Click on the pictures to see the true beauty!
A Whale of a Tale!
What's for dinner?
Amorita at anchorage Los Frailes
Amorita at Isla Isabela
Check out those flippers- Blue Footed Boobie!
Colorful Open Fruit Marcado
Acapulco Cliff Diver
|May 13, 2007|
Our trip up from Cabo San
Lucas, about 800 miles, was actually quite uneventful. In actual
sailing time we were under sail for really only about 6 full days out of a
total 27 days. While under sail we never saw winds over 25 knots and
the seas averaged about 8 feet; so not too bad. The trip from Cabo
to ?>San Diego is nick
named the "Baja Bash" for the consistently strong winds and big seas which
always at this time of the year end up being right on the nose. For the
non-sailing audience, that's something you do not want. But, fortunately
for us, we had a great weather man. He is "Don" from
So now that we're back,
generally the first or second question that we're often asked by our
friends and family is "what now?" And our response is quite
unnerving to some, comical to others, but it goes kind of like this:
we're asked the question and then Richelle gets this contemplative look on
her face and then looks at me and I shrug and then I look at Kimberly
and she smiles and then Nathaniel kind of shuffles his feet and then we
all kind of say, "I don't know, I guess we're already doing it right
now." So a short sweet answer to the thousand dollar question is,
nothing is changing for us. We're just going to put the anchor a
little deeper in the mud this time and stay put in
We want to take this time to say a big thank you to all of you who have participated with us this past four years. Without our readership none of this journey would have been half as enjoyable. We greatly appreciate all of the prayers you sent our way and the super emails which just kept us running from port to port to collect. You can't imagine the power of an encouraging word or a simple hello when you're far from home. Thank you for keeping in contact with us and keeping us going. Thank you also to all of our friends and family who came to visit us and played with us in the sun and surf. We really enjoyed sharing our home/boat with all of you and it kept us going from one adventure to another. A big big thanks to our great "pack mules", family and friends, who carried down "boat stuff" to help keep Amorita afloat and happy. We still can't believe that cousin Jay actually brought a whole toilet down to us, hee hee. This journey of ours couldn't also have been half as enjoyable if it hadn't been for all the other sailors/cruisers that we met along the way. Thanks for the good times and we hope to share an anchorage with all of you some day again. Finally a big thank you to Grandma and Grandpa Miller and Grandma and Grandpa Macie for letting us take their grandchildren thousands of miles away and who taught us to chase our dreams and to live life to its fullest. Thank you God!
To close we would like to share with you one of our favorite encouraging words of wisdom from Mark Twain.
"Years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the things you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."
Cheers and God Bless,
Joel, Richelle, Kimberly, Nathaniel and C.O.
|April 12, 2007|
|Hola Amigos y Amigas!!
Amorita and crew are happy to report that we're safe and sound, but definitely not sane in CRAZY Cabo San Lucas. Cabo San Lucas is such a beautiful place from about 3:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. Those are the hours between the crazy Gringos finally passing out on the beach till the jet skis get going again for another day of playing in the sun. At one time we counted over 30 jet skis racing around the bay and 3 cruise ships anchored right next to us bringing passengers back and forth to and from town, yeeha. Even with the chaos here, Cabo is like I said, a beautiful place. There are these huge rock promontories known as the "Land's End" arches that create this beautiful backdrop for Cabo and the surrounding white sandy beaches are very inviting.
So now that we're in Cabo San Lucas, we're just sitting here waiting for our turn to make the final 800 mile push north to San Diego. Weather permitting, we should be in San Diego in 3 weeks or so. The huge Pacific Gray Whales have just started their annual migration up to Alaska so we hope to see some big momma and papa whales along the way. The southwesterly waves have also arrived making for some good opportunities to hopefully catch a wave or two surfing. So who knows when we'll actually make it back to San Diego. We've already sailed out of Cabo twice and turned back due to big seas and 25-30 knot winds. After having been out sailing for 4 years now, we've learned that it is best just to wait for good weather rather than beat your boat up and possibly injure someone.
The last time we wrote, which seems like ages ago, we were in Mazatlan. Well since Mazatlan we've covered a lot of sailing miles, spent quality time with some super friends and packed away many new memories. Our passage north and across the Sea of Cortez was uneventful. We had a beautiful full moon to guide us along, but no fish were caught. The fishing has been brutal by the way. We've caught no big game fish now for ages! We're blaming it on the cold water. The last time we caught any big fish was down in Zihautenejo. Holy cow!, I think we're going through a dry spell. After crossing the Sea and hanging out in La Paz for a couple of days, we hooked up with our good friends from Prescott, Az. Todd and Nadine Weber. Todd and Nadine brought some great weather with them which we used to explore the islands off La Paz, barbecued some freshly caught fish (small reef ones), sailed around with a huge pod of dolphins one day, swam with seals and watched a bunch of sunsets. Some of you may remember Todd in an earlier email, about 3 and a half years ago Todd joined us for the passage from San Diego to Cabo. It's always good fun to be around other salty dogs. Another treat for all of us, especially Nathaniel and Kimberly, was to spend a few days anchored in front of a beach front home full of kids. The kids also brought their parents who happened to be good friends of ours from Redding. We knew the Cranes, Demshers, and Underwood-Jett families, from Nathaniel's days of playing soccer. One of the dads, Brian Crane, was Nathaniel's coach. It was fun to see all the kids, 5 boys and one girl. It's amazing how those kids can grow so much. A couple of the dads and 3 kids joined Nathaniel and Joel for the final sail down the Sea of Cortez to Cabo San Lucas and met the others at a beach close to Cabo. Tons of things to do and never enough time.
While sitting here in Cabo we've met a few boats heading out to sail across the Pacific to Tahiti and points west and we are wondering if we're really ready to jump back into main stream U.S.A. again. Its been almost 4 years since we've been back to the United States. We've got worries about whether we'll fit in, what are teenagers like now adays and so on, but after hanging out with our Redding friends and spending time with their kids, we quickly realized that we have nothing to worry about. We are looking forward to our new life, but I'm not sure I'm ready to buy a watch. Just another chapter in our adventure of life.
We hope you all have a sunny green spring.
Joel, Richelle, Kimberly, Nathaniel and C.O.
|March 03, 2007|
|Ahoy Mates, |
Amorita is safely swaying away at anchor at 23 degrees 10 minutes North by 106 degrees 25 minutes West, which is the old harbor of Mazatlan. We're glad to be here! So you know that feeling you get when at the end of a long work day and you finally get home and sit down and take off your shoes and go "Ahhh" and you think nothing in life can be better than taking those shoes off?, well that's kind of how we felt the other day when we finally arrived here in Mazatlan. After beating into big seas and high winds for a lengthy period of time, there's nothing better for a sailor than to sail in behind the lee of a large island, get out of the wind and seas, and finally let all the pressure go away as you drop the anchor. Ahh, life is good with the simple things.
The whole month of January and a good part of February found Amorita and crew in beautiful Puerto Vallarta. As far as we can tell, there's no better place in all our sailing travels than Puerto Vallarta/Bahia Banderas for just pure sailing. It seemed like every afternoon we were in Banderas Bay we found anywhere from 15 to 20 knots of wind, small seas and beautiful skies. A sailor couldn't ask for more. We spent a lot of time just sailing around. For obvious reasons, many popular sailboat races begin and end in Puerto Vallarta. Additionally, we were stoked with many whale sightings. Humpback whales seem to find Banderas Bay just as inviting. There wasn't an afternoon during our visit that we didn't see a Humpback whale blasting out of the water breaching, blowing spray out of its blow hole, or flicking its tail as it was diving deep into the waters of the bay. In addition to just enjoying Puerto Vallarta and all it has to offer, we were blessed as well with two consecutive weeks of visits from both sets of Grandparents. It's so nice to have the opportunity to share our sailing lifestyle with our parents/grandparents and to get some quality huggin' and lovin' time. Of course Grandma Miller had us swinging in the trees and exploring all that Puerto Vallarta had to offer and Grandpa Macie had us chasing giant Manta Rays that he wanted to swim with. Lots of fun! Again, we want to thank all our family and friends who have been following our journey and who have made our sailing adventures happen. Without all of you, we wouldn't be here! Muchas Gracias!
While sailing north to Mazatlan we had a brief stop over for 4 days at this amazing island called Isla Isabela. It's like a mini Gallapagos island experience. Tons of sea birds; Blue footed boobies, Tropic sea birds, giant Frigate birds and many others nest and find their homes at Isla Isabela. Young research students from universities around the world spend time at Isabela researching sea birds and doing numerous bird counts. It's a really neat experience to be able to walk within inches of these giant Frigates and watch them care for their young fledglings. The island sits about 100 miles north west of Puerto Vallarta out in the middle of nowhere, so the water clarity while we were there was quite exceptional. We found the snorkeling to be really nice, and the fishing even better. Nathaniel found us a nice lobster for dinner one night and caught a good sized Snapper, yummy.
So for all those people who wonder why a boat is called a she, we found the answer. The following saying was posted next to the bar in Club Nautico, Mazatlan and goes like this:
"Why is a Ship Called a She?
