Belize arrival

I have been in Belize now for a couple of weeks and must admit that I have been pretty slack on the photography and writing from the moment my anchor first touched the bottom here. Belize is so very different to Mexico. English is spoken mostly and with a heavy Caribbean accent and very similar slang to Trinidad. Within minutes of landing on the beach my Trini accent had returned and was joking and laughing with the people along the way and at customs, where we had to go through the usual check in procedure. Think this was a bit of a surprise to the crew off “Suricat” and “Fishers Hornpipe” who were looking at me and wondering what the hell I was saying and what had happened to me so suddenly.The truth is I have lost all control of my accent and depending on whom I am talking to this can change drastically, even from word to word.  

After a tricky entrance through the small pass in the reef I dropped anchor off San Pedro. A small town, which reminded me of where I grew up in Trinidad. The people, places and feel were all very familiar and I found myself smiling as different memories, long forgotten, would come drifting back, prompted by a sight, sound or smell. The only down side to it was the anchorage,  a shallow layer of sand covered a flat, rocky bottom and in only seven feet of water didn’t leave much room below the five foot keel. Added to this were the forecast winds of 30 knots and the crazy boat traffic as ferries, fishing boats and other craft flew by at full speed, giving the obligatory wave of the hand, as their wake went about ricking Kuhela and threatening to pull the anchor off the bottom. In the end I set another anchor, attached to the first, and was very glad I did this as once the wind started blowing we had three days of twenty five knots and gusting higher. Fortunately though I held fixed in place and spent a week there hanging around town, relaxing and checking it all out. I feel a lot more relaxed now that I am a bit further south and behind the fringe reef that runs the entire length of Belize, still have to keep and eye on the weather though.

 

I had been contacted by a friend of one of the guys I had gone to panama with and who lives and spears here in San Pedro and was awesome to meet up with Daniel, who took me out spearing a few times and showed me some of the spots to dive around the island. Belize is blessed with amazing reef, one of the spots was only in about 5M of water, but was the prettiest little reef I had seen in some time. Also got the chance to land my biggest mutton snapper to date and ensured that the boys and myself ate very well. Unfortunately though this would be the end of the road for traveling together with “fishers hornpipe” as they decided to make the run directly down to Roratan, Honduras, to meet up with friends and get some things sorted there. After a week in San Pedro, and with the wind dying off a little, we both pulled anchor and headed our separate ways. Cay caulker, my next stop, being a pleassant 3-hour sail south.

 

Cay Caulker is even smaller than San Pedro and moves at a slower pace. I dropped anchor in the small bay west of the island and was glad to be in the lee of the island and to have a good sandy spot to drop my anchor, a lot more secure than the last spot.  On going ashore and walking along the one main street, running parallel to the beach and dotted with small shops, street vendors and travelers who’ve come to take in the chilled out vibe, I knew this was somewhere easy to get stuck. Not that that’s a bad thing. Wasn’t long before I struck up some conversation other travelers and spent the first day hanging out with some other ozzie crew and meeting some of the other people who were staying at the backpackers there. Most people here seem to be traveling south and heading down to Guatemala or further and have explored Belize a bit and getting a bit of relax time in before heading back on the road. Its great to be around people who are out exploring and great to hear the stories of things they’ve seen and places they recommend. Most people spend their days hanging at the beach drinking and then heading out at night for some cheap food (not as cheap as Mexico but not bad), and there’s a few small bars on the island to check out but so far I've been dropping in for a look down the beach during the day and trying to organize some spearing, and have even been out for a small surf on a stand up paddle board.

 

The weather continues to follow the pattern of a few days of sun followed by a few of rain and wind, but with the good holding I have been a lot more relaxed.

Been hanging out with the Czech family that I met in Cuba a bit and was lucky enough to be given an amazing painting done by Ketca, their little girl who has taken a liking to me and is determined to catch fish as big as I do one day, and is all ready feeding her family with what she catches off the back of the boat. Talking to Josef and Jana and hearing their stories has been amazing. Josef has done some amazing travel and from the pictures and stories they have shared with me of the Czech Republic I will have to go visit them one day. They are really good people and its great to be able to share stories about life and travels in different places.

 

After diving here around the island for a bit I managed to score a trip out to the Turneef islands, one of three coral atolls located about 15 NM SW of Cay Caulker. Headed out there in the early morning with some of the local crew from the island and in their boat it was about and hour before we came up onto the shallow surrounding reef and headed into the lagoon. We had been watching the weather build before we left but had hoped that it would continue to head east and miss us. Mother nature, however, had other plans and after sitting out next to a small island to wait out a small lightening storm, we could see it continue to grow as huge black and grey clouds boiled upwards in a very impressive display. We decided to cut our losses and head back home and with the weather closing in on all sides we made our way through the shallow reef, through the pass and ran for Cay Caulker.

 

Again mother nature thought it best to put on a show and on nearing the reef we had to pull up and drop anchor as the lightening storm hit, there was no wind, but huge bolts of lightening flashed overhead and arced across the sky. Everyone lay in the boat and took what shelter they could find, but on looking over the side at the crystal water and amazing reef below I decided to go for a dive. Now I'm not sure whether that was a good idea or not, but figured it was just as good an option as the boat. I don’t think I could fully find the words to describe the scene as I lay on the bottom of the ocean, in 15M of water and looked up to see the flashes of lightening above and the way its diffused light spread through the water, it was one of the most amazing things I have seen diving. Not all the other creatures down there seemed to share my view though, it was eerily quiet on the reef. Other than a few small fish darting in and out of their homes the reef was deserted, guess they’ve seen that view a thousand times and aren’t so amazed anymore.

 

At this point I think I will stay here for another few days, depending on weather, which continues to be gray, overcast and wet, before heading to Belize City. Once there I will pull into the marina for a week to catch up with some family I have yet to meet, explore the mainland a bit and meet up with Joe. For those who don’t know, Joe is a great mate of mine who will be joining me for the rest of the year and an accomplished waterman who I dive and surf with regularly. Been looking forward to have him join me for a while. Joes runs courses in free diving and also works with big wave surfers doing surf survival to help them deal with difficult situations, you can check out his site at www.oneoceaninternational.org to see some of what he gets up to.

 

So still a few days relaxing here and then off to Belize city and then out to the offshore atolls and then down to the Rio Dulce is the rough outline of the upcoming weeks. I will write again soon and put some more pictures up soon.

 

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Bahia De La Ascension

All to soon it was time to head to the next spot, actually Cozumel was cool, but with the rolling in the anchorage and good weather for the next few days, I felt the need to move on, and decided that I would leave very early the next morning. I spoke with the Boys and we decided to check out of Mexico here in Cozumel, which means we can still stop in spots along the way, but cant really go ashore. The checking out process involved a fair bit of getting sent here and then there only to be told to go back there, but on the whole the authorities and the harbor master were pretty helpful and we had all the paperwork done in a few hours.  

Its funny, but I felt more nervous about this next leg than the first, I don’t know why, I just did. After all the paperwork was done I got back to the boat around five o’ clock and got things ready to put to sea again. I like to have some time to organize and get in the right headspace for sailing, and this is getting easier as I get accustomed to the routine. Josef, the Czech guy who’s sailing with his family, and who had me over for dinner the other night came over to have a look at my charts and I was able to pass on a few charts that I had double of and a cruising guide for Mexico that I had found in marathon, it’s a great feeling to be able to help people that are out here following similar, and was pretty humbling to see how grateful he was for it. Everyone I have met here on this trip is going out and following their dreams and to hear the different stories are pretty inspiring and I respect them a lot for it.

 

At one the next morning my alarm went off and after a cup of coffee I set about pulling anchor and heading down the coast of Cozumel. The forecast the last few days has been pretty light wind but it’s been blowing 12-15 knots, which would have been great for sailing. Unfortunately though, they finally got it right and there was not a breath of wind as I motored down the coast. Again the current is a factor here and by staying close to shore could gain and extra knot. Soon enough though I was heading out to sea and when the sun rose there was no land in sight. The wind still had not materialized and then noise of the engine certainly takes away from the serenity and experience of it all, but at least I am out on the water.

 

I found myself in a funny mood, slightly nervous and unsure of myself and decided to stop and take a swim to clear my head and get a dose of salt-water medicine, which is one plus about having no wind. For anyone who has never had the opportunity to swim in 1000 ft. of water, alone, with no one and no land In sight, I highly recommend it. I got back on deck in a totally different mood and found myself talking aloud a lot and shouting things at the top of my lungs, just to hear my own voice and to put them out there I guess. Was kind of therapeutic in a way, either that or I've lost it. I don’t mind my own company, which is a good thing I guess, and this time alone is a good thing I think.

 

Slowly land formed on the horizon and soon enough I was at the pass through the reef and into the bay. Where I had chosen to anchor was off the light at Punta Allen and tucked in behind the reef, which would block the ocean swell. In short time my anchor touched down in a large sandy patch and there I was, not another boat in sight, blue water and a small fishing town about a mile further up the coast. This, in some way, is what I had come to find, a place where it was just me and I could sit with my thoughts. I spent the afternoon swimming and had a cup of tea in the cockpit watching the sunset. Suricat, sailed by a bit later, but were heading to another anchorage, as much as it would have been great to catch up, I did enjoy the feeling of being alone. Tired, relaxed and in a reflective mood I headed to bed that night to catch up some sleep.

 

The next morning the boys on fishers hornpipe showed up and we headed out for a dive. No shortage of god ground and the visibility was around 20M, so wasn’t long before we had a few fish and lobsters on board for dinner. Its been great to get a chance to dive some of these more remote spots and would love to come back to explore them more extensively. Cooked up a big feed of fish curry with lobster starters and hung out with the boys while we decided what our next move should be. I had spoken to the guy I'm getting my weather from and he said that there would be string winds from Sunday night through most of next week. So after thinking it through we decided to leave the next day for Belize.

 

This trip would be a bit longer than the other solo trips I've done so far, at about 120NM or around 36 hours, but I felt OK about it. So far on this journey every challenge has come about just in its right time and even though they are still a challenge I try to take things one step at a time. What did bother me though was the prospect of the forecast weather and the fact that from here most of the entrances are through small passes in the reef and are unlit, not something you want to do when its windy or in the dark. I very seriously considered waiting it out in Ascension, but decided in the end to go and we pulled anchor and headed off at around 7 A.M. the next morning.

