On our way home.

It’s almost time to leave Maine and head home.  With the remnants of Hurricane Ida to our east things are beginning to settle down here in Booth Bay Maine.

As recently as a few days ago, it was unclear as to what track Ida, even though she was much weakened, might take as she headed up the coast, so the forecast for Friday, tomorrow, was very uncertain.

When I spoke with Chris Parker, our weather router, a few days ago, the forecast was completely unclear with forecasts suggesting that the wind could be anywhere from about 10kts to 35kts NW with higher gusts.  It is very difficult to forecast wind with such a fast moving low.  Fortunately, now 24 hours away from our departure, the winds will likely be on the very low end of the forecast and while we will probably have to motor much of the way, it’s nice to know that it won’t be too “salty” a run to the Cape Cod canal.

Last night was really rainy and today the dink had about 5″ of water in it.   That’s a lot but the winds were very light and the rain a lot less than others faced in CT and NY where there was widespread flooding.

In any event, our plan is to head out from here in Boothbay Harbor for the canal, early tomorrow morning.  Fingers crossed that the wind will behave and drop to a reasonable level.

The crossing should take a bit less than 24 hours and with an 08:30 current change in the canal on Saturday, that should put us in Buzzards Bay fairly early on Saturday morning before expected westerlies will kick in.  The big question is how far west we will be able to get before the wind picks up right on our nose.

Time will tell but it will be nice to be heading home and wish us luck.

So, change of topic.  Since leaving Rockland a few days ago, Brenda and I made a brief stop at Allen Island, summer home of Andrew and Betsy Wyeth.  They owned, two islands off of Port Clyde, Allen and Benner Islands for many years and built a number of homes on both islands.  It is clear that a great deal of thought went into the design and siting of each dwelling as they blend into a wonderful image that evokes one of Andrew’s paintings.

We have visited this spot many years and have always picked up one of the half dozen courtesy moorings that the family keeps at the ready.  I have asked for permission over the years but on this visit we were the only boat in the harbor so I didn’t want to bother anyone on shore.

It was nice to be there again but sad too as the loss of Betsy and Andrew end an era.  I mentioned a visit “Knitting with Betsy” a number of years ago when we visited and saw Betsy knitting on her front porch while Brenda knitted aboard.   I Wrote about that wonderful experience, if from a distance, in this post.

Now that both Betsy and Andrew have passed, it looks like the only inhabitant on the islands is the caretaker who we saw when he took their resident lobster boat Archangel, to head into Port Clyde.  He didn’t seem concerned with our presence as he passed by in the morning prior to our departure.

This is a shot of the main house and the porch where Besty and her companion knitted so long ago.  Sadly, no Betsy on this visit. Behind, Pandora nothing to disturb the tranquility except the occasional lobster boat out checking traps and plenty of sea birds.On our way to Booth Bay we passed Eastern Egg Rock, where there is a colony of puffins.  Sadly, we did not see any as we passed by.  This is the only colony of puffins on the US East Coast as they were hunted to extinction 100 years ago.  This colony was carefully transplanted from Canada many years ago.

The colony was started by bringing young birds to the island, the first to be there since the late 1800s and became a model for rebuilding flocks of seabirds elsewhere with great success.  Today there are 1000 pairs nesting on the island.  Read about the project at this link, a rare example of us repairing the damage by man so long ago.

Sadly, we didn’t see any puffins but there were many birds flocking around the island, evidence of how many birds make Eastern Egg their home.

Maine is known for the many beautiful lighthouses and we passed on of the most unique one as we approached Booth Bay, the Ram Island Light, with it’s unique walkway heading out to the light.  I wonder what it is like to be on that walkway when the  seas are raging. Booth Bay Harbor is a beautiful spot and one that we have visited many times over the years.   The harbor is well protected and this church is particularly stunning when the sun is setting.  At night the face is lit.  The harbor is pretty built up but being so close to Brown’s Wharf has made for good wifi. Every night the sunset over the far side of the harbor is beautiful.  Of course, last night, not so nice as the remnants of Ida descended on us. However, 24 hours later the sun is out and while it’s still plenty windy, I can see how tomorrow will likely be a wonderful day as we cross the Gulf of Maine.

While I will miss Maine, it will be nice to be back home.

For sure, Mila our Chris’s and Melody’s husky will be happy to see me.


Maine: Almost over but the season is not.

Well, it’s nearly the end of August and Pandora will be heading toward home next week.  As I write this I am in Rockland, counting down the days and not in a good way.

Brenda spent much of yesterday with an artist’s, artist friend who lives in Maine full time and enjoyed her time with her.  Me, I just sat for hours in a coffee shop, wifi and all.

Somehow doing bills, working on some details next steps with Pandora and some Salty Dawg stuff ate up the entire morning.  When Brenda returned after lunch, her response was, “you’re still here?”.  Yup, still here and no blog post to show for myself.

So, it’s another beautiful day here in Rockland.  Last night a cold front came through and instead of the mid 80s humidity that we have endured for days not, today’s high is a more Maine Like mid 60s.  It will be lovely.

