Thursday, December 31, 2015

Another Whirlwind Visit "Back Home"

We spent Oct 8 through Jan 8 in the U.S. As usual, our schedule was chock-a-block, visiting family and friends, and buying "boat parts". We set a new record this year (in spending)--buying parts to finish the refit on Soggy Paws the CSY, which is for sale(TELL YOUR FRIENDS!), and buying new parts for Soggy Paws the Cat, which "just needs a little tweaking".

Dave Packing the First Box we Shipped from San Diego

The largest single expenditure was two new Kiwi Props, which we had shipped to Florida, and then packed up to ship by surface ship to the Philippines. But there were lots of other things that added up to one heck of a Visa bill this year. (Morningstar solar controller, Jackmaster engine oil filtration system, 2 new Lewmar winches, 2 new Windows 10 computers, etc etc).

We started our journey from Samal with a flight on Silk Airlines--the budget arm of Singapore Airlines. This took us to Singapore, where we hooked into the US Military Space Available system, and over the course of a week, we made our way from Singapore, to Japan, to Seattle.

We thought we'd timed our arrival in Singapore so we could fly out "Space-A" on the regularly scheduled flight the next day. But for some reason, the flight was delayed, and "oh darn, we'll have to spend a day in Singapore". We took the opportunity to visit Sentosa Island, which is (what else?) a World War II site. Even though the British had numerical superiority, their guns were facing the wrong way (out at sea). Who'd a thunk that the Japanese would attack through Malaysia.

Exploring the WWII Museum/Park at Sentosa Island Singapore

Wreckage of a Japanese Aircraft

Some of the Amazing Architecture of Singapore

In Seattle we took a Southwest Airlines flight to San Diego to visit Dave's son Chris & wife Sandy. Then on Southwest again to Atlanta, to pick up our car and visit with Sherry's sister and niece. And then driving from Atlanta to Florida with stops to see Sherry's brother and Dave's cousin. We finally arrived at our condo in Melbourne, FL on about Nov 1.

Great Jam Session at the SSCA Party on Friday Night

The first half of November was consumed with preparations for the Seven Seas Cruising Association's annual "Gam". At this year's Gam, Dave gave a presentation on Evaluating Modern Catamarans, and a round-table on Cruising Equipment Choices. Sherry was happy to be retiring from a 3-year stint on the SSCA Board of Directors, and also held a round-table on Cruising the Pacific, and Ham Exams.

Sherry's Last Day on the SSCA Board of Directors

Though it was really rewarding to "give back" to the organization that nurtured us through our learning years, it's actually a lot of work to be on the Board of Directors. Sherry spent countless hours on Skype calls from difficult places, and sent and received hundreds of emails. The Board is what keeps the organization running, but is largely unappreciated by the membership.

The highlight--and lowlight--of Sherry's tenure is the birthing of the new SSCA website. It is astoundingly better than what we had before, but still a little buggy, and the effort dragged on for about 4 years. Sherry spent a LOT of time during this visit home working on website technical support. If you want to get Sherry going, just ask how this project went...

The Beautiful New SSCA Website

One highlight of the Gam was the panel on Cruising Cuba. SSCA members are really anxious to go see Cuba after so many years. The panel discussed the ins and outs of cruising, and the legalities of US Citizens visiting Cuba under the current regulations.
SSCA Cruising Cuba Panel

From mid-November to mid-December, we stayed really busy with lots of visiting and boat-part-buying. We made a trip over to Marco Island to give a cruising presentation to the Sailing Association of Marco Island. We finally met Lee Oldershaw, whom we'd been corresponding with for 2-3 years by email. Lee is another WWII buff and helped us several times with internet research while we were "out island" with no internet. So we were happy to share a little adventure with Lee's sailing club.

We took the opportunity while on the west coast of Florida to visit places Sherry's been wanting to see since high school.

Sanibel of Legend

Dave Shelling on Sanibel Island

Sherry has been reading Robert Macomber's books, which are set in and around Key West and Sanibel Island. Great to finally see some of the places. Robert Macomber's Books on

We also got the chance to visit Glenn and Eddie Tuttle, s/v Tothill, in Punta Gorda. We first met them in the San Blas Islands in 2008. Glenn joined the SSCA Board in 2015, and HIS major contribution to SSCA has been to set up and operate Station KPK--SSCA's "Voice of the Caribbean". Another guy "giving back". We need more people like Glenn and Eddie in our organization!

