Monday, July 24, 2017


By 1:10 a.m. the lightening made just enough of a flash as to cause me to head to the pilot house to check out our environment.  The boat is so quiet below, it was the light and not the thunder that got my attention.

The wind was picking up and Bel Sito was uncharacteristically moving around on her mooring ball in Annapolis Harbor. There was a big blob of a deep orange and maroon mass pictured on the WeatherBug radar app and it was moving toward the pin that marked our spot in the Harbor. I watched for awhile and kept looking at the app until it updated and warned we were going to be hit be 48-mph gusts.

This struck me as an all-hands-on-deck moment so I woke Richard and we had a 'meeting' in the pilot house. I had already turned on the switches on the panel that enable the engines to start if we broke free of the mooring and had to keep the boat in place under power.

Bel Sito swung from south to east to south to north and visibility was near zero. The engines were now on and we were ready if the 1-inch line holding her to the ball chafed through and couldn't stand the strain.

This is why (without the question mark) we do this.

To experience nature this intimately isn't possible from the confines of a condo or a house. How often do you think about the wind shifting otherwise? Being able to witness AND experience these periodic moments of extreme weather make the otherwise comfortable days aboard a boat all the more interesting. Of course, we are not in Kansas, Toto.

Participating in a storm as the wind makes flags stand straight out and lightening illuminates the sight of a solid sheet of water coming down around you is a real experience.  Hearing and feeling the wind as it moves tonnage around like a rubber duck in a bathtub is something land lubbers don't know.
Bel Sito in Annapolis Harbor

And don't care to, thank you, some of you may be thinking.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Thanks, Bill!

Bill Hollinger spotted us on the Chesapeake Bay as we passed by the Thomas Point Lighthouse, took the pix below then searched the internet and found this blog! I am so grateful he took the time to seek us out and share what he shot!

Photo by Bill Hollinger

Back by 'popular' demand!

In response to numerous (four) inquiries as to when this blog will be updated, here we go again!

If you're a boater, you don't need me to tell you this and if you are not a boater but think you might want to be, you don't want to read what I'm about to say.

There is always something that needs repairing on a boat. Never mind if it's a brand new $1mm plus yacht or a small fishing boat, there may be fleeting periods of time when everything is working as intended so just when you get complacent, bam, the day you had planned is altered once again because something needs fixing.

At this moment, Richard and Andy are making their second run to West Marine to pick something up to get our dinghy going.  We had been lulled into thinking it was the most reliable boat ever made, even casting off from the stern of the boat BEFORE turning on the engine. We were that cocky.

The Gods were taking note and decided we needed to be taught yet another lesson by having the engine conk out a few yards from the dock. We thought we'd run out of gas, and congratulated ourselves on the good fortune of having this happen just a few paddle strokes from a gas dock.

That's what we boaters do. We immediately think of a worse case scenario and as long as we're all still alive, there's always a worse case.

I vividly remember trying to calm a reluctant passenger on my first trip captaining a 26' sailboat assuring her she was perfectly safe. She had never gone sailing before, didn't know how to swim and yet some how agreed to get on a boat with me even though at that point I had close to zero experience sailing.  Through a violent Chesapeake squall in which we were able to flag a boat for a tow, I kept telling her she was perfectly safe. But when I tried to start the motor to guide the boat into the last few feet to get into the slip and it burst into flames, I realized telling her she was safe was an alternate fact. 

And yet, we survived.

It could have been worse.

The guys just came down to where I'm typing this and report they are taking the dinghy out to make sure she's running ok. Andy thinks we might have picked up some bad gas. He changed the fuel filter and we now have a spare on board.

Soon, this will be a distant memory.

Now, the truth is we've been having a great time with this boat. We've had many guests, some overnight, and even taken two grandchildren age 12 and 17 from Annapolis to Cape May, NJ where their parents have a home in the seaside village of Stone Harbor.

All good, as we say. All good.

Bel Sito no longer feels overwhelming in size or maneuverability and she handles the ocean like a skiff on a calm lake.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

'Clever' Boat Names

'Nice Transom'
Most of us spend A LOT of time thinking up boat names.

The photo here is of the name 'Nice Transom'. It took me awhile to get it until I realized the transom of a boat is the rear end.

No doubt a conversation starter.

We had an electric Duffy and over a stretch of several days came up with: Watt, Me Whirry!

