Saturday, August 21, 2010

Corpus Christi to Pensacola- My First Crossing Nov. 2007

Wave Dancer prepared to depart Corpus Christi bound for Pensacola, Fl.
The 1st Sunset with 2-3' seas and 10-15 knot winds.

Big Platforms everywhere

Time to Motor Sail, Cap'n Lynn had just successfully cut a line from his prop while fighting off Ramora's

Pensacola Yacht Club
The crew of Wave Dancer just prior to departing back to Corpus.

Corpus Christi to Pensacola- My First Crossing  Nov. 2007

This post took a while to write as I was relying on a diminishing memory, an incomplete personal log, a couple of emails I saved from Cap'n Bill. and a memory distorted by an intensive Gulf Passage complete with Euphoria, Sleep deprivation leading to hallucinations, a bit of sea sickness and complete terror. I would do it again in a minute:
I received an email from a couple who were about to embark on the first leg of the beginning of their dream cruise on their 1984 Passport Cutter Rig sailboat "Wave Dancer" out of Corpus Christi City Marina. We knew Bill and Pam at Commanders Point at Lake Travis. They had been preparing for about two years getting acquainted with the many systems of their new cruising boat, preparing the boat for their voyage and preparing themselves. Lynn and I had been their guest a few times including a fun weekend cruise over to Ingelside with the Bay Yacht Club. They invited me to crew for them and take the boat on the first leg from Corpus to Pensacola Florida. I was very excited to be invited since Lynn & I were near retirement and we planned to follow in their path. This would give me a new sailing experience, an actual offshore Gulf crossing which would greatly add to our knowledge base. I knew it would be a small miracle for all the planets to line up just right fro me to be able to leave my job, & family around the Thanksgiving week and take this opportunity.One week out I still thought I had a 50/50 chance to go but the planets quickly aligned as I was able to secure one of the last available satellite phones for rent in the whole country...the deal maker with Lynn.
I arrived at the marina just after dark from Austin about 18:00, the evening prior to the planned this point what we did that night is a blur, I just remember I slept great in their very comfortable V-berth stateroom. We awoke around 0730 and with coffee in hand Cap'n Bill began to do some preliminary orientation with me on the running rigging, chart plotter, emergency gear. About 0900, Chris, our 4th crewman arrived and after he stowed his gear we continued the orientation. Around 1000 the 1st mate AKA the Admiral Pam, their fearless boat dog Otis, Chris & I walked over to eat a casual breakfast at Whataburger then walked back to join Cap'n Bill who had continued preparations non-stop and could barely force himself to stop and inhale the sausage biscuit breakfast. On the way back to the boat I noticed the dingy hanging and lashed vertically across the stern of the boat from the dingy davits. Since everything I have read about cruising recommends stowing the dingy on deck or stowed in a locker I asked Cap'n Bill about this and he said that is how "They" suggested to carry the dingy.

We then walked over to D dock to meet with the Crew of "Susan II" a Catalina 400 that would be the lead boat I just learned. Wow, this would be great having the comfort and safety of a second boat on the trip, I even recognized an old friend Walt who I knew since our days at HCYC. The skipper of Susan II was Cap'n Lynn , his crew was Chip and Walt. Cap'n Lynn would be the chief navigator for the tiny fleet as he had previously moved his boat from Florida to Corpus. At first the combined experience of the Captains & crew seemed impressive, all had years of coastal cruising & charter boat experience, all owned boats 30' and above and all were either near retirement or retired from careers at the top of their respective career paths including two impressive military careers, homeland security, private business, Super Max Canadian prison warden, and me the educator.

It was 11:30 the plan was to top off the fuel tanks and meet in Port Aransas where we would determine if the weather was good to go or if we should wait till the following morning as we would be venturing out into the gulf following a Northern front that had passed almost two days earlier. all of a sudden the crews got into high gear and we were off to the fuel dock. While on the fuel dock I realized I was about to get on a boat and not one had ever made a Gulf crossing before. It was a bit of security though knowing we had over 125 gallons of fuel on board, a new chart plotter with Sirus weather, and a brand new Radar, so new Cap'n Bill was not familiar with all the functions yet. There are also power concerns when you are out sailing for long periods of time and all those electronics can eat away at your battery storage. We motored sailed across Corpus Christi Bay leading the way to Port Aransas and at 1615 by VHF radio it was decided the weather was a go, we had 10-15 mph winds and 2-3 foot seas, we were clear of the Port A jetties just after 1630 and I was in heaven again, I was not seasick and for the first time sailing in the Gulf of Mexico.

Day 1 As we cleared the Jetties the C400 led the way. Prior to departing Cap'n Bill explained that we would rotate on 4 hour watches, two on two off. Pam & I would rotate with Bill and Chris. We were all so excited that no one mentioned when we would start our rotation and who would go down and get rested so they could be alert during late night and early morning hours. Just at sunset I realized someone had to rest so I said I would go down and try to rest and then I would come back up to relieve Cap'n Bill & Chris. Well trying to go to sleep when the adrenaline is still pumping was just not going to happen, so I just laid and tried to rest as much as possible to prepare for my watch. I could tell the seas were starting to build as the motion down below also prevented the idea of sleep and promoted a bit of queasiness. I finally just gave up and after about 3 hours or so came back up to the cockpit. Wow...I was really queasy. In fact just then I leaned over the rail and everything that was in my body projectiled out in 1 second. Now I felt better. For the next 12 hours I could not eat anything without it shooting right back out. Cap'n Bill put some oily stuff just behind my ear and that was the end of my 1st experience with seasickness. No one was getting any real sleep, & I could feel that we were all beginning to experience some exhaustion.

