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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.

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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:

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

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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.

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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.

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

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Walking the path to the bird observatory on Half Moon Cay

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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!!

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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. 
  

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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? 

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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.

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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!

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Stiltsville ~ History Can Be Interesting.

From the Bilge is where we post picture(s) that we have not used, that don’t fit into any specific blog post or that highlight some of our favorite places. The pictures might not be stunning, but they will recall something we think is worth sharing. We hope you enjoy these non-chronological items as they pop up From the Bilge.

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Stiltsville as seen from the bow of LIB.

 During our ICW travels in Miami-Dade County, we saw buildings in the distance that were built over the water.  At the time, I had no idea what they were, but I have since learned a bit about their history.

Approximately a mile south of Cape Florida on the “Safety Valve,” the shallow sand flats that run along the Florida coast near Biscayne Bay, is a group of buildings built on stilts.

In the early 1930s a man named “Crawfish” Eddie Walker built a shack on stilts and from there he sold fish bait, beer and his own famous crawfish dish called chilau. “Crawfish” built his shack toward the end of Prohibition and because it was a mile off the coast, gambling was legal. Although I didn’t read that gambling actually took place there, one imagines there was a reason “Crawfish” chose to be a mile away from shore.

Soon a few of “Crawfish’s” friends also built buildings on stilts.  The area took on a life of its’ own and at is largest, around 1960, Stiltsville had 27 buildings!

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Image taken from Google search.

Fairly early on, some clubs were built in Stiltsville including The Calvert Club whose members were from the Miami Beach Rod and Reel Club.

The most upscale club I read about was The Quarter Deck which was built in the 1940s. Membership for The Quarter Deck was by invitation only and required a membership fee of $150.  The Quarter Deck became one of the most popular spots in Miami and I would wager the crowd was considered a bit ‘racy.’

An excerpt from an article about Stiltsville in a 1941 LIFE magazine read, “extraordinary American community dedicated solely to sunlight, salt water and the well-being of the human spirit.”   The club was described as “a $100,000 play-palace equipped with bar, lounge, bridge deck, dining room and dock slips for yachts”.[4]Stiltsville was immensely popular with the well connected and monied crowd in the 1940s and ’50s but the area was damaged by Hurricane Betsy in 1965 and other subsequent storms.

Fortunately before Stiltsville declined completely and the Florida government abolished the rights of owners to maintain the remaining buildings, a last ditch effort to save Stiltsville and claim it as historically significant succeeded.

Today Stiltsville is part of the Stiltsville Trust whose stated purpose it to preserve the seven buildings that remain of the area.

Follow this link to learn more about the Stiltsville Trust.

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Curacao ~ Our Third and Final Island of the ABCs.

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Apocalypse sky?

When we first sailed to the entrance of Willemstad, Curacao, the sky looked like a movie depicting the pitfalls of pollution. The combination of the brightly painted buildings, the smokestacks emitting greenhouse gases and a few gathering rainclouds made us wonder if we were sailing into a grisly movie set recreating the industrial age! Our first impression of Willemstad was negatively affected.

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The walking bridge swings open to allow LIB access.

But in fairness to Curacao, during the remainder of our stay, the sky was mostly clear and blue and that first sky was the worst one by far.  On a positive note, Curacao has an active group called GreenTown that is working hard to raise awareness among Curacao citizens, children and industry of the opportunity (read need) to clean up the island.  This is a very important step and one of the only groups we have seen in the Caribbean trying to affect change! So, even though Curacao has an issue right now, there is hope that GreenTown will manage to make a big impact on the future of the island.

As you know from our last blog, we moved to Curacao to meet Deneen, who has bought LIB.  Our first few days were spent preparing for the survey and haul out, then meeting Deneen and her broker, Robert.  (We were very impressed by Robert and thought he did an excellent job.) Kind of surprisingly, we had a great time with the haul out and survey and especially getting to know Deneen.  The fact that Curacao Marine did such a careful job lifting LIB made the whole process much easier.

Every boat owner gets a little jittery watching his boat lifted out of the water and over concrete! But LIB was carefully tended and the survey went well, so our girl was only out of the water for about an hour.

At the end of a fairly long day, Deneen, Robert, Frank and I went to dinner at Kome in Willemstad. The dinner was excellent and the company even better. It was super fun getting to know Deneen and Robert over a relaxed dinner.

