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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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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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.

 

 

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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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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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Merry Christmas and Happy New Years Update

Merry Christmas and a happy new year to all the Family and friends out there. I hope this year is the start of an awesome year for you all and you follow your hearts and your dreams to where they may lead you.

 

Well it’s been a couple weeks since I got here and I think I’ve settled in and am finding my way around now. Took a bit to get used to and it hasn’t really been what I was expecting so far, but that’s all part of it. The yachts have been a bit more spread out that I thought and it’s taken a bit to figure out where to go and the best way to go about things, but that’s all part of the journey.

 

I spent a week or so up in Ft. Lauderdale looking around up there, and did a lot of walking. If your looking for yachts up there either buy some good shoes or rent a car. Lots of ground to cover. I had been trying to stay away from using a broker and did get a good contact just by asking around, more on that later. I did end up using a few brokers and was able to have a look at a couple different designs and have been able to narrow the search down a bit. I had a look at a tartan and have pretty much ruled that out as it’s a too small for what I want, I’ve looked at the Island packet 35 and 38 and there both good cruising boats, but the lack something, I want to say character, but I'm not sure that’s the right word. There still on the list though.

 

Then there’s the Cabo Rico 38, which was on the wish list and happens to be the one I got a contact for by chance. I met with the owner and spent a few hours going though her with him. He’s owned her from new and has lived and cruised on boat for the last sixteen years, he knows her back to front and seems to take great care of her. Whether on not this boat is the one or not, he’s the kind of person I would like to buy a yacht from. The only thing with these is that they only have one cabin and a quarter berth, which is another bed but without a separate cabin with a door. Would be good to have a private, separate space for people when they came to visit but could be worked around. Another good thing with this yacht is that it is straight from the owner, so no broker, who normally takes ten percent, so leaves a bit more flexibility with price as well. I have to check out some other designs up the west coast next week and then will make a decision in the next few weeks I guess. If I don’t see anything else I will make an offer in on the Cabo Rico. Scary but exciting.  the picture attached is her. Tell me what you think.

 

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Sailed and Sandaled

What an awesome weekend. Couldn’t have wished for any better way to be sent off for this trip. Catching up with friends and family, sharing laughs, good vibes, good food, and topping it all off with a surf.  What more could you want.  

I am so grateful for dad and mom for doing this for me; they went all out and make it such a memorable day. To have the family around and supporting me and sharing time together is the greatest feeling. They are the core of this whole endeavor. It means the

world to me.

 

The gifts, words and well wishes I received were amazing.  To hear how this trip was in some small way inspiring the people around me was truly humbling. This whole thing, who I am, what I want to achieve in life is a culmination of all those around me, those who have inspired, supported, shared a laugh or helped me along the way, sometimes in ways you may not have even realized.  To share this and have a chat to very special people in my life, in person and on the phone, was awesome. I wish everyone the best in their journeys though this life. We get one time around. Dream big, live life and enjoy

this moment right here and right now.

 

Thanks so much to everyone for coming along and for the messages from those that couldn’t make it. Was an awesome day and the best way I could think of to start my trip.

 

My thoughts and prayers go out to dad and the family as well, Life is short and who knows what will happen. Uncle Keith you will be missed. Thank you for all the love and support you showed me over the years.

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The Search Continues

Still looking around at whats on offer. Came across the Cabo Rico 34 that looks like its got some good gear on board and could be worth some further inspection.Bit smaller than I had originally wanted, but have to have a look on board to see when I get over to the States. Work....still not sure how that's going to play out for the rest of the year. Think were getting sent home early, but still waiting to hear. Here's a few pics of the Cabo RIco.

 

 

 

 

Tartan 37

I was contacted by John Neal recently, who is working with me to find the right yacht, about another possible option. I had not really looked into the Tartans previously but, on looking into this one and doing a bit of research, they have a good reputation and this looks like it could be worth looking into. The current owners seem like interesting people and into some pretty amazing stuff, base jumping and sky diving, and spend alot of times outdoors and living life to the full. Think that t is important to get a good idea of the previous owners as it gives an idea into what level of care has been put into the boat. These guys seem like they are good crew.

Good to have another option and will just have to wait and see how it plays out. Not long to go before i get on the road and give this a go. StellaBlueDescription0812-1

Cant wait, the search continues.

 

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Last minute NZ Delivery

Crossing the Tasman in the middle of winter is not something I take lightly, but when many different things all come together it does provide for adventure and the chance to explore somewhere new.  

To say that this was a last minute event is almost an understatement. I work on a barge off shore of NW Austrlia and had just gotten off at the end of a swing when I got the email - There was a yacht in Wollongong leaving for New Zealand ASAP, was I interested? This was enough to rouse my interest and make call to find out some more. I had a chat to one of the crew and got the basic details, the boat was a Roberts 44 named “Periclees” that the owner had purchased and was taking home to prepare to go cruising. The owner wasn’t on board at that moment, however, but would call back soon. The next thing I did was check the weather to see what we could expect and if it was good idea, like I said, not something I took lightly. I found that there was actually a really good window for crossing and could expect reasonable weather for most of the way, as far ahead as the predictions and current situation indicated anyways. My interest grew.

