Sunday, November 5, 2017

What's Happening?

What Have We Been Up To?

Again, I find that several months have passed without me writing anything to the Blog.  Its certainly not because of lack of activity - just life got busy! And while we certainly have been doing some local sailing, the focus of activities has been getting the boat ready to go cruising again in December. 

Now that does not mean we have not had some great sailing fun.  We certainly have - some fun.....some; well let's say a couple of very great learning experiences.  Oh, and let's throw into the mix a 3-week trip to England .  No not sailing, but we did pend a few nights on England's canal system cruising on a long-boat.  58 ft long and only 6 ft wide!  We had a great time. 
Canal Long-boat "King Louis"

The boat was very  comfortable with all the typical boat amenities.  We were on the Leeds-Liverpool Canal between Blackburn and Wigan.  We did maneuver down and back up a set of 6 locks which was a lot of fun.  An of course there were quite a few pubs along the way!

Putting the Crew to work operating Locks

Sailing Fun and Lessons Learned

Back to sailing in the Lost Bay area - well we were visited by Hurricane Nate - our first named hurricane to come through the area since we arrived.  We had prepared both Midnight Sun II and TraSea for storm events before leaving for England.   - Lesson 1 - don't plan an extended trip away during hurricane seasons.  Before leaving, we stripped both boats of canvas and sails (a day's work per boat) and secured them.

Here's Midnight Sun II - stripped naked, and spidered into her slip.  The plan - if we have a storm while we are away, she is ready.  All that's needed is a line across the canal or a kedged anchor to hold her off the dock.

Fortunately - no storms came our way while we were gone.  Phew - a sigh of relief as there had been lots of tropical activity.  Remember, this is right on the heels of Hurricane Harvey hitting Houston.

Next step after returning from our trip - put her back together again right!  Ready for a sail.  Well that's exactly what we did - spent 2 days putting Midnight Sun II and TraSea back together.  Then....uh oh; only two days passed before Hurricane Nate appeared with a direct path towards us.  Crap! - take it all apart again.  Well at least we would be here - for good or for bad.  So we went into hurricane mode.  Boats prepped, house boarded.  Since TraSea normally lives in a marina, and the marina was evacuating we had to anchor her.  We scoped out a local, secret bayou, and set her with 4 anchors, including a 85 lb Mantus, Fortress FX-125 and FX-85 (massive storm anchors), and a Delta.

Here she is looking good at anchor.  Two other boats came into this spot.  One small sailboat did an excellent job of anchoring also.  As for the power boat - well, this is one reason why people get a bad name.  Two dock lines tied together holding the bow to a tree, and an anchor of the back.  The anchor drug before the storm even arrived, so we lashed this potential missile into the trees and hoped we would have an opportunity to to meet the owner upon his return.

Due South - aptly named, although I think the storm would likely have sent it north!  We figured this was an insurance claim waiting to happen.  Amazingly it survived the storm.  The owner did not appear the day after Nate.  The boat started to sink a day later, so we reported it to the local marine police, and disappeared.  Hmmm.....fishy or what?  You decide, and if you know the owner, tell him he owes us for securing his boat.

Fortunately, as storms in the area go, Nate was not a big issue.  The boats, house and everything did well.  Some local flooding with a surge of about 3 ft., but other than getting wet feet on the dock a couple of times, no problem.  Our biggest problem with this storm? - getting the anchors up that we set for TraSea.  Wow - they were in deep but did their job well!

Trip to Galveston

I will try to give the condensed version of this, but is an interesting story to say the least.  First a little background.  My friend Dave has a beautiful sailboat which he recently bought from his father.  It is a 57 ft Bristol Ketch, named S/V Prologue.  Why Prologue? - the start of a new chapter of life....great boat name.  

Anyway, Prologue had been kept in Ft. Lauderdale for some time and Dave lives in Galveston - so time to move the boat.  OK, not a bad trip if you break it up, so Dave asked if I could help with the Gulf crossing.  Absolutely!  she looks like (and is) an amazing boat!.  

