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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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.
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If you were reading closely, you may have noticed a soft mention of a recent trip to China in one of our blog posts. And if you saw me with my kiddos, you would have noticed that Frank wasn’t with us because he was once again in China. And if you had followed us around the Annapolis Boat Show, you might have noticed that we spent a lot of time on one particular sailboat.
And IF you put all of that together, you might have guessed that we have decided to buy a new boat! W H A T ? ? ? ?
Yep, it’s true.
She doesn’t look like much ~ yet!
Here is the skinny. We love our Helia and think that LIB is a well built, comfortable sailboat. We have put a lot of work into her to make her function perfectly for us and make sure she is reliable, capable and prepared for long passage making.
So why would we change boats? The truth is that we want a boat that is faster than LIB. We have been discussing the idea of circumnavigation and I am in favor of having a sailboat that can make long passages shorter. I like the idea of being “out there” less time and being anchored and exploring longer.
LIB is absolutely blue-water ready and very capable for circumnavigating. But honestly, we have been looking for a boat that can sail upwind, can sail faster and sails well in light winds. We love to sail and we want a sailboat that can comfortably tick off 230 miles per day with a crew of 2.
After months of discussion, we had narrowed our focus to three boats; the Outremer 5X, the Balance 526 and the HH55. Because we did not have an opportunity to sail any of those boats, our research stalled until May of this year. Apparently in May all of the stars aligned just perfectly because in the space of two weeks we had the chance to sea trial and carefully evaluate all three of these boats.
The Outremer, the Balance and the HH each have some excellent features, are solid boats and are performance oriented. But after reviewing our options and sailing goals, and after sailing all three boats, Frank and I were hooked on the HH55. Full carbon construction, cutting edge hull, daggerboard and rig design as well as full customization options are just some of the many features that set the HH apart from other performance catamarans.
We spent a lot of time working with Gino Morrelli, renowned naval architect of Morrelli and Melvin, and with Mark Womble, broker extraordinaire, discussing the HH55 and what we wanted in a new boat. We had conversations and e-mails with Paul Hakes of Hudson Hakes Yacht Group talking about our interests and questions.
In August we flew to China, visited the HH factory, created a preliminary interior layout, then pulled the trigger. We signed a contract and officially placed our order for an HH-55!
Frank and Paul make it official!
Frank and I recognize that sailing the HH will certainly be more complicated than sailing our Helia, but we have always enjoyed challenging ourselves mentally and physically, and we believe this boat will further our sailing experience and knowledge.
Minnehaha, HH55-01! (Photo courtesy of HH Catamarans)
The HH55 has been designed with performance and comfort in mind and we believe this sailboat fulfills both of these roles very well. Our plan is to take delivery in Long Beach, CA, spend six to 12 months getting to know our new boat and making sure all of the systems work well, then set off for our circumnavigation.
HH55-01 sports an inside helm station.
As with all changes, there is great excitement and a pretty large dose of nervousness. We have absolutely loved Let It Be and she has been a sturdy and steady vessel. It will be very hard (read sad) to let her go, so we hope to find buyers who will love her and care for her as well as we have. Let It Be has brought us much joy and I’m sure whoever owns her next will create equally wonderful memories!
So there you have it; we are making some changes, expanding our experience and looking forward to the delivery of our HH55 sailboat.
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