A ship is called a "she" because there is always a great deal of bustle around her,
There is usually a gang of men about, She has a waist and stays,
It takes a lot of paint to keep her good looking; It is not the initial expense that breaks you, it is the upkeep;
She can be all decked out; It takes an experienced man to handle her correctly; and without a man at the
helm she is absolutely uncontrollable. She shows her topsides, hides her bottom and when coming
into port, always heads for the buoys".
Written by Ulster.
Amorita and crew are off tomorrow for La Paz. Please pray for a safe passage for us, as the winds have been quite strong lately. We hope this email finds everyone healthy and happy.
Aloha Until the next port,
Joel, Richelle, Kimberly, Nathaniel and dog C.O.
|December 27, 2006|
|Feliz Navidad y Prospero Ano Nuevo!
Amorita and crew are safely anchored at Zihuatanejo, Mexico and fully enjoying the holiday season. While some people dream of a white Christmas, this year we dreamed of Sailfish and Wahoo, big waves to surf, long beaches to stroll on and time to spend with freinds. Santa found us here and delivered big time on all accounts and we hope your Christmas was just as blessed as ours.
Our first gift this Christmas season was waking up one morning here in the Zihuatanejo anchorage to find anchored next to us our great Canadian sailing buddies we met two years ago in El Salvador aboard the boat Nueva Vida. The crew of Nueva Vida sailed non-stop from way down south in Ecuador all the way to Mexico in 15 days! Aboard, they have 2 boys the same ages as Kimberly and Nathaniel, so you can just imagine how excited Kimberly and Nathaniel were to finally hang out with some one their own age. Christmas eve and day was spent joyfully with the Nueva Vida crew. We found a great English speaking church here in Zihuatanejo to share with them the month of Dec., as well as, a nice tender turkey and all the fixins.
Our second gift this season was a surprise visit from San Diego HS/College friends Linda Milburn and Mark Warren. They shared with us their enthusiastic smiles and great energy. We spent time sailing, fishing, lounging around their hotel pool and watching the sunsets with them. What a joy it is to be blessed with such great friends!
For the boys, a super gift we were given this year was spending time chasing and catching tons of fish with a local commercial fisherman. We found there's a huge difference between recreational fishing and commmercial fishing, and I think Nathaniel and I much prefer the commercial side of fishing. Commercial fishing is all about catching fish and no fluff! In one day we caught well over 50 fish ranging from 5 pound Sierras to 45 pound Mahi Mahi. Yahoo!!
We're off tonight for points North, slowly making our way to Puerto Vallarta for a late January meeting with Grandma and Grandpa Miller. We'll be out of email contact for a little while, but would love to hear from all of you. Enjoy the rest of your holiday season.
Peace on Earth,
Joel, Richelle, Kimberly, Nathaniel and C.O.
|November 24, 2006|
|Hola Amigos! |
Hurricanes and holidays seem to be the topic of discussion for the Amorita crew lately. And oh, what a combination of talk it is. We never thought that hurricanes and holidays could go together, but it seems that our mother ocean has quite a sense of humor and works on her own schedule. Anyhow, Happy Thanksgiving from beautiful Acapulco, Mexico.
Our apologies for the lack of an update for quite awhile. We've found that computers and boats and salty air just don't like each other very much. We've been battling a temperamental computer for quite awhile now and hopefully we have licked it. Time will tell. But for the time being were back and would love to hear from everyone.
Well here's a quick update on the Amorita crew and our lives as vagabond sailors. Our last update showed us being in Northern Costa Rica and if we could, we would probably still be in Northern Costa Rica. We just loved it. All the awesome sailing in the Gulf of Papagayo, incredible surfing, and beautiful beaches make Costa Rica a favorite for us and a place we will definitely come back to some day. For all of our surfing friends, we hit the all time classic surf break "Ollies Point" just perfect for a few weeks, with head high waves, no crocodiles in the surf, and the point break all to ourselves in early mornings and late afternoon sessions. Major stoke. In late September we sadly said goodbye to Costa Rica and made our way north to Nicaragua. Nicaragua hosted us very nicely. The people in Nicaragua are very warm and giving, We just loved hanging out at this little costal town called San Juan del Sur. Here, the kids and Richelle took a weeks worth of intensive Spanish language instruction at a local school and had a great time with the teachers. It's amazing how quickly kids can pick-up a foreign language. It's fun to watch Kimberly talk to the locals. She's our official interpreter now.
Throughout September and into October we continued to explore the coast of Nicaragua and wait out the remainder of the hurricane season that was still actively brewing away in Mexico. For all of our non-sailing friends, one of the nice things about sailing in our modern times is that there are a ton of sailing guide books available to help a person make all the "right" decisions about where to go and how to stay out of bad weather. Our guide books showed us that the last part of October and early November as being the best time to cross a notoriously bad section of water just North of us called the Gulf of Tehuantepec. The Gulf basically acts as the dividing line between North America and Central America. Through the Gulf of Tehuantepec the winds blow on average over 275 days a year at Gale force levels. This is an area that is not much fun to be caught in during a gale, so with carefull planning and watching the weather forecasts from the National Hurricane Center in Florida we set off in early November to cross the Gulf into Mexico. This is roughly a 600 mile passage and it took us about five nights to complete. We were blessed with fantastic weather and came away sorry with no new crazy stories to tell. We saw no more than 35 knots of wind and really had to motor sail the entire way. Through the entire passage we were blessed with great weather information via our single side band radio from our friends Randy and Gail on the sailboat "Otter". Randy spoke to us every morning giving us updates on the weather and if it was safe for us to continue moving north across the Gulf of Tehauntapec. Thanks again Randy for your great help.
So with a tired crew and "hungry for land" dog on board, we made it safely into Huatulco, Mexico about three weeks ago. Since that time we've been cleaning up Amorita, catching up on sleep and school, exploring some new surfing waves, making new friends, revisiting old friends and just enjoying being back in friendly Mexico. Things are good in Mexico, except for this late season hurricane I spoke of earlier. Now, the guide books said nothing about hurricanes at this time of the year in Mexico. The weather is supposed to be grand right about now. But what do you know, there's always an exception to the rule, and this one was called Hurricane Sergio. So as we were sitting in Huatulco, Sergio started forming to the southwest of us. Fortunately, Sergio never could make up its mind and it ended up traveling out to sea after threatening us for a few days and never coming closer than 400 miles to us. Sergio however gave us a really big ground swell, waves up to twelve feet, and thus we're here in Acapulco. We hadn't planned on being in Acapulco for a couple of weeks yet, but it's best to sail with the current and huge swell than against it, so here we are. We made it just in time to head to the market to find a turkey and all the fixings.
Not much else to report down here. Life is good. Amorita is doing great. We're slowly finishing up on the final touches to the bathroom after the jetski collision. Soon we'll actually be able to take a shower inside, instead of off the back deck, yahoo the girls say! We're hoping to be in Zihuatanejo, Mexico for Christmas and then Puerto Vallarta in February. Come on down for a visit, last chance! We hope this email finds everyone healthy and happy. Have a great holiday. We are thankful for each and everyone of you.
|August 16, 2006|
|Ahoy Mates! |
Amorita and crew are safely anchored at 10 degrees, 33 minutes North by 85 degrees, 41 minutes West, which is Playa Del Coco, Costa Rica. Northern Costa Rica is well at the top of our list of favorite places we have visited. It has great surfing, excellent snorkeling, fishing, has the best grocery store in Central America, and offers lots of beach time. So we'll be here for the next month or so waiting out the remainder of the Pacific hurricane season. There's still time to visit!
So if your wondering why we haven't sent an update for 2 months, aside from being lazy, we'll give you a quick run down, not much activity really. Let's see, we transited the Panama canal in mid June with Grandma and Grandpa Miller. They were great crew members and successfully helped us get Amorita through the canal with no bumps or bruises. Grandma and Grandpa were able to soak their feet in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans all in the same week. Plus Grandma and Grandpa took us on tours of old Spanish forts, took us on a tour of swinging through the rain forest trees, excellent bird watching tours and they of course spent a lot of time just loving up their grandkids. Grandmas and Grandpas are awesome. So a week after Joel's parents left, Richelle's sister, Linda, arrived for a 31 day sail up the coast from Panama city to Northern Costa Rica. Towards the end of this leg of the trip her husband, Chris, joined us for the last week. Aside from some real nasty weather and having to motor sail all the way from Panama City we had a great time, covered a ton of miles, saw loads of whales and dolphins, ate lots of Dorados, Sierras, and lobster, watched some incredible sunsets, and made many memories with Auntie Linda. Then 5 days after Linda and Chris left we were blessed with another set of guests, Richelle's sister, Joy, and 2 of her eldest kids, Megan and Jon, from northern California. We all just loved the kid time, surfing, boogie boarding, swinging in the trees on zip lines, jumping off the ratlines, and playing games in the cockpit while sailing. In between all this, Joel and Richelle were busy keeping the boat afloat, installing a new refrigerator, rebuilding the windlass again, trying to workout the autopilot bugs, installing a complete new set of boat batteries, restocking the pantry, and working out all the logistics involved with picking up and dropping off guests. All in all it was a great two months. We loved our new crew members and can't wait for our next set of guests in the year 2008, ha just joking, come on down!
