Back To Sailing Onward

Nicole Family 04-16-17

Hello friends and family!  After a couple year sabbatical from blogging, the time feels right to take up my pen and share the joys and struggles of our past couple years.  The great news is that we are all alive and well and very busy planning our big sail to the South Pacific and beyond in Spring 2018.  The plan is to sail through all the islands of French Polynesia then on to Fiji and New Zealand (or maybe Australia, still time to decide).  After that we will see which way the wind blows, maybe more South Pacific Islands or maybe Southeast Asia (Malasia, Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines etc) or maybe we will buy a Land Cruiser in Africa and spend a year wandering that amazing continent.  I think half the fun of travel is not knowing what is next.  We have 3000 miles of sailing from Mexico to French Polynesia, that will give us about 3 weeks to decide where we will go after that.

The struggle part of our lives is that a year and a half ago Jack was diagnosed with Stage IV throat cancer with metastasis to 4 lymph nodes in his neck.  We were planning to sail to French Polynesia last year but this diagnosis changed everything.  He tried various natural treatments with some degree of success, reduction in lymph node swelling and decrease in primary tumor size.  However after 8 months he decided it was time to hit it with the big guns.  Last summer he went through chemo and radiation in Tijuana Mexico.  We found excellent doctors and state of the art facilities.  We lived on our boat at the beautiful Hotel Coral Marina in Ensenada and drove the 3 hour round trip to Tijuana daily for 8 weeks of radiation with chemo every 3 weeks.  So much more I could write about all this, and I might someday, but the short version is that the cancer is gone!  Jack just had his 9 month scan and it was perfect.  Praise God!  He/we have been through a lot in the past year.  Chemo and radiation are beasts, but they killed the bigger beast and he got through it like a champ.  I so love this strong man I married almost 9 years ago!  He feels he has a new lease on life and we are taking our family motto “seize the day!” to a new level.

We had such a good experience with cancer treatment in Mexico, I actually toyed with the idea of starting a medical tourism business.  I loved the close contact we had with the doctors, I could WhatsApp them at any time to ask questions or report problems and they would text right back or call.  The radiation oncologist became a close friend and has been to our boat twice with his family.  We were able to pay cash for all scans and treatment, very affordable.  I quickly nixed the “medical tourism” business idea because it would have taken us in a totally different direction and we were already living our dream.

So … the current plan is:  my dad flys in this Friday June 2 for ten days to help us with final boat preparations.  I drop my dad off at the San Diego airport June 12 and pick up Buzzy and Paddy, good friends and hot air balloon pilots on our ballooning team who will crew with us 700 miles from Ensenada to Cabo San Lucas.

After that it’s sailing and diving over the summer in the Sea of Cortez and continuing to prepare the boat for our 2018 circumnavigation.  We are thankful for friends who have already signed up for various legs of our upcoming journey.  In keeping with early 17th century British Royal Navy tradition, and their 1 gallon a day ration of beer for the sailors, I do have a brewery on the boat and make some pretty tasty IPAs, but I can’t promise the sailors ration of 1 gallon of beer per day to our crew.  Wowzers!

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Video Postcard 2015, “Let it Be”

Hello from IL!  We have been on a little road trip visiting friends and family in the US.  Next week we plan to head back to our much-missed “Let it Be”, which we left quietly tucked in for a short summers rest in Mexico.

I just finished a video that I hope will give you a little taste of our sailing lifestyle.  I took the liberty to exclude various challenging moments, including but not limited to:  feeding of the fish during rough passages, night anchor watches during storms, cooking with canned veggies b/c we’ve eaten all the fresh and we are literally in the middle of nowhere, whining kids b/c there is only water all around us and no playmates, boat repairs in a MacGyver-ish kinda way because there are no parts stores in the desert … But hey, the good far outweighs the bad, and we all do love our gypsy lifestyle and the interesting, quirky and amazing people and families we meet along the way.

Hope you enjoy!

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Cat Calls and Summer Squalls, Part IV

Cap’n Jack here…

In the previous episode of Cat Calls Summer Squalls I was saying…

…At night the cat calls kept us wake. I awoke at about 3:00 am on morning only to find Nicole fully awake and both of us thinking about catamarans. We could not stop thinking of the possibilities. I could not stop thinking of the drawbacks of cats. The Kitty Hawk was like a part of me. Breaking that bond would be like cutting my arm off. Could I do it? Would I do it? Could I dash all of Nicole’s hopes and now dreams? This was one summer squall that messed up my head and became a maelstrom in my heart.