 

One thing that has been pretty annoying, but unfortunately necessary, is the amount of motor sailing I've had to do. There is a totally different feel making your way along using the wind alone and listening to the wind in the sails and the water slapping against the hull, than there is to being assaulted by the throbbing sound of a diesel engine. Fortunately though the wind came up a bit son after lunch and I was able to put the sails up in a nice fifteen not southeasterly breeze. This would have been totally relaxing  and a great time lay down and get some rest for the night ahead, except for the fact that just after I unfurled the last sail the engine dropped speed and died. Not good. I am still not fully sure of why it happened but suspect that the pump which runs my diesel through the filters to clean it stopped working and caused the engine to run out of fuel, I was able to bypass the system and bleed the engine through and get it running again. Another thing to add to the list, but at least I got it working again.

 

The day slowly came to a close and I was able to have a shower, after sweating it out in the engine room, cook up some tasty dhal and rice and sit in the cockpit looking at yet another amazing sunset. It was a pretty wonderful feeling as it slowly dawned on me the many things I have accomplished that were on my list. At some points I wondered if the only reason I wanted someone else with me is because I was unsure of it I could pull it off by myself, but by now I know I can. Thing is though that knowing this has been a bit of a revelation in that, yes I do still want to share this, and other experiences, with people, but not just anyone. And until then I can do it on my own.

I slept in twenty-minute blocks during the night and would set my alarm and have a look around and plot my position before lying down again. I slept sometimes inside but also out in the cockpit under the stars, and with front row seats to the huge lightening storm off in the distance. Slowly, as the hours ticked by and the positions on the chart slowly made their way south, Kuhela and I head on towards another country and new adventures.

 

I’ll leave it there and fill you in on Belize in the next post, as this is getting kind of long. Things are going well though and this trip is exactly the challenge that I needed. Not everyone’s dreams are the same and we all challenge ourselves in different ways, but if your following your dreams and giving it a shot in whatever way you desire, then nothing but good can come from that, even if it is hard to see right away.

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COZUMEL, MEXICO

I awoke to a huge, exaggerated moon looking down on Kuhela and I, inside I felt a calm that I have not felt previously on the trip. Even though the thought of sailing solo had been something that had previously made me fairly nervous, this morning it was simply something that I felt I was ready for. After sitting with a cup of coffee and enjoying the moment for a bit I got the final things sorted, pulled anchor and began to make my way out to sea. I hoisted the sails and cut the engine, there was no noise other that the gurgle of water as it whispered past the hull and the occasional flap of the sail as I glided out towards the channel. The boys on “Fishers Hornpipe” were out slightly ahead of me but I soon caught up with them. This is what I came here for, it was something very surreal and very beautiful, one of those moments that make it all worthwhile. I thought of getting the camera and getting some shots, but decided against it, all I had to do was sit and enjoy and slowly wake up as the scene unfolded before me.  

It wasn’t long before I started to run into the current that runs up from the south and tried to stick close to the shore, heading south west to trying to stay out of the worst of it. The sun rose with the moon still hanging proud in the sky and Kuhela seemed to be loving the fact that she was sailing again and made pretty good progress against the current. A few hours later I looked back to see the sails of “Suricat” closing in on me, but heading further out to the east. They had not left till later in the morning but can make far greater speed being a catamaran. The current continued to build and I noticed “Suricat gibe and head really close in shore and was able to radio them and see what the current was doing in there, and was told it was a lot less. So I followed suit and after a quick jibe was heading straight for shore. It was amazing there was an actual line in the water, on one side the current and chop and on the other calm clear water, the dynamics of the amount of water movement here is amazing. I stayed close enough to shore to see people on the beach and found that I could gain an extra knot like this. Soon though it was time to make the turn, head for deeper water, and for Cozumel.

 

The wind had come up from the North East and was a good direction for a steady reach to where I was headed. It was a great feeling, being out there on my own, feeling comfortable with Kuhela, a good wind, and Cozumel slowly materializing on the horizon. I don’t know how to fully describe it, I had music playing and was standing down on in the cockpit and just found myself feeling like I was absorbing it all, the feel of the boat, lessons I have learnt, realizing that I had accomplished a part of what I had set out to do, cant really put my finger on it, but it was all of that and more. I went and lay on the bow and found that if I put my ear on the rail I could hear and feel the water moving beneath me. I didn’t speak and my mind just kind of drifted, but didn’t go very far as I was content.

 

Mentioned must be made of the new dish I invented for the trip though. I thought it would be a good idea to make a big Thai green curry the night before so I’d have food for the trip, and was really looking forward to it. Got everything going and fried up my spices and paste and veggies and then added my coconut milk that I’d bought in Mexico, that when it got interesting. Turns out it was coconut cream, like for mixing drinks and is pretty much like condensed milk. Suddenly I had Thai green desert. I still ate it for dinner and also a bit on the trip over, waste not want not, but it was sickenly sweet, not even pepper sauce could save it. Glad I only bought a couple cans of that and not the five or six I was going to.

 

I got in to the anchorage just before dark and found a sandy spot to drop the anchor but had to dive on it as the ground here is mostly shallow sand covering rock. Found a good spot and dragged the anchor over and there I was, first solo trip complete, at anchor of Cozumel, floating in some of the bluest water I have ever seen, Barbados had held that spot for me, until now. A cup of tea and relaxing in the cockpit was just the only way to end a day like that.

 

The boys on “Fishers Hornpipe” showed up later that night as they are a big bigger and slower and the Czech couple I met briefly in Cuba sailed in that afternoon as well. Was pretty tired and content and ready for bed. Great being anchored off a new spot and slept pretty well, except for the occasional swell that would roll though the anchorage every hour or so and set Kuhela bobbing about like we were at sea.

 

There’s not too much to Cozumel, as far as the town goes, its REALLY touristy and geared for the cruise shops that pull in every day, what it does have though is amazing diving. We took the dingy and went searching for a spot up to the north, as south is all national park, and jumped in to do a bit of spearing. The ground was pretty good and there were lots of juvenile fish around and  I did see a good sized mangrove snapper disappear under a ledge but couldn’t find him again. Got a smaller snapper and enjoyed the blue water and checking out somewhere new. You know the water in clear when you get to the bottom thinking your in ten to twelve meters of water and suddenly the alarm set for eighteen on your watch starts going off. Awesome.

 

After a few days here it was time to move on. Didn’t really get to do too much diving as I’m still trying to make fairly quick time heading south, but will definitely be doing a bit more in the next few spots.[gallery link="file" ids="976,977,978,979,983,984,985,986,987,988,991"]

Isla Mujeras, Mexico

Well after a very long period of motoring, Isla Mujeras appeared on the horizon. There hadn’t been much wind during the trip and wasn’t enough to keep the sails full and stop them flapping from side to side and the result was that when we dropped them the pendulum effect of the mast made for a less than comfortable ride.  All up though it was a good trip over and coming out of the deeper water and into the crystal clear blue as we headed up the channel was definitely the highlight. I had been navigating to compensate for the strong current that flows northward through the Yucatan channel, but to be honest it hadn’t been that bad and we were able to enter through the southern entrance. It’s a busy little place with ferries and dive boats running back and forth and a definite touristy feel.  

We entered the channel and headed towards the anchorage and found a pretty cool surprise there. Sitting at anchor was the “Fishers Hornpipe” a yacht that I had met in Marathon with some other young crew sailing her. Was hoping to catch up with these lads along the way, “Suricat”, a French family I met in Cuba was also there and wasn’t long before we had caught up with everyone and got settled into the scene. It was too late to check in that afternoon so after getting things squared away we headed over to see Andy and the boys on “Fishers Hornpipe” and headed into town for a bite to eat. That turned out to be a very long lunch and was well after midnight by the time I found my way back to Kuhela. So good to be hanging out with some good crew again.

 

The next day I organized with the agent at the marina to do my paperwork and as we sat down to go through it a good squall hit, the wind went from nothing through to 35 knots in about ten minutes and before you knew it boats started dragging anchor everywhere, including  a large steel schooner heading straight for Kuhela, and missing her by meters in the end, and very nearly taking out Suricat as well. I jumped in the dingy and raced out there and let out some more chain out to prevent us dragging as well and once finished turned around to see Suricat start to drag and head for the rocks. Eric and Alice, the owners, were on shore doing their paperwork and so I raced over there and jumped on board to try to get some more chain out and stop her before she hot anything or ran aground. It was pretty hectic as the wind continued to gust and the anchor continued to drag as I fought to undo the knots from the rope that held the anchor chain. I had left my knife behind and with the weight of the boat struggled to make any progress. With a bit of luck, some inventive knot work, and some colorful language I was able to slow her down a bit and was pretty relived when Eric and the family tuned up and we were able to get her started and motor back up to re-anchor. Was a pretty close call and I'm stoked that it all turned out well. Earned myself a free dinner for my efforts too. Watching the rocks get closer and struggling to stop her all I could think about was that this was their dream, the same as mine, and to see a dream in danger of being dashed there was no way i could let that happen. Sure it would be the same for anyone else.

 

Katy left that afternoon and though it had been good to have someone else along I really enjoyed having the boat back to myself. She had been pretty good about all the delays and hurried schedule but really wanted to go get some surf, can’t say I blame her, I'm hanging for surf myself. With more weather reported to be one the way though, I decided to put in at the marina and be able to relax and enjoy some time here, the first time I've been able to do that in a while.  Isla Mujeras is a beautiful little island, surrounded by crystal blue water, and the marina itself is pretty cool. Being able to wash the boat down and have use of out door showers, a large kitchen and all the other facilities, as well as to hang out with the crew from the Hornpipe, who pulled in here as well, was just what I needed. I've spent a week chilling out, hanging with friends, eating amazing street food, and checking out the island. Finally I feel like I am out and traveling.

 

 

I orgainsed to go do some spearing with some of the local commercial fishermen on the island and headed out to see what the water here had on offer. There is no doubt that there is some amazing spots and great spearing to be had, just not where we went. The local guys were shooting small parrotfish and taking baby lobster and kept on dropping me down current of every spot. I'd jump in swim against the current to finally find some good ground and as soon as I'd get there the boat would pull up and say we had to move over to another spot and would throw me a rope and tow me back out into desert with not a fish in sight. I did manage to get a couple small snapper and a barracuda, which I was able to trade with them later for some lobster though, as barracuda can be prone to ciguatera, a build up of toxins in fish that is something you definitely want to avoid.

