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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.

It’s Official ~ LIB Has a New Owner.

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The documents are signed, so now I can tell you that the reason we moved to Curacao was to meet the prospective buyer of LIB, take her on a sea trial and have our boat surveyed.

I am happy to report that all went well. Our floating home passed inspection with flying colors, the buyer loved Let It Be and our home has been purchased.

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As LIB was lifted out of the water a man watched how she sat on the trailer. (See him?)

We were very impressed with Curacao Marine, the yard that pulled LIB out of the water for the dry portion of the survey. The men were extremely professional and careful about the haul out process.  The trailer is well maintained and they even put plastic over the support pads so LIB would not have any scuff marks.  One of the guys was in the water using a controller to manipulate the support pads precisely where they needed to be under LIB. We have been very impressed with Curacao Marine during our stay here!

The surveyor had a few minor comments about Let It Be which we have already addressed. The starboard engine was vibrating a bit at idle and we had a Volvo mechanic address that issue.  We actually thought the idle setting of both engines was a little low, so while the mechanic was here, he adjusted them to meet the Volvo specifications.  The tiller arm on the port rudder was a little loose, so Frank went to work and fixed it the very next day! The surveyor came back by and has inspected and approved that work already!

No moss growing here!!

We are very pleased with the results of the survey of Let It Be and if I were buying a boat that received this kind of report, I would be thrilled.  Big kudos to Frankly for his excellent and detailed care of our boat!

Ironically, the person who has bought LIB is a woman I had “met” through the FB group Women Who Sail.  We had texted a couple of times about a few subjects over the last year or two.  (But she didn’t realize LIB was my boat when she decided to make an offer!) She is also friends with our friends, Amy and David of s/v Starry Horizons (who have the excellent blog and vlog Out Chasing Stars.)  AND! our buyer lives in Texas, so we have that excellent connection as well.

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An evening sail in Bonaire. Thanks for the pic, Clayton.

During our discussions about selling LIB, we agreed to deliver the boat to Galveston, Texas which will be her future port. Frank and I think this is a great arrangement because it saves our buyer the expense of having LIB delivered, we get to explore the western Caribbean along the way, and we can return to the U.S. via boat instead of airplane.

Arriving by boat is much easier than flying with Captain!

Per our agreement, we will arrive in Galveston by May 15th.  This gives us ample time to find excellent weather windows and allows us to explore a few anchorages along the way to Texas. This May delivery time frame allows us to break up the 2260 nautical mile trip from Curacao to Texas into several shorter passages.

Our tentative plan for returning to Texas is to make three stops between here and Galveston.  The first leg will be to the San Blas Islands of Panama; about 650nm.  The second leg to Belize will be approximately 760nm.  From Belize we will sail to Isla Mujeres, Mexico which is a quick 200nm. And our final leg to Galveston will be about 650nm.

Needless to say we are happy and sad about the sale of Let It Be.  She is a fabulous boat and has taken great care of us. We have had very few issues with LIB and we have made many changes to make her perfect for our sailing needs.

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It’s hard to let go of a boat that is in great shape, sails well, has been our home, and functions well for our purposes! (Plus I still love the cushions we had made for the cockpit and helm area!)

So, there you have our news about Let It Be and our anticipated route through the May delivery to Galveston.

I guess soon we will have to figure out what to do while we are ‘boatless/homeless’ until our HH55 is delivered to California!

Thank you so much for visiting our blog! We appreciate your time and hope you will drop us a line in the comments.  If you would like to hear from us more often, please visit our FB page.

Friends, Christmas Cove and the BVI.

We were so happy to reach Christmas Cove, USVI and meet up with our friends Amy and David of Starry Horizons.  We first met them just after we had taken deliver of LIB and Starry Horizons was still in production in France.

While we have met Amy and David a few times on land, this is the first time we have been able to meet on our boats and compare our Helias.

We had a great time sharing dinner a few times, including a delicious dinner of tuna that Amy and David had caught on passage! Very fun to share time and their yummy catch!

We were able to share our “catch” of fresh coconut water, which is quickly becoming Frank’s specialty as he searches out low hanging coconuts anywhere we go!

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David, Amy and Frank share coconut water.  David likes his straight from the nut.

We spent two days snorkeling, sharing Pizza Pi, comparing post factory changes to our boats, paddle boarding and just generally enjoying time with these two awesome friends.  Then we had to say goodbye as we needed to report to TMM for some warranty work.

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Double rainbow in Christmas Cove

It was great to be back in the familiar and beautiful BVIs. Our first evening was spent anchored off Peter Island, one of our favorite spots!

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I love the water colors here and the lush hillside.

There were soooo many butterflies! I bet we saw 500 in a 24 hour period.

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Frank and Mark loosen the shroud.

A big thank you to Mark, of TMM,  for helping us replace our roller furler drum which had some issues with metals seizing.  Thankfully Facnor replaced this under warranty so we only had the cost of labor.  Again, a big thank you to TMM for helping us even after we were out of charter with them!!

