Oh yeah, that lawn… Does it need cutting already?

We’ve been back in the US for nearly two weeks now and I feel like I have barely caught up with things.  My lawn, that I am determined to keep from looking like a “cruiser’s lawn” is looking fairly good in spite of being littered with dead leaves for longer than is reasonable.  The rose garden, and it’s a long one, try 150′ or so, is pruned and ready for a winter nap and I am about ready to drain the fuel from all the garden equipment, the chain saw, leaf blower, trimmer and mower… Whew!

I can’t say that I feel like we’ve been home all that long as we spent the first four days in MD with our family celebrating our granddaughter Tori’s christening.  At nearly one year, she still wasn’t the oldest that the priest baptized and I would say that it was quite a sight watching her walk down the isle with her parents and the priest.  🙂The holidays are always a busy time but this year is particularly nutty as we are visiting MD three times, and it’s not just around the corner,  in a single month.   I’ll also be putting up and taking down holiday decorations as well as winterizing our home and setting tons of mouse traps before we head back to Antigua.  It’s a whirlwind and after less than ten days here off to MD again for Tori’s first birthday.  Crazy travel or not, it’s a real treat to see her an her parents three times in a single month.

However this is a sailing/boating blog and I have been meaning to write about a boat that I saw in Antigua that I was particularly struck by.  First of all, she’s huge, perhaps better referred to as a ship, visiting Falmouth for the charter boat show.

Nero, and I am not sure where that name comes from, is a real beauty and at nearly 300′ long, is one of the longest yachts in the world.  Actually, in total volume, there are some that are much, much larger,  However, as she is designed in spirit of a sleek classic, Corsair, the yacht once owned by J.P. Morgan her total volume is not as large as others of this length and that’s one of the key attributes that makes her magnificent.

Here she is berthed at the Antigua Yacht Club Marina in Falmouth.  She can’t be missed, with her distinctive yellow funnel.  Oddly, as I took this shot, the crew didn’t pluck me from my rubber boat for a tour.  However, personal tour aside, as she is very popular charter yacht, there are plenty of great photos on various sites.  “So, Bob, how much does it cost to charter her”?  Well, as J.P. once said “if you have to ask, you can’t afford it”.  But, since you asked, a few years ago the rate was $555,000 a week during the high season.  Heck, off season, you can get her for just a tad over a half mil.   “Holy mega-extravagance Batman.”  And I thought Pandora cost a lot to maintain.

Heck, my annual budget for her wouldn’t even pay the salary of the assistant to the assistant stewardess.   And, there are 20 crew to attend to the needs of a mere 12 guests.

Nero was built in China and launched in 2007.  Wow, Pandora was launched then too!   What a coincidence.  I just knew we had something in common.

Nice “dink”.   We have a dink too!Brenda and I have a dining table on Pandora. Actually, this coffee table is about the size of Pandora’s dining table.
And we have companionway stairs too although ours are different, they are brown.And, of course, we have our own bed.  However, I have to climb over her to get into my corner.  If we had this bed, I’d still want to…  Never mind. Speaking of that, perhaps a dip in one of the two pools to cool myself off would be more in keeping with this blog’s PG rating.  No need to declare “adult swim!” as the kids can use the other pool on the bow. All and all, a remarkable boat, yacht, ship.  Whatever, shes something.  Want to learn more, check out this brokerage link.  Lot’s more to see.

Perhaps when we return to Antigua her crew will take pity on us when we get all sweaty and invite us aboard for a dip.   Perhaps not, but if they did, I’d settle for the kid’s pool.

I guess if you have to ask…

And, to add insult to injury, I have a sneaking suspicion that the owners don’t cut their own lawn when the are home.   “Buffy, can you bring me that red gas can?  Can you believe how long the grass has gotten?”

Oh well.  But I doubt that their grandaughter, and I sure hope that the owners aren’t too young, is as cute as Tori.



Antigua?  Been there…  Port Captain?   Done that…

It was a few days in late October before we were scheduled to leave Hampton VA to head to Antigua and anticipation of what was to come was high.  Pandora, my Aerodyne 47 sloop was as ready as she would be and my crew was excited.

We’d been listening to Chris Parker, who I had been working with on each of my trips for the last 6 years, and were trying to make sense of his forecast calling for extremely light winds and how we’d make it the 1,500 miles to Antigua without running out of fuel.   Fortunately, Pandora is what Chris refers to as an “easily driven vessel” so I was feeling like it would likely be easier than predicted and besides, there always seems to be more wind than is called for when I am offshore.

After my previous experience of making the run to the BVIs in January of this year and “enjoying” gale force winds and 20′ waves for nearly 5 days, the prospect of a calm run was very appealing, although, as port captain for the rally, I was feeling real pressure to get to Antigua as soon as possible so that things would be ready when the rest of the fleet arrived.  Of course the Dawgs would be looking for a good time and I didn’t want to be the one that fell short. And not to torture the whole “dawg” thing too much, I was really hoping when they got to Antigua, that “the the Dawgs would like the Dawg food”.