Before I go into some of the fun details of what the last two weeks here in Maine have been like, I’ll share yesterday’s sunrise, framed by a huge ketch anchored far out in the harbor.  What a perfect way to begin the day. Those of you that sleep late miss moments like this.  And, speaking of memorable sunrises, when we were in Castine, before hurricane Henri passed up the east coast.  The currents are swift in the river there and the sunrise made for a beautiful moment with the current pulling hard on a channel marker.Castine is the home of the Maine Maritime Academy and it was fun to see the cadets out marching through town.  Lots of “hup, hup” stuff going on and plenty of loud chants by the officers, dutifully repeated by the cadets. They also were out for training on their lifeboats, learning to row in perfect time.  Back and forth across the river they went with the bosun keeping time. Their “boat”, the State of Maine was in town.  At one point the cadets filed one at a time up the gangway to board the ship. It was unclear to me if that’s where they live or if there are dorms.  Castine is a charming little town with loads of history. There are a number of very nice independent book stores, something that seems to be fairly thriving in the small towns in Maine.  Perhaps their trade is driven by tourists that want to curl up with a good book when it’s foggy, cold and rainy.  Melody, an artist herself, saw a tiny kiosk mounted on a sidewalk post outside of one shop where artists can swap out their work.  Put in a piece of art and take one.  I love the idea.  Perhaps we need one in our home town. We also spent time in Buck’s Harbor where we had a lobster bake.  I wanted Chris and Melody to experience eating lobster outside on a picnic table overlooking a quintessential Maine harbor.  While we were there a schooner full of vacationers pulled in and dropped her hook.  There are many schooners in Maine that take out vacationers for week long cruises, stopping in one quaint spot after the next. Buck’s is home to a beautifully maintained Concordia yawl, a well regarded design coveted by those that love wooden classics.  Her owner also has a Pulsifer Hampton, another charming design.  I’ve never seen two of them together and with matching canvas, no less. From Buck’s we headed back up to Castine to wait out the hurricane.  Fortunately, it turned out to be a non-event and we never saw winds much more than a brief period in the high teens.  There were many boats in the harbor tucked down near shore including the 1030s vintage Ranger, one of a number of restored America’s Cup boats making the rounds of the classic racing regattas.  She is an impressive sight and huge at over 130′ long. She draws more than a dozen feet, which she needs to, in order to balance her impossibly tall mast. I was taken by this tug boat converted into a yacht.  I don’t know anything about her but our paths have crossed a number of times this season. It’s not always sunny and to see a schooner drifting by in the fog is an impressive and ageless sight. Sun, threats of hurricanes, fog, rain, the weather is always changing in Maine and is one of the reasons that I love being here.

So, as I finish up this post, we are planning to head to Allen Island, the site of the family summer home for Andrew and Betsy Wyeth, now diseased, the famous artist and his wife.  I’ll have more to say about that perhaps in a few days.  From there we hope to go to Booth Bay where my friend George will meet us and help me bring Pandora to Fall River MA where I am having some work done on her electronics.   Conveniently, Brenda will drive his car back home for him.  Very convenient.

Our time in Maine is nearing a close but I am optimistic that our cruising season is not and that we will soon be back in the Caribbean for a winter of cruising. However, I will say that the details of that are still up in the air due to the lasting threats of Covid-19 and the Delta variant.  Life is never simple, even for the vaccinated.

I’d better sign off as the coffee is ready.


The joy of conquering Joy

It’s a beautiful day here in Castine where we moved yesterday after a few days in Belfast.  The sunrise was spectacular.  However, you know what the say about “red sky in the morning”.   Rain this afternoon.  Castine is a wonderful place but that will have to wait on that point as I have scintillating news in the life of the giant rubber ducky Joy.

On our last night in Belfast I was still wondering if I was about to be arrested for illegal transport of the giant rubber duckie  when I moved her from another area of the harbor.  All day long we watched a parade of boats, large and small, passing by Joy to pay her tribute.

Late in the afternoon, three boys showed up in their dink, looking very determined to do something as they strung a rope over her back.   I could not imagine what they had in mind and we took our dink over to inqure about what they were planning. “we want to climb up on her back”, they said.

Ok, AWESOME, go for it!  I just HAD to record this and stood by, but I will admit, I was wondering if such a feat was even possible.  Actually, I was thinking NO WAY!

After perhaps a half hour of prep, here they are, getting ready to scale to the summit.  Note the drone, upper right, capturing the moment.   I have no idea who was the “driver” of the drone.  It wasn’t the trio. The would-be climbers had things pretty well thought out, I guess, and they proceeded to string a rope over her back so they had something to hold onto.  As everyone knows, rubber duckies are notoriously slippery.  To keep her from rolling over, one guy got into the water (very cold water) to balance things out.

Getting a boost.   Still not looking very promising. OMG!  Up he went…What would you do when you finally summit a giant rubber ducky?  What anyone would do.  Strike a pose!And how do you top that?   Jump off, of course, and be quick about it as, as their friend in the water was probably about to succumb to hypothermia. The three of them were pretty proud of their feat and willingly posed for a photo.  I wonder how they chose who would would be the climber?  The one to conquer the biggest rubber duckie in Maine?

Perhaps their planning discussions were about who would be THE ONE to summit.  Perhaps the same talk that Neil Armstrong must have had with fellow crew Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins as to who was going to be the first to walk on the moon.

Who would take that “first to find the joy of being the first to summit Joy for all mankind”?

Ok, ok, I’ll admit that I am beating this to death but hey, the story was picked up in USA Today, so it must have been big news.   Don’t believe me?  Check out this link. 

Surely the Joy of conquering Joy is worth something.  At least when you are a kid you should take your wins when you can.

I thought it was awesome! Oh, to be young.

Me?  All I would be thinking about is how cold the water is.

But perhaps more importantly, where else will we find Joy?

Where there’s Hope, Joy will follow

Well, I am finally back in Belfast and aboard Pandora after three weeks back home.  Since returning from the Down East Rally, I’ve been hugely busy with Salty Dawg stuff and have been spending a lot of time interviewing applicants that are flagged to me as possibly having limited blue water experience.   I want to be sure that they have a good feel for what they might face and plan to invite  crew aboard that know what sailing hundreds of miles from land is all about.

There was also considerable discussion about how we were going to handle the question of vaccine requirement for those making the run south.   After months of factfinding the Board decided that the most prudent approach to insure the safety of all at sea, was to require vaccination for everyone.   Additionally, the islands that we plan to visit are really having a tough time with the virus and with sometimes small numbers of their people unvaccinated, it would not be fair to bring yet another unvaccinated person to their homes.    Additionally, most islands are taking a very hard line with those that are unvaccinated visiting and they are requiring testing and quarantine until they are certain that all is well.

I do expect that event the vaccinated will also continue to be tested before visiting or moving to other but, as of now, if their test is negative, they are free to go.   With breakthrough infections popping up among the vaccinated, it’s hard to say how this will all play out in the coming months.

As of today, Biden has announced that boosters are recommended and, Brenda and I will be lining up to do just that as soon as we are given the all clear.