What followed can only be described as a series of  unfortunate events......
  • Attempt 1 - I plan to help move Prologue from Tampa to Port St. Joe.  But wait, Hurricane Harvey hits Houston and Dave had to take care of his house.  So the first leg is delayed
  • Hurricane Irma hits the east coast, and Prologue is still in Tampa.  She makes it through with no issues - phew
  • While I am in England Dave and crew move her to Venice, LA
  • Hurricane Nate hits - Venice is unprotected and in the direct line of fire,  Dave moves her upriver, and she is fine
  • I get a call from Dave "can I help move her from Venice to Galveston"
Sure - she's had her share of bad luck.  Looks like a great downwind weather window.  Off we go.  We leave Venice at midnight on Friday.  Its pretty rough, 6 ft seas;  but this is a 57 ft, 66,000lb boat, should not be a problem.  We then have a series of damn unfortunate's the quick summary:
  • Tracy, Dave's girlfriend is miserably sick as soon as we hit the Gulf and for all but the very end of the passage.
  • Autopilot would not hold a course for more than a few minutes - damn...handsteering all the way.
  • Saturday - we break a Genoa sheet.  not a big deal, except its tied so high, it can't be reached in these seas - but we get by using one sheet
  • Sunday - holy crap! we have a little warning but have no choice but to go straight ahead into a cold front.  We thought the winds would last maybe 15-20 minutes.  Two hours later, we are still in 60-70 kt winds and the seas are big.  We motor into it for 2 hours making no headway - in fact slightly backwards despite full power.  The reefed main shreds in 10-15 minutes; the engine quits - drained a fuel tank; we have water in the bilge, now hitting the floorboards; its still blowing 25-30 and the seas have hardly subsided.
We work through each issue one by one.  New bilge pump, repair connection.  Not sure where water is coming from but seems to have stopped (it turned out to be fresh water, probably a broken pipe/connection somewhere).  Engine - fill Racors manually and it fired.  Now let's get back on course.  We pulled the Genoa out and motor sailed,  Main still out but looks like a rag!  

Well  we made it to Galveston.  As you can see, a beautiful boat, but not much left of the mainsail.  This was apparently the original sail (1986).  While the storm certainly finished it off, I suspect this sail was past the end of its life.  So this is about lessons learned right?  Yes, many from this experience.  Although we did fine, and I must say and give great credit to Dave - he was extremely well prepared with spares, tools etc on board.  Still here's what I took away:
  • Everyone should "know the boat," before setting off.  Where are the essential system's main components, spares etc.  I personally had not taken enough time to do this.
  • Don't under-estimate a wind shift - yes, the weather showed a shift from SE to N, so it likely was a cold front on the way through, but the forecast called for 5-10 from the N.  Little did we know it would hit with such force!....definitely a lesson learned.  Understand what happens when there's going to be a change and the potential for such an event.  While I have the greatest respect for weather.  This only reinforced that.  I had never seen wind like that while on a boat, and I hope I don't see it again.  It was like spending 2 hours in a wind tunnel wondering what might break.  Holding the wheel and battling the waves, trying to keep her headed up.  I should say that Prologue performed amazingly and I never felt unsafe - well maybe when the engine quit and water was at the floorboards, I do remember thinking "what more Lord?", and yes, I do know where the liferaft is.

And in case you are wondering....Tracy recovered, we are still friends, we will sail together again, but Tracy says Prologue is not leaving Galveston Bay for quite some time.  Great people!  I am really hoping they will join us in the Bahamas.

Lost Bay Regatta

Crew - SV TraSea
More fun on the water in the amazing place where we live.  Point YC put on yet another great event, we have the PYC raft up, and I took very few photos.  But we sailed on SV TraSea and brought home a very respectable second in class, under the leadership of Captain Larry.  And yes, it was a costume party that night - we don't normally sail with hippy s!  

Rick Zern on SV Coyote took first in the non-spin class and was as always, amazingly fast!

Crew - SV Coyote

And that's all for now folks!  Back to work on the boat prepping for the next big trip - Bahamas December 2017.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Watching Hurricane Irma Closely

Our hearts go out to all the people affected by Irma and of course by Harvey.  We are very fortunate to have visited the Virgin Islands this past Christmas/New Year, and now to see the devastation of the islands is just so awful.  What a terrible time of recent weather systems.  our hearts go out to everyone impacted.  This really brings home the impact weather can have and why we always try to have "no schedule" when it comes to making sailing plans.

