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Altair's Cruz Nuz
cruising, vb, kroozing, working on your boat in exotic locations around the Caribbean....Dudley and Becca
Virgin Gorda in the BVI's to St. Martin
Becca B, First Mate, Only Mate
11/11/2008, Saba Rock, Virgin Gorda to Cross the Anegada Passage (Sombrero Passage)

We loved the Virgin Islands...the Spanish, US and British, ALL! The sailing has been superb and we are now sitting at Saba Rock with weather to cross the Anegada Passage. We were supposed to play at the Bitter End and Leverick Bay, do some diving, provision a little and get some laundry done! We didn't do that, so what is it this time? We got settled in yesterday on a mooring and proceeded into get lunch and some wifi. We peeked at the weather and it was as if we had ordered it for Altair's crossing! We jumped into action and left! We had joked about cutting thru the reef on the east side of Saba Rock, because Bruce Van Sant said he likes to chance it! Just for the record, we took the long way out of Gorda Sound and had a beautiful night before us! We didn't have time to get antsy about the big open passage called the Sombrero Passage or the Anegada Passage!

The Anegada was as pleasant as the Mona! We really didn't have time to even think about this passage having the possibility of being a dangerous one! It all happened so rapidly, we just got lucky and enjoyed a perfect sail! We had a beautiful sunset, we had the sails open fully, and right on schedule pulled into St. Martin, Marigot Bay before lunch! It was a 100 miles over an open channel crossing the line from the Virgins to the Leeward Islands. A wonderfully big milestone for our little sloop.

The rumor was that you wanted to arrive at the immigration office when it didn't conflict with their siesta! We had the anchor down, the dink 'duty' completed when we realized that we hadn't checked out of US Virgins! Oh no...Dudley immediately said that we would probably have to tuck our tails between our legs and head back across the Anegada Passage! "The winds were definitely going to be in our favor going west" he said. "No way!!! I wasn't going to have a thing to do with that because we only had a two day window before the weather was predicted to turn squally, with very high winds for a week!" We took our chances and got very lucky! Turns out the French are very laid back where clearing boats are concerned and we ran outta that customs office with a flame behind us!

We had a fun time in St. Martins from the new friends on Stonecutter we broke bread with, cut cheese, drank wine and laughed lots thru the two weeks in the lagoon on the French side where it was free to anchor! We hit all the hot spots, Budget Marine, Wally World (I mean Island Water World), Lagoon Marina Laundry and as well as their hot spot for live music and good food, and a very cool cruiser's hangout. Rick's Cafe, where we were treated with love, and spent lots of time for wifi and good food near the Dutch side of the lagoon, was awesome too.

We hunkered down for two weeks waiting for the winds to lie down and managed to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner at Rick's Cafe where Tamara, the owner, surprised a lot of cruisers with a great feast reminding us of a homestyle spread . She is great, the turkey and fixin's were sumptuous, but just wasn't the family we missed during this time of hoo!

Dudley got an itty bitty football fix while I sat next to the witches tit rockin' and rolling on the anchor for days doing my writing thingy! Really, the tall craggy, nubby, bumpy hill, just to our north, was a mammory look a like and was on the charts that way, printed in black and white! Too funny!

We got our introduction into the French culture being on their side of the Lagoon and proceeded to procure a couple of language books called "French for Cruisers" and "Spanish for Cruisers" that will really come in handy furher on down the islands! Needless to say, we are loving the bagettes, croissants, cheeses and the vino for me! Yummmmm!!!

We got lots of entertainment from a brit and his american girlfriend! They helped us out a number of times with local alternator knowledge, outboard mechanics, etc. When they were describing a troublesome, quarellsome episode it was about the time when his sister from the UK was arriving! The girlfriend had to leave the boat...and it was a big, roomy one! We didn't see the need for her to abandon ship, but Dudley was sure that his Seeeeeeeeester was a ruse! Hehe.

It's really amazing how immersed you become in a new culture when you know you will be moving on! We were so sad to bid farewells, but the wind was calling and we do want to get to Grenada by hurricane season by July of 2009. We crawled in 2008, so let's see what 2009 will bring!

