Saturday, December 22, 2018

Feliz Navidad from Mexico

Lori Lloyd and I are cruising in Mexico for a week with pals Tim Dick and Kim Le aboard Tim's new Lagoon 42 catamaran "Malolo".  This is a short trip that came up at the last minute, and I wasn't planning to blog, but we've already had too much to laugh about in two days to not share it.

Two weeks ago I got an email from Tim, "Do you want to do a week long goof cruise in Puerto Vallarta with us the week before Christmas?"  Goof cruise meant doing some sailing, but not really going anywhere outside of Banderas Bay, a twenty mile deep inlet on Mexico's west coast.  Going meant missing my daughter Kendra's thirtieth birthday "beer mile" party, but these opportunities to sail with friends in exotic locations don't come up every day, so we signed on and here we are.

We decided to spend our first full day provisioning, getting the boat ready, and then touring historic Puerto Vallarta.  We got the work done in the morning and then caught a water taxi about fifteen miles from our marina in Nuevo Vallarta to town.

Puerto Vallarta is clearly a tourist town with an equal split between Mexican and foreign tourists.  There is a waterfront promenade that reminded me of a cross between Key West, Olongapo in the Philippines, and Bourbon Street in New Orleans.  Street vendors sold hats, food, and tchotchkes.  Musicians, artists, and acrobats performed.  Hawkers tried to drag us into their establishments fronting the overcrowded waterfront mall.  Mixed in were guys in military fatigues toting loaded M-16s.  It was all very surreal and entertaining.  We walked the back streets, visited the cathedral, and were the sole visitors at the country's martime museum.  We ran out of gas just after sunset, and had dinner at a nice Italian restaurant there on the boardwalk.

After dinner we caught a cab back to our marina.  It was about a forty minute ride and our cabbie dropped us off at the entrance to the shopping center a quarter mile from the boat.  We got home feeling like we'd had a great day and got ready to go to bed early so we could get an early start on cruising this morning.

"Oh shit! My cell phone is gone," Tim exclaimed shortly after we returned to Malolo.  "I must have left it in the cab!"  A rapid heated discussion ensued on possible retrieval options.  Our technically savy crew members (Tim and Kim) determined that the iPhone "Find My Phone" feature could help us locate Tim's wayward device.  They did some magic on Kim's iPhone and up came a map showing the location of Tim's phone at what we thought was the spot where we were dropped off by the cab.

"Maybe the cabbie found the phone and came back!" Tim rushed off towards the shopping center using Kim's phone as a guide.  I followed him up a few minutes later and found him wandering around looking at Kim's phone screen.  The cabbie hadn't come back, and besides, the map showed Tim's phone in a different  location nearby.  We marched around following the map on Kim's phone, narrowed in on the spot shown on the map, and eventually found ourselves back aboard Malolo.  "The phone must be here aboard the boat!  Maybe I didn't lose it after all!"

Lots of digging through bags, pants pockets, and some thinking led the crew to the conclusion that not only was the phone not on Malolo, we weren't even tracking the phone.  The "Find my Phone" app apparently tracks all of your Apple devices, and we were, in fact, tracking Tim's MacBook, which was running happily on the salon table.

Our tech gurus punched some buttons and the map showed that Tim's phone was back in downtown Puerto Vallarta.  He and I jumped in a cab and sped off towards town.

We had a little bad luck in our choice of cabbies.  His transmission was on the bitter edge of complete failure, and every mile or so the gears would grind, he'd mutter some profanity in Spanish, and the cab would nearly come to a halt in the middle of the busy roadway before he'd get it to work again, temporarily.  We were out of the door on one of his many stops before his pleading convinced us to get back in.

The map showed that the phone was stationary in town during our entire forty minute taxi ride.  We closed in on the phone's location and pulled over.  Tim dashed off with his iPhone map in hand and searched for our first cab while I held the second cab, just in case.  After a few minutes I paid our guy off and let him go as Tim hadn't returned.

I found Tim wandering around looking in storefronts for shady characters.  "My phone just disappeared from the screen!  It must have been shut off!"  We suspected it was now a stolen phone, and whoever had it had seen Tim searching and shut it off.  After a few minutes he tried expanding the map to pick up a larger area and there it was again, the phone had moved about six blocks back close to where we had originally been picked up by our first cabbie!

Off we went on a run, dodging through tourists and locals, two tall skinny Americans in flip flops.  We felt like the Keystone Cops, two bumbling gringos following a dot on a map on an iPhone.  We ran up the waterfront mall past the street artists, hawkers, tourists, and acrobats.  We're not sure what would have happened if we'd run into the armed military guys.  We found our cabbie mingling with his pals, waiting for his next fare, and there on the floor of his car, was Tim's iphone.

One more forty minute cab ride and we were back aboard Malolo, crisis resolved, and ready for bed.  Isn't technology wonderful?

Today was fun, but less exciting.  We got an early start, sailed out to Las Tres Marietta's Islands at the entrance to Banderas Bay, and then headed offshore to do some fishing.  We didn't catch anything, but the humpback whales put on a great show for us and we had a pleasant sail.  We are now anchored for the night under Punta Mita, a headland at the north entrance of the bay.  This is a flat and uncrowded anchorage and we are looking forward to an uneventful evening. 

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Friday, November 2, 2018

St. Thomas

11/2 1200 position 18-20N 64-56W.  At anchor in St. Thomas Harbor, Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands

By my count the four of us consumed at least eighteen overstrength rum drinks at the Soggy Dollar and Foxy's on Josh Van Dyke.  It was a small miracle that nobody had a hangover the next morning.

After breakfast Andy and Lori went in to clear us out of the British Virgin Islands.  When they got back we motor sailed across the channel to St. John where we picked up a mooring and all had to go in to immigration to check in to the United States.  When the formalities were over we powered to adjacent Great St. James Island where we picked up a mooring in Christmas Cove.

