Heading south. Leg one, nearly done!

As I write this it’s Tuesday morning and we are broad reaching down the upper  Chesapeake from Chesapeake City toward Annapolis at better than 8kts where we spent yesterday enjoying the charms of this beautiful colonial town.   Here’s the view as we make our way south.  It’s a cool day with a nice breeze out of the north.Today we are on the final leg of our delivery from the Essex Yacht Club where she was on the dock for nearly a week as we packed her with provisions for our winter season aboard.  Of course, my little truck, better known as “Pandora’s box truck” did the heavy lifting to the club.  We cast off Pandora’s lines at the Essex Yacht Club on Saturday morning at 04:00 and picked our way down the river in the pitch dark.  On board are my crew including Jim, who has sailed with me from the Caribbean along with Shawn, who works for Chris Parker the weather router.  Shawn wanted to get some offshore experience and Chris asked if I could bring him along.  A fourth, Steve joined us to get some offshore experience as well, Steve has been sailing for years but has not spent a lot of time in blue water.

So, off we went in the cold and dark.  Cold enough to risk frost, the first of the season, I was warned.  Time to head south for sure.

Everyone arrived on Friday and after a short night, getting up so early, we headed toward Long Island Sound and Annapolis.  Some years ago Brenda and I decided to purchase a set of good quality audio headsets to keep on board and allow us to communicate from helm to bow in a normal speaking voice.  They  sure proved their worth on Saturday morning as we picked our way out of the river in the dark.  As I piloted, Jim stood up on the bow with a powerful flashlight, calling out marks along the way.  The headsets were great as we could easily hear each other in a normal speaking voice.  It made a stressful run in the dark much simpler.

So finally, Pandora was on her way to Annapolis, my first big trip since heading north from Antigua in the Spring of 2018.    It’s been a long road with many projects completed over the last 18 months including a new paint job along with other projects and upgrades too numerous to mention.   Although, if you follow this blog you’ve heard about all of them in excruciating detail by now.

And that would include plenty of whining about the “headliner from Hell”, a project that it seemed would never end.  Happily, the job was finally completed and turned out well, beautifully actually, if a few months late.  Chad, the canvas guy, ultimately did a beautiful job and I am really happy with how it turned out.  The problem is that he took on too much work and the guys he hired to help weren’t able to produce the quality he expected and so he ended up way, way,  behind.  Delayed or not, he ultimately did a great job and everything looks great.  I’m happy now.

As is so often the case, as the deadline for our departure approached I decided to tackle yet another job with precious little time to spare before leaving.  This time, to install a Hydrovane wind vane, which will steer the boat by wind only, something that I have wanted to do for many years.   Getting it installed in time for departure was a tough as I didn’t even order the unit, shipped from England, until a little less than two weeks prior to shoving off.  While it only took one week to get to me, which was amazing, I only had less than a week to do the install.

Installing the unit was pretty straight forward over three days but involved drilling more than few holes in Pandora’s transom, something that I positively had to get right.  There was a lot of head scratching, measuring twice and drilling once, well actually measuring many, many times but it turned out very well.

There remain a few details to work out with regards to how to best stow the dink when underway as the unit is now sticking out on the transom.  Not sure exactly how to resolve that but I expect I will find a way.  I was able to try the unit on the run down  for a while and after fiddling with the boat balance it worked quite well.   Unfortunately, I didn’t take pictures of it steering happily with a rooster tail spraying up as it sliced through the water at close to 10kts and I’ll have to remember to take some photos when I use it again.   It’s an impressive sight and pretty neat to see it steer to the apparent wind for hours at a time, using no electricity at all.  As my electric autopilot is very energy hungry, that’s going to be good for my batteries on passage.

We spent much of the first 24 hours of our run motorsailing as it was critical that we keep our speed up and make it far enough south before the wind shifted to the south and directly against us.  While the wind was behind us at about 15kts for much of Saturday the apparent wind speed is only half that and not nearly enough to keep our speed up enough to make it to our waypoint by the time of the expected wind shift from north to south, anticipated to be around midnight Saturday.

With more favorable winds, we would have set a course directly for Cape May at the mouth of the Delaware River but because of the expected adverse winds, we instead headed to a waypoint about 50 miles offshore and east of the Delaware river.  The idea was to head south and as the wind began to shift, adjust our course an follow it around, ending up on a reach to the river mouth up the river to the C&D canal with a south wind behind us.

This approach, suggested by Chris Parker, would allow us to move faster and be more comfortable, even if the distance is a bit farther.  Happily, it worked and the strong southerlies didn’t actually kick in until around 04:00 Sunday, about three hours later than expected, giving us the opportunity to make our waypoint and enjoy some fast if bumpy sailing on the final leg to the river.

We anchored on Sunday night on the DL just north of the Canal entrance and then headed into the Canal and Chesapeake City on Monday morning.  With an expected wind shift back to the north on Tuesday we decided to wait a day and enjoy the quaint colonial town before continuing south to Annapolis.  Main Street has some really lovely old buildings.  The view from the town green of the harbor shows how quaint a spot it is, with plenty of space to anchor. Pandora riding comfortably in this tiny harbor.  The bridge that towers over the village is a dramatic contrast to the colonial era homes.  I’ll bet there was plenty of controversy when that bridge was proposed.  On the one hand, it made the town much more accessible so perhaps it was welcomed.  With a few more hours of sailing in front of us, it’s a lovely day to be on the water and Pandora is happily moving south to our final destination, Annapolis.   

I’ll be in town for much of the week, giving a talk at the Annapolis Boat Show on Thursday morning and enjoying the boat show and visits with friends.   Brenda arrives on Friday and after that, we will head to Baltimore to see our son and his family before heading back to CT.

When we leave I’ll put Pandora in a friend’s slip close to downtown Annapolis for almost two weeks before I return to bring her to Hampton to prepare for the run to Antigua and the Salty Dawg Rally.

Other than that, noting much going on.

I can’t wait to see Brenda.

Let the migration begin! I hope…

It’s been more than a year since Pandora has been in tropical waters and I am raring to head south again.  I have to admit, however, that I am a bit overwhelmed with the prospect of how much has to happen between now and next Saturday the 5th,  a week from now when I head to Annapolis for the boat show, the beginning of my south migration.

I’ll be there for several days before putting Pandora in a slip at a friend’s house and heading home until late October when I take her to Hampton VA to prepare for the Salty Dawg Rally to Antigua.

I decided, last minute, to put a windvane steering system on Pandora and that should be here later today.  I have been thinking about this for several years now and finally decided to push the button and order it from the UK late last week.  I’m excited about this it as it will provide for a non-electrical steering option which will save a lot of battery power and also offer an independent rudder on case my primary steering or electric autopilot fails.   The unit I chose is Hydrovane and I’ll be writing more about that as I do the install early next week.

I have heard that the unit is very simple and powerful and will solve a problem of steering failure that I have had over the years and worry about constantly when I am on passage.  I’ll admit that loosing my steering keeps me up at night and memories of the quadrant linkage on the autopilot breaking while surfing down 20′ waves two years ago is still a memory that is all too fresh.

I also decided to order a new jib, something that I have been putting off for a few years.  My jib still has near perfect shape compliments of the carbon tapes that hold things together but the dacron covering is showing real signs of sun damage and I am fearful that it might fall apart on passage which would be a big problem.

I did consider doing something to stabilize the fabric so I could get a few more years out of it but everyone that I spoke to said that it just wasn’t worth the expense so new sail it is.

While we were in France Pandora was in Stamford having a bit of work done on her waterline which wasn’t done quite right when she was painted a year ago.  When I picked her up last week I noticed that it was mostly right but that the aft section of the boot top on the starboard side is still a bit off, drooping slightly,   3/4″  low from where it should be.  It’s hard to see in this photo but is more obvious in person than in the photos.  When I went over it with the guy who did the actual painting, he confirmed that one side was indeed lower than the other.   On the port side, it’s fine. Anyway, I had the boat launched, correct or not, as I didn’t have time to leave her for another week.  I don’t know what will happen, but I still owe a small amount on the original job which can probably get it fixed elsewhere if required.

My friend Dick and I took the train to Stamford to pick her up and headed over to Northport for a few nights.  I had not been there for many years and still recall a time when Brenda and I, probably there on our 20′ Cape Cod sailboat, visited this restaurant for dinner and as we left, discovered that we didn’t have any money to pay.  I can’t recall if we had a credit card as it was over 30 years ago and we hadn’t even had kids then.  Anyway, we were mortified and expected that we’d be in the kitchen doing dishes to work off our debt.  However, they released us and we sent a check.   Dick and I had dinner there and this time I had no problem paying my bill.

