Peggy’s Cove Light

A couple years ago I made a model lighthouse as a gift.  Here is a piece about how I made it and some photos of how it turned out.

Working out the measurements

First I searched for photos of pretty lighthouses online.  I reviewed hundreds of photos on Google and then finally found a few candidates.  I settled on the Peggy’s Point lighthouse in Nova Scotia.  The octagonal white structure was built in 1914 and has a red top.  I chose a flat sided lighthouse because I couldn’t easily figure a way to build a rounded shape that would come out nicely.  

Next I needed to determine how much wood and other supplies to buy.  The hitch was to get the right proportions for the parts based only on a photo.  So I printed out a picture and took a ruler to it.  I worked out the ratios of heights and widths and then transferred those numbers to possible sizes in inches.

I ended up with a model about 20” high made of mostly 3/32” plywood sheets.  I bought white and red paint along with thin dowels to make the window casings and upper safety railings.  Finally I picked out mini LED Christmas lights for the lamp and thin brass wire for the safety “chain.”  

I began by transferring the scaled up dimensions from my photo to plywood.  I cut the

Mid project: base, walls, walkway and part of the pergola in place

long exterior panels on a table saw.  One early mistake I made was assuming that Peggy’s lighthouse is hexagonal.  The real light has eight sides.  From the photos I could only see three sides at a time.  The fourth side just does not show in a two dimensional image.  I was so far into the construction when I realized my error that I just decided to go with six sides.  It worked out fine and I think the final result looks good.  Just don’t compare it to the original!


I made the base, internal bracing floor, pergola, walkway railings, wire railing “chain” and began glueing all the parts together.  

Making the six walls fit around the base and second floor was tricky.  With so many angles it was tough to make everything line up, but in the end it fit fairly well.  I installed the battery pack and light and then painted the whole thing white and red.  On one wall I painted in three evenly spaced blacked out windows.    

Here are some more photos of the project.

Lakeside B&B Offers Unique Austin Experience: Robin’s Nest

When I pull my SUV into Robin’s driveway I see several potted bonsai plants.  “My husband’s doings,” Robin says after answering the door.

There’s a lot going on here.  Three small dogs greet me as I walk in (I’m a dog lover, so this is welcome).  The property is full of whimsical artifacts, like a “Margaritaville” sign hanging outside and a collection of tiny wooden lighthouses and birdhouses.  Several one-piece tank top women’s bathing suits decorate the patio walls.

Yard overlooking a beautiful protected cove on Lake Travis.

And before I can stop to chat Robin is walking out the back door to let the newest pup — a three-month-old golden retriever — do his business.  I follow them out.

The backyard overlooks Lake Travis.  A paved walkway down to the water is cleverly bordered on each side by canoe-halves standing upright.  I take in the sight and I’m instantly in love.  A few feet past the edge of the yard floats a boat dock, belonging to the B&B.  A mild breeze is moving the thick shade trees.

Growing Up
Robin purchased her first property here, a single cottage, in 1973.  Back then the units were rustic fishing cottages.  Over the years she purchased more on this cul-de-sac.  By my count she and her husband now have ten living spaces:  her own home, the caretakers’ home, a large two-unit long term rental and six B&B cottages.

I run a sailing charter business nearby — sailATX — and Robin kindly sent customers my way.  I figured I should stop by and thank her.  (The sailing charter was for a 50th anniversary celebration – complete with matching blue and gold anniversary T-shirts).

In the kitchen she serves me icewater and talks about the B&B business.  “I won’t do online rentals,” she says emphatically.  “People want a hotel experience, that’s not

Fish Lamp in the four room Waterfront Cottage

what we are.”  I later learn that she “interviews” customers when they call.  She’s looking for hints that they are the “hotel” type.  There is nothing wrong with a hotel, mind you, but I know what she means.  Here you’ll get something unique, call it Hill Country charm, and probably a few surprises.

Like the food.  Some people on the phone ask what’s on the menu.  “Well it changes every day,” she says.  I like this lady.

Robin cooks the meals and even caters to special dietary needs (like gluten free foods).