Love to all, Dudley and Bec

Finally on the move again...
Becca B., First Mate, Only Mate
11/04/2008, Caneel Bay, North Coast, St. John, USVI

We are so happy to be sailing east! Actually it's northeast and that's good because the wind is from the east and we so wanted to sail! Gorgeous day and we had another short hop to St. John's of only 3 miles! We're really cruising now.

We are just getting back in the grove, feeling ourselves at anchor (oops, I mean a mooring because we were in the national park). We weren't staying long, just wanted to check out of the US Virgin Islnads here! We did and we're set to enter the BVI's which we heard were sticklers about the customs and immigration procedures.

The number of boats here were incredible! Sails everywhere! It feels soooooo good to have the wind rushing thru the boat and to be sailing at last.

When we got up in the morning and played with dolphins! What a surprise! We only had to go north about 6 miles to get to Jost Van Dyke, in the BVIs! So we didn't have to rush. Seems like the big crossings are behind us, but this is ridiculous.

Dudley and Bec

We cut the umbilical cord...
Becca B., First Mate, Only Mate
11/03/2008, St. Thomas to Christmas Cove

We finally left St. Thomas...for real! What a ride! We were so ready that we decided hurricane season would be over for us on November 1. Everyone gave examples of storms in December, but we were not listening. See ya!

We talked it up so much it was almost anticlimatic, but it's here and we took off! If anybody were to follow us or know the people in Christmas Cove anchored nearby, they would've had been hysterical with laughter. St. James Island is a special little place just 2-3 miles east of Benner Bay and we wanted to hang for a night away from the marina! It's very sweet! We told them that the BVI's were our next destination and heading for Grenada by next hurricane season...little did could they know they could see us with binoculars we were so close.

We'll start our journey tomorrow, we just wanted to make sure we had everything and could retrace in an hour if need be! Love this place!

Shakedown last boat show...then we can go!
Becca B., First Mate, Only Mate!
02/15/2008, Pumkin Key, Biscayne Bay

Happy Valentines day! My honey showed up after a day of last minute duties on shore, arms full of things we had to have (probably not, hehe) and a dozen of the most beautiful red roses! We've been living on Altair at the mooring now for 16 days! (You're really not allowed to live on board at the mooring, but everyone is so living vicariously thru us and wanting us TO LEAVE...they overlook it). It's official...the cat is on board, the laptop is with us and some provisions! Can't tell you how how modern we are feeling! We have all the amenities, fridge, enclosed lanai, warm showers and LOVE. Yes, love can be modern too, with each and every day our love evolving and morphing into a new shape! As if that weren't enough, we have our new solar panel, the wind generator and new davits! We are styling. We are having a hard time adapting, with so much new equipment and no time to check it out! But we are mentally ready, I think! Are you ever ready to drop your life as you've known it and take off!

OK, I knew it! We've been stalling and now I know why! We're going to the boat show! Jim and Jimmie gave us boat show tickets so we have to spend more money on boat toys, so bummed. Not! This is an annual event that Dudley would never miss, just like the Coconut Grove Art Festival for me. We blew thru that boat show, covered lots of territory and wished and dreamed of all the goodies we still would like to have. I think we were just plain finished with projects and there wasn't too much that was calling our names. The only things we bought were some really nice inflatable pfds. Very important for peace of mind and easy to store too.

We seriously needed to stop working on the boat. We needed to call it quits and get away from the dock and the clubhouse to SAIL. We've been talking about a shakedown trip and we finally did it! We were a bit crusty this morning, but we're old salts and we just needed to go to the dock and fill our water tanks! We have been very frivolous and crazy with water usage! We have gone thru 90 gallons in approx 2 weeks or 7.5 gallons a day! That's too much for real....we've gotta cut back! We are theoretically still attached at the umbilical cord to the water supply, but bad habits are bad habits!

The club is tented, we couldn't shower before we leave, but we didn't let that stop us! We topped off the water tanks and actually sailed away from the Grove and the Club that holds us like an octopus! . It was a grand day, WE REALLY, REALLY SAILED! I'm so in awe, I forgot how great this boat is to sail! I know we have a lot of stuff onboard that weighs us down now, Dudley's biggest concern, but you couldn't tell with the wind off her quarter today! AWESOME! It was cold and blustery, a little bit squally, just the way we like it! Thank you wind Gods!

