Sailing Diary – The Hurricane Season


The last two years we spent Hurricane Season down in Grenada with a bunch of other cruiser friends in hopes of staying low enough and east enough to be out of the path of any hurricanes – statistically speaking of course. Our very first year we hightailed it down there since we were very green and wanted to play it safe, though that caused us to miss a lot of the islands without fully exploring the way we wanted to.

The second year we pushed our luck a little and didn’t leave the Virgins until the end of July. Our trip south was rushed again but we made it safe and sound.

This year was a little different. This year we were working in BVI into the first part of August. I wasn’t comfortable with traveling south from BVI to Grenada that late into hurricane season. It also happened to mark three years since we’d been back to the states. After some discussion, Peter and I both decided it would be best to haul our boat out of the water, secure it on stands and fly out to visit family and friends in California and Washington state. It wasn’t an easy decision though, because it would mean a lot of work to prepare the boat.


Let’s just say it had been a long time since we had to back this full keel into a slip. The Travellift is designed in such a way that we have to back in, otherwise the mast would have to come down. It took a few tries because of the wind, but finally we sprung into place with the help of some linehandlers from the yard.

Even though we arrived for our haulout appointment at 9am, it literally took all day for the crew at Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbour to deliver and finish securing our boat on jackstands in her permanent location. It was very hot outside. Of course I didn’t plan to be standing around in the sun all day so I totally forgot to put sunscreen on!! My skin peeled for weeks after that mistake 🙁 We had only been off work for half a day before we left to bring the boat up to Virgin Gorda so there was still plenty of work to do before we departed the next morning. We finished stowing all the cushions, setting up dehumidifiers, vacuuming and wiping down all surfaces inside the boat. We finished packing and made a sad little quesadilla dinner out of the remaining food we had left on board. All was still in the yard that night, yet we were bubbling with excitement to start our vacation 😉


Luckily, Betsy was having a sleepover with our friends on Three Sheets that night. It would have been really challenging trying to get her up and down that ladder in the yard. First thing the next morning we ferried over to Tortola where our friend Scott picked us up. We made a pitstop in West End to check out of the country and pick up Betsy, then made the journey to St. Thomas by boat.

There, our friend William from Mango Media was waiting for us. We spent the morning with him running a few errands – like going to the Vet for Betsy’s paperwork, going to AT&T to get a US cell phone sim card and stopping for lunch at a really awesome secret local spot. It’s so secret I would never be able to find it again!

We arrived at the airport with plenty of time to make our flight. Everything up to this point was a complete whirlwind and was completely made possible thanks to all the help we got from our friends. Sometimes it takes a village when you’re in the islands!


Fast forward two months… We’ve actually just arrived back in Tortola after visiting all of our family. Don’t worry, I hope to catch you up on our adventures on land sometime this week…

When we booked our plane tickets back in April, we only left ourselves a total of TWO WEEKS (though now we’re down to a week and a half) to get a LOT of work done on our boat after getting back to the islands. She’s currently still on the hard in Virgin Gorda. We will arrive there later this afternoon to begin project-mode trying to get as much done as we can. Unfortunately there are certain jobs that must be done while she’s hauled out of the water so the rest of the month is critical for us, as we don’t plan on hauling her out again for a couple of years. (Knock on teak!) You might ask why we didn’t have someone else do the work while we were gone but Peter prefers to be there while all work is being done. We’re gearing up for another busy charter season so we know we really need to get the critical items taken care of now before our entire focus returns to work.

Vacation mode is *OFFICIALLY* over! Hurricane season technically isn’t over until the end of November but the worst of it has hopefully passed. Even though we’ll still be watching the weather closely, this is a great time of year to be working down here. The tourism traffic is already ramping back up for a new charter season!

While we can’t wait to see all our friends here in the islands, the next week and a half will literally be madness as we scramble to get the work done on our boat. Wish us luck!!!!


West Coast Sailing


Another day is done as we inch closer to the end of the charter season. August 2nd will be our last charter before we take a much needed three month break. What will we do?

We’re hauling our boat out of the water for the remainder of Hurricane Season and Betsy, Peter and I will be flying back to the States for the first time in THREE YEARS!

We’ll visit family and friends in California for a few weeks first, then we’ll drive up to Washington to see more family and friends, then we’ll be finishing up our travels in Tampa, FL to see my sister. We’ve been talking about some exciting ideas for what to do with the time between CA and WA but I can’t tell you quite yet. If the timing happens to work out, we could be in store for an absolutely epic adventure 😉

In the meantime, we’re trying to prep our boat and do as much decommissioning now as we can so the actual haul out process goes quickly. We’ve got today off work and one more day off scheduled. Our timing is going to be very tight:

August 2 – Last Charter

August 3 – Take the boat up to Virgin Gorda and stage for hauling

August 4 – Haul the boat at 9:30am

August 5 – Be in St. Thomas by 10:45am, Vet appointment at 11:30, Airport arrival by 2:00, Depart by 5pm

August 6 – Arrive in LAX by 1:00am


We’ll return to our boat in Mid October for some TLC before diving into another busy charter season on Aristocat beginning November 1.

