The gang is all (mostly) here, or should I say in Antigua.

Most of the boats in this year’s Salty Dawg Rally fleet have arrived in Antigua.  There are still a few underway and some had to stop elsewhere because of gear issues.

All and all, the fleet had a good run and made pretty good time in spite of a bit of a pounding due to strong winds and a tight wind angle.  However, most were able to make it to Antigua with plenty of fuel to spare unlike some years when winds were light and nearly on the nose.

Astrid Deeth, of the Admiral’s Inn, in English Harbor  and someone who has been really supportive of the rally from the beginning, has a home overlooking the anchorage in English Harbor and took this photo of the Dawgs at anchor when the first of the boats were arriving.  This time of the season the bulk of the boats are from the rally.  I’ll admit that I was quite moved when I saw this photo knowing how it feels to arrive after a long journey and wishing I was with them. A number of boats stopped in Bermuda, one in Puerto Rico and several in the USVI, only long enough to fix stuff and lick their wounds before pulling up their shorts and heading out yet again for Antigua, their destination.

One boat stopped in Bermuda due to a crack in their crash bulkhead, left for Antigua after a few days only to be forced to turn back due to additional issues that came up.  I understand that they remain determined to continue on to Antigua, in spite of everything.

The boat that stopped in the USVIs only stayed there long enough to sort out multiple issues and yesterday finally arrived in Antigua to join up with the rest of the fleet.

And yet another, that arrived overnight, will be putting their boat in a marina for a few weeks to fly back to the States to attend to the funeral of the skipper’s mother.  I recall some years ago when Brenda’s mother died a few hours after I left cell range on my way south.  Being as sea can be tough enough but to be separated from family under those circumstances is particularly difficult.

This is the fourth year that a destination for the rally was Antigua and it seem that this year nearly everyone “got the memo” on all that Antigua has to offer.  For several years now I have been preaching that Antigua is the place to begin and end the cruising season and I am beginning to feel like word is finally getting out and it is very rewarding to see how determined skippers were in getting to the island.

It has been four years since we first decided to offer Antigua as a destination. The first year was catalyzed by the devastation that was done to the BVI by back to back hurricanes.  We had a few cancelations that year but most everyone quickly switched gears and headed to Antigua.

Year two, the rally offered both the BVI and Antigua as destinations and the fleet was split, in part because the winds were particularly difficult and by the time the fleet got close to the BVI some had had enough and just decided to skip Antigua.

This year, however, seems to be different and nearly everyone who had decided on Antigua as a destination has been single minded about getting there, which has been very rewarding for me.  After putting so much work into arranging more than a dozen events spread over a nearly two week period, and preaching the virtues of cruising the southeast Caribbean,  I am just so pleased that the fleet headed that way.

This year preparing the fleet was the most complicated yet from an organizing standpoint, with restrictions making it impossible to have any group events in Hampton prior to departure.  All participants in the rally were required to adhere to a strict quarantine protocol prior to departure and submit to a PCR virus test before even leaving the dock.  It is tough enough to prepare for an offshore run but to be confined to the boat for nearly a week before leaving makes for some very complex logistics.

Rally planners met many times and communicated closely with the authorities in Antigua to establish a plan to keep skippers and crew safe and to allow for smooth clearing in process upon arrival.   Our greatest fear is that one of our boats would be offshore and have someone fall ill, which would have been tragic.  Happily, none did.

All of the issues of planning for a run were even more complex during the pandemic when the risk of infection are added to the sort of normal weather issues encountered on a long journey.  Add to that the usual equipment and electrical issues, made the run south this year the most complex yet.

As always, stuff broke but happily there were no outbreaks of the virus on any boats, which is good news and proves that if you are careful, and take reasonable precautions, you can stay safe.  I am hopeful that by the time of departure next year that everyone will have been vaccinated and things will be under control here in the US and that our run south will be more routine.

The real change this year is that it seems we are beginning to get the word out about all that Antigua has to offer.  Antigua remains an underdawg (pun intended) and fact is that when sailors think about cruising in the Caribbean they think of the BVI as that’s where most if not all of them have chartered while vacationing.

The reality is that the BVI is a near perfect place to take a short holiday of a week of two, with a variety of islands to explore, all a short day sail away.  It is easy enough to get up in the morning, have a leisurely breakfast, set sail and get to your destination in time for lunch.  That sort of leisurely week long vacation really isn’t possible elsewhere in the Caribbean where the distances between islands is greater.

However, if you are cruiser, out for the season, the BVI does not, in my opinion, offer as much.   Most businesses are focused on the one week charter trade, for whom a $50/night mooring isn’t a big deal.  While they are visiting, everyone  eats out most nights, spend lots of money and then fly home.   Cruisers, on the other hand, spend less per day and yet spend a lot more over the course of a season.  With a constant stream of vacationers booking those charters, it makes perfect sense that local businesses would focus on those who offer a more lucrative spending “per diem”.

Cruisers, in spite of the large spending over the course of a season, just can’t compete with a constant flow of high spending vacationers in the BVI who are in and out in a week or two followed by yet another group of vacationers.

Antigua, on the other hand, can’t compete for this segment of the market as it’s just not practical to charter there, especially when the strong “Christmas Winds” are up from mid December through much of January, when travel between the islands is “sporty” at best.

Additionally, many sailors just don’t know much about the southern Caribbean as the area doesn’t receive much attention from the sailing magazines.  Editors and publishers know who “butters their bread” and tend to write about topics that are in line with the interests of their advertisers.  And the charter companies, especially from the BVI are one of their biggest categories sothat’s what they write about.

The simple fact is that most cruisers just don’t know much about Antigua and the islands to the south so when they decide to “cast off the dock lines” the first thing that they think about is “well, we had fun when we chartered in the BVI, so let’s go there”, and they do.

It seems to me that that a lack of information about what the islands outside of the Virgins is the biggest hurdle that cruisers have needed to get over in deciding where to go.  I still remember the pressure I felt from crew when we were considering where to make landfall the first year I headed south as the were pushing hard for the BVI.   Getting information about St Martin and Antigua, the two spots I was considering, was very tough to find.  It wasn’t until I actually showed up in Antigua that I understood why knowledgeable captains from the really big yachts chose Antigua as the island as home for the winter season.

Interestingly, this year fully two thirds of the boats in the rally are first timers at long distance ocean cruising, many more than usual, and the fact that the bulk of them chose to head to Antigua suggests that they are finally getting the message of all that Antigua has to offer.  I have to give a lot of credit the rally director Sheldon for helping everyone understand that Antigua was a great place to visit and not that much farther then the Virgins.  We even had a few captains that were considering other destinations only to switch to Antigua at the very last minute.

For me, after pounding that Antigua drum for years now, it has been very rewarding to see that the bulk of the fleet decided to head there and most have arrived or will be there soon.

