety of grazing areas for cows, goats and other animals, we didn’t see any areas that looked capable of supporting cattle; and we are here during the rainy season.
The east coast water was pretty but rough.
We are still considering moving up to Palm Beach on the northwest shore of Aruba so we can dive some of the shipwrecks, but much depends on the winds.
Aruba’s two largest visitor populations are from the cruise ships and repeat time share owners. Both visitors seem to really enjoy their time here and many of the people I’ve spoken with make Aruba a multiple repeat vacation destination.
Prada? Cartier? Ralph Lauren? Gucci?
I think Aruba is so popular because it is an easy place to get to and there are many familiar amenities that make it perfect for those who like a taste of home when they travel. You will find most recognizable restaurant chains here and every upscale designer seems to have a store front.
A “ying/yang” lounge chair?! Suits us pretty well.
We have certainly taken advantage of several of the restaurants and enjoyed many delicious meals here in Aruba. We have enjoyed access (by car) to very well stocked grocery stores. We have loved swimming nearly every day.
Dinner at Elements was one of the best meals we had in Aruba!
We have also enjoyed spending time with our friends Shelly and Greg of s/v Semper Fi, who also sailed away from Puerto Rico just before Hurricane Maria. Greg and Shelly have spent a lot of time on Aruba and they have been really helpful in learning what Aruba has to offer.
One other thing we appreciate about Aruba is that we were able to have the bottom of LIB cleaned and repainted. LIB was on the hard for three weeks while we were traveling in the U.S. and we are very pleased with the work performed at Varadero Aruba Marina and Boatyard. Once again LIB is clean, painted and ready to sail.
It has been pretty interesting to watch the constant coming and going of the cruise ships at all times of day and night. More than once we have awakened to Captain barking at night and when we look outside, there is yet another ship leaving with all lights blazing.
The picture is poor, but you can see how amazingly bright these ships are at night!
If I have to summarize my thoughts about Aruba, it is a bit like living at anchor in a small city. If you are a city person at heart who is living on a boat, Aruba might be the perfect place for you! Frank and I are both looking forward to getting back to a little quieter anchorage if we can find one. Next week the wind is forecast to lighten up so we will probably leave here and sail back toward Curacao and Bonaire.
One upside to the HH55 is that there are many ways to customize the boat, everything from choosing aft or interior helm stations to designing the cabinets in the galley and hulls.
It is really fun to have these options but it takes a good deal of thought, planning and research. Unfortunately when we have s-l-o-w internet, research is very time consuming. But we are plowing along and making decisions.
The folks at HH have been very responsive to our questions and they are working hard to help us build the boat we think will work best for us when we circumnavigate. Also, Gino Morrelli has been amazingly helpful with the details of the boat and with catching things in the renderings that we need to consider.
The very first decision we had to make was which helm station configuration we wanted: the interior, center helm station or dual, outdoor, aft helm stations.
The interior helm is a very cool feature and we thought it would be really nice to sit inside during passages and helm from indoors. Whomever is at the helm would remain part of the activities indoors and would not be isolated at an outdoor helm station. We have some concern that during ocean crossings, water could come through the trampoline and swamp the pit by the mast where lines are adjusted in the interior helm configuration. Plus the interior helm is a great way to reduce sun exposure and help prevent skin cancer.
The outdoor helm configuration is familiar and comfortable. With dual helm stations, docking would be easier because you could be in the helm station closest to the dock so you can see easily. Removing the helm from the salon would allow for another sitting area indoors and make the salon more open physically and visually.
Image from HH55 layout page.
Both configurations have positive features, but for us, the dual, aft helm is our choice. When sailing LIB, Frank and I love to sit at the helm together and watch the world go by, so we have a hard time imagining ourselves sitting inside the salon as we sail.
HH and Gino Morrelli are working with us to make sure the outdoor helm station seats are comfortable and will accommodate both of us as we sail. Perfect – for us anyway.
So there you have it. Our HH55 will be the dual, aft helm stations. FYI, this was not a difficult decision. I think most people know instinctively which would be better for their preferences.
Thanks for reading our blog. If you have any questions, feel free to ask. If you want to see what we are up to more often, please visit our FB page: Let It Be, Helia 44.
If you were reading closely, you may have noticed a soft mention of a recent trip to China in one of our blog posts. And if you saw me with my kiddos, you would have noticed that Frank wasn’t with us because he was once again in China. And if you had followed us around the Annapolis Boat Show, you might have noticed that we spent a lot of time on one particular sailboat.
And IF you put all of that together, you might have guessed that we have decided to buy a new boat! W H A T ? ? ? ?
Yep, it’s true.
She doesn’t look like much ~ yet!
Here is the skinny. We love our Helia and think that LIB is a well built, comfortable sailboat. We have put a lot of work into her to make her function perfectly for us and make sure she is reliable, capable and prepared for long passage making.
