Cat Calls and Summer Squalls, Part III

Part III

Cap’n Jack here…
I last left you in Newport harbor where we spotted the Fontaine Pajot (FP) Mahe catamaran as we dinghied back to the Kitty Hawk. The story continues.
We became friends with Mike Cote and his wife as they showed us their Mahe 36. Mark was very well known on the multihull forums and respected for being very knowledgeable, we later found out. As it turns out, he was a great resource with whom to discuss the technical and seaworthiness issues about cats that plagued me. It helped me that he is an engineer also; we therefore shared the way we look at things and he spoke about things in a way I could relate to. Of course we were impressed by the design and the layout. As the tour went on, my many questions were answered. As my objections were being dispelled, I noticed the gloom begin to lift from Nicole and a glimmer hope as to the possibilities began to break through the clouds. At that moment the cat calls became as a purring. Like that comforting sound of a kitten as it warms up to you. Teeming with excitement, Nicole got all giddy on the ride back Purring Kittento our boat. She was all smiles and was quite chatty, carrying on about the possibilities, but was mostly just rejoicing and thankful that I “might” be willing to break the bond which had me firmly tied to the Kitty Hawk. At that point I felt I had made a mistake in taking her to tour that boat. The kitten, to me, was not purring, instead it was a like roaring lion, something to be feared and a danger to be reckoned with. I Roaring Lion 2rubbed my scruffy chin nervously wondering what I had gotten myself into. My mind drifted back to my previous life, remembering when I decided to stop buy a farm to check out some Labrador puppies they were advertizing. As it turned out they were asking way too much money for them, but I made the mistake of bringing my older set of kids along. They had recently lost their chocolate lab Sophie due to poisoning and they got all emotional about these chubby chocolate colored pups.  Of course they had to have one. Guess what happened next? Dad forked out the big bucks. I had never in my life paid for a dog. I was now reliving that mistake. I had opened Pandora’s Box and there was no turning back. I my mind I kept chanting the mantra, “Happy wife, happy life” over and over again, while inside I was freaking out about more than just paying for it.

What do you think honey?

What do you think honey?

Really? I LOVE it!

Really? I LOVE it!

"You're kidding, right?"

“You’re kidding, right?”

"How could I say no?"

“How could I say no?”

Catamarans are expensive and our boat even at top dollar would barely cover half the cost of the cats we were looking at, albeit, five year-olds coming out of the charter fleet, fairly bare and a little beat up. Nicole chimed in, “If we sell the house in Honduras then we can afford it. We plan to live on a boat for at least 10 years,  our kids will be able to enjoy growing up in it? . A catamaran will give them a lot of space to run around and I can watch them bounce on the trampoline while I’m busy in the galley instead of stressing down below in the galley of the Kitty Hawk wondering what danger they risk on deck”.

Mama’s view from the galley.

Then a funny thing happened. We came across a blog from a couple who had circumnavigated on an Orana 44, Isle De Grace, a serious accomplishment and a credit in favor of this boat and her crew of course. I read their entire blog to learn more about these boats and what setbacks may be lurking behind the scenes. Amazingly enough, as far as the usual setbacks that all cruising boats experience from time to time, this boat had nothing unusual. I contacted the owners and having followed the link to our blog, they then contacted us and invited us to visit them at the Magothy River near Annapolis where they lived. We had planned

