Category Archives: St. Lucia

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.

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.

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.