We anxiously await the delivery of our new home.
Frank and I have just returned from three weeks in China and what is probably our last visit to that country. When our oldest son decided to study in China, I was apprehensive about his being so far away in a country where I could not communicate if he had trouble and whose government is so different from ours in the U.S. But having now visited China several times, I admit I feel very safe there. I have never felt I was in danger of anything other than getting lost.
Our visits to China have been very positive. The people are nice and willing to help, though we have to play charades to ask a question, order food or generally get around. Sometimes the charades, combined with the small amount of English a local might speak will allow us to communicate. But often, our communication doesn’t really work. If you have any interest in visiting China, I strongly recommend a guide if you don’t speak Mandarin.
On the whole, I find the Chinese to be a happy population. I see a lot of laughter and I enjoy how playful and unsophisticated some of their interactions appear. I also enjoy their love of cartoon-like characters. Somehow these things make me feel that the people here are young at heart and it makes me wish I could communicate with them more.
HH has taken excellent care of us during each of our visits, making sure we have transportation and are very well fed! We sincerely appreciate the service and care HH has provided and we will miss seeing the staff who has always been welcoming and accommodating.
This trip, Frank and I spent most of our time in Xiamen at the HH factory. If we weren’t there, we did not venture very far from our hotel but instead spent our down time studying for our next level of captains licensing or working out in the gym or enjoying the scenery from high in the hotel.
I wish I could capture the flavor of China to share with you, but the variety of experiences is broad. Instead, I will share a few photos I took while walking or being driven by the HH driver. (Please excuse the less than excellent quality of the photos.)
Doors are an important feature of buildings.
Although Feng Shui is a concept I learned about only 15 years ago, it is entrenched in Chinese society and beliefs. According to this belief, direction and appearance of the front doorway is especially important because it allows energy to flow freely into the home and throughout the interior. Even on relatively modest homes or places of business, the doorways were often elaborate. I could only catch a couple as we were driving.
Landscape is lush and well maintained.
I don’t know if the soil is exceptionally good or if the Chinese have a special talent for gardening, but so much of the surroundings are beautifully tended and sculptured. The sides of highways were often tiered with a variety of plants, parks are sprinkled among high rises and flowers are often in planters outside of homes or businesses.
Although Xiamen has a ton of tall apartment buildings and buildings in general with the definite feel of a large population, there are also green spaces to relieve the density of the buildings. Admittedly, there are also many buildings with laundry drying from balconies, or tall, new buildings near shorter, older ones that look near collapse, so the city doesn’t feel pristine, but instead feels very much “lived in.”
Older buildings in foreground, newer buildings past the highway and green space mixed in.
But as I’ve said before, China is defined by both the old and new, the modern and the traditional. Daily life is a juxtaposition of repurposing old things and embracing new ones.
A belt driven engine of some kind.
A young woman was pedaling these wooden crates.
I’m not sure how this is steered.
In addition to these unique vehicles, there are plenty of new cars including some extremely expensive ones, but I would not like to navigate any of the roads myself. Lanes seems to be simply suggestions and not a hard and fast rule in China. I have never seen people drive cars SO close together, on purpose, without a bunch of horn honking. I have complete respect for the folks who drive in Xiamen!
More cranes than Dallas!
For a while, when we lived in Texas, we used to say the state bird was the crane because there were so many building cranes being used for construction. But I am certain there were more building cranes in use in Xiamen than I ever saw in Dallas!
Xiamen University is large complex of buildings and they are still adding facilities. I read that there are over 40,000 full time students at Xiamen University, though with such a large campus I never saw it look at all crowded although we passed it ever day on our way to the HH facility.
Xiamen University is huge and brand new.
All of the red roofs in the background are part of Xiamen University.
Interesting architecture on newer buildings.
Zoom in on the necklace, earrings and hat!
I just had to throw in this photo session we saw while visiting Piano Island. I have no idea what the purpose of the ‘shoot’ was, but I found this woman’s whole outfit intriguing. Now I certainly wouldn’t want anyone to assume that my fashion taste was anything like that of most advertisements I see, so I am not assuming that this is representative of the average Chinese consumer. But I did love the mixture of elements in this outfit! The bustier top combined with the socks and high heels, along with the power fist necklace and the giant earrings?! Pretty interesting.
To me, this speaks of the combination of sophistication yet playfulness I tried to allude to concerning the Chinese.
Please do NOT think I am being derogatory of the Chinese. That is not my intention. I am simply trying to show what I observed and interpreted as a childlike quality retained by the people that I found heartwarming and likable.
One last photo…. what do you notice is missing from our hotel?
Do you see a pattern here?