Given how polarizing and political this issue has become here in the US, I had no idea what sort of blowback we might encounter.   Personally, I felt that most, if not all, cruisers were probably comfortable with the “jab”, but did wonder what might happen when the announcement was made.

Happily, there has been virtually no complaints about the plan, very good news.

We are getting a lot of applications for the rally and the recent webinars on Antigua and the Bahamas were very well attended.  It looks like we are on course to have a larger rally than has been the case in recent memory.   Fingers crossed that there will not be any surprises as we get closer to departure in early November.

So, here we are in Belfast for a few days with our son Christopher and his partner Melody.  Brenda and I are focused on giving them a good feel for what cruising Maine is like.  Wish us luck.

Our arrival in Belfast coincided with the mysterious appearance of a huge rubber duckie named Joy.  She?  He?  Im going with She and she, has been making a tour of the harbor in recent days.   Many have been taking her photo.  Me too. It seems that she recently made her mysterious appearance at the head of the harbor, where we are, and then drifted down and tangled with some of the moored boats.

This morning, under the influence of coffee, I decided that Joy needed to “return to her roots” at the head of the harbor.  The fact that we wanted to have her closer to Pandora had nothing to do with the decision to “rescue” her at all, I assure you.

I approached cautiously so as not to alarm her, lifted her moorings and off we went.
In spite of the fact that Joy has been moving around, it turns out that she has not one but two moorings to keep her in position.  They proved too heavy for me to hoist into the dink so I suspended both of them below the dink as best I could to prepare for Joy’s voyage.

Taking her home.The going was slow, as I did not want to alarm her.

Joy proved to be a willing, if not enthusiastic traveler as she followed obediently behind Hope.   Hope you say?   Hope is the name of our dink.A dink named Hope?   Remember the story of Pandora’s box?    When Pandora opened the box and all the evils went out into the world?   Well, after that, she looked into the box and all that was left was Hope.

Get it?  Pandora’s dink called Hope?

So there you have it, as long as there is Hope,  there’s Joy.  Well, at least there’s joy going for a ride. As she arrives at her new home, Joy continues to pursue Hope as we all do. So, Joy is now among us, as it should be. Guarding over us in the “hope” that we will enjoy Maine. It’s a beautiful day here in May and I am happy that I was able to bring a  bit of Joy, no, she’s HUGE so she’s brought a LOT of Joy into our lives.

I guess that it is safe to say that where there is Hope, Joy will follow.

That’s all for now…

“Yes, Bob, that’s more than enough!”

Belfast Maine, occasional home to some amazing boats.

The last stop on the “mini-cruise” that I organized for the Salty Dawg Down East Rally was Belfast Maine, home to Front Street Shipyard and some remarkable boats.

I can still recall when we first started visiting Maine with our Tartan 37 Electra back in the 80s, Belfast was a place that had been best known for it’s smelly chicken and sardine processing factories and not really as a place to stop on a cruise.   Last time Brenda and I visited Belfast was in 2011, ten years ago and by that time the chickens were long gone and it was actually a nice place to visit.

Checking a decade old post about that last visit brought back some nice memories.  Check it out.  To that point, I can’t believe that I began keeping this blog in 2007, 14 years ago.  And, even crazier, once I push the “publish” button, this will be my 989th post.  I guess I should think of something to do to celebrate my 1,000th post as that’s only a handful of posts away.

Anyway, back to Belfast.  Ten years later the town is still charming and the  harbor, exposed to the south, still acts like a funnel when it pipes up from the south, not so great.  To that point, I was on the phone with Jonathan, the dockmaster at Front Street Shipyard yesterday and he told me that it’s pretty bumpy out in the harbor today.  Yup, wind’s out of the south.  Glad I’m not aboard with Brenda.  She would not like that at all.

A lot has changed in Belfast over the last decade with perhaps the most notable being the emergence of the Front Street Shipyard that rose up quickly on the grounds of an abandoned sardine factory.  They are now a major employer, known for their expert craftsmanship on all manner of boats, perhaps most notably the “big kids”.

For this last stop on our mini-cruise, I was lucky to arrange a tour of the Ship Yard for the group.  It was fascinating.  Big group of Dawgs. The yard’s largest lift can handle nearly one million pounds.  It is one of the largest on the East Coast with 16 wheels.  It had better be strong to pick up this tug.  Her props are huge, about 8′ in diameter.  Each of them can rotate 180 degrees so she can move in any direction and is steered with a joy stick, not a wheel.   We were told that she had failed a recent survey and needed to have her stern re-plated.  Hold that thought about how they fabricate the plates for a moment.Big is the theme at the Shipyard.   The door to one of the buildings and they are all plenty big, is over 80′ tall.  That door is tall enough and the shed big enough, to fit this 126′ steam yacht with room to spare. She is Cangarda, the last surviving steam powered yacht in the US and one of only three surviving worldwide.  Built in Wilmington DE in 1901, she eventually fell into disrepair and in the early 1980s a restoration was attempted but eventually abandoned for a lack of funds, and she sunk in Boston Harbor.  I’m not sure how she got there, but she ended up on the West Coast and received a full restoration at Rutherford Boats that began in 2004 and was completed in 2010.   She was in pretty rough shape when they began the project.   Like, no kidding, totally rough… It’s hard to imagine all that went into such a detailed restoration when you consider what they had to work with.   Most of the materials in the boat are new now. However, she still has her original steam engines that were shipped to Europe to be completely rebuilt.  Really impressive work. While she is still true to her heritage as a lone survivor from the Victorian age, having hosted many world famous dignitaries, she is modern in ways that count with stabilizers and touch screen displays for her complex systems. I can’t imagine how much it costs to keep a yacht like this in prime condition.  It is reported that it took a crew of 30 8 years to complete the restoration at a cost estimated at $12 million.   It seems that her new owner, Robert McNeil, a venture capitalist, was able to look beyond her state of disrepair and had a vision of what she could become.

