Friday, May 17, 2013

Leaving Key West.  Again.

One year ago, almost to the day, we left from Key West bound for Panama.  This time we're headed north to Oriental, NC, where we'll pause to haul out and put on some bottom paint before continuing to NH.   Plan is to arrive at our mooring  in Little Harbor before the end of June.

Weather changed our plans in Honduras so we did not explore Cayo Cochinos or Utila as posted last time, but enjoyed French Harbor and the West End of Roatan.  Crews of Laeto Loco and Act III were very impressed with the Bay Islands and spent a lot of time in the water with our snorkel gear.
Lobster Not From Maine

Turtle, Dude
But I had a plane ticket to fly to North Carolina out of Key West and Elle from Laeto Loco  had to begin a crew training course in Fort Lauderdale, so we had to take the best weather window we could find to make the passage to Key West by March 18.  Remember, this is nearly 6 weeks after leaving Panama, so we were rushing.

Both boats did fine for the first 3 days, but after making the NE turn around Cuba, we ran into strong winds on the nose a day earlier than expected which made crossing the Gulf Stream rather  bumpy for Act III.  We lost the use of our genoa when the furling line parted; Bill had to wrestle that huge sail down and secure it along the deck before the stronger winds hit us .  Laeto Loco had a lot of trouble making headway motor-sailing with only one of their engines working.  Their catamaran was pounded hard and they had to spend a night riding to a sea-anchor, but they drifted faster than expected and the next morning found them only 30 miles off the coast of Cuba, having lost all the hard-won distance of the previous day.   They spent another day just holding their position. until the wind died down and allowed them to make for Key West again.  They came into port 3 days behind us with significant boat and body damage;  Elle had  a cracked rib from falling while helping to haul in the sea anchor and the boat was on the hard here in Key West for 7 weeks of repairs.   Fortunately, Laeto Loco had their SSB radio repaired in Honduras so we were able to stay in contact with them through the passage and when things got rough, we talked hourly.  Bill provided with weather and advice (although he worried something fierce about that responsibility), and we offered moral support and promises of Key Lime Pie through the long nights.   We're sorry Laeto Loco got beaten up, but we were not disappointed to spend more time with the Veldman family since they didn't rush off to Bahamas after Elle's class ended in March--they left Key West only last week.  Paul, Laura, Elle, Claire and Adam have become family to us and we miss them.

Aqua Mama
On Wednesday, March 20, I hopped on a plane to North Carolina.  The whole flying experience felt surreal after so many months of barefoot living in bathing suits on quiet islands with few regulations and no credit cards, never traveling faster than 10 knots.  I was greeted by my very beautiful and very pregnant daughter Polly in Asheville, had a divine evening in the spa pools of The Grove Park Inn, then drove an hour north to their home in a BLINDING snowstorm.  Oh Hell--had to wear socks as well as shoes.  On Thursday we caught up and made plans.  On Friday we cancelled plans and instead kept a time log of contractions--oops, they're now called "birthing waves", which Polly rode beautifully with the hypno-birthing techniques she'd been practicing.  With Miles awesome coaching and support, she delivered sweet Baby Ginger only 2.5 hours after arriving at the hospital on Friday evening, with no drugs except Tylenol.  Brilliant timing, as I got to spend the rest of my 3 week visit with my beautiful, strong, clever new granddaughter.

Miles and Ginger Mae Lorien
We have a new buddy-boat for part of our trip up the East Coast:  John and Trish Billings aboard s/v Mariah, from San Diego.  We two couples have much in common:  Trish and I tie up  at  Key West's few convenient dinghy docks to grocery shop or ride their folding bikes to run errands, fetch parts or explore, while Bill and John work aboard and get into discuss physics ("propeller heads" Trish calls them.  There was the day we had a car and the guys dropped Trish and me at the Publix grocery store, only to call us an hour later to say they'd been waiting for us at the other Publix.  True it's confusing to have two Publix on the same highway, but...really?)

Bill has spent 2 consecutive birthdays (May 16) in Key West.  We have seen many amazing places and spent time with even more amazing people, including our children in this one short year.  Lucky LUCKY us.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

San Blas (Kuna Yala) Panama

December, 2012-February, 2013

Two months in San Blas Islands (Kuna Yala) off Panama made us lazy.   The weather is perfect with air temperatures ranging from 80 - 85, day and night; water temp. 82 degrees and clear aqua blue, breezes blowing most of the time keep bugs away and wind generators happy.  Wonderful sailing  between postcard perfect islands, with little to no seas, since the archipelago is behind a protective reef .  Distances are short so you can visit more than one island in a day if you're ambitious.  Which we weren't.  There was one remarkable rainstorm early in our visit, providing a dinghy full of fresh water for laundry day!

