Tag Archives: Pilots Discretion

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!

Improvise, adapt and overcome! (by Randy)

Vessel Vanguard

Vessel Vanguard

GENERAL MAINTENANCE

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.

DINGHY ISSUES

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

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

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.

Pool at Cap Cana Marina, DR

The North Coast of the Dominican Republic, Samana and Punta Cana

Pilot's Discretion DR North Coast track

Pilot’s Discretion DR North Coast track

As I write this we are tucked in a slip at the Cap Cana Marina in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. We have travelled the approximately 200 nautical miles from Ocean World, Puerto Plata to position ourselves at the southeastern edge of the Dominican Republic so that we will be in a favorable location to initiate our crossing to Puerto Rico via the Mona Passage next week. The journey across the north coast of the Dominican Republic, including stops at Marina Puerto Bahia de Samana and Punta Cana, has been spectacular.

Northern coastline of the Dominican Republic

Northern coastline of the Dominican Republic

We left Ocean World before dawn on February 4. As the sun rose, we were underway, enjoying our morning coffee as the light revealed a truly amazing coastline off our starboard beam. The Dominican mountains come to the waters edge, terminating in sheer cliffs that the Atlantic breakers continuously pummel in a spectacular display of natures might. It was quite awe inspiring being able to watch from the comfort of the Pilots’ Discretion as we cruised a couple of miles offshore.

Once around Cabo Samana, we entered the calm waters of Samana Bay which is a very large, protected bay on the east coast of the D.R. We pulled into Marina Puerto Bahia de Samana for fuel and a couple nights rest. We have been very surprised by the quality of the marine facilities that we have found in a country that in many areas lacks the basic necessities of life. The marina infrastructure is second to none and in many cases, far nicer than most marinas that you would find in Florida or other boating centers in the United States.

While in Samana we took the opportunity to hire a couple of very hard working “boat boys” to wash the Pilots’ Discretion and polish her stainless steel. We also had a diver clean the hull and running gear in preparation for our crossing of the Mona Passage.

On February 6th, we were once again underway at dawn, this time we were leaving in company with six sailboats who were all going in the same general direction as us. The sight of the sailboats off our beam and stern as the sun rose was really beautiful and reminded us why we love our time at sea so much.

It wasn’t long after departure that it became evident that we would not be running in company with our new sailing friends for long. We were operating at our slowest idle speed and it was clear that we were still pulling away from the gaggle of sailboats. As we watched the sailboats disappear off our stern, we set up for a 10 knot cruise and made the turn southeast to round Cabo Engano and make our way to Punta Cana.

Whale breaching the surface just off our port side

Whale breaching the surface just off our port side

About an hour into our day we began to see what this area is famous for; dozens of migrating humpback whales were visable all around us. Some we could only see the moisture rising as they were breathing through their blowholes off in the distance but on a few occasions, a whale would breach the surface and put on a show within a few hundred yards of the Pilots’ Discretion. In the words of the boys, “that was awesome!”

The videos of the whales do not come close to capturing the magnificence of the spectacle that they provided us; it truly was one of those “you had to be there” moments.

We are going to spend a few days here in Cap Cana as we attend to some routine maintenance items before heading off for Puerto Rico. The good news for  us is that Frank Castillo, the Cap Cana Marina Dockmaster has gone way out of his way to help us in any way that he can as we prepare for the next leg of our journey. We will post next from Puerto Rico.

 

 

 

 

Sting Rays off Volley Ball Beach, George Town, Exumas, Bahamas

Georgetown

Pilot's Discretion Position Report

Pilot’s Discretion Position Report

As you can see from our latest position update, we are currently anchored in Georgetown, Exumas. We have been here just over 1 week and I must confess that I was pleasantly surprised by how nice the community and surrounding area are. We had heard mixed reviews of Georgetown from various people who had travelled here before us so we were not quite sure what to expect. As it turns out, we have found Georgetown to be a great stop as we prepare to head south out of the Bahamas and on to the Turks and Caicos and the Dominican Republic.

There are currently about 150 cruising boats in the harbor at Georgetown and as a result there is an entire infrastructure set up to address any cruising boat needs. We have found it easy to reprovision here with multiple well stocked grocery stores, hardware and marine supply stores. There are several waterfront restaurants that are very dog friendly which makes Patton a happy guy as he gets to travel with us when we elect to have a meal ashore. One of our favorite spots is the Chat and Chill beachfront restaurant located on Volleyball Beach. Every day at about 2pm, the cruising kids and their parents gather at the beach for loosely organized games of volleyball or to swing on the rope swings or just to relax.

In addition there are a group of large stingrays that appear to almost be domesticated. They show no fear of human contact and in fact will come right up to you and eat conch out of your hands.

With all of the activities, it is no surprise that Ryan and Ronan have pronounced Georgetown as their “new favorite place.” It has been fun to watch the boys process this trip as they have consistently reported to us that each new stop is just a little more special than the last.

As for our immediate itinerary, it appears that we will be in Georgetown for about another week as we wait for a series of cold fronts and their associated strong winds to work their way through our location. The current forecasts show a potential window of settled weather around the 15th of January so we will be ready to get underway. Should the weather be suitable, we will head south and east for Clarence Town, Long Island. After that, we will proceed via Acklins island and Mayaguana before stopping over in our next country, the Turks and Caicos. We will update you next from there.

Theresa & Randy at the helm

We are underway!

Saturday September 27, 2014 0800


( The boys cast off)

The day has finally arrived and we wasted no time as everyone was up early, eager to get underway. We left Port Tarpon Marina with a full contingent of marina neighbors aboard our friends Bob and Dietland Coan’s Sea Ray to escort us out of the Anclote river.

Bob, DeeDee, Bruce & Myra escorting us down the Anclote River

Bob, DeeDee, Bruce & Myra escorting us down the Anclote River

(Pilots Discretion underway at 29 knots)

Once clear of the Anclote we turned south and headed down the ICW (Intracoastal Waterway) for Venice. As it turned out, nature wasted no time providing us a spectacular preview of the the wonders that await us in our new world of cruising.


(Dolphin in our wake)

A pod of dolphins took up station on our bow wave less than an hour into our trip and the boys got a front row seat as the dolphins took turns gliding just below the surface in front of our anchor and then breaking off to jump clear of the water and trail us in our wake. We did have a brief encounter with a few afternoon thundershowers while crossing Sarasota Bay but that really only served to give us a free freshwater wash down.

The first days run was completed in 10 hours after which we dined aboard and all hands slept like logs, exhausted but full of anticipation for the journey ahead. I am putting up a screen shot of our route with this post and we will create a subcategory within our blog to archive each days travel so that you can reference each leg of our trip as your curiosity warrants. Thanks to all of you that have sent along well wishes.

Pilots' Discretion track on day 1

Pilots’ Discretion track on day 1

The crew of the Pilots’ Discretion
Randy, Theresa, Ryan, Ronan and Patton