When the restoration was completed after 8 long years, what a transformation. I believe that she returned to New England waters on her own bottom, via the Panama canal, and since returning she has been cruising the North East and often wintering at Mystic Seaport where I saw her on a number of visits.   Originally she was coal fired but was converted to a diesel boiler during the restoration.  In addition to her primary steam engine, she has other smaller steam engines, I think a total of 5, that run her many systems.

What a magnificent vessel.   She still looks like new a decade following her restoration.  I so wish that I was able to get a tour inside her.  Interestingly, her spotless white bottom is nearly unmarred by thru-hulls.   She is as narrow as she is long.  Her slow turning prop is huge.  Craig gives some sense of scale. Cangarda’s future is now in doubt as Robert McNeil passed away on July 23rd the day after our group saw his boat in Belfast.   It will take a very special owner, with really deep pockets, to see what he saw in this remarkable yacht.

Feel like a steam yacht of your very own?  Hang around to see if she comes up for sale.

Clearly, Front Street has the knowhow to fix and maintain just about anything.  Along with huge lifts and some amazing stuff like huge table saws and all sorts of tools, they have perhaps the coolest machine of all.   A CNC pressure water cutter.

It seems that water can actually cut steel.  And Front Street has a machine that will smoothly cut through 9″ of stainless steel.  Water cutting steel?  Who knew?  It is an amazing machine and I was lucky enough to see it in action.

Note the operator on the right for scale. I was told that he is the only guy at Front Street that even knows how to operate it.Back to that tug boat with the gimpy stern plates.  It looks like they have some steel near the cutter ready to cut into the exact shape.   The yellow machine on top of the pile has suction cups so it can be picked up and deposited in the “pool”.  This suction thingy is attached to a 10 ton crane suspended from the celling.  Heavy plate steel or not, this would be a delicate operation, I expect.  The shape of the final object to be cut is put into a computer so that the cutter head can be programed to move in precise ways and make the cuts.

The unit can do some very intricate cuts and fortunately it was operating when I visited. When everything is ready to go, the operator steps aside.  Good move as I expect that a sneaker would a lot easier to cut than 9″ of stainless.  That said, steel toed safety shoes.  Hmm…

The actual cutting operation doesn’t look like much and is pretty quiet.   At the end of the process, the cutting head puts out an impressive burst of vapor, about the only evidence that anything important has actually happened. I can only imagine what it must cost to have them make a “special something” with that machine.  It’s so cool I almost want something to break on Pandora.  No, never mind but it is awesome.  I wonder if I could at least have them make me a paperweight?

I won’t bore you with an endless litany of awesome yachts that they have in their care except to show a few.  I was taken by this lovely trawler.  She’s actually wood but you have to get really close to see anything wood-like to give that away.She has really lovely lines.And, tied up on the city dock was this beautiful steel trawler.  She’s for sale. Ten years later, Main Street is still lovely with beautiful brick buildings lining the way down to the waterfront. There’s something for everyone and even a knitting store and some nice book shops that I am sure will interest Brenda when we rejoin Pandora next week.

And in the spirit of the Salty Dawg Rally, there is even the Salty Dog Pet Grooming salon.  Belfast really does have EVERYTHING!But wait, there’s more and, in particular, the city is currently home to a very special yacht, another legendary vessel, the ex-presidential yacht Sequoia.   She too has a remarkable history having served 8 presidents. 

In her glory days.With FDR aboard…  It seems he was having a good day.  He even had an elevator installed to accommodate his wheel chair.  Johnson had it removed when he used the yacht.  JFK celebrated what would be his last birthday aboard in 1963. Sequoia was built in 1925, was acquired by the US Government in 1931 and converted for use as the presidential yacht in 1933.  She was sold in 1977 as part of an austerity move by Jimmy Carter.

Sadly, Sequoia’s story has been checkered since she was sold passing through some 8 different owners.  I recall hearing about her sale by Carter who didn’t see that it was right to spend taxpayers dollars on such a luxury item.  In recent years she sat badly neglected in Virginia, nearly her final resting place.  This video shows how far she had fallen including becoming a home to a growing family of racoons.  After years of legal wrangling, last fall Sequoia was finally loaded aboard a barge for her journey from Virginia to Belfast.  She is now housed, under cover, at the French and Webb yard where she  is being restored.  It’s hard to even tell that this is the once regal Sequoia under her cover.But a view of her distinctive stern clearly gives away her Trumpy heritage. She is now being funded by a group of investors through Equator Capital who’s mission is rescuing and preserving assets that are significant to US history.  I guess that would suggest Sequoia is in good hands.  While there’s a long way to go, we should be optimistic that Sequoia will sail again.  I wonder if they might be interested in Cangarda?  No restoration required.  Just a thought…

This short video of her moving to her new “home” in Belfast from VA and has some impressive moments, especially as she is towed past the Statue of Liberty. Well, I guess that’s about enough for now.  Belfast, a place worth visiting and if stuff breaks along the way, and it will as IT’s A BOAT after all, I know just where you can have her fixed.

Having your boat worked on in Belfast, perhaps at Front Street Shipyard, would make sense as it’s already the sometime home of some really amazing boats.

Heck, maybe they will even use their totally cool water cutting machine to make some parts for you.  If they do, I’ll bet that they would let you watch.

And as they say, “if you have to say How Much, you can’t afford it.”

Wow, we had a good time on the Down East Rally!

Well, it’s over.   After months of preparation and my moving from “sure, I’ll do the Down East Rally” to becoming Rally Director and all the details that that position suggests.  Months of preparation and endless discussions with local businesses as I tried to find a way to arrange events at a time when the virus was raging and nobody was comfortable in committing to anything.  When I was doing all of the planning, the vaccine wasn’t even available and every social interaction was viewed as far to risky to even consider.  In spite of my assurance to everyone that any plans we made were tentative it wasn’t until literally days into the rally, that many of the events finally came together.

