Friday, December 14, 2018

'A Coruna - Spain.... Big-ass seas!...nice town

The Bay of Biscay has a reputation that I was aware of....and last night it lived up to it.

We did our "due diligence" on weather checks and it did not look great - but it did look about as good as it gets for this time of year.  15 kt winds, and...errrr 3-4m seas?

We left the river mouth of Ria Ribadeo after an amazing lunch at a reasonable price at the "green restaurant near the marina".  San Miguel's I think it was called.  This was the beast meal we have had so far!

I guess it was around 5pm after we had fuelled up and cast off the lines.  Exiting the pass,waves were big, but organized and Midnight Sun III rode up them quite happily and ran down the other sides.   While the waves were big, it was smooth.  So big waves were not bad at all.

Marina - Ria Ribadeo
But alas, as is typically the case, after dark, things went pretty bad.  The wind picked up into the 20s, the waves got very disorganized, and the boat crashed around pounding into the seas.  It was very noisy, at times quite scary, as it sounded and felt like the boat was being dropped from 10 ft above the water.  if you have never experienced pounding and crashing like this - you are lucky.  While pounding and hobby-horsing is an issue with catamarans in general, these wave conditions would have put any boat - cat or monohull to a test.  We also had a lot of commercial shipping on AIS, so had to keep a vigilant watch.  The night was long and grueling - but the boat did fine, despite the pounding.  I don't think any of the crew got much rest, and a couple were sick.  Fortunately not too badly.  To help put in perspective - at one point in the morning when things seemed to be improving, we made coffee.  The pot was clamped to the stove, but as we crashed down a wave, it leapt 2 ft. into the air.  Yes - big clean-up in rough seas!

As daylight boke, we were about 3 miles offshore.  Really not enough for "comfort", but I had found that there actually was a little more "comfort" in terms of pounding by keeping closer to shore.  As we approached the entrance to 'A Coruna, the waves started to organize somewhat more, and although they built in height, they were predictable.  I think its fair to say without exaggeration, these were the largest waves I have sailed in.  They had to be 20+ ft.  Put it this way, when we were in a trough, a wave ahead of me obscured mountains on the shore.  And at one point, we had a 450 ft tanker, about a half mile ahead of us, and again, I could only see it when we were on a wave crest..  of course, no photos, but they would not have done justice - and I had white knuckles holding the wheel.

I steered and Larry watched for traffic.  We  played chicken at one point with the 450 ft tanker - not by choice.  He did a 360 degree circle waiting for his escort, and was escorted in by a convoy of tugs.  We followed as waves started to  break onshore in a spectacular, but  scary display of the power of nature.

But, we made it in and are now docked at a great marina in the heart of downtown A Coruna.  The town is a lot larger than I anticipated, and seems delightful, with friendly locals and great bars- - yes, what would you expect after a day and night like that!!........multiple bar visits before I crash in about 5 minutes!  Here's a few shots of town......goodnight for now!
Town Square - A Coruna

Downtown A Coruna

A Coruna - near harbor

By the way - track our real-time location at:

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Off the Dock. On to Spain!

We left the dock in La Rochelle on Monday, Dec 10, 2018. And set out for Spain across the Bay of Biscay. Growing up in England, I knew the reputation of Biscay. We had watched the weather for days with winds of 20 +, but the local sailors were not deterred.   We waited, and finally a small window between lows presented itself. Our goal was to get to La Coruna, Spain, but this was not looking good.  So we decided to strike out for Gijon.

We left with little wind, but swells were every bit of 15-20 ft generated in the Atlantic from days of low pressure systems and high winds. We motored for 10 hours or so until winds filled in. Then we soon had 15-20 kt winds. This gave us speeds of 6.5 to 7.5 kts average, with a maximum surfing speed of 11.5 kts recorded. Wow,! This was nice. But alas, with the winds, the rollers got disorganized, and although less in height, became more like the Gulf if Mexico on a bad day.  Meaning 6-8 ft with no direction - just “lumps and holes” in the sea surface. This meant constant bashing on the boat - which just feels and sounds awful.

Nonetheless, our awesome crew made it through with no issues. While we had planned on Gijon as a stopping point before La Coruna, we were ahead of schedule, and arriving at midnight was not a good plan. We elected to continue on to Ria Ribadeo, and arrived at about 9am. As of writing this, we have been here abou 12 hours and love it. Friendly, great bar prices, and all bars we have visited have provided complimentary appetizers!  Just loving it here!