So why would we change boats? The truth is that we want a boat that is faster than LIB. We have been discussing the idea of circumnavigation and I am in favor of having a sailboat that can make long passages shorter. I like the idea of being “out there” less time and being anchored and exploring longer.
LIB is absolutely blue-water ready and very capable for circumnavigating. But honestly, we have been looking for a boat that can sail upwind, can sail faster and sails well in light winds. We love to sail and we want a sailboat that can comfortably tick off 230 miles per day with a crew of 2.
After months of discussion, we had narrowed our focus to three boats; the Outremer 5X, the Balance 526 and the HH55. Because we did not have an opportunity to sail any of those boats, our research stalled until May of this year. Apparently in May all of the stars aligned just perfectly because in the space of two weeks we had the chance to sea trial and carefully evaluate all three of these boats.
The Outremer, the Balance and the HH each have some excellent features, are solid boats and are performance oriented. But after reviewing our options and sailing goals, and after sailing all three boats, Frank and I were hooked on the HH55. Full carbon construction, cutting edge hull, daggerboard and rig design as well as full customization options are just some of the many features that set the HH apart from other performance catamarans.
We spent a lot of time working with Gino Morrelli, renowned naval architect of Morrelli and Melvin, and with Mark Womble, broker extraordinaire, discussing the HH55 and what we wanted in a new boat. We had conversations and e-mails with Paul Hakes of Hudson Hakes Yacht Group talking about our interests and questions.
In August we flew to China, visited the HH factory, created a preliminary interior layout, then pulled the trigger. We signed a contract and officially placed our order for an HH-55!
Frank and Paul make it official!
Frank and I recognize that sailing the HH will certainly be more complicated than sailing our Helia, but we have always enjoyed challenging ourselves mentally and physically, and we believe this boat will further our sailing experience and knowledge.
Minnehaha, HH55-01! (Photo courtesy of HH Catamarans)
The HH55 has been designed with performance and comfort in mind and we believe this sailboat fulfills both of these roles very well. Our plan is to take delivery in Long Beach, CA, spend six to 12 months getting to know our new boat and making sure all of the systems work well, then set off for our circumnavigation.
HH55-01 sports an inside helm station.
As with all changes, there is great excitement and a pretty large dose of nervousness. We have absolutely loved Let It Be and she has been a sturdy and steady vessel. It will be very hard (read sad) to let her go, so we hope to find buyers who will love her and care for her as well as we have. Let It Be has brought us much joy and I’m sure whoever owns her next will create equally wonderful memories!
So there you have it; we are making some changes, expanding our experience and looking forward to the delivery of our HH55 sailboat.
Thank you so much for reading our blog. We love to hear from our readers, so feel free to make comments. And if you want to hear from us more often, check out our FB page: Let It Be, Helia 44.
Flying with a dog is difficult and even with the proper paperwork, once landed, additional questions about which hotels accept dogs and are clean, where to leave the dog while taking care of many errands or appointments, makes travel and use of time a bit more complicated.
This year we have had to leave Captain behind three times and twice were for extended trips. Finding a place where Captain can be well cared for, get some attention and a decent amount of exercise, has been a challenge but the effort has been worthwhile.
I thought some pet owners might find it useful to know how we have managed this year, so here is the rundown for our three trips.
In May, Frank and I were in the Dominican Republic and we had a visit to Florida planned. We would leave together, conduct our meetings over the course of five days, then I would fly back to the DR and Frank would leave for his Atlantic crossing.
For this trip, we hired a delightful guy named Nelson who works at the Samana Marina. Captain remained on LIB, Nelson came by to feed and walk Cappy twice a day and Cap was able to be ‘at home’ while we were away.
Also, our dock neighbors, Andre and Josee, were simply awesome and kept an eye out for Captain. They decided Captain needed more activity, so when they walked their dog, Roxy, they brought Captain along.
How awesome is that?!!!
The second trip we took was from Puerto Rico and we planned to be traveling to multiple locations over a three week period. Fortunately I looked up rover.com, a U.S. internet based company where you enter your zip code and the bios for pet sitters near your location pop up.
It is through rover.com that I found Natalia, who took excellent care of Captain. Natalia’s home was very well set up for dogs and she really loved Cappy.
Natalia has two dogs for Cappy to play with and daily walks were a given. While Cappy was with Natalia, Hurricane Irma was heading toward PR and Natalia was very communicative about her plans should evacuation become necessary.
We were extremely happy with Natalia’s care for Captain and had planned on leaving Cap with her again for our October trip to the States, but our escape from Hurricane Maria rendered that impossible.
Our final trip this year we had to scramble and find last minute accommodations for Captain in Aruba!
Fortunately we found the Dog Hotel Aruba where a young couple boards dogs in their yard. Rose and her husband are clearly dog lovers and assured me they would take great care of Captain.
