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Our Final Passage on LIB ~ Belize to Galveston

Caye Calker

The view of Caye Caulker from LIB at anchor.

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

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

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

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

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The yellow line shows our approximate exit from Caye Caulker.

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

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

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

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

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Look how close to the bow the dolphins swim!

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

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

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

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Such colorful little visitors!

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

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

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Barn swallows at sunset.

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

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

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Can you say Mahi?!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A perfectly clear sky and a full moon!

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

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

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

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LIB is circled in red…. 

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

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Our fuel gage arriving to Galveston Harbor!

TowBoat US to the (potential) rescue!

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

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These friendly and professional men were a very welcome sight!

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

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

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

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Yahoooooo, it’s Wahoooo!

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Yes, these colors at sunrise are true!

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

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Barn swallow at sunset.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sailing Strangers Become Lifelong Friends

One of my greatest concerns about leaving our hometown and moving onto our boat was leaving friends behind.  I knew we would keep in touch with family and I certainly hoped we would stay connected with friends.  But how would we make new friends while constantly on the move?

As much as my husband and I love each other, we want and “need” other people in our lives and not just virtually!

While contemplating a cruising lifestyle, I asked cruising women I met how they made friends and if they were lonely.  They assured me that friendships would come, but I was skeptical.

After nine months afloat, I can assure those concerned about making friends while on the move that strangers quickly become friends in this cruising lifestyle. In fact, friendships are formed much faster and more easily “out here” than on land.  We have thought about this phenomenon and have decided that there are several reasons that sailing strangers rapidly transform into longterm friends.

The obvious reason cruisers quickly make friends with one another is the common interest of sailing. Everyone knows that common interests are an excellent basis for friendship. Conversation topics are easy to come by as everyone can contribute to subjects like “where have you been,” “what kind of XYZ do you carry on board,” “where are you heading next,” “do you happen to know how to repair ABC?” and other live aboard topics. And if those don’t start a conversation, just ask a cruiser which anchor he has and why he chose it. A lively conversation is sure to follow. (You might not care, but an opinion will be had!)

Another factor is interdependence.  Much like land neighbors of long ago, cruisers are likely to borrow from fellow cruisers since getting to a grocery or marine supply store can be arduous.  These days on land, stores are so convenient that we tended to simply drive to the store and buy what we needed rather than disturb a neighbor. Not so on a boat.

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Sunset in Christmas Cove, USVI.

In December 2014, we were anchored in Christmas Cove, USVI when our dog, Captain, stepped on sea urchin.  The poor puppy had spines protruding from her front paws.  The internet remedy included soaking her paws in white vinegar which we didn’t have. Buying vinegar would have meant a dinghy ride, a long walk or taxi ride to the store and then reversing those steps to get back to the boat.  Probably about a 3 hour process and it was getting dark so going to the store was time consuming and unsafe.

Since we really needed the vinegar, my son, Clayton, and I hopped in the dinghy and asked neighboring boaters if they had any vinegar we could borrow. Happily, Jody and Peter, on sailing vessel Mary Christine, had vinegar and graciously gave us some.  To this day we are in contact with Jody and Peter via their blog, our blog and messaging.  While we were in the BVIs this May,  Jody and Peter pulled up to the anchorage where we were already anchored.  This was an unexpected meeting and we immediately hopped in our dinghy and motored over to visit with them.

Peter and Jody provide day cruises in the BVI.  I highly recommend them if you are looking for a day adventure on a sail boat in the British Virgin Islands.

Cruising in foreign places often means being in remote areas with few resources if something on your boat breaks. While most live aboard sailors carry a lot of spare parts and tools, often a neighboring boater can offer advice about a problem because he or she has already experienced it.  Or perhaps the job requires the one tool you don’t have.  A neighbor is always happy to lend his tools. If the repair is labor intensive and another pair of hands would help, fellow boaters are willing to step up.

While we were in Pointe-a-Pitra, Guadeloupe, our boat neighbors, Kristie, Rich and Tyler on Sail Pending needed to fix their davit.  Frank happened to have material and tools onboard LIB which significantly reduced the repair time and cost for the davit.

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Tyler supervises Frank and Rich

Back on land, Sail Pending would have called a repair person or driven to the hardware store for said materials.  Out here, neighbors extend a hand or a tool, and friendships are formed by lending aid.  Kristie expressed her appreciation with homemade cinnamon rolls which were delicious and a rare treat for us!

