Archive for the ‘Sailboats’ Category

Sailing Vessel Halcyon


This is one story that has been hard to tell.

We left Mexico last June, 2012. We had a mooring made by an individual name Fernando who was “known” for making moorings. He put it in the water and secured it with chain without allowing Michael to inspect it. Michael had mentioned to him many times that he needed to inspect it before splashing it. But Fernando “blew him off”. That should have been our first warning.

We also hired someone to keep watch over the boat while we were gone. Jimmy was a local who agreed to watch over the boat and maintain it if anything went wrong.

Our Mexican Visas were about to expire last May and we had to leave the country. We weren’t allowed to renew the visas since we were at the expiration date and would have to leave Mexico until January 2013. Although Michael was able to pay extra money and obtain a yearly visa.  We had planned to be as far south as El Salvador by the time our visas expired, but that didn’t happen. The motor mounts had needed replacing and the boat was going to have to be hauled before we continued south. We didn’t have the money for the repairs at that time and had to go back to the states. We were aware there were risks but had no choice. Since we had hired Jimmy to watch the boat and an alarm installed, we hoped that would be enough to keep it safe.

On Aug. 13th, 2012, we received a phone call from Jimmy, our boat had broke loose of its mooring one night during a storm from the east. It drifted over a reef and pounded on top of the rocks for some time, putting a large hole the size of a human hand in the side and cracking the keel length wise and the boat sank.

About 8 locals and ponga taxi drivers worked to move the boat, patch the leaks, and made runs to shore for supplies for 3 days. Our helper Jimmy, was on the phone with us daily asking for more money to patch the leaks. After sending off funds by way of Western Union several times, it was evident that Michael was going to have to get down there to assess the damage. We were working hard to get the money together for airfare and more repairs.

We were at the Miami airport the next morning by 5 a.m., for Michael to take the first flight to Mexico City then on to Zihuatanejo. We had understood that we might not see each other for a month or more due to the amount of work that he would have to do to get the boat in order. We hoped that he would have enough money to pay the locals and start repairs.

When Michael arrived he was inundated with people. He began paying people for the work they had done while more and more people on boats approached him demanding $2,000 to $3,000, not pesos. He was told it would cost over $6,000 just to tow the boat to a marina to a nearby town. The leader of the group, requesting the largest amount of money, told Michael to meet the Port Captain the next day at 10 a.m. When Michael asked if he needed to check with the Port Captain to confirm the time, the guy told him the Port Captain worked for him. Michael told me “They think we are just rich Americans, they are demanding money that we don’t have”.

The boat was back on the mooring when Michael got there. He inspected the chain and found saw marks all over the chain. The boat was moored close to shore a few hundred yards from the beach in 40′ of water. The boat was too close to land to “break loose” of the mooring due to wind or waves. The entire situation was suspicious.

After Michael’s call to update me, I was concerned that the Mexican Government would arrest Michael and detain him indefinitely. I called a lawyer friend who was also a cruiser. He consulted with several other individuals that were knowledgeable of International Maritime Law. He highly recommended that Michael leave the country immediately and handle affairs long distance. Claims would be made against the boat. He said “Take a bus out-of-town if you have to, just GET OUT”. The urgency in his voice made me more aware of the potential danger that Michael was in.

Michael’s first phone call to me was at 5p.m. on Friday. At 5:45 p.m., I instructed him to take the next flight out-of-town which was at 6:35pm. He had about an hour to get to the airport.  He was to take a water taxi a mile and half back to shore, hire a street taxi to the airport 20 minutes away and hope there was room on the next flight out to Mexico City.

We worried that he would be detained at the airport. He was able to purchase the last seat on the plane 10 minutes before take off. I made reservations for him out of Mexico City one hour after his arrival, only for him to be detained in customs. The next flight to the United States left at 4 a.m. Saturday morning.

Michael said he sat in the airport in Mexico City, out-of-the-way, hoping not to be noticed. Which I found to be funny, a Gringo in Mexico stands out like a sore thumb. The next 24 hours were hell while trying to arrange last-minute flights back to the U.S.   At 7:30AM Saturday he called to say he had arrived in the United States safely. The following 12 hours were spent calling and texting him to keep him awake for his connecting flights, in order to get him on his next flight home.

