Wow, how different attending the boat show is now than it was the first time we went in 2012. My only real sailing experience in 2012 had been in February of that year when I completed several ASA classes. We did not know anyone at the show, most of the booths represented things I knew nothing about and Frank had almost as much to learn as I did.
Things have certainly changed in the intervening five years; thus proving that you can teach old(er) dogs new tricks since now I understand a decent amount about the products available in those booths.
But more importantly, we have met so many people through our travels, this blog, the FB page and by participating in events we encounter in various anchorages, that our weekend was as much about meeting with friends as it was scoping out new products and information.
STTS Rally Reunion (Photo by Ken Reynolds)
We had an absolute blast this year reconnecting with friends from the 2016 Sail to the Sun Rally and all of us were very fortunate that Susan and Kevin of s/v Radiance hosted us all for several gatherings at their home.
Talk about fun! Get a group of sailors together, with plenty of good food and libations, then throw in shared travel for two months down the ICW and the conversations become lively and varied. We cannot thank Kevin and Susan enough for opening their home to the Ralliers and anyone else we knew in the area!
STTS photo courtesy of Bill Ouellette.
I would love to share all the excellent pictures I took this trip, but I failed at photojournalism this weekend. I took all of ONE picture and that was of a huge motor yacht. I wish I had been more cognizant of my photo opportunities because I would have at least taken a group picture of all the 2016 Sail to the Sun Ralliers who returned. We ended up having 10 of the boats represented at dinner on Sunday night! WOW. And that doesn’t include our fearless leader, Wally Moran. We had better than half of the Sail to the Sun 2016 boats. Impressive!!
Personally, I am not sure Wally was prepared for how well our group melded during our STTS Rally. We were really fortunate to be part of the Rally and Frank and I are grateful to Wally for providing the venue for us to make such excellent friends.
Mindy and I last Halloween; could mean trouble.
In addition to STTS folks, we met up with a few people we had met through our blog, some other sailors we met in our travels and our fellow Jabin’s Yacht Yard friends Mindy and Ron of s/v Follow Me. LIB and Follow Me have been trying to catch up in various anchorages this year without success so we decided to make the meet up happen in our original stomping grounds. Of course this meant we had to share drinks and dinner at Ebb Tide, a bar popular with the locals and within walking or biking distance of Jabin’s Yacht Yard.
This hurricane season has made us all very aware that things are replaceable and people matter most, which made our reunion with these friends just a bit sweeter. Thank you dear friends for making time to visit with us and for sharing laughter and plans!
One unique and uplifting aspect of the boat show this year was the booths set up for hurricane relief to help the many islands and people so impacted by this horrible 2017 hurricane season. The Annapolis Boat Show established “Hands Across the Transom,” in an effort to encourage support of the Caribbean Islands. Organizations participating in the Hands Across the Transom effort included Virgin BVI Community Appeal, Pusser’s Hurricane Relief Fund, BVI Recovery Fund, Virgin Gorda & Bitter End Yacht Club Staff Irma Relief Fund, and Sister Season Fund. I overheard a lady selling #bvistrong t-shirts say they had sold over 450 shirts. GO PEOPLE!!
You too can support BVI and have a shirt like hundreds of your friends!
We also spoke with a couple of the BVI charter groups and I was impressed with the attitudes of all of them. The positive attitude and focus on rebuilding was clearly evident. Of course there was also fatigue, but the overall impression was one of moving forward and not languishing in sadness. We also heard that boat sales were brisk, so eventually the charter companies will be filled again with great boats available for vacations.
Both TMM and CYOA had several new sailboats launching from factories in France and those are expected to arrive very soon. It sounded like the charter companies were targeting mid November or early December for sending out chartered boats. I was really happy to hear the date was that soon.
Frank and I did make some purchases during the boat show and per our usual modus operandi, did a LOT of research and information gathering. I will dedicate a blog to what we learned and our purchases very soon.
As always, thank you for reading our blog. We love hearing from you so don’t be shy. If you want information more often, take a look at our FB page.
We skipped ahead in our blogging to tell you about the sail that earned us our “Big Boy Sailor Pants” and the fun we had with our guests in The Bahamas. But we never had a chance to share the joy we felt when we backtracked from Martinique to the BVIs.
We left the beautiful, very French island of Martinique and 44 hours later spotted the familiar beauty of Virgin Gorda, BVI. Our sail was comfortable and uneventful with some dramatic sunset paintings.
Gold sunset at sea.
