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)

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.

Willie T's, Norman Island, BVI (Before and After)

BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS – BEFORE AND AFTER HURRICANE IRMA (2017)

Before & after photos of the British Virgin Islands, culled from various Facebook pages and cruiser forums, which highlight the damage to the beautiful islands so many of us cruisers have had the pleasure of exploring.

Sabba Rock, BVI (Before & After)

Sabba Rock, BVI (Before & After)

Bitter End Yacht Club, Virgin Gorda, BVI (Before and After)

Bitter End Yacht Club, Virgin Gorda, BVI (Before and After)

DeLoose Mongoose, Trellis Bay, BVI (Before and After)

DeLoose Mongoose, Trellis Bay, BVI (Before and After)

Foxy's Taboo, Jost Van Dyke, BVI (Before and After)

Foxy’s Taboo, Jost Van Dyke, BVI (Before and After)

Last Resort, Trellis Bay, BVI (Before and After)

Last Resort, Trellis Bay, BVI (Before and After)

Willie T's, Norman Island, BVI (Before and After)

Willie T’s, Norman Island, BVI (Before and After)

Cane Garden Bay, BVI (Before and After)

Cane Garden Bay, BVI (Before and After)

Corsairs, Jost Van Dyke, BVI (Before and After)

Corsairs, Jost Van Dyke, BVI (Before and After)

Nanny Cay, Tortola, BVI (Before and After)

Nanny Cay, Tortola, BVI (Before and After)

The Facebook group page “BVI Abroad – Hurricane Irma” has provided a lot of useful, and consolidated, information regarding the British Virgin Islands. Richard Branson’s “Virgin Unite” and “BVI Volunteers”  are two, of many, groups coordinating relief and volunteer efforts (See https://www.virgin.com/unite/bvi-community-support-appeal and https://www.bvivolunteers.com/.  See also: http://mailchi.mp/487269e6b930/bvi-volunteers-weekly-update.)

Click here for additional photos, and to see several prominent business owners (including the infamous Soggy Dollar, Foxy’s, Corsairs, and Willie T’s) who have already vowed to rebuild!

ARC Caribbean 1500 Will Arrive in Nanny Cay, Tortola, BVI as planned

World Cruising Club director, Jeremy Wyatt, has announced that the ARC Caribbean 1500 will continue as per the published schedule to Nanny Cay, Tortola this November, commenting

“The best way as sailors that we can help the communities rebuild, is to visit and spend in the economy. The communities need and want visitors; World Cruising Club are encouraging participants to be sympathetic to the efforts of the communities in the BVI and give their support by sailing to the islands, this Fall. The islands may still bear the scars left by Irma, but the welcome will be as warm as always once crews step ashore.” See: ttps://www.worldcruising.com/arc_europe/newsarticle.aspx?page=S636410969472923870&CategoryID=190&src=

Cameron McColl, of Nanny Cay Marina, responded

“Nanny Cay took a major hit from Hurricane Irma, but within 7 days our team has restored power, water, septic systems, and the Beach Bar is already open serving cold beer! We have plenty of brand new docks in the new outer marina and we expect to be open for business again within the next two weeks. We look forward to welcoming the Caribbean 1500 and to running a full series of yachting events throughout the upcoming winter season.” See: ttps://www.worldcruising.com/arc_europe/newsarticle.aspx?page=S636410969472923870&CategoryID=190&src=

For our part, we are planning on stopping in the British Virgin Islands as we cruise north after the hurricane season ends. It will, of course, be with a different mindset than previous visits, with an aim towards rendering assistance in the community as best as possible.

We are continuing to keep the BVIs, and all of the Caribbean, in our thoughts and prayers as Tropical Storm Maria, makes her way up the Caribbean chain in the coming days.

Tropical Storm Maria

Tropical Storm Maria

Hurricane Irma (photo from Marine Weather Center's post)

HURRICANE IRMA – 2017

First, thank you, to everyone, for reaching out to see how Pilots’ Discretion, and her crew, fared as Hurricane Irma tracked through the Caribbean. In preparation for the storm and in accordance with our hurricane plan, we spider tied Pilots’ Discretion, with doubled lines, in a double slip, on a floating dock, alone with no other boats, in St. Lucia. Irma was set to track north of St. Lucia, however, to be on the safe side, we left the boat in St. Lucia and flew to Florida to stay out of harms way!

As predicted, Hurricane Irma passed north of St. Lucia. We were incredibly grateful to learn that our pre-hurricane preparations were sufficient, and that St. Lucia was spared from the ferocity of the storm. The island received some rain and wind from the outer bands of the storm, but on the whole, the island and our boat, weathered the storm and are fine.