The Dog Hotel Aruba has several kennels and two large fenced areas on site. The dogs are outside pretty much all day and large dogs are separated from small dogs. The dogs are also taken to the beach to swim once or twice a week. Not a bad way for Captain to spend her time when we have to be away.
I consider each of the dog stays successful though obviously very different. I think Captain was most comfortable when she stayed on the boat and was at home in our absence. I am sure in that situation Captain felt the least ‘abandoned ‘ but she was probably a bit lonely. Still, this is similar to dogs who stay home while their owners are away.
Staying with Natalia was where I think Captain received the most amount of human attention and love. This was a very good fit for Captain and us. Plus it was easy to find a sitter with good reviews and paying online was convenient.
The dog hotel in Aruba was a good find. I doubt this is Cappy’s favorite stay because she usually prefers to be with people more than dogs. But like a child who has to play with others, this is probably a good experience for Captain.
Even though finding a place to leave our dog takes a little time, so far it has worked out well for us. Plus, there is the added comfort of being able to receive pictures and updates to make sure our furry loved one is doing well.
I acknowledge that we have been fortunate in finding great options for Captain, but I still feel a little guilty leaving her behind. I have really enjoyed our travels and visits with friends and family but I am glad we don’t have any other time off the boat planned for a while!
And I am confident Captain will agree completely when we get back and I tell her.
Thanks a bunch for stopping by. Please share your thoughts on pet care while away from home.
Sunset by the Pool at The Yacht Club.
Once we completed our move south and east from the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos through the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, we actually had a few weeks to enjoy some time in Palmas del Mar at The Yacht Club before we began worrying about hurricanes.
A nature trail near the Catholic Church
The Yacht Club is (and will be again) a fabulous marina with excellent amenities and plenty of beauty, all within a gated community that includes two golf courses, tennis courts and tons of homes and townhouses. There are even two churches on site!
So many fabulous tropical plants!
And if that isn’t enough of a draw, the Spanish Virgin Islands are a quick sail away. I have included a few pictures to give you an idea of how beautiful this part of Puerto Rico was before Hurricane Maria. I share these pictures because I am confident that the industrious people of PR will rebuild and soon Palmas will be whole again. It is a beautiful place, the marina staff are some of the most wonderful people you will ever meet and The Yacht Club is a very fun place to stay!
Heading toward the exit at The Yacht Club
We joined Shelly and Greg of s/v Semper Fi for a quick trip to the Spanish Virgin Islands of Culebra and Culebrita. An unusual wind direction allowed us to sail to Culebra where we both anchored, then dinghied to town for an afternoon stroll and lunch at Zaco’s Tacos.
While strolling about, Captain made had an unusual encounter.
Not an everyday meeting!
This friendly pig meanders the street of Culebra and was very interested in being friends with Cappy, but Captain was less than thrilled with the idea. The pig followed Captain from one side of the street to the other and really wanted to be friends, but once the pig got too close, Cap would go ballistic. I guess Captain likes her pigs cooked and not following her.
The U.S. Post Office on Culetra
I have not been able to find any information about the history of this post office, but I thought it looked very interesting. It looks pretty old, but it might have been built to look that way. The internet did not provide any information and I failed to ask while I was there. But I thought it was cool enough to include even without the history.
Moored behind a reef on the east side of Culebra.
We spend the first night on a mooring ball behind a reef on the east side of Culebra, which allowed us to have a fabulous breeze and view.
The western side of Culebrita.
The next day we motored a quick 45 minutes over to the undeveloped island of Culebrita. As usual, a crowd of motor boats gathered during the day and the beach and shallow waters were a hotspot of families and friends hanging out and enjoying the water and sunshine.
Same beach is empty by days end.
But by later afternoon, the place clears out and we were one of only two boats that stayed the night.
The old lighthouse with the new beacon in the background.
A quick hike through the scrubby brush took us to the Culebrita Light House. This was the oldest operating lighthouse in the Caribbean until 1975 when the U.S. closed it and replaced the old lighthouse with a modern, solar beacon with no charm and little maintenance.
The detail inside the lighthouse was still obvious.
The lighthouse was built in 1882 by the Spanish mainly to demonstrate ownership of the island, but 12 years later the island became property of the U.S. after the Spanish American War.
Until the 1930s, the lighthouse had full time, residential keepers. It was used by the U.S. Navy as an observation post until 1975, when the installation of the the solar powered light deemed the old house obsolete.
We were only able to stay a couple of days before we headed back to Palmas del Mar to prepare to leave the boat for three weeks. August had arrived and it was time to head back to the States for annual doctor visits as well as visits with family and friends.
Sunset at The Yacht Club from the bow of LIB.
Oh, our travel plans included a quick trip to China! Fortunately, our oldest son travelled with us as he is fluent in Mandarin. We realized just how much we relied on him the one time he wasn’t with us and we had to communicate with a cab driver! China was fun and eventful! More about that adventure in another post.