We are fortunate, at least right now, to be located out of the major areas of impact for both Harvey and Irma (predicted).  We do have a beach place at Cape San Blas, FL which we are watching closely and expecting some impact.  I put up storm shutters and boarded up on Friday, but was just amazed by the apparent lack of preparations that most people had made. I saw only a handful of properties that had made any preparations.

Irma's Path Prediction (Thursday)
Yes, as of Thursday, the path was predicted up central Florida, but we have seen constant incremental shifts west, placing this area closer to the path.  These things have to be taken seriously and conservatively - so the shutters are up and we are hoping for minimal impacts.  As of today (Sunday), it looks like Irma will skirt the west coast of Florida and it is hitting the Keys as I write this.  So the next 2 days will be critical for the Forgotten Coast area.  So aptly named, that i suspect it will get minimal news coverage, and yet it is in my opinion the most pristine area of Florida.  A further shift west would not be good for us.

At this point, there is no "good" or even "better" path for Irma - wherever this thing goes, people and property will be severely impacted.

Irma's Predicted Path (Sunday, Sept 10)
Cape San Blas Beaches (Friday)

We have all heard the saying "the calm before the storm".....well here's a photo of Cape San Blas beaches taken Friday Sept 8.  I have never seen it look so peaceful and beautiful.  It really brought a tear to my eye to wonder what it will look like on my next visit.

I am planning to head overseas on Tuesday (hopefully) until the end of the month.  Since we are still in the height of H-season, I will be stripping the boat of all canvas today, including sails, and spidering Midnight Sun into her slip.  A precautionary measure, and I hope I am proved to be paranoid.  I have great neighbors that will look out for her while I am away - but still, best to be prepared.  I will try to post photos of the preparations.

Back on the "Lost Bay" (Perdido Bay), sailing friends compete for the Commodore's Cup at Point YC., taking advantage of the 20 kt winds already spawned off Irma.
Commodore's Cup Participant - Point YC

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Dauphin Island Cruise - Forgotten Location?

This was a short but new adventure and we discovered a great new anchorage for us - so I thought I would share the details with anyone that may be interested.

We had spent the weekend in one of our regular and favorite locations, Ft. McCree, adjacent to Pensacola inlet.  We had to go home for a little of that 4-letter word.......W@@K, but since I am now semi-retired and working less hours (at least in theory), we should make time for a cruise - right?  Well that is why I cut my working hours (and salary) in half).  Talking to our best friends Larry and Tracy - they were planning to head back to Atlanta and in Larry's words he had a large dose of the "I don't want to's".  So it took no persuading them to join us on this little impromptu jaunt on thier boat S/V TraSea.  Fist stop  - home, to fulfill a couple of commitments, re-provision, top off water and fuel etc.

Given the wind direction, we decided to go "inside" or via the ICW.  First stop - a very short hop to Ingram's Bayou.  And I mean a short stop - just a couple of miles west, but at least we were off the dock.  We anchored and ate dinner at restaurant under new ownership - GT's on the Bay.....a great improvement over the former "Cayman Grill" and a moderate dinghy ride from Ingrams.  The food was good - so a thumbs up for GTs!  So stop there and support them if you have a chance.  They have a long dock into the bay - but its looked like about 4 ft draft.  But they have excellent dinghy docks.

The next day, with a reasonably early start, we headed west on the ICW towards Mobile Bay.  Amazingly, this was the furthest we had sailed west - we ALWAYS go East.  The ICW trip was fairly interesting.  We did hit the bottom once on the north side, just about a mile west of the Wharf.  That was a surprise, but a soft sandy hit at low speed - so a little more care for the remainder of the trip.

We exited the ICW into Mobile Bay and continued west on the marked ICW channel.  Depths in the channel were fine but the charts were showing about 7-8 ft just outside.  The bay was flat calm and the pop-up storms stayed away.  I could not help but recall the tragic Dauphin Island Race (April 25, 2015)  - from just a couple of years earlier.  Thoughts went out to those that lost their lives on that tragic day, and it served as a reminder that the Gulf and local bays must be treated with respect and care.  As an aside, if you are interested in an account of the Dauphin Island Race tragedy, please see this link - it provides an excellent account of things. Dauphin Island Race.

