Two down, one to go. Going sailing!

It’s Thursday morning and I am happy to report that the solar installation is done, I think.

I say “I think” as I won’t really know if the charging system is functioning properly until I have an opportunity to see the input into the batteries in the middle of the day when the batteries are down significantly.  That way I can see if I am getting the proper output from the panels.  The rub is that I now have two voltage controllers on the system, one for the four 80 watt panels that the boat came with and another separate MPPT controller for the new 290 watt unit.  This combines to a whopping 600 watts, a lot for a boat installation.  However, with two controllers feeding into the same battery bank, there’s a risk that one will cut out the other if they aren’t programmed exactly the same way.  As I didn’t install the first one, I don’t know what the settings are, actually.   I had to put on two controllers as you can’t mix different types and sizes of solar panels and now I have four 80 watt panels and a 290.

In my last post I put a photo of the panel so you could see just how big it is.   Here it is again. Yes, I am not a particularly tall guy but that’s a BIG panel.6-29-15c 002When I was planning the installation months ago and trying to decide how to approach adding more watts to the system,  I was concerned about how a really big panel might look.  I didn’t want to make the boat look weird with a huge huge extension off of the back.  However, in spite of the fact that I did install a HUGE panel on the back, hanging out over the water, it doesn’t really look all that big. I guess that’s because Pandora is even more “HUGER”.  Here’s a profile of the new panel all done.   Now, wasn’t that easy?7-2-15a 009Actually, installed the panel looks pretty puny.  I guess, compared to Pandora, most anything looks small.   Well, at least when she is at a dock.  At sea, everything looks tiny.  7-2-15a 006Actually, it took two days to put the panel in place and another day or so to run the interior wires.   I backed the boat into the slip.  So glad I have a bow thruster.  Did I mention that I LOVE my bow thruster?  Though so.   Then I set up two step ladders and a friend helped me hoist the new panel into place.  That went fairly well.  No loss of life or panel. 7-2-15a 005The panel is bolted to stainless tabs that were welded into the frame when it was constructed in FL.  As there is a bit of camber to the arch, I had to fabricate some brackets to smooth out the front of the panel to take up the extra space between the frame and panes on the forward part of the panel.  All and all, there are six attachment points holding the panel to the davits.

I think that this is a pretty nifty install.  And, it only cost about one boat dollar. Imagine what it would have cost if I had to hire someone to do the work.  Three days of labor on top of the panel and controller.  Glad that I am a handy guy. Handy and exhausted though as drilling something like 20 holes in stainless isn’t for sissies. or sissies with a dull drill bit.   All it takes is a brand new $12 drill bit, plenty of cutting oil and elbow grease.  Yes, plenty of elbow grease.   Can you say “Brenda can I have an Advil”?7-2-15a 010This panel is not going anywhere.  Well, it should stay up as long as the boat doesn’t turn turtle. And, if that happens, messed up panels will be the least of my problems.

So, now I am nearly complete on the three major projects on the agenda this summer.  SSB installed… Check.  Solar all done (I think)… Check.  Next… The watermaker swap.  But that’s a story for another day.

Oh yeah.  I almost forgot.   Remember the scratches on the bow that I was moaning about last week?   Well, as they say, it could have been much worse.   This boat was swamped during the storm when a large log washed into the river and rode up on his mooring.   It seems that as the log was pushed up toward his boat and over the mooring,  it pushed down his bow and the stern rose up.  The rain filled up his bow and ultimately swamped and sunk his boat.  Here’s his boat being towed into the lift basin with air bags holding her up.  7-2-15a 001Not much to look at.  However, as it rose from the deep…7-2-15a 003And Brian, the lift operator, did a masterful job of righting her.    Oops, lots of water and oil drifting about.  The USCG was on hand to be sure that there wasn’t an”environmental catastrophe”.   You never know…7-2-15a 004The owner was none to happy.  Bummer that it didn’t happen in the fall instead of at the beginning of the boating season.

Compared to this guy’s experience, I’d say that I got off lucky with a few scratches on the bow.

And yes, it’s time to go sailing and Saturday I head out with my friend Craig for a week up toward Martha’s Vineyard.  That should be fun and it is good to know that I am down two and one more project to go till Pandora’s about ready to head south.

Well, that’s about enough for now.  Off to see my mother.  Aren’t I a good son?

Where’s Pandora going? And, a stop at Mystic for the wooden boat show.

It’s Monday morning and there remains a LOT to be done to get Pandora ready for next winter’s cruising.  In the next few days I hope to be done with the solar panel installation.  It’s a whopper of a panel measuring nearly 80″ x 40″ with a footprint of over 20 sq feet.  That’s a lot of solar and will total, along with the four panels that are already installed, to 600 watts and plenty to manage Pandora’s electrical load including making all of our domestic water production with the RO unit.   6-29-15c 002 I have already run most of the wiring but came up short of the total length that I needed to connect everything.    So, today I’ll add an additional length of cable and everything should be about ready to put the panel on the top of the davits. Hopefully, that will be done today so tomorrow I can begin securing the panel to the davit frame.

I am hopeful that my projects will be done by the end of the week as I am planning a week long trip with some friends up to Martha’s Vineyard and perhaps Boston. Brenda’s got plenty of weaving to do and some friends visiting so I expect that she will be able to keep herself occupied without me in the way.