As is nearly always the case, weather plays a big factor in where boats end up and this year is no different.  As you can see from today’s tracker, there are a number of boats that are spaced along the southeast US coastline where they have ended up given the drumbeat of difficult weather that they have faced in trying to get to The Bahamas, their choice for this season.  As the map shows, there are persistent NE winds, fairly typical for this time of the year, making it impossible to cross the Gulf Stream.  So far, only two have made it to their destination of choice.  Hopefully, things will improve but the waters of the coastal US and Bahamas have been particularly hard hit by the remnants of a parade of hurricanes and tropical storms in what has been the busiest year on record.

Arrival events in Antigua are going really well and for the first time the bulk of the fleet arrived in time to participate in the very first one.    As all of the events will be held outdoors, being safe is fairly easy, with a constant flow of tropical tradewinds blowing at all times.

My friend Bill on Kalunamoo posted some very nice photos of the pool party at Boom at the Admiral’s Inn in English Harbor.   It looks like it was a very nice day. Bill’s view as he surveyed the activities and slept off lunch I expect.  Yup, that’s Bill, the guy. And, just to prove that all the folks in the rally aren’t as old as Bill (it takes one to know one), some younger Dawgs enjoying the day. Of course, one of the key questions you have to ask yourself about is the wisdom of being in a country like Antigua, with very limited medical facilities, if you were to fall ill.   When the rally was preparing for departure, everyone was very aware of the possibility of infection and the importance of staying safe.  Now that they are in Antigua and likely free of infection because of their time at sea, they are once again ashore and it is possible that they will come in contact with someone who is ill.  At least those who made the run are part of a large “Dawg Bubble” and probably safe.

This is the current “dashboard” for Antigua showing the rate of infection currently on the island.  There have been a very limited number of “community infections” with most coming in by air from other countries.  Fortunately, the bulk have been captured shortly after landing and with good contact tracing, the virus has not been able to gain a foothold on the island.In the last two months, the number of confirmed cases has increased from 95 to 139 and there have been a total of three deaths.    In spite of all that, the death rate by thousand residents is still a fraction of that in the US.  As of yesterday we passed the sobering milestone of 250,00o deaths, with some experts predicting that we could log yet another 200,000 deaths before a vaccine is widely available.

The question that has to be asked is if the tradeoff of a lower case load in Antigua verses better medical facilities in the US, with out of control spreading of the virus, is a good bet.  I’d say that it is a tough call but the alure of warm breezes and the ability to do most everything outdoors is sure appealing to me.

Only time will tell which is the best approach but when I got up this morning and saw that it was 20 degrees out, I have to say that sitting by the pool in English Harbor seemed mighty appealing.

In spite of my obvious self-pity, it is rewarding to know that the Salty Dawg fleet is now in Antigua and are having a good time.

As jealous as that makes me,  at least I can take solace in knowing that the weather will get better in May.   That’s me, ever hopeful.

Ocean sailing just isn’t just a walk in the park.

Many of the boats that are heading to Antigua this year in the Salty Dawg Rally are getting close and it looks like the wind that they face from now on will be fairly steady in the high teens and just forward of the beam.  Conditions are pretty sporty but at least they are heading toward their destination.

Last fall it took me 11 days to make the run and for several days we were heading due east, never getting closer to Antigua, something that I found to be extremely frustrating.   For us the problem was not enough wind and persistent SE winds that made it tough to head in the direction we wanted to go.

However, rough or not, well not too rough, I would definitely prefer to be heading in the right direction and not toward some imaginary waypoint somewhere to the east, waiting and hoping for a favorable wind shift.

This year’s run has indeed had it’s share of challenges but it is nice to see that the bulk of the fleet is doing well and heading in the right direction.   Unfortunately, there are always a few that are unlucky enough to break stuff along the way and this year is no different.  One boat developed a crack in a crash bulkhead and is now in Bermuda having the damage diagnosed.  While I have had plenty of stuff break on passage I have never had to deal with structural issues, but whenever I am on passage, I have always worried about something big failing, especially when I am hundreds of miles from anywhere.

And speaking of being miles from anywhere, I happened upon this video of the always flamboyant ocean racer, Alex Thompson of Hugo Boss, who is competing in the Vendee Globe.   In this video I was struck by the spartan interior of his yacht.  Aboard Pandora, I worry a lot about salt getting down below.  A simple spray with a hose would clean up both Alex and his boat.  Even this early in the race the fleet has already encountered conditions that are worse than most of us will ever see.

The communication technology aboard these boats is amazing.  In the case of Hugo Boss, based on how the video angles are shown, it appears that Alex has multiple cameras on board.  Pretty sophisticated stuff.  And, I guess he has plenty of bandwidth to send it out. As these powerful machines, each with only a single person on board, make their way around the world non-stop, it will be interesting to see how things develop and how much stuff breaks.  There is no way that I could do such a voyage if for no other reason than I can not bear to be alone for that amount of time, much less endure the continual discomfort.  No full enclosure on these boats.   See Brenda, it could be worse.

And speaking of the boats competing in this remarkable race, this video gives an excellent overview of what makes these boats tick.  The increasing sophistication of ocean racing today and the idea of foiling along at super-fast speeds, makes me wonder and it seems that others are wondering too.

There many will be watching to see if these boats will hold together when things get really rough or they encounter “things that go bump in the night”. I mention all of this as my boat Pandora, launched in 2007,  is considered a pretty fast ocean cruiser and yet she is a total sloth when compared with some of the more modern cruising boats, much less the super exotic boats in the Vendee Globe. Here’s a large part of the fleet as of today, Thursday morning, north and east of Puerto Rico.  The bulk of the fleet is still days away from arriving in Antigua but are moving along well.  I would be quite happy to be aboard Pandora and moving along with this group about now, with good if brisk sailing on a direct run to Antigua.
And, when it comes to crew, the bulk of boats in the rally take on extra hands for the run.  Remarkably, Iain on Fatjax, a go-fast carbon flyer, made his run as a single hander and arrived only a week after leaving Hampton, a remarkable accomplishment.  I caught up with Iain earlier today on a call and learned more about him and Fatjax.  I’ll be sharing what we talked about in a few days so stay tuned.   For now, here’s a shot of Fatjax anchored in English Harbor awaiting clearance.  Ocean voyaging is a big deal and to sail alone around the world, like the boats competing in the Vendee Globe, especially without stopping, is a very big deal.

An interesting fact is that more people have been up in space than than have sailed around the world alone.  It says something about how tough you have to be to accomplish such a feat.  Sure, Hampton to Antigua alone isn’t quite like circumnavigating but it’s still a big deal, especially for mere mortals like me.

One thing for sure is that the Vendee Globe and even the Salty Dawg Rally to Antigua, single handed or not, isn’t just a walk in the park.

Ocean sailing is a pretty big deal, if you ask me.

 

Mom (and your weather router) knows best.

