We had an excellent visit to HYM in China to see the progress of our HH55, Ticket To Ride. As usual, we were treated very well by everyone at HH. Hudson Wang kindly took us to dinner a few nights and we enjoyed his generosity, the company of others and the delicious food.
We spent a lot of time looking through Ticket To Ride and taking pictures of areas that will be covered soon so we will know where everything is in the event that we (Frank) needs to repair or access a system. Think of things such as the solar controllers that are mounted in the ceiling. During this visit, the ceiling panels were not yet installed so we could take photos.
Repeat for pretty much every inch of the boat!
HH sent us a progress report about a week ago that shows much more has been accomplished since our visit. Here are just a couple of pictures from the report:
The dagger board fabrication is complete and painting is in process.
There is a learning curve involved in sailing with dagger boards, but we look forward to having less slip and better pointing ability by having them.
We switched from a teak shower floor to Kerlite and the look is great!
The teak shower floor looked good on the other HH sailboats, but we decided to have a porcelain tile product (Kerlite) installed instead because we think it will be lower maintenance. Plus we like the look of it. What do you think?
Our very own washer/dryer. That is exciting.
Some people would choose a dishwasher rather than a washer/dryer, but since usually it is only Frank and I eating and we don’t generate many dishes, I prefer having the ability to wash our clothing on board. (Whoohoo, no more washing in a bucket!)
So that is it, a very quick bit of information about our boat. We head back to China for sea trials in just a couple of weeks and we can hardly wait!
Thanks to HH for fabricating this boat for us with such care. And thank you to M&M for everything you have and are doing for us, beginning with designing a great sailboat/home for us.
As we prepared to take off to China to check on the progress of Ticket to Ride, I was looking through some old photos and came across these of us using our Siesta Loungers.
We first used inflatable Siesta Loungers when we were boating on Lake Ouachita in Arkansas more than a dozen years ago. We thought these floating chairs would be fun to have on LIB. So we tucked them into a forepeak and used a kite board pump for easy inflation at various anchorages.
Apparently Frank was looking for shaded comfort on this particular day.
Frank’s photo was taken while in the Abacos.
I am demonstrating the Siesta lounger in a cool setting while reading a book on my kindle.
Comfy, quiet time in Bonaire.
Even Captain enjoys the Siesta Loungers. Sometimes she sits in one and we pull her along while we snorkel.
Have to admit, Cappy has a pretty nice life aboard!
Looking back at pictures makes us even more excited to move back onto a boat and search out new Siesta Lounger spots.
Thanks for stopping by. We will try to post some new picture of TTR from China! Look at our Facebook page for more regular posts.
One of the benefits for us of buying an HH55 catamaran is the opportunity to customize the boat to our liking. No doubt that Morrelli and Melvin designed an incredible boat and HH is doing a fabulous job of fabricating that boat. But we still have been able to add our own little stamp to the boat we will receive in a few months.
Beginning on the outside and forward at the bow, here are just a few items we have changed from “the norm” on previous HH55s.
Trampoline – The standard trampoline supplied by HYM is a 1 1/4 inch knotless dyneema material that is attached with individual lashings to the many, many attachment points on the hull. The 1 1/4 inch reference relates to the size of the hole between the strands of dyneema line. This dyneema trampoline is an excellent, lightweight choice for offshore and racing, the getting there part of sailing; however, for both the getting there and the being there part of sailing we chose an alternative. We wanted a trampoline comfortable for bare feet, dog paws, knees during yoga and relaxing at anchor. Simply put, we wanted to make the trampoline serve as both a useful and comfortable outdoor space. Sunrise Yacht Products to the rescue! Richard worked beyond his duty to properly size and manufacture an offshore trampoline that would have all the benefits of dyneema with a host of other advantages. We settled on the Sunrise Offshore Polyester Open Net with 3/8″ net openings and attachment grommets to match each of the hull attachment points. We are super excited to play and work on this trampoline. By moving to this trampoline we did add 22 pounds to the overall weight of TTR.
Left represents the weave we chose for TTR. Right is a 1″ dyneema open weave.
Generator – Hudson Yacht has been installing a 12KW Fisher-Panda generator on the previous HH55’s and this was simply a deal breaker for Frank, my favorite mechanic. We have had different gensets on previous boats; however, the Northern Lights 9KW genset on Let It Be far surpassed any generator we have owned. The NL was quiet, easy to service, incredibly dependable, and NEVER failed to start. When we sold Let It Be, the genset had over 8,000 hours, ran beautifully, and the only part we had replaced was one alternator. Frank feels that the key to the NL genset success is that it has No, None, zero green circuit boards, only relays, and it runs at 1800 RPMs not the 3200-3600 RPMs seen with the Fisher-Panda. The NL genset is about 40 pounds heavier than the FP which makes zero difference to us. Our boat, for better or worse, will be electrically demanding and we accept the need for a generator; however, we absolutely wanted a machine on which we can depend.
A brand new Northern Lights Generator for TTR.
Bow Thruster – HH offers a bow thruster located in the starboard forepeak with a dropdown lower unit when the thruster is in use. All 3 of the previous HH55s have opted for the thruster; however, we chose to delete the thruster from TTR. Having the experience of Let It Be with no bow thruster and the fact that we expect to spend very little time coming to and from marina docks; we feel very comfortable with no bow thruster. The financial savings was big and eliminating the thruster saved us over 440 pounds!! However, we did build a monolithic patch in the forward hull allowing for easy installation of a bow thruster if desired in the future.