Northport is a lovely town with a huge waterfront park.  On Saturday morning the town was jammed with several thousand runners in a 10k run,  less peaceful than this photo suggests. We also had a very nice visit to the Northport Yacht Club and a beautiful sunset.The next day we headed over to Oyster Bay, another spot that I haven’t visited for more years than I can count.  It’s a beautiful harbor lined with huge homes.

Perhaps the most famous of these huge residences, is this one, owned  by Billy Joel who purchased it in 2002 for $22,500,000 and famously got into a years long fight with the harbor commission as they would not allow him to build a dock.  As of 2007 he had decided to sell the house and put it on the market for $37,500,000 but I guess it didn’t sell as Zillow says that it isn’t on the market and was last sold when Joel purchased it. While there are a lot of docks on the harbor, there has been a moratorium on new dock construction due to the establishment of a nature conservancy that took place before Joel moved in.    In spite of his best efforts for years, he was not able to get the dock approved.

On Sunday Dick and I headed to Essex where Pandora will be for about a week before heading to Annapolis.   She looks good sitting on her mooring in the harbor. My brother Bill, who lives in PA recently purchased a runabout and brought it to Essex earlier this week.  We spent a few hours running around on the river which was great fun.  In particular, we headed to Selden creek, a favorite spot of mine, as we have been visiting the spot since the 80s.  The only boat we haven’t visited on is the current Pandora as she’s a bit too long to fit in the narrow creek.

The spot is lovely and Bill and I had a nice time sitting and watching the world go by. I can’t believe that summer is nearly over and it’s time to begin the migration south to warmer climes.

I’ll admit that the whole process of getting Pandora ready to make the run is a bit overwhelming but I guess everything will get done.  However, last fall I was also pretty confident and we ended up here for the winter.   Hmm…

Well, I’d better get cracking.  Let the migration begin…

Turning water into wine. Why bother…

Well, it’s over, Brenda and I are back home after two weeks in France and it’s time to begin focusing on Pandora’s run south to Antigua.  Of course, today I’ll have to pick her up from the Hinkley yard in Stamford where she was having her waterline “tweaked”.   From there she will be in Essex for about a week or so of provisioning and on to Annapolis for the sailboat show and then to Hampton VA to participate in the Salty Dawg Rally to Antigua.  For those of you that are familiar with my work in Antigua, I serve as port officer there for the rally and am responsible for all the arrival events for the fleet.

Normally, during a two week trip, I’d have put up a few posts but this trip was much more of a whirlwind than we are used to, changing hotels nearly every day and covering a lot of ground and of course, trying to keep up with two 30 somethings, our son Christopher and his partner Melody.  “Hey mom and dad, dinner was great, we are heading out for a 10 mile run before bed”.

I think I need a vacation!

Anyway, the trip was great fun, we saw a lot and now that I am back home I can’t really get my head around all that happened and put it down in a post.

However, as this supposed to be a blog is about boating stuff, I’ll focus on some of the boats we saw and there were plenty.

When we arrived in France, our first stop was to spend a few days in Paris.  We decided to sign up for a two day pass on one of the water taxis on the Seine and spent many hours walking along the river.  The amount of traffic on that part of the river was amazing.  This photo shows one of the tour boats that we went on.  They surely aren’t lookers, not even a little.  However, their design is clearly dictated by function and as passengers have to see everything there’s glass on the sides and top for maximum viewing suggesting more of a floating greenhouse than boat.

Beautiful views in every direction along the river.  Tour boats aside, loads of lovely boats, or should I say houseboats, some private homes and many serving as sort of B&B mini hotels rented out to tourists.  In some areas they were moored three deep.Often quite colorful.Loved this blue one.  My favorite color. Wonderful details. Interesting dinks including this one welded from steel. Beautiful lines but she could use a bit of paint.  What a great spot to tie up.  Many were moored in locations that offered with a great view of the Eiffel tower, like this one.
This houseboat featured another landmark from France although now in NY Harbor. There was an active police presence and it seemed that they were always going full tilt and leaving a big wake.  This was one of their more sedate moments. You can get all the way from the English Channel to the north and the Med to the south via the extensive canal system.  This is the entrance to a canal that heads all the way up to The English Channel.  A good part of this particular stretch of the canal is fully underground beneath city streets.  I saw some ventilation grates along road medians.  I wonder if they are lit?   I guess there must be some sort of canal traffic control as I doubt that there are any passing lanes.
There is a huge amount of commercial traffic. And the barges, all low enough to fit under the city bridges, often sport a vehicle and crane to help the crew get around, two in this case.  His and hers?  His and other his?  This one was on the back of a houseboat and it even has a cover to protect it from the elements.  Not sure how they’d get it on shore though.
This upscale tour boat had particularly beautiful lines.  Love the stern.  The views along the river were spectacular and that makes sense as when the city was built, water was the simplest way to get around.
And speaking of getting around.   This beautiful runabout featured two passengers in period clothing and a film crew.  Wonder what movie they were filming or was it just a sophisticated selfie stick.   “Frank, FRANK, put that stupid thing away.  We ALREADY have enough pictures!   And, WHO is that creep in the back of the boat anyway?”
And, where there is water there are bridges.Each more spectacular than the last. And, some really nice fountains. Complete with fleets of small boats. And this guy nearby feeding pigeons.   Obviously someone they knew and loved. And speaking of love, a custom in Paris is to purchase a lock, put your name, and that of your lover on it and “lock” your love to something.   Some places are so packed…You can’t believe so much love, I guess. And speaking of love.  The whole idea of the trip to France was brought up by Melody, our son’s partner, as they were invited to a wedding and asked us if we’d like to come along.  Oh boy, was Brenda on that idea.  I was the official photographer of Chris and Melody outside the church where the wedding was held.  We lurked outside waiting for the crowd to let out. The reception, we learned, was in, no kidding, a castle with a real live mote.  It was the family home of the bride’s grandmother who was too infirm to join in the party but watched from an upstairs window.

As we moved often from one hotel to the next, we were able to try many places in our two weeks on the road and I do mean on the road as we rented a car and put a lot of miles on it.   Anyway, we too spent time in a hotel with a mote.  How about this place?  George Washington might not have slept here but we did. We finished up our trip with a few more days in Paris and spent time in many cafes, actually more than one each day.  So much food to sample. Actually, so much food everywhere and beautifully displayed. Places to eat aboard. Places to eat on every street corner.  Parisians love to eat outdoors.
So did we.  Loved the hat on the chef who served us.  Our last dinner together in Paris before heading home Note the list to starboard in this photo.  The waiter too it seems.  After all that wine, and it’s cheaper than soda so why not, I had a bit of a list as well. Yes, in Paris wine costs about the same, sometimes less than soda so why not have wine?  And there are so many types to try we had a tough time deciding which to have.

In Paris, there’s no need to turn water in to wine, why bother, as it costs about the same amount as water and wine is so much more fun to drink.

Well, that’s about all I have to say right now.  Have to finish packing for a weekend aboard Pandora, meeting up with some friends in Oyster Bay.   It’ll be like old times, not that the “new times” are all that bad.

We did just return from Paris after all.  Just sayin…

A mad dash to the finish and off to Antigua, I hope…

It’s been a crazy few months and somehow it’s only two months now until I plan to head south to Antigua as part of the Salty Dawg Rally.

I am happy to say that my repairs to Pandora’s fuel tank seem to be holding and I  have not seen any evidence of further leaking.  I didn’t expect to see any leaks on the “repaired” tank but did wonder about my port tank which had some evidence of fuel under it.  I sopped up the small amount of fuel from under the tank and it appeared to be thicker and darker than fresh fuel.  It was also quite red as opposed to a pinkish color from dye that is added to fuel not taxed for road use, further suggesting that it’s been there for years.  After getting the small amount of fuel that had collected under that tank out, no more has shown up.  Fingers crossed that there won’t be a problem.

Last week I ran Pandora down to Stamford for what I hope will be the final adjustment to her paint job, the waterline.   When she was painted last summer, the summer of 2018 actually, I asked to have the aft waterline brought up a bit.  They did do that but didn’t adjust the rest of the waterline so it ended up wavy and not the same on both sides.