We got to Pumpkin key, expecting a n'easter tonight, just in time for a shower, body one that is, before it get's dark! We are so in love with the screened in LANAI...our shower was delightful and we got everything put away and cleaned up before dark! Yippeee, it feels so good to be clean! Dinner was pretty wonderful too! Isn't it funny when you're in the sun and wind all day how the food just tastes better? I whipped up a couple of delicous turkey burgers, ala some leftover corn relish turkey from last night's tacos, mixed baby greens, large sliced tomatoes and doncha know, smashed taters! Gotta cut down on the food intake too, or we'll need a bigger boat!

We are tired, but cannot tell you how great this feels to be at anchor! I'm being nervous nelly, guess I'll get over that, but I wanted to set the anchor, reverse the engine, put out more scope, oh well! My honey is feeling tested and he doesn't need me challenging him! Gotta work on that! That's it for tonight! We are going to set the alarm for early am to catch Chris' weather report at 6:30a so we can practice with that SSB. I must also throw a line out for a fish for Bagera....good night sweet cruising world! Not yet, but VERY soon!!

Yeiks, a storm blew thru in the middle of the night and we really got to test our 'get up in the middle of the night and jump into action" skills. We are seriously rusty. Those beautiful curtains that I made outta Phifertex, which entirely enclose the cockpit, keeps out rain, sun and gawkers, are going to have to come down before we go to bed! What a nightmare trying to see where you're dragging, need to look where you are going and have a connector and traslucent curtains in the way hindering the view and access to the deck and anchor! We are in Biscayne Bay, after all, so no great biggy, but we have to remember that for the future busy anchorages.

Just one more stumbling block....we practiced installing waypoints, setting routes and tracks on our chartplotter and it worked all day but now it's decided to quit! We were setting the anchor alarm and damn, damn, damn! We haven't even left Miami for the Gulf Stream! Dudley is going to call for tech support with Ray Marine in the am...Sheisa, shit, darn!

How fabulous to finally be ready! We are so pumped up! The big question is..."Are you ever really READY?

Three years in the making...
Becca B, first mate, only mate
01/31/2008, CGSC, Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Boat Yards

This is where Altair sat for almost three years while preparing for this trip. The Coconut Grove Sailing Club is Dudley's other love next to me and this boat. Not necessary in that order! This is where he poured himself into the virtual rebuilding of our precious Tartan. It's been a labor of love for my retired fireman, a reawakening for me.

I've been waffling...and Dudley knew it...should I stay or should I go? It was a very sticky topic ever since our 5 month mini cruise in '04. He's retired and I'm not. Might as well be though, 'cause I'm not blazing trails to stardom, YET, nor on any who's who list anywhere. Everytime I've had indications that my biz (Murals by Becca) was growing with referrals he'd want to take off again! That damned sea is always calling him! Ok, Altair and his mistresses, i.e., the CGSC, sailing and that big blue sea. What's a woman to do? Follow my man, that's what. I can paint anywhere and I really love him, love sailing and love traveling too! I'll find a way to secure my old age...some's never too late and I'm sticking to that dream too.

So let's take a look at what He DID!!! Just so there's no misunderstanding, I'm only going by the list on board of what we've done to refit this little sloop of ours. We had so many 'master' lists, we had to restock our legal pad supply!

"Some" of Dudley's 'done' list:

Remove old autopilot, install new linear drive Simrad system. He claimed to love drilling thru the 'quadrant' shaft...not! He replaced the old helm pedestal and installed a new narrow and taller one. Of course that included running cables thru it for our new chartplotter and Simrad control panel, drilling thru the cockpit floor to secure it and attach it to the binacle. No small job either. He then moved the circuit board to the other side of the bulkhead so he could finally get to everything. This was something that's always bugged him and it was a small nightmare to reroute all that. While he was in the wiring mode, he rewired most everything that was old, worn out or's a 1976 boat for crying out loud, what do you think?