Provisioning could be a challenge at tiny stores in the Kuna villages.   We took our chances sailing 20 miles to Nargana, one of the larger islands near coastal Panama where one generally could purchase rice, oil, and yeast;  if the Columbian or Panamanian trading boats had come in recently, there might be boxed milk  a decent variety of vegetables and crackers.   On another island we scored peanut butter and white flour.  I don't understand why buying flour was difficult because Kuna bread (something like hot dog rolls) was everywhere.  Forget buying cheese--only lukewarm American singles.  Long-time cruisers or charters take a road-trip to Panama City (3 hours by taxi on the nasty Carti Road, only open during the day) for big shopping.  We weren't tempted.  We even started drinking tea when our coffee ran out and could only be replenished by small bags of single-packs.

But who needs the Kuna stores?  Geraldo or Jacob came to our boat in the anchorage more or less weekly with their pangas full of fresh veggies, and sometimes  eggs, fresh frozen whole chickens--really whole!, beer, wine, and, on New Years, bottles of champagne.  Fishermen stopped by daily offering their fresh catch of mackerel, tuna ,or red snapper, which they obligingly scaled or fileted on their dugout canoes.   We shun the local lobster, but love the crab, huge beasts with exceptionally sweet meat, although cutting and cracking their tough shells takes heavy-duty tools.  Uh, like our 3 ft. long  bolt cutters.  An enterprising baker came occasionally with fresh bread.   I filled in our need for carbs and fat by making yummy chowder from the crab bodies, English muffins, blender mayo, and a sort of feta cheese from boxed milk.  It was not exactly roughing it.
We spent some time at the West Lemmons anchorage continuing our big project of rebedding the portlights--a messy, two-person project.  Each portlight, or pair, takes a couple of days to complete drilling and tapping (bronze dust everywhere), scraping old sealant away, sealing the inside core with fiberglass, remounting  the rings with butyl tape, then trimming the bronze bolts with our Dremel tool.    We bless our little shop vac, and butyl tape is waaay easier to work with than standard tubes of caulk. 

Elefante Internet Bar

West Lemmons offered internet at Elefante Bar if you brought  your computer and plugged into one of their 3 (short) hard wire cables extending out from behind the bar and sat at the small plastic table.  It was pleasant enough to sit with a glass of local rum and (maybe) ice (Bill) or red wine from a box (Heidi)--it wasn't good wine, but it was Clos-- while checking email or sometimes Skype-ing our kids.    More than one person online slowed everything to a crawl, so it wasn't conducive to uploading to our blog. 

A number of our crusing friends from Bocas were in Kuna Yala,  and we re-connected with Laeto Loco, a spectacularly gorgeous family of 5 from Indiana who have taken a year's leave from work and school to cruise on the catamaran they purchased in Bocas.   In January we discovered they and we had nearly identical schedules for heading north from Panama to Florida, both crews need to be in Florida by the third week of March--I am flying to NC from Key West to be close to Polly and Miles for the birth of their first child and one of the Laeto Loco daughters is going to take a crew certification course in Ft. Lauderdale. Their experience cruising changed her mind about going to college right away.   Laeto Loco is inexperienced so welcomed our offer to travel together.  
We left Kuna Yala on Feb. 3, arriving in Providencia 48 hours later, excited to see real grocery stores, motorized vehicles, hair salon, and tall people who spoke English.   We went wild and rented a golf cart to tour the 4.5 mile long island....circumnavigating in an hour at golf cart speed.  Even the military police smiled and waved at our cart of 7 people, probably because Elle and Clare from L.L. are both about 6' tall with long blond hair.
Clare from Laeto Loco
After 3 days we continued north to the Bay Islands of Honduras, where we are thrilled with the snorkeling and services available, although it's disturbing to have guards with automatic weapons stationed in and around the grocery store, gas station and banks here on Roatan, the largest of the island group.   We are avoiding the end of the island where the cruise ships stop, and are loving being at anchor in French Harbor, near Little French Cay, picking up free wifi from one of the restaurants on shore.  Snorkeling is fantastic in a protected marine park 200 yards away--the biggest lobsters we've ever seen.