 

There were a few other small details though. At that moment I was sitting in Karratha about to fly to Perth and was not scheduled to fly back to the east coast for a few days. I decided to think about it on the flight down and would either decide to leave it or talk to the owner and make a final decision from there. I mulled my options over on the flight and came up with a plan. I’d to trust my gut instinct, which was telling me to go, and would talk to the owner and make a decision depending on talking to him. This would mean changing flights, getting the red eye from Perth to Sydney and making my way down to the boat for departure sometime that day. A long haul, but doable. Sometimes you just have to go.

 

I got to Perth and called Dave, the owner, and this sealed my decision. He answered the majority of my questions without even having to ask. The boat had all the necessary safety gear, the crew had experience and he was able to give me a web listing with good info on the boat. They had actually left two days prior but had to turn back when one of the crew dislocated a shoulder rolling out of bed. I told him I’d be there and then made a few calls to change flights and let my parents know the plan. Two hours ago it was to spend a few days with them and celebrating my sisters birthday before flying home, sorry sis. I like to keep them on their toes. Flights were arranged and I did get to spend some time with the folks before flying out.

 

After a long plane trip and a short train ride I arrived to meet the crew and see what I’d gotten myself into. There was Dave, the owner, who had worked on boats for many years and sailed quite a lot around New Zealand, Synco, who occasionally raced with Dave and turned out to be an electrical Mac Guyver and John, another sailing mate of Dave’s who was a surveyor and worked in W.A. as well. They were all good crew and we got along well from the start and had a chat over some breakfast to go over some details. After a look around and a basic induction we were off to customs and immigration and were throwing lines and underway soon after.

 

We settled into the routine of sailing, getting to know each other and becoming accustomed to the boat. It always takes a day or two for me to settle in, find where everything lives and get the feel of the motion of a particular vessel. As forecast the weather was pleasant, SE at 12-15kts, with only a small residual swell running and held that way for a few days. “Pericless” herself seemed to be a good solid boat, the third built by her previous owner. She was well set up and you could see the thought put into little things throughout. Some of the fit out showed a bit more emphasis on function over form but in some ways this only added to her charm. We then got acquainted with the fifth and hardest working member of the crew “Fanny” the wind vane steering. After getting her set up, which was surprisingly easy, she dutifully kept us on our course and worked away silently and without complaint for ninety percent of the trip. This was the first time I had used wind vane steering and was very impressed. Settled into the routine we passed the time chatting, eating and trying to beat Dave at cribbage, no easy task, but accomplished by John and in so doing setting up the challenge for the trip. Synco was our self designated radioman and had scheds set up with mates back in NZ and also with the marine rescue in Nelson to keep them informed of our progress. Each transmission preceded by the whistling the theme song to the smurfs, don’t think ill ever forget that song now.

 

The crossing took us ten days and we had good weather for the majority of the trip, even managing a swim at the half way mark. We did get hammered in the last couple days though by a system of converging fronts but were well prepared for it through weather faxes and forecasts. The pilothouse was brilliant for this; sitting through watch with 35-40 kts blowing outside and being warm and dry was priceless. We had a deep second reef and a small headsail and this kept us sailing along through most of it, only having to hove to for a few hours at the worst of it. To have perfect weather for all but two days is a pretty good crossing in my opinion. It took us only three tacks to get from Wollongong to Nelson, not bad. The boat and crew held up well with nothing more than a few blocked fuel filters to be changed out along the way.

 

We reached Nelson, greeted by low cloud and mist sitting in the valleys along the shore while the mountains looked on like silent guardians from above as we approached. It was all very mysterious, like sailing in a dream and it felt amazing. Here I was laying my eyes on New Zealand for the first time, it was a great trip, it was a new place and it was adventure. Trusting that little voice inside had paid off. Dave’s family, holding a banner, a bottle of champagne and cheering us all home greeted us in and after a fairly quick and painless process with customs and quarantine we were tied up and had time to chat and laugh and share the events of the trip with those on the jetty. If you trust your gut instinct it can lead you to some amazing places.

New options

A few new yachts have just been put on the market and are looking as some very good possible options. Have sent the specs through to John, the consultant working with me and he has given some good info and opinions on them. Will keep an eye on these and if these are still on the market in a couple months will get the ball rolling with the surveyor to go have a look and tell me what he thinks. Here is the link to some of them if you would like to have a look. http://au.yachtworld.com/boats/1989/Island-Packet-38-Cruising-Cutter-2481225/United-States

http://au.yachtworld.com/boats/1988/Island-Packet-38-2366243/United-States

http://au.yachtworld.com/boats/1988/Island-Packet-38-2419224/United-States

On another note the pipe-lay contract i have been waiting for is finally about to get started, will be great to get some money coming in and get my budget back on track. Didn't really factor having this long a break in between contracts, but ya get that.