Get it?

Bel Sito translates to 'beautiful situation' and is the name of hotel where we stayed in Italy. As soon as we come up with a name we go to the Coast Guard registry of boat names to see how many other vessels have the name because we like having the only boat named whatever it is we've come up with. Watt, Me Whirry was safely ours and ours alone. So is Bel Sito.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Our Second Post Owning Bel Sito due (2)

Peter, Ron, Andy, Eric, Shelley, Sue Anne,  Jim, Anne,
Jim Michelle, Drew,
Pam, Jim, Mark, Rick, Gerry and us.
Photo by Andy Hoyt
This blog has been neglected since we assumed ownership of our 53' Selene. We've spared you the details of the anxiety we felt moving up to bigger boat with all new systems (to us) and I'm delighted to report we now feel confident ('fairly confident,' inserts Richard) we can manage all 100,000 lbs of her. For now. Until the unexpected occurs. Which it always does on a boat.

We have the good fortune of having Andy Hoyt, owner of the concierge boat maintenance company, Dock Call, guide us every step of the way of our boat purchase. He made us walk away from the first Selene we put an offer on once it was pulled out of the water during sea trial and inspection. Andy came with us when we brought this boat from Virginia Yacht Brokers in Chesapeake, VA to our old stomping grounds of Annapolis and taught us the fundamentals of how she operates.

Holy Moly! 

Upon arrival, we slowly headed into the marina where the boat would be docked. By then, I had just enough confidence to be dangerous, and told Andy I was ready to dock her. When we pulled up to the slip Richard and I were certain it was too narrow to ease a 16.5' wide boat in comfortably, but Andy assured us he measured the slip and it would be fine.  Andy calmly told me which thruster to use when and we had a successful first docking experience.

Over time, we've fallen into a comfortable pattern for both of us around docking and anchoring. Richard handles the lines, which he always had to re-do anyway after I botched the first go around, and I drive the boat in tight quarters.  Jason, a dockhand at the Jib Room in Marsh Harbor, taught me how to maneuver 'little' Bel Sito using her twin engines by doing the twist dance step. I think of him often and fondly when approaching a dock.

Andy helped us move the boat to a mooring ball in downtown Annapolis Harbor, where we stayed and stayed and stayed, hesitant to make our first solo move. Eventually it became time to put water in the tanks and Andy hopped aboard to guide me to the fuel dock (Richard was in Baltimore for a board meeting).

We have two mantras gleaned from others regarding docking:

  • Slow is pro. 
  • Always approach the dock at the speed you intend to hit it. 

So I creeped up to the dock and discovered how easy it is with bow thrusters stern and aft! Really!

Andy admonished me not to tell the dock hand it was my first time, but I couldn't wait to tell him.

Above Deck

Elly and Hank
We've been in and out of Annapolis since her arrival and have hosted several dinner parties, a boat naming ceremony, overnight guests, and a party of 20 to watch the Blue Angels flyover for the Naval Academy graduation.

Removing the former name, Passage

Pat Winkler prepares to feed Poseiden, God of the Sea, to which all yell 'oh no' as the champagne is poured into the water to appease him and keep newly named Bel Sito safe.
First boat gift...

Boat Naming Ceremony, Richard, Julie, Tom, Beth and Ruth

Look! Up in the sky! It's the Blue Angels!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Bel Sito (Due): A New Chapter

We can barely log into Facebook without learning of the demise or serious illness of friends our age.

If life is like a banquet, we could be in the 'dessert and decaf coffee at the end of the meal' stage.

So, what do we do? Act responsibly? Sit on the balcony in the sunshine and go on short walks around the neighborhood?

Nope. We bought a bigger boat. A much bigger boat. A huge boat (for us).  A 2009, 53' Selene, currently known as Passage. Her former owners kept her in pristine condition and we hope our stewardship is even close to their meticulous standards. Our other trawler was a 38' Pacific Seacraft and adding feet to a boat is a bit like dog years. Each foot seems to expand the storage and capacity exponentially.

Now, if we could just figure out how to start the engines. I'm not kidding.

Introducing: Bel Sito, Due (pronounced dew-A, meaning 'two' in Italian). We're going to drop the 'due' as soon as our original Bel Sito takes on a new name.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The End

Hamburg Cove, Connecticut River

It's time to say good-bye, for now.