Glenn in His "Ham Shack"

Once the Gam was over, daughter Nicki flew down for a short weekend from Cincinnati to see us. We had a nice hike in some Florida wetlands (off 520), a Grouper Sandwich in Cocoa Beach, and a great beach walk at Sebastian Inlet together.

Nicki and I Hiking in a place that for the life of me I can't remember the name of!!

Nice Beachwalk on Sebastian Beach

Bahamas Night at Shells Seafood Restaurant
with Nicki and the MYC Gang (Cracked Conch!)

Meanwhile, Dave played lots of golf, and Sherry spent a ton of time on the computer.

We made a Thanksgiving trip back to Atlanta for Sherry's family reunion.

The Really Amazing Nieces
(But Missing Nicki Who Is Taking Picture)
Family Thanksgiving in Atlanta

Dave arranged a weekend with his Naval Academy buddies. We played a little golf, told a few stories, communed with "Jeffry". It's always enjoyable to visit Jimmy Neale's farm in the Green Swamp near Clermont.

A Few of Dave's Naval Academy Buddies in the Green Swamp

Dave and cousin Bruce McCampbell did a stellar job in a presentation to the Sea Cadets on The Battle of Leyte Gulf (yes, another WWII presentation). The Sea Cadets are an arm of the US Navy. Each local group names itself after a famous US Navy persona. The Melbourne group just happens to be named after Dave's Dad, Medal of Honor Winner David NMI McCampbell.
Dave Presenting to the Sea Cadets

Bruce Showing the Sea Cadets Aerial Tactics

What a Fine Group of Young People

Late December was all about Christmas. We even had a nice tree this year, compliments of my cousin Suki, who came down from NC to help celebrate my birthday. She insisted on buying a nice tree, already decorated, for me. We really enjoyed having it, and a wreath on the door (lately we haven't bothered...bah humbug!).

Thank You Suki, For Our Christmas Tree!!

We really enjoyed the Christmas festivities at Melbourne Yacht Club and East Coast Sailing Association, especially the Christmas Boat Parade. It was a warm winter this year, but we had a short cold snap just before the Boat Parade.

Christmas Boat Parade

Our Friends John and Sandy Join Us for the Boat Parade

My BFF Cheryl (who I DIDN'T get to sail with this visit) had a great Christmas party at her house. Lots of besties there!

Some of the Old Fast Lane Crew at my (former) Foredeck's Christmas Party

Nicki and I spent Christmas Eve Day going to the matinee at the Oaks Mall to watch the new Star Wars movie, walking on the beach, and having Christmas Eve Oysters at Bunkies (a 3-year tradition for us).

Merry Christmas Everyone!

The Beckett family welcomed Dave and I to BOTH of their Christmas parties, one on Christmas Day and another one a few days later when everyone else finally made it to Melbourne.

Showing off Our Goofy Christmas Socks

We also spent some time and energy visiting other catamarans in Florida. We had a great visit with another St. Francis 44, At Last, in St. Augustine. And we made two visits to our bosum-cruising-buddies who used to own a CSY, but who also just bought a St. Francis 44. Their CSY was named Tackless 2. Their "new" St. Francis catamaran is named Tackless Too.

Visiting Tackless Too

Visiting Tackless Too

All in all, it was a great visit. Go, go, go all the time. We got to spend a little time with lots of friends, but still feel like we didn't spend enough time or see enough people!! Oh well, there's always next year!

On Jan 1 we start a reverse course back to the Philippines... driving back to Atlanta via Largo and Hawthorne, leaving the car in Atlanta, and flying commercially (Southwest, Singapore Airlines) back to Davao in the Philippines. We arrive back at the marina on Jan 10th, ready to start working on TWO boats.

We've got one serious looker for the CSY, scheduled to come see the boat in person shortly after we arrive back on Samal Island. Plus of course new inquiries coming in daily. With any luck we'll get Soggy Paws finished and sold by the end of March.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

New Boat - New Solar System - Part 1

Our new catamaran already has a fairly adequate solar charging system--about 400 watts of solar panels and 2 20-amp Morningstar charge controllers. Should be OK, right? NOT!

