Monthly Archives: August 2017

Life Onboard; Comparing Year 1 and Year 2

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The unparalleled waters of the Bahamas.

September marks the second completed year of full time living on our sailboat and it is amazing how different the two years have been.

Our first year we spent the first months working hard to get Let It Be ready for us to live on her.  Although we bought our boat new, we had several items we wanted to add to make life on our boat just a bit easier.

Probably the three biggest changes we made during the first year that have made LIB more functional for us were:

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Adding a Cruise RO Water Maker which frees us from looking for places to buy water as we travel.

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Adding these two upper windows to our salon which allow us to have airflow into the boat even if it rains outside.

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Our new cushions which are so much more comfortable than our original ones and add a very nice pop of color and individuality to LIB.

As far as our actual travel during the first season, we spent our time in the Windward and Leeward Islands of the Caribbean and loved moving from one country to the next.  The majority of our time was spent on anchor; we spent three nights in a dock on Antigua celebrating the New Year, then did not use a marina again until June.

We thoroughly enjoyed being on the hook, swimming and snorkeling almost every day and living that first season very much in tune with nature.

At the end of our first season, we left the Caribbean and sailed north all the way to Annapolis, MD to get in position for my personal “wish” which was to join a rally and work our way south through the Intracoastal Waterway.

Prior to the start of our second season aboard LIB, we made three additional changes to LIB that have made a significant difference for her in a positive way.

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We invested in brand new 3di sails by North Sails.  These sails are higher performance than our original sails and have gained us the ability to point higher and sail a bit faster. Definitely a win for LIB and us.

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We replaced all of our electronic equipment with B&G and we added radar to LIB.  We are very happy with our new equipment and find the autopilot to be excellent. The B&G equipment has some features that our previous system did not have and we find the whole system more user friendly.

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Our third change was that Frank and I completely revamped the rain water drainage on LIB by enlarging the drain holes and leading the captured water into the drain in the cockpit floor.  Prior to making these alterations, our cockpit floor would get wet when it rained because water ran off of the upstairs sun area and into the cockpit.  Since our modification, our cockpit is dry and usable even during heavy rains.

Our second season of cruising has been great but completely different from our first. We kicked it off with the 2016 Sail to the Sun Rally that started in Hampton, Virginia.  In the company of 18 other sailboats, we spent two months working our way south to Florida.  Nearly every evening we were in a different marina and we ate out more often than we ever did while living on land. The social life was amazing and the group of people were like minded and are sure to be friends for a very long time.

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A few STTS Ralliers waiting for a trolley tour.

We spent January through April in the Bahamas, including several stays in marinas.  Next we worked our way over to the Turks and Caicos, the Dominican Republic and then to Puerto Rico for this hurricane season.

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This marina in Samana, DR isn’t exactly a hardship!

While in the Turks and Caicos, we spent 95 percent of our time in a marina.  In the Dominican Republic we spent 100 percent of our time in marinas and now that we are settled in Puerto Rico for hurricane season, we are again in a marina.

As you can tell, our second season was all about marinas and much of it was about land activities.

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Kiting in Antigua.

Our first season we ate off of the boat rarely and focused on our water sports. Many hours and anchorages were all about kite boarding in beautiful places and having beaches all to ourselves.

This year we have made a ton of new boat friends, helped considerably by the Sail to the Sun Rally, and we have spent more time exploring on land.

In summary, I would say this year feels more like “land life” while living on a boat but our first year felt more like living on a sailboat.

If I had to choose if I prefer year one or two, I would not be able to do so. Year one I loved being in tune with the sunrises and sunsets while on anchor. I loved swimming to shore nearly every day and daily water activities.  I loved being in somewhat isolated places and feeling out of touch with U.S. news but being able to stay in contact with my family and friends.

This year I loved making so many new friends and reconnecting with friends in different anchorages or marinas. The convenience of restaurants and stores was welcome. It was really nice to be back in the U.S. with everything so familiar and accessible. But because we were in the States, it was easy to get caught up in the “real world” and that was not my favorite aspect of year two.

So now that we have experienced two very different years, what will we do for the upcoming season?

In November, we are once again setting off toward the Windward and Leeward Islands of the Caribbean. But this year we will also jump over to the ABC Islands (Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao) and spend time there before the hurricane season of 2018 begins.

My hope is that this season we can somehow manage to blend our last two seasons.  Perhaps we will devise an itinerary that includes remote anchorages intermingled with some more developed areas with conveniences we sometimes crave (think grocery stores with our favorite veggies and fruits).

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It was a great surprise when Starry Horizons was nearby!

And of course, we hope to reconnect with sailing friends because it is a little thrill to drop anchor and suddenly realize that a nearby boat is a friend we didn’t know was in the area.

As always, thank you for visiting our blog. We love hearing your comments. If you are interested in seeing more of our everyday activities, please visit our FB page: Let It Be, Helia 44

Sargassum ~ Floating Habitat with a Big Smell!

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Sargassum at sea (image by Tam Warner Minton/Flickr)

Sargassum grass is a type of brown algae that floats in small patches or gathers into large masses and can be found in every ocean except the Antarctic.  The first written report of sargassum dates back to 1492 by Christopher Columbus (don’t get me started on the different names I have encountered for this famous explorer!).

