Such is Why

Captain Jack here…

Back in 2010, Nicole and I set sail from La Ceiba, Honduras headed for Panama.  We had been working on the Kitty Hawk since we got back to Honduras after our honeymoon with the idea of someday starting a circumnavigation.

Continuing Honeymoon

Continuing Honeymoon

Circumnavigation?  Well, something like that or sort of.  You see, as the saying goes, “Sailors don’t have plans, just intentions.” And boy is that statement true.  So many things can change in this life and in fact they do and when they do, you must adapt.  Some factors are within our control and others not.  Sometimes we are caught up in conditions, wind and waves for example, that we cannot change even though we wish we could.  However helpless we may feel about the hand we are dealt when out at sea there is always something we can do.  We can always adjust our sails, change our point of sail or course and destination.  All I can say is, if you can’t be flexible about your plans then this life is not for you. What about the circumnavigation?  Well, this I have learned over the past twelve years of cruising.  The intention is not about sailing around the world, instead it is centered around sailing about the world.  Since we started, Nicole and I have sailed over 12,000 nautical miles and before that I had accumulated well over 8,000.  For me that adds up to over 20,000 miles, a distance which is not too far from that of a complete circumnavigation and all of that on the Atlantic seaboard and the Caribbean Sea.

Back then we made it to the Panama Canal.  We had a mechanical problem with our new engine, so we had to stay at the Shelter Bay Marina not only to fix the engine, but also to connect with our friend Clive, a Kiwi we got to be friends with back in Honduras. He was on his way to Australia on his Morgan 47 ketch, Orchid Lady.  He had agreed to buy our old dinghy and we had agreed to help him transit the canal as his line handlers.  Since we had planned to follow suit the following year, we welcomed the opportunity to learn what it would take to transit the canal in our boat.  Clive had two guys on board as crew and with us two that gave him the minimum crew required in case we transited the locks unattached to another vessel.  With two lines on each side, fore and aft, we could essentially hold the vessel in the center of the lock while the churning waters filled and emptied to raise and lower us. As it turns out we ended up being rafted up in threes, two monohulls with a Catamaran in between, so we only needed line handlers on one side, but the loads pulling on those lines were considerably augmented.

Locked In

Locked In

The first locking showed me that it would be better to use a turning block at the cleat and run the line to a winch.  That way I could more easily take in or let out the line as we rose and fell in the locks.

The folks in the catamaran next to us were German and had a little baby on board, maybe six months old. Back in the marina we had been tied next to a Swiss boat who’s captain was married to a Colombian woman and besides a 7 year old boy, they had a baby about 9 months old.  That was surprising to us since they were about to begin a Pacific crossing. Now there was a second couple doing the same.  That night we commented to ourselves about the risks associated with undertaking such a passage with babies.  It is one thing to sail along the coast or in the Caribbean where one can be easily reached by a helicopter in case of a life or death emergency.  However, out in the middle of the Pacific, one is way out of reach of such rescue crafts.  The next morning while moored in Lake Gatun Nicole commented

Beutifully Pregnant (in the Vivorillos)

Beautifully Pregnant
(in the Vivorillos)

how she felt seasick.  “Seasick?” I exclaimed in awe. “It is flat as a mirror out there.  It’s probably something you ate,” I said.  The next morning she felt seasick again, but that was understandable since we awoke on the Pacific side, rocking and rolling to the wakes of the shipping traffic entering and exiting the canal.  Upon return to the Kitty Hawk a pregnancy test revealed the cause of the malaise, it was positive and no rabbit had to die. (Even my RN wife never heard of this Neolithic Age method for determining pregnancy. Ha!). All of a sudden our plans were up in the air, “What now?”  It was the month of March and we had planned to spend that year in the San Blas Islands and Cartagena, Colombia to do some more work on the boat before beginning our Pacific Crossing the following March.


Nicole and the Mola Artist

Pork Roast Dinner in Chichime

Pork Roast Dinner in Chichime

We figured that the baby would be born in the fall so that would mean the baby would be about six months old at the time of our crossing. Hmmm? Not a good thing.  What if the baby gets seriously ill on such a long passage.  It could take us three to four weeks or more to get from Galapagos to Marquesas 3000 miles apart.  That very year one of our friends on Flina had a badly infected finger due to an injury that could have become deadly.  Already the infection was so bad that the risk of blood poisoning ensued. Red striations were already visible running up his arm. Through their SSB radio they were able to hail our other friends on Sarah II who deviated from their course to rendezvous with them a couple of days later with much needed antibiotics on board.  Flina and the finger were saved, but even with Nicole’s medical expertise and an array of medical supplies on board we agreed that such a passage was not something we would attempt with a new born.  So we spent a season in the San Blas and decided to return to Honduras before the start of the hurricane season, where Marietta was born.


Marietta in her Mola Dress (courtesy of auntie Dorothy)

That is how we ended up cruising the Eastern Seaboard and the Bahamas for the last few years. And that decision was followed by the fact that we did not want Marietta to be an only child, so then Jack Benjamin came to be and was born on the boat in Charleston, South Carolina.  Our plans of crossing the Pacific got pushed way back. We envied our friends on Soggy Paws who were already in the South Pacific.  Every time we spoke with them they kept egging us on to catch up with them.  We had decided to be coastal sailors until we grew the crew.


Marietta, Mami B and Mami Marietta and of course the proud Papa.

On the way back to Honduras

On the way back to Honduras




The Sea of Cortez has always been a place on my bucket list of places to go, hence entering the Pacific via Panama seemed like we would miss it especially if we departed from there heading to the Galapagos; another one of those places on the list.  When the plan to remain coastal developed, we began to plan a trip through the Panama Canal, up the Pacific Coast of the Americas to spend a couple of seasons in the Sea of Cortez.  This would also afford us the opportunity to travel

Back in the Vivorillos

Back in the Vivorillos

inland in Mexico and during the hurricane season leave our boat somewhere to travel the western United States to visit friends and family.  All of a sudden we were translated from Atlantic to Pacific when the Kitty Hawk sold in Florida and we found Let it Be in San Diego, CA.  And now we are in Ensenada on the Pacific side of Baja California enjoying our new “condo on the water” and dreaming of the day we will attempt our big crossing.  Will we go south all the way to Panama, cross our track there and then head to Galapagos, or do we jump off from somewhere on the Pacific coast of Mexico and head straight to the Marquesas from there.  The distance is about the same. B-b-b but what about the Galapagos? Hmmm, we may just have to skip them….or not!