450 mm Extended longeron (bowsprit) – Since our sailing plans and reason for buying Ticket To Ride include a tropical circumnavigation, we realize that much of our sailing time will be spent with the wind aft of the beam. On Let It Be some of our favorite sailing days had the wind TWA at 130-170; however, we also found that to be a challenging wind direction for sail configuration. Alas, with Gino Morelli’s advice and working with our sailmaker, Matt Bridges, from Doyle NZ, we decided to extend the longeron / bowsprit by 450 mm and fly a large furled reacher from the very end of the bowsprit. This bring the headsail further forward into cleaner wind, less blanketed by the mainsail.
Longeron installed on TTR.
Cableless Reacher – The mainsail, genoa, and self tacking staysail on Ticket to Ride will be supplied by Doyle NZ (our choice) and will be very similar in size and cut to the previous HH55s. The reacher/Code sail is where we have changed course from the previous HH55s. Again, since tropical circumnavigation is our plan we talked at length with anyone knowledgable about appropriate sail configurations for such plans. Matt Bridges from Doyle NZ is an excellent listener and his first proposal included a cableless reacher. “What is that animal?,” we asked. In brief, a cableless reacher eliminates the very thick torque rope around which a removable, furled headsail is normally wound when furled. Instead of the 3/4 inch torque rope tensioned to sometimes over 5 tons, the cableless reacher has additional spectra and carbon fibers built into the luff of the sail and is tensioned to about 1/8 of the torque rope specs. The trade off with a cableless reacher is that it will not go upwind as well as a torque rope and will never be a Code 0 or an A1. Rather the cut is more A2 or A3. WOW, that’s exactly what we want!
Cableless reacher production drawing from Doyle Sails.
Considering all the above features of the cableless reacher, we also did not order a gennaker at this time. We feel the cableless reacher will be much easier for us to handle alone and it provides 80% of the benefit of a gennaker. Eliminating the gennaker is a huge dollar, weight and storage savings.
Another view of the reacher drawing.
Spade Anchor and galvanized chain – Hudson Yacht’s standard spec for anchor and chain is a Stainless Lewmar Delta anchor and stainless chain manufactured in China. I don’t know about you, but, we say thank you to our anchor every morning when we wake up to find ourselves in the same spot as when we went to bed. Let It Be was delivered with a Lewmar Delta Anchor which worked fine in ideal conditions. Sailors know that ideal conditions are seldom found! After 3 weeks on Let It Be, much anchor research, and a boat show special, we chose to give Let It Be a new Spade Anchor and we never looked back. Grass, mud, sand, wind, or any combination of the above and we were always set. So why would we want to return to the past with Ticket To Ride? TTR will be sporting a beautiful stainless 1 piece Spade anchor. Concerning anchor chain, Practical Sailor says it best, “Steer Clear of Stainless-steel Mooring Chain.” Stainless chain, in addition to being inherently weaker, suffers from crevice corrosion leading to failure with no warning. We have spec’d 10 mm galvanized Acco chain for Ticket To Ride.
Hopefully our anchor will never land in such a shallow spot!
Watermakers – We really did not vary too far from the HYM standard Spectra watermaker. What we did change is its location. Frank and I had a love/hate relationship with the huge storage capacity below the berths on Let It Be. On the love side it allowed us to carry ample spares, tools, and toys. On the hate side it seemed like every time we needed something different it was stored below a bed requiring the removal of bedsheets, mattresses, mattress support boards followed by digging. The watermakers on HH5501 and HH5502 were installed below the master berth…. a much less than ideal location in our opinion! Considering filter replacement, checking for leaks and the noise generated while making water, my maintenance specialist began an earnest search for a different location. After many emails, evaluation of drawings, and support questions to Spectra, the decision was made to put the Spectra 24v Newport 700 in a purpose built compartment in the port side forepeak. The HH crew is confident this will be an excellent long term home for the watermaker due to access for service, weight distribution and water spill cleanup. Only time will tell for this untested location.
It’s very fun to share the construction of a new boat with our friends and readers. The items above really only scratch the surface of the changes we have made to TTR to meet our needs. In a future blog post(s), we will share other custom changes to solar, electronics, seating, general arrangement, and so on.
In just a few days we are heading to China for the ‘soft launch’ of TTR and we look forward to seeing her in person! During soft launch, Ticket to Ride is placed in a pond so most of her systems can be tested. Soft launch allows HH to review all of the components of boat systems and it will give us our first chance to begin learning about the systems on TTR that will be new to us. (And I get to see how the interior colors I chose actually work together. Fingers crossed!)
Many, many thanks go to the HH crew, Gino Morelli and Mark Womble (Morelli and Melvin), Matt Bridges (Doyle NZ), Paul Hakes, and at the top of the list is Let It Be. She was much more to us than a platform for learning but WOW we did learn a lot from Let It Be.
As always, thank you for stopping by our blog. We love hearing from you, so feel free to add your comments. And if you want to hear from us more often, check out our Facebook page.
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.
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.
Look how close to the bow the dolphins swim!
Dolphins came to play, wish us well and add a little sparkle to our day.
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.
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!!
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!
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 NOTE: When 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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
Yahoooooo, it’s Wahoooo!
Yes, these colors at sunrise are true!
We rarely see ships, but Frank caught this cool shot!
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.
We look forward to seeing sunsets from the water and sharing them with you soon.