If you’ll be anywhere between San Diego and the greater Seattle Area from August to October… let us know!

Also, we’re looking to buy a truck or SUV in LA or San Diego, most importantly to have transportation to visit everyone, but also to haul a motorcycle trailer up to Washington in September, then sell both the truck and trailer before we fly home. Let us know if you’re selling a comfortable V6 truck or SUV with a tow package in LA or SD!


Remembering Why We’re Here

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Mary Christine Pieschel 10/11/1954 ~ 05/25/2012

It’s been four years since the devastating disease of Breast Cancer stole Christine away from us. Not a day goes by that we don’t think of her.

It’s because of her, and in honor of her that Peter and I are on this adventure now while we are still young. Peter’s mother, Christine, would have loved to do what we are doing and she would be so proud of us. We know she is watching over us and she continues to inspire us every day to keep doing what makes us happy.

After hearing countless memories remembered and retold by loved ones, there is no doubt in my mind that Peter gets his adventurous spirit from his mother, Christine, and his father, Pete. They were both taken from this world far too soon yet both live on through their only son as he follows his dreams and his heart. They would both be so very proud.

Life is short, enjoy the time you have to the very fullest and do whatever it is that makes you happy!



Sailing bride – I Said Yes!

After five years of dating and non-stop adventures…


Peter proposed and I said Yes!

How It Happened:

It was Monday the 13th of June. We had a much needed day off from work and took our dinghy out around the corner from West End to Smuggler’s Cove on the North side of Tortola for a sunset stroll. Peter let me out of the dinghy and he anchored it off the beach a little bit so I didn’t have to swim in. I had never been to this beach before so I was excited to explore a new place. The hours before sunset are notoriously buggy at the beaches so we promptly applied bug spray before getting any bites and began our very romantic walk up to the Eastern end of the beach. After almost stepping on a washed up urchin, we turned and walked the entire length of the beach toward the other end.

Near the picturesque palm trees there was a family playing in the sand and swimming around but we pretty much had the rest of the place to ourselves. Out of the corner of my eye I spotted a baby reef shark swimming by in the shallows and we watched the gentle waves roll up on the sand. The cool Caribbean breeze kept most of the bugs away and we finally arrived at the “end of the road.” From that moment on, our lives would never be the same…

Peter got on one knee and magically pulled a grey box out of his pocket. With the most genuine and loving words, he asked me to marry him!!

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We were both a little in shock of what just took place, but we were both very much ready for it also. For a very long time our conversations had included talk of marriage and kids, though we weren’t sure when that would happen. My mom had been visiting a few months prior and one day after another casual mention of our future wedding, Peter nonchalantly told me to go pick out a ring… So I did!

The Ring:

My mom and I drove into town while Peter was busy getting the fuel tanks polished on Aristocat. There aren’t many jewelry stores on Tortola but I’m pretty sure we found all of them. I’ve looked at engagement rings before in various cruise ship ports but not with the same mission as this day. This day it was real. I was really going to get married! I wasn’t just looking for a ring I might like “someday” – I was looking for a ring I liked now. I always thought I wanted an Emerald (my birthstone) as the center stone for my engagement ring. I wanted something different than what everyone else has. Emeralds are cheaper than diamonds yet not as hard as diamonds – a real concern for someone like myself that lives on a boat in a harsh salt water environment where I’m constantly using my hands. Our active lifestyle is rough on our bodies to say the least and knocking my ring against stainless steel or getting it caught on something is a very real danger. But, I loved emeralds.

I began asking to see the available emeralds in the first store we visited, but quickly realized the most efficient way to start this shopping experience was to find a setting I liked first, then worry about finding the right stone. The selection was very limited. I didn’t see anything I had to have, even with the very familiar sales pitch that bellowed softly from the lady behind the counter.

“This ring is very special. The retail price is $$$, but for you? Don’t look at this number. That’s the retail price. For you, we can offer you a very special price.”

A small calculator is brought out from under the counter and many numbers are pounded into it, several different times. Finally, the calculator is turned around to face me and I see a significantly smaller number that I still don’t like.

“Thank you,” I tell the woman. “It’s just not what I’m looking for.”

I take her business card and assure her that I’ll be back if I change my mind.

The next store was much larger though they only carried diamonds. The woman in that store kindly didn’t waste my time or hers and referred me down the street to another store that would have a better selection of gemstones. I swiftly browsed the engagement ring settings but nothing caught my eye, and we were on our way.

