One month from today on my way and memories of Cuba.

It’s hard to believe that I only have one month to the day until I’ll be back aboard Pandora in Beaufort NC.

This week the work on Pandora’s engine was completed.  It wasn’t anything particularly big, just a leak on the heat exchanger.  Fixed now.  I also had a new charger/inverter installed.  I could have done that myself so it’s going to hurt to write a check.  Oh well, only two boat dollars for both.  Ugh…

I am getting a bit anxious about the two big ports in the cabin and the big window in the dodger that need to be replaced as the guy who’s supposed to be working on it hasn’t been responding to my emails and calls.  I did speak to the office at the marina and I believe that they will hunt him down and be sure that the work is done on time.

The problem is that the guy who’s supposed to be doing the work is a sub-contractor to the marina.  However, the folks at the marina did recommend him and have a vested interest in having the work done right so I’ll keep my fingers crossed that everything comes together with a minimum of fuss.  Yes, “double crossed” but in a good way, I hope.

The fact that I am leaving in one month was brought into sharp focus yesterday as I did my first shopping for “provisions” for the trip south.  I am not focused on perishable stuff right now but did buy a lot of items that I’ll need to have on board.  I am trying to get most of the purchases out of the way of anything that won’t spoil.  Besides, you can never have too many packages of “Chips Ahoy” cookies.  Right?

As I’ll be trying to get Pandora completely ready to get underway in only  two or three days once I get to Beaufort, I want to bring as much as I can from home and have been making a list for the last few months of what I’ll need, you know, toilet paper, paper towels, snacks and the like.  I am also bringing along soy sauce and wasabi as I am hopeful that we will catch some nice tuna along the way.  That would be awesome.

Speaking of fishing, at the Salty Dawg Rally events in Hampton in late October, I sat in on a fishing session that suggested gear we should have on board for the run.   Of course, rods and the usual fishing stuff was part of the discussion but they also recommended that we have a hand spool of really heavy line that is run out the back of the boat and pulled in by hand with gloves when there is a fish on the line.

This is a good example of the rig and it’s a lot simpler than all that complicated rod and gear approach.  We have one of these aboard Pandora and it works well.  Interestingly, the spool that you wind the line on is called a “Cuban hand reel”.  Who knew?hand-line-rigWant one yourself?  This link will take you to a site with details on how to set one up.  I just went to a tackle shop and they made one up for me.  No, I am not ALWAYS a do-it-my-selfer, believe it or not.

I also heard that it was NOT A GOOD IDEA to use REALLY BIG lures as you might catch a REALLY BIG FISH.  Big lures usually mean REALLY BIG FISH. Not good as there is just no way to deal with a huge fish on board.   Even a small tuna, say under ten pounds, is hard to deal with as you’ll get sick of tuna before you area able to eat all of it.   Too much sushi you say?  Trust me on this.

So, I included a bottle of soy sauce and a can of wasabi powder.  All ready for our tuna.  Time to fish, soon.

The cockpit table extension is done and I am putting on MANY coats of varnish. I’ll post some photos of the completed table soon.  I am very pleased with how it turned out and can’t wait to share the result.  Now we can be true to the “four for dinner” aboard Pandora.  If you don’t understand what I mean by that you aren’t reading my blog.  Curious? Ok, check out this post and you’ll understand.

I also received the calcite water treatment filter which should solve the problem of acidic water that tastes a little funny from the watermaker, RO unit.  I was wondering how I’d be able to tell when the filter needed to be replaced and was pleased to see that the filter housing is translucent so that I will be able to see when the “sand” is depleted.  Unfortunately, the filter housing I have isn’t clear so I may have to rethink that and get a one that is see-through.  That way I’ll know when the filter is out of media.  Don’t know what I am talking about on this either?  Check out this post that goes into more detail on the problem.

I think I mentioned that the Salty Dawg Sailing Association is planning a rally from the BVI to Havana this spring and I have been asked to prepare a summary of some of Brenda’s and my posts from our visit to Cuba last winter as a “primer” on what we experienced.   As they are only going to be in Havana I will be focusing on that aspect of the trip.  Just for fun, here’s what I’ll be sending them with links to some of my favorite posts.

Here you go, Salty Dawgs (and you too)

The Salty Dawg Sailing Association will be hosting a rally to Havana in the spring of 2017.  Well, that’s assuming that the President Elect doesn’t decide to crank down and further restrict travel to Cuba.  I guess we will just have to wait and see.

Hank, who is the organizer for the trip, has asked me to prepare something to share to give you a feel for what we experienced, particularly in Havana.

Perhaps the best place to start is with Brenda’s post where she wrote about what the people are like and let me tell you, they are wonderful.   When you visit Havana you’ll find that it’s not quite as “gentle” as the very rural areas, but still very friendly.  I took a stab at describing how I felt about the Cuban people as well in this post.   In the event that you decide to venture further west of Havana Cayo Levisa, that I mentioned in that post is a wonderful spot to visit.

We spent about ten days in Havana which is probably enough time to get a feel for things but there is so much to see you could easily spend weeks or months exploring the city.  This post, which I wrote up while we were “in the thick” of our visit to Havana gives a good feel for all that there is to see in this vibrant city.  While it is a poor country, there is no shortage of art an music and it seemed like there was always some sort of holiday celebration underway.

This post by Brenda entitled, “Magical Havana” captures the wonder that she felt as we made our way.   Brenda and I visited Cuba under a “journalism general license” with her goal of exploring the fiber arts of Cuba and she really hit “pay-dirt” in Havana.