I met Michael at the airport at 7:30 pm Saturday night. A little over 24 hours from the time he called me from the boat. It felt  a month had passed by.  As he walked around the corner with all of the other passengers at the arrival gate I noticed that he had my violin across his shoulder. When I grabbed him and hugged him he said “The last thing I grabbed was your violin and my moms ashes”. (His moms ashes were going to be scattered at sea with the rest of the family once the boat was back on the east coast.) Michael looked defeated and exhausted, it was all I could do to fight back the tears.

When we got home, Mike our Son was eagerly waiting to see his Dad walk in the door. The guys hugged each other tight then Michael stepped back, looked at us and said ” I’m sorry, I couldn’t save the boat”. The days following revealed the Zihuatanejo Port Captain paid the locals by dividing up the equipment located on the Sailing Vessel Halcyon. Halcyon had been set up to be self-sufficient. The only thing we needed to cruise was fuel and food (and now we know “deep pockets”) to go where ever we wanted to go. All of our savings, heart and soul had gone into this boat.

What matters most is that we are together and safe. We are thankful that we weren’t on the boat when someone decided that they wanted it. Living without one of our family members would have been the hardest thing to live with. Our hearts are broken due to the loss of our home and sanctuary.


Are We There Yet?


Seems like we spend most of our time wishing our lives away.

By the end of May we could hardly stand the heat in La Paz.  The days were starting to reach 100-101 and the window liners had been put back in the ports to keep the temperature down inside the boat.  Couldn’t wait for the sun to start setting just so we could sit out on the deck and attempt to catch a cool breeze.  By the first week in June we were planning on storing the boat for hurricane season and heading back to the states.

We had been in Mexico for 11 months and had no idea what we were missing. Television in the U.S. is mentally degrading not only the commercials but the programs as well.  The people are more self absorbed and less willing to speak in passing.   We discovered that we had been acclimated to La Paz.  Life in Mexico had taught us to slow down……. and focus on keeping it simple.

We have been back in the states for two months now and  are looking forward to returning to Mexico and our home on the boat. As soon as hurricane season is over and things start to cool off  we will be returning back to La Paz to pick up where we left off.  Are we there yet?

Miles of Varnish


There seems to be miles of teak to sand and varnish.  Luckily there isn’t many layers of old finish to remove before I start varnishing.  As I began prepping the wood, I found myself looking at the job ahead and determining the number of hours it was going to take to complete just one stretch of  rub rail.  My heart sunk in hopes that I could make it pretty fast.  This is a job that is going to take some time and patience.

The Search Adventure


It is now 2010. We have been landlubbers for way too long, thirteen years. We have decided to enjoy the life of cruising once again, but first we must start with a sailboat large enough to house a family of three and two large dogs. 

The first boat we looked at was in Connecticut, it was Easter Weekend. We drove from the Chattanooga , Tennessee area. That was fun, mainly viewing the countryside . Mapquest took us right to New York City. Got stuck in traffic on the George Washington Bridge. I have never seen so much disorganization of traffic in my life. Looked like 10 plus, lanes of traffic were fed thru 6 or 7 toll booths. Cars, literally, bumper to bumper. Tractor Trailers only inches from the back of everyone’s car. Back to the boat…. Yes, it was nothing like the pictures and stated claims of the condition. Funny what people consider “Ready to Sail”.

After that, we went to St. Augustine, Florida to look at 51’ Ketch. It was used primarily for charter work. The owner was a marine archeologist, which I found impressive. He lived on it while he chartered it, but his work took him out of the area and he no longer had time to work on it “full time”. This boat was a cold mold fiberglass boat. It was a cool boat should one spend all their waking hours out on deck. The interior was tiny. Two people wouldn’t have been able to stand up or even pass each other. Our needs required that at least three humans and two dogs could exist comfortably. This was going to be an interesting search.