Most cruising sailors would say that our previous 2 months were way too action packed and stressful. In fact, the average cruising sailor would take 4 to 5 months to complete the sail from Panama City to Northern Costa Rica. We took less then 30 days and one set of guests per quarter is the max. So this got me to thinking about the things that cause us the most stress with our new sailing lifestyle and thought you might enjoy them in comparison to your own personal stressors. Guess which one causes Joel the most stress. Not necessarily in order. #1 running out of cooking propane before your spouse has their first cup of coffee in the morning, #2 wondering if we'll safely make it into port before dark, while that squall on the horizon keeps inching closer and closer, #3 praying the toilet doesn't break down with guests on board, #4 wondering when it's going to rain next so that we can refill our water tanks, #5 wondering if someone has taken your favorite two palm trees where the hammock hangs, #6 wondering if that brush up against your leg while surfing was a shark or a reef fish, #7 wondering if those 2 beady crocodile eyes are just visiting or waiting around for dinner, #8 wondering if your navigating is correct to get you safely across the next reef, #9 hoping the leak in the boat doesn't continue to grow, #10 wondering if that hurricane is going to continue to head North away from the boat.
We hope this email finds everyone healthy and happy. Enjoy the last days of summer!
Amorita and Crew
|June 4, 2006|
|The Miller suggestion for the new Master
Card commercial. |
3 years Sailing With The Millers
- Miles traveled: 6,005 nautical miles
- Countries visited: 10
-Used engine:1,954 hours
-Gallons of diesel used: 896
-Gallons of varnish used: 4
-Transmission rebuilt: 2
-Times Amorita hauled out: 3
-Times we ran Amorita aground: 4
-Anchors lost: 2
-Dinghies lost: 1
-Dinghy engines worn out: 2
-Hats blown away: 5
-Swimsuits worn out: 20
-Pants worn: 20 times
-Toilets broken: 2
-Times had to use a bucket instead of toilet: too many -Bottles of sunscreen used: 10
-New fish discovered: 1
-Times pooped on by monkey: 2
-Rare Quetzal birds seen: 5
-Times chased by Barracuda: 3
-Fishing lures lost: 20
-Times seen more than 30 knot winds while sailing: 5
-Man overboard: 0
-Books read: more than can be counted
-Marinas stayed in: 6
-Most money spent on a lobster: $5
-Stitches received: 25
-Tears shed: 2.5 gallons
-People rescued: 2, saw 1 die
-Times experienced Montezuma's revenge: 5
-Money spent: ... don't want to know
-Credit cards # stolen: 1
-Sunsets experienced: 857
-Friends made: lost count
-Surfing waves caught: never enough
-Good times had: still making
Sailing Lifestyle: Priceless
Amorita and crew are happy to report that we've safely made it to Colon, Panama . After a wonderful month and a half of sailing the Colombian Coast and always magical San Blas islands, we're sad to have to leave this sailing paradise for the busy, scary city life of Colon. We'll be here in Colon for a couple of weeks catching up on some of Amorita's general maintenance, finish up the school year and best of all, wait for Grandma and Grandpa Miller to arrive to help us transit the Panama canal. We're tentatively scheduled to transit the canal on the 18th and 19th of June. Watch for us on the afternoon of the 19th on the live web cam provided by the Panama Canal Port Authority. We'll let you know exact dates and website in a few days.
Amorita picked up a new full time crew member in Cartagena. He weighs around 8 lbs., stands 12 inches at the shoulders and has cute, cuddly ears. His name is C.O., which is short for Colombia and he is a 3 month old Beagle. C.O. is a really cool boat dog and loves his new position as full time watch captain. We had a great time playing with him on the beaches in San Blas. C.O. even had an island all to himself one afternoon to roam, eat sticks and coconuts, dig up crabs in the sand, and he even swam a little.
Not much else to report on this side of the world, we're excited to get over to the Pacific again and catch some of those summer time waves up in Costa Rica. Our plan is to be in Northern Costa Rica around the middle of July and hang out there for the remainder of the hurricane season. We hope this email finds all of you healthy and happy. Enjoy your summer!
Amorita & Crew
|May 4, 2006|
|Ahoy Mates! |
A quick update from the Miller clan but directed to all the men folk in our reading audience.
We just pulled into Cartagena, Colombia after spending the last few days under way from Aruba. We had not planned on stopping here in Cartagena, but made an unscheduled stop to work on our autopilot. The autopilot died completely the first morning, about 30 miles West of Aruba. For the non-sailors, steering by hand is fun for a little while but is quite a hassle after extended periods of time and may prove to be dangerous if the crew becomes exhausted. So we broke the sail down into one hour watches and the kids did really great handling Amorita in big following seas and winds up to 30 knots. Kimberly got really good at surfing the bigger waves. So anyhow here's the good part of the story. We were in the middle of day three and I was at the helm putting in my time of steering and enjoying the sights of the deserted Colombian coast line. We were all really tired at this point and feeling the usual grunge from continued heavy sailing. While I was busy working the helm I could hear Richelle down below banging pots around and stirring something up to eat. After awhile our cute little "bombshell" blonde headed Richelle comes up into the cockpit wearing this fancy little bikini, she offers me this awesome fresh bowl of hot chili and says, "Hey, instead of us building our dream house someday, how about we build our dream boat instead?" Oh boys eat your hearts out! I mean how lucky can a guy get? The boat's broken, the crew is tired, safe anchorage is miles away and your bride has this great attitude and dream for the future and best yet the dream is about something I really enjoy. Yeeha, yahoo!! Paradise does exist even in some of those bumpy parts of the road.
Hopefully we'll be pulling out of Cartagena soon and will be underway to the San Blas islands and the canal. We'll probably be out of contact for a while so enjoy your spring... and ladies if your man doesn't get the gist of the story just whack him across the side of the head; Happy Mother's Day.
|April 27, 2006|
|Ahoy Matees and Greetings from beautiful
Since our last email 3 months ago, we've made a grand total of about 500 hundred nautical miles or so, but we've visited around 30 deserted tropical islands, eaten way too many lobsters and Conch, made some great new cruising friends and had some awesome down wind sailing. Oh life is good!
The offshore islands of Venezuela are right on top of our favorite places to sail around and we would highly recommend them to sailors and non-sailors alike. There are three different sets of islands or archipelagos situated almost in a straight line running West to East about a hundred miles offshore of mainland Venezuela. If one is sailing from East to West you've got a great 2-3 knot current pushing you along and very healthy trade winds generally off the stern making for some great sailing. We've had to learn how to sail down wind again. Down wind is sailing is not our favorite point of sail, but it sure makes life a lot easier on the boat maintenance and those who tend to get sea sick. The islands are also full of healthy reefs, beautiful sandy beaches and has some world famous Bone fishing. Nathaniel really enjoyed the Bone Fishing in the Los Roques islands and tied into a few good fighters. Fishermen come from all over the world to catch a big Bone fish in the Los Roques. Bone fish are not particularly good to eat nor all that pretty but they make for some great fighting and spot and cast fishing, lots of fun. The Amorita girls really stocked up on their shell collecting while in the islands and found some real pretty ones. I particularly enjoyed the solitude and wildness of the islands.
To top off a downwind cruise through Venezuela's islands there's no better way then a stop in beautiful Bonaire and Aruba. We spent a week or so in Bonaire doing a few boat projects and catching up on business. It's funny how the tax man won't go away even when were on the other side of the world. We're still very impressed with the diving and snorkeling in Bonaire and how strongly the island is protecting their natural gem. After Bonaire we gave the island of Curacao a very wide berth as we sailed on past, way too many bad memories of that place for us to even think about stopping. Aruba has been our last port of call and has been a busy one for us. Kimberly and Richelle took a vacation from the men on the boat and went to St. Marteen to visit with our good cruising friends Bill and Mary on the sail blat Orion. They came home with lots of energy and just in time for Richelle's sister Joy and her family from San Francisco. They joined us for a week of fun in the sun. It was great fun having them, they have four beautiful children all under the ages of ten and it was a joy to share the ocean with them and give them a taste of our cruising life. Lots of time was spent playing on the beach, swimming in the resort pool and enjoying the funny drinks with umbrellas.
We'll be out of contact for the next month or so as we continue our way west. The San Blas islands offer little in regards to communication, just coconuts and parrots. Were planning on being in the Panama canal area around June 1st and hopefully we'll make it through the canal by the middle of June or so. Now's a great time to come for a visit, hint hint. Costa Rica is the spot for sun, surfing and fun.
Have a great Spring.
Amorita and Crew
|December 23, 2005|
|Feliz Navidad from Venezuela,
Merry Christmas everyone! We pray that this letter finds all of you healthy and happy and full of the joys of Christmas.
