Pandora’s snug in West End Tortola

It’s Thursday afternoon and I am here in MD with Brenda visiting our son Rob, Kandice and grandaughter Tori for a few days.

I have spent a good part of the morning tracking down some repair parts for Pandora including the pin for the autopilot that broke on the trip down from Beaufort.  I understand that this part, a pin that attaches the autopilot to the rudder post, has been a problem on Pandora since she was launched and that it has been replaced about every 18 months.  I won’t go into the details yet except that I think that I can modify the installation so that there will be less stress on that part going forward.   In any event, I was able to purchase two spares from Raymarine so that’s off of my list for now.

I also spoke to the folks from Quantum and they will be sending me some adhesive backed sailcloth to make a temporary repair to the rip in the main.  I’ll take it to their loft in Annapolis in the spring to have it repaired properly.

Finally, I also need to replace the control lines on the traveler as they frayed. There is a particular spot where the line enters the traveler from the turning block that isn’t perfectly lined up with the entry to the traveler so it rubs.  With the rough conditions we encountered that certainly caused the lines to fray sooner than normal.

It’s remarkable just how much wear and tear we ran into during the week we spent moving Pandora to the islands.  My friend Chris once told me that one year of living aboard causes as much wear and tear on a boat as ten years of weekend sailing.  I believe it.   And, 1,200 miles in a week, half in a gale, is bound to stress things.

If you have ever been in large seas, I expect that have tried to take videos to document the conditions.    A sort of “wow, you should have seen HOW BIG thes waves were” only to find, as I did that the shots just don’t do justice to what you experienced and have found yourself thinking “well, I guess you had to be there”.

In any event, here’s a short video of Jerry at the helm as we blasted along in gale force winds.  Believe me, the waves were way over our heads but this video just doesn’t do justice the just how uncomfortable we were for the four days of strong winds and big seas.   Actually, this wasn’t the worse of it as we didn’t even try to take shots when conditions were at their peak.Happily, that’s over now and I am happy to say that Pandora’s now safe and sound in West End Tortola where it’s a lot less exciting.   She’ll be there all by her lonesome through the end of the month under the watchful eyes of some friends. The view to the west at sunset is spectacular.  Please forgive the non-level skyline. Must have been the Dark and Stormy.  Our grand finale of a week of cruising with my crew was a visit to Foxy’s the famous beach bar on nearby Jost Van Dyke.  The island is very quaint with a lovely “Main Street”.  And a lovely church on the waterfront.  Or course, a beautiful view of Pandora from our table at Foxy’s where we had lunch.   Actually, I had some sort of chicken burrito thingy that was my best meal of the week. Jerry had already flown home so it was Jim, me and Dave for a “family” shot. All and all, it was a good trip with great crew but I am really happy to be with Brenda again.  When we get back to Pandora at the end of the month, Brenda and I will be going to a Salty Dawg Sailing Association dinner at Foxy’s.   That will be fun but for now Pandora will be waiting for us all snug in Soper’s Hole, West End.

I can’t wait to see what Pandora will show us this winter.

Yet again, details to come so stay tuned.  And, of course, I’ll be keeping my Delorme unit engaged so you will be able to follow our travels if you wish at “Where in the world is Pandora“.

1,200 miles to Tortola?  Check!  Home to Brenda?  Check soon!

It’s Wednesday morning and the sun is out here in Tortola.  However, that’s no surprise as it’s ALWAYS sunny except for the few minutes every couple of hours when it rains.   I had heard that it rains often, perhaps every day, more like a short shower so no surprise there.  After several years in the Bahamas where winter rain is a very rare happening, try once in four months, this is a much appreciated change of pace as it keeps Pandora’s decks clean of salt and grime.

Another welcome change is that the wind always blows from the east, all the time, unlike the Bahamas where fronts come through about once a week bringing with it winds that clock 180 degrees.  This means that we had to constantly watch the weather to be sure that we wouldn’t find ourselves on a dangerous lee shore.   Here, clocking winds are not a problem.  Having said that, it’s much more windy here with breezes in the low to mid 20s.  That has been a bit much but I am told that it’s been unusually windy since we arrived and that it will likely settle down in the next few days.  Actually, yesterday’s winds were more “zepher like” which Brenda would have liked.

Speaking of Brenda, which I do in just about every post if you’ve noticed, I’ll be heading home tomorrow to see her with a stop along the way with her to see Rob, Kandice and little Tori.  You know, the “cutest” granddaughter EVER!   (see the last post if you doubt my word)

Brenda and I will head back to Tortola together at the end of the month for a few months of sailing  together.  We hope to head down toward the southern islands after a short visit in the BVI to meet up with cruising friends and “buddy boat” our way further south.