I had no idea why these floors were missing. Turns out the Chinese believe in avoiding what they consider unlucky. In this case, it is the number 4. Therefore there was not a 4th, 14th or 24th floor in our hotel. I’m not sure how they managed to eliminate three whole floors, but it was very tricky!
In conclusion, my initial concern for my son’s safety while he lived in China changed completely after I visited him there in 2013. Today, after several additional visits to China, I have become quite fond of many aspects of it, although I do not really know much about China because when language and reading are not understood, a culture cannot truly be absorbed. The only judgement I have is based on my interaction with those who could speak to me and my general impressions and intuition, both of which were favorable.
However, even if I could speak Mandarin, I would never trade the U.S. for China. Frank and I thoroughly missed our home country. We prefer the culture and manners of our native land and were happy to return.
Now that our last visit to the HH factory is completed, we are counting the days until Ticket to Ride will be delivered to the U.S. via container ship!
Thank you HH and Morrelli and Melvin for creating our awesome future home!
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.
Thanks so much for reading our page. If you want to hear from us more often, please visit our FB page: HH55 Ticket to Ride.
We had an excellent visit to HYM in China to see the progress of our HH55, Ticket To Ride. As usual, we were treated very well by everyone at HH. Hudson Wang kindly took us to dinner a few nights and we enjoyed his generosity, the company of others and the delicious food.
We spent a lot of time looking through Ticket To Ride and taking pictures of areas that will be covered soon so we will know where everything is in the event that we (Frank) needs to repair or access a system. Think of things such as the solar controllers that are mounted in the ceiling. During this visit, the ceiling panels were not yet installed so we could take photos.
Repeat for pretty much every inch of the boat!
HH sent us a progress report about a week ago that shows much more has been accomplished since our visit. Here are just a couple of pictures from the report:
The dagger board fabrication is complete and painting is in process.
There is a learning curve involved in sailing with dagger boards, but we look forward to having less slip and better pointing ability by having them.
We switched from a teak shower floor to Kerlite and the look is great!
The teak shower floor looked good on the other HH sailboats, but we decided to have a porcelain tile product (Kerlite) installed instead because we think it will be lower maintenance. Plus we like the look of it. What do you think?
Our very own washer/dryer. That is exciting.
Some people would choose a dishwasher rather than a washer/dryer, but since usually it is only Frank and I eating and we don’t generate many dishes, I prefer having the ability to wash our clothing on board. (Whoohoo, no more washing in a bucket!)
So that is it, a very quick bit of information about our boat. We head back to China for sea trials in just a couple of weeks and we can hardly wait!
Thanks to HH for fabricating this boat for us with such care. And thank you to M&M for everything you have and are doing for us, beginning with designing a great sailboat/home for us.
Our previous post concerning customizations for TTR seemed to be well received; so we will go forward with “Our Stamp, Part II”. Please remember that the decisions and changes we have made are not necessarily right, wrong, or suitable for everyone; they simply reflect our preferences. These aren’t necessarily the most exciting topics, but they are important when planning to live on a sailboat.
Dinghy davits – As much as we loved Let It Be, one of the Helia’s weakest features is inadequate dinghy davits. Frank and I removed the dinghy engine for any overnight passage and the dinghy remained a matter of concern on passages.
Improving on the dinghy davits seen on previous HH Catamarans was well spelled out in our contract for TTR. The redesigned davits in addition to carrying a sufficient load with a big safety margin would have to meet the following criteria 1. With the engine down, the bottom of the shaft had to be 38 inches off the water 2. Both davits had to touch the port and starboard inflatable tubes of the RIB for stability 3. The dinghy had to sit level from side to side when fully lifted into the davits 4. The stern of the dinghy had to be lower than the bow to allow water drainage.
Initial renderings of the modified davits.
Combining the design skills of Gino Morelli and James Hakes with HYM’s fabrication capabilities, dinghy davits have been created that are both esthetic and functional. The design and fabrication of the first set of davits was finished in time for installation on Utopia, HH55-04, which arrived in Newport, RI last week. The reports so far are very good. Many thanks to those involved, we look forward to a happy and stable dinghy.
Solar MPPT controllers – HH offers several solar package options and all HH solar installations include Solbian SP flex panels fabricated in Italy using ultra-efficient monocrystalline Sunpower cells and installed on the coachroof of the boat. HH’s standard install involves wiring 2 of these super expensive 12v panels in series to one 24v MPPT controller to charge the 24v house bank. All this makes sense except when confronting the shading issue which is inevitable in all boat applications. When only 2 of the total 72 cells (36 cells each panel) on these 2 series wired panels becomes hard shaded, the charging output drops by 60% or more. Genasun boost controllers to the rescue! TTR will have 1 Genasun MPPT boost controller for each panel boosting the charging voltage from 12 to 24v. Therefore, if 2 cells on any panel become hard shaded the loss will be only the output from that one panel not two panels. I know this all seems like a lot of mathematical gooble-dee-goop but that’s what my man does well! We are hoping that our solar charging will reduce generator run time to only 4 hours every third day at anchor. Thank you to Jessica Li, the HH electrical install team, and the onsite supervision squad for helping us to make this happen.