This morning we read the blog of a family who left La Cruz, Mexico, a common place for the Pacific Puddle Jumpers to depart from, on their thirty six foot boat with a three year old and a baby girl onboard.  We enthusiastically follow their blog because we admire such adventurous people and love to hear about others like ourselves, feeling somewhat envious of those who have left ahead of us and are already out there.

Jack Benjamin Born in May 2012

Jack Benjamin Born in May 2012

This is a feeling that tends to come over us from time to time when we find ourselves in port working on the boat trying to make her ready (as ready as we feel she needs to be) to do it safely while watching others depart.  However, the news today was grievous.  The baby is deathly ill and a rescue attempt is under way since their vessel is apparently disabled 900 miles out.  Because no helicopter can fly that far out, a medic team out of San Diego known as Sky Angels will parachute down to the vessel and assist to stabilize the baby’s condition.

Here comes the cavalry.

Here comes the cavalry.

We read further that there will be an attempt to rescue them and fly the baby to a hospital on the mainland.  This operation will require a Navy ship to serve as a refueling platform for a helicopter or a specialized air refueling aircraft, which is a very risky operation now involving the lives of others putting them at risk as well.

As I write this my heart is prayerful for this family and the crews involved.  We pray for the baby’s recovery and for safety in every aspect of this operation.  We pray for the mother and the grand mothers and the weight of their worry.  We pray for strength for the mother who has already been exhausted by the passage thus far and for wisdom for the father and captain who must consider what to do with the remaining crew and the vessel.

Because these things happen, such i­­s why we have not left yet… but in so many ways we have.

Posted in BTB (Before the Blog), Captain's Yarn, Kids, Sailing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Let it Be … And it Was!


The day we moved on to Let it Be.

The dust is starting to settle and we can finally move around the boat freely without having to step over crates and boxes.  It’s been a busy month moving onto “Let it Be”, unpacking the POD and working hard on boat projects.  Thanks to Grandma Kathi and Grandpa Wayne for picking up the slack in San Diego when Jack and I were down with the flu!  Grandpa unloaded our whole POD single handedly and Grandma played with the kids for hours on end. You are awesome!

First of all … I LOVE THE BOAT!!!   I know Tia Megan and Uncle Larry are adamantly against using all caps and multiple “!!!!!”  to say something, but that’s the only way I could get my point across with text.  I mean hey, look at this front yard with a hammock and a trampoline!


Our front yard, never needs mowing or watering.

It’s seriously like a condo on the water.  I knew I would love the new boat but had no idea how much more room we would really have.  I now live upstairs in the light, I can cook and go about my business upstairs with a nearly 360 degree view while watching the kids climb like little monkeys up the rigging and practice their gymnastics on the trampoline.  This was a great move for the whole family.  I don’t have many pictures to show yet as we’re still getting everything organized but in the near future I thought I might do a virtual tour of the boat like I did with our last boat.


Underwater scene in the kids bathroom. Right after I fnished, Marietta walked in the bathroom smiling and said “Mama, it makes me happy to look at it”. Goal achieved!

We are still in San Diego, CA and I’m enjoying exploring the area.  I never lived in California and I’m finding it’s an interesting kind of folk that hang here.  We have motored all around the harbor in the dinghy and even out to sea to see the city from the ocean’s perspective.  We often rent a car on weekends to run errands and work on provisioning.

Jack has been working so hard, long days of getting the boat ready to set out on our next journey.  Most of my days are spent taking care of the kiddos, getting the boat stocked with food etc and continuing the organization process.

San Diego is known as the world capital of craft brewing and many restaurants/pubs have a sign on their door “No Crap On Tap”.  Just try and find a Miller Light in this neck of the woods!  I was never a big beer drinker but the interest in craft brewing is so big here that I thought I’d try my hand at it.  I love the chemistry involved and all the calculations and interactions and I have a dedicated notebook with my notes and homework.  I already have 2 IPAs in their secondary fermentation, I’ll let you know how it goes.  The labels for my brew will say “Let it Be Beer!”.


My first brew, keeping it warm with life jackets. It still has 10 weeks left until bottling so I’ll keep you posted.

The plan is to continue making the boat ready to depart the U.S. and sail south to Mexico the end of March.  For years we had been talking about going to the Sea of Cortez and growing the crew there a bit.  Now we find that we will get there a whole year ahead of schedule, if there is really such a thing.  We look forward to integrating with a community in Mexico, finding new fellowship opportunities and giving our kids a chance to attend a Spanish-speaking preschool.

We have 3 weeks left in San Diego and will be working to pack the boat with everything we can’t live without.  We do have a little vacation planned to Marana, AZ to visit our ballooning friends, Pat & Boby Nilz, for St Patty’s Day.  It’s Pat’s birthday and Boby & Pat’s anniversary and we couldn’t stand to be just 5 hours away and not help them celebrate.

More to come!


Dock carts are fun and have many uses.


Taking the old sail down and preparing to put the new sail up.


I look at this picture and wonder what Jack B is telling Marietta? Point Loma, San Diego, CA


View of San Diego Harbor from Point Loma, up the hill (loma) from our marina.

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New Year, New Boat, New Ocean

It’s happened!  We’ve sold Kitty Hawk and found the boat of our dreams, all in the same month.  It was a busy couple months getting Kitty Hawk back to the dock we stay on in Melbourne, getting her ready for showing, completing the sale and continuing the search for our new boat.  This is all happening while Jack is helping various friends on their boats, traveling to and fro looking at possible boats for our family and a wonderful 2 week visit by Jacks mom, Mami B, who was a great help with the kids.

We couldn’t imagine a nicer couple than the ones who bought Kitty Hawk.  Brett and Kim are a joy to be around and so excited to start their sailing adventures.  We immediately became good friends and look forward to sailing alongside them in the future.