Day 2 We had successfully navigated at night with full sail through the oil platforms and with the morning light the seas were 5-6 and we were making great time. By the late afternoon winds were building along with the seas. For the first time I was experiencing 10-12' waves, and we were still under full sail, rail in the water. The number of lights, platforms, and boats of all sorts were all around us and it took all eyes to sort out this incredible environment. Around 2000 We decide to reef the Genoa, something went wrong in the dark as we were trying to pull in on the roller furling line and ease the sheet. I heard Bill holler in pain and realized all or part of his hand was caught up in the sheet. I instinctively blew the sheet fearing he might have seriously injured his hand. Then without full attention on the helm, the bow went through the wind and the Genoa hour glassed around the head stay, and the port side sheet was violently whipping about. Cap'n Bill ordered me to take the helm while he and Chris went forward to sort out the mess. It was so dark I could not see the foredeck, Bill or Chris, I could barely hear them over the winds and roar of the sea, Pam was by my side providing extra ears and eyes. Bill was ordering a 360 degree turn to starboard to unwrap the head sail, there seemed to be lights and platforms all around us. I took precaution and turned the boat slowly through the waves fearing a violent jib. Bill and Chris were being punished by the waves on the foredeck and I was not even sure they were still there. Due to lack of sleep I began to hallucinate..I saw structures in the water that I tried with all my might to avoid but Pam said they were not there. Three old sailors appeared at the mast pulpit staring at me all in foul weather gear, one red, one yellow and one blue. After at least 1 1/2 hour hour we had the nightmare sorted out and Cap'n Bill and Chris were back in the cockpit. I was so thankful they had not been washed overboard, I had hit the Wall, and around 2200 I explained to all that I had to go to bed. I went below and laid down in the v-berth and in spite of the bow crashing through 12 foot seas I crashed harder than ever in my life.
Day 3 The mind is an amazing thing at exactly 0130 I awoke and navigated my way through the dimly lit cabin to the cockpit. Cap'n Bill and Chris were at the helm, Chris looked like a Zombie and I told them I was good to go and for them to get below and get some rest. Chris disconnected his tether and headed for the V-berth, Pam came up and joined me at the helm and Cap'n Bill laid against the bulkhead in the cockpit and slid off to sleep. We were between lines of Platforms, a row behind us and a long line in front of us several miles away. We had just navigated around a large fishing trawler and after a quite hour or so behind the helm with Pam, I asked her if it was ok for me to run down to the head quickly. There were no lights around us and I stood up on the comeing for about 5 minutes peering over the vertically hung dingy to check for lights from behind. You could only scan for lights when we were at the top of a swell since when the boat ran down into the trough all the lights were out of sight. I could only see the distant line of platforms and the fishing trawler that merged into the Platform lights. I told Pam it was all clear and I was just about to unclip my harness and go below. Cap'n Bill awoke at that moment and Screamed SHIPPPP! I then saw the bow of a huge ship about 30 yards away and closing fast, on a collision course of about 30 degrees, we both dove for the Auto helm, Cap'n Bill beat me and he turned it off giving me control of the helm, I turned the Helm hard to Starboard and just as the boat turned we felt the boat rise from the bow wave of the ship, The ship passed us less than 15 yards away and I glanced up and noticed the 55'+ tall mast was dead even with the deck of the ship. How could I miss seeing such a large ship? As Dr. Ken at Commanders Point would say, "cheated death one more time". Well that got the adrenaline pumping hard again. We sat in the dark cockpit somewhat silent trying to recover from a near catastrophic experience. The rest of my watch was a blur and non eventful. 3 hours later Chris came up to relieve me and I fell right to sleep. Admiral Pam came to wake me up 2 hours into my coma...she said they needed my help in the cockpit. I put on my foulies as quickly as possible and came up to find a picture that I can only describe as a scene out of Apocalypse Now. There were several service ships, a tow with a seismic cable, Platforms all around us, the eerie sound of all the fog horns coming from the platforms, very confused seas due to the number of vessels going in different direction and other than the mass of lights all around us it was dark as hell. Cap'n Bill was on the radio communicating with the devil, Chris was on the helm and I could not even begin to figure out how I was going to help in what seemed to be an impossible maze that I had just come into out of a coma. I just sat in the cockpit and watched for the nearest obstruction, listened and tried to get ready to respond to Cap'n Bills orders. Cap'n Bill navigated us through the maze and we were safe again for a while. We did begin to get into our duty rotation and all were beginning to benefit from the rest. Sun rise in the Gulf is incredible, as we were passing through Louisiana and the Mighty Mississippi we experienced the great Dead Zone and all the pollution that the river brings into the Gulf, lots of muddy water and junk floating about. We were close to our Buddy boat "s/v Susan II" now as we passed the Louisiana Loop. You are supposed to stay at least a mile from the area since it is a huge offshore oil tanker facility and guarded continuously by the coast guard. But Cap'n Lynn wanted to get close look at it so we ventured very near the one mile limit. First a Blackhawk helicopter flew over and stayed overhead to check us out, next a US Coast Guard Cutter came up with her 50 caliber machine guns to have a little chat on the VHF. fortunately they were satisfied with our southern accents and they bid us fair weather. It was just after 1200 and the fleet decided to start the engines and motor sail to keep up the pace since the winds were on the nose and to charge the batteries. Susan II could not get the engine started and after some discussion on the VHF it was determined there must be some line or something in the Prop. Cap'n Lynn jumped right in the Gulf Au' natural with his trusty blade, and just as fast as he jumped in he was back in the cockpit reporting a gang of Ramores were very interested in his manhood. No problem, just a bit of blood, swim shorts on and back in. Cap'n Lynn successfully cuts the offending heavy polypropylene line off the shaft , the engine starts and we are off again. The water begins to turn a beautiful tropical blue as we near Florida waters.