After TMM we sailed around Tortola and spend a day or two anchored off Sandy Spit and Frank was able to kiteboard ~ a much needed play session for him!

We have not spent any time in Cane Garden Bay and decided to zip over there. It is a lovely bay and we enjoyed it’s beauty and the access to the white, sandy beaches.

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Cane Garden Bay at sunset

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My cute dog and very handsome husband out paddling.

An unexpected and fabulous event was meeting Frank’s cousins who happened to have chartered a boat in the BVIs. Unfortunately I failed to bring a camera, so I don’t have any pictures.  We spent a wonderful evening on their boat and had a great time catching up on each others kids and lives.  I really hope we are able to meet up with them all again sometime.

After Cane Garden Bay we spent a two nights on Norman Island just relaxing.  Then we went back to TMM where we picked up a wind scoop modification from the Doyle Sail Loft and worked with our favorite BVI electrician, Dave Gibson.  You will hear more about Dave and his greatness in another post.

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Sunset off Norman Island.

Now we are settled in at North Sound waiting on a weather window to skip over to St. Martin.  We know this will be a motor rather than a sail as we will be heading into the winds.  We hope to have winds less than 10 knots… but we shall see.

For now we will spend a few days enjoying Saba Rock, Bitter End Yacht Club and all the other great things North Sound has to offer.  Hopefully we will be lucky and have a nice light wind day to go to St. Martin this week.  In the mean time, this isn’t a difficult place to wait.

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Our “back yard” while we wait in North Sound, BVI.

Front Porches, Rocking Chairs, Lemonade…. Not For These Retirees!

Whoever created the vision of retirement consisting of rocking on the front porch and watching the world go by certainly didn’t have the same ideas we have for our “golden years.”

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Gliding past St. John, USVI.

While we will definitely watch the world go by, it will be from the deck of our boat and the view will change often and not only because of the seasons.

For the next few weeks our “porch” will be remain in one place and will be topsy turvy as we begin and complete refitting tasks we deem “necessary” for life on board.

Our plan, which changes often, is to stay in Fajardo, PR until we finish our projects or until November 30th, whichever comes first.

Then we will sail back to BVIs to pick up a few items TMM is holding for us; but we will move on quickly.

I would like to spend a bit of time in the USVIs since we really have not explored them. The islands look fabulous and it’s always nice to be in the US.  Plus, I have yet to try Pizza PI pizza in Christmas cove and that is surely on my “to do, to see, to eat” list.

We plan on sailing back to Antigua in mid-December where we really want to meet up with our friends Amy and David on Starry Horizons.

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Amy and David, Captains of Starry Horizons.

We first met Amy and David way back in February 2014 in Ft. Worth, TX when Amy was running the Cow Town Marathon. At that time, Starry Horizons was just being built in France.  Since taking delivery of SH, Amy and David have sailed more than 8,500 miles and have accumulated much more experience than we have. You can read about Amy and David’s adventures in their blog, Out Chasing Stars.

Because we have the same model boat, it is really fun to compare notes with Starry Horizons.  Plus they are lots of fun and we are excited to sail and explore some anchorages together.

The only other set plan is to be in the Grenadines in February.  Frank has planned to meet some kiteboarding buddies there and LIB will be the home base as we move from one great kite beach to the next.  This will be a mostly “guys” week, but they are letting me hang around.

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Frank kiting in Antigua

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The front deck of LIB is a perfect kite drying spot.

I’ll get a chance to practice my kite boarding, but I have a feeling I will also play rescue support via Day Tripper.

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Our faithful, multi-purpose dinghy.

The two years we had LIB in charter, a few girlfriends and I enjoyed an annual sailing week in the BVI during the Fall.

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It’s always fun and lots of laughs wit this group.

Since LIB is undergoing so many changes right now, the girls trip could not be made this year. BUT the plan is to redefine our trip by expanding our locations. This all girl crew will join us somewhere this spring… I’m thinking the Tobago Cays and other parts of the Grenadines would be perfect!

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Photo credit to Three Sheets Sailing!

Our travel is now dictated by wind and weather which makes these plans less than firm, but it’s nice to have a vague idea of where we are headed.

We Caught a Liebster – Award That Is

A big thank you to Amy and David of Out Chasing Stars for putting our blog on the Liebster Award** list.  As newbie bloggers and soon to be live aboard cruisers, we appreciate the hat tip from our fellow Texans, and are happy to answer their questions.

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David and Amy on the right.

1. What first attracted you to the cruising lifestyle?  Frank caught the sailing bug at a camp he attended when he was about 10 years old.  He also has fond memories of racing at the New Orleans Yacht Club under the direction of George Sladovich, who Frank still quotes today! My introduction to sailing was much less promising and included being dumped into a cold Texas lake when the boom ‘came about’ and knocked me right off the boat.  Fortunately, my sailing language and skills have improved since then.  Water sports, a simpler lifestyle and a desire to explore from our own home are probably the key attractions of cruising for us.  We are still wading into cruising, but the few weeks we have managed to spend on Let It Be have shown us we sail well together and enjoy focusing in the same direction.