He purchased a SSB on e-bay, then had it checked by someone who came highly respected and that learning curve took a while. He got his tech license; installed a ground plate during the haulout in 2005 and installed the insulated back stay, tuner and cooper ground strip thingy!

We're just beginning! We hauled the boat in 2007 to really inspect the rudder, install the depth sounder sensor, painted her bottom with some kill the nature stufff and checked all the thru hulls. He removed the compressor for the old fridge and made room for a new flexible water bladder! 30 more gallons, very important. The trials of working in a small boat where all spaces are extremely tight! He installed that bladder, under the cockpit (pain in the... everything) and my quiet, calm, patient man was cussing, groaning and banging or scraping every spot on his bod. He revised the old deep fridge space, put shelves in and new lid and made me a huge pantry. As if that wasn't enough, he replaced old lazy jacks, rebuilt the whisker pole, mount and related blocks on front of mast! The rigging was worked on and checked, a new mainsail installed and tested. Righto, we got a chance to sail! New reading lights, new stereo and speaker system for cds and ipod connections, to appease your's truly, and a new ipod to tame the beast. He invented and made a model for the rain dodger, which is the tops. We had that made before I started sewing. He replaced the steps on the swim ladder with starboard; redid all the varnish down below with captain's varnish, to replace the water based varnish he tried and hated years ago. That was a major project that took months, taking it all home, you know the drill, but it was a break from mechanical stuff and he could get something done without interuptions from anyone, but me, of course! He purchased a new portable fridge from Engel, which we love, then he had to install a home for it while in use next to the galley, and a home while underway...that meant two more 12v plugs and more wiring. He moved our ridiculous chart table at the end of our quarter berth, now our 'garage', and extended my galley with it...very cool! That move is only 2' away on a 34' sloop, but the return is huge. Purchased and installed a new and deeper sink, built a box shelf for soaps, etc. and put in a new shelf under the galley stove for more organized galley storage. Really great!

My guy did so much to make our trip comfortable and I betcha to entice me along!

Just months before we left, he decided to add solar and wind...These were our last minute 'big' installations! Smart move though!!!! My major contribution to those jobs was following him around with a bucket to catch the wd40 and stainless drilling debris from falling into the water. He loved that!

Oh, yeah, he bought two new AGM 4d, or something like that, batteries, a new laptop, Skype-in subscription and headset. Whew!

I can't even begin to remember everything else, but he was a busy man! He loved every minute of it though. One of the main reasons it took three years was everybody came to the dock to help. They were wishing they could go cruising too and just plain coming around to find out what the new project was. I betcha he could've bought a bigger and more cruising ready boat for all the money he spent refit Altair. hmmmmmm.

When I wasn't painting for Murals by Becca, I was his helper:

I got the best help I could ever dream of when my friend Pat Zumpfe loaned me her NEW Sailrite walking foot sewing machine. Amazing that she brought it to our house, set it up, trained me and let me use it, and it is fantastic, what a dream. I had finally killed my Singer after making everything from tank covers, bags, wheel and binacle cover, bimini, port curtains. etc., and spent a lot in repair bills at my favorite 'SW Sewing Center' in the Gables. Then I made the dodger and connector (bimini to dodger awning) and phifertex curtains to completely enclose the cockpit, way cool. Her generosity also extended into her mentoring me, how blessed am I?

I also painted everything I had time to paint. He's said that he is afraid to stand still for fear I'll paint him too. The toe rail, coamings, traveler bed and hand rails on deck are all teak! The big hurricane of '92, Andrew, took out a lot of this teak! He patched, marine texed, (is that a word?) and painted the bandaged wood with Awl Grip. When I arrived in his life, I faux'd painted everything to look like teak! I would love to do the faux treatment in awl grip instead of easy poxy...I can find awl grip anywhere it seems, not easy poxy! Some other time maybe.

There is so much more to tell and to do yet, but the biggest news of all is we stopped working on Altair at the dock and decided it was actually time to work along the way. There will always be some-thing to do on a boat that goes cruising, hence the description of the blog, hehe.

Just makes you want to go cruising, huh?

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Who: Dudley Clark and Becky Butler
Port: Coconut Grove Sailing Club
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