The store she referred me to was at the very end of the cruise ship pavilion. On the way we saw two other jewelry stores, both of which had very small selections since the stores had just been built. All of the shops in this area were brand new. I started looking at sapphires and blue diamonds and aquamarines. The half a dozen emeralds I saw were not the right size or shape, nor were they in any settings I liked. I tried on an emerald cut aquamarine with a pave halo around it, which I kind of liked, but didn’t like the halo design at all.

Another store tried to show me yellow diamonds set in rose gold that were all being removed from little plastic bags like they belonged in a gumball machine. They were all identical. No thank you!!

Finally we arrived at the last store, but they were closed! Just then, I saw a man in the doorway and I asked when they would be open again, since I don’t ever make it down this way. I told him about my mission to find an emerald engagement ring and he offered to let us in and show us what he had. While they didn’t have many emeralds, they had an impressive display of tanzanite and he put one up on the counter. When I am shopping, I am very picky and can quickly identify the things I do not like, but end up taking forever to decide on the things I do like. I tried on a few of the brilliant bluish purple rings and quickly became fascinated with their history and beauty. I only liked three of the hundred on display; one of which was a 3.5 carat cushion cut tanzanite solitaire. Some would call it gaudy but I thought it was stunning. By this was by far my favorite cut and size on my finger.

I thought it was the one. I took some photos and told the nice man we would be back!

Later that night we showed Peter the photos and he agreed to go look at it on our next day off. We did go back, but after a little time had passed, I wasn’t sure it was the right ring. Peter knew right away it wasn’t me, though he wanted me to come to that conclusion myself. So that night I began my internet search for the perfect setting and perfect stone. I was just going to order it all, in good time, instead of buying something in a store just to have it right away.

I’m so happy I waited!!


I ended up finding a gorgeous setting from a jewelry designer in California that to me, looks like a wave – I wanted something ocean-minded. After looking at thousands of different ring styles, this one is nothing like any other ring I’ve ever seen. As unique as it already was, I wanted it to be even more special. Along this search I decided that I was going to let go of my long love of emeralds and choose an aquamarine center stone instead.

Aquamarine is Peter’s birthstone. It’s not any softer than an emerald and its much much cheaper than diamonds or emeralds. It’s the most gorgeous color of blue, perfectly matching the crystal clear waters of the Caribbean. What really sold me on this stone is the significance of it…

Aquamarine is said toprotect sailors and guarantee a safe passage across stormy seas’

How perfectly fitting for our lifestyle!! I fell in love with the stone right then and there. I had to have it.

The jeweler found the perfect stone for the setting I chose and it took a little over a month from start to finish to have the wax mold made and sent to be cast. Our good friends from Windtraveler and Sunkissed Soeters were all very instrumental to helping get the ring to us in BVI as it was carefully transported a great distance. When it finally arrived, Peter and I both agreed a proposal was in order on our very next day off 🙂 Although it wasn’t a surprise, the moment was as perfect as I could have ever dreamed it to be!


What’s next?

Clearly I’m all about being non-traditional. I picked out my own ring, I didn’t want a diamond center stone, and the proposal was not a surprise. We don’t have a date or location set for the ceremony though it will most likely be very small and happen barefoot on a beach 😉 I’m not into big to-do’s and I don’t believe in spending a bunch of money on a dress I will only wear for a few hours of my life or on a venue and decorations that will disappear at the stroke of midnight like Cinderella. Our hard earned money will be better spent in support of continuing this amazing journey and enjoying many wonderful experiences, instead of just one experience. Going against the grain is normal for us and our wedding will be no exception 😉


Sailing and sewing the main sail

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Most of you know I’ve really been enjoying my LSZ-1 Industrial Sewing Machine from Sailrite. Even though I hadn’t used a sewing machine since 8th grade Home-Ec, Sailrite makes it so easy for anyone to learn how to do truly professional work! I’ve completed quite a few projects and the list keeps growing with items that need to be repaired.

Last year in Grenada was our first sail repair project. We took the genoa down and hauled it up to a flat grassy area at Secret Harbour Marina for easy access. Our buddy Steve from Lunacy (sistership/buddyboat) helped us out in exchange for letting him use the machine for some repairs of his own. He fell in love immediately! The LSZ-1 quickly went to the top of his wish list. He has plenty of sewing experience, and his own machine onboard, but he said this one takes the cake. He was blown away at how easily it handles heavy-duty materials like sailcloth and several layers of Sunbrella.

After hearing how happy we are with their products, Sailrite interviewed us for a feature on their blog. Curious about what we said? Check it out here! “Sailing & Sewing Where The Coconuts Grow

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