Deneen agreed to join us the following day for a stroll around the quaint shopping area of Willemstad.  The pictures will do more justice to the walking area than I will….

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Willemstad along the canal.

This picture shows a bit of the walking bridge that crosses the canal and is shown above as it opened for LIB to enter.

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Frank and Deneen strolling along; probably talking boats.

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Pretty examples of the colorful buildings.

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Lunch break!

Lucky for us, Deneen had been to Curacao and remembered this cute restaurant from her previous visit. She didn’t get a chance to try Mundo Bizarro on her last visit so we agreed we had to make it happen this time.  Great choice as the food was excellent. I should have taken a picture of the bar inside. It is worth a look if you are ever nearby!

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Aren’t these great?

I have no idea what this building actually is, but I loved the artwork and had to capture it.

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“Lock your love on the Punda Love Heart.”

Although I do not know how effective it is to lock you love on the “Punda Love Heart,” it seems to be a popular thing to do. What happened to setting your love free and if it comes back to you it is yours forever? Different cultures or do we live in a possessive era? Just kidding ~ that is way too deep for my frivolous blog! 😉

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Just a little wave action in the harbor.

The first 10 days in Curacao, the wind just howled! The water was kicking up so I thought I would try to show the power demonstrated in these waves.

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But really, a still shot doesn’t capture the strength of the water and wind.

After Deneen flew back to Texas and the survey was completed, we had a few days to chill and drive around Curacao.  Frank and I find it interesting that in the two weeks we have been on Curacao, we have rented a car perhaps six days.  During our whole stay in Bonaire we only rented a car four days.  This alone demonstrates how different each island is for a cruiser!

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Eveline sent this pic of Cap searching the tall grass in the yard.

Captain went to stay with Eveline of Yuka’s Dog Services & Training because we didn’t want her wandering around, untended during the haul out and sea trial. Eveline is fabulous and I strongly recommend her for boarding your dog and for training or agility classes.  Cappy had a great time and came home happy and tired.

We wanted to take Captain with us while we explored the islands since she had been away for a couple of days. Unfortunately all of the beaches and the national park we saw prohibited dogs!

This made for an abbreviated day but we did get a chance to see the island, take a few pictures and have lunch.

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Fishing boats at anchor.

Although here at Curacao Marine the water is not pretty, Curacao does have some beautiful beaches.

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A perfectly protected bay for swimming.

The sand was fine and white and the water crystal clear, but very few people were swimming. Instead they were stretched out on lounge chairs or hiding from the sun in the shade, enjoying a good read.

If Cappy had been allowed on the beach we would definitely have been in that water!

One last fun sight we found was a darling kids’ playground where the nature had been decorated or painted to make it look like a sea-scape.  Look how clever this artist is!!

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What a creative and happy place to play!

Currently we are waiting for our new IridiumGo to be released from customs so we can begin our journey back to Texas.  Unfortunately, between eZone and Customs, our package has been seriously delayed! We await the release of our new IridiumGo and we won’t leave Curacao without it. Two thumbs down on this delayed delivery!

For those who don’t know, IridiumGo is a satellite communication system that allows us to access weather and send limited e-mails while in the middle of the ocean. A very important safety measure that we want to have working for our passage from Curacao to Belize since it is about 1,200 nautical miles! We will be at sea for approximately seven nights and we want to use the IridiumGo to update the weather.

Until the IridiumGo is up and running, we will simply wait in Curacao and enjoy our surroundings.

 

~HH CATAMARAN~

Now that Let It Be is sold, we will be even more anxious to take delivery of our new catamaran. We are working very closely with HH to set up our boat so it will work well on long passages with only Frank and me on board and for continuing our lives as sailboat cruisers.

I absolutely cannot stress enough how important it has been to have Morrelli and Melvin working with us on the purchase of this boat. Gino Morrelli has been an amazing resource and we are thankful beyond words for his guidance and help! (And patience!)

On his recent visit to China, Gino sent us a couple of picture of our HH55 in construction, including this one of the master cabin bed area. I really like the large window at the head of the bed and along the outboard side in our master cabin.IMG_0068.jpg

Here is our aft, port stateroom area under construction.

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The completed room looks a lot prettier as seen here on Hai Feng, HH55-02.