Amorita and crew are very happy to report that we made it safely to our current port of call, Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela. If you're looking on a map, we're just about directly South of Isla Margarita and East of Caracas about 300 miles. It took us about four weeks to get here from Bonaire, a distance of about three hundred miles. We really took our time on this leg of our journey, exploring little islands, going slow, and watching for good weather. We also didn't want to take any chances with Amorita's weakened hull. So therefore we stayed close to shore the whole way within easy distance of facilities to take care of us in case we had an emergency. Of course Amorita performed much better than her worried Captain could have asked for.
So we don't know what the deal is between the United States and Venezuela, but this is a really neat country. The people here are very friendly and inviting. The countryside is very diverse and beautiful and not once have we felt unsafe. Prior to heading off for Venezuela we had plenty of concerned friends warning us about Venezuela and how dangerous it is, to watch out for pirates and such. And just like any country, including the United States, we've found that if we stay out of the barrios after dark, keep Nathaniel and Kimberly out of the bar rooms and don't act like a bunch of rich gringos than everything works out just fine. So come on down and do some sailing with us, just leave your jewelry at home and anything you can't afford to loose.
Well after three years of living on the ocean the crew of Amorita had a hankering for a white Christmas and some mountain time and boy did we get it. We just returned from a week of traveling to the high mountains of Venezuela. Have you ever gone from sea level to 15,000 feet in just a few hours? We don't recommend it. You get a headache, your heart pounds like crazy, you're out of breath and you get these really weird black spots in your vision. We didn't suffer quite that bad, but you sure can feel a difference with the altitude change. To get to the top of the mountain we took a bus for 21 hours, rode the world's longest and highest gondola, traveled by donkey for 5 hours and bounced around in a jeep for four hours. The mountain we visited is called Pico de Espejo and it sits in the North section of Venezuela looking over the capital city of Merida. This is a beautiful area of Venezuela with long verdant green valleys, terraced mountain farms, and huge meandering rivers surrounded by the Sierra Nevada/Andes Mountains. It was fun for us to put on pants for the first time in three years, and to wear gloves and scarves. Kimberly and Nathaniel had to go out and buy new pants to wear as they had outgrown all their pants they had.
Our current port of call is proving to be a very comfortable location for us to spend the Christmas season. We've found an English speaking church that we're really enjoying and are also loving all the other goodies that come with a big city. Nathaniel and I have mapped out all the fast food joints, but no Taco-Bells, bummer and the ladies are enjoying the many options available for quality shopping. We're hoping to be here not too long after the holidays. Amorita is scheduled for major surgery here to complete her final refit in early January. Our good friends and fellow sailors, Bill and Mary on the sail boat Orion, are returning from California soon with our three thousand wood screws that we will be replacing in Amorita's hull. She will also get a new paint job top to bottom, all her seams tightened up and a new bathroom. Hopefully we have some money left after all that. No news on the jet-ski deal.
As the year soon comes to an end we're just amazed at all the many blessings and great experiences we have had this past year. Thank you to everyone for your great and much appreciated support and prayers as we over came some bumps this past year and for being a part of our journey through life. Please plan on a visit this next year. It looks like we'll probably be sailing back to the Pacific for a summer of surfing and fishing, and a winter of whaling before being in San Diego around this same time next year.
Have a great Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Joel, Richelle, Kimberly and Nathaniel Miller
|November 10, 2005|
|Bon Dia from Beautiful
Our current position is 12 degrees 09 minutes North by 68 degrees 16 minutes West, which is about 85 miles due North of Venezuela. The air temp is 85, water temp is 82, partly cloudy skies and the water visibility is around 100 feet.
Well we sailed out of Curacao about a month and a half ago and have been in total sailing bliss since then. The toilet is back in, the transmission is purring away and the refrigerator is even making nice cold beer. What more could one ask for? After our dreaded Curacao experience we're happy to have a boring/quiet time any day. We really don't have much to report on our jet ski accident. The authorities have swept our case under the rug. Repeated emails from us to Curacao authorities have resulted in no action. So I guess it's just time to move on.
Actually our visit here in Bonaire has been nothing but exciting for us. Bonaire was designated as a marine sanctuary back in the early seventies and has consequently created a beautiful habitat for marine life of all kinds. Divers from all over the world consider Bonaire to be one of the top ten places to dive. The combination of easy access to multiple dive sites, incredible water visibility, and an abundance of sea life have sold us on Bonaire. We highly recommend it for the ocean enthusiast. We would like to stay longer but our tourist visa expires in three days, bummer.
So here's our funny story for the month. Shortly after arriving in Bonaire, we discovered that there's a very serious group of divers from all around the world who spend a lot of their time in search of fish to add to their life list of fish identified. We've learned that some divers take fish identification very seriously and spend tons of time and money in search of a particular fish to check off their list, very similar to bird enthusiasts, like Grandma Miller who's always looking for the new bird to add to her life list. So anyhow, one day this little blonde haired surf rat (Nathaniel) from Southern California shows up in town. He spends literally half his time in the water checking out the marine life and playing with all the new creatures. One day he came up with a cute little flounder type looking fish in the palm of his hand. Nathaniel spent several days playing with this same fish and even contemplated cutting it up for bait. His mom wouldn't have any of that, and shared with another cruiser/fish enthusiast about Nathaniel and the cute little fish that he has been playing with. Well this fish enthusiasts eye brow went up and quietly asked Nathaniel to show it to him. The diver came over with a gazillion dollars worth of dive equipment and under water camera gear. Nathaniel's fish was photographed, measured and all and submitted to an organization in Florida called REEF. As it turns out, Nathaniel's fish turned out to be a never before identified fish on Bonaire, called a Lined Sole. All the "professional" divers were jealous of Nathaniel's new find and were soon on the radio passing the word around the island. Nathaniel spent the next couple of weeks showing off his fish and making new friends. It was just hilarious. His mom and dad were also very proud of him. The photograph of Nathaniel's Lined Sole will be in the new edition of the REEF Fish Identification Book.
Aside from playing with fish and exploring Bonaire, we had a great past week sharing our sailing life with Richelle's brother Mike and sister-in-law Mary from San Diego. They brought down all kinds of much needed boat parts and plenty of enjoyed hugs and smiles. Mike is a big scuba diver and he spent a lot of his time in and under the water and even taught Nathaniel how to snuba dive. We had a great visit with them and look forward to them returning soon.
We're off for Venezuela this next few days. Hopefully the winds will allow us to sail due east for the remote offshore islands of Venezuela. These islands are a little bit off the beaten path, so hopefully we'll find some quiet anchorages to hang out in. We hope to be in Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela for Christmas with other cruising friends. We'll be out of contact for the next few weeks, but will write as soon as we get into our next port of call. We hope this email finds everyone healthy and happy.
Happy Thanksgiving! We are thankful for all of you and what you have brought into our lives. We wouldn't be here if it weren't for your support and prayers. God's blessings to all of you!
Joel, Richelle, Kimberly and Nathaniel
|August 30, 2005|
|Ahoy from Amorita,|
Thank you to everyone for your thoughts and prayers. All of the emails we received were very much appreciated and comforting. It's amazing to me how powerful and sometimes very important a simple note of encouragement can be. DANKI (Thank you)!
So we're floating. Twelve days after the accident occurred and Amorita is back in the water with a repaired hull! Our shipwright, Wilfred, worked double time in an effort to get us back into the water. The climate here is so hot and dry that we were all very concerned about Amorita drying out and her seams opening up. After putting Amorita back into the water her bilge pumps didn't have to work too hard to keep the water at bay and her seams appear to be closing up quite nicely.
The fix-it list is huge. Kimberly and Richelle have put a toilet at the top of the list. Nathaniel and I could care less about the toilet and just want to go fishing, but we're nice guys so we've ordered a new one. Next on the fix-it list is painting the hull, decks and interior, and then rebuilding the bathroom. We've just about got all the bulk heads back into shape and walls secured tight. As soon as our transmission is up and running we're off for points East. We've decided to do the repairs underway versus hanging out in Curacao any longer and will head to Venezuela to do the hull painting and cabinetry at our leisure.
The investigation into the jet ski incident continues to move along at a very slow "island style" pace. We have yet to hear from the police or government authorities, so we've pretty much written that side of the ordeal off. The woman on the jet ski is now out of a coma and appears to be doing good. The man driving the jet ski was buried last week with little fanfare. We're still shaking our heads in frustration as to how little energy was put into trying to save this man's life. Well the sky is nice and blue today. A hawk just left Amorita's mast top after spending the night at roost and it looks like a good day to head to the beach. We hope and pray that everyone is healthy and happy. Thanks again for all your thoughts and prayers.
Joel, Richelle,Kimberly and Nathaniel
|July 11, 2005|
|Bon Dia Matey's! |
We're currently lying at anchor at north 12' 04 by west 068' 51, which is Spanish Waters, Curacao. Curacao lies between the islands of Aruba and Bonaire, about 35 miles north of Venezuela. >From what we have seen so far, Curacao is a lovely island that we're looking forward to exploring and getting to know better. It is a Dutch Island, part of the Netherlands.
