BSSA ~ Sailing with the Expert Kids

Bonaire has an active youth sailing group and we invited them to join us on Let It Be for an afternoon of sailing.

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Fifteen kids and two adults from the Bonaire Sailing School Association boarded LIB around 2 pm.  After covering a few guidelines, we released the mooring lines and took off.

BSSA-9 LIB was in the hands of some very good sailors! It only took a few minutes to cover basic differences between the small boats the kids sail and the particulars of this catamaran, then the kids were completely ready to take the sheets, lines and throttles!

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I was truly impressed with how well these sailors worked together and shared responsibilities. As is always true with a group, some children were very interested in sailing and others preferred to romp around the boat.

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BSSA-2Once away from the mooring ball, we raised the main, unfurled the jib and sailed south toward Pink Beach. The auto winch and chart plotter were big hits. But once our sailors learned how to engage and work the autopilot, it was much more interesting to helm manually.

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BSSA-10Any child who wanted the helm had a chance and the more experienced kids stayed right there to guide those who needed a little help.

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BSSA-8After about an hour of sailing, we dropped the sails and grabbed a mooring ball at Pink Beach on the southern side of Bonaire.  We broke out the snacks, lowered the ladder and unleashed the energy. We had already thought these kids were exuberant, but adding the snacks and allowing them to jump from nearly every surface of LIB caused the energy level to increase another watt or ten!

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BSSA-11After a refreshing swim and plenty of sustenance, it was time to pop the chute.  LIB’s spinnaker is slightly larger than the sails the kids are accustomed to and they loved letting her fly.

BSSA-6Our cat cruised down wind quickly and the kids monkeyed around on this smooth point of sail. Very soon it was time to drop the spin and raise the main and jib once again. Second time around for the main/jib and the kids were all over the job with little help.

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I loved watching the kids access the sails, turn to Frank or me and say, “I think that main needs to come in a bit.” Then proceed to make the necessary adjustment. It is easy to see that some of these kids really have caught the sailing bug and they like their sails to be well adjusted.

Several of our sailors have folks who are expert fishermen and that knowledge has been passed along.  We brought out the fishing poles and the kids worked the lines hard, but alas, we were not in prime fishing spots.  Catching a fish would have been icing on a sweet day, but I’m not sure we needed the additional activity anyway!

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Our awesome helmsmen and sheet handlers managed to sail around Klein Bonaire and, with only one tack, they sailed LIB on a perfect line to catch our mooring ball.

BSSAWe absolutely loved having a chance to share LIB with the BSSA and having the opportunity to get to know these young people. I was incredibly impressed with so much about these kids; they were polite, they were appreciative, they were avid about learning and passionate about sailing, they cared for and watch out for one another, the older ones gently reined in the younger ones if things became unsafe or too wild, they worked well as a team, they were engaging and just plain fun! I could go on and on!

LIB has never housed as much energy as she did for those few hours with the BSSA kids on board and we loved every minute of it.  (I would love to hear how other boaters have reached out to get to know the communities they visit. Please tell us in the comments.)

Thank you to the kids who participated and to Anneke and Thijs who took their afternoon to chaperone.

To the parents of this very fun group of sailors, we appreciate your trusting us with your precious children and allowing us to get to know them!

A special thank you to Anneke who took so many great pictures and videos while Frank and I were busy. We are so glad to have these photos!  Also, thank you to Charles of Tusen Takk II for the group photo.

~HH55~

The construction of our new catamaran is moving along nicely and we continue to spend a lot of time working with the staff at HH to refine and define our future boat. It has been super fun to receive updates and a few photos from the builder showing us the progress of our boat.

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She was just the bare hull when we visited in China.

Since our first visit in August, Frank has returned once to China and was able to be on board for the sea trial of an HH55 with the aft steering.  That sea trial further solidified our choice for an aft helm arrangement.

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Vacuum infusion of the bulkheads. (Exciting, I know)

While touring the factory, we were able to see vacuum infusion in process for another boat.  Per the HH brochure, “the hull, deck and structure are all 100% carbon fiber composite foam sandwich and use post cured epoxy resin for super light, super strong structures.”  It is fun to see this processing happening for our own cat.

5503 Most bulkheats installation complete

Those partitions may be confusing to you, but to us they look like our future home.

She doesn’t look like a boat yet, but there is definitely progress being made. We worked with HH and Morrelli and Melvin to arrange the salon and galley to meet our needs and it is fun to see the one dimensional lines and boxes on paper become a reality.

Since this boat is being built in China we obviously can’t just drop by to see how things are going, so we really appreciate the progress reports generated by HH.

Thanks so much for visiting our blog.  We love hearing from our readers. If you would like to see what we are up to more often, please visit our FB page.

 

Family Time – The Happiest Time of the Year!

What an awesome Christmas we had on LIB! Our sons arrived on December 23rd and as is par for the course, we were busy, busy,  busy!  But the great part is that we were not busy shopping and buying presents and worrying about who needed gifts.  Instead we were trying to pack in as much fun as possible while Hunter and Clayton were here.

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So glad to have our kids with us!

The one item I had on my to do list was to get a decent family picture.  The last family picture we took was a very last minute acquiescence and this year I wanted to make sure we took a decent photo. That doesn’t mean we dressed up and coordinated colors (much less shaved facial hair!) but at least we had a festive backdrop and Clayton took a good pic.

