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A Disappointing Customer Service Experience.

Mary Grace and I try to keep our blog focused on the positive, explain some of the difficulties we encounter and try to give our readers a realistic view of our sailing lives. Our relationships with the vast majority of our suppliers and technical support have been positive and very helpful. For example, customer support for CZone / Mastervolt, Hudson Yacht, Northern Lights, Spectra, PYI, and Harken I would rate excellent; the support from B & G electronics I would rate average, and a few others such as Magma and Pochon Electronics score below average. Unfortunately, we had a long, difficult and very poor recent customer experience with our sail maker, Doyle New Zealand, which is the reason and the topic for this writing. I am truly sad that I feel compelled to write this article; however, the overwhelmingly negative experience will not let me rest.

Hudson Yacht encourages their HH55 clients to choose their own sailmaker and work directly with them. With HH55-01 and HH55-02 choosing Doyle Sails NZ, we decided Doyle would be a good choice for Ticket to Ride. Every sailor’s plan is different and we explained to our sales rep, Matt Bridge, that we were cruisers, only the two of us, and wanted one furling headsail that would cover the TWA of 130-160 and could be left hoisted on passages when not deployed. The solution introduced to us by Matt was Doyle’s new cableless reacher made from their Stratis laminate with a mid girth of 62% and on a continuous line bottom up furler. The reacher was contracted at an actual finished weight of 38kg and the contracted size was 150 sqm (square meters). Seemed to be the perfect solution. I asked Matt via email (July 12, 2018) this question,

“Will I be able to keep the main up and the Code 0 (reacher) full (not fluttering or falling against the rig) when the TWS is 12-20 and the TWA is 135-160?”

And I received this answer (July 15, 2018), “it all depends on apparent angle.”

Moving forward the sails were fabricated, delivered to HYM in time for sea trials, and with a few modifications the sails seemed to accommodate our boat.

Ten months after boat delivery and while sailing south in the Baja Haha, I noticed obvious problems in the leech of the reacher while sailing. After dropping anchor in Bahia Santa Maria and dropping the reacher, the deterioration on the trailing 18 inches and some areas further in were very obvious and serious. The sail material was toast! After finishing the HaHa, I shipped the entire reacher to Doyle Sails San Diego. After a month of discussion between myself, San Diego and New Zealand I was told that the problem was a product issue and the sail would be replaced under Doyle’s 3 year “material and any workmanship” warranty with no cost to us.

DSC05513Multiple issues can be seen in the integrity of the leech of reacher #1.

A close up of the leech of reacher #1.

About 2 weeks later, I received the “hate to tell you the bad news” email from Doyle NZ. Matt stated that after examining the small samples sent to NZ from the San Diego loft, the problem with the reacher is 100% user error caused by UV because The Stiches had been furling the sail improperly. The painted-on UV strip is absolutely clear and was on one side only. The Stiches had been instructed by the Doyle rep at sea trials and others during commissioning to furl the reacher always using the windward line; so depending on the tack when the sail was furled this meant that one side or the other (about 50/50) would be exposed after furling. Mary Grace and I, along with other much more experienced people than us, questioned Doyle NZ about how such significant UV damage could occur to a sail that is hoisted only occasionally. Doyle NZ squashed any questions about load and design of the sail. Doyle NZ insisted the cause was 100 percent UV as evidenced by this email quote (March 1, 2020) from Matt Bridge to the yacht’s designer who also questioned the UV diagnosis:

In the case of Frank’s reacher, it absolutely is a case of the sail being rolled backwards. Honestly, if you could see the sample I have on my desk right now it is blindingly obvious.”

Before any fabrication of a replacement sail was begun, Doyle now insisted that the Stiches contribute 30% of the sail retail cost ($18,835 x .30 = 5,650), and The Stiches paid an additional $725 dollars in shipping costs. Doyle made an identical sail, except now the UV strip was painted on both sides of the leech and foot. There was no owner’s manual, no 29 cent sticker stating “roll this side out,” and we were following the instructions given by a Doyle rep at sea trials. Mary Grace and I were not delighted; however, we needed this sail for our Pacific crossing so we swallowed the pill and moved on.