As far as planning was concerned, with all the hurricane damage in the BVIs in October, just a few weeks prior to departure, the board decided to head to Antigua and with less than a month to plan, it was my responsibility to be sure that those who made the run would have a great time when they arrived.   It just wouldn’t be fitting if 50+ boats sailed 1,500 miles and didn’t feel “the love” when they got there.

Brenda and I visited Antigua for a month last winter and had really enjoyed our visit so I was anxious to do everything possible to make for a great time for the 55 boats that would ultimately make their way to Antigua.

Even with nearly 80 boats leaving Hampton, we were only within eyesight of any other members of the fleet for a few days.  A view like this, a boat on the horizon and a full moon rising isn’t something you see every day.  We took it as a good omen.  While it’s not news for those of you that follow this blog, the trip was indeed relatively uneventful and we did what we could to get as far east as possible, get around the ridge, catch the trade winds and avoid motoring the entire way.

Don’t Chris and Jim look happy?  Actually, that was about as rough as it got on the whole trip.  Well, that’s if you don’t count the 20+ squalls we went through.  With our new cockpit enclosure, what squalls?Things held together pretty well and it was only Jim’s eagle eye one night that averted disaster when the fitting on the boom that holds the tack of the main broke.  A few minutes longer and the main would have ripped from tack to leech.  I dropped the main immediately and went to work lashing the clew to the boom and mast.

It wasn’t pretty but held just fine for the rest of the trip.  This is just one reason that I keep a good supply of Dyneema, super strong line, aboard.  You can see that one “ear” of the “rabbit ear” fitting is gone.  I always thought it looked a bit fragile.   In Antigua I swapped it out for another bolt I had on board. All better now. And, speaking of sailing, or at least motor sailing as the engine did run 100+ hours on our way south, Pandora is a fairly light boat and can sail at a reasonable pace, assuming her main isn’t ripped to shreds,  in wind as light as 10-12kts so I was fairly confident that we’d be able to make it all the way without using up the 155-175 gallons of fuel that we had on board.   I use that capacity as a liberal estimate, as I really don’t know exactly how much of the fuel we have in our tanks we can actually use.   It turns out that the one “50 gallon” tank we ran dry, only took 38 gallons to refill.  I do wonder about the other two that supposedly hold 50 gallons.   Before learning that at least one tank is smaller than advertised, I assumed that we held 150 gallons between the three tanks and another 25 in Jerry jugs.  Now, I’m not so sure.  I guess I’ll have to run the other two tanks dry and hope that the engine doesn’t quit at an “inopportune” moment.   Having a boat where only three were built is always a bit of a “scavenger hunt” any time I need something.

Dry fuel tanks or not, I was very focused on keeping Pandora on the move without burning any more fuel than I had to and to get there as close as possible to the ten day goal that I was shooting  for.  Besides, Brenda doesn’t do the long runs with me and I really wanted to be there by the time she flew in on the 15th.

I have done a fair number of offshore passages over the years and find that for the first few days I feel like “are we there yet” and by the 4th or 5th day the only way I can even tell how long it’s been is to look at my log and count the days that have passed.  Being a skeptic about electronics and knowing more than a few friends that have had all their electronics knocked out by a lightening strike, I log our position every two hours including our course, speed, battery level and other important numbers , just in case.

As I am a pretty fastidious guy, “Well Bob.  Actually, the word that comes to mind is anal”, I tend to do all the cooking and besides, it gives me something to do.  With the limited amount of ingredients to work with, sometimes I have to be creative, like this banana, zucchini, raisin, date etc. quick bread.  It tasted great, like most everything aboard does.  I guess if you are hungry enough…Preparing three meals a day along with keeping things clean down below, staying in touch with Chris Parker’s twice daily SSB nets and checking in with the fleet keeps me pretty busy.  I also like to do a daily blog post when conditions are reasonable and that burns up a few hours.

Under the category of “just how much can you photograph while underway” category, here I am at the nav station writing a post. Anyway, we made it and were one of the first boats to arrive in Falmouth Antigua.  I tied up at the Antigua Yacht Club Marina where I stayed until Brenda joined me and got settled, nearly a week.  Chris and Jim had to head out the very next day so I made sure that before they left that they had the best breakfast in Falmouth or Antigua, at the Admiral’s Inn.

Just so you’ll think, for a moment, that this post is actually a shot of my breakfast on Facebook,… Why is it that EVERYBODY puts photos up of food?Yes, it was really tasty and my crew, they sure look happy. Hope it’s not because they FINALLY had a decent breakfast.  I rarely tie up at a marina but the convenience of just stepping onto the dock is pretty intoxicating, as was the wine I shared with other Dawgs on the dock, I’ll admit.  Besides, if I’d anchored out I would have been all alone and you know how much I hate that.

As port captain and “responsible party”, I was really focused on making the shore side activities so great that nobody would question why they had come all the way to Antigua.  And given the long history of the rally, that was going to be a tall order.

