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Our Final Passage on LIB ~ Belize to Galveston

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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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