And … drum roll please … We just purchased our next boat!  Can you tell I’m a little excited?  After months of looking, hundreds of hours of research and many hours on the phone with boat brokers around the world, the perfect boat has presented itself to us.  It is a French catamaran, Fountaine Pajot Bahia 46, named “Let It Be”, which we love!

Let It Be!

Let It Be!

The boat lies in San Diego, CA so we’ll start with a sail down the Baja California coast, into the Sea of Cortez and do some exploring in Mexico before we jump out towards the South Pacific Islands.

With 4 bedrooms and 3 full bathrooms (1 bathroom was converted to a laundry room) we have plenty of room for our family and friends, anybody game?

The plan is to move on to the boat mid-January, spend a little time getting to know it and provisioning, then head South.  We are currently in Marion, IL for Christmas and the New Year and will fly to San Diego from here while our belongings make the 2500 mile overland journey in a POD.

Happy New Year everyone!

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The Duck Debacle

Captain Jack here…

Some might say that there is nothing like the wee hours of the morning, moments when the day begins to dawn in a setting where nature envelops us like a cocoon and the changing light with its heavenly hues reflected by the water, the smell of trees, vegetation, flowers, wet soil awoken by the morning dew and the sound of birds and the hum of the creation vibrating like a crescendo in a most delightful  symphony compelling us to be born anew, to break free and spread our wings yielding them to the light and so stirring our colors, mixing, a pallet in the hands of a master, pregnant with a universe of possibilities and promise.


Ivory-billed Woodpecker

“OK Jack! Wake up and smell the coffee”, I think to myself. Did I leave the smell of coffee out of the picture I painted above? Shucks, the truth is, none of that happens before coffee in the morning.  I roll out of bed and head for the galley, light the stove and put the kettle on the fire and then, with a warm mug of that aromatic brew, I begin my morning, even if it is before sunrise.   Living on a boat and traveling up and down the East Coast these last couple of years has afforded us the opportunity to dwell in many wonderful natural settings: a true privilege to see and experience nature first hand, in a way and in places where very few other people get to go.   I have had the awesome opportunity to witness the comeback of the Bald Eagle, with many more sightings in more states, than ten years ago.  Also, in 2004 I spotted an Ivory-Billed Woodpecker while hiking on one of the barrier islands off the ICW (Intra-Coastal Waterway) in one of the southern states.  The book said it was reported extinct in 1920, but I was sure it was alive.  As I searched the internet for a picture of this bird to include in this article, I was pleased to notice that in 2005 this species was officially reported as having been spotted and in fact still alive.  While reading an article in The Economist, I found a reference where scientists calculated that the chances of spotting this bird are 1 in 15,625.  Don’t ask me how they get those numbers, but the bottom line is that I feel incredibly privileged to have actually seen it and been one of the earliest spotters.  (click on the picture above).

As we migrate north and south according to the seasons we have also witnessed incredible accounts of bird migrations, spotting many other species that most people only ever see in pictures.

Admittedly, I love to observe nature.  Years ago on a trip I made to China, I was touring the Summer Palace outside of Beijing and came to a small bridge over a pond which was contained in the inner courtyard.  The guide said it was called the “Two Fish Knowing” Bridge.  I asked about the curious name for the bridge while observing the obvious bright orange fish below.  The story goes that once upon a time there were two sages engaged in contemplation while on the bridge.  After much observation, one sage broke the silence and commented, “Look at the fish, notice how happy they are.”  The other sage replied, “How do you know they are happy?” The first replied, “How do you know they are not.”

Lao Tzu

Laozi, 老子

And so, there is much to be said about ancient sages and the wisdom derived from their observation of nature such that even in our western culture we have come to admire and respect, to the point of stereotyping, the “ancient Chinese wise man” and revered the wisdom, art, poetry and proverbs, without a doubt, a cultural legacy left to humanity.   Fritjof Capra in his book, The Tao of Physics” wrote on this subject:

Nevertheless, the careful observation of nature, combined with a strong mystical intuition, led the Taoist sages-to profound insights which are confirmed by modern scientific theories.

He was referring ancient Chinese sages from the 6th century B.C., namely Lao Tzu, considered the father of Taoism and his followers.

This brings me to comment on a recent observation of mine, not that I hope to be included in that company or even considered a sage, but nonetheless, it’s an observation of bird behavior which speaks to me about something I have observed in our modern day society. I have titled this article The Duck Debacle because I love nature and Mallard ducks are a very colorful and recognizable species that I truly love, but lately have begun to despise and so my heart is torn.   Because of these new feelings I find myself in a quandary as to what to do.  I think those feelings arise from an innate human response to vermin.  And what are vermin if not just another critter in nature, however one that has begun to encumber or negatively impact the livelihood of humans.  Somewhere somehow the balance of nature has been upset and a species which would otherwise simply occupy its niche in the ecosystem and generally would not attract more attention than any other, begins to breed profusely or otherwise adopts behavior which becomes detrimental to homeowners or farmers, crops, livestock, or even other species in nature, causing further damage to the ecosystem and putting the lives of all at risk.  Once we label a creature as vermin though, it seems we can now kill it indiscriminately and without license, but that is not a pretty sight and not necessarily a viable solution.

photo 3

Anchored in Washington Channel

The problem surfaced while anchored in view of the Washington Monument, in a channel which lies between East Potomac Park, located on a small river island with the Jefferson Memorial on its north end and the D.C. Waterfront, with its busy fish market and crowded marina docks.

Busy Waterfront

Busy Waterfront

The Fish Mongers

The Fish Mongers

 Soon after dropping anchor in the Washington Channel we were greeted by a few of the local resident Mallards.  They seemed nice enough at first and the kids and I enjoyed getting a close look at them.  Busy as one gets on arrival I did not notice their behavior, but the kids enjoyed the activity, captivated by their swimming alongside and all their quacking.  Later we noticed people onshore along the park feeding the ducks and our visitors quickly departed in an attempt to snatch some of the handouts.  We noticed that people on other boats would also feed them and hence began to understand why they were so eager to pay us a daily visit.