The arts in Cuba are just amazing and Brenda did a great job of conveying that spirit as she wrote about our very last day in Havana prior to heading to Ft Lauderdale.  Her post “Basket Man”, a street artist that we encountered, is a great example of how vibrant this city is.   We watched him make an amazingly intricate “basket”.   4-27-16a-032And finally, eating out in Havana is best enjoyed by visiting the many Paladars, small private family owned restaurants that are everywhere in Cuba.   As a general rule, the “tourist hotels” while they are magnificent buildings, have very mediocre, bordering on horrible, food and are expensive.  We did frequent these but did so for an afternoon coffee or drink.  If you want really great food, you need to go to a private restaurant, or Paladar.  We visited a number of these but one, Paladar los Mercaderes, was a real standout.   A great source of information on where to eat and what to see is the Lonely Planet Guide to Cuba.  This post was about that day and our best meal in Cuba.  I thought that the “greeter” was just too cool. 4-25-16a-047All and all, while not nearly as “polished” as many of the islands in the Caribbean, Cuba is a “diamond in the rough” and to go now, before there are “Golden Arches” on every corner, is an experience not to be missed.

Want to learn more?  Check out the 30 or so posts, from March and April of which I have highlighted just a few.  They can be found on this site as well as Brenda’s at www.argoknot.com.  And just like visiting Cuba, they are best enjoyed when accompanied by a glass of good rum (prefereably Cuban) served neat.  You won’t be disappointed.

Yes, go to Cuba!  Brenda and me?  We’re going to somewhere new, the Eastern Caribbean.  Only a month until I head out.  So excited!

 

 

How may does Pandora sleep?

It seems that one of the first things that most “non-boaters” ask about Pandora is “how many does she sleep?”, a question that was always an odd one to me and yet a question that only seems to apply to boats.

To that point, when someone asks about our home, they never ask “how many sleep in your house?”.  Why is that?

I guess that the same sort of question applies to size as inevitably, the next question is “how big is your boat?”.   My answer is always “well, that depends how far from the dock we are.  When we are close, she seems huge.  Far out to sea when it’s rough, very tiny indeed.”  Funny as nobody ever says, “how big is your house?”

Anyway, the point of the title of this post is, sort of, related to how many Pandora sleeps.   Brenda’s answer is always the same when that question comes up. “six for cocktails, four for dinner and two sleep on board.”  That works well for us as most of our cruising friends have their own boats and even at 47′, Pandora’s not much larger than a normal sized bathroom in a house.

Related to the sleeping question is how many eat on board and while we have a generous dining table down below,we usually prefer to eat out in the cockpit.  However, unlike “old” Pandora where we had a good size dining table in the cockpit, “new” Pandora, not so much.  Her table is fine for two but if we are going to live up to Brenda’s saying, we’d have to use salad plates and sit WAY TO CLOSE TO OUR GUESTS as the table is just too small.   It looks lovely all set for dinner but, alas, only for two.   Yes, I realize that this isn’t dinner but you get the idea.5-27-15a-011So the question was how to enlarge the table and yet have it still fold down like the one that came with the boat?   My solution was to put on some sort of extension, a sort of “leaf” like a “land-home” table might have.  The question was how to do it.

I decided to increase the length of the table by 18″ for a total length of 3 1/2′ and design it in a way that could be slid on and removed easily.   I am using teak to match the “already aboard Pandora” table.  The wood alone, while only a single board, set me back $150 (that’s .15 of a boat dollar).  No room for mistakes. 11-28-16a-016Next I had to include fiddles, like the “old” table,  to keep things from sliding around when the table is in the closed position, say for cocktails when we have the “six for cocktails” thing going on.  This is what it will look like, sort of, in a deployed but “closed” cocktail position.  There will be a slide bracket on the back to keep the two sections aligned and secured to each other. 11-28-16a-015There will be two tapered legs to support what will be a long table.  We don’t want a guest to lean on the suspended end after “one too many” and bring the whole thing crashing to the deck.  Making the tapered legs was a bit challenging using a shop-built jig.   This is a shot of the jig and “blank” of the soon to be tapered leg. 11-28-16a-012Here’s one of the two roughed out legs.   They taper from about 1 1/4″ at the top to a bit over 1/2″ at the bottom.  Magic, a tapered leg!  A fitting will go in the top of the leg that will allow me to screw it into the bottom of the table to support the extra length. 11-28-16a-013Curious about how to make such a jig or how to use it? This four minute video shows how to make a jig and after that, if you just have to know how to actually use the jig, a second short video will come up. I also had to cut in for each of the 4 new hinges so the table will fold into the “cocktail” form.   First I drew them on the wood. 11-28-16a-002Then I roughed them out with an electric router.  I think it took me a week or two just to get up the nerve to use the router “free-hand” and I had to get them exactly right eight times as that’s how many hinge ends I had to get “perfect”.   You can do a world of hurt to a project such a tool.  They can be hard to control and there is no way to repair a mistake.  However, it worked out.   Here’s what they looked like when “rough” after the router. 11-28-16a-009Then I “cleaned up” each hinge mortise with a small chisel.  11-28-16a-003The net step was to mortise out more wood for the thicker parts of the hinge.  I took out some wood, tried to fit the hinge and repeated the process time and time again until each hinge end fit “just right”. 11-28-16a-017And eventually they all did. 11-28-16a-018I also had to duplicate the details on the original table such as the routed down areas of the corners. 11-28-16a-008That proved to be fairly time consuming.  I did it with a 1″ sanding drum on a drill.  Lots of sandpaper used up on that step but it worked.

Today, if I ever finish this post, I’ll do the final fitting on the hinges and then work out a design for the “tab” on the bottom of the table that will marry the two table sections together securely.  After that, I’ll finish the sanding and then begin applying the many coats of varnish so the new table will look like the one that came with the boat.