It’s been a very difficult time to be away as Brenda’s mother died after a long illness the very day that I sailed out of Beaufort to head here.   The timing was particularly difficult as Brenda got word just one hour after I was out of cell range.  It was very unfortunate that Brenda had to face such a difficult situation alone with me out of touch save some email for a week.  Her mother died of COPD brought on from a lifetime of smoking.  Let me tell you, COPD is a particularly nasty way to die as you slowly suffocate.  Not pretty to watch and I am sure, complete torture to endure.

Brenda managed the situation y herself but I have felt supremely guilty that I wasn’t there to support her through such a difficult time.   It was the first really big event in her life for the last 45 years that I wasn’t there for and it felt terrible to be out of touch.  Fortunately, once we made landfall here I was able to find pretty consistent access to Wi-Fi so calling her on the phone was possible several times a day.  Had I been in the Bahamas, where Wi-Fi isn’t nearly as robust, it would have been even more difficult.  However, as I only had access to Wi-Fi when I was ashore, she wasn’t able to call me when she particularly needed to talk.

Anyway, I can’t tell you how excited I am to see her again tomorrow for the first time in two weeks and what a long two weeks it was.

My crew has been great and very mindful of my “anal retentive” tendencies aboard Pandora.  They have been good company and have have kept things picked up nicely.    At 47’, Pandora’s not a little boat but with four on board for two weeks, she doesn’t feel large at all.  Once we arrived here in West End Tortola they went over the boat carefully to wipe down every surface so Pandora’s in great shape now for Brenda’s arrival.

This harbor, West End or Soper’s Hole, is very pretty and well protected.  There are plenty of moorings for rent and I’ll be leaving Pandora here while I am back stateside.

Yesterday Jim and I decided to hike up the nearby hill/mountain to get a view of the harbor.   We went up to the cell tower.  It’s at the top of the hill.  Let me tell you, it’s a lot farther away than it seems.    “Are we there yet?”The view of the harbor was amazing.  These buildings are where the local Pusser’s bar and restaurant are.  It’s a very nicely put together waterfront facility with nice shops and a pretty good grocery.While Tortola is fairly arid, there are plenty of flowers.   I loved this butterfly.   My new camera is really amazing. The view toward St John and the American Virgin Islands.  What a sight from up there.Here’s little Pandora, and Dave, tucked in the harbor.   She’s the lower boat if you can’t tell. I am a big fan of pelicans and snapped this shot of one as he decided I as just a bit too close for comfort.After we reached the top of the hill which felt more like a mountain, all 651’ up, with an emphasis on “up”.   Then we headed down the other side to Pirates Cove, I think that’s what it was called.  Liquor licenses don’t seem to apply here as an enterprising local had set up shop with a snack bar serving mixed drinks and beer was in full swing. Not the fanciest place but a lovely spot to sit and enjoy the view.  This was our view as we enjoyed a Carib beer.   No kidding, shade and all. After a four mile walk there I was happy to put my thumb out and hail a local to get a ride back to town.

So, for our last day here I am not sure what we will do but I am a bit afraid of giving up my mooring and head out as there is a constant parade of boats heading in to pick up a mooring.   I’ll surely come unglued if we come back tonight and can’t find a “room at the inn” for Pandora.

Anyway, that’s about it for now as my crew is getting anxious for breakfast and granola bars will only get them so far.

It will be weird to pack winter clothing to take home today but I sure don’t need a heavy winter coat here.

Well, here I am only a little worse for wear after my 1,200 mile run south.  The good news is that tomorrow Brenda and I will be together again and then at the end of the month, back in Sunny Tortola for a few months of cruising together.

And speaking of “together” I can’t tell you how excited I am to be back with her again.  Yes, I know, I have already said that.

Did I mention I’ll be seeing her tomorrow?  So excited.

Roadtown Tortola. Want to rent a boat?

It’s Monday morning early and we are tied up in a marina here in Roadtown Tortola.  It’s hard to believe that the four of us, my crew and me, have been aboard together for nearly two weeks and on the move most of the time.  Since clearing into the BVI last week, we have moved from anchorage to anchorage each day in spite of the unusually windy conditions.

In each of the three seasons Brenda and I spent cruising the Bahamas it was “unusually” windy and each year those who had been going to the Bahamas for years always said, “this is an unusual winter.  It’s NEVER this windy.”   All I can say is that I am getting a complex and am wondering if there is some sort of little “wind goblin” that has been following me around for the last five years.

Well, enough of that I guess although it will be interesting to see how things go for the rest of the winter when Brenda and I return at the end of the month.  Fingers crossed.

We decided to come into a marina for a night yesterday to get out of the ceaseless wind, get cleaned up and do some laundry.