Then the stunning hues of water and land greeted us as we entered North Sound, BVI via Oil Nut Bay channel. There were scattered clouds but the sun pierced them and the air was clean which allowed the full pallet of colors to show.
To say seeing familiar land was welcome is a inadequate as saying the view was “nice.”
After anchoring and swimming to shore with Captain so she could enjoy some terra firma, we “had” to go to Saba Rock for painkillers and bushwackers. The drinks were cold and the waitresses friendlier than usual. Or maybe the alcohol was strong and we were just happy to be back?
The wind allowed for a quick kite set the next day. Frank has become a huge fan of launching and landing his kite from the boat thereby avoiding sand, so we moved LIB waaaay up by the reefs in front of Saba Rock to allow boat departure and landing.
That little building back there is Saba and Frank is to the left.
Bitter End Hotel huts are in the background.
A big highlight of our return to the BVI was meeting up with Dave and Renee of Alegria. We first met them in Puerto Rico and we were looking forward to catching up with them and swapping stories about travels over the last 6 months.
Of course I dragged Renee on a hike so Captain could run around and we could have some much desired “girl talk.”
Sweat, laughter and stories shared while hiking Bitter End.
Frank and I made sure to visit Norman Island where we enjoy walking the deserted trails and seeing the uninterrupted expanse of ocean from the hilltops.
We hiked on Norman Island to get Cappy some exercise and to enjoy the view.
We even saw some famous people from our childhood while we were hanging out near Pirates.
Gilligan and crew!
These “youngsters” dressed the part well, but we had to teach them the words to the TV theme song. Apparently they were part of a group of 25 or so and this was their entry into the costume contest. Others in their party had dressed as Poseidon which was very cute as they arrived to the dock, but once on land they dropped their inflatables and they looked like any other tourist in a swim suit.
Poseidon had an unusual following
We had noticed that our spinnaker had some transparent areas so we returned it to Doyle Sail Loft and they repaired it during our stay in the BVIs. Since Doyle is directly above TMM, we had a chance to visit our former charter management company. It was great to see everyone at TMM and hear all about what was happening. TMM has a ton of new sailboats so it was fun to look around and see some of the most popular new cruising sailboats which they have available for charter.
Jost Van Dyke and that people watching mecca of White Bay was where we met up with Dave and Renee again. We spent the day strolling the beach, lolling in chairs and generally enjoying ourselves as we observed the antics of adults at play.
Foxy’s Taboo has some of the best food available in the BVI, at least according to my taste buds. So while we were anchored off of Sandy Spit, we dinghied over for lunch. There was live entertainment, excellent food and the usual post card view.
View from our lunch table.
The familiarity of the BVIs ratchets up our relaxation and removes the slight stress that accompanies new places. Frank and I loved absorbing the surroundings and taking in the plethora of beautiful anchorages.
Dusky sunset on Jost Van Dyke
We visited most of our BVI favorite spots and enjoyed sailing within the calm that is the Sir Francis Drake Channel. Seeing all the vacationers and their intense joy in their surroundings reminded us how fortunate we are to be “living the dream.”
Our weather waiting spot – not a hardship!
Our final few evenings were spent in Cane Garden Bay as we waited for a good weather window to leave for the Bahamas. Those last few days we definitely questioned why we were so intent on leaving the Caribbean and heading to the U.S. Neither of us has spent any time on the east coast in a sailboat so we don’t know what to expect. We are leaving a comfortable, sailing paradise for the unknown conditions of the east coast…
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
Cane Garden Bay at sunset
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.
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.
Our “back yard” while we wait in North Sound, BVI.
It is so hard to believe that in February of 2012, we took our first ASA classes and began talking about buying a sailboat. By the 2012 Annapolis Boat Show we were narrowing our choice of boats and in November we began working with Tortola Marine Management (TMM) to buy our Helia.
Fast forward to October 2015; LIB returned from her last charter trip in August; our house in Texas is for sale and we have moved aboard LIB!
Frank moved aboard September 6th and began working on several projects. I joined him on September 24th and the time has flown since I arrived. We have managed to complete several projects on our list and many others are in progress. I will post and update on our first project list separately. Here are a few additional projects worth mentioning but this is not at all complete.
A helpful sailor on Cruiser’s Forum who calls himself “Helia 44” wrote a great post about the hatches he added to his Helia. I fell in love with those hatches and Frank made them happen! It was a huge and messy job that took days and created a ton of fiberglass dust inside and outside of LIB. Even days after the project was completed and we had cleaned up, we would find pockets of fiberglass dust that would sprinkle itself about with the slightest breeze. But we prevailed. Now we have these hatches that we can leave open even if it is raining because they are protected by the overhang from the bridge deck. This one was a total pain, but I love them. Thank you, Frank!!