Day 4: The next day was just a beautiful sail across the Gulf as the crew was now well into the routine of the 4 hours on, 4 off watch schedule and we felt rested. All the crew was much more adept at identifying the lights even though there were fewer as we sailed further from Louisiana and closer to Florida. That night Pam & I were on the helm again when I spotted a ship that would pass right in front of us. I radioed crewman Walt on Susan II " Wave Dancer to Susan II" "Susan II Over" " Hey Walt, there is a Big Butt ship at 11:00 o'clock, that will pass in front of us, over" Walt replied "I do not see her" " Look again she is moving fast, from our Port side about to be right in front of us, we need to pass her stern" " OK I see her" " Roger that, Wave Dancer standing by on 16". Nearing Pensacola we knew we would be in a slip for a safe mooring by night time. We easily navigated the Pensacola channel and headed to the Navy Base where retired Navy Cap'n Lynn had two slips reserved for us that night.But alas, the channel to the Navy Marina was to shallow for the 6'+ draft of Wave Dancer and after briefly running aground, Admiral Pam searched the chart plotter and found the Pensacola Yacht Club, just around the corner. We were tied up just as the end of daylight slipped away. Where are the Showers? Thank God the PYC were great host and we had the combo to the Locker rooms pronto, we all enjoyed a great long hot shower. Lynn had packed me some baby wipes and they had come in handy as after each watch I would wipe down my whole body and slip on a fresh t-shirt, sleep, put on the same salty foulies and get back on deck.

Cap'n Lynn's wife Susan met us at the Marina and we loaded up in her Caddy and went to Sonny's BBQ for food, Beer and sailing stories. Some very generous person paid our entire bill, my hunch was a Pensacola YC sailor who appreciated our recent accomplishment. Back to the Boat and all four of us were asleep in 2 seconds.
Day 5 Up at 7am and the 4 crew loaded our gear in the caddy for a fast drive back to Corpus, I think we got in around 10pm. If you want to get across 5 states quickly just put a regional director of Homeland Security behind the wheel. Cap'n Lynn and his Admiral Susan on Susan II, and Cap'n Bill with his Admiral Pam continued on around Florida and then across the Gulf stream to cruise the Bahamas.

This experience set the tone for our preparation and plans for cruising. I considered myself lucky to experience the full nine yards on this trip. I had the full range from euphoric Ocean sailing to near death crises. Sleep deprivation and finally getting into the groove of four hours on four hours off. I lost 6 pounds in 4 1/2 days. We learned lights, satellite phones, electronic navigation and many details to numerous to mention. But for those considering such an ocean Passage a few reccomendations.
1. Stow your dingy on deck. You need to have a 360 degree field of vision all the time.
2. Be sure to all crew know how to operate all functions of your electronics (and everything else) before leaving port.

3. Have your crew arrive several days prior to departure. This will give them time to sail the vessel and learn about all the systems. They should know how to sail your boat almost as well as you do. I have read where a crew started their watch rotation the day before they left the dock to get into the groove before they departed.

4. If other boats are accompanying and they stray off course or go a different way do not feel it is your job to keep up with them. Sail your course and your preferred speed and comfort level.
5. Always reef prior to night, no matter what.

6. Bring baby wipes

7. Wear your harness and tether at all times in the cockpit and the deck. A wave came over the Starboard quarter and completely covered Cap'n Bill at the Helm...I could only laugh.

8. Do not sail close to anything just for a close look...use your binoculars.
9.) Use your radar at night and if energy consumption is a concern start the engine.
10.) Add a AIS transponder to your electronics and use it for communicating with other vessels.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The San Juans featuring Ki & Orcas Island Aug. 2007

"Ki" our chartered 42' Tayana Center Cockpit Cutter

This is Sucia Island, Echo Bay, our first nights ancorage, the pic was taken from the top of Orcas Island.
Deer Harbor with the San Juan Channel in the background
Lia and Russell relaxing after anchoring in Echo Bay


Liaand Russell relaxing for after dinner drinks aboard Ki.

Dingy exploration of Deer Harbor where we encountered harbor seals. PFD are necessary as the water temp is in the 50's.