Thomas inspecting the paint job on HH55-03.
Things are really starting to Come Together on our new boat. We couldn’t have made it Without A Little Help From My Friends (Gino Morrelli and Mark Womble of MM and Paul Hakes just to name three).
Working hard and taking good care of the boat.
We have driven Long and Winding Roads in our RV while HH works Eight Days A Week building the boat to our wishes and keeping up their excellent fabrication standards.
Do You Want To Know A Secret? We can’t wait to move onto our new boat and Follow The Sun. When we are out on the water, we feel good in a special way. We love to take our dinghy, Day Tripper, to shore. She never takes us half way there!
We were very happy sailing along in Let It Be and enjoyed having people spontaneously sing to us when they read the name of our boat. So we hoped to find another Beatles song title that we liked as the name for our new boat. Several friends suggested Yellow Submarine, but we don’t want any part of a sinking boat!
I love the contrast between the teak steps and the hull color!
This new boat will be our Ticket to Ride the oceans and explore the seas. Yep, if We Can Work It Out, we want to circumnavigate and she will be our s/v Ticket to Ride.
But we don’t want to be part of Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, we want our friends and family to visit us on s/v TTR! The beauty of the world is much more fun when shared with others!
s/v Ticket to Ride is going back indoors for more work.
We thought a lot about what to name our boat and we hope this name is fun and fitting… and that it might inspire singing along the way!
Thank you so much for reading our blog. We look forward to returning to the water and sharing those travels. In the mean time, thank you for keeping up with us as we explore the U.S. by land.
So I thought others might be interested in our comparison of RV Life to Sailing Life. BUT I must first acknowledge that we are only a few weeks into this RV adventure and we are FAR from experts. I hope we will improve as time passes and our experience increases.
CROWDS: Perhaps the most glaring difference between RV Life and Sailboat Life for us is the sheer number of people “doing it.” We are amazed that there are so. many. people. on the road! And consequently in the camp sites!!
Our very first RV “Park” was a rude awakening!
RESERVATIONS/SPACE: Having lived on our sailboat for three years, we are accustomed to choosing a place to visit, checking the available anchorages on a chart and heading in that direction. Once we arrive, there may be other boats in the anchorage but we always found plenty of room to drop an anchor.
WHEN RVing ~ DO NOT ARRIVE WITHOUT A RESERVATION. Period!!!
We have learned, these last few weeks, that RV sites are in great demand and you must have a reservation or take your chances of not finding a spot to stop. So far we have not had to resort to a Walmart parking lot, but that might still happen.
We will never experience this much space when our RV is parked.
RULES: I am not certain if my travels outside the U.S. have caused me to become aware of how many rules there are in the U.S. OR if there are just a TON of rules in every RV Park.
Regardless of which is true, we are amazed at just how strict the rules are in RV campgrounds and how zealously they are enforced.
~Keep you dog on a leash at all times (Yes, even if she is well trained and lying at your feet by the picnic table.)
~Only one vehicle per campsite. (Yes, even if you are just unloading a bike that your son brought with him and will be stored on the RV.)
~Changing your reservation means a default of your downpayment. (Yes, even if you cancel weeks in advance).
Eccetera, eccetera, eccetera!!!
There were at least five more rule signs along this short driveway.
WEATHER: RVing takes less awareness of weather and conditions than sailing requires. While sailing, we were always aware of the sea state, incoming storms, what the wind and weather forecast were at our destination and along the way to our destination.
When we pack up our RV and prepare to drive, we just point and drive and allow the weather conditions to bring what they may. So far we have been very fortunate that the weather as we drive has been mostly dry with little rain. But still, we aren’t nearly as aware of upcoming weather as we were while living on a sailboat.
One of the few days we experienced rain as we drove.
CONVERSE CONCERNS: RV and Cruising have opposite concerns. For many sailors, top priority is having enough fresh water, food and energy on the sailboat and management of waste is relatively easy. While RVing we have ample access to water, electricity and food but limited ability to evacuate waste and gray water!
Food is plentiful in the US grocery stores and buying more or whatever you desire is never an issue. In our sailing travels, we could always find food, but we might not be familiar with the foods we found or how to cook the food we bought.
AUTOPILOT: The greatest convenience that we miss from our sailing life is autopilot. We loved setting the sails and course and allowing Jude (the name we gave our autopilot) to take the helm (wheel). With Jude on the helm, we could relax, walk around the boat, read, cook, etc and simply make periodic checks to insure that Jude was on course, the sails were still well set and there weren’t any ships or objects in our way.
Now that we are on land, the RV requires full time attention from one of us as we are driving from one destination to another.
We really miss autopilot!! (Maybe I will embrace driverless cars after all.)
DAILY EXPENSES: The initial cost of buying a sailboat is much greater than buying an RV, especially if you buy a new boat compared to a new RV. Of course, there is a big range of initial costs available for both a sailboat and an RV depending on size, quality, etc.
However, we have found that the daily expenses of living in the U.S. and traveling from one RV campsite to the next is much higher than we experienced while sailing. On our sailboat, we refueled perhaps once every six to eight weeks if we ran our generator often. Diesel at a boat dock is more expensive than on land, but we usually spent about $250 when we refueled s/v Let It Be.
Driving our RV, we try to make our location changes a maximum of about 300 miles and we will spend about $115 on diesel each day that we travel that distance. If we had a smaller RV and truck we could reduce this figure, but we chose this RV so we could easily carry our bikes and other toys and so our kids could comfortably visit us.
