- MAY 30, 2005 - MARCH 20, 2006:
are Home page summaries during our stay in Houston.
June 3, 2005, Houston :
We, and ARGO, are back in Texas after
making a 2,300 nautical mile (2,650 miles) trip from Venezuela to Houston,
arriving May 30, 2005. Unfortunately, ARGO has to go back to the
factory for cosmetic interior warranty work. We are unsure of our
cruising plans as of now but hope to be back out there soon. Keep
checking for updates.
We have cruised for
years, logging 7,200 nautical miles
(8,300 miles). Our travels
have been in the Bahamas, Eastern
Caribbean, South America and
Northwestern Caribbean. We
have visited 24 countries, 58
separate islands and anchorages too
numerous to count. We have
endured a couple of tropical storms
and narrowly escaped hurricane Ivan.
Our journey has included 38
overnight passages. We have
met (and logged in) over 400
cruising boats (800 people) that we
have met along the way, and continue
to stay in touch with many.
Nov. 1, 2005, Houston :
After 5 months at the Valiant factory,
ARGO will be trucked back to Houston mid-November. We are very pleased
with the work that Valiant has done, including various maintenance and
improvement projects. In some respects, she's like new and should be
all ready to continue cruising. Once in Houston, we will reload our
personal belongings (hopefully putting back on only half of what was taken
off!) and prepare to set sail in December. Our plans are to head south
to the Western Caribbean, making our initial stop in Isla Mujeres, Mex. -
we'll be in contact with cruising friends in that vicinity to see if
hurricane Wilma left anything intact. At this time, we plan on staying
in the Western Caribbean for a year or two, slowly making our way down to
the San Blas islands off Panama.
Meanwhile, we have had to learn to be
dirt-dwellers again while living at our little condo in Houston. We've
caught up with family, friends and ex-coworkers, and spent a month visiting
family in Missouri and Kansas. We have also made several trips to the
Valiant factory, located just north of Dallas on Lake Texoma.
One of these visits included Valiant
Yachts' 30th-year anniversary party weekend! We met 25 other
Valiant owners, and were thoroughly entertained by guest speakers Robert
Perry (he designed the Valiant), Mark Schrader (he's done 2
solo-circumnavigations in Valiants), Nathan Rothman (original founder of
Valiant Yachts) and Rich Worstell (owner of Valiant Yachts for past 25
2006, Houston :
We're sure many of you have been
wondering what has happened to us in the last few months. Yes, we did
get ARGO back in Houston mid-November and had planned on a December
departure. Deborah's persnickety teeth have caused her extensive
dental work to go on much longer than anticipated. But now we have
vacated the condo and are on ARGO full time waiting for favorable weather.
We are headed south to Isla Mujeres,
Mexico. (Isla Mujeres did not suffer as much damage as nearby Cancun
or Cozumel from Hurricane Wilma, we hear from cruisers there.) It will
take us anywhere from 5 to 8 days to make the passage, depending on winds,
seas and the Yucatan Channel opposing current which can be wicked.
Unfortunately, the weather forecast for the Gulf is crappy for the next
week, predicting up to 40 knot winds on the nose. We'll wait.
2006, Houston :
Believe it or not, we finally have a
favorable weather window and are planning to sail tomorrow, Monday, March
20. We expect about 48 hours of northerly winds which hopefully will
provide a "robust" sail towards our first destination, Isla Mujeres, Mexico.
We will do our "easting" these first few days. As the wind clocks to
the east and eventually south, we should be in position to sail more south.
This is a 700 n. mile passage and we expect it to take about 5 days.
This was our first trip back to the
States since we left Houston on March 1, 2003. Being dirt dwellers
again didn't agree with us much - during our longer-than-expected stay we
got fatter, poorer and more bored as time went on!
only reason for coming back to the U.S. with ARGO was so ARGO could go back
to the Valiant factory for extensive cosmetic warranty work. She was
at the factory for 6 months, arriving back in Houston mid-November.
The work Valiant did was excellent as expected, and we took this opportunity
to have her systems checked out and add a few minor things to her.
What was not anticipated was the
extensive dental work that Deborah ended up having done here. Although
her work was scheduled to be done by December 1 (end of hurricane season)
she didn't finish until March (due to sensitive/finicky bite
issues). (While we have found medical care excellent in some places we
have traveled, beyond-basic dental work is not something we wish to
experience abroad. In some places, "dentists" only do extractions.
No thank you.)
Fortunately, we had kept our condo in
Houston and a good friend lent us her extra car for most of the time, so
that helped cut expenses during our stay. However, we still found
stateside living to be significantly more expensive than what we have become
accustomed to in the Caribbean and South America. "Little" things like
phone, internet, fuel, food, restaurants, movies as well as prescription drugs,
medical/dental, etc. were a real shocker and really add up. We can
definitely see an increase in the cost of living in Houston just since we
left 2 1/2 years ago.
We knew that the cruising lifestyle
keeps us active, but didn't realize how active, until we came back to
Houston, where we both are now at record-high weights. I guess just
living on a boat keeps us moving around a lot, plus the heat of the tropics
helps us sweat it off, not to mention all the walking we do. Of
course, sailing takes physical effort, as well as boat projects. We
are confident that we'll be able to get back in shape after we take off
So what did we do during the duration?
We had several long visits with Steve's family in St. Louis, his
daughters/granddaughters in and near Kansas City,
Abby & Ashton - say "cheese"!