Midnight Sun III at dock (Cat in center)

Sunday, December 9, 2018

La Rochelle - Update No.4

It finally feels like we are making real progress and getting closer to leaving.  Of course, when that happens panic sets in and you realize all the things we should have been doing waiting around!

Harbour at Honfleur
As reported earlier, our pallet of equipment that we shipped from the US got stop in an administrative "do loop" in French customs - meaning that it was stuck in L Havre (northern France), so  We made a road trip to go deal with the needed temporary importation permit.  Had we known we needed to do this, we could have done it earlier!    We stayed overnight in the cute town of Honfleur, which was a real treat.  It looked like a town where Beauty and the Beast could have been set.  But alas, we got the temporary permit, hand delivered it to the shipping company and our goods were promised to be delivered Friday, then back to La Rochelle (about a 5-hour drive each way).

oldest wooden church in France 

Several days passed and Friday came around.  Sure enough, as promised, our pallet arrived at Dream Yacht's storage facility.  We rented a van and voila!  we had stuff!.  This set in motion a couple of larger projects.  I installed the watermaker which we had shipped over (we love our Rainman watermaker!), and Larry and Mike set about rigging the code zero sail that we had made in Pensacola by Schurr Sails.  At about that time, more weather set in and with 30 kt winds gusting to 50 and 15-20 ft seas - yes we have stayed put pinned to the dock

As I write this, it is Sunday and things are supposed to settle down today- but seas will remain big and another front approaches on Wednesday/Thursday.  So as of writing this, our plan is to depart tomorrow morning (Monday).  Several delivery crews on the dock are planning a similar strategy leaving either today or tomorrow and headed in the direction of La Coruna, Spain.  We have figures our "bail-out" plans for Gijon, Santander, or Viveiro if we need to, and I think it is likely that we will duck into one of those locations just short of La Coruna - but we shall see.  Its 2:30 pm locally here on Sunday, so we have some last minute preparations to make while we have daylight and while a few shops are open (we hope).  So hopefully, my next update will be from Spain.  Wish us luck and hope for some better weather ahead of our 3-day trip across the Bay of Biscay.

Friday, November 30, 2018

La Rochelle - Update No. 3 - Sailing!

Midnight Sun III
We have been watching the weather closely and trying to understand the local conditions.  Its quite different than back home with 15-20 ft tides every 6 hours - actually its very much more like my "old" home town of Blackpool, England.

We have a nice "side tie" spot outside the Capitainerie here in La Rochelle, which so far nobody has asked us to pay for (even better!).

I am sure DYC will ask us to vacate as soon as we work through our punchlist.  But until then - here we are with a couple of other delivery crews headed to the Virgin Islands and Croatia.

This morning, as forecast we had rain and gusty winds, but just before noon we were able to get out for our first sail on the new boat.  Immediately before that, we gave our friends Annie Dike and Phillip Warren a hand letting off dock lines as they set out on almost the same  journey as we have
Farewell  and Fair Winds - Annie, Phillip, Syrus and Kate!
planned.  Annie and Phillip are also from Pensacola (Annie of "Have Wind Will Travel" fame).  Annie and Phillip are crewing for new friends and fellow Dream Yacht clients, Kate and Syrus who took delivery of their Lagoon 42 a week ahead of us.

But finally, we got a break in the weather this afternoon and took the boat out for its first sail.  Conditions were near perfect.  We left the harbor and went out into the bay with about 12 kts of breeze and 2-3 ft seas.  We traveled south along the coast approximately 7-8 miles on a beam reach making 7.5 kts. 

The boat performed flawlessly and the ride was so comfortable.  In fact after a glass of celebratory champagne, the girls made a great lunch of toasted sandwiches.  Soon we found ourselves racing a monohull, and flew by it without effort.  With its self-tacking jib, Midnight Sun III tacked effortlessly for the return leg back to the marina.  With the ease-up in weather conditions, many other small craft were taking the opportunity to enjoy a Friday afternoon sail - so there was a fair amount of boat traffic on the way back into the marina.  But with over 5,000 boats in this marina, that was no big surprise.  It is apparently the largest marina in Europe.