After intercepting the Ship Channel, we headed south for a short distance until we were between makers Green 15 and Green 13 in the main ship channel.  Caution and a good look-out is essential as the ship channel is narrow and quite heavily trafficked by a variety of cargo ships.  Also look out for the ferry which crosses between Ft. morgan and Dauphin Island .
Anyway, from our mark on the ship channel, we then turned WNW carefully crossing the shoal areas shown on the chart.  Note - the marked depths were as low as 2.4 ft, but Active Captain said it was typically 12 ft.  We crossed the area cautiously and without issue seeing no less than 11-12 ft.(at close to high tide).  We then headed for the anchorage tucked in the corner of Dauphin Island and Pelican Island.  Apparently, Pelican Island shifts regularly based on currents, storms etc., but at the time we were there it provided a great anchorage protected from the waves on almost all sides.  Some people had reported "rolly" conditions in there, but it was flat calm for us with winds coming out of the SW.  Here's a larger blow-up of the chart.  Hopefully this is legible and you can see our track in.

The depths in the center were generally 10-12 ft, with a sandy bottom that seemed to provide very good holding.  The dunes on Pelican were pretty small, so wind protection in a blow could be an issue.  Waves should be no problem in anything but an E wind - and even then, there are couple of sand fingers that you could tuck in behind.

Pelican Island (outside)
 In the anchorage and we were pleasantly surprised by the water quality, relatively clean beaches, excellent wildlife.....and wait for it, a Pub!  Yes, Pirates Bar is on the south shore of dauphin Island with easy access by dinghy.  The food was good. The place is definitely "vintage 1960s", but friendly staff, reasonable prices, and dog friendly (in the outside area).  They also have a pool, but we did not check it out.  Apparently you can use the pool for a daily charge of $6.

Beaches/low dunes - Pelican Island

Salty had a blast running on the deserted beaches of Pelican island and swimming in the surf.  This really is a great spot to visit and apparently not too many stop by this way.  I think the reason is largely due to two things: (i)  the need to cross Mobile Bay; and (ii) the waters in the Mobile Bay area are typically more brown due to upland runoff when compared to the coastline of Pensacola/Orange Beach and areas east.

We stayed a couple of nights and then returned to Pensacola.  With winds (light) out of the SW, it was a great opportunity to sail on the outside (Gulf) back to Pensacola Pass.  We re-traced our track back to the ship channel, headed a little further south before striking east towards Pensacola.  Again - care and a careful lookout for shipping!

We got a great view of Sand island Light and the many oil and gas platforms, wellheads etc. in the gulf and entrance to Mobile Bay.  Again - care needed.  Surprisingly not everything is marked on the charts.

The trip back started as a "motor-sail", but the wind built and it turned into a great sail back with the winds building from our rear quarter, we hit 7-8 kts under sail.......and without spilling a drop of my drink!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Fast Women?

What - Fast Women...count me in!!

Actually, the Fast Women Race is a sailing race hosted by Point Yacht Club, Josephine, AL.  The race is held annually on Perdido Bay and is the last in a trilogy of races (Roses, Bikini, and Fast Women)   on the Gulf Coast which are held during the summer and count towards earning the Overall Women’s Sailing Trilogy Trophy. 

Close Encounters!

After some doubts about the weather.......our forecast from the previous day was for storms with wind gusts up to 30 kts, race committee decided to go ahead.  While it was overcast, the storms were not materializing and the winds were pretty steady in the teens.  Janet was invited to crew on Hula Girl - a wonderful Sabre 42 owned and John and Jody Horner.  The race was a great success.  Well enough about me writing about it.  

Watch the video!  Click on the link below..  Sorry if you live in France or some of its island derivatives.....the copyright people have blocked the video in some countries because I used some copyright music! - oh bad!  And thank you girls from Florabama for posing!