For months I had worked closely with Ryan the harbor master in Rockland on the idea of applying to the Harbor Commission and City Council to consider our arrival in Rockland as an “event” verses a marina visit.  This seemingly minor distinction changed things a lot and allowed us to cram 22 boats on the city docks at a rate of approximately $100 per boat, regardless of size, for the full three days.  I doubt that the city had ever seen that many boats packed into one place and they were shocked when they realized that our average boat was nearly 50′ long.   As a result of our being able to be viewed as an “event” the rate to dock was reduced substantially from $2.50/ft/day to less than the cost of a mooring.

The view of the full docks was impressive and this view only captures about half of the fleet. All of the captains and crew were thrilled as you can see from this group shot.  To see so many enjoying the result of the work that went into the rally by so many was very rewarding.  Note the couple on the far right, front row.  That’s Ruth and Herb of MV Ancient Mariners who visited us to join in the fun.    They were not a part of the rally but made a point of coming to Rockland to be with us. Here they are together on their boat aptly named Ancient Mariners.  Ruth is the “younger woman” at 95 and Herb is a very impressive 102.   To be out and about in Maine aboard their boat is a testament to the importance of staying active and I expect good genes helped as well.  Lucky them.

By the power (sort of) invested in me as a board member of SDSA and Rally Director, I gave them a rally flag and declared them “honorary Salty Dawgs”.  When my friend George of SV Peace and Plenty, and I were doing our events in Essex a few years back, Ruth and Herb, both VERY long term cruisers, showed up aboard their boat to the delight of everyone.  And here they are, years later, still going strong.

These days they keep their boat in Maine year round and winter at their home in Boca Raton, FL.  Good for them.  And good for us to have them with the fleet in Rockland where they had booked space for several weeks.  Craig and I had a lovely visit aboard their boat for a glass of wine.  Sadly, we had to cut our visit short as “duty called” and we had to rush off to yet another event.

After three days on the docks in Rockland and lots of fun, the fleet headed to nearby Pulpit Harbor, a favorite of mine.  It was nice to see the fleet filling the harbor.  At least a few of the locals, seeing their harbor jammed with boats, must have wondered who we were.    One of the other captains took this lovely shot of Pandora with the harbor’s namesake, the Pulpit, in the distance. That evening one couple on the trip opened up their boat for a cocktail party.  No wonder cruising cats have become so popular.   Loads of room up on the bow. And in the cockpit.   I was told that there were 35 aboard.  And it wasn’t all that crowded. From there we headed to Buck’s Harbor and the marina run by John Buck (no relation) and his wife Jessica along with their three children.   John, it seems, purchased the marina so he could have his family in Maine for the summers.  In his “real life” he owns a successful medical supply company.  Nicely done John.

Their children seem to be pretty happy to be there with the older ones helping out in the marina and the youngest having a grand old time, repeatedly jumping into the water, unconcerned about the cold waters. At the marina we had a “DYI lobster boil”.  John “boiled” and everyone brought along their own potatoes, corn and whatever else they wanted to include.

I had mentioned to the fleet that they should visit Hamilton Marine in Rockland and purchase bait bags to cook their potatoes and corn in.  I later learned that once the fleet descended on Hamilton the manager quickly set up a display of bibs, towels, crackers and of course bait bags.   It’s nice to know that the local merchants noticed an uptick in business with the Dawgs in town.

Lobsters are selling at an all time high this summer and yet, John offered them at a very reasonable price of $18 so everyone was able to get a generous 1.5lb lobster, cooked and ready to eat.   Interestingly, John carefully removed all of the rubber bands,  before cooking them, declaring that if you left them on they would leach into the water and give the lobsters a funny taste.   Also, he recommends steaming them but not submerging them into boiling water.  Who knew? The group seemed to have a great time.  When the heavens opened up with a late evening cloudburst, everyone just strolled into the office until things let up. If you ever have an opportunity to visit Buck’s Harbor, do it.  It’s a wonderful spot.  However, be prepared to live a bit more “off the grid” as the cell reception is very weak.   Actually, that’s probably a good thing given our obsession with being connected all the time, present company included.  Oh yeah, they have outdoor showers.   I generally shower aboard Pandora but could not resist doing so in the great outdoors with a view of the harbor.    It was in the high 50s and I can say that the experience of being out in the chilly air and under a steaming shower was singular.    After Buck’s we all headed to Belfast for a final event, a tour of Front Street Shipyard followed by a happy hour on their deck overlooking the harbor.

The Shipyard is a very impressive spot and while there’s lots to tell, I think that I will stop here and reserve all that for my next post in a few days.  It’s sufficient to say that the Shipyard and all of the huge yachts that they service was an amazing spot.   Perhaps I’ll tease you with this.  They have a machine that using nothing but high pressure water, can cut through 9″ of stainless steel.

I saw that in action.  Amazing and that was only one stop along the way.

Being in Maine again was such a treat and I can’t wait to head back up with Brenda, Chris and Melody in a few weeks for some more cruising.

Wow, that’s about all I can say about the experience of being in Maine again and  it was great fun to do the rally with so many others that were as enthusiastic about being there as I was.   I can’t wait to go back.

With the Down East Rally history, I can now turn my attention to the Salty Dawg Rally to Antigua.   No rest for the weary…


We made it to Maine. It’s good to be back.

It’s Sunday and the Down East Rally fleet has arrived in Rockland.  I was able to arrange for a special “event” with the city of Rockland that would allow us to take over the entire public pier for three days.  To see more than 20 of our boats tied up and happy to be in Rockland is rewarding to me as so much effort by me and so many other volunteers goes into each rally, it’s nice to see things come off with a minimum of mayhem.  Cruisers rarely pay for dock space when they are on the move as costs can add up and quickly overwhelm a cruising kitty.

Here in Rockland dockage normally, costs $2.50/ft/day, but for this “event” the total is only $125 per boat for the entire three days.  That’s a big discount and well worth the price.  To make this happen I had to apply for an special permit with both the harbor commission and city council.  It took several months to put everything in place.