Roadtown is the largest city in Tortola and is also he home of the largest charter fleet in the Caribbean with literally hundreds (thousands?) of charter boats.   We walked over to the Moorings marina and I was stunned to see how many boats were moored there.   Given the fact that there are boats from this company everywhere in the BVI, it’s hard to imagine that there could be so many still tied up in the marina.  The company “The Moorings” also owns other brands including Sunsail, I think.  Rows and rows of them too.  The marina was quite nice.  It’s hard to believe that with all these boats sitting there in high season that anyone makes a profit.  However, who ever said that boats and profits went together? All of these boats are privately owned and put into charter through these companies.

Pandora is in another marina across the way and it is very nice to be tied up on a dock for a bit.   Oh yeah, and the AC is on and blasting.  Nice a dry with no humidity.    Me and my crew went out for lunch at the marina yesterday for burgers.  They tasted great.   This chicken was walking past our table in the restaurant during lunch.  Can you imagine a chicken walking through a marina restaurant in the US?Chicken’s and all, this is my crew.  Dave on the left, Jerry and Jim to the right. They have worked hard to keep Pandora in good shape in spite of the rough trip down.   I hope that they will sail with me again.  Soon. Beyond the marinas, the main drag in Roadtown seems to be dominated by t shirt shops and other small stores catering to cruise ships.  Two were docked when we arrived and by evening both had left. Well, in a few days we will all disperse for home and Pandora will be snug, I hope, on a mooring in West End Tortola where she will stay until Brenda and I return toward the end of the month.

Tonight I hope to have a farewell dinner for the guys before Jerry heads home on Tuesday.  Dave, Jim and I will sail together for one more night before we too head our separate ways.

All and all, it’s been a fun trip but it’s been very tough to be away from Brenda for this long and I can’t wait to see her later this week.  My plan is to fly to BWI on the 19th and stop for a few days with Brenda to see Rob, Kandice and little, well not so little any more, Tori.  Remember?  She’s our nearly brand new granddaughter. One month old now.  Go figure.

Isn’t she cute?  Grampy who? For sure, Roadtown is the place to rent a boat and there’s no shortage, that’s for sure.

Well, that’s about it for now.  Time to make coffee.   Need to keep my crew happy.  Besides, just about every scrap of food is now gone so I had better run out to a market and find something for breakfast.

 

Norman Island, classy til the sun goes down.

It’s Friday and we are motoring into 20kts of wind, headed to a new anchorage at Cooper Island for tonight.  The wind is strong and blowing from the NE which makes running east along the BVI islands a slog to windward.  With a short chop and a bit of an adverse current, it’s a very slow go.  Our goal for the week is to make our way to the windward end of the chain, spend a few days at the Bitter End YC and then have a leisurely run back west with the wind at the end of or week cruising together.

Yesterday’s run from Soper’s hole was about an hour and took us to Norman’s Island, a well protected harbor full or moorings featuring a very nice waterfront beach bar/restaurant as well as the notorious floating boat bar William Thornton or “Willy’s” as it’s known in the charter community.  With some 50 moorings in the well protected harbor there are plenty of charterers on hand to keep these two businesses humming day and night.

The beach bar, complete with terrific free wifi, is as nice as any Hilton resort and yet it’s only accessible by boat.  Of course, there are plenty of day trippers who come over on tour boats from the nearby USVI for lunch.  It’s a nice spot.Beautiful view pf the harbor and clear water.  I went there for the afternoon to relax, check my email and make some wifi phone calls.  An all around nice afternoon.  My crew went snorkeling nearby.

As the sun set and moon rose above the mountains it was amazing.And, after dark the “animals” came out to play.  Willy’s boat bar, and it’s a sort of converted small freighter, is on a mooring in the cove and is THE spot to be seen after dark.  And as well kept as the beach bar is, Willy’s is the exact opposite and the PERFECT place for the charter gang to “let their hair down”, way down, well into the wee hours.

The bar tenders were eager to serve and serve they did early and often.  The guy on the left was also busy dealing in what one reveler called “Colorado Salad” on the side and in plain sight.  No need to be secretive in the BVI mon.As the evening ramped up, two boat loads of charterers, festooned in flashing lights arrived ready to rumble.After a few beers there was a handy sign on the head to keep everyone up to speed on the rules. Willy’s also has a particularly charming custom of putting four shot glasses of who knows what into specially drilled holes in an old waterski.  The idea is for four to stand together and as the board tips, everyone drinks at the exact same pace. And the pace is really, really fast.After a few rounds with the waterski, this fellow decided it was time for a nap.  Doesn’t he look cozy in his dink? He even took time to peek over the side from time to time.After a while his girlfriend, well that’s what I think she was, decided to keep him comfortable. How sweet for her to support him like that.  There was pounding music and plenty of dancing.  I was particularly amused by a group from Ukraine headed up by a sort of soft and pudgy “mini oligarc” holding court with his girls.  The girls seemed way more interested in impressing him than he was in them.    I guess he thought that he was “all that and more” on his 50’ Moorings charter cat.   Perhaps the girls didn’t realize that his father moved in circles where the boats were about 10x that length.   Perhaps they were in “training” for bigger things.