As I sit here and watch the Salty Dawg fleet, heading to the Caribbean and points south, I recall my trips over the years and am imagining the questions that are going through the minds of captains and crew of the many boats underway.  Being far out at sea and knowing that there is a hurricane bouncing around the Caribbean, first heading west to Honduras, on to Cuba and now up the west coast of Florida does give pause for thought.

It’s been a very busy season for hurricanes and may very likely end up being the busiest on record, with nearly 30 named storms.   As the fleet left the US to begin their run, there was at least one comment on Facebook questioning if it was a good idea for everyone to head out with a hurricane moving through the Caribbean.   Now, days later, Hurricane Eta (they ran out of names and had to start all over again because there have been so many storms), continues to bounce around the Gulf and is not expected to threaten the fleet.  Chris Parker, of Marine Weather Center and the router for the rally, felt strongly that the storm would not be a threat to the fleet and it seems that he was right.

Three years ago, I decided to leave Beaufort NC much later in the season than I would normally, January verses November.   After speaking with Chris his observation was that the weather leaving from south of Cape Hatteras was often more predictable in January than in November, when the summer and winter winds are still duking it out.

As we approached our anticipated departure date, I spoke with Chris and we settled on January 5th, if I recall, to head out.  There was a developing ridge near Puerto Rico and as long as I was able to maintain a speed of at least 7kts, I would pass the area before the feature moved into my path.  By taking this approach we assumed that I would pass the area ahead of the ridge and avoid the gale force winds north of the ridge and instead, be south of it and enjoy trade wind sailing with 15kts on the beam.

However, it didn’t work out as planned as I was slower than anticipated, averaging only 6.5 knots and the ridge moved into my path about 12 hours earlier than anticipated.   As a result, instead of our enjoying trade wind sailing, we had 4.5 days of running before a gale with nothing up but a double reefed main.  It was not a fun experience as we crawled up the backside of 20′ waves at 4-5 knots and surfed down their face, sometimes at 20+kts while we all lived in fear of an uncontrolled jibe or something breaking. The autopilot steered the boat very well but ultimately a linkage failed and while someone was able to take control quickly, but before things were under control, we slewed nearly broadside to the waves.  It was a very hairy moment, and one that I don’t want to repeat.  I was able to repair the broken linkage but it took several hours and after the failure, we really didn’t trust my fix and someone stood at the helm every moment for the rest of the trip.  It turns out that the prior owner had experienced this exact same failure multiple times over the years.  Great to hear, after the fact.  I was determined to avoid a repeat and re-engineered the linkage assembly.  Now, thousands of miles later, no breakage.

The point of bringing up this experience and why I ran into terrible conditions,  is that I underestimated my speed and the ridge came in early.  What I learned from this trip is a clear understanding that I need to always need to take into account how the forecast might change and build in contingencies.  Or as my wife Brenda likes to say, “prepare for the worse and hope for the best.”

It’s pretty clear to me now that I should have just waited a few days instead of assuming that everything would go according to plan.  Chris’s forecast wasn’t off by much and had warned me about the possible variables, but a small change in the weather and my underestimating my speed made a big difference in our experience.   There I was in Beaufort, crew on board, itching to get going and so was I, so we left.  Fortunately, those 40+kt winds were behind us instead of us having to close reach in a gale, which would have been much worse.

So, all of this brings me to the topic of this post and that’s what’s going on with the fleet who are participating in the Salty Dawg Rally to Antigua.

For several days in advance of the fleet leaving each year, Chris conducts an evening briefing for skippers and crew to help them better understand the developing weather picture.  In spite of what the weather expected, he always stresses that with a trip of 9-14 days, it’s very hard to anticipate what will happen after the first few days.

In this case, Chris recommended that boats leaving from the Hampton VA area should head NE for the first few days before tacking and heading for Antigua.  The point being that by making as much easting as possible early in the trip, they would likely avoid having to beat into strong easterly trade winds later in the trip.   This advice seems to be playing out as the fleet gets closer to their destinations, some of skippers that are a bit west of the bulk of the fleet will have a tough time making enough easting to avoid a stop in the USVIs or perhaps Puerto Rico.  Chris is anticipating, and the current maps show, that winds will be a bit south of east as they approach the Caribbean and boats that are not far enough east will have a rougher go of it.

Chris is sensitive to the needs of many of his clients, often older folks, like Brenda and me, who are looking for easy conditions and adjusts his forecasts accordingly.  In this case, recommending that boats put some “easting in the bank” by heading to the NE early in the trip would give them a more favorable point of sail as they passed east of the Virgins.

Boats that are farther east will have apparent wind on the beam verses being on a close reach or worse and as the wind is expected to increase into the 20s ore higher.   The closer to the wind the more uncomfortable the run will be.

Note that I have marked Antigua, the destination for most boats, with an arrow below.  Of course, some boats were headed to the Bahamas and a few to the USVIs so it is expected that some may be on a track that takes the west of the rhumb line to Antigua.  However, those who are west of their intended track may very well find that making it all the way to Antigua could be a challenge.   To see the fleet in real time, and see how this all plays out, click here to go to the Predict Wind Salty Dawg Page.

The point is that when Chris recommended that the fleet head to the NE, and most did, he wanted to allow for a possible subtle but important shift in the weather days down the road that would avoid the discomfort of beating to weather.  Chris is not always right but he works hard to allow for unanticipated changes in the forecast, an opportunity to “prepare for the worse and hope for the best.”

It will be interesting to see how things develop over the next few days and I am hopeful that the boats that are more to the west won’t have to abandon their goal of arriving in Antigua with the rest of the fleet.

From my perspective all of this and my own experience over the years and from my youth, is that sometimes “mom, and your weather router, really does know best”.

Trust your mother, or at least your router, and more often than not, your trip will be more fun.

And, as they say, “gentleman and cruisers never beat to weather”.

Good luck with that!

And they’re off! The Salty Dawg Rally to Antigua begins.

After months of planning and a never ending series of questions about what the state of the pandemic will be in the Caribbean, the Salty Dawg Rally is underway, with most boats leaving from Hampton VA this morning.   Most of the 50+ boats are heading to Antigua with some opting to head to the Bahamas and a few to other destinations.

Chris Parker of Marine Weather Center, is the official weather router for the rally and has been doing daily video briefings for skippers and crew for the last week to help everyone understand when it would be safe to leave for the run south.

I have not been privy to the details of these discussions except to say that the weather systems that boats will encounter are complex, not unlike departures in prior years when I participated in the rally, when we all spent the days leading up to departure not sure exactly what we would be getting ourselves into when we headed out.