What started out as a friendly visitors exhibiting cute behavior, coupled by our kids’ cute behavior in response, very soon caused us to raise our eyebrows and wonder.  A small group of Mallards had gathered by our stern when one female’s quacking got my attention.  She was not simply quacking as other ducks tend to do as they mill around.  Her quacking and her body language were very distinct.  It soon became obvious that she was definitely communicating her displeasure.  She was not only attempting to get our attention, the sweet quacking of the other ducks was cute enough to capture that. She was swimming about with determination, jetting her neck out with every loud insistent quack.  As she Qualing Mallardswam side to side and circled abruptly, it became obvious that she was complaining.  More than just complaining she was actually scolding us for not feeding them the way other people do. Her quacks seemed to scream, “FEED ME! FEED ME YOU FOOL!”     We were able to observe this behavior more and more since any presence of kids on deck, just like people approaching the shore, would draw a contingent of hungry ducks, however unlike elsewhere, at our boat there were no handouts for them.  And so, we received our usual scolding.

 Our policy to not feed wildlife is consistent with what biologists, conservationists, and park rangers exhort, hence we are not easily swayed to do what others do.  Our kids are learning this too, although they really, really want to feed the ducks.  So this becomes a good opportunity to teach them about the balance of nature and how wild creatures should not be accustomed to being fed by humans because this will hurt them later.  At this point you might ask, “OK, but I don’t understand why you would want to kill these ducks.”  Right; good question.  What made me mad about these ducks was not their nasty behavior insisting to be fed, but the fact that come nightfall they began to roost on top of our dinghy.  At first that was cute to see, but in the morning, the scene was quite different.  Our dinghy was full of duck poop, which became an awful inconvenience to clean up.  Despite many attempts to shoo them off, and we did, they would return in the middle of the night to repeat their revenge.  In the morning we woke up to stripes and mounds of green and brown ooze and loose feathers here and there in the bottom of our tender.  We then began to use our shower sprayer on the aft deck and this helped to run them off, but they still returned at night.  Since my wife wakes up to nurse the baby in the middle of the night, she would listen for the return of the ducks and then mount a surprise attack with the sprayer, this has helped and it seems the ducks have chosen another place to roost; at least for now.

Now to refer to the similar behavior in society, I feel I gained some understanding as a result of observing this duck behavior and the effects of handouts upon them.  It seems these tend to have a negative effect on any species, and I would say, humans are not exempt.  After hurricane Mitch destroyed Honduras I got some first-hand experience in distributing disaster relief aid.  What I saw caused me to wonder why needy people suddenly begin to get nasty towards those who are trying to help.  Going back to what INasty Mallard noticed in ducks, I could clearly see some parallel behavior developing.  The first thing to note is that the ducks became nasty with their demands.  They seemed indignant and displayed anger when their demands were not met.  They had become dependent on the usual handouts and were no longer foraging for their natural food in the ecosystem.  Instead of being busy, they sat around lazily waiting.  Obviously handouts are easier to attain.  I then began to notice some other effects though.  These female ducks were bringing their brood of ducklings to the feast and thereby indoctrinating them as to where food comes from, namely soft-hearted humans, not from nature.  Also, I noticed that these ducks were pretty shabby in their appearance with dull and sparse plumage and becoming obese with the bread diet, then losing their ability to fly.  This means they would not be able to fly south for the winter with the rest of their cousins who had not participated in that welfare program.  The new generation would not know how and where to migrate and Mallard Broodas a result would probably freeze to death and or starve along with their mentors.  Not only did they now exhibit nasty behavior towards their benefactors, but also toward each other.   They acted with selfishness and began hoarding the food with fierce competition that resulted in fights and injuries.  It was interesting to me how the generosity or compassion of some, or simply their personal delight in feeding wild creatures had in fact made them something less than their counterparts in nature and in fact sealing their fate, ushering them to their doom.

St. Helens Mt.

Mt. St. Helens

Redemption however is not far away.  Nature has its way and balance is again restored; sooner or later, if we leave her alone.

Mt. St. Helens

Mt. St. Helens Soon After

New Life Renewal

New Life New Beginning

The Forest Restored

The Forest Restored

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Newport. New York. New Jersey. New Boat?

Lobster $6 each, yes please!

Lobster $6 each, yes please!

Our few weeks in Newport RI came to a close and I found myself a bit sad. Newport is a delightful little city with great places to walk, great biking, decent beaches, a superb thrift store and a lobster pound a short dinghy ride away. Not to mention the July/August temps were 60’s at night and 80’s in the day, quite different from our summer in Washington DC a couple years ago when the temps got into the 100’s. Tia Megan became famous in our camp during her weeks in Newport with us, and she still comes up in Marietta’s prayers at night, “Jesus protect me against all the bad things, but if an alligator comes, Tia Megan will kick it in the mouth for me”. You will have to visualize the demonstration that follows as I haven’t caught it on video. Go Tia Megan!

One fully dinghy

One fully dinghy

With our now family of 4 and only 2 bedrooms on our current boat, the need for a bit more space has been daily in the forefront of our minds. With a double stroller, double bike trailer, 2 bikes, 2 booster seats, 2 car seats, and 2 kids worth of toys and cloth diapers and just plain stuff, we find ourselves a bit on the cramped side. We had recently started talking about the possibility of a catamaran and Jack did a bit of research online and decided the “Fountaine Pajot Orana 44” looked like a great boat for us. That evening, when we were outside grilling dinner, that exact boat sailed into Newport Harbor and anchored right in front of us. A bit uncanny as there are only a handful in the US now. We zipped over in our dinghy and the owners, Jamie and Jill, gave us the grand tour. There were 2 families on the boat but with 4 bedrooms and 4 bathrooms it didn’t seem cramped at all. Marietta loved the trampoline and the huge deck to run and play on. Hmmmm, now we are really thinking about it.

Orana 44 on left, our boat on right, yay for more space!

Orana 44 on left, our boat on right, yay for more space!