The next boat was in Coral Gables, Florida. My goodness, that was a pretty boat. This boat had the atmosphere that made a person want to stay and never leave. The only problem with this one was it had extensive leaks, that had not been addressed in years. There was rot all over her. To think that someone could buy this boat and take it out in ocean, was a real scary thought. A good hard wave could break that one apart. I was saddened, I could have really called this one home.

Then there was 60’ Three Masted Steel Schooner, in Naples, Florida. Now that was a sea worthy boat. The deck sides/bulwarks, were over knee high. It had lots of deck space to spread out on. The owner was getting it ready to take supplies to Orphans in Haiti after the massive earthquake that had recently happened.  The interior was large enough for cargo. The owner said he had everything to turn it back into a comfortable cruiser. It lacked comfortable living quarters. The men talked over ideas of “we could do this, or we could do that” with the interior. It had many possibilities. Michael always said, “If a boat can’t earn money for you, it’s not worth having”, which was sensible.  Anyway, the boat had a seperate engine room with water tight doors to it, an air compressor for dive tanks and lots of gear.  The master stateroom was nice and large with a separate entrance and it’s own head and shower. We liked the topsides of this boat most of all.  It had the classic feel and lay out that schooner ships have.

Today we are in Kemah, Texas looking at a 51 Formosa. This boat was “The Boat” in the movie Captain Ron. From a distance the hull looked like it needed a good buffing job, perhaps paint job. The pictures did not give way to any false ideas about it’s condition. The guys just got out of the van and are looking it over, me , I had to stay behind in the ac with our two large dogs. Gives me a chance to document our adventures and check my emails on the computer. Ok, here comes Mike with a report. He tells me that the boat needs varnish and paint everywhere. It appears to have leaks, and he says “I hope you feel the same way I do about this one.” I think he is scared to death that we will choose a boat that he wouldn’t be caught dead on. Being a teenager, appearance means everything you know! His summations were not off at all. The one question I asked was “what does it smell like?” The smell of mildew in a boat , whether it is strong or not, will indicate water leaks. The most common smell on boats are the holding tank chemicals. Which aren’t appealing either. His response was “it smells like a boat.”

It was a large boat, which did need varnish and paint. Cosmetics, I can work with. The broker said the teak decks were redone three years ago. As I looked them over, I saw that the caulking between the seems was missing in places.

The teak was bowed and pulling away from the deck in other areas. I asked him where the work had been done and he said “somewhere in the islands”. I wanted to know where not to take my boat in the future. It was a bad replacement job. The cabin sides had been stripped of varnish in some places and the “bungs” were swelling and standing above the wood surface. Varnished areas had seams with voids where water gets in and finds it’s way down below.

My husband sees the best in everything and began explaining how we could do this and that to improve the situation. Ipointed out the large pot on the master bunk, which looked as tho it was used to catch rain water. The heat down below was smothering me and it was all I could do to find my way out of there. The Broker asked me what I thought and I told him it was more work than I cared to take on. He assured me that if we took the boat to South America, we could get the work done for a quarter of what it would cost to have done here in the United States.. No thanks! 

Ironically this boat was located in a marina right next to an amusement park with a large roller coaster.  Every so often you could clearly hear the screams of the people on the ride.  I had to laugh because while looking this boat over the screams really summed up how I was feeling. 🙂

We spent the last few days on the west coast in Washington State looking at a couple of boats that “caught our eye”, so to speak.  Our introduction to Washington State consisted of rainy and cold weather.  We spent the first day there regrouping and running errands in the pouring rain.  Michael called the owner of the Formosa and set up an appointment for 4pm the following day for a viewing.  It turned out to be a beautiful sunny day.  As we walked down the dock we met a man who said “It’s a beautiful day, and I have no idea why?”.  It was an odd statement that made me laugh.  But as I learned of the weather in the Seattle area, I began to understand.  One couldn’t help but notice the beautiful snow capped mountains behind the Puget Sound.  Large container ships passed by as well as other boats of various shapes and sizes.  As we walked down the dock, the boat owner continued pointing out the classic boats and their histories along the way.  As we approached the Formosa with classic lines, dark blue hull, sailcovers, dodger and  heavy stainless davits on the back, it was evident this was the boat we came to see. The decks were fiberglassed/not teak, which was a plus.  Teak decks have a reputation for leaking.  This boat had a few leaks but nothing major.  When entering the cockpit, there was a small section in the dodger/bimini area to climb thru.  I had not bent my legs in that fashion in some time.  The cockpit area was rather small which could be an issue when cruising long distances.  The cockpit area is where most of your time is spent.  The owners had put much effort into making this boat a terrific liveaboard by making good use of the space.  Storage was plentiful and it even had a washer/dryer on board. 