Our favorite Harbor seal.
My Birthday sail in the San Juan Channel with all the sails out on this cutter rig...Pure heaven!

Lia Navigating with the Garmin, Russell at the helm.

The little Marina at Rosario in the East Sound.

A top view of Rosario Resort and the Marina

The deer are friendly at Rosario.

The Inn at Ship's Bay, the wedding destination.

Lynn at the top of Orca's Island.

A shot of Peavine currants through here.

Our approach to Peavine Pass.

Sailing Rosario Strait.

Russell's sharp eyes easily found all the wildlife, porpoise and eagles
This is the first charter where Lynn & I planned & prepared for the entire charter on our own. On all other trips we had 2-3 very experienced couples with us who shared the planning and duties aboard. To prepare for this trip we took an online Navigation course together. We knew it would be different from any other charter we had done due to the complexity of the tides and currents. You have to prepare for 8-12 foot tides and currents up to 4 knots in the passes and channels. Lynn insisted on buying a portable chart plotter to make sure we had a back up to our chart based dead reckoning navigation course. I easily complied to that request. Our daughter Lia and her fiance Russell who were living in Seattle would join us as crew, this would be their first sailing charter and we wanted to make sure they had a great experience. We chose the Tayana 42 since it was one of the boats we were very interested in on our list of cruising boats. We were not disappointed, this boat exceeded any of our expectations in both comfort and exciting to sail.
In the 1st week of August 2007, we had highs of 72-81 and lows of 52-56 during this trip with a full week of sun, no AC or heat needed. Incredible vistas and wildlife everywhere you looked. The Pacific Northwest is boat heaven, every imaginable cruiser power and sail can be seen in the marinas and not one boat is sitting neglected in a slip deteriorating. Since you are in the US waters there are none of the worries of being in a foreign destination which simplified a lot of details. You can easily slip into Canadian waters and we brought along passports just in case the opportunity presented itself, but not on this trip.

We chartered a 2001 Tayana 42 cutter rig from Bellhaven Yacht Charters.
Our Itinerary was:
Day 1: Bellingham to Sucia Island Echo Bay anchorage. We got off late from our checkout at Bellingham and motored the 4+ hours to Sucia. The anchorage was full and we had to anchor near the back of the fleet in 40 feet of water at high tide. We motored in near the stern of a cruiser causing a bit of concern on their part but I had done my homework. 280' of chain later and we were ready for our happy hour to start, soaking in the beauty of this incredible place. We struck up the grill and enjoyed some local Salmon for the first meal. Since this was my first responsibility I set my back up hand help Garmin for anchor watch. The alarm never sounded but I automatically awoke 3 times during the night to check our position. I now regret not waking all the others as each time I sprang up on deck there was a new incredible scene, with all kinds of sea life popping about. I would sit 5-10 minutes enjoying and then go right back to sleep. Coffee was great the next morning as Lia and Russel share my enjoyment for good stong coffee. The Bay was heavily fogged in that morning and it gave me a bit of concern as I did not have experience with radar, so we waited till close to 10 am, the fog was burning off and most had departed in front of us. with the Admirals approval we set sail for Deer Harbor.

Day 2: Sucia Island to Orcas Deer harbor Marina. Well this would be a great place to just live and moor your boat. The Harbor Masters make it easy for you to come into their marinas in the San Juans. They communicate continuously through VHF with you till they meet you at the slip and help you with your dock lines. Very Nice! That evening we walked up the hill a bit and had a great dinner, it was so good we would return the next night for another. Our daughter was searching for a place to have her upcoming wedding so she spent the day contacting possibilities. We got the dingy out and explored nearby coves and wondered at the harbor seals.

Day 3: Day sail in the San Juan Channel return to Deer Harbor Marina.
This was my birthday & Lia helped a lot by suggesting we go for a sail in the San Juan Channel. So we did. I was eager to get out all the sails on this Tayana cutter.The winds were 15 gusting to 20 and after we put up the main and Genoa, it was time to see what the staysail would do. It was on a self tacking Hoyt boom so it would be easy for us manage. We were charging across the Channel with the rail near the water, this is how these boats are made to sail. Lia asked me how happy I was at the moment on a scale of 1 to 10....I replied "about a hundred". Russell was at the helm as I ran about trimming sails, I did not warn them as I tightened up the mainsheet and the boat dipped the rail in the water....I got a few comments but I just wanted to see this boat sail and it was fantastic! We returned to Deer Harbor and the experienced crew put the boat to rest with ease.

Day 4: Deer Harbor Marina to Rosario Resort in East Sound Orcas Island (read Hot tub). We had to time our departure from Deer Harbor with the tides/currents since we would be travel through Harvey Channel to the East Sound. Not a good idea to go against the currents especially where you have some narrow passes, with plenty of marine traffic in a sailboat. We did select this boat for one other of it's characteristics though just in case, it had a 75 hp Yanmar, plenty to do the job if called on. If you have a woman on board you do not want to miss this destination. After getting tied up at the little marina at Rosario we rented a car for Lia and Russell to go and scout out a couple of possible wedding spots. We enjoyed Rosario Resort. There are several relaxing water choices for the marina tenants and we made sure to enjoy them all. The Harbor Master lived aboard his Catalina 400, with his daughter who also worked at the marina and assist others in and out of their slips. He had made more than one trip up and down the west coast so he was great to talk west coast sailing stories.