Sailing here from Aruba was kind of funny. We had to wait three weeks to go just seventy miles. I don't think we have ever waited so long to go such a short distance. The winds are almost always blowing 20 - 25 knots here from the east, there is a really strong 2 knot current from the east that sits on your bow when trying to head east, and to top it all off, the seas are generally in the 5 to 7 foot range from the east. So once you add all those factors together you've got a real messy situation that may prove to be dangerous at times. Fortunately, the three week wait paid off with very flat seas, no wind over 15 knots and blue starry skies. Once again were excited to have dropped anchor and completed another tough portion of our journey.
Aruba was quite a special place, we spent over two months in Aruba and enjoyed it immensely. After having spent the last year or two in third world countries, it was interesting to be in a setting very similar to Palm Beach, Florida. We spoiled ourselves in Aruba with hanging out at the fancy hotels and swimming pools, eating at Taco Bell and McDonalds, shopping in some great huge grocery stores and well stocked hardware stores. Aruba was very expensive and glitzy, but after digging we made some nice friends and got to see a very personal side of it. The tragic loss of the American girl on vacation was very devastating for all the Arubans and they took it very personally. Some Arubans even apologized to us for the loss of the girl. Hopefully everything will work out fine. Aruba is very safe by the way and I wouldn't hesitate to go there again.
Richelle's cousin and boys, Jay, Tracey, Kyle and Sean Kozak, from Chicago came for a week visit here. Jay and Tracey are certified divers, so we rented some tanks and found some real nice spots to snorkel, dive, and explore! In one anchorage, we had this quiet bay all to ourselves with snorkeling just right off of the boat. It took Nathaniel a few days to realize his two buddies left him, after going for days non stop from one activity to the next. It was great that the boys were so comfortable in the water and all enjoyed it so much! They even got to spend the last couple days sliding down the waterslide at the Hyatt resort together.
While in Aruba, Kimberly was able to spend some quality time dancing at a local Ballet studio. It has been nice that Kimberly has been able to find dance studios in most of the ports we have visited. I never would have thought that ballet was such a universal art, but everywhere we go we can find a studio ready to take her in. The dance studios just love it when Kimberly shows up to dance. It's a novelty for them as well. Nathaniel spent his time in Aruba obtaining a real nasty ear infection. We've discovered that when little boys spend a lot of time playing in the water and don't shower and clean themselves on a regular basis things start to grow in unusual places. Fortunately the medical care in Aruba was great and it looks like his infection is gone for now. Could you imagine living with Nathaniel the "Water Man" for two weeks when he couldn't get his head wet, it was brutal. Fortunately, he occupied his time with finding out ingenious ways to go to Taco Bell.
Richelle and the kids just wrapped up the school year last week. Nathaniel finished up his 5th grade year and Kimberly just completed her 7th grade year, wow time flies. We're kind of hoping next year that we can find an international school somewhere that Kimberly and Nathaniel can attend. We feel Kimberly and Nathaniel would really benefit from this, but we'll see. It would have to be a very safe, well known school for us to actually do it.
As far as boat talk goes Amorita is checking in next week to the boat hospital. She's got some major ailments that just won't go away. So, she's getting her shaft and propeller checked out again, the vibration still exists, her transmission is being pulled out to fix a leak and find some squeaky noises, she's getting a new exhaust riser and hopefully have a fresh coat of paint applied to her topsides. Curacao appears to be a good place to do boat work, you can actually speak to your mechanic in English and obtain parts right here on the island. Boat projects never end, good thing were in paradise.
We hope all is well with you all, God Bless.
|May 3, 2005|
|Buenos Dias, Bon Dia, |
We are currently at latitude 12.34 North by Longitude 070.52 West, which is the island of Aruba, just North of Venezuela.
Never have we been so relieved to drop our anchor as we have now and thanking God for getting us here safely. We survived the Colombian coast. In many guide books and literature on sailing, the passage from the Eastern Caribbean to Panama city is considered to be among the worlds top five worst journeys to be made. This part of the world generates a real strong trade wind from east to west that starts out in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Africa and is dramatically funneled down the coast of Venezuela and Colombia. This wind is backed up with an equally strong water current that zips along the coast and breaks off towards the Gulf of Mexico. It's historically a famous route that was used for centuries by early explorers, pirates and others to travel from Europe across to Central America and back across the North Atlantic. Even with the current against us and the wind on our nose we thought, why can't we do it? We've heard of other people making the journey from west to east, the guide books said it could be done but at only time specific times of the year, April and October and we really wanted to find a great spot to hang out in for the up coming hurricane season, so we said why not.
After spending a few months in dreamy San Blas islands we sailed off to Cartagena. We had a lovely sail along the coast and island hopped our way along with another sail boat called "Orion" from Napa, California. Its best to sail in caravans in this part of the world for security and support reasons. Cartagena was awesome, what a great city. It is full of history, forts over 500 years old surround the city, there's a very modern district complete with high rises, pretty beaches and all the modern conveniences and even McDonalds. We loved Cartagena. Kimberly even found a dance studio for a few days and had the chance to take private lessons. While in Cartagena we toured the city, shopped in all the funky street markets, did some quick boat repairs and had the entire families teeth checked, cleaned and a couple of cavities taken care of for less than 150.00 dollars. We are still just so impressed with all the great medical and dental care available down here. Not only are the doctors well trained and it's inexpensive, but you can get an appointment to see the doctor the next day. No waiting six months to see the dentist. We met a young couple from Florida who came down to Cartagena just for their dental care and got a vacation out of it too, wow.
We wanted to stay in Cartagena at least a few weeks, but shortly after arriving from the San Blas islands we heard of weather reports calling for unseasonably calm winds and waves for the coast of Colombia and Venezuela for a period of three days beginning within five days. So we quickly made a plan to take on 45 days worth of food, 100 gallons of diesel, 200 gallons of water, have both jib sails repaired, mend the engine exhaust pipe, change all the filters, dance some ballet, tour the city and treat ourselves out to a dinner or two. We accomplished all this and then some in five short days and actually couldn't wait to get out to sea to get some rest. The sail east went off without a hitch. The most wind we saw was 27 knots with an average of 18 knots directly on the bow and no waves greater than four feet separated at 5 second intervals. The currents weren't too strong and we even found a section or two where we had the current going with us. We had to motor only half the time and found that Amorita worked very well going to weather. What a great boat!! We set off with two other boats, Orion and another boat from San Francisco called Raven but we quickly became separated from them as they could motor much faster than us. We're still having major vibration issues with the engine. We never felt unsafe with pirates along this coast, as the Colombian Coast Guard has a strong presence on this coast and the U.S. Coast Guard was also around at times with a big honken ship. But just to be safe, when possible we would check in by radio with the Colombian Coast Guard letting them know where we were.
All in all our 400 mile or so journey went very well. Amorita was worked hard as shown by her bilge pumps coming on periodically and we're catching up on our rest. Aruba seems to be a great island and has a very southern California feel to it. Everyone speaks English, the currency is Dollars and Florins and every convenience you could ask for is here. Quite a shocker after being in third world type areas for so many months. God willing we'll be in this neck of the woods for the next six months and then off to the Eastern Caribbean this coming fall. This is a great place to come and visit. We hope this email finds everyone healthy and happy.
|March 31, 2005|
|Buenas Dias from the San Blas Islands!
First of all we apologize for the lack of communication. Here in the San Blas an internet cafe and an international phone line is as scarce as a Big Mac and a strawberry shake. Hopefully as we continue to head east our ability to communicate will improve. A satellite phone and on board email is definitely on our wish list.
Since we last wrote from Panama city, life on Amorita has been quite busy. These past two months we've filled our time with lots of lazy days of beach combing, adventures in the sea, entertaining Richelle's mom and Uncle Jack and Aunt Mary Lou from Chicago, catching up on school and fulfilling our dream of transiting the Panama Canal.
Starting first with the Panama canal, all we can say is "Wow." Our transit went off without a hitch and to summarize, it went something like this. First you start off with the paper work dance. This involves the use of multiple taxi drivers, meeting with the port captain and other rubber stamping individuals, having your boat measured and inspected, and finally paying the $850.00 to secure a date to go through the canal. Your next step is to hang as many tires as you can find on the outside of your boat to protect it from getting crushed in the canal. We were advised to hang four tires from each side of the boat. So after thinking about it, we hung 25 tires from our sides and maybe set a record for a boat transiting with the most tires. We may have looked quite awkward with all the tires hanging from our sides, but we felt confident that Amorita wouldn't get crushed if something went wrong inside one of the locks. In addition to making sure Amorita was in top shape for a hard day of work, we had to arrange for additional crew to come aboard as line handlers. Line handlers are the people who handle the lines/ropes strung between your vessel and the sides of the canal. Working hard and fast the line handlers concentrate on keeping the boat centered in the canal by paying out or pulling in the lines as deemed necessary. Needless to say, the line handlers are a very important aspect of making a successful transit. Fortunately, we had a great crew assembled with Richard and Kati from the sail boat "Precious Mettle" out of Southern California and Andrew and Arlene and their boys from the sailing vessel "Nueva Vida" from Canada.