Christmas-6Hunter practicing his smile while Clayton sets up the camera.

After the “photo shoot” it was play time and we packed a lot into a few days. The majority of our focus was on kiting and we got some pretty good pics:

Christmas-5Clayton skimming along.

DSC01060Frank looking mighty relaxed.

Christmas-2Hunter spends a lot of kite time upside down. Christmas-8You went how high? A perspective on how high Hunter jumps.

Captain is not always happy that her herd is off of the boat and she spends a lot of time running from side to side barking for us to come back to the boat.

DSC02357 Should I put a Fitbit on Captain and see how many steps she gets?

Spinnaker-3LIB looks festive flying her new spinnaker.

We all enjoy sailing and the west side of Bonaire is perfect because the low land prevents the waves but not the wind. Every day we sailed to and from our mooring site to either the kiting spot or a scuba diving ball.

Hunter and Clayton earned their open water scuba certification three Christmases ago but we have not had many chances to dive with them.  The four of us dove this week and the marine life was great, but diving was definitely not their favorite activity.  I think they enjoyed cooling off but the activity itself was too staid for their tastes….. surprise!

Other activities included bike riding, swimming, snorkeling, exploring, SUPing and generally just enjoying our time together on the boat.  We are very fortunate that we truly enjoy being together; so the time flew by.

Christmas-9LIB showing off her North 3di sales.

We have tried to get a few pictures of LIB actually sailing so those interested in buying her can see just how pretty she looks sporting her North 3di sails. Since Clayton messes around with photography, he acted as the photographer and Hunter and I took turns driving the dinghy a couple of times.  Of course, we refused to allow the pictures to take precedence over playtime, so we didn’t use the best lighting of the the day. Still, Clayton did a good job with the pics and managed to get some photos of our boat zipping along.

Christmas-4Very cool to see this yacht actually sailing!

While out and about, we spotted this giant sailboat, M5.  It is unusual to see very large sailboats actually sailing, so we especially enjoyed watching this 250 foot long beauty going though her paces.  If you look closely, you can see the wing of an airplane on the aft deck! This sailboat was built in 2003 and refit in 2014. It is the largest single-masted yacht ever built. To give you a little perspective…. her beam is broader than the whole length of LIB!

Of course we were too busy “doing” for me to spend much time taking pictures, but we did take a little walk along the salt fields to see if we could get any interesting photos.

ChristmasClayton walking near the salt pond.

Once again the lighting was not conducive to taking great pictures and we couldn’t get really close to the pools, but I did snap this photo of Clayton as he strolled along looking for a better angle.

Bonaire has an outdoor movie theater and we decided it would be a fun change of activity for us. We drove the dinghy to a nearby marina, then walked about 12 minutes to the Empire Theater where the latest Star Wars movie was showing.  Our kids are too young to remember drive in theaters so this was a fun way to give them an idea of what that bygone entertainment was like.  Empire Theater is a fun experience but I can’t say the sound system is indoor theater quality. For the price of a ticket, you are given a plastic chair and a pair of 3D glasses.  We arranged our chairs in the gravel flooring, put on our glasses and thoroughly enjoyed watching the Resistance Fighters battle evil! Until, the rain came and we all had to dash beneath the very scant roof.

Even with the rain, we had was fun and enjoyed watching the movie in such a unique place.

Christmas-3Clayton and Hunter snagging the mooring ball.

Having all of us together, sharing activities, meals, laughter and Christmas was the best gift I could receive. I love having the chance to cook favorite meals and desserts for the kids and watching them relax and lounge about on LIB. And it is kind of nice to sit back and let my three guys take care of the helming and mooring while I have the satisfaction of watching them work as a team.

Last year Hunter was working out of the country and we were unable to be together for the Holidays.  Remembering that Hunter was away last year made this Christmas just a little bit sweeter.  I am thankful for the many, many blessings God has bestowed on us; and I thank Him daily for my family.

I hope all of you had a blessed Holiday and we on LIB pray that God blesses your 2018 with health, happiness and adventure!

Thank you so much for visiting our blog! If you would like to hear from us more often, please visit our FB page.

 

 

 

 

 

Tour? Check. Triathlon? Check. Christmas??? Almost!

We are amazed at how busy we have been in Bonaire! We showed you a bit about our travels around the island, but we didn’t share anything about the Washington Slagbaai National Park.

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Driving the park.

We spent the better part of one day driving around the park which was formed by combining two plantations and is just shy of 14,000 acres.  The Washington Plantation was donated to the government by “Boy” Washington upon his death in 1969 with the agreement that the land would remain undeveloped and open to the public.  The Slagbaai Plantation was added to the Park in 1979.  Originally, these two plantations harvested salt, charcoal, aloe extract and divi-divi pods and transported them to Curacao and Europe; today they are places of refuge for people, plants and animals.

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The landscape within the park is dramatic with areas of barren, rocky coral; undalating hills that look lush but are actually dry and overgrown with thorny plants; or coastal perimeters where the water  pounds against the edges of the land.  The variety within the park reminded us of the power, beauty and even aggression of nature.

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Seru Grande

These giant “boulders” show the geological history of Bonaire. You can see the definitive line in the rock which differentiates two distinct “terraces.” The higher terrace is mostly limestone with fossils of corral reef within and is said to be over a million years old! Furthermore, the line between the “terraces” shows the level of the sea before the tectonic plates shifted and raised Bonaire.

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There is just something I love about this picture.