It will be fun to spend time on the water aboard Pandora and that will help me become more familiar with the systems on what is a complicated boat.  Speaking of complicated, on a boat like Pandora, there is nearly always something that is not working properly and now is no exception.   The other day the bow thruster decided that it would only work powering to starboard and not port.  There are only two options, I think, that would cause this problem.  The simple fix would be a loose wire in the control “joy stick”.  I hope that’s the problem as the other option would be a solenoid, a somewhat more complicated fix.  Fingers crossed that it’s simple.

On another topic, we had a bit of a mishap last week, when a particularly nasty thunderstorm came through the area and knocked down trees and power lines. Pandora was on a mooring and when the wind and current were at their worst and the mooring ball banged against the boat, leaving some really nasty scratches right through the paint. When I saw the scratches I was crushed and while I knew that scratches were inevitable, it hurt never the less.  I was able to get someone from a local paint shop to come out and cover them with matching paint and a small artist brush.  No, it’s not a proper repair but will hold me until she is hauled in early fall prior to heading south.

The scratches were on both sides but worse on starboard.  Sickening. FullSizeRender (1)Here’s the repair guy hard at work.6-29-15 005The temporary repair looks pretty good, well at least using the “ten foot rule”.  Such is the life of a fussy boat owner.

And, speaking of fussy owners.  Brenda and I took a day at Mystic Seaport to visit the Wooden Boat Show and enjoyed a remarkable display of wooden boats kept to the very highest standards.   I doubt that there is much that comes from the hand of man that can top a beautiful wooden boat.

This boat, Blue Peter, from the UK was designed by a Scott, and built in 1930.  She spends a lot of time in the Med and can be yours for a day sail if you have the dough.  Check out her site.   A great looking boat. 6-29-15 019And, if Blue Peter doesn’t have enough room for you and your friends for a day on the water, perhaps a classic Trumpy would be more your style.    Freedom  would e a fine choice.6-29-15 0276-29-15 025Imagine taking an evening stroll down her side decks, G&T in hand.If you wear yourself out.  There’s always a comfy sofa.  6-29-15 022And, if all else fails.  Nap time. 6-29-15 023Last winter she powered by as we made our way down the Hawk Channel in the Florida Keys.  She is the definition of elegance.  This is a lovely video of her.   Don’t want to do boat projects yourself?   Hate varnishing?  Freedom is in a fractional ownership program where you can choose to spend your time aboard one of several yachts in the program.  So many choices in life.  Sound interesting? The details of your share are only a click away.

Can’t afford a share in the program, you can always buy this lovely sailing yacht and sit on the fantail and gaze at Freedom from afar.  Love the deck chairs. 6-29-15 032I am always a sucker for finely machined cannons and fittings.  6-29-15 015Fortunately, I don’t own a wooden boat.  Owning one that is made of “inert” materials is expensive enough.  These lovely bronze fittings would make lovely desk ornaments never the less. 6-29-15 016Of course, if a 100′ yacht is beyond your price range, you can always go for a model pond yacht.  This lovely model is complete down to the smallest detail including brass fastenings.   That’s of course, if you can overlook the fact that it’s has an electric motor.   Correctly guess the number of screws and you win a… well, I don’t know what you win, actually. 6-29-15 017Seeing this beautiful beetle cat brought back memories of Brenda’s and my early sailing years.  Our first two boats were cats.   These are still made new and have a healthy following by owners in the Cape Cod area.   They are sweet boats.  Check out their site.   Before the company moved into Cat Boat production, they supplied whale boats to the New Bedford whaling fleet.  They have been in business for a long time.
6-29-15 014This converted sardine carrier Grayling is always a head turner.  She was rebuilt in Maine a number of years ago.  Her lines are really sweet. 6-29-15 026Well, I could go on and on… Mystic Seaport is a great place to visit and there are always beautiful vistas to gaze upon.  And, of course, there is the iconic Brilliant, at her home on the dock at the seaport.  She is part of the permanent collection.   No, she’s not the gig in the foreground, but that’s lovely too.
6-29-15 018Well, that’s enough wooden boats for now and this isn’t getting the solar panel installed so I had better wrap things up and get to work.

Almost forgot… Beyond my run with some buddies for a week coming up, Pandora’s going to make the run to the BVI this winter and I have signed up for the Salty Dawg Rally that leaves for the Bitter End Yacht Club in Tortola on November 2nd.

So that’s where Pandora’s going.  To learn more, y0u’ll have to check back as that’s a topic for yet another post.

Until then…

Where the hell is the Mona Passage and is it windy? For inquiring minds…

It’s Wednesday morning and the 2015 SSCA Summer Solstice Gam is history.  We had a great turnout,had quite a few more folks than last year and made a bit of money for the SSCA.  Oh yeah, and I had a great time too.

Perhaps the best thing about planning an event is that I get to choose who speaks, when and where the event happens and I even get plenty of at-a-boys.  Well, I get them as long as it goes well.  And it did.  I won’t mention the few hiccups…

It’s been ten days since my last post and I can’t quite tell you why I seem to struggle to keep up with my blog when I am “on the hard” at home.  I guess it’s because I just have a much longer list of chores, like three day events, as just one example, that keep me jumping.