So Midnight Sun III had a very successful maiden sea trial.  So far our punch-list is relatively short and most items are minor.  Certainly nothing that would delay departure.  What is delaying our departure however, is the pallet of equipment we shipped from the US - which is still stuck in customs in Le Havre.  Hopefully we can resolve this early next week and get our stuff delivered to us. 

Unfortunately weather conditions next week are forecast to deteriorate even although we are anxious to get moving, we don't have a good sense of when that will be.  With predicted seas of 5-7 m (yes metres not feet!), next week is not looking good.   Especially since local sailors tell us it typically takes at least 2-3 days for seas to subside once weather like that has gone through

But still, there are far worse places to be holed up!  Of course, we may not be saying that next week.

Now if we could just have a little more luck dealing with French Customs - life would be really good. 

Tonight we headed to a small French Bistro for dinner adjacent to the marina which turned out to be good and reasonably priced.  We had hoped to stop in at the local Yacht Club for a drink - but at 7pm on a Friday night it was what type of a yacht club is that!

Saturday, November 24, 2018

La Rochelle - Update No. 2

Late Breaking News - Sneak Peak!

We found her!

After several miles of walking the docks - yes there are over 4,000 boats in the large marina in La Rochelle......we found our boat.  Hull # 45, Midnight Sun III.  Just before sunset.  So we climbed on board and had a bottle of champagne! - thank you Larry and Tracy.

our agent emailed us to say she is being cleaned and we will meet Monday morning.  In actual fact, we convinced they guy cleaning the boat to give us the keys and we have had a look around.  Here's a quick sneak peak

its the one on the outside!

La Rochelle - Update

Friday November 23, 2018

Today (Friday) has been a rainy day.  We have now been in France just over a week.  No boat as yet - we were warned of this and it is true - things simply happen at their own pace.

We are loving the town and location, but communication from our broker and commissioning team has been awful at best....well actually, more like "non-existent" from our local agent.

The boat has apparently been in the "commercial boatyard" which cannot be accessed by the public.  Yes, we tried, but it is a gated industrial area with no access through the security gates.  Our commissioning agent with Dream Yacht Charters has been elusive at best.  His office is a lockbox in a storage facility.  Maybe he has another physical location, but we have not found it, nor been given that location.  He seems to return phone calls after 2-3 days.  He did tell us when we arrived that we were delayed until Nov 26, but could not provide a reason (today is Nov 23, and we were promised the boat 7-10 days after it exited the factory; we understand it came out of the factory Nov 12).  Needless to say, I have made calls and emails back to our broker in the US and and to our local agent, but it has to date made no difference.   I've just been told its not reasonable to expect a boat to be ready within the range of dates promised.  Seriously!  I did talk with a person from the company that is commissioning the boat and they have apparently installed through hulls that I need for my water maker.....and they told me the boat would  launch today.  But then the english/french communication broke down - maybe it was my excitement!.....and I could not figure out if it would be launched at the commercial yard or here in La Rochelle.  Its amazing that we are getting the best info on the QT from a guy we should probably not be speaking with!

We have been watching all the other Lagoon 40s being commissioned in among the plethora of boats here, I can tell you where Hull No 41, 42,43, and 44 are - and that's where the track goes cold as we have not found Midnight Sun III - Hull no 45 as of writing this.  We spent a couple of hours checking on all likely locations today in the rain - but to no avail.  This IS just like waiting for your first-born to enter the world.......and (Helen), this one is as stubborn as you were!

So we wait.  And if that's not enough we have been wrestling with our shipping agent to get the pallet of equipment we shipped from the US released from customs.  It is apparently in Le Havre where the container ship was unloaded.  So I have spent the last 24 hours trying to  research EU regulations on "ships supplies for a vessel in transit", as they relate to import tax, VAT, etc.  Our shipping agent says that there are only 3 conditions for being tax exempt, adn these are: I am accepting a job in France; relocating to France; or a union with a French after several drinks last night I proposed to our barmaid (it turns out she was from Wales but speaks French).  She accepted subject to me buying her a new dress and shoes.  So that may prove to be the solution!  Our shipping agent is at least trying - he returns my emails within a couple hours and takes my phone calls.
La Rochelle by night

So that's my update!  We will see what happens Monday as it is now 5pm on Friday, and I don't expect anything to happen of significance over the weekend.  Its a rainy day today - but at least the bars and Irish Pub are open.