The landscape displays a harsh beauty that is also prickly and hot. We were happy to observe it from the comfort of our rental car. I cannot imagine the hardships faced by those who lived here before food and supplies arrived from container ships!

Throughout the park are areas marked as scuba diving stops, but honestly, I don’t know how you would get OUT of the water after diving from some of them.

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Yeah, we’re not diving from here.

Frank is standing on the edge of a park designated dive spot. You tell me, would you jump into the water from there? More importantly, how do you climb back out assuming you survived the entry?  We searched and did not find a way to enter or exit the water.  Perhaps that spot should be called “Last Dive?”

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I wish I had a better pic these orange beauties!

Flamingos are a common sight in the park and around Bonaire and they are a vibrant orange color. Depending on their diet, flamingos vary in color but these birds obviously feast on the local crustaceans and plankton.  Crustaceans and plankton are rich in beta-carotene which gives flamingos their pink/orange color. These were the most orange flamingos I have ever seen!

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Captain and MG sporting their Santa hats.

Christmas festivities are beginning to flourish here in Bonaire and all of the shops have plenty of decorations and music.  There have been some fun events, like the Santa Hat 5k, to help usher in the Holidays.

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Kate and Captain won trophies for best dressed!

 About half of the walkers in the 5k were cruisers, including friends Barb and Kate, who joined Captain and me on the walk.  A small truck led the way and blared Christmas music the whole time.  It was delightful to have a sunset stroll with friends while enjoying the Christmas music.

After the walk, the downtown shops were all open late to encourage Christmas spending. There is an annual parade which consists of only two groups of participants ~ some youngsters in Santa costume and these folks from a local retirement home. While the parade only lasted a few minutes, many people gathered along the streets to cheer and wave back to those in the parade.

IMG_2399 2A pretty sweet way to keep the elders involved in Christmas activities.

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The only float in the parade was pretty impressive.

The next morning Frank and I were up early for a mini triathlon. The local Budget Marine sponsored the event which was really fun and so low key, especially compared to how such an event would be handled in the U.S.

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Pre-race; numbered and ready to go.

Those who participate in races in the U.S. know a short triathlon would cost around $70, rules and waivers would be clearly and forcefully enforced, transition spots would be coveted and competition would be strong.

This tri cost $15 each. There were no waivers. Rules? Just follow the courses.

It was a simple event with the emphasis on having fun. And since neither of us is at all serious about training or running triathlons, this was perfect.

I am pretty sure Frank and I were the only cruisers who entered the race, but there were cruisers who volunteered to stand at corners and direct participants. Teams were a big part of both the long and short races including several families who made up a team. My favorite was the family of three generation! Granddad, dad and granddaughter earned second place in the short team triathlon ~  and the granddaughter was only 7!

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Number two sporting his metal.

Of course Frank had to go out strong and he snagged second place overall in the men’s short course.  I was less successful and finished around fourth place.  But really, we just had fun and didn’t care about placing.

Honestly, I think we enjoyed this triathlon so much because it was so casual. There was no pressure to compete only a desire to complete it. This removed the burden I used to feel in the very few events I ran in Dallas and put the emphasis on simply getting some exercise and enjoying the festivities.

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LIB gliding along under her new spinnaker.

Of course we have spent a lot of time exploring the dive sites.  Ken and Judith of s/v Badger’s Sett and Barb and Charles of m/v Tusen Takk II joined us on LIB for a quick sail up to two northern dive spots. We left early one morning, dove Carel’s Vision, shared lunch on LIB, then moved to a second dive site named Bloodlet.  Of the two dives, Bloodlet was by far the better one.  Frank spotted another octopus and we spent several minutes watching him contort and camouflage as he settled into a new rocky crevice.

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Mountains of salt lend a feeling of Christmas snow.

The wind has been pretty accommodating and we have kited a few times.  Kiting with the brilliant blue water below and the stark white of the salt piles in the background is pretty unique here in Bonaire.

All in all, Bonaire has been a delightful place to while away the end of the hurricane season as we make plans for 2018 and continue to work closely with HH as our future boat is constructed.

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Some delicious meals have been prepared in this galley.

As for LIB, our awesome boat is up for sale and we have already had at least three parties who seem very interested in her.  I get a little catch in my heart when I think about selling Let It Be.  She has been a great home for us and is extremely comfortable.  We have had her long enough that we have worked out the usual boat issues so she is reliable and predictable, pretty and easy to sail. I will find it hard to let her go.

Merry Christmas to all who read this blog. We hope the peace of Christ’s birth fills you will comfort and joy.

Thanks a bunch for visiting our blog. This barely touches the many facets of Bonaire, but we hope it gives you a glimpse into her beauty and bounty. If you are interested in hearing from us more often, please visit our FB page.

 

 

Bonaire: It’s Equally Interesting Above the Water.

So I have inundated my blog and FB page with images of the water and in the water in Bonaire.  Who can blame me when the water is so magnetic because of its’ beauty and refreshing qualities?

But we have not allowed the allure of the water or the temperatures to dissuade us from exploring the land. Frank and I pulled our mountain bikes off of LIB and went for a “short” three hour tour of parts of the island. We quickly left the paved road surfaces and found some rocky byways to ride and climb. Seeing as how I was trying to keep up with Frank, there was no time to take pictures!

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How is this for a view while biking?

