Author Archives: Randy

About Randy

Airline Captain, USCG 100 ton Master with Radar and Towing Endorsements, former “Coastie”

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.

 

 

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

Patton

A life well lived, Patton Mowrey February 25, 2002-April 24, 2017

Patton and his ball

Patton and his ball

It has been our policy to use our blog to share with all of you just how wondrous our family’s Caribbean cruising experience has been. Indeed, we think it has been a transformative experience for all of us. That said, magical trip or not, we have not been insulated from the ups and downs that life has for cruisers and our land based friends alike. Sadly, this post is not one that is likely to bring a smile to your face. We have kept this brief simply because the grief we are all feeling is something that has left us all without adequate words.

Monday, April 24, 2017, will be entered into the Pilots’ Discretion logbook as the saddest day of our Caribbean experience. We had to have our crew member, and all around best buddy Patton, euthanized at the veterinary clinic on St. Lucia. The specific illness that took our pal from us was a very aggressive metastatic series of mast cell tumors. The truth is that after 15 plus years of a wonderful life, Patton’s little body had worn out.

Our entire family was with Patton to the end. Ryan and Ronan waited in the clinic waiting room as the Dr. called Theresa, Patton, and I into the exam room. After the Dr. explained the specifics of the procedure, it was time to do what we dreaded but understood was in Patton’s best interest. Theresa and I held him in our arms as the last of his life ebbed away. Gladly, I can report that he did not suffer in those final moments. After he had passed, the entire crew of the Pilots’ Discretion took one last dinghy ride with our buddy so that Patton the “boat dog” could have a proper burial at sea. His final resting place is several miles offshore the island of St. Lucia.

We miss Patton terribly but we will never forget him.

Patton enjoying the sunset from The Bight, Norman Island, B.V.I.

Patton enjoying the sunset from The Bight, Norman Island, B.V.I.

 

Patton, Loblolly Beach, Anegada, BVI

Happy 15th Birthday Patton! (by Randy)

imageYesterday was a pretty important day aboard the Pilots’ Discretion. Patton, our intrepid, world traveling Cocker Spaniel turned fifteen (15) years old. Way back when we initially left the comfort zone of our home marina in Tarpon Springs, Florida (2 and 1/2 years ago) we had some concerns with how well our then 12 year old buddy would adapt to a life at sea. Our concerns were completely unfounded. Patton is the first one up every morning and the last one to turn in each night after surveying the boat to assure himself that the entire crew is accounted for.Patton Kindle

Patton crew

Patton crew

He loves excursions in the dinghy and he has his favorite spot picked out under the Captain’s helm chair for long passages.

Patton driving the dinghy in the BVIs

Patton driving the dinghy in the BVIs

Randy & Patton in front of Tthe Indians, B.V.I.

Randy & Patton in front of the Indians, B.V.I.

The story would not be complete without acknowledging there have been some concessions made due to the decision to cruise with Patton. We do not patronize places along the way that are not dog friendly. We have on rare occasions had more difficulty clearing immigration as a result of declaring Patton as part of our crew but all in all, he has been a very positive addition to our crew and we would not consider having it any other way.

Cable Car, Loma Isabel de Torres, Dominican Reupblic

Cable Car, Loma Isabel de Torres, Dominican Republic

 

For those of you following our blog who are not dog people, I am sure you just scratch your head when you see me acting like a very proud papa when talking about Patton. To the dog people following us, I know that I need to say no more.

Happy birthday Patton, the crew of the Pilots’ Discretion loves you❤️

Patton enjoying the sunset from The Bight, Norman Island, B.V.I.

Patton enjoying the sunset from The Bight, Norman Island, B.V.I.

 

Plan B, Every Cruiser Needs One! (by Randy)

As I am writing this, it is late January and we are secured in our slip in the Rodney Bay Marina in St. Lucia, West Indies. We have thoroughly enjoyed our stay in St. Lucia, and we had thought we would be headed northbound by now, working our way back towards Florida. Unfortunately, the only member of the Pilots’ Discretion crew to get back to Florida was her Captain, and that was to see his favorite orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Daniel P. Moynihan.