And now for the long awaited finale…

Part IV

Kitty Hawk Tied to the Orana 44 in the Magothy River

Kitty Hawk Tied to the Orana 44 in the Magothy River

Once at the Magothy River we tied up alongside Ile de Grace the Orana 44 that Jon and Jennifer Galudemans own. We learned a lot that weekend and the kids loved jumping on the trampoline.  I got more than an earful of all of their experiences on their circumnavigation and found that I had begun to succumb to the cats’ callings as I began to see myself actually sailing and living aboard those boats. Jon made a comment that stuck with me. He stated, “We did not sail around the world as much as we anchored around the world”. Considering that cruisers spend about 90% of their time at anchor, the comforts of living on a “catamaran condo” weighed heavily in the cat’s favor. This meant that whatever drawback there was to the sailing of a catamaran this would only impact us 10% of the time. “I could live with that” I thought to myself. The big cruising catamarans can in fact feel like a condo on the water. They have so much room inside and out, plus the trampoline is like having a front yard for the kids to play on.

USS Enterprise

USS Enterprise

The wrap around windshield of the salon reminds me of the observation deck of the USS Enterprise, the Star Trek one. It would not only have that terrific view but we could stand there looking out into inner space and dream of the sights we would see from there as we traveled the world. A voice saying, “These are the voyages of the star-ship…” playing in the back of our minds.

Switching boats would be like moving from a two bedroom two bath house to a four by four, plus a huge cockpit, deck, etc. The thought of a new house, especially one we would buy together, definitely made the wife happy. Purr, purr, purr!


“Where do land people hang their laundry mama?” asks Marietta.

In the past, one of the things I did not like about cats was their motion. I much preferred the hobby horse motion of a mono-hull under sail. I did not mind the healing either, but I wasn’t the one trying to cook and care for the kids while under way. Once we got out on our Bahia 46 I was pleasantly surprised by her motion. It was not like the one I had experienced on a different smaller cat years before. With her weight and the distribution thereof, her movement was gentle and not choppy. Sailing fast and not healing meant being able to carry on with life as usual while under way instead of wedging oneself into a corner

Sailing Fast in Light Wind

Sailing Fast in Light Wind

while using ones legs to brace against the opposite seat and with the kids strapped into their car seats for far too many hours. Sailing fast in light winds and being able to point higher that our previous boat meant more comfort under sail and more choices in terms of weather windows. It also adds to the safety factor related to making faster passages. On the biggest leg of a Pacific crossing we could expect to easily cut a week to ten days off that passage. That means that the risk of adverse weather catching up with us is reduced by reaching safe harbor sooner. Since we can sail closer to the wind we don’t have to wait for the wind to shift. Sailing fast in light winds means that we can get out there when the seas are kinder.

Bahia 46 Sail Plan Drawing

Bahia 46 Sail Plan Drawing

Catamarans being light as they must be to sail well do not have a thick hull with a heavy layup such as our previous “coral cruncher”. This fact together with the fact that they have spade mounted rudders were two reasons I had my reservations against cats. How did I mitigate those issues? Well, sometimes you have to take the good with the bad. If you want one thing then you can’t have another, such are the compromises, however this is not exactly the case here. Ok, I said I would not go to sea with a spade hung rudder and although there are cats with skeg mounted rudders, this is not the case with the FP. However, the fact that rudders on cats are much smaller than on a mono-hull and the fact that there are two of them, plus the fact that the cats track better and have less load on the rudders than on a mono-hull reduces the need to have the rudder fully supported. Aside from that, FP’s have a solid stainless steel rudder shaft inserted into a very long rudder shaft tube which is fully integrated into a bulkhead which makes for a solid, beefy installation. The family who owned Let it Be before us sailed back from New Zeland to French Polynesia in the Roaring Forties. This alone attests to the vessels seaworthiness in my book. They did however have trouble with their steering but that was due to a failure of one of the rudder’s tiller arm. The failure was caused because the owner modified it by replacing one of the set screws with a larger one, thereby reducing the effective area of the metal around it, so it cracked and let go, allowing the rudder to spin around and collide