My favorite part of exploring by bike was riding along the coast where we had a nice ocean breeze and a magnificent view…  Or maybe it was the screaming downhills that seemed so much shorter than the climbs to get to the top?

We also spent a couple of days exploring in a car and Captain was able to join us the first day which made her and us happy.   I did have ample opportunity to take pictures from the car!

The first day of driving, we managed to make a quick drive around pretty much all of Bonaire with the exception of Washington Slagbaai National Park as the Park doesn’t allow pets.

Bonaire-7A display of the harsh, rocky parts

Even though Bonaire only gets about 22 inches of rain annually, this is the rainy season and we were impressed by how green things were in some parts of Bonaire. The terrain is surprisingly diverse, sometimes flat and harsh with coral as the foundation, other times hilly and covered in scrubby trees then other areas are arid with towering cacti.

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While most of the land appears to be too rocky to grow crops, it is said that the island in the picture above has been farmed for three generations. You can actually see on the small island that the ground appears to be more of a loose soil than in other areas.

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A touch of softness among the cacti.

Even though the environment would be difficult to cultivate, there is beauty here and birds are more prevalent than on many islands.

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Such a vibrant bird!

This little bird was not at all afraid when we came by in our car and in fact he seemed very curious.  Captain was in the back seat and I thought she would go crazy if the bird came too close, but she remained very quiet.

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Our pretty little visitor.

Sure enough the little bird did come visit us at the car, but I think he was actually more fascinated with his own reflection than with us.  He hovered about our mirror for several minutes admiring himself, sitting on the edge of the mirror and sometimes hanging upside down to see himself.  The symmetry of his coloring is beautiful.

Bonaire produces 400,000 tons of industrial grade salt each year! The southern end of the island is naturally low lying and, using a system of traditional Dutch dykes, acres of land are divided into ponds which are flooded with seawater. The seawater is allowed to evaporate and salt is left behind.

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Can you see the pink color of the water in this salt pond?

The seawater changes color during the process of evaporation and from what I have read goes through three main color stages depending on the salinity of the water and what flourishes in that environment. The pink color that I found so pretty, but hard to photograph, occurs during the final stage of evaporation when the salt content is very high.  During this brine state, a microorganism called halophilic bacteria develops.  This bacteria is actually a single cell life form and gives the water this pink hue.  (For more in depth information, see this link.)

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Mountains of washed salt waiting to be exported.

The salt is collected and washed, then stored in huge piles until it is loaded onto a ship for transport.  The salt ponds have a separate, dedicated pier where ships dock to be loaded.  On days when there is not a ship at the pier, the area around the dock is excellent for snorkeling and scuba diving.

As pretty as these salt pools look, there is evidence of a sad history of slavery here as well. Driving along the road or from the sea you can see a row of tiny, stone huts which were used by salt pond workers. The houses are too small for a grown man to stand in and were simply a place for workers to keep their few possessions and sleep.

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These tiny huts give witness to a life of incredible hardship.

According to the literature I read, a small number of African slaves as well as Indians and convicts worked the salt fields and lived in these huts. I read that the slaves would walk to the city of Rincon on Friday afternoons to be with their families.  They were required to return to the salt huts on Sunday evening.  That walk to Rincon?  The literature said it took seven hours each way!  So sad.

We had heard about a pretty area on the eastern coast of Bonaire called Lac Bay and that was where we planned to stop for lunch. Lac Bay is a shallow, well protected area with white sand beaches.  This combination makes it seem like Lac Bay would be overrun with hotels and commercialization, but because it is on the eastern side (too rough to moor) and hard to reach by car, it only has a few cozy places that cater to windsurfing or lounging on the beach.

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Our very casual lunch spot had a cool, sandy floor for Cappy.

We stopped at a casual, little restaurant right on Lac Bay, for a bite to eat and some sniff time for Captain. Lac Bay is perfectly protected by a reef and Frank would love to kite there but due to some mishap a few years ago, kiteboarding has been banned from this idyllic bay.  Only windsurfing is allowed and even on a calm day, the bay is dotted with windsurfers.

As we drove around Bonaire, I was struck by how these folks have learned to use the resources available. There is a distillery here that produces a drink from the cactus plant. I understand that Cadushy Distillery makes the worlds only liqueur from cacti plants! We have not toured the distillery yet, but perhaps we will.

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This cactus fence was less dense than most.

Cacti are also used as natural fences here on Bonaire. Many yards are lined with cacti planted so close together that they act as a natural barrier.  In fact, I think these fences would be more effective than barbed wire at keeping people out if that is your desire. The fence above was a little more decorative and less dense than many that we saw along the road.

This post only touches on the many facets of Bonaire, but already it is long, so I will dedicate my next post exclusively to our visit to the Washington Slagbaai National Park.

Thank you for visiting our blog. I hope you can get a small glimpse into how pretty Bonaire is and how much it has to offer. If you have any questions or favorite places here that you think we would enjoy, please let us know! And if  you would like to hear from us more often, please visit our FB page.

 

Bonaire Underwater!

Bonaire was our escape plan when we sailed away from Puerto Rico to escape Hurricane Maria. We knew this island would offer us hurricane protection but we really had no idea that we would find such a lovely place to live for a while.

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French Angel Fish

Bonaire is a world class scuba diving destination as is evidenced by the dive shops that are more prolific here than 7-11’s are in China!