Thanks for stopping by! We always enjoy hearing your thoughts about our travels or any suggestions on places we really need to visit!
For the first time in my life I truly understand that the difference one day can make in my life is huge. I have so many examples recently that have driven this home and unfortunately they have mostly been sad examples.
Our dear friends, Ken and Laurie, sent a video of their sailboat Mauna Kea while they were finalizing preparations for Hurricane Irma which devastated St. Martin a mere 24 hours later. Mauna Kea had engine problems and it was unsafe for Ken and Laurie to sail out of harms way. A picture taken from the same place 24 hours later would show Mauna Kea in a much different condition.
We were in Chicago glued to the television as we watched Hurricane Irma swirl toward Puerto Rico where we had left Let It Be and our sweet dog, Captain. We were very lucky because in the last 24 hours, Irma took a slight wobble north and our boat and dog were spared! What a difference a day made.
Fast forward about a week to 5 pm Saturday, September 16th. Frank and I were sitting at the pool at The Yacht Club in Palmas del Mar, Puerto Rico. We were chatting with other live aboard folks lounging in the pool and we all agreed that the morning forecast of 60 mph winds for Hurricane Maria were not a problem for our boats. We could be comfortable about staying in the marina.
An hour later, when we read the 5 pm hurricane forecast, the story was dramatically different. Hurricane Maria had changed from a category 1 to a category 4 forecast! And she was barreling directly toward our marina!
The Yacht Club from the top of the mast the morning we left.
Frank and I immediately began redressing Let It Be; returning her sails to working order, putting the enclosure back on the helm, replacing the broken anemometer (luckily the new one had arrived in the mail the day before!), walking to a nearby mini market for canned goods and plotting our departure for early the next morning.
We left Palmas del Mar on Sunday morning, less than 24 hours later, and had a beautiful passage of about 375 nautical miles to Bonaire. We sailed for the first day, then motor sailed the remainder of the trip. We had mostly following seas that were never greater than 1 meter. Surprisingly, this was one of our most pleasant passages!
Twenty four hours later, our friends Greg and Shelly on s/v Sempre Fi had found the quickest flight they could back to Puerto Rico to prepare their sailboat and leave the marina. Shelly and Greg left Palmas del Mar on Monday, about 24 hours after we did. They experienced 21 foot seas and a lot of wind. They could see the very outer bands of Hurricane Maria and tension was high on board! Eventually they encountered ‘a parking lot of tankers and barges drifting in the sea,’ Shelly said. This was their indication that they had run far enough to be out of harms way and could continue more comfortably to Aruba.
Once we arrived in Bonaire, we found wifi and checked on our friends back in Palmas del Mar and learned that Maria’s eye had passed directly over our marina! Thankfully our friends are all safe, but not all of their boats survived.
What a difference 24 hours can make!
Frank and I like to tease that since moving aboard, we live our lives at 6 knot. Thankfully over a 24 hour period, that seemingly slow six knots was enough to remove us from harm!
There are many times in our lives when one day makes a lifetime of difference; one day you’re single the next day you are married; one day you are pregnant and the next day you are a parent. Yes, there are many life changing moments, but somehow this hurricane season, the changes that can occur in a mere 24 hours has become shockingly real!
Drone photo of Palmas after Maria (sorry don’t know who took it!).
We mourn for our friends, their homes and the beautiful islands that have been devastated this year by hurricanes. All those suffering loss from Harvey, Irma, Jose and Maria are in our thoughts and prayers!
Although this season has been a challenging and heart wrenching one, we are trying to take away the positive aspects as well. For instance, we have some friends whose boats survived hurricanes with nary a scratch! We have seen many people step up and make huge inroads in gathering and delivering food and water to those in need. We have seen friends drive from Dallas to Houston, towing boats to help rescue stranded flood victims. There are silver linings to every cloud if we look hard enough.
On a personal note, this season has reminded us that we cannot be complacent about weather while living this nomadic lifestyle that is much more vulnerable to weather and storms. We are reminded that we must do our best to keep Let It Be movement ready at all times. We have agreed that we should try to keep our fuel topped off in case we have to sail away from a weather event. We are reminded that we must make our own decisions and allow friends to make theirs as well – what works for us might be all wrong for someone else.
We are reminded that we are blessed to have survived this season without injury or damage to property! (So far.)
Though this blog post could be construed as a negative reflection on sailing life, in truth, Frank and I enjoy living on our boat. While others might dislike the need to pay such close attention to the forces of nature, we find this lifestyle requires us to be more observant and respectful of the power of nature. We are constantly learning to improve our ability to understand what surrounds us. We can no longer jump in a car regardless of the weather and without regard for tides and seas and upcoming storms.
