If you don’t like the weather…

You know the old saying, “If you don’t like the weather, wait an hour?”  Well, if that sounds about right to  you, you’re in Maine.

After spending months in the Bahamas and Cuba, one can become used to weather that rarely changes, just more of the same… warm, sunny, breezy.  During our two months cruising Cuba I believe that it rained ONCE.  Yup, the weather is pretty predictable!

Not so in Maine.  After only two days here we have experienced just about every type of weather you could possibly expect to have mid-summer.  Yesterday we had light rain, hard rain, bright sunshine, warm temperatures, dense fog and chilly evening, and that was in ONE DAY.  And the weather combined with really dramatic scenery makes it a real winner.  I LOVE IT!!!

Some of the folks we have run into during our travels aboard Pandora have commented on the contrast between the Bahamas and Maine and told us that if they had to choose between the Bahamas or Maine, they’d choose Maine.   Me too.  It’s just beautiful.   Bummer that it’s only a good place to sail in the summer because that’s when I want to be home in CT.

“So Bob, what’s the weather right now?”   Good question.   Wait a moment while I look but I think it’s sunny.  Yup.  Sunny, for the moment anyway.   Satisfied?   Good.

As I write this we are on a mooring in Southwest Harbor, on Mt Desert/Acadia.  It’s a lovely spot.   Yesterday we moved here, in the rain (did I mention that it rained yesterday, and was sunny too?) from Frenchboro where we made landfall in Maine.  What a lovely island.  This is the harbor.   Big tides here.7-30-16a 020About 60 make their home on this little island, nearly all fishing for lobster.   From the harbor you can see Mt Desert and Acadia in the distance, behind the fog bank.  You will just have to trust me on this.7-30-16a 002About ¾ of the island is set aside as a nature preserve.   The coastline of the island is very rugged and is nearly all made up of pink granite. 7-30-16a 010There were butterflies doing their butterfly thing everywhere.  Don’t you just love the new camera?7-30-16a 011Remember the changing weather thing?   Here’s the fog rolling in.  One minute, 10 mile visibility.  The next, well, a lot less.7-30-16a 028When we arrived in SW Harbor I couldn’t resist taking a walk through the marina.  This boat, and she means business, was designed by Steve Dashew.  He’s known for designing and building easily driven hulls in both sail and power.  To me, this design is a near perfect blend of form and function. 7-30-16a 040Personally, I’d love to see her painted but Steve is insistent about low maintenance.    There’s even a grill built into the aft deck.  This is a real ocean going vessel.   And, she’s as expensive as she is impressive.  I’d just love to have one of these. 7-30-16a 039Well, today the Corinthians cruise begins and it will be rah-rah for the next week with 100 of “my closest friends”.   I wonder what the weather will be like?   No, I can guess but I’ll have to wait a few hours to know if I am right.

So far?  Yep, weather.  Welcome to Maine.

Like mother, like daughter.  We’re in Maine!

It’s Thursday morning and we are about 10 miles from our destination for today, Frenchboro on the island of Long Island.   No, not the Long Island in NY the one in Maine.  You can tell because the beaches are, well they aren’t beaches at all, there granite and really, really bumpy and hard.  Oh yeah, the water is 55 degrees too.   It’s worth noting that the water temperature dropped from the high 70s overnight as we made our way north of Cape Cod into the cold waters of the Gulf of Maine.

Yesterday Rodney, my crew for this trip, and I headed out of the Cape Cod Canal to make the 200 mile run across the Gulf of Maine to meet up with the Corinthians Cruise this weekend.

I particularly like the “decoration” on this bridge crossing The Canal, an otherwise unremarkable structure, it looks remarkably delicate with this adornment.7-28-16a 012 I decided to time our departure from the canal so we’d be off of Province Town during the day with the hope of seeing some whales.  And see whales we did.  The winds and waves, well there weren’t any of either and it was very calm which made for easy spotting of whales in what seemed like every direction.   And, a few times we saw huge splashes in the distance as they rose out of the water and landed with a thunderous crash.

It was very tempting to head every which way to see these magnificent creatures up close.  As we still had a long way to travel to get to our destination we opted to keep going with one exception.  Not far from us and only about 4 miles north east of the tip of Cape Cod, we spotted two spouts, one small and the other large, rising perhaps a steamy 10’ out of the water,  about a mile off.

We headed toward them and enjoyed watching a mother and calf (daughter?) swimming lazily along.  I cut the engine and drifted nearby.  What a sight.  You could hear the rush of air as mom took a deep breath. 7-28-16a 033Calf or not, they were big and bigger.   You can see her huge “fins?” showing white on either side.  7-28-16a 047It is easy to imagine how these creatures were hunted to near extinction as it is very easy to see them “blowing” miles away.  If it wasn’t for the timely discovery of oil in Pennsylvania that made whale oil uneconomical, I doubt that there would be a single whale left anywhere.  Doesn’t that make you want to hug an oil company?  Hmm…

While we were enjoying our “whale encounter” there were plenty of SUVs spending time in the “wilderness” at the very tip of The Cape.  I don’t get the whole “let’s drive out to the beach and sit by the truck honey.”   “Don’t worry kids, you won’t have to step in that icky sand, I’ll leave the engine running and windows rolled up so you can stay cool and play video games”.