Directly ashore from our mooring was the debris left from what was once a fifty foot Beneteau that washed ashore in one of last summer's hurricanes.  We swam in to check it out.  Such a shame to see a once proud yacht reduced to a pile of splintered fiberglass and aluminum.

I also learned the hard way what fire coral is while snorkeling later.  Apparently I brushed up against some while sticking my head in holes looking for lobster because my left wrist started stinging and got red and swollen.  We don't have fire coral in Hawaii.

This morning Arabella powered west for about an hour to St. Thomas.  We entered the harbor at Charlotte Amalie and went over to the Crown Bay Marina where we topped up our fuel and filled our water tanks.  We moved to the east end of St. Thomas Harbor where we anchored off of the cruise ship dock and super yacht marina.

This is the end of the line for Lori and me.  We depart Arabella tomorrow morning and will head across the island to a resort where we will enjoy our eighteenth honeymoon for a couple of days.  Andy and Patty's son, Raymond, arrives this afternoon and the family will cruise the Virgin Islands together next week.  

The Engles have been great hosts and great shipmates.  We will miss them and miss Arabella too!

On Monday Lori and I fly to Charleston to visit for a couple of days with my former Drydock engineering colleagues.  I haven't seen these characters since retiring seven years ago.  This should be fun.  

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Wednesday, October 31, 2018

British Virgin Islands

2130 10/31 position 18-26N 64-45W. At anchor in Great Harbor, Jost Van Dyke Island, BVI

Team Arabella had their first full night's sleep in three days and awoke refreshed and ready for their assault on the Virgin Islands.  The winds were still non-existent, so we powered south for three hours leaving Virgin Gorda behind, and passing Tortola on the right.  Peter Island slipped by to port and we picked up a mooring at "The Indians", a group of three rocks protruding from ocean to the west of Pelican Island.

The Indians is a popular snorkeling spot, and the crew enjoyed the warm waters for a few hours.  Just after noon we dropped our mooring and moved a mile to "The Caves", another must see in the group.  There are three sea caves in the cliff of Norman Island, and you can swim into them.  One of the caves is so deep that it is a good idea to bring a flashlight along.  Pretty spooky, especially because the end of the cave was full of floating seaweed.  There were also massive schools of fish there, and a few large predators including four foot barracuda and three foot tarpon.

Andy has a baggie full of imitation Spanish doubloons aboard Arabella.  He brought a handful of them with him and dropped a few at the far end of each cave.  Too bad we can't see the looks on the faces of the folks that find them thinking they've found pirate booty!

Thoroughly exhausted from a day in the water, Team Arabella moved the final time for the day into "The Bight" on Norman Island just around the point from The Caves.

The Bight has sixty moorings in it, but there were only five other boats in there when we arrived.  The cruising season hasn't formally started yet because hurricane season isn't officially over.  Things really get busy down here when it starts to get cold in the continental US.  That's good for us.  Team Arabella doesn't go for crowds.

The next morning I hoisted Andy up the mast to fix Arabella's steaming light that has been out since Lori and I got on the boat. When it was working again we powered ten miles to Jost Van Dyke Island, the site of two of Andy and Patty's favorite bars. First was "The Soggy Dollar" in White Bay where the crew drank far too many Painkillers.  At 2PM we moved the half mile to Great Harbor where "Foxy's" is located. 

We're not kids anymore, so the crew had a late lunch and a nap before making our assault on Foxy's at 6PM. It was Halloween, and just before departing Arabella for shore a dinghy full of costumed kids came trick or treating to Arabella. We've never seen ocean going trick or treaters before.

The adults in Foxy's were in the Halloween spirit as well. As I write this aboard Arabella I can hear the music blasting and folks screaming ashore. Good times!

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Monday, October 29, 2018

Up the Chain

10/29 1700 position 18-30N 64-23W.  On a mooring in Virgin Gorda Sound, British Virgin Islands 

The marine hardware store in Rodney Bay insisted on charging the new battery overnight if Andy wanted it to be warrantied, so he went in to pick it up after breakfast on 10/27.  He returned to Arabella and we were installing the new battery when we realized that it had 5/16" threaded posts, and not 8mm posts like the old one.  Arabella was built in South Africa and nearly everything aboard her is metric, so of course we only had metric nuts in the spares locker.  Andy had to go back to the hardware store to buy some 5/16" nuts.

He returned, we completed installing the new battery, and the crew got Arabella ready to depart.  While we were going through the checklist a colorful fellow in a boat covered with palm fronds and branches making it look like a floating island approached blowing a conch shell.  "Gregory" cruises around Rodney bay in his boat selling fruit and souvenirs to visiting yachts.  Andy and Patty were in Rodney Bay a long time last year sitting out hurricanes Irma, Jose, and Maria.  They got well acquainted with Gregory during that stay.  The three of them caught up like old friends and we bought some fruit.

We got underway just before noon and headed north up the Lesser Antilles.  The weather was perfect, ten knot trade winds from just south of east.  We sailed across the channels and motor sailed through the lees of the islands.  Martinique, Dominica, and Guadeloupe slid by to weather.  Monserrat's active volcano was spewing smoke and leaving a trail of smog to the west.  Nevis and St. Kitts went by, and we cut through the channel between St. Eustatius and Saba to avoid crossing the Saba Bank, a huge shallow sand bank to the west.  

The chart shows that Saba Bank is only nineteen feet deep in places, and it cautions that it can be dangerous in certain weather.  We were going to get there after dark, and the area was hit by two of the hurricanes last summer which may have moved some sand around.  We figured avoiding the bank would be a prudent move.

After passing Saba Island we turned thirty degrees to port and headed straight to Virgin Gorda, dropping anchor off of Spanish Town at 1145AM this morning.  The wind had crapped out completely at 3AM, so we ended up powering the final eight plus hours.  The 350 mile passage took us almost exactly two days.  Our rookie passage makers did a great job, and everybody had a good time.

