If you can’t beat em, buy em.

It’s Memorial Day weekend and we are NOT out sailing aboard Pandora.  After a winter aboard we are both happy to hang out “on the hard” and enjoy some time at our “land home” here near the beautiful CT River.

As I was catching up on all of the snail mail that had piled up while we were afloat, and let me tell you that a LOT accumulated in the nearly 5 months we were away, I spied a reference to the winner of this year’s Lora Piana Caribbean Superyacht Regatta held in March.  The winner was P2, a boat that we had raced against two years ago in Newport.  When I say “we” I am referring to our time aboard the 182′ ketch that we were invited to sail aboard in that race that was held in Newport.

When we were aboard Marie, she was the LARGEST yacht in Newport Harbor and let me tell you, there are a LOT of REALLY BIG yachts in Newport.   Marie has done well on the superyacht racing  scene but not quite as well as P2, a really high tech composite yacht that we raced against.  So, what is a superyacht owner to do when they loose a race to another?  You buy her, of course.

It it seems that P2, which we spied in Ft Lauderdale this winter, has been sold, to none other than Ed, the owner of Marie.   Here’s a recent shot of P2 that I snagged from Boat International magazine‘s description of P2.  The shot was taken in Ft Lauderdale near the Los Olas bridge.  This is a remarkable boat if you can call a 150’ yacht a boat.  Hey wait, Pandora looks a bit like her.  Right?  Well Pandora looks like at a minuscule 47′ version if you squint your eyes really, really tight.  Perhaps Pandora could be a tender to P2, a really little one.   Here’s an idea.  As Ed still owns Marie, his 180′ ketch, he can use her as a tender, or perhaps a better description would to call her a “hotel”, when Ed is out on P2, doing her stuff, tearing up the racing circuit.

Here’s a video of P2.  What an amazing boat!  Ed’s growing “collection” of yachts also includes an earlier build, his “smallest” superyacht, the mere 110′ Tenacious which you can charter alone or as part of a package including his private island in the Exuma Chain in the Bahamas, Over Yonder Cay.   Tenacious, compared to Marie and P2, is diminutive (HA!) at a mere 110′. However, like her big sister, she has a brace of cannon aboard and Ed isn’t bashful about using them when the mood strikes and it does often.

Here’s a video of Tenacious filmed along with  his island, Over Yonder Cay.  Check out the bright yellow seaplane, which I just love, that will whisk you there to begin your charter.  That wonderful yellow seaplane was there when Brenda and I visited Over Yonder this winter.  She’s quite a machine.   Here’s some highlights from our visit, including the main house which we toured on our last visit, a few years ago that occupies the highest point in the Exuma chain with remarkable views.

I just came across this new video of OYC.   And yes, OYC is really is as nice as the video suggests.
How about a video of Marie sailing shortly after her launch in the Netherlands a few years ago.  The audio is a mix of, I think Dutch, and some English. It’s a great tour of the boat too.  I’d say that she is still the “Queen” of Ed’s growing “fleet”.Alas, she’s just not quite as fast as the carbon fiber P2.  Here’s a video of the race we were “in” where P2 beat Marie.
Being the generous guy that he is, Ed will give you the opportunity to charter P2 and perhaps win a few races yourself.  Here’s the charter page for P2, so get on it!

I thought that this article from Boat International about Ed and his two “old” yachts, Marie and Tenacious was interesting.  Perhaps they will want to interview him again now that he owns P2 as well.

So, after coming to grips that there was a yacht with a better racing history than Marie, Ed what every racer wants to do, but usually can’t, he bought the boat that beat him.  Of course, if you can’t beat em, buy em.  And, if you want to know what it cost…   And, if you have to ask, well you can’t afford it.

But wait, there’s more.  If Ed loves sailing he’s also pretty happy to spend time around vintage airplanes and is a benefactor to a museum in Texas The Texas Flying Legends.  I found this article from a publication Warbird News that provides a good amount of information about the museum’s “fleet”.

I did a post a while back about The Texas Flying Legends and an airshow that they put on in St Barths.  In that post, I mentioned that Marie was kept at Over Yonder but was wrong.  It’s Tenacious that’s there.  It was a fun post so I won’t fix the mistake.  Call it “editorial license”.

Perhaps I’ll close, on this Labor Day Weekend, with a fitting tribute to the men that flew these amazing warbirds and sacrificed so much to allow us to have the freedom that we all enjoy today.

Cruising Cuba, a first timer’s perspective.

 I will be writing a number of articles and giving a few talks about our visit to Cuba over last winter. I thought that it might be fun to share a draft of one of these articles with you.  It includes a number of links to prior posts, both Brenda’s and mine.

So, here goes…

Since the 1950s and the beginning of the US trade embargo, Cuba has been largely off limits to Americans.  This, combined with very limited capital for investment, has made for a country that has been, in large part, “frozen in time”.  To visit Cuba now is akin to taking a step back into the Caribbean of the 1940s and the time of Hemingway.

Brenda and I have wanted to visit Cuba for many years and as relations between our two countries have begun to thaw, we decided to “jump the gun”, before things really begin to change, and head there aboard Pandora for an extended two month visit in early 2016.

Receiving needed approvals to visit Cuba for an extended visit from “Uncle Sam” proved to be quite tedious and involved nearly six months of research and much back and forth with three government agencies, Commerce, State and the USCG.   Finding someone to insure Pandora during our visit was not finally resolved until a few days before we headed to Cuba from the Bahamas.