Wouldn’t it be weird if tomorrow while you were running errands, you saw the same person in two different parking lots, so you walked over and said hello to that person?  Well, while sailing, if we see the same boat in two different anchorages, we often make a point of going over to say hello.  Kinda strange right?

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Tobago Cays, where we first met Katahdin

We met Cathy and Larry of Katahdin this way. We had admired their boat when it was anchored in Jumby Bay, Antigua. Perhaps 300 miles south of there, Katahdin happened to anchor next to us in the Tobago Cays, so Frank stopped by their boat and complimented them on Katahdin’s lines and beautiful maintenance. That evening Cathy and Larry joined us for sundowners.

I guess it is a little different, but since cruisers are transients, they usually don’t have a circle of friends nearby so there is an openness to friendship that is less common on land where neighbors are longterm and friendships remain the same for years on end.

Take that idea of making friends out of strangers in an anchorage one step further…. while lending a hand or discussing anchors, one boat crew will probably ask where the other is heading next and if their paths are similar, the two boats might just agree to sail in tandem to the next anchorage, or two or three! A “buddy boat” has been found.

Buddy boats sail from anchorage to anchorage together as long as their plans align. They might spend a week or two or perhaps months in tandem.  Then, just as easily as they joined itineraries, one or the other might decide to head out in an independent direction.

Sailing is well represented by special interest groups on-line and this has become a resource for information and friendships.  We have met several sailors because we read their blog or they read ours.  Our very first “sailing friends” were a direct result of mutual blog reading.

We met David and Amy of Starry Horizons way back in 2013 when they were ordering their Helia and we had our Helia in charter. Our first meeting was before Fountaine Pajot had finished building Starry Horizons!  We keep up with David and Amy’s adventures and have met with them five different times – two on land and three in anchorages.  Our meeting places have been as varied as Ft. Worth, Dallas, the US Virgin Islands, St. Martin and St. Lucia!  One time we sailed within half a nautical mile of Starry Horizons near Antigua but our schedules precluded a meeting.  Instead we had a nice chat on the VHF radio as we sailed in opposite directions.

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Starry Horizons anchored to starboard.

David and Amy are literally young enough to be our children, but sailing erodes age barriers and we consider these two our very dear friends!

Which leads me to age. The range of ages for the sailors we consider friends is much more broad than the ages of our friends on land. It isn’t that we cannot relate to an equally wide range of ages on land, it is that we simply tended to interact within a more narrow age group. I’m not sure what causes the age barrier to callapse in sailing, but removing it has widened our friendship experiences and enlarged the pool for friendships.

Similarly, financials are less defining among boaters. Small boats or large, we all share the same “neighborhoods” and similar systems on our boats.  Big yachts or minimalist cruisers, each have unique yet overlapping experiences which allow them to  contribute to conversations about favorite anchorages, preferred electronics, upcoming weather patterns, etc.

One afternoon while avoiding my next boat project in Puerto Rico, I received a message on Facebook from a fellow Texan I had never met. Renee assured me she wasn’t a secret stalker, but she and her husband were nearby in Puerto Rico and wondered if we wanted to meet for dinner….

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Palmas del Mar Marina, where Alegria and LIB shared many dinners

Frank and I were new to cruising at that time and a little surprised by the invitation but we are SO glad we accepted.  Renee and Dave of Alegria have become some of our favorite cruisers.  We ended up moving to “their” marina in PR and we have been fast friends ever since.  We make it a point to see them any chance we can; like when we altered our route back to the US and added a stop in the BVIs so we could hang out with Alegria and revisit our favorite haunts from charter days.

I could wax on about new friends and how we have met, but rather than bore you with the stories, I will list the factors we believe contribute to quick camaraderie between cruisers:

  1. a common interest
  2. reduced access to goods creates interdependence
  3. making repairs without hired experts encourages cooperation
  4. lack of  repair shops or local parts encourages asking for help
  5. boats generally travel with only a few people on board, so we all seek out friends
  6. limited internet so you can’t just “Google” answers, instead seek advice from others
  7. comfort in numbers and sharing experiences encourages “buddy boating”
  8. random introductions are considered normal not odd
  9. age and financial means are not a barrier

Of course this list is not complete and I would love to know what other factors you believe allows strangers to become fast friends when cruising.  Or maybe you disagree completely? Feel free to share your thoughts.

In essence, cruising recreates a neighborliness that has been lost on land where independence and immediacy are sometimes more valued than creating friendships.

This is not a condemnation of “land life,” but an observation of how living on a boat and living at a slower pace has, in our opinion, recreated the neighborliness of a past generation.

 

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.

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