This is a shot of the Predict Wind tracking map from this morning showing that a good number are heading out as I write this.    Most of the boats are leaving from the Hampton VA area, with a few from Beaufort, just south of Cape Hatteras.   As you can see by the box, the wind speed is in the low 20s out of the west, north west, a good point of sail and the boats should make good time, at least for the moment as conditions will surely change as they make their way south. And, there is a lot going on weather-wise, with yet another late season hurricane off of Honduras.   The blue areas have light wind and dark red, lots…

See a mark, again with the box indicating moderate trade winds from the east, Antigua, the destination for the bulk of the fleet.  I hope to be able to provide more commentary in the coming days and will follow weather alerts from Chris to share what I can regarding the conditions that the fleet is experiencing along the way.   I clipped these images from my iPad but they don’t offer as much functionality as you will get on a PC, where there is a list of individual boats along the border so you can more easily see who is who.

I encourage you to follow this link, now and often, to keep track of who is where and how fast they are going.   By placing your courser over any given boat, you can see what their speed, lat/lon and direction are.  And, the same applies to wind speed and direction as I have noted on the image above.

So here I sit in my office on election day and I have to say that with all the negativity in that “race”, I am happy to focus on the Dawgs heading south for the winter.

As we sit here in the US, with infections on the rise and months cooped up inside, the Salty Dawg Fleet heading to Antigua, is going to what is arguably a better place for the season. I’m jealous.

Skippers and crew have followed a detailed quarantine and testing regime, preparing for departure to ensure that everyone remains safe and arrives in Antigua free of infection.    And, with a mind toward keeping everyone safe, as Port Officer for the rally in Antigua, I have organized a long list of arrival events to help everyone feel welcome in Antigua.   Click here to see what’s in store when they arrive. 

After so many months of planning, it’s exciting to say.  “And they’re off!”

The America’s Cup: This isn’t your father’s yacht…

Recently, we had our first hard frost here in CT and I’m feeling pretty anxious about getting Pandora out of the water and properly winterized for the coming cold weather.

The need to protect Pandora from the cold is in sharp contrast to the Salty Dawg Rally, about 50 boats strong, as they prepare to head south, with the bulk of the fleet heading to Antigua.  No winterizing needed for them.

Most of the boats are leaving from the Hampton VA area again this year and conditions in the North Atlantic suggest that they may have a challenging time getting south this year.  With so much “easting” to make before heading south to the islands, leaving from Hamption brings with it a whole set of complexities.

Some would suggest that just leaving from New England makes sense given the fact that the run to Antigua is nearly due south, avoiding the hundreds of miles of easting that the boats leaving from VA must make in order to get into a position to enjoy the persistent easterly trade winds.

In fact, the course from Montauk to Antigua takes you just west of Bermuda and avoids a lot of beating into the trades from a start in VA.  However, given the number of gales, and there is one going on now, north of Bermuda this time of year, it is very difficult to get a proper weather window to make the run from New England to safer waters south of Bermuda.  As a result, lots of painful easting or not, most folks opt to leave from farther south and avoid the uncertainty of leaving from further north.

I am feeling a mixture of sad and excitement for the coming weeks.  Sad, because Pandora comes out of the water and excitement for the fellow Dawgs that will be heading south.  Hopefully next winter I’ll be feeling only excitement.   I’ll be posting again in a few days with the details of what’s in store for the fleet.

Exciting yes, but that enthusiasm will have to be tempered by the reality that moving from island to island will be quite challenging this season given the threat of infection.  The much promoted Caribbean “bubble”, promising “easier” travel between islands seems to be breaking down with several islands opting out of the agreement even before the season gets going.   With infections spiking all around the world, and more tourists visiting the islands, often from hard hit areas, it seems likely that moving from island to island will become even more difficulty.

Having spent weeks longer in Antigua last spring than we wished, often strictly confined to Pandora, I am wondering how much fun being there will be when compared to a “normal” year.   However, my position on all that might soften when compared to being here in the frigid north over the winter.

Ask me how I feel in about a month…

When I am “home” I always struggle to come up with ideas of what to post and I am sure that this winter will be more of the same.  However after some 950 posts over the years, I somehow always come up with something to write about, so here goes.

And, the next installment of the America’s Cup ramping up, and the defender and challengers alike, launching boats designed to the AC75 rule, we are learning more about what these remarkable boats, if you can call the boats, will be like.

I found a very interesting clip where the host describes the theory and technology behind these boats.   But first, this short piece about the history of the cup is worth watching to give better context to what sort of machines are competing today. And this, a nice piece about the 1934 race in big classic J class boats.  We see quite a few of these classics in Antigua each season. This description of the new A75 boats will dramatize just how much has changed in the competition for the America’s Cup.   Today’s yachts seem to have more in common with airplanes than boats.  Are these the proper direction for the sport?  You decide. I am sure that you would much prefer to hear about  what’s going on in the cruising community but for now we will all have to settle for an “armchair” look at what others are up to.

Well, at least those of us that are stuck in the frigid north for the winter.  For now, we can just watch and I guess “watching” boats, and they are barely boats at all, compete for the America’s Cup, the oldest international sporting trophy, will have to do.

Damn, it’s getting cold…

Three days, three classics and Pandora’s headed to the hard.

Recently I wrote of Brenda’s and my last cruise but something that I didn’t mention is that we saw a beautiful classic schooner as well as two beautiful old Trumpy yachts, all within three days, three for three.

As we headed down the CT river on our way to Sag Harbor, the beautiful Trumpy, Enticer, launched in 1935, one of the three “sightings”, passed us heading up the river.   I wish I had taken a photo of her.   She is a familiar site as we have passed her when underway many times over the years, when on the Intra Coastal Waterway, and once as we headed to Key Largo in the Hawk Channel, south of Miami.  It’s always a real treat to see such a beautiful boat in top shape.

In 2009 Brenda and I were able to tour Enticer.    Unfortunately, we weren’t “official” guests, as she was on display and open to visitors at the Wooden Boat Show at Mystic Seaport.   At that time, I wrote about our time aboard, not knowing that sometime later, years later, I’d again be aboard her, and this time as an official guest for “sundowners”.

Being aboard Enticer as a guest was amazing while I was on the NY Yacht Club cruise last summer, a visit that even included “valet parking” for my dink.  I was included as Pandora was invited to join the cruise as “tender” to a member’s boat that was participating as a racer.    I wrote about that visit in a post.  She’s a beautiful boat and was being chartered by several NYYC members and came complete with a 12 meter that was tied up along side.  Nice package deal…In 2015 she underwent yet another major restoration, although she looked pretty amazing when Brenda and I saw her years before that.  Now she is better than ever.  She has been “restored” a number of times, as is the case with all well maintained classic wooden yachts.  Her prior restoration, in 2002 was done at the Brooklin Boat Yard in Maine, known for doing some of the most magnificent rebuilds of classics as well as new builds in wood composite construction.