The US government currently allows Americans to visit for twelve reasons, with a journalism general license the “reason” we chose.   As part of this effort, Brenda’s goal was to better understand the fiber arts of Cuba, of which little has been published.  In particular, she wanted to find one particular woman in Havana who had been featured in another American’s blog post several years ago and, believe it or not she found her.  This is Brenda and “the girls”.  4-25-16a 020Cuba is a large island, much bigger than most realize, over 600 miles long, and our trip long took us along the entire south coast and a good portion of the north coast.    Along the way we found ourselves about 100 miles, a mere overnight run, from Jamaica, The Caiman Islands and Cancun on the Yucatan peninsula.  All much closer than most realize and as Cuba becomes more open, this will likely change cruiser’s perspective of what it is to visit “the Caribbean”.    The ability to use Cuba as a jumping off place to Central and South America, will make the western Caribbean much more accessible to Americans than has been the case for a great many years.

Visiting Cuba isn’t for the “faint of heart” as there are very limited services and even fewer marinas, especially along the less traveled south coast.  This combined with the requirements of the Guarda Frontera, a sort of military coast guard that makes you check in and out of most of your stops along the way can make it challenging at times for those of us who are used to going where we want, when we want to go.  However, if you can make a point of learning to “go with the flow” you will probably find the process quite straight forward and perhaps even charming.   And, finding internet access can be remarkably frustrating as it’s mostly available in government run tourist hotels.  In one case, we actually took a horse and buggy to check our e-mail.   Talk about culture shock.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur travels brought us south through the Bahamas to Georgetown and then a three day run south traversing the Windward Passage, past Haiti, around the eastern tip of Cuba and west to our port of entry, Santiago de Cuba.    The process of clearing in with Pandora and getting our Visas approved was quite an experience.   We both wrote posts about this and our visit to the city of Santiago de Cuba.

Of course, everyone thinks of vintage American Cars and remarkable Colonial architecture when they think of Cuba and we saw plenty throughout the country.The Cubans we spoke to were very excited about Obama coming to Cuba, which occurred while we were in Cuba, and many voiced hope that much good will come from his visit as they took on a greater role on the world stage.  And speaking of “stage” what a trip going to the Rolling Stones concert was.  You might enjoy Brenda’s take on that.  What a hoot!

However, when you get right down to it, the most remarkable part of visiting Cuba for us was the people.  We loved spending time with them, especially in the most rural areas.   Brenda did a wonderful job of describing what this was like.  I struggled to capture what made Cuba such a remarkable place for us to visit.  This post was my attempt to capture this spirit.

All and all, there is really no better way to visit Cuba than to cruise the coast and now is the time as it won’t be long until it changes forever.  The pristine reefs, the dramatic scenery and, most of all, the people are remarkable.  Don’t miss out.

Thar she blows!! and thar and thar…

I find it fascinating to me, how my “random” mix of posts has lead to some very interesting opportunities over the years.  And, as is the case with life in general, they always pop up at the most unexpected times.    Case and point:  The recent post about my “up close and personal” sighting of a humpback whale on our run home from Florida this week seems to have opened yet another “door” to an opportunity that I didn’t even know existed.   Let me explain…

In that post, I was trying to make the point that sometimes I loose sight, when I am underway aboard Pandora and, I suppose, in life in general,  that if I stop and look,  I’d realize that I have already arrived, a twist on the oft quoted and perhaps equally trite “the journey is it’s own reward”.

I wrote about an amazing interaction with a Humpback Whale near the Hudson Canyon, about 100 miles east of New York.   The canyon was cut in the continental shelf about 10,000 years ago during the last ice age when sea levels were some 400 feet lower than they are today. 400′ lower?  And we are worried sick about a change in sea levels of a few feet.   During the last ice age, and it wasn’t the first one, all that water ended up as ice and snow that piled up over a period of thousands of years.  Yikes, I’ll bet that would cause quite a run on snowblowers at Home Depot.  Thinking ahead, I wonder if Al Gore has invested any of his speaking fees on Global Warming in Home Depot stock. Perhaps not as he seems pretty sure that it’s going to get a lot warmer before it begins to get colder.   Canoes anyone?  Anyway, I digress.

So, after I put up that post, I put a near breathless link to my blog on Facebook about my sighting.  So, what happens?   The next day I get a comment on my blog from someone at NOAA.    No, not the “other” Noah, the “40 days and 40 nights” Ark Noah?  I get a comment from someone with the Woods Hole NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  You know, the folks that brought you the Titanic, well at least photos of the Titanic?

Anyway, my first reaction when I saw the message was that I was about to get scolded for harassing cetaceans and reminding me that I should keep a safe distance.   My many experiences, over the years, of being warned to stay away from naval vessels conducting exercises, has made me wary of such things.  Sort of akin to receiving a dreaded letter from the IRS. “It has come to our attention…”

Fortunately, it was nothing of the sort.  The correspondence was from a Nathalie (her real name) who runs a Caribbean program for tracking migration patterns of humpback whales.  Sounds like a pretty good gig, if you ask me.   “Sorry honey, I’ll be away on on a business trip WORKING IN THE CARIBBEAN on your birthday.  I promise to make it up to you, really.”  This program, which she manages, enlists the help of cruisers in keeping track of migrating humpbacks.