Lakeside Relaxation
Each unit at Robin’s Nest has its own character.  “Studio B” is newer with more modern decor.  The “Rock Cottage” on the other hand is a sixty-year-old renovated fishing cottage, but with current amenities like washer/dryer, big flat panel TV and full kitchen.

On my tour of each unit I find myself saying, I HAVE to come back with my wife and stay here for a romantic getaway weekend.   Walking the grounds I feel a world away from the nearby city.  The thick tree canopy and lapping lake water takes the stress level down a few notches.

If you are looking for a relaxing, uniquely Austin experience — in a gorgeous setting — not far from town, give Robin a call.

Robin’s Nest
1010 Stewart Cove, Austin, Texas  78734
Phone: (512) 266-3413









The Heartbeats


I found mine sixty miles west of Cuba in the Yucatan Channel.  

The wind is gusting in the high twenties.  The wind is coming over our left shoulder and the current is against us so the boat is pitching and rolling (and yawing too).  We are flying ten knots through the water.

It’s day four of the 48th Regata Del Sol Al Sol, a sailboat race from Tampa, Florida to Isla Mujeres, Mexico.  We’ve had twelve hours of fresh wind and hard sailing.  Night is coming so Russ wants to take down the whisker pole.  Leaving it up would be risky:  if the boat were to broach, we’d have a mess of lines and sails in the water.  Not a good prospect at any time – but worse in the dark.  

Russ is owner and captain of Blue Heron, the Catalina 380 we are sailing.  

Russ and I go forward to the mast while Bob steers.  It’s a good thing that Bob Hoadley, Russ’s nephew, has owned boats and sailed for decades.  It takes a good eye and sense of timing to steer in these waves.  I know because I was just doing it.   

I’m not here looking for risk for its own sake.  Russ is one of the smartest, safest skippers I know.  But the risk is there and along with it the thrill.  

Russ stands at the mast, I’m just to his right.  The pole, hooked to the mast on one end and the jib sail on the other, is twelve feet long and weighs about thirty pounds.  Taking it down in this weather is an ungainly ballet — a combination of strenuous maneuvers.  

The boat charges forward, crashing over waves, heaving to and fro.  Bob tries to steer right in the peaks, left into the valleys.  The pole could become a battering ram so we have to handle it carefully when we release it.

Finally we are in position.  We’re wearing offshore life vests, hooked to sturdy jacklines on the deck.  Russ pulls a thin line, retracting the keeper inside the jaw on the pole’s outboard end.  Wind pressure holds the thick blue jib sheets tight so we have to wrestle the pole free.  Meanwhile I’m grabbing and holding down the halyard which keeps the whole contraption from crashing to the deck.  

Now the pole is free — good but dicey.  We have to keep it under control.  

Next: pull, turn and lift the pole vertical alongside the mast.  We’ll latch it onto the mast, storing it out of the way.  With so many moving parts (upper hook twelve feet up, lower hook near the deck but adjustable, heaving boat, flogging sails) it’s like threading a big clumsy needle.   

First we get it wrong.  The lower ring is too high so the top end won’t fit.  

Hold the pole.  Untie the halyard.  Raise the pole.  Steady.  Heave.  Steady.  Pull the pin, lower the ring.  

Whoa!  Too much slack on my rope and the pole is falling and swinging.  It nicks Russ in the chin, a spot of blood.  Thankfully not serious.  Quick!  Pull the halyard – HARD!  

We’re hooked back on.  It’s not perfect, but the pole is secure against the mast.  We’re done for now.  Unhook tethers and scramble, crouching low, back to the cockpit.


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Racing to Mexico

A crew of five races 456 nautical miles from Tampa to Mexico on a 38-foot sailboat

Race Day

The dark loops on the weather map are right in our path.  

It’s six a.m. and we’re in the van heading to St. Petersburg Yacht Club.  I’m reading a new email on my iPhone from our weather router, Mike.  Russ dials Mike and puts him on speaker.  We work through the forecast and talk over the strategy for our 456 nautical mile race.  

How can we avoid a big contrary current and find good wind?

It will be hard.  A high pressure system will likely block the steady trade winds, making our ride slow.  Add an unusual current and we’re scratching our heads.  

