Monthly Archives: April 2018

Trip Updates

No internet while at sea. If you want to see updates, please check our FB page:

Let It Be, Helia 44

Atolls and Islands of Belize; Our First Few Days.

So the last blog was short on pictures and long on words because there aren’t many things to take photos of when out on a passage.  But the eastern islands of Belize were beautiful and I took a few pictures to make up for the lack of photos in the last blog.

long cay-4

Long Cay in the distance with the rim of the reef visible (the brown coral and white sand).

If I were to think of Belize as a person, I would say that Belize is a bit shy and hides her qualities so that one must try hard to get to know her.  I think of the line from the movie Shrek where Shrek tells Donkey that ogres are like onions, they have many layers.

I think Belize is also like an onion. She is not well documented and you must either spend time finding the best water spots or make friends with people who are willing to share the secrets of Belize.

Although we don’t have enough time to uncover the layers of Belize, we have seen many beautiful places and the people of Belize have been wonderfully friendly and happy.

Here are some photo highlights of our first two islands in Belize:

long cay-1

Captain’s first trip to shore after our passage. That is a happy Cappy!

long cay-2

Strolling along the sand road on Long Cay you can see the island is lush.

Long Cay was a welcome sight and we all enjoyed walking on the stable island instead of on the boat. It was a hot day but the shade of the trees really helped reduce the temperature.

half moon

Crop circles in the ocean?

We decided to move over to Half Moon Cay which is only about a 40 minute motor. The island is a preserve for turtles, birds and marine life.

half moon-1

The aqua, shallow water of Half Moon reminded us of the Bahamas.

half moon-4

Walking the path to the bird observatory on Half Moon Cay

half moon-2

Fluffy headed baby bird.

There are a ton of Frigate Birds and Red Footed Boobies on the Half Moon. The observatory is right up in the trees and it is easy to observe the nests. Some of the Frigates still had inflated gular pouches.  Male Frigates inflate their bright red pouches to attract the females. I wrote a little about the Frigate birds when we visited Barbuda.

half moon-3

Tents for rent on Half Moon Cay.

Since Half Moon is a sanctuary, it is not developed, but there is a research center and these tents are available for rent. I spoke with a person staying in one the island and he told me he was part of a NatGeo tour and this was one of their stops.

drone shots

Arial view of the tent area on Half Moon Cay.

Doesn’t a NatGeo tour sound like a really cool way to travel and learn about the area you are visiting?

half moon-5

A ship wrecked on the reef outside Half Moon.

After a few hours on land Frank and I decided it was time to cool off, so we snorkeled from LIB toward a wreck out by the reef.  The coral was in good shape but we didn’t see very many fish…. except the shark that I saw while Frank was swimming elsewhere!!

drone shots-1

LIB on a mooring at Half Moon Cay.

Unfortunately, the wind direction shifted and came out of the north which made the anchorage much too bumpy, so we moved back to Long Cay.  We would have preferred to stay a bit longer at Half Moon and scuba dived to explore under water.

We have a bit of a schedule to keep thus we don’t have time to really linger in Belize, so we upped anchor and headed to our next planned stop at South Water Cay.  South Water is a darling island with several resorts on it. We returned to South Water later, so I’ll share those pictures in another blog.

Except for this one!

Version 2

My first seahorse in the wild!!

Every single time we dove in Bonaire I looked for seahorses and every time I failed to find one.  But on our third stop in Belize, at South Water Cay, I saw a seahorse right by the dock!! Of course I would never have spotted him myself. I noticed a man pointing out something in the water from the dock and it was this seahorse.  I didn’t even get in the water to see him!

In addition to South Water Cay, we stopped at Tobacco Caye and at Hideaway Cay.  We revisited both South Water and Tobacco with friends and I’ll cover those islands in the next blog.

Our final stop before heading into Placencia was at Hideaway in the Pelican Cays. The only people on the island are Dustin, Kim and their daughter.  Dustin and Kim actually built their home, dock and restaurant/bar themselves over several years. They live on Hideaway for like six months of the year, then they go back to their home in Florida.  I absolutely cannot imagine how much work is involved in building on these islands and how hard it is to prepare your home to leave it for six months.  In these salty, harsh conditions, the repair necessary upon return must be great!

hideaway-1

Part of the Hideaway.

Maintenance thoughts aside, Hideaway was lots of fun. The crew of three other boats were at the bar and four of them also stayed for dinner. The six of us were seated at one table and shared a delicious dinner of fish Dustin caught and Kim prepared.  This was the second restaurant we visited in Belize and at both places, you make the reservation and you eat whatever dish is served.  That certainly saves time reading a menu and trying to decide what to order! I rather enjoyed not making a choice and I know my eldest son would really like that feature too!!