Installation of the solar controllers in the salon ceiling of TTR.
Folding propellers – HH offers a Gori 3 blade folding propeller as it’s standard; it’s shiny and beautiful. Nevertheless when researching folding props for Let It Be; we were overwhelmingly led to the Flexofold 3 blade folding prop and specified the same for Ticket to Ride. Yachting World Magazine performed the most objective testing of folding and feathering props and published the results in their March 2015 issue. These tests showed the Flexofold prop was the top performer in all categories including forward and reverse thrust, top speed, low side force, and low drag when folded. The Flexofold prop has an inexpensive off the shelf hub anode in comparison to Gori’s expensive proprietary anode. The Flexofold is simple and maintenance free without the gimmicky overdrive feature touted by Gori. And last but not least we were incredibly happy with the service provided by our Flexofold props on Let It Be. We could see no reason to change from what was working.
3-blade saildrive folding propeller by Flexofold
Antifouling Paint – During our 5 years owning Let It Be, we had antifouling paint applied 5 times. Three different paint brands, 3 different boatyards, 3 different islands and all the bottom paint work (sanding, preparation, application) for better or worse was performed by the boatyard. The paints ranged from Sherwin Williams (least expensive) to Sea Hawk Islands 44 (most expensive). Regardless, none of the bottom jobs looked satisfactory at 10 months much less 12; very disappointing. While living on LIB a bottom job cost $5000-7000, required planning, involves some risk for the boat, and moved us off for at least a week. Our cost involved haul, launch, blocking, paint, labor, yard days, lodging for us off the boat, kennel time for Captain, and eating out. We figured there has to be a better way. TTR will have CopperCoat brand epoxy paint applied to her clean hull undersides under the supervision of the Chinese Coppercoat rep and we hope to get 5 years out of CopperCoat. CopperCoat will add about 100 pounds, cost maybe 25% more, and only comes in a brownish/tan color that will patina into a blackish/green color; however, it could save us mucho dinero, is much more environmentally friendly, and could remove the hassle of annual bottom jobs.
LIB’s hull full of barnacles only 7 months after an expensive bottom paint job!
Yes, HYM really has worked with us to deliver a boat that meets our needs, plans, and expectations. I have saved the major interior customizations for a later blog when I will have pictures from TTR. I think the interior changes are as exciting and important as the outside changes that have now been discussed.
Please stay tuned and let us know if you have a question or comment. Check out our FB page for more frequent posts.
One of the benefits for us of buying an HH55 catamaran is the opportunity to customize the boat to our liking. No doubt that Morrelli and Melvin designed an incredible boat and HH is doing a fabulous job of fabricating that boat. But we still have been able to add our own little stamp to the boat we will receive in a few months.
Beginning on the outside and forward at the bow, here are just a few items we have changed from “the norm” on previous HH55s.
Trampoline – The standard trampoline supplied by HYM is a 1 1/4 inch knotless dyneema material that is attached with individual lashings to the many, many attachment points on the hull. The 1 1/4 inch reference relates to the size of the hole between the strands of dyneema line. This dyneema trampoline is an excellent, lightweight choice for offshore and racing, the getting there part of sailing; however, for both the getting there and the being there part of sailing we chose an alternative. We wanted a trampoline comfortable for bare feet, dog paws, knees during yoga and relaxing at anchor. Simply put, we wanted to make the trampoline serve as both a useful and comfortable outdoor space. Sunrise Yacht Products to the rescue! Richard worked beyond his duty to properly size and manufacture an offshore trampoline that would have all the benefits of dyneema with a host of other advantages. We settled on the Sunrise Offshore Polyester Open Net with 3/8″ net openings and attachment grommets to match each of the hull attachment points. We are super excited to play and work on this trampoline. By moving to this trampoline we did add 22 pounds to the overall weight of TTR.
Left represents the weave we chose for TTR. Right is a 1″ dyneema open weave.