So, Nathalie it seems, is also a “snowbird”,sort of like me and Brenda, splitting her time between the eastern Caribbean and Woods Hole.  Humpback whales  travel from the Gulf of Maine to the Caribbean and back, every year.  And, some of them (the whales) also take trips across the Atlantic to the Cape Verde Islands.  Here’s a map of humpback migration patterns from the NOAA site.  Want to read more? Click here for the full PDFI have an idea…. “Brenda?  How about we follow migrating humpback whales east too?  It’s not that far, just a quick jaunt to the Cape Verde Islands.  We could duplicate the migration patterns of Megaptera novaeangliae.”  Brenda majored in Latin and Greek so she’ll know exactly what that means.   “You know, NOAA needs us to do this.  The future health of the humpback whale population may depend on it!   And besides, the Cape Verdes, well they look pretty close on the map.  And as you see, they aren’t far from Africa at all.  Want to go to Africa too?   We’d almost be there by that point.  Besides, I like to eat and look at all the feeding areas.  And, they have “OTHER” areas (in yellow) too.   That’s always fun.”  “Down boy, down boy, get a grip Bob”  “Oh…” (he says dejectedly)

I cribbed this image from caribtails.org, a site managed by NOAA, supporting an organized effort, with cruisers like us, designed to track and identify individual humpbacks and to better understand their lives and travels.  It seems that whales have the same travel plans as me and Brenda for this year and next.  What a coincidence! “I love Maine!  Brenda, let’s go there too!”

Each whale has a unique pattern of tail fluke markings that allows the identification of individuals.  Who knew?  NOAA’s site has a number of good resources including some tips on how to have the best experience for you and the whale as well as some suggestions on how to get good photos.  Their fluke markings are as distinctive as our fingerprints.  Here’s two examples from NOAA of how different they can be. fluke 2

I am hoping that my photo, not taken from the best angle I now know might not be sharp enough to be identified in their database.    It would be terrific if I could learn more about “my whale” and where she/he has been sighted.  If he’s “new to science” perhaps they will name him “Bob” or her, “Bobbie”,  Perhaps I am getting ahead of myself.  “Yes, Bob, totally!”  Anyway, if the photo doesn’t check out, perhaps Brenda and I will get another chance to see her/him next winter in the Caribbean.

That would be just so great and I can’t wait for another opportunity to holler “thar she blows”.  And, now I know that she’s also blowing “thar and thar” as they make their way north and south with the seasons.

“Brenda, we need a new camera!  We absolutely MUST be prepared!”

So, there you have it.   A chance sighting of a whale on my way north this week has opened a door at NOAA.   How cool is that?  Perhaps I’ll get a tour.   Yes, that would be fun.

You just never know where life will lead.  I guess I might also get hit by a truck today.  No, I’m going with this, for now instead.

Yeah, this is way better, for sure.

 

 

Are we there yet? Yes, you are…

Well, that’s it, I am in home waters again and a winter of sailing aboard Pandora’s finis.  Pandora’s voyage down the east Coast, to the Bahamas, around much of the coast of Cuba, back to Florida and then to CT is said and done and she’s tied up at the Essex Yacht Club for a day or two.   5-13-16a 006And speaking of Cuba, which I have in nauseating detail for months now, if you haven’t noticed.  Did you know that you can fit all of the islands in the ENTIRE Caribbean into Cuba and that island is still bigger?  It’s huge, nearly 600 miles long and Brenda and I sailed the entire length of it and then some.   You go girl!!!

I’d have to check my log but I believe that the trip put about 4,000 miles on Pandora this season.  It doesn’t seem like that long ago, another lifetime though, when it would have taken me several years to make that sort of distance.  Such is the grey and colorless life of the retired. 

Anyway, it was some winter afloat but it’s done.  This is the sight that greeted me as I passed the light at the entrance of the CT River yesterday afternoon as if to say “welcome home Pandora”.  She too (if lighthouses are feminine) is showing a bit of wear and tear, just like me, Brenda and Pandora after a winter on the move. She still looks great, present company included. 5-13-16a 005I think it’s safe to say that a trip like ours (Brenda’s and mine) was a lot like life in general.  There are times when you say “pinch me, I must be dreaming, but in a good way” and there are others when something more akin to “I want to be home in my own bed.  Waaaaaa!!!!”  And sometimes, when cruising on a small boat, it really seems that the latter wins the day.

So, if you followed my, sort of, daily posts from Pandora’s passage from Florida back to CT over the last week, you got a taste of what passage making can be like. That run had something for everybody including the sort of moments that everybody should experience along with the sort of moments that everybody spends their lives trying to avoid.  You know the “into every life a little rain must fall” things?

With so many experiences to recall from the winter and the monotony that comes along with a long passage, I began to feel like “OK, let’s get this over with” as we were near the Hudson Canyon, about 100 miles southwest of Montauk.  And, by this point, my thoughts were turning to “just how long is the grass in my lawn?” with the experiences of the winter fading into memory.

So, get this!  We were motoring along over an ocean so calm that it looked more like a windless August afternoon in western Long Island Sound than the “big bad ocean” that we had experienced just the day before.

I had decided to take advantage of the calm conditions to make a nice dinner of roasted pork tenderloin and a salad with some of Brenda’s great “Home afloat” made dressing.  Me, Dave and Chris had just finished a nice cold beer and dinner and we were congratulating ourselves about what a great passage we had together when a few hundred yards off I spotted a humpback whale.  I couldn’t believe it.  Sure, we had seen our share of wildlife on this trip, including distant sightings of other whales and I close, if all to brief, encounter with a pilot whale, but I had not seen a humpback whale since our years cruising in Maine and NEVER had I seen one this close up.