The smallest boat in the fleet is Aquila at less than 30′ and she arrived after a very long crossing at nearly midnight last night.  I had been in touch with them once they were within cell range and had hoped that I’d be able to meet them at the dock and help tie them up.  However, as the night wore on, I suggested that they just pick up a mooring in the harbor and wait until light to move onto the dock.  Lori, one of two on board, is new to all this and she told me “we have stories to tell”.  I’ll bet.  They don’t have radar or AIS but they do have a good chart plotter so at least they can tell where they are going if not where others are going at the same time.   The ever-present issue that concerns all us in fog is how “two objects can not occupy the same space and time”.  Crunch…  Stressful.

We arrived in Rockland yesterday late morning with a number of other boats with the rest trickling in as the day progressed.    The 165 mile run from Mattapoisett began for most of us on Friday morning at 07:00 in the fog, which got progressively worse as we got closer to the canal where visibility was a little more than a few boat lengths.  Actually, from the moment that we left Newport on our way to Cuttyhunk and then on to Mattapoisett, we had three days of heavy fog.

Cuttyhunk Harbor was pretty thick.  Craig and I hiked up the the summit at the center of the island.   Seeing this picnic table brought back bitter sweet memories of a very special week of cruising years ago with my sons Rob and Christopher and my dad.  It was Dad’s last time aboard.
The scene on this trip was a lot more barren without the four of us.  I will admit that it made me a bit sad but what a wonderful memory. When we left Cuttyhunk, yep, more fog.  Not to be deterred, the crew of Gypsy Soul mugged for the camera. As we entered the canal the current was beginning to run in our favor which was a good thing as the current runs very hard, up to 5kts when it’s at full flood or ebb so there is no way that we could have gone through against it.

Fortunately, the current was a big help as we had timed our transit to coincide with the beginning of the flood.  However, the fog was so thick that we could only see about 75′ as we picked our way from buoy to buoy the last mile or so to the entrance.  It was nerve wracking.  At one point there were a number of small runabouts passing us and they were very had to see on radar and surely didn’t have AIS trackers.The most fun part was when a 100ft+ yacht finally loomed out of the fog.  I saw them on AIS and radar but they were actually beside us before we even saw them.

As the fog lifted, it was fun to see so many Dawg boats filing through the canal together. Brenda’s friend Karen, who lives on Cape, agreed to come down and wave to us as we passed by.  That was fun.  She took photos of nearly all the boats in the fleet as they came by including this one of Pandora.  Karen and George on the “quay”.  The fog persisted until we were nearly out into the Gulf of Maine.  Amazingly, the gulf side was completely clear and remained so all the way to Rockland.

There wasn’t much wind until we were about 25 miles into the gulf and it drove us along quite well until early evening when a squall line came through.  Someone on another boat sent me a photo.  I was so busy getting Pandora ready for the arrival of the squall that I didn’t have time to get a good photo.  I am told that this formation is called a roll cloud.   It looked pretty ominous bearing down on us.The rest of the trip was fairly benign and by the time we entered Penobscot Bay the seas were nearly glass calm.   As expected, there were loads of lobster pots to dodge.  Welcome to Maine.

You really get a feel for how remote some of these islands are.  Look at these houses lined up with low scrub as the only sign of vegetation.  I can only imagine what life here must be like in the winter.  Owls Head light is a beacon alerting us that Rockland was just a short distance away.   Seeing the light reminded me of so many other trips to Maine.  I think this may be my 16th in a series of three different boats.So, here we are all tied up, 21 boats, for three days in Rockland.Actually, I wasn’t able to fit all the boats in the frame.  Pandora and a few others are off to stage right.  The blue “boat” behind me is owned by the NY Developer Larry Silverstein.  You may remember that name as the guy who purchased the World Trade towers about two months before they were taken down in the 9/11 terrorist attack.  It took years to collect on the insurance from that disaster.  I guess he finally got his money. Today is rainy but the rest of the week promises to be pretty nice.  With a heat wave hitting the NY area, the high here today will be a chilly and rainy 65.

Later today, off to the Farnsworth Museum, home to paintings by three generations of the Wyeth family, NC, Andrew and Jamie.  looking forward to that.  Perhaps there will be time to see the Maine Lighthouse Museum too.

And, don’t forget a visit to Hamilton Marine to find some must have items.

Tonight all the Dawgs descend on a local brew pub.  When I asked the manager yesterday if that was Ok, his reaction “I guess I had better get another bar tender”, delivered in a classic Maine understatement.

We made it to Maine.  Indeed, it’s good to be here.

More to come, including Brenda on Sunday I HOPE!

Finally, back on the water but I’m a bit foggy.

I am back aboard Pandora for the first time this season, anchored in Newport RI and I’ll admit that I was quite confused when I woke up this morning, really early, as usual, and for a moment, wasn’t sure where I was.

Being confused about where I was shouldn’t come as a much of a surprise given how narrow our world has been for the last year, pandemic and all.   Sure, we Brenda and I, visited our son Rob and his family a few times but beyond them and our son Christopher and his partner Melody, who have been living with us since last September, our world has been quite small, mostly at home, dashing to the grocery for provisions.   Save our friend Craig, who’s with me in this trip, they were just about all the folks that we saw and

Now that we are all vaccinated and beginning to move about, it does feel a bit like we have been slowly emerging from a fog, which is exactly what greeted me when I woke up today.  A fog about where I was and a LOT of fog here in Newport Harbor.  I guess there is a certain symmetry on a number of levels of things being foggy.  Fog in the harbor and fog about where I was, but I guess that I am going to have to get used to that.

Beyond being confused about where I am, fog isn’t going to be my friend in Maine as my radar isn’t functioning for some reason.  I had tested it a few times over the last month to be sure that all was in order, and it was, but yesterday as I was going through systems, yet again, the radar turned on normally but then mysteriously shut off.

I restarted the plotter/radar a few times, hoping that it was just a glitch, but the same thing happened after a few moments, first it worked and then it didn’t.  Nothing has changed but it seems that after being on the hard and decommissioned for months, Pandora is having a bit of difficulty in waking up again as well.   I did have the plotter serviced to upgrade the backlighting so perhaps something is wrong with the settings.  I expect that is wishful thinking but one can always hope.  I guess I will call the manufacturer today and see what they have to say.