There was a mile or two of them lined up like birds on a wire.  Go figure.7-28-16a 020And speaking of going to the beach, this tug, moored in The Canal, looks like business and I can imagine that they have been called upon to keep some stricken ship from finding their own special place on the beach too.7-28-16a 004As I came on watch last night, I was treated to a rising moon.  Amazingly, the new camera took a photo in such low light.  7-28-16a 106Don’t you just love image stabilization?

All, and all, it was an unremarkable crossing with some sailing but a lot of hours on the engine.  Today, we’ll enjoy time ashore and go for a walk on Long Island.  Tomorrow, off to South West Harbor to get ready for a week of “rah-rah” with 75 of our closest friends.

That will surely be a contrast to the solitude of mother and daughter humpback enjoying a lazy day on a glassy calm ocean.

Well, I guess I’d better sign off now as I am back in cell range and anxious to talk to Brenda.  Besides, it’s been more than 24 hours since we talked.   Actually, 25 ½ , to be exact, but who’s counting.

However, it’s good to be in Maine again.  It’s been a while.

Heading Down East:  Mt Desert Island, here we come.

It’s just after 07:00 and we are underway, making our way toward the Cape Cod Canal.  The current that will carry us through to Cape Cod Bay begins a bit after 10:00 so it’s likely that we will arrive with some adverse current for a while.  The canal, built in the 30s, I think, and is about 10 miles long.   Without that engineering wonder, I doubt that many would make the trip up to Maine.  Heading all the way out to Nantucket, through Pollock Rip and up to Maine would be a pretty painful and long trip.  Besides, the currents and rough conditions that are often east of Chatham, on the “elbow” of the Cape, would dissuade most, me included, from making the trip.  The Canal is a great example of “your tax dollars at work”.  Well, at least the tax dollars of your grandparents.

Our run yesterday was about 70 miles and saw some very nice sailing, likely the only sailing that we will enjoy for the rest of the run.  It is possible that we will be able to sail a bit this afternoon but the winds are forecast to be quite light for the next few days.

The 20kt SW wind that pushed us along so nicely yesterday has died and a slight drift from the North has taken it’s place.  I was greeted by this absolutely beautiful dawn this morning.  What a sight.7-27-16a 011As we headed out of Cuttyhunk this morning we were greeted by the Loch Ness Monster.    Well, that’s what it looked like to me.  I am sure that you can see it, especially if you squint really, really hard.  Right?7-27-16a 005OK, OK, it was a family of seals.

The other members of their very extended family were sleeping it off on a nearby sandbar.  I was pleased that the lovely lobster boat cut in front of me as I snapped the photo.  Try to do that twice.7-27-16a 004Speaking of “snapping shots”.   Our old Olympus camera finally died and after months of limping along with it in Cuba, frustrated by problems with white balance and focusing problems, we bit the bullet, and it was a pretty big bullet, and purchased a shiny new Canon.  What a piece of machinery, with a single lens really really long lens replacing the two that I had on the last camera.  This lens has image stabilization and is a whopping 16mm to 300mm in a single zoom package.   It’s remarkable to see the improved color saturation and clarity, even in rough or low light conditions.

One downside of the new camera though is that the photo files are “ginormous” at 8 megs per shot, about 3x bigger than my last camera.  I had better be pretty selective about which photos I keep on my computer or I’ll have to get a new one.  Actually, my laptop is something like 7 years old (how old is that in dog years exactly?) and was acting up already, even before I started manipulating these new massive photos.

Keping up with this “arms race of megapixels” reminds me of the first time I installed refrigeration on my Tartan 37. The massive draw of electricity that the unit needed meant that I ended up putting in a much larger battery bank and then, against my will, a high output alternator to charge them.  Those ice cubes that I “needed” to chill my gin and tonic ended up costing about $10 a piece or was that $100.  Who knows, but a nice cold G&T, or two, makes for a perfect end to a day.   And views like this one, helped along with a G&T of course, from last night… Priceless.7-27-16a 006Earlier in the evening, as the sun sunk below the western horizon, the light washed over nearby Nashawena Island giving it a lovely glow.7-27-16a 024So, I expect that we will be out of cell/Internet range beginning mid-day today although we may regain service briefly as we pass Provincetown, at the tip of Cape Cod, later this afternoon.

After that, Maine.

Off to Maine, finally.

It’s been five years since my last trip “down east” and this morning I cast off the lines and am on my way.   If you happen to wonder if I got the bathroom finished, the one I wrote about in a few posts of late, I have to confess that the answer is, especially if you ask Brenda, an emphatic, if unfortunate, NO.

Unfortunately, I did WAY underestimate the time it would take and the job is looking, to me at least, more like a major addition on an office building than a simple new vanity and shower enclosure.  Oh well.  I can’t be totally faulted for coming up short (I was supposed to have it done before heading to Maine) as there were myriad distractions that I won’t go into.  It’s sufficient to say, and I cling to this belief, that many of the distractions that got in the way of completing the task were NOT MY FAULT!

Ok, now that I have that off of my chest so back to the task at hand.