When we visited HH55-01, Minnehaha, in Ft. Lauderdale a year ago, owners Deb and Doug were very generous in allowing us to poke around their beautiful boat.  While Frank was opening every engine and electrical compartment, I took myself off to the master hull to check out a few of my own “wanted” items. Sitting up in bed and reading is a luxury I have missed, so I was delighted to see there is a generous headboard/backrest on the HH55 ~ perfect for reading.  And I love that I will be able to see outside while reading in bed!

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It’s Official ~ LIB Has a New Owner.

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The documents are signed, so now I can tell you that the reason we moved to Curacao was to meet the prospective buyer of LIB, take her on a sea trial and have our boat surveyed.

I am happy to report that all went well. Our floating home passed inspection with flying colors, the buyer loved Let It Be and our home has been purchased.

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As LIB was lifted out of the water a man watched how she sat on the trailer. (See him?)

We were very impressed with Curacao Marine, the yard that pulled LIB out of the water for the dry portion of the survey. The men were extremely professional and careful about the haul out process.  The trailer is well maintained and they even put plastic over the support pads so LIB would not have any scuff marks.  One of the guys was in the water using a controller to manipulate the support pads precisely where they needed to be under LIB. We have been very impressed with Curacao Marine during our stay here!

The surveyor had a few minor comments about Let It Be which we have already addressed. The starboard engine was vibrating a bit at idle and we had a Volvo mechanic address that issue.  We actually thought the idle setting of both engines was a little low, so while the mechanic was here, he adjusted them to meet the Volvo specifications.  The tiller arm on the port rudder was a little loose, so Frank went to work and fixed it the very next day! The surveyor came back by and has inspected and approved that work already!

No moss growing here!!

We are very pleased with the results of the survey of Let It Be and if I were buying a boat that received this kind of report, I would be thrilled.  Big kudos to Frankly for his excellent and detailed care of our boat!

Ironically, the person who has bought LIB is a woman I had “met” through the FB group Women Who Sail.  We had texted a couple of times about a few subjects over the last year or two.  (But she didn’t realize LIB was my boat when she decided to make an offer!) She is also friends with our friends, Amy and David of s/v Starry Horizons (who have the excellent blog and vlog Out Chasing Stars.)  AND! our buyer lives in Texas, so we have that excellent connection as well.

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An evening sail in Bonaire. Thanks for the pic, Clayton.

During our discussions about selling LIB, we agreed to deliver the boat to Galveston, Texas which will be her future port. Frank and I think this is a great arrangement because it saves our buyer the expense of having LIB delivered, we get to explore the western Caribbean along the way, and we can return to the U.S. via boat instead of airplane.

Arriving by boat is much easier than flying with Captain!

Per our agreement, we will arrive in Galveston by May 15th.  This gives us ample time to find excellent weather windows and allows us to explore a few anchorages along the way to Texas. This May delivery time frame allows us to break up the 2260 nautical mile trip from Curacao to Texas into several shorter passages.

Our tentative plan for returning to Texas is to make three stops between here and Galveston.  The first leg will be to the San Blas Islands of Panama; about 650nm.  The second leg to Belize will be approximately 760nm.  From Belize we will sail to Isla Mujeres, Mexico which is a quick 200nm. And our final leg to Galveston will be about 650nm.

Needless to say we are happy and sad about the sale of Let It Be.  She is a fabulous boat and has taken great care of us. We have had very few issues with LIB and we have made many changes to make her perfect for our sailing needs.

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It’s hard to let go of a boat that is in great shape, sails well, has been our home, and functions well for our purposes! (Plus I still love the cushions we had made for the cockpit and helm area!)

So, there you have our news about Let It Be and our anticipated route through the May delivery to Galveston.

I guess soon we will have to figure out what to do while we are ‘boatless/homeless’ until our HH55 is delivered to California!

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Leaving Bonaire. It’s Hard to Say Goodbye.

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Our final sunset on Bonaire.

Well it was hard to leave Bonaire and say so long to the great people we met as well as the beautiful island. We spent our last few weeks taking advantage of the wind for kiting and the fabulous reefs for diving.

We also said goodbye to many people we had the fortune to befriend while visiting. Jerome, Aga, Sebastian and Basi invited us to their home for dinner in their back yard.  Aga made a delicious dinner and we enjoyed it in while watching the sun set beyond their dock as the boys played in the surf.  Thank you all so much for sharing your lives, your local knowledge and your home with us!

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Bonaire shirts and a mug depicting our day of sailing!

We also received this fun memento from the BSSA sailors! Now each morning we are reminded of them as Frank has his coffee. Thank you so much for the shirts and mug but mostly for welcoming us into your group.