I can say for sure that the delay is not for a lack of time thinking about boats.  I guess when you have a lawn that’s nearly an acre of grass and elderly parents to think about plus everything else (and did I mention that I was helping to plan a three day event?)  All of these distractions do take one’s attention away from blogging.

In spite of all this, I can assure you that I still find PLENTY of time thinking about Pandora and what we will be up to next winter.

“So Bob, what are you doing next winter”?  Thanks for asking.  I am happy to say that the Caribbean is indeed on the horizon and our plans are coming together nicely.   I have also spoken to someone in our local congressional office and she is checking with the State Department to see if we can get permission to visit Cuba aboard Pandora in March or April of 2016.  We’d love to go there before it opens up to Americans and turns into a “Disney” version of Cuba, which it surely will.

And, speaking of the Caribbean and by extension weather, awkward segue or not…  I have evoked Chris Parker’s name (he’s the weather router that we use in case you somehow missed that) more often than anyone except Brenda over the last few years in my posts and it was a treat to have him speak at our event last weekend.  While his talks were terrific, the highlight of his visit  for me was that he stayed at our home while he was here.    It was fun to get to know him a bit in a less formal setting and to spend some time just sitting around.  And, in case you were wondering, I picked his brain plenty on all sorts of topics.

And, perhaps the most amazing moment from the weekend happened when I opened the door to our bedroom early Monday morning and overheard Chris, who had set up shop in my office to do his 06:00 broadcast, say “and the wind in the Mona Passage is…”

I have listened to Chris’s broadcast literally hundreds of times over the years as I sat in the dark, huddled in front of my SSB radio, focused on learning what weather was in store for us over the next few days.  It was always Chris’s forecast that would start our day.

So, to hear him “live” in our home was certainly was actually a bit surreal.   Here’s Chris in my office.And he had screens arrayed in front of him.  I understand that he has 5 screens open at one time in his studio at home in FL.  Amazingly, somehow he was able to speak with cruisers over the SSB radio in his FL office via the Internet from my office.  How did he do that?  Hmm…I had also mentioned in a recent post that Monty and Sarah Lewis, creators of the Bahamas Explorer Guides, were going to visit and it was just a trip to have them stay in our home for a few days.  It was great to hear them speak about what it was like to visit the Bahamas “pre-Explorer Guides” and to learn how they created these remarkable resources.

Here’s Monty and Sarah sitting on our couch.  Really nice people. And I love this shot of the Maureen, Bill, Melinda and Harry, two couples that shepherded us along the way on our first trip south a few years ago.  They joined us for dinner one of the evenings. Harry and Melinda on the right just returned from two years circumnavigating the Caribbean.  They have lived aboard for years and are such a “salty” couple that I almost asked them to shower and change before I let them into the house. (well, perhaps that’s a bit of a stretch.  I let them in, salt y or not) and Maureen and Bill, on the left, made the trip up from Trinidad to visit.  No, perhaps not just to visit us but I like to think of it that way.

All and all, a great weekend.  I will admit that I am a bit tired, but in a good way, yes, a very good way indeed.

So, next time I hear Chris Parker on the radio, when we are aboard Pandora in some tropical spot, I will think of him sitting across from me at breakfast after finishing his morning broadcast.

And, if you find yourself wondering “where the hell”  the Mona Passage is and what the wind conditions actually are… Well, just tune into Chris and you’ll know too.

Me, when I hear him say those words when we are on Pandora, I’ll still envision him sitting in my office doing his thing.

 

Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Women on the move.

It’s Sunday morning and it’s been too long since my last post. However, it’s better late than never, so here goes.

I find that when I am “on the hard”, well it’s “hard” to come up with something to write about…  Somehow, when I am afloat, it’s much easier.  I could write about cutting the lawn or perhaps running to the grocery for milk but that’s just as boring as, well, watching grass grow.

In the way of an update on what’s up, I am slowly whittling my way through the “Pandora-do-list” and getting ready for next weekend’s SSCA Summer Solstice Gam in Essex.

Speaking of the GAM, the program has come together very well and I am particularly excited about a late speaker entry,  Donna Lange.  Donna will speak about her upcoming voyage that will take her around the world ALONE.  Long distance sailing isn’t new to Donna as she has already been around alone once already.  This article from March SAIL magazine.  Interesting reading. 

She’s a pretty tough girl.   This photo is from the SAIL article courtesy of Billy Black, a remarkable marine photographer. As I write this Donna is aboard her 28′ sailboat, Inspired Insanity, headed north.  At this moment, she is off of northern FL headed toward RI.   Click here for her position.   Donna, along with being the grandmother of 11,  is an accomplished songwriter and singer and promises to add song to her talk in Essex.  If you haven’t already done so, you can sign up for the GAM at www.ssca.org.

Speaking of “girls afloat”, a few years ago I met a young woman, Sonya Baumstein, at the Annapolis boat show.  I wrote about her in this post back in December 2013. Fast forward to last week, Sonya rowed out into the Pacific from Japan to begin her voyage to San Francisco.   Check out this news report from Japan on her voyage and departure. Well, a week into this remarkable voyage, Sonya has had to call it quits and is returning to Japan compliments of a passing freighter and Japan’s Coast Guard.  I sure hope that she was able to save her brand new custom boat.   Knowing Sonya I expect that this will be a temporary setback as she is one tough woman.  Stay tuned.  You can check out her current location here.