At Hideaway everyone was served fish, but it was a variety of species.  I had sheepshead for the first time, while Frank was served snapper and someone else had hogfish.  Everyone seemed to enjoy his meal. When I first spied Hideaway, I was a little skeptical, but after enjoying the atmosphere and food, I would definitely recommend it!

hideaway

This tiny piece of sand was all we could find for Captain one night.

For those who have dogs on board, Dustin and Kim have two dogs and I don’t think they would like other dogs on their turf.  Better to take your dog to this little bit of sand pictured above. This island is across from mooring balls Hideaway generously installed for visitors.

So there you have our first few days in Belize. Now we are off to Placencia to meet Susan and Kevin, friends we made on the 2016 Sail to the Sun Rally. We are super excited for them to visit!

long cay-3

Just a gratuitous sunset.

A special thank you to Frank for flying his drone and capturing a couple of pictures of Half Moon Cay. The arial photos are such a cool way to get a better feeling the beauty of these islands and the water.

~HH55 Catamaran Update~

When we decided to buy the HH55 rather than other boats on our list, one big factor was that the HH is made of carbon fiber.  We knew that with a larger boat, strength of materials becomes increasingly important and that carbon fiber brings strength without an increase in weight.

Because carbon fiber is the current darling of light, strong sailboats, I decided to ask preeminent marine architect and the designer of our HH55, Gino Morrelli, to offer insight into why carbon fiber is so valuable. (Read this article from March 2017 for more information about Gino’s thoughts on performance catamarans.)

I asked Gino if he could tell me, in a few sentences, why he prefers carbon fiber and he quickly shot back this response:

“Advantages of Carbon Fiber over E-Glass:
1. High specific stiffness (stiffness divided by density)  Carbon is 6-8 times stiffer than E-Glass for the same weight, less stretch = less flex in platform… ie windows and joinery stay glued in longer, hatches don’t leak…. We can use less carbon to have the same stiffness or add stiffness very easily. Lighter boats, more payload. more performance..
2. High specific strength (strength divided by density) Carbon is 2-3 times stronger than E-Glass ie, we can use half as much carbon to equal the same strength! less resin too! Lighter boats, more payload..
3. Extremely low coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE) boat does not grow and shrink in hot and cold weather. Again the windows and deck hardware stay put, and leak less…”
Well that all sounds excellent to me and it sounds like our new boat will be very strong and light! (Plus any time a guy throws around formulas it sounds pretty impressive, right?)
This week we learned that our HH55 has undergone and completed the “post cure process.” I was not sure why that was important, except that I knew it gets us one step closer to painting the boat our color of choice!
So I asked Gino to fill me in on what the post curing process accomplishes and here is his response:
“Post curing is essentially baking the boat in an oven. The epoxy resin these boats are built with cures to 75-80% of its strength in the first 24-48 hours when cured at 78f… Baking it in an oven after this initial curing (post curing) process accelerates the curing process to near 100% in 8-12 hours of additional heat of 150-160f. Post curing also improves the resins “toughness” ie more flexibility. This improves damage tolerance. We also post cure to allow us to paint the boats dark and they “print” less. They don’t show the underlying layers and foam joints through the paint and primer, if the boat is “post cured’ to a temperature that is not exceeded by the Sun out in the ocean later on…” 
Some of this might be slightly above my pay-grade, but I definitely have a better idea of why the post cure is necessary. 
And, ta da!      Our future boat is pictured here after the post cure is complete. 
  

5503 post cure complete

Post cure completed on our HH55.

If post cure is complete, can paint be far behind? Nope!

We anticipate our hull will enter the paint booth for the external paint application in mid-May. I’m excited to see her when she is all gussied up and sporting her color.

Thank you for visiting our blog page. Feel free to add your comments or share our blog. If you want to hear from us more often, check out our FB page.

1200 NM at Sea ~ Our Longest Trip Yet!

Curacao to Belize. More than a thousand miles at sea.   Nervous?   Yep.    Ready?    Yep.

We left the ‘big city’ of Curacao around 1pm on Thursday, March 22nd. Ideally, we would have left much earlier in the day to allow us the greatest number of daylight sailing hours for our passage to Belize and to give us a better chance of arriving in Belize during daylight.

Cur to Bel-6

The view leaving Willemstad, Curacao.

However, our satellite communication system, IridiumGo, was delayed at the Customs office in Curacao for over a week!  By the time we received the system and had it up and working, we were very ready to leave; thus our midday departure.

Using a weather prediction application called Predict Wind, we anticipated this trip would take approximately 7.5 days.  Our experience in the past has shown that we often are a bit faster than predicted, but I always mentally prepare for a slightly longer than expected trip.  That way arriving early or on time is lagniappe.

