Tag Archives: Pilots Discretion

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


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


Marigot Bay, St. Lucia

Marigot Bay, St. Lucia

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

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

Gros Piton, St. Lucia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Turtle Reef in St. Lucia

Turtle Reef in St. Lucia

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

Improvise, adapt and overcome! (by Randy)

Vessel Vanguard

Vessel Vanguard


We have been utilizing our boat as our floating home for over a year now. In addition to living aboard her, we have travelled approximately 3600 nautical miles since we left Florida. One of the constant and ongoing requirements for an active vessel at sea is a rigorous maintenance program. We have been utilizing the Vessel Vanguard program to track our ongoing maintenance and it has proven very helpful. We have access to an interactive website that follows all of the routine maintenance schedules for the Pilots’ Discretion. It provides us alerts to upcoming maintenance as well as maintaining a parts inventory and equipment utilization records for all of the various systems aboard. We have tried to be very proactive in anticipating the potential for equipment failure and it’s implications for our operational readiness.

Despite our diligent attention to the Pilots’ Discretion maintenance, occasionally we are confronted with an unanticipated requirement for technical support. Usually, it turns out that we need to find a part in an out of the way spot or get a second opinion on some minor equipment malfunction. A couple of days later we are on our way with the offending system back on line.


During our passage from St. Kitts to Antigua, we encountered a potentially catastrophic failure with our dinghy. We took the dinghy to shore in Majors Bay, St. Kitts for Patton’s morning walk and I noticed that the fuel gauge moved very quickly from full to nearly empty in the course of 20 minutes (we had just fueled the dinghy). In addition, the smell of gasoline was extremely strong and upon inspection, the bilge had two inches of raw gasoline floating in it. Anyone with any boating experience knows that gasoline in the bilge creates a very hazardous and potentially explosive situation. I checked all of the fuel lines throughout the boat and motor and could find no leaks. We elected to drain the bilge, clean it out as best we could and bring the dinghy aboard, not to be run again until we found some competent help to track down and repair our mysterious fuel leak.

Ryan, Randy & Patton securing the dinghy in Majors Bay, St. Kitts

Ryan, Randy & Patton securing the dinghy in Majors Bay, St. Kitts

We communicated with our cruising friends,  John and Paulette Lee aboard M/V Seamantha (via our Delorme satellite communications system) and they volunteered to do some online research regarding options for us for our arrival in Antigua. Before we had Antigua on the radar,  John had gotten back to us with the recommendation that we contact the folks at Seagull Inflatables (www.seagullinflatables.com) in Falmouth Harbor, Antigua.


Seagull Inflatables, Falmouth Harbor, Antigua

Seagull Inflatables, Falmouth Harbor, Antigua

As soon as we had the Pilots’ Discretion safely secured at Nelson’s Dockyard, I reached out to Seagull Inflatables owner, Mr. Dino Bruschi, and explained our issue. Dino told me he would be at our boat within an hour to evaluate and advise. True to his word, Dino was onboard Pilots’ Discretion and hard at work evaluating our fuel leak within the hour. The bad news was that he felt the integral aluminum fuel tank had failed. Ordinarily, that would not be a big deal but the engineering drawings of our dinghy showed that the tank had been put in place with no access points for maintenance. In fact, the tank had been installed and then fiber glassed in place. The net result to us was that the only way to access the tank was to literally cut it out of the boat. This was going to be major surgery for our dinghy with it’s still shiny new 40hp Yamaha outboard. I was having visions of the entire thing ending up on a scrap heap in Antigua. To his credit, Dino was not quite as pessimistic as I was. He assured me that he had a first rate shop and could complete the repair in a fashion that would meet our requirements and our budget.

The gas tank was sealed beneath the fiber glass & had to be cut out

The gas tank was sealed beneath the fiber glass & had to be cut out

Once the suspect fuel tank was removed, we found the source of our mysterious fuel leak. The fuel tank had been part of the boats electrical bonding system (a robust bonding system prevents a condition known as galvanic corrosion, a form of corrosion of metals that can present itself in the marine environment anytime salt water and electrical current are present) Somewhere along the way, the bonding strap that was attached to the fuel tank broke off.

The bonding strap on the fuel tank was missing which caused galvanic corrosion to occur

The bonding strap on the fuel tank was missing which caused galvanic corrosion to occur

Once that occurred, it was just a matter of time before galvanic corrosion would take its toll on the aluminum tank.

A tiny little hole in your gas tank can really ruin your day!

A tiny little hole in your gas tank can really ruin your day!

We found the corrosion holes, replaced the tank and installed a more robust bonding attachment to the new tank. After all of this, the magicians at Seagull Inflatables still had to reconstruct our tender in a way that was both cosmetically flawless and resulted in a stronger boat than we had arrived with. Throughout the process, Dino was diligent about communicating with me 3 or 4 times a day to make sure that I had the opportunity to participate fully in the development and implementation of the repair. Our dinghy is once again operational and if I do not show you the improved structure around the fuel tank, you would not be able to tell that there had ever been a problem. We cannot say enough good things about the way the folks at Seagull Inflatables go about their business. Thank you Dino and crew for an outstanding repair on short notice. For any fellow cruisers that require any attention to their tender or safety equipment while in Antigua, we would urge you to contact the folks at Seagull Inflatables. Dino can be reached on his cell at 1 (268) 725-4466. Thanks again Dino for a first rate repair.