From Newport we did an overnight sail up Long Island Sound to New Rochelle, just outside of NYC, to meet up with Jamie and Jill again. We had a wonderful day sail on the Orana 44 with Captain Jamie, enjoyed some yummy sushi and then said goodbye and sailed on our boat the few remaining miles to New York City, very possibly my favorite city in the world.

Neat free anchorage right past the Statue of Liberty

Free anchorage right past the Statue of Liberty

After 1 night anchored by the Statue of Liberty, we entered the city limits and moored at the 79th Street Boat Basin, 3 blocks from Broadway and right in the middle of the action. We walked our legs off and took the subway home at the end of the day. Activities included but not limited to: Museum of Natural History (Marietta’s favorite), the MET, daily walks in Central Park, Carnagie Deli, Chinatown (wonderful lunch there), World Trade Center on 9-11-13, Zabars Grocery (incredible gourmet grocery) and last but not least Trader Joes, who delivered our 6 boxes of purchases to our boat for $14, score!

Museum Natural History, NYC

Egyptian Exhibit at the Met, NYC

With our boat fully stocked once again, we did an overnight sail to Cape May NJ and continued on to the Chesapeake. We met up with a couple, Jon & Jennifer, who last year completed a 26,000 mile / 3 year circumnavigation in their Orana 44. We found their blog online and started email communication and ended up stopping to visit them at their house outside of Annapolis MD. Very neat couple with amazing stories that fueled our desire to get into the Pacific. One thing I’m looking forward to in the Pacific is pearl diving. Jack assures me that he can make some pretty spectacular jewelry with his Dremmel.

Play time

Play time, Newport RI

As I write this, we are sailing down the Alligator River in North Carolina. Yesterday evening as we were motoring into our anchorage, we noticed our speed had decreased to 4 knots when we would normally be doing 6 knots. It was obvious something was wrong. Thankfully we were able to anchor safely. Guess what the next step is? Somebody has to dive in the water to see what’s wrong. Since Jack usually gets all the fun jobs, I told him it was my turn. I donned my wetsuit and dive mask, SLOWLY entered the 64.3 degree water, took a deep gasping breath and dove down to try and figure out what was wrong. The water was so muddy that I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. I ran my hands around the rudder and immediately found the problem, we had snagged a crab pot and had been dragging the pot and float behind the boat. I resurfaced and told Jack the problem. He retrieved a dive knife and dive flashlight and I went back under to see if I could cut it free. As I dove down and kicked toward the bottom of the huge rudder, I swam straight into it and have a nice knot on my head as the first of my injuries of the evening. After a few dives and checking to make sure the prop and shaft were not involved, I was able to cut us free but not before scraping my hands and foot up pretty good on the barnacles attached to our hull. Ouch! As I was working under the boat at sunset in the dirty water, I tried not to think of the documentary that initially gave Marietta the alligator nightmares, the one about a sailor in Australia who would put netting up around the entrances to his boat at night so the crocodiles wouldn’t climb in. I’m so glad I never saw the reason “Alligator River” was given its name.

We hope to arrive in Beaufort NC tomorrow where we will wait for good weather to sail to Charleston SC. Never a dull moment! As for the new boat … we’ll keep you posted.

Marietta's favorite thing about NYC, Hello Kitty.

Marietta’s favorite thing about NYC, Hello Kitty hangs out there.

Not the best pic, but Jack popped outside for the pic then had to run back in to drive the boat.

Not the best pic, but Jack popped outside for the pic then had to run back in to drive the boat.

Stocking up at supermarket in Newport, that was one heavy trailer!

Stocking up at supermarket in Newport, that was one heavy trailer!

Marietta's first fish, Newport, RI.

Marietta’s first fish, Newport, RI.

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Guess where we are?

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Captain Jack here…

Marietta and Papa time on deck

Reminiscing under sail

There is a magical moment when you put to sea on a sailboat. It is the moment when you have cleared the harbor and the reefs or the rocks, the sails are set for the next hundred miles and the engine is turned off as the yacht begins to heel and work in that rhythmic hobby-horse motion, the bow splitting the waves, the smell of the sea and the mixing of hues of clouds, sky and water, the sound of water rushing and the wind in the rigging is all you hear. At that moment, standing at the helm, looking out in to the expanse of the deep blue sea, with all the work of preparations and concerns of land life behind, with nothing else but the journey before us knowing we have done all things well and feeling secure in our hardy vessel one can begin to kick back and relax. All of a sudden the myriad of things that had occupied the mind prior to this moment seem to fade in our wake like the stars behind the USS Enterprise as she shifts into warp speed. At that moment we have transitioned into the speed of thought. Dreams, images of faraway places, all the places we could effectively go to, the anticipation of it all and yet the resignation to the fact that we are actually traveling at the speed of a healthy runner, certainly slower than a bicycle brings us to the place where we realize we cannot get in a rush about it, so we may as well just kick back and relax. Like the height of the sun over the horizon changes each day ever so slightly, this journey will unfold as the pages of the story turn with the change of seasons. Peace and contentment fill the heart and the mind is freed to travel at warp speed.


Admiral of the Ocean Sea

Orion was high in the sky in that pre-dawn moment. I could see it through the hatch over my berth. The Kitty Hawk was anchored in the bay in front of Trujillo on the north coast of Honduras. Trujillo, was named by Christopher Columbus after the house of King Ferdinand of Spain with Punta Castilla across the bay named after the house of Queen Isabella. It was on the second of August, 1502 on his fourth and last voyage when Columbus discovered mainland America and landed at this very spot which was to become the earliest European settlement on mainland America and the first capital of Honduras. Here we were 500 years later having organized a sailing boat race from Guanaja to mark Columbus’ historic event. At this time of year most boats are hunkered down in the Rio Dulce which is a hurricane safe haven but a few hardy sailors, now regulars in the North West Caribbean cruising community, joined the event. Scorpio, the constellation dominating the summer sky had set and Orion would not rise in the early evening sky for a few months yet. I got out of bed and made some coffee and sat there in the cockpit reminiscing before the dawn erased the diamonds in the sky, the Milky Way clearly visible still. I was overwhelmed with emotions. I had returned to the place where I did most of my sailing as a child. This is where my family spent the summers.