 

I have decided to buddy boat down the coast with the boys as we are all heading in the same direction, and will probably catch up with Suricat along the way too. I have not been able to get hold of any crew, but as the next few trips will be shorter hops down the coast I will do them solo. It is something that I did want to do at some point and I guess this is my chance. I am, on some level, a bit nervous about it but also strangely calm inside as well. Now that I have had some time to sail Kuhela and get to know her a bit it seems a bit less daunting and I must admit I am enjoying a bit of time to myself. Once thing I am coming to realize though is that this is not really my dream, I did in the past enjoy the romantic notion of the solo sailor making his way around the globe, but I am realizing that to have someone with you that you can share things with is pretty cool, that someone is not just anyone though. Whether a girlfriend or just a good friend, the ability to share the same place and be on the same wavelength is something very crucial.

 

Had a bit of a celebration for Dom, the other owner of Fishers Hornpipe for his birthday last night and, as you can probably imagine of any night that involves a piñata, a Mexican wrestling mask, good food and a couple drinks, it was great laugh all around. Glad I'm only tired and not fighting the same hangovers as some of the boys.

 

So with the weather looking good and some time off had to relax we will look to head down the coast on Monday to Cozumel for a couple days and then onto to Bahia de la Ascension and then Belize.  This is another part of the journey and, with its own challenges and adventures, is something I am looking forward to. Most of the passages from here on out will be shorter, maybe 50 – 90NM, So able to be done in a day and hopefully I will be able to get into the swing of things out here and Kuhela and I can continue to get to know each other and continue our journey south.

 

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Viva Cuba

Finally, the ropes that had bound us for so long in marathon let us go and we made our way down the channel and out to sea. Such a great feeling to be out sailing again, this was only the second time I have sailed with Kuhela. Marathon had been a good place to get the tings done that needed doing and I met some great people there, but the time to move on had come, and I was ready to get going.  

Headed down to big pine key to anchor up for the night and to rest up for the trip. This was actually the same place I had been in and out of before when going spearing with AJ and Shareef, and AJ was able to come out that afternoon and have a look at Kuhela and hang out for a bit. Really glad I got to catch up with him before I left. That night I went to bed with all the nervousness and excitement that my overactive mind could muster and didn’t help that I woke in the night to a squall blowing thirty knots that had actually lifted the dingy out of its chocks and stood it upright as I had left it untied to get some breeze through the boat. After listening to the weather in the morning I made the decision to go, and soon after the anchor was up and we were under way. Even got a visit from AJ’s dad who came out in his boat early in the morning to wave us off as we headed out of the channel, such good crew.

 

With a nice breeze and a downwind run to key west ticked off the miles quickly  and made great time and before I knew it we were making our turn south of the marquesas to head for Cuba. The big unknown for me was the Gulf Stream, I have heard so many stories about that bit of water and the potential for substantial waves when the wind blows opposite to the current, as It did on the passage. Darkness came and we settled into shifts of two hours keeping an eye out for shipping and on our course as with the current comes the potential to be pushed back to the west. The weather was not that bad actually, and though it did get a bit lumpy at times, it was never really what I would call rough. I did have one incident though, and I know this will worry some of the people who read this, but it is a lesson learnt and also part of the journey.

 

It was about four in the morning (as it always is when things happen) I had been watching a large ship pass off our starboard side about a mile away, he was just abeam of us and I could see his green starboard light so knew he was heading the other way. I went down below to wake up Katy for her watch and to put a position on the chart when the boat rolled slightly and there the was the ship right out side my window. There was a second of total calm where I thought, that’s funny, he shouldn’t be there, and then my brain kicked in and I rushed to the wheel and threw the helm to starboard, he passed within one hundred meters of us, close enough to see the wake from his bow look up and what appeared to be a large ferry towering above us, and all I could think was No, not like this, I couldn’t let Kuhela, myself and everyone else down like this, It was a very close call. He must have altered course ninety degrees right after I went downstairs and didn’t even see us. One of the scariest things I have ever had happen to me at sea.

 

On we sailed though, and at the expected time of 1000, there on the horizon was Cuba, and not long after we the call from the dock master guiding us in. I tried t be as prepared as possible for the officials and the mountains of paperwork I’d been told to expect, and even bought some coke and M&M’s just to help the process. First up was the doctor, then quarantine, then customs, then immigration, each with their mountain of paperwork and carbon paper to copy things in triplicate. The snacks worked and after three or so hours of answering questions and signing forms we were free to enter the marina. My first international passage as skipper complete, and a new country for Kuhela and myself.  The rest of the afternoon was spent getting Kuhela sorted out after the trip and chilling out after the passage.

 

 

The next morning I called Eduardo, of Havana surf, to say hi and to see if we could catch up, it worked out really well. He said he’d be over in an hour or so and would show us around. The guys at the surf shop in St. Pete had given a bunch of stuff to pass on to the crew in Cuba and I had brought some Leashes and deck grips as well, its pretty hard to get hold of gear here and was glad to be able to help out with getting crew in the water and surfing. As usual with anywhere you go with surf, we should have been here last week, the same weather we got in Marathon had given the boys here in Havana some good fun waves, but now there was nothing. We spent the day hanging out with Ed and he took us out and showed us around, He’s a pretty cool dude and he does a lot of work with the community and helping people to get in the water and experience surfing. His girlfriend works at the local aquarium so we passed by there and got to hang out with some sea lions and dolphins, which was pretty cool. His girlfriend does work with kids with disabilities, getting them to interact and spend time with the animals, seems like really rewarding work.

 

Havana is an awesome place. The old buildings are amazingly beautiful, old cars of American and Russian makes barrel through the streets, there are magnificent old churches and large forts that overlook Havana bay. There are buildings that have so much history, signatures on the walls of people from years ago, streets that are paved with wooden blocks, people on the street selling old books and badges, terraces to sit and sip coffee or enjoy a rum, or puff away on a cigar. It gives the feeling of stepping back in time. But all is not fully as it seems. Although this could be close to my idea of paradise, everyone here wants out. From talking to Ed and trying to understand a bit of the culture and the people and how they relate to the system that has been in power for fifty years, it began to almost feel like a charade. Like the amazing colors on show hid a darker shade or gray, or maybe military green, below. As far as I can understand things are not as bad as they once were, but the impression I get is of a people that want to be free to express themselves and work towards goals that they desire. There is of course only my opinion and with only really one day in Cuba to check things out  I cant claim to have gotten a chance to get a good feel for the place.

 

There is so much here, so many stories, so many amazing places, people and  history. One of the reasons I chose Florida as a spot to buy the yacht was to check out Cuba. Unfortunately due to weather, which in the end is what dictates what you do, I had to make the decision to head for isla mujeras the next day and before I knew it we had Kuhela packed up and ready to head to sea again. We would have one more stop in Cuba,  at los morros, a small outpost on the south western tip of the island where we would officially check out of the country. The sail there was pretty calm and peaceful, want much wind unfortunately so we were forced to motor sail most of the way. We spent a day there and after checking having a look around at what reef there was I decided to head back about fifteen miles in the way we had just come to find a spot to get some spearing done. There was no way I was leaving Cuba without getting a dive in. Found a pretty good spot and shot a couple nice hog snapper for dinner. So good to get a dose of salt water medicine.

 

At four the next morning we pulled anchor and left for isla mujeras. I do regret that I didn’t have time to explore Cuba more, but that is all part of the trip and I was looking forward to checking out Mexico. The original plan was to head straight to Belize as it was late in the season, but with a big weather system brewing down that way and with katy deciding to head off to go find some surf I made the decision to head to Mexico. Its funny, when I made the decision it felt right and since then things have played out quite well. I am now in here and will let you know will the happenings in the next post in a few days time.

 

I am slowly getting to know Kuhela and what she is like, I talk to her often and have had the chance to sail her and to see how she reacts to different little changes in sail and trim as we go along. It’s a funny thing the relationship with your yacht. Not sure how to describe it, but it is something I am enjoying very much, even though it is a lot of work (but I guess all god relationships are)

 

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Chain Plates

Well I was all set to leave about a week ago when I pulled up alongside and noticed some cracks on the chain plates that support the mast. On further inspection I found cracks or crazing on both of the aft chain plates and also on the forward stbd plate. There was no way I would be able to sail and be comfortable with those so I had no choice but to change them out.

 

This was a pretty major job and took a lot of time and energy to get it done. There were certainly times when i thought I'd never get there. Had to do a bit of cutting away at the paneling to get access to the bolts and even then I was working in spots that I could barely get my hands into. The season down here has definitely changed as well, its hot, humid and not the most comfortable weather to be trying to wedge yourself into the back of small places. One of the idea i had was to use the old plates as backing plates for the new ones and when i took them to get cut two of the actually cracked, so it was definitely a good idea to change them out. They had thirty years of good service and more than a few miles, so can't complain too much.

 

Was pretty lucky though as I got a huge amount of help from some of the crew in the marina and also from Katy, who’s joined me for the sail south, with polishing and installing the plates. That job would have taken months without them. Well that's another major thing taken care of and hopefully wont have to worry about them for the next thirty years. Part of what i wanted from this trip was the chance to learn and work things through, certainly got that, Would be nice to have some sailing and travel in there to though. Soon enough.

 

This trip has been a huge learning curve so far and sometimes when you find things like this it can really knock you. It sometimes feels like I've been working flat out for the last three months, I guess that's because i have, but sometimes I feel like i need to shout to myself to enjoy the trip, enjoy what is happening right now, even if it means more work. This is all part of the trip, all part of learning and growing and adventure. I am now readying myself for the next phase and the next place.

 

Here are a few pics of the old plates and the new ones installed. I’m now back on weather watch to head off to Cuba. Looks like it could possibly be Sunday night to get into Cuba Tuesday morning. Looks like its going to be a pretty windy trip across and we will see how we go with the gulf stream as with NE winds predicted it will be blowing directly against it which stands the waves up quite a bit.  Still thinking this over but doesn't look like conditions will improve anytime in the next week or so.