No doubt this life is a greater challenge than living on land, but for us it works. We like the learning aspect and prefer to be caught up in weather and seas and trip planning rather than being concerned with the daily news or which Hollywood star has returned to rehab or who was this years biggest loser. (Plus we were too cheap to pay for cable tv!)
Over the last two years we have learned many things, but in the last two weeks we have learned to appreciate that 24 hours can bring humongous life changes.
As always, thank you for reading. Next post I hope to report more positive things, like about the amazing diving in Bonaire!
LIB stripped and prepared for Irma. (SUP was inside while away.)
Well, we are finally back on our boat in Puerto Rico and we are SO fortunate that we suffered NO damage from Hurricane Irma. At the very last minute, this horrific storm decided to go just a bit north and the island of Puerto Rico avoided a direct hit.
In the face of this near miss, the folks here on PR have stepped up and contributed to the efforts to help neighboring islands which have been decimated. There are people taking tangible supplies to PR, others have picked up people stranded on the island and brought them to PR and still others have taken friends or strangers into their boats and homes here in Puerto Rico.
On LIB, we have not contributed physically to the efforts, but we have tried to offer emotional and some financial support. Our intention is to give trained personnel time to reinstate order, then actually go and help rebuild. Admittedly Frank is much better with tools than I, but I have learned a lot since moving onto LIB and I am sure will be able to help in some way.
In the mean time, on our flight back to Puerto Rico, we saw from the air some of the islands we played on while cruising the Bahamas this year. I have not always been a student of geography, but living on a boat has taught me a lot and it was fun to recognize the islands we had visited from an arial perspective.
We spent several days anchored off Normans Cay.
Enjoying the shallows while paddling to “The Pond” on Normans
We stopped on Normans twice this season; once alone and once with some of our Sail to the Sun Rally friends on board LIB with us.
Captain found the soft, deserted beaches perfect for playing chase!
The second great picture from the plane was of Cambridge and Compass Cays. The cut between them is where we met up with s/v Radiance in an amazing feat of timing. We had texted with Radiance crew, Susan and Kevin, who were heading toward the Exumas from Florida while we were returning to the Exumas from Eluethera. Our plan was to anchor near Compass Cay and contact each other upon arrival, but just as we were getting close to the cut and were dousing our spinnaker, we spotted Radiance also approaching the cut! LIB fell into line right behind Radiance and we followed them into the anchorage!
Susan demos the arduous skill of floating about on Compass Cay!
Cambridge Cay is where we first met Kristen and James of s/v Tatiana and Laurie and Chris of s/v Temerity. This area is also the location of another Sail to the Sun meeting where about 10 of us did a float snorkel near the Rocky Dundas in water so clear that Tom and Louise on s/v Blue Lady appeared to be suspended in air in the picture below.
Blue Lady lifts anchor near Cambridge Cay.
Traveling in a plane nearly 100 times faster than LIB sails, we quickly covered the area we sailed this season. But it was fun to look out the window and recall the islands we visited and see again the amazing blues unique to the Bahamas.
For now, we are keeping an eye on the weather here in Puerto Rico and hoping this nasty 2017 hurricane season ends without any more storms anywhere! We look forward to putting LIB back into working shape and once again exploring the Caribbean.
As always, thank you for stopping by our blog. We would love to hear from you. If you want to see what we are up to more often, please see our FB page: Let It Be, Helia 44.
The unparalleled waters of the Bahamas.
September marks the second completed year of full time living on our sailboat and it is amazing how different the two years have been.
Our first year we spent the first months working hard to get Let It Be ready for us to live on her. Although we bought our boat new, we had several items we wanted to add to make life on our boat just a bit easier.
Probably the three biggest changes we made during the first year that have made LIB more functional for us were:
Adding a Cruise RO Water Maker which frees us from looking for places to buy water as we travel.
Adding these two upper windows to our salon which allow us to have airflow into the boat even if it rains outside.
Our new cushions which are so much more comfortable than our original ones and add a very nice pop of color and individuality to LIB.
As far as our actual travel during the first season, we spent our time in the Windward and Leeward Islands of the Caribbean and loved moving from one country to the next. The majority of our time was spent on anchor; we spent three nights in a dock on Antigua celebrating the New Year, then did not use a marina again until June.
We thoroughly enjoyed being on the hook, swimming and snorkeling almost every day and living that first season very much in tune with nature.
At the end of our first season, we left the Caribbean and sailed north all the way to Annapolis, MD to get in position for my personal “wish” which was to join a rally and work our way south through the Intracoastal Waterway.
Prior to the start of our second season aboard LIB, we made three additional changes to LIB that have made a significant difference for her in a positive way.
We invested in brand new 3di sails by North Sails. These sails are higher performance than our original sails and have gained us the ability to point higher and sail a bit faster. Definitely a win for LIB and us.