Day 5: Explore Orcas Island We took advantage of the car and toured Orcas village at the North end of the East Sound. Then we found The Inn at Ships Bay which overlooked the East Sound. We had a 5 Star dinner there that night and the setting and service convinced Lia and Russell this would be their wedding destination. This adventure was turning out to be one we would never forget.

Day 6: Rosario Resort to Chuchanut Bay It was time to head back toward the mainland. It would be another adventure through Peavine Pass and through Rosario Strait. Everyone on their navigation toes, we were moving with the current and hitting 10 knots through the pass. Once through we raised the sails and enjoyed the Strait. We soon discovered that our course would require sailing into the wind so we motored sailed the rest of the way to Chuchanut Bay. Again after a successful anchoring we got the dingy out to explore the bay, there was a small foot bridge we dingied under just for fun, that next morning at low tide it was just a bridge over the rocks several feet above the water line. another dinner aboard and an almost to leisurely breakfast the next morning.

Day 7: Chuchanut Bay to Saqualicum Marina at Bellingham to return the boat. Since we needed to get back to the marina by noon, we motored dead down wind, the autopilot was working hard so Russell took the helm as the rest of us was down below getting things ready to depart. As we arrived at the marina there was a long line of boats jocking for position to get to the fuel docks. This is where I learned how to maneuver a large 42' boat in position in wind and currant for over an hour waiting for our turn. Finally our turn, thank goodness there were two dock hands at the fuel dock since the winds had picked up a bit and was not favorable for coming along side.

Lia is a free lance writer who has a few steady gigs with some very different publications. One of those at the time was the Seattle Metropolitan Magazine which I would equate to our Texas Monthly here in Texas. This trip inspired her to do an article for the Travel and Outdoor section of the magazine, you can see it at
We were very lucky to have our future son in law and daughter aboard and especially fortunate to be involve in the hunt for their wedding destination. They are now married and living in their Condo in downtown Seattle where the views of South Puget Sound and Mt. Rainier are huge. She continues to write, now a steady gig for the Standford Medical Branch and Russell works for

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Belize Charter - Puurfect .......... June 2006

Here is "Puurfect the 46' Bahia
Captain Derek and  Judy (top right),Jerry & Melanie, Lynn, Katie&Greg enjoying our 1st Fish Camp Dinner at Blue Field Range

Lynn at the Helm, with Jerry's small portable GPS guiding the way.
Rendezvous Caye, our snorkling destination with Pirate encounters.

Lynn and I stayed behind to guard the dingy at Rendezvous Caye, it could have been a long swim back to our anchored Cat.
Sportin Judy's sunglasses & fishing at the incredible Blue Field Range...What a night, Every Star in the sky came out to meet us that night.

Dozens of these guys right at the edge of the Little Blue Hole at Colson Caye.
Everyone a different color & design.

Puurfect at Tobacco Caye
A Lobster crew going out for the day, carrying several small canoes each would take out & fill with lobster then return to their mother ship for the return home.

Our Self appointed Dangregan Guide assisting our efforts to re-provision & find more food & Beer!

A couple of years after our Virgin Islands Charter trip our friends from Hill Country Yacht Club called us up & invited us to go with them to charter a Catamaran in Belize. I was involved in the hunt for our cruiser so I was reluctant to go but Lynn knew this would be a good experience since we would be sailing islands with few inhabitants. In the Virgins you had to get in by 4pm if you wanted to get a mooring ball and there always 10-20 or more sailboats sharing the space with you. That would not be the case in Belize. So we called Captain Derek up and signed on as crew. Captain Derek made all the arrangements and since we had lived close with 2 of the couples in this crew for 9 days on a 46' Jenneau we new it would be a fun opportunity. Also we would get to sail a Bahia 46' "Puurfect" which turned out to be a lot of space for 8: http://sailtmm/belize/boats/puurfect_home.cfm Everyone had there own cabin and head, lots of interior and exterior space to share the experience. Chart plotters were relatively new but Jerry had a small portable unit he brought along. It really paid off since the chart the charter company provided looked like a hand drawn chart and they advised the error on the chart could be a half mile or more. During the pre-departure briefing they warned us not to use the VHF if we were aground or had other non-life threatening problems since it could draw the attention of those who would take advantage of a group of stranded sailors. I did get Cell service in Belize before we left the states so we had 1 cell phone that we could use to call the charter company for help if needed. Our plan was to sail down the northern 50 miles from San Pedro to South water Caye& return island hopping and snorkeling along the way. Provisioning for 8 was a major trip for and the Beer was $38 US per case. We knew we did not buy enough provisions for the entire trip but we would pick up more along the way. Greg brought along trolling gear so we might just catch some of our dinner as well.
Day 1 6.09.06 to Caye Caulker this was our shakedown, motor sailing checking out all the systems, just about a 4 hour sail from San Pedro. Since all of our trip would be approx. 50 miles offshore from the Belize mainland and inside the Great Barrier Reef the waters are shallow 9-10' and you must be on constant lookout for small chunks of reef that could put a hole in the cruise. The charts on Jerry's GPS proved to be quite good. Caye Caulker was the 2nd largest of the islands we would visit and we celebrated our shake down with dinner ashore in the bustling town.