Bonaire’s National Park Foundation was created way back in 1962 which shows that this tiny island was forward thinking about land preservation! This body was specifically formed to protect the nature of the island. Then in 1979, the Bonaire National Marine Park was formed and it regulates the whole coastline of Bonaire! That means that for many years the coast and land of Bonaire have been intentionally protected and the result is an amazing array of healthy fish and coral underwater and on land the island strives to protect it’s natural resources. (See what we found on land in another post!)

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I don’t like snakes, but look at the iridescent blue on this sea snake’s “fin!”

According to Wikipedia, Bonaire is “essentially a coral reef that has been geologically pushed up and out of the sea. This also resulted in the natural fringing reef system seen today, in which the coral formations start at the shoreline.”

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LIB on a dive buoy and trucks in a dive parking lot.

Furthermore this means that the beautiful dives on Bonaire are accessible from shore as well as boat.  And the island has done a fabulous job of marking the dive sites with painted yellow rocks on the roadside and yellow buoys in the water.

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Hahaha…. first time I have seen this road sign!

Anchoring is strictly prohibited in Bonaire, so all boats must use park moorings and dive buoys.  But there are so many marked sites, that it is not hard to find great places to tie up LIB or the dinghy for a dive.

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The colors are incredibly vibrant. It looks like melted crayons all over the reef!

The clarity of the water is also fabulous.  I think the combination of the white sandy bottom and the vibrant reefs contribute to the ability to see very well even in deep water.

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This huge moray eel was in 81 feet of water!

Thankfully Frank was willing to take the GoPro and get close to this big guy.  I know moray eels are not supposed to attack humans and I know they are actually fish and not snakes, but that doesn’t mean I want to be close to them!

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Something out of Star Wars or is this a 1980’s McDonald’s French Fry Guy?

This little formation made me wonder if perhaps some writers get their inspiration while scuba diving!

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There is something about these Honeycomb Cowfish!

Cowfish and trunkfish are seen in a variety of colors here and each one I see makes me smile. I love the little, spiky hoods above the cowfish eyes.  The baby trunkfish are super cute and fairly friendly.

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Repeat of Mr. Octopus!

Although I have used this picture before, having the chance to see this octopus was so exceptional that I wanted to share it again! Look on our FB page to see the video.

I have had several people tell me they have spotted sea horses!! I am constantly looking for them but so far without success. Not to worry. I am sure we will find one before we depart Bonaire!

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Captain and Frank swim to shore for morning ‘business.’

Even Captain loves the water in Bonaire! While she has not yet learned to snorkel or scuba dive, she loves jumping into the water and swimming to shore.  Plus at the end of her walks, she is quite ready to wade back into the water to cool off and swim back to LIB.

Frank has kited in two places and I hope to have a go next week when the wind returns. Although the wind on the south side was offshore, the location is lovely and the wind wasn’t too gusty, so Frank had an excellent set. The second spot was right off of Klein Bonaire and it didn’t work out as well.

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Kiting off of Klein Bonaire was too gusty.

The water side of Bonaire has been delightful. But don’t think Bonaire is only for water sports.  We have pulled out our bikes and explored a bit that way and we have just rented a car.  Our first excursions have been fun and interesting. I’ll share those pictures soon.

Is Bonaire on your bucket list?  We would recommend it!

 

 

 

 

Goodbye Aruba, Hello Bonaire!

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Our view from Arashi Beach.

Our last few days in Aruba were spent in a northwest anchorage called Arashi Beach near the lighthouse and a pretty public beach. While the anchorage was still rolly, we really appreciated the beach setting where we could alternate between dips in the clear water, cool beverages at the small bar and strolls along the tourist strewn sand.

Captain was extremely happy here as she would swim then roll in the sand to her hearts content. Plus there were SO many people who gave her love and attention that she really did not want to return to LIB!

Captain is quite the ambassador and because of her we met people all along the beach.  Since there is no cruising community to speak of in Aruba, Captain’s introductions to new friends was even more welcome than usual.

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Captain amid her friends Pam, Tiff, Chris and Lisa.

We ended up meeting several groups of visitors but we really connected with two groups and since both expressed interest in our sailing life, we invited them to come visit us on LIB.

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John, Mark, Zachary, Gerry, Frank, Lisa and Chris…. the youngest at the helm? 

Once again, I forgot to pull out my camera, so I don’t have pictures from the day Becky, Tanya, Jeb and Shawn went sailing with us, but both days were really fun.  Our guests soon became friends and I can only hope our paths will cross again.  Thanks for trusting us to share part of your vacation time guys.  It was a pleasure meeting each and every one of you!

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Eight large boats and a couple of small ones.

Aruba tourism is huge as evidenced by the number of day boats taking people to various snorkeling spots.  Just count the number of boats in the pictures above and below this paragraph.  These were to the port and starboard side of LIB as we motored away from Arashi Beach.

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Just another six day boats!

I mentioned already on our boat FB page that the checking in and out process for Aruba leaves a LOT to be desired.  The docking is especially poor as it is set up for very large tug boats or cruise ships and small sailboats or motorboats do not fit well against the dock.  The people in and about Aruba are delightful, but the Customs and Immigration people were much less helpful, in our experience.  I get it though; we cruisers are small potatoes and little revenue compared to those who arrive by plane or cruise ship….

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Sailing against the trade winds is no fun, so this calm day was perfect!

We set out for Bonaire on a fabulously calm day with winds of less than 4 knots and seas that were calmer than our Aruban anchorages!