April 23 - 00 zulu
April 23 forecast for the Gulf of Mexico loop current.  Dark areas signify faster current.  (Image credit:  US Navy)

We decide on a route that swings far south near Cuba, hoping to avoid the currents.

The Start

After a quick breakfast at the club we board our boat.  Everyone is on a job.  I’m punching coordinates into the GPS (chartplotter) on deck.  Just before nine Russ says, “let’s go” and we shove off and head to the starting area.

We’re racing on Russ’s 38 foot Catalina sailboat.   It’s a solid, big boat he bought almost twenty years ago.  Blue Heron is very well outfitted: a/c, fridge, generator, even a laptop and printer.  It also has the safety gear you need for offshore sailing.  Things like an inflatable life raft, EPIRB satellite rescue beacon and a ditch bag with life saving medical kit and food rations.

Near the starting line we warm up, practicing tacks and gybes.  Everything on this boat is bigger and heavier than on my lake boat.  Grinding the winches is a chore.

We watch other boats in our racing class.  Russ’s friend, Tom, is on a 46’ Beneteau.  A Hylas 54, Jeanneau 45 and our Catalina 38 round out the class.  Everyone is eyeing the big Hylas:  there is room enough on her deck for a comfortable stroll around the entire boat.  A sixty-two foot catamaran is out here too but it’s a support boat carrying supplies instead of racing.

The radio crackles with announcements,  “Three minutes until preparatory flag down with sound.”  

The starting line stretches between a race committee powerboat and a yellow floating mark a quarter mile away.  The fleet is milling around without purpose yet; tacking, gybing, pointing high, sailing low.  

“Squeearrk,” the horn whimpers and we’re off!  

Screenshot 2016-05-14 at 08.58.08
The Blue Heron steaming toward the starting line.  (photo credit:  Kent Irving)

We have a great start, second across the line.

We sail into the Bay toward the Sunshine Skyway Bridge connecting St. Petersburg to points south on Tampa Bay.  The winds are squirrelly, a mix of fresh breezes and dead calms.

As we near the bridge the breeze freshens noticeably — so much that we have to shorten sail to control the boat.  We have to carefully steer between the concrete pylons of the bridge.  Too far left and we’ll stall and lose control;  too far right and we risk being  pushed into a pylon.  

Bob Hoadley, Russ’s nephew, steers while we approach the left pylon.  After much maneuvering and closely watching the gap we make it through.

In a few hours the rush of the start wears off and we settle in.  As the afternoon sun dips we see only two other regatta boats.  The rest are far ahead or behind.

Military Time

It’s midnight, my first night shift.  I’m trying to wake up in the pitch dark and the bunk is tilting and rolling.  I have to find my shoes, hat, glasses, knife, flashlight, headlamp, life jacket and harness.  I can’t see a thing and don’t remember where this stuff is.  I stumble around, find a headlamp (red beam to prevent night blindness) and get myself ready.

“It’s more military,” Russ says, describing the watch schedule later in the trip.

No kidding.

To keep the boat moving 24 hours a day we use two watches of twelve hours each, with breaks spread throughout.  I’m on A shift with Bob; Rick and Wells are on B  (see chart nearby).

Screenshot 2016-05-16 at 21.48.52
The ship’s watch schedule.

The first night is tough but it’s just a warm up.  The midnight shift gets harder each day.  Thankfully Russ is ready with hot chocolate and coffee when we come on duty each night.

That’s how things work for the entire trip:  we A and B shift guys on a strict schedule and Russ “floating” in and out when we need help with the sails or advice on a ship we’ve sighted.  I don’t know how Russ does it.  He gets less uninterrupted sleep than anyone.

Out There

One night I’m in my bunk shortly after 3 a.m. trying to relax.  I need sleep but with the rocking and rolling I can’t settle down.  It doesn’t help that I’m thinking about sailing stories.  Just last week I was telling my wife, “What you really worry about is hitting a big heavy object like a sea container.”  Fiberglass sailboats don’t do well against sea containers.  Oh great….just what I need to calm my mind for sleep.