When we were passing the French speaking islands the local Coast Guard broadcast a set speech a couple of times a day.  None of us speak French, but we listened carefully and it sounded to us like the caller was asking for Pepe Le Pew to bring him some croissants.

Fishing improved.  Andy caught a nice four pound mahi just before sunset our first night out and we had him for that night's dinner.  He caught a small tuna the second day, which we threw back.  I got tired of fighting with seaweed so didn't have my line out most of the time.  Andy didn't have the same problem.  Apparently his single hook lure wasn't as prone to snagging weed as my double hook was.

Andy and Lori went ashore to check us into the British Virgin Islands in Spanish Town, and Patty and I went for a snorkel in the crystal clear waters where we were anchored.  The underwater scenery wasn't much there, but the warm water and unbelievable visibility made it special.

After Andy and Lori returned we moved Arabella a mile down the coast to "The Baths".  I've never been there before, but the spot was already special to me.  As a thirteen year old, I read about Robin Lee Graham's single handed voyage around the world in National Geographic Magazine.  Those articles about his voyage are one of the things that inspired me to make voyages of my own later in life.  Robin stopped at and wrote about The Baths in his articles, so it meant a lot to me to visit them.

The Baths are a quarter mile long pile of rounded granite boulders sitting on top of each other along a beach on Virgin Gorda.  These boulders are all huge, and some of them are as large as a house.  There is a trail between and underneath the boulders along the waterfront, and it is spectacular.

We moved the boat a few miles north to Virgin Gorda Sound at 4PM after we finished exploring The Baths, and Arabella is hanging on a mooring there as I write this while sipping a rum punch.  It has been a great day, and a perfect way to end the crossing.

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Saturday, October 27, 2018

St. Lucia

10/27 0900 position 14-05N 60-58W.  On a mooring in Rodney Bay, St. Lucia

St. Lucia's west coast has two spectacular mountains, Gros Piton and Petit Piton.  These spires can be seen from far at sea, and they beckoned to us as Arabella approached.  We furled our sails in the lee of Gros Piton, and as we powered in two natives in an outboard powered pirogue approached and offered to help us pick up a mooring, for a fee of course.  Andy negotiated with them and they agreed on $15EC and two cold beers.  They guided us to a mooring in the marine park at the base of Petit Peton, the smaller of the two peaks.  We spent a delightful afternoon and evening there enjoying the scenery and snorkeling along the shore.

Yesterday morning we powered twenty miles through the lee of St. Lucia to Rodney Bay.  We entered the marina there, stopped at the fuel dock to top up our water tanks, then moved to a mooring deeper in the bay.  After getting settled we dinghied in to the marina center where the girls dropped off our laundry, Andy dealt with Customs and Immigration, and I tried to stay out of the way.  Andy also ordered a new engine battery.  We confirmed yesterday that the battery is shot.  When all the work was done we sat down at a nice Thai restaurant in the marina and had lunch.

Patty negotiated a taxi ride to the island's sulfur mud baths, so at 2PM we piled into Vitus's taxi for the five hour round trip drive.  It was a long way to go, but we had a blast getting exfoliated, tenderized, and filthy in the baths, and the scenery during the drive was interesting.  We didn't get back to the boat until well after dark.

 This will be my last blog for a few days.  We are departing St. Lucia this morning for the British Virgin Islands 350 miles to the north.  It will likely be a two day passage and we won't have internet access until we get settled at our destination.  We are skipping the islands in between and making the long passage for a couple of reasons.  First, most of the islands were devastated by the hurricanes of 2017 and haven't fully recovered.  They might not be much fun to visit.  Second, Andy and Patty have always wanted to make a real offshore passage longer than a single overnight.  I have lots of experience with long passages, and I'm happy to show them the ropes.  Also, the forecast is for perfect weather, light trade winds on the beam for the next few days.

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Friday, October 26, 2018


10/25 1200 position 13-32N 61-12W.  Underway for St. Lucia

Last night we dinghied in to Coco's Place, a waterfront restaurant in town.  We all enjoyed fresh mahi and Hairoun.  A good time was had by all. 

Today's passage from Bequia to St. Lucia is our longest yet, fifty miles.  We got an early start at 7AM since we have a long way to go, and were only delayed a few minutes by a starting problem with the starboard engine.  This is the second time it's happened.  We also couldn't get it started leaving Grenada.  It was cranking slowly and we suspected it was a weak battery.  We moved the generator battery from the forward lazarette to the starboard engine compartment, jump started the engine, and we were off.  Both times the failure to start occurred after the engine sat idle for more than a day.  I am thinking that there may be some kind of slow current drain that is discharging the battery when it doesn't get charged daily.   We'll keep working on it.

The wind was just a bit too far aft and too light to sail in the channel between Bequia and St. Vincent this morning.  We knew we'd be powering through the lee of St. Vincent anyway, so we left the engines on until we cleared St. Vincent and hardened up twenty degrees to head for St. Lucia.  The closer angle to the wind allowed us to sail, so we shut the engines down and are romping across the channel at eight knots in flat seas and ten knots of breeze.

The weather is absolutely perfect.  The air temperature is in the mid eighties, water temperature a couple of degrees higher.  The skies are clear with a few cumulus clouds and visibility is forty miles.  There are a parade of sailboats headed both north and south. We just blew by a slightly smaller and apparently less efficient catamaran.  Embarrassing.

I am starting to get comfortable aboard a catamaran now.  At first the lack of heeling and rolling was disconcerting.  On a monohull we roll with every wave and heel with every gust.  It is pretty nice though to always have a level boat.  Drinks don't spill.  You don't go sliding across the deck.  I'm also getting used to the slightly jerky bouncing motion as each hull reacts independently to the waves and fights with the other hull to control Arabella's motion. 