When we dropped anchor on our sailboat, we did not incur any fees. If we picked up a mooring ball, the fees varied by location with the least expensive being $0. per day and the most expensive $35. per day. Ninety percent of our time on LIB we spent at anchor and incurred no fees for our location.
RV campsites range in price as well. We prefer to have full hookups so we have fresh water and can dispose of waste and gray water. We have found campsites run anywhere from $45 to $110 per night with full hookups.
We have joined a few ‘clubs’ to reduce our RV park fees, but many sites disallow discounts during peak season, which is now. Also, we might find campsites are less expensive during the off season. Time will tell.
BTW, our RV is not equipped to survive ‘off the grid,’ so long stays without electrical support is unrealistic at this time. IF we decide to RV long term, we would consider fitting our RV with solar power and additional batteries to give us the opportunity to find unsupported campsites.
After only a few weeks on the road, these are our thoughts when we compare RV Life and Cruising on a sailboat. Frank and I enjoyed the space and flexibility we found while sailing. As we await the arrival of our next boat, we are going through an adjustment period as we learn to live with very close neighbors and arrange our locations far in advance as required in an RV.
The magnitude is amazing.
However, we have truly enjoyed having the opportunity to travel the US with our own stuff in tow and stay with friends along the way.
We have enjoyed being in our “home” country and being completely at ease with the nuances that come with being in your homeland.
Easy communication because we are native speakers is a nice change too.
Dramatic and majestic.
Finally, the beauty and breadth of the United States is truly a wonder and we are blessed and happy to have this chance to visit a small portion of our country. As we adjust our thought processes, plan our travels further forward and move into a slightly less busy RV season, I think we will enjoy RV Life more.
~ HH 55 Catamaran Update ~
The news from HH concerning the progress of our catamaran has been a little quiet lately, but I’m pretty sure that is because they are currently sea trialling HH55-04, s/v Utopia.
s/v Utopia during sea trials in China. (Photo credit HH Catamarans)
This picture of Utopia shows some of the choices her owners made that differ from our choices. Obviously, one difference is that Utopia has been painted white and our boat will be blue. Utopia has been outfitted with North Sails but we have chosen to have our sails made by Doyle Sails. Also, Utopia, has a super sleek, removable bimini over her aft helm stations. The owners wanted light weight, minimalistic biminis that they can remove if they are racing. We have chosen to have more substantial binimis and alter the helm seat itself to make it more comfortable for long passages.
Sea trials will take place over a three week period, then s/v Utopia will be hauled, packaged and shipped to the U.S.
Seeing Utopia on the water makes us very anxious to take delivery of our new catamaran!
Thank you for visiting our blog. Feel free to comment or ask questions. We love hearing your thoughts.
Although we had hoped to have a few visitors this season, the changes in our location and the devastation wrought by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, plus the possible sale of LIB, caused our plans to change and discouraged visitors.
So we were very happy that our Sail to the Sun friends, Susan and Kevin, managed to adjust their plans and come sail with us in Belize. They were only able to stay for a few days, but the wind was cooperative and we had an excellent time.
Some visitors are all about the land, others enjoy the water and some are focused on the sailing aspect. As avid and experienced sailors, Susan and Kevin were very happy the winds cooperated and we could explore under sail. It is especially nice to have guests on board who understand sailing and all its’ capriciousness because they know we are limited by weather, wind and seas.
Kevin and Susan are right at home at the helm of LIB.
Fortunately those three aspects came together and allowed us to sail to South Water Caye the first full day Susan and Kevin were with us.
Frank and I had “pre-visited” South Water Caye and Tobacco Caye and we were really happy to return to them and explore with Susan and Kevin.
South Water is about 12 acres in size and has pretty cottages and bars on white sand. It also boasts an IZE (International Zoological Exploration) location on the island. IZE is best described as educational travel in the rainforest or reefs of Belize. Open to high school and university students or families interested in learning about Belize, the setting is absolutely beautiful and the marine life around South Water Caye unique. We spoke with a group of high school students from Georgia who were having an incredible experience with IZE.
Steps leading to the open air dining area of IZE.
Kids who come to spend a week or two here have to suffer through these harsh accommodations! And in between snorkeling and diving excursions, the kids are stuck finding ways to entertain themselves…
Resting after a grueling day?
So although I am poking fun, this really does seem like a very cool experience that could help raise awareness and knowledge in younger generations. Boston University even has a facility for lab work and study.
Yes, Boston University!
Strolling along SW Caye doesn’t take very long, but it is very pretty.
Shaded cabins, hammocks and the sound of the sea are very restful.
Even Captain enjoyed the swings at the bar.
Cappy met up with her friend Hurley again.
Conch shells lined the “streets” and faith is evident where the locals live.
After strolling around South Water Caye, we headed back to LIB to enjoy a relaxed afternoon and dinner on board.
The following day we took advantage of the shallow area on the southern end of South Water Caye where we sat in the azure water and watched Captain alternate between rolling in sand and swimming in the water. We took turns snorkeling and sitting in the shallow water and just idling away some time in a beautiful place.
After water time, we hoisted the sails and sailed to Tobacco Caye. It was an easy day and a great opportunity to just relax and enjoy having the boat pushed along by the wind.
So many places to relax on LIB.
Until, Cappy sounded the alert…. dolphins had come to play at our bow!
No great pics this time, unfortunately.