On another evening the B shift guys see the lights of several ships.  To be on the safe side they hail a couple of them on the VHF radio.  It’s too easy to miss our small sailboat in the inky darkness.   They hear Russian or Eastern European accents answer the radio.

Log of S/V Blue Heron ( day 4, Mon. Apr 25 0600):  Entered shipping lane for Cuba.  Had to make contact with two cargo shops to avoid “Dolce Via” & “Battersea.”  Had 5-6 motor vessels on both sides at one point.  Dropped pole.


The Conveyor Belt

One afternoon we see 10 knots on the boat’s speedometer.  A fantastic speed!    Except that we’re not making nearly that progress.  With adverse current we’re like salmon swimming upstream.  We’re practically sprinting through the water but the GPS shows what really matters:  only 5 over the ground.

This is the worst of the loop current we were trying to avoid.

Gradually over the next few days, as we slip alongside and then past Cuba, we eventually get out of the bad currents.  Once we sail into the Yucatan Channel, the open water between Cuba and Mexico, we get heavier winds and waves but thankfully more favorable currents.

By the fourth night (our last before making landfall) we are really cookin’.  We begin to see speeds in the 8s and 9s.  It’s a wild exciting ride now, with six to eight foot waves and winds into the high twenties.  We’re rollicking over the waves on our way to Isla, feeling like a freight train.

The Finish

Around 4:30 on our fifth morning I’m still in my bunk (my shift is not until six).  But I can hear more than the usual commotion up top.  Turns out we are near the finish.

It’s pitch black so we approach the Mexican coastline with care.  Dark sailing is fairly simple if you’re hundreds of miles out to sea.  It’s the coastline that gets your real attention.

Mexican Navy ship that greeted us at the finish line.  (photo credit:  Steve Ward)

Finally we see lights ashore – something I haven’t seen in five days.  We begin to look for the finish boats.  Ahead we see lights from the Mexican Navy vessel that is part of our finish line.  The ship puts a spotlight on our finish pin.

At 5:20 – BANG! – fireworks shoot into the air, signaling our finish.  What a great way to finish a race.  We made over 500 miles and it took us just under five days (about 115 hours).

Thanks, Russ, Bob, Wells and Rick, for making this a trip to remember!


Screenshot 2016-05-21 at 17.49.31
Path to Isla Mujeres (light blue line) taking us near Cuba.  (Image Credit:  YB Tracking)


Part of the crew:  (l. to r.) Rick, Wells and Steve in the cockpit of Blue Heron.


Mid-Gulf visitors.  (photo credit:  Steve Ward)


Russ demonstrating the harness he uses to keep himself planted on port tacks.  Look closely at the stove and you can see how much the boat is tilted to leeward.  (photo credit:  Steve Ward)


Yacht Racing

Last Sunday, with sunny skies and wind building from the west, I hopped on Bill Records’s  boat and started the second race of the Spring series at the Austin Yacht Club.  I’m here with three other people crewing on Bill’s Pearson 26, Cafe au Lait.  Emy is a college student, Charlie’s in real estate and Karen, like me, works in high tech.

Bill’s been around the club since the late 70s so he knows these waters and how to win a yacht race.  My nickname for Bill is “The Mayor” — he knows everyone and he’s so outgoing, quick with a smile and a joke.  I met Bill three years ago when he was “Coach Bill” for Anna’s sailing summer camp, before we joined the club.

“Austin Yacht Club” sounds funny to me.  “Yacht Club” makes me think stuffy old rich guys in a blue blazers and tassel loafers.  AYC is nothing like that.  No stuffiness here.  Too many kids, flip flops and chips n queso for stuffy.

The Club’s been here since 1951 and occupies a gorgeous stretch of land on Beacon Cove, about 25 minutes from downtown Austin.  I like the way another member put it, “when you come through the front gate, it’s like you’re on vacation.”  The grounds are

Yacht Club dock.  (photo credit:  Steve Ward)

filled with oak trees and the water is, of course, lovely.

My wife is a smart woman.  She’s nudged me to join the club a few times over the past many years.  She was so right.  I’m glad I finally joined late last year.