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Frank passed a Gatorade to Rudo, that day’s winner.

We loved having the BSSA kids sail by LIB and Frank often tossed them Gatorades. These memories are very special to us! Keep sailing kiddos. We look forward to hearing how you are progressing and we will truly miss seeing you sail or hearing you call to us from the shore!

In addition to leaving shore friends, we had to say so long to many cruisers. Because we were in Bonaire a long time, we made some very dear friends in the cruising community. We can only hope our wakes cross again in the future!

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A huge pod of dolphins!

We left our Bonaire mooring ball for the last time on Sunday morning.  Just past Klein Bonaire, we saw a large pod of dolphins in the distance.  I’m guessing there were nearly 50 dolphins in the pod and we decided to turn a bit in their direction and get a little closer.  Soon part of the pod came to play in front of LIB’s bow!

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How cool is this?!

Perhaps 15 dolphins came to play and were cavorting just in front of us, looking up and smiling as Captain went crazy, barking at them from above.

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I so wish I could jump in and swim with them.

The water was perfectly clear so I could get this picture of two dolphins swimming just below the cross beam of LIB. I, and nearly everyone I know, seem to smile any time dolphins come to play.  Somehow they manage to raise the happiness level of the boat, even when we weren’t unhappy about anything!!

Our plan was to stop at Klein Curacao for three days and two nights and take the opportunity to be away from any city lights or traffic. The day we arrived, our plan looked golden. We knew there were some serious swells north of us but we hoped they wouldn’t arrive for a day or two.

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A wide angle view of Klein Curacao from our mooring spot .

We grabbed a mooring ball and settled in for a quiet day.  Klein Curacao has perhaps two little places to grab a lounge chair and drink. These are visited mostly by the day boat passengers and are fairly crowded until late afternoon.

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Cappy’s friend is left on shore.

Frank paddled into shore with Captain and she managed to make friends with the only dog on the island.  But after romping along the beach and rolling in the sand it was time to come back to LIB.

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Private boats anchored off of Klein Curacao

Since we arrived on Sunday, there were several private boats from Curacao anchored or rafted up and enjoying the day.  But we knew that before dark most of the boats would head back to Curacao and we would be nearly alone.

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By late dusk only a few stragglers remained and they left just a little later.

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The sun looks like it is melting into the ocean.

We watched the sun set from the deck of LIB and loved having a completely quiet evening. Bonaire is fabulous, but the street does have a good deal of motor noise in the evenings. It was a nice change to hear only the water playing across the beach and hear the fish jumping nearby while watching the sun wave goodnight.

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The buildings on Klein Curacao have character.

While this old light house looks kind of charming, I wasn’t sure if it actually functioned, but sure enough, her beacon flashed through the night warning sailors of Klein’s shores.

We planned on scuba diving off of Klein Curacao Monday, but when Frank took Cap to shore that first morning, a group of surfers were unloading their gear.  The arrival of serious surfers did not bode well for the comfort of our anchorage.  Sure enough those northern waves began to roll in around 11 am.  Rather than stay on Klein, we decided to finish our morning chores and head to Curacao and a protected anchorage.

Our decision was a good one as is evidenced by these surfers loving the waves on the north end of Klein Curacao as we motored by.

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The waves were pretty close together.

The waves we saw were a decent size and they were expected to become larger over the next 24-48 hours.

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That boat is partially hidden by the waves.

If our sons had been on board, I am sure we would have stayed on Klein so they could catch a few waves, but Frank and I aren’t surfers, so we think our decision to leave the unprotected shores of Klein Curacao and find a protected anchorage on Curacao was a good one.

~HH55 Update~

So our big news is color!  We have chosen the exterior paint color for our new boat.  HH has kindly put together a rendering of the HH55 with an approximation of the color we have chosen.

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A rendering of our pretty, unnamed, future boat.

I actually think the paint will be a slightly darker blue than this rendering shows. We are pretty excited! It seems like the HH66 owners have chosen bold and unique paint colors and the HH55 owners have chosen very subtle colors.  We decided to go with something in between.  How do you like our color choice?

Thank you so much for visiting our blog! We appreciate your time and hope you will drop us a line in the comments.  If you would like to hear from us more often, please visit our FB page.

 

 

Is LIB Stuck? Why Are We STILL in Bonaire?