The good news is that most systems are working fine, well if you don’t include the thruster which is also on the fritz.  Sadly, the repair guy seems to be ignoring me and hasn’t been returning my calls.

However, given how complex Pandora is, I suppose that I should be thankful that at least she is “mostly” working.  Mostly might not seem like good enough when I find myself in pea soup fog when we are in Maine, or on a lee dock with the wind blowing and no functioning bow thruster.

As Rosanna Dana Dana, the late Gilda Radner’s character liked to say, “It’s always something!”.

Newport is my first stop of the season as I am joining up with the Salty Dawg Rally to Maine and as of today, most of the fleet is in Newport as well. There are a few stragglers still underway and there are also a number of other equipment “issues” in the fleet.

One boat ran out of fuel off of Pt Judith and needed to be towed in and another couldn’t get their engine started earlier in their run.  Fortunately, it seems that that problem was solved with a sharp rap on the engine solenoid that got things back in order.

Here’s a screen shot including most of the boats and their tracks as of this morning.   By way of orientation, Newport is up at the top of the image, where most boat tracks end. And, here is Pandora, in Newport Harbor, in the thick of it.  We will be here in Newport for a few days before heading to Cuttyhunk for a lobster dinner, on to Mattapoisett, through the Cape Cod Canal and on to Maine.

I have to say that it is good to be back aboard and I am looking forward to being in Maine, I think my 16th visit.  However, if I can’t figure out what is wrong with my radar, it’s going to be a bit more stressful as it will be my first sans-radar.

Hopefully in the next few days I won’t wake up in a fog, confused about where I am and nothing else on Pandora will stop working.   Given all of the systems aboard Pandora, I guess it’s safe to day that she’s at least at 90% and so am I.

I guess that’s about all for now from aboard Pandora in the fog.   Oh yeah, one more thing, it’s raining.

As they say, “into every life a bit of rain must fall”.  Let’s just hope that the heavens don’t decide to open up and dump on the fleet.

It’s good to be back aboard.

And one more thing, if you are interested in following the fleet as we make our way to Maine, check out this Predict Wind fleet tracking link.


Finally, heading Down East

It’s the waning hours of the July 4th weekend and I am busy with the many last minute details of getting Pandora ready to head to Maine as part of the Salty Dawg Down East Rally.

I plan to be in Newport this coming Saturday to join up with the fleet as of this coming weekend with about 2/3rds of the 30+ boats heading there from Hampton VA and Annapolis.  However, with the remnants of hurricane Elsa heading our way, they may be delayed a day so we will see how that develops.

Getting the fleet ready to go, in my role of rally director, has been very time consuming in spite of the fact that there are many other volunteers supporting the effort.  And, as this rally gets underway, our biggest rally, the Rally to the Caribbean, with perhaps as many as 100 boats, is really heating up, with requests for information and details to manage, almost every day.

Getting Pandora ready this year has proven to be quite an ordeal with many more details than I had anticipated cropping up.  It’s always amazing to see how much “breaks” when Pandora is laid up for the winter instead of being commissioned full time as she has for much of her life.  Somehow, when I shut her down for a few months, systems just stop working.

Aside from the problems with the rudder bearing (a big one), which is now fixed, other systems have developed problems, in particular the bow thruster, which worked fine last fall and now won’t run.  Getting parts for this unit is very difficult as Lewmar, the company that marketed the unit, is no longer supporting it.  New England Bow Thruster, the company that originally did the install, still has some parts but getting them to show up and do the work is a nightmare.  The owner Bill, is generally supportive but like everyone in the boat market these days, he is so busy that getting his attention is tough.  I am hopeful that we can get things solved this week before I leave.

Back to the rudder bearing for a moment.   The yard that did the work, Pilot’s Point, is a huge place with many skilled workers.  The service manager, Kip, did a very good job of keeping things moving, diagnosed the problem, ordered parts and got things back together in record time.  It took nearly two weeks to get everything under control but the job is done and she’s ready to go.  And having steering gear that works is important.

The bearing looks very simple in place but let me tell you, it was EXPENSIVE and came all the way from Denmark.  I won’t say how much but to say that it is “worth it’s weight in gold” would not be an exaggeration.   However, whatever it cost to avoid being offshore and loose steering is “priceless”.

It’s a complex assembly with a lot of tiny roller bearings in an assembly that is also gimbled so that it is self-aligning.   I guess that’s why it cost more than a few boat dollars, a lot more. Additionally, the bearing sleeve, epoxied to the carbon shaft, was also replaced as it was a bit scored.   Shiny and expensive?  Yes, it is and was…The lower bearing on the shaft and the rudder all cleaned up. Contrast that to the upper bearing sleeve that is in fine shape but not nearly as shiny. And, speaking of shiny, I had the whole hull to take out any small scratches.  They filled the bad ones, repainted and you absolutely can not see where the repairs were done.  I also replaced, myself, some of the letters on the logo that had become scratched and ripped.  It was actually easier than I expected to put them on JUST RIGHT.

I was pretty proud of myself when I put the letters on right the first time.  Some of the guys working nearby were suitably impressed and thought that I had done it many times.  Nope, first time… Shiny right?

It’s amazing how much still needs to be done with my new mainsail arriving on Tuesday, driven up from Annapolis by the good Salty Dawg friend, Dave Flynn of Quantum sails.  He’s very supportive of the group and especially me, it seems, driving up himself to put the sail on and be sure that it fits perfectly.

I do wish all the vendors that I work with were as attentive as Dave and Kip because it’s very stressful to have details hanging with no sense of when they will be resolved.  If you’ve followed this blog for a while you will recall that I replaced the headliner two years ago and that process was terribly frustrating with deadline after deadline missed.  Well, there are still some details on the headliner that need attention and getting them finished has been like pulling teeth.

Way back in November I gave the canvas shop a number of items that needed adjustment, cockpit enclosure panels, a dirty cushion that needed recovering and a several other pieces.  Here we are more than six months later and getting the final items back and finished has been terribly painful.  They even “lost” one of my salon cushions when someone took off the old fabric and stuck the foam under a bench.  “Oh, we were wondering who that cushion belonged to.”  Not at all helpful, thank you very much.