It’s a great place for me (for our whole family, really).  There are so many interesting, fun and generous people at the Club.

Kate and Coleman do a fantastic job running the Junior sailing program which is growing and filling the calendar with kids events.

Early this year I went to a meeting of the sail training committee.  I was amazed at the experience of the people in the room.  Carolyn was on a winning Mallory Cup team.  Linda McDavitt, a member, is half way through the Clipper Round the World race (in QINGDAO, China at the moment).  Another member said he’s been sailing for sixty years.  Harry is a US Coast Guard Captain and used to run a sailing school in Dallas.  Susan and Brad raced for decades and used to run a boat dealership in Dallas before moving down to Austin.

The crew hard at work (photo credit:  Steve Ward)

Right before our race started Bill called for a sail change to a smaller jib.  Good thing because the wind kept building and the bigger jib would have been way too much.  On our last downwind leg a big gust — high 20s, I’m guessing — caused us to broach and round up (translation, tip over and soak the people, sails and cockpit)!

In the end we got the boat back on its feet, pulled down and stowed the too big spinnaker sail and got back into the race.  We managed to stay in front and win our class (our second in a row).

I had great fun sailing with Bill, Emy, Charlie and Karen.  I can’t wait to get out there again.

The winning crew on Sunday:  (l-r) Karen, Bill, Emy, Charlie and me.  (photo credit:  Steven)

Adventures Old and New

A short review of two sailing stories I enjoyed.

Two Years Before the Mast by Richard Henry Dana, Jr. (2009; Signet Classics; $7.95 paperback, $0.99 Kindle).

two-years-before-mastIn 1833 Richard Henry Dana was struck by illness (affecting his eyesight) and couldn’t complete his studies at Harvard.  The next year he signed on with the ship Pilgrim as a lowly grunt.

Two years later he wrote an incredible story of adventure, beauty and sometimes brutality that accompanied his voyage around Cape Horn to Northern California.

He speaks of “Upper California” and “Lower California” in the days before the state was fully part of the US.

“Monterey, as far as my observation goes, is the pleasantest and most civilized-looking place in California,”

is how he introduces the chapter on Monterey and the bay that surrounds it.

A fantastic classic adventure story full of rich detail about the lands and people Dana encounters.


An Embarrassment of Mangoes by Ann Vanderhoof (2005; Broadway Books; $13.02 paperback, $13.99 Kindle)


Everyone has a dream.  For sailors it’s often the “sell everything, move aboard a boat and sail around the world” variety.

Well that’s just what Ann Vanderhoof and her husband Steve did in the 1990s.  Even non-sailors are likely enjoy this tale.

The two Canadians left their cold Toronto lives behind, moved aboard a 42′ boat and spent two years sailing down the Caribbean.  Along the way Vanderhoof records a delicious array of sights, watery excitement and interesting people.

The book is also filled with recipes for the local food the couple enjoyed along the way.  (Curried Chicken in Coconut Milk with Island Vegetables is a favorite that I’ve made many times at home!).


I always like when people join my blog and write comments.  

A Good Year on the Lake (video)

After years of drought, Lake Travis surged over fifty feet with the 2015 Memorial Day floods and later rains.  In our family, we sold a boat, bought a boat and joined the yacht club.

For a short video of 2015 on Lake Travis click below.  I hope to see you on the water in 2016.

Happy  New Year!

(For a better view click the “View on YouTube” button on the bottom right of the frame).

Boating App: Navionics Boating

“Wow, where can I get that?”

That’s what boaters ask when I show off Navionics Boating.

This $9.99 app gives lake sailors features that our coastal and Great Lakes cousins use on chartplotters costing thousands of dollars.  You can even get some features in a free version of the app but the included government charts are lower detail.

I’m not saying I need full-featured charting on my lake (about 2 miles at its widest), or that the iPhone screen is a substitute for bluewater electronics.  But it is pretty cool to have similar data when I’m tacking around Lake Travis for an afternoon.

Last month I used Navionics to set the anchor for a race committee boat when we couldn’t find a spot shallow enough to drop anchor.  The onboard depth finder was fine for measuring depth where we were.  Finding where to go – now that’s better!  Using Navionics we motored around to a shallower spot and dropped anchor there.