The real attraction of the catamaran though is the massive single level living area in the cabin that opens onto the gigantic open air covered lanai aft of the cabin.  There is lots of room to spread out and get comfortable.  I am typing this on the table in the cabin.  It is cool with the hatches open and air circulating.  Lori Lloyd is napping on the bench next to the table that seats ten out on the lanai, the hard top protecting her from the sun.  Andy is on watch at the covered raised helm station, and he is chatting with Patty who is sitting next to him.  There is room for all four of us on the bench seat behind the helm.

Yes, I think I could definitely get used to the dark side of the force.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2018


10/24 1600 position 13-00N 61-15W.  At anchor in Admiralty Bay, Bequia

The ocean here has lots of seaweed floating on the surface.  We are told it is sargasso weed that drifts here from the Sargasso Sea in the mid-Atlantic.  It doesn't cause any problems except with our lures.  They are only out there for a minute or so before they snag some seaweed.  It is a nuisance to keep clearing weed off of the lures.  After clearing the weed a dozen times or so I gave up yesterday and hoped that any week I hooked would eventually come off.  I'm not sure it did.  We didn't catch any fish.

After a glorious sail, Arabella anchored in Admiralty Bay on the western side of Bequia at 330PM, too late to clear into the country before the government offices closed at 4.  A couple of minutes after the hook went down Alex, a native entrepreneur in a small outboard, came alongside and sold us the biggest lobster I've ever seen in the flesh.  Patty cooked him for dinner, and he was excellent.  I only had one bite though.  I started having reactions to shrimp this past summer in Alaska, and I wanted to see if lobster had the same effect on me.  Sure enough, one bite was enough to make my feet start swelling.  I took a Benadryl and was fine, but I missed out on the feast.

There were three large three masted schooners at anchor in Admiralty Bay when we arrived.  Beautiful ships.  They must have been cruising in company because when we woke up this morning all three were gone.

We went ashore after breakfast to complete formalities, and when we were done Lori and I hired a taxi to take us on a one hour island tour.  Baldwin, a friendly native, drove us to the Fort Hamilton, the top of Mount Pleasant, and around the island.  It was good fun, and we found Andy and Patty later in a local cafe where they were using the WIFI.  We tried the local brew there, Hairoun (pronounced like heroin), which was quite good.  It was hot, so after wandering down the waterfront we stopped at "Jack's" (as in Jack Sparrow) for a couple of rum punches before returning to the boat.

After all that lubrication Andy and I napped while the girls went snorkeling.  They returned to the boat excited to have seen eels, lobsters, wana, and lots of tropical fish in the rocks inshore of Arabella.

Admiralty Bay is a great anchorage.  There is lots of room for visiting yachts, it is protected from the prevailing easterly trades, the surrounding hillsides are scenic, and the town is quaint.  I could get comfortable here.

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10/23 1200 position 12-40N 61-30W.  Underway for Bequia.

My goal is to post the blog daily, but we need WIFI to do it.  We never could get WIFI yesterday.  Hopefully we will find some tonight in Bequia.

It got a little bumpy near Kick em Jenny yesterday, but it was nothing that Arabella couldn't easily handle.  We zipped along at eight knots with a full jib and single reef in the mainsail.  The boat couldn't quite lay the island of Carriacou though, so we dropped the sails at 330PM and powered the final few miles to windward into the island.  Nothing hit my second lure.

We mooored for the night off of Sandy Island, a marine preserve in the lee of Carriacou.  We powered in to find an empty mooring and picked it up amongst a dozen other cruising sailboats.  The crew put on snorkel gear to have a look around, but other than the eagle ray and conch shell that Andy found it was unremarkable.

This morning we powered a mile into Hillsborough, a town directly inshore of Sandy Island where Andy and Lori went ashore to check us out of the country of Grenada.  We were underway by 10AM, headed north.

The weather today is even better than yesterday.  Temperature in the mid 80's with fourteen knot trade winds, but the seas are smoother.  We just sailed through the lee of Union Island close aboard to have a look.  Arabella's speed dropped down to five knots or so in the fluky winds to leeward of the island, but we are now back up to eight knots as we close reach up the Lesser Antilles.

There is a fishing tournament today aboard Arabella.  Andy has his rod and reel and pathetic looking lure on the starboard hull.  I have my hand line and a tantalizing tidbit of a lure on the port hull twenty five feet away.  The boat is so wide, it is almost like fishing in a different ocean!  The prize is glory, and fish for dinner.

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Hog Island

10/22 1330 position 15-18N 61-40W.  Underway for Carriacou.

At 330PM yesterday the crew piled into Arabella's dinghy and went ashore to head for the Hog Island Bar-b-que.  The event is an every Sunday gathering of the yachting community on the small mangrove covered uninhabited islet south of Grenada.  First we hiked a mile or so to a marina in the next bay to the east of our anchorage.  There we met Sperry, a friendly native Grenadian who picked us up in his outboard powered plywood speedboat.  He got that nickname for his propensity to wear Sperry Topsider footwear.  Sperry took us on the fifteen minute boat ride to Hog Island for $20EC ($7US) per person, round trip.  When we offered to pay upon our arrival at Hog Island, Sperry said "Just pay me when I take you back in a few hours".

Hog Island looked like a scene out of Pirates of the Caribbean.  The beach was covered with dozens of happy, drinking, half naked sailors.  Others swam just offshore presenting navigation hazards for the boats trying to land guests at the party.  A rock and roll band made up of folks off of yachts anchored in the bay played on a bamboo stage.  A makeshift bar/take out restaurant was next to the stage.  Cold beer came out of coolers and food for dinner was being cooked on a gas grill.  Picnic tables scattered around under the trees were full of happy yachties.  Dogs chased each other around the picnic tables and between the legs of sailors preoccupied in their conversations.  Pantless toddlers wandered between groups of folks, as preteen boys zipped around just offshore in their motorized dinghies.