Generator – Hudson Yacht has been installing a 12KW Fisher-Panda generator on the previous HH55’s and this was simply a deal breaker for Frank, my favorite mechanic. We have had different gensets on previous boats; however, the Northern Lights 9KW genset on Let It Be far surpassed any generator we have owned. The NL was quiet, easy to service, incredibly dependable, and NEVER failed to start. When we sold Let It Be, the genset had over 8,000 hours, ran beautifully, and the only part we had replaced was one alternator. Frank feels that the key to the NL genset success is that it has No, None, zero green circuit boards, only relays, and it runs at 1800 RPMs not the 3200-3600 RPMs seen with the Fisher-Panda. The NL genset is about 40 pounds heavier than the FP which makes zero difference to us. Our boat, for better or worse, will be electrically demanding and we accept the need for a generator; however, we absolutely wanted a machine on which we can depend.
A brand new Northern Lights Generator for TTR.
Bow Thruster – HH offers a bow thruster located in the starboard forepeak with a dropdown lower unit when the thruster is in use. All 3 of the previous HH55s have opted for the thruster; however, we chose to delete the thruster from TTR. Having the experience of Let It Be with no bow thruster and the fact that we expect to spend very little time coming to and from marina docks; we feel very comfortable with no bow thruster. The financial savings was big and eliminating the thruster saved us over 440 pounds!! However, we did build a monolithic patch in the forward hull allowing for easy installation of a bow thruster if desired in the future.
450 mm Extended longeron (bowsprit) – Since our sailing plans and reason for buying Ticket To Ride include a tropical circumnavigation, we realize that much of our sailing time will be spent with the wind aft of the beam. On Let It Be some of our favorite sailing days had the wind TWA at 130-170; however, we also found that to be a challenging wind direction for sail configuration. Alas, with Gino Morelli’s advice and working with our sailmaker, Matt Bridges, from Doyle NZ, we decided to extend the longeron / bowsprit by 450 mm and fly a large furled reacher from the very end of the bowsprit. This bring the headsail further forward into cleaner wind, less blanketed by the mainsail.
Longeron installed on TTR.
Cableless Reacher – The mainsail, genoa, and self tacking staysail on Ticket to Ride will be supplied by Doyle NZ (our choice) and will be very similar in size and cut to the previous HH55s. The reacher/Code sail is where we have changed course from the previous HH55s. Again, since tropical circumnavigation is our plan we talked at length with anyone knowledgable about appropriate sail configurations for such plans. Matt Bridges from Doyle NZ is an excellent listener and his first proposal included a cableless reacher. “What is that animal?,” we asked. In brief, a cableless reacher eliminates the very thick torque rope around which a removable, furled headsail is normally wound when furled. Instead of the 3/4 inch torque rope tensioned to sometimes over 5 tons, the cableless reacher has additional spectra and carbon fibers built into the luff of the sail and is tensioned to about 1/8 of the torque rope specs. The trade off with a cableless reacher is that it will not go upwind as well as a torque rope and will never be a Code 0 or an A1. Rather the cut is more A2 or A3. WOW, that’s exactly what we want!
Cableless reacher production drawing from Doyle Sails.
Considering all the above features of the cableless reacher, we also did not order a gennaker at this time. We feel the cableless reacher will be much easier for us to handle alone and it provides 80% of the benefit of a gennaker. Eliminating the gennaker is a huge dollar, weight and storage savings.
Another view of the reacher drawing.
Spade Anchor and galvanized chain – Hudson Yacht’s standard spec for anchor and chain is a Stainless Lewmar Delta anchor and stainless chain manufactured in China. I don’t know about you, but, we say thank you to our anchor every morning when we wake up to find ourselves in the same spot as when we went to bed. Let It Be was delivered with a Lewmar Delta Anchor which worked fine in ideal conditions. Sailors know that ideal conditions are seldom found! After 3 weeks on Let It Be, much anchor research, and a boat show special, we chose to give Let It Be a new Spade Anchor and we never looked back. Grass, mud, sand, wind, or any combination of the above and we were always set. So why would we want to return to the past with Ticket To Ride? TTR will be sporting a beautiful stainless 1 piece Spade anchor. Concerning anchor chain, Practical Sailor says it best, “Steer Clear of Stainless-steel Mooring Chain.” Stainless chain, in addition to being inherently weaker, suffers from crevice corrosion leading to failure with no warning. We have spec’d 10 mm galvanized Acco chain for Ticket To Ride.
Hopefully our anchor will never land in such a shallow spot!