We've gotten spoiled with Soggy Paws I's fantastic solar system. We spent about a week debating whether to cannabilize it off the boat we have for sale and move it to the new boat. But because good new panels are available in Davao at a reasonable price, and it would be a fairly huge project for Dave to swap systems, and we didn't want to devalue what have in Soggy Paws for Sale, we have opted to start fresh on the new cat.

Checking out the New Solar Panels

After 3 trips into Davao to look over what's available, we had 4 200-watt solar panels delivered by Solazone Philippines. They are affiliated with Solazone Australia, and so have a pretty well-rounded offering of panels and support equipment. The panels they sell are SiMax panels, made in China. We took a pretty good look at the panel construction, back and front. They are SIGNFICANTLY better construction than the cheap chinese stuff that is for sale down in Chinatown, and actually come with a 10 year warranty. And we got a great deal--200 watt panels for about $200 USD each. A dollar a watt is a great price. You can't get that price in the US unless you buy a pallet load of panels.

Then we needed a new solar controller. We debated whether to buy another Outback MX60 MPPT Controller. Our existing one has been pretty much flawless in 8 years of operation, and we have had reasonably good customer support. Should be no question, right? Well, I figured we should look around a little to see if the state of the art had moved in the last 10 years. It seems to have.

New Morningstar Tristar 60 MPPT Controller On Order

With Optional Control Panel

After a good bit of research, we ended up buying a Morningstar Tristar 60 MPPT Controller instead of another Outback. It even cost a little bit more. Hopefully we won't regret switching from a proven product, for a few more bells and whistles. You can buy it on, among other places.

We took delivery of the solar panels at the end of September. The Morningstar regulator has been ordered and we'll ship by slow boat out to the Philippines. We won't be able to install the system until we first build a new hardtop for the cockpit (when we get back to the boat in January).

Monday, September 21, 2015

Schlepping Our Stuff From One Boat To Another

Most of the last few weeks have been occupied by trying to unload all our "stuff" from Soggy Paws I to Soggy Paws II. This has been our #1 priority, so we can get the interior refurbishing underway.

Piles of Stuff to Put Away

For about a week, we hired 2 guys from the marina labor pool to work with us for an hour or two a day, to help with the manual labor of "schlepping". Dave and I would spend an hour or two filling all our available moveable containers (mostly bags) that we own. Then "the boys" would spend an hour carrying it down the ladder, into a trolley, down the dock, and into Soggy Paws II's cockpit. Then Dave and I would spend the rest of the day trying to get enough stuff put away that we still could move around in our cabin.

Where are we Going to Put it All?

We quickly realized that the beamy hull of the CSY holds a LOT more stuff than the fairly narrow hulls of the St. Francis Cat. So all of our guest bunks are now filled with "stuff" while we continue to sort, put away, and purge.

Do We Really Need this Stuff?

We understand the downfall of loading down a catamaran too much. So we are trying really hard to break ourselves of our packrat habits. It's difficult!!

This Stuff (Medicines Expired Over 3 Years)
Is Too Good To Throw Out!??

I spent 2 days sorting through our medical chest and the medical supplies that were left on Blue Moon when we bought her. I trashed a bunch of expired or damaged meds, and gave a whole bag of stuff to another boat.

There is a "Free Box" at the marina, and anything put in there gets a good look by everyone. The marina workers usually get there first. They have also been known to "feel up" trash bags and tear into them looking for anything of value. (Stuff we think has no value appears to have a lot of value to them.)

Our Pre-Flea Market For Sale Flyer

We have a bunch of big ticket items on a "For Sale" flyer on the bulletin board, and Dave has organized a flea market here at the marina for next weekend.

I am trying to "rip" all our CD's and DVD's to a hard drive (or two), to get rid of the big heavy notebooks full of plastic media. These will all be on sale at the flea market. (DVD's are a great trade/gift item in the out islands, so we'll probably put them in our "trade" box--we DO still plan to get "out island" again!).

We also have a "take home" pile that is growing pretty big. Good thing we didn't give away that extra suitcase we brought back with us from the U.S. in January!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Goodbye Again

One of the reasons we had hurried back to Davao after purchasing the new cat, was to get back before all our friends left on the Indonesia Rally. And we did manage to get back in time to have a little fun with the rally group before everyone pulled out on Aug 29th.