There was a real feeling of community among the yachtsmen there.  The only other place I've seen that outside a formal yacht club is in Vavau, Tonga, where sailors intending to stop for a short visit fall in love with the place and never leave.  We were told that Grenada has the same kind of semi-permanent yachting community.  It is tropical, friendly, reasonably priced, and sandwiched between South America and the islands to the north that are subject to hurricanes during the summer months.  

It was a great party, but it started shutting down as it got dark because there is no power on Hog Island.  We found Sperry for our ride home and were in bed by 9PM.

As I write this we have left Grenada behind and are just to the west of "Kick em Jenny", a submerged active volcano just north of Grenada.  The government recommends giving the volcano a 1.5km berth to avoid smoke and ash when it is active.  There is no sign of activity today.  The weather is perfect, 13 knot trades from the southeast allowing us to beam reach northeast toward Carriacou.  We have about forty miles of sailing to do today and should arrive in the anchorage by 4PM.  I've already lost one lure.  A fish hit a few minutes ago and the knot I tied in the 300 # monofilament came out.  I should be using crimps, but we don't have any aboard.  I've tied a better knot for the lure I have out now.... I think....

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Sunday, October 21, 2018

Prickly Bay

Our flight departed JFK an hour late after some guy missed the plane and the airline had to dig through the luggage compartment to find and remove his bag.  The plane ride south was uneventful, and we landed at Grenada's Maurice Bishop International Airport at 4PM.  Lori and I breezed through customs and immigration though and made up some lost time.  A ten minute taxi ride later we were at Budget Marine in Prickly Bay where we met Andy who was waiting for us with the dingy.

We found Arabella tied to a mooring out in the bay amongst fifty or so other cruising boats.  Patty was standing on the swim step to greet us as we came aboard.  We got our luggage stowed in our stateroom and went back into the salon where we found Andy waiting for us with cold rum punches.  This trip was starting out on the right foot.

Prickly Bay is one of a half dozen or so protected inlets along Grenada's south shore.  A small surface chop rolls in continuously, but the bay is well protected from all directions but the southwest.  The easterly trade winds blow reliably here though, so weather from the vulnerable southwesterly direction is extremely rare.  Businesses around the bay cater to visiting yachtsmen, and the marina that owns the mooring we are using has something going on ashore every evening.  Last night it was "half price pizza night".  There is a trivia night, a bingo night, etc.  Yoga instruction takes place in the gazebo every morning.  We skipped on the pizza to walk a little further down the street to the local brew pub where we sampled their ales and had dinner.

This morning the crew hiked about a mile to the local grocery store where we provisioned for the next week or so of cruising.  We caught the bus back to the marina with full bags and backpacks.

Team Arabella is planning to go to the Hog Island bar-b-que this afternoon and evening, and then get underway for points north first thing tomorrow morning.

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Saturday, October 20, 2018

Caribbean Bound

Lori Lloyd and I are sitting in JFK killing time until our flight to Grenada in a couple of hours.  We are heading there to join her high school classmate and lifelong pal Andy Engle and his wife Patty Morell aboard their Leopard 46 catamaran, Arabella.

It seems like we barely got our bags unpacked from the last trip before packing for this one.  We weren't planning on taking off on another adventure so soon, but Lori checked in with Andy after we returned from the Pacific Northwest, and he said that it was now or never.

Andy and Patty have been cruising Arabella in the Caribbean since he retired from the Navy two years ago.  They spent this year's hurricane season in Grenada, and now that the threat from those storms is waning, they are ready to head north through the Lesser Antilles and need a couple of crew.

Neither Lori nor I have visited the southern Caribbean, and we've never sailed on a large catamaran.  It's a great opportunity to do both and spend some time with good friends.  It will also complete my 2018 journey through the dark side of the force.  Power boats and catamarans.... Who would have thunk it!

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Wednesday, September 19, 2018


1500 position 3916 Benson St., Gig Harbor, WA

Vicki was waiting as the mighty Thankful pulled into her slip in Gig Harbor yesterday at 230PM.  We immediately got to work unloading food, voyage supplies, and personal gear from the boat.  Vicki wisely had son Noel help her stage two vehicles at the marina to carry all the materials home.

We made it home to the Dyer residence on the hill overlooking Gig Harbor at 4PM, and got all the food and gear away put away.

Team Thankful met with pals of the Dyers at their favorite Mexican restaurant last night where we celebrated a successful summer of voyaging.

This morning Matt and I went back to the boat to finish unloading and give the old girl a good scrubbing.  Thankful loves to cruise, but she also loves a little TLC.

Looking back, we had remarkably few problems during the voyage, a testament to Matt's preparation and skill.  Besides the tempermental windlass, which seems to have sorted itself out, we only had one other boat problem, our black water discharge pump stopped working, but that just happened yesterday so it had no impact on the trip.

By my calculations, I travelled about 2,500 miles aboard Thankful.  It has been a fantastic two months of exploring the nooks and crannies of the Pacific Northwest with great friends.  Lori and I were lucky to be invited, and we are grateful to the Dyers for sharing the experience with us.

Lori is driving up from Portland tomorrow.  We will say goodby to Matt and Vicki and head to Seattle to visit with Don and Sharry Stabbert, who we spent the first half of the summer with aboard Starr.  We'll fly home to Hawaii sometime next week and the planning will start for the next adventure.  There are rumors of a potential catamaran cruise in the Caribbean this winter....

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Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Homeward Bound

1000 position 47-53N 122-29W.  Powering south in Admiralty Inlet

Thankful arrived in Point Hudson Harbor in Port Townsend at 11AM yesterday and found a slip in the small marina.

