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Christmas in July, BVI

The information for this blog post has been heavily taken from a Business BVI article written by Todd VanSickle and published July 24, 2015.

We are still in Puerto Rico but I thought I would share this interesting bit of information about Puerto Rico and the BVIs since both have been important places in our lives with Let It Be.

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In July the charter companies in the BVIs have a bit of a slow down as hurricane season becomes a factor in decisions about visiting the area.  Of course the reduced number of charters and tourists have a negative affect on BVI businesses. However, the U.S. Territory of Puerto Rico is a mere 90 miles from the BVIs and it is from this island that the BVIs receives an economic boost each year.

For the last 30 plus years, each July huge numbers of boaters take off from Puerto Rico and set off to visit, shop, swim and party in the BVIs.  According to an article published in Business BVI in July of 2015, it is estimated that 2,000 boats from PR visit the BVIs in July!  According to Javier Lopez, organizer of Christmas in July (as of 2015), at least 800 Puerto Rican boats visited the BVIs during the week long Christmas in July event in 2015.

Having traveled by boat in Puerto Rico, I can tell  you from our own observations that the boaters here in PR know how to have fun!  Gatherings are numerous for any occasion and for no occasion at all.  Along with our friends, we agree you can identify a PR party boat because it will have; 1. loud music on an excellent stereo system, 2. some sort of flag(s) will be prominently displayed, 3. plenty of people will be on board, 4. magically the boats will be drawn together like magnets.

I say all this with the greatest of respect. I love the way people here in PR include family members of all ages and how much laughter is shared.  This is a fun-loving, happy and welcoming community and we have enjoyed observing it and on occasion being involved in it.

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Let this picture prove the numbers are not exaggerated! (Internet photo)

In the article referenced, Mr. Lopez says that the boaters who participate in Christmas in July refer to themselves as the “Puerto Rican Navy” and we have heard this term for years.  It is a bit confusing until you understand that it is simply an affectionate term used because the boaters travel in groups and support one another.

Amazingly, Mr. Lopez states that this is a very affluent group of boaters with an average income of $600k to $1.5M annually! With that sort of financial means, you can understand why this flotilla has become such an important and encouraged group among the BVI businesses.

So, if you have the opportunity to travel to the BVIs in July, be aware that the Puerto Rican Navy sort of take over during Christmas in July!  The usual beat of the islands will be replaced by some loud and catchy latin music and the number of boaters might be overwhelming.  But the BVIs are so large that you have the opportunity to embrace the Puerto Rican Navy and join in their parties or you can observe where they are heading and go the other way.  Beautiful beaches and perfect anchorages are so plentiful in the BVI that you can find serenity or parties any time of year.

So how about you? Does Christmas in July, partying with a huge number of power boaters and the feel of the base resonating in your chest sound like fun? Or do you prefer the quieter anchorages where the sound of nature and waves upon the shore are the melodies that surround you?

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

 

 

 

 

BVI to The Bahamas: Putting on Big Boy Sailor Pants

Frank and I have worked to build our sailing experience and increase our passage lengths gradually so we would be comfortable when the time for our first long passage arrived.

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Sunset our first night

Our first overnight passage (13 hours) was in May 2015 when we sailed from BVI to St. Martin. Since then we have made a few other overnight trips and a couple of two night passages to help us become more comfortable and confident with sailing off shore.

Of course, any trip is only as good as the weather, so we do our very best to research weather and plan our trips to insure favorable seas and winds and currents. Then we pray that nothing unexpected comes along!

Even with building our experience and choosing the best weather window we could, I was nervous about the 855 nautical mile (nm) sail from the BVI to Marsh Harbour, Abacos.  We expected the trip would take around six days but I mentally prepared myself for seven so I would not get impatient.

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Sunset from the helm with the jib out.

Most sailing blogs state the passage specs, but I tend to find the experience itself interesting.

Here are the facts about the passage to satisfy the sailors who prefer the data only:

Distance: 855 nm

Duration: 5 days 21 hours

Average speed: 6.1 knots

Highest speed: 13.4 (surfing waves is fun!)

Most miles in a 24 hour period: 160 nm

Days 1-3: excellent wind with mostly following seas. Daytime we flew our asymmetric spinnaker alone or with our main. Nighttime we sailed under the jib alone.

Day 4-end: motor, motor and more motor as the wind died.

Other Vessels we saw:  barges and container ships = 5    sailboats = 0

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Container ship pulled by a tug boat. Something we definitely have to look out for.

So those are the facts, but what is a passage like?