Having flown to Florida, we then holed up with family in Spring Hill, just north of Tampa, on the west coast of Florida. Having just gone through the hurricane preparations drill in St. Lucia our crew was ready and able to  assist with preparations for the “high impact” potential hit headed for our relatives in Spring Hill.

We listened to reports, and observed, painfully, the pictures of the devastation from the direct hits on Barbuda, St. Barthélemy (St. Bart), St. Maarten/St. Martin, Anguilla, Antigua, the British Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. We have travelled to all of these islands in previous cruising seasons, and our thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected by the storm.

Paraquita Bay, British Virgin Islands (Before and After)

Nanny Cay Marina, British Virgin Islands, post hurricane Irma, 2017

Isleta Marina, Fajardo, Puerto Rico, post hurricane Irma, Sept. 2017

Foxy’s before (2016) and after (2017)

Forecasted Track for Hurricane Irma, Sept. 7, 2017

Forecasted Track for Hurricane Irma originally had her skirting up the east coast of Florida, Sept. 7, 2017

In Florida, the original forecasts had the storm tracking up the east coast. Slowly, the storm edged west with the later predictions indicating she would run up the middle of the Florida peninsula. Finally, within the last day prior to Florida landfall, the forecast consensus had Irma tracking up the west coast of Florida. We weathered the storm just north of Tampa. The eye passed just to our east during the middle of the night. We were extremely fortunate that a slight variation in the actual track of the storm placed us on the weak side of the circulation at the same time the storm was beginning to fall apart. We had a few hours of heavy rains accompanied by gusty winds mostly in the 40 knot range. Like most, we lost power and had a few downed trees to deal with but for the most part we came through the storm wiser for the experience but without taking any direct hits. We are all very aware of the potential devastation that just barely sidestepped us.

Our thoughts and prayers continue to go out to all those affected by the storm. Florida, the islands, and those living and cruising in Florida and the Caribbean islands, are a resilient bunch. Communities have already banded together to address immediate needs and start the lengthy rebuilding process. Click here for additional photos, and to see several prominent business owners (including the infamous Soggy Dollar, Foxy’s, Corsairs, Willie T’s) who have already vowed to rebuild!

Equipment Updates to the Pilots’ Discretion – Summer 2017

Since Pilots’ Discretion left her home base, Port Tarpon Marina back in 2014, we have developed a schedule for her that is dictated primarily by the weather. Our requirement to have the boat at, or near, suitable shelter during the hurricane season has resulted in the bulk of our travel occurring outside of the North Atlantic hurricane season (June 1 thru November 30th). During the hurricane season, we have settled into our hurricane home away from home. The first couple of years out we elected to weather the hurricane season in Grenada. (See A Day in the Life of Grenada, 2015/08/07 and Summer in Grenada, Season 2, 2016/09/03.)

This year, with the pre approval of our boat insurance carrier, we decided to spend the hurricane season a bit further north at the Rodney Bay Marina in St. Lucia. As a result of our increased familiarity with the service providers in the areas that we spend the hurricane season, it only follows that we have tended to deal with our “boat projects,” first in Grenada, and now this year, in St. Lucia. In addition to the normal operational maintenance, that is just a part of owning and operating a floating home, we also have elected to make various improvements to the Pilots’ Discretion while we have been in the Caribbean. This year we have made a few additions, both large and small, that hopefully will add to the capabilities of our vessel.

FUSION SOUND SYSTEM

Those of my friends that have known me since childhood would probably reject the notion that I am becoming an aging hippy afloat in the Caribbean. My more conservative characteristics aside, it is true that I do occasionally still enjoy a few rifts on the air guitar while listening to geriatric rockers like Mick Jagger and Robert Plant. In my quest to further develop the musical tastes of our boat neighbors, I have tried to share my impeccable musical tastes with however many marina mates are within earshot of the Pilots’ Discretion sound system. Much to my chagrin (and our neighbors relief), the Pilots’ Discretion came with a rather anemic 180 watt sound system that labored to comply with my demands for accurate fidelity at an adequate volume level. Something had to change and it has. We have replaced our old sound system with a Fusion AV-750 4 zone audio and video system (https://www.fusionentertainment.com/marine) that includes 4 zone dedicated amplifiers that put out an ear splitting 1600 watts of power. Let the audiophile lessons in the Rodney Bay Marina commence! In addition to the improved music, the system also allows all of the Giant’s fans aboard to enjoy our MLB subscription as we listen and watch our favorite broadcasters (Dwayne Kuiper and Mike Krukow) describe the action at AT&T park (OK, admittedly there has not been much to enjoy with this Giant’s season, we steadfastly remain the eternal SF Giants optimists).