Port Townsend is the wooden boat capital of the Pacific coast, and it is like a second home for Matt.   He went to school there thirty five years ago to learn the craft of building wooden boats, and lived in the town for more than a year.  It is the site of the annual wooden boat festival, which was held a couple of weekends ago.  There were still a couple of classic boats in the harbor, left over from the festival.

It was a beautiful day, so after getting Thankful secured we took a walking tour of the main drag, marinas, and haul out facilities.  Matt still knows a lot of the craftsmen in town, so we dropped into a couple of shops to chat and inspect the ongoing projects.

At 5PM we wandered up to one of Matt's favorite watering holes, The Uptown Tavern, where we had dinner and watched Monday Night Football.  Local interest was high because the Sea Hawks were playing, but folks weren't too pleased when the Bears came out on top.  It was good fun, but I don't need to watch any more football until the Super Bowl.

We departed at 730 this morning to catch the flood tide on the final leg of the voyage to Gig Harbor, Thankful's home port.  It is a beautiful sunny day and the breeze is from behind us.  We should be back in Thankful's slip by 2PM.

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Monday, September 17, 2018

Tom’s Project

0900 position 48-18N 122-55W.  Crossing the Strait of Juan de Fuca

Tom picked us up at 9AM yesterday and drove us up to have a look at his current construction project, a $7M, 7,000 SF home up near the highest peak on San Juan Island.  It was Sunday, so there was no work going on which gave us free reign to explore the construction site.

The house is perched on the edge of a cliff, and will have a cantilevered infinity pool that overhangs the edge.  Most of the site work is done, the concrete and steel framing is nearing completion, and they are just about to get started on framing the home.  Moving materials is one of the challenges on the steep site, so Tom purchased and installed a tower crane to make this job easier.

They had already finished the $1M guest house/garage which was completed first to try out some finishes and construction techniques being considered for the main house.

It was a very impressive project, and fun to see how the 1/2 of 1% live.

Tom came out for a tour of Thankful and then Matt and I departed for the south end of Lopez Island. The Strait of Juan de Fuca was not cooperating yesterday, so we planned to wait for better weather today to make the crossing.  We anchored in Mackaye Harbor right at the south end of the island and had a pleasant evening.

We departed for Port Townsend at 730AM this morning.  Team Thankful is about half way across the strait now, and the weather is perfect.  There is no wind and the sea is calm.  We should get there by 10AM.

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Sunday, September 16, 2018

Westcott Bay

0900 position 48-36N 123-08W.  At anchor in Westcott Bay

The pace slowed down a bit after yesterday's harbor cruise.  It had been raining since just after sunset the day before, but things started drying out about noon, and by 2PM, wedding time, it had turned into a beautiful day.  Good thing, it was an outdoor wedding with no Plan B.  Nothing beats a little bit of good luck.

Matt returned from his shopping expedition and we headed for San Juan Island, dropping the hook in Westcott Bay at 2PM.  We both took a nap as a part of our recovery plan from the night before.  By 5PM the geriatrics of Team Thankful were raring to go and dinghied ashore where we met Tom Nolan.

Tom and his wife Deb are college pals of Matt's who live on San Juan Island.  Tom is a contractor who builds high end homes here on the island and Deb is a caterer.  Their own home is a beautiful example of Tom's work, mostly made of old growth wood, a lot of which was salvaged.  Deb cooked us a fabulous meal, and there were a lot of laughs as the three of them caught up.

This morning Tom is taking us up to see his current project, a new home on the highest point of the island.  They have just finished the concrete and steel work and are getting ready to start framing.  The project includes a cantilevered infinity pool hanging out over a cliff - it's that kind of house.  This should be fun.
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Saturday, September 15, 2018


1140 position 48-31 N 122-55W.  In the marina at Fisherman's Bay, Lopez Island

Yesterday turned in to a day of reunions with old friends.  First my cell phone rang and I was surprised to hear Cliff Cisco's voice.  Cliff is a Hawaii sailing pal dating back to the '70s, who I hadn't seen in years.  Turns out he moved up here to Anacortes after retiring, has been reading this blog, and wondered if we were headed his way.  Cliff has also gone over to the dark side of the force and cruises the Pacific Northwest on a trawler similar to Thankful.  It was great to talk to him.  Unfortunately, we won't be going by Anacortes this trip.

Bo, Marcy, Jessie and Shelly Andrews came down to Thankful at 4PM.  The four of them flew up from Hawaii together for the wedding.  We had a cocktail on Thankful and then all piled into their rental car and headed up to Tom and Beth Andrewes' house a mile away.

Tom and Beth moved to Lopez Island from Kaneohe ten or fifteen years ago, and I don't think I've seen them since.  They have a beautiful home here and it was great to see them again and catch up.

The ever expanding group of revelers migrated to the Fleeler/Andrewes vacation rental for pupus and more cocktails.  Kara and Sean arrived after being delayed by a late ferry departure and joined the fun.

The party then moved to a restaurant a quarter mile away where we had dinner.  The bride and groom even made a surprise appearance after the bachelor party ended.  At 10PM folks stated wandering off.  Matt and I walked back to Thankful where we met a sailing pal of his, Doug Peterson, who is in the same harbor on a friend's boat.  They caught up over a final beer and we called it a night.

Team Thankful was remarkably spy this morning, all things considered.  Maybe us old guys can keep up with the kids?

At 8AM Kara, Sean, Marcy, Bo, Jessie, and Shelly arrived at the boat bearing pastries and coffee.  They climbed aboard and Thankful cast off for a morning tour of the San Juan Islands.  We checked out Friday Harbor and circumnavigated Shaw Island before returning to Fisherman's Bay and our slip in the marina at 11AM.  Our passengers departed to get ready for this afternoon's wedding, and Matt headed into town to do some shopping.

We will be heading back to Roche Harbor on San Juan Island, where we checked into the US a couple of days ago, as soon as Matt returns.  We are meeting a pal of his there for dinner tonight.