As the evening wore on, I was even lent one of those lovely flashing hairpieces.  Even when I was all dressed up and totally awesome, I was only asked to dance once and by a Brit in her late 60s.  Perhaps she thought I too was a mini Oligarch.  I did my best not to break her bubble.   I don’t know, seemed like some sort of angelic halo to me.  For sure, compared to the “dink nappers” was was a perfect angel.Norman’s Island is a must stop spot for charterers and the beach bar, well very nice and with GREAT WIFI.   I recall clearly that I had fun.  However, I have a feeling that many of Willy’s customers, while they aren’t sure what they did they were pretty sure that it was fun too.   Better them than me.

I guess, as they say, “you had to be there” to appreciate it.    Yes, Norman’s a classy spot, well at least until the sun goes down.

Sure, I’ll have another Caribe.  No, perhaps not.

We’re here, finally. Welcome to Tortola!

 

It’s Thursday morning and the sun is just coming up over the mountains here in West End Tortola.  After  8 days at sea, 189.5 hours actually, and over 1,100 miles of blue water along with three days of gale force winds, not to put too fine a point on it, we arrived at our destination only a little worse for wear.  Our average speed was just over 6kts which was less than I would have expected since there were plenty of times when the GPS reading in the double digits as we plummeted down the face of 20’ waves, several times topping out at better than 17kts.  “Hang on guys! ”  However, as we crawled up the face of the next wave we’d quickly slow to something like 4.5kts.    I guess it’s all about averages and well, that’s the average.

Anyway, this blog isn’t about numbers (well mostly) so I won’t beat that horse any longer.  All and all, it was a good run, if in a more than “salty” way than I would have liked.

All I can say is that WE HAD BETTER HAVE FUN here in the Caribbean as it was totally frigging hard to get here.

I did learn two things from this trip.  First, I can endure hardship better than Brenda (I knew that actually) but not as nearly as well as Jerry and Dave, two of my crew who seem completely nonplussed by constant depravity and discomfort.  Amazing!   The second thing I learned is that Pandora is an AWESOME boat.  My thanks to Rodger Martin for designing a world class ocean ride.   But, I guess I already knew that too.  Oh well, I must have learned something but I won’t think about that too much for now as my crew, who will be cruising with me here for the next week, really want to, as my father used to say, “get the lead out” and move on with our day.   Besides, we have snorkeling to do.  More to come on that score.

Amazingly, after over a week at sea we somehow managed to time the sight of first landfall at sunrise yesterday.  This was our first real view of as the crew shouted, with enthusiasm and in unison “land ho”.   “Bob, Bob, there’s no way that happened.  You’re totally making that up.”   OK, OK, call it editorial license.   We were happy to be here at last.

Anyway, this was the first view of land for us in more than a week and how sweet it was.  And unlike those “adventures of yor” who didn’t have GPS, we actually knew where we were.  GOOD MORNING TORTOLA!A frigate bird flew out to make a formal greeting and to be sure we were flying our “Q” flag.And speaking of “frigate” the crew was more than happy to pull down those “frigating” sails. And in the “you can’t make this s*&% up” department a rainbow formed as we entered sheltered waters.  “No way Bob, you Photo Shopped that.”  Yes way…a real BVI rainbow to greet us.   Those Brits, they really know how to say welcome.Yes, welcome to paradise and to paraphrase my late father after 8 days at sea, it was “good to be seen” as we arrived in the beautiful BVI.

It was a remarkable if often really annoying journey and I am so happy to be here. What a beautiful harbor.  Time to make the donuts.  Hungry crew.

Are we there yet?? I sure hope so!

As I write this we are “enjoying,” NOT, our third day of gale force winds.  A gale is at least 35kts of wind.  If you think that sounds unpleasant,and it is, the 40+ gusts that we have been contending with for the last three days have been even more fun.  Oh yeah, and I won’t even mention our “own little squall” that trailed us for about 8 hours last night.  Somehow it stayed on top of us nearly all night.  And, all of this kicks up some remarkable waves in the 15′ to 20′ range that blast along and under us from behind every 10 seconds or so keeping us clipping along in the 7.5kt range.

You’d think it would be faster but 7.5 knots is an average that takes into account that the boat slows considerably as she “climbs” up the backside of a wave where her speed is quickly slowed to perhaps 4.5 to 5kts.  However, on the face of the wave Pandora surges ahead in a thundering rush usually topping out in the mid teens.  At a few points we saw speeds of 17+kts on the GPS.  To have the boat go from a crawl up the back of a wave and blast down the other side in a surge, all in perhaps about one minute, feels a bit like a free fall and is a remarkable experience.  To do this for three days without a break gets pretty old. Jerry, one of my crew, remarked to me today that this experience in the dark of night with heavy rain falling and waves surging against the boat feels like being on a runaway freight train in a dark tunnel.  Good description.