Getting it fixed has proven to be a bit challenging, coordinating schedules between me and the painter, but it’s being done now.   I understand that they do a lot of work at the Hinkley Yard in Stamford so I guess he worked out a deal on hauling and storage while Pandora is in the yard as I am not being charged this go-around.   Having her out of the water for now is good as I needed a place to put her for a while while we are away in France and it’s better to have her on the hard when she’s not in use.

Anyway, by mid September she should be all set for a winter in the tropics, I hope.

The run to Stamford was uneventful and it was a bit surreal to see her on the dock with a backdrop of office buildings before we headed to the train station and home. While she looks pretty big in that photo, she looks positively diminutive in this one, next to the big cat. I was told to leave Pandora in a slip near the lift and she was out of the water before I even called the next morning.  Here she is on the hard.  I sure hope that they put more supports under her and also add chains to keep them from slipping out.  Just sayin as it is hurricane season after all. 

So, this afternoon we head to France, Paris and Normandy for the next two weeks.  I am hopeful that there will be something nautical to post about while we are there.  However, Paris, where we will begin and end our trip isn’t exactly  known for boats, except perhaps pond boats on some of those reflecting pools.  Fingers crossed that there will be something to write about.  If not, I’ll think of something.

Oh yeah, remember the problem with the watermaker?  It turns out that all I needed to do was a “hard reset” on the computer controller and all is well again.  It took a while for me to get up the nerve to do this as it involved exposing the computer board and shorting two terminals, something that seemed potentially “terminal” to me.

Anyway, I did it and the unit is now working perfectly again.  As the boat is now on the hard for a month, I pickled the unit with propylene glycol and will start it up again when I am ready to head to Antigua.  In the mean time, I ordered some parts to set the unit up to be run manually in the event that the computer gets messed up again.

By setting up the manual override I will be able to run the unit even if the electronics aren’t functioning.  Actually, that’s the way it was set up on my last boat before I took it out and installed it on “new” Pandora.  It’s convenient to have the computer to run the unit automatically but when push comes to shove, it’s nice to know that I can just switch it on.  I’ll write about that when the bypass is settled and in place.

So, Pandora’s on the hard and we fly to Paris in a few hours.  Sounds like fun.  Hope there are some boats…

And, speaking of boats, with Pandora on the hard Brenda and I went for a ride in our little red car the other day and enjoyed a ride across the CT River on the Hadlyme Ferry, a short but sweet run across the river.  After nearly two years, I can’t believe that it’s nearly time to head to Antigua again.  Let’s hope that there isn’t some sort of catastrophic hurricane that gets in the way.

And speaking of hurricanes and hurricane Dorian bearing down on the Bahamas Abacos, it does give one pause for thoughts about how things can change in a moment when Mother Nature comes to call.    As I write this Dorian has been upgraded to a Cat 5, the strongest possible, a terrifying thought.

As I have mentioned, I am involved in the Salty Dawg Rally to Antigua.  Well, the rally also offers a second destination, in this case Marsh Harbor, Bahamas and that is exactly where the eye of Dorian is expected to make landfall in the next few hours.  With the storm surge expected to reach as high as 25′ and sustained winds near 150kts, it’s hard to imagine much surviving such a hit.

I do wonder if this storm will be a repeat performance of what happened in the BVIs a few years ago that led to a switch in destinations for the rally to Antigua.

This photo of Dorian is pretty sobering.  The “eye” is centered over Marsh Harbor so I expect that we will begin hearing more about the damage very soon.   Fortunately, Dorian is expected to turn to the NE and possibly not make landfall but there remains a lot of uncertainty about his path. While Pandora is in good shape to make the run to Antigua and crew is in place, I sure hope that nothing happens in the next two months to change the rules like Dorian is doing in the Bahamas as I write this post.

Bests laid plans or not, when all is said and done, it’s all about Mother Nature as she sets the rules.

Finger crossed…

Anyway, off to France.  Hope I find some boats.


Diesel in the bilge? Isn’t it always something?

There are a few things that particularly stress me out when I am underway and one is when fuel and that is exactly what happened on my way home from the NYYC cruise last week.

I had been noticing some time now, that occasionally noticed a small amount of diesel was somehow accumulating in the bilge.

In the “olden days”, it was said that “all roads lead to Rome” and in a boat, well, just about everything ultimately ends up in the bilge and that’s exactly what happened aboard Pandora last week.

The last two days of my participation in the New York Yacht Club cruise and run home meant motor-sailing into snotty conditions and Pandora did a good deal of pounding.   That was particularly the case when I headed into the wind on my way home on Sunday with waves that were pretty choppy with west wind opposing a flooding current.

That day I noticed, as I had the prior day, that there was an increasing amount of diesel in the bilge combined with a really strong fuel odor.

I sopped up the residue in the bottom of the bilge with some absorbent pads and spent time tearing up hatch lockers and areas where I could access the bilge, trying to locate the source of the leak.  After several hours I still could not find the source except that it was probably coming from somewhere aft.

By the time I got Pandora to a mooring at the Essex Yacht Club, where she would be staying for a week or two, there was what appeared to be a few cups of diesel in the bilge.   I again mopped up the fuel with some “diapers”, buttoned up the boat and went home.

The next morning I returned and was alarmed that there was quite a bit of fuel, more than a few inches that had accumulated.  What a mess.

The only thing that I could think of was that one of the three 50 gallon fuel tanks, most likely the one under the cabin sole, had somehow sprung a leak.  I decided that the only option was to take all the remaining fuel out of the tank, almost 30 gallons, and put it into temporary Jerry cans.

I also pumped out all the fuel from the bilge and was alarmed that there turned out to be more than I expected, nearly seven gallons, all having leaked into the bilge overnight.  I am so glad that it didn’t pump overboard via the bilge pump which it didn’t do because I had packed a number of absorbent pads in the bilge, which held down the float switch on the pump.

Pulling up the floor boards was simpler than I had expected, exposing the entire tank.  It looked huge to me.  I could not find any obvious source that would lead to the loss of all that fuel.  I wondered if it was a loose hose or perhaps that there was an abrasion in a fuel line that was hidden somewhere out of sight.  A loose hose clamp?  What about the inspection port with all those screws?  None of the above. So, out came the tank.  Removing it took several hours but it wasn’t all that difficult and all the hoses came off fairly easily, lubricated by fuel, I guess.

Here’s what I found under the tank.  Yuck!  Clearly there had been a leak for some time. There was a nasty corroded spot on the bottom of the tank, located directly over the mess of fuel and crud on the hull.  It seems that someone had left a stainless screw under the tank when the boat was built and after 12 years electrolysis did it’s work and “ate” a hole in the aluminum tank.   Stainless screws, being a “noble metal” always wins over aluminum which is less noble and easily corroded.  Something as simple as a dropped screw in 2007, when Pandora was built, was all that it took. That combined with the fact that the tank was resting directly on the hull itself caused the problem.   The proper installation of the tank would be to have it resting on neoprene strips or something else to isolate it from direct contact with the fiberglass hull.  This way it would have been isolated from any abrasion, salt or errant fastenings that might be left under the tank.

I called around and only found one company that would consider welding a repair to the hole in the tank and that would have required me doing exhaustive cleaning to remove every trace of fuel and vapors from the tank.   Welding and fuel vapors are a dangerous combination, as you might imagine.

Finally, I settled on a body shop that does a lot of work with special adhesives, in this case, an epoxy made by 3M that is used to glue aluminum auto components together, something that is becoming more common in car assembly.   This material/glue is made specifically for aluminum and is also fuel resistant.   I neglected to take a shot of the finished repair but it involved grinding the surface, removing all oxidation, fitting an aluminum patch and liberally attaching it with epoxy.   Let’s hope it holds.

After the new patch was secured, the fixer guy, and he was a really big Russian fixer guy had at it.  I’ll call him Ivan as he looks exactly like you might imagine an Ivan to look, fixed the leak and after the epoxy to set, pressure tested the tank to be sure that there weren’t any pinhole leaks that might get bigger over time.  Unfortunately, in the process of pressurizing the tank,  he put in so much pressure that the tank bulged in a way that made me wonder if it would even fit back in the bilge.  At least we can be sure that it doesn’t leak.