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Friday, September 14, 2018

Fisherman’s Bay

1200 position 48-31N 122-55W.  At anchor in Fisherman's Bay, Lopez Island

Thankful made a tour through the San Juans yesterday after departing Sucia Island, and ended up at Orcas Island.  We tied to the public pier at Olga, a cute little town, and went ashore for a look around.  There were only two commercial establishments in town, a store/gas station that was closed, and a cafe.  we had a leisurely lunch at the cafe and then powered up into West Sound where we anchored for the night.

In Olga we saw an interesting looking boat (photo attached).  The owner appears to be a conflicted one-time sailor that is headed towards the dark side of the force, kind of like me.  I'm not sure his conversion is the right approach though.  I wonder how Moku pe'a would look with a pilot house?

Vicky had some unexpected family medical issues she needed to attend to, so this morning we dropped her off at the village in West Sound where she caught a cab to the airport.  After breakfast there, Matt and I powered the few miles to Fisherman's Bay on Lopez Island where we dropped the hook at 11AM.

There is lots going in in Lopez Island right now.  Ian Andrewes, son of my high school classmate Beth, and sailing pal Tom Andrewes is getting married here tomorrow. My daughter, Kara, will be at the wedding and since Thankful is in the area we thought we'd meet up with her and her boyfriend Sean for dinner or drinks tonight.  I am also hoping to be able to say hello to Beth and Tom sometime today.  I understand they live pretty close to this harbor.

I just found out pals Marcy Fleming and Bo Wheeler will also be at the wedding and are catching the same ferry Kara and Sean are to Lopez Island this afternoon.  There may be a party tonight....

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Thursday, September 13, 2018

Back in the USA

0800 position 48-45N 122-56W. At anchor in Fox Cove, Sucia Island

Thankful zipped across the border and into the USA yesterday morning, clearing customs in Roche Harbor on San Juan Island.  Lots of boats clear in here, and US Customs has a 100 yard long pier and office there to handle all the traffic.  We pulled into the pier right behind a very nice Jeanneau 45 foot sailboat, and as I was securing the bow line to the cleat on the pier I noticed that her home port was Haliewa.  I walked the few steps to speak to the owner in the cockpit.  "Are you really from Haliewa?" I asked.

"Waialua, actually," he called back.  I didn't recognize the boat or the sailors.

At this point the customs officer admonished me "Please get back on your boat, sir!"  Whoops, we hadn't cleared customs yet.

The Hawaii sailors departed before we cleared and I never got a chance to talk to them again.  Small world.

After the quick clearing in process we departed and powered north to Sucia Island, a two mile diameter marine park.  There are a bunch of hidey holes on this beautiful island and Matt picked Fox Cove to moor in.  We picked up a mooring and went ashore for a hike.

The park is very well built and maintained with moorings in all of the bays, hiking trails cris crossing the island, restrooms, camping areas, and picnic shelters.  We had a great three hour hike and returned to Thankful just in time for happy hour. 

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Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Forest Island

0900 position 48-40N 123-20W.  At anchor off of Forest Island

We had a hidey hole picked out on Rum Island, but found a small sailboat anchored there in a manner that prevented anybody else from using the cove as well.  Matt scanned the chart and found a possibility on Forest Island about a mile away.  We moseyed over and anchored in a small cozy bay on the east side of this half mile long Island.

We could tell the island was private by the multiple signs posted on trees facing the bay and beach, "Private Island.  No trespassing. No fires.  No camping."  Aren't "No fires" and "No camping" redundant after "No trespassing"?

Matt put out his crab pot, and we settled in for a calm but chilly evening.  We were just three miles from the border, and for the first time in weeks I got cell service.  Just in time to follow the latest storm that is whacking Hawaii.

Matt didn't have any luck in the crab department, and this morning is chilly and rainy.  At least it is calm.  Today Thankful will head across the border and reenter the US.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Ganges Harbor

1600 position 48-45N 123-21W. Underway for Rum Island

I forgot to blog this morning. There was too much going on with finally getting internet, changing doctor's appointments in Honolulu since we will be getting home later than we anticipated three months ago, being able to video chat with Lori in Portland, catching up on email, etc.

Thankful got a nice slip in the transient section of Ganges Harbor that even included WIFI. We were surrounded by similar sized power cruisers, both Canadian and American, out enjoying the Gulf Islands.

Ganges Harbor was a busy place with all manner of pleasure boats coming and going, three Canadian Naval vessels in for the evening, and float planes constantly landing and taking off. It is a town definitely tailored for tourists, with lots of art galleries, coffee shops, and boutiques. Team Thankful had a good time exploring, and we went out to the Oyster Catcher restaurant for a great dinner.

We stuck around this morning so we could catch the open market early this afternoon. They had lots of good produce there, but we were concerned that fresh products aboard might create a problem when we cross the border into the US tomorrow, so we didn't buy any. I used the slack time this morning to go get a long overdue haircut.

We are on our way to Rum Island, just this side of the border. We will dash across tomorrow morning and reenter the US in the San Juan Islands.

Monday, September 10, 2018


1100 position 48-52N 123-23W. Underway for Ganges Harbor

We've had remarkably little of what I'd always considered typical Pacific Northwest weather, clouds, wind, and rain, over the past three months. The spell finally broke thirty six hours ago, and we have been living in dreary damp chilly conditions ever since.

We stayed put in Montague Harbor yesterday and had a sedentary day. Matt and Vicki went ashore for a while all dressed up in their foul weather gear and boots. I didn't feel like getting wet and stayed aboard Thankful.

It isn't hard to stay busy even when there's no action outside the boat. There are lots of books in the ship's library, I'm writing a lot, and there are three meals a day to cook and clean up after. Following dinner every night we have "entertainment", cycling between a couple of card games, scrabble, and movies. Last night we watched episode six in the "Horatio Hornblower" series. It is about an English Naval officer aboard an early nineteenth century sailing ship. Matt and I find ourselves imitating their manner of speech and saluting each other after watching, "As you were, sir!", "It is an honor to serve with you, sir!", stuff like that. It is making Vicki crazy.