Beth and Pat stay in touch with the office

After the skies cleared yesterday we left the dock in Essex and meandered a short way up the Connecticut River to Hamburg Cove, a lovely spot with plenty of mooring balls.

Richard and I have spent every night aboard Bel Sito since August 12 and it is now September 6. Turkey Point, MD; Cape May, Atlantic City and Sandy Hook,  New Jersey; Manhattan, Oyster Bay, Port Jefferson, New York; Mystic, Connecticut; Block Island, Rhode Island; Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket, Massachusetts, then back down to Essex and finally, Mystic, Connecticut where Bel Sito will rest for several days before Andy brings her home.

We could go on. And on. And on.

Pat and I have been counting the hours until our arrival in Mystic because Richard promised to get us all the oysters we could eat during the Oyster Club Happy Hour. Captains' Treat.

Pat won, consuming five dozen. I was a close second with four.

We've witnessed a months worth of sunsets on the water and navigated a couple dozen new channels. We've had relatively calm seas and virtually no weather or boat dramas.

Bel Sito has traveled over 500 miles this trip and she's says she's just getting started.

We're listening.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Unexpected Surprise (guess that's redundant, huh?)

Essex, Connecticut

Cruising doesn't change you. It reveals you.*

The weather on this 25-day journey had been Chamber-of-Commerce perfect until we reached Essex. Fortunately, with radar at the touch of an iPhone, we had a good idea what to expect and that's why we picked this port. So the crew is having a couple of peaceful land days and Beth, in particular, made a huge discovery.

Traveling by boat  means the cruiser is dependent on foot once ashore.  The scope of the exploration territory is limited but one has a more in-depth view of things so you notice stuff you'd miss otherwise.

For example, the houses around downtown Essex have name plates naming the homes' first owner.

Friend and blog reader Marty Petty had encouraged us to stop in Essex, and we're grateful for the suggestion. She had been publisher of the Hartford Courant back in the day, and we've become pals since we first discovered we were Florida neighbors. Her husband, Mark Petty,  is a renowned photographer who shot a wedding on the Hepburn estate and the famous actress actually appeared straight from the garden.

Of Mice and Beth

But the happiest tourist to Essex in our group of four is Beth.

For years, she has been collecting mice. Not just any mice, but mice that cost more than an iPod Nano. She has so many of these things that her husband, Pat, built display cases that take up much of their second bedroom wall space.  We could retire on what these things are fetching on EBay these days.

As she walked down the main drag of Essex Beth spotted a faded circular sticker on the window of Gracie's Corner, a sprawling variety store with everything from magnetic bracelets to an entire section dedicated to pets.

And, drum roll, Wee Forest Folk, started by Annette Petersen in 1972  and now carried on by her sonWilly and daughter Donna Petersen (who know a good schtick when they see it).

Wee Forest Folk pieces are first created then the original is cast into white ware. There is a booklet describing the process, but for those of you hankering to know more about these collectables:

Turns out, Beth grew up in Concord, MA where founding mouse-maker Annette began the cottage industry. Beth was a high school classmate of Donna Petersen, Annette's daughter.

Beth has been collecting the Wee Forest Folk ever since she first discovered them in 1973.

I've not been much of a collector of small ceramic things or anything other than technology gadgets (so I have no room to talk about obsessive compulsive behavior) but I must admit, upon close examination of these little things, it is impressive to see the amount of detail in the little critters.

Photo from the company website

You know you're a cruiser....

You know you're a cruising woman when you have your hair cut so short you don't need a hairdryer.


* A tip of the visor to Michelle Obama for her line from her convention speech last night (The presidency doesn't change you; it reveals you). It's great to have XM radio on board and be able to listen to unfiltered audio of the proceedings on the POTUS station.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Change of Plans

The Connecticut River

As I said to a pal who has been following Bel Sito's progress on Marine Traffic  (an app that tracks vessels with AIS systems installed) in answer to his question as to what the heck we were doing in Essex, Ct:

Cruisers plan, but that's often all it ends up being. 

The plan for today was to go to Sag Harbor, until the 'committee' met to go over weather conditions etc. It was then decided we'd be better off sticking close to our ultimate destination (for this week anyway) which is our old marina in Mystic. That's where we will leave the boat for an indeterminate amount of time while we all go back into the real world for awhile. We'll come back toward the end of Sept. and bring her back down. Or have Andy bring her back down. All up in the air. 