I’ll include photos of the finished table after it’s all completed.  While it’s a fairly simple project, getting the details on the new “leaf” hasn’t been easy as I had to reverse engineer the “how did they do that” for much of the details.

Everyone complains about how much thing cost for boats but it’s the “custom” nature of everything that makes them so costly.  It’s a good thing that I mostly have the ability make this stuff as I could never justify the cost of hiring someone else to do it.

So, how many does Pandora sleep?   Now you know and soon Pandora will be able to be true to Brenda’s word “four for dinner” on our shiny new cockpit table.

 

 

It’s Black Friday I am thinking… Water filters and Guadaloupe

Well, Thanksgiving has come and gone and America is heading to the stores in force to buy, well, to buy whatever.  “Out of my way dammit. I saw that Ninja action figure first and it’s mine!”

For me, well I am going to stay far away from the mall and let everyone else compete for the latest “must have” item as I am more focused on making sure that everything is set for Brenda’s and my time in the eastern Caribbean aboard Pandora.  The arrival of our first grandchild in a few weeks will be a big deal for us and balancing time away without missing out on too much of the new little Osborn’s milestones will be tough.

Yes, our daughter-in-law Kandice is due on December 14th which is just around the corner   However, this site is about sailing not delivering.  Well, not about delivering babies anyway.

And, speaking of “delivering”.  “Nice transition Bob.”  When Brenda and I cruised around Cuba last winter Brenda met a fellow bobbin lace maker, Adriana while we were in Havana.  When we headed to Cuba Brenda had seen a photo of Adriana on a blog post done by someone in Oregon, I think, that had met Adriana a few years back.  However, that was all that Brenda had to go on, a single photo on an old blog post.

As Internet access is very difficult in Cuba, especially for Cubans, there was almost nothing on The Web at all for Brenda to go on in finding out about the fiber arts in Cuba much less finding that one particular woman in the photo.  The only thing Brenda new was that Adriana could sometimes be found at a certain park in Old Havana. Amazingly, Brenda found Adriana and did so on our very first day in Old Havana.  What an amazing coincidence, to find the one woman out of millions of Cubans that Brenda was trying dead set on meeting.

This post by Brenda tells her amazing story of finding Adriana.  We visited her again several more times while we were in Havana and the two women formed an instant bond.

Brenda and Adriana, the lady in green, really hit it off in spite of the fact that Brenda doesn’t speak Spanish and Adriana knows no English.  4-25-16a-020It seems that the “language of fiber” was all that they needed and a little interpreter help from Dazmira (the one on the right in red) who speaks some English.   So here we are, nearly a year later, and Brenda has been accumulating a mountain (well perhaps a hill, or modest mound) of donated lace materials from members of her guilds, here in CT, to take to Adriana this spring.

The big question is if Brenda and I will make the trip to make the delivery ourselves or if we will hand the materials off to someone else who will take everything to Adriana in Old Havana.

Over the last few years, I have become more involved in a group, the Salty Dawg Sailing Association (I’ve mentioned this before) and the group is organizing a rally to Havana from the BVI in the spring.   So, the plan is for the supplies to be delivered to Adriana by Pandora or by a Salty Dawg rally participant.

It’s amazing to me that this is really happening and surely speaks to the bond that artists have with one another, regardless of nationality.  Stay tuned to see how things develop in the coming months.  I know that Brenda and Adriana have been in touch by email lately so the plot thickens.  Good thing that Brenda has access to Google Translate so she can understand the messages from Adriana.

So, on to the, sort of, topic of this post…  In a recent post I talked about the corrosive properties of RO (reverse osmosis) product water.  You know, a topic that’s on just about everyone’s mind these days, and the havoc that it causes on aluminum and my water heater in particular.   Dear reader, you will recall that I had to replace the water heater as it was eaten away by the acidic water from the RO unit.  Yes, oh so sad…

The solution to the problem, I discovered, is to run the acidic “product water” from the RO unit through a cartridge filled with calcite media made of crushed marble before it ends up in the boat’s water tanks. This process increases the Ph of the water just enough to make sure that it is no longer corrosive.

This is a description of the process…

Calcite is a crushed and screened white marble media which neutralizes acidic or low pH waters to a neutral, less corrosive condition. Calcite is a naturally occurring calcium carbonate media. One of the advantages of Calcite is its self-limiting property as it corrects pH only enough to reach a non-corrosive equilibrium. It does not over-correct under normal conditions.

Upon contact with Calcite, acidic waters slowly dissolve the calcium carbonate to raise the pH which reduces the potential leaching of metals found in typical plumbing systems. Depending on the pH of the “product water” flowing through it, the Calcite bed will have to be periodically replenished as the Calcite is depleted.

The good news is that these calcite filters are available in a standard 10″ cartridge that fit typical water filter housings.  My plan is to put this new filter in-line between the RO unit and our water tanks.   Sourcing the fittings to marry the output lines from the RO unit is proving to be a bit of a challenge but I have found most of what I need.

As an added benefit this means that the water we drink aboard won’t be completely tasteless or, as we have found, sort of soapy.  Not great as water tastes best when it has some minerals in it.  Don’t believe me?  Try drinking distilled water.

Awkward segue or not, about the other title of this post.   One of the best things about cruising the Windward and Leeward Islands is the international flavors of the many cultures in close proximity to one another.

As these islands are heavily influenced by the countries that colonized them hundreds of years ago, to sail between islands, many of which are just a day-sail apart, is to easily visit countries with very different cultures.   The only option that’s more convenient for us to go from country to country is perhaps Epcot in FL although some might suggest (yes, that means you Brenda) that it just isn’t the same.