It’s impressive to see what folks, and in this case, women, can accomplish if they are determined enough.

So, I’ll continue to keep an eye on Donna’s and Sonya’s progress in the coming months.

And, speaking of progress on Pandora continues, if a bit slowly.  The SSB radio is now in place although I still have to rig up a proper antenna, and I’ll begin work on the solar this week.  More to come on that.   Getting Pandora ready to take south in the fall is an adventure in itself and one that’s more my speed than a row across the Pacific or a solo run around the world.

Actually, setting aside the question of REALLY LONG DISTANCE VOYAGING, anyone that has spent time with me knows that SOLO isn’t something that I do very well.   I am not big on ALONE at all.  About the only time I want to be alone is when I am in the bathroom and even that depends on how long I am planning to be there.   “Brenda, can you come in here and keep me company?”

“BOB, BOB… Stop it right now. TMI”  Ok, perhaps that’s more than you want to know so I’ll leave it at that.

Never mind….

 

Guess who’s coming to dinner?

It’s Friday morning, very early actually as it isn’t even 06:00 and I woke up thinking about all the details that need to happen to prepare for the upcoming SSCA Summer Solstice Gam coming up here in Essex in just a few weeks.  In case you are interested in participating and haven’t yet signed up, I urge you to check out this link for the latest itinerary.  It’s our third year and it’s going to be terrific.

My partner in this event George and I are very excited about how it’s shaping up and expect that it will be very well received by attendees and our best yet.   Well, I do hope that those attending the event enjoy themselves as much as I will.  I have been involved in planning many events over the years but none have been as fun to work on as this one has been.

In particular, I feel like we have a “dream team” in place for this year’s presenters. I say that it’s a “dream team” because it includes folks that I personally want to get in a room together.  Actually, it’s this sort of outcome that makes me want to organize events.  They say that “if you want something done right, do it yourself” and I have.

Chris Parker, the weather router, who’s name has probably appeared in this blog more times than anyone but Brenda will be flying up from FL to speak and Monty and Sarah Lewis, the authors of the Bahamas Explorer Guides will also be joining us.   I expect that these three have helped more cruisers successfully visit to the Bahamas than anyone else over the years.

And, speaking of “helping”,  Bill and Maureen of Kalunamoo who are in their second season cruising the Caribbean and are currently on the hard in Trinidad as well as Melinda and Harry of Sea Schell, who are freshly back from a two year “circumnavigation” of the Caribbean, will also be in Essex.   It was these two couples who took us “under their wing” and showed us the ropes on our first run south just three years ago.  Maureen made a point of keeping me in check “down boy, down”, but in the nicest possible way, to be sure that I didn’t overwhelm Brenda, a self described “cream puff”, on our first run south.   And the ever enthusiastic, and very “salty” Melinda, was our own personal “cheer leader” as we dipped our toe in the water as newly anointed “snow birds”.

It was the four of them that helped make the most out of Brenda’s birthday that year in FT Lauderdale when they hosted a celebration for her.  She was feeling more than a little homesick that day.   We had such a fun time.   This is the post that I wrote about that great day and our prep for our first Gulf Stream crossing. 

“So, how does this all fit with the title of this post Bob?”  Thanks for asking.  I’ll tell you.

Well, one might say that it’s this very group, the 7 of them, that helped make our run south and to the Bahamas as memorable as it has turned out to be for me and Brenda.  And, as we begin to think about what we will do this coming winter it seems fitting to bring them together for a sort of “celebrity dinner” at our home while they are in town for the Gam later this month.

And, to fill out the roster, I will also be inviting the senior editor of Sail Magazine, Chris White as well as he’s going to be moderating a roundtable on the ICW at the event.

So, there you have it.  Along with the Gam, the dinner will be a great “event” and just makes my point that if you plan events you can make sure that they are just the way you want them to be.   And now you can see why I am so excited about what’s in store.

So, now you know who’s coming to dinner.  It’s it just so great?  Yes it is.

Guy’s weekend aboard Pandora and putting the pieces together now.

It’s Tuesday morning and raining.  Good thing, as we really need it.  Not that I want to cut my lawn but it’s VERY dry so a few days of rain are a good thing.

Today I head up to RI to pick up a solar panel to complete the installation on Pandora and make her fully independent of engine charging and able to stay functional “off the grid”.  I will say that her engine charging system is first rate and puts back what I use in very quick order.  However, as I don’t live aboard full time, I need a way to charge the batteries when I am able to turn on the engine.

Now that I have spent time aboard I see that her 320 watts of solar are enough to bring her back to fully charged as long as there isn’t any load on the system beyond the fridge, and that assumes that it’s sunny much of the day.  So, by adding another 280 watts, in a single new panel, she will easily charge up, even when “the sun don’t shine”.    The dealer that I am buying the unit and charging regulator from is Hamilton Ferris up in MA.  They are on the Cape which is quite a drive from here.  Conveniently, the owner Ham is going to be in RI today and has agreed to bring the panel in his van so I can pick it up .  And that’s a lot closer for me.  

I won’t have time to put  the new panel aboard for a week or more but it will be good to have it nearby so I can get started installing it soon.  