So, there I was, a Dawg with a mission.  A mission to making landfall in Antigua the best it could be.   However, that was complicated by the fact that nearly a quarter of the fleet decided to divert to Bermuda to refuel because of the light winds and others waiting it out in Hampton for better sailing conditions.  That meant that the fleet was spread out with nearly 1,000 miles between those who left with us and those who opted to leave later or stop in Bermuda.

For the month or so after hurricanes roared through the eastern Caribbean I spent countless hours on the phone contacting folks in Antigua.  At first I was just trying to find out who to talk to and then focusing on setting up events.  All the while not knowing exactly when the fleet would arrive.

“Yes, we’d like to have a welcome dinner at your place but I really don’t know when it will be.  Interested?”  Fortunately, they were and everyone I spoke to was very supportive and anxious to help.

We had some really terrific events including several cocktail parties at Pillars, part of the Admiral’s Inn, a fabulous spot in Nelson’s Dockyard in historic English Harbor. We held our arrival dinner at Boom, another part of the inn, overlooking the dockyard.   Then you already knew about that if you follow this blog as I have written more than anyone wants to know on the subject.

So, here I am in CT struggling to get the lawn and gardens put away for winter and to prepare our home for a long winter nap before we return to Antigua after Christmas.   And, all of this is punctuated by visits to MD to see our family and our new granddaughter Tori who’s about to turn one.   I can’t resist sharing a photo of her when she was christened last week.  Yes, as they say “home for the holidays” and as far as Antigua is concerned, been there and Port Captain, done that, so I’ll just leave it there for now.  Besides, Brenda’s home and it’s opening time.

And, you wouldn’t want me to get out of practice, would you?



Wagging the Tail of the Dawg.

As I mentioned in my last post, all the participants in this year’s Salty Dawg Rally arrived safely to their port of choice.  With over 80 boats participating and distances traveled of between 1,000 and 1,500 miles, there was ample opportunity for stuff to break and as a result, have great stories to tell.

And, as port captain to Antigua, and a competitive one at that, I wanted to be sure that there was plenty going on and lots of fun stuff to do over the ten day period, during which, the fleet trickled into port.

With that in mind, there was a variety of activities to keep the Dawgs happy including dinners, cocktail parties, cookouts on the beach and ladies lunches.

Perhaps the most important thing was to be sure that crews on the last boats to arrive would have at least one party to attend.  After perhaps nearly two weeks at sea, it would be a total let down to arrive and learn that all the parties were over and that everyone had gone on their way leaving them to say “hello, hello, is anybody here?”.

So, what’s a port captain to do?  Well, these are after all sailors and what do sailors like better than a cocktail party?  Here’s an idea.  How about a “Tail of the Dawg” cocktail party to recognize the boats that “brought up the rear” or “wagged the dawg”, of the fleet to torture the pun just a bit more?  And, on top of that, how about telling some “tales of the Dawg”.  Get it, TALE of the Dawg and TAIL of the Dawg?   “Just Shut Up Bob, we get it and it’s completely lame.”

Ok, so we had a party and I gave out awards.  Yes, I know that it is a bit pedantic to go through all of them but it was fun and I found some local businesses to donate items and they do deserve credit.  Besides, I thought that the “awards” were fairly clever.  Well, to me anyway so humor me on this and read on.

We held a number of these events at the Admiral’s Inn in historic Nelson’s Dockyard.  It’s a really beautiful spot for the Dawgs to spend time together. So, the “awards”…

Of course, a club like the Salty Dawg Sailing Association is only as good as it’s members so I thought it important to recognize those members that joined the SDSA most recently.    Those two “winners” learned about our group in Antigua and decided that they just had to become members.  Meet the newest members of SDSA, Brett of Malaki, who I had spied in the harbor and invited to our events enjoyed the group and decided to join and the “other” new Dawg (Ugg.  I lost her name) who was in Jolly Harbor after delivering her boat, her first blue water passage, heard about us and contacted me about joining in on the festivities.   Newest members? You win “official” Dawg shirts.   Help me, please!  Her name?  Also, want to join and be part of the fun?  Click here…Of course, when you take upwards of 100 boats out on the ocean for long passages, stuff breaks.  So, how about prizes for the worst luck?

The runner up for most broken stuff were Bill and Maureen on Kalunam00, who broke their boom in half.  Bad but not the worse.  Hey, you need a few “tots” of rum and some twine to tie everything back together again.   But wait, it gets worse… or better, depending on how competitive you are I suppose.  It’s up to you to decide which of the two couples won this round.    From my perspective, it seems to me that they are both real winners.