When we sailed away from Puerto Rico to escape Hurricane Maria in September, we chose the ABC Islands for their location and accessibility from PR.  We did not realize that we would fall a little bit in love with Bonaire. But we have.

And we are not alone.  We have met many cruisers and land lovers who return to Bonaire year after year.  We understand the attraction! Bonaire provides a great location for several activities we love.

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Frank kiting near the mounds of Bonaire salt.

Kiteboarding: the wind is almost always great for kiting. We can launch and take down our kites right on LIB so we don’t have to deal with sand on the kites and us when we finish the day.

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French angel fish and a photo bomb by the Spanish hogfish.

Scuba diving: Bonaire is years ahead in their protection of the reefs and their efforts are apparent in the health of the marine life.  These are the best reefs we have seen during our cruising life.

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A fabulous view while biking.

Biking: there are bike paths on some of the streets here and many people ride bikes. The terrain is varied so you can have different types of bike rides. No, you won’t find downhill biking or epic mountain bike rides, but you can ride off road or on road and have excellent views and get plenty of exercise.

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The string along the sand is a “lane line” for swim practice.

Swimming: the mooring area is crystal clear and an excellent place to take an afternoon swim. Plus we joined the swim practices and three times a week we reel off laps as we watch the ocean bottom for sea life.

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LIB sporting her spinnaker.

Sailing: the wind is generally from the east and we are on the west side of a low lying island which usually means pretty flat seas with generous winds. These conditions make for some very fun sailing!

Education/Giving Back: occasionally there classes about local sea life or island history and we hope these resume soon so we can attend.  Also, once a quarter, the local dive shop puts together a reef clean up day. They provide the tanks and bags and divers volunteer to gather debris from the ocean.  We will definitely participate as soon as we can.

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Volunteers for the parrot count.

Recently we participated in the annual count of the yellow shouldered amazon parrots on Bonaire. Approximately 50 volunteers were assigned observation points around the island and one Saturday morning we all assumed our positions by 5:45 am and counted how many parrots lifted from our designated area and which direction they flew.  This year the estimated count, which is really an estimate to determine if the parrot population is increasing or decreasing, was up from 700 to over 1,000 parrots spotted. Good news for this endangered bird.

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BSSA kids spend the afternoon on LIB.

We have also met several people from the Bonaire Sailing School Associaltion (BSSA).  We invited the kids out to sail with us on LIB and Frank organized a work day where cruisers volunteered and made repairs to the BSSA sailboats.

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Even in the rain, Bonaire is beautiful.

Another plus is that the weather and water are a little warmer in Bonaire than in the Virgin Islands or Bahamas this time of year, which makes water activities way more inviting. Further north, the weather patterns are more unsettled in the first quarter of the year than they are in Bonaire.

Bonaire may be a small island, but it has plenty of activities, excellent grocery stores, tons of restaurants and a variety of shopping available.  Even though we have stopped here longer than anywhere else, we feel like there is much more to explore and learn about Bonaire.

Even so, our time in Bonaire is coming to an end. We have plotted our next move and surprisingly, it will be westward.  We are off to Curacao in a week or two.  We didn’t explore Curacao at all as we traveled between Aruba and Bonaire, so we will take a look around that island for a week or two. By the time we see a little of Curacao, mid-March will have arrived and the weather should allow us to leave the ABCs.  We have a few weeks to determine which direction the wind will take us after Curacao.

~HH Update~

This week at the Miami Boat Show, the first HH55 with an aft helm station, Hai Feng, was on display.  We have chosen to have our HH55 with the aft helm version. From what I have heard, at times there were lines of people waiting to see the Hai Feng at the show.  Though I have not seen her in person, I am sure she is quite fetching! Frank actually was aboard Hai Feng for her sea trial in China a few months back and he was impressed with the boat’s performance. During the sea trial, sails were lifted and lowered several times to make sure all was in order and the Hai Feng was put through her paces.  The highest SOG Frank saw was 18 knots!  Pretty awesome.

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Hai Feng wrapped and ready for shipment!

We are really looking forward to the day our boat will be wrapped and ready for shipment to California!

For those interested in a slightly smaller performance cat, HH has introduced the HH48 and she looks stunning!

Thank you so much for visiting our blog! We appreciate your time and hope you will drop us a line in the comments.  If you would like to hear from us more often, please visit our FB page.

Cruisers Workday for Bonaire Sailors

If there is one thing a sailing cruiser learns, it is how to make repairs; often with creative solutions.