As you can imagine, the pressures on the boat are tremendous and we have had our share of breakages and leaks.  Fortunately, most are fairly minor but when the autopilot failed two days ago, we all thought that we were in for a horrible few days.  Pandora tracks well in rough conditions but steering under those circumstances is very challenging and can quickly tire even the most enthusiastic crew.  So, as we were powering down a wave late Sunday afternoon, Pandora all of sudden veered off course and rounded up into a huge wave.  Fortunately, someone was at the helm in case something went wrong so two of us were able to wrestle her back on course within a few minutes.

I pride myself, as Pandora’s previous owner did, in having spares on board for a lot of systems and there are literally thousands of dollars of spares tucked away.  However, I didn’t know if the broken specialized bolt that linked the autopilot ram to the steering quadrant was somewhere in all the hardware that I have tucked away.  Amazingly, after searching for nearly two hours, I finally found the precious piece and had it installed in less than ten minutes.  I just KNEW I had seen it somewhere!  YES!  Let me tell you, Dave, Jim and Gerry were ecstatic too.  Remarkably, I ultimately found a second spare.  I had seen these in the past but had no idea what they were.  Now I do.

Since Pandora has been banging around constantly I try to do a careful review of all systems several times a day to be sure that nothing looks like it’s about to break.  Today I found some critical bolts on the steering quadrant that had worked themselves loose and was also alarmed (an understatement) to find the watermaker lurching from side to side.  The screws that held the base to the workbench had pulled loose.  I was shocked to see how tiny they were.  Fortunately, I was able to put in some new larger ones with some help from Jim — a major mess averted.

The last few days have been very difficult, and if this trip is what might be called “typical” then I am not sure I’d want to do it again.  However, I should note that when we were making a decision on a weather window to leave Beaufort, Chris Parker, the weather router, did mention this front and said that it would be important to stay in front of it to stay in good weather.  Naturally, the front moved in faster than predicted, so we missed that window by about 12 hours.  Had that not happened, our trip would have been much easier.

I think that the moral of the story is that if things look iffy, perhaps it’s better to hold off and try later.  I guess that’s often the case in life. Or, to put it another way “pick your battles.”  Yes, it’s been a very tough ride but my crew has been terrific and everyone is getting along well.

As I finish this up we are about 100 miles from Tortola and should arrive there around dawn on Wednesday.  I have to say that there have been a number of times in the last few days when I would have been happy to be just about anywhere than aboard Pandora.  However, if we arrive in Tortola and the sun is out and I am holding some sort of tropical drink with a little umbrella, I expect that all will be forgotten.

All and all, we have done well and nobody even got sick.  That’s good too.

Well, I am looking forward to spending time in the BVI with my crew but more than anything else, I can’t wait to see Brenda again.  I have missed her terribly and on top of that, I am looking forward to seeing our new granddaughter Tori again.  Oh yeah, it will be fun to see her parents Rob and Kandice too.

Yes, I am glad that this trip is almost over.  And in spite of the fact that Pandora has proved herself to be a wonderful blue water boat, I can’t stop from thinking “are we there yet?”. Boy, I sure hope so.

Hello Brenda!!!  I REALLY, REALLY can’t wait to see you. XXXOOO to come…

Half Way There at the End of Long Day

It’s nearly midnight on Saturday and we are sailing along at a very good clip, sometimes more than 8kts.  That’s pretty fast especially in the choppy ocean conditions that we have now.  And, ocean conditions it is, as we are 450 miles from the nearest land and 600 miles from the US coast.  We are really on our own, that’s for sure.  If we were to get into trouble, the only real option would be to get help from a passing ship and there aren’t many around.  We did have two come by today but they were too far to see as the closest they came to us was about 20 miles.

And, one thing about being out here by ourselves, is that it is critical that any problems be addressed while they are still manageable.  When conditions are rough little problems can become big ones very quickly.  For example, each morning we take a good look at the deck, lines and the sails to see that everything is in good shape. A small wrinkle in a sail that wasn’t there the prior evening can spell trouble and a little hole in a sail rubbed by another piece of hardware can lead to a major failure.

Yesterday Jim, one of my crew, was looking at the mainsail and noticed a small rip about 40′ up from the deck.  We pulled the sail down and then realized that the “little” rip was actually a pretty big hole, nearly 10″ long.  Fortunately, I had some adhesive sail repair cloth on hand which we applied on each side of the tear.  I am pretty sure it will hold until we get to Tortola.  Fingers crossed.