 

 

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Panama

There are some things I find very hard to say no to, one is the chance to go explore somewhere new with good mates and having the chance of getting onto some quality fish.  So when Andre Rerukura and the boys at Terra Australis productions contacted me about heading down to do a trip with the crew from spearfishing Panama, the answer didn’t take long to come to mind. Soon enough I was putting my other projects at sails and sandals on hold and heading off to the airport. I was all ready in Miami, so pretty close by, but the other boys flew in from Australia and Also L.A, the mission was on.

 

The timing of the flights was almost perfect and we all met up just outside of customs, most of the boys I had not met before and others I hadn’t seen in quite a while but we all got along like old mates and were all frothing to get in the water. If it hadn’t been for my bag obviously wandering off on its own again and missing the flight, we would have headed straight out and not hung out at the airport for a few extra hours but soon enough we were on our way. A quick rest at a motel and early next morning we were dropped off at the boat for transfer out to the island. Once there we got all our gear squared away and had a chat to Pete, our spearing guide, about what to expect and how the charter would run. He’s dived down here quite a bit and had some great info and filled us in on all we needed to know. The accommodation itself was basic, but comfortable and the food was great from the first to last meal. Was such a great feeling being out there with surf on your doorstep, the anticipation of encountering world-class fish over the next few days and with no one else really around, we were all grinning from ear to ear. Lying in bed that night listening to the sounds of the rocks rolling up and down the bank like a low rumbling thunder and with lightning lighting up the sky in the distance and a warm wind blowing it was the perfect setting for dreams of the sea, fish and of things to come.

 

The run out to the bank is pretty long, and if the weather was up in the morning it can be a pretty bumpy ride, though some days we were blessed with glassy perfect conditions giving a couple hours to sit, relax and take it in, perfect start to the day. We were greeted first dive of the trip with visibility around the 20M mark, a slow current and thousands of jellyfish, but these faded out once we moved a bit further along the bank. It didn’t take long to start getting glimpses of what we came for, yellow fin tuna. One by one reports surfaced of sightings of good size tuna and about the giant ball of life that was swirling below us. First to show up as we drifted over would be the Rainbow runner, darting in and out snatching pieces of burley. Below them, flashing large silver sides, were hundreds of horse eye jacks and pargo all lazily spinning in a clockwise mass. It was a pretty amazing sight and I can admit to more than once totally forgetting about tuna or even the desire to breathe.

 

Not long after I heard a gun go off and saw Travis’s float skip off across the water and after a nice little fight we had our first tuna on board, a good fish at around 35 Kg. He had come across a school all around the same size moving lazily at about 20M and picked one off. After a few pictures, a quick bite to eat and more than a couple laughs we were back in the water and dropping down into warm blue water. Sharing guns and diving one up one down for safety, I lay on the surface watching Sean dive below me when he lined something up, backed off for a second and the extend again and took a shot, I got a glimpse as the fish arced upward before diving deep, it was a good fish.  Slowly he worked the fish up to the surface, taking in slack on the bungee as I headed back to the boat quickly to get one of the reel guns for a second shot. Dropping down I saw that his shot was pretty good but put another spear in, just to be sure. The fish still had a good bit of fight left in him though and a few hard runs and two bent spears later Sean had him under control and secured. Yellow fin are certainly great looking fish and this one at about 70Kg had large sickle fins that arched back towards its tail and gave an indication as to the speed and power these fish possess.

 

Days slowly seemed to all blend into one as we headed out early, dived all day and headed home to relax in hammocks and feast on freshly shot tuna. We continued to come across that huge ball of life and would set up to drift by if and would usually encounter tuna either below or off to the sides. Though we did often come across larger ones either swimming solitary or in smaller schools hanging out in the murky water just on the edge of the visibility away from the ball. Sometimes they would be like ghosts that you could just make out at the end of a dive, shapes that would seem to just dissolve into nothing. We continued to dive, taking turns with the guns and the cameras and drifting down towards the mark with everyone on board getting good shots on fish. You never know what your going to see out here, even just on the way home, one day we were joined by a pod of false killer whales and were able to jump in and film for a bit while they swum past checking us out. This, along with humpback whales, countless turtles, manta rays and birds spotted daily make Panama a pretty special place to explore.

 

Pete landed a good fish one afternoon and we were able to trade with some of the local commercial fishermen for ice and some extra sardines as well as having a chance to check out their boat. Pretty simple set up with a large reel for long lining up front, a large ice chest mid ships and a wheelhouse down the stern, would have been about fifteen to eighteen meters long, all pushed along by a trusty Yamaha 2 stroke outboard, should be then next ad campaign for Yamaha. We also ran into a few other people out spearing the bank and on one day chasing a few big boils of feeding tuna we saw another boat running hard out to meet us and were joined by Dix Roper, who spears and dives a lot down here in Panama, and some of his friends as they sped alongside us as we both tried to get in front of the boiling tuna. Soon after we left them to it and headed out to the bank to try our luck there.

 

We also came across a few other good fish out there, I unfortunately lost a wahoo around the 20kg and Travis had a black marlin around the 100kg mark swim past and check him out a couple times, and was also able to land an amberjack around 40kg. Its one of those spots where you just never know what your going to see, you just have to be in the water. Perfect example being the last drift of the last day when I was pretty tired and was pretty tempted to sit it out, but decided against it at the last moment. We all jumped in and in the water there was that quiet feeling where it just seems like you and deep blue water, not even a hint of fish. Shortly after we looked up to see a massive bait ball boil on the surface four hundred odd meters away, we all looked at each other and had the same thought, we missed them. I started swimming in that direction anyways and Sean followed with the camera, I had no bait to chum with as the other boys had the bags and did think I may have been swimming off and away from my chances of fish, but something kept me fining ahead just for that little but further. Suddenly there was movement below and the whole school drifted into view just below me at around 12 meters, I breathed up and took my drop slowly closing in on the school. There must have been around thirty or forty fish, all very similar sized and moving slowly past me. Lining one up I placed a good shot and hit mi body in his spine and I knew he wasn’t going too far. In a few minutes he was secured and I had again reaffirmed my belief in trusting those little gut instincts that sometime guide you along the way.

 

On the run home that afternoon we were treated to the most amazing sunset as it smeared reds, oranges and purples across the sky and patches of rain washed the mountains on the mainland. The water was glassy, temperature around thirty degrees and the pictures we shot show just how stoked we all were to be here and to have had the opportunity to experience this. There are so many beautiful spots on this planet and this is certainly one of them, the surrounding mountains, the deep blue water, the amazing variety of sea life, the feeling of being somewhere remote, all came together and I don’t think that any of this was lost on any of us. Great mates, great fish, great trip.

(photos by Andre Rerukura, Sean Leippman and myself)

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The First Leg

Finally, after six weeks of preparation it was time for the first leg of the journey. I don’t know if you are ever fully ready, there are still jobs on the list, things I would like to have done, things to figure out, nerves to calm, but at some point you have to just make the decision to go. After checking the weather forecast and monitoring it over the course of the week I figured I had a window to make the passage down after the passing of one cold front, and before the arrival of another. I nearly got it right.  

Unfortunately Phil and Mary would not be there to throw off my lines as planned as they had to go to Virginia to have a look at another boat up there they were considering buying. On the day itself we had a few people from the marina come to see us off, we had also been hosted to dinner a few nights before, and everyone come round to wish me a good trip, the community at Passadena marina was really something great. We started engines and cast off lines at 1300 on the 16th of April and headed out to the Gulf of Mexico.

 

There wasn’t much wind during the first course of the afternoon but it soon filled in and we put the sails up and cut the engine. The feeling of Kuhela as she headed forth with nothing more than the sound of water flowing past her hull is something I'd been dreaming and longing for. It felt as though I had just exhaled for the first time in six weeks, the mixture of joy, nerves, contentment and anticipation was something amazing. I made it this far; I had taken another step in my journey.

 

The wind filled in more and more as the night went on and after having dinner of an amazing stew, provided by Gordon and Lori (friends from the marina) we settled into the two-hour watch routine. We were closed hauled on the wind and making good speed south, sailing roughly ten nautical miles off the coast, trying to stay out of the mine fields of crab pots that litter the coast the entire way south. All went well and we managed to get some rest on our off watch while we got used to the feel of Kuhela and found our sea legs. Then, at the standard time of three in the morning, the gremlins came out to play and the autopilot decided it had had enough and was quitting. So we spent the next few hours trying to deal with that. We had two different spares on board, thanks to Phil, but for all my trying I couldn’t get them to work, so we hand steered till the sun came up. With the new day and a second look I realized that a pretty big part of electrical things working is to turn the switch on at the main panel. Wounded pride, but at least the problem was solved.  We also took the opportunity to play with the monitor wind vane, a tireless worker who lives on the stern and uses no power, makes no noise and will steer across oceans. Kuhela was alive, the wind was up, and we were sailing.

 

The next day passed quickly and with a steady breeze we covered good ground, averaging around 6 knots. During the day we took turns snoozing and catching up on missed sleep from the previous night, marking our position off on the chart as we headed south and enjoying the feeling of being out on the water. When the wind dropped off again in the afternoon we couldn’t pass up the chance to pull up and go for a swim. What an awesome feeling, floating in the ocean, looking up at this beautiful yacht that I am sailing and feeling cleansed and refreshed by Mother Ocean. I am very blessed at the moment and grateful for it.  We got back on board and soon realized we had been boarded, a little yellow finch had decided to come along on the trip south and hopped around on deck inspecting her new ride and after finding everything to her liking continued exploring down below in the cabin. John and I were obviously not much more than oddities to her as she hopped around and explored, even using my head and johns arm as a perch before settling on a spot just above the chart table as being the best place for a snooze. I took it as a good sign. Though I didn’t see her leave I hope she had a safe flight to wherever she was off to. She’s welcome on board anytime.

 

It was during the afternoon on one of my engine room checks when I noticed that there was no water dripping from the stuffing box (the stuffing box is where the prop shaft exits the vessel and normally has a slow drip of water indicating that the shaft is being cooled and lubricated) so I decided to adjust it a bit. Looking back this was not exactly the most brilliant idea I have ever had. I adjusted it all right, and the shaft was certainly cool and more saturated than lubricated when I next checked a few minutes later.  As a result of adjusting it, the backing nut had worked its way loose and the main nut had spun most of the way off and there was now water literally gushing into the boat. I popped my head up and told john that we had an issue, as there was no sense in me freaking out alone, and dived back into working on the engine.  I managed to get the nut back on and tighten up and headed off the get a clean pair of shorts.