When we exited the canal of Willemstad, the seas were a bit rough and mixed, probably a combination of the wind, current and land mass.  The wind was quite sporty with seas of five to nine feet and we immediately put up our main and jib to begin our trip.

Cur to Bel-3

Sunset on our third night at sea.

As is usually the case, the first 24-36 hours of a passage, I have to reestablish my sea-legs. This means that Frank takes the bulk of the work and watches during this time. Thankfully I was not sick, but I can get a little queasy so I limit my activity to mostly sitting at the helm or sleeping the first day.  I am very lucky Frank is exceedingly patient and supportive as I acclimate. Plus he is usually pretty jazzed when we set out, so his energy is high while mine is a bit low.

After the first day, I felt a bit better and I improved as the trip progressed.  We were extremely fortunate with the wind and seas this trip and were able to sail the whole time. We flew the full main and jib during the day, then reefed at night as a safety precaution.

The wind was a little more east than was forecast which resulted in a slightly more downwind sail, especially after the third day at sea.  However, even with less north in the wind than was predicted, we managed this whole trip with zero engine hours!  That is pretty exciting.

We were making very good time Thursday through Tuesday and hoped we might arrive the afternoon of Wednesday thus making 1200 nm in less than seven days.  We even managed to have a 200+ nautical mile day on LIB

Our average speed was a very nice 7.8 knots for the trip until Tuesday when the winds dropped significantly.  And as the wind fell, so did our average speed. In one day our average dropped .6 knots. 

With our speed in decline, we knew we would not be able to reach our planned anchorage in daylight so in the early hours of Wednesday we had to slow down significantly.  Of course, once our destination was out of reach for Wednesday, the wind kicked into gear! All of Wednesday afternoon and night plus Thursday morning the wind was consistently 25knots!

Cur to Bel-1

This tiny bit of jib is the only sail we had up our last night of the passage.

We dropped our main sail and had only a tiny piece of the jib out and still we were moving along at 5 knots.  In fact, we were unable to slow down enough to arrive in daylight and ended up having to sail back and forth outside of the reef surrounding the anchorage at Long Cay, part of the Lighthouse Reef of Belize.

DSC00333

The tracks show how many times we sailed back and forth waiting for daylight.

I laugh when I see the tracks LIB made on our chart.  For two hours, until the sun was high enough for us to see into the water, we tacked back and forth outside the reef. When we were finally able to see a bit into the water, we furled the jib and motored through a break in the reef and into the anchorage.

Cur to Bel

Sunrise with Long Cay to the left and Half Moon Cay in the distance.

Frank and I agree that even though this was an excellent passage, it felt great to drop anchor and feel the boat settle into a gentle rocking motion protected from the ocean waves.  After seven days of constant motion in the waves, it was really nice to be almost still!

People wonder what we do to occupy our time while on passage, after all, there is no internet, it is just Frank and me and we are in a rather confined space. I will not say the time just flies by, but the days don’t drag past either.

Cur to Bel-2

Sunrise was a welcome sight as we waited to enter the anchorage.

Audio books are my go to entertainment while on a passage. I had downloaded four books for this trip but sadly two of them had download issues! Sometimes I listen to music as I observe the night sky and ocean.  The moon was waxing this trip and added so much light to our night watches that we cast a shadow when outside.  Plus the ocean is dazzling at night as bioluminescence sparkles in the waves created by LIB.  I find night watches are the perfect place for prayer as well.  How can I not spend time in prayer when I am surrounded by the vastness and beauty of God’s creation? 

Cur to Bel-4

Seriously, Captain!!

Some afternoons we played cards and this trip we taught Captain how to play five card stud. But she is one lucky dog and Frank and I got really tired of loosing to her! I think it was all beginners luck.

This is a boat, so there are things to be maintained and passages are a good time to tackle things like scrubbing the cushions of our portable chairs.  Fun abounds aboard! 

Captain was a champ during our passage.  I really don’t know how she can sleep as much as she does but anytime one of us was downstairs sleeping, she was right there on the floor nearby! When awake, she kept herself busy barking at imaginary things, spotting dolphins and asking for treats.

Cur to Bel-5

I’m not sure what this swallow was doing so far from land.

This cute little bird came to rest on LIB during our passage. We were glad to offer him a respite from his flight. I cannot imagine how far he had come before resting with us!

We also saw dolphins three times but the pictures were lousy…capturing moving dolphins in rough seas on a moving boat ~ yeah, the pictures weren’t good!

So that is the long story of our passage to Belize.  We are very thankful for the safe passage and the great conditions.  And we are grateful for calm anchorages!

Thank you for visiting our blog page. Feel free to add your comments or share our blog. If you want to hear from us more often, check out our FB page.

%d bloggers like this: