Saturday, October 13, 2018

New Adventure - Cape San Blas Recovery,

Well as if we didn’t need another adventure right now. Cape San Blas was hit quite badly by Hurricane Michael. Neighboring Mexico Beach was devastated.  We have a vacation home at CSB, and based on aerial photos it seems to still be there.  Since roads are closed and washed out, we are currently en-route Sailing to CSB. We will update as and when we can. But you can track our progress using this link ( also shown in the sidebar).

Sunday, September 16, 2018

New Boat Purchase - Update

Although I have not been writing very much on the blog - we  have been busy!  In summary, Janet made a trip back to England to see her parents and to attend the wedding of our friends Leon and Kat.  However, since the wedding coincided with the peak of Hurricane Season, I elected to stay home. 

Arnica Bay - TS Gordon

Tropical Storm Gordon

We almost escaped without a storm while Janet was away, but then just a day before her return we were hit by tropical storm Gordon.  Thankfully not a severe storm for us, but we did do some boat and house preparations.

The only damage was a couple of lifted shingles and my wind vane on the roof toppled.  All-in-all not too bad. Fingers crossed for the remainder of this season!

Lagoon Factory Visit

While in England, Janet and her father, Don were able to make a side trip to France to check on the progress of the new boat - a Loggon 40 that will be named "Midnight Sun III".  It was not an ideal time to make a factory visit as Beneteau/Lagoon, like most French industry takes the month of August off and the factory was closed.  She made the visit on their fist day back in production in September, and based on their reports, they were very impressed by the entire production process!

Unfortunately, I can't share a bunch of impressive photographs as the facility has a very strict "no photos" policy.  Our boat is Hull no 45, and unfortunately it was at the stage of "fine finishing" of the fiberglass and was in a dust-controlled area where they could not visit.  However, they did see Hull no 44 and 46 - so we have confidence that Hill 45 does indeed exist.  My understanding is that both Hulls 44 and 46 were just "shells" with a long way to go, but apparently the boats move along the production line every 5 hours or so and when in full production, a finished boat rolls out of the facility every day and a half.  I find that really hard to picture - but let's hope that they are right!

So, according to their production manager "Vincent", our boat should be out of the factory November 8, and be rigged and ready by November 20.  We would like to thank the following for helping set up the factory tour/visit:
  • Brad Kaufmann - our Dream Yacht Broker
  • Frederick Moreau - Commercial Director, Dream Yacht Charters, France
  • Vincent (sorry I don't have a last name) - Beneteau/Lagoon
Again, its hard to express how important this was to us, and with no photos, I am of course very anxious to see things progress to a finished boat.  Here's Janet and her Dad with a Lagoon 40 that just rolled off the production line - exciting!  Anyway, Janet was impressed and came away with a good feeling that things will be completed as promised.

Purchase Update

We have arranged to purchase the boat using Euros as the currency- so we have been watching the exchange rate closely. We saw a dip in July/August, so made a substantial payment on the boat to take advantage of the exchange rate. 

I have been spending a fair amount of time researching and planning the delivery route and also purchasing and/or staging essential items that we will need for the delivery trip.  As a recap - we are planning to self-deliver the boat from France to the BVI where she will go into charter for a season or two.  

I intend to write a blog with more detail on our preparations and route planning.  In terms of initial preparations, we plan to ship a pallet of items to France ahead of our arrival, with items such as life-raft, water maker, tools, voltage converter, propane adaptors.......the list is long, and the staging area in the garage is building!  The hope is that it will all fit on one pallet, and logistically, we need to ship this in the next week or so to be sure it will arrive ahead of us.

In terms of an update on our plans, we have decided to move into current times, and trt to prepare a "Vlog" or "Video blog" of our experience in addition to this Blog.  So we have just posted "Episode 1" in YouTube and plan on some updates as we move into our adventure.  So here's a link (hopefully) to Episode 1, titled: "Midnight Sun III - Interview: Lagoon Purchase Episode !"  If the link below does not work, you should be able to find it on YouTube.


Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Pulled the Plug - Retirement Doesn't Suck!

Work's a Four-Letter Word

Well, I have been threatening to do it for the last couple of years, but I have had the amazing opportunity to ease into retirement early and sail a couple of semi-sabbaticals while working part time in my old job.  But July 31 was my official last day of work!

Having said that, working through all the health care mess has been a full-time job in itself.  Suffice it to say there's a lot of cr@p out there and at least in our situation, the so called "Affordable Health Care Act" is abysmal, and anything but affordable.  So for now, we are moving ahead with COBRA - which is also pitifully expensive.

This will be a very short post as many projects are calling.  But, yes, I can't believe it, I pulled the plug and this is the first time in my life that I have been "unemployed" since being 15 years old.  Its a strange feeling!  So what has been keeping me busy? - well here's a quick outline:

Purchasing Midnight Sun III (Lagoon 40)

I have been working through all the logistics of getting ready remotely for an Atlantic Crossing on a new boat we have not seen yet.  Thinking through power and propane issues using a boat set up for the US in mention a few things!.  Ordering a downwind sail and trying to figure out what the various "packages" we added on to the boat really include.  And France closes down about now for summer!!!

Fleet Captain at Point YC

Race Start
I now have two regattas under my belt as Fleet Captain, and absolutely understand why this is the hardest job at a yacht club! However, I do think its fair to say that our little yacht club had two successful events - the last one being Fast Women 2018, the culmination of the Ladies Trilogy Cup sponsored by Point YC, Pensacola Beach YC, and Navy YC.  Eleven boats raced and it was a wonderful day on the water.  Here are a few pics

Madcap - J30

Albert J. Rice - Viper

Boat Projects

B-O-A-T.....Bring on another thousand!....yes, the front AC quit on Midnight Sun II (Hunter) quit.  After a day of messing with it I decided the compressor had locked and despite jolting it with high current - it would not start.  So I pulled it out and sent it back to the manufacturer - Ocean Breeze.  They fixed it, and returned it to me pretty quickly (new compressor).  I re-installed worked for an hour and sprung a leak discharging all the refrigerant.  So tomorrow I get to take it out and send it back to them.  Hmmm..not impressed with their repair and warranty so far as they say they will not cover shipping on a $800 repair that doesn't work.  Since I am now on a fixed income, I will have to press that one with them.  Stay tuned!

Monday, June 25, 2018

Midnight Sun III - new boat or not?

Midnight Sun II - at home in her slip

New Boat or Not?

Midnight Sun II, our current boat is a 1997 Hunter 42 Passage.  She has been a great boat to us and IS still a great boat.  But every once in a while you get the itch for a new on YachtWorld...or "boat porn" as Larry calls it.  And somehow, I've had a feeling that I probably  have one more sailboat left in me before age will force me to the dark side (trawler or even a pontoon boat!).

Over the last several months we have toiled with the idea of a new or different boat, but each time we have come back to a couple of issues: (i) what would we really need to buy to have something significantly better than Midnight Sun II?; and (ii) cost-benefit, i.e.,  how much money are we prepared to put into a boat and will that increase our enjoyment or use?  Difficult questions!  Midnight Sun II gets used most weeks and we just spent 6 months on her - so hard to think how we would use a boat more.

Item (i) became a very difficult question.  I have always been intrigued with the Southerly - a monohull with a retractable keel.  A very well built British boat which is featured on a sailing/travel show called "Distant Shores"see Distant Shores TV.  I have been watching the used market for a couple of years, but frankly they are over-priced and rare.  I guess its a case of supply and demand - not too many of them around, especially in the US and those that are looking for them, know what they want.  So going back to questions (i) and (ii) above - very hard to justify.  Equipment, size, and comfort would be very similar to Midnight Sun II.  Yes, it may sail a little better, particularly in heavier seas or to weather, but would it really be a significantly different boat?  As to cost-benefit - well prices were about high $300's to $400k.   Same size boat, newer, but not really a stepwise improvement as we have all the bells and whistles on Midnight Sun II.  Hmm.

Caliber 47 LRC
On our way home from the Bahamas, we did stop to view a  Caliber 47 LRC. 
Now that was a nice boat.  47 ft Long gave it some added interior features and comforts, but it had a large bowsprit giving it a LOA of at least 54-55 ft.  Price $430k, but I know they would come down a lot.  The boat was like new, but still a 2008.  It had been stored for most of its that would involve some projects as things start to break when coming out of hibernation!  Still, if it could be purchased at the right price, it started to fit some of the criteria.  It was even shoal draft (5'2") and ICW friendly.  One big downside - it would not really fit in our slip behind the house due to the that would not work.

So, thinking about our slip - this now becomes criteria (iii)....we can't really go longer, can't go deeper (Midnight Sun II draws 4'11", and about 5'6" is the max draft for our canal).  So we are limited to a shoal draft or retractable keel boat at 42-45 ft max length.  To be honest, I was finding it hard to find a monohull that fit these criteria and really excited me more than Midnight Sun II. Have I mentioned - she is a great boat!

But how about a "double-wide"? [aka "full boat" - Dean French; aka "boat with training wheels" - Larry Cost].  Well our slip is inset from the canal, so it may stick out a bit, but no more than some other boats?  It might work.  The bigger question was the entrance to the canal, which is quite narrow - and would the sail drives on a cat have sufficient depth at that width?  The solution was to borrow a cat and try it.  As it happened, we were able to find someone with a Lagoon 440 that needed to be moved - long story, but that's the gist of it.  They also wanted to sell it - but man what a project, and a floating reef!  Nevertheless, I volunteered to help, if we could take a slight detour down the canal.  It worked out - the 440 made it in no problem and did a 360 turn adjacent to our slip.  So a cat was becoming a possibility.  Maybe something a little smaller than the 440 as that has a 72 ft mast height and as such was not ICW friendly!

The used catamaran market is very active at the moment, with not too many real bargains to be found.  Several reason have been put forward, including: they are just more attractive to charterers due to size and space; many of the cats in charter fleets were lost in recent hurricanes - particularly in the BVIs (affecting the supply/demand situation); many people like the stability and space; and they are just "in vogue" at the moment. 

Nautitech open 40
We had looked at a few used and new cats.  We had seen what appeared to be structural/design flaws on a couple of new Leopards and while we liked them, this together with the Ikea-look of the interior put us off.  We looked at new and used Lagoons and decided that some great improvements in space use had been made on the newer versions, and the aesthetics of the "box" had also been much improved.  We also saw a Bavaria/Nautitech Open 40 which we really liked - but Bavaria had just filed for bankruptcy and build quality raised a few questions.  We had looked at a brand new Open 40 and there were some carpentry issues.  We liked the Balis, built by Catana  - but were they an ocean-going cat, or a nice charter/weekender?  The openness and solid forward deck raised some concerns for me in terms of sea-worthiness and stiffness. So we just kept coming back to Lagoon - tried, tested, nice build quality - the best we had seen so far, heavier than most (so a little slower), and backed by the Beneteau Group.  Personally I like "heavier" even though the cat dealers promote "lightweight".  Heavier to me generally means more material, better durability and strength - something I want in a boat.  Lagoon just kept coming out at the top of our list of "almost affordable" boats.  So we tested the waters with a couple of low-ball offers on 2-4 year old used Lagoons.  Hmm, no takers, one rejected our offer, one came back with what the broker said was a great counter.

We looked at new boats, but they were just "almost affordable" at best and criteria (ii) above kept raising its head.  But after talking to Dream Yacht Charters and looking at their programs, we stumbled on a situation that would work for us this year.  A program that would give us a substantial tax break and some income potential if we placed a boat into charter for one to two years.  So "almost affordable" became "about affordable" and due to a personal financial situation, could work for us this year only.  So after some considerable thought, discussion with CPAs, price negotiations, etc., we jumped in and ordered a new 2018 Lagoon 40.

New Boat! Lagoon 40

We are very excited about the prospect and the beginning of a new adventure - with a full boat!  lol.  Yes, one with two hulls!
Lagoon 40 - stock photo
The next chapter is still unfolding, but we plan to take delivery of the boat in France in November 2018.  We have elected to deliver it ourselves (with a great crew of friends) to the Virgin Islands where she will go into charter for a season or two depending upon how we like the program. 

The delivery will be our next big adventure in itself and will satisfy a "bucket list" item of mine - to sail across the Atlantic Ocean.  Stay tuned as I try to document the process of buying the boat, planning the maiden voyage, and hopefully document it on video.  Already the details of the preparations are building into a daunting task.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Florida's Forgotten Coast

From Marco Island, we did a reverse bounce back up the FCYC Yacht Clubs - once again, making the most of our free nights at reciprocal clubs.   These included: Naples Yacht Club, Naples Sailing and Yacht Club, Venice YC, St. Charles YC, Bradenton YC, Sarasota YC, Clearwater YC, and St. Andrews YC.  All were great stops, some were fantastic, and a couple were exceptional in their own ways.  To mention a couple of the most positive attributes  is appropriate I think:

  • Dockmasters were great at all, but were exceptional at Naples Sailing and Yacht, Venice, Bradenton, St. Charles and Clearwater;
  • Friendliest YC members - St. Charles and Clearwater without a doubt;  
  • Fanciest YC - Sarasota of course, but a bit stuffy (only beaten on the trip by Royal Palm on the east coast - but the members there were really stuffy);
  • Best Food - Clearwater was a clear winner on this front.  Their food, wait staff, and chef were amazing.

Its always a nice touch when a yacht club displays burgees for visiting clubs on its yardarm.  A couple of clubs made this effort and it is very welcoming - these included: Royal Palm, St. Charles, and Bradenton.  The other nice touch is when they recognize you in the dining room. Thank you St. Charles!  

Although this is yacht club etiquette/tradition, it seems to have sadly fallen off the radar at many clubs.

Big Bend

Sunset - Big Bend
Crossing the Big Bend of Florida is one of the longest hops when we go or return from the Bahamas.  Most people are surprised by this, assuming that the jump to the Bahamas from Florida is longer.  We typically try to minimize the distance in open sea, especially when we have Salty with us.  Although he has been brought up on the boat, he will not use the bathroom on the boat.  We have tried all the trick - grass, artificial grass - you name it.  He chooses to hold it until dry land.  He has held it for well over 24 hours in the past, but we try not to do this to him.  I guess if he really has to go, he will go.  So our Big Bend crossing was timed with a stop at Anclote Key (just north of Clearwater) and a stop at Dog Island, making the rhumb line about 130 miles.  

There is always a little anticipation before setting off - weather checks, boat checks etc.  And of course, the forecast was not as advertised.  Wind on the beam quickly changed to 15 on the nose making progress slow and bumpy in the shallow Gulf waters.  The forecast was right in that the wind died down overnight - in fact to about 3-4 kts from behind.....which is essentially no use at all in terms of sailing.  The result was that we motored for 98% of the way.  Bummer - but at least it was an uneventful crossing.  Except for a VHF call from Witchy Woman and Sea-Esta, two boats that we know from the Pensacola area.  They saw our signature on AIS and passed us at about 2 am headed for the Bahamas.  What are the chances of that!  Two boats that we knew from home were about the only vessels we came across other than some small fishing boats when we approached Carrabelle/Dog island. We had a good conversation and gave them a few suggestions on places to stop along their way.

After making a potty stop for Salty at Dog Island, we continued on to Apalachicola.  Always one of my favorite stops and this time was no exception.  No YCs in Apalach, so we got a slip at Apalachicola marina - well a dock on the river just inside the bridge.  In the past, we have used the "municipal dock" which is the sea wall near the fishing boats.  There are no facilities or power there, but they used to charge $20 per night, which the local cop collected - if he remembered.  However, the local marinas have apparently pressured City Hall to increase the rate to the same as the marinas, so now nobody stays on the sea wall. - why would you when you can get a marina with power and bathrooms at the same price!
Anyway, Apalachicola is a wonderful little town and it was the Plein Air painting festival.  During this festival, artists from across the country congregate to compare their work and compete in a number of contests.  We were there for the "Blessing of the Easles", and got to see several artists in action.

From Apalachicola, we moved on to port St. Joe.  We stayed in the marina a couple of nights and had a couple of nights off the boat on Cape San Blas.

Once again we were reminded that this IS one of our favorite places in the world.  and that is no exaggeration.  The tranquility, beauty, beaches, and wildlife around St. Joe's Bay and Cape San Blas are in my mind second to none in the US and rank way up there in all of the places we have visited throughout the world.  We did note however that the area was busier than we have seen it in past years, and while this is great for the local economy, I sure   hope it does not spoil things!

Beaches near Ft. McRee - Salty enjoys a swim!
After this stop we were truly on the last legs of the trip.  An overnight stop in St. Andrews (yes another yacht club!), then a full day back to Pensacola.  As we arrived in the Pensacola inlet, shortly after sunset, we were surprised at the amount of shipping in the channel so late - it turned out that dredging operations were in progress and also some commercial fishing.  Thankfully I have been in and out of the pass enough times to know where the hazards are and we were able to avoid the traffic.  Some friends of ours heard us talking to the ships on VHF and told us that they were at anchor in Ft. McRee adjacent to the pass.  Since it was now dark, we accepted their kind offer to raft up for the night.  It was great to see Kristen, Cliff and family and exchange some stories about our trip.  We were also ready for a rest.  The next morning, we made our way home - just a couple hours away.  It was nice to be home, nice to see friends and neighbors.  Relief that the trip had gone well with remarkably few and only very minor maintenance/repairs.  But also a sense of sadness that this was the end of another fantastic trip on Midnight Sun II.

What next?  Stay tuned......we do have some news to share soon!

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Homeward Bound and Cocodrilos

Sometimes the wind blows a slightly different way than we expect and plans have to be put on hold or change.  There have been a few people that have claimed this quote and a few variations on the theme of:

Salty Says - I don't know...I just want my hamburger!

"You can't change the direction of the wind, but we can adjust the sails to reach the final destination" - Jimmy Dean, Elizabeth Edwards, et al..............or was it Salty that said it?

Unfortunately we have decided we must cut this trip a little shorter than planned.  our last plan was to move on to Cuba and Mexico before returning home, but we have instead decided to head back home from the Keys.  No single issue has caused this decision, more a culmination of some personal/family matters; work-related items; logistics of long-haul passages with Salty on board; and seasonal planning (hurricane season is almost upon us).  So we broke the news to our buddy boaters and  best friends, Larry and Tracy.  Being the wonderful people that they are, they understood and supported our dilemma and decision.  This decision was made in Marathon, so we were actually at a good position to make this change.  Larry and Tracy could continue on to Key West, Cuba and Mexico (which is what they have subsequently done), and we could go coastal up the west coast of Florida to home.  Its a bitter/sweet feeling.  The bitter side being the realization that this cruise will soon be over; the sweet being that its always good to be home - especially in the area where we live.

Since I have covered most of the ports of call for this return voyage several times now in my blog, I will try to keep the rest of this post to the highlights of the return trip adn to emphasize places we have maybe not stopped at previously. OK, well sometimes I am not too good at that and get a little carried away - so bear with me, please.

Oh No - Cocodrilos!

Our first planned stop on the return journey was Cape Sable.  For anyone that has tracked our blog and journey, recall that we stopped here on our outward journey and just loved the place.  I still have to say this beach, the location, and remoteness certainly rivels most places in the Bahamas.  So we were actually looking forward to returning there.  Leaving Marathon (we stayed at Marathon YC), we crossed Florida Bay doing our best to avoid the web of crab pots.  We did hit a couple so goodness knows what my prop looks like.

We arrived at Cape Sable mid afternoon with a south wind.  It was forecast to be from the southeast - but it was not.  This made the exposed anchorage quite rolly.  We spend an hour or so going up the coast to see if we could find some protection - but short of going to Little Shark River, we did not find anything.  We ruled out Little Shark River due to issues with getting Salty ashore and decided to just deal with the rolling.  We went ashore by dinghy.  On the way in, we commented on two large logs that were washed up on shore about 100 yds away from us.  As we secured the dinghy I noticed the logs were gone.  By now Salty was enjoying a run on the beach. Hmmmm....

Scouring the shoreline and water, I saw the head of a very large crocodile (cocodrilo - spanish....I love that word!) looking at us.  I felt sure he was he scoping out human or canine for dinner....and where was the other "log".  He swam towards the dinghy starting to cut off our return path.  We quickly scrambled to grab Salty, get to the dinghy and get off the beach.  Yes, it would have been great to have more photos -  but not being the great outdoorsman that wrestles crocodiles......this was just damn freaky scary..  We made it to the dinghy, went about 1/2 mile down the beach, allowed Salty to take care of business and returned quickly to the boat.  Through the binoculars, we saw the "logs" return to their spot on the beach.  Should we draw straws as to who takes Salty for his nightly walk.......or do you want to just sail overnight to the yacht club at Marco Island?

Marco Island Yacht Club won.....the winds were favorable in direction but light.  But we were in no hurry as we wanted to enter Marco at daylight - so we elected to sail overnight.  it was a gorgeous sunset; winds were light but we were making about 5 kts.  The moon came up later in the night making for some nice "light night sailing".  And best of all - no
cocodrilos in sight!

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Northern Abaco and Back to USA

Northern Abaco

Its been 4 months now on the boat and we have seen some beautiful parts of the Bahamas, but at the same time we have been astounded at the amount of trash on the beaches - plastic, plastic, plastic! - everywhere and especially on the Atlantic beaches.  It is so so saddening.  Yes, we saw plastic on the beach in 2014, but not to this extent.  It has become a major issue and I don't know how it will get resolved.

But back to the bright side......our trip back to the US took us back to the Green Turtle Cay area, but this time we anchored at Manjack Cay and really enjoyed the time there.  Here once more, we sat out a modest "blow" but the area was pretty protected.  We stayed a couple of nights and took the walk across to the Atlantic side of the island.

Pensacola Cay

From Manjack, and after the blow, we sailed a short hop to Pensacola  and Allans Cay making a short stop at the almost deserted Spanish Cay for fuel.  Spanish Cay has a large marina - but not a boat in the harbour.  Charging $3/ft per night will do that!  Apparently, they make their money off the sport fishing boats later in the season.  So onwards we went to Pensacola and Allans Cay.  The
anchorage we chose was on the  bank side and I guess technically that is Allans Cay.  It was a nice protected anchorage and there were a few boats already here.  We had heard about a "signing tree" on the atlantic side, and had already recovered an abandoned life ring for use at the signing tree. 

What's a signing tree - I am glad you asked!  Simply a tree where you hand a sign with the name of your boat.  ideally you are creative and make the sign from driftwood or other items found locally.  I guess in a way, it may help contribute to cleaning up these beaches of some of the trash if you can use that......and that is what we did.  We had recovered an old life ring from a nearby beach. 

So we set off on a trek to find the signing tree.  The trail starts in the bank side of the island at a "structure" where some joker had placed a Walmart parking sign.  We followed the trail which was marked by plastic debris that had been decorated and hung in trees.  Well at least it had been put to some use!  Once on the other side, we found what must have been several generations of "signing trees", with signs dating back about 10 years.  Some boats had left signs on consecutive years recording multiple visits to the island.  I must admit it was pretty cool!  also pretty cool looking for boat names and people we had met along our way.  We found the perfect spot for our ring and Larry wend tree-climbing to get it in the spot.  one side decorated by Midnight Sun's artist - Janet; the other decorated by TraSea's art director, Tracy!
Midnight Sun II's side

TraSea's Side
Our side  has boat name, crew, and yacht clubs - Pensacola and Point of course!, and similar information on TraSea's side.  I wonder how long it will last?

From Pensacola Cay, we started the trip back to the US in earnest.  our next stop was a quick overnight at Great Sale Cay.  This is a good overnight stopping point when crossing the Little Bahama Bank, but there's not a lot there, the beach is small and not too interesting, so it was just a short stop.

From Great Sale, we moved on to the Marina at West End, named old Bahama Bay.  I had stopped here in 2014 on our first trip to the Bahamas.  This time, the marina was much busier and I believe they have added some nice houses and condos to provide accommodations for guests. 

It was our last night in the Bahamas as we planned to cross back to the US the next day, headed for West Palm Beach.  I must say, I was sad to leave.