 

The pattern of wind for the trip was pretty much either no wind, mostly during the afternoon and then twenty knots and even a few gusts up around the thirty mark at night and into the next morning. It would start off south and work its way around to the east, making it very hard for us to make our way south east towards marathon. We did what we could and would just have to deal with that when the time came. It was then around the usual time that things went a bit pear shaped. We were monitoring another yacht approaching us and watching to see what his plans were, if we had both adjusted course a bit we would have had no problems but he held his ground causing us to tack to get out of the way. Not a problem in itself, but I forgot that we had the preventer on (the preventer is a rope attached to the boom to stop it swinging across the deck should we accidentally turn) this meant that the sail back winded and I would have to turn the engine on to bring us back around into the wind. Thankfully John spotted that one of the sheets (ropes) from the sail was trailing in the water and warned me so I didn’t start the engine, possibly getting it wrapped around the prop. This left the lines flogging and flapping across the deck and I had to go forward to get it to pull it out of the water. With the wind blowing pretty hard the line was something like a rather pissed off snake and repeatedly hit me in my head and back while I tried to control it and just as I thought I had it, it swung around and hit me directly in the right eye and laid me out on deck. It was a pretty bad scene, my first thought was that I had just lost my eye, I couldn’t see, it felt out of shape and I just lay there for what felt like a few minutes holding my face. Once the initial shock passed, we got things under control, started the engine and got us back on the right side to the wind, after which I went below to inspect the damage. Thankfully it wasn’t as bad as I thought. The eye was still there, red and swollen but I could now see a bit and lay down for a bit to rest it. It is ok now and surprisingly not swollen or that red. Not something that id like to experience again.

 

The night wasn’t finished for us yet though as we realized a bit later that with the rope flogging as it had been, it had come out of its guide and wrapped itself around the sail itself, this meant we couldn’t let the sail out or bring it in, not good. We sat and discussed our options and decided that we should wait till sunrise after which we would turn down wind and use the main to shade the Yankee (forward sail) and I would go forward to manually turn the roller furler to put the sail away. It was a tricky move, but we had run though the plan of action and knew what we had to do and thankfully plan A worked perfectly and we got things squared away pretty quickly. Another thing worked through and back under way.

 

At this point we knew we were pretty far west and would not be able to make it upwind to Marathon with the wind we had and had to make a decision, either we put the sails away and motor to marathon or we turn and head to key west and wait till the weather changed and we could make our way back up. I decided that even though it would be a long hard slog upwind to marathon, looking at the forecast for the next few days, going to key west would only be delaying the inevitable and so we dropped the sail and headed south till we got into the lee of the key and were shield from the swell and made our course for marathon.  It took ten hours of steaming straight into the wind but we made pretty good time and found ourselves at the entrance to the channel with just enough light to make it down the channel and to a protected spot we could anchor for the night. We were blessed with the most amazing sunset welcoming us in and added the sense of satisfaction I felt that we had done it. The first leg of the journey was complete. We had a few things to work out but the boat and crew were in one piece and I had learned a lot, and felt a bit better about the trip, about Kuhela and about myself.

 

We spent the night at anchor and both crashed out pretty hard soon after dinner. We awoke to a beautiful day and had breakfast and slowly got sorted to move over into the marina. Pulled anchor at around ten and made our way around to pass under the seven mile bridge. Even though you know there is enough room under the bridge, the angle of looking up leaves you holding your breath and praying you don’t hit it, its something that always makes me just slightly nervous. Soon enough we were through and heading up the channel into the marina and into the next stop on my journey. We had done it, Kuhela, John, myself (and even the little finch).

 

I learned a lot on the trip here.  I am getting to know Kuhela better, to know how she feels, how she works best, her likes, dislikes and oddities and I can honestly say that I am enjoying every moment of it. I continue to learn about myself as well, there are so many lessons that are being taught and things that I am realizing along the way. I enjoyed having John along for the ride a lot. For quite a while I thought that maybe I wanted to do this alone, that what I wanted in life was to be the lone traveller, making his way around the globe not really belonging to any place or any one. I don’t know if I feel that way now though, I am realizing that we are never really alone; our stories are interconnected in so many ways with so many along the way, people we meet, share time with, that come and go, family, friends, strangers. They all are part of our journey, part of ourselves and our story, to deny this or not be grateful for it can only lead to feeling lost and imagining ourselves to be isolated. I will continue to travel, to enjoy the time I spend alone, to explore, but I am not alone.

 

I think I am going to find someone to crew for the Cuba trip and on to Mexico, any takers?....

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Standing by to throw off the lines.

Well it’s been a busy few weeks, working long days to ready Kuhela, and myself for our first sail, but as of today, we are fueled, have all the food we need for the next six months, water tanks are topped up and the passage south is planned and marked on the chart. Weather is now the determining factor. A front has recently passed and there is another on the way, I will try to make my trip between these. All the forecasts, however, have been modified this afternoon and have given me new things to think about for when best to throw off the lines. Other than that the major jobs have been ticked off the list and now it’s down to the smaller, but just as important, details. The first sail will be from here in St.Pete to Marathon in the Keys. Unfortunately I haven’t had a chance to get out for a sail since the sea trial, but have been working on going through all the systems on board and feel I have a handle on how everything ties together and will figure the finer thins out on the way.  

I wont lie, there have been times in the past week or two where its all been a bit overwhelming. Where I wasn’t sure id ever get through with the ever growing list of things to do and if I’d be ready to cast off the lines and begin the next stage of the journey. I know I sometimes get too involved and don’t take the time to step back and clear my head, leaving the gears in my head churning and spinning away giving endless ammunition to doubt and fear and all the rest of those unwelcome guest we live with in our heads. Doing this on my own has been really hard in some ways and also amazing in others, it has given me the opportunity to challenge myself and prove, to myself more than anyone else, what I am capable of. I still surprise myself sometimes. There is a caveat to the solo claim though. I am not really alone. I have had so much help, from Phil and Mary, from the other people here at the marina, from the family that have called and even come to visit. In pursuing this challenge to go out and do things on my own I am learning how much our lives are blessed by others. To do this truly alone would be more than I would want, or could handle (even with my inventive ways a supporting a backing spanner to do up a bolt, while hanging upside down, yoga posed, in the back of a locker somewhere).

 

As of today we are on weather watch, by we I mean myself and John, from a few boats up, who is joining me for the sail down to the keys, and from the reports and the few things I have to get finalized it looks like Tuesday we will cast off the lines. Unfortunately Phil and Mary will be unable to come throw off my lines as planned, they had to go look at a boat there are looking at buying up in Virginia and wont be back in time. Today we had the ceremonial handing over of the kettle (I have looked but cant seem to find as nice a stainless steel one as theirs) and posed for pictures, shook hands and shared a hug and they wished me well on the journey. To be able to continue on the journey with Kuhela that they started is something I am proud and honored to do and could not have asked for better people to buy a boat off.

 

Provisioning up for the voyage the other day was quite something. With Mary’s help, I packed the back of their car full of everything I thought I’d need for the next few months and unloaded it all into Kuhela at the end of the day, where it sat until morning when I could begin to process where it was all going to live. A morning coffee, combined with secretly wishing I had a girlfriend to use that amazing female ability of making sense of jobs like that, resulted in no magic appearances however. So I started into it putting the one thing I knew where to put and moving on from there. Even made a list as I went along, to remember where everything was, and believe it or not made my way to the bottom of the pile by lunch. That is one area I do have a lot to learn in, I do enjoy eating good food but have been pretty blessed in life as far as amazing cooks go, so will have to learn to be a bit better in the kitchen. Man cannot live on granola and fish alone (can he?)

 

I do feel ready, I don’t think the list will ever be fully ticked off, that’s just boats. I have done the work getting her ready and feel I have gotten to know her, she has proved herself in her many previous voyages and I have tried to absorb all I could in my years on the ocean. I still have lots to learn and have no doubt that every day will be another lesson, but I am ready to do what I set out to, to give it a shot and see how, and where we go.

 

My last thing to say is something that came to me a few times over the last week or so. Many people say that I am living the dream, and yes, I AM most definitely, but I do still catch myself looking over that damn fence. I don’t know what fertilizer they use, I have no idea how they do it, how do they get that amazing shade of green. Not that I’d want to be doing anything else, but I still find myself thinking of different things, different circumstances, still saying that stupid line, if I just get that… then it would be perfect. I just want to share that even if your living you dream, on your yacht, about to cruise the world, your mind can try to trick you with this illusionary wanting. Craving things that do not fill the hole, but rather feed it. Be grateful for what you have, no matter how much or little, it makes no difference. Be content, and see the person looking over at your fence and thinking the same stupid thing your thinking. Maybe then you can laugh at each other together.

 

Well, I guess the next stop is marathon. Yeeeeeew.

 

 

 

 

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Water Tank Install

Well the biggest job of the project is now complete. Was a pretty big undertaking and took a bit to get done, but did go very well. I have heard horror stories of other vessels having to pretty much tear the boat apart to get the water tanks out and of then having them built and then not fitting correctly, leading to more work, time and money.

 

We pulled the tanks out about three weeks ago and took a full days work to get them both out. What we had to do was to pull up the teak and holly flooring to get to the furniture mold below and then we cut an access hole big enough to get both tanks out of. We were able to pull the bigger aft tank out first and then slide the forward tank back and bring it up and out of the same hole. The biggest problem we encountered is that that larger tank did not fit through the hatch to get it out of the boat, so we decided to cut the tank in two and have two tanks made instead joining them up once installed.

 

I got Phil and Unique welding, here in St. Pete Florida to do the tanks for me and have been really happy with the work he has done. He’s actually working on about another three projects for me at the moment as well. I decided, after talking to a few people, to make that new tanks out of 12 gauge stainless steel, and to use flair fit fittings for the hook up and plumbing, these are a compression type fitting and from all reports work really well. The fact that we had to cut the large tank in half turned out to be a good thing as I didn’t realize how much extra weight the 12guage stainless would be. If we had to try and maneuver the large tank it would have been an absolute mission.

