|Changing Spots, a Leopard 40
Explore the world by sail
This is the page which will document the journey. The bottom of the page is the most recent activity.
For those who might be interested, I am in the process of getting rid of "stuff" so I can sell the house. A few small boat projects can be
done, such as looking into getting the boat registered in Canada, rather than the US Coast Guard (I am still a Canadian citizen).
I am also looking at boat accessories such as a dinghy, outboard, SSB radio, BBQ, anchors and chain, and charts.
I am waiting to hear about the diesel electric hybrid system. This will impact choices regarding engines, generator, watermaker, solar
By the end of June (2007) the second 10 % will be paid, and the options list finalized. I also have a list of questions for Peter, at The
Moorings. Then construction will begin. A trip to Cape Town, South Africa to visit the factory this Fall?
6/9/07- I heard that Robertson & Caine is building a new factory. They will not be able to do the development and testing necessary for a
new diesel electric hybrid system in time for my scheduled launch date. Also, my house is one of three being considered for "Sell this
House" for filming in July.
7/1/07 - The house won't be on Sell this House, but I finally feel I am making progress, in organizing and packing. I will try to meet with the
realtors soon to discuss want to do next to make the house presentable.
The boat broker should have received the 2nd 10% payment and final options list, so construction can begin. Although it is not very likely,
there is still a possibility the boat could be diesel electric hybrid. I still have some concerns which would need to be addressed, but the
technology is very exciting, and cutting edge.
I guess the hybrid system is a no-go, since I have not heard back. The gennaker design was done, and I will probably get folding props.
The process of registering the boat in Canada is started and the name, Changing Spots, is reserved.
A lot has been done towards getting the house ready to sell, but I have hit a "speed" bump.
The house went on the market yesterday, and there will be an open house today and tomorrow. With this real estate market - who
knows? Apparently the Carmichael area hasn't suffered as much as some of the outlying areas. Fortunately, I didn't have any
expectations, and based my needs on the real estate expert opinion.
Another glitch has surfaced. Morgan (my African Grey parrot) may not be able to make the journey. I have long known that there are
countries which require pets be put into quarantine for extended periods of time. My daughter, Kirsten, offered to look after Morgan for
months at a time while I visited those parts of the world; which I thought was a perfect solution. The glitch is that if I brought Morgan back
to the US, she would need to be put into quarantine for months, although she was born (hatched) and raised in the USA. How do you travel
the world by sailboat without your parrot? Is there no sense of tradition?
I assume that construction has started on Changing Spots. Peter, from the Moorings, is going to visit the factory in South Africa this
month and will take photos. The baby pictures will be posted right after I get them. The folding propellers were ordered, so that should
increase the sailing speed a bit, and give one less thing to snag stuff in the water.
Soon it will be time to start the journey across country by RV, towing the trailer full of possessions. I have a large library of book tapes to
help this land journey. Other projects include getting a Ham license - in Canada, since I learned that the license needs to be from the
country in which the boat is registered. I also want to take a course on weather, but don't know how extensive it will be, or which one.
Just got back from a great visit to Canada for Cdn thanksgiving and a family visit. Made it to the Vancouver area and Saskatchewan. My
1987 Toyota Celica survived the trip too, without any complaints. Also took the amateur radio exam, and managed to pass with a grade
which will allow use of an SSB radio. Call sign will be VA7CUB, although it will change to something different when I get the boat and
radio, since it will be travelling in international waters.
The US real estate market, at least here in Sacramento is pathetic. If the house doesn't sell soon without drastically decreasing the price
again, it may be a rental for a year or two. It may take that long for all the foreclosed houses to be bought before the market turns around.
Soon it may be a matter of trying to arrange the financial part. Interesting that I can probably move on faster if the house is rented rather
No, there aren't any Halloween horror stories, but the house will be listed as a rental. That said, it is still for sale for a few weeks, if
anybody wants to buy a nice house in the Sacramento area for a great price. I am hoping to hit the road to Texas by next Monday or Tues,
by RV, towing the trailer. It should be a slow trip.
I'm still trying to sell stuff on Craig's list.
Morgan will be staying with a friend - quite disappointing that Morgan can't go.
On the good news front, Changing Spots is hull #126/ RAC40096, and will be handed to the delivery crew 12/10 to start her journey across
the Atlantic and equator from South Africa to Ft. Lauderdale. It isn't fair that she starts before I do!
For those who share the dream, keep hope. In spite of all the obstacles, this journey is still on course. That is, there are many lines of
possibilities, with many detours, converging on a point in time and place (Ft Lauderdale, Feb 2008), after which they will diverge with many
options for exploring the world.
Take time to enjoy the journey. Life shouldn't be a race to the finish line. RW
January 24, 2008 NEW "HOME", A GUATEMALA VISIT, AND A WIPE OUT
Seguin, TX (near San Antonio)
A lot has happened since the last update, and a lot has gotten done. Not all was good. Those who read this in hope that you will cruise
some day: – take hope – in spite of the hurdles thrown at you, you can do it if you keep your focus.
The houses are not sold, but rented, so there will still be some income now that the retirement fund was slashed to pay for the houses
and the boat. Financially, other than taxes (any big surprises?), things are finally in order.
The trip to Texas was horrible, but uneventful. Towing a trailer by a squirrelly at best, short wheelbase RV, was white knuckled the whole
1800 miles, even at only 50 to 60 mph. Texas however is fine! I guess I am now a Texan, but will try to remember that yawl is a kind of
sailboat, not an abbreviation of "you all".
After a wonderful break, and unloading many boxes at my daughter’s in Texas, the trailer was ready to haul the boat stuff (way too
much!!) to store in Ft. Lauderdale. However, an unexpected interlude occurred.
A friend from whom I hadn’t heard for a few months, invited me to join her on her catamaran in Rio Dulce, Guatemala. By the next
evening I had a plane reservation to Sacramento, and from LA to Guatemala City! After a few days living on a houseboat on the
Sacramento River Delta, buying medical supplies, and packing up my Explorer, we set off to LA for the redeye to Guatemala. Then
after an almost 5 hr bus ride we arrived at Rio Dulce, and travelled by skiff to Mario’s marina.
It was great, and I must go back again to spend more time, but I only stayed a week. I learned three lessons:
1. I can’t drink that much every day, nor do I want to try.
2. You spend far more time on your boat as a home, than you do as a method of transportation. The pendulum has swung from speed
to livability. Watch that waterline now!
3. The biggest challenge to exploring the world by sail isn’t the storms, or the pirates, or the money. It is finding a place and people so
nice you don’t want to leave.
After picking up the Explorer in LA at 1:30 AM, my goal was to get out of the region that night so I wouldn’t have to face their notorious
rush hour(s) traffic in the morning. About 2:30 AM I was so tried I told myself that I was pulling over at the next off ramp of any sort.
Almost the next thing was the realization that it was dark and quiet, I was off the side road with a large bump on the side of my head. The
car, and most of what was in it was totaled. I must have rolled at least twice, and stuff was strewn all over. (My thanks to the Moreno
Valley police officers, and the tow truck driver, who were very supportive and helpful.) Yes, I had been unconscious, and no I didn’t get a
medical check. (It was only a head injury, so it couldn’t hurt me.) I was going to my daughter's concert come Hell or high water. At least I
didn't find any high water. I made it, and it was great.
So now I don’t have the car I was planning to use in Texas, and get me back to Florida during boat commissioning (and then sell it).
The trailer was packed and ready to go to Ft. Lauderdale to put stuff into storage. More was loaded into it, knowing that there wouldn’t be
a last car load, but only 2 suitcases for the last trip. DONE! Not as white knuckled as the first part, and there was a pleasant, unhurried
time in tropical weather, and of course a visit to The Moorings, and the Leopards.
Now to get ready to travel (by plane) to Sacramento for doctor visits, do taxes, and visit friends. A sad realization is that I shouldn’t see
Morgan (African Grey parrot), since she is adapting to her new home, and I don’t want to confuse her by visiting.
Changing Spots hasn’t made it to Florida yet, but is due early Feb.
I just learned that with the delay in getting registration processed for Canada because of the "tonnage measurement" difficulties, it may
be a serious hassle to go to a foreign country such as the Bahamas for the test cruise. The lemonade from this lemon will be a trip to the
Florida Keys instead. If I could only find an official measurer who would be in Florida for the boat show!
Changing Spots has arrived in Fort Lauderdale! I don't know how much in advance of the boat show she will head to Miami to
get parked and set up, but maybe I can do the voyage too.
I too have finally arrived in Fort Lauderdale - except that Changing Spots was already taken to Miami to prepare for the boat show. They
promised that the impressive thunderstorms that raged through this place recently are over, so it is time to enjoy the boat show
It is all falling into place - at last. I have spent two days at the boat show, and met several new and prior owners. I am also finding a can-
do attitude from the Moorings/leopard people now that I am here. I shortened my " buy now" list drastically since i won't know if i have
any money left until get an estimate of the taxes I owe. And I was so much looking forward to singlehandedly jump starting the nation's
economy! However, I have heard from many people that it is good to wait until you have been out there for a while before getting all the
accessories. Besides, there is enough to learn without all the other things at once. Still trying to make lemonade.
I have had requests to post photos from my own boat, so these are fresh. Sorry the decor isn't mine. The link is to Picasa, on Google.
Changing Spots - at the 2008 Miami boat show
Changing Spots is back in Ft Lauderdale from the Miami boat show. The sail up was in boisterous conditions, with a strong North wind
against the gulf stream. This causes lots of short steep waves. A nice challenge, but not the easy sailing you look for. One of the
concerns about catamarans is the slapping of waves against the bridgedeck. There wasn't any!, although we didn't get out to the middle
of the gulf stream. She passed the test.
Am now trying to coordinate the hauling of the boat to get a survey done (looking for problems), and put in some through-hull fittings for
the generator and watermaker (to be purchased later). Then it is time to load stuff aboard, new photos added to Picasa today.
Can't make lemonade out of this one! Sorry.
Another detour in the branching path of time and space towards when I get to move aboard.
I was wondering why I was so tired by the end of the boat show every day, and felt hot or the occasional mild chill. It was getting worse
daily. After ruling out the typical stuff like not yet adapted to the heat, and not drinking enough fluids, and not enough sleep, I became
worried that it could be the stress of all decisions to be made. A brisk walk just exhausted me and that night, I was surprised with
spiking fever, followed by a drenching sweat, then uncontrollable chills. Again the next night.
Anyway, I spent a great deal of time learning about malaria, and learned that not all types present with sky high fever, and the "benign"
forms can show up almost a year after the mosquito bite. I was in Guatemala over two months ago, well beyond the two weeks to month
and a half that my early quick search showed that it took for malaria to show up.
Started the meds yesterday, and no sweats or chills today, but all I want to do is sleep, and I don't tolerate heat (and no appetite).
I did get the haul out and survey scheduled, and the measurement for Canada.
Not much to report, but I didn't want to leave anybody out there in the lurch while I just got malaria. Much better after two days of malaria
treatment and still better today. If I kept getting better at the same rate as the first two days I estimated that in four more days I would
have been leaping buildings in a single bound. Oh well!
Canadian tonnage measurement was done yesterday, but not finalized. The generator is sitting on the boat. Today the dinghy is to be
delivered, and I (we?) will set it up, and the boat will be hauled for inspection (a minor, verbal one) and through hull fittings to be done.
I would like to thank the many helpful, supportive people at the Moorings yacht brokerage in Ft. Lauderdale for their patience and
understanding of my ordeal with malaria.
Changing Spots didn't seem at all embarrassed about showing her bare bottom during the haulout and inspection. And I am doing so
much better (thanks for asking). Now to get caught up on all that didn't get done earlier. The outboard and dinghy are hung on the davits,
but still need a bit of tweaking. It was great service from Suncoast inflatables. Some of the sales people are getting to know me at West
Marine. I'm only two or three miles from their huge store.
Tonight is my second night aboard. It is chaos as I try to load the boxes of stuff, and discard, prepare to ship back to TX, and /or organize
everything. I'll try for 2-4 boxes a day. Now that my energy is back, in retrospect, the malaria probably started at least a few weeks ago. I
just thought I was turning into a wimp! The lemonade? It was only malaria, which was cured!!!!
It happened! I have taken delivery (and paid for the boat). A delivery skipper and I sailed (motorsailed actually) to Bimini (in the Bahamas).
The wind was supposed to change direction and become more favorable, but never did. We waited all day, then did a night sail, with 2 hr
watches, sailing quite close hauled and trying to head south as much as possible. The gulf stream current carries you quite a bit north. It
was wet and wild, but the boat (and I) did fine. When we got north of Bimini, we motored straight south, into the wind and waves. After a
brief stay, we headed back to Fort Lauderdale. Of course, the wind had now shifted, and was coming from the wrong direction again. The
waves were large enough I would have expected some pounding on the bridgedeck. There wasn't any! The hulls did some pounding, but
that is to be expected. Check out the photos!
The paperwork has been sent for registering the boat in Canada. Now it is back to unloading boxes, and getting the generator, and a few
other things installed.
A part just showed up for the generator, so the installation has started again. Once installed, I will have space to stow all my stuff (except
what gets shipped back to TX) . So the boat is still chaos, with boxes piled all over. I'll need to extend the storage locker until the end of
Got a new rental car. What a difference the can-do attitude of this company compared to the screw-you attitude of the rental place at the
airport. They picked me up at the marina, and I still save over $40 a week.
Went over the list of new boat warranty issues, so they can start work. There was nothing major (although I certainly didn't appreciate
the leaky hatch over my bunk). As long as the boat is having warranty work done, the docking is on them (I think, as it seems fair). I don't
think I can do much voyaging until I get the Canadian registration completed, since I need it to get a US cruising permit.
I had an inspiration last night! Changing Spots gets launched again tomorrow morning (Friday) after an overnight haulout. I have invited
the people involved, and neighbors to a "5 at 5" party. At 5 PM on Friday, we will get together for 5 minutes for a christening (and a free
beer!). A coin (a St Christopher medal) is to be placed at the base of the mast to give strength, vitality, and success. Each bow will be
anointed with a splash of champagne to ask for Neptune's blessings, and to give Changing Spots her personality, character, and a spirit.
The response was great (even before I offered a free beer). Photos to follow!
There is a story about the champagne. At the party hosted by Lats & Atts at the Miami boat show, they were serving beer, wine and
champagne. I commented that they reminded me that I had neglected getting champagne for christening my new boat, and described
her. They kindly handed me a bottle of Chardonnay champagne, which I carried around for the rest of the evening. Thanks, Lats & Atts!
Nautical history is so full of wonderful traditions, I hate to waste an opportunity to exploit them.
I think Neptune was honored. All afternoon it looked and felt like it was about to rain any minute. The rain held off for an hour after all was
said and done (and there was even some beer left!). It was fun. Check out the photos!
Still at the marina in Ft. Lauderdale, but things are happening.
Order out of chaos! Everything is packed away, and 178 lbs of stuff was sent back to Texas. Only a few small projects are left to be done
on the boat before departure, and hopefully they can be done prior to the departure date of Thursday or ? (in two or three days). There
are lots of things to learn and experiment with, but the real fun is about to start! First stop, Biscayne Bay near Miami, then explore the
Keys for a while before heading north for the summer.
Still at the marina in Ft Lauderdale, but taking some play time to explore with the dinghy. Did some modifications to the dinghy davit
tackle system. Made a rail mount for the dinghy outboard.
Maybe the last commissioning projects will be completed by Monday. I am not sure who is responsible for the dock fees, since we are
only still here because the commissioning isn't completed.
Also got a fiberglass propane tank, which is full size. The two aluminum tanks which come with the boat are half size, 10#. More
The people at the Moorings have been great. The commissioning is finally done.
It has started!! We left Ft Lauderdale on Wednesday, 4/9 and spent two nights at anchor in Key Biscayne.
The plan was to head to Key Largo before travelling north for the summer. However, the weather forecast was for a week of cold north
wind in a few days, to last for about a week. We took the opportunity to head north while we had the favorable weather window for north
travel. 300 miles in two days of sailing from Key Biscayne to St. Augustine.
We had a small visitor for a couple of hrs while about 18 miles offshore.
It was great until Sat, just before sunrise. The wind was on the nose, at 20 to 30 knots, with 30 miles to go. Time to get the sails down
and get the engines fired up and slog it out.
Now to play tourist in St. Augustine (and try to get the radar working). They (the local authorized dealer)are supposed to be here
tomorrow AM to remove the radar dome from the mast. Now, how long will it take to get it fixed. The people at Raymarine have been
great, but the parts are not available locally.
Would like to explore the area with the dinghy, but the wind is cold and strong. There is a lot to see around here. It is nice to be at the
marina, with electricity, so we can have some heat.
Don't know where to head next, or when. It depends on the weather patterns.
More photos to see.
At anchor in Georgia after an overnight sail from St. Augustine. We left the marina in time to catch the 11 AM bridge opening, with a
strong current, and an escort of dolphins. The wind in the Atlantic was very light - but perfect for our planned overnight sail. No, we
couldn't leave well enough alone, but had to have more fun. We were only doing 2 to 3 knots and it was warm and the seas were gentle.
In spite of not even getting a description or diagram of how to rig the gennaker, we set it up, and it worked. (Some day it might be nice to
know how it is supposed to be done.) Our speed went from 2.5 kts to 5-6 kts. As the wind picked up we were sitting on 9 kts with an
easy gentle motion. Unfortunately, at this speed, we would arrive at dark - not good for a new location. Besides taking down the
gennaker, we now also needed to slow the boat, but the wind picked up, making it very difficult to slow the boat to 2 kts.
We came up with a simple system to hoist the outboard off the rail mount, onto the dinghy, and also became aware of a minor problem
with the genoa roller furling drum. The angle of the furling line where it attaches to the drum is such that the line rolls up on the bottom of
the drum. It can then override, or slip off. Of course this could be a serious problem when you need to douse sail in a hurry. A photo
showing solutions will be added to the above link when I get high speed internet. Heading off to explore Cumberland Island National
Seashore today. May head to Savannah tomorrow or the next day. We will need to stay somewhere long enough for mail and radar to
catch up with us.
The weather forecast was for winds generally from the north, so we decided to explore the ICW (intracoastal waterway). We are now in
Fort McAllister, GA, at anchor. We did however take advantage of the restaurant at the marina for dinner tonight. With the help of my
EnGenius USB antennae adapter, I am able to connect to the internet. Had a nice walk to the fort which was the site of civil war battles. It
turns out that this temporary earthen fort could stand up to the modern rifled cannon, whereas the invincible high tech brick Fort Pulaski
didn't last two days.
Last night we anchored off Sapelo Island and walked the beach. We have seen dolphins every day since leaving Ft. Lauderdale, and
some have been quite close. Yesterday, they were in a small pod, fairly close, and I started whistling. They stayed in the area a little
longer than usual, and blew air and dove more than we had seen.
It was probably a coincidence, but they did it again later too.
The night before last we anchored off a state park on St. Catherines Island in hopes of touring an old lighthouse. Although they do not
officially allow tours, except from their own facilities, a local tour guide gave us a ride to the lighthouse, and let us walk to the top for a few
minutes. Sitting in the cockpit before sunset i noticed something swimming across the river. I thought it might be an otter, but thought
the head had ridges!? A quick check with the binoculars showed it to be an alligator! It then swam along the shore an disappeared. It
was definitely more than 4 ft, but less than 6 ft. By the time I thought to get the camera, it was too far away, but I did get some video (not
close enough to post).
The night before that we anchored off St. Simon Island. These are areas which used to belong to the rich and famous.
Last night we anchored just off the Moon river (yes, THE Moon river) and explored by dinghy. We tried to anchor in Moon river, but
discovered the soft mud bottom with the keels, and changed our minds after the second attempt.
A short trip today, to the Isle of Hope. We are anchored just south of a marina, where we plan to go ashore and explore. The anchorage
is a little tight, so we will keep an eye out. Several dolphins just swam by, within 15 ft of the boat. The only fly in the ointment is the swarm
of tiny bugs which find us when the breeze dies down. I'm going to have to make the cockpit sun & bug enclosure soon.
Even loaded down like this boat is, she still sails quite well, easily, and fast.
Motoring up the ICW is simple, and with both 29 hp Yanmars at only 2200 rpm, we do about 6+ kts (hard to say with the current and wind),
barely sipping fuel.
Have been in Savannah for a while, and staying at the Isle of Hope Marina for a week, letting mail and packages get caught up. I fitted a
screen for the companionway, and ordered the screen I want to use for the cockpit enclosure, but the job is too big and complicated for
my abilities (or lack thereof). So I ordered more stuff as an excuse to procrastinate. Maybe after I get the first part done, the rest will not
seem so daunting.
Savannah is a nice little city with lots of fun tourist stuff to do.
The photos are Fort Pulaski, which proved that modern rifled
cannon made forts obsolete. A whole corner was blasted
away from over a mile away. When the Union troops took over,
they patched it up. Learned a lot about the Civil War from an interesting Southern perspective.
The trip up the ICW took about 33 gallons of diesel, doing about 6-7knots most of the way (slower when against the tide.)
I have gotten fairly experienced with anchoring, but have only come into a dock twice. At the marina, there is a large, simple dock at the
front, where I expected to tie up, and arrange for help putting the boat where she was to go. (It is much nicer to explain your ignorance by
asking for help, than by wrecking stuff!) But NOOOOO! They said go past the fuel dock, turn around and come between the rows of boats
to the end. So here I am, the second or third time docking this boat, and I have to run the gauntlet, with tide and a little wind. With the
marina guys shouting distances between the adjacent boats it all worked out fine. Yesterday, I had to move the boat to another dock -
which meant backing out!! With the great help from these guys, I managed fine and a crisis was averted. The marina allows the 2 hr use
of a borrower car for local trips, which is a great convenience. (and recommended). It even makes picking up a rental car much easier.
I plan to visit again on the way South in the Fall.
The wind is picking up and it is getting quite bouncy. The outer dock protects the boats inside it, but the boats on the outside start
rockin'. The movement feels quite nice, but now I feel like I need a nap. Pity the small monohulls out here.
At the other end of this dock is a large (125 ft) Hinkley yacht. The owner just put $6 million into her to spruce her up. There will leave soon
for an 18 month voyage. I would hate to buy the 7000 gallons of fuel to fill the tanks. The generator alone takes 6 gallons per hour.
Next week, maybe Wednesday AM, it will be further northward travels. South Carolina is next.
So far it is a go to head out tomorrow. The plan is to head into the ocean up to Georgetown. From there we can access the ICW again,and
visit Prince Creek, which I hear is great. In one to two weeks, the Chesapeake, and Annapolis. It may be a while before I have high speed
After a fast trip motorsailing up the ICW, and two stints into the ocean we made it to Solomons, Maryland. It is south of Annapolis, and
is built around the water. I have reserved a dock space (Solomons Harbor) for a week and will try to explore the area a bit after that. They
are very helpful, and like everywhere on the East Coast (unlike the West Coast) are there to help with docking. Make sure you have fender
boards, since you will be tying up to posts up here. I expect to return, since it is quite nice here, with easy walking to groceries, and a
West Marine store, and is much less expensive than Annapolis.
In answer to the question of "do you know it all yet", there is always a lot to learn (and always will be), but after a point that you have
survived enough different challenges/adversities, the comfort level builds. And no, I'm not there yet.
The critters giving most delight are the dolphins. Further south we saw them every day. Some were even close to the boat and would
hang around for a while. The alligators in the ICW were also a big kick, especially when they spook and go for a swim. Who knows where
they will go? Haven't seen many snakes, and I certainly don't mind that! You don't see seals or sea lions like you do on the west coast.
Wild horses, raccoons, and armadillos were nice to see. Startled a deer about 20 feet away on one of our hikes.
I'll fill in a few details within a few days, after I get caught up on some projects.
The first two photos are alligators. The second was small, - maybe six feet. The third and fourth photos are not alligators, but are some
of their small channels we explored by dinghy, a flowers there. Changing Spots is anchored in 25 feet of water, in a channel just over 100
feet wide (and about a hundred yards from one of the alligators we photographed - it was only the small one though). It was almost warm
enough for a swim! I wonder if alligators like to climb aboard boats?
The sixth is obviously a sunset, but with another boat. In one channel, the wind was too strong, from the wrong direction, and the channel
was too narrow for even putting up the genoa sail. I know, because I tried.
Life is great. Enjoy it.
Back in Solomons to have some warranty work done on the boat. There was a small leak in the port fuel tank which made that aft cabin
unbearable. It was only about a teaspoon a day, but the odor permeates. The saving grace was the use of a dryer sheet in the area, and
daily wiping up. ( I wouldn't have believed it either.) Zahniser's Yacht Center (at Solomons) did a very professional job of the repair. Now
to anchor for a couple of nights, and back to Solomons Harbor Marina (it feels like home now). If you stay there, don't forget to check out
the happy hour at the Holiday Inn.
Had a couple of weeks exploring the Chesapeake south of here. Reedville is a quaint little town with wonderful anchorages (unless
there is a south breeze, which brings the odor of the fish processing plant). The people are very friendly, and will get another visit next
fall. Many of these small towns have museums, and most are definitely worth a visit. The next stop was Deltaville, just as the heat
wave started. Then we spent a night at Irvington, and stopped the boat way out in the Chesapeake and went for a swim. What a
The first photo is the harbor at Deltaville with a morning fog, next is a beautiful boat (power) at Irvington, where the sunset photo was also
taken. The ship is a Navy target in the Chesapeake.
We hoped to be able to beat the heat by heading to the Eastern Shore. No luck beating the heat on the Eastern Shore - and we
discovered (and they discovered us)- BUGS. The flies looked just like houseflies, but bit and drew blood, but they weren't as bad as the
deerflies. Then at night came the mosquitoes. I wore out a fly swatter! Onancock was another great place to visit. We wanted to get a
few provisions and fill a small gas tank about a mile from the marina. We had three offers for rides. Tangier Island is another place on
the "must visit again list", and I promised the harbormaster that we would stay at the marina next time. Then it was back to Solomons for
heat and bug relief and A/C, in time for the heat wave to mellow.
We anchored one night in a sheltered bay off the Patuxent River. The skates, which are small rays, were interesting to watch. Better
yet was the phosphorescence. A swim at night was fascinating. This was not the phosphorescence I have seen before, but was large
flashes. It turned out to be small jellyfish, which you could catch in your hand. No, they didn't sting.
Also had one episode of engine trouble. While motoring along with both engines running, there was aloud alarm, which turned out to be
the port engine overheat alarm. And there was steam, not water coming out of the exhaust. Put it in idle for a few minutes before
shutting it down, and slow the other engine a bit (don't want it to overheat). After trying a couple of other things, I poured about a quart of
water into the seawater strainer, the engine ran fine. It must have dislodged whatever was blocking the water intake. It sure is nice to
have a simple solution, although it didn't feel simple while hanging onto the engine compartment as we were powering into the wind and
I would like to thank those who email or call in response to my web site. It encourages me to take the time to work on it, especially when
internet access is hard to come by.
I hope that the previous section wasn't too negative about cruising (or the Chesapeake) since it was clearly the exception.
We just got back from anchoring in a small bay at the entrance to St Leonard Creek. (Just off the Patuxent river off the Chesapeake.)
There was a small dock with a private property sign. We asked the man who was working on the dock what was there, and he said that
it was the Morgan State University campus doing research on intertidal zones, and a state park with a major anthropology center. The
later was regarding a naval battle of the 1812 war, and indian villages. NO PROBLEM, welcome! Not only was the anchorage absolutely
beautiful and sheltered, but the hike and exploration was great fun.
The last photo is a hand written version of the star spangled banner by the author. He was at this battle before the one at Fort McHenry,
Baltimore which inspired the song. Rockets were used at the Patuxent also. I bet you didn't know all these verses!
Greetings from Manhattan! A lot has happened since the last update, but much of the reason for not updating the site for so long is the
lack of reasonable speed internet.
After a side trip to explore DC for three days, we motorsailed across the Chesapeake to Oxford on the Eastern Shore. Another pretty
place that didn't get explored enough. The plan was to then visit a highly spoken of place called St. Michaels; but the forecast wind was
perfect for a sail all the way to Annapolis. At least it started off perfect, then the wind died. It was a good day to try the gennaker again
(successfully again, but not for long).
We managed to anchor near the end of Spa Creek in Annapolis for several days. It was along dinghy ride to town,but beautiful and
quiet. Thunderstorms almost every afternoon provided quite a show, but almost cancelled the July 4 fireworks. I was hoping to get a
mooring ball right on the city front, but people arrived days in advance to get a spot for the show. The heavy rains all afternoon stopped
my plans to take the dinghy there, but the show was pretty good from the distant anchorage. I also painted some identifying marks on
the dinghy outboard.
While in Annapolis I bought a Sailrite sewing machine, in preparation for some big projects planned. If you get one, I very strongly
recommend also getting the Monster wheel with the hand crank. This gives great control for fine work that you can't get with an electric
motor (not just the increased power). I made a lifting harness for the outboard motor, and a wind scoop, which works great. I plan to
make a large awning for the bows and forward part of the cabin, which will also be a rain catchment.
Then the test began. So far I have not singlehanded this boat, but I didn't want to stay in Annapolis long enough to wait for crew. A
friend, who is singlehanding her boat up the coast was stopped in Annapolis on the way to Long Island, where she has been scheduled to
teach sailing. (She teaches women to sail and cruise, and if you know any women who need their sailing abilities or confidence beefed
up, let me know. I think she would be great, even if she sails a monohull.)
I singlehanded my previous boat a lot, but this is much more boat. The plan was to get through the C&D canal (connects the
Chesapeake to the Delaware Bay) on day one, but because of a delayed start, we didn't even get to the canal. Then an early start to get to
Cape May, at the south end of New Jersey, at the mouth of the Delaware Bay. So in day one of singlehanding I anchored twice, tied
up to a fuel dock and rafted up to another boat (in the dark). What an introduction!
It hit the fan on day two. No problems getting the sails up (or down), or navigating the trip. There was an episode during one of
the severe downpours with poor visibility of a ghostly white apparition appearing under a bridge. Turns out it was a large car freighter,
which passed by harmlessly. Before I get to the real story, I want to comment on the windscreen option. It is a wonderful piece of crap!
The latter refers to the cheap "vinyl" that you can barely see through. Even though you can't see well through it, you can see around it,
and for light rain you can slide it aside a bit. I was so dry sitting up on the helm seat, I failed to notice that the other side of the seat was
wet until it was too late. Other than a wet butt, I was quite dry. Delaware Bay was a long upwind slog, motorsailing. It took forever for
the nuclear plant to disappear. The photo shows a juxtaposition.
After rounding Cape May into the Atlantic we headed to the channel to get into the harbor. Suddenly the bilge pump alarm and light
went on, and on. I checked the starboard bilge where there has always been a small leak - no problem. The port bilge was awash - with
salt water. Tear off all the floorboards, close all the through hull fittings, lift the float mechanism to keep the bilge pump working better.
Water was coming in through the through hull fitting for the knot meter. After tightening it a few turns, the leak stopped. Crisis averted!
Then the channel markers ahead disappeared in the fog. There were huge markers leading to the channel approach, and they couldn't be
seen until less than a hundred feet away. The stone breakwater was showing up on radar, and it agreed with the GPS, so go for it. After
some rip currents at the entrance, and keeping the breakwater the same distance to starboard, we were doing 5 knots with the engines
in idle forward gear (lots of current). Fortunately the fog improved considerably going in the channel, but it was now getting dark. So
now it was time to anchor in a strange place, with fog, almost dark, and lots of current. I think it took a few hours for the adrenalin rush to
resolve. What a rush! But I felt like I had just been given a trial - and passed.
After that, I wasn't concerned about the next leg, which was an overnight sail up the coast of New Jersey, for a daylight arrival in New
York. Of course singlehanding, in an area with lots of vessel traffic, you don't sleep.
It was a muggy, hazy arrival in New York, then we anchored at a very secluded, protected spot behind the Statue of Liberty in the
park area. Blessed sleep by noon. My friend left the next day for Long Island but I spent another night, and enjoyed another great
rainstorm. The next step was to spend a week at the 79th St Boat Basin in Manhattan, where I confirmed I could get a mooring ball for
a week (without spending a fortune). I checked with a marina in Jersey City and they wanted $500 a night!!!
Now I have heard from sailors (monohulls) that picking up a mooring ball singlehanded is one of the more challenging maneuvers. A
French catamaran followed me all the way up the Hudson River, past the Manhattan skyline, and took the mooring ball right behind
me. And no, I didn't embarrass my countrymen, and I am sure I fooled everybody and made it look like a perfect pick up. Just like I knew
what I was doing, and this was with a strong current, and wind from another direction. I really love the two engines.
Any idea what the name on the red ship name means?
Of course any trip to New York requires a visit to ground zero. It was a bit disappointing to not have any monument
or memorial yet.
I thought I would update a bit, although I won't have internet to be able to get it updated online for a while. I did a singlehanded trip from
the Hudson River at the 79th st Boat Basin to Long Island sound. If you time it right, you can ride the current down the Hudson, and
then up the East River though Hell Gate into Long Island Sound. Hell gate was a piece of cake, with the only challenge being getting
from the Hudson river around the bend through the Brooklyn bridge. The ferryboats line up waiting to get into their docks, and don't
have much patience for a small sailboat (motoring, of course). You need to run their gauntlet, and cross their paths somewhere. It is so
nice to be able to travel without a schedule. You don't need to push it (unless the weather or tides give a very good reason. Their are
significant tides around here, so if you time it, your journey is much more pleasant and speedier going with the current rather than fighting
it. With the current it was an easy trip to Manhasset Bay from 3:30 PM to 7 PM. It was another easy day to Port Jefferson the next
day. Where I chose to anchor was tricky. It went from 30 ft to 4 ft deep in a very short distance. It was fun taking the dinghy for the mile
ride into town in the dark, and then finding the boat after. If I weren't after food I didn't need to cook, I would have appreciated the live
music that many towns put on. There were lots of tourists, but I didn't feel like one. Do swans taste like chicken?
The plan for the next day heading to Shelter Island, was to be a late start, rather than fighting the contrary tide all morning. This part of
the trip had been motoring, since the winds were very light. Once in a while I would try the genoa. However, next morning there was
wind, and who would know how long it would last. Instead of waiting until almost noon to start, the sails were up by 9 AM. I still needed to
keep an engine running most of the way since there was a SCHEDULE here. I needed to go though a tidal race called Plum Gut with a
favorable tide - or else. Going with the tide, I didn't see what all the fuss was about. I also suspected it was going to take a long time to
fight the wind the last 6 miles to Shelter island. With one engine slowly running at 2200 rpm we were doing 9-10 kts. Alas, it was only 7.5
to 8.5 with the sails alone, even with lots of wind.
After a night rafted with Louise and her guests (on Blue Planet) we headed off next day for a short trip to Montauk Bay. The first part
was a leisurely almost downwind sail at 3.5 to 4.5 kts (got to scrub the slime off the boat bottom) with the genoa only filling sometime. I'm
not ready for the gennaker singlehanded yet. And a good thing that day! After rounding the "ruins", and heading up about 90 deg went up
to 7.5 to 8.5 kts for the next 9 miles. Close to the destination, and out of the shelter of Gardiners Island, the wind picked up and the
boat started to feel a bit over powered. After rolling up the genoa, it was still 9 to 9.5 kts. Fortunately, now that I have the right block for
the main halyard, it is now easy to get the main down. Aim the boat into the wind, release the halyard, and let it fall. Just don't let the line
tangle. (With the original block, it twisted the halyard around itself, and it was not only very difficult to get the sail up, but you also had to
pull it down.)
"Lake" Montauk is a near perfect anchorage. It is very large and 8 ft deep all over - except the narrow, twisting channel getting in. There
is a main harbor at the entrance. Got a chance to hike and explore and check out the Atlantic ocean. It was pretty rough from the storms
Got back from town in time to see the boats disappear in the fog. No real problem though.
We had a USCG official inspection today. It was a great group of guys, some seemed like kids. I think they just wanted to check out the
new catamaran. They said the "gold sheet" they gave me after today's inspection was good for a year and to show it to the CG if boarded
again within that time. They also said that I might be "inspected" again if somebody wants to check out the catamaran.
A word of advice to any with evil intent: don't get a new Leopard catamaran. There were lots of oohs and aahs during the inspection, and
it was quite fun (except we got a late start for our hike. They were also quite happy to tell us what places to check out in town. I hope I
didn't hurt their feelings too much when I said that the best job in the world was being an astronaut - not being a coastie. (The second
best job is being an allergist.)
I also just came to the realization that I have never been better in my life. This time it isn't just a contrast from having malaria, but I am
healthier than ever. No, I'm not going to cancel my new health insurance (now that my cobra has run out).
Have been at anchor in Greenport, Long Island, NY for a few nights. It was a bit rocky at times until this weekend when all the big
powerboats started arriving. Even on the stable platform of a catamaran things were flying. I was planning to take my laptop into town to
access high speed internet and get the website updated, but it has been one thunderstorm after another all day. One storm had 35 knot
winds, gusting to 43. Quite spectacular. A powerboat anchored behind me, just before the storms hit. That photo isn't out of focus, it is
the rain. Sure am glad I have lots of room to use lots of chain on my anchor.
LEOPARD QUALITY REPORT!
I had a bit of a shock yesterday. The boat has been getting much more sluggish recently, and I have noticed considerable slime on the
hull, but hadn't looked too closely. Yesterday was the first opportunity in almost two months to check the bottom. Instead of just slime, I
found a thick growth of barnacles over most of the hull. Talk about putting on the brakes! Sorry no photos.
I still believe that Robertson & Caine take quality control seriously and stand behind their product and service. I hope and expect that
this will be taken care of promptly by R&C as a warranty item, possibly in Newport, but it is an inconvenience.
Hot off the press!
I just sent them the email last night about this problem, and already got a phone call this morning to get the process started. Hopefully it
will be done right next week in Newport.
The winds from the third storm yesterday came from a different direction,and my anchor dragged about 75 ft before resetting.
Regardless, I put out all the chain (160 ft) instead of the 100 ft I had in 15 ft of water, and backed down on it to make sure it was firmly set.
Late last night I was out checking my position, by which time it was a beautiful clear calm night. I saw a small boat approaching with a
spotlight, slowly. When they saw me they turned on the flashing blue lights and identified themselves a coastguard. As soon as I
identified my boat as Changing Spots, one of the Coasties shouted "Yo, Robert!" It was the guys with whom I had such a fun visit in
Montauk a few days ago. When I told them I had seen 43 knots of wind, they replied that at their station they saw 59.5 knots. They also
very courteously left without any wake until they were well beyond me.
I got approval to get the boat bottom done, and it is scheduled to start Monday AM.
AND, in the meantime, I just happened to get to Newport early enough to get one of the few great anchoring spots for this weekend's
Newport Folk Festival. Although the concert should be fine from the cockpit, I will probably take to dinghy close to shore to hear
The concert and Jimmy Buffet were great. I wish I could say the same for the boaters who I had assumed were there for the concert.
Enough said, but they made it difficult to hear and enjoy some of the concert.
On Sat afternoon, it rained for over an hour, then stopped. There was a break in the music when I noticed some really weird looking dark
clouds. Although the wind was from another direction, I headed back to the boat just in time for the downpour, and within a few more
minutes the wind started howling. A raft-up of 6 powerboats dragged anchor towards a new Catana 50 catamaran. Fortunately, there
were enough people aboard that a disaster was averted. After that, a whole lot of people were playing the re-anchor shuffle, in an
already overcrowded anchorage.
Monday morning the boat was hauled and found to be a great mess of barnacles. A representative from Interlux paint company was
there taking photos and samples. It appears that somebody in South Africa didn't do their job right. The good news is that this was an
isolated problem, AND R&C are standing behind their work. Good thing too! The prices in this area are high, even by south Florida
standards. New England Boatworks, in Portsmouth, RI did a very professional job. Sorry, I didn't get any "after" photos - but the boat
sure moves better. Can't wait to get her sailing again.
I am back at anchor in Newport, but even with a Friday arrival, it is not crowded for this weekend's Jazz festival. Good thing too. Another
storm rolled through and a sailboat did a very fast anchor drag. Also a good thing that the two guys were still aboard. Of course now that
I have lost trust in my anchor (a 45# Delta with 160' of 3/8" chain), I envision dragging anchor with every storm. Interesting though: I love
the storms, and don't want to miss them. (Good thing too, especially if the anchor drags.) To me, being in the wind, rain, thunder and
lightning is being in church and good for the soul.
For piece of mind I ordered a new anchor - a Manson supreme, 60#, which is one of the new generation super anchors. Unfortunately, it
didn't arrive today as scheduled, so I need to stay here until Tuesday. However, West Marine did offer to deliver it for me.
Send me a message with your thoughts, comments or questions, or just to say HI, I love hearing from you. Now if I can just get some high
speed internet so I can get it online.
What a miserable night! Oh, I'm sorry, I should say "what an adventure!" I was awakened at 2:30 with a wet area on the
bed. (I guess that could have been worse.) It had started to rain, and I left the hatch over the bed open (I usually do, unless rain is
imminent). Of course, with a storm, you go on deck and check your position (and the other boats around you). This is even more
important when you don't trust your anchor. Great, the boat was near a mooring ball in the same position as when I first anchored. The
previous night I thought the boat might be dragging anchor since it seemed close to another marker. Just as I was starting to feel better
about the anchor, the mooring ball got closer, then almost hit. Rather than re-anchor (a very difficult thing to do singlehanded with lots of
wind, at night), I thought I would just tie up to the mooring ball until morning. Easy. Put on lots of line, get the engines going and hoist
anchor. When the anchor comes free, you're already attached to the buoy.
About 5 AM, I finally gave up. The anchor wasn't going anywhere, and I was tied to the mooring ball in case the anchor came free. At 7 AM
it was still windy (but not bad now, about 20 kts). When I went to check the anchor, I could see it, near the surface in 30 ft of water. It had
snagged something, a large rusty cable, and if I powered up the engines (a lot), I could move the boat up or down the cable.
At noon, it was finally cleared. I thought I might need to put on snorkel gear, but eventually got the anchor up enough (when the wind died)
to put a shackle in the back of the anchor. This was attached to a line to the bow. Then by lowering the anchor chain, the 2 inch diameter
rusty iron cable fell off. Needless to say, I tried lots of other things before this worked.
There has been a lot of rain here. The locals are asking when summer will start. I have been in "church" enough that my soul should be
fine for a long time. However, I do enjoy the warm days and cool nights.
Don't need to make any windscoops here. I made rain guards out of Sunbrella fabric and attached them to the sides of the "wind shield".
They work fine at keeping most of the rain out of the cockpit. At least it is warm rain. My internet on the boat is hit-or-miss (mostly the
latter), so I usually need to take the laptop to shore to get online. Not a good idea with the intensity of the thunderstorms.
Interesting! After the strains and exertions of yesterday, I expected to have some aches and pains, but no!!!, and it is a beautiful day.
I had high speed internet on the boat last night, but it didn't last long enough to upload the website.
I now have the new anchor, and bridle, and will pick up a mooring today so I can
change my ground tackle. Old anchor, 45 # Delta on left, new 60# Manson
Supreme, on right.
I certainly wasn't expecting to be here this long. Tomorrow I will start north again. Everybody says Maine is worth the fog, and lobster
trap obstacle course. Indeed it has been said that you will snag at least one, and you need a wet suit for the cold water. My question is
that if I have to cut the line, do I get to pull up the trap and keep the lobster?
I also want to thank the Newport Yacht Club for their wonderful hospitality. It is refreshing to visit such a friendly club, and it reminds
me of my Richmond Yacht Club in California.
At anchor in Vineyard Haven, on Martha's Vineyard. Spent last night at Cuttyhunk. Both days of sailing were perfect at 7 to 9
kts in 10 to 15 kts wind and favorable current. Did the short hike to the top of Tower Hill for the view, and blackberries. We were invited
to a local talent show by the town pianist, who happens to be a sailor, but we couldn't wait until Wednesday night. Thanks for the
After anchoring, we did a short trip ashore in Vineyard Haven, and plan to be here for two days. The timing is good because they are
having their annual Illumination Night. Will have to wait and see what it is. We will probably miss the fireworks that happen the next night.
Tomorrow we explore.
Who is that crusty, salty looking character? The big sailing ship is the Alabama. There are many such vessels in the NE, and they are
beautiful to behold.
Then we head to Nantucket to await a favorable weather window for the offshore passage to Maine. George knows this area well, but
hasn't been to Maine. I'm looking forward to going through prime whale watching country. His wife June will probably stay home in
Hopefully the ferry will come back soon so I can access their WiFi to upload this report. There are only very weak signals in the harbor,
even with the WiFi extender system, until the ferry comes in.
The Vineyard Haven harbor is very well protected on three sides - the only problem is that there is a 20 to 25 kt wind from the fourth
direction, so it is a rock and roll night. I think that when we pick up the new anchor I will kiss it a big thanks, smelly mud and all. However,
for those with Leopard 40 catamarans thinking of upgrading anchors, go with the Rocna anchor instead. The problem, although relatively
minor, is that because of the thickness of the shaft of the Manson, it doesn't fit well into the anchor rollers.
I recommend Vineyard Haven for cruisers, with the caveat that the anchorage is open to one side. There is a convenient dinghy dock,
and showers at the harbormaster office (free), as well as close walking distance to a supermarket, hardware store, West Marine (small),
fuel, bus service, and numerous restaurants. The bus service was a good way to explore Edgartown, and check out the On-Time
ferries to Chappaquiddick. We happened to be in Oak Bluffs in time for the annual Illumination Festival, with many thousands of
others. There is music and synchronized lighting of lanterns (mainly the oriental paper ones) on the fronts of all the houses.
Safely secured to George and June's mooring in Nantucket. They have kindly offered the grand tour (plus of course the sailors delight
of long showers and laundry - we are easily pleased) of this historic nautical location. On Sat AM, the passage around Cape Cod to
I have been asked why there is no information about who is with me on parts of the journey. Believe me, with her permission, you will
know about her - once the right, long term crew is found. Also, in spite of popular demand, there are photos of me, not hamming it up
(how dull). See the bottom of the page below. And if that doesn't scare you......
Today we arrived at the most northern destination for my eastern US part of the journey, Rockland, ME. We left Nantucket yesterday
around 8:30 AM, and arrived here this afternoon. Except for not enough wind, the weather was perfect,with a beautiful sunrise, sunset,
and even a few whales for added spice. A ship anchored outside the harbor had an F24 as a dinghy.
We had considered stopping at a small island called Matinicus, but for reasons finalized because of an unmerciful minefield of lobster
pots, we kept on to Rockland (not to be confused with Rockport, a short distance away). We tried fishing for the first time. At least we
didn't loose anything. I don't think the seaweed we caught would have been suitable for sushi. The fishing wasn't a total bust however,
since this little guy liked the cat so much he swam onto the aft deck.
Anchored yesterday in the south part of the sheltered harbor, fixed the navigation lights which were only working intermittently on the
overnight passage. Fortunately, there were no other boats at all. Went to town and met some cruisers. One couple had spent 5 years
cruising the Med, and were happy to share their experiences with a novice cruiser. Isn't the cruising life great!?
After a huge lobster/shrimp dinner, we got back to the boat and did some work on the website. I stepped onto the cockpit and couldn't
see the light on the shore or any boats anchored nearby. This morning the fog started lifting, so I can show a taste of cruising in Maine.
At anchor in Porpoise Cove, ME
We quite enjoyed Rockland, and didn't see any more fog - only warm days and cool nights. Perfect weather, but a warning that winter is
on its way. After three nights we started a leisurely pace south, doing 25 -50 miles per day. The first day out, in spite of constant dodging
of lobster pots, we saw seals, and numerous small porpoises.
Regarding lobster pots, they are traps, not so much for lobsters, but for boats. They lure you down a line which ends in a solid mass of
traps - with no escape. The lines can snag you hull, or propeller, and cause serious damage. Plan severaqlmoves ahead,like a chess
If you saw a large log floating in the water, you should call the CG and report a hazard to navigation. These traps are much more
dangerous, and are set in anchorages, and even in shipping channels. The only limitation I have seen is that they are not set where the
large ships navigate, or they would get "blenderized" in the ships propellers. I have seen them 18 miles from shore in 380 feet of water.
Some even work in pairs. Often a stealthy one will lurk just below the surface waiting to grab an unsuspecting victim. There are so many
lobster pots that I can't imagine how any lobsters survive. I am determined to be the first(?) cruiser to escape Maine without having to
clear a lobster pot line (water temperature 56 deg F).
We spent a night at Linekin Bay (right near Booth Bay for people who have sailed here), and anchored in what looked like a mountain
lake. We then joined another boat in Quohog Bay, in another postcard setting. The cockpit at night is like a religious experience, even
without the thunderstorm. Oh, did I mention that there were two days of biting black flies, which disappeared at night? We bypassed
Portland, ME, but had planned to stop there. The lobster pots make travel difficult, and even dangerous, which is not the way cruising
should be. It has been worth it to visit Maine, but this is Russian roulette that you can't win forever.
Porpoise Bay is not for cruisers and the small harbor is full of mooring balls. However, we managed to find a spot to drop the sleep
insurance anchor. There aren't set up for cruisers, but it might be a good place to get lobster (if I hadn't sworn them off!) We are only
about 3 miles from Kennebunkport, but we don't plan on doing any visiting there. Today, besides the seals and porpoises, we saw
whales, possibly Right whales. The second time they were fairly close and we could see them smiling.
Rockport, MA was a worthwhile stopover for two nights. It certainly deserves its name, on more than one account. The harbor is
surrounded by stone slabs, which make me think of the European cities. It also was one of the most rocky, bouncy anchorages, and you
couldn't even blame the powerboats. The second night we anchored on the other side of the bay (not in the harbor) to avoid wave surge
(it didn't help!). We could hear and feel the anchor dragging across the solid rock bottom three times until we tried again at a distance.
After two nights we headed to Province Town. One spot must have been really dangerous since they had two lighthouses! (Actually, I
suspect they were used as a range.) P town was interesting in itself, even without the nautical influence. Not only was this classic ship
a site to behold, but there was a race of gaff rigged ships ending in the harbor the next morning.
After two nights we had a great sail reeling in the monohulls on the way to the
Cape Cod canal. This is another place where you need to time the tides.
A 500 mile excursion
Back after a week and a half journey to my northernmost point in Maine.
George has a website with photos and some video of the journey at sailing a catamaran to Maine.
After a couple of nights at anchor, I decided to get out of this crowded anchorage to enjoy my date with Hannah (tropical storm). Although
a bit wild later on, she was fun and gentle with me. A borrowed mooring at Portsmouth, RI (thank you) worked out perfectly.
Much has happened in the last week. (No, I'm not going to tell you everything!) The Newport boat show was fun, but didn't have the
selection of things I am looking for, so almost everything will have to wait for the Annapolis show. So much to get, and so little to spend,
but it will all work out just fine.
My new crew will join me on Monday to start the journey to Annapolis. Since we are leaving so late, we will not be exploring the
Connecticut side of Long Island Sound, but will take the offshore route to Cape May, NJ, then up the Delaware bay to the
C&D canal to the Chesapeake. After a little exploring of the northern Chesapeake, it will be time to head to Annapolis, well
before the boat show to assure a good anchorage.
Newport is such a spectacular sailing city. Yesterday a fleet of 12 meter boats sailed by, a hundred yards for where I am anchored. They
all had their support boats ($200-300k each) and there was a helicopter to monitor the fleet. They had a race mark 200 yards away, then
went upwind into the main town area for the finish. What a show. Every day the gaff rigged schooners take tours out for a sail.
Offshore route plans changed.
At anchor off City island, near New York City, awaiting a gale to blow over, and a favorable tide to run through Hell Gate to the city.
Then pick up a mooring at 79th Street Boat Basin to await the end of offshore gales for the overnight offshore run to Cape May, NJ.
Today we had an exhilarating sail (with engine on) in 25 kts wind - directly downwind - to City Island.
On the way, we spent a night at Giant's Neck, then at Long Neck, CT.
After all my experiences with anchoring, I decided to start writing an article for one of the sailing magazines (Multihulls?) about the topic.
So much is done outside of what the books say is supposed to be done, and there is so much else to learn. Indeed, if you anchored by
the book, you would create havoc and destruction, and be driven out of a typical crowded anchorage.
Life is so good, and cruising just amplifies it.
At a dock in the town of Deep Creek, at the north end of the Great Dismal Swamp.
It has been a very active time,with lots of projects to do and things to try to get done, but I am finally trying to get an update on the website.
The article was sent to Multihulls magazine a couple of weeks ago, but I haven't heard anything yet.
To continue the journey where we left off, the trip through Hell Gate was uneventful except for early fog, and then all the USCG boats
patrolling the backside of Manhattan on the East River. It turns out they had lots of extra security because of something going on at
the UN. We got the last mooring ball at the 79th St marina, and no wonder (see photo of the mooring line)!!! Those two tiny remaining
strands held us against the current (running the engines probably helped) until we could get another line on it. We also saw a large
pleasure boat we had seen before in Nantucket. We had two busy days walking/exploring Manhattan.
We had a great sail down the NY cityfront, past Sandy Hook, and down the New Jersey coast. Late in the afternoon we set the
fishing line, and within a half hour heard the line being dragged out. Damn, more seaweed, except this time there was a fish! We
suspected it was a blue, which is oily and fishy tasting, but we were determined to eat it anyway. After doing all we could to overpower
the taste, we cooked and ate it. In spite of being buried in onion and lemon juice it was bland (but much better than fishy). Now... how do
you cut a fillet to keep the bones out? But we had dinner just before a weird sunset, survived. This is what the sun looked like, and is not
a photo artifact.
Our goal was to get down the coast overnight and up Delaware Bay so we could get through the C&D canal with a favorable tide.
With one engine running slowly, and the sails set we realized that we would be heading up the Delaware Bay in the middle of the night.
Not a good idea, considering all the crab pots we saw on the way up in July. We had the luxury of being able to stop the engine and just
sail for several hours, and still arrived at Delaware bay in the dark.
It seemed like we would never get past the lights of Atlantic City, but had a beautiful overnight trip down the coast.
It turns out the C&D canal was closed because a ship had run aground. As we got there, the canal had opened and the current was just
changing in our favor. We anchored in a pretty and secluded spot, great anchorage in the Sassafras River in the early afternoon. The fish
were jumping and the Canada geese were very scenic. The next morning we heard explosions in the distance which we guessed might
have been from the Aberdeen proving grounds. We also fought the current all the rest of the way to Annapolis.
It was over a week until the start of the boat show, and already the whole place was filling up. We again anchored way up Spa Creek,
even closer to the end, in a very tight spot. The foxes (not that kind) were fun to watch in the morning.
We had four major items to get, but only got two - solar panels and a watermaker - and I will probably install them myself. The funds set
aside for this dried up along with the stock market, and I couldn't get good enough deals to justify removing any funds when they are this
low. I ordered the Spectra Cape Horn Extreme watermaker,and two Mitsubishi 185 W solar panels. The latter were chosen because they
will fit on a SS tube between the dinghy davits. They will be able to pivot, and will even shelter the dinghy a bit. I have installed the SS tube,
and it is a very heavy wall version, attached with stanchion mounts. I could do chin-ups on it (if I could do chin-ups). I have ordered
aluminum to fabricate a frame to strengthen the solar panels and plan to work on this in Wilmington, NC when we are there (I think I will
need to have good access to marine electrical parts). I guess I'll be going to the Miami show in Feb to finish my shopping, as long as the
stock market smartens up by then.
The boat show was good, and we went every day (as volunteers for Womanship). We helping get Louise's boat (Blue Planet) in, out and
prepped for her demonstration at the show. My sewing machine got put to work on her boat, and by coincidence we were right by the
Sailrite booth. I also got my cockpit cushions started! After almost two weeks there it was time to head south again since it was getting
On Oct 14 we headed to Solomons again. I like it there. We stayed at the Solomons Harbor marina again, this time for two weeks. It
was the first time at a marina since leaving there in June. Say hello to John if you go there, he is very helpful, and makes the place so
friendly. Aahhh, the luxury of lots of water and electricity. I even spent three nights off the boat (now a total of 5 nights since moving
aboard in Feb) to visit my daughter who had a concert in Kentucky.
So many projects are easier at a dock, and with shore power, that the cockpit cushions are all done, even backs. If the solar panels had
arrived on schedule, I would have had them installed. It was nice having easy access to get needed parts, and fortunately,the solar
panels finally arrived.
We had a great sail down to Tangier Island, in the middle of Chesapeake Bay. It was one of those places that I had to visit again.
The dialect is so quaint, and the golf cart tour of the island was such a kick. The next day we headed for Hampton, VA, but only got as
far as Back River. It was weird, being so large but with such shallow water outside of the channels. The ship aground was a sorry
sight, but was more than made up for the next morning when a large pod of dolphins started playing around us. Even better was their
swimming in our bow wave!!!
Hampton was great. We thought about spending a day, possibly two and stayed four nights. We had a good visit with people who were
preparing for the Carib 1500 regatta. It was delayed several days because of an Atlantic storm. The Mariners museum in Newport
News was well worth the visit, even the bus rides to get there. Plan on a whole long day. We also did a very pretty 5 mile hike around the
park. And no, they weren't celebrating our arrival, but a football game. They did a freefall with pink smoke before opening the chutes.
Also arrived back at the boat one day to find the Shards' new boat tied up next to us. Their DVDs (Distant Shores) about cruising the Med
have been an inspiration to me for years.
We had a late start 12:30 PM and a wild ride to the lock at the Great Dismal Swamp. Winds were 20 to 30 kts with gusts over 35, and
no other pleasure boats out there. It was fun going through the lock, and we tied up just south at their dock. Apparently everything was
jammed to our south because of the winds and nobody was leaving. We stayed an extra night there, but got through the nearby bridge the
next day. The Fall colors were fine, but at times, it felt like Winter.
Because of not needing to wait for the bridge to open, we got an early start and were able to make all the way to Elizabeth City. I have
heard about their hospitality for many years and it was nice to feel it and see that it is real. A free dock and a welcome reception,with
maps and directions to the region. The really good news was that it was finally sunny and warm (in the daytime). Everybody had just
cleared out that morning with the break in the weather, so we were a new crop of boats. Two nights wasn't enough. But you can't
explore the world by staying in one place!
After leaving we went by some huge buildings. The doors along the bottom are large enough to drive a semi truck through. These are
We anchored in a fairly crowded spot on the Alligator River (sorry, didn't see any) with many other boats. The next area was the
Alligator - Pungo River canal, which doesn't have much for a safe anchorage, and you sure don't want to travel at night. Next night
was tried up (no facilities) at RE Mayo shrimp boat dock - but they were out of shrimp! We had a short run the next day to Oriental, NC,
but ran aground (TWICE) in the canal just south. Fortunately is was soft mud, and we weren't going fast. The depth sounder was showing
9 feet of water, but the starboard hull (4 foot draft) was in the mud (the depth sounder is in the port hull). We were in the mid third of the
channel, not even close to shore. No problem getting unstuck, but it was a bit unnerving since there was no way to read the water and
the depth sounder certainly wasn't much help. We stayed in the very middle of that channel after that, and didn't concern ourselves with
boats that wanted to pass.
At anchor in Orient, NC. Very limited cell phone (none!) and internet, except for going ashore. We finally got our shrimp! Two nights, and
now there is a threat of nasty (not terrible) weather. Heading for Beaufort/Morehead, NC on our way down the ICW to Wrightsville
Beach/Wilmington, NC are for Thanksgiving.
We left Oriental late in the morning, after the thunderstorms, but there was still a howling wind and lots of rain. Tied up at the Sanitary
Restaurant, which is a Morehead City classic institution from 1938. The sun came out and it stopped raining long enough for along
walk to explore the area. It was still poring this morning - along with fog. Good thing we weren't planning to leave today, but tomorrow
We filled the fuel tanks (50 gallons) for the first time since leaving Solomons, MD, and had a tentative plan to stay the night at the fuel
dock for a reasonable $40 (or $60 if you don't fill your fuel tanks). The marinas here are almost twice that. It is nice to have lots of
electricity once in a while. Also, the dinghy in a thunderstorm is a less than pleasant experience. Instead we stayed at another dock and
The Good News and the Bad news:
The Ruddy Duck Tavern in Morehead had great a great menu and food, at reasonable prices, and the dock included an electric
hookup, water, and good internet. It even had a very nice, convenient floating dock. The forecast for tomorrow is more thunderstorms
and strong winds, so we are staying over another night! The bad news - there is only room for one boat, maybe two small ones - so call in
advance (252 726-7500). It isn't yet in the cruising guides, but it used to be the Key West.
Tomorrow we will try to walk in the rain to check out a museum in Beaufort, NC. Getting lots of exercise walking.
I hope everybody had as good a Thanksgiving as I did. We have been at Wrightsville Beach for over a week, after an uneventful ICW
journey. Several bridges to go under, and several that needed to open for us. Although the all the bridges on the ICW as supposed to be
65 feet or more (except one in Miami, which is 56 feet - was that a dyslexic engineer?) the high water level have decreased the clearance
a bit. The VHF antenna hits the bridge at 63, but not 64 feet of clearance. Another possible delay is from the marine base, when they are
doing maneuvers, but we lucked out there too - that was to be the next day.
The ICW is a slower trip than sailing offshore, especially with the short days and the folly of travelling the ICW at night. Besides, the nights
are too pretty to waste by travelling. The anchorage we stayed at has been dredged by the Marines, and was a morning habitat of a large
pod of dolphins. They went right by the stern of the boat to leave the bay. The weird ship (notice the deck gun) didn't seem to bother
Wrightsville Beach is a great place - but we got here for the cold snap. At least it (usually) warmed up in the daytime, if the wind
wasn't too strong. The pattern became running the genset for a half hour or so in the evening and again in the morning to take off the
chill. It was working fine until one morning, with a cabin temperature of 40 degrees, the heater (reverse A/C) stopped working. The
seawater pump failed (the one on the port side stopped months ago, but it wasn't needed. Much to the credit of the Leopard/Moorings, it
(both pumps) were fixed that same day. We needed to be at the dock to have the work done, and all the wonderful heat was such a
luxury, I stayed a week. With both heaters working, the boat could be warmed in minutes. Skip, who replaced the pumps was kind
enough to get me the manual for these units, and was enthusiastic about showing me all the things these units would/could do.
I took advantage of being at the dock and only a mile walk to a West Marine store. I must have been there quite a few times, since the
manager asked if was moving in. I got the solar panels installed. Two 185 watt panels, are built into an aluminum frame, a 65 inch
square, and mounted on the SS tube between the davits. They are 24 volts each, and when wired in series become 48 volts (rated). This
goes into an MPPT controller which maximizes the current, and changes the 58 volts (measured) into 12 volts to put in the batteries to
keep them charged. As the boat swings in the wind, you can see the current going into the battery changing up and down as the position
to the sun changes. It took a while to devise a way to adjust the angle of the panels, but when the idea came, it was very simple (a good
sign!). The bars are positioned so that they don't hit the lifeline, or the dinghy. I can put as many adjustments as I like, and I included a
safety stop at the top and the bottom. Notice how the dinghy is shaded, and protected from the rain.
Here is a link to numerous photos, for those considering such a solar panel installation.
Tomorrow is the 25th anniversary of the Wrightsville Beach Festival of Lights. A number of highly decorated boats tour the
harbor, after which there is a firework display. We may even put up a string of lights. We have the perfect anchoring spot for viewing the
events. The boats on the tour will go all around us. There may be 12 people aboard tomorrow evening for the viewing. I hope it isn't too
cold or rainy. Then we head south on Sunday morning - no, not all 12. It may be a while until I get decent internet again.
Charleston, SC. Yesterday morning, at Georgetown, SC there was ice on the deck when I went to hoist anchor - and it never really
warmed up. We had a good, but late walk around the town, and dinner the night before.
We made it almost to Charleston last night, but couldn't make the last bridge opening at 4PM by about 5 to 10 minutes. So we
anchored and had a leisurely start to Charleston this morning. Instead of bundling up with more and more clothes, they started coming
off (no, not all of them). It was warm and beautiful. Even the evening isn't too cold, but now we have lots of heat anyway.
The Charleston Maritime Center (843 853-3525) is very nice (but rocky when big ships go by), reasonably priced and very centrally
located. We could easily spend a solid week enjoying and exploring this city, but need to get south. We will have to see what we can
accomplish in two days. This is a great city to walk in, with lots to see, from waterfront, to old buildings, historic areas, museums, and
we'll have to find out what else. The next lengthy stop will be St Augustine, FL (I think). More boat projects (maybe install the
watermaker) and Janet goes home for a few(?) weeks. I will probably head further south in Florida, maybe exploring the ICW more.
The Festival of Lights in Wrightsville beach was great, and we were right in the middle of it. The boats all had to go around us since we
were at the end of the channel by the causeway. We had 8 people on board, and took advantage of the genset and heat. Then the wind
swung the stern around for a perfect showing of the fireworks display - it was especially good! When we left Wrightsville Beach
next morning, we fought strong current and 25 to 35 knot winds, right on the nose all day. The lowest wind speed was 15 and there were
gusts to over 40, so it was slow going, even with both engines running. We usually run just one engine, and go a bit slower, since this
cuts fuel by a guessimated 40% and engine maintenance by 50%. If we run both engines we run at lower rpm's (22-2500), but apparently
diesel engines like to be worked hard so we run the single engine at higher rpm's (26-2900). At times we were only managing 2.5 knots
with both engines at the higher rpm. It was a good day to pack it in early, and the next day we had a favorable current most of the day. I
don't know if there is a way to predict the currents in this part of the ICW, and even the locals only seem to guess at their own local area.
We try to not travel too fast, but maybe the vultures thought we were having lots of trouble. However, we even passed some powerboats.
Notice how calm the water can be. We even got a few sunrise opportunities. Notice how the bridges can be quite different - especially in
the high-rent Myrtle Beach vicinity.
The mist on the water after the freezing night at Georgetown was very pretty, and if you look closely,you might be able to see frost on
the grass. We anchored in a small channel outside of Charleston in time for a beautiful sunset.
Leaving Charleston, SC. Sorry, no photos from Charleston (very busy), but took lots as we were leaving to try to make up for it. Even
catamarans can run aground, or did they anchor there? The green land at the bottom of the chart is where they were.
Many of the bridges on the ICW need to be lifted or swung open to let taller boats pass. It used to be that you would sound your horn or
holler, or even just approach slowly and they would open for you. Many open on the hour, half hour, or not at all during rush hour.
Nowadays you call them on your VHF radio, but unfortunately, it is a different channel depending on which state you are in. This bridge
promptly answered my call, and I knew I had missed the 10AM opening and was requesting the 10:30 chance. There were two sailboats
milling around, fighting the current, still hoping for the 10 AM opening (at 10:15!). The bridge tender asked us to contact them to ask them
to call in. They had been trying to call on CH 13 (the channel used in North Carolina) and this bridge in SC (uses CH 9) wouldn't open for
them until they called. He certainly knew they wanted to get through.
Heading for Beaufort, SC and should arrive tomorrow. Then possibly offshore to St Augustine, FL?
Are we in paradise yet?
We had a great visit with Bill (prior crew) in Beaufort. The bridge there is broken, and only opens twice a day, at 10 AM and 4 PM. After
getting the anchor up and on the road well before sunrise we made it in plenty of time for the early opening. This gave plenty of time to
walk around the picturesque town (surprisingly small), watch the town Christmas parade, and join Bill and friends for a wonderful dinner.
The hospital in this town even has its own boat dock.
The weather report looked promising, so we headed out the next morning for an overnight sail down the coast to St. Augustine. At
least the weatherman was half right. The wind all day was 20 knots from the north, not 10 - 15 from the east. It faded for an hour or two,
then filled in at 20 to 25 knots from the southeast at night. Fortunately, we put a reef in the mainsail before the wind got too strong.
The problem was that the seas didn't know which direction to travel, and their confusion gave us a rough ride. At times it felt like we were
sailing a monohull when the boat heeled in some of the larger waves (not from the wind). A lexan door to a spice shelf slid open and a salt
shaker fell into the sink. Fuel cans in the cockpit slid to the starboard side of the cockpit. A few things in the cabin actually fell over! And
we actually had to hang on!
We managed to sail over 90% of the time, deciding to start an engine if our speed stayed below 5 knots during the lulls in the wind. During
the night we made fairly good time, but the waves slowed us a lot. The speed would build up to 8 or 9 knots, then a wave or two would
slam us down to 4.5 to 6 knots. We flew off a couple of large waves and slammed the hulls into the next one, but I still wonder what the
dreaded bridgedeck pounding is like.
It was a rough trip, but it was nice to sail a boat again, rather than motoring the ICW. That overnight sail would have taken at least three
full days on the ICW (daylight only).
Another delight was an encounter with about a dozen dolphins. The sunset was grand and it was almost dark when we saw and heard
the dolphins. We went to the bow net and watched them play in the bow waves. You could barely see them with their dark backs until
they showed their sides or splashed. It was great sport for about ten minutes. They would dash from one bow to the other, often coming
very close - an adolescent dolphin version of chicken?
We had a reservation way up the creek (not that creek, but we do have a paddle) in St. Augustine. The price, place and location are so
good (Oyster Creek Marina), I will be here for a month. Lots of projects to do, including install the watermaker. Too bad I didn't get the
SSB radio. It is less than a 10 minute walk to a supermarket, West Marine, Sailors Exchange, and Marine Supply. Historic downtown is
about a 20 minute walk. Right on the marina lot is a restaurant with a good happy hour, and a piano bar. We were there last night, and the
local volunteer regulars were amazingly good (at least many of them).
The good news however is that it is warm!!! It was 80 yesterday and cooled to 60 at night (but it might get to the 40's tonight). But no
more ice on the deck and having to bundle up all the time. I have the luxury of turning the heat on tonight.
It has been a glorious week in St. Augustine - and getting better. 70's and 80's in the daytime, and 50's and 60's at night. This is
another place where people came for a few days several months ago, and haven't managed to leave yet. There is quite a group of
liveaboards here. Gathering around the campfire the last few nights has been fun.
Watermaker installation is coming along nicely, albeit slowly. It is amazing that what should be very basic equipment just doesn't exist.
It has taken a long time to come up with alternative equipment, and then order it. I should have all the parts next week, and hope the
installation won't take too long to complete. I have been taking photos of the project and will publish them on the Picassa site with a link,
when done, for any who are contemplation the installation of a watermaker. Its a big project, made much more difficult by needing to sort
out how and where to run everything, not to mention finding accessories. I couldn't imagine trying to do this without easy access to a
variety of marine supplies. It is a 12V Spectra Cape Horn model watermaker.
I shouldn't have said anything about all the easy access. Yesterday, about 3 PM, three of my 5 parts resources were closed! One closes
early on Saturday, one is closed for the holidays, and the third didn't even list their hours. The good news is that I got the bike out, and
managed to cover and was able to cover the distance and get some fun exercise. I guess its back to West marine today, and if they have
a needed part in the warehouse, I might have it by Tues. It is an adapter to connect the boat pressurized water system to regular water
tubing of the watermaker.
THE MOST DANGEROUS PART OF SAILING/CRUISING!!
It hasn't been the storms, sharks, alligators, pirates or even approaching shore, but riding a bike along the streets, sidewalks, and
parking lots as you explore land.
Had company and a great time for the holidays, and was rescued from my projects. The watermaker is however installed - and runs.
For those who are considering the installation of a watermaker, particularly on a Leopard 40, here is a link to numerous photos. It is
installed in the compartment ahead of the owner's shower, the meter and diverter valve are by the sink in the head, and the circuit
breaker and switch for each pump are in the owner's cabin. (If you missed the earlier solar panel link, here is that link.)
With a few exceptions and a little morning fog, the weather has been beautiful.
Several nights ago, when it was particularly cold and there were extreme low tides, I was awakened at 2:30 AM by voices and footsteps.
A 60+ ft swordfishing boat had run aground right next to my boat, about 20 to 30 feet away. In their attempt to get to deeper water they
snagged a chain from an anchor somebody had set in the channel a few months ago the protect from an approaching hurricane. It had
wrapped around their propeller and stopped them dead. The two young crew (in wet suits, but without a hood or boots) finally managed to
cut it after getting somebody to bring one that was strong enough to cut the chain. Then they had to unwrap it. By this time they were
fighting the current and the boat was trying to drift away.
Doesn't kitesurfing look like fun?
Yesterday I just started the dingy engine and was startled by a huge splash behind me. I looked behind and saw where the water was
churning about 10 feet away. A fellow on a nearby boat said I startled a dolphin, and sure enough, there it was about 15 feet away. Two of
them stayed on my starboard for about a mile as I went down the river. They sure seemed friendly and they were smiling, but I didn't have
my camera, sorry. It is too late in the season to see Manatees. Maybe when I get south.
Have been busy with fun projects, including bags for the folding bikes, jerry can rack and cover, and a seat cushion with pockets for the
dinghy. Even got a hair trim.
Still in St Augustine, Fl, but "scheduled" to leave on Thurs for a slow meander south. Haven't been getting out much and must have
seemed pretty pathetic - but the bike riding and boat projects are fun. Got a wonderful tour of the Jacksonville area yesterday (thank you
Phyllis) almost as far north as St Marys, which is in GA. This was part of the ICW that i missed both up and down the coast. After walking
around Ferdinand Beach a while, downwind of the factories, maybe it wasn't too bad to miss.
Also visited an old plantation where about a hundred slaves were kept. How appropriate - two days before the inauguration of an African
Part of the trip was a ferry crossing the St Johns River, just east of Jacksonville, and checking out the beautiful natural marshland (notice
the towers in the background, and the weird bridge). Also take note - beware of the dangers of taking tree hugging too seriously. A
diehard tree hugger.
Back in Ft Lauderdale
We have arrived safely at Ft Lauderdale, having completed the circle. We got as far south as Key Largo, but the weather was
unseasonably cool. When the weather forecast suggested a brief opportunity to get back north before it turned unfavorable, we did just
Amazingly, warranty work has already started this morning (thank you). It was a surprise to learn that I need to pay dock fees to have
warranty work done, but at least there was a good break in the rate.
Sorry, but it will probably be several days before I get back to the web site with stories and photos of the tropical islands, manatees, and
dolphins. Dave and Jan - thanks for the visit, and I hope to see you out there somewhere.
The warranty work is progressing amazingly smoothly. It is time for me to get back into project work mode. I certainly won't have
everything done before leaving the country in March, but should at least have all the needed parts.
Bill and I had a great journey from St Augustine. Although the weather warmed up to a very comfortable level, the water didn't, so we
didn't do any swimming. After a late start we got only as far as Fort Matanzas, but also stopped early,giving a chance to explore the fort
and the beach. Next morning there was a beautiful mist, and frost on the deck, but it was toasty warm by noon.
We had lots of bridges to contend with, but they turned out to be fun. They opened on demand, so you would call and ask for an
opening,and just keep travelling at your cruising speed. They tell you they will open when you get closer and you don't even need to slow
down. It was a bit un-nerving at times, but if you use the chartplotter to give your arrival time, with the bridge as a waypoint, you realize
that they have lots of time to open the bridge. Indeed, we usually sped up at the last minute so they could minimize the time the bridge
After passing Daytona Beach, we spent the next night at New Smyrna, where we rode the bikes to explore and provision The framers
market had some good stuff, which Bill was able capitalize on). We tied to a dock where no overnight was allowed. However we were
"officially" deputized to be on manatee watch. A cold stressed baby manatee was followed to where we were, and the parks people and
marine biologists were searching in an attempt to rescue.
As with many places in the ICW, close attention to navigation is critical. Sometimes the channel shifts and very shallow water will be
found where it shouldn't be.
Next day on a short trip to Titusville (where we anchored in 5 ft of water) we saw hundreds of dolphins all around us, but still hadn't seen a
manatee. On route to Cocoa Beach, via the Overhaul Canal, there were forest fires up wind, forcing us to travel in the smoke and in the
falling ash. As we went through the canal, there was a new fire, which several minutes after we were through, erupted into an inferno.
Kennedy Space Center was also worth seeing.
Then we saw a moving ripple in the very calm water. Then a wide snout. The two more disturbances. We stopped the engine and drifted
back to where we saw a family of manatee - close, but not in a good position to photograph (maybe if I had my polarizing screen on the
camera?). A couple hours later the birds followed us for over an hour, right behind the hull which had the engine running. They would dive
into the water to pick up a morsel - fish bits from the "bassomatic" propeller?
Continued south to Vero beach (also called velcro beach, since so many people stick there). The bridge lights were nice.
We saw lots of manatee on the trip to Lake Worth, including a warning call from a bridge tender about a family of manatee right in front of
us as we were going through a bridge. Fortunately, we already saw them, but were too busy to get photos. Along the way we found a
nice spot to anchor at Ft Pierce in Faber Cove. Where the cruising guide and chart showed lots of water depth, we found a boat hard
aground. Needless to say, we went elsewhere and found Faber Cove, which wasn't even listed. Hobe Sound was a nice spot to anchor, in
spite of the close proximity to the ultra rich. I wouldn't trade Changing Spots for their mansions! We then did a wonderful offshore sail to
Ft Lauderdale (there are way too many bridges in this region, and too many are scheduled).