Kitty Hawk Tied to the Orana 44 in the Magothy River

Kitty Hawk tied to the Orana 44 in the Magothy River

to have a closer look and ask many questions about long term voyaging, storms and storm tactics, technical issues etc. Then one day an Orana named Joia came into the anchorage. Curiously enough they circled our boat and then decided to anchor next to us. Imagine that! Of course we had to have a look at the Orana and went over to say hello. There were two families cruising on her for the summer and we remarked how uncrowded the boat seemed with all of us and all of them aboard. After a tour of the cat and a bottle of wine shared, we were hooked. Marietta then began asking me every day, “Papa, are you going to buy me a boat with a twampoline?” Later that summer, when we arrive in New Rochelle, NY, Captain Jamie invited us to go for a sail on Joia. We flew the Parasailor spinnaker on a downwind run and then tacked back upwind. I was surprisedParasailor by her sailing ability. Certainly my boat could not point that high nor sail that fast on those points of sail. We were really hooked now, but we had to sell our boat and the house first and that would not be an easy thing. Somehow I felt secure in the thought that if this was not meant to be then one thing or another would make it impossible for us to make the switch from a monohull and at that point I could chalk it up to fate (therefore I would not be the one to blame for raining on her parade) we would have to resign ourselves to the good blessed boat we had and continue as we were. The good thing is that Nicole was cool with that, but she was full of faith that she would one day have her cat. However, we both agreed that we would not stop cruising if it a cat was not in our cards.
At night the cat calls kept us wake. I awoke at about 3:00 am one 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.

Stay tuned for the rivetting end to this tale, part IV, next…

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Tomorrow is Cast-Off … Sea of Cortez, Here We Come!

I’d like to start with a bit about the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, one of our favorite weeks of the year.  With 550 hot air balloons this October, the sky was full of wonder and the city full of smiles.


We crewed with the cactus balloon, it’s HUGE!

What a neat week!  My parents drove in from Marion, IL and my sister flew from DC to meet up.  We again crewed with the Nilz Family balloon team and Jack and my dad even got to fly.

Back row:  JJack, my sister Megan, my Momma and Dad.  Front row:  Jack Jack, Nicole, Marietta.

Back row: Jack, my sister Megan, my Mom and Dad. Front row: Jack Jack, Nicole, Marietta.

Marietta working the early morning balloon set-up.

Marietta working the early morning balloon set-up.

I had an especially fun time this year as the kids are now old enough to wake up at 4am to head to the field and be part of the team, which meant that I got to be part of the team.  They loved setting up the balloons, being on the chase team, then packing the balloons away.  After the morning work is done the tailgate party starts.  If we ever tire of sailing, I could see having a family balloon.  I always wanted to get my pilots license and Jack already has his.  We would be a good team.


Unpacking and laying balloon out flat on ground.


Inflating balloon, first with huge fans then with hot air.


And … lift-off.

Marietta and Jack Jack

Marietta and Jack Jack

Our good friend Captain Ron Sheridan met us there for the week, great to spend time with him and reminisce of our sailing adventures together in Panama.

Our good friend Ron Sheridan was a kid magnet.

Captain Ron Sheridan was a kid magnet.

And now for current news … WE’RE OFF!  Tomorrow morning we plan to start our southerly migration toward Cabo San Lucas then up into the Sea of Cortez.  I have some last minute things to get at the supermarket and then will rig the fishing lines.  We are hearing stories of the big tuna and Mahi Mahi that sailors are catching along our route south, hoping for some sashimi soon!  Please pray for smooth sailing and that the little guys (and the mama) don’t feed the fish.  Will update blog when we have internet again.  So excited to be on the move!

A bit of play amidst all the preparations.  Cool new tube that we pull behind the dinghy.

A bit of play amidst all the preparations, enjoying our new tube that we pull behind the dinghy. And there is our beautiful “Let it Be” in the background.

And a few more neat shots …

Yes, that is Darth Vador and Yoda flying together.

Yes, that is Darth Vader and Yoda flying together.



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Cat Calls and Summer Squalls (Part II)

Part II

Cap’n Jack here…

It was now spring 2013 and we were planning to cruise up to and spend the hurricane season in New England. We were looking forward to the cooler weather remembering the sweltering summers spent in the Chesapeake Bay and Washington D.C. area the last couple of years. In preparation for crossing oceans

Double Head Sails

Double Head Sails

downwind we had rigged a second roller furled head sail on a wire and carried two spinnaker poles so that we could sail downwind effectively. That spring we had also bought an asymmetrical spinnaker to complement our light-air sailing strategy to keep the boat moving in all conditions.