Dr. Daniel P. Moynihan, Orthopedic Surgeon

Dr. Daniel P. Moynihan

My left shoulder had been bothering me since we were in Grenada but I considered it mainly a nuisance and intended to have it addressed when we got the boat back to Florida. This month, I went back to Florida to attend to some of our business issues and thought I would stop by Dr. Moynihan’s office to make sure he concurred with my assessment that I could defer action on my shoulder until the conclusion of our Caribbean trip. Initially, he was quite encouraging, telling me that he had seen the pictures on our blog of our Caribbean adventures and was fairly comfortable telling me that if the shoulder were seriously injured, I would not likely have been so enthusiastic with my outdoor activities.

He did however tell me that the only way to know for certain would be to do an MRI. Two days later, MRI in hand, the good Dr. gave me the news that the MRI looked very good except for that troublesome torn rotator cuff in my left shoulder. He outlined the specific issues as he highlighted the relevant areas of the MRI. Unfortunately, his conclusion was that any significant deferral of the surgery could make a full recovery more difficult. The good news is that Dr. Moynihan is a can do type of guy and a good problem solver. He told me he was confident that he could do the surgery on a Friday and have me back in St. Lucia the following Tuesday to begin my rehab assignment in the tropics.

Anyone that has gone through a rotator cuff repair can tell you that it is approximately as much fun as two root canals followed by a nice nap in a bed of fire ants.

That said, it sucks for me that I will be forced to do my approximately 3 month rehab in the shadow of St. Lucia’s fabled Pitons, being cooled by the  trade winds of the Caribbean.

Cruising Past the Pitons, St. Lucia

Cruising Past the Pitons, St. Lucia

The practical implications of all of this gets us to the Plan B mentioned in the title of this post. Given that the surgery is now scheduled for early February and accounting for  the length of the required rehabilitation program, we will be unable to safely move the Pilots’ Discretion before the beginning of the 2017 Caribbean hurricane season. Plan B has now come sufficiently into view for us to conclude that we will likely be enjoying the St. Lucian beauty and hospitality until the end of next summer. We will of course keep you apprised via our blog as we suffer through the execution of our Plan B.

Hurricane Matthew heading towards Haiti

Phew, that was close! (by Randy)

When we last posted, Tropical Storm Matthew was just northeast of Grenada, headed west. Thankfully, Grenada did not experience a direct hit. Matthew skirted just north of Grenada as a Tropical Storm with maximum winds of 60 knots before exploding into a category 4/5 major hurricane on the Saffir/Simpson scale (so far maximum sustained winds have reached 165 knots with gusts to 195 knots). Our preparations were more than adequate for the weather we experienced from the outer bands of the Tropical Storm and we are now breathing a sigh of relief as we watch what has become a massive storm march relentlessly toward Haiti, Jamaica, Cuba and other points north that are not yet clearly defined. Our good wishes and prayers are with our many friends both aboard boats and ashore that are potentially still in the crosshairs of Matthew.

Category 4 Hurricane Matthew

Category 4 Hurricane Matthew

Pilots Discretion being hauled at Spice Isle Marine, Grenada

Pilots Discretion being hauled at Spice Isle Marine, Grenada

We did not want to move on without sharing our experience addressing what should have been routine maintenance for the Pilots’ Discretion. We generally haul our boat out of the water every other year to refresh the bottom paint on the hull. Due to the fact that Pilots’ Discretion lives in a salt water environment, she over time will build up a layer of marine growth on her hull that left unaddressed, results in excessive parasite drag, which in turn reduces her range and increases our fuel bill (ouch). The way that we minimize this is a combination of elbow grease, in the form of a diver cleaning the growth off the bottom (now you guys know why we

Micron 66 and Propspeed

Micron 66 and Propspeed

decided to teach Ryan to dive!) and the application of very expensive, yet effective anti fouling paint to the hull. The only way to accomplish the painting portion of this strategy is to haul the boat, which brings us to the entertaining part of the story that begins at Spice Island Marine boat yard.