 

Phil brought the tanks down to the boat before putting the lids on for a trial fitting and we discovered that the sheet metal guy, who had bent the steel for him was short and inch and a half, we had a chat and Phil was quite happy to make it right by welding a box section on top, but I decided against it as it was a lot of work and should not lose that much volume off the tanks. Also it gave a bit of room for error and ensured that the tanks would fit. Once the tops were on I headed up to Phil’s shop to witness the pressure test, pressing each tank to 3PSI, to check for leaks and have a final look over before the install. I ended up having to wait for a few days as the flair fit fitting were on back order and wanted to have everything good to go to knock off the install in one big day.

 

While the tanks were out I installed a flange of 1-inch aluminum to the existing flooring and drilled and tapped it to secure the cut out section too, and ground out the old fiberglass taping the held the old tanks in place, laying in the bilge grinding on fiberglass is not a job I particularly enjoy, was quite happy to finish that day. On a side note, if your covered in fiberglass, tired and hungry and you have a shower up at the shower block and forget to bring your towel, it takes about 12-15 paper hand towels to dry yourself off.

 

On the day of the install I got up early and had everything prepped for when Kev, who gave me a hand pulling out the tanks as well, arrived. We got stuck into it and had the first tank in pretty quickly, and the second not long after that. The third however, took some working. The floor below was not quite level and with the increased space of having the two tanks instead of one we had to do a bit of modification to sure up the tank and get it all secure. To join the two tanks we had a one-inch hose joining them and that way they would equalize through and essentially work as one. It was another long day and was around eight by the time we finished up and took me another couple of hours to get Kuhela back to normal. Still had a bit of work to do the following day, filling the tanks, checking for leaks and putting the teak and holly flooring back in, but this I could do on my own. I’ll tell you what though, I was sore after the install, wasn’t moving with the greatest of speed.

 

I filled the tanks and got a rough measurement of about seventy five gallons, a bit less than I would have liked, don’t think that the original tanks were the one hundred gallons listed on the brochure though, I seriously doubt I lost twenty five gallons with the tanks being and inch and a half shorter. Oh well I was happy, tanks fit, there were no leaks, and I had running water again. No more having to tote water to the boat. Ill put captions on the photos to show the sequence of events and give an idea of how we pulled it all off. With this job done, I shouldn’t have to worry about the water tanks for the next 30 years. Funnily enough, when we cut the old tank open, we found the inside to be in pretty good shape, but no way to know without opening it up.

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Power From Brother Sun, Toys For Mother Ocean

  Well life has been pretty busy here aboard Kuhela, been trying to get all the big jobs on the list crossed off, while the days just seem to fall off the calendar with my expected departure date one page closer every time I look up.  Got a few presents today for myself and for Kuhela. Today was a big expense day, good fun, till you do the accounts.

 

Got my solar panels mounted and in place, took a bit of back and forth to get all the parts I need for mounting and hooking them up and I am still waiting on parts so I can hook them up to the batteries as I need bigger penetrators to get the fittings through the deck and to the controller. Found these fitting made by NOAA and the guy I bought my panels off of happened to be the distributor as well, so that was handy. The Way there set up is that they hinged off the rail and supported by adjustable legs. This give me that advantage of being able to pivot the panels to get the best angle to the sun, and hence the most energy. I was amazed at how much effect even slight shadowing of the panel could have on output; you really need to have a clear access to the sun to get the most out of your panels. These also have the advantage that when I fold them down I can slide them up as well, giving me access to my cleats and tie off point on my railing and getting them up and out of the way. The panels are rated at 90 W each and although I don’t think they will run everything I've got on board, they will definitely help consolidate my power.

 

I have also been thinking of what the best tender, for what I want to do and for the space I have, would be. Everything on here is a compromise, how, big, how much weight, where to store the outboard, you win in one area and loose in another. I decided on the new AB, 9Ft inflatable RIB that has a aluminum bottom and weighs in at just 75 Lb., 34KG, as this would mean I could get it up on deck by myself relatively easily and is big enough to take out and go diving or surfing. I will have to modify the existing chocks on deck to fit but got her on board this afternoon and she looks good. Had the insanely stupid though on the way home today that this was my last big expense, ha-ha yeah right. Still have to get an outboard, and then everything else I haven’t even begun to think about yet. Y advice to anyone looking to buy a boat is to never even consider going close to your budget on the purchase price, money sails out of my wallet much faster than Kuhela and I can sail on water.

 

Well wouldn’t really be fair to get a new tender to go surfing without a new board to go with it, now would it. Stopped in at sun coast surf shop to catch up with, Prescott, a mate that works there, and got myself something I've been wanting for a while. Can’t wait to get this new board in the water. If I was hanging for a surf before, now practically foaming at the mouth.

 

I have also done up a little video tour on board to give everyone a better idea of what she’s like, I’ll post it on the Facebook page, so have a look when you get a chance.

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Cold Water and Warm Hospitality

Made the trip up to New Jersey to meet up with my uncle, whom I haven’t seen in something like twenty plus years. Was good to get some time off the boat as well, to step back from the constant lists and things to do. The day before I left was a full on day of prep work for the putting the water tanks back in and getting the deck all set up to repaint the non skid. This I was having done while I was away and Phil was overseeing the painting job for me. Started work at around six that morning and didn’t finish up and begin to pack my bags for the trip till nearly ten that night. There seems to be a very disproportional amount of work to sailing at the moment.  

Meeting uncle Gerry was like catching up with an old friend, got along from the get go. Was pretty stoked as I got the chance to meet his young fella, Riley, as well. Another member of the family I hadn’t met previously, all the new family has definitely been one of the cool things about this trip so far. Spent the day hanging out and checking out the area and even went for a look at the local surf, looked fun, but cold. Later we went for a look at where uncle Gerry used to live before Sandy came through. It was unreal to see the damage that was done and was still blatantly evident after all these months. Seeing whole houses, or sometimes just pieces of them, moved off their foundations and with wall and entire rooms missing really gave an insight into the power of the ocean and that storm. Be lying if I said it didn’t make me, and Kuhela, feel pretty small.  His apartment had water damage to chest height and he lost pretty much everything in the storm. But in some ways gained a lot too by the different perspective it offered him. Was really good talking to him about things like that.

 

Later that night we ran into the next-door neighbor, who had been out surfing that day and was sitting around a fire in the back yard. Great to sit down and have a chat with a couple crew from the area and before you know it he had lent me wetsuit, hood, booties, gloves and a board and we made plans to go for a paddle in the morning. Stoked.  Of course the following morning the temperature had dropped and the swell died a bit, and even with the light snow flurries drifting through the air I couldn’t wait to get down to the beach. Air temp .5 degrees, water 3 degrees. It was small but clean and I was amped to get in the water. Lasted for a bit longer in the water than I though I would and got a few couple fun little lefts that put a smile on my face that even the slap of the freezing water couldn’t wipe off. Came out after about an hour and ran to the car, teeth chattering and hands on fire, laughing all the way. The laughter dies away a bit though as the feeling came back to my hands. DAMN that hurt. Those boys that surf in water like that are tough, good on em. It really struck me that I grew up watching films of guys traveling the globe surfing and the great people they meet along the way, and the way the boys up there lent me all the gear and looked after me really made me feel like I was in one of those movies. For me its all about the people I meet along the way (and the waves, and water, and scenery, and…)

 

Was able to sit and chat a lot with uncle Gerry, which I think was pretty good for both of us. I learned a lot and put some things into perspective for myself.  Kinda hard sometimes when your working on a project like this alone, it’s a really good thing to talk and share with people you connect with on a certain level and its something I've missed a lot since leaving home this trip.

 

Unfortunately there was some more family I didn’t get that chance to meet up with, but will hopefully get to meet them one day. Flew back down to Florida and was greeted by Kuela, with her freshly painted decks, and looking awesome. Really felt like home when I got back. Felt good to be back on board and listen to the sounds I am becoming so familiar with, ropes as they creak or the lantern as it swing back and forth. It was an awesome trip on so many levels, but now, back to work.

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Water Tanks

One of the biggest, if not the biggest, project I decided to take on when I bought Kuhela was to replace the water tanks. The original tanks were still on board and although they weren’t leaking, the was some water seeping around one of the fittings and 35 years out of the original stainless tanks is pretty good. Didn’t want to be dealing with that in Cuba or Mexico, so bit the bullet and decided to do it here.  

It’s a hard thing cutting a big hole into the boat you just bought. We had to pull up the teak and holly sole, which we got out in one piece thankfully, to expose the fiberglass floor and then cut a 31” x 45” access hole into this to get the tanks out. (sorry for the imperial measurement, but If I've got to struggle, you get to as well). The good thing is that through this hole we could lift one tank out and then slide the other forward to lift it out the same hole.  I had to have a serious talk with Kuhela and promised I would put her back together as good as before, just to make sure she co-operated and didn’t throw any surprise’s our way.

 

Phil recommended a guy called Kevin to give me a hand and after we sat down and worked out a plan it was time to get into it. After hanging plastic from the walls and turning the interior into what looked like an industrial meat processing area of some sort, we got to it. I tell you what, that first cut, it’s a hard thing to watch. I’m glad Kevin was here, as I would have struggled with it. The teak and holly sole came out relatively easily and once that was cleared away and after a quick break for food, we got down to the real work. We cut away at the fiberglass floor and soon were both covered in fiberglass dust though I did do my best with the vacuum to contain what I could. This also went pretty much to plan and soon enough we had our access to the tanks below. Kuhela was on our side so far.

 

Then came the first snag, a fairly large one too. I was under the impression that both tanks were the same size of 50 Gal each, but on getting the floor up we could see that one was in fact quite a lot bigger than the other. The larger one came out first and that’s when things started to look a bit more complicated than we first thought. Physics will beat you every time and if your tank is 44” x 15.5” (largest dimensions) and your companion way is smaller than that, well it just won’t fit. We tried a few different ways of tackling it, but you cant argue with Einstein can you. That got us scratching out heads a bit. We decided to go ahead and get the other tank out too, so we knew what we were dealing with and delay making a decision on how to proceed. After a bit of pushing and pulling the smaller one was out and was a great relief to see it go up and out of the hatch. One down, one to go. We did funnily enough come across a few souvenirs from Kuhela’s last visit to Australia, in the early nineties,  hidden beneath the tanks as well. Seems that she had been hiding a stash of VB down in her bilge, took this as a good sign that she liked Australia and was looking forward to getting back there, though I’d like to think her tastes have matured a bit from VB.