Local readers will know that Lake Travis’s depth changes dramatically (up 50 feet this year alone).  So it’s great that Navionics has level adjustment.  Just look up the current lake level and punch in the adjustment (minus 11 feet, for example) before your trip.  Now all the charted depths are accurate for the current level.

I used Navionics on our family charter in Puerto Rico this summer and the charts were a nice backup to the boat’s chart plotter (Puerto Rico was an extra $14.99).

Boating is available for iPhone and Android.  Although I haven’t used it much, it also has crowd-sourced charts that include updates on marinas and other points of interest added by fellow boaters.

A screenshot below of a trip this summer using Boating.


Chart of Lake Travis, Austin, TX on my iPhone.  Notice the dramatic depth contours in just a few hundred feet.  It’s nice to know where the deep (and shallow!) spots are.



Moving On

Wild at Heart, my Hunter 25.5, has served me well over the past two-and-a-half years.  It’s been a short but intense run.

The previous owner, Doug, who moved to Panama recently, owned her twice.  His ownership is more storied than mine.

Doug was married aboard  Wild at Heart on Lake Travis, anchored off Starnes Island.

I had Doug on the boat with me a few months ago.  In fact, it was that day she sailed her best speed under my ownership, 5.9 kts.  Not bad for a mid-eighties wing-keeled cruiser.

I’ve had a ton of fun over these past two-and-a-half years.  I got to sail her more frequently than I deserve.  And I was fortunate to see Lake Travis IMG_5941rise over fifty feet after the Memorial Day rain.  Well, I should temper that.  That was a brutal flood.  We sat stunned in front of the TV when those storms came through in May.  Several people died in the Hill Country that weekend.

I had my own drama on Wild at Heart.  Early in my ownership, I nearly ruined my right hand swapping outboard motors.   In a freak mishap, my hand got stuck between the 90-lb. motor and the mount, resulting in a trip to the Round Rock ER, several stitches, a visit to the hand surgeon, and luckily no severe surgery-requiring damage.  I have a nice scar to show for it.  I sometimes tell people it’s my “shark bite” scar.  More than a few have believed me (at first).

I’m happy with cockpit paint job I did with the generous help of my friend Dave Huber.  After reading about fiberglass deck refurb in Sail Magazine and other places, we launched into the job last year.  As always, it took more time and effort than I guessed it would.  After much sanding, chipping, vacuuming and brushing it came out pretty good.  And so she’s cleaner and shinier than most other mid-80s boats.

I guess they call it “two foot -itis” for a reason.  I’m moving up to a larger boat with a few of the features I’ve been wanting.  The one I have my eye on is twenty-seven feet, exactly two feet larger.

I’ll miss that little boat, but I know she’ll make her next owner happy too.



Guest Post: First to Cuba

Editor’s note:  Russ Hoadley, my friend and fellow sailor, graciously wrote this story about sailing to Cuba in the Pensacola a la Habana Race.  Please enjoy this very first guest post on Sailing with Steve.  You can reach Russ at

HAVANA, Cuba – This sun-drenched island has changed from 15 years ago when I first raced here aboard Mac Smith’s 44-foot Lafitte Twilight (from Daytona Beach, FL).

This time I’ve had the privilege of being on a crew of eight on XTC, Tom Glew’s 46-foot Beneteau (from St. Petersburg, FL) that made a clean sweep in May of a race to Isla Mujeres, MX (1st in class, division and overall).

The event that has brought us here is the first-ever Pensacola a la Habana

Russ Hoadley at the helm

Race, one of a growing number of yacht events to the Communist isle since the Obama State Department began to relax the embargo. 

Havana shows signs, albeit halting, of rebirth from the 50-plus years of decay which came with the Castro Revolution, Russian missile crisis and subsequent U.S. embargo. Some elegant old-world buildings have been buffed up. Many others still are moldering away.

We’ve just finished five days of hard sailing, hammered by squalls, plagued by electronic and mechanical gremlins, and still we will collect first in class and division at the awards party.