The morning of our transit we gathered our crew, said our prayers, and raised our anchor at 0600. It was quite an exciting moment, filled with different emotions as we slowly motored towards the first set of locks and our last taste of the Pacific Ocean. Our new family of vagabond sailors at anchor called wishing us well and tooted their ships horns, as we slowly motored up the river. Soon our canal pilot, a professional skipper who was to be our mandatory guide for the entire fifty miles was dropped off via a tug boat and we steamed ahead for the first set of locks. We hope you all had the opportunity to catch us on the live web cam as we went through this first set of locks. As you enter the locks you're deep in a canyon of concrete and steel doors forty feet beneath the water surface to the north. Along for the ride in our 1,000 foot long lock, was a 300 foot steel cargo carrier, three tug boats and a small sail boat from Czechoslovakia. The advisors instructed us to tie up to the side of the tug boats and soon we were being raised as 26 million gallons of water were gravity fed into the lock. It was really exciting as the concrete disappeared and we slowly rose into the morning sunshine. Soon the big doors holding back the water, that was once forty feet above us, slowly opened and we slowly motored forward into lock number two and another trip straight up forty feet. It was just amazing to see our boat, this huge ship and several other boats sharing our lock complete this task of moving up in elevation 80 feet or so. This task was to be repeated four more times throughout the day along with a leisurely motor sail through the interior of the isthmus of Panama. We arrived just after dark and dropped our anchor in Colon, Panama the Caribbean sea. Thankfully no mishaps occurred during the transit, just tons of frazzled nerves for me and a completely exhausted crew.
A few days after we had said our goodbyes to our line handlers, we set off for a very windy ride east along the north coast to our present day anchorage in the San Blas Islands. The San Blas islands are well known for the native Kuna Yala Indians and the beautiful palm studded islands. This place is a bit like the South Pacific with its white sandy beaches, unbelievable coral reefs, and , . The island group stretches for over 120 miles and though we've been here for two months we feel like we've just barely touched the surface with exploring it. The local Indians are just beautiful people. Nathaniel has been having a great time fishing and hanging out with the local kids. We had some good laughs the other day as Nathaniel and a group of 20 some local kids chased a poor lobster around a reef. The Kuna people are famous for their local handy crafts of making "molas,' a type of tapestry that uses multiple layers of fabric and takes hours and hours of labor to create. Richelle and her cruising friends have been having a great time picking out their favorite "molas" to buy. We now have more molas than food on the boat. Nathaniel and I have been having a great time keeping the boat well supplied with fresh fish. The other day we brought home a 35 pound grouper that we speared deep in a coral reef. The snorkeling and beach combing is quite extraordinary here. Kimberly has been enjoying the solitude of exploring the beaches and snorkeling just off the boat.
As soon as the weather allows we will be off for Cartagena, Columbia. Our new plan is to spend April and a part of May in Cartagena. Here we hope to paint the top sides of Amorita, add some much needed shade to the cockpit, take care of taxes back home, enroll kimberly in ballet classes and just get to know this historic part of the world. In May we will wait for a weather window to carry us safely east to Venezuela where we hope to find a safe anchorage to spend the up-coming hurricane season in safety. We've found recently that our plans have to be set in Jell-O as they often change minute by minute. Sailing has taught us to be very flexible and patient.
We hope this email finds all of you healthy and happy. God-Bless.
The Amorita Crew
|January 3, 2005|
The children Christmas Caroling to all the other boats
Friendly Tucan on Isla San Jose, Perlas Islands
Matt and Nathaniel with a nice Sierra
The children Christmas Caroling to all the other boats
Christmas 2004 anchorage at Isla Casaya in the Perlas Islands
|Feliz Navidad y Prosperos Ano
Nuevo to you all, |
Greetings from Panama City! We hope and pray that you all have a had a very blessed holiday season and New year.
We've just arrived in Panama city after sailing down the coast from Southern Costa Rica for the past five to six weeks. We apologize for not being in contact sooner, but between Southern Costa Rica and Panama City the internet cafes and phones are few if non-existent. Its amazing how quickly one can separate themselves from civilization down here. For example, there are groups of islands right off the mainland of Panama City called the Perlas Islands. Some of you may know of these islands from the TV series "Survivor." The islands are less than a days sail from huge Panama City, but one can easily hide in the Perlas Islands from the rest of the world for as long as they wish. In fact it took us quite a few days to receive the tragic news of the tsunami in Asia.
We had a great sail coming down the coast from Costa Rica. For all you sailors and explorers, we think Panama offers the most opportunities for exploration and adventure over any other country we've sailed through in the past year. There are literally hundreds of remote islands to explore, huge bays, and estuaries to sail around and tons of small coastal fishing villages to stop and visit. If you're into surfing, diving, fishing, or beach combing this is the spot. At one point we were catching so many Dorado/Mahi Mahi, Sierra and Yellowtail Tuna that we had to keep the hooks out of the water. Could you imagine Richelle saying "no more fish." Another blessing we had on this leg of our journey was sharing the sail with Joel's brother Matthew from Phoenix. We gave him a complete exposure to the sailing life with quiet palm treed beaches to hang his hammock from to hair raising sailing. It was great having Matt along. He was a great ship-mate and a good buddie to the kids.
This past December 27th was our one year anniversary at being out to sea as a sailing/cruising family and we hope it never ends. On our anniversary night we spent a lot of time reminiscing over the past year and couldn't believe how greatly we have been blessed with so many wonderful new friends, awesome sights, and adventures that we will never forget. It would be hard to share with you all of our adventures and such here in writing, so you'll just have to come for a visit and hear about it first hand. But by far, the best part of our past year was the coming together real "tight," as a family, having heaps of "family time," and instilling a sense of wonder and adventure in Kimberly and Nathaniel. Kimberly the other day told me that when she gets old enough she wants to fly to Australia, buy a sail boat and go cruising on her own. Nathaniel quickly told us that he and his surfing buddie are already planning on buying a trimaran and going on a surfing safari around the world. Mission accomplished! Along with reliving this past year, we also thought of all the people who have supported us in their prayers and help. Thank you so much to everyone for helping us to chase our dream.
We're now in high boat repair, reprovisioning mode! We hope to be transiting the canal within the next couple of weeks. We're still having a tough time getting our new propeller and shaft aligned properly and getting the boat up to maximum r.p.m.s We found a good mechanic here in Panama City who will hopefully get us all figured out. Along with the shaft, were working on rebuilding the windlass, overhauling both the dinghy engines, trying to keep up on the exterior varnish and a bit of rewiring in the engine room. Its amazing how the boat repair list never ends. We were hoping to haul-out and paint the bottom and tighten up some seams in the boat here in Panama but we've got enough on our plates and will hopefully find a boat yard in Belize or Honduras to work out of. If anybody has heard of places to do bottom work please give us a shout.
|September 2, 2004|
|Greetings from Northern Costa Rica,
The sailing life continues to be awesome. Great sailing, surfing, beachcombing and more. We can't believe that we've been in Costa Rica now for three months. Time flies when your having fun. I'm working on Richelle to let me move the family down here full time, so far I've got Kimberly and Nathaniel on my side.
We're off tomorrow to Nicaragua to renew our visas for another three months. We probably won't use the whole three months, as we hope to be in Panama City by early November. We hope to transit the canal around Thanksgiving and spend the winter in the Caribbean.
Below is a letter some friends wrote, who recently spent a week surfing with us in Northern Costa Rica. Hope you enjoy it.
We hope all is well with you all. God Bless!
Joel and Crew
In July, Terry and youngest son Jeff hired a boat in Playa Del Coco to take them surfing at Ollie’s Point. The wave is on the north side of the nice cove at Portrero Grande; Amorita was anchored on the sheltered south side. They met Joel and Nathaniel in the world class surf break.
After that nice morning, and thanks to the wonder of email, one thing led to another and an invitation to return. Wife Chris and older son Todd joined Terry and Jeff in the opportunity to share a week in Paradise with the Millers.
We probably received our introduction to sailing on a better than average day. Leaving the harbor, with a minimum of verbal communication, the Miller crew cleared the decks, unfurled main and jib and we were soon clipping along, according to the GPS, at 8.7 knots. It all seemed easy from our vantage point, out of the way in the cockpit. That was just an early example of the skilled efficiency of the Miller family. From the simplest to more complex operations and chores, they made it all look easy. We were barely out of the port of Playa Del Coco when Nathaniel caught a fine sierra mackerel big enough to provide us each a good portion that evening.
The kids, including our 25 year old “kid” Todd, got along famously. For six days of surfing from dawn to dark, with a midday break, 15 year old Jeff vied with Nathaniel to see who could catch the most waves. (If truth be told, Joel would have to be crowned surf king! See the picture for proof.) Besides surfing, the four of them spent most of one afternoon building a stone lined, spring fed freshwater bathing pool. Another day, they were all dropped off on shore and built a raft from logs and other debris found on the beach. They then paddled it the half mile or so back to Amorita. An afternoon hike provided close encounters with howler monkeys in a lush jungle complete with fresh jaguar and coyote tracks in the mud.