CSY 44 Walk-over

CSY 44 Walk-over

with the saildrive. We have addressed this potential failure point by having a beefier tiller arm machined and will carry the originals as spares. As for the thinner lighter hulls, well, we must be more careful not to hit coral, but since the boat draws less than four and half feet, the chances of this are reduced. More so, since the keels on this boat are designed to break away without compromising the hull, the actual hulls are only about two feet under water. Those keels are set in such a way as to protect the saildrives and the rudder. In reality we just need to make sure we do not hit anything. We certainly will not be taking the chances we took with the CSY.
We have heard of a catamaran that had one of its saildrives pulled out by a line that got wrapped in the propeller. The rubber membrane which creates a seal between it and the hull pulled out of its retainer ring leaving a gaping hole where water entered and began to flood the engine compartment. They saved their boat by shoving a towel in the gap from the outside while deploying additional bilge pumps to keep up with the flow. They then managed to re-attach the membrane. Although this is an area of risk, on the Bahia this has been mitigated by building water proof bulkheads which separate the engine compartments for the rest of the hull. Bahia 46 Plan ViewAlso, the volume under the steps in the back of the boat is filled with foam to add flotation in such emergencies. The area behind the bows is also filled with foam to a level well above the waterline in case the hull is compromised by crashing into an underwater obstruction. One cliche used by multi-hullers in defense of their choice of boat is that a multi-hull’s natural resting place when holed and filled with water is on the surface of the water, however, a mono-hull, with a ballasted keel, will rest on the bottom of the ocean. When it comes to an ocean rescue, being spotted and a partially submerged catamaran is easier than looking for a life raft or people bobbing in the water with life preservers. So this is another plus for cats.

What about catamarans capsizing? This is something I feared. After sailing the Kitty Hawk through Tropical Storm Gama I knew what she could do and how safe I felt on her even in those conditions. I was apprehensive of the cats, but was pleased to learn how stable cruising cats are and the fact that stability is built into the design. One of those mitigating factors, I have been told, is that the rig in this cat is designed to give way, break off, before it will capsize the boat. Such is why it’s recommend that we reef, that is reduce sail, as recommended by the manufactures when the wind increases. “Reef by the numbers” say the multi-hullers. Before these cats begin to raise one hull out of the water, the boat should begin to side slip, thereby reducing the risk of a capsize, so I am told.
I must admit there were many other factors which I weighed in this process of selecting a cat, but none of those was as hard as simply breaking with the Kitty Hawk. What helped with that was that we sold the boat quickly to a couple that had done their research well and appreciated everything we had put in her. Also, we got to really liking the couple,   and have become good friends with the Prices. For me it was like giving my daughter away in marriage and I was please that she had found a good match. The other thing that helped was when we found this boat online, being sailed by a family like us, we immediately felt this was the right boat for us. Then we learned its name and it was “Let It Be”. Beyond all of my concerns and confusion thereof, the name spoke to something deep within me. The cat said, “Let it Be”.

…and they lived happily ever after.


Happy Skipper

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How ’bout Some Pictures?

Cap’n Jack Here…

Hey, I just got the bright idea to upload a bunch of photos.

We are in Santa Rosalía, a small mining town located about half way up the Baja California peninsula.  We arrived after a few days at Isla San Marcos, about nine miles away where we were treated to a wonderful nature show.  Early one morning I began to hear what sounded like popping , really more like flopping sounds, near the boat and from a distance, sounds which also echoed off the rocky shore.  I went outside and was amazed at the sight of Bat Rays, by the hundreds jumping out of the water and then landing with a belly flop.  They just kept going on and on and some even did a forward flip, landing on their back side.  It was one of those Cousteau moments, definitely!  I quickly went and extracted the kids from their morning routing (watching a cartoon video) and when they saw the action Marietta exclaimed, “Papa, this is better than watching a documentary!”  It just so happens that “documentary” was Marietta’s first big word; it is still very cute the way she enunciates it.

Traveling up the Sea of Cortez gets more and more remote as one goes north.  We have not posted much because of lack  of Internet service and we hear this is pretty much the end of the line.  We have not written much either, because when we move so much or so often, the business of keeping the boat up and running, all the charting, weather and navigational preparedness, plus all the exploring and mandatory kid beach excursions, not to mention the day to day chores, before we know it the day is gone, and we, go to bed with the chickens here.  However, I do wake up before sunrise and these are some of the golden moments. The possibility of actually being able jot something down.

Bat Rays Jumping

Bat Rays Jumping

Bat Rays flap their wings furiously as if trying to remain airborne.

Bat Rays flap their wings furiously as if trying to remain airborne.

Megan our editor, is regularly chastising me for being too wordy.  If a picture is truly “worth a thousand words” then this post should top the cake.  Before we lose it, we will use the remaining air time on our internet dongle to upload a bunch of pictures.  All truth be told, the “word” out there is that you folks would rather see pictures than trudge through some of my rantings.  My source? FB of course.  I read those comments y’all send to Nicole.  Pictures and pictures of the kids no less, is by far what the public demands. So, here you go:


At anchor. In Grand Canyon? No, it’s Timbabiche.


The Stars of The Show


Mangroves, the green in this desert.

All Hands on Deck.

All Hands on Deck.