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Venezuela is right there!

If you look closely, in the distance of this picture, you can see Venezuela.  It is easy to forget that Venezuela is only about 25 miles from Aruba.  Many large, private fishing boats have come from Venezuela and are docked in Aruba.  I assume this is to find a safe refuge since Venezuela is in such a sad plight.

We anchored in a small bay on Curacao overnight, then motored on to Bonaire.  WHAT a welcome back to Bonaire we had.  Our friends Josee and Andre whom we met in the Dominican Republic were already in Bonaire and had scouted out a mooring ball in case we needed it. (You guys ROCK!)

Kathe and Gary of s/v Tribasa Cross, whom we met waaaay back in the BVIs in 2015, were on a mooring ball and Gary was in the dinghy to greet us when we arrived. How fun is it to bump into people you met years before?!

Plus we were able to reconnect with Kathi and Tim of s/v Two Oceans; fellow Puerto Rico refugees!

Needless to say it is awesome to be back in a cruising community where we can reconnect with familiar friends (notice I did not say “old”) and new friends are just a mooring ball away.

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The reefs include more color than you can imagine!

Now that we are back in Bonaire, once again we are diving daily.  We find the diving here fabulous!  By early afternoon, we are very hot and ready to drop our body temperatures.  Scuba diving and being underwater for an hour is an excellent way to cool off and explore at the same time.

Here are just a few pics from diving in Bonaire…

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Who knows what might pop out from a crevice?

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My favorite “find” so far was this octopus!

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This doesn’t do justice to the myriad of colors.

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Loads of fishies!

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This eel was fast…. or was I hesitant to get too close??

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Nature reclaiming man’s waste and making it pretty-ish.

It is really nice to be back in Bonaire where we are surrounded by other cruisers and we can enjoy the water that surrounds us. There are good grocery stores and we can find most things we want and everything we need.  The winds are returning this week, so we look forward to finding a good kiteboard spot soon.

Happy Thanksgiving to our U.S. readers. As usual, thank you for stopping by.

 

 

ARUBA! An Easy Place to While Away Time.

Wow, sorry for the lack of blog posts.  I would say it’s been super busy here, but that is a relative term.  We have been busy, but a lot of what we have been doing is researching things for the new boat.  (Skip to the bottom for that news.)

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Our view when anchored off Nikki Beach.

Aruba is a beautiful island with a population of a little ever 100,000 as of 2016.  The locals are extremely nice and cheerful, so we feel very welcome here.  However, the focus is certainly on the tourists who arrive via cruise ship or plane and we little cruisers are sort of an afterthought.  Which is understandable when you consider that just yesterday there were four cruise ships in port which is probably about 20,000 visitors!

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In this picture I captured 3 cruise ships and an airplane!

Checking into Aruba by private boat is a bit of an adventure. Boaters must tie up to the large commercial dock which is not well situated for a small boat.  When we arrived, the wind was beating us up against the concrete wall and the only protection besides our boat bumpers were old tires.  Let It Be came away with a lot of black tire marks on the side and we were tense the whole time we were at the commercial dock, but thankfully we didn’t have any other damage.

All of the paperwork was completed at the dock and immigration and customs came to us; but it took a while!

There are pretty much only two marinas available here and currently they are very full with boats from Puerto Rico that ran from Hurricane Maria and boaters who have escaped Venezuela.

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The Renaissance Marina.

We stayed in the Renaissance Marina for a few days before our trip to the U.S. and it is a nice place to stay. The marina is right across from all of the action of town and there are two hotels associated with the marina where we were welcome to swim and use the restrooms.

Since returning from the U.S., we have been anchored off Nikki Beach which is right next to the airport.  This is not a calm and quiet anchorage, so don’t expect flat water.  But the beach is nice and it is easy to pull the dinghy up on shore.  We have enjoyed taking Captain for walks twice a day on the beach and we have been swimming or SUPing most afternoons to get some exercise.

There are other beaches along the west coast of Aruba that are even prettier than Nikki Beach, but they are not well protected either.

We have rented a car a few times and explored most of the island by car.

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How many animals could survive here?

Driving around Aruba, the east coast is rugged and dry. Although years ago, there were supposedly a variety of grazing areas for cows, goats and other animals, we didn’t see any areas that looked capable of supporting cattle; and we are here during the rainy season.

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The east coast water was pretty but rough.

We are still considering moving up to Palm Beach on the northwest shore of Aruba so we can dive some of the shipwrecks, but much depends on the winds.

Aruba’s two largest visitor populations are from the cruise ships and repeat time share owners.  Both visitors seem to really enjoy their time here and many of the people I’ve spoken with make Aruba a multiple repeat vacation destination.

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Prada? Cartier? Ralph Lauren? Gucci?

I think Aruba is so popular because it is an easy place to get to and there are many familiar amenities that make it perfect for those who like a taste of home when they travel.  You will find most recognizable restaurant chains here and every upscale designer seems to have a store front.

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A “ying/yang” lounge chair?! Suits us pretty well.

We have certainly taken advantage of several of the restaurants and enjoyed many delicious meals here in Aruba. We have enjoyed access (by car) to very well stocked grocery stores. We have loved swimming nearly every day.

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Dinner at Elements was one of the best meals we had in Aruba!