Anyway, enough of the “gotta do list” for now.

Last weekend was great fun as  good friend of mine Craig, came up to spend some time aboard Pandora.  He arrived late on Thursday night so we could leave early on Friday morning to head over to Sag Harbor.  Sag has some of the most expensive moorings of any place you’d want to visit so it’s good that our club has two moorings there and we picked up one.  Last time I visited there the moorings were $2/ft of boat length and frankly I won’t pay that just to tie a rope to my boat for the night.  However, club mooring available.  Off to Sag Harbor.

There wasn’t any wind at all so we motored the whole way there.  That’s OK as it was a very pretty day.  Sag Harbor is the only reasonable harbor in The Hamptons so it’s pretty pricey and not that friendly to small boats.  They are used to the likes of folks like the singer Billy Joel.  He keeps his boat Alexa there.  I am sure that he has many boats but this is a particularly nice one.  I have seen her before and it’s nice to see that someone with money keeps boats for a while instead of cycling through them like just one more disposable possession.   This is a link to an article about the boat that ran some time back. She’s a very unique vessel.

I had read somewhere that the average time someone owns a mega-yacht is something like three years.  They either get bored with the boat and want to build another, likely bigger one, or are horrified with the cost of managing a yacht and sell it.

Well, Sag Harbor is a beautiful place and it’s clear that folks there have the income to support some pretty aggressive “cycling” through expensive possessions.   Everything there is meticulously maintained.  How about this hedge?To keep a garden up like this would certainly require someone who keeps a “hedge fund”.  Get it, a hedge fund?  “Yes, Bob, cute but pretty lame.”

Look at the dental work on this home.  What a paint job.  The streets were lined with every manner of restored old homes and all in perfect condition. The plantings in this yard were stunning if a bit overwhelming.  Love the trimmed trees.  I guess you’d need a cherry picker to keep trees this big in perfect pruned shape. The iconic American Hotel on main street is a great spot to have lunch.  I say lunch as dinner would be way beyond my pay grade.   Check out the site, they don’t even publish their rates on the site.  I guess if you have to ask, you can’t afford it.  And don’t forget to book an outing on the hotel’s yacht. We visited a local cheese shop and got a bottle of wine for dinner and ate aboard.   What a beautiful place to spend time.

Overnight the wind filled in from the SW and we had a fabulous sail from Sag to Block Island, a run of about 35 miles Sunday.

Pandora really excels in not a lot of wind as this shot shows, if you can see beyond the glare of the light. It’s remarkable to be making these sorts of speeds with so little wind.  To sail at half the apparent wind speed is very good performance.  I had the code “0” and main up and, she was hardly heeling.

As we approached Block the wind had freshened to nearly 20kts and the fog dropped in on us like a cotton wool blanket.  We could only see perhaps 150 yards. I thought that I was going to have to pick my way into the harbor, buoy to buoy but as we got to within a 1/4 mile of the entrance we passed out of the fog as if emerging from behind a curtain.  Within a hundred yards we went from visibility you could measure in feet to being able to see for miles.  It was pretty eerie.

Once in the harbor it took quite a while but eventually we found the club mooring and picked it up.  There were hundreds of empty moorings but we had to pick up one in particular as the harbor master would have shooed us off of any one what we didn’t have permission to use.  I know this as it’s happened to me in the past.

We headed ashore for a walk and took in the sights.  I really like Block Island although it’s very different than Sag.  The property here is very pricey as well but the environment is a lot more casual.  There is an old hotel in town that is quite a spot. We also stopped at the “Oar” a well known bar overlooking the harbor.  The view from the bar commands the entire harbor. Pandora’s in the middle of the shot, just to the left of what looks like an island in the distance.  The dark hull.  This early in the season there wasn’t anyone there.   Just wait a month and every mooring will be occupied.  I expect that weekends are already booked for much of the summer at the dock.

This picture of Craig taking in the view pretty much sums up the mood of the weekend.  Rum punch anyone?Well, I had better wrap this up as I have to jump in the car and go to RI to get that panel.  Yes, the pieces of Pandora are beginning to come together and it won’t be long till we are headed south again.    

For now, I’ll take New England and the beautiful summer that’s now upon us. 

Looks like Pandora owns us now.

It’s Wednesday morning and Memorial day weekend has come and gone.  The marina parking lot, that had been full to capacity with double parked cars just one day ago, was virtually empty as everyone had gone back to work after the long weekend.

I have been unpacking and organizing Pandora from her run north and trying to sort through all of the gear that we had quickly stowed aboard as well as the stuff that the last owner had left.  As their new boat is a trawler, a big switch from a sailboat, they decided to go with an all new color scheme.  As a result, they left some of the custom touches such as throw pillows and linens which was great for us.