Watermakers – We really did not vary too far from the HYM standard Spectra watermaker. What we did change is its location. Frank and I had a love/hate relationship with the huge storage capacity below the berths on Let It Be. On the love side it allowed us to carry ample spares, tools, and toys. On the hate side it seemed like every time we needed something different it was stored below a bed requiring the removal of bedsheets, mattresses, mattress support boards followed by digging. The watermakers on HH5501 and HH5502 were installed below the master berth…. a much less than ideal location in our opinion! Considering filter replacement, checking for leaks and the noise generated while making water, my maintenance specialist began an earnest search for a different location. After many emails, evaluation of drawings, and support questions to Spectra, the decision was made to put the Spectra 24v Newport 700 in a purpose built compartment in the port side forepeak. The HH crew is confident this will be an excellent long term home for the watermaker due to access for service, weight distribution and water spill cleanup. Only time will tell for this untested location.
It’s very fun to share the construction of a new boat with our friends and readers. The items above really only scratch the surface of the changes we have made to TTR to meet our needs. In a future blog post(s), we will share other custom changes to solar, electronics, seating, general arrangement, and so on.
In just a few days we are heading to China for the ‘soft launch’ of TTR and we look forward to seeing her in person! During soft launch, Ticket to Ride is placed in a pond so most of her systems can be tested. Soft launch allows HH to review all of the components of boat systems and it will give us our first chance to begin learning about the systems on TTR that will be new to us. (And I get to see how the interior colors I chose actually work together. Fingers crossed!)
Many, many thanks go to the HH crew, Gino Morelli and Mark Womble (Morelli and Melvin), Matt Bridges (Doyle NZ), Paul Hakes, and at the top of the list is Let It Be. She was much more to us than a platform for learning but WOW we did learn a lot from Let It Be.
As always, thank you for stopping by our blog. We love hearing from you, so feel free to add your comments. And if you want to hear from us more often, check out our Facebook page.
Thomas inspecting the paint job on HH55-03.
Things are really starting to Come Together on our new boat. We couldn’t have made it Without A Little Help From My Friends (Gino Morrelli and Mark Womble of MM and Paul Hakes just to name three).
Working hard and taking good care of the boat.
We have driven Long and Winding Roads in our RV while HH works Eight Days A Week building the boat to our wishes and keeping up their excellent fabrication standards.
Do You Want To Know A Secret? We can’t wait to move onto our new boat and Follow The Sun. When we are out on the water, we feel good in a special way. We love to take our dinghy, Day Tripper, to shore. She never takes us half way there!
We were very happy sailing along in Let It Be and enjoyed having people spontaneously sing to us when they read the name of our boat. So we hoped to find another Beatles song title that we liked as the name for our new boat. Several friends suggested Yellow Submarine, but we don’t want any part of a sinking boat!
I love the contrast between the teak steps and the hull color!
This new boat will be our Ticket to Ride the oceans and explore the seas. Yep, if We Can Work It Out, we want to circumnavigate and she will be our s/v Ticket to Ride.
But we don’t want to be part of Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, we want our friends and family to visit us on s/v TTR! The beauty of the world is much more fun when shared with others!
s/v Ticket to Ride is going back indoors for more work.
We thought a lot about what to name our boat and we hope this name is fun and fitting… and that it might inspire singing along the way!
Thank you so much for reading our blog. We look forward to returning to the water and sharing those travels. In the mean time, thank you for keeping up with us as we explore the U.S. by land.
I’ve decided to begin doing short posts because we have had surprisingly limited internet speeds and that makes blogging very time consuming. Plus, those who know Frank know we always have to stay busy and finding time to write when we aren’t driving or doing is difficult.
Once we left Grand Junction, we high tailed over to California, choosing to save exploring Utah for the fall when it might be slightly cooler than it is now. Everyone knows California has some beautiful places and we wanted to explore a few from the RV.
Scenes as we drove to Kernville.
Kernville is on the southern edge of the Sequoia National Forest about 50 miles east and slightly north of Bakersfield, CA. The drive to Kernville was scenic and easy with a one night stop in Hurricane, UT just to break up the drive.
When I think of California, I envision the coast, so I enjoyed seeing the arid, mountainous aspects of the state.
Can you imagine trying to cross this terrane in a covered wagon?
Our RV park in Kernville was the Kern River Sequoia RV Resort. The campsite backs up to the Kern River and our particular site had a small stream behind it. The stream was a very popular spot for neighbors to plop their chairs in the stream while the kids played in and around the water.
I forgot to take a pic of the campground but you get an idea in this picture.
Our sons joined us for the weekend so our family was together for the first time since Christmas in Bonaire. That was quite a treat!
As usual, we stayed very busy, mostly mountain biking. Frank transferred the mountain biking bug to Clayton way back when he was in high school, but Hunter was slower to get hooked. However, after this trip, Hunter has also succumbed to MB Fever.
Three amigos prepping for a ride.