We also did some preparation for possible gale conditions expected Monday when we may encounter winds in the 30-40kt sustained range with gusts to 50.  Even though the winds will be behind us, that’s a lot of wind. With that in mind, we spent time today rigging a third reef in the main which will allow us to reduce the mainsail area by about 75%.  We were also having trouble getting good sail shape from the first reef which we have used for much of this trip so far.  The problem was that the reef wasn’t flattening the sail enough so the boat was heeling much more than it should have and it made for a very uncomfortable ride.  After about two hours of work today, everything seems to be in order.

Making sure that we are very well prepared will keep things from getting out of control when conditions get nasty.  It’s particularly important when you consider that no one can come out to help get the boat to shore when we are this far from land.  So, a problem that is easily fixed if we were a few miles from shore becomes a very big deal out in the “real” ocean.

And speaking of “remote” I can’t believe that I was able to send this text to Brenda via my SSB radio so she can post it to my blog. Amazing, actually.

So, we have been at sea for four days now and are half of the way to Tortola.  And, as I write this we are barreling along in the dark hundreds of miles from anywhere.  It’s different, that’s for sure.

With most of the “issues” resolved for now, it’s nice to know that we should have good sailing conditions for much of the rest of the trip, even though some of those miles may be “pretty sporty.”  At least I can say that I am as prepared for a possible gale as I can be.

I am feeling pretty relaxed right now, or is it that I am just tired?  Hmm…  The last few days have been pretty stressful as I have had to sort out a number of problems and worry about the nasty weather we are heading toward and all the while wondering if we were prepared.  There’s something about the word “gale” that tends to stress me out for some reason.

I guess it’s impossible to know but now I feel that we are as prepared as we can be.  Fingers crossed that I’m right.

I hope that you have been able to follow our progress as I am using a new tracker that is pretty neat.  It even allows you to click on an individual waypoint to see how fast we were going at that particular time.  Cool, I think.

Wish us luck as we continue our way south.  Thanks for “watching.”

On Our Way, As Planned

It’s Friday morning and we are about a third of the way to the BVI with an average speed for the first 400 miles of about 7.5kts.  That’s not too shabby but an important speed as that’s what it will take for us to reach an important waypoint off of the eastern tip of the Dominican Republic where we have been told we will run into a cold front on Monday.

The plan is for us to outrun the front by being to a position south of the frontal boundary that is expected to stretch from approximately 24 degrees north and 65 degrees west to 22 degrees north to 68 degrees west near the eastern tip of the Dominican Republic.  When we left Beaufort on Wednesday morning Chris Parker, our weather router, predicted that we’d have to be past that line by about 18:00 on Monday in order to outrun the front and gale force winds in excess of 30kts with gusts in the 40-45 range.

To be able to outrun the front we would have to maintain an average speed of 7.5kts overall.  The good news is that as of today we have been able to do that but now the forecast has changed with the front expected to be in our way about 12 hours sooner.  This means that we will likely encounter strong winds for about 12 hours or so.   The good news is that the wind will be behind us from the NE but may be pushing waves in the 15-20′ range.  However, they shouldn’t persist for that long as we are able to pass the front.  Unfortunately, it is possible that the front will be moving south at about the same speed we will be going so I guess that we will just have to be prepared and see what happens as we get closer to Monday and the front.

Of course, that’s a long way off and much can change.  I’ll be speaking with Chris again on Saturday, tomorrow morning to see what, if anything, has changed.

Anyway, I left CT on Monday to drive to Beaufort, an 11-12 hour ride.  With stops and some “coming home from grandmas home” traffic near Baltimore, the ride ended up taking about 14 hours with me arriving at Pandora around 01:30 on Tuesday morning.  I was really tired.

Tuesday was spent scrambling around getting last minute provisions in advance of the arrival of my crew.  Somehow we got everything done and left the dock to get fuel by 07:30 on Wednesday.  What a rush, but in a bad way.  I was exhausted.

As I mentioned in a recent post, I had been frustrated by a total lack of communication from the guy working on the replacement ports on the boat and while the job was “finished” I have to say that his work was pretty rough and in the case of the cockpit window, very messy.  I also noticed that while the cockpit window was out it must have rained as there was some water damage on a bulkhead in the aft cabin. I am hopeful that I will be able to clean it up and perhaps bleach the wood to get the black staining out.  Fingers crossed.  However, rest assured that I will not pay the full invoice, if I ever get it, and may opt to say “sorry pal” and not pay anything at all to cover the pain and suffering along with the damage to the woodwork below.  I am sure that he put in several days of work and won’t be happy.  However, he knew of my departure plans and did not submit a bill to the marina or me by that time and it was clear that the job was not even completed.  Fortunately, the work is at least watertight so I can wait till a future date to fix any remaining issues.   So much for “remote control” of boat repairs.

