Ryan, Brandon Crawford and Ronan (Jan. 2018)

BRANDON CRAWFORD BASEBALL CAMP, SCOTTSDALE, AZ – By Ronan (January 2018)

BCraw35 Baseball Camp

BCraw35 Baseball Camp

For Christmas, one of the presents our mom and dad got Ryan and me was two days at “Brandon Crawford Baseball Camp!” We could not believe it! Brandon Crawford is a major league baseball player who plays short stop for the San Francisco Giants. The camp started on January 27th, so Ryan and I had a month to practice our game. Before we knew it, we were flying from St. Lucia, (the West Indies) in the Caribbean, to Phoenix, Arizona, for the baseball camp. The camp was held in Scottsdale, Arizona because that is where the Giants do their spring training. We had an overnight layover in Miami, so it took us two (2) days to get to Arizona from the Caribbean.Ryan & Ronan outside Scottsdale Stadium (Jan. 2018)Ryan & Ronan outside Scottsdale Stadium (Jan. 2018)

DAY 1

On the first day of baseball camp, we woke up early, had breakfast, and drove to Scottsdale. When we got to Scottsdale stadium, we signed in and went to the field, while the parents and family went to the observation deck (Mom, Dad, and Aunt Patti).

Pre-camp gathering

Pre-camp gathering

When we gathered on the field at the start of the day, we were very excited to see San Francisco Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford, as well as San Francisco Giants Coach Chad Chopp! Coach Chopp is the Giants left-handed batting practice pitcher and a video replay analyst. There were also many other coaches and assistants.San Fracisco Giants' shortstop Brandon Crawford and Coach Chad Chopp (Jan. 2018)San Francisco Giants’ shortstop Brandon Crawford and Coach Chad Chopp  (Jan. 2018)

The first thing we did was play two ball. Two ball is a game where you throw two baseballs to someone from one hand, and if they do not catch both of them, they get a point. You have to try to get as little points as possible. Next, we did warm ups. First, we ran from one side of the field to the other, and then they organized us in lines to throw and catch to one another.

Line throw catch warm up

Line throw catch warm up

Then, one by one all the kids ran forward doing lunge stretches with their legs. Next, all the kids in the camp made one enormous circle. The coaches had us hold a different position with our arms for ten seconds at a time. Warm up circleWarm up circle

The coaches then organized us into small groups by age. There were many different stations that practiced different exercises with different coaches. It was amazingly well run! They had a set time of when to rotate to a different station. There was an outfield station, a Wiffle Ball station, a base running station, an off a tee batting station, an underhand pitching batting station, an overhand pitching batting station, a pitching station, an in-fielding station, and a bunting station.

Out Fielding station

Out Fielding station

In the out-fielding station, they taught us how to catch balls properly. We also learned about “drop steps.” A drop step is when you take a step back to your right or your left depending on where the ball is coming from. This allows you to easily run backwards or forward for the ball.

Ronan at bat at the Wiffle ball station

Ronan at bat at the Wiffle ball station

At the Wiffle Ball station, we practiced hitting Wiffle Balls with a small bat, and then hitting them with the bat we brought.Ronan getting batting tips from Brandon Crawford (Jan. 2018)Ronan getting batting tips from Brandon Crawford (Jan. 2018)

In the batting cages, everyone hit baseballs off of tees for practice. After batting off of tees, we hit balls that were thrown underhand by a coach. Next, we hit balls that were thrown overhand by a coach.

At the base running station, the coaches taught that you should tag the inside corner of first base  when you are going to keep running for second and same with all the other bases.

While at the pitching station, the coaches taught us how to deliver the ball properly. At the bunting station, we were taught how to hold the bat while attempting to bunt. While at the in-fielding station, we practiced fielding ground balls at short stop and throwing them to the first baseman.

Infield station - Ryan and Brandon Crawford at short stop & Ronan at 3rd base

Infield station – Ryan and Brandon Crawford at short stop & Ronan at 3rd base

At the end of the first day of camp, they handed out prizes to the kids who did especially well.

End of Day 1 gathering

End of Day 1 gathering

The coaches also talked about the importance of appreciation of team, family and teachers. Our “homework” assignment was to do a “random act of kindness.”

Aunt Patti, Ronan, Randy & Ryan (Jan. 2018)

Aunt Patti, Ronan, Randy & Ryan (Jan. 2018)

After camp, when we got back to the hotel, Ryan, Mom, and I decided to hike Mt. Tempe which was right outside our hotel.

Mount Tempe, AZ (elevation 1495')

Mount Tempe, AZ (elevation 1495′)

Along the trail, we saw lots of cactuses and other hikers. When we got to the top, we stopped and enjoyed the magnificent view.