As I begin this post Pandora is in Block Island Sound making our way to Cuttyhunk island for the night.  My crewmember Rodney, who I have sailed with for perhaps the last decade, off and on, is with me and we are enjoying a lovely day of sailing.  Well, we were sailing up until I stopped typing to put on the engine again as we still have a good distance to go and I want to get there by dark.   In the morning we will head to the Cape Cod Canal to catch the flood tide around 10:00.  Going against the tide in The Canal is a waste of time as the current runs as much as 4kts which makes the 10 mile run interminable when things are “against you”.  Besides, I believe that it’s actually against the rules for a slow boat to traverse the canal against the current.  With that in mind, “going with the flow” really means something when it comes to the Canal.

We left around 06:30 today, heading down the CT River and had to stop for fuel which cost us nearly an hour but that is certainly better than being stuck with no fuel miles from shore.  Yes, been there, done that at least once years ago off of New Haven and I’d prefer to avoid an encore performance so stop we did.  That was a very good thing as it took nearly 60 gallons and I nominally hold about 150.  I might have made it to Maine (that’s where we are going) with what I had and the 10 gallons in reserve but I wasn’t in the mood to test the theory.

After being “on the hard”, me at least, since mid May, I am very happy to be on board again.   It will be fun to rendezvous with some old friends from The Corinthians, a group that we have been a member of for many years.

So, the plan is to spend tonight at Cuttyhunk and to head out of the Canal and across the Gulf of Maine tomorrow morning.   If all goes well, we will be in Maine on Thursday afternoon.   The actual run across the Gulf of Maine is about 24 hours so we’ll have a few days in Maine to enjoy the sights prior to leaving on the week long cruise that kicks off on Saturday evening.

So, for now, I guess that about covers it.  And don’t forget that we “push the button” every 4 hours or so and you can see where Pandora is by going, incredibly enough, the “Where in the World is Pandora” button on the blog home page.

As we passed New London this morning the Brilliant, the schooner from Mystic Seaport, passed behind us.  Pretty nice digs.7-26-16a 023So, I guess I’ll close with a shot of one of my favorite sights in Fisher’s Island Sound, the lovely home on “North Dumpling”.   As  Brenda would say, “I would live there”.  Indeed.  Loved the whole “stonehenge” thing on the yard.7-26-16a 010Tomorrow, the Canal and hopefully, we will see some whales as we cross the Gulf of Maine.

Stay tuned for more scintillating posts.

Learning Steam Power and eye candy on the CT River

It’s about a week until my departure for Maine and the Corinthian Cruise and I am pretty excited about spending time with my friends Craig and Rodney, guys that I have sailed with for many years.  Yes, I’m bummed that Brenda won’t be with me but after loosing nearly two months because of her bout with melanoma and the fear of the sun that it has naturally caused, it’s going to be a while till the memory of the surgery and all that led up to it, begins to fade somewhat.

In any event, I am happy that she’s agreed to spend time in the Eastern Caribbean this winter so I guess that I’ll just have to say “details to come”.  Of course, I also cling to the belief that everything will work out.  As Brenda has famously said, “Bob and the dog, ever hopeful”.  Yes, that’s me.  Want to go sailing?

For now though, I thought that I’d share some shots of some beautiful boats that were docked at the CT River Museum last week.  The event, billed as “Mahogany Memories”, put on by the CT Chapter of the Antique and Classic Boat Society.  This event has been put on for over three decades and always brings out a healthy crowd of classic boat owners and admirers.

This lovely grand lady was on a trailer on the grounds.  Given the high level of finish on her “wheels” I expect that she’s more of a “trailer queen” than a boat that sees much time on the water.  She came up all the way from VA.    Clearly, she’s perfect in every way.  What a looker. 7-19-16a 022Along with some that don’t often see the water, there were plenty of beauties gracing the docks.   I particularly loved this double cockpit speedster. I’ll bet that she really rips along.  You’d never know that she’s an antique.  Looks brand new.  I guess that’s the whole point.7-19-16a 027There is nothing quite as elegant as a triple cockpit beauty.
7-19-16a 031There were also a number of very nice scale models on display.  I was taken by this Chesapeake Bay fishing boat. 7-19-16a 025This model of Aphrodite is based on a 30s vintage commuter of the same name. Her “namesake” is berthed in Watch Hill.  7-19-16a 024You can even peek into her interior.   I guess the little guy is the “commuter”.  Not a bad way to get to work.  Actually, if I was going to go to work, that’s how I’d like to get there, for sure. 7-19-16a 023And speaking of the yacht Aphrodite, years ago Brenda and I saw her undergoing a major rebuild at Brooklin Boat Yard in Maine.    Check out this link to learn more about the “real Aphrodite“.  Now that’s a real yacht.

Still want more?  I do…  This short video shows how she looks in “real life”.  Amazing.Ok, back to models of great boats.  Of course, who doesn’t love the Sabino?   The actual boat is at Mystic Seaport and is currently undergoing a major rebuild.  Nice model.
7-19-16a 026Want to see a clip of Sabino herself?  This is a very nice clip from the Mystic Seaport Museum.   If you love steam you owe it to yourself to go on an outing aboard her. However, back to the event at the CT River Museum and my favorite boat of all at the show was the “Osprey” a fairly new addition to the waterfront at the CT River Museum.   After several years of updates and repairs, she’s finally able to show her stuff on the river.  7-19-16a 029She’s beautiful and a lovely combination of form follows function.  Love her little single cylinder steam engine.    In spite of her diminutive stature, she has a bewildering collection of valves and levers. 7-19-16a 028I have always loved launches and particularly those driven by steam.   Brenda’s goal, when we get out of big boats, is to have a small fantail launch that we can use on the CT River for “cocktail cruises”.