The Amorita dingy with its little Nissan outboard sure gets a workout. Besides its daily missions transporting surfers and boards across the cove, and its use setting stern anchors in the middle of a couple nights, it carried a load of six up the river estuary. The group saw monkeys, various birds, parrots and a crocodile. On one occasion, the motor refused to start and Kimberly rowed the half mile to the Amorita. Todd chided her to row harder only once before an oar accidentally skipped on the surface of the water and smacked him sharply! Captain Kimberly runs a disciplined dingy.
One evening, Nathaniel transported Jeff by dingy to some Costa Rican fishermen who had anchored for the night in "our" cove. Jeff practiced his Spanish skills negotiating the purchase of 10 lobsters for supper. They provided a nice addition to the already spectacular dinner prepared by Richelle. She is a master in the galley and we were treated to wonderful meals every day aboard the Amorita.
On the way back to Playa Del Coco we anchored at another picturesque spot that the Millers had found earlier. The youngsters took off for some snorkeling and spear fishing before dark. Once again Nathaniel demonstrated his prowess at adding seafood to the evening’s menu.
Our expectations of sailboats and sailing are now very high! The Amorita is a beautifully maintained boat. The woodwork is gorgeous, the decks are spotless, and everything is in its place, thanks to the teamwork of our new friends, Joel, Richelle, Kimberly and Nathaniel. Eight people living aboard for six days was not a problem on the well designed K-50 under the benevolent command of Captain Joel. We had a fabulous time!
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|August 5, 2004|
|Hola mi Amigos, |
We're safely anchored at 10 deg 34 min north by 85 deg 43 min west, Playa Del Coco, Costa Rica. This is a beautiful anchorage just south of the Costa Rican and Nicaraguan border. The weather has been very nice, hot at times around 85 - 90 degrees, with high humidity and the water temp is about 85 degrees. Thankfully, we generally get an afternoon shower that cools the boat down and keeps the crew happy.
Our plans of sitting out the hurricane season in Central America is so far proving well. The international weather reports indicate the hurricane season is officially underway. Two hurricanes are currently brewing in Mexican waters. We'll take a quiet tropical anchorage any day over a swash buckling storm. Historically, Central America on the Pacific side has been spared the destruction of a major hurricane. Please pray that this continues.
Now that school's out we've gotten into a nice summer routine. We spend most of our days doing boat work, playing on the beach, seeking out a new surf spot, pursuing our daily fish dinner with a spear or just lazing around with a book. It's amazing how quickly time flies by. Soon our three month visas will expire and we'll be off to our next port of call. Actually, we're thinking of just heading back up into Nicaragua and then back down to Costa Rica for another three months. Hurricane season doesn't officially end until the end of November so we're in no hurry.
We've found our dream surf spot. Its called "Ollies Point," named after the legendary Oliver North who set up military training camps here for the war in Nicaragua. The surf spot is really isolated. You can only get to it by boat, so we have the whole wave to ourselves unless another group of surfers come up by a local panga. While surfing we can hear Howler monkeys in the trees, watch parrots fly by and catch fish on our way back to the boat where we've anchored on the other side of the bay. The only down side to this adventure is the crocodiles which occasionally slink by.
We understand the Presidential race is well underway up north and getting kind of tiresome for some T.V. viewers. We plan on voting by the absentee system. Being down here has really given us a different perspective on United States of America policies. I had no idea how much the United States has played in the construction or destruction of many Central and South American countries. When former President Ronald Regan recently died, the newspapers carried many letters to the editors describing him as a hero or other letters describing him as a war criminal. Viewing the United States from the outside is very refreshing and really helps to put things into perspective. But all in all, the United States of America is awesome.
As much as we can plan, our current sailing schedule is:
August through November - Costa Rica and Panama
November through December - Panama Canal
December through February - San Blas islands (Caribbean side of Panama)
March through April - East coast of Central America
May - Key West Florida
That much planning ahead really hurt my brain, but if anyone is interested, come on down!
We hope everyone is well and enjoying your summer. Thanks for the emails.
Joel and Crew on Amorita
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|June 15, 2004|
|Greetings from Costa Rica! |
We made it and just in time for Grandma and Grandpa Miller to come join us for awhile. We sure are excited to share some of our adventures with them.
Yes, we are still alive and well. Sorry it has taken us this long to get an email out to you. Traveling in Central America at times can be very challenging, especially with communication. Every time we pull into a new anchorage we look for an internet cafe or phone, but even after finding one, configuring the computer or dialing the phone can be frustrating. Our dream is to have an onboard radio system that would allow us to email directly from the boat, maybe someday.
We are now in Playa Del Cocos, Costa Rica. This is a very beautiful and convenient anchorage. Light winds, afternoon showers, and big sandy beaches. We are really enjoying Costa Rica. The anchorages are so beautiful, quiet, secluded, with monkeys, parrots and dolphins all around the boat! We've only seen two other cruising boats since we left Puesta del Sol, Nicaragua a month ago. We are enjoying the family time and all, but miss the kid boats and fellowship too. The weather has been great. A lot cooler and rain only off and on. Sunshine mostly.
We've had great sailing on average 15-25 knots of wind. Amorita is performing great and really is showing her stuff now that we've been getting wind. Kimberly and Nathaniel keep suggesting that we head back up north to spend more time in the last few anchorages we stopped at. That is the plan. We hope to surf, explore, and play for the months of June, July and August while waiting for more guests. This is the perfect location for you all to come join us. The surfing here is supposed to be one of the best in the world. There has been a red tide coming through for the past month or so. Really nasty, but it is starting to clear. The diving and snorkeling are supposed to be great here too.
School is almost out! One more week to tie things all up and then we'll concentrate more on Spanish, guitar, and piano. We are all looking forward to more play time! We've had a wonderful school year though and have learned a ton just by living from day to day and sailing on top of all the books and schoolwork!
We think of you all often and thank you for your prayers. God is truly taking care of us and keeps blessing us on our journey!
Hasta la next port,
Richelle for the Amorita Crew
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|May 17, 2004|
|Hola Amigos, |
We are currently at Latitude 12 37' 17" north by Longitude 087 20' 30" west, which is Puesta Del Sol in Northern Nicaragua, and it looks like we have found "our spot." During this time of year cruisers have to contend with the worry of hurricanes, and where is the "best" place to hide. This is of course a big item of debate amongst cruisers and especially for the insurance companies. But historically the Pacific ocean side of Central America and farther into South America are considered "safe zones" for hurricane season. We are right on the northern edge of this zone and still out of the major seasonal rains, so here we are.
As usual, getting us here proved to be another E-ticket ride. We were staged to leave El Salvador last Tuesday, but found we could not leave until Friday due to the river mouth being closed by huge waves. We woke up early every morning saying "okay this is the day," we'd pack up, say our good-byes and then motor out to the river only to find it still closed tight with huge waves. We probably could have taken the chance and pushed our way through the waves but it always looked just a little too harry. So finally Friday rolled around and we were given the go ahead by our pilot boat, a local Canadian cruising couple. So here we are, facing the same river bar crossing that just about did us in a couple of weeks back we've got the boat locked up tight and our life jackets on, we've said a prayer asking for protection and this huge wave comes up out of nowhere and just smacks us across the face. Several other cruisers who were out in their dinghies to watch the show reported that the wave didn't actually hit us until it had passed over the bow of the boat, and landing on top of the boom. For those of you who know our boat, the distance from the boom to the water is about 15 feet or so. Needless to say water found its way into everything, the bilge was the only area that stayed dry. You should have seen Richelle, who was standing up talking on the vhf radio take this huge wave in the face and get knocked back into the cockpit, Nathaniel and Kimberly were smart enough to squat down just as it came over the bow. Yahoo, life is awesome, live it to its fullest.
We really enjoyed our stay in El Salvador and found it to be very inviting and interesting to explore. El Salvador is still rebuilding from their civil wars, major earthquakes and hurricane Mitch that passed through a few years ago, so you can only imagine what condition the country is in. It's a very poor country, the average skilled laborer makes five dollars a day, try explaining to your kids that their weekly allowance is more than the average man here makes in a week. Tons of ox-pulled carts and dug-out canoes.
But El Salvador is on the rise; you can see it in the people's eyes. They are a very proud group of people and are fighting tooth and nail to make a go of it. We had a great time building new friendships with the locals. We spent one afternoon as guests at a local elementary school making balloon hats and animals and sharing a "coke and a smile." For days after the school visit we found the local kids paddling out in their canoes to come check us out and play on the boat.
The kids are doing great. This last anchorage was filled with tons of "cruising kids," so they were kind of torn on leaving, but the other kid boats will soon follow. Nathaniel has been busy with "slaying" fish. He bought a fishing throw net from a local fisherman. It was real fun to watch this old El Salvadoran fisherman teaching Nathaniel in Spanish how to use the net. By the end of the lesson a large group of locals and cruisers were gathered around offering their broken English and Spanish interpretations to make a successful catch of bait fish. Kimberly had a great time hanging out, dancing and playing games with a couple of Canadian cruising teenage girls. She found herself looking for quiet time alone after a few weeks due to her busy social schedule.