Update - Saturday, Nov 24

There was a late-breaking update on the pallet last night.  I did get an email saying "confirmation of Discharge".......but this was not from customs.

The plan today is to go for another walk around the docks and see if there's any sign.  Leave a message for our commissioning agent - but I expect no reply.  He didn't reply yesterday.  On  a brighter note, we met friends from Pensacola the other day (Annie Dike of "Have wind Will Travel").  the sailing community is a small one!  Annie and Phil are crewing on a 42 Lagoon that is also going into charter with Dream Yacht and alo in the BVI.  So we have been able to compare notes with them.  It seems their new boat owner Syrus and Kate have had a similar experience with delays and limited to no communication.  They just got their  boat - about a week after it was promised.  Hopefully we will find them in the marina today so we can compare notes!

Saturday, November 17, 2018

La Rochelle, France

La Rochelle

We have arrived in La Rochelle, France which is the location that we will pick up the new boat.  We have now been here a couple of days.  The trip over was a bit gruelling, but about what we expected. Our travel was on American Airlines and TAP Portugal: Pensacola to Miami; Miami to Lisbon; Lisbon to Nantes and a rental car to La Rochelle.  We almost missed our flight to Lisbon as it turned at that changing terminals in Miami is a nightmare!.....about a  mile long treck with the need to exit and re-enter security.   So, of course one of our checked bags went missing - it is supposed to be delivered to us today.
La Rochelle -- Old Harbor

We spent some time yesterday exploring the town - which is magnificent!  Small streets, old buildings, street cafes,  and literally thousands of sailboats.  I am sure my photos will not do it justice.  We are staying close to the old harbor, but there is a new harbor/marina that we estimate has over 3,000 boats within it - most are sailboats.

This is clearly a "nautical town".  We saw several new boats being commissioned, including boats by Lagoon, Fontaine Pajot, Nautitech, Bavaria, and Amel.

Old Harbor

The new harbor/marina was quite a spectacular sight.  I don't think I have ever seen such a collection of sailboats in one place.  The  French certainly take their sailing seriously.
New Harbor - Note masts in background

From old square riggers, to new boats, to fast racing boats - we saw it all here in La Rochelle.  We spotted a Nautical Museum, which we have not visited as yet, but intend to do so.  

We are loving this town!  The locals are friendly, the restaurants are good (some a little pricey), baars and street cafes are really good.  Latest word on the boat is a "slight delay" we are waiting on more info on that one.  The one disturbing thing is that we just witnessed a protest by the "yellow jackets" or "Gilets Jaunes".  Apparently its a  protest organized entirely on social media with no identified leaders, no political connections, but a protest by the French people about increases in fuel prices - particularly diesel.  We hear there's a threat that this could cause major disruptions in France..........we are hoping this will not be the case!
Maitre Coq - Ocean Race Boat

Anyway - we are here and it doesn't suck!  The next challenge will be to track down our pallet of equipment that we shipped and hopefully no no further disruptions from those pesky "Gilets Jaunes".

I did just activate my inReach tracker - so if you click on the link below or the one ar the right side of this page, you should see our current location.

More updates to follow!

Our Location: 

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Headed to France for the New Boat

Well the time has finally come after months of preparations.  We leave tomorrow for France to pick up Midnight Sun II.  Its now been about 5 months since we committed to this, and somehow it seems like I have been working on some aspect of the planning every day. 

Whether its been figuring out what tools, spares and emergency equipment we need; routes, ports to stay in; weather planning; software purchases and upgrades.........the list goes on!
Packing the Pallet to ship to France

But its finally time to go.  We leave tomorrow morning, flying Pensacola-Miami-Lisbon-Nantes, then a 2 hour drive to La Rochelle.  Sounds like an exhausting day just typing it out.

We have a tentative plan on our itinerary - but wow, so many variables!  Will the pallet get there? Will the boat be on schedule?  will everything work?  What will the sea trials show as issues?

And of course there is weather - I think the most challenging part of the trip could be the crossing of the Bay of Biscay - not the most pleasant od seas at this time of year.

So we have spent a couple of days packing, re-packing.......trying to get 3 months of stuff into limited baggage.

........and there's more to get into something!

Well time for rest - we leave tomorrow.........or maybe a scotch......just one more!

Watch this space for more updates as we head out on our way!

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!