Day 2 6.10 to Water Caye We got the sails out this day and did not push it to much, the winds were light and we all just sort of tried to familiarize ourselves with the running rigging and give all a turn at the wheel. Greg deployed his trolling gear and soon we had a fair sized Barracuda. The locals advised not to eat the reef fish ...we were unsure about the Barracuda so that toothy boy was released. Dinner aboard, Greg was always the Grill chef and he was an expert.

Day3 6.11 This would be a full day, first off to English Caye for snorkeling, wow that was great but next on to Rendezvous Caye, a little deserted looking patch of sand & a few palms where the snorkeling would be incredible. Just as we get the anchor set and prepare to dingy to the little Caye, a local reef fishing boat zooms up to the beach with what appeared to be perhaps a guided snorkeling tour. Lynn said we needed to lock the boat up but I said, not to worry there were women and children aboard the boat. As we neared the beach I began to take Lynn's concern seriously, the men looked like a bunch of pirates. I told the others to go ahead without me, I would stay with the dingy and make sure it stayed safe. The oldest man with the group asked to speak to our Captain. So Captain Derek had a little conversation with the man who claimed to own the little island ( I think he was fishing for some compensation from us for using his assumed spot in paradise. Not sure what Derek told the guy but he just put him off. Then the other three couples put on there snorkeling gear and enjoyed to reef. Lynn stayed behind with me and we protected our turf. I traded some threatening looks with the younger men in the group. Then it was time to go, we explained to our captain and crew we needed to get aboard and depart. Just as we pulled up anchor the pirates got in there boat & speed away, I waved and said "BYE", & just got stone cold stares in return. If I had disregarded Lynn's concern they would have surely made off with the dingy and any loose stuff aboard our big Cat. We sailed on to Blue Field Range for our nights anchorage. It is a small collection of Caye's with fishing camps and 1 small very primitive resort. Absolutely beautiful.

Day 4 6.12 Lynn had read that you can take t-shits and old denim jeans and trade for fish at the fish camps.She had cleaned out the closets a bit to bring along & trade. Since our provisions were waneing we visit a fish camp, Greg & I dingy over to a fish camp and unfortunately it is not quite lobster season but we do trade the t-shirts & jeans for fish and have a great fish dinner that night anchored near the "Little Blue Hole". this was another great snorkeling spot, star fish everywhere and a hole about 20 yards diameter that appeared to have no bottom.

Day 5 6.13 to Tobacco Caye about a 5 hour sail to a beautiful small island with 4 very small resorts, and 2-3 places to eat. We chose the larger building and made reservations for 8, we would be the only ones enjoying the Conch soup that night.

Day6/7 6.14 & 15 to South Water Caye, about a 5 mile square area Island. Here we got to have the full presence of the Great Barrier Reef, I was enjoying the reef to much as I found myself on the ocean side of the reef and had to use all my skills to swim back to the calm waters. In the process I just barely scrapped my shin on the reef, I would visit my physician when I returned to Austin to get some special cream to destroy the critters causing a very irritating rash. After the big snorkel event we met ashore for a beer. As I returned to the dinghy I discover the little launch sprang a leak. We used 12 of the PFD's on board and stuffed into the deflated aft tube, tapped it up with duck tape and we were able to continue to ferry 3 at a time to and from the mother ship. We were just about out of Beer & other things like food so we took a water taxi 40 miles into the Dangriga for another adventure. Dangriga was like a little African town, very busy, colorful & bustling. Our self appointed guide helped us find all the necessary provisions. He accepted a combination of t-shirts, jeans and US$ for his services. That's our guide in the next to last pic at a local grocery store.

Day 8 6.16 to Middle Long Caye, time to head back North, our sails would be longer each day as we had to be back in San Pedro by the 19th. On the way we stopped at Pancho's fish camp and picked up several Lobsters for dinner since the Lobster season opened that day. Middle Long Caye offered a chance to dingy into the Mangroves...had to be careful to note the way in so you would not get lost in the maze.

Day 9 6.17 to St. Georges there were lots of fabulous Sunset photos but the one above was the best I got at St Georges. Great bar at St. Georges and tour of a private aquarium a family maintains as part of their contribution to the health of the area waters.

Day 10 6.18 On the return to Cay Caulker we were feeling pretty confident and had all the sails out in 15-20, we were sailing fast. I was at the helm and we were nearing a narrow pass, Jerry our navigator had been studying the chart plotter and as we were nearing the pass he said "I do not feel good about this" I knew what he ment so I said we would come about and go back toward deeper water, but just then one hull ran aground, Fourtunatly no one got hurt as we came to a screcching halt, everyone was seated except Katy and she was able to catch herself before she flew across the Galley. Another lesson learned avoid going through narrow passes with your sails up and engine off, Derek took control of the helm as we got the sails down and using the two engines he spun us off and we were free. After anchoring that afternoon I dove on the hull and all was ok, it just sanded off a little bottom paint.
Lynn was still trading her t-shirts and jeans, this time for Mangoes & Lobster on Caye Caulker and we had another great meal near the end of our trip.