Going up and down Mt. Tempe only took about an hour. Next, we went to the hot tub on the roof of the hotel. We had an amazing day!

DAY 2

On the second day of camp, we woke up bright and early to get ready. Just like the day before, we drove to Scottsdale stadium in Scottsdale with our mom, dad and Aunt Patti. We started the day off with more of the game, two ball. Then we did warm ups and went to our assigned stations. However, on the second day they did the stations a little differently than before. The coaches handed out prizes, such as bubble gum and sunflower seeds, to kids that did well. While in the batting cages, I was very excited when I got a tip from Brandon Crawford himself! He told both Ryan and me that we should swivel our back leg while batting for more power. If I had to choose, I think I learned the most at the pitching station on the second day. One of the coaches showed me that I should make a “W” shape with my arms while delivering the pitch. This helped improve my pitching accuracy tremendously! At the end of the day, the coaches handed out prizes again.

End of Day 2 pep talk and Q&A session

End of Day 2 pep talk and Q&A session

I was very happy when I got picked for a prize by the pitching coach. My prize was a Gaylord Perry mini-statue. Gaylord Perry was one of the pitchers on the Giants who has been elected to the baseball Hall of Fame. After I got my prize, Brandon Crawford walked over to Ryan and I and asked us our names.

End of Day 2 pep talk, Q&A and prizes

End of Day 2 pep talk, Q&A and prizes

Then he chose my brother Ryan to get a prize too! Ryan got a Bruce Bochy gnome. Bruce Bochy is the Giants manager. The gnome looks hilarious! After giving out prizes, everyone formed a line to get an item of their choice signed by Brandon Crawford, along with a picture with him. Ryan and I had baseballs signed, and took pictures with him!

Ronan shaking hands with Brandon Crawford (Jan. 2018)

Ronan shaking hands with Brandon Crawford (Jan. 2018)

Ronan with his signed ball from Brandon Crawford (Jan. 2018)

Ronan with his signed ball from Brandon Crawford (Jan. 2018)Ryan with his baseball signed by Brandon Crawford (Jan. 2018)

Ryan with his baseball signed by Brandon Crawford (Jan. 2018)

Ryan, Brandon Crawford and Ronan (Jan. 2018)

Ryan, Brandon Crawford and Ronan (Jan. 2018)

Following the autographs and pictures, we returned to the hotel. The whole camp was an experience of a lifetime! My brother and I now have signed balls from three (3) SF Giant players, Willie Mays, Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford! (See Willie Mays, one of a kind (2015/11/17) and A Giant Among Giants, Christmas Arrives Early in Grenada (2015/12/20).

To top it off, all of the proceeds from the camp were donated to the Buster and Kristen Posey Fund. Buster Posey is a teammate of Brandon Crawford’s and is the catcher for the San Francisco Giants. The Buster and Kristen Posey Fund is a charity that provides grants to research hospitals and organizations that support children diagnosed with pediatric cancer. To check out, or donate to the Buster and Kristen Posey Fund, click here. For information on future Brandon Crawford Baseball camps, click here.

Ryan and Theresa in the shadow of the Pitons, diving in St. Lucia (Jan. 2018)

ADVANCED OPEN WATER SCUBA CERTIFICATION – By Ryan

For my birthday, my parents gave me a certificate to get PADI Advanced Open Water Diver certified with Dive St. Lucia. To get Advanced Open Water Diver certified you first need to complete the online, or in classroom, training and then pass the final exam. Next, you have to successfully complete five (5) “adventure dives,” two (2) of which are mandatory. The mandatory dives are “Deep Dive” and “Underwater Navigation.” For our optional dives, we chose “Wreck Diving,”  “Peak Performance Buoyancy” and “Underwater Photography.” Throughout the course, my mom was my diving “buddy.” We dove twice a day, three days in row, to complete the 5 adventure dives, plus one bonus “fun dive.” Our very competent and knowledgeable instructor for the course was Wendy.Theresa, Wendy (dive instructor) & Ryan in front of the Pitons, St. Lucia (Jan. 2018)Theresa, Wendy (dive instructor) & Ryan in front of the Pitons, St. Lucia (Jan. 2018)

DAY ONE – DEEP DIVE & UNDERWATER NAVIGATION

Marigot Bay, St. Lucia

Marigot Bay, St. Lucia

We arrived at Dive St. Lucia at 8:15 a.m. and picked out and prepared the gear we would use for the course. At 9:00 a.m. the dive boat shoved off and headed south towards the Pitons. It took us about an hour to get down to Marigot Bay where we picked up more divers.