“No problem” replied Ivan, who clearly subscribed to the “if it doesn’t work, get a bigger hammer” approach to life.  He proceeded to get a 2×6 plank, lay it on the tank and pound on it alarmingly and repetitively with a huge cinder block.  The sound was deafening and the violence startling.  It was pretty clear that Ivan wasn’t someone you’d want to mess with and I’ll admit that I found myself wondering, seeing how easily he seemed to feel slamming the block on the tank,  if that block has ever come into play if someone tried to leave his shop without paying.

Massive crashing sounds aside, the tank was only bulging a little bit after Ivan was finished.  However, I decided that I needed to find a “kinder and gentler” way to reshape things and did so with some big clamps and boards at home.  After a while, the tank looked pretty flat so I was happy.

In order to be sure that there aren’t future corrosion problems with the tank laying directly on the hull, I ordered some neoprene strips from McMaster Carr, the industrial supply company, and installed four strips on the bottom of the tank as well as anywhere that the tank was going to touch something. After putting all the hoses back in place, I reinstalled the floor braces, fiberglass “I” beams across the tank.  These are pressed down on additional neoprene gaskets to ensure that the tank was not going to move around in rough conditions.

I reattached all the hoses and, well, all done. After putting the cabin sole back in place, I siphoned all the fuel back into the tank, less the 7 gallons, mixed with nasty bilge water, that I took from the bilge and voila, good as new.   Actually, I am hoping better than new.

I’ll admit that I am now wondering if a similar fate awaits the two other tanks, located under the port and starboard settees but I really hate the idea of pulling them out right now.  We will see if I live to regret that decision.  I expect that I will be thinking of possible leaks when I am 500 miles offshore on my way to Antigua in a few months.

So there you have it, disaster avoided.  Thank goodness that I wasn’t in the middle of nowhere and loosing a full tank of fuel.  That would not have been a good thing.

Next, the watermaker.  With parts coming in the next few days, I can tackle this and hopefully get it running again.

Diesel in the bilge, watermaker on the fritz.  Yes, when it comes to boats, it is indeed, always something.

The NYYC cruise, 163rd edition. Been there done that…

Well, it’s over, the 163rd cruise of the New York Yacht Club, my first, and I’m back home.  No, I haven’t joined the club as my involvement in the cruise was as a “hanger on” or tender to one of the race boats, Alix.  Here’s Alix before one of the races below.  Not much of an action shot, you say?  Perhaps not as I had to skedaddle to the next anchorage each day to be sure that I was able to get a good spot so they could tie up with me at the end of racing each day.Along with a good supply of moral and anchoring support, I also supplied water for the crew to shower aboard Pandora, well, at least until my water-maker stopped functioning about midway through the week.  Of course, that was in addition to an occasional rum punch and Klondike ice cream bar for the crew.  However, expect that the showers trumped everything else.  Nothing like a shower for the crew after a day of racing on the water but somehow ice cream aboard Pandora seemed to be a close second.

The whole experience was a lot of fun but, I’ll admit that it sometimes felt a bit like a “forced march” as the fleet made it’s way from harbor to harbor on a tight schedule and ALWAYS into the wind.  Isn’t that always the way, the wind on the nose?  To me, cruising on a tight schedule always feels like “you can’t get there from here”.

In only one week we covered a lot of ground, moving every day but one, beginning and ending at their clubhouse, Harbor Court in Newport, the NYYC “summer home” overlooking Newport Harbor.  It’s a spectacular venue.  Day one took us to Cuttyhunk Harbor, a place that holds a very special history for me as I have have visited it with every one of our boats, beginning way back in the early 80s on our 20′ catboat Tao.  It was also a spot I visited with my boys and dad a few years before he died. It was the last time he was aboard and a very special time for us all.  Here’s Dad,  Rob and Chris photographed with me at the highest point on the island.  This photo always makes me feel a bit teary.The crew of Pandora and Alix shared some of the famous Cuttyhunk oysters on in the harbor washed down by some “Pandora imported” Caribbean rum fueled rum punch. Our next stop was New Bedford, a somewhat gritty, but in a nice way, fishing port.  This is the view from the observation deck of the New Bedford Whaling Museum, where we had a terrific cocktail party. The food and drink flowed liberally.
As I entered the harbor earlier in the day, I was passed by Columbia, the reproduction of a Grand Banks fishing schooner built in Panama City FL.  I was aboard her for a tour in Antigua two winters ago.  She’s a wonderful yacht.  I wrote about her in this post. She’s even more impressive up close after her most recent refit. I particularly love this angle.  What beautiful lines. The next day, and yes, we were only there for one day, was to head to Edgartown on Martha’s Vineyard.  Happily, we spent two days there, our only “lay day”.

This was where we had a reception, overlooking the harbor.  It seems that this “double lot” is owned by a NYYC member.  When Walter Cronkite was alive, he was his next door neighbor.   Nice digs. Really, really nice digs.   How about that double nice boat house?Pandora was on a mooring directly out in front of the place, tied up with Brilliant, another boat on the cruise.  Her owners also happen to be members of the Essex Yacht Club.   There family has deep ties to Edgartown, deep enough to snag a mooring in the most perfect spot imaginable it seems. We took a Edgartown Yacht Club launch to the reception.  There’s Pandora rafted with Brilliant on a mooring directly beyond the boathouse and to the right. Perfect location, right?It was a lovely summer evening and a perfect spot to survey the harbor.  Jacket and “Nantucket red” slacks required.   I now have both shorts and slacks in that particular color. The next day was a “lay day” so we could enjoy Edgartown, one of my favorite spots to visit before the “march” got underway again.  Interestingly, Pandora’s “sistership”, hull #2 of three, has a slip there for part of the summer.  She is owned by two attorneys from PA, one keeps a home in Edgartown and the other near three mile harbor, in the Hamptons.   She’s the same design as Pandora but different in many ways, including a much smaller hard dodger and none of the cruising gear that is so important on Pandora.  She is perfectly maintained.  I wish my decks were as perfect as hers.

I understand that she will be in 3 mile harbor later this season and I hope to raft up to her for an evening.  I expect that will be the very first time that two of the three boats will ever have been together.  I wonder if I can arrange for #1 to be there too?  That would be amazing.   Hmm…Craig and I took a walking tour of some of the historic homes in Edgartown, arranged through the Carnegie library, the headquarters of the Martha’s Vineyard Preservation Trust that oversees a number of historic sites on the island.  They do wonderful work.  The background of the Carnegie is quite interesting as the building was one of thousands of libraries funded by the philanthropists in the early 20th century.

We visited a number of spots on our 90 min walking tour.  I have always admired this particular one, once owned by a prominent physician and now part of the trust.   I can not think of any porch that I’d rather spend time on than this one.  I took a long walk around town on my own.  There are so many lovely homes and beautiful gardens to admire.How about this ivy covered garage.   The gardens at many of the homes make it clear that they are not managed by their owners, who probably get plenty of “exercise” writing checks. Our next stop was Tarpaulin Cove on the west side of Naushon.   This cove, more of an “indent” on the eastern side of the island, was once a popular spot for schooners to anchor and wait for the tides around West Chop, Martha’s Vineyard, a place where the tide runs hard.    It is very secluded and while it’s private, as part of the Forbes Family Trust that controls the island, you can enjoy the long sandy beaches that rim the cove for nearly a mile.

There is only one home visible from the cove, and it is a lovely one at that.
And, of course, a charming lighthouse. Many of the boats on the cruise stopped in the cove for the night.Some of the yachts on the cruise were remarkable including this lovely yawl, Bolero.  She was built at the Nevins Yard in City Island, launched in 1949 for the Brown family.  The same Brown University family and once owners of the NYYC clubhouse, Harbor Court, in Newport.  This is indeed a famous yacht.  I met her current owner Ed, at a cocktail party the night we were in Tarpaulin Cove aboard Enticer, this beautiful 1935 Trumpy.    We spoke about Bolero and he offered me a tour which I enjoyed when we returned to Newport.  I’ll write about that visit in a subsequent post.  Man, what a boat. Anyway, back to Enticer.  Notice that there is a boat rafted up to her.  That’s Onawa, one of six identical boats built at the Abeking & Rasmussen yard in Germany.  The design was the original model for the America’s Cup 12 meter rule for members of the NYYC.    Onawa was launched in 1928 for Cameron Forbes of Boston, once an owner of the island where we were anchored.  The island is still in the Forbes family.