Just a A taste of Paradise
The trip from Ft Lauderdale to Miami has to be offshore since there is one bridge on the ICW which does not have 65 ft clearance. It must
have been designed by a dyslexic (lesdyxic?) engineer, since it is only 56 ft. There was a strong following wind and sea, so we were lazy
and only used the genoa sail, doing an easy 7.5 to 9 kts. Dolphins played in our wake for about 45 minutes. Some day I'll have to check
out the video I took, but here is a still photo. After a night anchored in Miami Beach between the islands, we headed to Key Biscayne, and
anchored a hundred feet from where we first anchored almost a year ago. Of course we had to travel through Stiltsville. After a night tied
to a seawall at Boca Chita (a national park), we headed south to Key Largo. We were thinking about anchoring around Angelfish creek,or
in the Atlantic to shelter from the NW winds, but put the sails up. The sailing, closehauled, was so great we continued all the way back
north to Key Biscayne and anchored in a very sheltered small bay. The weather forecast gave us the next day as the only favorable
conditions to head back to Ft Lauderdale for a long time, so we did it. The circle is closed.
Next month THE adventure starts. This has just been the introduction! Life is so grand.
There won't be much in the way of sailing adventures until late March, as I will be busy with the boat show, boat projects and a trip to
California and Texas. Then there will be the problem of high speed internet to update the website, so please be patient. I thank you for
your interest and encouragement.
Got a few photos to share, so will update a bit. Got the last big item at the Miami boat show - a hookah device for diving. It has a gas
powered compressor, and can support 2 divers with air by 100 ft hoses. Then I realized that 3 hrs on a tank of air could give the bends
(not a concern with one scuba tank), so also got a dive computer that you wear like a watch. Also got a new camera, which is
shockproof, and waterproof down to over 30 ft. It will even do brief video underwater, so now I just have to learn how to use it. Bought a
new computer, since may items will be extremely difficult to get once we leave. It has MS Vista, which doesn't work with many
applications, so I am in the process of setting up a dual boot system with WXP. Actually it is done, but I need to find and load more of the
drivers before it is fully functional. Installing the SSB radio will need to wait a while. All set for a trip to California and Texas for almost 2
weeks. Then the Bahamas!?
Also managed to unload about 200 lbs of stuff from the boat, and have started working on the next box. The photo shows an empty bunk
which had been piled full.
Took the dinghy for a tour of Ft L, which is the closest that North America has to Venice. After we got back to the boat, I noticed shapes
in the water about 20 feet from the boat in an area where all kinds of junk collects. We got a close look at 4 manatee. One was small,
and one had nasty gouges from a propeller wound. During a ride today we saw several iguanas basking in the warm sun. I don't think
they are part of the security system. Yes, you read it right - it finally feels like the tropics.
March 1, 2009
Still at Lauderdale Marine Center in Fort Lauderdale. Much of the warranty work has been done, and we will probably discuss the
remainder when I get back from my trip to California and Texas.
Haven't really started the SSB radio installation yet, but doing some planning. Got another 85 ft of anchor chain, for a total of 250 ft. Also
installed an LED navigation light in the bow fixture, but the stern light bulb is a different model!? I also installed an LED anchor light, which
was an interesting experience at the top of the mast. Sorry, but I forgot to take my camera (next time, I promise).
Much of my time has been taken with trying to set up my new computer with a dual boot install. It came with Vista, which just doesn't
work for a lot of things, so I made a computer disk partition on which I installed Windows XP. Hopefully this will give the best of both
The weatherman has threatened thunderstorms this afternoon, which is fine after the magnificent weather of the last weeks. Folding
bikes are great for exploring.
There is a bit of a story about these photos. A craftsman working on a nearby mega-yacht feeds many of the local cats. One night he left
the cat food container out on the deck and had a bit of a shock when he opened the lid the next morning. (Yes, it had somehow gotten the
lid back on!) It probably ate so much it couldn't move, or might have thought it had died and gone to heaven, since it stayed there all day.
Notice the photos from the Florida mountains. Not really, they are the California Sierras, east of Sacramento, near Reno. Maybe the
drought will be over soon. They had lots of rain and plenty of snowfall, but it was beautiful when I was there. Then a visit to the Richmond
Yacht Club, and a view of the Bay Area from the hills. Had a nice visit to the clinic I used to work at, and checked out their new facilities.
Taxes are done!
Tomorrow it is off to Texas. I shipped 177# of stuff back to Texas last March, and another 215 # this Feb. Time to unpack it, and then find
a few items to bring to the boat - a bike helmet, a belt sander, and an ice cream maker. Changing Spots is much more organized now, and
ready to go, but I still need to install the SSB radio.
I am now in Texas, where I just got my copy of Jan/Feb Multihulls magazine, 2009. While flipping through the pages, I saw a familiar
photo. What a surprise to find it was attached to my whole (rather lengthy) article on anchoring. I wasn't expecting the whole thing to be
published (if any), but I had fun writing it anyway.
Have been back in Ft Lauderdale for over a week and we are getting ready to head to the SE Carib for hurricane season. Haven't
determined the route yet, but since it is so late in the season, we will probably take a fairly direct route, when we can find a suitable
weather window. It is mainly an uphill journey, but the return trip (don't know where yet) next fall should be easy.
The SSB is installed, but not working yet. Once it is running I will have a new email address for simple email. I hope to be able to check
and send even while sailing, but there can be no attachments, and each message must be started new, without all the crap that gets
attached to email replies. That said, I will still keep my email addresses, but will not be able to check them until we get somewhere with
internet access. Soon I will cancel my phone service.
Most of the provisioning is done and carefully stowed. I have made a bag for the gennaker sail. I plan to attach it to the bow of the boat so
it will be ready to fly, easily. It is such a large sail it takes up a huge space and is difficult to get out and put away in a locker. But it sure
helps the boat move in light air!!! I found and ordered (used) a "chicken chute" which is a relatively small, heavy weight spinnaker for
downwind sailing in heavy wind, with even large seas. You set it between the two hulls, and don't need the mainsail. That eliminates the
concern about a dangerous mainsail gybe, and also lifts the bows. This is unthinkable for a racing boat, since this is no aerodynamic lift
from the sails, just safety.
Most of the warranty work is done, but I have found things work so much more smoothly when I am here to participate. Besides, it helps
me learn more about the boat.
The shakedown cruise is over. THE REAL ADVENTURE BEGINS!! Hopefully, by this time next week, we will be out in the Atlantic Ocean,
well past the Bahamas.
At anchor at Norman Island, BVI
The passage was spectacular. What an introduction, what a welcome, what an arrival?!!!
We left Lauderdale Marine Center in Ft Lauderdale 4/4 about 3:30 in the afternoon. A big cheer after passing the last bridge.
We motorsailed at first, and even had a little navy visit. Somewhere in the Gulf stream, at dusk, the fishing line started to sing. What a
wonderful surprise to catch a 15-20 lb blackfin tuna. Filleted and in the fridge in less than half an hour and delicious the next day. Seared
in sesame seeds.
After just over a day of motorsailing (one engine only) the wind picked up enough to sail, then it picked up some more. At first we were
excited to hit 9 kts. For safety, we put a reef in the mainsail at dusk, and by morning put in another. Then depower the genoa to slow the
boat from flying off the waves. The winds were 20-25 kts with gusts to 30. We were doing 10-11 kts. We all did fine, but it wasn't a
comfortable 12 hrs. We continued to have favorable winds almost all the way.
Weather forecasts were from Herb via the SSB radio, and I managed to learn how to get the modem set up on the SSB and download GRIB
files so we could do some of our own weather reporting.
We won't talk about the Mahimahi, but it was much too big to fit in our bucket. Much of our night sailing was in company of a full moon.
One night as we sailed by a gentle rain, I saw something i have never seen, nor heard of. I called it a moonbow. It was a silver rainbow
from the moonlight! Sorry, I couldn't get it to show up in photos. The radar image is us sailing between two cells in a rainstorm.
Sunrises and sunsets were spectacular.
For several hours we had to heave to in order to slow the boat to time our arrival for daylight. It was perfect.
We could see the islands of the BVI as the sun rose on Easter morning. The clouds were rimmed with gold. As we approached the
anchorage, a shower started, rinsing the layers of salt off the boat. The bonus was our arrival rainbow.
Checking in to Virgin Gorda was simple, and about $80 (with overtime charges for weekends). Although we had acquired extra fuel tanks
so we carried 150 gallons of diesel, we only used 38. It was a total of 53 hrs of engine time - 3 of which were for getting out of Ft
Lauderdale (both engines running). The journey of about 1200 nautical miles took about 7.5 days.
Getting used to walking on land wasn't easy, especially in enclosed spaces where everything seemed to rock. A swimsuit is all the attire
needed now, day or night, and the breeze keeps everything comfortable.
The baths, at Virgin Gorda was a fun walk and snorkel. Getting back into a dinghy isn't as easy as it may seem.
One absolute luxury is the ice cream maker. It makes a great fresh lemon sorbet. We didn't make it to the
reggae festival, since it wasn't even starting at 9:30, and we were still somewhat sleep deprived from the passage.
We have since visited Tortola, Normans island, and Jost Van Dyke in the BVI,as well as the USVI, but the photos will have to wait. So
much to do in paradise, and internet is still sketchy. We plan to explore St Johns, in the USVI while we await a weather window to St
Martin, which is upwind - and the winds and seas have been more than we want to deal with.
On a US Park Service mooring at Francis Bay, St John, USVI.
Anchored in Coral bay, St John, USVI. This is a sheltered bay, with a small town, but is our departure port for the Leeward islands. That is
the northern chain of islands in the Caribbean. We were planning to go to St Martin, but the trade winds are fairly strong and right on the
nose. The forecast is to diminish a bit, and we may head to some of the more southern (slightly) islands for a better wind angle (safer and
faster, AND much more comfortable). How about Antigua, or St Kitts, on the way to Grenada? Probably this weekend. One good thing
about Coral bay is the cheap and entertaining bus service to Cruz bay, where we signed out of the country for customs & immigration
today. Unfortunately, George, and June (who joined us a week ago in St Thomas) are not able to join us further.
After we left Virgin Gorda, we headed to Tortola with a nice downwind (slow) sail. We got to try the chicken chute for the first time. I think
it has lots of potential for dead downwind sailing in strong winds, but may benefit from a snuffer. It is an old, used, heavy, symmetrical
spinnaker. It came with a big red letter "H"on it. I wonder what it could stand for. Just set it between the hulls and don't bother with the
mainsail - and the risk of the dreaded gybe.
Road Town, Tortola is a fairly busy place, with lots of charter businesses and cruise ships. The anchorage is sheltered, but rolly from all
the boat traffic. We stopped in to visit the Moorings at their very nice, new, upscale facility. I was interested to know what is the
relationship of Leopard owners, and the Moorings charter company in all their facilities. Several sales people talk as if this is a big plus to
owning a Leopard. They were friendly and polite, but didn't know what I was taking about. Perhaps if I pushed harder and went up the
chain of command I would have gotten answers. Hey, I was there to enjoy paradise.
We headed to Norman island, but the bay we were planning to anchor (the Bight) was full of mooring balls, so were left and found a
beautiful, sheltered calm bay (Benures) where we did some nice snorkeling. The next day we sailed for Jost Van Dyke, but considered
Soper's Hole, until we went by it and saw the crowds of boats. Jost Van Dyke is notorious for the beach bars, including Foxys, and also
the soggy bottom. We anchored in Great Bay and hiked to White bay to catch all the remaining bars.
A friend of George kindly gave us the grand tour of the island, including a visit to the bubbling pool, and a drive over the top of the island on
dirt roads. Little Jost Van Dyke was a pretty sight.
Then it was a matter of officially leaving JVD, and entering the USA at Cruz bay, USVI. After signing in we crossed the channel to Red
Hook, St Thomas. We managed a bus trip, provisioning and a bit of a visit, but the anchorage was too rolly to want to spend much more
time there. We then went to Caneel bay, St John, home to a rather upscale hotel, and had a chance to visit Cruz bay some more.
Again, the boat traffic made the anchorage too rolly to be comfortable. The off to beautiful, peaceful Francis bay, in the national park for
two nights. Then it was time to start seriously watching weather and be able to go if we get a weather window. Here we wait in Coral bay.
Its interesting that some of the monohulls find this bay too rolly, but the fairly strong wind keeps the boat heading into the wind and the
boat rocks up and down, which is comfortable, almost soothing, as opposed to rocking sideways.
Tomorrow a hike in the nearby national parks, Friday another exciting bus ride for a dollar to Cruz bay (eat your heart out, Disney), and it
looks like good conditions for leaving this weekend.
At anchor in Ballast bay, St Kitts. It is the second night here, with another squall tonight, with winds 25 to 30 knots.
We left Coral bay, USVI, a day earlier than planned, since there was a narrow weather window. We did the hike to Waterlemon bay, and
the site of an old home and a sugar mill.
Then we went into Cruz bay for some last minute mini provisioning. We got a ride to town from some kind and friendly people from
Minnesota, in an old jeep.
Next morning after rechecking weather, cancelling the cellphone and trying to check internet, we hit the road. The conditions seemed too
good to be true - a perfect wind speed from a perfect direction. Of course it was too good to be true. By late afternoon the wind was light
and on the nose. After dark it was shifting enough that sometimes you could sail your course, and sometimes you couldn't. The seas
also became confused (but we didn't).
Around sunrise we decided to stop at St Kitts, rather than sailing for the next 10 hrs to Antigua. For the several days we were here, we
never saw the top of the large mountain.
Basseterre is a nice little town, and the people were friendly. Customs & immigration was easy (and$12), except for the pass to Nevis the
next day. We waited over an hour for them to show up. Everything, except KFC (and church) was closed on Sunday, and Monday was a
holiday. Off we went to anchor for the night in one of the bays the cruising guide said was good, and protected. No sooner did we have
the anchor down and the boat settled, when the rain started and the wind howled. With the windshield up we barely noticed the wind,
and it was quite calm. The rain is great for rinsing the salt off the boat, and someday, when I make the huge sun awning for the bow of the
boat, it will also be a rain catchment device.
We had a great hike and the view was great. The terrain was rugged enough that even the goats had trouble. We are going to stay
around here and Nevis for several days, waiting for the wind and squalls to settle down. We have signed up with Chris Parker for his
weather reports on the SSB radio. I can't figure out how to recognize squalls on the grib files, which I can download on the SSB radio.
They are great for the overall wind direction and strength.
On a mooring in Nevis (assoc with St Kitts), off Double Deuce restaurant and bar, using their internet - from the boat! Highly
recommended! A short dinghy ride to the town of Charlestown, and very short to Double Deuce on the beach. They even offer tours
(free!!??) for the cruisers. A nice town, with interesting historic buildings, and wonderful to wait a few more day for the weather.
We are waiting for the winds to settle a bit before heading off. The weather pattern of strong winds, predominantly from the south of east,
makes our anticipated trip to Antigua unlikely, so we will head further south, so that we can get to Grenada in plenty of time. Guadeloupe
next? We will go right by Montserrat, where we should be able to view the damage from the recent, and still active volcano.
I know you'll enjoy this link for a photo/video montage of our passage from Ft Lauderdale to Virgin Gorda and beyond. Thanks George!
Cruising is so difficult - but somebodies got to do it!!! What do you mean, we don't?
Still on the mooring and quite enjoying Nevis. The calamari at Double Deuce is great, as is the friendly helpful atmosphere. Their web site
isn't running yet. Although they will help get the dinghy up on the beach, it is a hassle, and gets sand in the dinghy. They often monitor
channel 16 (but haven't tried to call). The WiFi signal is iffy from the boat, and I don't like taking the laptop via the sandy beach. That said,
their dinghy access seems the best, other than the dock in town, and they are closest to town.
The tour was fun, and for me, a major highlight was seeing monkeys in the wild. Sorry, no photos.
We are sighed out and have a weather window to head to Bequia, since it has a better sailing angle than the other islands. It is one of the
great places, but is further than we anticipated. It may be a short weather window and we aren't sure we can make it comfortably. It is
so convenient to be able to head upwind to a closer island, in their wind shadow if we need to.
The islands are of volcanic origin, and on many you can still see the cone, and how the mountains "attract" the rain clouds and encourage
agriculture. The market was full of fresh local produce this morning (even after we left!). The town is full of history, and historic buildings.
It was the site of the first resort hotel in the western hemisphere, due to the wonderful "curative" properties of the mineral hotsprings.
There are several baths in the original building - maybe privacy, while being in the dark was the cure. The new version certainly lacks the
privacy. Ever seen a cashew nut growing? I wouldn't have expected an old synagogue.
There was also the church of the marriage of Lord Horatio Nelson. The sinister side of Nevis was its central role as a main delivery and
sales point for the slave trade. Our guide shows us the alley where they were herded off the ships, then to the market. Notice the broken
glass on top of the walls. Many of the old sugar plantations are now hotels, with lots of artifacts. The local small boats are colorful, and
are not just appreciated by people.
At anchor in the Tobago Cays. WOW!! We thought we would anchor here for one night as we meander south, but it looks like it might be
three - and this was even after several rains squalls rolled through. It is beautiful, and we met some great people. Tonight it appears we
are anchored totally exposed to the full brunt of the Atlantic trade winds, but the reefs block the waves. We have a nice breeze, but no big
waves - just gentle ones for rocking to sleep. The reefs, the fish, the small islands, the turtles!!! No, I don't miss my aquarium.
We had a two night (about 46 hr sail) to Bequia, where we spent two nights and arrived early in the morning. The weather ranged from a
wonderful power reach to 20 knots of wind on the nose. With the help of the radar we managed to dodge several rain squalls, but did
such a good job, we didn't even get the salt rinsed off the deck. On the way we passed Montserrat, which is still suffering from a recent
volcano. Sorry, but I didn't want to go too close to get great photos, but I hope you can see the cloud of gas/steam arising from a big
chunk of the island.
Bequia is the northern most island of the St Vincent Grenadines, and quite friendly and safe. Unfortunately they cancelled the steel drum
concert on Thurs. The town is small, but fairly well supplied. The boat boys come out to sell their wares, but in a very positive way, not
with the aggressiveness we have heard about. Some have gotten creative in their methods of propulsion. We found a few caves at one
of the snorkeling beaches, and we managed to see the Moonhole, a group of cave dwellings, on the way out as we left.
Planning to leave Tobago Cays today for the 4 mile trip to Union Island. This is where we will check out of St Vincent Grenadines. ( We
heard a rumor of a fuel barge there with dirt cheap diesel fuel.) Then it is off to check in Carriacou, in the Grenadan Grenadines. Not sure
if we will touch on the small islands of Petit St Vincent and Petit Martinique on the way to Grenada.
Tobago Cays is beautiful. We came for one night and have spent three.
The reefs are great to snorkel. It was my first time to see a shark when snorkeling. It was over five feet long and after the initial shock,
was still a thrill - especially since it was going the other way!!! Unfortunately in the second or two it took me to think about it, it was too far
away to catch on a photo. Everybody says they aren't dangerous, but sometimes curious. RIGHT - what are they curious about - tastes
Diving with turtles was fun too, but lacked the drama of the shark. At least they stuck around for the photos. The islands are pretty to
walk around on - bet you didn't know that iguanas grew on trees?
You sure meet great people when cruising. They are all very willing to share their experiences.
At anchor in Prickly Bay, Grenada. What a wonderful place. Good thing too, since I plan to spend a lot of time in the area. A good place to
spend hurricane season, work on boat projects, and explore - this island, and the nearby ones! If a hurricane threatens the area (very
unlikely) then it is an easy sail to Trinidad. My original plan was to go there, and Venezuela, but even the cruisers who used to go
regularly, are not.
Alive and very well in Grenada. Staying at the Grenada Yacht Club, doing boat projects. The central location also makes it easier and
much more fun. Staying at a dock is very convenient for doing projects, since you have lots of electricity, and don't need to load up the
dinghy to go anywhere. My old laptop is trying to die, but it may not be terminal (the USB terminals are dying). Projects have included
moving the SSB tuner and antenna, which initially didn't go where I thought would be the best place because it was way too big a project -
and it was. Installed two more solar panels, and at times have seen 40 amps going into the batteries. Maybe now I can keep up with the
stupid freezer (even after putting more insulation in.) But the ice cubes and cold beverages are worth it!!!
In spite of obsessive battery care, I am concerned that these new AGM batteries may have lost some capacity. Yeah, right, you shouldn't
drain them more than 50%, and should FULLY charge them at least weekly. How many hours would you need to run an engine with a
dumb alternator regulator (automotive type) to top up the last 15% of battery capacity. Eight hours doesn't do it! So now I also just
ordered a wind generator (a quiet one). The new solar panels should give plenty of power without it, but now I should rarely need to run
the diesel generator. I also bought a battery monitor, instead of the wild assed guess meter that came with the boat. It was shipped June
6, and the good news was that it was delivered. The bad news was that it went to GERmany, then GREat Britain, where it sat for a week.
Some day it might make it to GREnada. (And the address was correct.) USPS doesn't seem to care at all that they screwed up.
It will take a while before I get a chance to add photos, such as the underwater sculpture, the crater lake, the seven sisters waterfalls,
and the monkeys.
Still alive and very well. Sorry, but it will be a while until I will be able to update the website.
Alive and well in Trinidad!!! Much larger with more options than Grenada - but with some security concerns. We walked the last several
blocks to the market, and were stopped by a police car with 4 heavily armed officers, complete with body armor. They strongly
suggested that we not walk any further in that direction and to take the maxi taxi (an inexpensive minivan bus).
Still enjoying Trinidad, and getting ready to head to one of the tributaries of the Orinoco River in Venezuela. Have finished the bug "proof"
enclosure for the cockpit, so we will have to wait and see how to stuff all the gaps. I probably won't do too much swimming there,
although they say that piranhas, don't live up to their reputation. I think I'll let others test that theory.
Then it is back to Trinidad to have some work done on the boat before heading west - not north as previously mentioned. There are lots of
wonderful Islands to visit along the north coast of South America, although some are too dangerous for my liking. Maybe Panama early in
When the boat is hauled, I hope to be able to update the website, and show a few photos. However, the website software is getting a bit
Changing Spots is on the hard at Peakes yard in Trinidad for some boat projects, including a new bottom job. It may take longer than
I hope to be able to update the website soon, including an adventure up the Manamo River in Venezuela. We even had personal
experience with man eating piranha, and it was quite tasty! The problem is the time, internet speed, and phone service needed for the
learning curve to change the website format - and this page is getting way too long and getting longer.
NEWS FLASH! We found a problem, and I am trying to work with R&C to resolve it. Do they really stand behind their product? Stay
About to leave Trinidad, and head west. Because of the dangers of the north coast of Venezuela, the plan is to go quite a distance north,
and then turn left to Los Testigos.
Still waiting to hear from R&C, but they are listening, and it looks hopeful.
Where do you start to catch up when you are so far behind? Especially with so many adventures. I'll try to be more or less chronological,
but you'll need to check my Facebook if you want to find out about my spooky Halloween Hash House Harriers adventure which has made
me quite well known in parts of Trinidad (only the good parts).
Besides the few photos here, I have posted many more, with this link, on Picasa.
I enjoyed Grenada, and the people were great, but it is a small island, and after arriving in Trinidad, I realized that I enjoy the increased
variety. The anchorages were fine, with trade winds keeping things cool (at least not terribly hot) and there lots of other cruisers to meet
and interact with. But these anchorages are isolated from the rest of the island and people.
I spent about six weeks at the Grenada Yacht club, which was magnificently located in the heart of St. Georges. It was very sheltered
there in the Lagoon, but that also meant that the trade winds were blocked. But AHHHH, blessed electricity, and air conditioning. The
biggest problem there was that it was a stern tie to the dock, and the bow is tied to a buoy. Take into account that there is a tide, and
Changing Spots has a large solar panel array, and dinghy hanging off the back, and how do you step on the dock. I had never done a
stern tie (except a partial one in Hampton, VA, (but they had a small dock on the side, and a post for the bow), so it was great that Jim
from Bees Knees was there to help. I thought it was going to be a side tie, which I should be able to manage singlehanded, especially with
help on the dock. It took a while and a lot of tweaking to get the right distance from the dock and to build a boarding plank (from old dock
With the problems of the batteries barely keeping up with the huge demand of the freezer, I decided to really power up. I got a battery
monitor, to use instead of the wild assed battery guesser that came with the boat. It calculates the amps into and out of the battery bank.
I also got two more (but smaller) solar panels, and set them up on the hardtop, aiming in different directions. I also got a wind generator,
but think it would have been far superior to have spent the money on more solar panels. But I didn't want to take up any more hardtop
space – such a dilemma. I finally achieved electrical independence, unless it was an overcast day. I think if I had another battery (for a
total of four), I could go two days of heavy overcast as long as we don't use much more electricity, ie, no computers. Replacing the cabin
and cockpit lights with LED's also helped a lot.
The awning was a huge project, and has now been tested in fairly strong winds, and it is great. It works fine as a rain catchment also, but
it took a while to get the best location for the holes. I was hoping to filter the water before it went into the tank, but the flow was way too
slow. Now I let the rain rinse the awning with several gallons, then start collecting. I put a water filter in the boats plumbing, replacing the
small screen. Good idea, now that I have seen what is trapped in the filter. I also like to run an ozone generator in the water tanks every
week, and no bleach.
Also made a small awning for one of the side windows, and it helps a lot. You would think that with the shade screens, and the dark
plastic there shouldn't be much heat getting through. Then finished the screens for the top part of the cockpit, and use them a lot. Then
there was the helm protection made with clear HD plastic.