However, while sailing aboard Pandora, it’s A LOT more practical for us to enjoy the taste of England to France by heading to Antiqua and then on to Guadalupe. Yes, that’s much simpler than if we had to “cross the pond”.  In my last post about places we hope to visit this winter, I wrote about Antiqua with it’s deep British heritage.

Another country we are excited about visiting is Guadalupe as we just love French wines, bread and cheeses.  I was poking around YouTube and found this charming video.  It really got our appetites going.Yes, lots to do between now and early January when I head south aboard Pandora but I am really getting excited.  I can almost taste the fresh-from-the-oven baguettes from the French islands.  Yum…

Well, I guess that’s all for now as I have a few errands to run.  Besides, it’s Black Friday and it just wouldn’t be complete without a visit to a store.  I think I’ll make that store Home Depot.  Yes, I need a water filter housing and, as everyone knows, no shopping expedition on Black Friday is complete without buying a water filter housing.

Attention Black Friday shoppers…

 

Where to go? Antigua! So many choices.

It’s only about five weeks until I head back to Pandora to run her the 1,500 miles from Beaufort NC to the Caribbean.  As of now, that’s likely to be within the first few days of the new year. I have my crew all set and we plan to spend some time in the BVI sailing together once we get there.

The work on Pandora is progressing.  I understand that the new charger/inverter is in and the new port lights are moving along.  The next part will be to deal with the leaking heat exchanger and a general check-over of the engine.  I can’t wait to write some checks.  Not.

And speaking of writing big checks, work on Pandora is pennies compared to the 130′ yacht I crewed on last fall to Ft Lauderdale from Greeenport LI.  I wrote a number of posts about that amazing trip as we made our way south.  Of course, with WIFI all the way.  This post was a sort of tour of the boat.  Amazing.

Anyway, I mention that boat again as Captain Mark told me, when I spoke to him a few days ago, that he will be in the BVI for a while following a month long visit to St Barts over the holidays and we talked about getting together. Yes, that would be fun so hopefully I will get to the BVI before he leaves.  Fingers crossed.  I am also hopeful that I’ll be able to crew for him again sometime next year.  Yes, fingers crossed on both counts.

For sure there’s lot’s happening and I can’t believe that I’ll be heading to the Caribbean and for the first time on my own boat.  We won’t talk about my aborted attempt last year.  This time I actually expect to make it all the way.  I’m excited.

I am also getting pretty wound up about some of the places that Brenda and I will be visiting along the way.  The plan is for me to head back home after Pandora is settled in the BVI for a quick visit to see our soon-to-arrive grandchild (Exciting? yes, yes!!!) and then back to CT to shut the house for the winter.  After that, Brenda and I will head south and join Pandora for a few months of sailing together.

One of the most fun parts of going places aboard Pandora is that we can visit any island that we wish and not be limited to single spot with an airport.  When we visited Portugal (by air, not Pandora) for a month a few years ago, we didn’t have a set itinerary and instead booked each location “just in time” as we went from town to town.  That allowed us to get local advice from folks along the way, a great way to really see a country.

So, as we head from island to island, we will undoubtedly get advice on the most fun spots to visit.  As we have many friends who have sailed for years in that area that we will hook up with along the way, I am sure that we will get plenty of great advice.

One island nation that I am particularly excited about visiting is Antigua, home of Nelsons Boatyard, a colonial stronghold of the British Navy way back when. It’s beautiful and has been recommended to us as a must-see stop.   I found this short three minute drone video tour of the island.  Can’t wait to visit.Interested in learning more?  I was and this slightly longer video talks about some of the attractions of the island.  And, as an added bonus, the narrator, a women, has a voice that, I’ll admit, makes me want to go.One more thing.  This piece is a brief, if slightly irreverent overview of the history of the island nation.   The clip should probably be about twice as long but the narrator is so highly caffeinated that he jams everything into  a brief 7 minutes.   Yikes, he talks fast!!! But, it doesn’t take long to get hundreds of years of history.

Well, there are many, many videos of the islands of the Caribbean but most are terrible, probably as bad as any that I’d post myself and most fit into the “you had to be there to understand” category.

So, let me toss yet another wrench into the mix.  The Salty Dawg Sailing Association, of which I have become more involved, is considering a rally from the BVI to Cuba in the spring.  I know that Brenda would love to visit Havana again to see her new friend Adriana who she met on our visit last winter.  Both Adriana and Brenda do hand-work, lace making in particular.  As Adriana and her group can’t get decent materials, Brenda put out the word to her local guilds here in CT, that she’d like to find a way to get quality materials to the lace makers in Cuba and they sent lots of great stuff.  So, will Brenda meet me there? Will Pandora go to Cuba again?

The problem is that there are just so many months in the year and so many places to visit.  And, for sure, Brenda has PLENTY to do to keep herself occupied here in CT when she is not aboard Pandora.   So, will we head to Cuba again this coming spring?  Who knows, but it’s plenty appealing and there’s all that lace making stuff to deliver.

In any event, the SDSA gang would like me to participate in the rally as I am the only member of the group that’s EVEN BEEN TO CUBA at all so that makes me the closest thing to an expert that they have and that’s not saying much.

I guess all that I can say about that is “THERE’S SO MANY THINGS TO DO”.  So, what’s a cruiser to do?  Not sure but you’ll just have to stay tuned and find out. I promise, when I learn more, you will too.

Yes indeed, so many choices and, for sure, Antigua is high up on our list.