South Water Caye seems huge compared to Tobacco Caye which is only 200 feet by 400 feet and all of it is in use!
Tobacco is tiny but mighty nice!
Do not let the fact that this island is crowded discourage you from visiting! We had a great time walking around and seeing how well the space is used. Here are some photos:
Picturesque bungalows at the edge of Tobacco Caye.
An artist captured sea life.
Not every building is in good shape but it adds character.
Such a pretty setting and I love the matching boat and house!
Apparently seeing the wonders of the sea doesn’t get old even when you live on an island. The local children attend school on another island so they are only home on Tobacco for the weekends. I would find it hard to have my young children away all week long. (I find it hard to be away from my grown children!)
I wonder what they see?
They were watching giant stingrays!
$20 for a delicious dinner at Reef’s End.
The first time Frank and I visited Tobacco Caye, we had dinner at Reef’s End Lodge. It is an upstairs, small, open air spot with one dinner seating at 6 pm. I was surprised to learn that there was no menu ~ dinner was whatever was available that evening. At first I was hesitant about the lack of choice, but it was actually really nice to sit back, enjoy the sunset and not even concern myself with what to order.
Lots of activity near Reef’s End.
When Susan and Kevin were with us, Reef’s End was pretty busy and we all preferred to hang out in the water and cook on LIB instead of dinghying to a restaurant. After walking around Tobacco Caye, we headed back to LIB for more water time. We had snorkeled the day before at South Water, so we decided it was time to pull out the paddle boards. Kevin and Susan have not done much SUPing, so they took the dinghy up toward the reef and anchored in the shallow area while Frank and I paddled up to them. Once we were close to the dinghy, Susan and Kevin hopped on the SUPs and paddled around the clear shallows while Frank and I swam about with Captain.
Lounging at anchor off of Tobacco Caye.
Of course all that exercise earned us nice warm showers and sundowners on the top deck before preparing dinner.
Unfortunately, Susan and Kevin had to fly back to the States rather quickly so we didn’t have time to explore any other islands. But happily the wind was our friend again and we had a very nice trip back to Placencia.
Our last day in Placencia, Frank and Kevin hung out on LIB while Susan and I explored the sidewalk shops I mentioned in this blog. Susan bought a really beautiful wooden cutting board that I think will be put to use on s/v Radiance very soon.
Fresh tamales wrapped in jungle leaves.
While walking Captain in Placencia, Frank came across someone selling tamales. The tamales were wrapped in leaves that our Monkey River guide, Percy, had mentioned were used in cooking. So Frank bought the tamales and we shared them with Kevin and Susan…. you have to have at least one authentic meal when in a different country, right? Anyway, it was neat to see the local leaf used for cooking and the tamales were a nice change. The outer layer of the tamale was thicker than we were accustomed to in Texas, but I rarely complain when I don’t have to do the cooking. 😉
We were sorry to say goodbye to Susan and Kevin, but we hope to catch up with them at the Annapolis Boat Show in October. Or perhaps they will join us somewhere along the road in Temporary Digs.
In closing, I thought I ought to include at least one sunset so you can enjoy the beauty we shared at sundown on LIB.
Sunset on our first visit to Tobacco Caye, Belize.
~ HH55 Catamaran Update ~
In May, Frank traveled to China to take a look at our HH55 catamaran which is under construction in Xiaman. The really good news about Frank’s visit is that everything looks great on our boat. Similar to building a custom home, there are many unique details to every build project and sometimes communication which appears clear just misses the mark.
Happily, Frank found that our communication with HH has progressed very well and the special requests we have made look like they are being handled accurately. However, Frank was disappointed to learn that our HH55 is behind schedule and will be delayed an additional month. Based on what he learned while in China, we hope our new boat will be delivered to California by mid-December at the latest.
One specification we have requested on our catamaran is a different counter surface for the galley. I guess I was spoiled by the granite we had in our home and I hoped to find a material we could use in our HH that would work well but was of a reasonable weight. Gino Morrelli suggested a product called Kerlite and we forged ahead with this tile product. It has not yet been installed on our HH55-03, but Frank had a chance to see our selection while at the HH site.
Kerlite ceramic tile for our galley counters.
I wanted to find a product that doesn’t scratch as easily as the surface we had on LIB and that won’t be marred if someone sets a hot pot on it. I am hopeful that Kerlite will accomplish both aims. What do you think? Do you like the look? Do you think poured ceramic will accomplish our goal?
Thank you so much for stopping by to read our blog. We would love to hear your comments. If you would like to hear from us more often, please see us on FB.
Placencia provided at once a feeling of being part of the local scene and opportunities to play the tourist. The town has created two ways to progress from the public dock north to the other end of town.
The eastern path is the well known One Mile Sidewalk lined with stores, restaurants, tiny hotels and local vendors.
Photo credit: David V Baxter/awaygowe.com
Daily raking keeps the beach beautiful.
The sidewalk and premises are clean and new and the beaches to the shore are well tended. If you walk this sidewalk, you will find local artists have tables with wood carvings, jewelry, paintings and woven goods on display.
If you take the western path toward the north, you are immersed in feeling like a local. The dusty, dirt road sports weathered shops, small produce stands, a sports field and a few autos. Locals stroll along and call out to one another as they go about daily life.
Photo credit: realliferecess.com
Though they are only a block apart, the sidewalk and the street feel like different worlds. It is fun to be able to choose the experience you prefer each time you stroll through Placencia.
Not the usual scaffolding, but it definitely works.