I dropped off the guys at the top of Cannell Trail and they spent the next several hours bombing down the mountain then riding back to the RV. Cannell is listed as an Epic Trail by IMBA (International Mountain Biking Association) and it needed to be done. Frank reports that this isn’t the best Epic he has ridden, but they still had a great time.
Cappy really wanted to run the whole trail!
Captain really wanted to run the trail, but it was too long for her. She trotted along behind Frank near the drop off point until it was time for them to leave. The trail was beyond my comfort zone and I was the designated drop driver, so once Frank, Hunter and Clayton left, Cappy and I hiked a bit and enjoyed the scenery.
Clayton, assessing the mountain?
Hunter looks very serious about this ride.
Do those cute ears make you think of Yoda?
Our campsite was well shaded and the little creek behind us was great for cooling off for both us and the dog.
Why don’t you get wet instead of taking my picture?
Floating the Kern River was pretty popular but we only had a couple of days in Kernville and biking took precedence over all else. In addition to two mountain bike rides, Frank and I enjoyed a few excellent road rides after the kids returned to work. (It is really strange to have our kids leave for work and we just continue to play!!)
Not a bad view as we biked along the road.
I find it very difficult to reconcile the visual effects of the mountains and the streams when I am biking. Often it looks like I’m riding downhill but feels like I am riding uphill because of the illusion the landscape creates on the incline. Generally Frank reads the grade better than I do, so I follow his lead on which direction to ride first so I’ll have a downhill ride on the way back. But it is hard to believe him when my eyes are trying to tell me I’m going downhill!
I guess this is a gentle way of increasing my trust in Frank’s decisions because once I turned around on the rides, I was very surprised to find just how uphill the ride was on the way out. Going home was definitely downhill ~ woohoo!!! Even when the road appears to be going downhill, if I am riding against the flow of the river, I know I am moving uphill….
Does anyone else experience difficulty determining uphill from downhill when the mountains converge near the road you are riding?
Anyway, Kernville was an excellent first stop in California. Of course it was heavily influenced by having the family together! I’m very happy we will be in California and in closer proximity to the kids for a few weeks!
~HH55 Catamaran Update~
Although there is a looonng way to go, the most recent update from HH shows some exciting progress on our cat. Apparently the interior painting is now complete and exterior paint will begin this week. Very exciting! I just have to remember that even though these steps make it look like we have made a big leap toward completion, there are many less obvious and vital steps before completion.
Starboard aft berth.
Facing forward in the master hull; two sinks inboard, the head outboard, then the shower.
In the second photo, you can see some of the customizations HH has made on our hull. LIB was set up as a four cabin, four head boat which was perfect for chartering and actually was very comfortable for us while we lived on board. However, on out HH55 we have chosen to reduce the number of heads and showers to just one in each hull.
In an effort to retain personal space and convenience when we revert to sharing a head, we redesigned the forward area of the owner’s hull. We changed the head from an enclosed area that included one sink, one shower and a toilet in the following way: 1. we removed the doorway into the whole area to make it feel less congested, 2. we enclosed the head for privacy but still allow access to the shower if someone is using the toilet and 3. we added a second sink so we have our own spaces.
Although we had our own heads on LIB, we think these small alterations to our HH55 will allow us to easily share one bathroom and reduce the total number of heads on board.
We very much appreciate Gino Morrelli’s help reworking the spaces in our Morrelli and Melvin designed HH55. Gino knows every space and weight of these boats and he was instrumental in helping us figure out where to make interior changes that would make this awesome boat work for our purposes.
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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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When we first sailed to the entrance of Willemstad, Curacao, the sky looked like a movie depicting the pitfalls of pollution. The combination of the brightly painted buildings, the smokestacks emitting greenhouse gases and a few gathering rainclouds made us wonder if we were sailing into a grisly movie set recreating the industrial age! Our first impression of Willemstad was negatively affected.
The walking bridge swings open to allow LIB access.
But in fairness to Curacao, during the remainder of our stay, the sky was mostly clear and blue and that first sky was the worst one by far. On a positive note, Curacao has an active group called GreenTown that is working hard to raise awareness among Curacao citizens, children and industry of the opportunity (read need) to clean up the island. This is a very important step and one of the only groups we have seen in the Caribbean trying to affect change! So, even though Curacao has an issue right now, there is hope that GreenTown will manage to make a big impact on the future of the island.
As you know from our last blog, we moved to Curacao to meet Deneen, who has bought LIB. Our first few days were spent preparing for the survey and haul out, then meeting Deneen and her broker, Robert. (We were very impressed by Robert and thought he did an excellent job.) Kind of surprisingly, we had a great time with the haul out and survey and especially getting to know Deneen. The fact that Curacao Marine did such a careful job lifting LIB made the whole process much easier.