Happily, Chris, the director of the museum, is looking for operators to run the boat so she can be an active member of the waterfront.  “Pick Me, Pick Me!!!”. Yes, I can’t believe it but I am being trained to run her.  How cool is that?

It would be just so great to get out on the river with her.  She even has a steam whistle.   What “kid” doesn’t dream of blowing a steam whistle.  Alas, the Osprey is probably too complicated to operate “under the influence” so my “cocktail cruises” with Brenda will have to wait until we have our own electric launch.   For now, time on the Osprey will have to be fueled by diet Coke I guess.

Of course, that’s in addition to the soft coal that powers her boiler.  Yes, she will have a “carbon footprint” but it’s surely a lovely one and I am excited about piloting her on the river in Essex very soon.

Well, with only a week to go till I head to Maine, I’d better get to work on remodeling the bathroom or there will be Hell to pay with Brenda.  Yikes, still lots to do.



Thinking about past Maine cruises

It’s Monday morning and just a little over two weeks until I head to Maine aboard Pandora.  The plan is to participate in the annual cruise of the group The Corinthians, a sailing club that Brenda and I have been members of since 1996, 20 years.  That’s a long time.

Our boys, Rob and Chris, grew up sailing with other kids in the club and the week long cruise each summer was a major event for them as they loved hanging out with the 20+ children that would be along for the week.

This year, as we spend so much time aboard in the winter, Brenda will stay at home and I’ll go with my two friends, Craig and Rodney, fellow Corinthians, for the week of cruising in Maine.

It’s been nearly twenty years since Brenda and I first cruised Maine waters aboard Elektra, our Tartan 37 and perhaps 5 years since our last trip there.  All and all, I believe this summer’s run will be my 16th.  That’s a lot of cruises “down east” and perhaps more surprising to me is that I have been around long enough to have cruised that many times anywhere, much less Maine.

Back in my last life, pre-retirement, the two week run to Maine was always a rush as I assembled crew to do an overnight from Norwalk Yacht Club, where we were members for many years, straight to Camden or Booth Bay.  I had to get there quickly, rain or shine, as there was so little time to waste in getting to the business of cruising. Getting there and back home again was a delivery and nothing more.  I am happy to say that cruising is a lot less hectic now but the “leisure” of it all is tempered by the much longer runs, well that’s what Brenda would say for sure.

The club cruise this year will center on Acadia National Park, a place that Brenda and I have spent much time enjoying over the years.  This post from 2011 shows some of the beauty along with another of our favorite harbors Camden and points in between.

However, post or not, a few photos from our last visit there in 2011.

Here’s “old” Pandora in Five Island Harbor near Booth Bay Harbor.  A lovely spot.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd what’s a post about Maine without a schooner shot?  This one takes guest out for day sails out of Booth Bay Harbor.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOf course, then there’s the “big girls” that take folks out for a week at a time.   Her captain and crew are “hot dogging” into a harbor under sail to drop the hook, under sail, to spend the night. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAll sailing isn’t about going anywhere in particular.  This sweet Friendship Sloop, a type named after the town of the same name, was not in any particular hurry the day we encountered her.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOf course, there’s really nothing more “Maine” than Andrew Wyeth, and here’s his widow Betsy sitting on the porch of her summer home on Allen Island.  The family provides a few moorings for cruisers to tie up to in the sheltered cove in front of their home.  Their hospitality is a far cry from the unfriendly locals in Florida that have worked so hard to successfully ban anchoring in many harbors in Ft Lauderdale and <Miami.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd, perhaps the most Maine of harbors, Camden and a few of the schooners that call the harbor their home. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOf course, the most iconic image of all is lobsters waiting to head to market. Yum. We certainly had plenty of Caribbean lobster when we were in Cuba last winter and I look forward to a “taste test” to see which wins out.  I expect Maine lobster will carry the day. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnyway, my nominal departure day will be the 26th of July and that run of less than 200 miles, after our last four winters south, will seem more like a short “day sail”  and not much of a run compared to my 1,000 mile voyages from the Bahamas or Florida back to New England.  In early years, I did the run with a crew of 4, sometimes more.  This time, just two, me and Rodney.  That’s particularly fitting as we started sailing together years ago on a run to Maine.  Besides, it’s only a single overnight.  Funny how perspectives change.

In any event, I am very much looking forward to reconnecting to a group of sailors that have been a part of my life for so many years.  Hopefully, Brenda and I will have time to do a bit of cruising together for a week or so prior to bringing Pandora back.

An interesting rub that came up yesterday that will have a big bearing on when I’ll bring Pandora back from Maine and has to do with the nuclear Submarine USS New Mexico.  Yes, a rendezvous with a sub and Pandora.   How’s that for a segue?  Pretty good, right?

You may recall that I “ran into” the USS New Mexico off of New London last summer and have been corresponding with representatives of the boat since then.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis was the post that “started it all”.

A few months after that chance encounter, Damon, my contact with the sub suggested that I might be able to join them for a “VIP day sail” aboard the New Mexico and we have been staying in periodic contact since then with the hope that an opportunity might arise.