Ticket to Ride got her new reacher (Reacher #2) in March, the day before leaving on our passage to Hawaii. During the passage of 2900 miles and 16 days, the reacher was deployed for about 103 hours according to our log and at TWA typically from 120 to 160. Unfortunately, when the reacher was taken down after arrival in Hawaii, the exact same problems were occurring in the leech of the new sail. This time I had caught the problem earlier although it was still very obvious.

Damage on the leech of reacher #2 appears identical to that seen on reacher #1.

Another image of reacher #2.

After several emails with Matt at Doyle NZ, we agreed to find someone in Hawaii who could evaluate the sail and the way we were using our cableless reacher. Doyle had a representative on TTR for a short sail and Mary Grace and I hired our own expert to evaluate the cause. Doyle’s rep determined that there were no Stich sail handling problems and stated “the set up is just about right” (June 1, 2020).  Doyle NZ’s conclusion of the cause of the problem is explained in the email quote below from Matt Bridge (June 1, 2020);

“the biggest issue is that the sail is definitely more suited to reaching angles, rather than deeper running ones and that the break down in the leech surfaces is caused by the leech being unstable at the lower angles. That sounds about right to me and I can say that laminate sails are not great at handling that collapsing and re-filling for extended periods. With hindsight, it is probably asking too much of that design to have a sail that can cope with that big a wind ranges for extended use on ocean passages.”

After no apologies for the incorrect reacher #1 UV diagnosis, no financial discussion response from Matt Bridge, and my less than cordial reply, Doyle NZ’s co-owner, Mike Sanderson, took over the conversation. Mike’s diagnosis of the problems with reacher #2, although showing identical symptoms to reacher #1, was our chosen style of sailing deeper wind angles and lower boat speeds. Mike stated we were using the sail improperly by deploying the reacher in wind angles for which it had not been designed. Mike insisted we were not sailing to polars and why “not put the bow up to 145 TWA and do 16, 18 knots?” (email June 3, 2020). Basically, Doyle had designed our reacher according to how Doyle thought we should be sailing our HH55 not how we expressed in writing we wanted and expected to sail.

Yes, Mary Grace and I were furious.

  • Did we not explain who we are and our downwind sailing intentions?
  • Was the onus of responsibility not Doyle’s to ask The Stiches the right questions and therefore design sails to meet our plans?
  • Why was this “sailing improperly” cause not explored in Reacher #1? Several knowledgeable people questioned the UV diagnosis and suggested load or material issues. Doyle could have saved all parties time, hassle and money if there had been a better analysis.
  • Why didn’t we hear from Doyle NZ that the recommended wind angles for this sail were 38-105 AWA until after reacher #2 began showing issues? 
  • Quote from the Doyle warranty “… designed wind range, (as detailed in the user manual supplied at the time of commissioning).” Mike, we are still waiting to receive our user manual.
  • Why would any sail, especially one designed for downwind angles, show these delamination problems after only 103 hours of use? Certainly, Stratis was not the proper material for our only downwind sail.
  • Why was the cableless reacher specified in the final contract as 150 sqm made to be 177 sqm? I had consulted with the yacht’s designer and other owners to arrive at the 150 sqm size. The sail size was changed and I was not informed.
  • Why is the actual reacher weight 65 kg versus the contracted and promised weight of 38kg? I would have cancelled my boat purchase if the final boat weight was 171% over contract. Mike’s statement from his June 4, 2020 email “it’s obviously a shame that if this (contracted weight) was an issue for you that we went ahead and made the replacement sail the same” almost made me blow a gasket. Who builds a carbon fiber performance cat and is not concerned about weight?
  • And finally, since reacher #2 showed problems after a 20-day life, UV was certainly not the cause. Therefore, Doyle NZ should be returning to me, no questions asked, the $6375 spent on reacher #2.  Furthermore, Doyle NZ should apologize for blaming The Stiches for the problems with reacher #1 which was accompanied by the accusation that the Stiches lack “basic knowledge” (email Feb. 26). Then we could have opened a customer friendly conversation

One of the most common questions we hear from guests on Ticket to Ride is “Can you and Mary Grace handle this boat?” My standard answer is an unwavering “yes, on our terms.” We don’t sail around with our hair on fire, the windward hull out of the water, or matching polars. Unfortunately, after 20 days of email discussions with Mike Sanderson, we actually started to wonder if we had bought too much boat, even though we already had 10,000 successful miles under TTR’s keels. It is very sad that the owners of any company would lead a customer to doubt his ability.