New asymmetrical spinnaker sail

New asymmetrical spinnaker sail

We were pleased to have had to opportunity to learn how to use it and then fly it on our longer passages up the coast. It made a world of difference in family cruising comfort sailing at a good speed in 10 to 12 knots of wind as opposed to waiting for 15 to 20 knots that such a heavy boat likes. On our northward migration, Jack Benjamin turned one the day we reached Elizabeth City, NC, coincidentally the same place where Marietta Grace had her first birthday in October 2012 as we headed south that year.
We made it to Block Island under spinnaker sail from Cape May, NJ returning to the Kitty Hawk’s hailing port after ten years and then settled into Newport Harbor for the summer. That summer was a chilly one in New England and the kids ended being cooped up in the main salon for many a chilly morning in the fog.

Foggy Newport

Foggy Newport

Pretty soon it seemed like cabin fever was setting in, as the mysterious cat calls got louder in the background. The kids, more active now as they got older required more exercise and more space to move about.

The deckhands are ready to go to the library.

The “Little Guys” peeking into the galley.

They began a routine of running back and forth the aisle-way from the main salon to the front cabin. It reminded me of those caged tigers you see in the zoo pacing back and forth in their cage.

Chomping at the Gate

Chomping at the Gate

When the drizzle quit they were quick to go on deck for a romp but someone had to go on deck with them because they could not be seen from the main salon and even though we had netting all around, those little climbers could easily fall overboard.  Notice them on top of the bicycle below; well above the life-line.  They do require constant attention and supervision.  One cruiser once said, “The greatest thing about cruising is that we get to be with our kids all the time.  The worst part of cruising is that we rarely have any time away from our kids. ”  We find this to be so true.

Play time

Play time on deck

The cat calls then grew louder. One day Mama, Nicole, was in tears all of a sudden. Even though it’s nice to have a washing machine on board (a rare luxury on a sailboat) with diapers hanging

Diapers drying in the main salon on wet days

Diapers drying in the main salon on wet days

everywhere in the main salon, two booster chairs, two car seats the kids doing their tiger pacing routine among all the toys strewn about and the dreary weather keeping us all inside and cold made those inaudible cat calls even louder.

Another plus fro Newport; Fresh Lobstah

Another plus fro Newport;
Fresh Lobstah

On the passage up we visited our friends Jim and Ofa Erb and they had just bought an Amel Mango 52’ on the Chesapeake Bay which got us talking about the possibility of a bigger boat, but we were reluctant to make a change for the reasons explained before. We were both in agreement about not changing horses in midstream; however hysteria is a powerful motivator. In 2012, when we were in The Bahamas, we came across a family sailing in a catamaran. We envied their boat, but we felt catamarans were too expensive but more importantly I was an ardent monohull sailor with the “perfect” boat, of course, so we could admire those roomy “condos on the water” but that’s as far as it went. That morning things would begin to change.
One afternoon in Newport a really nice looking catamaran anchored next to us and it got us talking about the niceties of its design. It was a Fontaine Pajot Orana 44 we later found out.

Orana 44

Orana 44

Even then we were oblivious of the cats calling because that territory was in fact taboo. A good friend of mine once told me his secrete for happiness. He used to say, “Happy wife happy life.” With Nicole in tears that morning I decided to stay behind at the Maritime Center and do some research while she, the kids and tia (auntie) Megan went for groceries. Oh, I had forgotten to mention, that during that time Megan was a guest on board and although we love her dearly, is always welcome and is always great help and joy to have around, none the less, she was one more body with which to do the famous boat dance. (The boat dance is similar to a Dosey Doe in Square Dancing when one party has to move out of the way to let the other pass.) That day I began to do some research on catamarans. I wanted to find the maker of that one we had seen in the anchorage the other day. As I did my research not only did I come up with the manufacturer and model but also learned much about modern cruising catamaran design and about the myths (myths that most monohull sailors hang their hats on) perpetuated against their safety and seaworthiness. The more I read the more I liked the design philosophy behind the Fontaine

Orana 44 Layout

Orana 44 Layout

Pajot (FP) catamarans. In fact, what I noted is that it was very similar to the design philosophy that went into the CSY’s. The Orana 44 looked like it might fit the bill.

Orana 44 Layout Below

Orana 44 Layout Below

Philosophically I was impressed, but there were still many objections firmly rooted in me.