Her glamor shot after emerging from the shop shop in Brooklin. Hankering to get out on her yourself?  She is part of a program where, you can own a share as part of a fractional ownership plan.  Wouldn’t it be fun to put your feet up in the salon after a long day on the water?  “Garson, please fetch me a dram of rum.”  No, no, that’s not up to snuf.  “Garson, a Pims, if you will, and be snappy about it.”Too nice to stay inside?  Not to worry, you can enjoy your Pims on the aft deck.  And, it’s a nice place, trust me.  Been there, done that.  Although, for me, a G&T if I recall. Not up to your standards?  How about Enticer’s sister ship, Freedom?  A fractional program is available for her too for $350,000.   And for that fee, you will bask in the glow of 5% ownership and 10 days of annual usage.  Want to use her for a single day?  That will set you back $4,800 plus provisions, fuel and crew gratuity.

We saw Freedom when we were in Sag Harbor.   What a sight passing by at sunset. As you can imagine, buying, crewing and maintaining such a yacht is not for the faint of heart and a lot goes into keeping her up to snuff.  However, with fractional ownership, you will never have to pick up a varnish brush.

It takes a massive amount of work to keep a boat like Freedom in proper shape.  Check out this video on her restoration.  The video is about 5 minutes long and gives some very interesting history and what went into getting her where she is today.  Now, in the foreground of the image above of Freedom is a lovely schooner, number three on our three-sightings weekend.   Yes, she’s in the photo above, but she deserves a shot of her own.  Meet Kelpie, a 1928 schooner built at the Harvey Gamage yard in Maine.  This video shows her underway and in a race win in Falmouth, UK, shortly after her recent rebuild before making her way “across the pond” to Sag Harbor.  The video includes some shots of other really spectacular yachts, some of which I have seen in Antigua over the years.  As they set various sails, you really get a feel for just how big everything is on a yacht of this scale.
In order to own such a boat, her owner must have a long attention span and a very healthy checkbook.  Her current owner. Breakfast is ready…  Well,almost. Now Kelpie is under new management and ownership and is being actively chartered out of Sag Harbor.  She was still in the neighborhood when Brenda and I were there last weekend.  I wonder where she will be this winter.  It would be a shame to see her out of the water for the winter.  Kelpie?  Looking for a delivery crew?  I’d work for food.

So, there you go, three for three.  Three days and three beautiful classic yachts and it’s a wrap for this season.

It’s worth noting that that Pandora’s season ran from last fall when she went back in the water and headed south to Antigua, to South Florida, the Chesapeake and back home to New England where she will be hauled for the long New England winter.

Pandora covered nearly 5,00o miles over the last year and was commissioned for 13 months since her last layup.   In all honesty, with the whole virus thing and the months of lockdown in the Caribbean Brenda and I had to endure, it wasn’t all that idyllic a season.  However, I’m counting on next fall and winter being terrific so there is something to look forward to.   Given how terribly the virus has been managed here in the US, experts are now predicting that things won’t be under control until mid 2023, which would be horrible and put’s next season’s cruising plans at risk for us.

What a nice way to end the season, three for three.  Three days and three classics.  Check, check and time to haul.

So, here we will be, stuck in the frozen north this winter.  I sure hope that we will at least be to snow and lots of it so it will feel like a real winter.

I guess it’s time to begin working on that winterizing list and beginning to tackle the many projects planned to make sure she is in top form come spring.

I’ll be looking forward to a nice sundowner aboard Pandora next summer and winter.  Unlike these three beautiful yachts, Enticer, Freedom and Kelpie, I guess I’ll have to serve myself.

At least the view will be nice.Yes, it feels like winter, cold and rainy.  Time to put on a sweater.

Brenda likes sweaters.

A Coronavirus Winter.

Winter is on it’s way and a few days ago I moved Pandora to the yard in Deep River CT where she will be hauled.  It pains me to have her out of commission for the “season” but that’s how it will be.

As I ran her up the river, it was a beautiful fall afternoon and I couldn’t resist and asked Brenda if she would be willing to head out one more time for a short run  to Sag Harbor.  She agreed so I put off the haul date a bit and here we are again in Sag Harbor, where I write this.

We had an easy run here yesterday and were able to sail at least part of the way, a nice way to end the season.  We will head back to the marina in Deep River tomorrow where I will prepare her for being hauled.  It’s nice to have at least one more outing before the season is officially over.

The harbor here is much more empty than when we were here only a few short weeks ago with all but two of the big yachts gone for the season.

As Brenda and I sat in the cockpit last evening enjoying a G&T we were treated to the view of Patriot, a beautifully maintained classic Trumpy yacht steaming by.  It  seems that she is for sale and at $350k, if you are interested.  And, at that price, she won’t break the bank.

However, anyone who knows what it costs to maintain a classic yacht, will realize that the purchase price is only the beginning as I expect that it’s a multi six figure yearly commitment to keep her going which would surely break our bank.  It’s expensive enough to maintain Pandora and I can only imagine the complexities keeping a near 100 year old yacht in proper trim.

And, maintenance is only the beginning and assumes that no major work needs attention.  She was built in 1926 and has been heavily rebuilt over the years, most recently over a 5 year period ending in 2009.   I expect that she’s ready for yet another round of major work about now.   One way or the other, what a sight as she passed by a lovely schooner in the waning light.   The schooner is Kelpie, built in 1928 in Maine.  She too underwent a major rebuild, as is the case with all older yachts, in Maine in 2014 so she is in terrific condition.  She now calls Sag Harbor her home and is available for charter.  I wonder if she will be here over the winter.   Want to go sailing on a classic schooner?  Check out her website here.

Anyway, with the season at an end I continue to think about what life is going to be like here in New England this winter, wondering how bad things will get as people move indoors and tire of coping with the seeming never-ending restrictions required to stay safe.

On a daily basis experts are making predictions of what will happen in the coming months.  It’s hard to know what to believe when reports from medical experts suggest that the worse is yet to come, and others suggesting that the worse is behind us and that the virus will just magically fade away.

And, to add to uncertainty, the questions about vaccines in development and a growing fear that many will not trust them as safe or even protect us from infection.  One way or the other, it’s going to be a long winter.

And, speaking of winter and our missed run south, I have been working hard to arrange plans to celebrate the arrival of the Salty Dawg fleet in Antigua.  Unlike here in New England, it is fairly easy to stay “safe” as just about everything you might want to do in Antigua will be outdoors and with a fresh breeze to further minimize risk.

Last year we had nearly 40 boats make the run to Antigua in the rally and in spite of the world being in the clutches of the Pandemic, it looks like we will have a similar number of boats, perhaps a few more than last year, making the run this year.  Interestingly, two thirds of the fleet this year are first-timers, about double the fraction of what the rally sees in a “normal” year, suggesting that “veterans” either left their boats in the Caribbean last summer or have opted to sit the season out, given all of the uncertainty.

One question is if it will be safer in the Caribbean than here at home, and I find it very distressing that here in the US, we have the highest death rate of any industrialized nation at nearly 70 per 100,000.  On the other hand, the death rate per 100,000 in Antigua is a fraction of that at 3.  These are sobering numbers with our death rate more than 20x worse.  So, who’s the third world country?  As Trump would say “sad”.