Frank decided to put cruiser know-how to work and organize a volunteer repair day for the BSSA (Bonaire Sailing School Association) sunfish sail boats.  He posted a plea for help on the Bonaire Cruisers FB page and went from boat to boat in the anchorage asking cruisers if they would help with some simple repairs needed on the local sailing school boats.

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Patrick, Lawrence, Dave, John, Sue, Malcolm, Ernest, Derek, Mary Grace, Dave and Frank

The result was that on January 23rd, 11 cruisers volunteered and spent about 3.5 hours working on the sunfish owned by BSSA.  Twenty two hands were busy with all kinds of maintenance that the working BSSA parents don’t have time to do.

Boats were cleaned and polished.

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Initial wash…

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Sue polished until the sunfish shone!

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Malcolm and Dave passing off the new bungee.

Main sheet tie downs were replaced with spliced dyneema and bungee cords for centerboards were replaced.

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Derek and John fixed a dozen tires.

Attachments for loose tires on hand trailers were replaced and there was even a little gel coat work done.

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Ernest removes a hiking strap.

Frayed and fragmented hiking straps were removed.

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And replaced with new straps.

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Derek and Frank making sure all the water is out.

There were a few sails that needed some repair and Frank brought those back to LIB. Since we don’t have a sewing machine, Frank asked our friend, Barb, to help us out.  Barb pulled out her sewing machine and made the needed repairs and now BSSA has two more sails in working order and another repaired hiking strap!

In just a few short hours, cruisers were able to make a decent impact on the boats used by BSSA.  We worked on 11 sunfish.  Seven were in use but needed a little maintenance. Three were not being used because they needed attention and the cruising volunteers were able to address the issues.  (Those three boats are now in use.)  One boat we worked on still needs a little more TLC before it is useable.

Frank did a great job of organizing the volunteers and the sailors were fabulous to spend their time contributing to the sailing youngsters of Bonaire.

It is pretty cool to see the kids out sailing and know their boats are working a little better because of our efforts. Plus BSSA had an open house a few weekends ago and added 10 or so kids to their ranks.  I think they will need those extra working boats!

A very special thank you to Anneka, a BSSA mom and board member, who met us to unlock and lock the storage area and give us access to water and power. Anneka has been a warm and welcoming liaison for BSSA!

Thanks for reading our blog.  Feel free to visit our FB page for more regular postings.

Bring on the Dogs! That’s What Everyone Remembers.

Hi guys, it’s me, Captain.  Mom is super lazy so she’s making me do the blog today. NOT!

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Please can I write? I have things to say!

Actually, I begged to write this one because I think mom’s stuff is kinda boring and we need to change it up. Plus when we stop and talk to people they often say, “Oh I remember Captain!” Mom laughs because she says everyone remembers me but not her.  Perhaps she needs to wiggle her tail more?!

So it’s been months and months since I’ve had a chance to tell you what is going on for me.  Since my last blog, we have been to five different countries: Turks and Caicos, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Aruba and Bonaire.

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Playtime and shade = happiness!

I really liked Turks and Caicos because we stayed mostly at South Side Marina and I was allowed to get off and on the boat anytime I wanted – well almost! And there was another dog that lived there and we played lots and lots.

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Walking at Puerto Bahia, Samana

The Dominican Republic was great because mom took me for a lot of long walks and we found a waterfall that I could play in during our walks.  That waterfall was super special because it didn’t have any salt in it and I could drink the water!  I wish whoever puts the salt in all the oceans would stop because I really want to drink that water!

One surprise was going back to Puerto Rico.  Puerto Rico is the place where we first moved onto LIB and it was kinda fun to be back in a familiar place. Dad was riding bikes and mom got to play some tennis. I had long walks and made some new people friends and really liked hanging out at the pool with Frank and MG.

But my people are strange. One afternoon we went to the pool and we were super chill and talking about some hikes we were going to do. Then Frank got on his computer and suddenly everything changed!

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Palmas del Mar before Maria. Taken from the top of the mast the night before we fled.

He and MG started taking about somebody named Maria and weather and category 4 or 5 or something and next thing I knew we are in full pack and go mode! Within 15 hours we had picked up and left Puerto Rico and were sailing to Bonaire.

Later I figured out there was another one of those hurricane things headed toward our marina, so we had to skedaddle.

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LIB moored in Bonaire.