Both of these boats, Enticer and Onawa, are part of a “timeshare” program that you can “buy” for $200,000 and use them for a prescribed amount of time each year.  Interested?  Check out this link and she could be yours, sort of.

I was aboard Enticer a few years ago at the Wooden Boat Show and wrote about her in this post.

So, cocktails aboard Enticer… What an experience and quite different than when I saw her at the Wooden Boat Show.   On this visit my tender was “valet parked” by one of her crew.  They held my painter when I pulled up to her boarding platform and then she was whisked away only to be returned when I was ready to depart.   “Welcome aboard Enticer, would you care for a drink?”  Indeed, what an experience. Some of the crew of Alix, including my friend Craig  David, the owner and skipper of Alix, David, to the left. Onawa, rafted alongside, was open for tours.  I met her captain Barb and we talked about the history of the yacht.   She was headed to Nantucket for a charter the next week and there was some discussion about my helping out as crew.  I would have loved that but my schedule was too tight.  Alas, the busy life of a retired guy.  So much for the lazy days of summer.   Had I been available, would I have been invited?  I guess I’ll never know.   I really hope to visit Onawa again and take some proper photos for a post.   Until then, follow this link for some background about this amazing boat.The next morning the sun rose, framing one of the beautiful carbon cats that were on the cruise.  This one had passed me a few days earlier doing nearly 20kts.
A short while later Bolero sailed majestically out of the harbor, headed back to Newport.  Now, that’s another boat I hope to sail on someday.  Her captain, Casey, told me that she will be in the Caribbean this winter.   I will too.   Hmm…
Unlike Bolero, my run back to Newport wasn’t all that great, motorsailing into the wind.  The wrap-up dinner for the cruise was held, as was the opening night, at Harbor Court.  A cocktail party followed by a lobster dinner with all the trimmings.  Dinner was brought out family style by a line of waiters holding platters dramatically high over their heads, marching along in a line.  It was quite a spectacle and plenty tasty. Of course, each place had a printed menu in the unlikely event that you did not know what you were eating or perhaps forgot why you were there.  The Key Lime Tartlet, complete with some sort of crunchy green thing on top, “how dey do dat?”  lived up to it’s name.  Unfortunately, I was limited to only one piece.  Never the less, yum!!!So, there you have it a blow by blow, or as my father used to say “perhaps more than you want to know about penguins”, of the 163rd edition of the New York Yacht Club cruise and I was there.  There of course, largely due to the generous support of my “sponsor” David, surely helped along by the fact that he and his crew needed a shower.   Happy to oblige David.  Thanks for having me along.

Oh, just so you don’t think that the week was all fun and games, as I made my way back to Newport one of my fuel tanks started to leak and ended up spilling nearly 10 gallons of diesel into the bilge.  After hours of searching I was able to trace the leak to my aft 50 gallon fuel tank ripped up much of the cabin sole and removed it a few days ago.    It seems that someone left a stainless screw loose under the aluminum tank when Pandora was built in 2007.  Well, over the years the stainless screw,  a more “nobel” metal than the aluminum tank it was touching, ate a small hole in the bottom of the tank as a result of electrolysis.

Well, the tank is now out for repair  and I’ll put it back in tomorrow followed by  all the fuel I siphoned out of the tank into jugs.  Hopefully, the tank will be ok and not leak.  I will say that I did notice a small amount of fuel in the bilge from time to time and never thought much of it but I guess that the bouncy ride back to Newport and home must have jostled the tank enough to shift the screw and open up the hole just enough to substantially increase the leak.   What a mess.  The good news is that I wasn’t 500 miles from shore when it happened.

More to come on that project.  Oh yeah, and the repair of the watermaker.  It’s always something.  As they say, BOAT.  Break Out Another Thousand.

So, to close on a more serene note, well more serene than 10 gallons of diesel in the bilge, here’s the evening scene that greeted me as I headed up the CT River and Essex, where Pandora will be for about a week until she heads to Stamford for some paint work.  Once moored, Brenda joined me for cocktails as we enjoyed the growing twilight over the marshes.

A good week, except, of course, 10 gallons of diesel…

Nope, all good.

Tender too…but not that tender.

I headed back to Newport on Saturday to participate in the week long New York Yacht Club cruise with some friends.   My friend Craig has been crewing for David aboard Alix on the cruise for a number of years and this year, knowing that Brenda was away this week at a workshop, suggested to David that I might come along and help out, perhaps as tender.

David’s boat is 40′ and pretty tight quarters for 5 guys racing every day and bunking together each night.  I doubt that they have a whole lot of water as David works hard to keep weight down so make that 5 sweaty, unwashed guys.

A benefit of having me along is that I can go ahead and secure a mooring or good anchoring spot so that he can just tie up to me as I’ll already be secured.   The first test of my value was yesterday when I arrived in Cuttyhunk early enough to get a mooring and all that David had to do was to catch my lines and tie up.  The mooring field in the inner harbor there is impossibly tight and picking up the mooring alone was a bit challenging.  Having a large audience ready to applaud any mistakes made it that much more fun.  Picking up the mooring proved to be as exciting as I had feared as the boats are moored very closer together and Pandora is on the larger size of boats in that area.  There isn’t much more than 15′ to port and perhaps 20 to starboard with only a boat length behind me.  Picking it up alone was  a real case of threading the needle.

When Alix and crew arrived a few hours later they were plenty happy to take showers, using some of my RO water.  Speaking of that, I had a major leak yesterday on the fresh water “product” side with perhaps 5 gallons or more spraying all over the workshop area, soaking the rug, tools and spare parts as well as filling some of the lockers with water.  I noticed it when  I realized that the tank wasn’t filling as expected.  I checked and was stunned by the mess.  Fortunately, the water was fresh and  I was able to put a lot of wet stuff on deck where the intense sun dried things up in a few hours.   That certainly made for a more sweaty run than I had expected.  No harm done and the tanks are full.

Anyway, it’s going to be interesting to be a part of a cruise with over 100 boats that has been held for over 160 years.

Saturday evening’s kickoff event was cocktails on the lawn at Harbor Court, the Newport clubhouse of the NYYC.   It’s quite a building, once the private home of the Brown family, founders of Brown University.   Not a bad spot to have a G&T on the lawn.  Sorry, no photos of the event.  I expect that the group would have frowned on  paparazzi.  I was surprised to find that I knew quite a few folks that were attending.  As an aside, I approached one woman that I knew pretty well from Essex Yacht Club and when she saw me, probably out of shock, said “what are you doing here?”, seeming to suggest that I had somehow just showed up and crashed the party, knowing that I was not a NYYC member.  Unfazed, I chirped “Pandora will be acting as tender to a club member’s boat”.  Not sure she was convinced.

I arranged for a mooring near the clubhouse from the Ida Lewis Yacht Club.  I’ve never stopped there and had heard very nice things about the club.  It’s very charming.  The club is named for a famous lighthouse keeper that manned a lighthouse on the same pile of rocks in Newport Harbor.  She was revered for her bravery in rescuing sailors that came to ill in the harbor.    She received many awards from the USCG including their highest honor.

In the upstairs of the clubhouse is a light in an alcove, I expect honoring her.  The clubhouse is approached via a long walkway from shore that seems endless.It is a charming clubhouse and perfectly maintained. Brenda would love this image and would probably agree that it would make a great subject for a tapestry. What a view of Newport from their deck. And what better place to watch all the action from.  This Trumpy is Enticer, sistership to the once presidential yacht Sequoia.  And, of course, a perfect view of Pandora, not far away from the Ida Lewis clubhouse. How about this beautiful S boat.  She’s perfect. On my way into the harbor I passed this classic 12 meter America’s Cup boat out on a day charter. And this super modern cat. As I left the Newport Harbor yesterday this monster arrived.  It’s only two years old and is over 250′ long.  She was built in Germany for Joe Lewis, not the boxer and cost $250,000,000.  And, she takes 25 crew to run her and take car of up to 16 guests.  This yacht is in addition to his private jet, chopper and a few homes, including a huge spread in Argentina.  I guess that’s what you can buy if you’ve amassed a fortune of nearly $6,000,000,000.

When I wrote my last post, Brenda and I had just returned from our cruise with our friends and left Pandora at a mooring in Wickford.  We rented a car and I did a whirlwind run home to cut the lawn, water the plants and provision for this week’s cruise.  It was a real rush as we didn’t arrive home until dinner time and I had to return the car before 4 the next day.