Wendy then went over the dive plan for our first dive and we geared up. The first dive site was called “Superman’s Flight,” because of the strong current, and was located  below the St. Lucia’s famed Gros Piton.Gros Piton, St. Lucia

Gros Piton, St. Lucia

Superman’s Flight was our Deep Dive. For the Deep Dive, you have to dive down 60-100 feet below the surface. Since I was only twelve at the time, our deep dive was limited to only 70 feet (you have to be 14 to dive down to 100 feet). Our dive instructor brought an egg down with us and cracked it 70 feet below the surface to show us the effect that pressure has that deep. (Click photo below to see what happens to an egg when you crack it 70 feet under water.)

The yolk and the fluid surrounding it stayed in tact. It kind of resembled a ping pong ball. After ascending approximately 10 feet, to 60 feet, due to decreased pressure, the yolk started to fall apart. That was my science class for the day. Afterwards, we drifted along the colorful reef in a super man pose. As the current pulled us along we saw tons of cool coral and sea life. After 40 minutes, and a three minute safety stop at 15 feet, we concluded the dive. The dive boat came over and picked us up for lunch.Marty and Suzanne (M/V Alizann) enjoying lunch lunch between dives in St. Lucia (Jan. 2018)Friends, Captains Marty and Suzanne (M/V Alizann), enjoying lunch lunch between dives in St. Lucia (Jan. 2018)

Ryan getting ready to dive in St. Lucia (Jan. 2018)

Ryan getting ready to dive in St. Lucia (Jan. 2018)

After lunch we traveled north to the next dive site “Fantasia.” On that dive we had to complete our mandatory Underwater Navigation skills. Wendy gave us compasses and briefed us on the drills we would be required to do under the water. After gearing up we took a giant stride into the water and descended. The first drill was measuring how many kick cycles it took Mom and I to go 100 feet (horizontally). Next we had to go 30 kick cycles on one compass heading then return to the same spot on the reciprocal heading. Once we both completed that we had to go 30 kick cycles in a different direction and use natural navigation to get back. Wendy told us not to use fish, crabs, etc. (or anything else that moves)  as markers to help us navigate back.Ryan scuba diving in St. Lucia (Jan. 2018)

Ryan scuba diving in St. Lucia (Jan. 2018)Finally, we had to navigate a square. To navigate a square we had to go ten kick cycles in one direction, then, using our compasses, turn 90 degrees right. After two more 90 degree turns we ended up back where we initially started.Ryan scuba diving in St. Lucia (Jan. 2018)Ryan scuba diving in St. Lucia (Jan. 2018)

After completing all of the “hard work” we enjoyed diving the reef in Fantasia. Like most Caribbean dives, the dive was colorful and full of sea life.

DAY 2 – FUN DIVE & PEAK PERFORMANCE BUOYANCY (PBB)

Since we already had all our gear set up from the day before, on day 2 we arrived at Dive St. Lucia later than the day before. For our third dive, Dive St. Lucia Capt. Dwight escorted us to Turtle Reef and Anse Conchon South, down by the Pitons.Theresa, Dive St. Lucia Capt. Dwight & Ryan (Jan. 2018)Theresa, Dive St. Lucia Capt. Dwight & Ryan (Jan. 2018)

On the boat we learned that we would have another diver joining us for the day – Alfie – who was on vacation from England. Ryan, Theresa & fellow diver Alfie getting ready to dive Turtle Reef in St. Lucia (Jan. 2018)Ryan, Theresa & fellow diver Alfie getting ready to dive Turtle Reef in St. Lucia (Jan. 2018)

We picked up more divers and snorkelers in Marigot Bay, again, then continued heading South until we got to Turtle Reef. Our first dive was our fun dive so we did not have any skills to perform. We descended 60 feet and then started out over the reef. Strangely enough, that was the second time I went to Turtle Reef and did not see any turtles.

Turtle Reef in St. Lucia

Turtle Reef in St. Lucia

I did see moray eels, fish and a lot of colorful coral. I just did not see a turtle. For now, I will just have to take it at the word of the person who named the reef that there are turtles there. Wendy pointed out all of the cool creatures we might have missed otherwise. Along a wall on the dive in a little crack I saw a huge lion fish, which was the biggest one any of us had ever seen. We also saw large crabs and even a octopus.

Like day one, the boat picked us up and we had a great lunch.  We then traveled North to our second dive site “Anse Cochon South.” Our fourth dive was our Peak Performance Buoyancy or “PPB.” Some of our cruising friends said that PPB was the most beneficial of all the adventure dives because it teaches you how to best maintain neutral buoyancy. After completing the dive, I agree.