Well, the opportunity to spend time aboard the New Mexico hasn’t surfaced yet (pun intended) so I decided to arrange a visit aboard Pandora and reached out to Damon and the Chief of the Boat, Norm to take some of the crew out sailing aboard Pandora.   I sent a note suggesting that I bring Pandora to New London while the New Mexico was in port and take some of their crew out for short sails.

Happily, as of last night they have confirmed that they’d like to move ahead with my offer and hope to have me visit in August.  So, that means that Pandora will be headed back from Maine in late August. That should work well for me and I am very excited.  Details to come…

Well, I had better get to work on our bathroom now as the project isn’t going to finish itself and the new shower had better be “ready”  by the time I leave for Maine.    The plumber Brian is coming here mid morning to put in the pan liner and it’s never a good idea to leave a plumber “on hold”.

That’s all for now.

What’s your risk? I have a plan.

It’s the beginning of the July 4th weekend, a time when I would have, in a previous life, been fully focused on being out on the water.  However things are different now that I am retired and spend more time “on the hard” during the summer and much of my time afloat in the winter months.

In spite of it being over four years since I retired, I still have to remind myself that “long weekends” aren’t the best time to be out sailing as just about everybody else is doing just that.  What a treat it is to be able to choose when to go based on wind, tide and weather.

Of course, all of this is tempered by Brenda’s “new reality” now that she has had melanoma.  This combined with the fact that once you’ve had it you have a higher chance of getting it again gives one pause for thought.   I don’t blame her for being timid about spending time in the sun given the danger of recurrence and the lingering pain of the surgery.  I doubt that being able to show off her nearly 12 inches of “battle scars” is reward enough for what she’s been through.

A major problem with spending time on the water is increased sun exposure, mainly UVA and UVB rays which are strongest between 10:00 and 16:00 along with the reflected light from the water.  In spite of my best efforts, I have been unable to find anyone to quantify the risk except to say that “you have to limit exposure”.  Yes, of course I get that, but what does that mean?  Live in a cave?  Take up mushroom farming or, as it’s known in the trade, Fungiculture.

Brenda’s surgeon feels that she has to be careful with sun exposure but also says that she might “not want to live in a cave”.  It’s a complicated issue and I can certainly understand her concern.

Anyway, I got to thinking about how to define “risk” and UV exposure in general.  As they say, “you can find anything on the Internet” so I started looking and found a scientific instrument that measures, yes, you guessed it, UVA and UVB light.  It’s a pretty neat gadget with a sensor that you point toward a light source and it will give you a very accurate measurement of these portions of the light spectrum.   There are a number of companies that make these devices and I settled on one made by General Instruments. It cost less than $175 including shipping.   As a point of notice, the reading on the screen in this photo was in shade on our back deck.  In the sun a few feet away the reading was a whopping 8,500.  Still, I was surprised at the reading of nearly 900 in full shade.  I guess that’s reflected light.  Of course, inside the house the reading was “0”.7-2-16a 003The unit is very easy to use and appears to be quite sensitive.  The sensor itself is attached to a cable so you can place it wherever you wish to take a reading.   Here’s what the company says about it’s use…

“The #UV513AB UVA/B light meter is ideal for applications including UV curing and sterilization, semiconductor fabrication, offset printing, environmental monitoring and industrial process control. – See more at this link:”

So, I decided to do a test to see what sort of “protection” a good quality sunscreen provided.  First, I exposed the instrument to direct sun and got a reading of 8,200 in very bright sun at 10:30.   Yes, really, really bright.  Next, I placed a thin sheet of plastic sandwich wrap over the sensor and the reading dropped by about 12% to 7,200.  Makes sense.  Then I applied a thin smear of a good quality sunscreen, Neutrogena 45, on a piece of plastic wrap, let it dry and put that over the sensor.  I was shocked to see the reading drop to 100, a reduction of nearly 99%, almost as low as being inside actually.  Really Amazing.  Brenda and I have always debated the relative value of different types of sunscreen and what you get by spending more.  Now we can place some bets and see who is right.  That should be fun.

So, my next step will be to see what sorts of readings I get aboard Pandora under the bimini and hard dodger and how much feflected UV there is off of the water.  It will also be interesting to see what sort of UV gets through “sun-protective” clothing.

Well, there’s lots to consider however if I don’t get going on the bathroom remodeling today there will be Hell to pay and I’ll never make it to Maine this summer for cruise with some friends which I hope to do in late July.

And speaking of the renovation.  I demoed the shower yesterday and rerouted some plumbing.  Here’s a “before” shot of the shower.  Lovely.  And, behind the door it was a horrible taupe colored fiberglass enclosure.  You know the type right?7-2-16a 006Here’s what it looked like after I was “done”.   Wasn’t that easy?7-2-16a 011Today, I’ll finish rerouting some plumbing that is in the way and frame up for the pan and shower seat.  Of course, a girl has to have a seat to perch on when she shaves her legs.  “Too much information Bob, stick to reno details!”.

Oh yeah, speaking of Cuba, which I wasn’t, Brenda and I have a few dates to talk about our trip including one at “Cruiser’s University” being put on at the Annapolis Sailboat Show.  That will be fun.