One more thing.  If that caffeinated video about Antigua didn’t totally put you off, you can sign up to be notified when I post again.  Just register on this home page, upper right.   I hope you do.

Until next time…

 

The Rolling Stones, Havana Moon. And, we were there!!!!

When Brenda and I were cruising the south coast of Cuba last winter we heard that the Rolling Stones were giving a free concert in Havana.  Yes, I have written about this a number of times, most recently yesterday.  However, today it occurred to me that there might be something on YouTube worth sharing about that amazing night in Havana.

Before I get started though, this post tells the story of our bus ride there and the concert.   You will just have to forgive me to putting this link in two days in a row.  Just skip it if you saw yesterday’s post.   There were, by some accounts, a million people there on that sultry night in Havana.  Everywhere we looked flags from around the world were being proudly waved.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASome old enough to have grown up listening to the band and some well, not so familiar with the phenomenon that the Stones have been for nearly 50 years.  A mother and daughter (I’m going with that) enjoying the evening.  Waiting for the concert to begin. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was big news and likely the only drug free concert in the history of Stones concerts.  Yes, the Cuban government is very tough on drugs.  This CBS news segment gives a good feel for the excitement we heard again and again from Cubans about change that is coming to Cuba.  Change for the good…they hope. The Stones have put out a feature length movie of the concert.  No surprise on that score. This trailer gives a pretty good feel for what it was like to be there.  A sea of humanity and we were there, if only two specks in that sea of humanity. Ok, Ok, one full length music video.  We were close enough to see but not so close to feel like we were going to be crushed.  It was a remarkable experience.  Yes, an amazing story and one that gets even more amazing with each telling.As they say, “you had to be there” and we were.

Just how cool is that?  Pretty much, totally…

Live it once. Tell the story forever.

One of the best things about “experience” is that while living it may sometimes be, shall we say “interesting”, the “telling” is nearly always fabulous for years and years afterwords.  Brenda’s sister Sheryl once said “experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want”.  However, sometimes experiences are indeed what you had hoped for too.  And that’s makes for an even better story.

For sure, the telling is even better when it’s actually fun from the beginning and with each telling later bringing back all of those great memories, again and again.  Of course, each time you tell the story it somehow becomes even more amazing.  “You should have seen the one that got away…” or “that storm was so strong, the waves…”. You know the drill…

Our trip to Cuba last winter has been perhaps the pinnacle of “experience it once, talk about it forever…”.

Of course, we wrote about our trip as we experienced it (see March and April posts on this site and Brenda’s www.argoknot.com) at every opportunity we got, some 30 posts in all.   And the telling has gotten even better as since returning home to CT as we have talked about our trip to whomever would stand still and listen.  Fortunately for us, nearly EVERYONE is interested in hearing about Cuba.

We have given talks to many groups, 13 at last count including my upcoming talk to the Pelagic Sailing Club in Boston this coming Thursday.   It’s a thrill for me to talk to groups and I have jumped at nearly every opportunity I have been offered to tell our story including the members of the Essex Yacht Club and The Corinthians within the last week, both groups that have been a big part of our lives.   EYC wins the prize for the best poster.  That’s Chef Michael at EYC with us who prepared a wonderful Cuban dinner to cap off the evening.  Well done Michael. 11-12-16c-010For me, the only thing better than speaking to a group about our voyages, is speaking to a group that I know personally.

Each time I give my presentation, just seeing this photo of Pandora tied up at Marina Hemingway brings back a flood of memories.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd, nothing gets a rise from the audience like this photo of me holding lobsters that we purchased from Cuban fisherman.  Brenda and I “ate” this particular memory at home just the other night as we had a freezer full of lobster tails aboard Pandora when we returned home from Cuba.  “You…Keep your eyes on the crustaceans!”4-16-16b-006Anyway, it seems that everyone tends to tell stories of the worst conditions and how they “almost….”.  Brenda likes to forget those moments and prefers to focus on “being anchored” as the memories that suit her best.  Lobster is good too.

Another story that always gets a rise is talking about our experience of going to the Rolling Stones concert in Havana.  Now, that’s a memory and a half, with the “half” coming from several of our traveling companions who drank plenty on the way to the concert.  They were hung over before we even got to the concert.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAll and all, visiting Cuba was a really wonderful trip with only a few tears along the way.  And, speaking of “tears”, we encountered more than a few no-se-ums one evening, not the happiest memory of Cuba but still a great story and one that’s more fun to tell than experience.  As my mother used to say, “into every day a little rain must fall” but even rainy days and no-se-ums make for great stories to be told for a lifetime.

A good friend from way-back-when, Chris Blossom the marine artist, did a painting of our first boat,TAO as a birthday present to me in 1980.  At that point Brenda and I had only been married for three years.  Yes, we had a boat before we had a house.  “Brenda, what were you thinking?”

It’s  a wonderful painting and brings back a flood of memories of that evening, and many others spent sailing with Brenda.  Chris captured the experience perfectly as we ghosted along off of Penfield Beach in Fairfield CT one summer evening.  Now, that’s Brenda’s kind of sailing, err, becalming.11-12-16b-003Don’t we look like we are having a nice time? Brenda thought it was ALMOST like being anchored.  How about a little closer view?  It’s such a terrific treasure to us, both memory and picture.   And, it looks just like us.  Well, to me and Brenda it does.11-12-16a-009And, if you think I am making the “birther” thing up, there’s proof in the lower right hand corner.  “Happy Birthday Bob”  Chris was in his early 20s when he painted this 36 years ago.  Another lifetime.11-12-16b-021Russell Jinishian, the well known marine dealer, told me a while back that Chris is one of the five finest living marine artists.   Chris has an enormous body of work, but doesn’t have a website of his own.  I guess that’s because he paints pictures of “old stuff” and the Web for Chris, well it’s just so “new”.