We replaced all of our electronic equipment with B&G and we added radar to LIB. We are very happy with our new equipment and find the autopilot to be excellent. The B&G equipment has some features that our previous system did not have and we find the whole system more user friendly.
Our third change was that Frank and I completely revamped the rain water drainage on LIB by enlarging the drain holes and leading the captured water into the drain in the cockpit floor. Prior to making these alterations, our cockpit floor would get wet when it rained because water ran off of the upstairs sun area and into the cockpit. Since our modification, our cockpit is dry and usable even during heavy rains.
Our second season of cruising has been great but completely different from our first. We kicked it off with the 2016 Sail to the Sun Rally that started in Hampton, Virginia. In the company of 18 other sailboats, we spent two months working our way south to Florida. Nearly every evening we were in a different marina and we ate out more often than we ever did while living on land. The social life was amazing and the group of people were like minded and are sure to be friends for a very long time.
A few STTS Ralliers waiting for a trolley tour.
We spent January through April in the Bahamas, including several stays in marinas. Next we worked our way over to the Turks and Caicos, the Dominican Republic and then to Puerto Rico for this hurricane season.
This marina in Samana, DR isn’t exactly a hardship!
While in the Turks and Caicos, we spent 95 percent of our time in a marina. In the Dominican Republic we spent 100 percent of our time in marinas and now that we are settled in Puerto Rico for hurricane season, we are again in a marina.
As you can tell, our second season was all about marinas and much of it was about land activities.
Kiting in Antigua.
Our first season we ate off of the boat rarely and focused on our water sports. Many hours and anchorages were all about kite boarding in beautiful places and having beaches all to ourselves.
This year we have made a ton of new boat friends, helped considerably by the Sail to the Sun Rally, and we have spent more time exploring on land.
In summary, I would say this year feels more like “land life” while living on a boat but our first year felt more like living on a sailboat.
If I had to choose if I prefer year one or two, I would not be able to do so. Year one I loved being in tune with the sunrises and sunsets while on anchor. I loved swimming to shore nearly every day and daily water activities. I loved being in somewhat isolated places and feeling out of touch with U.S. news but being able to stay in contact with my family and friends.
This year I loved making so many new friends and reconnecting with friends in different anchorages or marinas. The convenience of restaurants and stores was welcome. It was really nice to be back in the U.S. with everything so familiar and accessible. But because we were in the States, it was easy to get caught up in the “real world” and that was not my favorite aspect of year two.
So now that we have experienced two very different years, what will we do for the upcoming season?
In November, we are once again setting off toward the Windward and Leeward Islands of the Caribbean. But this year we will also jump over to the ABC Islands (Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao) and spend time there before the hurricane season of 2018 begins.
My hope is that this season we can somehow manage to blend our last two seasons. Perhaps we will devise an itinerary that includes remote anchorages intermingled with some more developed areas with conveniences we sometimes crave (think grocery stores with our favorite veggies and fruits).
It was a great surprise when Starry Horizons was nearby!
And of course, we hope to reconnect with sailing friends because it is a little thrill to drop anchor and suddenly realize that a nearby boat is a friend we didn’t know was in the area.
As always, thank you for visiting our blog. We love hearing your comments. If you are interested in seeing more of our everyday activities, please visit our FB page: Let It Be, Helia 44
Sargassum at sea (image by Tam Warner Minton/Flickr)
Sargassum grass is a type of brown algae that floats in small patches or gathers into large masses and can be found in every ocean except the Antarctic. The first written report of sargassum dates back to 1492 by Christopher Columbus (don’t get me started on the different names I have encountered for this famous explorer!).
Like every living force, sargassum has some great properties and some that we could do without. Here in The Yacht Club at Palmas del Mar, Puerto Rico, the big negative is the smell emitted by the algae as it dies on the shore line and releases sulphur compounds that smell like rotten eggs on steroids!
But this floating grass also has benefits for the ocean. As many as 52 varieties of fish were found to take shelter and find food within this floating algae off of North Carolina. Sargassum grass offers a moving habitat for fish in parts of the ocean where no other is available.
Interestingly, a study by the North Carolina National Estuarine Reserve states, “The Sargassum community occupies such a large dimension of the upper water column (up to 3 m depth) and is typically so diverse that one gear or collection method cannot effectively sample it all.”
In studying the algae columns, researchers found that there is something of a layering habitat within the sargassum where smaller fish live in the algae, slightly larger juvenile fish live below the grass and larger predators such as dolphins swim further down in the water.
Small gas-filled spheres that look like berries keep the seaweed afloat. (naturetime.worpress.com)
In recent years, sargassum has become so prolific that it has caused issues along some beaches, creating foul smells as it rots on the shore, deterring vacationers from visiting popular resort destinations. Additionally, the grass can be so dense in places that it inhibits the movement of hatching sea turtles on their way to the water, causing them to die before reaching the ocean. But once in the water, small turtles also find food and shelter within the sargassum algae.