We will also be speaking at a special dinner to be held “under the stars” at the CT River Museum in August.  That should be a very special evening with a Cuban theme.  They even plan on serving mojtos.  I love mojitos!   I plan to donate a very special bottle of 11 year old Santiago de Cuba rum to be auctioned off that evening.  That particular brand is the only brand in Cuba that is made in it’s own distillery.  It is very fine rum and you just can’t obtain it here in the U.S. 6-27-16a 007Oh yeah, one more thing.  Remember my dead lawn mower?   And you know how much I love to mow the lawn.   Well I was able to find a used commercial 48″ wide Bob-Cat mower.  Now I can “love” cutting it for a lot less time each week.  Well, that’s the theory at least.   So far, not so fast as it’s a “beast” of a machine.   So far, mowing with this is more like “the dog walking me”. 7-2-16aaYes I have a plan.   A plan to head to Maine.  That seems pretty likely.  And a plan to measure UV.    What Brenda and I will be able to do with that information is anyone’s guess.

And, I am POSITIVE that I have a plan to finish the bathroom renovation.  Yes, that’s PLAN ONE for now.

I guess I have covered enough random stuff for one day.  The shower stall awaits. Time to get to work.   Good news… No UVA or UVB risk there.

Don’t believe me?  I have a nifty meter to prove it.  So there!!!

Who knew?


Good news and a full house.

It’s Saturday afternoon, everyone has flown the coop and Brenda and I are alone again.   Our Gam in Essex that I organized for the Seven Seas Cruising Association began a full week ago with guests coming in from all over.  The three day event was a success with nearly 100 in attendance and we had a full house at Bob and Brenda’s B&B, otherwise known as B&B’s B&B.

So, now that everyone has headed on their way things should begin to settle back to normal.  In my last post I mentioned that Brenda had been diagnosed with melanoma, a very dangerous form, no make that the worst form, of skin cancer.   She had her surgery over two weeks ago and is now beginning to feel herself again.   Happily, she had her follow up with the surgeon and they did not find any remaining malignancy which is such a relief.

The timing of the surgery and Gam were unfortunate as we had a boat load, make that many boat loads of folks visiting Essex and staying with us only one week after Brenda went under the knife.  That made for a tough week as she tried to keep up the near constant steam of parties and events that surrounded the event.

The Gam got off to a rousing start the night before the formal events got underway.    Pandora hosted a dink raft-up out in front of the Essex Yacht Club and ended up with 30 aboard.  She was riding a bit below her marks.  We all had a great time.  Her cockpit was jammed.6-25-16a 003With plenty of overflow to the forward deck. 6-25-16a 004Over the three day event we had a great lineup of speakers including Chris Parker who did several sessions on weather, a topic that can be very confusing. Happily, Chris is very good at making complex issues understandable.    Here he is at the CT River Museum, where we held the last day of the event, standing in front of a reproduction of the “turtle” the first military submarine.   The original was built in nearby Old Saybrook back in 1775.  It’s not Brenda’s idea of a cruising vessel. 6-25-16a 023It was a thrill to have Chris do his morning and evening broadcasts from my home office.  Somehow he was able to manipulate his antennas at his studio in FL via the Internet as well as broadcast over the SSB.  How he do that?6-25-16a 006Jake from Life Raft and Survival came down from RI to talk about safety equipment and wowed us all by doing a live life raft inflation out on the lawn.   How convenient to have him present as he was able to take my raft, which needed servicing, back to the shop with him.  That saved me a trip and made his trip worthwhile, I hope.   I’ll be filming the inspection of my raft up at their shop in the next few weeks and will write about it in a future post.  That should be very interesting.   Let’s hope that’s the only time I see the thing inflated.  6-25-16a 017Tom Whidden gave our keynote presentation at dinner on Sunday.  He did a wonderful job presenting a mix of high tech racing, including the current Cup competition and shared some thoughts about what’s going on in contemporary cruising boat design.  IMG_2028Tom has a remarkable background as a member of the America’s Cup Hall of Fame.  He has won the America’s Cup three times and finished first in class A in the Bermuda race 5 times. He is a very accomplished sailor and we were very lucky to have him speak to us.  I’ll admit that it was a bit easier for me to convince him to speak to us as he’s the current Commodore at Essex Yacht Club.  Thank you Tom.

With nearly 100 attending we had quite a mix of cruisers including this couple that brought their trawler up from Annapolis alone to attend the Gam.  They are both in their 90s.   We should all be as spry at that age.  Perhaps it’s the wine.  I cling to that belief. IMG_1976There was much more including a talk by George Day from Blue Water Sailing Magazine about preparing for offshore sailing.  Alas, no pictures of George.

All and all, it was fun to put the event together but I am sure glad that it’s finally over.  Happily, I had plenty of help from my buddies George and MaryMarie as well as others.  Perhaps I’ll take a few weeks off before I start lining up speakers for next year.  Yes, time off, good idea.

A day after the Gam crowds left, our friend Lars arrived in Essex for a visit.  We had spent time together in Cuba and it was fun to see him on our home turf.  His boat Luna, has taken him around the world, beginning in Norway,  over the last 12 years with stops in too many countries to count.   Here’s Luna in Santiago de Cuba where we met him back in early March.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere’s Luna on the dock at Essex Yacht Club for a much needed scrubbing down. Perhaps not quite as scenic a spot or perhaps it’s just the angle of the shot.  Essex is beautiful, for sure. 6-25-16a 024Lars and I headed up by car to Mystic Seaport for the Wooden Boat Show yesterday.  I always enjoy seeing all of the beautiful boats and hardware on display from the vendors.