Tomorrow we're heading 25 nm. south to Cayos Cochinos, a national marine park surrounded by the second largest barrier reef in the world, they say.  We'll spend a few days diving and snorkeling there before returning to Utila, just west of Roatan, where we'll clear out of Honduras and await good weather to head for Isla Mujeres MX, on the way to Key West. 

I'm excited and sad as we approach the States after so many months in Panama.   We can scarcely wait to see our kids and grandkids, but wonder if we have lost our toughness to swim in water colder than 80 degrees. 

More Photos Providencia & Honduras

We know you'll all feel sorry for us when we freeze in Little Harbor and Newmarket in June.   We'll happily accept warm hugs.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Colon, Panama

We finally left Bocas del Toro and arrived at Shelter Bay Marina, Colon, at the Caribbean (North) entrance of the Panama Canal.  We drive  across one of the locks on our way to town from the marina, sometimes having to wait for huge ships to get towed into the lock.  Cool.

We are in Colon for two reasons:  Ben needed to get to the US Embassy in Panama City to have pages added to his passport, which was nearly confiscated at the Costa Rica/Panama border when there was no space for the official stamp.  By sailing to Colon, we saved Ben a 12+ hour bus ride; its only an hour to Panama City from here.

We stopped at Rio Chagres on the way, only 6 miles from here, and enjoyed the pristine jungle complete with crocodiles, toucans and howler monkeys swinging through the trees.  We did not linger to do any hiking as Ben was in a bit of a hurry, and he was not lucky fishing, although a croc got interested enough in his jiggling bait to come close to the boat.  We were not brave (or stupid) enough to swim, but the fresh water was a treat for the boat and our showers with the deck wash-down hose.

On our way to Colon from Rio Chagres, we rescued a pair of fishermen in their panga who were rowing fiercely to stay off the rocky lee shore.   The starter cord on their outboard had broken, so we towed them out of the disorganizd swells back into the river mouth, provided tools and cord, and failed to capture their huge smiles when their engine started again.  They insisted on giving us some of their catch despite our protestations that we didn't need fresh fish right away--we had too much food to use before it spoiled--so we sallied forth again with 8 nice snappers and jacks.  (The next day I gave the fish to the marina restaurant chef; he gave us a bottle of wine and everyone was happy.)  That makes two times Ben and Bill have rescued a fishing panga in almost the exact same area.  The last time was in 2007.

Ben left the morning after we arrived at the marina, and is now back in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua with a passport bulging with clean pages. Rachel had left Bocas earlier to visit her family in Colorado, and flew back directly to Nicaragua, where they will spend the season working and surfing. Rachel is teaching yoga, Ben is seeking boat work. After having them with us for 6 months, it was very hard to say good-bye.

However, the fun never ends here. Paul and Piper (the deck babe formerly known as Mary Beth) joined us at Shelter Bay last week, and we planned to head for the San Blas Islands as soon as we provisioned and fueled up, and expected to share another fine Thanksgiving with them anchored off some fabulously beautiful island.  Then the rain started, then the floods began, then the fuel  barge didn't come, then the president of Panama declared a state of emergency in Colon, then fuel arrived but a fancy yacht needed hours to take on thousands of gallons of diesel, etc. etc, so our departure has been delayed a week and Thanksgiving dinner was a (delicious) cruiser potluck.  Today we toted 40 gallons of diesel in jerry jugs from the fuel barge, the weather has mostly cleared, and we're finally prepared to leave in the morning.  Meanwhile, Bill and Paul (The Semi-Colons--rhymes with Cologne) have amused themselves and others by playing  music outside at the bar, while Piper and I play Bananagrams, a great new game for word nerds that Polly and Miles brought down last month.   More about THAT wonderful visit later.

We can't say we're thrilled with Shelter Bay Marina, but it's the only game in town since the Panama Canal Yacht Club was torn down 4-5 years ago. Shame. The marina offers a free daily round-trip bus to shopping in Colon 30 minutes away, but a taxi costs $25 each way, and if you have a lot of bags, you won't fit them on the crowded bus.  We're looking forward to better cruising grounds soon.
Rio Chagres Photos

Saturday, November 10, 2012

We've been lucky to have great friends and family aboard nearly constantly since last March, but I find it tough to sit and write at those times.  It's occurred to me that there have been some great moments unreported as we sailed from Key West to Panama with Ben and Rachel, and then spent the past several months in Bocas del Toro.  I will randomly post a few as I get internet access, which has been some frustrating here.   Here's the first:

Act III was on the same mooring in Key West for a couple of months and at least four of us swam around the boat every day, so I was greatly surprised that it took six weeks for me to spot a  15 hp. Johnson outboard sitting on the bottom only a few yards from the boat.  I dove down to make sure the motor was relatively complete and when it didn't look too bad--and against my better judgement--I pointed it out to Ben and Bill.  Silly me thought they would dismiss it as being too far gone, but in fact, the rest of the day was spent hauling it aboard, draining out the sand and salt water, and dismantling.  The two men stood side by side at the push pit, one working diligently on the lower unit, the other on the upper; tools came out of the garage; the compressor was unearthed (20 moves), and as each part was cleaned and examined,  the dang thing indeed appeared salvagable.  After several hours, Ben noted a key part missing, dang.  They reassembled their Johnson(s), and we took it to the "free" place near the dinghy dock, where it was snapped up before they could even set it down.  One less piece of garbage in the ocean, and several beers earned for the salvagers.  Happy ending.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Update Cayman Islands   

I did some emailing to local marine environmental groups and learned  "Studly" our frisky dolphin friend, is well-known in the area as "Stinky."  He is a lone dolphin, which is unusual,  who has interacted with boaters and divers for over 3 years.  Lara, a dolphin trainer at Dolphin Cove, wrote  me that his behavior (maturbating on our anchor chain) is not uncommon for adolescent or mature male dolphins.  Her team watched the videos we posted and told Ben and Rachel, who dinghied to Dolphin Cove on an general explore, that dolphin vocalizations and jaw-snapping are aggressive behavior.  So, we were perhaps lucky, and surely dumb, to swim with him, mistakenly thinking he was encouraging and enjoying our company.  Perhaps he was feeling possessive about Act III's goddess bow and wanted her all to himself.  It was still a thrilling interaction.

Backing up in time:  our first stop after leaving Key West was Dry Tortugas National Park, about 70 miles west of KW.  There are no services there, just a small quiet anchorage surrounded by a spectacularly beautiful bird sanctuary that made us feel like we were in The Birds movie, and an uncompleted fort.  When the US bought Florida from Spain, they thought Dry Tortugas--so  named because there is no fresh water source-- would be a perfect location for a fort to control the lucrative  shipping  (pillaging) between Mexico and Central America and Europe.  They started but never finished a huge fort, after laying over 16 million bricks.  We enjoyed spectacular snorkeling and Ben fished,  of course,

Too bad Ben wasn't wearing his Go-Pro camera when he made a Highlight-reel cast one evening from the inflatable.  He caught a smallish snapper and while  reeling it in, a large barracuda spun up and clamped the side of the the snapper in its jaws.  Now Ben reeled carefully, hoping to salvage both his lure and the two fish.   He got his catch up to the dinghy, just about to lean over and get his lure back, when from under the dinghy shot a hammer-head shark who gulped both the fish in a flash.  Jeesh!

We could only stay one night before weather pushed us on to Isla Mujeres, Mexico, off the coast of Cancun.   We had to motor much of the way around the west coast of Cuba, but at least conditions were calm.  Isla Mujeres is a great mix of Mexico and Caribbean Islands, friendly and charming, after jumping through the typical Mexican hoops to check in.  We were scolded for not having fumigation papers, and they could have forced us to get Mexcan fumigation with muy harsh chemicals, but we were pardoned with much warning.  We stayed at Puerto Isla Mujeres, a posh resort/marina but quite inexpensive, and treated ourselves to some pool and swim up bar, laundry and divine outdoor massages (Rachel and Heidi only; the men claim massages hurt).

We left Mexico after 5 days, but heading due south was out of the question.  We made some good easting, however, and when weather for SW Caribbean was reported "truly horrendous" we stopped here at Cayman Islands to wait things out.  Ben took this time to return to Montana to complete a boat engine install he had started last fall, and our sailing weather wasn't due to get much better for a week, so Bill, Heidi and Rachel toughed it out alone in the clear warm water, off the shore of  Rum Point Club, which puts out a decent wifi signal.  