This passage was six days in the company of only my husband and our dog.  There is a lot of time alone because generally we traded off naps and watches until we adjusted to the schedule.

Daytime is a vista of blue with occasional surprise visitors like dolphins or birds. 

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A lone dolphin came to visit.

Nighttime is vast darkness, using only red headlights to protect our night vision and sailing by sound and feel since you can’t really see the sails.

I found the passage experience humbling in the sense that we are so small compared to the vastness of the ocean and the power of nature.

Just prior to our departure, my uncle passed away and this passage became a time of prayer for me as I turned to God for comfort in the loss of my uncle, in the vastness surrounding us, and in the recognition of how vulnerable and fragile we are.

I was pretty nervous about the passage and I have tried to identify what factors cause me to feel skittish. Here are the main things I think create my jitters:

  1. Knowing I am relying completely on our boat and our wits if something goes awry.  I know the boat is well made and that we keep it in excellent working condition, but one never knows if something is going to suddenly fail.
  2. Being alone and isolated if something does go wrong.
  3. Fear of seasickness.
  4. Stepping outside my comfort zone.
  5. Lack of visual references: there are no landmarks to tell me I am going the right way.
  6. Hurricanes/Cyclones!

Our original departure from Cane Garden Bay, BVI was delayed by 3 days due to a little cyclone named Bonnie. We didn’t want to sail into a mess and we wanted Bonnie to show her true intentions before we left the safety of the BVIs.

Seeing this storm pop up and develop so quickly only reinforced number 6!

We departed Cane Garden Bay around 10:30 am on Monday, May 30th; Memorial Day in the States. Our first day was beautiful with excellent winds and calm seas. We raised our main sail and red spinnaker.  We fairly flew along. 

As the sun began to set, my nerves began to mount because it seems like any time things go bad it happens at night!

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Goodnight sun, I wish the moon would shine.

At sundown, we lowered the main and spinnaker and flew our jib for the night time sail.  Because we were sailing downwind, we added an outhaul line to move our clew out further from the center of the boat and catch more wind.  With just this genoa and the following seas we were still managing between 6.3 and 8.2 knots!

That first day was our fastest and LIB ate up 160 nm the first 24 hours.

Each evening as the sun went down, I had to talk to myself about being calm and having confidence in LIB and us. We had no moon and the sky was cloudy so we were devoid of light. The absolute darkness can be frightening on the sea and my imagination can go into overdrive if I don’t control it! I have never suffered from panic attacks, but I think that could be an issue on a passage for those who do.

Typically, I took the first watch from 7-midnight and I was very happy when my shift was finished the first night so I could go below to sleep.  I was tired at the end of my shift, but mostly I knew if I slept, when I awakened, the sun would be close to rising!

Sun up means stress down for me.

My pattern of being comfortable and relaxed during light, then becoming more tense when the sun set, recurred for the first 3 nights.  Thankfully, I became more accustomed to the absolute solitude and darkness of night watches and my confidence in LIB increased with time. I actually enjoyed the last two evenings on watch when we had periods of clear skies and I could watch the stars.  I counted four falling stars one night.

Day two was the most exhausting one for Frank because he crawled into bed just after sunrise and 30 minutes later, a BIG fish attacked our fishing line. I couldn’t helm and reel in the fish so Frank had to get up.

LIB was cruising along at about 7 knots with only the spinnaker up and Frank was having a hard time making any progress with the fish. After about 15 minutes, we socked the spinnaker and the boat slowed to around three knots. STILL too fast to fight the fish. I finally had to put the engines in reverse and Frank was able to land the fish 45 minutes after he started the fight.

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His effort was worth it as he caught a 4 foot wahoo!

The spinnaker went back up and Frank set about filleting his fish. Between fighting the fish, filleting it and cleaning up, Frank was at it for about two hours!  He was extremely tired but we had about 12 servings of fresh fish on board!

The remainder of day two and most of three we were able to move from spinnaker to jib and make good time sailing.  But June 2nd ushered in a window of no wind. The seas became flat and the wind died so we ended up motoring the rest of the way to Marsh Harbour.

We still managed about 6 knots with only the engines, but sailing was definitely faster – and quieter.

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Captain likes to help me nap.

I am happy to report that Captain did very well on the passage. She is pretty relaxed when we sail and there isn’t much noise created by waves banging the boat or sails flapping.  These miles were relatively quiet and she seemed comfortable.