The weather still sucks, but is showing signs of improvement. We have decided to give Ganges a try and are on our way there now. Steady as she goes, sir!

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Old Friends

0900 position 48-54N 123-24W. At anchor in Montague Harbor

Team Thankful had hoped to make the short hop down through the islands to Ganges Harbor yesterday where the cruising guide said there is lots to see. We encountered continued strong southeasterly winds after departing Pirate's Cove though, and Ganges is a poor anchorage with winds from that direction, so we revised our plans and headed to the more sheltered Montague Harbor a few miles away.

Along the way we passed six massive empty grain carriers lying at anchor. Ships aren't making money if they aren't carrying product, and we wondered why these were idle. Perhaps they were waiting for the season's grain harvest to be delivered to the coast for export? I can see why they would choose to moor here to kill time though. The water is shallow, but not too shallow, and the anchorage is totally protected by all the islands. It seemed out of place to see a bunch of large ships parked up in this otherwise pristine cruising wonderland.

Al Hughes and I were college sailing teammates forty five years ago. We lost track of each other after he graduated and I transferred schools, but we reconnected six years ago when he sailed in the Pacific Cup to Hawaii. I learned that Al was going to be cruising up here on his boat this summer, and we have been exchanging emails for the past couple of months hoping to bump into each other.

Al and his wife Lou's boat, Mary H, was at anchor in Montague when we arrived, so after getting settled in we dinghied over for a visit. Mary H is a unique fifty five foot steel powerboat. It looks to me like the designer just decided to add an extra deck level to a more conventional power boat. As a result she is quite high out of the water, but has as much living space aboard as many houses ashore. Mary H has three double cabins, the same number of house sized bathrooms, a huge galley, and lots of lounging space. They bought her three years ago and live aboard in Seattle's Shilshole Marina when they aren't cruising in Canada. It was great to meet Lou, catch up with Al, and tour their floating home.

After our visit with the Hughes we dinghied ashore and caught the "Pub Bus" to the Hummingbird Pub a few miles from the harbor. The pub was OK, but the real attraction is the transportation. Bus driver "Tommy Transit" is famous for his antics during the ten minute drive to the pub. He has most of an entire drum kit set up at the front of the bus which he plays with one hand while he drives the bus with the other on the narrow curvy island road. Musical instruments including tambourines, bells, rattles, maracas, etc., are handed out to boarding passengers so they can participate in the music making during the ride. It was good fun, stereo blasting, Tom skillfully accompanying one handed, passengers playing along as well.... and we didn't crash. Between songs he regaled us with stories of meeting Duke Ellington, Sammy Davis Jr., and Ella Fitzgerald.

There were four other passengers that got off with us after the bus ride back to the marina and we noticed that they walked to a car, got in, and a drove away. They could more easily have driven straight to the pub, but chose to park at the marina instead so they could catch the bus and enjoy Tommy's performance.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Pirate’s Cove

1000 position 49-06N 123-44W. At anchor in Pirate's Cove, Gulf Islands

Thankful pitched and heaved for six hours yesterday as she worked her way down the coast of Vancouver Island directly into a fifteen knot headwind and lumpy sea. Things really would have become interesting if the wind had shifted further to the east, putting us on a lee shore, but fortunately that never happened, and at 1PM we were entering the shelter of the Gulf Islands.

Canada's Gulf Islands are a part of the same group that include the US's San Juan Islands. They would likely all share the same name if not for the international border that cuts right down the middle. There are hundreds of closely packed islands in the two groups, and with little distance between the islands there is not much room for seas to build. The forecast calls for continuing strong winds for the next few days but it won't have any impact on our cruising here.

There was one bottleneck, Dodd Narrows, that we needed to negotiate at the north end of the Gulf Islands to get into the group. The tide can run through the pass at up to nine knots, so most boats time their passage for slack water when there is minimal current. We were shooting to arrive there at 315PM, slack high water, but ended up arriving about forty five minutes early.

Dodd Narrows is a busy place, and boats were stacked up on either side waiting for slack water. A similar sized cruiser that arrived right ahead of us didn't even slow down. He powered right through against four knots of current and made it through unscathed.

The pass is only wide enough for one boat. If boats heading in opposite directions were to arrive at the throat of the channel at the same time things could get very interesting. There are no rules on which direction has right of way either, so the potential always exists for some real entertainment as boats traverse the narrows. A group of hikers were standing on the shore to watch the fun.

Matt decided that the time was right after a couple of boats successfully made the passage in both directions. We went through while the tide was still flooding at three knots, but we didn't provide the audience ashore with any interesting stories to tell their friends.

We decided to stop for the night in Pirate's Cove on De Coursy Island. The island was the home of one of the twentieth century's most notorious cults, and its leader is rumored to have amassed a treasure of forty three boxes of gold coins weighing close to 1,000 pounds. When the cult collapsed in 1934 the gold mysteriously disappeared. Perhaps it is buried here in Pirate's Cove? It didn't feel like Thankful's anchor hit any boxes of gold when I dropped it in the harbor yesterday.

Speaking of anchors, as I write this the Thankful crew is watching a thirty five foot double ended sailboat pull up its anchor here in the harbor as she departs. The male skipper is standing on the end of the bowsprit with a hose washing the mud off of the anchor chain as his female mate works the handle on their manual anchor windlass. An electric pump is providing water pressure for the hose.

We've noted that the systems are the opposite aboard Thankful. Our windlass is electric and we use a bucket to scoop water by hand for washing mud off of the anchor chain. At least the skipper of the sailboat has delegated properly by having his mate do the heavy lifting....