The benefits of sargassum are not limited to fish and turtles.
Since the eighth century, traditional Chinese medicine has used sargassum as a natural diuretic and for treating goiters and thyroid deficiencies. Additionally, the algae is nutrient dense and contains carbon, making it an excellent fertilizer. The government of Tobago is encouraging farmers to use this algae as fertilizer on crops.
Experts believe these main factors are causing the increase in sargassum grass;
- higher ocean temperatures which allows this tropical plant to thrive
- polluted waters carrying higher nutrients that act like a fertilizer for the sargassum
- changing “liquid boundaries” in the ocean caused by storms and high winds help spread sargassum throughout the oceans
Sargassum drift near The Yacht Club only two weeks after a clean up.
Most days as I head out for my walk here at Palmas del Mar, I hold my breath as I pass one area ripe with rotting sargassum grass. Even though the marina is doing all it can to collect and remove the plant, I gag a little on days when the smell is strong.
So I’m glad I researched sargassum and can at least appreciate the benefits it offers instead thinking it is just a “smelly weed.” Perhaps the next time you are confronted with the obnoxious odor of this algae as it decomposes, you will be able to consider its’ benefits like I am now and both of us will resent the smell a little less.
As always, thank you for visiting our blog. We love hearing your comments. If you are interested in seeing more of our everyday activities, please visit our FB page: Let It Be, Helia 44
Recently I was reading Third Time Lucky’s blog post titled, “Do you prefer to be at anchor, or in a harbour?” and I was pretty amazed at how different our perspectives are.
The author, Georgie Moon, takes fabulous photos, enjoys writing and writes very well, lives part-time on a boat and is probably close to my age. All these similarities led me to think Georgie Moon and I might also share our love of anchorages. But her recent blog post relieved me of that misconception.
In contrast to Georgie Moon, I love being on the hook.
LIB hooked in an isolated, narrow bit of water.
I feel much more connected to God, nature and the natural cycle of day and night when I am on anchor and somehow those connections make me happy.
A sunset I wouldn’t want to miss.
Now don’t get me wrong, I still really enjoy our marina stops and the convenience of nearby bathrooms, laundry, groceries and other land amenities. I like having access to other people, restaurants and the occasional swimming pool; especially in this Puerto Rican heat.
Who wouldn’t find views like this uplifting?
But I can tell you that once we have untied the dock lines and begun motoring out of a marina and into a wide expanse of open water, with the wind in our faces and the sun dancing off the water, I feel a lifting of my heart and my soul seems to quicken with joy.
One thing I love is that there are no fences in the water! I never know what might might swim into view below our keels as LIB splashes along or gently sways on anchor.
Dolphins? Starfish? Turtles?
Or I can jump in the water and swim to shore to explore whatever beach or little town beckons. And each time I do, the scenery and marine life as I swim present an ever changing kaleidoscope.
Frank and Al look like they are paddling in liquid gold.
As for seeing other people, I have found the cruising community to be open and welcoming. It is pretty easy to hop in the dinghy or jump on the SUP and pop over to say hello to someone sharing the anchorage.
A butterscotch sky.
Often we invite new acquaintances to share a drink on our boat and watch the sun tuck itself into the horizon.
So, sorry Georgie, life in a marina offers much, but for me…. I guess I’m secretly a hooker at heart. 😉
I would love for you to share your thoughts in the comments below: Marina Maven? or more of a Hooker?
A special thank you to Georgie Moon of Third Time Lucky for allowing me to link to her blog. Georgie writes often about a myriad of topics and her pictures are stunning. I hope some day our wakes cross, because I do think we could find plenty of common interests!
Our early departure from Gilligan’s Island meant we arrived in Ponce by 7 am. The anchorage was pretty quiet at that hour except for the Ponce Marine Policia who followed us into the anchorage and politely waited for us to anchor before approaching our boat. Apparently when they spotted our boat and looked up our information, they did not show that we had checked into the country. Fortunately Frank had a record of his conversation with the Small Vessel Reporting System (SVRS) officer and he had the confirmation number of our check in via the telephone. The Ponce Police were very nice and respectful to us and soon the misunderstanding was resolved. The Policia returned our paperwork and wished us a happy Memorial Day weekend. A police stop is one way to get your heart rate up early in the morning.
We didn’t spend enough time in Ponce to rent a car and go into the heart of town so we really don’t know what it has to offer. Instead we walked the (mostly closed) boardwalk where only a handful of people were strolling about. Apparently things don’t get started there until evening, (surprise) but we were too tired to go back to the boardwalk that night, especially with another 4 am wakeup planned. Obvously, we are not your source for information about Ponce.
Beautiful scenes on our way to Jobos Bay
There was a bit of a storm brewing in the Atlantic Ocean and along with every other boater in the area, we were keeping an eye on the weather. We left especially early for Salinas the next morning with the express purpose of looking into a suggested hurricane hole near the Salinas anchorage just in case the storm developed.