In the end, Doyle made no conciliation to our requests for monies to be returned and made only weak attempts to make us happy on Doyle’s terms. Doyle NZ’s entire point of view was summarized in this Mike Sanderson email quote (June 4), “the bottom line is that it is still the right sail for the boat.” There is no doubt that Doyle NZ had designed this sail and built it from a material according to how THEY think we should be sailing our boat.

In our opinion, Doyle had 3 chances to make this right: 1. Initial design, listen to the customer.  2. Proper diagnosis of the problems with reacher #1.  3. Evaluation and customer friendly plan after the problems with reacher #2. 

After a month of confrontational emails, wasted money, and the delays to our cruising plans, Mary Grace and I had totally lost confidence in Doyle Sails NZ, both the people and the products. We wanted nothing to do with Doyle Sails.

Doyle did pay for the repair to the reacher done in the Hawaii North Sails Loft which involved cutting a deep hollow in the reacher leech, adding a wave strainer to the reacher leech and replacing the leech tape. Disturbingly, our Doyle Stratis Genoa was showing early signs of similar delamination on many spots along the leech. Doyle paid for a portion of the genoa repairs needed.

The Stiches paid in full for necessary additions and repairs made to the mainsail in the North Loft. Areas of the mainsail along the foot were chafing due to the inability to control the reefed portion of the main below the new foot. North Sails Hawaii carefully placed reinforced grommets in the mainsail to control the reefed portion of the sail. These mainsail reefing grommets were considered by Doyle to be owner preference. The Stiches considered the lack of grommets to be a Doyle oversight.

A rusty C-clamp and a few sail ties is not the proper way to control the reefed portion of our main.

The added grommets and bungee ties are a necessity, not an owner preference, to control the reefed portion of this main.

Essentially, our current, repaired reacher is too fat cut to fly properly in reaching wind angles and especially in light wind. At the same time, it is made of the wrong material to accept our downwind sailing style without damaging the sail. So where do we go from here to create a sail inventory for our cruising itinerary? 

  • We are working with North Sails Hawaii to design and build a sail for the deeper downwind VMG angles that we explained to Doyle in the beginning was our preference and intention. The design being considered is a woven polyester sail on a top down furler with the torque rope encased in the luff to help prevent some of the issues with top down furling.
  • At some point in the near future, we will add to our inventory a sail properly designed and made from appropriate material for the purpose of reaching, especially in light winds.
  • In the mean time, we will use the repaired reacher in limited situations. This reacher will not tolerate any fluttering so the sail can only be used below an AWA of 100 which for TTR means a TWA of probably 115-120 depending on the wind speed. This reacher was designed with a fat cut mid girth of 62% and does not fly well under TWA of 85, so we are left with a usable TWA range of about 85-115 for this sail. 

Certainly, this entire experience with Doyle Sails NZ is unfortunate and not a part of life or cruising that Mary Grace and I enjoy.  I would assume there are many Doyle Lofts who value customer satisfaction and would regret the manner in which this issue was handled. At the same time, I was dealing with the owners of Doyle Sails and their philosophy will be reflected in corporate policy.

Doyle Sails may have some excellent products; however, every company has occasional issues with a product or a decision. Our greatest surprise was the attitude of the Doyle NZ management, their lack of ownership of the problems, and especially their treatment of us as customers. Mike Sanderson went to great lengths using theoretical polars and VPP’s that are irrelevant to our stated sailing preferences to show us and prove to us and others that our choice of sailing style was faulty. I have never had a business owner communicate with me with as little respect as I received from Doyle NZ. 

Based on Doyle NZ’s handling of this issue, our lack of confidence in Doyle products, and the attitude displayed by one of Doyle’s owners, we will never purchase or recommend Doyle products again.

Many people have followed this issue; I would invite those people or others to comment or express your thoughts. Thank you as always for reading.

As always, thank you for reading our blog. We regret the negative vain of this particular blog, but we felt it should be written. If you would like to hear from us more often, please follow us on Facebook or Instagram.