Later, as we dinghied back to the anchorage there was an FP anchored behind us. From a distance I remarked to Nicole, “Look, there is an FP cat.” She was astounded that I would recognize a cat and the maker from such a distance. She was even more amazed

Loaded Dinghy Megan and Nicole yet to board.

Loaded Dinghy
Megan and Nicole yet to board.

when I told her I had spent all morning researching cats and that I was partial to the FP’s. Having gazed at pictures of the many makes and models all morning long I was sure it was an FP we were looking at. As we passed by it, ever so slowly, looking at her intently, the owner came out and greeted us and then invited us on board.

With three adults two kids and our bikes and kid gear in the dinghy we agreed to come by later while Megan looked after the little ones. And so, the cat calls grew louder and louder.
Stay tuned for Part III…..

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Cat Calls and Summer Squalls

Part I

Captain Jack here…
It’s been noted on our blog before or should I say Nicole, my wife wrote before, that our CSY 44 cutter rigged sloop Kitty Hawk, was the perfect size boat for a family of four. Or so we thought then. Please note the following quote:
Aussie says: (Here’s the link: )
May 17, 2012 at 12:27 am
what is the boat? – ketch – single pole – made by? – have a 45 foot french built ketch
• Oh, the Places We’ve Been! says:
May 18, 2012 at 8:34 pm
Hi there, thanks for reading our blog. Our boat is a 44 foot CSY sailboat, 1 mast. Great size for a family of 4!
There, the record has been duly noted. So what happened? Why are we cruising around in a catamaran? Let me explain. First of all, that was just after Jack Benjamin was born. We had not yet gone cruising with an infant and a toddler when she wrote that. In fact, we had not left the dock since the baby was born and would not do so for another four months, when it became time to head south to Florida and The Bahamas for the winter. That year we made it to Melbourne, Florida, attended the Seven Seas Cruising Association (SSCA) Gam and then decided to stay there for the winter. Nicole was not having an easy go of it with two babies in diapers and was not happy at the thought of continuing to The Bahamas. On her birthday, while she took the kids for a stroller ride on shore, I remembered a dock where some friends on another CSY had tied up the previous year and saw that it was available. I promptly went over there and met Joan Olszewski and arranged to stay at her dock for the winter.  photo(2)Nicole was pleasantly surprised and thanked me that I had given up the plans to sail to the Bahamas that year. We have always agreed that we would do this as long as it was still fun. When it is no longer fun, we sell the boat and move on. I think that is when we began to experience the “cat calls” even though we didn’t quite know what it was it yet.

Before I go on, I want to say that we loved our time with Joan, a former cruiser herself.  We all grew very fond of her and her easy going style, especially Marietta who loved to go over for a visit to water her plants, so and we adopted her as a surrogate grandmother.  We will always love her and hope she might join us on board our new boat one day.  Maybe for her third Pacific crossing.

As many folks out there know already, there is a great debate as to what constitutes the best cruising boat and the camps are especially divided when it comes to monohulls and multihulls. Some folks are pretty adamant about defending their choices. I have found most surveys on the matter give inconclusive results because most boat owners love their boats and think theirs is the best, and that is as you might expect. Since there are many factors to consider in making that sort of assessment and since different skippers weigh them or prioritize them differently, the jury is still out on that one. However, considering all the specifics of boats, I have never seen such passionate disparity as there is in the Catamaran vs. Monohull debate.
While moored in Ensenada, Baja California, working on several projects on Let it Be, our Bahia 46 catamaran, we happened to be there for the finish of the world renown Newport to Ensenada Race. Wow! Now that I have mentioned “race”, I can already feel the monohull camp getting uneasy.



To that I’ll say, COOL IT! I’m not here to add to the ongoing debate, although, one cannot ignore that the first boats to come in were Orion and Mighty Merloe, two huge and very fast multihulls, the first, of America’s Cup fame.  However fast, these boats can hardly be considered cruising boats.  After the race, while conversing with the skipper of catamaran “Tomahawk”, being very proud of

Mighty Merloe

Mighty Merloe

his homebuilt boat and her performance in the race, he said, “A monohull is only half a boat.” There, that should incense the monohull camp, but hey, sorry, I did not say it, that is one man’s opinion.
Now I will say something in favor of the Monohull camp.