 

At this point I very much doubted that we could get the job done in a day and the thought of spending the night covered in fiberglass and sleeping in a corner somewhere was not something that I was really into. All the cushions, carpet and anything else I could move was all up in the V berth and I wanted to stay out of there as much as possible as a bed full of fiberglass dust is less than fun. Phil was kind enough to come down and have a look, as sometimes you just need another pair of eyes, and after discussing a few things, decided that we would have to cut the tank in half and get two tanks made up in its place to go back in and joinh them together once on board.

 

In what could best be described as a bit short of the HSE standard of the oil and gas game I'm used to, I held a large piece of plastic over Kevin as he took a grinder and cutting disc to the tank and shortly we were able to get it out on deck. The process till that point took us about 7 hours and I was glad for the cooler weather of the day as doing that job in the heat would add a whole different, itchy, aspect to the job.

 

I’ll give it Kevin he put in a solid days work and I was stoked to have it done in a day and not have to spend an itchy night sleeping in a corner. In surprisingly little time I had Kuhela back to her pretty self and everything squared away so that you would hardly have known of the major operation that had taken place. By now it was about 10 O’clock and time for shower, dinner and bed. One important note for all those who have been wondering, if you should every forget to take your towel with you up to the shower block, it takes about two hand full of paper towels to dry yourself off, best done while laughing at yourself and hoping no one walks in.

 

That’s one half of a major job ticked off the list, and the replacement tanks are all ready in fabrication and should hopefully be ready in a couple weeks. Slowly, slowly I am working my way through the list of jobs.

 

Just want to say thanks to everyone too for all the messages wishing me well and offering support. It’s really great to get some encouragement when you’re tackling this stuff on your own. I continue to learn lots, about Kuhela and about myself and just keep on putting one foot in front of the other to see where I end up.

 

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Blue Wild

Flew down to Ft. Lauderdale for the Blue wild expo, which brings together all of the best art, free diving and spearfishing gear in Florida and also all over the globe.  Quite a few of the people I have met in the spearing community here in Florida as well as some of those I met in the Bahamas were all going to be there so wanted to catch up with them and tale the opportunity to meet some great people and have a look at some of the gear on offer. Was great to finally meet up with Cameron Kirconnel and Brad Thornborough, who were both really helpful in getting me in touch with spearos here in the states and getting me out spearing. Also caught up with a few of the crew I had met in the Bahamas and so many other good people.  

The show was a great success on so many levels and I had a great weekend, even had some god luck and good vibes come my way, more on that later. The best part for me was getting to sped time with people that love the ocean and use their various talents and creative outlets to share this with others.  Some of the talks given were truly inspirational, and gave insights into a lives well spent while others made me rethink the way I approached hunting and interacting with the creatures I share the ocean with.

 

Listening to Stan Waterman and Dr. Euginie Clark talk was truly inspiring, they have both lead such amazing, full lives and continue to do so well into their eighties and nineties. What Stan shared about taking the time to do things you love, with those that you love really stuck with me and these are words I will strive to live by. Martin Stepanek’s talk on how body language is interpreted by the creatures we dive with and how that can be the best camouflage for hunting as well as great tool for having closer experiences with the many varied species we come across in the underwater world simply made perfect sense.

 

The level of artwork on display was truly amazing, from the sculptures by the boys at fishbone designs to the amazing paintings of Carey Chen and K.C. Scott as well as the awesome underwater photography on Craig Deitrich. All these showing the amazing and varied beauty of the ocean expressed through different creative outlets and talents.

 

There was an amazing amount of gear on offer as well and was great to get a chance to talk to the people who make quality spearing gear and to hear the reasoning behind why they do some of the things they do. There were some amazing guns on offer and I was truly impressed by the quality of the workmanship on some of the handmade wooden guns. The main difference I have noticed between the gun set ups in Australia and here in the US is size, we use euro style rail guns for most things back home, while here there is a tendency for bigger and heavier set ups. I have been wanting to get a blue water set up for the trip and spoke to the boys at Koah and also Predator guns and was very impressed with the level of work, quality and look of both of their guns. My plan was to go away for a few days and think about it before ordering one, a fair investment, as they were both around the thousand-dollar mark.

 

The other item that I was specifically chasing was a pair of carbon fins after trying a few on the course in the Bahamas. Again was awesome to be able to tap into a world of knowledge and information and to have a chat to those that make them and really get an understanding of the dynamics of the different designs out there. Narrowed it down to two, the deep-apnea and Moana fins, both really great fins. Decided to go with Moana in the end though after the time and explanation that J.D, who makes them, was able to share.

 

Another big draw for the expo was the great gear donated for the raffles, everything from guns to fins to watches to artwork, some amazing quality gear. Didn’t win anything for my efforts the first day but had high hopes on the second and few a few tickets into a few different entries. Was great fun as they ran through the prizes and seeing how stoked people were to win. I stood in the back chatting to Turner Dowling, of predator guns, and as they brought out the amazing blue water gun he donated to the raffle commented that I had put some tickets in for it and how much I wanted it. Must admit that when they called out my name the words that escaped from me turned a few heads, but it was such a cool set up. Here I am just talking to the guy who made this, telling him I wanted it, and the universe hands it to me. STOKED. So much for having to think about ordering one. Big thanks to the boys at predator for donating it and to all the crew that made the Blue Wild possible.

 

Was such a good weekend and I’m so glad I made the effort to come down. Got some amazing gear, made some great contacts and met some awesome people. What more do you want. Again, my luck and blessing at the moment are truly amazing and thanks in a huge way to all the great people along the way.

 

Below are links to some of the great gear and people I met while there, sorry if I missed anyone.

 

http://moanawaterman.com/

 

http://www.kscottart.com/

 

http://www.fishbonedesigns.com/

 

http://www.predatorspearguns.com/

 

http://koahspearguns.com/

 

http://www.inseaworldwide.com/

 

http://www.deepww.com/online/

 

http://www.careychen.com

 

http://seasniperbaja.com.

 

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Into-The-Blue-Spearfishing-Charters/467353456644364

 

http://www.dietrichunderwater.com/

 

 

 

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My New Home

It is official. I have all the signed paper work, Phil and I have shaken hands, the money has gone through and I have moved in.  

Tonight is my first night on board my new home, I am alone but not lonely, it’s like getting to know someone. Spending time learning little bits almost subconsciously, getting used to the motion, to where to put your hands, where to step, what she likes. It feels good. I feel comfortable on board. It’s slowly sinking in. This is why I am here, I have found my yacht, and I have accomplished part of something I have dreamed of since childhood

 

I am so grateful, to everyone that has played a part in my story till now, to those that help in ways that are big and also small, to Phil and Mary and to Kuhela for allowing me to join on their journey and make it part of mine, to my family and to those I love and have made me who I am today. This whole play of life and this moment is all thanks to so many people.

 

I flew back in from Ft. Lauderdale by the time I made it to the marina Kuhela was all ready back in the water and rearing to go. We did a short trial on the engine to make sure everything was hooked back up and she was running well, and soon after we were on our way. A short trip over to the marina and then it was time to bring her into the pen for the first time. Always takes a bit of time learning any vessel, how they move, how quick they stop, how they turn. The great thing about Kuhela is that she has a bow thruster. This makes I so easy, as I can push the bow off to either side I wish as there is a small prop located in a tube within the bow. Even with this though I still managed to bump up against one of the piles that make up the pen. She’s a solid cruising yacht and takes a bit longer than I thought to stop. Another lesson learnt and no damage other than to my pride. Got it in without too much hassle though.

 

Phil and Mary came by and spent some time taking their things down off the walls and packing things away in boxes so that I could make the space mine and put my things away. She looks different without their things on the wall, somehow looks slightly smaller inside. I guess all those stories and travels on the walls created their own space somehow. I think the challenge for me is to add to their stories and have my own collection up there that compliments theirs. We can then compare pictures somewhere down the track share the stories.

 

Cooked up a great meal of fresh tuna and salad and sat outside and took it all in. Up above the full moon peeked out from behind clouds like a curious child, before running off to hide behind the next passing, white hiding spot. Kuhela rocked gently as the wind whispered past letting secrets, barely audible, slip as it went on its way. Being in a marina is not the same as being out and anchored somewhere remote, but sitting in the cockpit taking it all in and thinking of the journey ahead it was the first taste of hopefully many experiences like that.

 

After I went to bed the wind decided that it was no longer interested in keeping secrets and started to raise her voice and howl a bit. It wasn’t a storm by any means, just a small front passing through, but I woke a few times as I familiarized myself with the creaks and groans of Kuhela as she argued with the ropes who were working to keep her at bay. I checked on these at around two and after a few small adjustments returned to bed to resume my dreaming of where we would sail to together.

 

 

photo-10

All we gotta do is...

Well the plan was to pull the boat out of the water, paint the hull and do some other minor work and then I could move aboard. Now I'm not sure why exactly we thought that this would be any different to any other time where you start to do something on a boat and it goes from all we got to do is… to damn, looks like were going to have to… Throw into the mix a boat yard that has the speed and efficiency of six Trinidadian government workers on a public holiday and watch the work list get ticked off at about the same speed as an Amish drag race.  

So with this in mind, here is the latest update. The boat is still out of the water and while it was there I decided to change out the cutlass bearing (this is the round tube that the prop shaft goes through as it comes out of the hull). To do this you normally get a pipe wrench and screw out the old one and tap in a new one, easy. Unless you can’t get the old one out, then you get to pull the whole engine out of the boat so you can pull the prop shaft forward so you can cut and remove the old bearing. So we have puled the engine out and set it down in the galley while we get that done. It wasn’t as bad as it looks, came out pretty easy and was good experience anyways and also enabled me to do a few things on the engine while I had this great access to it. Bit of a tighter squeeze when it’s in place.

 

There have been a few issues down at the yard with their idea of work quality and mine. One of the things they did was somehow get it in their head that there were set screws holding the old bearing in place and decided to drill for them, I came down to the boat to find two ¾ inch holes drilled into the hull and patched up in a way that a two year old would stick play doe up his nose, messy and not looking too good. Starting to get the impression there not too happy to see me when I get down there but I can assure you no body wants to get her back in the water more than me. I've been trying to play the game as they still have the upper hand with the boat in the yard, but not letting them get away with taking the piss too much.