KAHLENBERG AIR HORNS

Kahlenberg Horns

Kahlenberg Horns

Next up on our list of noise making improvements is our addition of a set of Kahlenberg air horns. We first became aware of these exceptional horns while we were boat shopping with our favorite Marlow sales rep, Eric Gervais. Our pal Eric was quick to point out these top of the line signaling horns are standard equipment on the Marlow Explorers that we have been drooling over for years. The Kahlenberg horns have an unmistakeable sound. If the neighbors don’t notice our new music system, they will not be able to ignore our new signaling horns.  We have decided that if we are not going to buy a Marlow, we may as well sound like one. (Click here to hear it!)

Kahlenberg Horns atop Pilots' Discretion

Kahlenberg Horns atop Pilots’ Discretion

YACHT CONTROLLER

Yacht Controller

Yacht Controller

Our largest improvement to the Pilots’ Discretion this season is the addition of a “Yacht Controller.” The Yacht Controller is a microprocessor controlled wireless device that allows you to control any size yacht, wirelessly, from anywhere on board the vessel. It’s real utility is that it allows the Captain to be anywhere on board that provides him, or her, the best visibility, and even the ability to man the helm while simultaneously handling lines and fenders while arriving or departing a dock or while involved in anchoring operations. Picking up a mooring ball is also a snap with the Yacht Controller. Again we have to say thanks to Eric Gervais for allowing us to first experience the Yacht Controller aboard the Marlow Explorer. (Click here for Yacht Controller Demonstration)

We spent the day yesterday training all members of the Pilots’ Discretion crew on the capabilities of the Yacht Controller. It was actually quite entertaining watching the reactions of people on the docks, and in the waterfront restaurants, as our 50′ Sea Ray pivoted and maneuvered in and around the docks with nobody stationed at the helm.

We have been very fortunate this hurricane season to avoid any direct encounters with any tropical storms. As this is being written, we are currently watching hurricane Irma carefully. Sadly, we have many cruising friends with roots in and around the Houston Texas area. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all of the people being affected by Hurricane Harvey.

Hurricane Harvey

Hurricane Harvey

Dwight, Theresa & Mary, diving in St. Lucia

SUMMER IN ST. LUCIA – PART 2 (by Theresa)

AQUATICS CENTER

Rodney Heights Aquatic Center

Rodney Heights Aquatic Center

With school out for the summer, we enrolled the boys in a summer swimming camp at the Rodney Heights Aquatic Center, located just outside Rodney Bay Marina. The Aquatics Center has an Olympic-short (25 m) sized pool, a karate studio, a gym, a soccer field and weekly field trips to various fun places on the island, including horse back riding and Splash Island Water Park! The boys are looking forward to the end of August, when there will be an island wide swim meet with competitors from all over the island.

Rodney Heights Aquatic Center, St. Lucia

Rodney Heights Aquatic Center, St. Lucia

OPEN WATER DIVER SCUBA CERTIFICATION

While the boys were in camp, I decided to finally take the plunge and get my Open Water Diver Scuba certification. Fortunately, Dive St. Lucia, one of the nicest dive facilities that we have seen throughout the Caribbean, is located right next door to the marina. My instructor for the course was “Mary,” and my dive buddy was “Dwight.” Coincidentally, Dwight is also one of the Captains of the Dive St. Lucia dive boats, who, like me, decided he wanted to see what life was like under the boat.

Dwight, Theresa & Mary, diving in St. Lucia

Dwight, Theresa & Mary, diving in St. Lucia

After completing the preliminary online testing, and confined water diving exercises in the pool, we set out to complete the open water diving portion of the course.

"OK" signal, Mary, Theresa & Dwight, diving in St. Lucia (2017)

“OK” signal, Mary, Theresa & Dwight, diving in St. Lucia (2017)

The first day we completed two tank dives and multiple underwater exercises.

Theresa & dive buddy, Dwight, diving in St. Lucia (2017)

Theresa & dive buddy, Dwight, diving in St. Lucia (2017)

Theresa, diving in St. Lucia (2017)

Theresa, diving in St. Lucia (2017)

Theresa, diving in St. Lucia (2017)

Theresa, diving in St. Lucia (2017)

Our second day open water diving was extra special since Ryan, who already has his open water diver certification, came along with his Go Pro to dive with us.