Mike and Ronna from Exodus were very excited to get a bottle of rum donated by Cork and Basket in Falmouth.  What’s so special about them, you ask?   Where do I begin… Broken rudder arm thus no steering and they lost their refrigeration, an alternator and a bunch of other electronic components that were soaked by a failed hose clamp installed by a sloppy mechanic.  Talk about bad luck.  I expect they will need that rum.Another very strong contender in the “really terrible luck” category were Mike and Daniella on ZigZag, who in spite of “zigzagging” on their way south, trying to stay out of trouble, somehow managed to get struck by lightening, loosing nearly all of their electronic systems, hundreds of miles from shore… That’s terrible luck in my book and certainly worthy of recognition.  How about a bottle of wine from Covent Gardens Grocery.  And, the whole point of the “tail of the Dawg” party was to recognize the last boat to arrive, the one that missed nearly all of the events.  And that distinction want to Pete and Irene on Destiny.   They missed nearly all of the parties.  Their prize?A $200EC gift certificate to Club Sushi. Not a bad deal.  Heck, they can have their own party. Oh yeah, one more.   How could I forget all the wonderful support I received from Suzanne on Suzi Too who pitched in with the morning net and saved me on the night of the arrival party, checking in over 100 Dawgs and making sure that everybody paid.  And, that doesn’t even count the Ladies Lunch, cookouts on the beach and numerous other fun things she cooked up.   Thanks Suzanne.  Her prize?  A one-of-a-kind hand made Salty Dawg Mug from the BVIs commissioned by Bill and Linda, founders of the rally.So, there you have it, Tales FROM and the Tail OF the Dawgs.  Perhaps not one of my most scintillating posts but hey, I think that the prizes made the Dawgs wag their tails.

“Really Bob, that was the most lame Dawg Tale ever…”

Perhaps… I’ll try to be better next time.

Antigua’s Dawg days, sort of, done…

It’s Friday morning, the day after Thanksgiving and Brenda and I are flying back to the US to be with our family in Baltimore.  It’s going to be a long day as our flight from Antigua doesn’t even leave until late afternoon and gets into BWI really, really  late.

Under the “you can’t get here from there” rule of traveling,  flights in the morning from Antigua aren’t possible, at least not to where we want to go.   I guess that’s because most folks flying back from a vacation want to milk the experience for every additional hour and thus, afternoon flights.   For us, heading to the US, and our family, is the vacation, a break from our “winter home” aboard Pandora.

We won’t be in Baltimore for long, just a few days as our granddaughter Tori is being christened on Sunday and then we will head back to CT and our “summer home”.    However, with Tori’s first birthday coming up in late December we will be back in MD once again for that and home, one last time, to winterize our home, blow out the pipes and set, yet again, many, many mousetraps with the hope of keeping too many of those little pests from taking up residence while we are away.

So, after our whirlwind visit to the north we will return to Pandora to resume our 6th winter afloat and additional time with the “Dawgs”.

Which brings me back to the title of this post.  I arrived here in Falmouth Antigua nearly two weeks ago and for the last ten days, it’s been a crazy busy series of parties and get-togethers with others who participated in the Salty Dawg Rally to the Caribbean and in this case, to Antigua.

We had cocktail parties, a welcome dinner and cookouts on the beach with something going on nearly every day and sometimes two events in a single day.  Friendships have been renewed and we’ve met new cruisers many of whom will also be heading home for the holidays.  For some, this rally is just the beginning of a voyage for several years to distant lands that may very well take them west to the Panama Canal, into the Pacific and wherever the winds and their whims may carry them.

This year’s rally to the Caribbean brought together over 80 boats with some opting to go to the Bahamas and some to the islands that were ravaged by this year’s hurricanes.  And, lucky for me, as the Antigua port captain, 55 made their way here to Antigua.

As “port captain” I was responsible for pulling together all the activities and logistics for the fleet here in Antigua and it was a big job.  However, I received so many positive comments and help from others that it was a very enjoyable and worthwhile process.

So, now it’s over.  Well, at least, all the initial planning and running around to local vendors as well as the fielding of endless questions from those who have not been here before.  Now that that’s done. what remains are lasting friendships and the memories that make the planning for events like these so rewarding.

As with any long sea voyage,  there was plenty of adversity getting here and some boats suffered serious mechanical problems including the loss of steering, refrigeration and even one that was struck by lightning and lost nearly all of their electronics.  However, even the difficult moments somehow brings everyone together in a way that “normal life” just doesn’t.   I guess that it’s sort of like summer camp or even a college reunion where life speeds up and friendships are made quickly only to be rekindled months or years later as though no time had passed.

Some of the events that I planned were worked on months in advance and others just sort of happened spontaneously.   Two days ago it occurred to me that there were many with us that had never been to Antigua and I thought that it would be a good idea to engage the “experts” among us to show the way for others that were exploring the islands south of here for the first time.