We had great fun at the marina-sponsored Rally Dinner

Philip and Leslie, s/v Carina

David and Suzi, s/v Sidewinder

Dave Looking Pretty Spiffy in a Collared Shirt and Fake Lei

The Appetizer Buffet Was Awesome--Fresh Sushi!

Of course there was an open bar, and some fire dancing, and really nice native drummers. Then after dinner, the music switched to dance music and we all got a little crazy.

All The Girls Dancing

David Showing Off His Pole Dancing Technique

The last week, everyone going on the rally was frantically doing last minute preparations. The marina shuttle bus was crowded every day with people provisioning, looking for parts, or working on checkout formalities. We were actually thankful we weren't going!

One of the Frigoboat units we had bought in Singapore was for Mind the Gap. They didn't have time to install the whole thing before they left, but James wanted Dave's help in bending the evaporator plate. So the night before they left, after a few drinks, the guys did the job.

Dave, James and a Few Helpers Bending the Evaporator Plate

Finally departure day arrived... we walked around the docks and said goodbye to everyone going on the rally, and then watched as they filed out of the narrow marina entrance, one by one.

Saying Goodbye

Glenda on Helena doing a Goodbye Dance on the Bow

Mind the Gap Leaving

Carina Leaving

It was very bittersweet. We had been sharing the docks with most of these boats for the past year. And a few of them, we had been friends with for a long time. We first met Carina on a beach in Panama in 2009--after talking with them on the radio for the year prior. We finally caught up with them again in Pohnpei February last year, and hopscotched together through Micronesia to the Philippines. Sidewinder we had met on the radio in 2010, when we were in the Galapagos and they were in a remote anchorage in Costa Rica with a flooded engine. Dave talked David through getting the engine going again. We didn't meet face to face until they caught up with us in Fiji in 2013. Helena we first met in Suwarrow in 2011. They were off their boat in Fiji in 2013 when we saw it right after Cyclone Evan went through. We were happy then to be able to tell Eddy that Helena was fine. And we ran into them in Pohnpei early last year. Mind the Gap are relatively new friends from last year's rally.

None of us had planned to be in the marina this long. This is a very "sticky" place. Inexpensive living, very cruiser-friendly marina, nice social activity, and a good place to get the boat fixed up after the long haul across the Pacific.

Everyone seems to be going different directions--some west, and some east, some who weren't so sure where they'd end up after Indonesia. Most said "But not back here!" We made jokes over the radio about what life on the other side of the wall was like.

Of course we followed the rally boats to their first stop in Indonesia by SSB. But radio is difficult here on the equator, and living in the noisy marina. It's not like being out in an anchorage. And of course we are still in contact by email and Facebook (thank God for Facebook!!). We all said "Keep in touch, we'll see you somewhere!" ...but only half believing it. But that's the nature of actually getting out and going cruising.

Meantime, with all the rally boats gone, we've met a few other people in the marina we hadn't had a chance to get to know before. And life goes on...

Friday, August 28, 2015

Our New Spinnaker

Our new boat came with a 1,830 sq ft spinnaker. That's huge, to us at least.

We should have used our big spinnaker on the trip from Borneo. It would have been perfect in the light air astern. But we were lazy, and a bit apprehensive. Having cruised with a spinnaker on Island Time, and raced with one on Fast Lane, I felt comfortable sorting it out. But we were on passage, and tired, and there were always iffy-looking clouds somewhere on the horizon. So it was so easy just cranking our cute little Yanmars up when the wind went light astern. We should have also practiced with the spinnaker before while Kevin was aboard, to help us figure out how to set it up and fly it, but we never got to it.

Spinnaker Lessons

So once at the dock in Davao, we enlisted our friends James and Lorna on s/v Mind the Gap to come over and show us how it should be done. They had sailed a number of times in Malaysia with Blue Moon, and had been the ones to move Blue Moon from Miri Marina in western Borneo to Pangkor where we bought her. James was also the one that convinced Dave that this was a very good boat for sale for a very good price. (And it was James and Lorna's being good friends with each of us, and having recently sailed on Blue Moon, that made our crazy hurry-up remote purchase work with not very much anxiety or risk).