I slowed Pandora and turned her around and headed back for a closer look.  We could see that “she” and I’ll call her that because something that beautiful has to be a woman.  And don’t get into the whole “Bob, it takes two to tango” and make more whales.   Just go with me on this for now…

Anyway, as we approached her, and she was going nowhere fast, just lounging on the surface blowing bubbles.  I cut the engine and let Pandora’s momentum carry us near. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen a lazy wave to Pandora as though to suggest “come hither”.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAShe started toward us.  Yikes! She’s huge and nearly as long as Pandora.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“Calm down Bob, it’s fine.”  Let’s all take a deep breath.   The moment was absolutely still except the loud rush of air of her breathing.  I can tell you that she was all alone with the “whole breathing thing” as Pandora’s crew wasn’t taking a single breath lest we spoil the moment.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAShowing her stuff, warts and all.  What a sight.  And just so, so close.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo, after perhaps 15 minutes… And it felt like an hour as we gawked in wonder at the sight.  She headed slowly off, literally into the sunset.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHer tail gracefully and with complete silence…OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASlipped under the oil calm surface…OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd, she was gone…OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“Holy S%$#.   Did you see that Chris, Dave?”  Yes we did…

Dave, as I wrote in a recent post, had remarked that perhaps the best reason to make a passage like we did on Pandora, is to be able to have experiences that most will never see and I think it’s safe to say that seeing this whale, this amazing creature, is a perfect example of why I love being on the water.

And, the next time I find myself thinking “This totally sucks” when we are being pounded by a squall, I’ll have to remind myself of this amazing moment and remember that in life, when you come down to it, you just never know what lies ahead.   And I for one, intend to make the most of it.  So far, so good.    Wow!

As I reflect on the experiences of our months afloat this winter, this brief encounter, in the company of one of God’s most amazing creatures, is a fitting end to a remarkable journey.  And the next time you find yourself wondering “Are we there yet”, think again, as you may have already arrived.

There’s so much more to tell, and like it or not, I’ll be droning on and on about much more in coming posts, but perhaps I’ll just leave it there for now.

A fitting end to an amazing journey.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABut stay tuned.  There’s much more to come, much more.

Next winter?  The eastern Caribbean.   Now that should be a trip.

Time to cut the lawn.

The Home Stretch! 80% of the Way Home

It’s Wednesday noon and we are motoring along in glassy calm conditions.  It’s hard to believe that the sea is so calm, like an August day in Western Long Island sound, when we are 100 miles from land.  And, it’s a particular contrast from yesterday’s squalls and really rough conditions.   Today is living proof of the statement “what a difference a day makes” or perhaps better yet, “if you don’t like the weather, wait a day” or in this case, leave the Gulf Stream.

With only 150 miles between us and Montauk Long Island, only 30 miles from Essex, it’s looking like we will arrive sometimetomorrow (Thursday) afternoon.

It’s interesting, and perhaps a bit counterintuitive, that time seems to pass more quickly, for me, at sea the longer we are out.   The first day or two always seem like they will never end and I find myself wondering how I am going to deal with being underway for a WHOLE WEEK.  However, after a few days out I find that I settle into a different perspective and don’t look quite the same way at how many miles and days there remain on the passage.

Back when I was a “youngster” (“Bob, don’t kid yourself, you can still pass for an annoying, overactive difficult child”).   Thanks for that and to that point, did I mention that a few months ago Brenda finally realized that “I’ve been married to a puppy for the last 40 years and one that is always asking for cookies and pooping all over everything”.    There are others that agree, it seems.

So, back to the point:  In my “relative youth”, I doubt that I would have been able to sit still long enough, or have a boat big enough (a relative term to be sure) that I could stand being confined to a tiny space for a week with two other guys.  However, somehow it seems to work.  Well, it works for me at least.  And, so far, Dave and Chris haven’t tossed me to the fish.   Perhaps it’s because I have the toughest stomach and someone’s got to cook.  Yea, that’s probably it.

So, as we are now half way through our fifth day at sea, not that I am counting, the days seem to blend together  and I no longer find myself blurting out “are we there yet?” nearly so often.

I can’t say that I love passage making but Dave put it well this morning when he remarked “there’s something about being places and doing things that few others experience that make a passage like this special”.  Well, that’s not exactly what he said but I think that’s the gist of it and I agree.

Another thing about being on a, sort of, long ocean passage, and I think that 1,000 miles qualifies as such, is the many types of weather conditions that you experience.  Yesterday’s squalls were pretty challenging but they only lasted a few hours and what a contrast to today’s flat calm.   While I’d prefer to be sailing instead of listening to the engine droning along, another advantage of the flat calm is the chance to see dolphins and whales that are a lot easier to spot when it’s calm.  I am sure that we pass them regularly when we are underway but when it’s really glassy, they show up from a long way off.

In particular, today we have seen dolphins as well as whales.  Seeing dolphins is common but I have not seen whales very often outside of the Gulf of Maine.  On this trip we have been treated to sightings of what we believe were pilot whales several times including one that came right up to within a few feet of Pandora.  We also spotted an Ocean Sunfish today and diverted from our course to take a better look.  Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get any good photos due to the glare on the water.  These fish are very slow moving and look like a huge oblong fatty disk, perhaps 5′ in diameter with a large fleshy fin on the top and bottom.  Their eyes are huge and they have a mouth that’s impossibly small.  They tend to lounge on the surface of the water and as they are such slow swimmers, it’s pretty easy to get close to them.   Their meal of choice is jellyfish, likely the only prey that they can swim faster than.  The law of nature “you eat what you can catch”.  Yum.