I spent Friday night back aboard in Wickford, perhaps one of my favorite spots anywhere.  Very friendly and homey. I expect that the Lab on this paddle board feels the same, probably thinking, “this is my BEST DAY EVER!”  Well, either that or “I wonder when I’ll get another cookie?  that would make today my BEST DAY EVER”This home at the entrance of  Wickford harbor is particularly charming.  Before I close, a bit of housekeeping.  Pandora sports a stainless steel anchor and a galvanized steel anchor chain.  The problem is that when stainless and galvanized chain are linked there is a tendency to have the first few chain links loose their galvanizing due to electrolysis because stainless is a much more “noble” metal.   Each year I have to cut off a few links to remove the ones that have become rusted.   It’s not hard to see that this isn’t a good thing.   What to do?I borrowed a bolt cutter from the yard and clipped them off.  It was alarmingly easy.  What a scary pair of scissors. So, an experiment.  I secured two small sacrificial zincs, designed to corrode easily and save the more important metals from damage.   It’s not a perfect solution but I hope it will help.  I’ll report back on that.
So, here I am getting ready to hang out with the “big boys”, and I wonder how many of them will look at me and say “what are you doing here?”.   Not to worry, I know, I am acting as tender and know my place.  Wish me luck.   Good thing my ego isn’t all that tender.

Not in Maine but not so bad.

We left Newport yesterday and are now in Wickford.  Yesterday morning we were greeted with our first fog of the season, perhaps more than anything, a reminder that we are NOT IN MAINE, as planned.  Yes, the headliner, the cause of our delay, is mostly done but not perfect yet.  Stay tuned for more on that ongoing saga.

So, back to the fog.   This was the view that greeted me yesterday morning just after sunrise.  The shore was a lot closer than this photo suggests.  The fog was short lived and burned off as the sun rose. We’ve been on the move for about a week now, with a short visit to Maine (by car) where I gave a talk at the Camden Yacht Club about cruising the southern Caribbean.  Our visit was brief, only two days, and we stayed with our cruising friends Tom and Jane of Bravo, who we first met in Bequia, the winter before last.  They were very gracious hosts and we loved staying in their charming home, snug in Camden village.

On our first morning, Tom and I braved the light rain, making the short walk to the waterfront to take in the sights.  With the Camden Classics being held that week, there were many beautiful boats in the harbor, with more on the way as the week progressed, promising some 80 beautiful “temples to sail” in attendance by the weekend.

This boat, Belle Adventure from London, built in 1929 and designed by the legendary Fife, is a lot older than she looks.  Note the canvas covering her bright work that will stay in place until the owner shows up.  It’s a lot more economical, relatively speaking, to build canvas covers than to renew the varnish.  Out of the UV of the sun, the varnish will keep fresh longer. She has lovely lines and is probably in better shape than when she was launched so many years ago.   I’m pretty sure I have seen her before, perhaps in Antigua. It was painful to know that I would miss all the action of the regatta as we had to head back home the next day.

This much varnish clearly makes the point “I can afford it!”.  You will never see a yacht with this much perfect varnish that isn’t maintained by an owner, ast least one that actually sails their boat.   Interestingly, this boat was built only a few years ago and is modern in every way.  This sort of boat, looking like a classic and yet sporting a modern under body and rig, is called “spirit of tradition”.  Camden harbor is perhaps my favorite harbor anywhere.  It’s terribly quaint.  Being here reminds me of so many fun cruises to Maine in years past.
There is a babbling brook at the head of the harbor, and it was babbling away as expected.  I can recall time years ago when we were in this harbor when we had a huge summer downpour and the babbling become a roar. All of the traffic that heads for points east has to wind itself through the impossibly quaint center of town.  The buildings evoke an earlier, simpler time.  Well, it probably wasn’t simpler but that’s what we all say.
This is the Camden Yacht Club.  They host a “summer speaker series” with guest speakers, sometimes twice a week, on all sorts of topics.  I was thrilled to be invited to speak here as we’ve been coming to this friendly club for many years.  Our host Tom, was my sponsor and invited me to speak.   I really enjoyed the evening.
This view from the club, of the aptly named “Camden Hills” is beautiful in the afternoon light. Over the winter I had also organized an event with another group that I am a member of, the Corinthians, their summer cruise wrap-up dinner at the ApprenticeShop in Rockland.  However, as I didn’t make it to Maine with Pandora, we weren’t able to stay and participate in the dinner.  Just to be sure that all was in proper order for the event, we visited the shop and met with my contact Liz and the caterer Jenn.  I was sad that I wouldn’t be a part of the event that weekend but wanted to be sure that all was set.   Reports were that it came off well.  No surprise there as Liz and Jenn seemed to be quite buttoned down.

Liz gave us a tour of the shop, where some lovely boats were being built.  The lines on this lapstrake rowing boat are sweet. We were told that this boat, once completed, will be shipped to Europe.  There are a number like this being built at different shops, some in the US and some in Europe, to the same design, and they will all race together when they are completed, I think in Scotland. The ApprenticeShop is a place where students can enroll to learn a trade in wooden boat building and they have been successful over the years, with many graduates moving on to full time work in the business.  I understand that it is possible for “mature” folks, like me, to take a two month intensive course as well and that sounds like a great idea for down the road.  It’s not an inexpensive endeavor but you do get to take home a small completed rowing or sailing boat, which would be fun.   Something to think about.

After our whirlwind Maine adventure, we headed back to CT and Pandora to get ready for the arrival of our friends Karyn and George who were joining us for a few days of of sailing.  Originally, the plan was to rendezvous in Rockland but after bagging that destination, we agreed to have them come to Essex and spend a few days exploring before winding up our adventure yesterday in Wickford.

Our first stop from Essex was a short distance to Fisher’s Island, west harbor.   Fisher’s is an exclusive and mostly private island but you can go ashore and do some exploring.  The Fisher’s Island Yacht Club is always welcoming and we tied up at their dock.  Interestingly, I had been introduced to the commodore of the club at the Essex Yacht Club the night before.  He and commodores of a number of other clubs were visiting with our own Commodore Klin for dinner.

As you’d expect, being late July and all, it was plenty hot in the afternoon and the girls went in for a dip.  They reported that it was bracing at first, and then quite pleasant.  I guess it was as they stayed in for a long time. The prevailing winds in the NE are generally from the SW in the summer but, as luck would have it, not, the wind was blowing directly from the SE and Block Island, our destination.   After a frustrating few hours tacking toward Block and waiting for the expected southerly shift, I gave up and turned on the motor.    We picked up the Essex Yacht Club mooring which was open.

Along the way, as we went through The Race, the narrow cut that marks the eastern end of Long Island Sound, we were passed by a ferry.  Knowing if approaching ships were on a collision course has always been a source of anxiety for us but as Pandora now sports an AIS transponder, we were able to see the name of the ferry, contact the captain who said he’d pass us to our stern.  AIS is one example of how technology can indeed make life better, and in this case, way less anxiety producing.  Snug in Great Salt Pond, we were treated to a perfect sunset.  The Essex Yacht Club maintains a few guest moorings in popular harbors and it is a real treat to go into the harbor and pick up a mooring for “free”.   I say that as the rental moorings in Block are always full and there is a mad scramble to get one when a boat leaves, with those waiting in the wings zooming up with their dinks to claim their prize.

This old Navy tug has been someone’s home for many years.   Legend has it that the owner, when he purchased the tug years ago, sold the thousands of gallons of fuel in the tanks, yielding almost as much as he paid for the boat.  True story?  Who knows, but it’s fun to tell. We were joined by our friends George and Bonnie and the six of us rented a van for the day and toured the island.  One of our stops was the North Light, a beautiful spot at the end of the most northern spot on the island.  In the distance, on a clear day,  you can see Point Judith. On the south east side, the now famous, and to some infamous, wind mills, the first of their kind in US waters.  I, for one, hope that they put out many more in the coming years.