Bonfire on the Beach

Bonfire on the Beach

Painted Desert

Painted Desert


Sea Lion Colony

Salt Lake

Salt Lake

Red Rocks at Puerto Los Gatos

Red Rocks at Puerto Los Gatos

Music Hour Onboard

Music Hour On Board

Jack Jack's B-day Puppy Cake Delivery

Jack Jack’s B-day Puppy Cake Delivery

A Day at the Beach

A Day at the Beach

So, Nicole just frowned at me for putting in a few nature/landscape shots.  Quote, “No, no, people want to see pictures of the family.  There are no people in those shots.”  I said, “A mix is good, but lets allow our readers to comment on this one.”  So folks, is it pics with only people or a mix?

Hope you enjoyed this picture essay?

Cap’n Jack signing off and warning you that we will be in remote wilderness areas for the next 6-8 weeks, so no internet.  So, call us on the SSB radio, OK? Or, maybe smoke signals? Over and out.

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Looking Back

Cap’n Jack here…

La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, Puerto Vallarta and Banderas Bay


Caleta Partida


Caleta Partida Sunrise

It’s a good thing that our blog is about “the places we’ve been” because it gives us the opportunity to write post facto and make up for not having shared some of our travels. Our blog name gives us the license to revisit past experiences some of which may be part of our history before the blog (BTB). We are delighted and blessed with Megan, Nicole’s sister, who has made up for some of our deficiencies in keeping the blog posting going. She has dutifully taken some of Nicole’s Facebook postings and compiled them into the blog which in some way has kept our readers abreast of our cruising life. Thank you Megan.


Bahia Balandra


Giant sand dunes at Bahia Los Muertos

We are now at anchor in the beautiful Sea of Cortez, known locally as El Golfo de California, on the Baja California peninsula side in a bight known as Caleta Partida between Isla Partida and Isla Espiritu Santo. Partida means split in Spanish and in fact there is a small channel that splits what would otherwise be one big island, located at the head of the mile long bight, which looks more like a fiord with its steep volcanic cliffs. It looks like we have anchored in the Grand Canyon, believe it or not. The dramatic terrain, the colors, the cactus and the Peregrine falcons , make a sail boat seem out of place. A boat in the desert? Yes, but when you look at the wonderfully clear water, the white sand beaches and the prolific sea life, the abundant sea birds diving by the hundreds, the cacophony and the ruckus they and the fish are making as the water boils with bait fish jumping and the bigger fish thrashing the surface, reminds us that yes, we are at sea, and a wonderful sea at that.


Under the Huanacaxtle Tree!

We have recently arrived here after having spent the winter months in Banderas Bay, which is where you find the beautiful resort town of Puerto Vallarta, however, we spent most of our time anchored off a small fishing village located on the north side of the bay known as La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, pronounced wanna-cash-tl-eh. Huanacaxtle is the Nahuatl language name of what we know as the Guanacaste tree (a.k.a. Flamboyant or Royal Poinciana) which translates as ‘big ear’.  If you have ever seen the seed pod from those trees you would understand why the name, however, they look more like an old boxers cauliflower ear, a bit deformed, in fact. In the center of town there is a big cross fashioned from the wood of one of those trees and the main square is shaded by some huge specimens reportedly over 150 years old, hence the name for the town. It is a laid back quaint little Mexican town with cobble stone streets, which has been transformed over time to cater to the sailing/cruising community. It has many small restaurants and bars, some of them set up by ex-cruisers who liked it there and stayed, venues which cater an international fare and host some very proficient musicians whose rhythms spill into the streets filling the night air with echoes of flamenco, rumba and of course rock’n roll, of the 60’s and 70’s era, a genre which matches the vintage of the majority of cruisers that make this their annual wintering haunt.


American Indian language of the Uto-Aztecan family, spoken in central and western Mexico. Nahuatl, the most important of the Uto-Aztecan languages, was the language of the Aztec and Toltec civilizations of Mexico.

Encyclopedia Britannica


Christmas dinner with our friends on Kenta Anae


The kids at Christmas dinner

Our sojourn in La Cruz allowed us time to make friends with other cruising families, work on the kids’ swimming skills, work on our boat, work on other peoples’ boats and time to wait for friends and family to visit us. Long ago we decided we would not sail to anybody’s schedule to meet up somewhere or deliver visitors to some port to meet a scheduled flight. Schedules like that make for stressful cruising and sometimes bad decisions which involve risks and bad weather. It was nice to be in one place long enough for people to plan their vacation with us.


Casa Hule’s patio under the rubber tree; our favorite pizza place in La Cruz.