Did some hikes in Grenada, including around Crater lake, which was a mud slog if you weren't careful – we were. Then it was to the
Seven Sisters waterfalls. It was nice that it wasn't so hot at the higher elevations, and quite a workout. It is interesting to walk around St
George's, with lots of old building, some of which are still damaged by the hurricanes. Most of the big churches lost their roofs, so it
appears that the weather gods were non-denominational. There is an old fort you can just wander through, but it lacks any information
about its history.
I did two tours with Cutty. He has a van (taxi), and does a large variety of tours and is quite helpful to the boaters. The tours included
some history, and trips to nutmeg and cocoa processing plants, with stops along the way to give a chance to test the various fruits and
veggies that are in season. A highlight was the rum distillery. It has the oldest operating water wheel in the western hemisphere, and has
characteristics that I think Disney copied.
The underwater sculptures were fascinating, needing two visits.
Then it was off to Trinidad.
Lots more photos on Picasa.
You travel at night for an early morning arrival, which Although reportedly very dangerous, it was not a risk for the visiting boater. They
just kill each other.
Trinidad is much larger than Grenada, with much more cultural and ethnic diversity. There is a much better variety of food, and music.
Many of the street and small booth vendors have very tasty local dishes, but it is hard to find out what they are. Some of the favorite items
sell out very quickly every day. What I don't understand is why they don't make more of the favorites. The anchorages aren't nearly as
nice as Grenada, but it is a good place to get things done, and there is lots to do. As I mentioned earlier, there some areas that you just
don't go, but we have never felt in danger.
We stayed at the anchorage at TTSA (Trinidad Tobago Sailing Association), and for a reasonable fee could use their facilities, including
showers dinghy dock and on shore low speed internet. There are lots of cruisers to interact with, and locals too. A nice group of people!
Of course there is a restaurant and bar, and activities for the cruisers at least two nights a week. The music has been amazingly
excellent. We anchored way out in the bay, where the water was cleaner, since I can only survive the heat by a refreshing rinse in the
water periodically. Also, because of the prevailing wind, any boats that drag anchor will go the other way.
Once we had the boat projects under control we took a break and went to an island called Chacachacare. This is a beautiful place that
had been a leper colony, with all the building left behind. Interestingly, it was crowded with boats, and we had a tough time getting the
anchor to set. (And this is the new, super, supersized anchor!) Through the chain you could feel the anchor skidding over a hard surface
in gravel. The second night we found a beautiful sheltered bay, and finally managed to get the anchor to set. We took advantage of the
nice water to get out the hookah type dive compressor to play. Our play was cleaning the boat bottom, and it was actually fun! The
barnacles needed to be dealt with every three weeks, but we had plans for them.
Jesse James is the local cruisers friend and advocate here, with his taxi, and tours, and answers to questions. We did a tour of the La
Brea Pitch lake at the south end of the island. I think this tar is at the other end of the oil well spectrum from natural gas. This is a whole
lake of tar that they mine and use for roads. Bubbles of methane gas periodically burst up through the surface. There were also tours of
Indian (as in from the country India) cultural events. They were brought in as indentured servants after slavery was abolished, and most
stayed, and prospered. Good thing I like curry.
Recently I did a trip overnight (the first night off the boat since last March) to Asa Wright bird sanctuary nature preserve. Several of us
were going to rent a car if needed, but Jesse came through. It was worth the trip alone, but it also included a trip by skiff into the Caroni
Swamp. I had already seen huge flocks of scarlet ibises up close in Venezuela, but the two boa constrictors in the trees were
We considered going to Venezuela – the safe parts – but only if we could make the cockpit bugproof, and make a rainproof windscoop.
Probably the most difficult job was the bug “proof” enclosure for the whole cockpit, which entailed using screen-like material to close in
the bottom part of the cockpit. The idea was to then stuff foam into the join areas to make it really “proof”. I hope I don't see bugs so bad
that we really need it. Didn't in Venezuela, but it was reassuring to know we had it. The rainproof windscoop didn't work because we
oriented to the water current and not the wind, and it wasn't really needed since the rain was usually in the afternoon.
We left for the Manamo river in Venezuela at sunrise, and had a spectacular sail, using the gennaker most of the way. With our nice clean
bottom (the boat's!) we did an easy 6-7 knots in 8-9 knots of wind, and picked up to 8-9 knots boat speed later. We (wisely) took it down
with an approaching squall, even though it didn't seem to have much wind in it. When the wind got above 15 knots we also furled the
genoa, leaving only the mainsail when the wind briefly hit 30. After we got past that one, we could see another pursuing us. We took
down the main, and had an easy sail with just the genoa, which is relatively small, and easy to douse if the wind gets too much. When we
got close to the huge oil equipment, we knew we were in Venezuela. First stop, Pedernales, where there is a local coast guard base
where we could check in. They were great, made us feel welcome, and it was the simplest check in ever, although were were probably
not officially in the country per customs and immigration.
Absolutely fascinating! Houses built on stilts over the water, many without walls, dugout canoes..... We wandered into town and
struggled with our limited Spanish, but the locals were very helpful. Some oil workers, who were fluent in English, very kindly gave us a
bit of an introduction to the area and Venezuela.
The next day we were off to anchor near Ibis island. Guess what was there? No they weren't, but they arrived later. For almost two
hours, huge flocks of scarlet ibises started arriving to perch in the nearby trees. We were as close as we felt they were comfortable with
our presence, and tried to be quiet. Around sunrise, it was even more impressive as most left all at once, darkening the sky. It is
interesting that their feathers are exactly the same color as African gray parrot tail feathers.
We decided to make a fairly quick trip up the river and see what was there, and planned to explore more on the way back. As we went up
the river the terrain evolved from mangrove swamp to jungle, to plains. There was a tide (3 feet) all the way up the river, with lots of
current (2 knots), so we timed our travel to go with the tide current. There are no roads, and all travel is by boat. The river is huge and at
places along the bank we would find indian homes or small settlements. They are Warao indians (canoe people) and they would paddle
out to greet us and hold out their wares to sell or barter. Even more fascinating is that it was often young children expertly paddling
dugout canoes. And no, I am not making this up. We had stocked up on trading goods, such a pieces of fabric cloth, water colors,
colored pencils, and booklets in Port of Spain city in Trinidad.
I understand that the government gives every Warao family funds for an outboard motor. Some extended families may pool resources
and also get a fiberglass boat. Gas is dirt cheap here, but oil to mix with it for the 2 cycle engines is expensive.
We spent some time anchoring and exploring on our own, using the dinghy to explore small channels. With help we found howler
monkeys in a tree, but they were quiet. When they howl it is an hauntingly penetrating sound. They compete with the parrots for making
the most noise. We found lots of toucans, and a sloth, which looked like a big termite nest in the tree. But I had never seen a termite nest
with a hole in it. When we went back to look closer we could see that it had a face, and eventually it slowly started moving. We never
found any snakes.
We visited two ecotourism lodges, which are set up for visitors, but weren't very busy. They were very hospitable, and helped us
understand to area and people since they spoke English. Ramon, a worker and guide at the Boca De Tigre lodge took us on a tour in the
mangrove swamp – at low tide. We still needed high rubber boots, and long pants and long sleeve shirts. His Spanish wasn't much better
than ours but he was an expert at communication, teaching us how the Warao indians used the plants in the forest. Fresh palm heart is
quite tasty, even without salt, oil, or vinegar. It is amazing what he can do with a machete and tree parts. The problem was that when he
stopped to show us something, the previously barely tolerable mosquitoes swarmed en masse. The mosquito repellent ( the weak stuff
from Trinidad) did nothing. We had the privilege of trying an ancient Warao indian mosquito repellent remedy. You rub your hands on a
termite mound, then rub this on your body. This also included some crushed termites. The resin odor gave me hope that there might be
value to this remedy; but even this placebo aspect did nothing in our case study of three.
He took us to an area where they had built a school and a playing field. It was about the size of a basketball court, and they played soccer
on it. Back at his home, we met the extended family and did face painting of the kids with watercolors.
Fishing for piranha was interesting. At the end of the small dock we were fishing, and on the other side the kids and dogs were swimming
and splashing in the water. Fishing gear included a stick with about 6 feet of line, with a nail for a weight, about two inches of wire and a
single hook. You put meat or fish on the hook and put it in the water. When it gets near the bottom you vigorously splash by hitting the
water with the rod several times – like an animal in distress. You can feel them tug at the bait, and before long you need to feed them
some more bait.
Further up the river we visited, and spent considerable time at the Orinoco Delta Lodge. (www.orinocodelta.com) We did a tour through
them, with Alexi, by high speed powerboat to an area where it was cooler, and the water was almost black, rather than brown. The tour
there was almost mosquito free, but I cannot imagine why. For some reason, that area doesn't have many mosquitoes.
Man eating fish
We actually caught a piranha (only one) and took it back to a Waroa home, and branch of the lodge, where it was cooked. The cooking
fire was built up on logs above the log floor (remember the whole house is on stilts). Mud and rocks lined the logs, and the fire was on top
of the rocks. The roof didn't leak at all, and it was thoroughly tested by one rainstorm. By the way, the man eating fish was me, and it was
We made good friends with the people at the lodge and had long interesting discussions over cold beverages. We swapped garden
plants, and ended up with a large plant inventory, and a large bunch of green bananas to ripen hanging in the cockpit. Thank again,
Orinoco Delta Lodge.
The biggest disappointment of this trip was that our fuel tanks were almost full. Fortunately we still had the jerry cans, now empty, from
Ft Lauderdale. Further up the river at the small town of Uracoa, there are power lines crossing the river. We were warned of this and had
no intention of trying to pass under them. Several locals rushed out in boats to warn us about them, seeing our mast. But nobody could
tell us how high they were. This was where we planned to anchor but the water was 90 feet deep. We anchored on the other side (the
inside of the bend) where the water was only 25 feet deep. Just as we started to lower the anchor, river dolphins started to jump. We
never got close enough when they jumped to confirm it, but they are apparently pink underneath. Once we got the anchor set, we looked
toward the commotion, and saw a cattle drive – across the river, being driven by men in boats. We had been out of the jungle several
miles now, and were amazed to see roads, with vehicles. Just up a narrow river channel was a gas station, where we filled up the jerry
cans with diesel (about 60 gallons). I brought out the cash to pay and they laughed when I handed them $20 US. It is difficult to
understand the money, since they changed it by dropping a few zeros, but many people still talk about so many thousands of Bolivars. My
limited Spanish didn't help. I never determined how much I paid, since they took a small amount of Bolivars from my hand – and gave me
change! They said I could still give the twenty to the woman cashier if I wanted to. After topping the tanks I went back to get 15 gallons
more for 3 Bolivars, about the price of a cold beer, or $0.75 US.
I am in the process of finishing an article about this trip, and trying to decide which photos to remove, and which magazine to send it to. It
is so difficult to remove photos of young Indian children paddling dugout canoes.
Back in Trini.
Back in Trinidad to have the boat hauled and get work done. While on the hard, you don't need the dinghy, so it was a good time to get it
worked on. I had a cover (called chaps) made, to protect it from the environment. It is bright yellow with blue at the wear points. Certainly
not a stealth boat, but will be easy to recognize.
Some of the fabric we got went for a cabin face lift.
Now back at TTSA, still in Trinidad, getting ready to head west. Provisioning is done, and a new SSB antenna is done, and large wheels for
hauling the dinghy up onto a sandy beach, or over coral are installed.
Pinch me!! Is it real?
For more photos, please click on this Picasa link.
We made it to the Aves. It was after an exciting overnight from Trinidad to Los Testigos. Checked in with the Coast Guard and they gave
us 48 hours, to go to Margarita to check in to Venezuela. Way too dangerous from all the stories we have heard. So we then went to
Blanchilla, which was very nice snorkeling, but rather rolly. That was an FAST overnight sail, with lots of squalls, using just the main with
a double reef. We planned a sunrise arrival, so you can see the coral, and not anchor on it. Instead we were set to arrive at 2 AM, so had
to slow down and take the scenic route.
Then it was a lazy overnight sail of about 170 miles to the Aves. Played with the chicken chute, but have some tweaking to do, and just
before arrival, I rigged a flying fish which had landed on the net, and used it for bait. After way too many hours of dragging a lure (even one
with some fish pieces attached) we didn't have any luck. As we passed some flotsam, I said now we will catch a fish: within 30 seconds
the reel started to hum with a nice mahi. (Mahi are known to hide under floating objects.) Very fresh Thanksgiving dinner.
It is beautiful here. The reef protects us from the waves, and the breeze is strong enough that we don't even need the awnings! The birds
roosting and nesting in the mangrove trees are a sight to be seen. The curious fuzzy chicks are so cute.
The only problem is that my new Olympus underwater camera doesn't work any more – at all. There was a drop of water in the battery
compartment. It is supposed to be waterproof to over 30 feet, and I certainly didn't ( and can't) free dive that deep – yet). Too bad it is
such a piece of crap engineering, because I sure liked the idea, and was even considering the new model. I brought out my old camera,
which has low resolution, but has 10X optical zoom. It isn't waterproof either, but it isn't supposed to be!
What a contrast! After mostly third world countries, here we are in a place much like parts of Hawaii or Florida. A good place to provision
before we head to the San Blas islands of Panama, and await a weather window. By next week, the gale force winds along the coast of
Columbia should diminish. After being around the cruise ships, tourists, condos, time shares and traffic, it will be another pleasant
contrast to visit the San Blas. It sure is nice to have unlimited power – the wind generator can almost keep up at night, even using the
microwave for popcorn, and watching a movie, so there isn't much for the solar panels to do in the daytime.
We spent several days snorkeling in various places around the Aves, and found some beautiful sights, but a great deal of dead coral. The
parrot fish were huge and were busy making sand out of the coral. There were very few boats there, and lots of space between each, so
that you could barely see the other boats.
We had a very pleasant chicken chute sail to Bonaire, and civilization. They are so conservation conscious that you are not even
allowed to anchor there. They have provided mooring balls, for a reasonable price of $10 per night. We stayed near a very centrally
located marina (Nautico), where we could use their dinghy dock, and have the luxury of internet on the boat, also quite reasonable. Had a
nice visit with Fred and Kathy on Makai, and Carol and Margie on Siren's Song. We had a pack of Leopards. If in Bonaire, you must try the
tuna steak sandwich at Karel's (and use their dinghy dock). Bonaire is another very nice place to visit. We rented a car and did an island
tour, including checking out the salt ponds and piles, the old slave huts, and the flamingos as well as the wild donkeys and goats.
We decided to bypass Curacao, and sail overnight directly to Aruba. We have grown to really appreciate and depend on the chicken chute
for strong downwind sailing. It was a disappointment when it blew out around sunset as we rounded the north end of Curacao, but we
had gusts to 30 knots. The rest of the trip was by double reefed main alone, and still we arrived at Aruba way too soon. We heaved to
offshore for several hours, about 1 AM, so we could have a daylight arrival. We managed a repair of the chicken chute – better than
new? That sewing machine sure is handy!
There are numerous places ashore where we can get internet, included for the cost of a reasonable meal. This is a nice place to visit,
and not too expensive - if you don't gamble (at last, a vice I don't have).
Also quite nice is the comfortable temperature – so much so that we haven't even needed the awnings since leaving Trinidad.
Got a weather report that the gales along the Columbia coast should diminish by Wednesday, 12/16, possibly to nothing further along by
the weekend, so we will try to catch the tail end of the strong wind with our newly revamped chicken chute.
We also have the coolest anchor lights!!! We found a string of LED Xmas lights in TrinIdad, and they have fun patterns. Hoisted on the
spinnaker halyard, and attached to the lifelines, it looks (with imagination!) like a Xmas tree.
We have been enjoying the strong winds. The wind generator can almost keep up with our electrical needs, so the solar panels are extra,
to be used for cooking with an electric hotplate! We're not using propane or diesel.
We will not have internet access for quite a while, so please understand if I don't get back to you soon. Off to the San Blas Islands in
Again, lots more photos if you follow the Picasa link.
Still no internet, but I want to send a brief message quickly once I can connect. (Finally have internet, but the Yahoo sitebuilder program
crashes the computer every time I try to update.)
We arrived in Colon, Panama (now at Shelter bay marina, a bus ride to Colon) after a great sail from Aruba to the San Blas islands, where
we spent a month. What a glorious place! So many islands, all postcard picture perfect. Beautifully colored water, small islands with
palm trees and inviting sandy beaches. The Kuna indians would paddle or sail their canoes to try to sell their wares - fresh fish, crab,
lobster, fruit, veggies, or their molas.
The snorkeling was the best ever, with many animal sightings - many of them large creatures, - close up - such as sharks, sting rays, and
the graceful spotted eagle rays. The weird part is that my underwater camera still didn't work, and out of desperation, I even checked it
again after arriving in the San Blas. BUT, after recharging the batteries again yesterday, it worked! Go figure. I can now anticipate the
sighting of spectacular marine life - as soon as my camera dies. It happened several years ago when I got to snorkel with humpback
Cousins Norman and Pat visited (from Canada) for almost three weeks and a great visit it was. (When are you coming back?) Pat took
lots of photos, and I plan to post several here. She brought a very basic underwater camera for me to play with, but we couldn't check the
results, or download anything, so had a limited number of photos to work with, and have no idea if any even turned out. They could be very
interesting, and might include the creatures mentioned above, and more.
One of the highlightswas the privilege of attending a Kuna celebration of a young girl's entering puberty. We were the only non family
there, and were nicely looked after. I'm sure we looked out of place, bur felt welcome. Even got to dance as part of their ceremony, but
sorry, they strictly forbid photos. A trip on Whiskers, a catmaran, (thank you Gerald and Diana) through the Panama Canal was another
It is also time to look for new crew (thanks Rix, we had some spectacular adventures, and I'll miss you). This means that I will probably
not be heading to the Galapagos and beyond yet, but may go back and explore the Carib further. That said, I want to get back to the San
Blas to spend much more time there. Panama seems to be a very nice place (other than Colon), and someday might be a good place to
settle (and my Spanish is improving).
I guess this isn't so brief after all.
I just spent a great and very busy week in California, and am now in the airport on the way to Texas. I've ordered a huge amount of stuff
which should all be in Texas before I head back to Panama next week. I ordered a new camera - with a 5 year warranty - so if (when?) it
dies, I will still have the old one for a backup.
Now back in Panama, awaiting a bit of calmer weather before heading to the San Blas (or Bocas del Toro?) Did another canal trip on
Merlin, another catamaran, and enjoyed it again. Managed to see a crocodile this trip (but not at night when we went for a swim in Lake
Gatun!). It was too far away for a photo! Also considering spending the hurricane season in the Rio Dulce, Guatemala. The marina at
Shelter Bay is very nice, but expensive.
I am also trying to set up my new computer. The new underwater camera should work out fine. The old one works again, but drains
batteries very fast, but at least it works.
For lots of photos, please check THIS PHOTO LINK!
I will probably not post more photos directly on this site, but onto the Picasa site. Once you click on the highlighted, underlined link it will
take you to the Picasa site. Then click on the photos to see a larger version.
Now at a marina in Bocas del Toro, Panama. It is not expensive, but like many marinas in the tropics, the boat doesn't cool down at night.
So I now wimp out and enjoy the luxury of A/C at night. It is the first time in a year that I have been able to get good internet from the boat.
The nearby town is a favorite tourist destination for the backpackers from all over the world, and the ate many places to try a relatively
inexpensive, good meal. (Great when I get tired of my cooking.) It is a good place to re-group, and do a few projects before heading to the
Rio Dulce, Guatemala for hurricane season.
I still really like Panama, but found a nasty flaw: Getting things shipped here! The best I could find here was a Mailboxes etc. (MBE)and
will give them a try. $6.80 per pound plus 5% of the cost. I ordered some lightweight things, and now wait a week and a half and see if it
gets here, and if there are any more "shipping agents" or customs officials who decide they also need their cut. It could be cheaper, and
much faster to get a cheap flight to Ft Lauderdale. (Note - I won't try MBE again - they lied, lied and then lied again.)
Got here after waiting a while for a weather window to leave Shelter bay. Spent another glorious week in the San Blas, and my
underwater camera worked fine. Didn't see any sharks close up this time (just one white tip going the other way) and only saw one
spotted eagle ray, but had a wonderful visit with some sting rays - with photos. One was causing an underwater sand storm as it dug. I
tried video too, but it is very difficult to hold the camera steady in the water. 31 seconds shouldn't be too painful to watch. FOR THE
VIDEO, TRY THIS LINK!
The sail from Linton (a nice place to stop on the trip from the San Blas) to Bocas, was wet and wild.
The plants were stored out of the way under the cockpit table, but didn't appreciate the salt spray. At least they seemed to have survived.
Now if I can just get a few more tomatoes. We spent the last 12 hours slowing the boat down so we would arrive in daylight. We had an
interesting visitor in our boat during in Linton. A fruit bat flew into a small hatch in the main door, and after sampling several bananas
(notice the bite marks on the banana) proceeded to take a big piece out of the ripe end of one.
The gecko I caught in Trinidad finally showed itself enough to get its photo taken. I named him Art. (Get it?) Then I caught another
yesterday, so it will have company. I wonder if they speak the same language? They are very low maintenance pets, and eat bugs!
For lots of photos, check out this link.
June 10, 2010
It has been a long time since the last update, and lots has happened. Got a chance to visit parts of panama, and do a few projects in
places where my Spanish is MUCH better than their English. That was a challenge, but I found the people in the city of David, Panama to
be wonderfully friendly. I even got a chance for a wonderful visit to an ecolodge in Costa Rica. I may just want to go back for a longer visit
next time. Thanks Elena.
Traveling in a foreign country, using local buses, with limited local language skills, was a fun challenge. Except for one time:
Crossing the Costa Rica, Panama border during a downpour with water over your ankles walking to the offices was enough of a
challenge. But then when you are told that the bus to David is over there, so carry your soaked bags there, and ask the driver if this is the
bus to David, and he says, Si. It is now late night, and all the other passengers are gone, and the bus stops. “This is as far as we go”. I try
to explain that I just want to get to the bus terminal, or my hotel, or even a taxi. They say that there are lots of taxis here, and a hotel right
across the road. I wouldn't have guessed it, nor would I ever have stayed there. Yes, I was pissed, and thought they dumped me in a
dingy part of town. It turns out that I was on the wrong bus, and nowhere near the city I was supposed to be in. If they don't hear, or are
too busy to listen, or don't know the answer, they say Si. Problem solved with a $35 taxi trip (good thing the taxis are dirt cheap).
My packages arrived so late that most projects didn't get done, but I did install a 110V electrical outlet in the cockpit. Quite convenient. I
started to work on the fuel transfer/polish/pickup system. Bocas also has areas with numerous small red frogs.
Checking out of Panama in Bocas del Toro had two episodes which left the bad taste of corruption. Both included paying a $20 fee, and
not getting a real receipt. Both times, they finally wrote $20 on a piece of paper they gave me, with no name or copy for their records.
Funny how both Customs, and Immigration (both are women, in different offices) didn't have a receipt book! They certainly have every
other form the country could want. (The port captain had one.) Next time, I pay after I get an official receipt, with the persons name on it.
Any other ideas?
New crew arrived and it was off to Providencia. This is an island off the coast of Nicaragua, belonging to Columbia. Checking in and out
was easy with an agent, but expensive at $100. But it was such a nice place, it was worth it. The weather was supposed to be light wind
the first day of the trip, and great the second. Instead we were dodging thunderstorms the first night, including a 12 mile detour around
one (but radar was wonderful). We motorsailed all the way and had a welcoming committee of a large pod of dolphins near Providencia.
They came out of their way to play in our bow waves for almost half an hour.
Had another adventure at anchor in Providencia around 11PM. A squall came up, with winds at least 35 kts, and we dragged anchor. And
this was with 70 feet of chain out in 10 feet of water. The rain was blinding, and was made even more so with the awnings set out for
shade. The large shade/rain awning on the bow was unharmed (I made it practically bulletproof), but was probably acting like a large sail,
and causing us to drag. By 1 AM we had anchored out of the way, with 170 feet of chain!
Then it was off to the Vivorillos, an island chain off the corner of Nicaragua and Honduras, for one night. So nice to anchor behind a reef,
and still have lots of breeze. Then it was another overnight sail to the Bay islands of Honduras, starting with Guanaja. Beautiful, quaint,
and civilized, with a simple, free check in. The main town is on a small island, with crowded streets and no cars. There is some serious
upscale real estate here.
A dinghy ride across the island through a channel found us in a nice snorkeling spot, and again found the dreaded, but beautiful lionfish.
Two were found, only 20 feet apart, and they had different colors.
Very near the house being built to look like a lighthouse, was one of the places where Columbus landed. He praised the drinking water
and the pine trees, which hurricane Mitch managed to beat up.
It was then a short daysail to Roatan. We planned to stop at a small island, Barbaretta, but our spinnaker ride (even dead downwind) was
so nice we continued on to Port Royal, then to French Harbor today. Fantasy Island resort and marina is great and very cruiser friendly. In
fact, during the off season, they are very reasonable, but we just don't need a marina now. Anchored behind the shelter of a reef, we are
getting lots of wind (some say too much!), but it keeps the tropical heat very comfortable, and gives us unlimited electricity, between the
solar panels and the wind generator. I'm just glad we aren't trying to travel upwind, but the breeze is what allows me to call this paradise.
Will probably stay here a few days (some nasty weather predicted) and head to the west end of Roatan, where the diving is said to be
spectacular. Will probably then head to Utila (also in Honduras) to briefly visit and check out.
Then it is on to the Rio Dulce by July 1 (?). We have a reservation with Tortugal marina.
I also just learned that Latts & Atts magazine will publish a short article I wrote last Easter about bugs. They said it could take a while
because of the backlog, but I might even earn up to $75! But that makes me a professional writer! Since I won't have access to it, please
let me know if you see it.