Earlier in the week, Brenda and I went out for lunch, on a patio overlooking the CT River.  It was a beautiful day and really brought home just how different it will be here in a month when we are no longer able to sit outside to enjoy a meal.  It’s going to be very different and I can say with certainty that there is no way that I will be comfortable dining indoors, social distancing or not, once it’s cold, as there is ample evidence that being inside, in a public place, social distancing or not, as it is much more risky.

While we have more hospital beds here in the US, the to care for us if we get sick, the government of Antigua has been taking a very aggressive approach in keeping the virus at bay by having forced quarantine in government facilities.

They realize that if things get out of control, they just won’t be able to cope.  Or, to put it another way, “In God we trust, all positives go into quarantine where we can keep an eye on you!”.  I doubt that would fly here in the US, land of “don’t tread on my liberties”.  So, where would we be safer?  In the US with 20x the infection rate and lots of hospital beds or in Antigua with minimal healthcare risk but less risk of infection?  It’s a tough call.

One of the best parts of visiting Antigua is the availability of other islands to visit only a short sail away.  However, this year there are still a lot of questions about what will be involved in moving from island to island, with the likely need to take  a PCR test at $100 per person, just to move to another island.   That could really add up over the course of a season where a cruiser might visit as many as 10 countries over the course of the season.

Some of the islands, basically the non-French islands, have formed a sort of “bubble”.   The idea is that residents of those islands can move more freely between their home and others in the group with a minimum of effort.  However, for cruisers, non-nationals, it’s not all that clear with evidence seeming to suggest that cruisers will need to show a negative test, in or outside of the bubble islands.  At this writing, those wishing to travel within the “bubble” will still have to provide proof of a negative PCR test, regardless of where they are traveling from.

There is indeed a lot of question as to how things will evolve in the coming months and if it will be better to remain close to medical care here in the US or to bail for warmer climes.  I guess only time will tell which approach proves to be correct.

On a brighter note, recently our son Chris and his partner Melody, who have moved in with us for the winter (and yes, it’s going very well, thankyou) were aboard for an evening cruise and were witness to an amazing spectacle,  the swarming of swallows over the marsh.  What begins, as the sun sets, as hundreds of black specks…Turns into swirling clouds of hundreds of thousands…They swoop and dive in elegant sweeping clouds before diving down into the marsh for the night.  Soon they will head south and in spite of all of the uncertainty about what the coming winter will bring, seeing this natural wonder offers hope that as time marches on seasons will come and go and we too will eventually find a new beginning with life returning to some sort of normal.

Yes, time will tell but for the time being, tropical or frozen, it’s going to indeed be a Coronavirus winter.

God help us.

Now, that’s something you don’t see every day!

As I write this, Brenda and I are aboard Pandora in Sag Harbor.  This is perhaps our favorite place to visit and being so close to home, it’s a double treat.  In particular, as members of our yacht club, we are able to use a mooring here for free.  And, that’s saying a lot as moorings in Sag are perhaps the most expensive of any place we have visited at $2/ft, nearly $100/day for Pandora.

Contrast that to the $20-$25/day that we have paid in the Caribbean for the rare times we opt to use a mooring.  And, at $375/month for the slip we were on in Annapolis, just picking up a mooring here is nearly $3,000/month.  Crazy!

I guess the town fathers, if they are all men, would take the position “if you can’t afford it, we don’t want you here”.   Clearly, as the best harbor in the Hamptons, there is plenty of money to go around so they don’t need folks like us.  Some of the yachts, and there are dozens in the harbor, are pretty amazing.   I have always had a soft spot for yachts painted black.  What a beautiful shape.I often wonder what it takes to accumulate enough wealth to buy such a large “toy”.   Perhaps the name of this one, Indiscretion, offers a clue. Brenda and I have at least one thing in common with the owners.  They keep a  Mini Cooper on deck. “Oh Reginald, can I have a Mini?  They re just so cute.”, “Of course, what a lovely idea Chrystal,  have James order one post haste!”In order to fit a Mini in board Pandora, it would have to be a really mini Mini.  A “micro, mini, Mini” perhaps.  Note the white stripe on the side announcing the name of the Mother Ship.

While some of the yachts, many actually, are mega, some are exclusive in their own way.  This one surely shouts “I don’t care what it costs, mine is the only one”.
The Hamptons have long been the playground of the rich and famous.  Many are merely rich but some, like the owner of Alexa, are both.  She is one of Billy Joel’s boats, named after his daughter.   Alexa, the boat at least, has been a fixture on the Sag Harbor waterfront for years.    She’s quite a looker with classic lines. In addition to beautiful yachts, the town of Sag Harbor has some beautiful buildings, many dating back to a time when this was a major whaling port.    This elaborately decorated gem, is now a store.  I’ll bet that the bill for the silk flowers surrounding the entrance alone would set you back thousands.  Very tastefully arranged.  Love the yellow chairs.  I wonder what would happen if I plunked myself down with a cup of coffee there.  “Sir, can I please seem some form of identification documenting that you are “sheltering legally” in Sag Harbor.”
Speaking of Sag Harbor and whaling, that brings me to the highlight of Brenda’s and my time aboard Pandora,  so read on…

A few days ago, we decided to head from Block Island to Sag and headed out in nearly windless conditions.  We had hoped for a nice breeze to move us along but instead motored the entire distance.   As we passed Montauk and approached Gardner’s Island, I saw a huge splash a few miles off.  At first I thought it might be a wave breaking on the reef off of Gull Island, on the eastern end of Plum Island.

It was hard to tell what was going on but as we got closer, a geyser of foam leapt up again and again.  Finally, I realized it was a breaching whale when I saw this enormous dark bulk shoot up nearly clear of the water, only to land with an enormous splash.

As she/he? came closer, there were a few more leaps out of the water and then she continued her slow trek toward Pandora.I took dozens of photos as she came closer and  closer.  We never changed course but were careful to slow down to a crawl and stay out of her way.   Perhaps she was feeding as her mouth was agape as she rose up.  You can be certain that we were seeing a Humpback because of the long black and white pectoral fins, unique to this species.We never changed course but she came closer and closer, passing within about 100′ of Pandora.   She wacked her fin hard on the water, making a loud slapping sound, again and again.  We were awestruck.   I could hear her breathing.   What a moment. From start to finish, we were with her for perhaps 20-30 minutes.    And, all of a sudden, she was gone. It is very unusual to see a whale in Block Island Sound as for much of the summer, they congregate in the Gulf of Maine.  I do wonder if she was lost as this area isn’t known as a good place to feed.  They eat tons of plankton every day, and that sort of food is much more common in the colder waters north of here.

There is so much boat traffic here that the risk of collision is high.  These beautiful creatures swim very slowly and are often struck by ships, causing perhaps more deaths than by most any other cause.    I called the USCG to report her position which they repeated as a notice to mariners.

In the 40 years that Brenda and I have spent cruising this area, it’s the first time we have ever encountered a whale together and while I have seen quite a few off of Provincetown over the years, this was Brenda’s first time to see such a show.