So since September we have been hanging out in the ABC Islands. It’s really pretty here and sooo many people from the cruise ships stop to pet me and tell me how much they miss their dogs.  They should just bring them along! I sure am glad MG and Frank have brought me on our boat.

My boys have come to visit two times since I last wrote! Once was in the Turks and Caicos and then they came to Bonaire for Christmas. Wow wee it is so fun when they are here. Hunter sneaks me treats sometimes (don’t tell!) and Clayton’s ear rubs are so good that I groan with happiness. I just can’t help it!

Mom hasn’t been taking as many pictures of me lately, so I don’t have very many to show, but here are a few I like.

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Few shells makes for great runs! (Turks and Caicos)

Without a doubt, running on soft sand is my favorite thing to do! Especially since there haven’t been any goats to herd in a looooong time. After I run, I cool off in the ocean and make sure my fur is really wet, then I roll around in the sand!

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Feels as good as rolling in grass!

MG thinks I do this just to get messy, but really this is how I scratch all those places I can’t quite reach.  You should try it. I’m sure you would start sand scratching on a regular basis!

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UGH! The rinse cycle before getting in the dinghy.

The one thing I don’t like is that before we go back to the boat, Frank dunks me in the water and washes away as much of the sand as he can. Boy, I just don’t understand why he ruins a good sand scratch like that.

It’s been a long while since we have found creeks and stuff to explore in the dinghy. I really miss zipping along and seeing fish and turtles right next to the dinghy.

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Instead of Swamp People, maybe we could be Dinghy Dervishes? 

We look kinda crazy when we go on these dinghy explorations but we all laugh a lot… even when we get in water so shallow that my people have to get out and walk us to deeper water. (I just stay in the dinghy and make sure they go the right way!)

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I count two in and one getting out….

Over the last few months we have had lots of new friends come out on LIB with us.  One day we had 15 kids from Bonaire out for the afternoon.  Can you say busy?! Phew, that is a lot of kids to keep on the boat.  When we stopped for snacks and a swim, those kids were jumping from all over the boat and I had a hard time keeping count of them all. It was good my humans helped too!

After all the kids were back on board and we were underway again, I went down to mom and dad’s room and took a nap. Hoowee, that was a tiring day. But super fun!  And now almost every time we go to shore for a walk, I see one of the kids or somebody yells my name from a passing car to say hello.

I think I am a pretty good advocate for boat dogs!

Speaking of going to shore, that is the one little thing I’m not so keen about here in Bonaire.  There are a LOT of dogs here and pretty much all of them bark and snarl from behind their fences. It’s a little distracting when I’m on a “business trip.”

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I jump right in when it’s time to go to shore!

Here’s a picture of me and Frank swimming to shore for a walk.  Mom does this too, but she is the one who takes most of the pictures.

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Pretty adorbs, aren’t I?

MG and I participated in a Santa Hat Walk around Christmas.  We got to walk places we had never been and there were lots of other people walking who petted me.  I was the only dog that went on the walk.  Gosh, I’m sure glad my people like to take me with them!  Anyway, I won an award for being cute.  MG says if I were a human I would be really conceited because everyone tells me I’m cute or pretty…. Why does she think I hold my tail so high? Duh!

So that’s pretty much the news around here for now.  Except I know mom and dad are up to something right now because they keep mentioning this boat called an HH55. I took a peak on mom’s computer and I saw some pictures of it.  At first I couldn’t really tell it was a boat, but now it’s coming along.  From what I can tell, they want to use this boat to go exploring even farther away from the U.S.  As long as I get to go with them, I’m down for this whole new boat gig.  Here’s a picture I found on mom’s computer that shows the boat is actually beginning to look like a catamaran now.

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Deck and coachroof bonding completed.

I have two questions about this new boat. 1. Will I still be able to look into the cold drawers? 2. What are we going to name it?  If you have any ideas for a name, please post a comment below, ok?  I bet I would get a lot of extra treats if I manage to come up with a cool new boat name. (Dad kinda wants to keep a song title name, but mom wants something lighthearted relating to exploring or speed. How do you reconcile that?)

Oops, gotta run.  Yesterday I made a new friend, Dave, who likes to paddle board and he said he would take me with him.  Pretty sure I just spotted Dave coming my way!

I hope your day includes some excellent sniffs!

Tail wags and licks,

Captain.

 

 

 

 

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.

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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.

 

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