So today, we have sighted dolphin, whales, ocean sunfish as well as two sightings of what were either swordfish or perhaps sharks.   We didn’t get close but to see the dorsal and tail fin slowly moving along on the surface suggests that it was indeed one or the other.  Whatever they were, they were neat to see.
Swordfish, in particular, swim slowly on the surface, with their fins showing and as such they are easy prey for fisherman who spear them, standing out on long bow sprits that stick some 20′ out on the front of their boats.   Seeing this variety of critters along with a few seabirds and Portuguese Man of War jellyfish has made for an interesting morning and well worth the tedium of motoring in a flat calm.

Today got off to a particularly nice start with a beautiful sunrise.  One of the most wonderful moments in a day at sea is the instant that the sun pops up from the sea, bringing with it a new day.  And today’s rise was particularly dramatic.    My favorite time to stand watch is the “dog watch”, and the one that I have been doing on this trip, is from 04:00 until 08:00.  I enjoy being alone on deck as the sky slowly brightens and the sun ushers in a new day.

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Last night was particularly dramatic when I came on deck to begin my watch as it was overcast and pitch dark with not a star in sight.  As the boat moved along, it left a bright green trail of phosphorescence behind fading off into the distance about  100 yards in our wake.  As I came on deck and first saw the glowing waves on either side of the boat I thought that there was a bright cabin light shining out the porthole and then realized that it was the phosphorescent glow of the wave parting as Pandora moved forward.
The glow or green fire, as it sometimes seems, is actually caused by millions of small plankton and jelly fish that glow like fireflies when they are disturbed by the passage of the boat.  Waters in the north are rich in these creatures so the glow can be quite bright especially on a moonless night.   In the Bahamas and the waters of Cuba, in particular, there is very little plankton so there is very little glow when sailing at night.   This phenomenon is certainly tangible evidence of the rich sea life in more temperate latitudes.

Yesterday we left the current of the Gulf Stream and as we moved out of the grip of this “river of water” the temperature dropped over ten degrees in less than a mile.   You could actually watch the thermometer count down the drop as we crossed the wall of the Stream.  It’s really dramatic to see this transition from the warm 80+ degree tropical waters of the Stream to more chilly New England waters.   The water color also changes from a deep indigo to a more grey blue.  It’s still very clear but the water has a very different look.  You can actually see the line in the water as you cross.

It’s also remarkable how quickly the air temperature drops and the water surface calms as you exit the confused waves of the Stream.  There is also a marked difference in the speed of the wind with an average of about 5kts more wind in the Stream.   It is often said that the “stream makes its own weather” and I’d say that’s true.  In Florida, where the Stream runs the hardest, say 4-5kts, there is generally a band of huge cumulus clouds running up the coast, marking the Stream.  With that much hot water moving along there is a huge amount of evaporation which makes for some dramatic thunderheads and a tendency for quickly developing squalls.

Yes,it’s a beautiful day here in the “middle of nowhere” but it’s nice to be here, wherever “here” is.

However, it’s nearly lunchtime so I’d better sign off.  The menu:  Fresh Pandora made focaccia bread (new to my repertoire:  Thank you Brenda) with “Progresso” made soup.  For dinner, pork tenderloin with teriyaki sauce and a salad.  Yum…

Hope that the crew agrees.    Actually they had better like it as it’s a long swim to take-out.

That’s all for now and tomorrow, Essex.

It’s Pretty Sporty Out Here

It’s Tuesday afternoon and we are moving along well, motorsailing on a close reach at a bit over 8kts. We could probably sail but the seas are very lumpy with true wind of only about 13kts and I want to keep moving.

The waves have been larger than the wind would suggest as a strong squall came through mid-morning, bringing with it a 90 degree wind shift and winds peaking in the mid 30s.  It was very large cell and took hours to pass so the waves built up to quite impressively, and quickly.   The sky was incredibly dark and ominous looking so we had a reasonable amount of warning.   Oddly, we didn’t get any rain, just a LOT of wind.

The winds were from the northeast and in order to try to minimize our deviation from our intended track and to not overwhelm the boat, we stayed in the Gulf Stream longer than we probably should have.  Generally, we would leave the Stream shortly after Hatteras and head toward the tip of Long Island, about a 10 degree course change to the west.  However, when the squall hit, we opted to turn east to stay in the Stream.  That turned out not to be a particularly good idea as with a better than two knot current opposing the wind, the waves built quickly and were alarmingly large and breaking.

At the peak of the wind, a wave hit the side of the boat, cascaded across the deck and quite a bit of water ended up washing into the back of the cockpit.  The water washed across the deck with the force of a fire hose.  Some water was forced under the seals in the deck hatches.  It was the first time that has happened.  However, there was just so much water that I suppose it shouldn’t be a surprise that some found its way down below.  I made a note to replace the gaskets.  The “to do” list gets longer.

However, the biggest mess was caused by water that leaked through the zipper in the opening at the front of the dodger, where quite a bit of water came through and ended up splashing down the companionway.  Actually, there wasn’t all that much water but what ended up on the cabin sole will certainly leave a good amount of salt in its wake.   I think that I’ll design a plexiglass “storm window” that can be affixed to the front of the dodger to eliminate that problem in the future.

I don’t want to think about what would happen if the zipper window in the front of the dodger were to fail as the amount of water that hit it today was pretty amazing.   With a plumb bow and the boat moving along fairly fast, a lot of water finds its way on deck so it’s only a matter of time until we really get hit by a big wave that will overwhelm the vinyl window.  What a mess that would be.   For an “anal” guy like me, that much salt down below would be quite distressing.