2. What has been the best day you had on board?  This is a tough one, because the variety has been so great! From a sentimental point of view, the best day was during Christmas last year when we had our sons, Hunter and Clayton, with us and Frank’s mom, Jackie, was on board too.  There was something pretty special about sitting in the cockpit reading a book while under sail, listening to one son grabbing beverages for his dad and grandmom, the other son reading next to me. At the same time, I was half listening as Frank taught his mom how to helm the boat. Then Hunter, Clayton and I shared a smile as the bow began swinging from side to side while Jackie got a feel for the helm.  The three of us agreed, it’s kind of nice to have a 180 degree view without turning your head.  🙂

3. What is your favorite go to recipe while on board? We eat pretty simply and one of our go to meals is all prepared on the gas grill.  I marinade chicken in Grill Mates Montreal seasoning most of the day then grill it for dinner.  Close to dinner time we slice sweet potatoes about 1/4″ thick, add a bit of olive oil, salt, pepper, greek seasoning and grill it. We like our sweet potatoes pretty well cooked so the outside is a bit blackened and the middle is soft.  Next up is asparagus which we rinse and pat dry then put on the grill for a few minutes.  After it is cooked,  add a bit of butter and whatever spices hit your fancy.  Quick preparation, healthy, and all cooking is done on the grill, so the galley stays cool!

4. What skill do you wish you had picked up before you lived aboard? The list of what I would like to know before I move on board is so long it is overwhelming! Probably top on my list would be a weather course. My weather skills are fine for the BVIs, but I am not knowledgable enough to “read” the skies and know what to expect. I would really like to take a course early in 2015, but I think we will have to read books instead of taking an actual course.

5. What do you want for Christmas? Ha, the perfect, most impossible Christmas gift would be for elves to enter my house, sort my photographs and digitize all of them so I don’t have to do it! Then if those elves would stick around long enough to organize our belongings into “boat,” “store,” “sell,” “give away” piles, I would be very thankful! However, if the elves are too busy, they could just buy me a water-maker for LIB. Or I can dream really big and ask for a water maker and an ice maker!

6. What was your scariest sailing moment? Well, I can’t say we have had a really scary sailing moment ~ yet! But I do have a favorite panicky moment…. Frank, Clayton and I were on LIB.  This was my 2nd time on board and Clayton’s first time on a large sail boat.  Frank was our voice of experience, but he was distracted by the fishing lines we were trolling.  We were all sitting at the helm when suddenly there was a “fish on!’ Frank raced to the back of the boat and Clayton and I stayed at the helm.  All was well until a squall suddenly appeared and brought some serious winds.  Frank was so engrossed in reeling in his fish, he didn’t pay attention to the weather and was telling us to “slow the boat.”  Of course, we couldn’t find the brakes and the wind was kicking up seriously.  Finally Clayton used some rather strong language and was able to get his Dad’s attention.  Alas, the fish was lost, but Clayton and I learned how to slow a sailing vessel!

7. What is the longest passage you’ve ever made?  Well, here again, our inexperience shows.  Our longest sail has been about 8 hours all during daylight.  Stay tuned though as we hope to make some longer jaunts in the next six months.

8. Tell us one personal item you have aboard the boat.  Personal items are minimal because LIB is still in charter, however, we have already had some discussions about what should or shouldn’t move on board. Let me state for the record, that I think a kitchen-aid mixer is very reasonable, especially if the crew wants homemade bakery items.  As for my most frivolous item? I’m thinking about smuggling on a couple of crystal wine glasses instead of banishing them all to storage.

We would like to take this chance to pass along the Liebster Award to Carina of Devon , Astrolabe Sailing and LAHOWIND.  These blogs are very different and are excellent reads.  I know you will enjoy reading them as much as I do!    

To Carina of Devon, Astrolabe Sailing and LAHOWIND, I tried to search your blogs and make sure you have not been nominated before, so I hope this isn’t a duplication for you.    It’s your turn to answer questions and pass along the Liebster Award. 

Here are our questions:

1. What first attracted you to a cruiser lifestyle?

2. What was your biggest concern before moving on board?

3. Now that you live aboard, what is your biggest concern or adjustment?

4. What did you do for recreation/hobby before you became a cruiser and what do you do now?

5. Has your initial estimate of how long your would cruise changed from your original plan?

6. What is one unusual or surprising thing you have on board?

7. What is the most surprising/rude/absurd or annoying question you have been asked?

8. Name something that is better about living aboard than living on land and does it surprise you?

9. If you had a magic wand, what would you change about your boat right now?

10. Can you name one thing that is a favorite part of your “normal” day?

**When I first saw a Liebster Award, I thought the blog I was reading had won some sort of internet blogging award. However, the Liebster Award is virtual recognition from one blogger to another in an effort to express appreciation for writing efforts.  It’s sort of a cross between a pat on the back and a chain letter; more interesting than a chain letter with encouragement to keep writing rather than a threat of dire consequences if you break the chain.  We are happy to have been recognized by Out Chasing Stars for the Liebster.  It is nice to know someone “out there” is reading our small entry into blog land.  

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