Colorful Cayuco

While growing up, other than the fishermen’s dugout canoes (Cayucos) that raised their lateen rigged sails there were no sailing boats in the bay. After a night of fishing you would begin to see their sails in the early morning as they made their way back to the beach to sell their catch to the waiting women who carried those big enameled pans on their heads.
A cayuco had been my first sailing craft. My father who cut our ranch out of the jungle had charged a local to fashion a cayuco for me from a Santa Maria tree felled there. My brothers and I learned from watching the local fishermen how to tow a cayuco upwind along the beach up to the Laguna Guaymoreto and like them, before I had a sail of my own, we sailed downwind back to Trujillo using a palm frond stuck in the hole in the forward seat where the mast would normally go. Later my mom and I would go to the local general store to buy rope and muslin cloth to have a proper sail fashioned by one of those fishermen. But this is not where I had learned to sail.

Schooner America

Schooner America

At thirteen I was sent away to boarding school in Portsmouth, Rhode Island and Narragansett Bay, the town of Newport at its mouth, with so much sailing history and enthusiasm became my sailing ground. While there I learned about the America’s Cup and became enamored with the lines of that graceful ship, the America, from which the cup takes its name, fashioning a tiny model of her using balsa wood and paper for sails, sewing thread and tooth picks for her rigging. That little model sat on the shelf in front of my desk where I spent countless hours under the rigors of the prep school curriculum, stopping from time to time to glance at her and day dream of the warm Caribbean sea, sailing and exploring around the world. It became a survival tool which saved me from the depression that the dreary New England weather with its endless foggy, gray wet days brought on.

Schooner Mystic

The Mystic in foggy Newport

On that ship I would escape not only from the weather but from the whole atmosphere of the place. To me it was a place of prejudice, persecution and injustice. It was a stormy sea, cold and relentless in its advance to consume those about it.

It was at Portsmouth where I first read “Dove” by Robin Lee Graham, who at sixteen set out to sail around the world single-handed. His story got me dreaming about doing the same one day. I began to think about all those things which now give me the ability to be in command of my own ship, all those skills that had been acquired over life’s experiences. Like learning knots and learning about navigation through the woods with a compass or without one, looking to the stars to get a bearing or knowing that the moss grows on the north side of trees when I was a boy scout. Who knew that this skill would lead to this? It is as if my whole future lay hidden within my DNA and in some unspoken fashion my desire to learn about things and how they worked would lead me down a path, fueled by my particular curiosities, which would cause me to accumulate the very skills which all together would make me a better sailor, seaman, self-reliant, an over-comer, not only a captain, but an accomplished yacht engineer.


Kitty Hawk in Southport, NC

It was in 2002 when the Kitty Hawk came to be my ship. All of the sudden, spanning the horizon before me, lay a sea of possibilities, those dreams of a teenager now probable but not yet within reach. Besides the acquisition of the vessel, there would be a price to pay. Not fully aware of all it would take to embark on that voyage, in love and blinded to what this marriage to this ship would bring, I dreamed of the places we would go.

Future Captain

Papa and the Future Captain
Oh the places he will go!

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Goodbye Fireworks, Hello Jazz

Watching 4th of July parade on National Mall

Watching 4th of July parade on National Mall

We had a wonderful 6 weeks in Washington DC, it’s one of my favorite cities.  There is so much to do and it’s easy to get around without a car.

The infamous Tia Megan

The infamous Tia Megan

We saw Tia Megan nearly every day and Jack and I loved her amazing babysitting service.  Here’s how it would go:

  1.  Megan would drive the 6 minutes from her condo to our boat (or 45 minutes if traffic)
  2. Jack and I would dinghy 100 feet to shore and hand off the dinghy to her and hop in her car
  3. She would then dinghy to the boat with the kids and love on and play with them while Jack and I were dining in a nice restaurant in Alexandria VA.
  4. We return by car to our boat, call Megan who then brings the dinghy to pick us up.
  5. She does the dinghy handoff, hops on land and into in her car.

Whew!  You can imagine how hard it is for us to find a babysitter given the circumstances and how thankful we were for Tia Megan’s incredible job.  Thanks Meg!

We did tons of walking and exploring in DC, seeing all the sites and museums a few times.  Many days I went out with my friend Ofa, who has 2 little ones as well, and we would watch each others back on the metro with our big double jog strollers.  I’m sure we walked over 10 miles many days, looking for hidden treasures in thrift stores, walking around the many army bases in the area (her husband works at the Pentagon), enjoying the a/c in the museums, letting the kids run around the National Mall, etc.  Good times.

A Capital 4th of July display

A Capital 4th of July display

We stayed in DC through the 4th of July for the parade on the National Mall in the morning and the fireworks display from the boat at night, spectacular!  It was starting to get hot in DC so we decided to start moving north a couple days later.

The kids were rocked to sleep while mama was fighting sea sickness.

The kids were rocked to sleep while mama was fighting sea sickness.

We sailed up the Chesapeake stopping in various small towns along the way and did a 2 day passage from Cape May, NJ to Block Island, RI.  The kids did fine but it was an uncomfortable passage with a big ocean swell hitting us on the beam (side of the boat) so we rocked back and forth for the first 24 hours as we sailed along.

On arrival to Block Island we pulled the bikes and kid trailer out of the closet and spent the next 10 days cycling around Block Island.  I loved it!  There were enough hills to give me a good workout and the 360 degree ocean views were breathtaking.  One day we decided it was time to move on and we found a windy but calm day to move north 24 miles to Newport RI.

Marietta in the chilly waters of Block Island.

Marietta in the chilly waters of Block Island.

Newport is a neat city with tons of beautiful boats and lots to do.  We arrived a few days before the Newport Jazz Festival with plenty of time to get the scoop on how to best enjoy it.

Cap'n Papa made an awesome dinghy set-up for the Jazz Festival.

Cap’n Papa made an awesome dinghy set-up for the Jazz Festival.