Frank added those two upper windows.
We have been extremely pleased with our Northern Lights generator and we want to make sure it continues to run well and reliably. Frank completed the maintenance items; air filter, oil change, check heat exchanger, etc. I attacked the rust spots that had developed on the enclosure of the generator. After removing the rust, I primed and painted the rusty areas and now the generator is looking much prettier. But more importantly my efforts should reduce the spread of rust and preserve our enclosure which in turn will protect our generator.
While I was in Texas, Frank serviced all the winches on the boat. Trust me when I tell you I made certain he was spelling with an “i” and not an “e!” (Kidding!) He also took care of the maintenance on the dinghy engine. Now all parts are properly cleaned, changed, oiled and greased.
The very uninteresting but hugely important and expensive job of scrubbing the hulls and repainting the bottom of LIB was completed at Nanny Cay. We paid a pretty penny for a paint with an outstanding reputation for withstanding growth and we hope it will last us a solid two years. (For those who want to know, we used Island 44 by Sea Hawk.)
We thought we would wait on the helm enclosure for LIB, but we decided it was a well needed addition. Frank worked with the Doyle sail loft in Road Town and by the time I arrived, it was already made and installed. I think we will find the back shade screen one of the most valuable aspects of it. Some enclosures that are more aesthetically pleasing than ours, but this one will do what it was designed to do.
Fewer back sunburns are in our future because of this addition.
What is currently in progress?
Replacing the LED light strips in the salon and add additional lights in the galley. Only about 65 percent of our factory installed LED rope lights are working. Our favorite BVI electrician, Dave Gibson, tells me the probable cause is too much current going from the 12V switch directly to my lights. So, I now have new LED lights in hand, but I need some 3 amp diodes to add current resistance. I’ll have to add a diode between each strip of the lights and the switch. (Say what?) The diodes should arrive in the next couple of days. Wish me luck on this project because we sure didn’t cover electricity in my English or journalism classes in college!
A = V/R right??
Lest you think we are all work and no play, let me assure we are finding time to enjoy ourselves. And I have to admit, while I am challenged by these new tasks, there is great satisfaction in accomplishing the tasks once they are finished. And a shower feels fabulous at the end of a sweaty work day. But here is proof that we are still able to enjoy the beauty around us!
Sunset as we enter Great Cruz Bay, USVI
Our first nightfall away from TMM as “cruisers.”
St. John, USVI
Okay, so we weren’t actually entered in any contests, but we feel like we won anyway.
Why? What did we win?
Well, we just completed an in water and out of water survey on LIB to see how she is doing now that her charter life is completed.
LIB, the day she arrived at TMM from France
I am thrilled to report that the “Deficiency” list did not have any big items! TMM has done a fantastic job of keeping up with the maintenance of LIB and making sure any problems were addressed properly.
As a result of their admirable care and good judgement on who could or could not captain the boat, LIB remains in excellent condition.
Now that isn’t to say we don’t have any issues to address, but thankfully they are minor and mostly related to maintenance that is expected after two plus years of charter.
The list included 31 items, so initially I sort of gasped thinking there were problems. However the report was very detailed and several items are cosmetic or were already on our list.
Seven points were superficial like “Emergency fire extinguisher ports in both aft cabins should be marked.” “Topside Gelcoat shows scrapes and scuffs and should be buffed.” “The scuffs and scrapes at the galley surfaces are consistent with regular use and would benefit from a clean and polish.” These are to be expected.
I was surprised to read that a few items were not up to “ABYC H 27 standards” since they pertained to factory installed parts. But I didn’t really know what ABYC H 27 standards were, so I had to do a tad bit of research. (Some of you must be shaking your head at me and others are probably saying you don’t know either.)
ABYC is the American Boat and Yacht Council. The link will take you to their mission statement, but in essence they are “the essential source of technical information for the international marine industry.”
At first I thought, “oh, well this is the American standard” and LIB was built in France. But then I read that ABYC considers themselves the international standard…. I guess Fountaine Pajot either doesn’t agree with the ABYC standards or perhaps many boats don’t quite meet up to the “standard” when built.
SO, having said all of that, what didn’t meet up?
Well some of our factory installed through hulls, made by Randex, are molded plastic. Our surveyor recommends we replace any below the waterline through hulls with marine grade bronze or Marelon.
The fuel tank hoses are type B1 and the surveyor recommends changing those to A1 or A2 to meet the ABYC standard. Ditto for the related fittings and connections.