Our friends Maureen and Bill of Kalunamoo have spent several seasons exploring the islands from Puerto Rico to Trinidad so I asked Bill to lead a discussion.  With only one day warning, Bill arranged a very informative talk and half the fleet showed up to hear what he had to say.  It’s this sort of spontaneous support for others in the group that makes this such a wonderful “community”.  This Thanksgiving is also the fifth “anniversary” of our meeting Maureen and Bill who we first got to know at a Thanksgiving event in St Mary’s GA.   After that we “buddy-boated” with them further down the Intra Coastal Waterway and even celebrated Brenda’s birthday in Ft Lauderdale prior to crossing over to the Bahamas for the first time.    While Brenda was sad to be away from Family for the first time, they worked hard to make it a special event for her.    This photo of that day brings back so many memories from that first year as we begin our 6th winter afloat.So, last night, the last “official” Dawg event that I was responsible for brought over 100 to a Thanksgiving dinner at the Antigua Yacht Club and it was fun to address, for the last time, the full fleet.  And, when I stood in front of them all and asked, and in a loud voice, “Are we coming back to Antigua?”, there was a resounding “YES” from all.

For me that was the ultimate compliment and made all the work that went into our arrival events totally worthwhile.    Well, almost as good as the peck on the cheek I got from Angie, the woman who organized a number of our events and put on a spectacular Thanksgiving feast for all the Dawgs on our final night together as a fleet as I presented her with one of our rally flags.So now, back home for the holidays and our family, a wonderful way to signal the end of my role as “port captain Antigua” for the Salty Dawg Rally.

Meanwhile, all the “big girls”, the megayachts are converging on the harbor for the charter boat show that will begin in about a week.   And, it’s nice to know that even huge boats with a dozen or more crew have stuff break like this 100′ sailing yacht that short tacked into the crowded harbor yesterday because their engine wasn’t working.  I have to say that watching them tack down the narrow channel was quite a sight. So, back to MD and then to CT we go with lots of fun stuff to come.  While we are home, I am presenting to the members of the Essex Yacht Club about our travels to the eastern Caribbean and it will be fun to present to our commodore with a burgee from the Antigua Yacht Club, a group that has been so welcoming to us.

This is AYC Commodore Franklyn Braithwaite and me exchanging burgees, signifying a formal connection between the two clubs. And, speaking of connections, how about this Suzuki mini truck?  It’s a “box” version of my own but it has a Chevy logo on it.  There’s no mistaking this and I am certain that it is indeed a “sister truck” to mine, “Pandora’s box truck”.

Notice that it has “unlike mine, left hand drive.   Mine was imported directly from Japan and has the steering wheel on the right.  And, it looks like just another panel van until Brenda stands beside it.   Wow, little truck…In case you’re thinking “No way, Bob, you don’t have one of those stupid trucks”, here’s mine in front of Pandora when she was on the hard up in CT. Anyway, I guess it’s time to pack as there is still lots to do to be sure we don’t forget anything.  And yes, I’m really excited to be heading home to Family.

And guess what?  Chris and his girlfriend Melody are flying back to Antigua with us to spend New Year’s.  How great is that?

And, I think it’s fitting to close this post, and signal a close to my duties as Port Captain Antigua for the Salty Dawgs, with a shot of last night’s sunset here in Falmouth Antigua.    I am looking forward to our time home and also to coming back to Antigua and all the “Dawg Days” that lie ahead.

The Antigua Yacht Club goes to the Dawgs

It’s been a whirlwind week since the Salty Dawg Fleet began to arrive here in Falmouth Antigua.  As Port Captain for Antigua, I have been crazy busy setting up events to be sure that when the 55 boats in the rally arrive so I can be confident that “the Dawgs will like the Dawg Food”.  Of course, I’ll never know for sure that everyone is having a good time but I see plenty of evidence that things are going swimmingly.

There have been quite a few events already but last night’s reception at the Antigua Yacht Club hosted by the yacht club for all of us.  Oh hand for the festivities in the clubhouse was Antigua Tourism Minister Fernandez, as well as Franklyn Braithwaite, AYC Commodore.  From left to right,  Me, Brenda, Minister Fernandez, his wife Jill and Commodore Braithwaite.  As Port Captain I had the honor of presenting a rally flag to the Minister.  Hey wait, is that Forest Gump in the background?And a rally flag and club burgee to the AYC Commodore. 
We had a full house of SDSA rally skippers and crew along with Antigua Yacht Club members and everyone had a terrific time. It takes a lot of work to put on an event like this and we are indebted to the Minister, club and others who’s hard work are making us feel so welcomed here in Antigua.

One thing for sure, the Antigua Yacht Club is indeed, going to the Dawgs and it’s great fun being a part of it.

Tonight we have our “safe arrival dinner” at Boom, a beautiful venue overlooking historic Nelson’s Dockyard.  I can’t wait. Oh yeah…  I almost forgot.  Remember the “royal visit?”  Prince Charles did visit the dockyard yesterday but Brenda and I missed him.  Perhaps had I met Minister Fernandez a day earlier…

Who knows, there’s always next time.  You know me, “ever hopeful”.  Yes, indeed.

Sure, make that a tot for me too.

The other night I invited the Royal Naval Tot club of Antigua and Barbuda to address the Salty Dawg Rally group and share a bit of history of this very unique club.   Following that introduction at one of our earlier events, last night we were invited to join them for an introductory “tot” of rum.