Speaking of the bunk, the mattress is not just a foam cushion as we have had on our other boats, but an actual custom made innerspring mattress.  It’s very comfortable.  They also left custom sheets, designed to perfectly fit the mattress.  I put them on yesterday and we are very pleased with how they look.  Yes, it’s a bit tough to make up a Pullman berth but the results were very nice.  Interestingly, the sheets are custom to the boat and were cut so that while there is plenty to tuck in at the foot as well as along the bottom third of the inside, against the hull, from the middle of the bed to the head, the fabric was cut to fit with no overlap.  Sounds like  a small detail but it means that the made up bed looks very finished without extra fabric bunched up against the hull. Yes, a detail that appeals to an anal guy like me. Last evening Brenda and I went aboard Pandora to move her from the dock where she was for a few days of unpacking to her mooring and enjoyed the sunset over a bottle of bubbly supplied by our friends Rodney and Genie for us to toast Pandora’s homecoming.  What a thoughtful touch.  Sorry they weren’t with us to celebrate the moment. She looked great in the warm light of the setting sun.  Yes, both Pandora and Brenda peeking out from under the dodger, looked perfect.  A very nice evening.   

On Thursday evening I am attending a fundraising event at the CT River Museum (Brenda’s out of town) and I will be offering up Pandora for a luncheon cruise for 4 in the silent auction.  I’ll be putting a few photos together, with a description of the outing, with the hope of making the offering as inviting as possible.  I’ll also put Pandora on a mooring off of the museum grounds so that bidders can see her first hand.

Brenda staged a shot of what the lucky bidders will enjoy aboard.   Doesn’t it make you want to plunk down hard cash to benefit the museum?  Well, it’s not all fun and games aboard Pandora these days as there are still plenty of things that have to get done to make her ready for her fall and winter voyages.

The next step is to install more solar panels aft, on top of the davits.   She already has 320 watts of solar on top of the bimini and it’s been estimated by the folks at Hamilton Ferris, the dealer, that I need around 200 watts more to make Pandora fully functional off of the grid and able to fend for herself on a mooring and “unplugged”.

There is room on the davits for about 300 additional watts so I will pack on as much as will fit and cross my fingers.  I can still put some additional wattage on if needed but I am hoping that a total of 620 watts will do the trick.  And, it’s important that there be some excess capacity to make up for cloudy days and it’s critical that we be able to keep the house batteries up to full charge as I don’t want to do anything to jeopardize, and perhaps shorten the life of  that expensive bank.

I will also have to address the upgrade on the watermaker so that I can increase the capacity to 14 gph from her current 6.5 as we do use a good amount of water.    And the SSB radio also has to be installed.

Yes, it’s becoming clear that Pandora owns us now I had better be sure that I do everything that she asks for.  Between Brenda and Pandora, I’ll be plenty busy this summer.

Memorial Day and there is a lot to be thankful for.

It’s Saturday morning and the beginning of Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial, or is it the official start of summer?  One way or the other, a detail.  For many, especially here in the NE, it’s the first weekend for many to get out on the water.

For Pandora, now safely back home, it’s time to take a deep breath after months of sailing to pull her from the water and get some needed work done, both maintenance and upgrades so she’ll be ready for the 2015/16 sailing season when we head south next fall.   And, of course, with a new boat, there’s always plenty to do with the addition of more solar, the SSB radio, upgraded water-maker and shall we say “so much more”.

However, as I sit here I can’t help but think about the real meaning of Memorial Day and those who sacrificed so much to make it possible for the sort of leisure that we enjoy, and me in particular, here in the good old US of A.

For this weekend, Brenda and I are in MD visiting our son Rob and his fiance Kandice for a few days and last night we watched the movie, American Sniper for the first time.  I have to say that it was a very moving story of one man’s sacrifice to serve his country and it certainly gave me pause for thought about what Memorial Day really means, official boating season start date and all.

In case you haven’t seen the movie, check out the trailer.  It’s a very moving and true story, of a real american hero, Chris Kyle.  He was a SEAL and the most lethal sniper in American history.  It is because of people like him that our way of life is even possible. While I was in Ft Pierce FL waiting for the weather window to open for our run north with Pandora, I rented a car and took my crew, one of whom was a veteran, to the SEAL museum, a place that I had wanted to visit for some time.

I have to admit that I didn’t know much about that service but knew that they were some pretty tough dudes.  Well, I was impressed with what I had learned but didn’t have an opportunity to write about our visit until now.  And, given the importance of this holiday and seeing the movie last night, I woke up this morning thinking that the time was right to do this post.

The ‘SEAL museum is in Ft Pierce, once the training ground for the SEALS, prior to their moving to San Diego, where they are now located.  However, given their history, it is fitting that the museum be in FL.  The museum is designed to represent the history and work of the group and it does a very nice job.    Their site gives a good overview of what’s there.

There are some very interesting exhibits with a focus on their “ethos” and what they are all about as a group and indeed, they do amazing things.   There are also special exhibits there commemorating particularly important milestones such as the killing of Bin Laden and the Maersk Alabama rescue of Captain Philips that inspired the movie of the same name.