After working on the Kitty Hawk and sailing her for over ten years, all the while preparing her for a circumnavigation, or better said, to sail anywhere about the world (except the bitterrrr cold places), we got to the place where we felt she was pretty much ready. She is a stout well founded boat with a heavy built hull, a stable cruising platform in big seas. With the engine replaced, the rig refurbished, the fridge and freezer rebuilt, with equipment and systems to make her safe and the creature comforts to make her a nice home, we were finally glad to be basically done with projects and happy and thankful for a nice home.

Kitty Hawk the day she sold.

Kitty Hawk the day she sold.

Bow Roller

Pivoting Bow Roller

With a cutaway keel and a skeg-hung rudder, she was more maneuverable than a full keel boat and still had a well supported rudder. I would always say, “I’ll never go to sea with a bolted-on keel or a spade rudder.” At 22 tons, fully loaded with 400 gallons of water and 100 gallons of fuel I was happy with my hefty “coral cruncher”. Coral cruncher? Yes, I once met a guy who salvaged a CSY off a reef days after it was abandoned by a couple who had run her hard aground during a charter. He pulled it off the reef and then sailed the boat from Mexico up to Florida. She was heavily scarred, but not holed.
Essentially, with a cutter rig and a self-tending staysail, a bow roller pivot to handle our Delta 88 anchor and a powerful windlass to handle our G4 all-chain rode, I felt I would never need or want another boat. A bigger boat would be harder to single hand; it would mean bigger everything, a bigger rig, more expensive to maintain, deeper draft, making it harder to reach some of our favorite places. After sailing her successfully for over 20.000 nautical miles through many a tropical squall including getting caught by Tropical Storm Gama who back tracked down on top of us while near the Bay Islands of Honduras, with winds of 55 knots gusting to 65 and 25 foot seas, feeling safe and in control with three reefs in the main and one in the staysail, why would I ever want another boat? After investing so much blood, sweat and tears into this boat, why would I ever want to begin the process of preparing another boat for the task. I am ready to go, the boat is ready to go, so let’s go. There a places to go, things to do, people to meet, let’s go, let’s go! “Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So…get on your way!”

“Hold your horses! captain, you know too well we’ve got to grow the crew”,  Nicole kindly reminds me.

…Stay tuned for Part II!

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Land Cruising

We recently made a somewhat unplanned trip to Southern IL for the passing of my grandmother, Daphne Morgan. She was 94, lived a long and exemplary life and is someone I always strive to be like in her love for people.  So good to see family I hadn’t seen for a while and let Marietta and Jack Jack play with all the cousins.

Grandma Morgan and Jack Jack, Christmas 2013

Grandma Morgan and Jack Jack, Christmas 2013

We bought one-way tickets to Illinois as we didn’t know how long we would need to stay.  This was our first time as a 4-ticket family, no more kid on the lap for us.

Long day of travel and airports

Long day of travel and airports

In shopping for plane tickets back to Mexico and finding them very expensive, I started thinking about driving our car back. I did a few quick calculations of gas cost for the trip and then thought about the tent we had planned to buy for our National Parks camping trip next summer. Why not buy the tent now and camp on our way back to Mexico? Jack thought it was a great idea and we found the tent we’d been dreaming of at REI. After a dry run in my parents backyard with the cousins, we deemed ourselves ready to teach the kids our well-honed camping skills.

Night of camping with cousins

Night of camping with cousins in Grandma and Grandpa Tates backyard

They loved it!  So, we are all set up for a winter of sailing in the Sea of Cortez then a summer of camping next summer.

They learned a new word, "shuck" and for some reason found it funny.  They ran around saying "shuck" the rest of the evening.

They learned a new word, “shuck” and for some reason found it funny.  It became the word of the evening.

In case you have heard of Hurricane Odile that is bearing down on Cabo San Lucas, we are fine.  Below is the projected path.  We are located in Ensenada which lies just outside where the biggest circle meets the western coast of Baja California.