We guided LIB through the mangrove lined inlets and fingers just east of Salinas in Jobos Bay and basically toured the area to determine if it would be a good spot to wait out a hurricane if the storm developed. (Yes, it is, but the area is protected and you cannot anchor there until a storm is imminent.)
Mauna Kea looks pretty in the evening colors.
After a pretty thorough reconnaissance mission, we went back to Salinas and anchored near Laurie and Ken of s/v Mauna Kea. We were really excited to catch up with the only other 2016 Sail to the Sun Rally boat gliding around Puerto Rico and still exploring outside of the States!
We spent a couple of days in Salinas hanging out with Ken and Laurie who were experts on the area since they had been there for more than two weeks. The marina in Salinas welcomes anchored cruisers and has a nice dinghy dock which we have learned is sometimes hard to find. The marina has a little bar/restaurant as well as washer/dryer and showers. Very helpful to the cruising community.
Are you jealous of that exotic blue leopard material?
There is a decent grocery store about a third of a mile from the marina and Laurie lent us her collapsable grocery cart to make the walk home easier. For these last two years, Frank and I have carried our groceries home in backpacks and reusable bags, but this little cart made the walk so much easier that I have already ordered my very own collapsable cart.
We hung out in Salina a few nights waiting to see what would become of the storm in the Atlantic that was projected to head toward Puerto Rico. Fortunately the storm dissipated and we would not need to seek refuge in Jobos Bay.
Look how bright and well defined the colors are in this rainbow!
Rain has been plentiful here in Puerto Rico so the salt water is routinely rinsed from our decks and we have seen many pretty rainbows. I especially liked how vibrant the colors were in the rainbow pictured above.
Patillas is at the foot of these lush hills.
Mauna Kea and Let It Be left Salinas and headed for Patillas where we would stop before our final jump to The Yacht Club Marina at Palmas del Mar; our stopping point for this hurricane season.
Ken strikes a pose after anchoring Mauna Kea!
Once anchors were set and a quick rain shower had rinsed our decks, Laurie, Ken, Frank and I dinghied into town to stretch our legs and check out the town. We strolled to the left, then we strolled to the right and about 30 minutes later we had pretty much traversed the waterfront area of Patillas and Captain had enjoyed plenty of sniffing and calling card deposits.
Ken, Frank and Captain chilling in the shade and watching the activity.
Rain was threatening again so we found a little outdoor spot with plenty of umbrellas and enjoyed lunch while watching the comings and goings along the main street. We were surprised that there seemed to be a lot going on here even though the town was tiny.
Can you tell we were caught in the rain? Maybe I need a selfie stick? Or longer arms?
Our lunch table was right on the main road and we had the perfect spot to observe the comings and goings in Patillas.
Disco bus for elders??
I have no idea what was up with this bus but the folks on board were having a grand time and the lights on the bus were flashing all kinds of random patterns. We couldn’t decide if it was a tour bus (but there were no blaring announcements) or if a retirement home had gone all out on their day bus!
I wish I could have captured the lights and music in a picture!
Lights and bling are obviously emphasized in Patillas as is evidenced by the ice cream truck we saw on the main street just as we were finishing lunch.
WAIT!!!!!! Did you say ice cream truck? Well we paid our lunch bill and took off after that ice cream truck. I felt like we were part of a cartoon comedy because every time we got close to the truck, he moved on! But we persisted and finally managed to catch the ice cream man!
I didn’t see any bomb pops but we found plenty to enjoy.
After strolling the beach front and eating our ice cream, we had pretty much exhausted Patillas so we headed back to our sailboats and simply enjoyed the view from our boats.
Once again we were leaving before sun up so it was early to bed for all of us. But at least we had a chance to walk around a bit, and had a short jog chasing the ice cream truck!
A stellar final sunrise!
Our final sunrise as we motored toward Palmas del Mar was stunning. The sun sprayed golden rays across the ocean and brought forth a beautiful day for our final push along the southern coast of Puerto Rico.
We arrived at The Yacht Club at Palmas del Mar and were warmly welcomed my the great team who runs this marina. In the fall of 2015 when we were preparing LIB to be our live aboard home, we had spent almost two months here and we were thrilled to see the same fabulous folks here upon our return.
Sunset from The Yacht Club
I truly cannot say enough positive things about the staff at The Yacht Club Marina. They are the most caring, helpful, happy and kind people we have met. And they are very organized and efficient.
Full moon rises over the rock jetty at The Yacht Club
This is a wonderful place to while away our time during hurricane season and if we must be on the dock, I can’t think of a better place.
As always, thank you for visiting our blog. We would love to hear from you in the comments below. If you are interested in seeing more of our everyday activities, please visit our FB page: Let It Be, Helia 44