Saturday, July 22, 2017

New Video Added to YouTube - Cuba Race 2017

For anyone interested, I have just added a new video to our collection.  This is the first in a 3-part series about the Pensacola to Havana Rce 2017.  Part 1 shows our participation in the race - we were crew on S/V Night Sky, a beautiful Tartan 4400.  Part 2 will follow soon and shows our road trip to the south side of Cuba.  Part 3 will be the return trip home to Pensacola.

For more videos, check out YouTube or our website at:

Monday, July 17, 2017

Bringing the Cuba Adventure to a Close

Time Flies!  its mid July and time to start planning for the next trip!.  First a brief closure on the Cuba trip.

Cayo Levisa

After visiting the south side of the island, it was time to pack up, say our goodbye's and get ready for the trip home.  But first, we would sneak in a trip to Cayo Levisa by boat.  We had visited the barrier island of Cayo Levisa on our last cruise (2016), and really loved it.
Beaches - Cayo Levisa

We had talked it up to the rest of the crew - and the 6 musketeers were in!  We would have liked to clear out of Cuba (customs, immigration) from Cayo Levisa and head straight to Florida.  However, this is not possible as it is not a Port of Entry.  So we were required to return via Hemingway.  For more details on Cayo Levisa, please take a look at our posts in June 2016.  but hers are a few pics of this year's visit.
We had a wonderful return trip from Cuba - perhaps the highlight was seeing whales in the Straits of Florida.  I have some video - so look out for the posting of the 2017 Cuba Video.  Such an amazing sight. We always love to see dolphins - but talk about dolphins on steroids!

Night sky at Anchor - Cayo Levisa

Our favorite abandoned Bar - still there!

Going Yacht Clubbing!

I am going to keep this to a brief post as we have now traveled north up the west side of Florida several times and there are a number of posts on this site about the trips we have made.  our route this time was as follows:

  • Havana to Naples
  • Naples to Sarasota Yacht Club
  • Sarasota YC to St. Petersburg YC
  • St. Petersburg YC to Pensacola

Naples YC

Yes, this was a YC-crawl!  why you may ask?

Tampa Bay and the Skyway Bridge
Well that's very simple.  As members of Pensacola YC, we are members of the Florida Counsel of Yacht Clubs.  This provides the benefit of reciprocity.  And each club allows fellow members to stay one night free on thier transient dock.  So - given dock prices in south Florida, this equates to a savings of $100-200 per night.  A great benefit that not enough folks take advantage of.  And in addition, most are extremely nice places to hang out with nice pools, bars, and restaurants.  Incidentally, restaurant charges are also directly billed to your home YC account.  So it feels like you are staying for free.........well until the monthly statement comes!

So, there you go.  Here's my little ad for YC membership.  Some clubs are hurting, so support your local Yacht Club!

All of the legs on the return trip were "daysails"except Havana to Naples (one overnight) and St. Pete's to Pensacola (2-nights).

Sarasota YC

Lobby - Sarasota YC

The sailing was good - no storms.  We did motor for several stretches to keep up the speed, but it was a great trip home, and by the time we got to Pensacola we were about ready to be home. - But definitely in that nice "Home-Sweet-Home" way.  This had truly been a spectacular trip.  Looking back over everything - the race was fun and had some highs and lows (largely weather-related); the time in Cuba was amazing!  We really enjoyed visiting the south side of the island as well as once again visiting the barrier island of Cayo Levisa.  And the return legs were a great opportunity to just wind down a little.

Night Sky Arrives Home - Bray Marina!

And I have to say this - what an amazing crew.  Its quite a feat to put 6 people on a boat for close to 3 weeks and never have a ruffled feather.  I just don't think  we could have got along together any better.  as a crew, we worked together extremely well.  Ron and Julie are amazing hosts, and insist on preparing all meals.  Not just meals - spectacular meals.  Thank you guys for allowing us to join you on Night Sky.  I know that Larry and Tracy also share that same sentiment.  We became the 6-musketeers!.....and had a wonderful adventure together.

And how better to end a trip!

Oh but wait......there's more!  one more party at PYC to celebrate the winners and safe return of the race participants.