We are at the enormous but deteriorating Marina Hemingway, 15 miles west of the storied old city. Hemingway International YC is our host, with

Street musician Angel Kindelan

Comodoro Jose Escrich doing his effusive best to make us feel welcome. A roast-pig dinner and exotic entertainment by undulating dancers are to follow. 

The 500-mile slog here started in uncertain weather in Pensacola Bay at 0800 Saturday, Oct. 31. Twenty-one boats in five classes reached east across the bay, then beat out the channel in 15-20 knots from the southwest. Squalls were predicted as we eventually locked into a long starboard tack, and the forecast was not wrong. Through three days, sporadic downpours occurred with winds into the high-30s.

Day 4 brought an expected southeast shift, allowing a tack onto port past the Dry Tortugas, Havana now just 90 miles away.

XTC heads into more squalls

After pounding through the night across the Florida Straits, we finished in a squall at the hard-to-find sea buoy. Soon we were led through the reef-shouldered channel to smooth water, a lengthy but courteous Customs check-in and a berth with modern hook-ups. The nearby hotel was visibly doggy (crumbling façades, uncertain water, no toilet paper), but the marina itself was quite satisfactory.

Our five days in Havana were a kaleidoscope of colorful old Chevys, Buicks and Fords, deluxe night clubs, sensuous dancers, magnificent cigars and rum, lyrical music and historical and revolutionary stories.

Cubans we met seem pleased with their country’s progress even as they acknowledged the scarcity in their lives. “Money isn’t everything,” said Carlos, a philosophical 47-year-old father of two. He is a taxi-driver, a self-educated man who takes quiet pleasure doing triathlons with his sons and his girlfriend.

Cubans were cheerful, fit, hard-working, friendly, smart people who love their land, their culture and music, their families and friends … and their languid, long-playing way of life. It rubs off easily on us.

Visits to the Museo de la Revolucion and the Plaza de la Revolucion underscored how important the six-year uprising was to these people 50 years ago. They seem to revere the Castro brothers, along with Che Guevara and Camilo Cinfuegos, the leaders of the conflict that toppled Fulgencio Batista in 1959.

A tidal wave of change appears on its way to them now, as tourism swells, and thousands – perhaps millions – of Americans jump the barriers to visit this land of sun, rum and music.

As we cleared out of Cuba Customs and looked back at the Havana skyline, a gunboat shadowed us, reminding that normalcy has not fully arrived.

We felt the pull of the island. We were pleased to be in the vanguard of sailors who are leading the way. We will be back.

Crew celebrates victory – front: Loren Hoffman, Adam Gautier; rear: Hank Brautigam, Russ Hoadley, Ron Gagne, Tom Glew (skipper), Tony Dimattia; not shown: Charlie Marts

Survive 76-Days Lost at Sea?

A short review of three of my favorite books.  See my previous list of books here.

Adrift:  Seventy-six Days Lost at Sea by Steven Callahan (2002; Mariner Books; $10.68 print, $9.99 Kindle)

Shortly after leaving the Canary Islands in the Atlantic, sailing solo, Steve Callahan’s boat struck an object and sunk from beneath him.  Callahan abandons ship into a life raft and survives for seventy-six days.  He gives rich detail about his struggle to survive and encounters with birds, fish and more frightening sea life.


Longitude by Dava Sobel (2007; Walker Books; $11.34 print, $10.49 Kindle)

If you like history, you’ll love Dava Sobel’s story on longitude.  Long before GPS-enabled smartphones, the oceans were a mysterious, frightening place littered with the bones of ships and mariners alike.  Sailors had to know the time to find where they were.  Problem was: in the 1700s a sloshing, rusty, swaying boat was a very difficult place to accurately tell time.  Sobel takes us through the competitive and sometimes conniving invention of the chronometer.  A fascinating book.


Celestial Navigation for Yachtsmen (revised edition) by Mary Blewitt (1994; International Marine/Ragged Mountain Press; $10.24 print, $7.49 Kindle)

A slim but excellent explanation of celestial navigation (I have many).  Divided into theory and practice sections.  A technical manual that requires intense study, but worth a look if you are interested in how cel nav truly works.  I’ve read this one over and over.


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