Every boat owner gets a little jittery watching his boat lifted out of the water and over concrete! But LIB was carefully tended and the survey went well, so our girl was only out of the water for about an hour.
At the end of a fairly long day, Deneen, Robert, Frank and I went to dinner at Kome in Willemstad. The dinner was excellent and the company even better. It was super fun getting to know Deneen and Robert over a relaxed dinner.
Deneen agreed to join us the following day for a stroll around the quaint shopping area of Willemstad. The pictures will do more justice to the walking area than I will….
Willemstad along the canal.
This picture shows a bit of the walking bridge that crosses the canal and is shown above as it opened for LIB to enter.
Frank and Deneen strolling along; probably talking boats.
Pretty examples of the colorful buildings.
Lucky for us, Deneen had been to Curacao and remembered this cute restaurant from her previous visit. She didn’t get a chance to try Mundo Bizarro on her last visit so we agreed we had to make it happen this time. Great choice as the food was excellent. I should have taken a picture of the bar inside. It is worth a look if you are ever nearby!
Aren’t these great?
I have no idea what this building actually is, but I loved the artwork and had to capture it.
“Lock your love on the Punda Love Heart.”
Although I do not know how effective it is to lock you love on the “Punda Love Heart,” it seems to be a popular thing to do. What happened to setting your love free and if it comes back to you it is yours forever? Different cultures or do we live in a possessive era? Just kidding ~ that is way too deep for my frivolous blog! 😉
Just a little wave action in the harbor.
The first 10 days in Curacao, the wind just howled! The water was kicking up so I thought I would try to show the power demonstrated in these waves.
But really, a still shot doesn’t capture the strength of the water and wind.
After Deneen flew back to Texas and the survey was completed, we had a few days to chill and drive around Curacao. Frank and I find it interesting that in the two weeks we have been on Curacao, we have rented a car perhaps six days. During our whole stay in Bonaire we only rented a car four days. This alone demonstrates how different each island is for a cruiser!
Eveline sent this pic of Cap searching the tall grass in the yard.
Captain went to stay with Eveline of Yuka’s Dog Services & Training because we didn’t want her wandering around, untended during the haul out and sea trial. Eveline is fabulous and I strongly recommend her for boarding your dog and for training or agility classes. Cappy had a great time and came home happy and tired.
We wanted to take Captain with us while we explored the islands since she had been away for a couple of days. Unfortunately all of the beaches and the national park we saw prohibited dogs!
This made for an abbreviated day but we did get a chance to see the island, take a few pictures and have lunch.
Fishing boats at anchor.
Although here at Curacao Marine the water is not pretty, Curacao does have some beautiful beaches.
A perfectly protected bay for swimming.
The sand was fine and white and the water crystal clear, but very few people were swimming. Instead they were stretched out on lounge chairs or hiding from the sun in the shade, enjoying a good read.
If Cappy had been allowed on the beach we would definitely have been in that water!
One last fun sight we found was a darling kids’ playground where the nature had been decorated or painted to make it look like a sea-scape. Look how clever this artist is!!
What a creative and happy place to play!
Currently we are waiting for our new IridiumGo to be released from customs so we can begin our journey back to Texas. Unfortunately, between eZone and Customs, our package has been seriously delayed! We await the release of our new IridiumGo and we won’t leave Curacao without it. Two thumbs down on this delayed delivery!
For those who don’t know, IridiumGo is a satellite communication system that allows us to access weather and send limited e-mails while in the middle of the ocean. A very important safety measure that we want to have working for our passage from Curacao to Belize since it is about 1,200 nautical miles! We will be at sea for approximately seven nights and we want to use the IridiumGo to update the weather.
Until the IridiumGo is up and running, we will simply wait in Curacao and enjoy our surroundings.
Now that Let It Be is sold, we will be even more anxious to take delivery of our new catamaran. We are working very closely with HH to set up our boat so it will work well on long passages with only Frank and me on board and for continuing our lives as sailboat cruisers.
I absolutely cannot stress enough how important it has been to have Morrelli and Melvin working with us on the purchase of this boat. Gino Morrelli has been an amazing resource and we are thankful beyond words for his guidance and help! (And patience!)
On his recent visit to China, Gino sent us a couple of picture of our HH55 in construction, including this one of the master cabin bed area. I really like the large window at the head of the bed and along the outboard side in our master cabin.
Here is our aft, port stateroom area under construction.
The completed room looks a lot prettier as seen here on Hai Feng, HH55-02.