This group gets together every night of the year to pay tribute to a since abandoned practice of issuing a ration of rum to every sailor in the British Navy.
Here’s what they have to say about the club on their website…

“Aims of the Royal Naval Tot Club of Antigua & Barbuda

To signal the nominal end of the working day at 1800 hours local time by a gathering of like-minded individuals who make up the membership.

To carry on the revered tradition, sadly ended in 1970, by consuming a half gill of the nearest equivalent to the rum which was issued to the Royal Navy (i.e. Pusser’s Blue Label).

To confirm daily allegiance to and/or respect for the Crown by proposing the Loyal Toast to Her Majesty, the Queen.

To provide Royal Navy warships with marine based leisure activities and organise entertainment for the crew in the Nelson’s Dockyard area.

To promote and foster friendship and goodwill in the English Harbour and Falmouth Harbour areas through entertainment and social services.”

I had first learned of the group last April when I attended one of their ceremonies and wrote about it in this post.

I was so intrigued by what I experienced, I thought it would be fun to share it with the rally fleet Dawgs.

So, last evening we assembled at 18:00 in Nelson’s Dockyard,  a perfect place to reflect on the history of Antigua, the British Navy and the Queen.

I introduced the Dawgs to the Tot Club.   That’s me in the white shirt and tan shorts. After the introductions were done, Tot Club leadership officiated and instructed us to “cleanse our palates” with a bit of water.
We raised our glasses, toasts were made and a final tribute to the Queen.  Then, everyone, well, nearly everyone, downed the “measure” of rum in a single gulp followed by a swallow of water to kill the burn. It was a very unique event and I think that the Dawgs really enjoyed themselves.  And, I can’t think of a spot where this custom would be more appropriate than in such a historic spot, in the midst of Nelson’s dockyard, the home of the British Navy here in the Caribbean in the age of sail.

I’d very much like to join the club myself and hope to do so in the coming months.  I won’t go into what’s involved in this except to say that it involves  drinking a lot of “tots” and a good deal of memorization, two activities that don’t seem to be compatible.

However, I do enjoy the history of the area and hey, they have an awesome burgee.  And all that is motivation enough for me to stay the course.  I hope my liver holds out.

Preparing for the Royal Visit

Now, there’s a title that I never thought I’d be using in a post.  Let me explain.

As I prepared for the Salty Dawg Fleet to visit Antigua I reached out to many contacts here in Antigua about marina visits, special events and shopping.  Along the way I spoke with Ann-Marie Martin, the commissioner of parks.  She oversees, along with other areas here in Antigua, Nelson’s Dockyard, historic home to the British Navy,  now restored as a very popular spot for visiting yachts to tie up for a visit.

I had been trying to connect with her for several days since I arrived with Pandora but had not had any luck in setting up a time for us to meet.  Finally, after stopping at her office yesterday I received an e-mail from her apologizing for not being available as she was “really busy preparing for the Royal Visit”.  Royal visit, you say?   Indeed.

It seems that Prince Charles is arriving in Antigua today and will tour, among other sites, Barbuda and Dominica, two nearby islands that were devastated by last summer’s hurricanes.   I have been told by those in the know, that he will be touring the dockyard on Sunday afternoon.  We don’t know the exact time but it would be fun to catch a glimpse, that’s for sure.  I guess you’ll have to stay tuned to learn more.

The last few days since arriving have been really hectic for me, as well as those preparing for Charles.  However, things have come together nicely and we have already had a number of fun events and there’s something going on nearly every day through next Thursday, Thanksgiving, when Brenda and I fly back to the US for the holidays.

Our “official” venue has been the lawn at the Admiral’s Inn overlooking English Harbor and we have had wonderful evenings there already.  Here’s a group shot from last evening’s party.   It’s a pretty good group in spite of only half of the fleet having arrived.  Mike, from the Antigua and Barbuda Royal Navy Tot Club spoke to the group and has invited all of us to participate in one of their ceremonies, held tonight in the dockyard.  Stay tuned for more on that in a future post.   The Admiral’s Inn is in a lovely setting set among the ruins of an old sail loft.  Boats loaded with sails from warships were brought into this slip and the sails were raised up through a hole in the floor of the sail loft that once was on top of the columns.There are lovely views everywhere. 
I particularly enjoyed this small water garden. There is much to do in the Dockyard and that’s where Prince Charles will be visiting on Sunday afternoon.  Brenda and I are going to try and catch a glimpse.  Fortunately, we have some pretty well connected friends so perhaps we will get lucky.   “Charles, want to stop for a beer aboard Pandora?”