I’m biased perhaps, but he does great work and he did one for me.   However, you can see his work, and there’s plenty, on Chris’s page at Russell’s gallery link.

Well, as I was saying, we love to remember the perfect times in our lives. Perhaps less so, the times that we’d rather forget.  However, some are so exciting that we recall them anyway, and always with a a growing fondness, if only because we lived to tell the tale, as the years go by.

Cruising Cuba was not what I would call “easy” as you are really “on your own”.   However, as a class A “you should have been there” sort of experience!  It was without peer, and what memories it has made for us.

While I wasn’t there, the image in this painting I mean, this painting, also from Christopher, certainly depicts an “experience” that Brenda would likely want to forget if she had been there.  We have this painting too, over our fireplace in the den.  It’s “on loan” from Christopher.  I sure hope he never “calls” the loan.   (forgive me but this isn’t the best photo Chris)11-12-16b-020Great detail and you can almost hear the gunfire. 11-12-16b-015The painting is actually a book cover that Chris did for an old Bantum softcover book, I think, “The Last Action of the Calcutta Lighthorse”.  This link tells the story of their amazing true story of the sinking of a German freighter in WWII.  It was later made into a movie.  Here’s the trailer.  Yes, a bit of a random link I admit, but here goes.So, we sometimes don’t enjoy every moment out there as we cruise or make our way through life but the stories are often great to tell and get better as you tell them again and again. I’ll bet that this trip, again one of Chris’s pieces, would make for some great tales. blossom_grace_harwarThis piece is of an experience that is more Brenda’s speed.   Chris painted this years ago when he and his family sailed in the Bahamas aboard their Luder’s 33, Acadia. That’s Acadia at anchor in the Exumas.  Bummer for us, but this and the prior piece are not part of our collection.  blossom-acadiaexumaSo, all and all, Cuba has proven to be perhaps the best “live it once, talk about it forever” experience that Brenda and I have ever had.  And to think that it all grew out of “gear failure” a little more than a year ago when I was on my way to the eastern Caribbean.   We didn’t make it to the BVI that year. However, for me, when I am given lemons, I make lemon aid.  And, let me tell you, I am making gallons and gallons of the stuff with this story.

Ok, Cuba… Been there, done that.  Now on to more memories.  I hope that they are at least as good an experience as the telling will surely be.   I guess we will just have to wait and see but “Cruising Cuba” is going to be a hard story to top. I’ll try, that’s for sure, so stay tuned.

For the record, as long as there is someone who will listen, I’ll continue to tell the amazing tale of Brenda’s and my two months in Cuba.   If you want to hear our story yourself, let me know.  Perhaps I can fit in a visit to your group as well.

Time to make new memories. I’m on it. Totally…

On my way home. Life is good!!!

It’s Saturday as I write this post and I am aboard Amtrak to Stamford from Williamsburg VA.  I am always struck by how long it takes to get anywhere by boat and how quickly I get back home via a “normal” route.  However, Amtrak is another story with what sometimes seems like “glacial” progress.

Today’s run will take ten hours and that assumes that we are on time.  However, it’s comfortable and I have WIFI all the way, well most of the way…

It will be good to be home with a normal routine for the next two months and will be a nice break from the chores that I find are always needed on Pandora.

Yesterday I met with a mechanic who will take care of an exhaust leak that has reappeared with the engine.  Funny how some problems seem to persist on boats, even when you get them “fixed”.  I “dealt” with this exact same problem a year ago.  Let’s hope that this time is the charm.

I also decided to have an “adult” deal with the leaking cabin ports.  I knew that time was short until “surgery” would be needed on the large Lexan ports on the cabin side but had hoped to put it off till next summer.  However, after the “sporty”  and resulting “drippy” run to Hampton from CT, I decided that “enough was enough” and brought in a “specialist” to fix the problem once and for all.  Well, once for sure.  We’ll see how long “and for all” part lasts.  The problem is that the Lexan ports are nearly 8′ long and while the actual window opening are much shorter, the expansion coefficient for the Lexan means that when it’s cold, and most of my long runs tend to be in cooler weather, the plastic windows shrink and they leak.  And when they leak, it makes me sad.

The solution, I was advised by Roger Martin, the designer, is to put an “expansion joint” in the middle of the Lexan on each side.  That will allow for the material to shrink without pulling away from the outside opening as much.  Let’s hope that this works.  Wish me luck…

So, for the next two months I won’t have to work on Pandora myself.  I’ll just write checks. Personally, I’d rather not go the “check route”.  Let’s hope that things go smoothly.  I was pleased when I met the folks that will be doing the work in Beaufort.  The plastics guy, well he just does plastic and the engine guy and electrician.  Well they seem to be “multi-taskers”.  Fingers crossed…

So, while my trusty check book is helping to get some last minute updates completed for Pandora, I can focus on when and where we will head out from Beaufort.

Our plan is to catch a weather window in mid-January, after the holidays and Brenda’s birthday on January 15th (mark your calendar) to begin our run to the eastern Caribbean.

We don’t know yet if we will head directly to the British Virgin Islands or clear in in St Martin.  I very much look forward to spending time in the BVI but from there, once Brenda joins me in late January, is to head further south. The problem with this plan is that the run from the BVI to St Martin, the next island on our way south, is 90 miles east into the strong “Christmas winds” that blow hard from the east.  To have this be the first run that I make with Brenda won’t be very appealing to her and could very well end up being a “career limiting move” with her, as my son Rob often cautions me when I come up with some lame idea that involves Brenda and unpleasant conditions afloat.