They also have some great displays of equipment that the SEALS use.   They do have some great boats.  I wouldn’t want to find myself on the wrong side of this baby. And, this go-fast boat would fit right in in sunny Florida.  I am not thinking that they would hail me on the radio and say “Pandora, we’ll give you a slow pass port to port”.  Not likely. One of the exhibits is from the Maersk Alabama and they have the lifeboat, bullet holes and all on display. And, no, I couldn’t find a way to get a better photo of the lifeboat.  In case you haven’t seen the movie Captain Phillips, it’s terrific.  Check out the trailer.One of the displays was this nifty gadget for climbing up the side of a ship.   Much sexier than a hook on a line.   Just stick this magnetic crawler on the side of a ship and it climbs up and drops a ladder.  I can only imagine what sorts of gadgets they have that nobody knows about. “Yes, we have some very cool stuff and I’d tell about some of them but then I’d have to kill you sir”.  Ok, got it.  In the museum store, and you HAVE to visit the store in any museum, I was struck by the message on this hat.  Yep, note to self,  best to skip the hijackings.  The store has EVERYTHING.  They even had NAVY SEAL action figures.  The museum also has a great collection of armament from Desert Storm.  I had always thought of SEALS as a group that worked on the water but most of their missions actually take place on land.  I’d love to go for a ride on one of these across sand dunes.  However, not in the unfriendly areas that these guys go in. I can only imagine what it’s like to be deep in bad guy territory running around in the dark.  Better them than me.   I guess that’s the point exactly.  They do it so we don’t have to.
Well, if a picture is worth a thousand words than this video, one that you can see at the museum, is worth… well it really gives you a good feel for what the SEALS are all about.  And, let’s just say that their experiences on the water are a bit more exciting than what Brenda prefers.All and all, the museum was both sobering and inspiring so, to me, it’s fitting that I write about it to remind myself what Memorial Day is really for and what those in the service do for us every day.

Well done guys…

A-L-M-O-S-T home. OMG, it took F-O-R-E-V-E-R

It’s Sunday morning and as I begin this post we are less than ten miles from Montauk and “home” waters.   It seems like yesterday when Brenda and I thought that a long trip was the 100 miles from Norwalk YC to Martha’s Vineyard or Block Island.   These days, well a little different, when our cruising grounds take us from New England waters to less than 100 miles from Cuba.  Speaking of Cuba, I wonder if we’ll be there next winter.  If we are, I can say with certainty that we won’t be alone.

Well, I am glad to be (almost) home.  This run north has been a long one as my as my crew, Michael and Jim arrived two weeks ago today and I count myself lucky that they agreed to stay this long.  Actually, I am not certain that they actually agreed but being 50 miles from shore made tough for them to say.  “All done Bob, I want to go home now.”

This trip has taken a full two weeks in contrast to my last two runs that took a week or less. and were several hundred mile longer.  When it comes to sailing “when are we going to get there?” is a particularly big question and it seems like the weather windows have been much shorter this year.  Perhaps I’ll ask Al Gore.  He did, after all, invent the Internet and global warming.  “Al, what gives?”

The last two days running from Hampton VA  have been long and a bit frustrating as the wind, while plenty strong for sailing, was from nearly behind us, a difficult wind angle, particularly on a new boat where I am not familiar with the best way to sail her.   With the constant rolling and banging, it was difficult to move around and keep things in order.  However, there is a marked difference in comfort aboard this verses our last boat and having the hard dodger to sit under is clearly an improvement.

However, with a larger and more complex boat comes larger problems and we have had a few on this trip. Oddly, nearly all of them seemed to resolve themselves spontaneously or with hours of tinkering on my part.  “Did I fix the problem or was it just magic?”   Who knows…   Mysteriously,  a few of the electronic instruments stopped working and just as unexpectedly, started worked again.  I guess I’ll leave well enough alone and deal with them if they stop working again.

The plotter at the helm stopped working yesterday (don’t worry, I have two) as did the AIS (alas, only one) and after hours of tweaking at connections and wriggling into impossibly small spaces (Did I mention that the boat was wallowing and banging around as she slogged down wind and waves?) I was finally able to trace the problem to a single tiny brown wire under the aft cockpit that I had not reconnected securely when I was rerunning cables after the work on the davits was completed.  I worked all day yesterday trying to get the AIS to work and after setting aside the problem for a few hours I suddenly remembered a small junction box that I had not checked.  YES!  A teeny, tiny brown wire had come loose and “voila”, fixed but the AIS still wasn’t working.   However, it wasn’t until almost two hours had passed that I remembered to turn on the AIS again.  Hurrah! Now it worked.  Was it the teeny, tiny brown wire or just magic?   I was particularly concerned about having that system working as we crossed the busy NYC shipping lanes.  I wanted to see them and, perhaps more importantly, be sure that the big ships saw me.

Well, it worked and that’s a good thing as I was beginning to feel like Clark Griswold,  the hapless father character played by Chevy Chase, in the movie Christmas Vacation, when he couldn’t make his holiday lights work.  Just plug them in… I like to think that I am better than him.  Hmm…

As is often the case when I am running offshore, we were visited by a little bird that stayed with us for several hours, exploring, and pooping on, every corner of the boat before leaving as quickly as he arrived.  Here he’s (or is it a she?)checking out the little bromeliad that Brenda and I had on board for our trip after picking it off of a tree in southern Florida.   It will be interesting to see how it (the plant, not the bird) likes CT summer weather. Here’s a map of our run from Hampton To Montauk including the windy part inside from below Cape Hatteras.  You can see why I prefer ocean passages.  Pretty straight line compared to inside.  However, it’s a lot tougher to drop the hook for dinner and a cold beverage at night. So, as we round Montauk Point and enter Long Island Sound, I think that the only thing not working is the Engine hour meter.  I believe and hope that  it’s counting away but, for now, here’s to hoping that it’s a “covert counter”.   I’ll also have to decide if I am going to pull the speedo and plotter to have them checked as they both didn’t work and now do.  I wonder if it had to do with that little brown wire?

