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.

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

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

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 – by Theresa

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 – by Randy

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