While Pandora is in quite good shape, the number of “to do’s” that are piling up is a bit overwhelming.  And don’t forget that I have to find time to remodel two bathrooms this summer.  Yes, Brenda, I remember.  And yes, I want the new baths too.

As I write this we are about 300 miles from home and I expect to round Montauk sometime on Thursday afternoon.  I really don’t know what sort of winds we will have or if we will be able to sail but if the wind we have today is any indication, we should be there sooner, perhaps as early as Thursday morning.   That would be great as I’d much prefer to arrive at the Club in Essex during daylight. I guess we will see.

The tide in eastern LI Sound is flooding (coming in) until early evening on Thursday so if we are able to carry the tide up the CT River, that would save us a lot of time.  It’s too early to say as the difference in our arrival time, with even a single knot difference in speed, can be many hours after such a long run.

Just a moment ago, actually within about a quarter of a mile of distance, we left the Gulf Stream with the water temperature going up about 15 degrees.   It’s remarkable to see just how quickly that happened.   The water color went from a deep blue to grey and the seas flattened out.  It’s amzaging that after a thousand miles the “wall” of the Stream is still so well defined.

It’s quite amazing how quickly things deteriorated earlier today when the wind picked up opposing the current in the Gulf Stream.  It went from an easy motor sail to really nasty in short order with water flying all over the place.   The good news is that things settled down in just a few hours once the wind dropped back to the mid-teens and we left the unsettled conditions of the Gulf Stream.  As we have been within the Stream since shortly after leaving Ft Pierce on Saturday, it feels nice to have more settled conditions.

We were visited last evening by a pod of pilot whales that came right up to the boat, not ten feet away.   I only got a glimpse of them but they were quite large, perhaps 15-20′ long.  They look like really big black dolphins.  What a sight.  Sorry, no pictures.  We have also seen quite a few dolphins, not many very close to the boat however.

Well, I am pleased that things have settled down now and hope that we won’t be hit by any more squalls but it’s nice to know that we can handle them, even when things get really “sporty”.

Happily, it seems that the crew has gotten their “sea legs” so no sickness in spite of the bumpy conditions, especially earlier today.  Well, not sporty for the moment anyway.

I guess that’s about it for now.  I am sure looking forward to being home.  1,000 miles of ocean sailing is a lot and I am ready for dry land.   For sure, it’s going to be a bit of a job to get Pandora cleaned up after a long ocean passage.

Well, we will be home soon and, with a bit of luck, that will be sometime Thursday, perhaps early Thursday.

Yes, I am ready, really ready, to be home with Brenda.

A visitor at sea

It’s Monday morning and our third day at sea and we are about 75 miles south of Cape Hatteras, the halfway point on our trip to CT. Sea conditions are calm and there is about 15kts of wind which is unfortunately, directly behind us. This means that our apparent wind, the wind speed minus our forward speed with the wind, is less than 10kts, not enough to sail.

We have been getting a good push from the Gulf Stream, up until a few hours ago as it appears that we are a bit west of the best current. A while ago another sailboat called me to ask if we knew where the center of the stream was as he too had lost the “push” and was hoping to determine if it was east or west of his position. Fortunately, I was able to contact a northbound tanker that was about 10 miles east of us who was getting a good push north. Armed with that that information we are now heading east to his general position with the hope of regaining a positive current.

We will know when we are in the Stream again as our SOG, speed over the ground, will pick up and be faster than our speed through the water. We should also see the sea temperature go up about 10 degrees as the GS is considerably warmer than the surrounding water. The “wall” of the Stream in this latitude is fairly pronounced so we should know when we are back in within a mile or two. We should also notice that the sea color is a deep blue and the surface will be a bit more confused.

Having said that, I have had trouble staying in the GS this far north as the Stream spreads out from a more well defined area further south in Florida. As we head north the Stream begins to veer east and spreads out to include many eddies and back currents. In that area, north of Hatteras, it can be frustrating to manage all of the complexities of the Stream.

And, in the “comfort” department, both Chris and Dave began feeling better yesterday afternoon as the swell and chop settled down in the Stream. I expect that they are also feeling better, as most do, after a few days at sea, regardless of conditions.

Unfortunately, that “adjustment” doesn’t carry over to the next passage and those who are susceptible to “mal de mare” must endure a few days of discomfort each time they head to sea.

Fortunately, I have never been particularly susceptible to motion sickness so it’s hard for me to relate to what it must be like, however after 40+ years of sailing with Brenda I do know that it sucks, big time. As she is inclined to say, “the only sure cure for seasickness is to sit under an apple tree”. Yes, I expect that’s a cure but it’s tough to fine afloat. Actually, that’s her point exactly.

When Chris was talking about his tendency to get sick on the first day or so at sea, he remarked that when he’s really feeling badly he “fears that he’s going to die” but after a while and a few trips to the rail, it gets worse and he then is ” afraid that he won’t”. Nope, that doesn’t sound fun at all.

So, now that the crew is back in shape and have regained their “sea legs” the galley is back in full swing. Beginning this morning we had eggs, a smell that would have sent them to the rail yesterday. Today, better. So, with reasonably calm seas in the forecast for the rest of the trip, we should be in good shape.

I spoke again with Chris Parker, the weather router, today and he predicts that the weather for the rest of the week should support our run north without our having to stop along the way. That’s good as I am certainly anxious to be home again and it’s been quite a while since Brenda and closed up the house a few days before Christmas.