First we had Nicole’s parents, Wayne and Kathi come visit us. They stayed on the boat a couple of nights and then moved to a nice little thatched roof bungalow on the beach nearby for one week. Although our floating condo is very accommodating, I can’t blame those two “lovebirds” for wanting to enjoy their peace and quiet in a lovely romantic tropical setting, with the scent of jasmine in the night air and the sound of the waves crashing on the shore, while they lay in a hammock or slept with wide doors open to the sea under the Mombasa net draped over their big bed. That is in contrast to being woken up a 5:00 a.m. by some very excited and rambunctious grandchildren.

IMG_0945Next we had Todd, Chris, Zoe and Eli Rundquist, our good friends from St. Louis, Missouri, who came and spent ten days on board. With all our guests we tootled around the bay where we had some amazing humpback whale close encounters, we saw hundreds of dolphin with pods of them peeling off from a huge school and swimming playfully before our bows who accompanied us for a long time.  Sea turtles, manta rays, devil rays and fish boils in the middle of the bay with thousands of birds diving into them for a meal. Of course we were trolling our hooks through those, but had little luck; probably due to our lures looking different than the plentiful live bait they were feeding on. We took day trips to Las Tres Mariettas islands, anchored at Punta de Mita at the entrance to the bay, and visited a village in a tiny cove on the south side of the bay known as Yelapa.


Thar she blows!


Thar she rises!


She’s gonna sound!


Thar she goes! Down to the deep!

We also took an hour long bus ride into PV (Puerto Vallarta) one day to re-provision at the local Sam’s Club and Walmart. One time of riding in those hot buses with a Jack Jack who missed his daily nap was enough to discourage those forays for the remainder of our time there. On future missions we decided Papa would stay with Jack while he napped and Mama would go to the store, most times with the little Ta tagging along.

To be continued…

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Gingerbread houses, alligators, and more fishing

Things are finally slowing down after the Christmas festivities, the kids enjoyed every minute of celebrating Jesus birthday and we had some fun times with new friends. All the kids on boats got together Christmas day to make gingerbread houses, Jack Jack was more interested in eating his house while Marietta worked tirelessly making hers look beautiful.

Yesterday we took our boat out of the harbor to make some water, explore some nearby islands and hopefully catch some dinner. We succeeded in all areas and enjoyed a nice fish curry last night. I’m having a little trouble connecting to the internet because the cell towers are overloaded with all the tourists here for the holidays, got up early this morning to upload my pics. Have a safe and fabulous New Years Eve everyone!

Project gingerbread house went late into the evening on Christmas.

Project gingerbread house went late into the evening on Christmas.

Finishing the lawn and garden on her little palace.

Finishing the lawn and garden on her little palace.

Jack Jack's favorite Christmas present.

Jack Jack’s favorite Christmas present.

Catch of the day, soon to be fish curry. We actually caught 2 of these Jack fish and gave one to the neighbor.

Catch of the day, soon to be fish curry. We actually caught 2 of these Jack fish and gave one to the neighbor.

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Merry Christmas from the crew of Let it Be!

Jack and the kids had a fun day finishing the dinghy/sleigh decorations yesterday as I did shopping in the vegetable market for upcoming Christmas eats. As the sun went down in the evening we dressed up, filled a bag with candy canes, plugged the lights into our main starting battery, which was offloaded to the dinghy, and cast off. We tootled around the large anchorage for a couple hours singing our much practiced Christmas carols. I think “Feliz Navidad” was a universal favorite. I played guitar, Jack was on bongo when he wasn’t motoring to keep us from running into the boat we were currently singing to, Marietta was our lead singer and candy-cane-hander-outer and Jack Jack took to his own invented instrument, banging a coke bottle with a spatula, like no tomorrow. It was fun to bring cheer and smiles to our neighbors and I love teaching our little guys to use their imagination and create their own fun. Merry Christmas to all from the crew of “Let it Be!”

Christmas caroling in our sleigh on the water.

Christmas caroling in our sleigh on the water.

Jack and Marietta working on our sleigh decorations.

Jack and Marietta working on our sleigh decorations.

This is what people saw coming towards their boat yesterday evening. Jack did a great decorating job! And as a side note, my engineer husband made the arches so strong they could probably withstand 40mph winds and the waves that go with those winds.

This is what people saw coming towards their boat yesterday evening. Jack did a great decorating job! And as a side note, my engineer husband made the arches so strong they could probably withstand 40mph winds and the waves that go with those winds.

Jack Jack with his own invented instrument, banging the tar out of a plastic bottle with a spatula.

Jack Jack with his own invented instrument, banging the tar out of a plastic bottle with a spatula.

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