DAY 3 – WRECK DIVING & UNDERWATER PHOTOGRAPHY

Out of all three days, day three was probably the best. We started heading South from Rodney Bay around 9:00 a.m., and like every other day, we picked people up in Marigot Bay. Our first dive site was the Lesleen M. Wreck. The Lesleen M. was purposely sunk in 1985 to create an artificial reef. We descended 60 feet and started the dive at the bow of the wreck. On the wreck dive we brought the cameras we would be using for our underwater photography dive and got pictures and videos of the wreck. Inside the cracks and portholes of the wreck there was sealife and creatures like moray eels. We swam towards the stern (back) and saw the prop and rudder. There were sea spiders and lots of coral encrusting the wreck. After circling the entire wreck we ascended to the top deck (of the wreck) and swam above it. We could see the part of the wreck that was damaged by Hurricane Irma. Due to the damage we were not able to penetrate the wreck. We were underwater for 60 minute on our first dive before ascending to the surface. (Click photo below for video and photos of the Lesleen M wreck and Anse Conchon dives.)

Lesley M Wreck in St. Lucia (Jan. 2018)Lesleen M Wreck in St. Lucia (Jan. 2018)

Lesleen M Wreck in St. Lucia (Jan. 2018)

Lesleen M Wreck in St. Lucia (Jan. 2018)

Ryan photographing the Lesleen M Wreck in St. Lucia (Jan. 2018)

Ryan photographing the Lesleen M Wreck in St. Lucia – 65 feet below sea level (Jan. 2018)

The bridge of the Lesleen M Wreck in St. Lucia (Jan. 2018)

The bridge of the Lesleen M Wreck in St. Lucia (Jan. 2018)Lesleen M Wreck in St. Lucia (Jan. 2018)Lesleen M Wreck in St. Lucia (Jan. 2018)

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Ryan exploring the rudder of the Lesleen M Wreck in St. Lucia (Jan. 2018)

Ryan exploring the rudder of the Lesleen M Wreck in St. Lucia, 65 feet below sea level (Jan. 2018)Lesleen M Wreck in St. Lucia - 65 ft below sea level looking up (Jan. 2018)Lesleen M Wreck in St. Lucia – 65 ft below sea level looking up (Jan. 2018)Lesleen M Wreck in St. Lucia - 65 ft below sea level - looking towards the bow (Jan. 2018)Lesleen M Wreck in St. Lucia – 65 ft below sea level – looking towards the bow (Jan. 2018)

Ryan diving the Lesleen M Wreck in St. Lucia - 65 ft below sea level (Jan. 2018)

Ryan diving the Lesleen M Wreck in St. Lucia – 65 ft below sea level (Jan. 2018)

After lunch, the boat dropped us off at Anse Cochon South. The skill we practiced on our second dive of the day was underwater photography and videography. There was lots of cool sea life to take pictures of along the reef. While taking pictures on top of the reef, sometimes moray eels would go right underneath us. We used the neutral buoyancy skills that we learned in PPB  to get up close and steady to our “subjects.” Photography was definitely one of my favorites (out of five the dives) because it memorialized and allowed us to share our dive experiences. After 45 minutes, and a 3 minute safety stop at 15 feet, we ascended as newly PADI advanced certified divers! The boat picked us up and we traveled back to the dive shop.

Anse Cochon North, St. Lucia (Jan. 2018)

Anse Cochon North, St. Lucia (Jan. 2018)

Sea Urchins & Tubular Coral, Anse Cochon North, St. Lucia (Jan. 2018)

Sea Urchins & Tubular Coral, Anse Cochon North, St. Lucia (Jan. 2018)

Out of all the PADI specialty courses I would recommend the PPB as the most beneficial and Wreck/Photography as the most fun. I think the Advanced Open Water Diver certification course helped us a lot as divers and certainly expanded our horizons in the world of PADI.

Ryan, Paulette, John, Randy, Theresa & Ronan in St. Lucia (Jan. 2018)

As the famous New York Yankee catcher, Yoggi Berra used to say, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it”

As we have communicated to you before, the cruising community is different than that which our land based neighbors are accustomed to. We are, by definition, a group of transients with different itineraries, capabilities and goals. We have been cruising in the Caribbean for over 3 years now and we have crossed and recrossed paths with dozens of cruising families that we have enjoyed sharing our cruising dream with. Having passing acquaintances with other families is just part of the lifestyle. That said, we have developed some unique and close bonds with a select few. One of the special cruising families that we have shared a particularly close friendship with is John and Paulette Lee of M/V Seamantha, a Kadey Krogen 58′ trawler.

Paulette & John on the bridge of M/V Seamantha

Paulette & John on the bridge of M/V Seamantha

Tobago Cays (June 2016)

Petite St. Vincent  (June 2016)

Patton

Patton

We first met John and Paulette in the British Virgin Islands 3 years ago during our initial trip south through the Caribbean. When we arrived to spend our first hurricane season in Grenada, we ended up with a slip right next to Seamantha in the Port Louis Marina. John and Paulette spoiled our Cocker Spaniel, “Patton” with fresh bowls of his favorite vegetable, cauliflower, on the aft deck of Seamantha. They have watched our boys, Ryan and Ronan grow from little boys into capable young men. Throughout our trip, we have shared countless wonderful experiences with our cruising buddies. As the saying goes, friends are the family that you get to choose and John and Paulette have certainly become a big part of our family.