While in Placencia we saw a good amount of building and improvements. It appears this area is experiencing a bit of a boom. I wonder how long these glimpses into using local resources will last before being replaced by “higher tech” alternatives.
I don’t know why they needed SO many supports while building this.
We found it interesting to see the use of indigenous materials and liked that these would naturally recycle and not add to trash issues.
Placencia has a lot to offer outside of the town too. We chose to take the Monkey River Tour so we could see the howler monkeys and some of the local beauty. Barebones Tours delivered a fabulous trip and our guide, Percy, was entertaining and informative.
Here are several pictures that attempt to capture a bit of our tour.
This bird’s nest has a perfectly round opening!
I see you, Mr. Crocodile.
Belize is known to have many crocodiles and we saw several on our way to find the howler monkeys. Perhaps that nest above is empty because of this crocodile?
Hanging nests built by gold tailed Orioles?
Percy told us that these nests were built by the largest Oriole; I think he called it the golden tailed oriole. But I have not been able to verify the identity of the builder of this nest. The bird we saw was black with a yellow tail. A yellow winged Caciques is the closest bird I have been able to find, but I am by no means well informed about birds!
Any birders know what type of bird makes these nests in Belize?
Is he smiling for the camera?
This dinosaur looking thing is known locally as the “Jesus lizard” because it runs across the water! I found him pretty creepy looking and was glad he was very small and not the size of a dinosaur!
Watching traffic or just hanging out?
You are very well camoflaughed Cryptic Heron.
I found an app called Merlin through the Cornell lab and, using this photograph, I learned that this is a Cryptic Heron and is actually rather rarely spotted. Since I don’t study birds, I probably don’t appreciate this little fellow as much as I should, but the picture turned out well.
Nothing like a termite snack to satisfy hunger!
Percy showed us several interesting plants and bugs that are eaten by locals and these termites were one of them. Yeah, I didn’t want to spoil my appetite so I didn’t have one. ; )
Percy also told us about some natural remedies found among the plants and trees. It was interesting to learn about the natural remedies but I would not trust myself to know one plant from another well enough to treat any ailments!
A tree that satisfies thirst.
Percy chopped off a small tree branch and passed it around for all of us to taste the water that flows from the center. Pretty cool.
Just one of the many howler monkeys we saw swinging and walking through the trees above us. The guides would beat the trees and yell and the howlers would start howling! The noise was very loud and would be frightening if I was alone in the jungle! But since I was in a group and had a guide, it was fascinating to see and hear these primates.
The tour included boating out to an area well known for manatees and we saw several of them. These slow and gentle animals have to surface for air and it was fun to guess where one would pop up next.
Frank and I don’t often take formal tours, but this one was an excellent way to see some of the local wildlife and learn a bit about them and the plants. Belize is lush and beautiful, but it is not as well documented as some places we have visited, so this tour was really helpful in learning about the area.
After a full day of touring, we decided to explore on our own via the dinghy and we stumbled across this cool little place called Sail Fish. It is a small hotel with a swimming pool that just happens to have a bar on one end.
Sail Fish hotel and swimming pool.
We spent one afternoon lounging there, then convinced our friends, Sue and Geoff, to join us there for BBQ and pool time later in the week. The anchorage in Placencia is not clear and inviting like Bonaire, and it was very hot, so pool time was a great way to spend the day.
Sue wanted to make sure this fellow walked on by.
It appears the pool was attractive to this rather large iguana too. He was a big ‘un and pretty interesting to look at, but we weren’t too excited about his getting any closer!
A man-made private island!
While exploring, we also saw this man-made private island. It is only a stone’s throw from Placencia and clearly they take advantage of solar power. It is so pretty floating alone in the blue water, but I can’t imagine living there. Perhaps it is just a vacation spot. How many people do you know who build their own island??
Placencia is easily accessible from the States and our friends, Susan and Kevin, flew in to join us for a very quick visit. These fellow sailors understand that winds are capricious and we couldn’t promise we would leave Placencia, but winds were favorable and together we explored South Water Caye and Tabacco Caye. We packed a LOT into a four night stay. But I’ll cover that in the next post….
~HH Catamaran Update~
Exciting news about our future boat…. it is getting very close to being painted.
Unfortunately this does not mean she is close to finished! We still have another six months before she will arrive in California. The more complete she looks the more impatient I become for her arrival!
HH55-03 being prepared for paint.
Thank you for reading our blog. I apologize for the delayed update, but things have been extremely busy with a lot of changes. We love hearing from you, so feel free to leave us a message!
So the last blog was short on pictures and long on words because there aren’t many things to take photos of when out on a passage. But the eastern islands of Belize were beautiful and I took a few pictures to make up for the lack of photos in the last blog.
Long Cay in the distance with the rim of the reef visible (the brown coral and white sand).
If I were to think of Belize as a person, I would say that Belize is a bit shy and hides her qualities so that one must try hard to get to know her. I think of the line from the movie Shrek where Shrek tells Donkey that ogres are like onions, they have many layers.
I think Belize is also like an onion. She is not well documented and you must either spend time finding the best water spots or make friends with people who are willing to share the secrets of Belize.
Although we don’t have enough time to uncover the layers of Belize, we have seen many beautiful places and the people of Belize have been wonderfully friendly and happy.
Here are some photo highlights of our first two islands in Belize:
Captain’s first trip to shore after our passage. That is a happy Cappy!