 Ben returned 5 days ago, and we checked out to leave on Friday, but then heard an updated weather that would have us in 25-30 kt winds on the nose for 2-3 days.  Act III could do it, but in the interest of saving the crew, we waited two more days.  We just checked out again, and we hope our next post is from Bocas del Toro, Panama.  Wish us luck this time...we're getting nervous about hurricanes.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

 Cayman Islands, 0600 hours, June 13:

Bill, Heidi and Rachel aboard; Ben had to fly to Montana for a week to finish a boat engine install.  I'll catch up with other news later, but this  astounding event requires immediate posting:

A dolphin has been playing with Act III for over 13 hours now.  We are anchored and when Rachel, working in the hammock on the bow, first saw him, he was slowly moving up and down our anchor chain to the bottom where it maybe stirred up food; he slinked up and down the chain, back and forth to the surface, misting us with his exhales as he reached  the surface.  How do we know it's a "He", you ask?  We know for sure because  after a half-hour of anchor-sliding, he hovered near the surface beside the chain, sidled over, rolled belly-up under the chain, and began to rub his large, extended bright-pink penis across the chain.   Over and over again he repeated this series of moves, pausing after each session to take frequent breaths (and have a smoke?)   At one point, he hooked his penis on the chain and pulled the bow of Act III about 4 feet to starboard.  Don't even think about trying this at home, guys!

This went on for over an hour, then when Studly (our name for him) ) had enough self-satisfaction he began to splash, frolic, and race toward us, making high-pitched noises and dolphin clicks, then turning on his side to stare at our reaction.  We got in the dinghy (no motor so we wouldn't hurt him with the propeller) and floated up to the bow.  Studly was  thrilled and surfaced over and over to us, allowing Rachel several pets on his head.  Careful pets, because he was making those big jaw-snapping clicks that we do not think are aggressive, but induce caution, nonetheless.   Next he began diving under the dinghy and bumping us heavily.   We came back aboard when it got  too dark to see much anymore (and we had some fresh Cayman Rum cake to test), and we heard Studly continue to blow around the bow; I came out to check on him when it got quiet and he breeched with a huge splash.  We figured he'd get bored soon enough. or at least go sleep or eat but....

He squeaked, bumped and slapped Act III at the bow all night, so vigorously that poor Rachel barely got any sleep in the V-berth.  Before Studly's appearance, we had thought to mosey around North Sound, Grand Cayman today to a new anchor spot, but we cannot bring ourselves to leave him.  So we're pinned here until the dolphin lets us go.  Rachel just went out in the dinghy again and Studly's so excited he spun bubbles around her, then leaped out of the water.

...At 0800 we donned masks and snorkels and went swimming with Studly, who mugged, jaw-snapped, clicked and squeaked for the camera.  We got out of the water about 30 minutes later; and our new friend, pleased with himself for calling us into the water, and clearly unimpressed with our aquatic skills, made a few more lazy circles around Act III and departed, after 15 hours.

It's the most amazing thing in nature we've ever experienced.

Check the Videos (and poke around my YouTube channel to watch some great music performed by  Polly Lorien)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Conch Republic (Key West)

For those of you persistent souls who  haven't given up on us: We Love You!

When the nice folks at the KW City Marina Mooring field called today to ask if we were still here, we were startled to realize we've been in town for a month.   Before Bill's long overdue haircut last week, he looked like a real Conch (Key West native) only healthier and with more teeth.   (Note:  I started this post last month.  We've now been here 2 months!)

We had  already cast off from the dock when I pushed "send" on our last post from Oriental, NC.  The Intracoastal is not much to write about--long days of motoring interrupted by interesting people and a couple of coast guard inspections (we passed with flying colors), with many lovely, quiet anchorages in the evenings.  We couldn't dally, however, because Mate-extraordinare Ira and Deck-Babe Evelyn had plane tickets to meet us in Fort Lauderdale on March 8, 21 days away, meaning we had to keep moving.  Our logbook from 2010 showed we had made the same trip in 20 days, so we couldn't afford any technical or weather delays.

We were stalled a night when arriving in Charleston, a tug and barge had gone aground cross-ways at low tide just before the last opening bridge into the bay and Act III's draft didn't allow us to go around.  We returned 5 miles upstream to anchor, and arrived at the Megadock Charleston City Marina the next day in high southerly winds (Bill's docking was masterful.)  Fortunately, the weather turned and we made great time with a long run offshore from Charleston to St. Augustine, Fl.   The exciting part of that trip was having the main sheet part (we KNEW it needed replacing) during my night watch as we approached St. Augustine.  Bill wrestled the boom under control, discovered  out our new lifelines work well as he was thrown against them,  and we continued uneventfully in light winds, reaching St. Augustine at dawn before the wind shifted back to southerly.