M/V Seamantha arriving in Admiralty Bay, Bequia

M/V Seamantha arriving in Admiralty Bay, Bequia

After watching the devastation and subsequent recovery of the Caribbean after one of the worst hurricane seasons on record, we have decided it is the appropriate time to turn the Pilots’ Discretion north and head back towards the United States. We are actually looking forward to retracing our route through the Caribbean and points north. It will be an opportunity to revisit some of our favorite spots. With our decision to turn north we have arrived at another one of those intersections in the life of a cruiser. Our friends on M/V Seamantha are departing St. Lucia this week to head south and so it is that we have arrived at Yoggi’s infamous fork in the road. Pilots’ Discretion and Seamantha will be taking divergent paths which in many ways is sad. We will not be saying goodbye, but rather, we will say “until we see you again.” So, as you depart Seamantha, we wish you fair winds and following seas.

Ryan, Paulette, John, Randy, Theresa & Ronan in St. Lucia (Jan. 2018)

Ryan, Paulette, John, Randy, Theresa & Ronan in St. Lucia (Jan. 2018)

Ryan, Randy, Ronan & Theresa, Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, FL, USA

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, CAPE CANAVERAL, FL – by Ryan

Nana & GrandpaSir, 12-17

Nana & GrandpaSir, 12-17

Recently our family took a trip to Cape Canaveral, Florida to visit the Kennedy Space Center. On the last day visiting our grandparents, Ronan and I got the feeling everybody knew something that we did not. That was because they did. They told us that, “The plan for tomorrow has certainly changed; it will be a surprise.” Before the day was over we were told we were heading to the Kennedy Space Center, and we were all very excited!

Welcome to NASA - Get ready to explore!

Welcome to NASA – Get ready to explore!

The next day we drove across the state to Cape Canaveral. We went to a hotel and waited until the next day to visit the Kennedy Space Center. After arriving the next day we walked through the rocket garden (very cool) and through the whole space center to where the bus tour originated. The 2.5 hour bus tour provides a great introduction and overview of the Kennedy Space Center.

 

Rocket Garden, Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, FL

Rocket Garden, Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, FL

Our bus driver was a very knowledgeable guide.  He pointed out every alligator we saw until we got to the Vehicle Assembly Building. After pointing out each alligator, he would say, “5,999 to go, 5998 to go, 5997 to go,” and so on. First, we came upon the Vehicle Assembly Building (“VAB”). It was HUGE!

VVAB

Vehicle Assembly Building (“VAB”), Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral. FL

Our guide informed us that it is the largest (by volume) building in the world. He said the American flag on the side of the building was six stories tall. NASA uses this building to assemble the space craft, in the past including the shuttle, the exterior fuel tank, and the solid rocket booster.

Shortly after driving by the VAB we saw the massive crawler used for carrying different kinds of spacecraft to the launch pad. To transport the spacecraft from the VAB to the launch pad NASA opens up one side of the VAB and puts the spacecraft on the crawler.

“The Crawler” (only captured part of it, but this massive piece of machinery transported the shuttle)

“The Crawler” (only captured part of it, but this massive piece of machinery transported the shuttle)

The crawler travels on the three mile crawlerway to the launch pad. An interesting fact the guide told us about the crawlerway was that it was made of Tennessee River rocks. NASA used Tennessee River rocks because they do not contain iron and therefore would not produce sparks. We also learned that the crawlers travel at a speed of approximately one mile per hour (hence its name “Crawler”). Next, we traveled the three miles out to the different launch pads.

Crawler Space Shuttle (1 mi/hr) track, Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, FL, 12-17

Crawler Space Shuttle (1 mi/hr) track, Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, FL, 12-17

Mission Control, Kennedy Space Center, 12-17

Mission Control, Kennedy Space Center, 12-17

There are a great deal of things that could go wrong during a launch and the spacecraft has the explosive capability of an atomic bomb. You do not have to be a rocket scientist to know (and want) to be far away from the launch pad when a launch occurs. That is why mission control and the VAB are a little over three miles away from the launch pad.

We were told about how going to space was a challenge that has been recently taken on by private industries in addition to NASA. A couple of these companies are Space X and Blue Origin. We passed Space X’s equivalent of the VAB. Their building was not nearly as tall but this is because they assemble their spacecraft horizontally. When bringing the spacecraft out to the launch pad they  rotate it into a vertical position. Space X has their own launch pad.