Granddaughters Abby & Ashton
Scott, Ashton, daughter Jill, Abby, daughter Jana, Steve
Playing with Deborah's hats
Arts & crafts time
Deborah with the little girls
Deborah's Dad in Dallas (near the Valiant factory). Steve's brother Ray and his family
Christina and our niece Jackie
live in Houston so we saw them frequently. We caught up with our
friends in Houston, and participated
in many T.A.S.S. (our sailing club) activities. (Pictured: T.A.S.S.
New Year's Day Black-Eyed Pea Cook-off Contestant Steve.) A friend
asked us to do a presentation to the Houston Yacht Club Women's Racing group
(and interested men) about our cruising experiences, which was fun to put
together, using pictures from this website.
Green Acres . . . One of our trips to St. Louis was
brother Ray to help him work on his developing farm.
that week, Ray worked our butts off, mowing fields with the tractor, cutting
heavy brush with the brush hog (left), cutting down and burning 100 trees,
using power tools to build additions to the kids' playground, etc. Of
course, we always manage to get some fun in, too, as various family members
Left to Right:
Rich Worstell, Nathan Rothman, Mark Schrader, Robert Perry
We also made a trip up to the Valiant
factory each month to survey the work being done, re-inventory and order
spare parts, and reload all the boat equipment that Valiant had to take off.
One of these visits included
Valiant Yachts' 30th-year anniversary party weekend! It was a
first-class weekend, including fantastic sit-down dinners and generous door
prizes. We met 25 other Valiant owners, and were thoroughly entertained by guest speakers Robert
Perry (he designed the Valiant in the mid 1970's), Mark Schrader (he's done 2
solo-circumnavigations in Valiants), Nathan Rothman (original founder of
Valiant Yachts) and Rich Worstell
Yachts for past 25 years). Bob Perry was quite amusing as usual.
Did you know . . . that the Valiant logo was originally designed
for the name "Voyager" Yachts, then they found out that the name "Voyager"
already belonged to an existing boat, but the logo had won awards so they
wanted to keep it so had to come up with another "V" name, and thus Valiant
While ARGO was at the factory, this
was a good opportunity for us to take care of other boat projects and
related issues. Our GPIRB had been recalled so it had to be sent back
to the factory for work. Likewise, our Switlik life raft had a recall
on it, plus it needed an inspection and repacking, so we and interested
friends watched as the authorized
Our inflated life raft
Oops, where's the get-a-way knife ?!?!
Survival stuff included; we added
documentation, prescriptions, eyeglasses
service center opened it up, inflated
it and gave us a "guided tour" to refresh our memories. Everything
looked fine. However, closer inspection revealed, to our collective
shock, that there was no knife in the designated "knife" pocket (the knife
cuts the life raft painter line free from the sinking mother ship). The service center had
never seen this "error" before. By the way, we also have a ditch
bag onboard ready to go that includes safety, navigational, medical, fishing,
nutritional and hygienic equipment and $, documentation, etc.
Once ARGO came back to Houston, it
took us a while to reload all our personal items, re-inventory and
reprovision. We remembered our vow when we took everything off
in May not to put everything back on. After being out for 2+
years, we now know what we used and what wasn't used, or needed - if there's
any question about whether it should go or not, then it stays behind!
Fewer clothes, fewer dishes, fewer linens, less "stuff" . . .
but more spare parts
and tools. In keeping with Steve's desire, the WonderWash (salad
spinner-like manual washing machine) was left behind. It's bulky and
Deborah decided it was easier to wash clothes in the galley sink or bottom
of the shower if reasonable laundry services are not available. We
also bought an iPod and have loaded all our music CDs on it (7,000 songs),
so this saves on space and adds on convenience.
Deborah's Dad, Chuck, came to visit,
spent a night on the boat, "it was unbelievably comfortable sleeping on the
boat" in the aft cabin, and learned to play cruisers' favorite game of
Mexican Train dominoes.
All in all, our time in Houston
probably could have been better "planned" out, but then again we're cruisers
and plans are meant to be kept flexible. We thought about working, but
with the repeated travel to visit family and up to Valiant, and the frequent
trips to the dentist, it would have been difficult, plus we were not
expecting to be here as long as we were. Watching the Tonight Show
recently, Jay Leno did his segment "What Sold on eBay", and at that moment I
realized how I could have been spending my months here in Houston: Cleaning
out the condo and figuring out creative ways to sell stuff on eBay.
Items Jay highlighted: A "cooked unwanted brussel sprout", foreign, asked
$1.75, sold for $2,743; "Rotweiler spit/drool", asked $0.25, sold
for $32; real dead toads'
menage a trois (explicit), $29; a guy who will write your name in yellow
font in snow (in Alaska). With some imagination, we
could have sold anything ("one man's junk is another man's treasure") and made a small fortune for our cruising kitty.
So, what will we miss most in leaving
our dirt-dwelling creature comforts? Well, for Deborah it will be
sleeping in the big king-sized bed with the A/C cranked way down and dark as
a cave; long hot showers; unlimited toilet paper usage. We have really
enjoyed the very mild and pleasant Houston winter with decadently cool days
and blue skies being the norm. Deborah did break the mold of having
her same 'doo for 20-something years with a light perm to give her that JFL
- I love it!! What are we more than ready to part with? Well,
duh, anything that costs money: the dentist, rental car, slip fees,
and in general the higher cost of living here.
Of course, we will miss our family
and friends most of all. Probably most of all, will be missing out on
granddaughters Abby and Ashton, as they are changing by the day. We
now have Skype Video capability whenever we have internet access so
hopefully we'll get to see them on some of our calls. Our New Year's
resolution is to have more family and friends visit us in the
Caribbean/Central America. It will take us a while to get the lay of
the land, but then we should have better logistics knowledge.