And to answer the NUMBER ONE question I get – yes, she does go to the bathroom on the boat.  We have a piece of artificial grass that we keep at the back of the boat and she uses that.  We don’t want her to go to the front deck during the passage and we have a fresh water hose at the back that we can use to clean up after her.

However, for those who plan on taking a dog along – teaching Captain to “go” on the boat is not a complete success. If land is nearby, she refuses to use the fake grass and waits to be taken to shore.  On this crossing she waited FOURTY-EIGHT hours before she used the mat!!! 

(Dog lovers don’t shoot me, I was plenty worried without getting criticized!)

Captain was much happier after she went and we praised her and gave her plenty of treats but she was still reluctant to use the turf.  Hopefully time will erode her resistance.

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Guess who was very excited to see land?!

Looking back at the passage from our safe harbor in The Bahamas, it went as well as I think it could have gone.  The sailing weather was fabulous and when we had to motor, the seas were very calm so the boat motion was excellent.  Using just the jib at night made managing the sail very easy and reduced stress.

Our next passage will be from The Bahamas to Beaufort, N.C.  We are waiting for a good weather window and we will have the benefit of the gulf stream to push us along. All told, we expect that passage to take three or four days. 

I think Frank and I both have a sense of pride and accomplishment about completing this six day passage. Does this earn us “big boy sailor pants?”  Probably not.

I’m not sure how we can actually earn that moniker, but successfully completing this passage certainly increases our experience and our confidence.

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The Bahamas are visible just after sunrise.

3 Houses and No Place to Nest…

The decision to move to Let It Be was made more than two years ago.  Since then, many changes have been accomplished. Our plan to move aboard is close and will be realized within 8 weeks. Yet I have found myself a bit muddled and out of sorts.

Have you felt this way after making a major decision even though you still believe the decision is a good one?

Currently our house in Texas is for sale, which means we maintain it like a House Beautiful photographer is on the way.  To escape the model home syndrome, we are vacationing off and on in a darling VRBO house in Durango, CO.  As for Let It Be, she is finishing her charter life in the British Virgin Islands, taking happy folks from one beautiful beach to the next.

So in a sense, we have three “homes” in three very different places right now.  I know LIB will become our one home, but right now I feel like a three legged stool with a foot in each location.

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And as happens in these situations, I am not perfect at keeping up with which things are where.  Like my one remaining pair of dress pants which I needed in Durango, but I realized I had left in Dallas. Only when I got to Dallas I learned that one pair of pants was accidentally put in a box headed for Let It Be via Puerto Rico!!

pants

The pants are not a tragedy, but they have allowed me to finally put a finger on why I feel so muddled.  I am not the type to decorate and redecorate my home, but I really like knowing what I have and where it is.  “Nesting” for me means I have one place for my things.

This doesn’t mean I have to have a lot of stuff, but it does mean that what I have is in a single location and I can put my hands on whatever I am looking for.

A few people have wondered how we can think about letting go of a land home to live on a boat. Or they think we should have a small land place somewhere so we can “go home” if we want.

Well, I think this feeling of wanting all our toys in one sandbox might just be the answer to why we think owning only a boat sounds like a great idea.

KidKraft Backyard Sandbox - KidKraft 00130

(Google Image)

We want to travel and see new places and by living on LIB, all our toys, clothes and doodads will travel with us – including my one remaining pair of pants!

Admittedly choosing a boat as our residence is not a mainstream choice and it means a significant reduction of ownership, but right this minute, I am soooo ready to put all my possessions in one house boat!

How about you – do you prefer just one sandbox? I would love to hear your thoughts.

From Neutral to Eye Popping…

Let It Be has now been in charter for a bit over 2 years (already!) and she has been an excellent boat.  Many people have enjoyed sailing her from one beautiful BVI hot spot to the next.  We have been very fortunate because most of the maintenance has been routine and expected.  In other words, Let It Be has been reliable, fun and predictable.

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LIB patiently awaits us.

However, there is one purely cosmetic item we have been anxious to improve ~ the exterior cushions on LIB.  The cushions currently aboard have been workhorses, but I think it is almost time for them to be put out to pasture.

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Perfectly neutral and acceptable cushions.

We hope to have new cushions fabricated in September so they will be ready for the post hurricane 2015 season. While choices are not final, the current front runner of color pallets is the one pictured below:

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This could add a lot of pop!

I think that teal blue with lime green piping could make some beautiful cushions. Add some accent pillows in the stripe material and a few others in the tangerine and LIB will look mighty pretty, I think.

We plan on taking a sample of the teal blue with us on our next trip, just make sure it doesn’t get too hot in that Caribbean sunshine.  We sure don’t want our guests getting scorched each time they sit at the helm!