So, back in Falmouth harbor, Pandora’s on the dock for one more night before we move out to anchor with the rest of the fleet.  It will be nice to out in the breeze and surely way less expensive than slip and electric.    Here’s Pandora, front and center.Also, sharing space at the dock is a school of Tarpon, each over 4′ long.  I can only imagine what it costs to keep a boat like this 220′ sloop Anatta, launched in Holland in 2011, on the dock.  The scale of these yachts is amazing.   How big can a boom get?  Or the electric bill for this.   I was told by the marina manager that some boats use over $1,000 of electric every day.  Imagine?  I can hardly wait to get my bill.   I got fuel and learned that the largest order recently was for 100,00o liters.  It took several days to pump it all aboard. Up on the top deck are two… Elevators?  Popcorn makers?  Can’t figure it out. We saw this very unusual yacht, Adastra in St Martin last winter.  Looks like a Starship to me.  We met the captain and he’s agreed to let me come aboard later in the week to take some photos.  She’s a remarkable yacht built to very high standards. It seems that she will soon be available for charter so they are here for the charter show and he said that the owner is open to some publicity.  Will be interesting, that’s for sure.  So, here we are in Antigua and so is Prince Charles.  I guess I’d better wrap this up so I can get ready for a “royal sighting”.

Yes, that would surely be a bit different, wouldn’t it?


Let the fun begin.

It’s Wednesday morning here in Falmouth Antigua and more boats from the Salty Dawg Rally are arriving each day.  We have lots of special events planned including some happy hour gatherings and our “famous” arrival dinner scheduled for Monday.   It will be held at Boom, part of the Admiral’s Inn right in the historic Nelson’s Dockyard.    It’s a remarkable venue and co-owners Astrid and her brother Paul have gone out of their way to make us feel right at home. You can’t beat this spot, with a front row seat to the history of the British Navy in Lord Nelson’s time.  And, a view of historic ruins of the dockyard’s sail loft.  I challenge you to find a more iconic vista anywhere else in the Caribbean.  English harbor and the Dockyard from nearby Shirley Heights. Yes, it’s been a lot of work pulling all of this together on such short notice but things have come together very nicely.  We won’t have the entire fleet with us on Monday when we have our arrival dinner but I feel pretty good that the bulk of the boats will be able to make it.

A number of the Dawgs have opted to tie up at the Antigua Yacht Club Marina in Falmouth, along with Pandora. Here’s the view that greeted me today while I sat in the cockpit with my morning coffee. Speaking of coffee, I’m out of decaf so watch out.  Caffeine and me?  Not a great combination.    However with all that’s going on, perhaps I’ll need a bit of a boost to keep up.

All I can say is it’s great to be here  with all the other Dawgs.  Let the fun begin!

We made it. Antigua, here we are…

It’s been a busy few days since arriving here in Antigua first thing Sunday morning, after a 1,500+ mile run that took 9 days and 23 hours, not to put too fine a point on it.    It’s actually pretty amazing that we made it in ten days, my original prediction, considering that there was very , very light winds and plenty of weather “obstacles” conspiring to keep us from following the rum line.

My able crew, Chris and Jim. hard at work along the way.  I won’t bore you with the  “we motored this many hours, burned # gallons of fuel and sailed X % of they way except to say that navigating the fickle winds, currents and squalls, perhaps 20 or more of them actually.   However, I think it’s  sufficient to say that we had just about every weather option you can think of from flat calm with no wind to sporty sailing on a really close reach and had to go way east to get around a persistent ridge that plagued the fleet for days on end.

“No Bob, we really want to know.  Just how many hours did you motor?”  Ok, if you insist and because you asked so nicely…   We motored 129 hours and were underway for a total of 239 hours.  I guess that  means that we sailed just over half of the way.

In miles of sailing, it was more than that as we spent plenty of hours moving along at 8-9 kts, and sometime with top speeds in the low double digits.  Perhaps that explains how we were only the second boat to arrive here in Falmouth.  And, on that subject, that the boat that got here a few hours earlier may have left the day before we did.  Pandora’s a pretty fast boat.

As we left Hampton, along with many others in the 76 boat fleet, there was a full moon.  It was beautiful.As the entire fleet was headed to a specific way point south of the Gulf Stream,  to try and get on the right side of a large eddy, we were in sight of a number of boats for several days.  It was pretty impressive to see magnificent clouds over the boats in the distance.   As there were A LOT of squalls and plenty of rainbows.  And some terrific sunrises.  I always took the 04:00 to 08:00 watch, my favorite.  Well, my favorite after I get over the shock of being awakened with “Bob, it’s 04:00.  You’re on…”At the halfway point we found ourselves 500 miles from anything in every direction and days went by without us seeing any other boat.  However, this 60’+ Swan came up out of the distance and passed us doing 10+kts, but not all that fast as Pandora herself was moving along in the 9kt range.
Pretty good turn of speed for Pandora as she is a lot smaller than that Swan.  And with a crew of 6 and a bunch of hotshot sailors, they passed by less than a boat length, just to say HI and, I expect to say “mine is bigger than yours”.  And on they went..As the sun rose on Sunday morning, spirits were high as we watched the lush green mountains of Antigua  rise before us. So, here we are, on the dock for the first night all by ourselves.  Did I mention that we had just about the fastest time to Falmouth?  Thought so…  Not a lot of boats were here in the marina when we arrived, but this 220′ sailboat was nearby.  Huge.  I heard that they had a party catered at one of the local spots and spent plenty including a cool $1,000 on a special cheese platter.  The owner of the dining establishment told me that they also drank lots of expensive wine and the bill?  Well, let’s just say “if you have to ask, you can’t afford it.”  Nope, not Pandora’s crew.  Less than half of the rally fleet has arrived and many more should arrive over the next few days as for many it’s been a very slow passage.   Nearly 20 of the 55 boats that are headed to Antigua had to divert to Bermuda to get more fuel so that they could make it all the way in the light winds and not run out of fuel. 