Fortunately, we usually have a light breeze from astern in the mornings in the marina. In about 10 minutes, James and Lorna had showed us how easy it was to raise, deploy, douse, and lower the huge spinnaker (at least in light winds in the marina!). On a catamaran, no poles are needed!! We figured out that rather than lugging the big thing up on deck, we can raise it directly from the bathtub in the starboard hull--there's a hatch conveniently set up right over the bathtub. (One wonders if this was a design feature not in the manufacturer's literature!). It's a big asymetric with a sock, so when it's time to douse, just sock it, and drop it back down the hatch. Easy peasy!!

Now that we understand how to set it up and deploy it, we are looking forward to doing some light air sailing on our next trip. (Of course, the way Neptune works, we won't see light air again for YEARS!)

We kinda feel like the boat is under-winched. Only one cockpit winch on each side for the genoa. We could make do, as the previous owners have. But we'd feel more comfortable having another winch on each side--especially in heavy air when you might need help in a squall cranking in the genoa furling while still keeping control of the genoa sheet, and no time to play with stoppers. So two (hopefully used) Lewmar 42's are on our shopping list.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Almost Back in the Philippines

Those of you watching our blog have been disappointed, I know, that there have been no updates in the last month. This was for two reasons--intermittent internet and a very busy schedule when we did get internet, and because of "security issues".

We have just finished transitting the north coast of Borneo. This area has been plagued in the last couple of years (actually, the last hundred years) with Philippine rebels (Muslim separatists) who kidnap rich people for ransom to fund their rebel activity. It got really bad last year when they kidnapped a German couple off their sailboat in southern Palawan (the SW most Philippine Island). They did a number of audacious kidnappings last summer. Then in May of this year, they kidnapped 2 people out of a waterfront restaurant in Sandakan, the big city on the north coast of Borneo. If you want to know more, Google "Abu Sayeff, kidnap" and that will get you started.

Most boats these days transit this area in a gaggle, with protection from local maritime authorities. The Sail Malaysia Rally people organize a Sail Malaysia Rally to the East every year. This year there were 40 boats signed up, though I think not that many made the whole rally (for updates on this Rally, this year, see Tropical Soul's blog posts, linked in the Cruising Blogs area to the left on my blog).

Unfortunately, due to timing, we couldn't make it in time to join up with the Rally...we ended up a couple of weeks behind. This is a shame, because in addition to the protection offered by local authorities, they do a lot of neat touristy things, facilitated by the Sail Malaysia people.

So once we realized we were not going to make the Rally, we started asking for information on security issues from the Sail Malaysia organizer. He passed us some phone numbers and email contacts for Malaysian security forces, called ESSCom (Eastern Security Sector Command) and MMEA (Maritime Malaysia __ Authority). A few phone calls and emails later, we finally got a coherent response from someone in ESSCom, who actually looked at our transit plan and made a few suggestions, which was what we were looking for. He also confirmed a list of email and contact phone numbers for the various ESSCom/MMEA posts along our route.

Our route plan was GREATLY facilitated by the Sail Malaysia Rally PDF file, and an associated GPX file (waypoint list for OpenCPN), plus a few years worth of tracks from boats who had gone through the same area. So we knew where it was possible to stop, we just didn't know where it was SAFE to stop. That's where ESSCom's advice was helpful.

Once we got underway from Kota Kinabalu, as asked, we emailed daily position reports to the ESSCom contact list. We also advised our friends associated with the Navy in the Philippines (whom we had contacted asking for the same sort of advice). Once we got to Kudat (the NW corner of Borneo), we were surprised that ESSCom offered an escort boat. This was the beginning of the dicey area. So at 11 am when we departed Kudat, we were joined by the first escort boat, who idled around within visual range all day, and spent the night at our first anchorage. The next morning, they handed us off to a different boat. And we were relayed along the coast for about 200 miles that way, by a string of MMEA patrol boats.

It felt really decadent having an escort for only one cruising boat. We had never asked for such service--just to help us stay away from known bad areas. But I guess the tourism impact of having even one tourist get kidnapped would shut down Borneo's second largest industry--tourism (behind Palm Oil production).