“Crawler Space Shuttle Route” passsing in front of Elan Musk’s Space X’s launch pad

“Crawler Space Shuttle Route” passing in front of Elon Musk’s Space X’s launch pad

On the way back towards the space center we stopped in the Apollo/Saturn V Center. It houses The Apollo and Saturn V rockets as well as part of the first mission control.

Saturn V, Cape Canaveral, FL 12-17

Saturn V, Cape Canaveral, FL 12-17

Mission Control

Mission Control

After a short movie we entered into a large room with part of the original mission control. While in mission control it was like being there during the first launch. The room was rigged to play the timer, the checklist, and even the people’s voices just as it was during the first launch. After that experience, we got a new guide that showed us the real Saturn V rocket. It was gigantic!! The rocket ran the length of the whole building and was divided into three parts.

When the bus tour got back to the Space Center we went into the Atlantis building.

External Fuel Tank and Solid Rocket Boosters for Space Shuttle, Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, FL, 12-17

External Fuel Tank and Solid Rocket Boosters for Space Shuttle, Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, FL, 12-17

Ryan, Randy, & Ronan at the feet fo the Atlantis Rocket, Cape Canaveral, 12/17

Ryan, Randy, & Ronan at the feet of the Atlantis Solid Rocket Boosters, Cape Canaveral, 12/17

There were tons of cool presentations and the real Atlantis Space Shuttle. We could see the dents and marks on the shuttle where small meteorites hit it.

Space Shuttle Atlantis in its permanent museum home, Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, FL, 12-17

Space Shuttle Atlantis in its permanent museum home, Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, FL, 12-17

We then went into a realistic shuttle takeoff simulator and even tried a shuttle landing simulator. We did not leave until we all were able to successfully land the shuttle in the simulator. We spent a lot of time in the Atlantis building before going to the IMAX movie. We saw the movie “A Beautiful planet.” It was a great movie that gave us a different perspective of Earth. After that we took off back to the hotel.

Day two of our mission we got to the space center early. We started the day off with the astronaut encounter. NASA astronaut Brian Duffy gave us a personal presentation and shared his experiences in outer space.

Astronaut encounter with Brian Duffy

Astronaut encounter with Brian Duffy

His presentation, unlike most other things in the Space Center, was like a personal journal. He explained what life was like for him, and his fellow astronauts, from an astronaut’s prospective.

Astronaut encounter with Brian Duffy

Astronaut encounter with Brian Duffy

After the astronaut encounter we went to see the second IMAX movie, “Journey to Space.” The movie was about going to space past, present, and future. When the movie was over we went back through the Rocket Garden and the on to the Heroes and Legends exhibit.

Ronan & Ryan in a capsule in the Rocket Garden, Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, FL

Ronan & Ryan in a capsule in the Rocket Garden, Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, FL

After watching a short 3d movie, we walked through the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame. The astronaut Brian Duffy, whom we met earlier, was one of the most recent inductees being inducted just last year.

After going through the Astronaut Hall of Fame it was time for us to go. We all had fun being astronauts for the day (two) and overall the experience was out of this world! I hope everyone had a very merry Christmas and will have a happy New Year.

 

2017 Hurricane Affected Areas in the Caribbean

Season 4: Cruising the Caribbean Post Irma & Maria – December 1, 2017 (Latitude 14° 4.505″ N, Longitude 60° 56.959″ W)

2017 Hurricane Summary

2017 Hurricane Summary

Yesterday was the last day of the 2017 hurricane season, and so it is that we now contemplate our fourth (4th) season cruising plans! We have previously communicated with you about the devastation that this past hurricane season has left behind throughout the northeastern Caribbean. The damage has been vast, but the strong will of the people on the affected islands has proven impossible to suppress. Things are not yet back to normal but the strides that have been taken by the international community and the locals has been incredible.

PROGRESS OF RECOVERY

We have been monitoring the progress of the recovery efforts on a daily basis. In addition to our general concern for the well being of our Caribbean friends and their economies, we also have been paying close attention to the recovery of the yachting infrastructure. Obviously, we need circumstances that will allow us to adequately provision with food and fuel in a safe environment for the Pilots’ Discretion and her crew if we are to turn her north towards the United States this cruising season. Additional concerns include the ability to leave the Pilots’ Discretion in a safe and suitable environment should we need to fly back home for any reason, which necessarily requires  access to operational airports with flights. Access to competent medical care, and dockside electricity and water are also logistical concerns as we plot our course north. We have found the following sites helpful in monitoring Caribbean wide recovery efforts:

  • Sailors Helping Sailors providing up-to-date information on port status and opportunities to volunteer in rebuilding efforts across the Caribbean;
  • Sailors Unite – Caribbean Comeback A guide to what is open and available in British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and St. Marteen/St. Martin, including airports, transportation, restaurants, hotels, provisioning, marketing and shops;
  • ExplorerChartbooks – includes Turks and Caicos Marinas Report;
  • Noonsite – provides information by anchorage or by island, so sailors can plan their cruising in the Caribbean with an eye to appropriate behavior and precautions wherever they decide to go; and
  • Caribbean Safety and Security Net: “Know before you go” safety and security updates throughout the Caribbean.