Speaking of home, we were visited here on Pandora yesterday by a little guy that clearly had strayed a bit from his home and landed aboard. Unlike some visitors on past trips, this guy only stayed for an hour or so and then flew off.

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I do wonder what happens to these little guys when the leave Pandora to make a run the 75 miles to shore. More to the point, what happens to the ones that don’t find a boat to land on? And, how do they know which way to go toward shore when they leave after a rest? Hmm…

Anyway, we continue to head home, slowly if surely. Did I mention that I am looking forward to being home with Brenda? Thought so.

You Aren’t Seasick until You Are

It’s Sunday mid-morning and we are barreling along at double digit speeds over the bottom in the Gulf Stream nearly 200 miles from our departure point in Ft Pierce and about 350 miles from Cape Hatteras.  After that point, we will exit the Gulf Stream and head the final 400 miles to Montauk and home up the CT River.

It’s been windier than Chris Parker had predicted and until the early hours of this morning we were motorsailing into a very confused Gulf Stream with 5-7′ waves that hit us about every 4 seconds.  With about 15-20kts of wind opposing the current, it made for quite a ride.  (Not in a good way)

Actually, it was rough enough that it was tough to get around the boat and spray was flying everywhere with a near constant stream of water heading down the decks.

Actually, the water running everywhere was a good thing as it conveniently washed away the “effluent” from Chris and Dave who spent much of the evening and overnight hours “feeding the fish.”

Fortunately, I wasn’t sick so I was able to stand extra watch and let them lay down, one on the leeward cockpit bench and the other on the cockpit sole.   It wasn’t a lot of fun for them, I am sure.

When it comes to seasickness, it’s not a matter of “I don’t get sick;” it’s more a matter of when.  It has been said that if you haven’t been seasick, you haven’t spent enough time at sea.  And, last night it was plenty rough indeed.

The good news is that it has smoothed out somewhat and we are now off of Georgia, about 100 miles from the coast and making our way north with the Gulf Stream, making between 9-11kts over the bottom.  Pandora’s romping along at as much as 8.5kts through the water with about 15kts of wind on the beam so it’s quite a ride.

There is more wind than we had expected, which is good, so we are making better time.

Of course, with about 2/3 of the distance yet to go, there is plenty of time for us to run into adverse conditions so it’s hard to say when we will be home.   However, baring a need to stop and wait for weather, I am guessing that we will be home sometime on Thursday or perhaps early Friday.

For now, I hope that the wind holds so we can keep moving and hope that crew is able to say vertical as we make our way north.   It’s certainly true that if you haven’t been seasick than you, well you just haven’t been sick yet.  So far, so good for me on this trip and I think that Chris and Dave are on the mend.  Fingers crossed that the worse is behind us.

Setting aside the fact that I am not a huge fan of passage making, the fact that it’s Mother’s day and I am out here instead with my Mother and Brenda is a bummer.    I guess I’ll have to make it up to them when I get home.

And, that’s my report…

Heading North Toward Home

It’s Saturday morning and we are underway for home.  Pandora is moving along pretty well, hard on the wind as we move toward our first waypoint to enter the Gulf Stream near Cape Canaveral.

The plan is to stay out of the Stream until tonight as the wind is still pretty strong from the northwest, which will kick up some pretty big and short seas in the Stream.  I spoke with Chris Parker today and he forecasts that the NW wind will drop away tonight, and stay that way for several days, which will allow the Stream to calm down and make for a reasonable passage probably with the help of our engine.   Fortunately, we have 150 gallons of fuel in the three tanks and an extra 20 in jugs so we should have plenty to make the run all the way home, assuming that we don’t have to push hard into the wind at an unusually high RPM.  Given the forecast, that’s not too likely.

The current in the Stream is pretty strong here, running in the 3-4kt range in a generally northerly direction which means that we would get quite a boost toward home once we are in it’s current.

Right now, at Chris’s recommendation, we are staying west of the current so as to avoid the very steep and confused waves caused by the wind against current in the Stream.  Once the wind dies tonight we will jump in to take maximum advantage of the current.

While there will be wind for much of our trip, it’s going to be generally behind us and in the range of 10-15 knots which isn’t quite enough to sail in as we will be heading in the same direction of the wind.  That means that the “apparent wind”, the wind speed minus our speed in the same direction, will be less than we need to carry a good speed.

If the wind was on our tail and blowing more like 20kts, we’d be in pretty good shape.  Let’s hope that the wind is a bit stronger, but not too strong, than forecast.

Chris also gave me the coordinates for the center of the Gulf Stream from Cape Canaveral to Cape Hatteras, where we will exit the Stream as we head for Montauk at the eastern end of Long Island and home.

Just for fun, here’s a shot of my plotter showing how the stream meanders up the east coast.  As you can see, it comes very close to Cape Hatteras, the part that juts out in the upper left, so you can see how this can cause conditions to be very rough there and particularly so when the wind is from the NE.  That’s why “nor’easters” off of Hatteras are so feared.

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Anyway, this will be our rough course over the next few days.  I would hope that we’d be able to cover the roughly 500 miles between us and Cape Hatteras by Monday or so.

While it’s a long way off, a fairly strong cold front is expected to make it’s way through New England around Sunday the 15th so it would be best if we were home by that point.   If not, we’ll have to find somewhere to hide till conditions improve.

Well, we are on our way and for now, that’s my report.

Stay tuned and let’s hope that we make a rapid passage.

Inching north on the ICW

It’s Friday midday and Pandora is making her way, SLOWLY, up the Intra Coastal Waterway, ICW, on our way to Ft Pierce FL where we hope to jump out to begin our big jump to CT and home.