I guess that’s about it except to say that Michael and Jim have been great crew based on the way that they scarfed down the meals I prepared, won’t boycott Pandora because of the cuisine.   It’s funny how guys tend to descend into decay and will eat most anything, and enjoy it, when they are out of sight of women.

I wonder if Jim will shave  before he gets home.  It’s a good thing that this trip didn’t take a month or he’d have begun looking like Tom Hanks in the movie Castaway.  Well, better that than Wilson I guess.Perhaps I’ll close with a shot of the final sunrise from my winter aboard, as we approach Montauk.oh, one more thing…  In case you might be wondering if I just recycled one of my sunset pictures (and you know who you are) here’s a shot of Montauk light.  Sorry Rodney,  I don’t have a copy of today’s WS Journal to hold up to prove this photo was taken today so you’ll just have to trust me on this. As much as I am looking forward to being home, I fear that the lawn will be in quite a state from my neglect.  And as far as the run home is concerned, when it comes to ocean passages, they aren’t over till mother nature says that they are over.  F-I-N-A-L-Y…  Are we there yet?

Let the “honey-do” list commence Brenda, I’m ready, I think…

The last leg home. Really…

It’s hard to believe that the last time I was at “home” was the day after Christmas.  In some ways, it seems like yesterday and in others…  Well, let’s just say that it’s been a LONG time and a LOT has happened. 

While we were away my mother went to the hospital and then into a nursing home (a really, really nice one, I might add) from assisted living.  I am very much looking forward to seeing her in a few days.  She’s doing well too. Thanks for asking.

We surveyed (twice) and purchased (once) a new boat and moved our “old” one to her, I hope temporary, home in New Bern NC.    Brenda and I transited much of the ICW together twice and three times for me as well as cruised the waters of the FL Keys and ventured into the Gulf of Mexico for the first time.

We learned, first hand, that sometimes you can very clearly see no-see-ums and that you can ALWAYS feel them.  That wasn’t much of a revelation as we’d been boating for, well, let’s just say that it’s been a long time.  And, I won’t even talk about mosquitoes but I will say that the bigger the boat, the more mosquitoes that will find their way down below and go buzz in the night.  Note to self: Put in the screens.

We saw many sea turtles, caught fish in the ocean and saw an amazing number of Portuguese Man of War jelly fish.

We experienced, and not in a a good way, the fury of a tornado, up close and personal and enjoyed countless sunsets over the water, and posted photos of nearly all of them, my friend Rodney would say.

Our younger son Christopher decided to move to San Francisco and did it within a week, I think.   He’s very happy there, much to his Mother’s distress.  Our son Rob continues to work on all of the details of his upcoming wedding to is betrothed Kandice and works every remaining free moment on their new home.

We  cleaned out 8 years of stuff from “old Pandora” and packed into a rental car, several times.   WE drove thousands of miles in those rental cars and I don’t even know how many hotels we searched for online for at the last minute as we moved between home, boat, other boats, friends and family homes…  Well, we moved around a lot and that’s not even including countless miles on the water under sail and power, mostly power.

We found and (thankfully) removed ourselves from what seemed like every sandbar and shoal on the ICW, sometimes twice.  And, I never even used my towing insurance.  “Don’t jinx it Bob”. Ok, I’ll instruct the jury to strike that from the record.

And let’s just say that our wallets have been smoking for months now from the friction of dollars streaming out and into someone else’s pockets.

OK, OK, I won’t bore you with all the details but such is the featureless grey life of the retired.

Oh yeah, and we didn’t see snow the entire time.  So there.

As I finish up this post we are transiting the channel to pass the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel and into the Atlantic for our run to Montauk point and into Long Island Sound and home.   Not the most exciting pix yet, I admit.  I guess you had to be there. After days of waiting for the winds to turn in our favor, it looks like we will be able to get home the nearly 400 miles remaining in our trip with a minimum of fuss and might even have a good sail for perhaps half of the trip.   Overnight the wind fell away and we are leaving for our run on calm seas. 

As we pass from the protection of the CBB&T I expect that we will be seeing some ocean swells but I don’t think that they will amount to much and will certainly be much less than what we were expecting to see as recently as yesterday morning when I checked the weather.

Before I break, a few photos from our run up through Newport News.  It’s plenty clear that your tax dollars are HARD AT WORK here.  Now that’s a smoking wallet.

How about an aircraft carrier?  And I thought that Pandora was beamy.   It’s hard to believe that this girl can cruise at nearly 50mph.Of course, you need tugs to get everyone in and out of port.  And don’t forget, my crew member Michael is a retired tug captain.  To me, tugs have always seemed to be a nearly perfect example of “form follows function” and are particularly easy on the eye. And in the “you can’t see me” category, a stealth battle ship.  Hard to imagine something this big being hard to see.   Shows up fine here.And all is not not grey in Newport News.  Here’s Highlander, the Fedship yacht once owned by publisher Malcomb Forbes.  Now she’s a looker.  Oh yeah.  Almost forgot.  The speedo is working again.  Thanks Pandora, one less item on the “fixit list”.  Who knew…

I guess that’s all for now.  See you in a few days, really…