Setting aside the fact that a sighting in our home waters is so rare, to see a breaching whale from the deck of our own boat, with no other boats for miles in every direction, was an experience that we will remember for many years.

So, there you have it, visiting Sag Harbor, once a major whaling port and now the final stop on what may very well be our last cruise of the season before Pandora goes on the hard until next spring, and a whale sighting.

When we arrived in Wickford about a week ago, it really felt like winter was coming and with a cold front coming through on Wednesday, I guess it’s time to head home tomorrow.

The good news is that while it’s pretty cloudy today, it’s warm and a nice day to eat outside on the patio of a lovely spot we have been wanting to try for a while.

While our cruise is nearly over, one way or the other, Brenda and I will have something to talk about as seeing a whale in Block Island Sound, now that’s something you just don’t see every day.

Perhaps I’ll close with a shot of Pandora, snug on her mooring here in Sag Harbor.  I’ll sign off for now.  It’s time to head ashore to lunch.   Socially distanced, of course.

Things may change but the sun still rises and sets every day…

It’s only been a week since I was last in Block Island when I was here with my friend Craig.  Yesterday, after waiting a few days in Wickford for the strong north winds to settle, Brenda and I made a run here, our second stop on the “twilight cruise”, our last for this season.  Sure, we may still make a short evening run or two on the CT River, perhaps to see the swallows gathering before their run south, but it won’t be long until Pandora is out and on the hard for the winter.

Yesterday I hosted a Zoom meeting as part of the Salty Dawg Webinar series, with the Director of National Parks in Antigua, Ann-Marie Martin.  She was joined by Paul Deeth, owner of the Admiral’s Inn, also in the Dockyard.

They spoke to captains making the trip there this fall as well as others considering Antigua as a destination in the future.  There were questions about how the island is handling the virus and what cruisers could expect as the season unfolds.

While there is much uncertainty, one thing for sure is that being in Antigua, with the warm weather and the opportunity to continue to live life outdoors, will be a lot safer than life here in the Northeast US where everyone is bracing for a resurgence of the virus.  To that point, we are expecting that a record number of boats in the rally will head to Antigua.  I find that very rewarding given all the work that goes into preparing for the fleet’s arrival.   This will be the first year that I won’t be there to welcome them.  Next year…

Here in the US, as winter approaches, experts are reminding us that what is coming won’t be a “second wave” as there was never a reduction, with infections near an all time high so we are still in the clutches of the first wave.   Scary stuff.

Brenda read this morning that doctors are seeing many more patients than normal complaining of hair loss and their best explanation is stress, perhaps associated with the pandemic.   I’ve often heard dog owners speak of their stressed dog as “blowing a coat” to explain why their upset dog was loosing much more hair than usual.

Perfect.  One more thing to worry about, as if having a president who is suggesting he won’t leave the Whitehouse, even if he looses the election, isn’t enough.  Now we can look forward to being part of a nation of “coat blowers”,  going bald on top of everything else.

So, here we are, me and Brenda, back in Block Island, a place we have been visiting for nearly 40 years.  Much has changed since our first visit, so long ago, in our very first boat, a 20′ Cape Cod catboat, Tao.

We were reminded of those times yesterday when this little Marshall catboat, 18′, arrived and pick up a mooring nearby.  I could not resist the temptation to stop and say Hi.  Brenda could not resist taking a picture.  Hard to believe that Pandora’s dink is half the length of our first boat.

Also near by, a lovely yawl, I think an Invicta, sister ship to our own Artemis, one of 11 built in the 60s.   Her lines are beautiful.  Alas, not such a fast boat.  When Craig and I sailed from Block Island to Newport last week, we had a wonderful downwind sail and after days of strong north winds in Wickford, wouldn’t you know that Brenda and I had to motor directly into a south wind?  Such is life.

Brenda and I arrived in Wickford, where I had left Pandora for a few days, to head home to visit.   You know, the lawn does need to be cut.  When we returned to Pandora it was really chilly for the first few days and very windy.  Good thing our diesel heater was working as it kept the outside low 40s temperatures at a bay.  Down below we were warm and comfortable.

Wickford is a place we have enjoyed visiting for as many years as we have been boating although I don’t think we took Tao there.  I do recall at least one departure from Newport aboard Tao that, like yesterday, had us motoring directly into the wind, trying to get out of Narraganset Bay and around Point Judith on our way home from a vacation.  For sure, yesterday’s trip was a lot more pleasant.  Brenda still remembers that trip, and not in a good way.  She does have a very long memory.

Back in those days, when the weather cooled in the Fall, our only solution to stay warm was to invert a clay flowerpot over our tiny kerosene burner.   These days time aboard, complete with central heating, is a bit more civilized.

One thing that has changed a lot over the years is the size of the yachts in Newport.  They are huge.   How about this monster speedster?  I expect that he burns more fuel in an hour than we burn in a whole year.  And I mean more even if you combine all that we use in our cars, boat and at home.  With a burn rate, of as much as 1,000 gallons per hour when she’s speeding along at 30+ kts, a lot more.  Talk about a carbon footprint.

A powerboat owner once quipped to me, in response to a question by me about how much fuel he burned in an hour,  “8 gallons an hour but I can afford it”.  Ok, but some might suggest that isn’t really the point.

Some might suggest that burning that amount of fuel is wasteful.  However, if I could afford it, I’d probably find a way to rationalize it and have a big beautiful yacht myself.  Perhaps something like this.  Or, if I couldn’t stand the idea of a power boat, something like this beauty.  Call me a carbon footprint hypocrite but I do love beautiful yachts and if I had the coin…

It’s always interesting to see some of the same yachts, year after year.  This is Spartan, the last remaining of the NY 50s class, built in Bristol RI by the famous builder Herreshoff, one of several built for members of the NY Yacht Club, launched in the spring of 1913.  Her current owner spent millions having her restored during a project that began in 1981 and took 8 years.  It appears that she is, once again, having major work done.  Here’s Spartan under sail.  I first saw her when she was on display at the Wooden Boat Show in Mystic a number of years ago.  For some reason, I can’t find that photo?   Pretty remarkable and at more than 70′ long, she is primarily a day sailor and a big one at that.  However, by today’s standards, a small yacht.