Day 11 6.19 to San Pedro Coming in on diesel fumes, we were hoping our fuel would hold out since we employed the onboard Generator to run the Air conditioning every night at 10pm and escape the near equatorial heat at night. We would all fall to sleep immediately and would rise rested for another full day of adventure. We picked up a TMM pilot on the fly and headed for the fuel docks. 8 beers remained one for each of us to savour and remember the incredible fun we had all enjoyed together.

This was a very valuable trip in our jouney to become cruisers. We learned several things about sailing in Paradise, especially isolated paradise. You need to do your homework & learn how to fit in with the locals and avoid unpleasant encounters. You need to do your navigation homework before leaving port, and you need to go slow through narrow passes and be prepared to change course immediately if needed. We were able to renew our friendships with our Canyon Lake Friends and share another once in a lifetime opportunity. We might make it back to Belize and if we do we will be sure to vist the Big "Blue Hole" next time.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Dream the Dream

This is a Island Packet 38, has the room of a 40' and their owners love them.
This is a Vagabond 42, a great one came up for sale and if it had been a little later this might have been the boat.

This is our friends Bill and Pam's 42 Passport, the closet one I could find for sale was up in New York. this is a go anywhere safe boat..Incredible experience with them crossing the Gulf from Corpus to Pensacola.

This is a Pacific Seacraft 40, if we could have afforded it this would be ours for sure. No other boat impressed me as much as a PS40.

When I was not sailing I was reading everything I could find about sailing, cruising, navigation, electronics, and maintenance / repair of boats. I subscribed to 4-5 sail magazines for years and read them all cover to cover. As all boat owners know you can't find the everything boat so you have to figure out how your going to use it and write a prescription to fill the need. is a great place to just cruise all the possibilities and vicariously explore all kinds of fantasies. We had owned our C30 for two years and retirement was coming for us soon. I began the search for our Ultimate cruising boat. The C30 was a great school in boat repair and restoration so I knew I could find a boat that was structurally sound and complete any necessary restoration myself allowing us to buy more boat for the money. But it had to be the RIGHT boat, we could not afford to make an error in choice as it could be costly in both money and time. I started by creating a spreadsheet and by using the data on yachtworld I added over 60 different yachts to the spreadsheet and quickly began to gain an insight to the characteristics that would be desirable and those that would not be desirable in a Blue water cruising sailboat. I began to sort the boats and created a top ten list and as I learned more about sailboat design I would move the undesirables to the bottom of the list and note the reason why. We were fortunate to live near the Houston-Clear Lake area where the 3rd largest collection of recreational vessels in the US were moored, sold and traded. Lynn & I began to make regular weekend trips to Kemah where we put our broker Kent Little through the long search for a boat that would meet our specifications, it had to be at least a 38 and no bigger than a 44 footer. This all had to do with space and what I believed would be the limit in the practical size of boat a retiring baby boomer couple could handle. I am not sure how many boats we stepped on but we continued going to Kemah for two years putting Kent through the paces. I read two books that helped to narrow the list to a top eight, The complete guide to Cruising boats by Marshall and Sailboat Design I & II by Robert Perry. Certain design ratios became the center piece on my spreadsheet for comparison: Capsize Ratio, Comfort ratio, Sail area/Displacement ratio, and Displacement/Length Ratio. On one of our latter visits to Kemah we were over by the Higgens/Smyth docks and we were just leaving after spending a couple of hours looking at a couple of boats there. As we were walking back to our cars Kent stopped on the docks and said, "You know I just sold this boat to this couple and it might be what you are looking for, I know the couple would not mind if we stepped aboard and take a look". I immediately declined since the boat was not on the list, but Lynn said she wanted to see it so we interrupted the retired Coast Guard Captain & his admiral. They were very nice and we just spent 10 or so minutes aboard looking around, I really did not want to interrupt someone who had just bought their dream so I cut our look short. But when we got back to Austin I started researching the 42' Endeavour Center Cockpit. It made the top nine list. Above are a few of the boats that made the top 9.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Commanders Point