Randy polishing the dinghy

Randy polishing the dinghy

MountCinnamon BeachClub, Grenada

Our Neighborhood is Disbanding – by Theresa

Bus Load of Cruisers from Port Louis Marina

Bus Load of Cruisers from Port Louis Marina

As we have reported to you before, our entire family has enjoyed this amazing trip of a lifetime in ways that we could have never imagined prior to our departure. The friends we have made and the sense of community that we have experienced with our fellow cruisers is something that I do not think any of us fully anticipated. As this is being written during the third week of November, 2015, we are still tied to the dock at the Port Louis Marina in St. Georges, Grenada. The Pilot’s Discretion is ready for departure and once we have addressed a few minor issues, that required a last minute trip back to Florida, it will be time for us to cast off.

It appears that we will be some of the last members of our floating neighborhood to get underway. Each day for the past two weeks or so has been a new opportunity to say farewell to another fellow cruising family as our Grenadian flotilla has gradually begun to scatter to the four points of the compass.

S/V Slo Down Departing Port Louis Marina, Grenada

S/V Slow Down Departing Port Louis Marina, Grenada

Some of our friends are headed west, through the Panama Canal, others are headed south towards South America, while still others are headed north to continue exploring the islands of the Caribbean.

Regardless of the next destination, all of our new cruising friends agree that leaving Grenada has felt a bit like it did when we all left our respective homes at the beginning of our individual adventures. We have been in Grenada for 5 months and as a result have had the opportunity to get to know Grenada as our home away from home.

Our Favorite Beach

We have our favorite beach – Grand Anse, where we spent many a Sunday afternoon at Coconut Beach Restaurant. Toes in the sand, listening to live music, watching the cruise ships come in and out of port, all while enjoying local cuisine and fabulous sunsets … what’s not to love!

Grand Anse Beach, Grenada

Grand Anse Beach, Grenada

Our Favorite Resort

We have our favorite resort, Mount Cinnamon Resort and Beach Club (at the south end of Grand Anse Beach in St. Georges), where guests of ours visiting us in Grenada were pampered with turquoise Caribbean waters, lush tropical gardens, exquisite cuisine and magnificent scenery. Cruisers can enjoy fine dining in the resort restaurants and obtain day passes to enjoy all of the resort amenities. It is truly a hidden Caribbean gem!

Balcony Suite

Balcony Suite

Our Favorite Taxi Driver

We even have our favorite taxi driver, Martin “Cat Eyes” Lawrence (a.k.a. ‘Yellow Man’). Cat Eyes is well known throughout the island and easy to spot given his signature yellow highlighted A/C taxi and matching attire. He is available for island tours, airport delivery & pickup, shopping and running all around the island. He is often stationed at the taxi stand at Port Louis Marina, however, he can also be reached at (473) 440-8032 or (473) 414-7742.

What ever expectations each of us had for Grenada before we arrived here, they have all been surpassed. We will always have fond memories of our time on this Caribbean jewel but as Tennessee Williams wrote “There is a time for departure even when there is no certain place to go.” It is now time for us to move on.

Technical Services Available in Grenada – by Randy

For cruisers working their way south through the Caribbean chain, Grenada is a logical place to stop to address whatever maintenance issues that may have presented themselves to you along the way. First and foremost, Grenada is physically located south of the hurricane belt at a latitude most insurance companies consider “safe” during the Atlantic hurricane season (safe is a relative term and although hurricanes tend to turn north prior to reaching Grenada, there have been exceptions with devastating consequences). A prudent mariner must maintain a weather eye and always have a contingency plan just in case mother-nature decides to operate outside of the statistical norms. Our insurance company mandated that we would remain south of 12 degrees, 30 minutes latitude from June 1, through Nov 1, making our decision to seek out yacht maintenance in Grenada a simple one. There are multiple boat yards capable of hauling everything from small mono hull sailboats, wide beam multi hull cats to mega yachts. In addition we found  skilled technicians, well versed in modern marine systems, including sailmakers, upholsterers, marine electronics experts and expert woodworking craftsmen that are capable of handling anything from a minor nick in the woodwork of a salon to complete yacht refurbishment. We did have some unfortunate experiences with some of the tradesmen and since it is not our desire to make it more difficult for motivated workers to earn a living we will not call them out publically. Suffice it to say, if we had a less than satisfactory experience with a vendor you will not see them listed here. We hope that the folks that let us down have learned from the experience and will raise their game. If we have listed someone on this blog, you can rest assured that they met or exceeded our expectations.

For a reliable maritime day laborer, there are many to choose from around the Port Louis Marina but we cannot recommend any of them more highly than Patrick King. Patrick has always been  professional, hard working, courteous and trustworthy. Everyone in our family has come to consider Patrick not just an employee but also a friend. Should you need to get in touch with Patrick he can be reached at (473) 416-9622 or (473) 538-6536. If you have a requirement for a diesel mechanic or electrician, or have any refrigeration issues, the guys that work for Palm Tree Marine are top notch. Palm Tree Marine’s number is (473) 407- 2783. Steffan Meyerer and his crew at Driftwood Fine Yacht Woodworking (473) 459-9859 did an outstanding job installing custom cabinetry in the main salon of the Pilot’s Discretion as well as redesigning our galley to provide room for our new Fisher Paykel dishwasher. While it is not inexpensive to properly maintain a 50′ motor yacht each of the people we mentioned above came in at or below their initial estimates for the work we requested of them, often times after circumstances required us to modify the initial plan of attack with a more complicated work around. All in all, we have found Grenada to be one of the best places in the Caribbean to address the myriad issues that come up while actively cruising aboard our floating home.