Oh yeah, remember the other job?  You know, the one to install the new charger/inverter?  That was done but, as I had feared, with all the other equipment that he had to remove in the nav-station to get the new unit in place, he was, shall we say, less than meticulous in labeling wires that needed to be reconnected when he was done.  So, while the unit itself works, the 110 outlet on the nav station doesn’t work now and the wire itself leading to the plug doesn’t have power at all.  Who knows how hard it’s going to be to trace down that problem.   That’s disappointing.  However, not nearly as frustrating as the fact that he had not reconnected the SSB wiring correctly so I was unable to use my radio to get an updated weather forecast from Chris on Tuesday.   The SSB email modem was also reinstalled incorrectly.  Between the two units it took me until Wednesday evening before it was all sorted out.  Very frustrating.  And to make matters worse, it was very rough so trying to sort through problems while bouncing around in large seas was not pleasant at all.  Chris Parker was so concerned that he had not heard from me that he contacted Brenda.

Fortunately, Brenda knew what was going on as I had texted her on my new Delorme tracker to let her know what the problem was.  I can only think what Brenda would have done if she had not heard from me.  It would have been terribly upsetting.

This experience, once again, reinforces my feeling that it is critical that I do as much work on Pandora as possible myself so that when things go wrong, I can fix them.   Better yet, do the work the right way first and there won’t be a need to fix things, especially when I am at sea.

And speaking of “at sea”, we got off to a really rough start but those strong winds and waves made for some very fast sailing with speeds sometimes approaching 10kts and even higher a few times.   It was pretty amazing to see the waves roll by with the phosphorescence of the breaking crests glowing green in the darkness.   I don’t believe that Brenda would have been pleased at all with the conditions.   Nope, not a bit.

So, as I write this we are sailing along on a close reach at about 7.5kts, the speed that we must maintain if we have any hope of outrunning that front.  Chris thinks that the wind will die later today and then pick up from a SE direction.  Anyway, our trip so far has been fairly uneventful, setting aside the “technical issues” I have gone on and on about, if a bit “sporty” for the first 24 hours.

When the wind dies later today I think that we will all shower in the cockpit and perhaps do a bit of fishing.

Interestingly, this trip at 1,200 miles is about 150 longer than any I have taken to date without stopping.  It will also take me farther from shore than I have been, about 300 miles from land.   Actually, as I write this, we are at the point furthest from land that we will be for the trip.

Well, we did get underway as planned even if I was exhausted from a full day of driving followed by a day of frantic provisioning in anticipation of my crew arriving on Tuesday afternoon.   I don’t know why it is that all my trips involve a few days of frantic preparation and some time spent sorting out problems that crop up after we are underway. Well, at least I am usually am able to “sort.”   I guess that’s what sailing is all about.

Well, that’s my report.  And don’t forget that you can follow our progress by clicking on the button “Where in the World is Pandora.”

Stay tuned.

That’s all for now.

Yes, it looks like Wednesday’s the day! BVI, here we come!!!

I spoke with Chris Parker today and his original recommendation that Wednesday the 4th will be good for a departure to head to the BVI still stands. This is actually a surprise to me as long range forecasts usually don’t turn out to be quite the same when they are no longer long range.

So, here’s what Chris thinks things will look like for next week.

I could leave either Wednesday or Thursday from Beaufort but a departure on Wednesday puts us south of the Gulf Stream in advance of strong NW winds in the range of 20-30kts with higher gusts that we’d likely see with a Thursday departure.

By leaving Wednesday morning we’d be ahead of this and probably will see winds in the 20s out of the west as we cross the Gulf Stream.   By evening, and we’d be across the Gulf Stream by that point, we expect to have NW winds in the 20-25 range that should carry through Thursday morning.

After that the winds should go light with a continued NW component followed by light winds for Saturday and Sunday, suggesting a few days of motoring.

On Monday it looks like NW winds will build again which will allow us to carry the rumbline all the way south to the BVI.   This is in contrast to the “normal” run to the eastern Caribbean that generally calls for a lot of easting toward Bermuda prior to heading south when we reach the easterly trade winds.  Of course, a straight shot is also shorter which may mean a total run of a week or perhaps a day or two longer if we have to motor a lot.

However, if we are delayed and can’t get going on Wednesday we will probably have to wait until the weekend or next Monday to avoid the next front that rolls off the coast after Wednesday.

And speaking of delays, remember the “unfinished” work  on Pandora that I wrote about the other day?   As I mentioned in my last post, I was able to find someone to look in on Pandora on Friday who told me that some of the work was completed but that the cockpit glazing was not in place.  Yesterday I finally heard from the yard owners, who are now back from their vacation.   They reported that the cockpit glazing is now in place so we should be “good to go” unless something else comes up.   I still don’t understand why the sub that is doing the work would not return my calls, or those from the marina.   He still hasn’t contacted me, work done or not.