Do you think those colors will be beautiful or do you prefer a more traditional, single color theme?

Sharing is Fun

I’m not sure all parents are this way, but we love to share our “toys” with our kids.  Seeing them become proficient and learn new skills is something we focused on while raising our two sons.

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Clayton and Natalie

We were thrilled when our son, Clayton, asked if he could spend his senior year spring break on Let It Be with some of his friends.

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A few of our friends thought we were crazy to lend our future home to our 22 year old and 7 of his closest friends for Spring Break, but we think trust and responsibility go hand in hand.  If we can’t trust our kids with our things, we failed to teach them responsibility as they grew.

Well, Spring Break is over, the trip is in the books, and the kids had a great time.  Jonathan Healey generously shared his photos from the trip and said I could share them here and on FB.  It looks to me like Jon has a pretty good eye for photography. Here are a few of his photos:

Route planning

Route planning.

bathing beauties

Bathing Beauties.

Jon & Andrew

Jon (photographer) at the helm and Andrew tending lines.

Leaving via Oil Nut Bay

Taylor keeps a look out as they pass Oil Nut Bay.

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Andrew – come back!

near foxy's

Outside of Foxy’s Taboo.

walk from bubbly pool

Returning from the Bubbly Pool.

N sound at night

Nighttime comes quickly.

I am hoping Clayton will guest post in the future, share more photos and tell us about spring break, on a boat, in the BVIs, with a bunch of college kids and acting as captain.

I’m so happy to know this great group of young adults. They are interesting individuals and very caring people. Let It Be was in good hands.

“Saving the Ocean One Straw at a Time…”

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The unspoiled ocean I want to maintain.

Spending time on the ocean and practicing more responsible use of resources has raised my awareness of how much I can improve my “green” on land.  I have recently adopted the motto in the title of this post.

Although I don’t actually stop with straws… I am also that strange person you see leaving the grocery, juggling 5 or 6 items because I forgot my reusable bag and I don’t want to use a plastic grocery sack.

I am by no means an expert in all things green, but I am trying to learn more and inform others as I find small, manageable ways to be more responsible about trash and pollution.  I hope to empower you with information and easy ways to fight pollution with me.

When I delve into ocean pollution facts, it is easy to become depressed and overwhelmed, which can lead to a feeling of futility. I want to empower you, not depress you with the magnitude of the problem.

I have included two pictorials to inform you about trash:

top-10-items-foundBy switchboard.nrdc.org

My big step this week was writing a letter about straws to Brinker International which owns Chili’s Grill and Bar. Recently I went to Chili’s for lunch and realized that they provide every, single customer with a straw wrapped in a napkin with the silverware! I am confident that at least half of those straws are never used, but end up in a trash pile. My hope is that Chili’s will stop including the straws and thereby reduce unnecessary plastic trash!

By myself, these steps toward plastic reduction are minuscule, but they are such easy choices, that anyone, everyone, can implement them and together we can make a difference!

Here are some other very easy choices we can all make and thereby reduce our pollution:

oc-trash-infographic

By http://www.dolphinblue.com

Do you have “greens” you want to share? Let me know and I will incorporate them in future posts.

Who will help “Save the Ocean, One Straw at a Time?”

Relishing Life Aboard LIB



This week we absolutely relished our time on LIB, especially as we received texts and photos from friends suffering the cold and snow back in Texas.

As if avoiding the snow and ice weren’t enough cause to appreciate life aboard in the Caribbean, we had the pleasure of three fabulous guests:



Deb, Teressa and Robby were great fun and they were game for any activity thrown their way!  

Paddle boarding….Scootering



Or lounging on the front deckThis group was up for it all!  And considering the wind and waves thrashing through the BVIs this week, it’s a good thing!



                                                 Cheers to a solid crew!

At the start of the week we had greenhorns aboard, but by week’s end they were a solid crew. Thanks for spending time with us on LIB y’all.

Back to Tortola

Wow, I am having a hard time believing that January and most of February are already finished! They disappeared in a blur of temperatures soaring and plunging in true Texas style.  One day it’s shorts and flip flops only to be replaced by winter gloves and layers of clothing to protect us from those whipping winds.
But instead of suffering the cold we are enjoying some beautiful scenes in the British Virgin Islands like this one when we were taking the ferry from St. Thomas to Tortola:

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On the ferry, we had a welcome escort along side the ferry for most of the trip:

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It’s nice to be back in the BVIs and climb aboard Let It Be.

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