Our Final Passage on LIB ~ Belize to Galveston

Caye Calker

The view of Caye Caulker from LIB at anchor.

Belize was such a fun place for us that we were sorry to leave. Plus we had very mixed emotions about our arrival in Galveston since that would be where we would say goodbye to our dear boat and turn her over to the new owner.

But once we found a good weather window for passaging we could not delay our departure because we had promised to deliver LIB to Galveston by mid-May.

We made sure LIB had plenty of fuel and that meals were pre-pared so that if our first few days at sea were rough we wouldn’t have to put much effort into cooking.

We estimated the trip would be about 850 nm or seven to eight days and we hoped to optimize the use of the Gulf currents rather than work against them.  We didn’t have the upgraded version of Predict Wind that shows the current, so we had to preview the currents before we left and do our best to aim for the anticipated location of the flow.  We also sent internet links to our sons and while at sea hoped they could help us adjust course to maximize the current.

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The yellow line shows our approximate exit from Caye Caulker.

Leaving Caye Caulker was a bit dicey because the charts were unreliable and there were only two breaks in the Belize Barrier Reef.  I was at the helm reading the water and Frank was on the foredeck reading the water and directing me around shallow spots and coral heads.

It took us about an hour to travel the short distance around the southern side of Caye Caulker to the outside of the reef, but caution was certainly called for when the depths were sometimes only two feet under the keel!

Once we were outside the reef, we heaved a great sigh of relief and headed north. We hoped the wind would continue to blow and stay in our favor because the forecast showed a distinct possibility of little or no wind as the week progressed.

Our first two days were remarkably uneventful and the seas were very calm in light winds.  We were able to raise the main and jib and were making nice progress, aiming toward the gulf currents.

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Look how close to the bow the dolphins swim!

Dolphins came to play, wish us well and add a little sparkle to our day.

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There were more than these four dolphins but this pic showed the most.

We were about 200 miles offshore when our first barn swallow hitched a ride. Before long we had six swallows hanging out on LIB.

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Such colorful little visitors!

I enjoyed seeing the birds until they decided they preferred to be inside LIB instead of staying outside.  We had to shoo them outside and keep the sliding door closed until the birds huddled up and went to sleep for the night.

Unfortunately not all of the birds survived the trip…. when we adjusted the traveler, two of the birds didn’t move and were sucked into the block!!  We assumed they would move and weren’t watching them as we monitored the sail position and adjusted the lines to maximize trim.  Frank was pretty surprised when I yelled “stop” after noticing two of the birds had been killed and the other two weren’t moving to avoid the same demise.  That was SO sad!!

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Barn swallows at sunset.

We were moving along quite nicely, enjoying calm seas and reasonable winds, and were beginning to catch some of the benefits of the current.  We were perhaps three days into our sail and were hoping we might reach Galveston in time to meet up with Amy and David of Starry Horizons who were in the States for a visit.

Frank had just gone below for a nap when the fishing line started zinging!

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Can you say Mahi?!

Frank happily came back up to reel in this pretty fish.  No concerns about running low on food this trip!

We were sharing a late lunch when we heard a loud snap and the main sail started flapping… upon inspection, we realized the webbing that attached our clew to the mainsail had broken away! What?! Frank quickly reefed the main and tucked the loose foot into the sail bag. Once again our main was functional, if a tad bit shorter than we wanted.

I have heard that 90 percent of sailing is boredom and 10 percent is terror! Well, that wasn’t exactly terror, but it certainly increased our heart-rates!

After settling the main and finishing lunch, I went downstairs to take a nap so I would be rested for the first watch of the night.  I hadn’t been there long when an unusual sound interrupted my decent into dreamland.  Minutes later Frank came to tell me the head of the sail had just ripped out of the main!!

No way to fix that one!   Frank tucked the mainsail into the bag where she would remain for the trip.

So we were half way to Galveston and we no longer had a mainsail. The wind direction was not workable for our spinnaker so we would have to resort to motor sailing with the jib and hope we had enough wind and fuel to complete the trip.

SPECIAL NOTEWhen we arrived in Galveston and reached out to North Sails, they were top notch in responding to our problem with the sails.  Look to the end of the post if you just can’t wait to hear how North Sails made things right for us.