We have also enjoyed spending time with our friends Shelly and Greg of s/v Semper Fi, who also sailed away from Puerto Rico just before Hurricane Maria.  Greg and Shelly have spent a lot of time on Aruba and they have been really helpful in learning what Aruba has to offer.

One other thing we appreciate about Aruba is that we were able to have the bottom of LIB cleaned and repainted.  LIB was on the hard for three weeks while we were traveling in the U.S. and we are very pleased with the work performed at Varadero Aruba Marina and Boatyard. Once again LIB is clean, painted and ready to sail.

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It has been pretty interesting to watch the constant coming and going of the cruise ships at all times of day and night.  More than once we have awakened to Captain barking at night and when we look outside, there is yet another ship leaving with all lights blazing.

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The picture is poor, but you can see how amazingly bright these ships are at night!

If I have to summarize my thoughts about Aruba, it is a bit like living at anchor in a small city.  If you are a city person at heart who is living on a boat, Aruba might be the perfect place for you!  Frank and I are both looking forward to getting back to a little quieter anchorage if we can find one.  Next week the wind is forecast to lighten up so we will probably leave here and sail back toward Curacao and Bonaire.

~HH55~

One upside to the HH55 is that there are many ways to customize the boat, everything from choosing aft or interior helm stations to designing the cabinets in the galley and hulls.

It is really fun to have these options but it takes a good deal of thought, planning and research.  Unfortunately when we have s-l-o-w internet, research is very time consuming.  But we are plowing along and making decisions.

The folks at HH have been very responsive to our questions and they are working hard to help us build the boat we think will work best for us when we circumnavigate.  Also, Gino Morrelli has been amazingly helpful with the details of the boat and with catching things in the renderings that we need to consider.

The very first decision we had to make was which helm station configuration we wanted: the interior, center helm station or dual, outdoor, aft helm stations.

The interior helm is a very cool feature and we thought it would be really nice to sit inside during passages and helm from indoors. Whomever is at the helm would remain part of the activities indoors and would not be isolated at an outdoor helm station. We have some concern that during ocean crossings, water could come through the trampoline and swamp the pit by the mast where lines are adjusted in the interior helm configuration.  Plus the interior helm is a great way to reduce sun exposure and help prevent skin cancer.

The outdoor helm configuration is familiar and comfortable. With dual helm stations, docking would be easier because you could be in the helm station closest to the dock so you can see easily.   Removing the helm from the salon would allow for another sitting area indoors and make the salon more open physically and visually.

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Image from HH55 layout page.

Both configurations have positive features, but for us, the dual, aft helm is our choice. When sailing LIB, Frank and I love to sit at the helm together and watch the world go by, so we have a hard time imagining ourselves sitting inside the salon as we sail.

HH and Gino Morrelli are working with us to make sure the outdoor helm station seats are comfortable and will accommodate both of us as we sail. Perfect – for us anyway.

So there you have it. Our HH55 will be the dual, aft helm stations. FYI, this was not a difficult decision. I think most people know instinctively which would be better for their preferences.

Thanks for reading our blog. If you have any questions, feel free to ask.  If you want to see what we are up to more often, please visit our FB page: Let It Be, Helia 44.

 

Ch~Ch~Ch~Changes! New Plans. New Digs.

If you were reading closely, you may have noticed a soft mention of a recent trip to China in one of our blog posts. And if you saw me with my kiddos, you would have noticed that Frank wasn’t with us because he was once again in China. And if you had followed us around the Annapolis Boat Show, you might have noticed that we spent a lot of time on one particular sailboat.

And IF you put all of that together, you might have guessed that we have decided to buy a new boat!    W H A T ? ? ? ?

Yep, it’s true.

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She doesn’t look like much ~ yet!

Here is the skinny.  We love our Helia and think that LIB is a well built, comfortable sailboat.  We have put a lot of work into her to make her function perfectly for us and make sure she is reliable, capable and prepared for long passage making.

So why would we change boats?  The truth is that we want a boat that is faster than LIB.  We have been discussing the idea of circumnavigation and I am in favor of having a sailboat that can make long passages shorter.  I like the idea of being “out there” less time and being anchored and exploring longer.

LIB is absolutely blue-water ready and very capable for circumnavigating. But honestly, we have been looking for a boat that can sail upwind, can sail faster and sails well in light winds.  We love to sail and we want a sailboat that can comfortably tick off 230 miles per day with a crew of 2.

After months of discussion, we had narrowed our focus to three boats; the Outremer 5X, the Balance 526 and the HH55.  Because we did not have an opportunity to sail any of those boats, our research stalled until May of this year.  Apparently in May all of the stars aligned just perfectly because in the space of two weeks we had the chance to sea trial and carefully evaluate all three of these boats.

The Outremer, the Balance and the HH each have some excellent features, are solid boats and are performance oriented.  But after reviewing our options and sailing goals, and after sailing all three boats, Frank and I were hooked on the HH55. Full carbon construction, cutting edge hull, daggerboard and rig design as well as full customization options are just some of the many features that set the HH apart from other performance catamarans.

We spent a lot of time working with Gino Morrelli,  renowned naval architect of Morrelli and Melvin, and with Mark Womble, broker extraordinaire, discussing the HH55 and what we wanted in a new boat.  We had conversations and e-mails with Paul Hakes of Hudson Hakes Yacht Group talking about our interests and questions.

In August we flew to China, visited the HH factory, created a preliminary interior layout, then pulled the trigger.  We signed a contract and officially placed our order for an HH-55!