 The only issue I found with this boat was living space for our son.  I didn’t want to purchase a boat that didn’t have adequate living space for him as well.  His living quarters need to be large enough for him to be able to move two steps to the right or left.  Perhaps I just couldn’t visualize the space adequately.  The owners were very nice and  accomodating to allow us a viewing of their boat with such short notice.   And as we had done before, we had to take turns viewing the boat while someone stayed behind in the vehicle with the dogs.  Michael and I went first, then Mike looked at it next. When I traded places with Mike it was 5pm.

  At 6pm, Michael came back to the van to pick up his Tennessee Rum in the back pack saying “I’ll be right back”.  I knew better.  By 6:30 I texted Mike with a “Let’s Go”.  By 7pm the guys had yet made it back to the van.  So I started the engine and drove down the road in the opposite direction, just to look around.  As the vehicle was out of sight from the dock, my phone then rings with Mike on the other end “Where did you go?”.  Told him I was tired of waiting and decited to leave.  Don’t think it mattered much, by the time I got back to the dock the guys were sitting on a bench watching a group of women doing Yoga on the dock overlooking the Puget Sound at sunset. 🙂

Next stop was at the most northern point of Washington State, right at the United States border to Canada. This boat was a 51′ Hudson.  It was apparent that she had not been out of the water in some time.  The kelp grew beautifully long and slinder off of the propeller as well as a large colony of barnacles. 

 The lines on these Hudsons always appealed to me, with the long bow sprits.  The owner of this boat was a charming man who felt that he was getting too old to run this sailboat.  I didn’t have the heart to tell him how young he still was compared to the people I had met in previous years in Florida who were still sailing in their early 90’s.  He was so very interesting to talk to.  He had many interesting stories to share.  This boat was in good condition but there were some “unknown” factors about it that didn’t set well with us.  The bilge was real dry and the interior hullside had all been wrapped in aluminum foil type bubble wrap for insulation.  There was no where that you could look at the condition of the hull.  The topside teak decks were wavy indicating they weren’t fascend porperly.  After being on the road for almost 6 weeks, I was beginning to overlook certain issues just to find a place to call home.  Luckily, Michael wasn’t as eager as I was andw we left on the note that we had more boats to see and that we would be in touch.  While looking back, I’m glad he had the fortitude to do that because we might have been sorry otherwise.

Meanwhile, our friend Shelly in La Paz, Mexico contacted us again that she had a 51′ Formosa that had just dropped the price and if we were interested in the boat we needed to get down there and take a look. Since neither of us had our passports, off to Florida we went where our personal papers were located.  It was decided, by Michael, that he would go alone first to check it out and would report back.  He went the expidite route and was able to obtain his passport in 3 days.  By the 4th day he flew out to Mexico in time to see the Baja Race in La Paz.  So Mike and I stayed in Florida and spent time catching up with old friends while waiting for Michael’s report. 

The Seasons End


It had been an adventurous season, to say the least. We had many more exciting moments heading north that spring, but the one that stands out the most in my mind was  the marriage proposal from Michael. Over all, this trip took us two weeks to get to Marco Island, FL  and  six weeks to get back home to the Outer Banks in North Carolina, thanks to the spring storms.  It was an adventure I would never forget. 

 Michael and I were married the following September in 1991.  We continued to live aboard even after our son was born in 1993 and didn’t move back onshore until 1997. In many ways we regretted not staying on board. We knew that one day, we would return.

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