As of now, it looks like Pandora and her crew are in for a good run with good conditions for a few days of easy fast sailing when we get underway. This is very good as Dave and Jerry are not familiar with Pandora so I don’t want to “jump into the fire” right away with heavy conditions.

I fully expect to see some “sporty” conditions during the trip but it would be best to have that later in the run when we are more settled in to our routine.

While it’s supposed to rain on Monday and Tuesday, it looks like the high on Wednesday will be around 60 degrees which is a lot more appealing than being out in near freezing conditions as we begin our run.

Of course, every post should have at least one photo so how about a sunset photo as Brenda and I entered Cuban waters last March?  That seems like a long time ago.  What an amazing trip that turned out to be. Yes, I expect that this winter will be filled with wonder too as have the last 4 for me and Brenda.

And, speaking of “wonder”, how about a photo from yesterday of our granddaughter Tori in her “Pandora crew” shirt?   She’s pretty excited about our trip too. I really feel so sorry for all the mothers who’s children are not as cute Tori.   Yes, and when it comes to “wonder” I sure hope that I don’t find my self “wondering” why I decided to make a run from the US to the BVI, beginning in January”.   I guess you will have to stay tuned to see how it goes.

So, here’s to a terrific run next week.    Yes, indeed, it looks like Wednesday’s the day.

Don’t forget to check out “Where in the World is Pandora” on this page.  I’ll have my new tracker working by Tuesday so you will be able to see where we are at most any time all the way.

I’ll be back in a few days with an update.

Happy New Year!  It’s going to be great, I’m sure.

When will we get there? The BVI, that is.

It’s Friday, Christmas has come and gone and I am due to jump in  a rental car on Monday to drive to Beaufort.    With less than a week to go, it does look like the weather will support a mid-week departure for the BVI but, as is so often the case,  there is one “little” problem.

When I dropped Pandora in Beaufort in early November I contracted with the yard to get some projects done.  That work included some engine work, a new charger/inverter, new mid cabin port glazing on ports that had developed chronic leaks as well as new bedding on the large glass dodger windows.

With two months to get the work done the answer was “no problem mon”.    Alas, not quite.  The engine and electrical work were done in short order but the windows?  Well, let’s just say that getting information on the status of the job has been nearly impossible.  I was getting so frustrated yesterday, with less than a week to go, that I finally had to call on the local SSCA Cruising Station host in Beaufort to get in his car to check out the status of the boat for me.     As expected, Michael dropped everything and went to the yard to check on the work.

The good news is that the large ports in the cabin are nearly complete but the cockpit window is not yet done, has been removed and is lying in the cockpit.  I have called the “closed for the holidays” yard off and on all week and hopefully will have confirmation soon that the work will be done in time.

I guess that it is experiences like this that make me determined to do most of the work on Pandora myself but sometimes calling in experts, as in this case, is the only option.

Anyway, this is the sort of thing what keeps me up at night but back to the subject of this post.   When I talk about next week’s trip to the BVI, a question that inevitably comes up is “How long will it take?”  Of course, that’s a complicated question that involves many factors, the first of which being “When will we leave?”.    And, as I have mentioned above, that’s currently a big question.

However, setting that aside, the next question is about the wind and that’s a big “Who knows?” too.    All of the above aside, another question and one that is in the minds of all sailors and designers, is “How fast is she?”   Below are a set of “polars”, a graph of predicted performance numbers for the Aerodyne 47 design.  It’s a bit confusing to read but worth digging into.

If you find it easier to read a table, here are the raw numbers.

Simply stated, the red lines are wind speed which is overlaid on compass rose that shows a theoretical speed at any given wind angle and speed.    Rodger Martin, the designer, just sent them to me and at first glance I would say that my experience, with the understanding that these are for a boat that’s not as heavily laden with cruising gear as Pandora are consistent with the charts.  The stated numbers are in the ballpark if a it high.  However, when you consider that she has a LOT of stuff on board, they are pretty close.  In my experience, with about 15kts on the beam, that she runs in the 7-8kt range.  The numbers are impressive.  Nice design Rodger!

So, armed with these numbers, the question is “How long will our 1,500 mile run take?   Who knows but, for sure, there will be times when we will say “wow, she’s fast”.   Other than that? Who knows.  Besides, she’s a sailboat and Brenda’s opinion on the subject is something like “fast or slow, it’s sort of like watching grass grow”.   Oh well, I guess.  Seems fast to me.

So, now long will the trip take?  I’m betting around 9 days, give or take a day.   I guess we will have to wait and see.  For now, I’ll just have to hope that the work on Pandora is completed when I arrive or IT’S GOING TO TAKE A LOT LONGER.

With New Years Eve just a few days away, I guess I’ll close with the hope and expectation that 2017 will be a terrific year.

Fingers crossed for now.   And, as Brenda has said, “Bob and the dog, ever hopeful.”

Yes, that’s me.  Can I have a cookie?