June 11, 2010
No nasty weather, but LOTS of wind. We can see the thunderheads way off to the south of us, and at night can see the lightning. Got up
last night to the sound of screeching wind. By the time I checked the wind speed it had slowed to 28 knots. Ahh, the luxury of an
uncrowded anchorage, allowing 120 feet of chain in only 11 ft of water. But we're cooking with electricity, and using the laptop without
any power concerns. Jerry, the harbormaster at Fantasy Island marina is doing a great job of making cruisers welcome, including a
welcome package, with sheets of information about local events and places. It looks like a wet dinghy ride to town today. Last night was
happy hour(s), with pizza, and tomorrow is potluck and BBQ.
I have now mastered popcorn. It is to die for (but is very healthful, even after adding all the stuff), and easy with the air popper. Guess
what we're taking to the potluck?
This is a must stop and visit location, and it seems like there is lots of boat equipment nearby, and even direct flights to the US from here.
While still in the hurricane zone, we are only two days sail away from the shelter of the Rio Dulce. We are meeting up with lots of cruisers
with the same plans as us, that is to meander to the Rio Dulce. Many have already arrived there, so it isn't crowded at all here now – and
too nice to miss.
The garden is thriving now, and even the tomatoes are providing enough to make it worthwhile. I guess I'll have to start over when I bet
back from the US.
June 12, 2010
ANOTHER ADVENTURE? - SO SOON?
This one is perplexing, and a bit disconcerting. We got back to the boat in the usual strong winds last night, and noticed that the usual
starry night wasn't keeping us company, and there was an occasional lightning flash. We got the “windshield” zipped up, and the small
side curtains to keep the cockpit dry when the wind started to screech and the rain started. It felt like pellets, but lasted only minutes.
After we were sideways to the wind it took almost a minute to realize that we were dragging anchor! AND, we were quite close to shore
and the big steel fishing boats behind us. Again, start the engines, clear away the windshield for better visibility, and head to deeper
water. Not too much power and not too far, or you just run over the anchor chain. Jerry, the dockmaster from Fantasy Island came out in
their dinghy, and came aboard to drive the boat so I could get the anchor up. He then found us an available mooring, sheltered behind the
marina, and it was a comfortable night. What great service – and we weren't even staying at the marina! Am I giving Jerry, and Fantasy a
wholehearted endorsement? YES, and that was even before last night. THANK YOU!
The only casualty was the tomato plant, which was blown overboard.
The perplexing part is that I don't even know what I could have done differently. Somebody clocked the wind at 42 kts. 120 feet of chain
with an oversized 60 lb anchor that was very well set in under 10 feet of water. The bottom was sand with some grass, and the anchor
was completely buried, and had been tested in over 30 kts of wind many times over several days. I have even gotten to carrying my
handheld VHF radio, in case somebody is trying to contact me (but last night the buttons got pressed accidentally, and it was off
frequency!) I don't know what I can learn from this. Last time, we had the huge shade awning up, and had 70 feet of chain in 10 ft of
INSTANT UPDATE! We are on the mooring now, and having 35 kts wind for over half an hour, and the mooring is dragging. For a while I ran
the engines to take some of the pressure off the lines, and maybe it helped.
Now that things have calmed down a bit I tried to check out the mooring, which is supposedly huge. The back of the boat is in 12 ft of
sandy grass, the bow in 25 feet, and the mooring is in about 40 ft, at the bottom of a hill. Hopefully, it is too heavy to drag uphill (or better
yet, we won't have winds over 35 kts any more).
June 12, 2010
Things have settled down very nicely. This is the kind of marina you want to spend lots of time. Very friendly, helpful staff, lots of
activities, and use of the resort facilities – and reasonably priced. The fellow cruisers are great, and many are familiar, having met them
along the way with stories and experiences to share. The potluck was a delight, and today we can look forward to the races – rubber
ducky! A wonderful sense of camaraderie.
LOTS OF PHOTOS AND VIDEO AT THIS LINK!
Still at, and enjoying Fantasy Island, much to the credit of dock master, Jerry. It is very cruiser friendly, with several activities a
week. (Even the rubber ducky races were fun, and I will try to get photos. Of course there is another happy hour for the event.) If you are
thinking of getting SCUBA certified, this is the place to do it, with Jami, of Divers at Play. He also does live aboard dive trips for groups,
and instructor courses. My crew had very thorough one on one course, for only $250, in a wonderful setting!
We are thinking of doing a canopy tour while here, and provisioning before heading to the west end of the island for some snorkeling, and
while there, maybe a bus trip into the main city.
Then it is time to start heading for the Rio Dulce, and make travel plans to the US. It is quite complicated, and expensive. Boat by boat,
most of us are heading that way, but most are already there.
Besides pondering the fate of the world, we have also tried to figure out why we dragged anchor. Several other cruisers have also had
problems, and it can shake your confidence about leaving the boat. We were very fortunate both times, since we got back to the boat 2
hours the first time, and 15 minutes the second time before the squalls hit. The anchor was set well with plenty of scope (ratio of chain to
water depth) both times. The common factor both time was the bottom type. The crew of Interlude IX called it ice cream grass sand.
This is small grass in beautiful white sand. Even though the anchor could be dug in and completely buried, the sand lacks holding power,
like scooping ice cream. It is reassuring to have moorings in these conditions! So the lesson is: don't trust your anchor in ice cream
June 20, 2010
Leaving Fantasy Island, French harbour today, and heading to West End. By the way, i understand that there have a deal this July which
seems too good to be true if you are a SCUBA diver in the US.
The monkeys have free reign of the place, and are fun to watch. There is also an iguana "farm" nearby, also worth checking out.
Another link for these photos, including two video clips.
June 25, 2010
On a mooring in a national marine park at the west end, Roatan. Very nice, and cruiser friendly. Did a driving trip around the island and
still think it is beautiful. A few more photos added to the above link.
August 17, 2010
At the airport in Salt Lake City, en route from California to Texas. After almost a month in California and Oregon, it is time to visit Texas
I have been ordering “tons” of stuff, and having it shipped to Texas, including a large, water repellant, rolling duffle bag. Then I expect to
get a bit more in Ft Lauderdale, on the way back to Guatemala. I should have two checked bags with 49 pounds of stuff each!
Then it is time to finish a few small projects on the boat and then we explore a bit of Guatemala by land. I hope to find a weather window
in late October, or November, and head back to the San Blas.
We enjoyed the west end of Roatan, and the security of using a mooring buoy. It was a nice place to spend a tropical storm (which later
turned into a hurricane), tucked in behind the reef. You sure don’t want to leave the boat and get into the dinghy during a storm, but the
snorkeling was ok, except for the water clarity.
The trip to Guatemala was uneventful, but the wind died as we approached (as per the weather forecast). Checking into Guatemala was
easy since we had already emailed all the information needed to Raul, the agent. It was the first time we had officials come to the boat,
but they just sat in the cockpit. We anchored at Texan bay the first night, a pretty little spot, but a long ways from “everywhere”.
Changing Spots is now at Tortugal marina, which I highly recommend, - but only as long as Russ and Janet are managing it. It is upstream
from the town, so the water is nice enough to swim in – every day! The town of Fronteras is only a short distance away.
The area is nicer than I remember, but I will make sure I am taking anti malarials! Interestingly, the bugs haven’t been a problem here this
time either. But I will be ready – I found some 100% DEET.
I also placed my story about spending the night in the jungle on Halloween in Trinidad in the medical history page. It is more of a guideline
for wilderness survival.
Photos at this link!
August 17, 2010
At the airport in Salt Lake City, en route from California to Texas. After almost a month in California and Oregon, it is time to visit Texas
I have been ordering “tons” of stuff, and having it shipped to Texas, including a large, water repellant, rolling duffle bag. Then I expect to
get a bit more in Ft Lauderdale, on the way back to Guatemala. I should have two checked bags with 49 pounds of stuff each!
Then it is time to finish a few small projects on the boat and then we explore a bit of Guatemala by land. I hope to find a weather window
in late October, or November, and head back to the San Blas.
We enjoyed the west end of Roatan, and the security of using a mooring buoy. It was a nice place to spend a tropical storm (which later
turned into a hurricane), tucked in behind the reef. You sure don’t want to leave the boat and get into the dinghy during a storm, but the
snorkeling was ok, except for the water clarity.
The trip to Guatemala was uneventful, but the wind died as we approached (as per the weather forecast). Checking into Guatemala was
easy since we had already emailed all the information needed to Raul, the agent. It was the first time we had officials come to the boat,
but they just sat in the cockpit. We anchored at Texan bay the first night, a pretty little spot, but a long ways from “everywhere”.
Changing Spots is now at Tortugal marina, which I highly recommend, but only as long as Russ and Janet are managing it. It is upstream
from the town, so the water is nice enough to swim in – every day! The town of Fronteras is only a short distance away.
The area is nicer than I remember, but I will make sure I am taking anti malarials! Interestingly, the bugs haven’t been a problem here this
time either. But I will be ready – I found some 100% DEET.
I also placed my story about spending the night in the jungle on Halloween in Trinidad in the medical history page. It is more of a guideline
for wilderness survival.
Oct 23, 2010
NEWS FLASH!!! Check out the Nov/Dec issue of Latts & Atts magazine for my article on “Bugs”. Don’t know when I’ll get to see it.
Time to update while the adventure is still fresh. And what an adventure in under two weeks! Now staying briefly (?) at Lake Atitlan, a
beautiful high mountain lake surrounded by volcanoes. The public launches (water taxis) are an easy way to visit the lake. We took the
launch to a nearby town, then hiked to the next town, and visited a hotel/resort called Casa del Mundo. Quite beautiful, and the hike was
worthwhile. There were several places where the supposedly well marked train (camino) proved confusing, but the locals all helped us to
get back on the right trail. There was lots of evidence of the flooding from this rainy summer. Mudslides and rockslides damaged many
trails, and roads. The lake, which normally fluctuates by a few feet per year, was over 11 feet higher than before. Some of this could be
seen by the flooded deck at the Casa del Mundo. Our pattern seems to be to walk around our new location and explore the restaurant
menus. We also wander around a bit until we find a hotel we like. We eventually found the Hotel Playa Linda in Panajachel, for $36 per
night. Nice rooms, large balcony overlooking the lake and volcanoes, and an aviary, with a very chatty bilingual parrot. When we were
late getting coffee the second morning, the manager, a Mayan in full native garb, kindly brought it to our room for us. Like is good. Lots of
We spent several days at Antigua, Guatemala, which was first built around 1525, and was the center of the Spanish new world until
earthquakes caused it to be moved. Antigua is the site of many magnificent cathedrals from the 1500’s. It ia also surrounded by
volcanoes, and interestingly, one of the very nearby volcanoes was quite active last May. We visited it yesterday. To make it even more of
an adventure (albeit decadent), we traveled most of the way by horseback. The small pumice gravel/stones made the trails difficult –
especially the return trip in the dark (but the full moon was beautiful!). The ground and air were very hot in places, and it felt good in the
chilly evening breeze at the high elevation. Sorry, no marshmallows to roast over the hot lava. Lots of photos at this link!
Last week we visited Tikal. This is a huge series of structures, including several pyramids built by the Mayans 3000 to 600 years ago.
They had been lost in the overgrowth of jungle for several centuries. But they are still there in the Yucatan part of Guatemala. It is a
mystery what happened to this advanced civilization that disappeared over a century before the Spanish arrived. Some interesting
creatures survived. We stayed at an island city called Flores, and did our usual wander looking for a hotel, and then check out the
restaurant menus (and happy hours). This was an hour drive to Tikal. More photos at this link.
The end of the world in 2012?
I gather that much of the theory about the imminent end of the world as we know it, is attributed to the predictions of the Mayan calendar.
The doomsdayers have been around for millennia, and I suspect one of these millennia, they just might be right. Then they can say :”I told
you so.” To me, it doesn’t make sense, on two counts. But if I’m wrong, you’ll never know it.
• The Mayan calendar doesn’t predict demise, just change, which supposedly happens regularly.
• Not only did they not predict the huge change in their world with the arrival of the Spanish, but they didn’t even predict their demise.
Yes, they were advanced, but not their predictions, nor there staying ability.
Got back to Rio Dulce yesterday after a night in Guatemala City. The hotel was in zone 10, which is considered quite safe. I would
hope so! We have gotten used to police travelling in large groups with body armor and heavy weapons, but the pickup truck with the 50
cal machine gun mounted was a bit much. While we had coffee at a nice pastry shop, two “parades” of 2 and 3 large tinted SUV’s with
lots of guys with heavy suits and ear headsets, pulled up so somebody could get out and get coffee and breakfast. And these guys took
their jobs very seriously too. It probably is safe there (zone 10!) for tourists, but I’m glad we didn’t need to stay long.
Changing Spots did well in Rio Dulce, although was somewhat neglected for 2.5 months. We finally got the fuel transfer/polish/pickup
system completed, and simplified. It works well, just not quite the way I anticipated. The only problem is that you can’t tell when the tanks
are full (until they overflow – not that it is easy using a gas station pump either). Maybe there is a simple way to disconnect the fuel vent
We plan to power wash the boat and then look for a weather window to head back to Panama. Not sure yet of the route details, as it will
largely depend on the weather. Rio Dulce was a good place to leave the boat, and all the systems have been thoroughly flushed with fresh
water. Security was never an issue, but we haven’t pushed it either. We also lucked out, since the very hot humid rainy season ended
just before we arrived back. That was also when the mosquitoes were bad, and two friends had Dengue (AKA bone break) fever. The
lake was a foot higher, making a large step up to the boat from the dock.
With a bit of provisioning, we are ready to go! Looking forward to getting back to the places we found here for great bread, fruits/veggies,
and meats. If only Tomas will cooperate! But he is so big, and unpredictable. With a hurricane that big, we might just sit here a bit
longer. Right now he is heading into our path, but a cold front is supposed to send him north, out of our way, and give us perfect sailing
conditions to leave here.
Back in French Harbor, Roatan, which is a great place to visit. We plan to leave tomorrow morning, to take advantage of this north
Last Tues was a holiday (Day of the Dead) in Guatemala, so we didn’t want to check out then. Left Tortugal marina, and stayed at Texan
Bay, a delightful little bay , not far from the ocean. There was a large group of sailors leaving Wed night, since there was a high tide
(needed to cross a shallow bar at to entrance to the Rio Dulce at Livingston). They were going to then anchor at a place called Tres
Puntos and await favorable weather. Four days later, none of them have arrived here yet.
We left Texan Bay (after dinner and beverages at the marina) next morning, travelled through the steep cliffs of the river again, and had a
simple check out of Guatemala.
Then we motored. Good thing we have shallow draft, since we saw depths of just over 5 feet at the bar. The wind filled in magnificently
several hours later, and eventually we shut down the engine. Just before sunset, the fishing reel started to zip, and we hauled in a very
nice, very small mahi mahi. Just enough for two large meals for two. Good thing it was small though. Three of the four rivets holding the
reel to the rod had broken.
Using the radar we managed to avoid several rain squalls. When a big one caught up to us, it changed course to the same direction as
we were going, and its wind increased our speed to its speed. At 25 to 30 knots of wind, the rain blows horizontally, and it was completely
DARK. Good thing we had put a double reef in the mainsail. Did I mention this was a north wind? The same north wind that brings cold
weather to the US. This was the first time sailing in cold weather since leaving Fort Lauderdale. After several hours in this same squall,
it didn’t take much persuasion for us to change course, and head to Roatan. The squall wasn't that large, but we just stayed in the middle
of it, doing 8-9 knots (with spurts to 11).
What a welcome relief to get behind Roatan and have the seas settle. But we had 30 knots of wind when we took down the sails. Good
thing we had the GPS track from when we left, since the water visibility was almost zero as we entered the reef strewn bay. Such a relief
to pick up a mooring buoy, and not have to worry about the anchor dragging. Only one other boat arrived after us, and they broke their
boom. They had left the day before us.
French harbor is a welcoming place, but it is time to take advantage of this north wind and head east, before the trade winds fill in from
the east. When we get around the point of Nicaragua, we will head south to warmer weather. I actually had to wear a shirt and a jacket
it was so cold! (Not so bad that I needed shoes, socks or long pants though. But it is too chilly to jump in the water for long.)
Probably heading to Bocas del Toro tomorrow, but it is nice to get caught up. We will probably need to motor the last of the trip, but then I
get to try out my new fuel pickup/transfer system sooner.
February 20, 2011
In Texas now. This is the link for lots of Panama photos and videos.
It is about three years since moving aboard and starting cruising. Two years since leaving the US, and the adventure is just getting
A lot has happened since leaving Roatan! WOW!
To start, one of the engines failed to start several hours after leaving Roatan. Not so bad on a catamaran, but still, we were trying to get to
Panama before a possible big storm hit. It sure was nice to have a spare engine on the other side. I don’t know how those brave
monohull sailors can manage without the safety /redundancy of a spare engine (and rudder).
Then the other engine started to have a problem with a fan belt seriously slipping, but by then we were sailing fine without it. Fortunately it
calmed down enough that I could get in and tighten it (I had already done it once, so knew what needed to be done, and wrote down the
After making our way far enough East, the corner of Honduras was rounded, and it was time to head South. At sunrise we anchored in
Media Luna. This is a large lagoon, with no land nearby, but it was finally sunny and warm (for a day). A glorious day!
With only one engine our speed was too slow for our safe arrival time, so we tried the gennaker sail. It was great, and we could even shut
down the engine, doing 8-9 knots. At one point, I saw several waterspouts off in the distance (and fortunately, downwind). Much of the
trip was in adequate wind, but often we needed an engine running to keep our speed up. It would be nice to have a small bowsprit, so I
could rig a screecher of code zero sail on a furler. This would make it very simple to use, since it can be doused simply, from the cockpit.
I sure don’t want to go up on the bow nets trying to struggle down a huge gennaker if the wind and seas build up too much. We had a
double reef in the mainsail most of the trip, since the seas were rough enough that I didn’t want to be on the foredeck more than
With only one engine, that tank was running low on fuel. Sure was nice to be able set up the fuel transfer system to pump from the full
tank to the other - and it was so easy.
Our arrival in Bocas del Toro was relatively uneventful, especially after Fred on Makai gave me a local weather report. (Thanks Fred) He
let us know the anchorage wasn’t very crowded, and the winds were 10 – 15 kts. This was much better than the 25 – 30 kts outside the
channel, where we were. Close maneuvering a catamaran in an anchorage with only one engine can be a tricky feat. It is also difficult to
back down on your anchor to make sure it is well set, but I learned a lot.
The starter was seized with rust. It was repaired promptly and greased heavily. We provisioned for the trip to the San Blas, got our Zarpe
(exit papers) and headed to Red Frog marina to join friends for Thanksgiving before we left. We were invited to join their potluck/feast.
We anchored outside the mangroves, and usually had the bay to ourselves (except the occasional dolphin).
Then the engine didn’t start again. I immediately ordered a new starter, then waited. Within 2 weeks, the new starter was shipped and
installed, and the old one cleaned up for use as a spare. It seems there was some salt in the flywheel, which splashed the starter, and did
In the meantime, the weather got ugly. Not dangerous, but wet, cool, and windy, making the dinghy trip to the marina uncomfortable for
several days, several times. The rain was so bad that they even shut down the Panama canal for the first time in 25 years!
Then my crew suddenly, unexpectedly abandoned ship. At the same time I met somebody looking for another boat. My new crew/partner
is doing great (welcome aboard Thia), although she doesn’t have much sailing experience. Good thing she learns fast.
After securing the boat at the Bocas Marina for a few days, we headed to Boquette, then David city for a few days. It was a great break
from the weather, which was finally getting better. We did some shopping, so the list for the US is a bit smaller. Thia even got her
camera fixed and cleaned. Probably got some sand from the beach.
It is interesting that the article I wrote on Bugs was written at that marina, and it was there that I finally got to see it. It has a good photo of
Art (gecko). Friends on Northern Delight had it and commented on seeing my article. Cousin Norm and Pat, from Saskatchewan, Canada
brought a copy of Latts & Atts magazine with them, but they could only find the newest copy. The Calypso cantina is still a great place to
visit, especially on Friday night if they have their spectacular fire dance.
Christmas day found us anchored at Red Frog marina again, and we spent it at the beach under palm trees enjoying one of the best days
yet. The potluck was again, of course, just fine. We also had a spectacular viewing of the total lunar eclipse while anchored nearby in a
small sheltered bay, with no light pollution to interfere. In the regions there are also small frogs, cleverly known by their colors. Red,
Blue, and Green frogs. While standing on the trail trying to see Green, and Blue frogs, we noticed a snake in the bush on the small bank of
the trail. It wasn’t afraid, and didn’t more when touched with a stick (a long one!) The head didn’t look round, but more diamond or
triangular. A local confirmed it was a deadly Fer de Lance. wikipedia - Fer-de-Lance Not all the creatures were so dangerous. The sloth
was almost cute, as were the frogs. Even the bugs (at least some of them) were pretty.
Finally the weather cleared up enough to bust out of Bocas. We could day sail from location to location, which would take a long time to
get to the San Blas. The advantages of this route are seeing more places and getting to know the sailing abilities of new crew. The
alternative is an overnight passage and get us to the San Blas much sooner. This is more challenging for new crew, but is also a good
test (she passed with flying colors!). The delayed Bocas departure already cut our time down to 2 weeks, since we had flights arranged
to the US (and Canada) for early Feb.
We started with our options open, but when we rounded Bluefield point the wind was great and we were doing 8-9 kts on a reach, with a
double reefed mainsail (not really needed, but for peace of mind). This would have given us a 3 AM arrival in Linton, or an east daylight
arrival in the San Blas. But two hours later the wind clocked around forward and diminished – and got worse. By this time we would
have had to go back to our alternate first stop so we kept going, and started an engine.
We got to Linton in the early afternoon, with plenty of time to explore, and interact with the monkeys. I stayed in the water and they
climbed out on a tree – very close and tried to pretend they just happened to be in the neighborhood. Thia got a bit too close, resulting in
a couple of monkey nail scratches on her calf. A nice dinner ashore was our reward for the passage.
We got a bit of a late start the next morning since old friends were arriving to anchor. Again we rounded the point with great wind, which
again fizzled. Rather than attempt a nighttime arrival in the San Blas, we found a very sheltered bay. The whole bay was 7 to 8 feet deep,
but had a dogleg entrance where we found 5.5 feet depth, as we rode the waves surfing in. A bit of a rush. The next day we had an easy
arrival at Porvenir (the entry point to the San Blas), with lots of time to check in (very easy) and explore a bit. So nice to be back in true
paradise again. Even the weather was spectacular, except we would have liked a bit more rain!!!!! There are hundreds of islands. Do you
want your own private island, or do you want lots of company? They could all be postcards.
The islands run mainly east- west, and the wind mainly north-ish, so you can usually sail where you want to go. Depending on where you
are, the locals come by to sell molas (already have enough, thanks), fresh fish, octopus, lobster, or crab, or if you are luck, the veggie boat
with fresh produce and more. One of the videos is the octopus carcass skin color changes! A few islands have basic stores, but not
many have produce, and what is left has been picked over unless you know when they re-stock.
Two weeks wasn’t enough. I would say that my biggest disappointment was not having enough time to spend in the San Blas (but then I
don’t know how much time would be enough, some cruisers have been there 13 years). Lots of rays (eagle and sting, check the videos)
this time but we didn’t go where the sharks were last time.
It was a short overnight passage to Shelter bay, once we found that they would have a spot for us the next day. It was another case of
slowing the boat, since the marina didn’t open until 8 AM. Fortunately, there was surprisingly little ship traffic as we crossed the shipping
lane in the dark. I even put up a second radar reflector for the occasion. This was another good crew test and I even got a couple of
hours of sleep. When we finally got tucked into the right slip, a couple hours more sleep was all I needed.
It was like an old class reunion at Shelter bay marina. What a welcome visit with so many people I have run into over and over again. But
there was plenty to do before we left. It felt good to finally get the engine maintenance taken care of, and the new fuel transfer system
even did away with needing to bleed the engines. In the process of “winterizing” the watermaker, I replaced the water filter and that took
care of adjusting the pressure of one of the water pumps, which had been kicking out. Vaughn on Reality gave us the info on getting an
autografo for cruising the Galapagos, and told us how to proceed with getting the boat measured to go through the canal.
Back in the US, California and Texas, to visit, do taxes, check rental property, and order more boat “stuff”. Of course the motor home in
Texas needed some work done, and that kept me busy. The timing is around Kirsten’s concert next weekend, where she has the
Then it is back home to Changing Spots, in Panama. Hopefully it will only take a week to get through the canal, then provision on the
Panama city side before heading off to the Galapagos, with a stop in the Perlas islands.
This is the same photo and video link for Panama.
March 5, 2011
Back home! Changing Spots did well at Shelter Bay marina. I would like to recommend our taxi driver, Joseph (6156 4973). I had called
him and asked him to meet us at the airport at 4 AM. This would give us plenty of time to get through customs, immigration, and any other
delays after our 2:30 AM arrival. We were through by 3 AM, and he was there waiting for us. With all of our huge bags, it was nice to be
taken right to the boat ($85).
Susan did a fine job of looking after the garden, which is thriving. A few more boat projects are done, and we just had the boat measured
for transiting the canal - now scheduled for Sunday March 13! Our agent, Erick Galvez has done a wonderful job, and has made it all so
We may line handle on another boat before our turn through the canal.
Also this is a good place to provision, especially since after Panama, almost all the prices skyrocket.
We are quite enjoying all the visiting, and the weather has been perfect.
Check this link for a few more Bocas del Toro photos. Thanks to cousin Pat.
On a mooring at the Balboa Yacht Club! It was a fun, glorious transit of the Panama canal. It was even relatively cool. We anchored for
the night in Lake Gatun, and got an early start the next morning to head to the next locks.