The passage offered a wide variety of wind and sailing/motoring options and I have covered a lot of this in prior posts.   We did a bit of fishing along the way and landed one Mahi Mahi and I won’t talk about other various “ones that got away” including one that somehow broke the heavy line clean off of winch we had it tied to and took the entire rig “hook, line and sinker”, as the say.  That put an end to our fishing    Well, here we are in Antigua and since arriving I have been swamped with details for all the events as we have something planned just about every other day between now an Thanksgiving, including our first “official Happy Hour” tonight.

I’ll be reporting breathlessly, of course, on all the goings on over the next week or so before Brenda and I fly out to visit our kids and the christening of our granddaughter Tori the Sunday after Thanksgiving.

For now, all I can say is thank goodness that the local folks here in Antigua have been so supportive to help pull all of this together.   In particular, the Antigua Yacht Club has “lent” us Nesie, the office manager, to help with all the details including assembling some lovely pink “skipper bags” with all sorts of nifty stuff, even a sample of Antigua rum, to help the Dawgs enjoy their visit to Antigua just a little bit better. Oh yeah, Brenda arrives tomorrow. I CAN NOT WAIT!!!!

Well, there you have it.  We made it.  Back to Antigua for the second season this year.  I love Antigua.

Nearly there, and I’m getting really excited!

Well that’s it, with nearly 1,500 miles under Pandora’s keel, we are nearly to Antigua with less than 150 miles to go until we enter Falmouth Harbor, probably around dawn on Sunday.

It’s surely been a challenging trip a good deal of “variety” including just about everything from flat calms to days with a squall every few hours to make me wonder if it will ever end.

Over the last ten days I have to admit that I found myself wondering if it’s worth it, being away from Brenda for so long and the day after day of playing “cat and mouse” with ridges and winds that seem to be doing everything possible to keep us from making our way south.

Back when I was first thinking of a direct run to Antigua, I estimated that it would take perhaps ten days to make the 1,500 mile trip.  Of course, it’s never a straight line but one way or the other, I made the assumption that we’d be able to cover about 150 miles in the “right direction”, on average, each day.  That we now expect to complete the trip in almost exactly ten days, is fairly remarkable.

I know that there were days when we made way less than 150 miles toward our goal and some when we did better than that, but overall, my ten day assumption turned out to be about right.   Of course, we “aren’t there until we are there”, however I now  expect that we will arrive in Falmouth tomorrowSunday, shortly before dawn which will make out total run a few hours less than ten days from Hampton.

So, will I do this trip again?  Probably, but I am  not sure if I’ll take Pandora home to CT this summer and may instead opt to leave her in Grenada or Trinidad, below the hurricane belt.  I have been hesitant to leave her for an extended period because there was always so much to do to bring her into proper trim for extended ocean sailing but most of those projects are now done so perhaps it’s time to just do the short run south from Antigua to her “summer home” after the northbound rally leaves in May.

Brenda and I had planned to do an extended trip to Europe every other year or so after I retired but with so much work on Pandora as well as the time it takes to get her from here to there, our travel plans have been delayed.  Yes, there were other reasons beyond “the boat” but all of this “schlepping” has clearly gotten in the way.  We really want to do a trip this fall so perhaps this year it does make sense to not do the long run north.

One thing for sure though, if we do decide to bring Pandora north this spring and back down next fall, I won’t be stopping in Hampton as it just adds too much time to the trip.  And to add insult to injury, it just takes forever and a day to get enough easting from Hampton to reach the trade winds.  It just seems to me that it would be easier to leave from CT and head south, passing near Bermuda on our way south and just skip all the “in and out” of going to Hampton which in itself makes the total run to Antigua about 200 miles longer than a direct run.

Besides, not stopping in Hampton would cut my time away from Brenda by about half as I wouldn’t be hanging out in Hampton for a week or two prior to heading south.

However, as Chris Parker would say, “that’s a long way out and things could change” but that’s what I am thinking now.  Well, for at least today.
All that aside, what I’m really thinking of is that I can’t wait to see Brenda and go out for a nice dinner so we can catch up as I haven’t seen her since I slipped the lines in CT, some three weeks ago.

Did I mention that she’s flying in on Wednesday afternoon?

Thought so.  And I’m really, really excited.

For sure, Pandora will be all cleaned up, in cruising trim and ready for Brenda.