The Southerly wind continued and forced us to stay in the ICW until we finally got a break for the final day from Lake Worth to Ft. Lauderdale.  We stretched out our bodies and sails and relaxed into sailing outside along the beaches, staying out of the north-bound Gulf Stream which came as close as 1 mile offshore.  Had we continued down the ICW, we would have faced 20 (!) bridges to hail, wait for time and navigate on that short stretch.  We  settled into our slip at Las Olas Marina with 4 days to spare before Ira and Ev arrived, and put the time  to good use as we availed ourselves of the myriad marine supplies and services that Ft. Lauderdale offers in a rental car.  The new main sheet (New England Ropes Regatta Braid) feels divine in our hands.  My Aunt Jacqui and Uncle Bill picked us up in Calliope and hosted us for a fabulous home-cooked meal, and we lunched with Bill's newly-widowed sister Edie.  Frank was sorely missed.

We sailed from F.L. to Miami (No Name Harbor) with Ira and Evelyn, then wandered  south in Biscayne Bay to a sweet anchorage off Pumpkin Key (W of  Key Largo) whre we relaxed and swam for a couple of days before returning north to South Beach Sunset Harbor Yacht Club (very nice) to drop our crew ashore to get their flight home from Fort Lauderdale.  Taking the City Bus to Haulover State Park Beach (c/o) turned into a bit of adventure with excellent people-watching.  South Beach is known for being funky, and lived up to its reputation.   We were sad to wave goodbye to Ira & Ev...they are outstanding company and competent crew, and it was especially sweet to have friends from "home."

3/18/2012:  Bill and I provisioned and were lucky to have a steady 15-20 kt E wind for the next half-week as we made out way down the Florida Keys, stopping to anchor each evening.  It was a beautiful trip down the  Hawk Channel, a deep-ish channel outside of the Keys.  The Gulf Stream and the reef on the outer boundary of the channel keep the seas down even when the wind has blown for days, so we traveled fast and smooth.  But, damn, it's shallow around here; there were only a few good protected spots for Act III to settle into at night, and fortunately spaced perfectly for our three  8 hour days to Key West.

3/21/2012:  Conch Republic of Key West.   Two days after taking a mooring at the Key West City Marina just east of Fleming Key, we participated in the Wrecker's Cup Race, a one-way dash to Sand Key, 7 miles southeast, reenacting the old Key West tradition of salvaging wrecks (and possibly saving some souls).  It was our first race, albeit casual.  Rule 1: No protests.  Rule 2: see Rule 1, Rule 3: See Rules 1&2.   We were proud to come in 5th in our division on a day with scarce wind.   Great time meeting new people and beating our stiffest competition by minutes.

4/20-27/2012:  Paula and Larry arrive from Montana and we laughed for a week straight.  It was Larry's first time on a sailboat, and he took to it right away.  Bill and Larry had a highly successful tarpon fishing trip with a local guide-extraordinaire, Tony Skinner which, of course, required celebration with oyster shooters at Turtle Kraal's.  We toured the Mel Fisher sunken treasure museum (and Pirate museum - Anne Bonny rocks)  and Ernest Hemingway's house (plentiful 6-toed cats), para-sailed, and ate fabulous food.  Did a little day-sailing.

4/20-25/2012:  Cousin Jim and Kylea come for a break from their busy, productive lives in Santa Cruz.   Much divine wine is drunk and great conversation.   We feel inferior.

5/1- present:  Ben and Rachael are aboard, and will crew with us to Panama-ish location, yet to be determined.  We hoped to be gone from Key West by now, but had a couple of critical equipment failures of SSB Radio and Watermaker and we had to send and receive parts.  B&R had flown from Montana to Antigua to have a 3-month trial as captain and mate on a 60' catamaran, but within 24 hours of arriving they discovered the wife part of the owners was impossible to work for.  Too bad for them, but a great delight to have them with us.  Ben has been suffering the delay remarkably well by going out fishing every night or dawn from our deflatable dinghy...he's caught numerous huge tarpon and a prized permit on his lightweight fly rod and is the envy of all the fisherpeople in their fancy boats with guides on the flats.  The passage to the SW Caribbean will be great experience for Rachael, who has confidently and capably taken over the galley.  I haven't cooked a meal in weeks :) and we're eating like kings.

We will leave in a few hours  (5/23) and stop at Dry Torgugas for a few hours of play, then approximately 10 days to Bocas del Toro, Panama.  We don't have the best weather, but nothing bad, either.  Act III is in capable hands and great shape (uh, except for the brightwork, as usual.)  Our new hard dodger, the one Bill built that delayed our departure from NH, is da bomb!  I did make Sunbrella shades for the windows here, so it hasn't been ALL play.

We miss you all!