Strolling along the sand road on Long Cay you can see the island is lush.
Long Cay was a welcome sight and we all enjoyed walking on the stable island instead of on the boat. It was a hot day but the shade of the trees really helped reduce the temperature.
Crop circles in the ocean?
We decided to move over to Half Moon Cay which is only about a 40 minute motor. The island is a preserve for turtles, birds and marine life.
The aqua, shallow water of Half Moon reminded us of the Bahamas.
Walking the path to the bird observatory on Half Moon Cay
Fluffy headed baby bird.
There are a ton of Frigate Birds and Red Footed Boobies on the Half Moon. The observatory is right up in the trees and it is easy to observe the nests. Some of the Frigates still had inflated gular pouches. Male Frigates inflate their bright red pouches to attract the females. I wrote a little about the Frigate birds when we visited Barbuda.
Tents for rent on Half Moon Cay.
Since Half Moon is a sanctuary, it is not developed, but there is a research center and these tents are available for rent. I spoke with a person staying in one the island and he told me he was part of a NatGeo tour and this was one of their stops.
Arial view of the tent area on Half Moon Cay.
Doesn’t a NatGeo tour sound like a really cool way to travel and learn about the area you are visiting?
A ship wrecked on the reef outside Half Moon.
After a few hours on land Frank and I decided it was time to cool off, so we snorkeled from LIB toward a wreck out by the reef. The coral was in good shape but we didn’t see very many fish…. except the shark that I saw while Frank was swimming elsewhere!!
LIB on a mooring at Half Moon Cay.
Unfortunately, the wind direction shifted and came out of the north which made the anchorage much too bumpy, so we moved back to Long Cay. We would have preferred to stay a bit longer at Half Moon and scuba dived to explore under water.
We have a bit of a schedule to keep thus we don’t have time to really linger in Belize, so we upped anchor and headed to our next planned stop at South Water Cay. South Water is a darling island with several resorts on it. We returned to South Water later, so I’ll share those pictures in another blog.
Except for this one!
My first seahorse in the wild!!
Every single time we dove in Bonaire I looked for seahorses and every time I failed to find one. But on our third stop in Belize, at South Water Cay, I saw a seahorse right by the dock!! Of course I would never have spotted him myself. I noticed a man pointing out something in the water from the dock and it was this seahorse. I didn’t even get in the water to see him!
In addition to South Water Cay, we stopped at Tobacco Caye and at Hideaway Cay. We revisited both South Water and Tobacco with friends and I’ll cover those islands in the next blog.
Our final stop before heading into Placencia was at Hideaway in the Pelican Cays. The only people on the island are Dustin, Kim and their daughter. Dustin and Kim actually built their home, dock and restaurant/bar themselves over several years. They live on Hideaway for like six months of the year, then they go back to their home in Florida. I absolutely cannot imagine how much work is involved in building on these islands and how hard it is to prepare your home to leave it for six months. In these salty, harsh conditions, the repair necessary upon return must be great!
Part of the Hideaway.
Maintenance thoughts aside, Hideaway was lots of fun. The crew of three other boats were at the bar and four of them also stayed for dinner. The six of us were seated at one table and shared a delicious dinner of fish Dustin caught and Kim prepared. This was the second restaurant we visited in Belize and at both places, you make the reservation and you eat whatever dish is served. That certainly saves time reading a menu and trying to decide what to order! I rather enjoyed not making a choice and I know my eldest son would really like that feature too!!
At Hideaway everyone was served fish, but it was a variety of species. I had sheepshead for the first time, while Frank was served snapper and someone else had hogfish. Everyone seemed to enjoy his meal. When I first spied Hideaway, I was a little skeptical, but after enjoying the atmosphere and food, I would definitely recommend it!
This tiny piece of sand was all we could find for Captain one night.
For those who have dogs on board, Dustin and Kim have two dogs and I don’t think they would like other dogs on their turf. Better to take your dog to this little bit of sand pictured above. This island is across from mooring balls Hideaway generously installed for visitors.
So there you have our first few days in Belize. Now we are off to Placencia to meet Susan and Kevin, friends we made on the 2016 Sail to the Sun Rally. We are super excited for them to visit!
Just a gratuitous sunset.
A special thank you to Frank for flying his drone and capturing a couple of pictures of Half Moon Cay. The arial photos are such a cool way to get a better feeling the beauty of these islands and the water.
~HH55 Catamaran Update~
When we decided to buy the HH55 rather than other boats on our list, one big factor was that the HH is made of carbon fiber. We knew that with a larger boat, strength of materials becomes increasingly important and that carbon fiber brings strength without an increase in weight.
Because carbon fiber is the current darling of light, strong sailboats, I decided to ask preeminent marine architect and the designer of our HH55, Gino Morrelli, to offer insight into why carbon fiber is so valuable. (Read this article from March 2017 for more information about Gino’s thoughts on performance catamarans.)
I asked Gino if he could tell me, in a few sentences, why he prefers carbon fiber and he quickly shot back this response:
2. High specific strength (strength divided by density) Carbon is 2-3 times stronger than E-Glass ie, we can use half as much carbon to equal the same strength! less resin too! Lighter boats, more payload..
3. Extremely low coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE) boat does not grow and shrink in hot and cold weather. Again the windows and deck hardware stay put, and leak less…”
Post cure completed on our HH55.
If post cure is complete, can paint be far behind? Nope!
We anticipate our hull will enter the paint booth for the external paint application in mid-May. I’m excited to see her when she is all gussied up and sporting her color.