We will continue to update the above list and our blog as we obtain additional information when we proceed north. If anyone viewing this has additional resources that will keep mariners updated, please send them to us in the comments section below and we will add them to this list or include in future updates.

Our current evaluation is that the islands require a little more time to deal with the lingering devastation but they are getting closer everyday. We do believe that they will be in a strong position to welcome cruisers this coming cruising season. In fact, this may represent an opportunity to see what a jewel the Caribbean islands can be when not overrun with crowds. We are confident that our Caribbean friends will have the welcome mat out for all cruisers that choose to make this season the one that they cast off and set a course for the trip of their dreams.

PREPARATIONS

Rodney Bay Marina, St. Lucia - Aerial

Rodney Bay Marina, St. Lucia – Aerial

As for the preparations to get underway for the Pilots’ Discretion, we are reporting good progress. There are a significant number of details that have to be addressed prior to getting underway. The good news for us is that we are currently located at the IGY Rodney Bay Marina in St. Lucia where we have all of the services we require to ready our vessel. We would be remiss if we did not publicly thank Mr. Sean Devaux, General Manager of the Rodney Bay Marina for all of the assistance he has provided us as we prepare to head north. Our initial commitment to him was that we would be staying at his facility through September 2017. As the hurricane season devastation to our north became clear, it was initially impossible to determine when it would be prudent to depart. Sean has been great, he has told us that we can stay as long as necessary without a long term commitment. Additionally, he has worked hard to provide us will real time status updates of all of the marina facilities along our route north, even if those facilities are not a part of his organization (Rodney Bay Marina is part of the international marina group known as IGY). We are currently coordinating our annual engine and systems maintenance and that should be complete shortly.

EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon) Maintenance

Solutions One Maritme, L.L.C., Tampa, FL

Solutions One Maritme, L.L.C., Tampa, FL

One component of our systems preparation is ensuring that our life vests, life raft and all of our emergency signaling systems are current and fully functional. This is normally a routine inspection but this year we got quite a surprise. We have an ACR EPIRB (emergency position indicating radio beacon – a device that includes a GPS to determine our exact location and a satellite communication system to notify rescue personnel in the event we need assistance). We bought the unit new just before we left on our trip. Each time we get underway, we run the unit through a self test program to ensure it is fully operational. It has always past each of those tests without fail. On our most recent trip back to Florida we elected to have the unit recertified due to calendar age.

EPIRB

EPIRB

Solutions One Maritme, L.L.C., Tampa, FL

Solutions One Maritme, L.L.C., Tampa, FL

After researching facilities that are certified to service maritime rescue equipment, we elected to have the folks at Solution One Maritime, LLC in Tampa look over our unit. Expecting nothing much more than an administrative paperwork exercise, we were left very surprised when we got a call from Yusri Jadallah, the Managing Director for Solution One. He  explained to me that he had found a very small leak in the case that protects the electronics and that he was certain that had the unit been deployed in an actual emergency at sea, the electronics would have likely failed due to exposure to salt water. He went further to explain that ACR would repair the unit under warranty but their estimated turn time would likely be 4-6 weeks. Yusri told me that he understood that the long turn time would create scheduling problems for our crew and as a result he offered us a brand new unit to utilize for as long as it takes to get our own unit back. As far as we are concerned, the folks at Solution One have gone way above and beyond to ensure that our family is safe and our trip uninterrupted. We have utilized other sources in the past for our emergency equipment needs but from now on, Solution One is our vendor of choice for our life raft, life vest and emergency electronics needs.

As we look forward to our fourth cruising season, we also reflect upon all that we have to be thankful for this past year, including time spent with family and friends, good health and ongoing adventures. We would be remiss if we didn’t mention the spectacular time we had spending Thanksgiving Day last week in Marigot Bay with dear friends, both old and new.

Post-Thanksgiving Day Lunch Bunch

Post-Thanksgiving Day Lunch Bunch

 

USCG Cutter James Sept 26 San Juan

United States Coast Guard, Semper Paratus – “Always Ready!” – by Randy

Unless you have been in a cave somewhere for the last few months, it would be almost impossible not to be aware of the catastrophic damage that Mother Nature has liberally peppered upon the idyllic Caribbean islands, St. Martin/St. Marteen, Barbuda, British Virgin Islands, U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Hati and the Turks and Caicos Islands. As if that wasn’t enough, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Texas and Louisiana have all had their turn in the barrel. The devastation, and loss of life, in all of the affected areas is hard to comprehend. Obviously there are many people, from many different countries, in dire need of assistance.