Theresa & Ryan, pre-dive, St. Lucia (2017)

Theresa & Ryan, pre-dive, St. Lucia (2017)

Ryan, pre-dive, St. Lucia (2017)

Ryan, pre-dive, St. Lucia (2017)

Mary, Dwight & Theresa preparing to dive, St. Lucia

Mary, Dwight & Theresa preparing to dive, St. Lucia

Ryan diving in St. Lucia (2017)

Ryan diving in St. Lucia (2017)

Ryan, diving in St. Lucia (2017)

Ryan, diving in St. Lucia (2017)

Dwight, Theresa & Ryan, diving in St. Lucia (2017)

Dwight, Theresa & Ryan, diving in St. Lucia (2017)

Ryan & Theresa, diving in St. Lucia (2017)

Ryan & Theresa, diving in St. Lucia (2017)

SEGWAY

Since Ronan was still not cleared to go scuba diving (due to his recent tonsillectomy), he and Randy opted for a land based Segway adventure. Since Ronan had been sewaying on the island before (See, This is How we Roll, February 24, 2017), he had fun showing Randy around the trails.

Randy & Ronan, segway in St. Lucia (2017)

Randy & Ronan, segway in St. Lucia (2017)

Nigel, Randy & Ronan, segway in St. Lucia (2017)

Nigel, Randy & Ronan, segway in St. Lucia (2017)

Ronan, segway break, St. Lucia (2017)

Ronan, segway break, St. Lucia (2017)

Ronan, segway break at beach side cafe, St. Lucia (2017)

Ronan, segway break at beach side cafe, St. Lucia (2017)

As the day came to a close, both sea and land adventures intersected on the bay!

Randy & Ronan Segway in St. Lucia (2017)

Randy & Ronan Segway in St. Lucia (2017)

As the end of the summer and hurricane season approaches, we are continuing to monitor the Caribbean storm systems, all while enjoying all that the beautiful island of St. Lucia has to offer.

Lone horse & the sea on the northeast coast of St. Lucia hike

FLORIDA and ST. LUCIA, SUMMER 2017


FLORIDA

We have been remiss in posting updates lately, mostly because we have been busy travelling (land based), preparing the boat for hurricane season, and tackling various boat projects; all the while Randy finished up his post-op rotator cuff surgery rehabilitation. When the Captain’s sling finally came off, we all flew back home to Florida and had a spectacular visit with the boys’ grandparents.

Ryan, Jim (GrandpaSir), Lorraine (Nana) and Ronan

Ryan, Jim (GrandpaSir), Lorraine (Nana) and Ronan

The boys enjoyed going to the driving range with their “Grandpa-Sir,” the movies with their Nana, and over all being spoiled by both their grandparents.  As always, we all had a TERRIFIC time!!!

Ronan and Ryan, FL 2017

Ronan and Ryan, FL 2017

While in Florida, our youngest crew member, Ronan, had to have his tonsils and adenoids removed. The procedure went smoothly, and he enjoyed all of the recovery ice cream that followed! Regrettably, that means no scuba diving for him for at least the next several months. Once he was cleared to fly, we all returned to the Pilots’ Discretion back in St. Lucia.

We were thrilled, upon our return, to find our dear friends on M/V Seamantha were still tied up in Rodney Bay Marina. That meant lots of shared adventures ahead.

HIKING DONKEY BEACH ON THE NORTHEAST COAST OF ST. LUCIA (9.37 miles)

Our former Grenada hash (hiking) pals on M/V Seamantha suggested a “short” hike to Donkey Beach on the Northeast coast of St. Lucia. From Rodney Bay Marina (on the west coast of St. Lucia) we hiked across to the eastern side of the island and then headed up the northern coastline.

Ronan, hiking the mortheast coast of St. Lucia

Ronan, hiking the northeast coast of St. Lucia

Our hike led us to several peninsulas and across open fields filled with free roaming and grazing horses.

Lone horse & the sea on the northeast coast of St. Lucia hike

Lone horse & the sea on the northeast coast of St. Lucia hike

Horses on the northeast coast of St. Lucia hike

Horses on the northeast coast of St. Lucia hike

Our hiking buddies logged our hike, and other hikes on St. Lucia, on Wikiloc at: https://www.wikiloc.com/wikiloc/view.do?id=18443065

DIVING THE PITONS AND TURTLE REEF ON THE WEST COAST OF ST. LUCIA

After recovering from the arduous hike, we decided to set out with Dive Saint Lucia to explore the famous St. Lucian Pitons from below the sea. The Pitons dive is nick-named the “Superman dive” because of the strong current that runs along the base of the Pitons.

Theresa, Ronan, Ryan & Randy, dive boat, St. Lucia

Theresa, Ronan, Ryan & Randy, dive boat, St. Lucia

The second dive of the day was at “Turtle Cay,” appropriately named for the numerous sea turtles that inhabit the reef.

Sea snake, Turtle Reef, St. Lucia

Sea snake, Turtle Reef, St. Lucia

M/V Seamantha eventually set off to Martinique. Randy volunteered to tag along as crew (and  for a mini-vacation) in Le Marin. Details on that adventure to follow.