The big excitement of the day was making it through 'the race', so called because the current races in and out of Long Island Sound whooshing back and forth in four-hour increments. It's a race.

Busted for going too fast in a 'no-wake' zone!


There's a phenomenon of the waterways that is the stuff of water-rage, something akin to road rage in a car. Only on the water, the boater who has been cut off or almost swamped by a bigger boat speeding by and coming close enough to create a big, rolling, wave aimed right at the broad side of the smaller vessel, is truly rage inducing. And  victims  often take to the VHF radio airwaves saying things they probably wouldn't say to the offender  face to face. 

Little Bel Sito gets her share of wakes, as she cruises between 7-10 kts and bigger boats often go roaring by. 

There seemed to be a bunch of these yo-yos today and so one of most gratifying shots of the day was of this guy getting busted. Hooray.

Essex, Connecticut

This is Katherine Hepburn's former estate. It's for sale. 

We're having a lovely time in old Essex, all nested into an actual slip with electricity and water. We read various restaurant reviews on Trip Advisor and ended up at a great old place called The Griswold (locals call it 'the Griz').

Richard, me, Beth and Pat

That's all for now. Might not blog tomorrow because we're going to PROBABLY be here another day. I'll do laundry. How boring is that?

You know you're a cruiser when you get excited about a nearby coin-operated laundry facility.

Here Come the Brides

Nantucket wedding

Here Come the Brides

Nantucket is a bucket list destination, a wedding destination and the ultimate destination for the worlds' elite. 

We were there for a destination wedding, and to the surprise of the bride and bride, apparently so did just about everyone they invited. We partied on the beach at sunset Thursday night, dined at one of Nantucket's finest restaurants Friday night, attended the wedding in  Nantucket's St. Paul's church and celebrated Melissa and Josie's  marriage at the most beautiful country club setting I have ever seen. Every detail was simply stunning. 

For those who God has joined together, let no man put asunder. 

I've attended commitment ceremonies for same-sex couples before but am thrilled to have lived to see the day when two people in love, committed to a life together, can be joined in holy matrimony if they so choose. 

Sitting in the pew, I thought about my grandfather and great grandfather, neither of whom I met. They were both Episcopal priests and my grandfather was rector of a church in Fitzburg, MA. He was on a committee that re-wrote the Common Book of Prayer and as family legend goes, it was my grandmother who insisted they remove the 'thou shalt obey' clause in the wedding ceremony. Surely, something so commonplace today  must have been quite radical at the time.

I would like to think they would be on the right side of this transformational time today, too.


The wedding and reception were the exclamation point of an incredible visit to Nantucket. We had time each day to explore the island and take in its personality. The downtown roads are still cobblestone and the homes and buildings ALL wear a gray-shingled uniform.  Even the local  pet hospital is a rambling, beautiful structure befitting animals of the extremely wealthy. As charming as Nantucket is, it is that very seaside character that draws extreme wealth. Do a Google search about Nantucket and you'll find stories upon stories of the monied names who summer here. If we lived here we'd be in the 1% on the bottom rung of the ladder. There was a 200' boat so big in the harbor that in addition to being tied to a dock it also had two huge anchors set ahead. Before the yacht moves, a diver is hired to go down and make sure the anchor chain doesn't get cross-wise or otherwise tangled.

There's much to appreciate about the island's charms, of course. The beaches, charming shops, dunes. I was also taken by the window boxes full of flowers and greenery on many of the downtown homes.

Nantucket Pet Hospital

Here we are at the wedding reception. That's the Atlantic Ocean off in the distance:

We were joined by our buddies Beth and Pat, who are now on board and great crew. There's an additional peace-of-mind that takes place when an extra couple sets of experienced hands are on board.

Weather is predicted to take a turn here by tomorrow so we got out of Nantucket early yesterday morning and made a long day run back to Block Island. We head to Sag Harbor this morning. Strike that. Guess we are heading to the Connecticut River.

The Surf Side Hotel, Block Island

I'm having a hard time getting a strong enough wireless signal to upload pictures...(takes over 10 minutes a photo!). When we get a faster one I'll upload some more pix. 

You know you're a cruiser when you don't know what day it is.

Follow Bel Sito by Email