As Craig and I made our way from Newport to Wickford, we were passed by the Oliver Hazard Perry, a reproduction tall ship berthed at Fort Adams in Newport.  She was conducting man overboard drills.   When the breeze picked up and she put out all her sails, Pandora still passed her easily.  The Perry isn’t great in light air, it seems. She is quite a contrast to Pandora but an even greater contrast in designs was when Enterprise, one of the 12 meter yachts built to compete for the America’s Cup.  She is still sailed out of Newport as one of a number of 12s that have been kept in sailing trim.  She passed us like we were standing still. What a contrast to see her and the Perry in the same frame.  Escapees from such different times.And speaking of yacht racing,  Brenda and I got a kick out of this boat load of guys heading out with their RC boats for an evening of racing.  Love the dual engine pontoon boat.  Actually, the motor on the left is on a “chase boat”, I guess to retrieve errant yachts.    They seemed to be having a very nice time, no doubt helped along with cans of beer. I was struck by this Buddha, guarding Wickford harbor, a sort of silent guardian of the people of Wickford.   I’ll go with that.  In these days of pandemic and the polarization of our country, we need all the help we can get.  Unfortunately, during a particularly high tide, while were there, the water was right up to his chin, yet another metaphor for what many of us are feeling these days as we all work hard to keep our heads above high water.

At least we can take solace in the fact that the sun continues to rise and fall every day, always predictable.    Our neighbor, the catboat, nicely framed by yet another beautiful sunset.  Yes, the sun will come up again but I fear that there are going to be a number of nasty gales along the way.

Batten down the hatches…

Listen carefully and you can hear the gates slam shut.

By any measure, this year’s boating season has been unique.  In a socially distant world many have turned to boating as a way to spend time with family and yet avoid infection.   Anecdotally, I have heard that boats, both new and used, have been selling like hotcakes and in spite of some pretty daunting requirements, with testing, quarantine and huge complexities for entering the islands, registrations for the Salty Dawg Rally to Antigua are running nearly the same as last year.

As I write this I am aboard Pandora in Block Island, cruising with my friend Craig for a week.    This is the first time I have been here so late in the season and it’s pretty clear that the season is over.   There are dozens, perhaps hundreds of open moorings.  We used an Essex Yacht Club mooring, free for our use.  It’s not uncommon, during the high season, for every mooring to be occupied.  Not so now. Champlins Marina, a very popular spot had only a single boat.   I am told that if you want a spot on the dock during their busy time you have to book and pay by March.  Even with a reservation, you had better be prepared to raft up with other boats on the dock. At another marina, nearly all of the floating docks were already out of the water, and it’s only one week past Labor Day. Craig and I sat out on a patio on the dock overlooking a sparsely occupied marina.  I was impressed with all of the safety precautions in place.  At the Oar, a popular spot, we had to sign our names and list phone numbers in the event that any infection broke out and they had to trace who’d been there.  The place was very lightly attended and tables were widely spaced in a fresh breeze.  We felt safe.  So many open moorings.  No surprise given the fact we are well into cooler weather.  These same moorings, during high season, are so scarce that anxious boaters hover nearby with a dink every morning so that they can race to claim a mooring when someone drops off. We went for a walk and while there were plenty of tourists around, it was not crowded at all and we only saw a few mopeds, the usual scourge of summer.  The constant buzzing of racing mopeds, was nowhere to be seen.

I had remembered that there was a petting zoo near Old Harbor, on the other side of the island, where most of the old hotels and shops are located.  They have quite a collection including a Yak.  I think that’s how it’s spelled.  He’s the big black guy on the right.   Quite the menagerie. I have always loved turtles and this one is a big boy, upwards of 40lbs.    He was quite interested in getting some sort of handout and raced, as much as a tortoise can race, over to greet me.   How about these horns? Reminds me of one of the characters in the movie by Monty Python.   Not sure but I seem to recall his name as Kim.  Of course, what zoo is complete without a camel?Or a lama?   Or is this an Alpaca?  Whatever…Unfortunately,  all is not peaches and cream at the zoo.  This crane, was being tormented by a particularly aggressive goose who kept bugging him, squawked and flapped noisily. Later, a much happier egret, checking us out on the dock. When Craig and I headed out earlier in the week, the wind was strong and directly from the SE, which didn’t leave much choice of where to go.  We opted to head to Mattituck, a tiny harbor at the end of a 1.5 mile twisting channel on the North Fork of Long Island.   I had not been there for years and never with Pandora.  The channel has some very shallow parts so we were sure to head there at high tide.  No problem, and we never saw less than about 8-9′.  However, at low tide, I am certain that we would have run aground.  There is a small anchorage at the end of the channel that is kept open for anchoring boats.   It was disappointing to see that a few moorings have been placed, limiting room for anchoring but we were able to find a spot.

A short walk brought us into town.   Not a lot of action but we did have to wait for coffee and a muffin that we ate outside on the sidewalk, socially distanced of course.   I was impressed that everyone we encountered was wearing a mask.   It was encouraging.   There was a terrific grocery and also well stocked cheese shop.   Eating out didn’t seem like a good idea but we ate well aboard. Years ago Brenda and I had “discovered” nearby Shinn Vineyards, about a 1.5 mile walk outside of town on lovely country roads.   We have visited the vineyard by boat a few times.  We also stayed in their B&B for a long weekend during a snowstorm once, taking advantage of a winter special, complete with wine, of course, and wonderful food.  The vineyard has changed hands now and much has been done to make it even nicer.   Craig and I ordered a bottle of wine, cheese and bread.  All the basic food groups. I thought that these chairs were pretty neat.  Wonder how they keep them from getting filthy on the lawn. The rows of grape vines were meticulously trimmed and shielded with webbing from marauding birds.  The amount of labor that goes into producing wine is remarkable.    And, to make things even more complicated, Shinn is an organic vineyard.   Having  seen so many vineyards in CA that had no grass or weeds at all between the vines, everything burned out by herbicide, made me appreciate the difference here. Nothing quite says clean like glistening stainless steel.  Tonight Newport and Thursday off to Wickford and a mooring at the Wickford Yacht Club where I will leave Pandora while we head home in a rental car.  On Monday, Brenda and I will head back to Pandora for the last hurrah before Pandora is hauled for the winter.  I have written in past posts about all the projects that are lined up for the winter, both aboard Pandora and at home.   It’s going to be a busy winter.

And that’s good as my mother used to quote, allegedly from Mao, “busy people are happy people”, and busy I’ll be.  And that’s good, as I really don’t want to have time to think about the warm weather of the Caribbean that I’ll be trading for what I hope won’t be a harsh New England winter.

The good news though, is that our son Chris, his partner Melody and their dog Mila are settling in nicely at our home with everyone sharing in the housework, cooking and grocery shopping.  Mila isn’t much of a cook and is spending much of her time on the back deck, concentrating on keeping all the birds and squirrels in their place.

Hopefully after a winter with us they will decide that moving back to California isn’t a good idea.  With wild fires raging everywhere, the ever present risk of earthquakes and, these days, pestilence, perhaps they will decide that boring New England might seem like a good place to stay.  It would be nice to have them nearby.  One can always hope.

One thing that is certain though… summer is over.   Here in Block Island, the crowds have gone and the harbor is nearly empty.  It’s hard to believe that only a few weeks ago this place was hopping.

If you listen carefully, you can almost hear the iron gates of summer slamming shut…

Me, I really want to do what I can to wring a bit more time out of this season. I sure hope I don’t get bruised by that slamming gate.