Check these photos, which are not complete, but are what I have now. It may be a while until we have decent internet again, since we
plan to leave tomorrow for the Galapagos. Larry, from Sacramento has joined us, and will be able to provide plenty of fresh fish with his
expertise. The hope is to stop very briefly in Las Perlas (which is very close), and Isla Coco, an island which was the inspiration for
Jurassic Park. It is a park belonging to Costa Rica, and has some of the most impressive sea life in the world. But it depends on the
April 3, 2011
THE GALAPAGOS! Doesn't that sound exotic.
We had a great start from Panama, and spent the first night anchored at Las Perlas, Panama. That spot had lots of wind and tremendous
current – too much for the few projects we needed to do before a passage. But the tuny we caught that first day made a wonderful
dinner. Next day we moved to a calmer spot, so we could take the outboard off the dinghy, and scrape a few barnacles off the boat –
particularly the prop and saildrive. At 4 PM we started our passage.
The GRIB weather files showed NO wind all the way to Cocos Island, or beyond, so we decided to bypass Cocos. Sorry to have missed
that island, but we didn’t want to motor, for over two weeks. As predicted, we found lots of wind to the south, which then diminished as
we went west towards the Galapagos. Had we wanted to arrive a day or two later, we could have sailed all the way, but we motorsailed
about 30 hours, and had a mid day, Saturday arrival. About 8 hours was with gennaker, doing 6 kts in 8 kts of wind. Nice.
We caught two blackfin tuna, which was so good pan seared, we didn’t want to prepare it any other way. All was on the handline. The
fishing rod hooked a marlin, which took off in front of the boat, and fortunately got off the hook by itself. There was no way we could have
landed it. It was a thrill to see the fishing line zipping through the water. A large Mahi bit the lure, but also got away. We never caught
anything with the rod.
Our biggest problem here is keeping the sea lions off the boat. I think we finally have it figured out, but they are surprisingly resourceful at
getting around our barricades. Of course we had to do it so WE could still use the transom boarding ladder. Such easy access for sea
lions may be the second disadvantage of a catamaran. But they are wonderfully fascinating and curious creatures. The snorkeling off
the boat is very good, and if you are there for a while the sea lions how up. A small one, we named Lucy, seems to have adopted us, and
has come around to pose for photos – so cute! A few times when I was in the water hanging on to the boarding ladder, and she climbed
up it to the transom. When I started to scold her she jumped off. She was just playing, and I even managed to get it on video one time.
Can I keep her, she followed me home!
The boat has become its own marine sanctuary. Schools of fish of many different sizes have sought protection here. Then the small tuna
come for the hunt. They too are fascinating to watch, especially from underwater. In their final attack they are too fast to see. Their
splashes in the morning have become our alarm clock.
We have seen and photo’d the marine iguanas, the sea turtles, and the huge tortoises. We walked around a crater lake and watched the
frigate birds fishing, and visited a treehouse. I’ve seen treehouses before, but this one even had a basement. We have had some good
hikes, which take some getting used to, with the heat and humidity. Good thing a liter bottle of good beer is only $2.50! There is a
reasonably well supplied town on this first island, with lots of restaurants to explore. We found one in the hills, that cooked on an open
outdoor wood fire. Sitting at a restaurant, it was interesting to watch the birds, and then realize that they are varieties of Darwin’s
finches. They were the inspiration for the realization of evolution!
Most places on the islands are very arid, but in many places, it is almost jungle. After last Fall in Bocas del Toro, I never thought I would
say it, but it sure would be nice to have some rain. It finally happened today, and we filled the water tanks and rinsed the boat.
We managed to get internet (although very slow and iffy) from the boat. Tomorrow we leave San Cristobal island, which is one of the
lesser islands, and head for Isabela, the largest, with lots more to see and do. We plan an overnight passage and a morning arrival for
the next adventure. This is the link for lots of photos and videos!
Isabela island, the Galapagos
This is a beautiful spot, anchored in a sheltered bay, with very few cruising boats, and a few small cruise ships. The sea lions here do not
try to invade the boat, just your heart. They are small and cute. Our evening entertainment has been feeding the sea lions. We shine a
light on the water to attract the blue needlefish. The sea lions hide under the boat and dart out with amazing speed and agility to catch
them. Sure beats the nature channel! In the morning they play under the boat, swimming back and forth, blowing bubbles making weird
noises. Are they having fun with the sound reverberating off the hulls, like kids playing in a tunnel?
Unlike at San Cristobal, we haven’t needed barricades to keep the sealions off the boat (they are very messy).
But they will sometimes sit on the lower transom step, and that was fine. Yesterday morning one had ventured to the top step and curled
up to sleep. Larry gave her a scolding look and pointed to the water. She gave him a pathetic look with those big brown eyes as she
slowly went down a step where she stopped and held up a flipper. It was injured from a bite! Larry waved her back to her cozy spot
where she went right away. Maybe they should be called sea puppies. Poor Larry is an avid fisherman and dog lover.
The tiny penguins are so much fun to watch. They are so fast and maneuverable that they are tough to photograph.
We have never seen schools of puffer fish before. They have set up camp under the boat and they are very curious. They are
vegetarians, but have nibbled fingers and toes (even drawing blood!).
We had a good rainy day, which gave us a chance to clean up the boat. It was the first big rain of the season. Unfortunately, it brought out
the flying ants. They swarmed over the whole boat, especially at the lights, with piles of not quite dead bodies. The next night we had
swarms of tiny moths attracted to the lights. It is almost like a bug du jour, but didn't continue.
When it gets hot, the water is nice – and interesting. But it hasn’t been as hot as I expected, being so close to the equator.
Apr 10, 2011
A quiet Sunday today – to recuperate from the bus ride and hike to the volcanoes. It was an easy hike, but a long one. The trails were still
wet from the day before, but we had perfect conditions, complete with spectacular views. We even had a nice cooling rain shower rinse
for the last 200 yards of the hike.
We were planning on a lazy, easy dinner, but noticed two fishing boats had anchored near us (very close). As we approached, they held
up a fish for us to see, and of course we bought some; five pounds of fresh yellowfin tuna, and 10 pounds of wahoo ($25 total). Another
feast on the BBQ.
They were cleaning all their fish right there into the water. Later that night, we only heard a few sealions, and they were far off. I went to
check and saw what appeared to be dozens of white fish, three feet long swimming in the largest school of baitfish we have ever seen.
When I shone the light on them, it became clear that they were sharks, and hundreds, not dozens. Many were right at the surface, next to
the boat. They were small, but I didn’t feel like swimming that night.
August 30, 2011
Wow. Where to begin – again? This will be a brief note to let people know that all is well, and thanks for your concern. The internet here
is too slow and expensive to upload photos, so that will need to wait – sorry. See below! Maybe from American Samoa or New Zealand?
Now on the hard at the boatyard (Raiatea Carenage) for the Moorings charter group here in Raiatea. It is smaller and much more basic
than I expected, but the people seem to know their stuff. Expect delays. (My French has been flushed out by the Spanish I picked up in
Latin America. I can’t even ask very basic questions in French, and my answers all come in Spanish.)
So how did Spots get here?
Had a speedy passage from the Galapagos to the Marquesas in French Polynesia. Then to the Tuamotus, and then Tahiti (the Society
Islands). There was even a brief trip to the US to get “stuff”, which was so expensive in Tahiti, or the shipping was so expensive that it
was cheaper to pay the expensive airfare. It was nice to have good internet and phone access while in the US to help find new crew.
Renee has joined me for the trip to New Zealand, and possibly beyond.
But when I got back to Tahiti, I was singlehanding for a while. The “stuff” I brought back from the US included engine parts, and Simon, on
Sharkita was going to do the work for me. But he was at Moorea, about 20 miles away. (Story added below.)
So how did we get to Tahiti? What a sailing milestone that is!
Typically when you leave the Galapagos, you need to motor south far enough to find the trade winds, which blow in the right direction to
take you to Polynesia. The seas are supposed to be long gentle swells, and winds from a favorable direction at a favorable speed. It is
called the milk run, for the coconut milk of the South Pacific, and the easiness. Previous years the trip took 3 to 4 weeks for most boats.
It took us 18 days and we were not pushing it at all. However, I am calling it the “milkshake run”.
We had the welcome company of pods of dolphins, many times, but once, they stayed almost an hour. They like to play between the
bows. Lying on the bow net is a perfect place to watch them. One seemed to have a sense of humor. It would lift its tail out of the water
as it swam under the net. Then, just as they all left, it gave a vigorous splash and got both of us soaked! I could have sworn I heard it
There will be lots more story to fill in, and photos, but I am still in project mode, trying to get things done. In a day or two, Spots will be
peaked to her usual state of perfection, and it will be time to continue the journey (and my French Polynesia visa is due to expire soon!). If
I don’t get something sent NOW, it could be a long time before the next opportunity happens. And it is late night, and often the internet is
Photos at last!! This is the link.
French Polynesia is a truly beautiful place, or should I say series of places since many of the places are so different from each other. The
Marquesas is a group of mountainous islands. They are exposed to the sea, and tend to be rough places to anchor. Because of the
mountains they have rain, which makes them lush, beautiful gardens. The water is often not clear enough for good diving. But they are
dramatic and spectacular. This was where we saw the group of two hulled sailing canoes (as they were called), built to an original style,
with modern techniques and materials. This was their first stop en route from New Zealand to Hawaii, with crews and boats from many
polynesian countries. We had heard something about some canoes arriving, but this was a big deal! We had the bay to ourselves, when
they all started arriving. What a sight. A few even sailed in and anchored without their engines. The next day was to be their grand
entrance in the large bay next to us, and we were all invited to participate in the festivities. Each boat crew did a performance, including a
dance representing their county. What followed was a huge feast with many foods cooked on spits, or in a buried fire pit. Interesting, and
much of it was quite good. Some you could identify by the teeth or feathers attached. But how many people get to attend an AUTHENTIC
The bays on the north and west sides of the islands were better sheltered, but it is amazing how the waves from the east can go around
corners. The waterfalls were beautiful, as were the ponds. And it was delightful to find a place where you could hike the hills and pick
mangoes, and citrus fruits. Next time I'll take a length of rope to pull down some of the tree branches . But we had all we could carry.
Heading west, the next island group is the Tuamotus. These are large reef systems, with small bits of land on some of the reefs, but no
center island. They are dry, with little rain. The agriculture here is farming: black pearls. The anchoring can be very good – or not. If you
are behind the reef where the wind is from, you are sheltered from the large seas. But if the wind shifts, you may be exposed to waves
that have built up many miles, from across the atoll. Very few tourist come here either, so visitors are quite welcome. And the few
tourists are mainly divers. They come to dive the clear water end experience the manta rays and numerous sharks. Sometimes too
numerous. Many of these atolls have one or more passes to enter, and in some they can be extremely treacherous to navigate.
Fortunately there is a tide estimation program available which helps to predict the slack tides. That is when it is safe to use the pass,
either by boat or diving. You time it for when the tide is starting to come into the lagoon (so that if you have a problem, you aren't swept
out to sea), and drift with your dinghy into the lagoon. The sealife is wonderful. In one of the passes, towards the end of our stay there,
we saw several manta rays, and later a school of sharks swimming (deep below us) above a very large school of fish (this could mean
they are in feeding mode). It was so good that we did our last dive in the same place. One of the mantas came close and even showed
us its underside. Except the sharks noticed us too! Four or five of them (I stopped counting!), and even a large barracuda, were getting
way too close and curious for our liking. Yes, I know, they were only curious black tip sharks (5-6 feet long). But do they even know what
chicken tastes like?
The Society islands (including Tahiti, Moorea, Raiatea, Bora Bora) are central islands with surrounding reefs. Some of the outer reefs are
islands also, and much larger than those of the Tuamotus. They have it all, including lots of people. Grocery stores even have fresh
produce every day, not just the day the freighter comes in. What a luxury, if you can get over the shock of the cost.
For me, this was a time to order some parts and have them shipped.
Shipping twenty five pounds of stuff was going to cost $1100 by DHL, or $1200 by FedEx. But the midwestern US Yanmar dealer didn't
even have the parts I needed and they wouldn't be there in time for the shipment. So that would have been two shipments. The good
news was that the Papeete dealer had all but one item in stock. The bad news was that when I got back to the boat and did the math for
the currency exchange, it was $1275 MORE than the price in the US. No wonder they weren't happy when I took it all back. Anyway, the
$2000 airfare didn't sound so bad now, so back to Texas I went for two weeks. Of course it ended up costing more than that.
Instead of just getting what I really needed, I also got much of what I wanted. But new toys are so much fun! Like a new camera (good
thing too, since my old one never made it back from warranty repair for many weeks), and a new Ipad2, which is great except for the
TERRIBLE service from Apple. I don't understand why a computer company demands that you talk to somebody, rather than use email to
sort out a problem. Not only will it not synchronize with my computer, I now can't even get it to load things. And the Apple logic reminds
me of the old DOS: Do it their way or no way. I thought it was supposed to be intuitive. OH, for a nice user friendly PC product. I even
took it to an Apple store before I left the US, to have it fixed.
The charts and chart program are great, although not anything like navigation software. The built in GPS works fine, even offshore,
although some militant Apple enthusiasts I have met say it doesn't have GPS without a cell signal. Books, music, and PDF files are fine
too. The latter are how to get up to date cruising information. Cruisers are writing it for cruisers, and it is usually much more current than
books. I bought a waterproof case/bag for the Ipad, and made a padded bag to put it in.
In a place so beautiful, it is hard to bring up a negative (besides prices), but it has been a somewhat, to very frustrating, three weeks in
Boat work needed to be done. Both of my large windows need work. One has a water leak, and the other has never leaked, but the
bottom has separated by a half inch. They have been like this for over a year, and it has not been a major problem, so I waited to the right
place to get them fixed. R&C was very helpful in sending me their newest window protocol, and gave their blessings for my idea of putting
a cut in the large window to make two smaller windows which can flex independently. This is like an expansion joint in a large marble
floor, or in concrete. I waited until I could get to a Moorings charter location, assuming that they would have all the updated information,
and a good inventory of supplies. (Sorry, but we all know the root of the word “assume”.) Just to be safe, I sent them the updated
windows protocol, which includes the materials needed. Perhaps you can tell by now that the materials were not available, and were
never ordered, so the window that had been removed was re-bedded with less than optimum materials (but with a nice cut in it). To top it
off, the old failed material was not removed, just wiped with solvent and acetone before the adhesive was applied. I am hoping it will last
a year, but if this is the way they do it for the charter boats, please check the windows very carefully before buying an ex charter boat.
The other window was just patched with adhesive after removing some of the old stuff. So much for getting it done right, with a
And that is all I will say about the boatyard. Although I think they did a good job doing the bottom paint. Other than being too large, they
did a great job on rebuilding the rudders. If they were the right size, I would say they are much better than new, but I don't want to start
Then there were the bureaucrat problems. My 90 day visa was due to expire two weeks after arrival at the boatyard. It soon became
clear that the work wasn't going to be done in time and a brief extension was needed. Everybody said: no problem for a week or two. But
nobody would do anything. Why not??? I was spending $5000!!! The letter from the boatyard said that the work would be done on a
certain unrealistic date, and the government bureaucrats gave the extension until that date only. And they didn't want to revise it. To sum
it up quickly, it took six days of trips to their office (a 20 minute dinghy trip each way, unless it is windy, when it is wet and slower, and a
10 minute walk), and I finally have a reasonable visa extension. I waited, and waited, in their office today, rather than come back again
tomorrow as they wanted.
My boat projects went fine. The sail cover was removed and a new 18 foot zipper replaced, the folding props were shined up and coated
with lanocote, and the zincs were replaced on the props. The originals on the saildrives are still fine. It is amazing how long the zincs
last when you avoid marinas. The galvanic protection device on the boat seems to work great on the saildrives, but the props are
electrically isolated, and don't benefit from the same protection. And the saildrive oil was changed. I also made a couple of large drains
for the dinghy transom out of PVC pipe. Now if I can just find and fit something like motorcycle inner tube over it, to act like a one way
So, “assuming” everything is done tomorrow morning, it should be a nice few hour downwind sail to Bora Bora in the afternoon. Then
leave Monday or Tuesday before my visa is even expired. The Cook islands, and then American Samoa, where you can have stuff shipped
reliably and inexpensively. Then I hope to have at least a month in Tonga, where we will wait for a weather window (November) to head to
Generally the people here are extremely nice. Sometimes so nice that when you ask a question, they answer with what they think you
want to hear, then try to fix it later. (A problem at the boatyard, but I said I wasn't going there any more.) At a little pastry stand the owner
was trying to teach me the Polynesian word for thank you. When I couldn't get it right, he wrote it out for me (maruru), and kept me
company working on his English while I worked on my French. What a pleasure.
Most of the cruisers have gone ahead weeks ago, but there are two boats here that I will miss; Jamie and Reality. I have been meeting up
with Reality since my first Panama trip, and Jamie (www.xta-sea.com) is here awaiting a new mast, and other bits. They were dismasted
en route from Hawaii.
Maruru for listening to my venting, for tomorrow I will be back in paradise mode.
Finally managed to leave Raiatea today. One more thing about that boatyard – don't believe what they say.
At least we were heading along the reef to the channel by 11:30 AM. I finally gave up on the cleanup they were going to do at 7:45 this
morning. But the bill was ready on time. Oh, and apparently the local gendarmes showed up this morning to see if we were really still
there getting work done on the boat. (Enough negatives about boatyards and bureaucrats, time to move on!)
It was a beautiful morning, with lots of wind from a good direction. The double reef I put in the mainsail (just to be careful, although strong
winds were predicted), proved to be perfect. To top it off, just outside the channel we saw a whale several times. That will always make
my day. Too bad he didn't stick around so we could have had an up close visit.
The boat's steering was also much more crisp and accurate. Not only are we not dragging two feet of grass around on the bottom, but
the rudder no longer has play. But the biggest difference is the gyroscope which Jamie (Thank you Tamas and Sara) gave me. It was not
difficult to install, but hard to find out how it attached to the autopilot computer etc.
After all the time waiting at the boatyard, today feels like a weekend. Hey, it is a weekend! We spent a few hours wandering the town, and
of course buying more fresh baguettes. They are excellent, and one of the few bargains of French Polynesia. If it gets stale or moldy, just
save it to feed the fish.
Then we went snorkeling. There is still much healthy reef, in spite of the damage to the reefs we have seen, all the way from the
Caribbean. Some like to blame global warming, but show me the data. Even the extremes of a severe prolonged El Nino didn’t do it. But
the fish are still very healthy, especially the ones that eat the coral!!
The water was very clear, and in the sandy areas, there was a Tahitian sting ray, and a pair of flounders, who upon discovery, dropped
their top fin (that looked like a sail), and hid on the sand. Within a minute one of them disappeared, and the other took off. They can
change colors and patterns that fast. On one snorkel trip in Raiatea, I managed to find an octopus, and had fun watching it change colors
and patterns to blend with the rocks.
I saw lots of spotted eagle rays in the San Blas, Panama, but never before a school of 15 like I saw today. They all had different patterns
of spots. (I wonder if they can change their spots?) Hopefully I will get my snorkeling camera back soon and get more pix. Maybe when
we get to American Samoa? But the water was so clear today!
And a few more photos. The internet is pretty good in Bora Bora!
Sunday, July 31 another adventure already?
Am safely anchored in Moorea, and it is beautiful. But another adventure already? I think that sometimes the gods
want to give me another test when my confidence level gets too good.
It is less than 20 miles to Moorea from the Tahiti Yacht Club, and shouldn't be a big deal to singlehand. After all, the
Grib files last night showed only up to 15 knots of wind, and I tested both engines early this morning, to make sure they
would start. One of the jobs for the mechanic, Simon, is to fix the salt water leak, so that it doesn't kill the starter.
I even managed an early start, so that the usual wind pattern of glassy calm in the morning followed by nice breeze in
the afternoon would allow an easy embarkation.
BUT – less than an hour later, the port engine wouldn't start this time. Sure is nice to have a spare on the other side.
But it sure makes it difficult to maneuver in tight places. Even though the moorings were close together at the Tahiti
YC, there was no wind, so it wasn't difficult. Good thing I'm going to see the mechanic!
The outside of the channel, out from behind the island, the wind filled in, and filled in, and filled in, and...
Of course I was expecting a light breeze, so had put the full main up. It was 25-35 kts all the way, with a few lulls down
to 20. Even on max response time, poor Autopilot was steering a wild course through 40 degrees. Even with all the
grass on the bottom of the hulls, we were doing 8-10 kts, often at 11. Hit 13 once as the boat rounded up in a gust
(not just surfing). At least it was a fast trip. It was perfect conditions for the chicken chute, which I haven't needed
since the trip from Trinidad to the San Blas, in Panama. But not today. Rounding up in one gust, a wave pooped us,
and even splashed over the cockpit seats. That was the worst wave to date, by far! One of my new, wonderful,
replacement solar garden lamps washed overboard, and the plants took a hit. I rinsed them right away with fresh
water, but the basil plant was already looking sick.
What a relief to have Simon from Sharkita, and Dave, from CD there to guide and assist in maneuvering. Fortunately,
everything went smoothly, and only their company and support were needed. I would get only one chance to anchor
easily: if not, it's blood sweat and tears. Found a nice spot to anchor – behind everybody else in 28 feet of water, and
20 kts of wind (thankfully the wind was a bit lighter here, behind the island). Why do these tests come when I am
singlehanding? One solar light and one basil plant: not a bad price for a sacrifice to the wind gods.
The good news is that many old friends are here. Not to mention it is magnificent, and the turtles come close. Also,
my wind generator now works, and in 20 kts of wind, combined with the solar panels on a sunny day, there is almost
unlimited electricity. I ran the watermaker a couple of hours, so I had plenty of fresh water to rinse the seawater from
the cockpit and plants. But I will need to tweak the voltage set point on the wind generator. The solar panels shut
down once the batteries are full, and the wind gen was still putting in more amps. That could fry the batteries.
After that adventure, and tidying up, I sure didn't feel like starting another project, so I write. And there is internet
here. And because we are behind a reef, the water is flat calm in spite of 20 kts of wind.
I'm venting, thanks for listening.
I guess I didn't get off so easy. When I got into the dinghy to visit Sharkita and CD, the engine wouldn't start. It
happens that the gear lever was severed. I think that when the big wave hit, it slammed the dinghy up, and the lever
broke when it hit the bottom of the davit. There is a Yamaha dealer in Papeete. If only they have the parts needed to
(Managed to fabricate a stronger than new repair out of a piece of aluminum, and it works great. Sure is ugly though,
and it was a lot more complicated to make than it looked.)
I'll send this as soon as the internet is up again. Its been down since last night. I got tired of waiting and signed up for
another WiFi provider. Both are slow, except sometimes at night, but at least I can usually get online, and it is such a
luxury to have internet on the boat.
I just came to Moorea from Papeete to get some engine work done, since the mechanic was here. The critical stuff is
done, Two engines, one genset, and one outboard all working now.
It was time to bring out the cruising guide. I noticed it was beautiful here, but:
“Even more than Tahiti, these two bays have probably come to represent the sailor's idea of Polynesia because they
have been photographed so often. The spectacular views of the peaks behind them is one of the reasons that
Moorea is known as one of the most scenic islands in the world. ...
The view behind the bay includes the massive bulk of Mont Tohieva, and the spire of Mont Mouaroa, famous not only
from sailing stories but also the backdrop in the film version of south pacific.” (Also Mutiny on the Bounty.)
I'm anchored in the shelter of the reef, which gives protection from the seas, but allows the wind. That keeps it a
perfect temperature, and now that the wind generator is working again (in combination with the solar panels) supplies
lots of electricity.
Time to get back in the dinghy and go explore some more.
Changed Spots again, and survived another adventure. Not as “interesting” as the last one, but a couple more
The best laid plans of mice and men … Anchor up at 0630, and once outside the shelter of the reef, and the island,
the wind was 20-23 kts – right on the nose. So much for the usual morning lull in the wind. I was hoping to be back in
Papeete before the wind filled in.
Then as I went below to get my coffee, the autopilot alarm went off. Not unusual, but the nasty error message was.
And it wouldn't engage. After the brief thought of the irony of bringing back an autopilot part for somebody else, and
then having my autopilot break, it was time to hand steer. I realized that I didn't know anything about how the autopilot
hooked into the steering. Did something break, or just come loose? Good thing it was a short trip.
Arrived at Tahiti Yacht Club at 1030. That's 4 hours to go 18 miles with both engines at maximum cruising rpm.
But I did arrive at the TYC, where it was still blowing 20-23 kts. The dockmaster was there in his dinghy hadto help me
get the mooring. He even held up the two pennant lines for me. But even leaving both engines running and the helm
locked, by the time I ran to the bow, the wind had blow the bows away, and he backed off out of the way. It wasn't any
better with two dockmasters in their dinghys. Finally they got a third person and put him on Spots to handle the lines
on the bow while I drove. First try was a success.
What I don't understand is why they wouldn't do it the easy way. I had tied a long, strong line to the bow. Once that is
attached to the mooring buoy, the rest is easy. Then I can do it myself, even in much stronger wind. But he kept
saying he had two lines, and I gave up after the third try to convince him.
And the autopilot is now fixed. The chain had jumped off the sprocket. It would have been an easy fix if I didn't need
to squeeze into the tiny space in the cupboard under the galley sink. I'm done for the day!! Off to shore once I send
Hope you are having a good day. Photos to phollow, see below.
September 22, 2011
Securely tucked away in a tiny anchorage at beautiful Aitutaki, Cook Islands.
But before we left Bora Bora, we had one more problem. The outboard didn’t run right. I had just topped up the tank with fresh gas from
Raiatea, and headed out to go snorkeling. We stopped to say Hi to Sea Flyer, and the engine stalled. I could only keep it running by
keeping the choke pulled out (not good for the engine!). It sounded to me like the thermostat was faulty, since if I could get the engine
running fast with full throttle, I could eventually ease off on the choke (good thing I’m not a mechanic). I managed to find , remove, and
clean the thermostat, (it had some crud on it), but didn’t seem stuck open. (Didn’t help!)