Apparently our 110V AC outlets are not fitted with GFCIs, and I think we should probably add those. Shocking right?! – OKAY, I know that was a really poor pun.
Some items the surveyor listed were already on our list: anchor chair needs to be cleaned and proven, zinc anodes at the prop hubs need to be replaced, sliding door into salon needs attention (again) and the bottom could use a scrubbing and fresh antifouling.
There were two items I did not expect though. One was that the air conditioning duct in the generator has heavy condensation above the generator battery. A drip pan is suggested to protect the batteries. That seems pretty sensible to me.
The bigger of the two concerned the exhaust system for the generator. While the generator has worked great and we have had no issues with harmful fumes in the boat, apparently the exhaust flows toward the bridgedeck and has made a sooty mark. The surveyor does not see damage from this but suggested we alter the exhaust so concentrated heat from the exhaust doesn’t harm the gelcoat or the hull. Glad to know about this before it is a problem.
General maintenance items include gasket washers on the gooseneck that show compression, the saildrives show minor movement and need to be serviced and the bearings on the rudder stocks need to be serviced.
Spinnaker flying on LIB
An issue caught by the surveyor and a known problem on LIB concerns the spinnaker halyard. Here is the verbatim remark: “The Spinnaker halyard is chafed, and the block at deck level is cracked. Both should be replaced or the line retained as spare gash line only. There is distinct chafe and abrasion at the line below the mast cap sheave adjacent to the main halyard that should be end-for-ended and trimmed, or replaced. The cause of the abrasion is unknown, and the line reportedly replaced recently. We recommend the cause be should be sourced by a rigger and measures taken to prevent future chafe, and all lines replaced as needed per the currently maintenance schedule.”
This has been a bit of an ongoing problem and is a focus of our energy. We definitely need to determine why we are having the chafe problem and fix it. Believe me, we will figure it out!
That about sums up the survey report. We are pleased our Helia has held up so well to the myriad of skippers she has had over this 30 months of charter.
We are especially grateful to TMM for taking care of LIB and us. It is with sadness and excitement that we leave the safe haven of TMM. We will certainly look back with fondness and gratitude to everyone there who has made our experience so positive as well as helped us improve as sailors.
Let me know if you have any questions about the survey for LIB. I don’t have enough experience to know how most surveys go, but I am pleased with the results of this one.
Now that LIB is finished with her charter life, we are implementing some changes to make her a bit more specific for our use. Some of the changes will be made immediately while still at TMM and others will be made when we are in Puerto Del Ray Marina in Puerto Rico.
My sailing friends can probably imagine several of the items on the list. My land loving friends will probably shake their heads at the items needed. But anyone who knows Frank can imagine the detail and thought put into the list…. Would you wager it is well organized?
I am fortunate to have such a capable captain; and no, I don’t mean the dog!
PDR is a very large marina.
Frank has put together a spreadsheet of changes that includes everything from important functions to pure luxuries. The list includes 66 items that range from maintenance to extravagance; from a one hour DIY to a 3 week contractor job. We will not complete all of the items on our list because we are not sure we truly want all of them and the costs would be prohibitive. Below are some we know we will complete before we leave PR.
Steering on the Helia:
Let It Be is Helia hull #4 and was built with the original specifications. On later hulls, some changes were made to improve the Helia. One major revision was to the steering system which was underrated for the early Helias. We have already had to replace the steering cable on LIB twice. Fountaine Pajot has changed the steering on later Helia models from a teleflex push pull rod system to a hydraulic one. We have reviewed a couple of steering options and decided to install the warrantied system FP is now using. Some people dislike the lack of feedback on hydraulic steering, but we are willing to loose some “feel” in our steering to insure it will hold up to the weight and size of the boat.
Our windless has been extremely reliable and the size is sufficient. However, the whole windless was installed a little too close to the starboard side of the anchor compartment. We cannot fit the manual lever handle onto the gypsy cogs because the handle hits the fiberglass frame of the compartment. This means that if our windless failed, we would have to pull the anchor chain up by hand.
The plan is to move the windless slightly to port so the lever handle can fit onto the gypsy in case we have to use it manually. When we adjust the windless, we will also reinforce the platform of the windless to make it a bit more substantial. While the platform is adequate, we think it would be better if it was stronger.
Finally, we will install a windless remote at the helm station which will deploy and retrieve the anchor as well as count the amount of chain released.