 

All the paperwork has now been signed and the money has been transferred. I should get the closing documents by Monday and hopefully be moving on board then. I have found a really nice marina down the road a bit from where I've been staying and have the berth reserved and paid for, just got to get the boat there.

 

This will be the last post until I move aboard (hopefully) I've got most of my stuff on there now, not that there was much of that, but the next big thing for me will be the first night I spend on board. That is something I am very much looking forward to.

 

Other than these small dramas though life is good. I am sure its not the last time things will take longer than planned. I'm learning lots and continuing working on that patience thing.

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The Blue Hole

I put things on hold over in Miami for a bit so I could go over to Long Island, Bahamas, for the vertical blue free dive course. Had an amazing week training and learning from some of the top athletes in the field and diving in the most amazing set up for free diving I have ever seen.  

Flew in a couple days early to get settled in and met up with some of the others from the course on the flight over, people from all parts of the globe, Spain, Canada, France, Japan and the US.  A pretty solid testament to the level of training of the course and also to the beauty of the blue hole.

 

Was pretty tired after the flight over but after stashing my gear in my room headed down to check out the blue hole, couldn’t wait. Drove up on the beach and stepped out and suddenly there it was, a vertical hole that after a few small steps off the beach falls away to 200 metres. It was more amazing than I could possibly have imagined, and I had it all to myself.  Stepping into the water and taking a few strokes away from the shore the bottom fell away sharply before simply disappearing. It’s a surreal feeling, like stepping out into space. I swam out to the platform that’s anchored in the middle and simply soaked up the amazing scene around me.

 

Met up with the rest of the crew for the course the next day and started training officially the day after that. The course is run by William and Brittany Trubridge, Brian Pucella and Daan Verhoeven, all amazing divers and great crew. William currently holds the current record for diving with no fins to  depth of 102 metres, and is one of the top athletes in the sport. Also training at the hole during the week was Ashley chapman, George Miller and Rob King, all current record holders in their respective disciplines. To be surrounded by people who are the best in the world was a great experience and every one of them took the time to talk, hang out share a few stories with us.

 

The course ran over a week and the days were spent with dive work in the morning, working on techniques for improving our form in the water, breathing,equalization, as well as being videoed to analyze ways to improve. Theory followed after lunch, working to understand the physiology and what happens to out bodies when we dive and how we can use this to our advantage and yoga in the afternoon. Its been a while since i had practiced and yoga and felt great to get back into it, incorporating the breathing techniques, flexibility and the mental concentration that yoga brings is a great advantage to diving, and life in general.

 

All the instructors gave so much time to us and I learnt so much from each of them. I had planned on doing some training before the course, but with all the traveling involved in finding the yacht I had only managed one dive in the last few months. However with the training and improvement on technique and mental state in the water I was able to break my own personal best record, first diving to 30M and then later 35M, besting my previous record by 10M. A huge improvement, I had come here wanting to at least do 30 and to accomplish that, and more, was such a great feeling. On the day of the dive my right ear was giving me a bit of trouble and i was unsure whether i would be able to equalize on the way down. I sat on the platform resting and calming myself and had a sudden realisation that brought a smile to my face. What did it matter. I was going to do it, if not today then sometime soon. It took all the pressure off and i felt really positive and light after that. On the dive my ears cleared without any real problems and i relaxed and just enjoyed the feeling of falling into the blue as i overcame positive buoyancy and sank to the target plate set at my desired depth. The whole dive felt really good and was a great feeling to get past the bit of a mental block i had at around 20M. So stoked.

 

There were some amazing dives done within the course by the others as well, Violetta hitting the 40M mark, Marco achieving 35M, Tanya 20M and Mitsuhero 38M. Also got to witness Rob King busting out an 85M dive of three minutes and Brian Pucella doing a 50M dive and making it look easy. Everyone had a great time and took a lot away from the course. So toked I made the effort to come out, it has changed the way I dive and helped towards my goals and target depths massively.

We were blessed with some great weather on the last few days and got a bit of a photo shoot in with Dan where we got to play around and get some awesome photos of ourselves under water. Was great to be able to chat to him about photography and see some one who loves what he does and comes up with such great images. The last night found us all down the beach again for a bonfire under a sky speckled with a thousand stars and phosphorescence twinkling along the shoreline. After an amazing meal of fresh fish and taking time to take in just exactly how much amazing beauty was all around us, we all jumped in for a night swim with nothing but the dark water between us and the bottom 200M below. What and incredible way to finish off a great week.

 

Had a relaxing day of recovery on the last day and explored some of the caves on the island before heading to the airport for my flight back to Miami. This course has been one of the best things I have done, made some great friends, achieved some personal goals that I am proud of and experienced a part of the world that is truly magnificent.

 

Huge thank to Will, Britney, Brian and Daan for their time and for all the rest of the crew on the course. Hopefully I have been able to portray a bit of how stoked I am to those sharing this experience through this post. Life is Good.

 

P.S. will post some of the pics taken by Daan as soon as I get them. Really looking forward to seeing them myself.

 

 

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The Family Tree

A big part of this trip for me is the people i will meet along the way, and so it was pretty cool when i got to meet some new people that were also family.  I went to visit my Dad's cousin in Orlando as I was in the area and they have been following my blog and contacted me through there. When i first pulled up outside their house i wasn't sure it was the right place, but as soon as she opened the door I knew it was, seeing your family resemblance in someone you've never met is pretty cool. I was treated to an awesome dinner of roti, and even sorrel, and after we ate, got a chance to sit down to chat and to get shown a whole side of the family I have never met. It is truly amazing when you think of all the stories that bring us to where we are today, and how over the years families have spread out over the world. These many different stories that branch off and run parallel to yours, the twists and turns as these branches make their way through time and the times when we are  lucky enough for our branches to cross paths and have that connection. Was great to get a chance to meet up with Dianne and Anthony and will hopefully catch up with them again before i go.

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The Process so far

Well things continue to move along, sometimes not at the speed that i would like but things are happening. I am learning a lot about patience, about enjoying the process and about myself. I am pretty content with my decision and do believe i have found the right yacht for me. We are still waiting for the survey, as the close of the deal is conditional on this, i have met with the owner and the broker to decide who will be doing what and have agreed on a price that everyone is happy with. Its pretty important to me that Phil, the owner, is happy with this sale. He has sailed this yacht for twenty five years and has invested a lot of himself in her, It is important that he is happy and will give the rest of Kuhela's travels his blessing.

The hold up with the survey is that the bow thruster had some troubles and has had to be sent off to get serviced. Where the boat is at the moment we need the bow thruster to maneuver out of the pen. The bow thruster is a small propeller in the bow that helps push the bow around. Yachts with a full keel, such as Kuhela, are not very maneuverable in reverse and this helps a lot. This means that we wont be able to get the survey done till I get back from the Bahamas on the 9th of Feb, A bit later than i would have liked to get this done. It is what it is though.

Phil has stated that  he will work with me to get me set up and hopefully we will be able to use the time before i leave to get the decks prepped for painting (which i am doing as part of the deal) and to start going through all the systems on board to get me up to speed. With being able to work and spend time with Phil on board it will be a huge advantage to learning about the many different systems on board and building up my confidence.

So as it stands I should have the deal closed by the middle of February and hopefully be living on board soon after. I am currently in Orlando and  will be heading back to St.Pete tomorrow to start catching up with Phil and learning about my new yacht, and home, Kuhela.

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KUHELA

After sitting and thinking things over for a few days, as well as asking advice from others and reading over the specs(over and over again) i have come to a decision. It was a tough choice as bot boats had things about them that i liked and wanted. While i was describing the choice to some friends of mine i likened it to choosing between the more refined, higher maintenance brunette and the well traveled, surfy blond. The The Cabo with her teak inside and coastal cruising set up was the brunette and the Downeaster, with her offshore set up and the many stories and miles she has was the blond. A hard choice at the best of times. Be lying if i said i didn't have a thing for blondes though : )

I have put an offer in on Kuhela and am currently in negotiations with the owner to settle on price and conditions. It looks like the work that she needs doing will take a little bit longer than i though, but may actually turn out to be really good, as it gives me time on board working with Phil, the owner, to learn more about her. He is going to take care of re-painting the bottom while i will take on re-painting the non skid on the decks. Thinking of the work that need to be done, this will mean i wont take full ownership till the 1st of march, but will have access over feburary to start getting some of the other things i want on board in order. This is all subject to a survey and sea trial that will hopefully happen next week sometime or before the end of the month.

I called Al, owner of the Cabo, yesterday to let him know where things were at. He's been really good in spending time and passing on information and someone is going to end up with a great boat when he lists it. He would be a good person to buy a boat off of.

So now i am waiting for the meeting with the owner and the broker, and then its survey, sea trial and the work starts.

This has been a big step in the story and I'm still working through all the things involved. Sometimes it does feel a bit overwhelming really and i start to wonder how I'm going to pull this whole thing off. I am learning a lot though, about the boat buying process and more importantly, myself. Being here on my own and having no one on hand to talk things through and bounce ideas off of is hard sometimes, but its also helping me to trust in myself and my decisions. I've also been learning that when things seem a bit overwhelming and full on, its mostly in my head and if I just deal with whats happening at that moment i can let go of a lot of the stress that's going on upstairs in my head.

good news as well, I got a couple surfs in. not the usual surfs, but went to the flowrider one day and had a session out there, so much fun. pretty much just busted my ass for an hour, but had some great laughs doing it and started to get the hang of it at the end. I'm also couchsurfing, signed up on the website and am currently crashing at another Josh's house. Pretty cool crew and been really good to hang out with. St. Pete is a pretty cool little town too with music and art everywhere. Think its going to be a cool spot to hang while i get things sorted to head off.

Stay tuned for the results of how it all plays out and the latest adventures.

P.S. the above comparison of blondes and brunettes does not represent everyone but is rather a comparison of these two specific ladies. I absolutely admit that brunettes can have great travel stories and surf and the blondes can be high maintenance and  refined. ; )

P.P.S. the above disclaimer is in no way confined to Emily Moutet or Kelly Patience but rather to all blondes and brunettes out there.

 

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