Capt. Bob Kriegel and crew of Arcadia - winning boat!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Touring Cuba

Well we made it to Havana and since this was out third visit, we had decided not to make Havana the focus of this trip, but to explore some other areas.  Of course, we could not completely omit Havana and there were indeed still plenty of sights to see in the Havana area.

So rather than explore old Havana as we had done on several occasions (see Oct/Nov 2015 and June 2016), we decided that we would limit time in Havana to hearing some traditional music and also taking a look around the Mosaic district which is within walking distance of Marina Hemingway.

On our visit to the Mosaic district (an area where the homes and streets are decorated with mosaic-type art), we met up with friends and a person that I had been in touch with by email to set up some other side trips.  In fact - two brothers - Adonis and Jonny.  These guys were fantastic and really looked after us in terms of transportation to anywhere we needed to go.

Adonis had arranged for his brother to set us up with transportation for an overnight  trip to the south side of the island.  But first, we took a day and a night off in Havana.  We took a leisurely stroll in the Mosaic district, had a great lunch with local music and that night we visited the Bueno Vista Social Club in Havana.  This is a local "night club" where they play the traditional "big band" music of Havana from the 50s.  We had heard reports that this place was a "tourist trap" but did not really see any evidence of it.  Many of the people in the club seemed to be fairly wealthy Cubans and some european tourists.  The band and singers were very good - some excellent musicians.  The drinks were "tourist reasonable" and the food was basic - definately a place to visit for music and not dining.

To me the highlight of this trip was the road trip we made to the south side of Cuba.  As stated, we had arranged this in advance - well sort of, through our new friends Adonis and Jonny.  We were a bit skeptical about how this would go, but it was fantastic.  We expected a rental car and a hotel reservation, but what we got was a mini-van with driver, tour guide (Jonny) and overnight accommodations in a cuban home - in fact it was Jonny's in-laws.

Main Street - Cienfuegos
We had a great time and visited Cienfuegos, Trinidad, the Bay of Pigs, and Zapata National Park - an "eco-park"located near Giron.

El Palatino Bar - Cienfuegos

On the outward trip we stopped in Cienfuegos for a little sight-seeing and for an excellent lunch.  We visited the downtown area and also the water front.

We then continued on to the small town of Trinidad,located slightly inland from the coast this an old historic town on the south side of Cuba.  Trinidad is a town in central Cuba, known for its colonial old town and cobblestone streets. Its neo-baroque main square, Plaza Mayor, is surrounded by grand colonial buildings. Museo Romántico, in the restored Palacio Brunet mansion, and Museo de Arquitectura Colonial display relics from the town’s sugar-producing era. Iglesia de la Santísima is a 19th-century cathedral with a vaulted ceiling and carved altars.

Typical cobbled street - Trinidad

Accommodation in a Cuban home

The accomodation was basic.  THe home we stayed in opened onto a cobbled street.  It was basic, but very clean and the owners were extremely nice, providing us with drinks, snacks, and breakfast the following morning.  We learned that many homes are now opening their own "business" as pensions.  And to me, this is the way to experience Cuba!

We learned that Trinidad never closes with many establishments open 24/7!  There were many quaint bars, most with music and dancing.  We ate a great dinner at Taberna Botisa.  This was probably the busiest restaurant we saw - and for good reason!  The food was top notch and the prices very cheap.  We thought we were in for a long wait. But our guide, Jonny of course knew the Owner and we were seated in minutes.
View from the Church Belltower

The next day we did more sightseeing and on the return trip to
Havana visited the Bay of Pigs and Zapata National Park - an eco-park with wild crocodiles...or "cocodrillos"...This became one of our favorite words!

By the time we got back to Havana, we were exhausted....but one funny thing..we asked our driver to take us for a traditional "Cuban Sandwich".  Well that was interesting.  From what we were told the cuban sandwich we know if a south Florida invention.  Cubans eat sandwiches when they are, reluctantly we were taken for a Cuban a gas station....and it was a slice of ham, cheese, on a bread roll.  Not something I would hold my breath for!....but it made for a good laugh!  Anyway - if you happen to be in Havana and need a great tour guide, please consider contacting Jonny or Adonis!  They were great!