Speaking of Cuba (well I was a few photos ago) there was a boat at the show that resembled Pilar, Earnest Hemingway’s boat.  The original boat is in Havana. Unfortunately, we didn’t see her when we were there.  While the sign on the boat we saw at the show seems to imply that this boat was “the one”, upon close questioning, the owner fessed up that it was not even the same hull design but that the boat was made to “look like Pilar”.  A nice boat, never the less. 6-25-16a 029This was a neat find, a Cape Cod Catboat named Pandora.  A bit smaller than our Pandora but beautiful.   I am happy that our Pandora doesn’t have any exterior teak with the exception of a teak cockpit table. 6-25-16a 030How about a cold molded camper?  Quirky but well made.   It even has roof racks 6-25-16a 026It comes complete with a galley.  Sure hope that it’s always sunny when they are working “in the kitchen” as it’s outside.   Love the paper towel dispenser. 6-25-16a 027Everywhere you turn, beautiful boats.  How about this drake tail stern?  Lovely. 6-25-16a 032And this beauty built by Gannon and Benjamin, the storied boat builder on Martha’s Vineyard.6-25-16a 033And, magnificent details on boats everywhere you look.  I loved this steering station.  Terrific bright red cast wheel. 6-25-16a 034Lars and I had a fun day at the seaport.  He left today to head east.  It was nice to see him again.  Hope it’s not too long until our paths cross again.   Perhaps Brenda and I will visit Oslow Norway (by plane for sure) where his “home port” is, even though he hasn’t been there in many years.
6-25-16a 035And all of this just scratches the surface of all that happened in the last week, and the “onslaught” began only one week after Brenda “went under the knife”.  No wonder she’s exhausted from all the “fun”.

So glad that she’s on the mend and that the tests show that she is clear of cancer.  That’s very good news, indeed.

I’d say “that’s all for now folks”.  Oh yeah, one more thing.   Did I mention that we had to buy a new car too last week as our 1999 SAAB finally bought the farm?  Oh yeah, and our lawn mower croaked too and you know how much I just love cutting the lawn.

Other than that, noting much going on.

Upgrades for cruises to come and a kick in the teeth.

It’s mid June and Pandora has been back north for about a month.  I can’t believe that it’s been that long but in a way it really seems like another lifetime since Brenda and I cruised much of the coast of Cuba.

I am presenting to a number of groups about our trip and beginning the process of putting my thoughts down about the trip has brought back many great memories.

My first presentation on Cuba will be this coming weekend at a three day meeting that I am putting on in Essex for a group of cruisers affiliated with the Seven Seas Cruising Association.  SSCA is  a group that anyone who cruises or is contemplating doing so should be a member of.  With dues of about $50 a year it’s money well spent. Besides, they work hard on our behalf to help shape legislation for anchoring rights and other important topics for the cruising community which is reason enough to be a member. They also have a very informative monthly newsletter, more of a magazine actually, that alone is worth the price.  Not a member?  Click here to see what you get as a member and sign up.  You’ll be glad that you did.  Me too.

So, when I am not busy preparing for meetings, I am thinking about what to do to make Pandora a better home afloat for me and Brenda.  As Brenda enjoys cooking and is very good at it, I have been hard at work on some modifications to the galley to make it more “cook friendly”, no make that “Brenda friendly”.  One important refinement was to convert one of Pandora’s five hanging lockers, the one in the galley, by putting in shelves to store pots and pans.  After a year we have found that this space just doesn’t get used very much as we have plenty of other places to hang clothing.

So, I added three shelves so that we could more easily store the cooking stuff that we’ve found to be very hard to fit anywhere in the galley.  We had been keeping this stuff under the washing machine (Yes Brenda is very happy that we have one of those aboard Pandora).  Technically, the pots and pans fit there but the racket that I caused getting things in and out was jarring at best and not a great spot to root around in each day.  With a deep slanted floor, and narrow opening, every time we opened it up, pots and pans came spilling out all over the floor with a jarring clatter.

This is the locker (before).  Not much to look at.  Yup, a locker. 6-13-16a 058I was careful to fabricate substantial fiddles on each shelf to keep everything in place.  I also wanted to be sure that the design of the woodwork matched the other fiddles elsewhere exactly.  I was happy with the results.  This is the same space.  I challenge anyone to tell that it wasn’t original to the boat.   Notice the granite insert on the top of the stove/oven.  It was stored in the “old” hanging locker so I had to find another spot to put it when the stove was in use. 6-13-16a 062How about keeping the stove top insert on top of the washer/dryer?   I fabricated a fiddle and attached it with a double sided adhesive foam strip.  I think that it looks good and the insert slips in right behind it.  I also put a short 3/4″ tall strip on the back end of the washer to keep things from sliding outboard when we are on a starboard tack.  Cutting boards will also be stored there, another item that we find hard to store, out of sight.  Problem solved. 6-13-16a 068The addition of shelving to the locker has freed up the area to the right of the stove for other items.    This area used to be filled to overflowing and was a source of constant frustration to Brenda.6-13-16a 063Now things are more thoughtfully stored and easily accessed.  These changes will also make room for a larger food processor that will help Brenda be more efficient in the galley, a good thing to be sure.  Besides, when I am putting away things first thing when Brenda’s still catching her “beauty Zs” I won’t disturb her with pots clanging into an overflowing locker.   Perhaps that’s the big payoff.