It was ironic that the only place that the escort service broke down was the night we spent in Dent Haven, all alone. This is the closest anchorage to where the bad guys are known to hang out!! However, at this point, our Philippine contacts, who had been monitoring our progress by email, took over. We got a nice email from the primary Philippine Navy contact and we were emailed some contacts at the Philippine Navy Base on Tawi Tawi island. In our anchorage at Dent Haven, we could hear the Philippine Navy contacting passing merchant ships for information on their ships, cargos, and destinations. So we survived the night at Dent Haven, and the next morning, with a sigh of relief, we exited a pass between Philippine and Malaysian islands, and headed east for the Gulf of Davao.

We enjoyed Malaysia, and hope we can do it again sometime when we have a bit more time to cruise vs. deliver. However, we are REALLY looking forward to getting back to the Philippines. There's something really different about the Philippine people that we didn't find in Malaysia.

We expect to arrive at the Sarangani Islands, at the SW corner of the Gulf of Davao, in the middle of the night tonight, and head out at the crack of dawn tomorrow to head towards Samal. We've been in these waters before, and will probably go in to a previous anchor spot and anchor for a little sleep before heading out in the early morning.

I do plan to back-fill a bunch of experiences we've had over the last month, including our week-long whirlwind land excursion in northern Borneo. So keep watching the blog!
Sherry & Dave
Delivering the new Soggy Paws from Malaysia to Philippines

At 8/16/2015 11:00 PM (utc) our position was 05°16.20'N 123°39.30'E

Sunday, July 19, 2015

177 NM in one day

Our noon-to-noon mileage since yesterday was 177 nm, or an average of 7.3.

We had to work our way through some squslls in the morning, but by mid-afternoon the weather had cleared. However, the GRIB files have forecast a drop and wind and a change in direction to be more behind us. It's already happening. We're "creeping" along at 4.5 knots right now, and anticipating starting at least one engine at some time during the night.

Maybe in the morning we'll put up the big spinnaker, when we can see the squalls coming.

All is well. The crew is eating well and smiling. We have been dragging fishing lines, but so far no luck.

482 miles to go to Labuan, with fairly light air forecast the whole rest of the route.
At 7/19/2015 11:30 AM (utc) our position was 02°39.68'N 107°42.69'E

Singapore to Borneo - Day 1

We transitted the south coast of Singapore on Friday. It was a nerve-wracking experience with ships everywhere.

The Busy Harbor of Singapore

The Busy Harbor of Singapore

Even the Vesper Marine AIS was almost useless there were so many targets. It was most useful feeding the AIS into OpenCPN, but neither laptop I had was happy with so much activity on the USB bus. (Not quite sure what was going on, but it was frustrating. I kept getting USB Device Not Recognized--not sure if it was heat or too much activity, or both). (Several days later I discovered that the problems were caused by a very "noisy" inverter. Once I turned the inverter off, I never had another USB serial port problem, but we were gone from Singapore by then)

Migration Looking Very Pretty

We made it safely into the anchorage in Malaysian waters on the east side of Singapore by 5pm, and were joined by our friends on Migration. We have been following Migration ever since we got in the Pacific-always a year or two behind them. But they just finished a 2 year refit in Thailand (which Bruce DOESN'T recommend), and so we finally got to meet them in person.

We rowed over to their boat for happy hour on their voluminous (trimaran) deck. The boat is gorgeous--so the refit was successful in the end (it's a 45 year old 46 ft Cross tri, but now looks brand new).

We left this anchorage yesterday morning and headed on our 702 nm trip to Labuan, on the coast of Borneo. There is lots to see in Borneo that we are skipping by, including the Rainforest Festival near Kuching. But we just can't see everything.

We are in the SW Monsoon season, so the winds are southerly. Since we got clear of the channel and turned the engines off, we've been sailing at 7-8 knots. We put one reef in the main when the daily wind came up, and another in this morning in squally weather. And we're still doing 7 knots. We have about 530 NM to go to Labuan.

With a 3rd person on board, watches and sailhandling have been easy. Kevin has been very useful in helping us figure out all the boat systems. (I have a blog half-written about all that stuff, but want to get the passage report in...)

All is well, ETA Labuan Wednesday afternoon local time, if we keep this speed up. (But softer wind is in the forecast).

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