Spice Island Marine is one of two major boat yards in Grenada equipped to handle boats of our size and larger. Since renewing the bottom paint is essentially a calendar driven event, we have been planning for this since last summer. We actually made our reservation for haul out months before we arrived in Grenada. The regularly scheduled haul out maintenance generally takes 3-4 days so to be safe we made a plan for 5 days.  The week before we were scheduled for haul out, I made an appointment with the management at Spice Island Marine to go over the specific details of our maintenance to do list as well as to confirm what would be expected from both boat yard staff and Pilots’ Discretion crew upon our arrival at the Travel Lift that would remove Pilots’ Discretion from the water in Prickly Bay, Grenada.

To make sure that we were in position at the appointed hour (originally 9 a.m.), we took Pilots’ Discretion on a short 7 nautical mile cruise from Port Louis Marina southeast to Prickly Bay the night before. We moved our boat in company with our friends on M/V Seamantha, a Krogen 58 who were scheduled to be hauled just before us at 8 a.m. the next morning. We settled in for a nice evening sunset in Prickly Bay, looking forward to our scheduled morning haul out.

Our first indication that things were not going according to schedule came when we got a call on the radio from Seamantha around 8 a.m. telling us that they were going to be delayed being hauled out by about an hour due to boat yard scheduling issues. They told us that a boat had shown up, unscheduled just as the sun set and had positioned himself in the slip where the Travel Lift works to remove boats from the water. The unscheduled arrival announced that since he was a “regular” that he did not need an appointment and Seamantha would just have to wait (along with everyone scheduled after her). After much chatter back and forth on the radio, the boat yard told us that we would be rescheduled to be hauled at 11 a.m. and they would give us a 15 minute heads up to position ourselves off the slip for haul out. Having heard nothing from the boatyard by 11:50 a.m., I called them to inquire about our status. They politely said, “we are sorry, we meant to call you, you can come on in now.” OK, all’s well that ends well.

We undid our mooring lines and idled the 1/4 mile to the haul out slip. As soon as we positioned our boat in the slip, the yard foreman came out and inquired what we were doing in the slip as he was scheduled to launch a boat at 1 p.m. and we would have to wait. I politely explained to him that he must be confused since we in fact were scheduled to be hauled out at 9 a.m. and since it was now after 12 noon, we were going to do our best to help him get back on schedule. I also explained to him that the Pilots’ Discretion would only be leaving the slip one way and that was by Travel Lift to be placed on her maintenance stands. Now you see, we are getting off to a bad start with a guy who would soon be my new best  pal.

After a whole bunch of grousing, my new pal correctly came to the conclusion that it would be in our mutual best interest if he spoke less and hauled more. Pilots’ Discretion was safely secured in her maintenance blocks just after 3 p.m. Did I mention to you that the yard closes at 4 p.m. and it was becoming apparent that the yard crew begins to prepare for that event about 3 p.m. Day 1 in the yard slips by with little work to show for it. On day 2, we were unable to be at the boat yard in the morning as “Patton,” our 14-year-old Cocker Spaniel, had a series of appointments at the St. George’s University veterinary clinic. Fortunately, the crew from Seamantha stood in for us at the boat yard to see that work began on Pilots’ Discretion. When we arrived at the yard mid afternoon, the preparation and painting process was well underway.

Sanding and painting the bottom

Sanding and painting the bottom

Day 3 began with the arrival of additional outside contractors that we needed to address some minor electrical issues (we were adding a replacement underwater light for our transom as well as changing our bow thruster from its original design 3 bladed propeller to a new, more efficient 6 bladed design). Zinc plates were replaced and the anchor chain painted and marked. At the end of the day, it appeared doubtful that we would complete the project in the planned 4 days. Did I mention that we were hauled on a Tuesday, now we are coming up on the weekend.