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Frank and Paul make it official!

Frank and I recognize that sailing the HH will certainly be more complicated than sailing our Helia, but we have always enjoyed challenging ourselves mentally and physically, and we believe this boat will further our sailing experience and knowledge.

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Minnehaha, HH55-01! (Photo courtesy of HH Catamarans)

The HH55 has been designed with performance and comfort in mind and we believe this sailboat fulfills both of these roles very well. Our plan is to take delivery in Long Beach, CA, spend six to 12 months getting to know our new boat and making sure all of the systems work well, then set off for our circumnavigation.

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HH55-01 sports an inside helm station.

As with all changes, there is great excitement and a pretty large dose of nervousness.  We have absolutely loved Let It Be and she has been a sturdy and steady vessel.  It will be very hard (read sad) to let her go, so we hope to find buyers who will love her and care for her as well as we have.  Let It Be has brought us much joy and I’m sure whoever owns her next will create equally wonderful memories!

So there you have it; we are making some changes, expanding our experience and looking forward to the delivery of our HH55 sailboat.

Thank you so much for reading our blog. We love to hear from our readers, so feel free to make comments. And if you want to hear from us more often, check out our FB page: Let It Be, Helia 44.

 

 

 

 

 

Annapolis Sailboat Show 2017

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.

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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!

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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 AppealPusser’s Hurricane Relief FundBVI Recovery FundVirgin 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!!

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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.

 

 

 

Boat Dog Boarding. What Is a Pet Owner To Do?

While living on Let It Be full time, it is sometimes necessary to fly back to The States for family events or doctor appointments and such. Are you making reservations again?

Flying with a dog is difficult and even with the proper paperwork, once landed, additional questions about which hotels accept dogs and are clean, where to leave the dog while taking care of many errands or appointments, makes travel and use of time a bit more complicated. 

This year we have had to leave Captain behind three times and twice were for extended trips. Finding a place where Captain can be well cared for, get some attention and a decent amount of exercise, has been a challenge but the effort has been worthwhile. 

I thought some pet owners might find it useful to know how we have managed this year, so here is the rundown for our three trips. 

In May, Frank and I were in the Dominican Republic and we had a visit to Florida planned. We would leave together, conduct our meetings over the course of five days, then I would fly back to the DR and Frank would leave for his Atlantic crossing. 

For this trip, we hired a delightful guy named Nelson who works at the Samana Marina. Captain remained on LIB, Nelson came by to feed and walk Cappy twice a day and Cap was able to be ‘at home’ while we were away. 

One of our walks in Samana. 

Also, our dock neighbors, Andre and Josee, were simply awesome and kept an eye out for Captain. They decided Captain needed more activity, so when they walked their dog, Roxy, they brought Captain along. 

How awesome is that?!!!

Captain rides shotgun with Natalia. 

The second trip we took was from Puerto Rico and we planned to be traveling to multiple locations over a three week period. Fortunately I looked up rover.com, a U.S. internet based company where you enter your zip code and the bios for pet sitters near your location pop up.

 Captain with Natalia’s dogs. 

It is through rover.com that I found Natalia, who took excellent care of Captain. Natalia’s home was very well set up for dogs and she really loved Cappy. 

Natalia has two dogs for Cappy to play with and daily walks were a given. While Cappy was with Natalia, Hurricane Irma was heading toward PR and Natalia was very communicative about her plans should evacuation become necessary. 

Captain chillin’ at Natalia’s. 

We were extremely happy with Natalia’s care for Captain and had planned on leaving Cap with her again for our October trip to the States, but our escape from Hurricane Maria rendered that impossible. 

Our final trip this year we had to scramble and find last minute accommodations for Captain in Aruba!

Fortunately we found the Dog Hotel Aruba where a young couple boards dogs in their yard. Rose and her husband are clearly dog lovers and assured me they would take great care of Captain. 

Captain says “pick me.”

The Dog Hotel Aruba has several kennels and two large fenced areas on site. The dogs are outside pretty much all day and large dogs are separated from small dogs. The dogs are also taken to the beach to swim once or twice a week. Not a bad way for Captain to spend her time when we have to be away. 

That is a pretty little swimming hole!

I consider each of the dog stays successful though obviously very different. I think Captain was most comfortable when she stayed on the boat and was at home in our absence. I am sure in that situation Captain felt the least ‘abandoned ‘ but she was probably a bit lonely. Still, this is similar to dogs who stay home while their owners are away. 

Staying with Natalia was where I think Captain received the most amount of human attention and love. This was a very good fit for Captain and us. Plus it was easy to find a sitter with good reviews and paying online was convenient. 

I’m fine up here. 

The dog hotel in Aruba was a good find. I doubt this is Cappy’s favorite stay because she usually prefers to be with people more than dogs. But like a child who has to play with others, this is probably a good experience for Captain. 

Even though finding a place to leave our dog takes a little time, so far it has worked out well for us. Plus, there is the added comfort of being able to receive pictures and updates to make sure our furry loved one is doing well. 

Cap is pretty relaxed in LIB. 

I acknowledge that we have been fortunate in finding great options for Captain, but I still feel a little guilty leaving her behind. I have really enjoyed our travels and visits with friends and family but I am glad we don’t have any other time off the boat planned for a while!

And I am confident Captain will agree completely when we get back and I tell her. 

Thanks a bunch for stopping by. Please share your thoughts on pet care while away from home. 

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