I guess I can only say “details to come” on that score. However, I have to be sure that we end up somewhere that’s easy for my crew to get out of and for Brenda to arrive.

Speaking about the BVI, this video is a good primer on what to expect if we end up in this very popular island chain.  Oh yeah, if we land there in January, we’ll be arriving at the peak of the charter boat season and we aren’t very keen on mixing with what some call “sailing amateur hour”.  That boat is anchored how close?

Anyway, here’s a nice video about sailing in the BVI. Brenda and I expect to head “down island”.  Perhaps we will see the Classic Yacht Regatta in April in Antiqua.  Beautiful boats.And, of course, there’s always the St Barths Bucket Regatta and the Yacht Marie. Brenda and I sailed aboard her in Newport two years ago for three days of racing.  “Would you care for a lobster roll?”.  Yes, indeed.  What a beautiful yacht and she’s really, really big.Wondering how we ended up aboard such a magnificent yacht? Well, I wrote this post three years ago and somehow the owner ended up seeing the post and invited us aboard. Who knows, perhaps we will end up aboard her again this winter. Something to wish for and as Brenda once said, “Bob and the dog, ever hopeful”.  Yes, that’s me.  Can I have a cookie?

I guess that’s enough for now but there’s sure a lot to look forward to in the coming months.  Oh yeah, did I mention that we will soon be grandparents?  It doesn’t get any better than that!  Boy or girl?  Who knows. For now we just call him/her “Nugget”.

And… drum roll please, the bathroom is FINALLY done.  Brenda says that took WAY TOO LONG.  Ok, ok, I agree but it’s done now.  Whew!!!

Tomorrow I present about Cuba to about 100 at the annual meeting of The Corinthians at Beach Point Yacht Club.  It’s a spectacular location to have a lunch on a sunny day. Brenda and I have been members of The Corinthians for many years and I am very much looking forward to sharing our story.

Yes, it’s good to be heading home to Brenda and to thinking about our coming winter of cruising together.  life is good…

 

The home stretch, for now at least…

It’s Thursday afternoon and we are closing in on the canal that runs from the Albermarle Sound south toward Beaufort where Pandora will be until I return in mid January.

The list of items that need attention has grown in an alarming way including re-bedding of some ports and a few items with the engine.   Oh yeah, don’t forget the new charger/inverter.  That hurts…  All and all, it reminds me why I do most of the work on Pandora myself.  I’d go broke if I hired everything out.  Alas, no choice on this list as I am way to far away from Beaufort to come down and do the work myself.

Anyway, it’s a nice day with temperatures in the lower 80s but that won’t last long as a front is coming through tomorrow that will bring brisk northerlies and much cooler temperatures.

Yesterday was the longest day for us as we left at daybreak and didn’t arrive in Ocracoke until shortly after dark a distance of nearly 80 miles.  Going down the twisty channel in the twilight and then dark was a bit unnerving and I was very glad to have Jim along.  At one point we nearly ran aground as the marks had been moved a good deal compliments of Matthew so the charts weren’t the same as what marked the channel.  A combination of temporary floating marks and pilings sunk in the sand, many of which were unlit and hard to see made it just a blast… NOT!

As we left today, the treachery of the channel was brought into sharp focus as we passed a large shrimp boat hard aground in about the same spot where we had a “near brush” with a sandbar last evening.  Another shrimp boat was standing by that hoped to pull them off.  Several hours later I saw on AIS that the boat was still hard aground and his friend was steaming away.  Mission NOT accomplished.

The channel was so narrow that a ferry that was headed into the channel as I left the harbor stood by outside to allow me to pass.  In all the years I have been out on the water today was the only time that a commercial vessel has ever stood down to wait for me to pass.  Tells you something about the dangers in that channel.  This is the ferry.  11-3-16a-032The night before, when we were entering the little harbor a ferry came in right behind me and shined their searchlight on me as I was approaching the dock to tie up.  It was unnerving, to say the least and the lights blinded me.  We tied up to our friends on Acadia across the dock.  It is indeed a small world to run into friends unannounced.  We enjoyed our visit. 11-3-16a-030So now, forgive me but I am going to bore you with yet another group of “sunset photos”.  “NOOOOOOOO, NOT AGAIN BOB!”  Sorry… it was beautiful with more than a dozen shrimpers plying the waters in the setting sun. 11-3-16a-022Every few minutes the scene changed.  11-3-16a-029I was struck by this view that looked like liquid silver in the waning light.  Not sure what I’d do with this photo. Perhaps it would make for nice “wallpaper” on my laptop. 11-3-16a-024Tomorrow I rent a car to head back to Hampton to deliver Jim home and then board a train for Stamford CT and a visit with my friend Craig along with a presentation about Cuba to a group that I belong to.  The Corinthians are having their annual meeting on Sunday.  Other than that, nothing going on, nothing of note at all.

In any event, I guess you could say that I am into the home stretch, well at least the home stretch of this chapter.

Once again, I can only say, “details to come”.

Here come the Calvary!

As I begin writing this the sun is just peaking over the eastern horizon.  The water is glass calm as we make our way down toward Ocracoke island and then on to Beaufort where I will leave Pandora until mid January.

The sunrise was beautiful this morning from the earliest light when we picked up the anchor.11-2-16a-122A perfect reflection of the trees on shore.  Brenda, this would make for a lovely tapestry.  Get on it!  Please?11-2-16a-119A little while later, a full sunrise reflected on the still water.  What a great way to begin the day.11-2-16b-005On this trip we are taking a different route, one that my crew Jim enjoys.  We will head further east toward the coast, a route that I have not taken before.  Instead of going through the Dismal Swamp Canal, we took the “Virginia Cut” that has a single lock.