Propspeed looks good, but the new LED underwater light casing still needs anti-fouling paint

Propspeed looks good, but the new LED underwater light casing still needs anti-fouling paint

 

Bottom paint nearly done, now to get under those chock blocks!

Bottom paint nearly done, now to get under those chock blocks!

Friday was spent adding the second coat of 3 planned coats of bottom paint. Given that each coat of paint must be allowed to adequately dry prior to the next coat being applied it was becoming impossible to launch before the weekend. What the heck, it is only money and the view from our temporary home at Mt. Cinnamon resort was spectacular! We will be in the water Monday for sure.

After a weekend of rest, everyone arrived back at the boatyard refreshed and ready to accomplish great things. My new best pal proudly walked me around Pilots’ Discretion to show me what a fine job they had done.

When I mentioned to him that the dinghy lift had been stripped to bare metal but had not been repainted he feigned surprise and said ” you wanted us to paint that too?” “Yes we did,” and did I mention that in addition to not painting things that did need painted, they did manage to paint a lot of places that were not supposed to be painted. After another trip to the front office and much grousing, it was determined that we were actually the customer and if we did not think the job was complete, the job was not complete. In the end, we got all of our issues addressed adequately.

It was not easy and the process ended up taking 8 days instead of the usual 4 but Pilots’ Discretion is back in the water. Next stop, additional electrical system modifications and a complete overhaul of the boat’s sanitation system. Did I mention that maintaining Pilots’ Discretion at times feels like a full-time job?

Invest 97L track

We were going to write about our experience at the boat yard but the very real likelihood of an encounter with a tropical weather system has changed all of that! (by Randy)

We shared our great experience at Mount Cinammon Resort while our boat was being hauled in our last post. Our plan was to utilize this post to share our experiences with the boat yard. Sometimes the best laid plans have to be altered due to some unforeseen event. What will likely become Huricane Matthew in the next week is just such an unexpected surprise for folks in the Southern Caribbean.

Tropical Storm Matthew approaching the eastern Caribbean

Tropical Storm Matthew approaching the eastern Caribbean

This time of year, the West Coast of Africa spits off massive amounts tropical energy known as waves and a lot of these waves develop into tropical storms. Due to a number of meteorological reasons, most of the systems that turn into tropical storms make a more northward turn towards the Greater Antilles chain of islands, leaving folks like those of us in Grenada in the clear. Not so this time! The best forecast models available are showing that what the National Hurricane Center is now calling Invest 97L will likely develop into Hurricane Matthew. They are predicting a track that will place it just slightly north of Grenada when he passes.

Invest 97L approaching the Lesser Antilles

Invest 97L approaching the Lesser Antilles. We are right in the predicted cross hairs

The hurricane experts are estimating that Matthew will not gain hurricane strength until after he is northwest of the Spice Island. That is good news for us but it is by no means a certainty so all of the prudent mariners in our neighborhood are kicking their hurricane preparations into high gear. A number of Mega Yachts, including Steve Jobs’s 257′ “Venus,” have arrived today with an unscheduled stop at the Port Louis Marina seeking the security of the most stoutly constructed docks within several hundred miles.

Ronan & Ryan in front of Venus, Port Louis Marina, Grenada

Ronan & Ryan in front of Venus, Port Louis Marina, Grenada

For our part, we have taken our antennas down, added additional mooring lines and fenders, taken our dinghy out of the water and secured it to our tender lift with multiple stainless steel straps.

Preparing for the storm

Preparing for the storm

Once we accomplished all of that, we had drills to make sure the entire crew knows the routine to get off the boat safely should the need arise when the weather system arrives. As this is being written at 3:45pm, the weather has begun a subtle change. It has been unusually hot and still today with very light breezes. Just in the last hour or so the breezes have begun to stiffen, making it extra challenging for all of the last minute arrivals as they are trying to maneuver into the remaining open slips to ride out the storm.

Port Louis Marina staff wrestling with arriving sailboat as the winds pick up

Port Louis Marina staff wrestling with arriving sailboat as the winds pick up

We will post a follow up to our story as conditions and opportunity allows.