Hurricane Odile predicted track

Hurricane Odile predicted track

Below are some misc pics of the cousins we met up with on our trip to IL.

Back row: Noah Tate, Grandpa and Grandma Tate, Tia Megan-the-coolest, Front row:  Marietta and Nicole

Back row: Cousin Noah Tate, Grandpa and Grandma Tate, Tia Megan-the-coolest, Front row: Marietta and Nicole

Can't believe Hungry Hippos is still a popular kids game.  Love it!

Can’t believe Hungry Hippos is still a popular kids game. Love it!  With cousins Ella and Jack Tate


Cousin Griffin Tate taking Jack Jack for a spin in his new Jeep

Bedtime story read by Grandma Tate with cousins Ashley and Claire Morgan.

Bedtime story read by Grandma Tate with cousins Ashley and Claire Binder.

Good times with the cool cousins in Phoenix, Carson & Jackson Chapman.

Good times with the cool cousins in Phoenix, Carson & Jackson Chapman.

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Ensenada, Baja California: Summer of projects

There’s a cliche saying among sailors that “cruising is doing boat work in exotic places”, um … yep.  We often remember a location by the specific projects we did there.  We’ve had a busy and fun few months in Ensenada Mexico.  I’ll break it down by family member as to what we’ve been doing:

The desert of Baja California

The desert of Baja California


Jack, once again, has been the Jack of all trades. I can’t begin to list all the boat projects he has done but a few of the larger ones are:  building a 50 gallon/hour water maker from scratch, building a fiberglass top for our cockpit, converted the forward port head into a laundry room  and a new washing machine installed.  He has serviced both our Yanmar diesels, serviced and rebuilt the lower unit of our 20 hp. outboard, painted the engine rooms, and is in the process of revamping our solar array. Projects in the wings include finalizing the SSB radio and Pactor modem installation, installing our long distance wifi antenna and router, etc., etc.

Tuna: soon to  be sushi

Tuna: soon to be sushi


Sushi, compliments of  above tuna

Sushi, compliments of above tuna


"Let It Be Brewery", previously the port hall closet

“Let It Be Brewery”, previously the port hall closet

Nicole:  I’ve been raising happy healthy kids who have an insatiable desire to learn, this occupies most of my time.  I’ve been working on provisioning the boat with all the food, sunscreen, clothes, etc., that we will need for our upcoming adventure.  It’s no small amount of planning to figure out what sizes the kids will wear in a year and beyond and what the seasons will be like wherever we end up.  I’m having a lot of fun with my beer brewing and am currently stocking the boat with supplies so we won’t run out anytime soon.  I also started brewing kombucha, thanks to my friend April, and love it!  If you like drinking pickle juice, kombucha is for you! It’s making my mouth water just thinking about it.



Marietta's school picture

Marietta’s school picture

Marietta attended Greenhands College preschool for 3 months and loved it.  Her Spanish improved dramatically and we made some good friends through the school.  She is almost 4 years old, loves all things girly and is well into her “Princess” phase and already has her first pair of heels.  She compliments me on the rare occasion I wear a dress and tells me how pretty I look.  As much as I try to make her into a Chaco and board shorts girl, she wears dresses most days and tries to beat the boys in races while wearing her white pumps.


"Jack Jack", San Felipe, Baja California

“Jack Jack”, San Felipe, Baja California

Jack B, aka, “Jack Jack” is about the same size as Marietta and many people ask if they are twins.  He is 2.5 years old and can eat a whole hamburger by himself.  He is feisty as I’ve ever seen a kid and gets a fat lip a few times a week from falling after various stunt attempts with his Razor scooter.

Our plan is to stay based here in Ensenada Mexico until the end of hurricane season (end of October) and sail to the Sea of Cortez beginning of November.

This is just a quick update, more to come very soon.  I have a few blog ideas, including the highly solicited “virtual boat tour”.

All dressed up for 4th of July

All dressed up for 4th of July



Watching the “Baja 500” off road race. Ensenada, Baja California

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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