Since tickets have been sold out for months now, we weren’t sure how to go about it.  We soon learned that the main concert stage faces the water and tons of boats anchor right off Fort Adams for the day to watch and listen to the artists.  On Saturday afternoon, we filled the dinghy with provisions and dinner, loaded up the kids and anchored about 300 feet from the stage.  There were tons of boats anchored there but since we took our small tender (dinghy) we went right to the front of the pack.  The 5 boats rafted up together next to us had a small rowboat boat dedicated to being a clam cooker, complete with large propane tank, huge pot, and all the items necessary to have a good seafood and corn/potato boil.  The jazz artists were wonderful and even the kids had a good time people watching and listening to the music.

One of those fine rare moments  when both kids are happy and everyone fed. Newport Jazz Fest 2013.

One of those fine rare moments for mama when both kids are playing happily and everyone is fed. Newport Jazz Fest 2013.

Most of the boats had been there partying all day which made for some amusing antics.  We had so much fun on Saturday, that Sunday we packed up mid-day and headed to the Jazz Fest again.  This time the kids had their swim suits on and we had floating water toys to play with.  Marietta is a little fish and played in the water that was over her head until her lips turned blue (the water temp was 70 degrees).  A good time was had by all and we returned to the Kitty Hawk tired and ready for a good sleep.

Family time in the park.

Family time in the park.

We’ve already biked all around Newport and to neighboring towns.  We frequent the library, the parks, farmers markets, thrift stores and the big supermarket about .5 miles down the street.  Next Thursday we are going to film night on the beach with Tia Megan who arrives on Wednesday, yay!

We just purchased a MIFI mobile internet because we weren’t finding any internet, hence the extremely delayed blog entry.  Hopefully this will help me stay in touch better.

The deckhands are ready to go to the library.

The deckhands are ready to go to the library.

OK, gotta run, there are 4 eyes staring at me and begging to go to the library so I must start packing the backpack and getting things together.  Each outing takes so much planning because we are usually out for the entire day and I have to think of every possible mishap and how to provision for it, not to mention all the food we need for our hearty eating family of four.   More to come!

Washington DC 2013

Washington DC 2013

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Washington DC!

We made quite the departure from Edisto Island and of course that makes for a more interesting blog entry.  It was decided by Jack that I would drive the boat while he untied our lines.  We were tied up in 3 places, bow, stern and a spring line in the middle.  Jack hopped onto the sailboat we were tied up to and released the stern line without a hitch.  He untied the bow and tried to hold it while untying the spring line. The wind and current were extremely strong and he couldn’t hold our 22 ton boat for long enough to hop on.  So … he had to let go of the lines, with me and the kids aboard our boat, and hope I could maneuver to pick him up in the harsh conditions.  Needless to say, I was a bit nervous.  I had to abort my first try at turning around in the narrow channel because the wind caught me and I wasn’t sure I could do a sharp enough turn to get all the way around before I ran into the muck on the other side.  I took a deep breath and tried again, giving the engine all the power it could muster, and I made the turn.  Next on my “to do” list was maneuvering to pick Jack up on the sailboat where he was anxiously awaiting me.  The kids behaved incredibly so I could concentrate and it went seamlessly.  As I got close to where Jack was ready to hop on the Kitty Hawk, I called out “if you miss this pass, I’m sailing north without you”.  With his guidance, I was able to get close enough where he could hop aboard and we were off.  Whew!   I have to give Jack lots of credit because he has been a wonderful teacher.  I’ve had many chances to practice docking over the years with him right by my side and this helped me learn how the boat handles and what to do in different winds, currents and situations.  Before living on a sailboat, my experience on the helm was limited to pulling water skiers around area lakes in our family ski boat (which was actually a great start in learning how boats handle in the water).

Marietta's bed on the cockpit floor while under sail.

Marietta’s bed on the cockpit floor while under sail.

Jack picked a great weather window for our passage, the winds were favorable, the seas calm and not even a little squall to tell about.  Marietta was a bit seasick the first day because we had a swell hitting us on the side of the boat so it was rolly polly for a few hours.  She got better and enjoyed the rest of the voyage. Jack B had no problems.

Jack B's sailing hangout

Jack B’s sailing hangout

Amazingly I felt fine the whole time as well, even when Marietta lost her breakfast all over me.  Thinking back, I was pregnant probably 80% of my sailing life and was constantly seasick.  It’s so nice to feel good and be able to enjoy the fishing and the sailing.  Speaking of, sad as it is, we have no pictures of huge tuna to show off.  Nada.

New asymmetrical spinnaker sail

New asymmetrical spinnaker sail

Everyone’s favorite part of the sail was using our new spinnaker.  We found it on Craig’s List in Melbourne, FL for a fraction of what it costs new.  It was the exact size we needed for our boat, in really good shape and had a nice color pattern.  We were able to sail at half the wind speed with the wind behind us, which means in the 12mph wind our sailboat was moving at a screamin’ 6mph!

Marietta and Papa time on deck

Marietta and Papa time on deck

Fort Matanzas Beach

Fort Matanzas Beach

We arrived in Beaufort, NC on Saturday morning.  It has a quaint downtown with lots of little shops and seaside restaurants.  It’s a bit touristy for my tastes but a nice stop along the way where we could go for a walk.

Marietta's favorite perch when motoring in calm conditions, Great Dismal Swamp

Marietta’s favorite perch when motoring in calm conditions, Great Dismal Swamp

Next was a motor through the Great Dismal Swamp and going through 2 locks and 3 opening bridges.  It was a beautiful ride with trees lining both sides of the boat, a little too close for comfort sometimes as the canal is pretty narrow. We tied up to a trawler boat, Yintzer, in the Great Dismal Swamp while waiting for a bridge to open.  The 2 brothers had a beer tap on board in a fridge box about the size of our washing machine.  It was a group decision that bartering would benefit all and we would do their laundry for free beer.  Hmmm, maybe we should put a sign up on our boat “Will launder for beer”.

We arrived in Norfolk, VA and spent the night downtown at the city boat basin.  This is one of my favorite stops as we get to tie up for free right in the middle of the beautiful city.  Marietta and I took a walk downtown at sunset and found some yummy ice cream.  I’m not sure which she enjoyed more, running the whole way to the ice cream store or the ice cream itself.

Fireboat leading the "Blessing of the Fleet" parade and welcoming us to DC.