These are huge, some 600′ tall from the seabed to the tip of their rotors.  Check out the sailboat on the right for scale.  We were told that the 5 generators in the “farm” put out enough power to serve some 17,000 homes.  Along the way we visited, as you’d expect given the fact that Brenda and Karyn are knitters, a fiber store near a farm with all sorts of exotic animals including camels, emus and, well, other animals, a few in bronze.  Brenda and Karyn have been friends for many years.  This coming week Brenda will travel to Cape Cod to spend a week with Karyn who’s hosting a workshop. Beginning with a visit to rural Fisher’s and then on to the summer hot-spot of Block what better next stop could there be than Newport, home to so many beautiful yachts.  We enjoyed a stroll downtown followed by dinner ashore and then a harbor tour on our way out of the harbor yesterday.  I am always blown away by the scale of some of these yachts.  Even more amazing is how much of their time they spend tied up at in a marina.  It’s a small world and I have seen this one before. A somewhat more diminutive but still big yacht.  We passed Harbor Court, the Newport home of the NY Yacht Club, once the summer home of the Brown family that founded Brown University.  The family made their money running opium to China in the clipper ship days.  I expect that the family doesn’t like to be reminded about that sordid little detail in polite company these days.  Somehow that little bit of history doesn’t seem to attract the same justly deserved animosity as the current problems facing the Sackler family, the makers of Oxycontin that has fueled the tragic opioid epidemic.  Forgive the starboard list as I was snapping shots while dodging moorings in a crowded harbor.   As a side note, Pandora will serve as “tender” to another boat on next week’s NYYC  Cruise next week and I’ll be attending the opening event of the week at Harbor Court next weekend.  Stay tuned for more on all that.

As we made our way through the harbor I was struck by this family swimming off of their classic motoryacht.  What fun and said “summer” to me. So here I sit, the sun is just peaking up over the horizon in scenic Wickford.  Not a bad view to begin the day.  Yes, I know, that starboard list again.  It was 05:00 and I hadn’t had my first cup of coffee yet. It’s nice to be aboard again and on the move.  Yes, it’s not Maine but it’s not so bad.

It’s going to be hot today.

Maine or bust. Busted, totally!

On Friday, we left the marina in Chester to head out and begin our long delayed trip to Maine aboard Pandora.  I say “long delayed” because THE CANVAS GUY ran the headliner project all the way to the hairy end, finishing up, mostly, at 20:00 hours on Thursday night.

While he made the “final” deadline, I swear that every time he set another deadline and promised he’d be done, he just blew past it only to set another “don’t worry, I’ll make that” one, soon to be broken.  Yes, I understand that he had committed to too many jobs but it was pure torture to work toward a deadline, only to learn at the 11th hour that the work had not progressed at all.  This happened time after time and was just exhausting.

Another issue is that Pandora is a complicated boat and after sitting on the hard for such a long time (my last log entry was a trip to Sag Harbor June 6th 1018, over a year ago) all sorts of Gremlins crept into the picture, having nothing to do with the delayed canvas work.  These problems were discovered as I methodically tested each system in preparation for heading to Maine.

So the time had finally come and we headed out of the marina on Friday morning all ready to go.  As we cleared the marina I decided to check, one more time, I thought, all of the electronics including the radar and surprise, no radar.

Now, before you say something like my friend Chris, who feels that since generations of mariners sailed around the world without radar, that I should not rely on all that “newfangled” stuff and just keep it simple, hear me out.   Yes, simple is good and, I’ll agree that having three electric pumps on each of our heads seems a bit overly complex, but having the ability to “see” in the fog in a place, Maine, that is nearly always foggy and strewn with big hard rocks, is a must.

Besides, the coast of Maine is littered with the remains of hundreds, no make that thousands of shipwrecks and I have no interest in supplying the next one.  So, no trip to Maine until the radar is fixed and we stopped as we passed the Essex Yacht Club and pulled up at the dock with the hope that the “electronics guy” could fit us in on short notice to solve the problem.

The electronics guy was kind enough to come to my aid on Friday afternoon and after about an hour declared that he thought that it was most likely a cable problem.  Why the cable decided to fail, just like that, is a mystery but that seems to be what happened.   However, it wouldn’t be possible to fix it till the following week.

A few days delay is generally not a problem but in this case I had delayed using Pandora as long as I possibly could to keep her available for the canvas guy to do his work.   So, with all the delays, last Friday was just about the last day that I could leave for Maine.  Sure, if it hadn’t been a Friday, perhaps the repairs would have happened the next day but with the weekend looming, a departure on Tuesday was just not possible so no Maine this year.

Not to be deterred, I talked to my crew about an alternative.  How about going cruising for a few days?  So, off we went, arriving at West Harbor, Fisher’s Island at dusk where we picked up a mooring.

The next day, off to Newport, mostly because that was the best option given the wind forecast.  As we approached the harbor we saw more than a dozen 12m sailboats, past defenders and challengers for the America’s Cup, all participating in the 12 Meter Worlds, the largest assemblage of class boats ever.  They were everywhere.   What a sight.

Everywhere you looked, these beauties were being towed out to the racecourse.  It was amazing to see all these iconic names and all out on the course at the same time. These are remarkable, powerful machines. And the spectator boats, none the less impressive.   I loved the lines of what is probably an old Huckins.   What an elegant, classic yacht. Of course, where there are big money yacht owners, there is a photo chopper, flying over the fleet documenting the excitement.  Later at the awards dinner they would be selling their work to excited owners and crew even more enthusiastic after a few drinks.As we approached the harbor we passed Brenton Point, the day’s site for a kite flying contest, it seems.  What a sight. As we passed, I was struck by some of the particularly large kites like this octopus and whale.  I wonder how hard it is to hold on to such a huge kite.Of course, what better spot to watch all the fun than from the lawn on one of the historic inns?  “Jeeves, I’ll have another gimlet, and make it snappy.  Muffy will have a third mimosa while you’re at it good man.”  There’s clearly no shortage of money in Newport where a “dink” has over 1,000 HP.  How about one with four outboards?The evening festivities for the regatta were to be held at the International Yacht Restoration School, known for rebuilding small boats all the while teaching a new generation of builders and restorers the art of wooden boat repair.   The most popular design for the school is the restoration of Beetle Cats, and there are plenty of tired hulls to choose from.  Buy an old boat, they will fix it up and sell it to you.  Easy!
So there you have it, a failed run to Maine but all is not lost.  I’ve already spoken to Brenda about moving plans around so that we can do a bit of cruising and enjoy what’s left of the summer before I head south in the fall.

As I write this me and my crew, none to the worse for wear, are enjoying time in Block Island.   This was our view from Pandora last evening while we watched the sun set.  Oh yeah, and about that headliner.  The canvas guy might think he’s done but oops, not quite as there more than a few details that seem to have escaped his guy’s attention when he finally stepped onto the dock from Pandora on Thursday evening.   I’ll be calling and I’ll be sailing.

In that order?  Hard to say but I WILL BE SAILING.

Busted or not, life isn’t all that bad.  No indeed.


Why do we work so *&%$#%$ hard to go sailing?

I can’t believe that it’s nearly mid July and I am still &^%$#@$ around getting Pandora ready to sail.  We are supposed to leave for Maine in two days and the headliner is still not completed.

Well, I say not ready as each time the canvas guy blows past yet another deadline, I have to pick and choose what I am doing myself to move other projects, beyond the headliner, ahead on my end.    I find myself below, looking around at the seemingly tiny bit of daily progress asking myself, “what can I do today?” and the answer is usually, not much.  However, somehow I still spend hours a day working on the Pandora.

Having said that, there is a bright side to all of this as I have been able to tackle some projects that I would have set aside for another year, like renewing cruddy old aluminum trim on the opening dodger window with some really nice plastic extrusion.   I ordered some really nice new plastic trim and installed it today. The window, while it looks square, is actually a trapezoid,  but only a few degrees off of 45 on each corner.  Getting the mitered corners perfect was very difficult, but I got it after a lot of trial and error. The new trim is a big improvement on the old corroded aluminum. The trim was never properly bedded so the stainless screws ate away at the metal. Now, it looks a lot better, better than ever. I also ordered new fender covers to protect my expensive new paint job.  They are a lovely grey with Pandora’s logo on each of them, six in all.  They are 10″ in diameter and pretty big fenders. Anyway, it’s mid July and I am still messing around and trying to get Pandora ready to head to Maine.  Every day it seems to be getting a bit hotter.  Did I mention that it’s going to be 90 today?  It’s hard to believe that when I started really working on Pandora on a nearly daily basis way back in March and recall wondering how I was going to be able to work comfortably aboard with such cold temperatures.  I purchased a portable propane heater and used it just about every day for weeks on end.  No need for that heater now.