It’s a huge lock that carries commercial traffic and there were quite a few boats there when we arrived.11-2-16a-115Jim has done this route a number of times, most recently just a few weeks ago.  He keeps his boat in the lower Chesapeake and enjoys heading in a loop down to Ocracoke and then returning via the Dismal swamp canal further to the west.

After leaving Hampton shortly after dawn yesterday we headed down past the naval base.  A cruiser was picking up a mooring out in the river.  Just how many sailors does it take?  A lot, it seems.  Aboard Pandora.  It only takes two, one in a pinch. 11-2-16a-091Hey look…  His and hers aircraft carriers.  If the election doesn’t sort itself out next week, there’s one for Hillary and one for Donald.   Now, that would be fun. 11-2-16a-093And speaking of NYC, which I wasn’t, Highlander, Malcomb Forbes’s old yacht was in dry dock in Portsmouth.  I saw here there last fall too.  She’s looking a bit worse for wear.  Too bad. 11-2-16a-101In any event, we are making our way down the ICW and tonight we will take a slip in Ocracoke, go out to dinner and then make our way to Beaufort by Thursday night.

Interestingly, even though this area feels very remote, we have been passed by a half dozen boats in the last few minutes, all large powerboats heading south as a group.   They will get there a lot sooner than us but their “burn rate” is probably 30x greater than us.  Unlike their “cousins” on the CT River, almost everyone slows way down so that they don’t rock us with their wake.  What a welcome contrast.  I guess that’s because they know they might run into us sometime in the future.  At home, they couldn’t care less as they blast along leaving a 4’ wake to toss us around.  Very unfortunate.

Speaking of “carbon footprint”, on the last day of the programs in preparation for the Salty Dawg Rally to the BVI, we were treated to a live USCG “rescue” right off of the marina docks.  It was just amazing to see the chopper hovering a few hundred feet from us.  11-2-16a-021Before the chopper arrived a small cutter was on scene to be sure that nobody strayed into the “hurricane zone” while the chopper was hovering overhead.11-2-16a-010Our “MC” for the discussion that proceeded the “rescue” we had two “Coasties” who shared a lot of terrific information on how to do our best to avoid a ride in a chopper in the future.   Very nice guy but he did look serious.  “I’d like a show of hands if you have an EPIRB on board.  Another if it’s registered with your current information.” Everyone’s hand went up.  Then he smiled.11-2-16a-007Our rescue chopper is the only one in the USCG that is painted yellow instead of sporting the normal diagonal orange stripe.  We were told that it was a “centennial edition” marking the 100th anniversary of the USCG.  Think of it as sort of “Eddie Bauer” USCG chopper edition without the soft denim settees.  Well, perhaps not exactly like that because they have to be able to hose everything down after all the salt what they kick up.  “Hey you, scuba man, yeah I’m talking to you! Rinse off before you sit there. This is s a special edition craft you are dripping on.”

“Do I have to go? It’s really windy out there.”  It was windy with about 20kts from the north and the salt spray kicked up by the massive down-wash from the spinning rotors coated all of the boats in the marina with a fine mist of salt.11-2-16a-034Then they lowered him to the water.  For a second “rescue” he jumped. 11-2-16a-071All and all, it was a fascinating experience with everyone feeling better prepared and more certain than ever that they wanted to do whatever they could to avoid having one of these guys swim up to their boat and greeting them with “Good morning.  I’ll be your rescue swimmer today.”

It’s comforting to know that the USCG has my back and that if I ever have to “pop my EPIRB” and call for help, that the “Calvary” will be on their way soon enough.  Oh yeah, if you want a chopper ride, don’t go more than about 250 miles from shore as that’s their limit.  Of course, they have boats to but they are WAY SLOWER.

So, with no need for rescue on the horizon, here we are motoring along in flat calm on a beautiful morning.   What a way to go.   It’s beautiful day indeed.

Oh yeah, you know the thing about “cruising is boat repair in exotic places?”.  Yesterday was fun as my head macerator pump croaked and spilled raw sewerage into the bilge.  That was fun.  Sorry, no photos but be assured that there was plenty of cleanup with bleach after I was done, Brenda.

Happily, I carry a spare, now installed, so all’s well.  Such is the fun of boating.

Anticipation growing for great “Dawg Days” ahead.

The Salty Dawg rally is going to get underway in a few days and everyone is pretty excited about heading out to points south.  At last count, there are over 80 boats that will be making the run south and anticipation is high that there will be terrific weather in store for everyone’s departure.

In about an hour Chris Parker will be doing a webcast for the group and I will be the moderator online with him serving up questions from the audience.   I did this last year and enjoyed the process.

To be honest, I am a bit bummed that I won’t be leaving with them and have to take Pandora to Beaufort where she will sit for a few months prior to my run to the Caribbean in mid January.  Seeing a good forecast “go to waste” is killing me.  Oh well…  Besides, there are still chores and a few leaks to deal with aboard Pandora that would be annoying if I left now.

As I mentioned, I spoke to a group of “Dawgs” yesterday at the Hampton YC about Brenda’s and my trip to Cuba and it seems that one of the participants Peter did a summary of that and other activities that made for a great “Dawg day” for everyone.  I understand that Peter does videos regularly so it might be worth signing up to see what he puts up next. Anyway, I have to get ready for Chris Parker so I’d better sign off for now.

Audios Amigos! (the limit of my Spanish, BTW)   Well, that’s in addition to “no comprende” a phrase that came in handy in Cuba.  I am not sure even how to spell that.  Never mind for now.