I do have concerns about having a food processor on board.  Getting the infernal thing clean without a dishwasher “Come on Bob, no dishwasher on Pandora? What sort of boat do you have?”   Alas, nope!  It’s me, I’m the designated DW. Dish washing isn’t a problem for Brenda because of the “galley rules” aboard Pandora.  The rules are as follows… whoever cooks doesn’t have to do the dishes unless it’s me.

Hmm… that means that I ALWAYS do the dishes, at home too.  Ok by me as I wouldn’t want to do anything that stifles Brenda’s creative work in the galley.  So far, so good.

Galley storage done?  Check.  However there are still many other little and not so little projects on the list that I’ll have to get to.  After this weekend event I will be able to turn my attention to what’s next.

Of course, all of this takes a back seat to this summer’s big job of gutting and remodeling of the master bath, the land home one, which I haven’t begun yet.   And don’t forget the lawn.  Such is life…

On another subject, and not a very happy one at that, Brenda was recently diagnosed with melanoma and had surgery last week.  While they caught it fairly early, it turned out to be a quite a big deal.  Post surgery and that took hours, she has two really angry looking incisions, one on her upper right arm that’s about 6′ long and another one, 4′ long, under her armpit.

The surgery was done at Yale and we’ll be going back next week to find out if there is anything to worry about going forward based on the tests done to the lymph nodes that they took out.  The prognosis is good, according to the oncologist but it’s been a tough few weeks, to say the least.

Of course, melanoma is not something to be messed with and sun exposure is clearly a risk factor, especially tropical sun, which, in spite of our best efforts, we get plenty of each winter.  We try to stay out of the sun as much as we can but there’s no denying that winters in the tropics mean more sun than winter in CT.

It’s worth noting that the “spot” looked like a large freckle and it was hard to see that it was something that, if left untreated, can kill you.  What’s particularly alarming is how fast the lesion appeared as she had been to the derm in October of last year, less than six months before she was diagnosed and had surgery.

So, there are a lot of questions to be answered and it’s anything but clear if our travels will take us south this coming winter.

For now, I’ll continue to work on Pandora to get her ready for “whatever” comes next.  You just never know what life will throw at you, I guess.

So for now, all I can say is stay tuned…  Details to come.

I’ll sign off now as I still have work to do on my presentation about our trip to Cuba.






Gecarcinus ruricola salad Cuban style.

When Brenda and I cruised the south coast of Cuba over the winter, we decided to take a land trip from Cienfuegos to Trinidad de Cuba.

Along the way, we witnessed a remarkable sight, the beginning of the annual migration of 100,000,000 Cuban land crabs (Gecarcinus ruricola) marching from their home in the mountains to the sea to lay their eggs.   As they near the end of their 6 mile journey, a particularly long way, it seems to me, for a critter that always walks sideways, they must cross a busy coastal road shortly before reaching their destination. What a sight as they scurry sideways, claws held menacingly skyward.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have an opportunity to stop and take photos that day as we crunched our way through along the road.   However, all is not lost as there are videos on YouTube about this and nearly every other topic that you could possibly imagine.

Along with touching crab videos, there are plenty to choose from that you’d probably want to skip.  However, you’ll have to wait a moment longer for a particularly poignant example of that ilk.  First, here’s a short and really fascinating, to me anyway, clip chronicling this remarkable migration to the sea.

You won’t believe just how many of these, not so little crabs, make their way from the mountains to the sea and back again each spring.  How about 100 million?   When we were there it was early in the season so the spectacle was limited to a road covered with mere thousands.  Plenty yuck enough, if you ask Brenda.   I understand that there are only a few places in the world where you can witness such a spectacle and Cuba is right up there.

And, if you happen to be lucky enough to have a home along their route, you’d find yourself with thousands of crabs “beating a pathway to your door”.  No, make that to your door, over your roof and down the other side, quite literally, each year.

So, if you happen to live in “crab city”, and double lucky you if you do, here’s a video of how you can prepare them for a nutritious meal, Cuban style.  And, of course, you’ll see that they are very much alive while you are “preparing” them.
No land crabs in your neighborhood?  Fear not.  And I expect you are at least as thankful as Brenda is for that as she’s more like “Julie” in the terrific movie “Julie and Julia“, when it comes to preparing “recalcitrant crustaceans”.  This “clip” from the movie offers a very personal take on preparing your own.  Familiar?  Of course, our heroine might have had a better time of it had she had just ripped off the legs and claws before putting them in the pot. Eeeewww!!!

Anyway, our visit to Trinidad de Cuba, as chronicled in this post, crabs aside, was wonderful and I encourage you to put it on your itinerary along with a bit of Gecarcinus ruricola salad (of course, that’s Cuban Land crab to the non Latin literate among us)  Yum…

So, there you have it.  just when you thought I had written on just about every imaginably inane topic… Scintillating detail about land crab migration and cooking instructions to boot.  Who knew?