When Lynn & I was looking for a marina to put "Hey You" in we found Commanders Point at Lake Travis. We checked out several marinas, but we just liked the location and the funky feel of this great little marina located down the hill in a fjord that opened up to the basin area where the best sailing area on the lake was. We took a bottle of wine one late afternoon and sat on the deck above the Marina offfice to enjoy the sunsetting light and to confirm our thoughts about making this our marina. Paul the habor master/marina manager and a group of others were firing up a grill and having a seemingly great time down on the docks just in back of the marina office. We chatted a bit with them & declined thier offer to stay and eat with them, but we then knew it was the place for our new sailboat. We had 4 great years with the Buzzards of Commanders Point! There was Dr. Ken and his great Pacific Seacraft Dana 24,,great sailing and tons of fun aboard his "Star". Buzz and Terry on there 35' Pearson, they flew up to Seattle to help us sail Wand'rin Star from Poulsbo to Port Townsend and decommission the boat. The wierd Psychiratrist who had a neat Cape Dory 30 slipped next to us, Phillip & Sharon on their huge Hunter 45 always kept things interesting with the boat with the most bikini's. Great sunset sails on that boat. Jean Piere and Mary Jane on their Endeavour 35.5, great conversations and great Food! Ron and Jimmy Sue on their 33 Peason "Grand Rascal" Jimmy Sue kept it classy and Captain Ron was a Grand Rascal. Charlie & MaryAnn with Charlie's super Dry Humor that would have you laughing for days, they had a go fast boat that Cruised in Fair weather. Captain Mike who fished a 30' Irwin up from the bottom of the marina and rebuilt it.."5200" Endless source of great seafaring stories. Bill & Pam on their Islander 36 "Hydro Therapy" I would eventully make my first Gulf Crossing helping them take their Passport 42 "Wave Dancer" from Corpus to Pensacola...A whole nother story there. The elusive John & Teresa on "Spyglass" a Baba 30, one of the more interesting vessels in the marina. Jake & Jenny on "Honky Voodoo" a C30, Jake pulled out the engine and replaced it with a electric motor all designed and engineered by Jake. They became the guides to Corpus and led us to Bay Yacht Club where Jake was the Commodore at the time (and Jenny ran it I am sure). Paul the marina manager had "Papalote" a 39' C&S (it think).If it happened at Lake Travis, it happend on this boat. Rick, the dude from California on his Catalina 34' the guy who works more on his boat than sails know the type. This C34 has everything, if it does not have it you don't need it. That's cause this bost is getting prepped to sail the English coast! And last but not least for sure is Bill & Pat on the fastest Pearson 33' "Alchemy" n the state. Every evening on the KVUE evening news they showed the Oasis web cam of the sunsetting over the basin area. YOU could always see one or two sailboats sailing back and forth. Well those boats where either Bill, Me or both of us out siingle handing having a great time just being there. The attached video clip is of us chasing Bill & Pat across the basin area. (as soon as I find the clip I will post it)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Distraction....The Hobie

It was the Summer of 2003, Lynn and I visited our time share in Mexico with just the two of us this time. I noticed a few Hobie cat's out sailing and I was determined to rent one and take Lynn on a little 1-2 hour cruise. After all we had two years of sailing our C250 under the belt and I had rented a Hobie 18 on Offett's Bayou years ago and took my son Graeme on a bay sail. I got a little to adventurous on that trip and turtled the Beach cat, but a few boaters came over and helped us right the craft and away we went, just a little slower. We walked north down the beach looking for the right Hobie to rent, you know one that was not held together with bailing wire and duct tape. A couple of miles down the beach we found a few Hobie's on the beach and they looked safe enough to sail. It was at one of those huge all inclusive beach hotels and there were hundreds of overly tanned bodies on the beach and lots of people enjoying the Caribbean waters. We selected our Hobie 16 and the non-English speaking rental guy helped us drag the Cat to the water. After donning life jackets and with the help of our guy, who warned the swimmers to open up a path so we could sail out into open water, we were moving right along the clear blue water. I did not want to sail to fast and risk turtling the Hobie with Lynn aboard so we just sailed just beyond the swimmers back and forth up and down the beach. The one thing I could not do though was to bring the Hobie about..I just could not figure out what I was doing wrong, the bow would just not go through the worry though, we just jibed each time and after about an hour of sliding effortlessly across the blue water I figured to call it a success and head back in. I reminded Lynn who was controlling the jib sheets that as we approached the beach, we would let the sheets go to depower the sails and just slowly glide in to a stop on the beach. The rental guy walked out into the water and with a whistle he motioned for the swimmers to part so we would have a way back into the beach, I think the swimmers were a little intoxicated as they barely gave us enough room to slip in...I asked Lynn to let the sheet go and I reached back to raise the rudders so they would not dig into the sand as we approached the beach, I heard Lynn say " You Better Watch Out!" and just as I turned to see what was the matter the Hobie took off like a jet, and the little Mexican dude who had waded out in the water to help us come in threw off his hat as he ran as fast as he could away from us up the beach....We shot up a 2-3' section where the beach had eroded from the wave action, we were sailing on sand. We came to a stop just 1" from another Hobie parked up on the sand. The rental dude walked back over and Lynn said "OK?"...he replied "OK".... We then went to a beach bar about 50' away and proceeded to drink 3 beers each. I asked Lynn what happened, she said that she saw a guy to close to us in the water as we were coming in, she felt the boat slip as I pulled up the rudders and she thought I would need more power to avoid the swimmer so she sheeted in the jib sheet. All is well that ends well, after all no one had to drag the craft up on to the beach, we just flew up there! As soon as I got back to Austin I began hunting for a used Hobie 16 to buy. I found one that had solid hulls but needed some parts, so along with the Sailboat shop in Austin and Ebay, I put it all together. (# 71607 in the second Pic is us at Hobie Point on Canyon Lake) We took her to Canyon Lake 4 times and my friend Bob Stalbird, who had a Prindle 18, helped us learn how to sail Beach Cats. I really enjoyed the thrill of this boat, you can sail easy or you can sail nuts...tons of fun. We took it a couple of times out to Windy Point at Lake Travis and had adventures there as well but as it came near the time to sail our second boat "Hey You" I realized it was just a distraction from the real goal of buying a cruising boat. I listed the boat for sale on Craig's List and when they came to take the boat away I felt like I was selling off the little boy inside myself.