We respect that the decision to help, and exactly where to make donations to facilitate aid, is a personal one. Make no mistake, the people in the path of this season’s massive hurricanes definitely need our help. Many in the cruising community have been collecting donations and attempting to travel, by boat, to some of the devastated areas. At present, the U.S. Coast Guard is discouraging private boaters departing the continental U.S. from transiting to ports affected by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, advising in its 9/27/17 News Release:     

     While volunteers and aid are needed and welcomed, it is recommended that these              efforts be coordinated through FEMA, who has requested volunteers to go through              www.nvoad.org.  Uncoordinated volunteer efforts can hinder the response and                    impede a challenging logistics situation on the ground in Puerto Rico and the U.S.                Virgin Islands

In the 9/27/17  News Release, Capt. Ladonn Allen, Chief of Prevention for the Coast Guard Seventh District asserted that many affected ports “are still littered with wreckage and debris, particularly outside the federally maintained channels. Individuals entering unfamiliar ports or attempting to bring supplies without coordinating through volunteer organizations that are working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and its partners are putting themselves in danger.”

Additional safety concerns have arisen in the Eastern Carribean, where there have been reports of piracy attacks, and vessels being swamped by uncoordinated relief efforts. The Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and the Caribbean Emergency Disaster Management Agency (CDEMA) are spearheading the hurricane relief efforts in the Caribbean, and all relief efforts should be coordinated through them.

USCG Southeast working with local agencies

USCG Southeast working with local agencies

One of the common denominators that we all are repeatedly seeing throughout all of the news reports from these devastated areas is the ubiquitous presence of the United States Coast Guard. The smallest branch of the US military is perennially underfunded, and over tasked, but this year is breaking new ground in terms of extended deployments of USCG ships, planes and personnel in what is one of the largest humanitarian efforts in the Coast Guard’s storied 227 year history.  The Coast Guard is often taken for granted, but those of us who live our lives at sea have a special respect for the jobs the men and women of the USCG accomplish every single day. When most mariners were headed to port to seek safe haven from the approaching hurricanes, Coast Guard ships and aircraft were leaving home to preposition in the disaster zones in order to render aid to those most desperately in need. In the interest of full disclosure, long ago, I served in the United States Coast Guard.

USCG Venturous taking on fuel prior to getting under way for hurricane relief effort

USCGC Venturous taking on fuel prior to getting underway for hurricane relief effort

In fact, I was stationed aboard, what was then the new, USCGC Venturous, over 40 years ago (one of the first cutters to arrive in the Caribbean after the destruction of hurricane Maria). With that background, in addition to our other hurricane relief effort contributions, we have decided to make a  donation to the US Coast Guard Foundation. The Coast Guard Foundation is a non profit charity that provides, among other things, financial support to the families of the men and women of the Coast Guard that have been injured or killed in the line of duty. This is our small way to say thank you to the members of America’s smallest service for all that they do each and every day. Semper Paratus.

Click here for link to Coast Guard Sector Key West Incident Command Post (ICP) sharing some of their work and personal  experiences after Hurricane Irma.  (U.S. Coast Guard video by Petty Officer 2nd Class Tara Molle/Released)

It has been confirmed that many of the Coast Guard crews that were stationed at Coast Guard Sector Key West suffered damage to their homes and personal possessions while  deployed to render assistance to others during Hurricane Irma, they too are on the list of folks that now could use a hand up.

 

 

HURRICANE MARIA (SEPTEMBER 2017) – by Theresa

Hurricane season has arrived in full force. As cruisers, we spend an inordinate amount of time monitoring weather systems. The latest shows Hurricane Maria intensified into a catastrophic Category 5 storm Monday, with maximum sustained winds of 160 mph (260 kph), as it surged toward islands in the eastern Caribbean.

Projected track for Hurricane Maria, September 18, 2017

Projected track for Hurricane Maria, September 18, 2017

Hurricane warnings have been posted for the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Guadeloupe, Dominica, St. Kitts, Nevis and Montserrat.

A tropical storm warning was issued for Antigua and Barbuda, Saba, St. Eustatius, St. Maarten, St. Lucia (where Pilots’ Discretion is currently located), Martinique and Anguilla. Many of these islands are still recovering from direct hits from hurricane Irma. (See http://www.msn.com/en-us/weather/topstories/cat-5-hurricane-maria-threatens-storm-battered-caribbean/ar-AAs6sKy?ocid=spartandhp.) We are continuing to keep all those affected in our thoughts and prayers. We will post additional updates after this storm passes.