A mechanic on the radio net said the symptoms were classic gummed up carb. I managed to find, remove, and clean the carb. (Didn’t
help!) Took the carb to a local mechanic here in Aitutaki, who also cleaned it. (Didn’t help!) Took it back again to do a more thorough
cleaning, and he mentioned that the gas smelt funny, and that was likely the problem. But it didn’t plug the filter, it didn’t have any water,
and it was fresh from a busy gas station (Then I remembered how the engine got real bad after topping up the tank – and it had been
getting a bit worse earlier.) Duhhh!? Fresh gas (about $10 per gallon) fixed it! By that time I could remove the carb in less than 3
So now the mechanic is working on my old outboard, which I was keeping as an emergency spare. But it had more problems than I could
fix (and I fixed a lot of them).
The journey here was windless for the first three days. We didn’t push it but ran one engine at minimum cruising rpm and did about 5 kts.
That was so much better than when the bottom was covered with grass. Running an engine meant that you have lots of electricity, and
can make lots of water, and it is even heated. Oh, the luxury of a warm (or hot) shower every day. The glassy seas made some beautiful
sunsets. Then the wind filled in. But by then we had almost arrived, and of course wanted a daylight arrival. What a bummer to then have
to slow the boat. We were using just a mainsail, with a double reef to keep the speed below 6 kts.
We approached the channel entrance at 7 AM, which means that the light isn’t good for seeing bottom details and depths. Fortunately,
people on the SSB radio net had warned me about the chart error for the channel entrance, and gave me the true GPS coordinates. And I
found a report giving waypoints all the way through the channel. I don’t know if it is even possible to find the entrance without the GPS
points, and when you do, you hope you are wrong! Not only is it very narrow, but it looks like you are heading up a raging river, with
standing waves. At least by the time you get to the shallow part, the current has decreased a lot. We saw 4.5 feet in places (close to low
tide), and we draw a bit less than 4 feet. With a normal high tide it would be about a foot deeper. I radioed these depths to a boat which
was trying to enter (he had a 6 foot draft), but he entered anyway – or tried.
The anchorage is tiny. When we arrived there was only one boat here, and it was already too crowded. So far, I have been able to avoid
any “extras” in anchoring, so I’m not set up for it. So after a quick temporary anchoring to think, and then jump in the water to check
things out, we had a plan. Tie a long line from a palm tree ashore to the back of the boat, and hoist the anchor. Motor out to the end of the
line and drop the anchor as you pull in on the stern line. Neat. Another catamaran, Mambo, came in later, and did the same thing right
When you arrive at a new country, you are not supposed to leave the boat until you have officially checked in. We arrived on Saturday
morning, and we heard that the officials are not around all weekend. So when I went ashore I carried my boat documents as I wandered
all over town (looking for the immigration office of course). On Sunday we could hear the music from the boat. Except churches, and
there are lots of them, nothing happens here on a Sunday.
Not only is this island beautiful, but the people are amazingly friendly. At first you are waiting to hear what they are trying to sell, but no,
they are just that friendly. Even the officials are that friendly. The quarantine officer must have been a Nancy Reagan fan. In going
through the “must not have” list, I asked about a chicken in the freezer, and other things. He said: “just say no”, as he wrote out the
receipt for $20. And what another luxury it is to have English as the official language.
On Saturday, after a week here, we plan to go to Palmerston Island, about 200 miles away. They have moorings there, owned by families,
who take you in. We may also be doing a food delivery to them, from a family member here. After a couple of nights there (but who
knows, I only expected to spend a few days here) it is off to American Samoa, where there should be some packages awaiting me.
I’ve been spending a lot of time with folks on 42 and Mambo. They have been great, even speaking English instead of German for me.
Carsten and Mercedes on 42 talked me into renting a scooter, and it was a blast. Tomorrow, I will use it to get the computer to the
internet café to try to update this website. But at $0.30 per minute, for very slow internet, I’m not sure it will be done, but I’ll try.
Yes, paradise is truly wonderful. But I have again been reminded of one of my sayings that “you are never better than your attitude”.
More photos at this link.
Oct 2, 2011
IT WAS THE BEST OF TIMES, IT WAS THE WORST OF TIMES
Palmerston was one of the highlights, and I just finished the worst time of my sailing career.
We are now sailing to American Samoa from Palmerston. It is a pleasant sail, with motoring much of the way, but finally sailing again, at
about 4 kts. When we left Palmerston we had 15 to 20 kts of wind and frequent squalls, but with a reef in the mainsail, the winds were no
problem. It was nice to get the salt rinsed off the boat. It was 480 miles, and if the wind picks up a bit (as promised by the GRIB file wind
predictions), we could be there tomorrow morning. And there are packages awaiting me, with more next weekend.
PALMERSTON - the best of times
I am very glad we stopped at Palmerston. It was with some trepidation that we visited at all, since Riri, one of the boats we crossed the
Pacific with, broke from the mooring, and was destroyed on the reef there. I don’t know the details of how it happened, or what broke.
After motoring most of the 200 miles, we arrived in the late morning. Whales were playing near the surf off in the distance.
We called the island on the VHF radio, and a launch was there to guide us to our mooring (would have been nicer if he picked it up for us).
A half hour later the official was aboard, and very soon the paperwork was done and the $10 paid. The launch was back again shortly to
take us (but crew didn’t want to go) to visit the island. Sweet! That meant I didn’t need to put the outboard motor back on the dinghy. As
he takes me through the maze which is the channel through the coral reef, I think I can do this. Coming back later in the afternoon, I
realize there was no way I could have maneuvered through the maze of channels in the reef with the wind and glare of the sun on the
Heinz and Sylvia from Mambo were already there, and we enjoyed the coconut milk from a young, cold nut while we chatted and got to
know the family, and their wonderful, very curious kids. The kids gave us a tour of the island, visiting several people, and the wreck of
Next day I went back and took a large bag of clothes from my prior crew, in hopes that they would fit the kids. I gave them to the mom for
her ok, since some of the clothes might not be appropriate for young kids, with a strong religious background. Mom said fine, and her
only concern was that none would fit her. The clothes, and some water color paints from Trinidad were a bit hit (thanks, Thia, and Rix).
Among the people I met were the widow, and the daughter of Tom Neale, who wrote a book about his experience living alone on a small
island in the South Pacific. They made sure I met his daughter, Stella, since she was the island nurse, and they heard that I was a doctor.
We had a great visit, and I agreed to come the next day, and see patients with her. Wow! Her only support was a phone, and a bit of slow
speed internet. No lab, Xray, or … . Emergency evacuation would take over 48 hours, by boat, to the nearest medical facility.
The next day we saw patients, and saw patients. I think I must have seen 2/3 of the population, and it was fun. Sure would have liked to
have a spirometer. I still had more visiting, and farewells to do when Bob, the launch driver tracked me down and asked if I would go
back to the boat soon. Mambo had broken the mooring from the seas and winds, and he was worried that nobody was aboard Spots.
Fortunately, Heinz and Sylvia were aboard Mambo, and the wind would have carried them away from the reef, but it is a bit un-nerving.
It is amazing how close you can get to people in a short time, but with their overwhelming hospitality, and the enthusiasm of the kids, we
felt like family too. My crew finally went ashore on the third day, and seemed to enjoy it.
There are lots of ways a mooring can fail. One of the new charter boats in Raiatea broke free because somebody put a single line bridle
through the mooring loop. Of course, when the boat swung back and forth, it sawed through the line and that boat drifted onto a reef. The
moorings at Palmerston were solidly chained to coral. I think their problem is that they used expensive line, which is high strength and
low stretch. This puts a huge shock load on everything, and they should have used the cheap, stretchy nylon stuff. It should have been
bigger, and also should have had a thimble spliced into the end. When I got back to the boat, the mooring looked secure, but I let out a lot
more of my bridle – both parts of the stretchy nylon. I also set up the anchor alarm.
I was hoping for a visit with 42 and Mambo before leaving, since I don’t know when I will see them again. Hopefully in Tonga, but I will
probably be in American Samoa for a while. I will be looking for new crew before heading to Tonga and New Zealand. Harry Potter, I think
I am now qualified to help you with the dementors, so please call if you need help.
Six boats all left Palmerston within a 3 day period, so we have been checking their progress on the morning SSB radio net. One is also
going to Am Sam, since their autopilot isn’t working and they have ordered a replacement. Just as I was about to do a quick rinse in the
sea before leaving, a whale surfaced within 100 feet of the boat. Too bad he didn’t stop to play, but he seemed to be travelling.
Lots of pix at this link.
We arrived after an uneventful, light wind sail, with considerable motoring. What can I say about AM Sam? It is a cruisers’ destination,
not a cruising destination. While the bay is very sheltered from storms, it is enough of a commercial port that the water isn’t too
appetizing. But I think we are all spoiled by the spectacular water clarity elsewhere. Compared to the west coast of the US it was fine –
and warm. Am Sam feels and is very safe, not only from storms, but from crime. After the Carib and Central America, I finally realized
what was different: no bars on the windows.
One boat thought somebody had stolen their dinghy otboard. They got on the radio and gave the warning, to which the reply was to check
the bottom of the bay. It had been rough and windy the night before, and sure enough, the outboard was on the bottom. Within several
hours, he had it up from the bottom, cleaned and dried, and running just fine.
Besides the protection from typhoons provided by this bay (it was a volcano caldera, but one side is gone), Am Sam has the best
provisioning in the S Pacific. Good selection of the stuff we are used to, at almost US prices. And if it isn’t here, you can send it by USPS
at US rates and reliability. Flights are also the simplest and cheapest in the S Pacific, and the local busses are fun, frequent, and only a
dollar. Internet is pretty good, and not expensive. And it sure is nice to be able to get internet from the boat. It gets expensive though,
since you have such ready access to buying ”stuff” from the US. I have ordered a new high powered WiFi system, which will even give a
mini network on the boat.
Another mystery solved. I think that the “bad gas” I got in Raitea wasn’t gas at all. It was diesel! That explains everything.
October 18, 2011
THE WORST OF TIMES
I won’t dwell on it, but the worst experience of my sailing career ended a week ago. No it wasn’t deadly sharks, injuries, mechanical
breakdowns, injuries, pirates, storms; but was far worse. The “black hole of happiness” was a crew who was angry and depressed (and
of course suffering from denial). Hence my earlier comments about Harry Potter and dementors. From every bad experience I need to
find two things: a silver lining, and a lesson.
• The silver lining was the support I received from the fellow cruisers. When they saw what was happening they made a point to
invite me over (and her too, but she usually declined). We got to be such good friends very quickly, and I hope to keep it that way. Thank
• The lesson. All prospective crew will be asked if they have a history of chronic depression or bipolar disease – early in the
The search for new crew is going amazingly well. I originally planned to find somebody quickly, so we could leave with enough time to
explore Tonga on the way to New Zealand (before typhoon season). The cruisers here were so supportive about staying here for typhoon
season, and because I didn’t want to rush through Tonga, that I have decided to remain here. Several photos here.
The downside is that I don’t want to leave the boat unattended while I go back to the US for a month or two. So I will probably not go.
Staying here gives a very early start on the cruising season for Tonga, and the Fiji. Then probably NZ this time next year for typhoon
season. Let the boat projects begin! But I am running out of projects to do!!! Then it is time to play and explore Am Sam.
Musings on cruising/travel/exploring.
Part of the adventure is the getting there. Upon arrival, the next step is checking in, and learning your way around. Before too long you
learn how to get around, and how and where things are done. Once you become comfortable in your new surroundings, you face the
biggest hurdle in continuing your journey: comfort and inertia. Many cruisers have cut their travels short because they get comfortable in
a place they like, and lose their desire to move on.
We are getting ready to leave Am Sam, and head to Tonga. Am Sam has been very busy, and the time flew. Lots of stuff was ordered,
taking advantage of the USPS service and reliability (usually!). Lots of boat projects have been completed, and new crew is working out
fine. This is also a tremendous place to provision, with US selection and prices (almost). The cruising community here is small, with no
real amenities for cruisers. A McDonalds near the dock has been called the McYacht club, where the cruisers meet and do internet.
Internet is also fairly good here, and extremely reasonable.
It is generally considered a three day sail to Tonga, so that is three days to get to tomorrow (or the other side of the date line). Too bad the
weather gods don’t promise any wind. Most of the needed boat projects are done (but lots more to do of course), so now it is time to do a
major provisioning, while we are still here in the land of plenty. Our week of rain finally ended, and it is now beautiful again, so we are also
off to do some last minute local exploration.
The garden is doing great again, with plenty of tomatoes every day, lemon grass, and basil, but it will probably be confiscated when we get
to Tonga (but we heard that in the Galapagos too). The garden had its share of problems, such as getting blown over in a storm, knocked
over, drowned after a week of rain, and one even jumped overboard. How inconsiderate!
They are gearing up for rowing races here. Judging by all the boats, and their support boats it will be a big deal. Everybody on the island
will be here. It turns out we are on their race course, and it is great to be here in the middle of all the action as they practice every evening
and some mornings. We just got notice yesterday that we need to move from our mooring before the races next weekend. Good thing
we are aiming to leave for Tonga before the end of next week. Sorry to miss the races, as we have gotten to know the different crew as
they row by (and sometimes wave).
BUT! Ready for paradise! Cyclone season is almost over. Tonga beckons, then Fiji.
A few weeks ago we did a hike in a national park. It was along the lip of an old volcano (even before my time), overlooking the harbor on
one side, and the Pacific Ocean on the other. The volcano cauldron is the very sheltered bay of Pago Pago. No wonder it is so protected
from cyclones. We cheated and took a bus to the park entrance. We then hiked up the rest of the way to the summit, where there used
to be a tram. Now the view is reserved for those who hike.
Part of the hike was along the ridge where it was only a few feet wide. The trip down was very steep, often using blocks as sets of stairs,
We arrived at the village on the other side of the island in time to learn that we had missed the last bus. Oops. Fortunately, a kind man
gave us a lift back to town.
We also did hikes to a WW II relic of old cannons mounted on a hill overlooking the harbor entrance. We also hiked to a Marine
sanctuary. The bus trips to the towns and bays on the other side of the island were much easier.
Lots of AM Sam photos at this link!
Sept 23, 2012
I can’t believe we have been in Fiji for over three weeks – and I haven’t even commented on the whole 4
months in Tonga. It was a long season in Am Sam, which although not a great cruising destination, was a good
place to spend cyclone season. Had I known I were going to spend cyclone season there, (and didn’t have an
emergency crew change!), I would have spent another month in the Cook islands. My rationale/experience
was published in the Sept 2012 issue of SSCA.
We arrived in Tonga mid April, after an easy 3 day sail from Am Sam (with motor sailing the third day). We were
the first cruisers to arrive for the season, and the boats that stayed there for cyclone season hadn’t left yet.
The cruisers in NZ didn’t start to leave for almost a month, and they waited a long time for a good weather
window to cross the challenging southern ocean. We brought boat parts for friends on Sea Flyer, and 42.
They were quite happy to point out the highlights of Tonga, and introduce us to the local ex-pats. They are a
close knit, and very supportive community for the cruisers. What a welcome! Also met new friends on Soggy
Paws, who were still repairing damage from a sudden, unexpected Tonga cyclone.
Neiafu is the town in the Vavau island group, and where the vast majority of the Tonga cruising takes place. It
is only a few hours sail to the nearby islands. After provisioning in town, off you go to an island group for a
week or so. Then back to town again. Then off to another island group. For over a month, we had the
anchorages all to ourselves. By the time the other cruisers showed up, we had the anchorages all figured out,
with waypoints entered into the chartplotter.
The Navillus adventure – a tragedy.
Late one June Thurs evening there was a call on the local VHF radio net. They were looking for volunteers to assist in a
search and rescue operation for 2 sailors aboard the Navillus who had reportedly run aground on Late Island. That is over
30 miles away. They also asked for medical people, so of course I volunteered. But it was a dark and stormy night. No
boats were willing or able to head out in that stuff at night. At first light I got the call that a boat was ready to go. It was a
fast launch ride out to the 80 foot sportfishing boat, Patriot. The owner had generously offered the services of his boat and
crew to assist in the search.
The wind was dying, but the seas were still large as we slammed against them on the way to Late Island. The waves were
splashing over the bridge of the boat (remember this is an 80 foot boat!) As we approached the island, we were notified by
the search plane which had just arrived on the scene that there was a huge debris field downwind of the island. The band
of debris was only 100 yards wide, but stretched out over 8 miles from the island. Starting at one end we slowly drove up
the middle of the debris, checking out everything, as well as taking items aboard, and photographs. The pieces of boat
were all small! That, along with the brand new life preservers, and the life raft, still unopened in its hard case, turned our
optimism into doubt. Once we got to the site of the wreck, and the divers reported on the tiny bit of boat that was left, we
realized it would be a miracle to have anybody survive the wreck. The keel, engine, generator, and batteries were all that
remained in 20 feet of water, about 20 feet away from the rock wall of the island.
They had run into a rock wall in the middle of a volcano island, on a moonless stormy night. Who knows what happened?
Apparently they were in a hurry to get to Australia, and didn’t want to wait two days for perfect trade wind conditions. The
search continued, but there was no miracle.
Captain Terry, of the Patriot, and his wife, Bonny, became friends. When I mentioned that my generator had blown its 4th
(and last, and none were to be found in Tonga) capacitor, they offered to have one brought for me. I ordered one, and
had it sent to Louisiana (along with a new cell phone), and it was brought to Tonga on the owner’s private jet the next time
he came to visit. Talk about express delivery. What a kick. It is interesting how being brought together under risky,
dramatic circumstances can create an immediate friendship bond.
One time when we were visiting one of the island groups, we were asked to return to town early. It wasn’t in our plans, but
there was a thank you ceremony, and meeting about the wreck of the Navillus in June. I was strongly encouraged to
attend, and it was worthwhile. Before the ceremony, I was walking past the police station, and the chief of police called out
my name, and called me into the office. He wanted to make sure I was coming! The police officers were all wearing their
dress uniforms. Besides being given a wall plaque, we are all now on a first name basis with the new Tongan police
commissioner, and were given his card: which has been called the get out of jail free card. Of course I became involved in
trying to help set up a disaster preparedness plan, in case of boating, tsunami, earthquake, or volcano emergency.
Besides exploring dozens of beautiful islands/anchorages, we also had fun at parties on Ben & Lisa’s island –
twice. By the second night, both times, we realized that we just weren’t up to partying for a whole weekend,
but then, nobody else was quite as up for it the second night either. Friday nights were the races at the
Moorings. I had fun as the race committee.
Some of the islands are deserted, and have fruit trees available for harvest, and we also visited swallows
cave. This cave is large enough to drive the dinghy into. Other events included the pig races. The only
problem was that these little pigs were so fast that the race was over before we even found a good position to
watch from. The human horse races were fun too.
I would also get an occasional call about somebody with a medical problem. Although many of these problems
didn’t get much expertise from me, I at least know the questions to ask. I was called on the VHF radio, to see a
one year old girl with fever and rash. Fortunately she was fine, but I was asked to sign a non disclosure, since
the family on the megayacht was very prominent. When checking my email several hours later, I had a
message from the captain of the Dragonfly. As a thank you from the owners, he arranged a whale
watching/snorkeling trip for us. Dragonfly is 73 meters long, and travels fast. Because the owners don’t
spend much time aboard, they don’t want to spend their time travelling. Dragonfly cruises at over 25 kts! Of
course they get to the boat by private jet. Nice folk too. I could have spent hours chatting with them. Nice
Because of the warm friendship of the cruisers and the locals, it was very hard to leave Tonga. It is a good
thing I don’t have a schedule (and if I did, I would be 2 years behind), since I plan to go back to Tonga again
next season. We missed the Haapai group of islands, which supposedly has great snorkeling and diving.
Then back to the Vavau group. And Fiji is turning out to be so nice, the plan is to return here again too. After
Fiji next season, who knows where. But in a couple of months we head to New Zealand for their summer. I
hope to have some projects done on Spots, and head back to the US for a couple of months. I hear NZ is also
a good place to have stuff shipped. But right now, Savusavu is getting difficult to leave.
Not all is easy about cruising. There are lots of sacrifices, and a great many simple projects are much more
difficult. You almost have to rearrange the furniture to do a different activity.
When you arrive somewhere new, you have all the newness, and exotic things to experience, and the fun of
learning how to get things done. Then you get a nice comfort level, which of course makes it hard to leave.
Besides the interactions with the locals, which is not a lot, you have an immediate common bond with your
fellow cruisers. It seems more so in the S Pacific than it was in the Caribbean. Have we all become members
of an exclusive club? Nationality and age are not barriers at all. This life is so much more real, and
adventurous than the drivel on TV (especially now with elections due). I can’t imagine doing anything else. So
as long as it keeps being fun….
Lots of Tonga pix at this link!
Oct 30, 2012
Finally left Savusavu. We spent a night anchored off the point near the Cousteau resort – yes, it is a major
scuba dive place. It was then a fun ride to Namena, an island renowned for diving and snorkeling, and a
marine park. The marine life of course was wonderful, and even the sharks were fine. In some places, such
as French Polynesia, there were sometimes just too many to feel comfortable in the water for long.
It was a bouncy night, since the wind and waves continued all night. The reef gave some protection, but at
high tide, the waves just rode over. It was the first time I ever anchored in 88 ft (previously it was just over 50
ft), and we put out almost all of the 300 ft of chain. The windlass got a good workout hauling it up the next
morning. The boat on the second mooring left very early, so at the crap of dawn, we scooted over to pick it
up. Doin it and Galena showed up later on the third day, but only stayed one night, since they found it too
So we all sailed off to Makongai island. It was also beautiful, with an interesting history. It used to have a
population of 5000 – a leper colony – but now has only 60 residents. They now raise sea turtles and giant
clams, to repopulate areas where they have been decimated.
We also did the Kava presentation, which is a way of intruding yourselves to the village chief, and presenting
him with a gift of kava. Once welcomed thusly, you become part of the community, and they will do anything
they can to help if you have problems. We were invited to their kava ceremony later that evening. But the
three boats were about to sail off in different directions after many months of friendship, and had planned a
bon voyage party. Spots has the biggest cockpit, so we hosted. Although crowded, we managed to find space
for a dance floor. I’ll miss you guys, and hope our paths cross again.
Sorry to have missed the kava ceremony, since it is a serious tradition in much of the S Pacific, and goes on
for many hours. Kava is made from a pulverized root, and is “mildly intoxicating”. I have tasted it, but never
had enough to feel the effects. I sure hope one of the effects is not caring about the taste.
Next day we had another leisurely sail, to the town Levuka, on the island Ovalau. It was the original capital of
Fiji, and retails some historical character. An old stone church tower remains, and marked the channel
through the reef. But – the town is on the windward side of the islands and is subject to the full force of the
trade winds. I’m afraid the reef isn’t enough protection, and the anchorage gets pretty rolly. So the next
morning, also at the crap of dawn, off we sailed to Suva – well over 50 miles away.
And what a great sail it was. We finally shook the double reef out of the mainsail, and took advantage of the
close reach sailing in 15 – 20 kts of wind (the first half). The fish gods were determined we were going to
catch a fish, and wouldn’t hear otherwise. The fish looked like it was a surfboard, and it was a real shock. I
haven’t caught a fish in a year and a half. The fish retrieval gear was in a locker with all the plants piled on
top. While devising a plan of how to get said fish onboard, it got away. Oh well, it was too good to be true. As
I said, the fish gods weren’t about to let us go fishless. Just before we rounded the point, another fish;
bigger, and obviously a Mahi (one of the finest fish) was hooked. The fish gods even timed it perfectly. We
had to round the point, and head downwind, which slowed us enough to make it easy to get the fish aboard.
Interestingly, both bites were on a cheap white plastic lure, not the fancy pink and blue color everybody said
was the right color. That one got nothing. I guess it just goes to show that all fishing lures can be effective,
even if just catching fishermen.
The last part of the sail was the best. It was north into the harbor, behind the shelter of the reef. Sure didn’t
want to take the sails down, but there was no way we were going to sail into a strange harbor under sail. By 2:
30 PM, Spots was on a mooring with everything tucked away. A beautiful sunny day, with enough trade winds
to keep the temperature perfect.
The people of Fiji are very friendly, and it takes a bit of getting used to. This is true even in the city, Suva. I
confess to having gotten a bit cynical about some of the overtly friendly people. Too many years of
experience have found that many of them sooner or later get to their point: they are begging, selling
something, or trying to peddle their religion. It has taken a while to not be standoffish with them. How
We are in Lami, on the outskirts of Suva. Today we took the bus into the city, and experienced rush hour,
traffic, and all the hustle and bustle. It was a bit of a culture shock. Not from all the cultures there, but it was
my first time in a city in well over a year. We’ll be in the city a few more times, working on projects, and a bit of
provisioning for now, but in a few days will anchor off the Royal Suva Yacht Club, a short walk from downtown.
They even have a serious correction facility. It doesn’t look very inviting.
I don’t think it will take too long to miss the tranquility of the small towns and secluded anchorages, but right
now is time to enjoy the city. Then it will be time to get ready for the passage to NZ. The package of stuff I
ordered is here, but I just need to get it through customs – maybe tomorrow. Then I get to install a new AIS
Although it took 3 days to get the stuff, it wasn’t that big a deal. And everything is already installed now. The
shipping story might show up in the SSCA bulletin some day.
Travel plans from NZ to the US almost finished. Maybe leaving tomorrow! But will return.
Fiji pix here.
Stay tuned. Much more to follow. Coming up next: Fiji
Jan 16, 2013
Here I am in Texas, and caught up with my ordering of stuff. It was time to contact Yahoo about improving the
website with their Sitebuilder software. OOOOps! They don't support it any more. They now want everything
to be done online, which of course, can't be done in many parts of the world.
So I am now looking into new software for web development. Hopefully I can find something which will allow
me to take what is already done, and improve on it.