Like every living force, sargassum has some great properties and some that we could do without.  Here in The Yacht Club at Palmas del Mar, Puerto Rico, the big negative is the smell emitted by the algae as it dies on the shore line and releases sulphur compounds that smell like rotten eggs on steroids!

But this floating grass also has benefits for the ocean.  As many as 52 varieties of fish were found to take shelter and find food within this floating algae off of North Carolina.  Sargassum grass offers a moving habitat for fish in parts of the ocean where no other is available.

Interestingly, a study by the North Carolina National Estuarine Reserve states, “The Sargassum community occupies such a large dimension of the upper water column (up to 3 m depth) and is typically so diverse that one gear or collection method cannot effectively sample it all.” 

In studying the algae columns, researchers found that there is something of a layering habitat within the sargassum where smaller fish live in the algae, slightly larger juvenile fish live below the grass and larger predators such as dolphins swim further down in the water.

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Small gas-filled spheres that look like berries keep the seaweed afloat. (naturetime.worpress.com)

In recent years, sargassum has become so prolific that it has caused issues along some beaches, creating foul smells as it rots on the shore, deterring vacationers from visiting popular resort destinations.  Additionally, the grass can be so dense in places that it inhibits the movement of hatching sea turtles on their way to the water, causing them to die before reaching the ocean.  But once in the water, small turtles also find food and shelter within the sargassum algae.

The benefits of sargassum are not limited to fish and turtles.

Since the eighth century, traditional Chinese medicine has used sargassum as a natural diuretic and for treating goiters and thyroid deficiencies. Additionally, the algae is nutrient dense and contains carbon, making it an excellent fertilizer.  The government of Tobago is encouraging farmers to use this algae as fertilizer on crops.

Experts believe these main factors are causing the increase in sargassum grass;

  1. higher ocean temperatures which allows this tropical plant to thrive
  2. polluted waters carrying higher nutrients that act like a fertilizer for the sargassum
  3. changing “liquid boundaries” in the ocean caused by storms and high winds help spread sargassum throughout the oceans

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Sargassum drift near The Yacht Club only two weeks after a clean up.

Most days as I head out for my walk here at Palmas del Mar, I hold my breath as I pass one area ripe with rotting sargassum grass.  Even though the marina is doing all it can to collect and remove the plant, I gag a little on days when the smell is strong.

So I’m glad I researched sargassum and can at least appreciate the benefits it offers instead thinking it is just a “smelly weed.”  Perhaps the next time you are confronted with the obnoxious odor of this algae as it decomposes, you will be able to consider its’ benefits like I am now and both of us will resent the smell a little less.

As always, thank you for visiting our blog. We love hearing your comments. If you are interested in seeing more of our everyday activities, please visit our FB page: Let It Be, Helia 44

 

I’m More of a Hooker Than a Marina Maven.

Recently I was reading Third Time Lucky’s blog post titled, “Do you prefer to be at anchor, or in a harbour?”  and I was pretty amazed at how different our perspectives are.

The author, Georgie Moon, takes fabulous photos, enjoys writing and writes very well, lives part-time on a boat and is probably close to my age.  All these similarities led me to think Georgie Moon and I might also share our love of anchorages.  But her recent blog post relieved me of that misconception.

In contrast to Georgie Moon, I love being on the hook.

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LIB hooked in an isolated, narrow bit of water.

I feel much more connected to God, nature and the natural cycle of day and night when I am on anchor and somehow those connections make me happy.

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A sunset I wouldn’t want to miss.

Now don’t get me wrong, I still really enjoy our marina stops and the convenience of nearby bathrooms, laundry, groceries and other land amenities.  I like having access to other people, restaurants and the occasional swimming pool; especially in this Puerto Rican heat.

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Who wouldn’t find views like this uplifting?

But I can tell you that once we have untied the dock lines and begun motoring out of a marina and into a wide expanse of open water, with the wind in our faces and the sun dancing off the water, I feel a lifting of my heart and my soul seems to quicken with joy.

One thing I love is that there are no fences in the water! I never know what might might swim into view below our keels as LIB splashes along or gently sways on anchor.

 

Dolphins? Starfish? Turtles?

 Or I can jump in the water and swim to shore to explore whatever beach or little town beckons.  And each time I do, the scenery and marine life as I swim present an ever changing kaleidoscope.

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Frank and Al look like they are paddling in liquid gold.

As for seeing other people, I have found the cruising community to be open and welcoming. It is pretty easy to hop in the dinghy or jump on the SUP and pop over to say hello to someone sharing the anchorage.

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A butterscotch sky.

Often we invite new acquaintances to share a drink on our boat and watch the sun tuck itself into the horizon.

So, sorry Georgie, life in a marina offers much, but for me…. I guess I’m secretly a hooker at heart.  😉

I would love for you to share your thoughts in the comments below:  Marina Maven? or more of a Hooker?  

A special thank you to Georgie Moon of Third Time Lucky for allowing me to link to her blog.  Georgie writes often about a myriad of topics and her pictures are stunning. I hope some day our wakes cross, because I do think we could find plenty of common interests!

 

 

 

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