When we visited HH55-01, Minnehaha, in Ft. Lauderdale a year ago, owners Deb and Doug were very generous in allowing us to poke around their beautiful boat. While Frank was opening every engine and electrical compartment, I took myself off to the master hull to check out a few of my own “wanted” items. Sitting up in bed and reading is a luxury I have missed, so I was delighted to see there is a generous headboard/backrest on the HH55 ~ perfect for reading. And I love that I will be able to see outside while reading in bed!
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Bonaire has an active youth sailing group and we invited them to join us on Let It Be for an afternoon of sailing.
Fifteen kids and two adults from the Bonaire Sailing School Association boarded LIB around 2 pm. After covering a few guidelines, we released the mooring lines and took off.
LIB was in the hands of some very good sailors! It only took a few minutes to cover basic differences between the small boats the kids sail and the particulars of this catamaran, then the kids were completely ready to take the sheets, lines and throttles!
I was truly impressed with how well these sailors worked together and shared responsibilities. As is always true with a group, some children were very interested in sailing and others preferred to romp around the boat.
Once away from the mooring ball, we raised the main, unfurled the jib and sailed south toward Pink Beach. The auto winch and chart plotter were big hits. But once our sailors learned how to engage and work the autopilot, it was much more interesting to helm manually.
Any child who wanted the helm had a chance and the more experienced kids stayed right there to guide those who needed a little help.
After about an hour of sailing, we dropped the sails and grabbed a mooring ball at Pink Beach on the southern side of Bonaire. We broke out the snacks, lowered the ladder and unleashed the energy. We had already thought these kids were exuberant, but adding the snacks and allowing them to jump from nearly every surface of LIB caused the energy level to increase another watt or ten!
After a refreshing swim and plenty of sustenance, it was time to pop the chute. LIB’s spinnaker is slightly larger than the sails the kids are accustomed to and they loved letting her fly.
Our cat cruised down wind quickly and the kids monkeyed around on this smooth point of sail. Very soon it was time to drop the spin and raise the main and jib once again. Second time around for the main/jib and the kids were all over the job with little help.
I loved watching the kids access the sails, turn to Frank or me and say, “I think that main needs to come in a bit.” Then proceed to make the necessary adjustment. It is easy to see that some of these kids really have caught the sailing bug and they like their sails to be well adjusted.
Several of our sailors have folks who are expert fishermen and that knowledge has been passed along. We brought out the fishing poles and the kids worked the lines hard, but alas, we were not in prime fishing spots. Catching a fish would have been icing on a sweet day, but I’m not sure we needed the additional activity anyway!
Our awesome helmsmen and sheet handlers managed to sail around Klein Bonaire and, with only one tack, they sailed LIB on a perfect line to catch our mooring ball.
We absolutely loved having a chance to share LIB with the BSSA and having the opportunity to get to know these young people. I was incredibly impressed with so much about these kids; they were polite, they were appreciative, they were avid about learning and passionate about sailing, they cared for and watch out for one another, the older ones gently reined in the younger ones if things became unsafe or too wild, they worked well as a team, they were engaging and just plain fun! I could go on and on!
LIB has never housed as much energy as she did for those few hours with the BSSA kids on board and we loved every minute of it. (I would love to hear how other boaters have reached out to get to know the communities they visit. Please tell us in the comments.)
Thank you to the kids who participated and to Anneke and Thijs who took their afternoon to chaperone.
To the parents of this very fun group of sailors, we appreciate your trusting us with your precious children and allowing us to get to know them!
A special thank you to Anneke who took so many great pictures and videos while Frank and I were busy. We are so glad to have these photos! Also, thank you to Charles of Tusen Takk II for the group photo.
The construction of our new catamaran is moving along nicely and we continue to spend a lot of time working with the staff at HH to refine and define our future boat. It has been super fun to receive updates and a few photos from the builder showing us the progress of our boat.
She was just the bare hull when we visited in China.
Since our first visit in August, Frank has returned once to China and was able to be on board for the sea trial of an HH55 with the aft steering. That sea trial further solidified our choice for an aft helm arrangement.
Vacuum infusion of the bulkheads. (Exciting, I know)
While touring the factory, we were able to see vacuum infusion in process for another boat. Per the HH brochure, “the hull, deck and structure are all 100% carbon fiber composite foam sandwich and use post cured epoxy resin for super light, super strong structures.” It is fun to see this processing happening for our own cat.
Those partitions may be confusing to you, but to us they look like our future home.
She doesn’t look like a boat yet, but there is definitely progress being made. We worked with HH and Morrelli and Melvin to arrange the salon and galley to meet our needs and it is fun to see the one dimensional lines and boxes on paper become a reality.
Since this boat is being built in China we obviously can’t just drop by to see how things are going, so we really appreciate the progress reports generated by HH.
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