We anticipate using this Lofrans Remote
We found that the most limiting factor in our six week trip this summer was water. It is very possible to live without a water maker, but I found water was a focus of my thoughts whenever we ran low. In other words, running low on fresh water made me nervous. In my opinion, there are many things that require attention while sailing and I don’t want water to be one of them on Let It Be.
RO 30 GPH Watermaker Pre-filter.
We have decided to add a Coltri MCH6 110V compressor to LIB. The convenience of refilling tanks on board and avoiding transporting them in the dinghy every time we need to refill is worth it to us. Plus this allows us to have a total of only 4 tanks on board which reduces the weight on LIB and means we need to find a storage place for fewer tanks.
Coltri MCH6 Dive Compressor
The cushions on LIB have always been an issue with me. They were ordered in a neutral color for a charter situation, but they are BLAND and hard. We will replace all of the outdoor cushions while in Puerto Rico. This is a major investment, but it is also the best way to make the boat unique to us and add some color. I have been wrestling with the cushion material for months now and I am so tired of thinking about it that I am ready to just pull the trigger and order the fabric. I just pray that I like the final product because the cushions will need to last a loooooong time to get our money’s worth!
A combination of this stripe and the solid blue will be used for our new cushions.
These are the big ticket items on our spreadsheet that we know we will install. Other expensive additions we are considering are an enclosure for the helm, a sun shade for the aft side of the cockpit, additional solar panels and new sails. But we are not sure what we want or if these items are necessary, so we will probably put them off until the end of our first full season aboard.
We do have plans to upgrade our communications options, but I will cover that after we have fleshed out our decisions a bit better.
Tortola Marine Management has done an excellent job of maintaining Let It Be, but we want to be sure she is in tiptop shape when we depart. To that end, we have a very long list of maintenance items on the spreadsheet. Frank has done a tremendous job of listing each task along with the supplies, parts and tools required for each one. He has also assigned particular jobs to each of us.
I see a good amount of learning in my near future as I tackle some jobs I never imagined myself taking on. I both look forward to and dread the challenge. I am sure I will have some
embarrassing interesting stories to share. It’s a little daunting to know I will be doing the maintenance on parts we will rely on every single day!
Care to share any tasks you have taken on that you never expected to tackle? I could use the encouragement!
The spirit of the “Christmas Winds” were upon us during parts of our BVI visit in December. The Christmas Winds are expected in the Caribbean and usually means wind speeds of 20-30 knots. Thus, the sailing can be spritely, to use a Christmassy term, during the holidays.
One particularly gusty day, we were anchored off of Sandy Spit when a fairly ominous looking storm approached:
The sun highlights Sandy Spit like a favored haven.
The usually blue waters took on a more menacing green cast and the waves built out in the channel. Luckily we were a bit protected by the reef that runs between Sandy Spit and Green Cay. Though the storm didn’t last long, the winds and waves remained throughout the night.
We were very happy that we had invested in a heavier Spade anchor at the Annapolis Boat Show and that TMM had already installed it for us:
As a precaution we let out a little more anchor chain, set an anchor alarm, and had a very restful night. We are really glad there weren’t many boats anchored nearby because the boat that was anchored parallel to us on our starboard side? Well, the next morning it was at least three boat lengths behind us!
I’m really thankful for a good anchor, a solid hold and an anchor alarm to let us know if something goes awry.
Next week we will fly to Annapolis where we must suffer through the 2014 Sailboat Show. Dang! What a hardship!
According to an article in the Capital Gazette, only 130,000 of our sailing friends will descend upon Annapolis for the show.
Photo by Joshua McKerrow, on staff at Capital Gazette.
In 2012 at the Annapolis show, we wound our way through dock after dock of beautiful new boats, and the eye-candy was just too tempting. After comparing several sailboats, we fell in love with the Fountaine Pajot Helia. When we returned to Texas, we worked with Don Pietrykowski at TMM, and by good luck and fortunate timing, we were able to buy Let It Be and have her delivered to Tortola only four months later.
This year, the expenditures will be much smaller, but the research will be equally important. Once we live on LIB, we will need to make several additions; many for safety and some for comfort. Okay, and a few more just for fun!
The Annapolis Boat Show is an excellent opportunity to look at many brands in one place. Attending the show allows us to see and physically touch equipment as well as talk with well informed sales reps. While I make light of this, the Boat Show is actually a fabulous opportunity to gather excellent information and seriously compare product features and ease of use. Plus talking with others who have real-time experience with products we are considering helps us learn what we should be asking that we may not have considered.
Of course, walking docks and research is pretty thirsty work, so we might just have to have a painkiller or two ~ just to stay hydrated!