I am told that Tuesday he will come to finish things off, finally.  I wish that I felt more confident that it was going to work out.  I do understand that everyone is so busy these days but when a plan is made, it should be kept.  I guess we will have to see if he shows up as promised.

I am excited about being back on the water again and am looking forward to my run to Maine.  My friend Craig will be with me for the run and the short cruise with the fleet in Maine.  After that I am hopeful that Brenda and perhaps our son Christopher with his partner Melody will join us for a week of cruising before I head back to home waters.

Once I am back there will still be plenty to do to get Pandora ready for the run south and the summer is fast ticking away.

Let’s hope that the weather is nice and sailing down wind.   Soon I will finally be heading Down East.  That’s good!





Launch, haul, repeat…

It’s June 15th and Pandora is on the hard.   That’s no surprise as it’s what I had planned, working toward a late June launch.  I wasn’t expecting to use her much before I headed to Newport to hook up with the Salty Dawg, Down East Rally so what’s the rush?

However, all of a sudden getting her ready became a huge rush.    What changed is that I discovered, mostly by accident, that the lower rudder bearing was damaged and needed to be replaced.

I noticed the problem when I was cleaning up the running gear in preparation for painting the bottom a few weeks ago.  At first I wasn’t exactly sure what I was looking at but it became clear to me that things were not quite right.  In the past, the white plastic ring was snug against the bottom of the hull, keeping the bearings in place and now it wasn’t.

It’s hard to see what I am talking about as the problem was quite subtle. To give a feel for what that photo is illustrating, this is a photo of a similar bearing assembly, a structure that is affixed inside the “tube” that the rudder shaft goes through.   This assembly is secured inside a fiberglass sleeve and the rudder stock goes inside the bearing.  So there I was, a looming launch date, a bad bearing and nightmares of  being 500 miles from shore with no rudder.

Unfortunately, Pandora was in a yard that did not have the facilities to pull her rudder.  The only way to remove the rudder assembly is to lift the boat up high or suspend her over a pit so that the rudder could be dropped down below the boat and removed.  That’s a challenge as the rudder shaft is quite long and extends well up into the boat, all the way to the cockpit sole.  To get it out the rudder has to be dropped low enough to have the upper part of the shaft clear the bottoom of the boat.  This means that there has to be a 10′ depth from the ground to hull to drop everything low enough.

So, I had to move her to another marina for the work to be done.  Last Tuesday she was launched and I immediately headed over to Pilot’s point marina in Westbrook where she was hauled the next morning.  She was in the water for less than 24 hours before she was out again.

They pulled the rudder the very next day.

Here she is, rudderless.  Better without a rudder on land than 500 miles out to sea.   The metal plates below her cover the “pit”.  When the pit is uncovered the rudder can drop down low enough for the top of the rudder post to clear the hull.  I didn’t see the rudder which is now in the shop.  Photos to come. After hauling her they got right to work, removed the rudder, took measurements and ordered the new bearings the very next day.  Good thing they were quick about it as the parts come from Denmark and are machined and assembled to order.   

Not much left except a big hole while we await the shipment to arrive. This is all that is left inside with the shaft gone and steering quadrants removed.  Looking up you can clearly see the upper bearing which is still fine. Denmark is a long way from CT and it will take a few weeks to get the parts here.  I sure hope that the yard took VERY CAREFULL measurements and the new parts fit on the first try.  The tolerances are very critical.    To make matters worse, the parts were expected to arrive from Denmark on July 1st and due to the holiday, they won’t be able to install the parts until the 5th.  That’s only a few days before I have to leave for Newport.  No time for delays.

The service manager Kip is being very supportive and instructed the  manufacturer on how important it is to get the parts on time, saying that “money is no object” with regards to shipping.  Easy for him to say…

Well, it’s no object as it relates to a box that will only way a pound our two.  We will see how that works out.  When all is said and done, I expect that the shipping cost will end up being a rounding error on the job.

As of yesterday I learned that the bearing would ship sooner, perhaps today and be in hand by the end of the week.  That’s good news.   The bad news though is that I vastly underestimated the cost of the bearing.  I won’t say except that it had better be beautiful and easy to fit to the boat.  Silly me, I thought that the labor to handle the job was going to be the bulk of the cost.   NOT!  This is an expensive little bugger.

We have all heard horror stories about how hard it is to get work done on boats, especially recently with boating participation up sharply, and it’s nice to work with a yard that is so supportive.  It didn’t hurt that Brian, the GM at the yard in Deep River where I have kept the current Pandora and her predecessor for nearly a decade, contacted the GM at Pilot’s Point and asked them to be good to me.   Thanks Brian.

All of this is so carefully timed so there’s not much room for error or the whole plan caves in and 30 boats in Newport will wonder “where the Hell is Bob, our rally director?”

Yes, I do need to be there on the 10th, as planned but now it’s looking a bit more likely.  And, it’s also time to begin provisioning the boat for the run to Maine.  I’ll be purchasing all sorts of stuff to put on board when she is back in the water.  Will that be next week?  Wishful thinking?  Time will tell.

There are other projects in addition to the rudder, like painting the inside of the dodger that will have to wait until another time.  However, the hull will be polished and the scratches fixed so that her paintjob will again look brand new.

I have written about a number of “scrapes” that Pandora has endured over the last few years so it will be nice to have them fixed.  I had planned to do the work myself but decided that it made sense to just hire it out and ensure that it’s done right.

I guess that’s about it for now.  The big stuff is well underway and I too have plenty to do to get her ready for the season.   And that’s important as I don’t plan to have her hauled again, I HOPE, until sometime next summer for painting and perhaps time on shore while we get ready for our next adventure, whatever that is.

So there you have it,  launch, haul, launch repeat?  Oh, I sure hope not.

Of course, it is a boat, Break Out Another Thousand, so all of this is par for the course.  And, it’s beginning to look like the emphasis will be on “another” and I guess another, and another…