Thank you for visiting our blog page. Feel free to add your comments or share our blog. If you want to hear from us more often, check out our FB page.
Curacao to Belize. More than a thousand miles at sea. Nervous? Yep. Ready? Yep.
We left the ‘big city’ of Curacao around 1pm on Thursday, March 22nd. Ideally, we would have left much earlier in the day to allow us the greatest number of daylight sailing hours for our passage to Belize and to give us a better chance of arriving in Belize during daylight.
The view leaving Willemstad, Curacao.
However, our satellite communication system, IridiumGo, was delayed at the Customs office in Curacao for over a week! By the time we received the system and had it up and working, we were very ready to leave; thus our midday departure.
Using a weather prediction application called Predict Wind, we anticipated this trip would take approximately 7.5 days. Our experience in the past has shown that we often are a bit faster than predicted, but I always mentally prepare for a slightly longer than expected trip. That way arriving early or on time is lagniappe.
When we exited the canal of Willemstad, the seas were a bit rough and mixed, probably a combination of the wind, current and land mass. The wind was quite sporty with seas of five to nine feet and we immediately put up our main and jib to begin our trip.
Sunset on our third night at sea.
As is usually the case, the first 24-36 hours of a passage, I have to reestablish my sea-legs. This means that Frank takes the bulk of the work and watches during this time. Thankfully I was not sick, but I can get a little queasy so I limit my activity to mostly sitting at the helm or sleeping the first day. I am very lucky Frank is exceedingly patient and supportive as I acclimate. Plus he is usually pretty jazzed when we set out, so his energy is high while mine is a bit low.
After the first day, I felt a bit better and I improved as the trip progressed. We were extremely fortunate with the wind and seas this trip and were able to sail the whole time. We flew the full main and jib during the day, then reefed at night as a safety precaution.
The wind was a little more east than was forecast which resulted in a slightly more downwind sail, especially after the third day at sea. However, even with less north in the wind than was predicted, we managed this whole trip with zero engine hours! That is pretty exciting.
We were making very good time Thursday through Tuesday and hoped we might arrive the afternoon of Wednesday thus making 1200 nm in less than seven days. We even managed to have a 200+ nautical mile day on LIB.
Our average speed was a very nice 7.8 knots for the trip until Tuesday when the winds dropped significantly. And as the wind fell, so did our average speed. In one day our average dropped .6 knots.
With our speed in decline, we knew we would not be able to reach our planned anchorage in daylight so in the early hours of Wednesday we had to slow down significantly. Of course, once our destination was out of reach for Wednesday, the wind kicked into gear! All of Wednesday afternoon and night plus Thursday morning the wind was consistently 25knots!
This tiny bit of jib is the only sail we had up our last night of the passage.
We dropped our main sail and had only a tiny piece of the jib out and still we were moving along at 5 knots. In fact, we were unable to slow down enough to arrive in daylight and ended up having to sail back and forth outside of the reef surrounding the anchorage at Long Cay, part of the Lighthouse Reef of Belize.
The tracks show how many times we sailed back and forth waiting for daylight.
I laugh when I see the tracks LIB made on our chart. For two hours, until the sun was high enough for us to see into the water, we tacked back and forth outside the reef. When we were finally able to see a bit into the water, we furled the jib and motored through a break in the reef and into the anchorage.
Sunrise with Long Cay to the left and Half Moon Cay in the distance.
Frank and I agree that even though this was an excellent passage, it felt great to drop anchor and feel the boat settle into a gentle rocking motion protected from the ocean waves. After seven days of constant motion in the waves, it was really nice to be almost still!
People wonder what we do to occupy our time while on passage, after all, there is no internet, it is just Frank and me and we are in a rather confined space. I will not say the time just flies by, but the days don’t drag past either.
Sunrise was a welcome sight as we waited to enter the anchorage.
Audio books are my go to entertainment while on a passage. I had downloaded four books for this trip but sadly two of them had download issues! Sometimes I listen to music as I observe the night sky and ocean. The moon was waxing this trip and added so much light to our night watches that we cast a shadow when outside. Plus the ocean is dazzling at night as bioluminescence sparkles in the waves created by LIB. I find night watches are the perfect place for prayer as well. How can I not spend time in prayer when I am surrounded by the vastness and beauty of God’s creation?
Some afternoons we played cards and this trip we taught Captain how to play five card stud. But she is one lucky dog and Frank and I got really tired of loosing to her! I think it was all beginners luck.
This is a boat, so there are things to be maintained and passages are a good time to tackle things like scrubbing the cushions of our portable chairs. Fun abounds aboard!
Captain was a champ during our passage. I really don’t know how she can sleep as much as she does but anytime one of us was downstairs sleeping, she was right there on the floor nearby! When awake, she kept herself busy barking at imaginary things, spotting dolphins and asking for treats.
I’m not sure what this swallow was doing so far from land.
This cute little bird came to rest on LIB during our passage. We were glad to offer him a respite from his flight. I cannot imagine how far he had come before resting with us!
We also saw dolphins three times but the pictures were lousy…capturing moving dolphins in rough seas on a moving boat ~ yeah, the pictures weren’t good!
So that is the long story of our passage to Belize. We are very thankful for the safe passage and the great conditions. And we are grateful for calm anchorages!
Thank you for visiting our blog page. Feel free to add your comments or share our blog. If you want to hear from us more often, check out our FB page.