With the loss of our mainsail and the winds falling, we resorted to using the engines and resigned ourselves to a slightly longer trip than expected.  And we realized there was no way we would be able to get to Galveston in time to meet Amy and David.  That was a bummer since Amy and David are so far ahead of us in their circumnavigation that we will not be able to catch them at sea.

Although we didn’t have much wind, the weather was beautiful, the sea state was very calm and the moon was full ~ which is always a treat on passages.

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A perfectly clear sky and a full moon!

The only real concern we had was the fuel level since we had planned on relying primarily on our sails and we did not store any extra fuel jugs on LIB. We monitored the diesel level and tried to balance its use with our progress. Unfortunately, only hours after our main was blown, the wind died completely and our jib was no longer of help. We would have to reach Galveston under engine alone unless the wind returned.

We tried to catch each extra puff of wind and we unfurled the jib every chance we could but we found no relief for our engines.

Days before we were close to Galveston, we knew we would be extremely short on fuel and might even loose engine power.  The last thing we wanted was to enter the very busy harbor of Galveston and be adrift!

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LIB is circled in red…. 

As you can see from the screen shot of the chart on LIB, there are plenty of boats in Galveston and we did not want to be without power among all of these ships.

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Our fuel gage arriving to Galveston Harbor!

TowBoat US to the (potential) rescue!

As soon as we were within cell phone range, Frank called TowBoat US and explained that we were precariously low on fuel and asked if a tow boat could escort us just in case we did loose our engines.  TowBoat US was responsive and awesome!

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These friendly and professional men were a very welcome sight!

We kept TowBoat US appraised of our position and they met us on the outskirts of Galveston Harbor to escort us all the way to the fuel dock. Fortunately LIB was able to make it all the way to the fuel dock under her own power, but having TowBoat US with us reduced our stress level immensely! I don’t think we have ever been so happy to pay for fuel.

People often ask if we get bored on passages or if the scenery becomes too repetitive but we don’t find that a problem.  Or at least we haven’t so far. Perhaps if we were on a three week passage we would be tired of the sea, but we have found enough to keep us entertained.

Here are a few pictures of things that keep us enthralled with the ocean.

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Yahoooooo, it’s Wahoooo!

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Yes, these colors at sunrise are true!

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We rarely see ships, but Frank caught this cool shot!

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Barn swallow at sunset.

North Sails Report: Our very special thanks to Jay Lutz of North Sails. We contacted Jay and told him of the issues we had with our North 3Di sails and Jay responded immediately and professionally.  Although our sails were technically out of warranty and Jay wasn’t from the loft that sold us our sails, he came to our boat in Kemah, TX and inspected the sails.  After looking at the sails, Jay took both the main and jib with him and had them analyzed by North Sails.

The conclusion was that the webbing used on our sails was faulty. North completely replaced the webbing both sails!  The repair was beautifully done and the main and jib are now in excellent shape…. probably even better than originally since the faulty attachment material has been replaced.

We were very impressed to learn that North Sails keeps tabs on which lots are used for every sail they make. Rather than wait for other sails made using this same lot of webbing to have problems, North is reaching out to their customers and fixing the webbing before it becomes a problem for other sailors.

The theory is that our sails were more heavily exposed to UV deterioration since we were in the Caribbean and as a result, we suffered the problem with our webbing before other sailors had issues.  We are seriously impressed that North Sails not only identified the problem for us and repaired our sails, but they have taken proactive steps and are making their product right before an issue can arise for other customers.

We are hugely impressed with Jay Lutz and North Sail. We sincerely appreciate your high standard of care!

This post pretty much concludes our travels on LIB! We are now land locked until our new boat, s/v Ticket to Ride, is delivered in the next few months. We hope you will hang on with us as we spend the next few months traveling on land until TTR is launched.  As always, thank you for reading our blog.

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We look forward to seeing sunsets from the water and sharing them with you soon.

Life Onboard; Comparing Year 1 and Year 2

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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:

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Adding a Cruise RO Water Maker which frees us from looking for places to buy water as we travel.

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Adding these two upper windows to our salon which allow us to have airflow into the boat even if it rains outside.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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

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