So now that we're here in the land of volcanoes for the next few months, we hope to enroll in a Spanish language immersion school. We would love to be able to communicate with the locals and bridge this communication barrier. So when you come down to visit, it won't be such a challenge on asking where "this or that" is, etc... Yahoo.
We hope this letter finds everyone well. Thank you again for all the emails, they are at times a blanket of security for us knowing that we have so many people praying for us and thinking about us.
Hugs and kisses to all,
Joel, Richelle, Kimberly and Nathaniel
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|April 26, 2004|
|Buenos Dias from Bahia Del Sol, El
Our current position is 13 degrees 16 min north by 088 degrees 52 min west.
Sailing has been described to us by some old salts as 95% of complete boredom followed up with 5% of complete terror, and that pretty much describes how our passage from Mexico to El Salvador went.
We left Huatulco, Mexico early Tuesday morning after topping off our fuel and water tanks, giving the boat one last fresh water wash down, stowing everything away and using a real land based toilet for one last time. A total of eight boats left this morning like a bunch of race horses charging out the gate. We'd all been waiting for the past several days for a low pressure system to die down allowing us to head south under favorable conditions. These lows create super strong winds through the Gulf of Tehuantepec and can make sailing this area very dangerous. So after the weather man gave us the thumbs up we were off.
We were not but two hours out of Huatulco when the fun began. Nathaniel was in the middle of filleting a nice Yellowfin Tuna when a buddy boat 10 miles ahead called on the VHF saying they had 25 knots of wind and building seas, 6-8 feet high. Just as I get the binoculars out, I see this long line of white capped seas charging toward us. I yell to Nathaniel to put the fillet knife away and that we'll finish the fish later, close the hatches and hang on. Within minutes we were in 15 to 25 knots of wind and blue water spraying over the bow. Normally this is a sailors dream but we were encountering a counter current and following seas which made us feel like we were in a washing machine. Soon we all felt yucky except for Nathaniel who gets hungrier when the sailing gets rough, "Mom what can I eat?"
After a day or so the winds slowly diminished and we got back into a nice routine of motor sailing along, doing lots of reading, trying to catch up on sleep and just enjoying being out in the middle of nowhere. Our trip took a total of four days and three nights. But the fun wasn't over.
Late in the evening on day three we were getting excited as land was finally sighted and our destination of Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala was now on the chart. We had two hours of day light left to make port, when a buddy boat called saying the port captain had closed the port. Supposedly the captain of the Navy was in a dispute with the local fisherman and decided to go home for the day. Well isn't that nice. Here we are sitting out at sea, it's getting dark, and the old guy goes home for a siesta. Being that this was our only choice for anchoring, we felt it would be safer to make a right hand turn and stay out at sea. So another day and a half later here we are in El Salvador.
But now the real 5% of terror really woke up. To get into Bahia Del Sol you have to go through a river mouth. Where the river meets the ocean this is called a bar. Getting across the bar requires you to cross at a favorable high tide with flat conditions and no waves. We arrived with a favorable tide but building seas creating a pucker factor of fifteen. This is truly an "E-ticket" ride.
We arranged for an El Salvadoran pilot, our guide to meet us at 1700 hours to help get us across the bar. As the waves went from 10 feet to 6 feet our guide showed up along with several other cruisers to help us in. The pilot gave us instructions on how to prepare the boat and ourselves for the crossing and we spent the next hour diligently getting ready and building plenty of adrenaline.
There were a total of four boats crossing that afternoon and we were scheduled as number three. This gave us the opportunity to see the path we would take through the surf but also it shook us up as we watched the other boats cross. One boat got caught side ways and almost rolled in the big surf. Finally it was our turn, so with life jackets on, Nathaniel and Kimberly sitting at the bottom of the cockpit, and the boat closed up tight we went for it. The pilot in his dinghy waved us to come forward in between the sets of really big waves and we gunned it taking the boat up to 2000 R.P.M's and probably 10 knots of speed. Our first big wave caught us just perfectly, crashing just astern us and rolling under our keel with a lack of drama. In an effort to cut the terror, fear or anxiety in us I started hootin' and a hollerin' "yahoo" as wave number two caught us on our aft port quarter and swung us broadside to the third wave. Fortunately we had enough boat speed to straighten us out just enough to surf down our last wave with grace. We were so excited to have made it safely across that I forgot to slow down the engine speed and we almost ran over the pilot boat. Once again we are truly thankful to God for giving us a stout, seaworthy vessel and for watching over us!
So here we are in El Salvador surrounded by lush tropical jungles and towering volcanoes. Our heart rates have dropped back to normal and we've caught up on our rest. We'll be here for a few weeks exploring inland before heading on to Nicaragua and Costa Rica. We hope all is well with you all and thank you again for the emails, we just love them.
Joel and crew
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|April 10, 2004|
|Buenos Dias fellow Kettenburg Sailors,
This is the Millers writing from aboard k50 "Amorita." We're currently sitting in Bahia Huatulco, 250 miles or so south of Acapulco. This is the staging area for the crossing of the notoriously dangerous Gulf of Tehuanapec. This is the gulf that separates lower Mexico from Guatemala and that annually receives over 200 days of gale force winds.
Our k50 is doing great, no major system failures, knock on wood. Our biggest hassle has been the creation of cold beer, refrigerators just don't work all that well in 95 degree heat and 90 percent humidity. The winds have been fairly steady, mostly afternoon breezes out of the north/west. But as we get farther south the wind has been coming out of the south/east. We've found our favorite point of sail has been a close reach in about 10 to 15 knots of wind. We run a full main and our 120 jib or the asymmetrical spinnaker if we're feeling up for a bit of work. The asymmetrical we actually really enjoy and we most often run it with the main down when on a broad reach or run.
We can't think of a better boat for us to cruise on, unless it's one that comes with a full crew and helicopter. We get so many compliments from other cruisers. They all say they really enjoy our huge cockpit, no steps to have to climb down to get into the cabin, the open-airy feeling with the big windows and all. The only thing we really would like to have is some shade in the cockpit, wow does it get hot. Does anybody have any picture or ideas on how to construct a bimini for our cockpit while still maintaining the classic lines. We need something soon before we all melt.
Thank you again to Steve and the Kettenburg website.
Joel Miller and Crew
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|March 13, 2004|
|Buenos Dias fellow Kettenburg Owners,
This is Joel Miller and family writing from beautiful Tenacatita Bay on the Gold coast of Mexico aboard our k50 "Amorita." Were southbound for Panama for the hurricane season and are currently three months into an open ended cruise lasting as long as the money does.
A quick introduction of ourselves; were from Northern California, Redding. Aboard Amorita are dad Joel, mom Richelle, Kimberly 12 and Nathaniel who is ten. Cruising has been a big dream of ours for many years and we are real excited to be finally underway.
We bought Amorita in San Diego, we found her on the internet and fell in love with her the day we saw her. Of course we weren't prepared for the numerous hours of rehab required to bring her back to seaworthiness. It was quite a shock once we floated out of the post "new boat owners" dream land. But with a years worth of solid work she's up to par and looks great. We are always given the complimentary calls of "great looking boat" when we pull into a new anchorage from other cruisers. Everybody loves the Kettenburgs.
During our year in San Diego we worked on many areas of Amorita and spent as much time sailing her as possible. The major items we addressed were; new rigging and overhauled and painted the mast, new engine and transmission, sistered several frames in the engine area and around the mast, new water heater, stove and electronics, overhauled the windlass, new main and cruising spinnaker, wooded the topsides and revarnished, repainted the hull and so on. It was a very busy year, but well worth it now that we are out sailing.
San Diego was great, allot of support from fellow Kettenburg owners, like k50 owners Tom and Sheldon. We enjoyed the Kettenburg regatta last June, our first regatta, thankfully we didn't run into anyone. Jim and Floyd at J. W. Marine helped me install our new Isuzu engine and velvet drive, they're great and all the guys at Mission Bay Driscoll Marine were very supportive.
Sailing down from San Diego was awesome, we took close to a month to get down to Cabo. There was too much country to explore and way too many fish and lobster to consume to rush down the coast. The weather was fairly benign although we had to ride out a late tropical storm in Bahia Santa Maria for four days. We hope to be in Costa Rica by Mid May and then slowly work down to Panama and Ecuador for the summer. From there we're not set on anything as of yet.
Contact us by Email. All are welcome to correspond if you so wish. We're not set up yet to email off our ham radio, so sometimes our response time is slow as we have to wait for another town that has an internet cafe. The Kettenburg website is great and was a great resource during our time of rehabbing Amorita. I have a quick question. Can anybody give me a quick lesson on the construction of our rudder? How are the rudders put together? Are they pinned plank to plank, simply glued or is there a rod that runs the whole length or width of the rudder?
Until next time.
Joel Miller and Crew
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