So, here I am, nearly four months later, and I am still working to get her ready to head out.  Yes, she’s in the water but still not quite “ready”.  Despite looking lovely and seemingly ready for anything?  Don’t be fooled, there’s still more to do till we had off on Friday.  Without the headliner in place I can’t really put much aboard like cushions, bedding and clothing.  All the stuff that makes living on a boat fun and with two days till “liftoff”, this isn’t feeling even a little bit like “fun”.

It seems that this headliner job has turned out to be like a gas, filling the space available, with every step S-L-O-W-I-N-G down to fill the time left before the next deadline.

“We can’t work on the headliner because it’s too cold for the glue to cure.”  Didn’t happen and now it’s in the 90s.  I was taking Pandora to my event, weeks ago.  Deadline missed…  Had to leave the marina because the rates were going up terribly, nearly two weeks ago.  Deadline missed…and I am in a different marina. Heading to Maine?  I don’t want to think about that right now…

Of course, for anyone who follows my musings, there is simply only one reason that I am delayed and that’s the “canvas guy” blowing by deadline after deadline and it’s still not done. It feels like he is slowing down the process a bit more each day so that the job will get closer and closer to completion and yet NEVER BE DONE.  It’s odd.  You’d think that he’d want me out of his hair. Wouldn’t you?  How long can he stand hearing from me every day, day after day, week after week?

There’s also an emerging issue of some electronic gremlins that crept into the picture over the near year that she was out of commission.   Oddly, the near-new AIS stopped working.  The XM radio wasn’t working and a number of other details that needed ironing out.

Things break and there is nothing quite as deadly to a boat than not being used and in her year out of the water, that’s what happened.

Well, I am really ready to use her now and can’t wait to head out.  The good news is that the “electronics guy” said he’d be here on Monday, two days ago and he showed up as planned, surveyed the issues, came back the second day and I expect that things will be resolved in time.  Wasn’t that easy?  Fingers crossed…

Delays or not, I have been moving forward as fast as I am able with the plan of not putting stuff down below that will get in the way of the “headliner installation from Hell” project.    I did put back the newly varnished salon dining table a few days ago.  It looks great if you don’t look all that close.  Yes, it’s very shiny but there were a few drips along the way.Opened up it’s pretty impressive, “boogers” and all.   Actually, if I squint just a tiny bit, it looks pretty much perfect. I heartily recommend Epifanes varnish.   It’s wonderful stuff. I can’t believe that it took so many years for me to “discover” it. Part of the reason that I have tried to be understanding of the delays on the headliner is because I learned from the canvas guy that he had a few customers scheduled to leave on their vacations as of last Wednesday and he had to get their jobs done.

I understand that as these people probably have jobs and to delay a once in a year two week trip, well, that’s not acceptable if you’ve told the boss and are ready to head out and scheduled someone to come in and water the plants.  Yes, I get it.  They have less flexibility than I do but it’s still stressful to know that I have to get Pandora to Maine and me back in time to head to MD for the first birthday of the Twins.  Miss that event and Brenda will likely tell me “go ahead, toss those dock lines and NEVER COME BACK, EVER!”

The biggest problem is that while I am not scheduled to leave until Friday, two days from now, I have held off on moving all of the stuff back aboard.  But, I am simply running out of time so today is the day and I have to move things aboard this evening, headliner or not.

I mention all of this because right now, as with so many other times, I am wondering what it is about being aboard that makes me so willing to put in hundreds of hours into keeping Pandora in good shape, not even including all the money it costs to do just that.

I was reminded of the answer to this question last weekend when Brenda and I  visited the Wooden Boat Show at Mystic Seaport where there were some spectacular boats on display.    There was a Dyer regatta going on, run by my friend Liz, that was a fitting reminder of the draw of the water.It looked like such fun, to be on the water in a small boat.  Yachting is often described as a rich man’s sport, but it doesn’t take a big bank account to mess about in small boats.  Sure, sometimes sailing can be complicated and there were plenty of boats for the well healed.  This little beauty  may be small but she’s clearly designed for an owner with means.Every detail is exquisite, down to the partially balanced bronze rudder. Something as simple as a paddle can be a work of art.  This one is made out of my favorite wood, cherry.  The grain is fabulous.  Cherry is a pretty heavy wood for a paddle, but what a sight. The often say that “God is in the details”.  If that’s the case, this wheel is divine.This dink is as much a work of art as a means of transportation and to row her would be transporting indeed.A boat doesn’t need to be big to be fun.   At 24″ long, this remote control racer is  a replica of the famous Gold Cup racer, Miss America.  What about these passengers?  It must have been a rough ride. And speaking of a rough ride,  how about an ulralight racer with a huge motorcycle engine and handle bars to match?  Not Brenda’s first choice for a relaxing cruise on the river.  “Where’s my cup holder?”Boats have always been a part of our history.  The Mayflower, just finishing up from a multi-year restoration, will be launched in September.  Some have said that there is nothing that typifies art and design like a boat.  Look at the detail in her stern. So much detail in her construction. Unfortunately, we will be out of town when she splashes in September.

Forget the Pilgrims.  Evidence suggests that the Vikings arrived in the New World long before the better known European explorers.  Open boat crossing the Atlantic?   Not for me.  As I am told I once said, when I was “little”, “don’t get my wet!”   Those viking guys must have been tough.  I still don’t particularly like getting splashed with salty spray.  The Beetle Boat Company, with their wonderful little catboats, reminds me of all our years as catboat owners and our time on the board (steering committee), of the Catboat Association.   That seems like several lifetimes ago.   Beetle boats has been building this exact design out of wood, since 1921.These sweet little boats have a loyal following with owners passing their cherished Beetles down from generation to generation.   Beetle has a program, “mooring to mooring”, where owners call to tell that they are done for the season, Beetle comes to pick up the boat and returns it in the spring to the same mooring.   In that case, not a lot of effort to head out sailing but clearly makes the point that “Whatever it takes. Whatever it costs” is the answer to getting out on the water.

Perhaps nothing quite makes the point of how welcoming time aboard can be than a pineapple, the universal sign of “welcome”, in this case, Welcome Aboard. but don’t forget to take your shoes off.
Brenda sent me a link to a letter-to-the-editor that she read recently in the NY Times, a letter about the virtues of rowing a small boat, spending time aboard.    There are a few passages that stood out.

Being aboard can be clarifying…

“Nothing facilitates problem solving like being in a small boat, face to face with another person, the world and its upsets separated from you by water.”

Getting out on the water can often take determination…

“Learning to row a dinghy requires surrendering to the illogical: You need to first accept the seemingly counterproductive fact that to move the dinghy forward, you have to face backward, toward the stern, and so you can never see where you are going. But absurdity promotes ingenuity.”

Small boats can take you someplace better…

“In short, my past — even a past I was trying to forget, like the island that looked nice from a distance but when I disembarked sucked me up to my knees in mud — could help steer me to a better future.”

It can make you a better person, or at least better balanced…

“As an adult, I came to understand that dinghy rowing is not like dart throwing; the point is never only to hit the bull’s-eye. Instead, rowing provides an opportunity to regularly identify and assess my imbalances, many of them a result of years of unthinking behavior. “

Like so much in life, rowing may be tough to master.  I submit that if something is not easy, it’s often not worth doing and to master something can make you a better person…

“If you find rowing difficult to master, you are not accepting your inner imbalances, which are never going away, and so you must learn to always correct for them, as celestial navigators know to always correct when plotting their courses, because the North Pole and the North Star are not and never will be the same thing.”

And, Being on a small boat can solve problems..

“If you want a less solitary challenge, take a friend with marital troubles on a row around an island. Nothing facilitates problem solving like being in a small boat, face to face with another person, the world and its big and little upsets separated from you by water.”

But, and perhaps best of all, sometimes all you need is to be alone and to take the time to set things right…

“…try spending time with yourself. Let the troubled friend be you. Mornings are best, before the wind picks up, because the water is glassy and promotes reflection. You can ask yourself hard questions about everything as you watch your past recede, and use its gradual disappearance to steer by. What awaits you, you cannot see. With the help of a rock or a tree, however, you can take aim. You can reassure yourself: This is not your last chance to get it right.”

So here I am, two days before heading to Maine and while I am overwhelmed by all that has to happen before we can leave, I cling to the idea that it’s all worth doing in spite of all the “issues” that we encounter along the way.

Let’s hope I am right about all this…

It doesn’t need to be this hard.  Please tell me that’s true.

But, Pandora’s going to be AWESOME when she’s ready to go.  Friday?