Fireboat leading the “Blessing of the Fleet” parade and welcoming us to DC.

Fast forward to present … we made it to Washington DC!  We arrived Saturday afternoon, May 18, 2013 just as the Boat Parade for the Annual Blessing of the Fleet was starting.  We ended up in the middle of the queue, made half a turn around the harbor in the parade then peeled off and dropped anchor in the center of the harbor while the parade continued around us.  Anchoring a few blocks from the National Mall near the Jefferson Memorial, we have a great location to explore the city and of course spend lots of time with Tia Megan.

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Edisto the Beautiful, Captain Jack’s birthday, and my dye project

We arrived safely in Edisto Beach, SC after 7 days of motoring on the ICW through FL and GA.  We had planned to do a passage “on the outside” in the gulfstream but the weather wasn’t cooperating and didn’t look good for many days to come.  No fish to show from the passage and the fresh Wasabi and Nori seaweed sit sadly untouched.  Marietta did feed the fish twice but recovered quickly and enjoyed the rest of the voyage.  Jack B had no problems.

Mrs Cathy Price & Marietta

Mrs Cathy Price & Marietta

Happy Birthday Papa!

Happy Birthday Papa!  Celebrated with Coker and Cathy Price, Edisto Beach, SC

Edisto Beach is as beautiful as ever.  Sunday night we went to the Edisto Yacht Club with our friends here, Coker and Cathy Price, and had a wonderful fish and fried sweet potato dinner.  With the Edisto Yacht Club being mostly older people, Marietta and Jack B were the hit of the night.  Marietta had been cooped up on the boat for many days, during our rainy passage and an extra rainy day once we got here, so she was all too happy to entertain everyone.

Monday was Papa Jack’s birthday.  We started the day with our favorite coffee, Starbucks French Roast (with freshly ground beans) in bed and the opening of presents.  Marietta had wrapped the presents the day before and could hardly wait for Papa to open them.  She brought them to him many times the day before his birthday encouraging him to go ahead and open them.  The only challenge for me on Jack’s birthday was finding the last present I bought for him a couple weeks ago.  I bought it in the midst of the provisioning maelstrom and tucked it away somewhere so he wouldn’t find it … and now I can’t find it!  It’s still LOB (lost on boat).  I spent an hour yesterday looking in every cubby hole I could think of to no avail so it looks like we will be celebrating his birthday again one day soon when I finally find the last present.

Today we cast off lines for a passage from Edisto Island (near Charleston SC) to Beaufort NC.  It will be a 2 night and 2 day passage, our longest since Marietta was 6 months old when we sailed from Honduras to Mexico then across to FL.  I still have to rig our huge ocean fishing reels, but you can be sure they will be ready to go by the time we leave mid-afternoon.

Newly dyed aft cabin sheets

Newly dyed aft cabin sheets with pillowcases and Nicole’s hands to match.

I spent yesterday morning dying the new sheets I sewed to fit our oddly shaped aft cabin bed.  I bought 2 sets of quality, light colored, king size sheet sets at a yard sale for $5 in Satellite Beach FL and have been sewing up a storm to make them fit our bed.  I’ve made a few quilts in my life but don’t consider myself a seamstress nor do I have a knack for exactness.  It took Captain Jack’s engineering skills to figure out how to shape the corners.  The last quilt I made ( years ago) was a t-shirt quilt with all my favorite running and triathlon t-shirts.  In my usual form, I just tore into it and started cutting up the t-shirts.  My sister Megan noticed my oversights and jumped to my rescue.  She did the design of the quilt as I kept the sewing machine pedal to the floor and I’m sure we finished in record time.

Fiber Reactive Dye is neat stuff!  I dyed one fitted sheet and 3 pillowcases.  The sheet and 2 pillowcases are a mix of 2 colors, strong navy and Caribbean blue.  On the third pillowcase I took a little artistic liberty to test some of the dyes I bought.  I really love how it turned out and think I will take a little more time in designing the dying for our 3 remaining bottom sheets.  I  took Batik classes years ago in Malaysia, would love to do it again.  My only constraint is time.  With 2 small kids and constantly planning sails and making sure we have enough of everything, I seem to have so few free minutes in the day, so we’ll see how soon it gets done.

During all this homemaker activity, Jack has been feverishly getting the boat ready for the passage.  We had to replace our starting battery, still under guarantee, so it was a free exchange.  Then he discovered that the real problem was due to a bad ground wire which he removed and replaced with a new one he fabricated.  A fifteen minute battery installation took all morning to complete.  Still left to do is buy and haul 80 gallons of diesel in jerry cans (two trips to the gas station to save 90 cents per gallon compared to the fuel dock) check and tune the rig, install new rubber spreader boots, check/replace the deck light bulb, set up the jack lines, check and update our abandon ship bag and prepare the rigging for flying our new spinnaker.  Apart from that, check the weather charts, download grib files and  coastal forecasts and plan the route.

I'm getting better at driving the huge supermarket kid carts without hitting the food displays.

I’m getting better at driving the huge supermarket kid carts without hitting the food displays.

AND during all that activity, the kids were busy getting into all sorts of stuff and trouble.  Marietta with her curiosity and antics, just like Curious George whom she emulates in her speech, etc., etc. and Jack Benjamin grabbing her every now and then by the hair and doing his Jekyll/Hyde, as his loving hugs and kisses morph into an affectionate sinking of his teeth into her.  This leaves Marietta crying, then the baby gets all upset with her crying and starts his own bellowing.  Life is rarely quiet and always interesting aboard the Kitty Hawk.

Off to plan the meals for our passage.  I try to have meals made that are either edible cold or reheat quickly in case of rough seas.  Prayers for no sea sickness and a smooth passage are appreciated!

Here are a couple more pics I found and wanted to share:

Marietta's last day of swim lessons at YMCA Melbourne, FL.  She is fearless!

Marietta’s last day of swim lessons at YMCA Melbourne, FL. She is fearless!

Jack B. loves to wear Captain Papa's hat.

Jack B. loves to wear Captain Papa’s hat.

Posted in Boat, Family, Kids, Sailing | 9 Comments