My crew, Dave and Chris, arrived on Wednesday evening and dodged the raindrops to join me aboard Pandora.  That day it rained hard, much of the day, as the cold front came through Florida, bringing much appreciated lower humidity and significantly cooler temperatures.

However, the winds that accompanied the front did make me nervous that Pandora might drag her anchor in the not-so-great holding of Middle River.  Or, to put a fine point on it, because of the not-so-great “anchoring hygine” of a certain large ketch that also makes it’s home there.  I have seen him move around the harbor, in big winds, more than once and with the passage of the front on Wednesday, he did not disappoint, having to re-anchor several times, as he dragged about menacingly.  Amazingly, he was aboard when this happened.  What a novelty.

I guess that problem, along with the rest of us, will go away after July 1st, when the harbor is closed, perhaps permanently, to anchoring.  I wrote about this in my last post at length, so I won’t repeat myself except to say that the whole issue of anchoring restrictions in southern FL is very unfortunate.  Well, enough of that for now.

Besides, that problem won’t have much of a near-term effect on Pandora for the next two years, at least, as we plan on being in the eastern Caribbean for two seasons.

For now my focus is on getting back to CT, the upcoming SSCA three day event, the SSCA Summer Solstice Gam, that I am planning for June.  I’ll also be remodeling two bathrooms and a laundry room (Important that I get these done, for the continued health of my four decade marriage), perhaps a cruise to Maine and some projects on Pandora, etc., etc,…    Did I mention that the lawn will need cutting too?

Well, you get the picture.  Lot’s happening and so little time.

Anyway, I spoke to Chris Parker, the weather router, this morning and it looks like we can make a run for CT on Saturday as the north winds are falling out at some point around that time.  However, behind the front is well, there’s not much wind, so we will be doing a lot of motoring.   The good news is that Pandora carries 150 gallons of fuel in three tanks.  However, I have not tested that to see exactly how much I can actually burn in each tank before the level of fuel gets too low to be brought up by the pickup tubes.   However, with the additional 20 gallons that I carry in cans, I should be able to motor all the way without a fill-up.   And, hopefully, we will be able to sail at least part of the way.  Fingers crossed.

I expect to get an update from Chris in the morning again to determine if we should leave first thing or wait till later to make a “run for it”.   He has also mentioned that another cold front, perhaps a weak one, that is expected to exit the coast around Wednesday.  However, that’s a long way off and details could change.  And, to complicate the picture, there will be very light winds behind the most recent front so we will likely find ourselves motoring for days on end as we make the run north.  Keeping in the current of the Gulf Stream much of the way will be a big advantage as it will give us a 2-3 kt boost in speed until we exit the Stream north of Cape Hatteras.

It’s great to have someone to talk to about weather as keeping on touch of such an important topic that changes day to day, makes for much more pleasant passages.

Oh, before I sign off.  I have mentioned in prior posts that I continue to be struck by a bit of “culture shock” now that I am back in the States after two months in Cuba where life is so different.  Of course, I love living here in the “land of opportunity”.

I was again reminded of the stark contrast between our countries as we made our way past one of the largest megayacht yards on the East Coast, the Rybovich Yard near Palm Beach.

But before I show some of these amazing yachts, how about a reminder about what a private “yacht” looks like in Cuba.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPerhaps not the largest one in the yard but huge. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOr, to put it another way.  Huge, huger and hugest.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHis and hers?  So hard to choose.  No wait, the one on the left must be “his” as it has a large, er… crane sticking upon the bow.  Yes, of course.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt is Mother’s day in a few days.  All wrapped up.  “Honey, I got you something nice…” OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd, certainly the “belle of the ball”.   Venus, designed by Phillip Stark the famous designer, for Steve Jobs.  Two HUGE egos working with each other.  That must have been interesting.  Unfortunately, Jobs didn’t live to see it launched.  His widow and family use it now days.  It was reported to cost $100M to build.   Want to learn more?  Click here…  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThat yard has perhaps one of the largest concentrations of “toys” belonging to the .001% gang just about anywhere.  Something to aspire to.  Not really, but something to dream about for sure.

And, if you want to get out on the water there’s always the Grand Celebration cruise ship moored nearby.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd, if you don’t have as much $$ as you want you can always eat your weight at the buffet table and become part of the “superweight set”.    No wait, how about training to become the “heavy weight champion of the world”?  “Stop it right now Bob, that’s not funny!!  Well, not that funny.”

OK.   And, speaking of the super wealthy, and I am very unfortunately not one of them, I do have to worry about what Pandora costs so I always want to be sure that I am able to stretch my “boating kitty” as far as possible.  So, with that in mind, I shopped a bit for fuel today and was able to find it for $2.15 a gallon, a lot cheaper than it was down near Palm Beach and the “superyacht set” where it was around $3.00, a savings of nearly $100.  Good deal and that’s nearly 1/10 of a “boat dollar”!  Such a deal!

Palm Beach prices or not, fuel is a lot cheaper than in Cuba where it was the equivalent of about $5 a gallon and REALLY high in sulfur.  The sulfur content was so high that the fuel has a brown tint and smelled strongly of sulfur.    I understand that sulfur is actually good for the engine as it adds extra lubrication even though it smokes a bit more.   In the U.S., fuel is very low in sulfur due to environmental concerns.  Cuba doesn’t seem to be particularly focused on that and the air quality in the cities reflects that.

Soon we will be in Ft Pierce and will put the final touches on Pandora to get her ready to head offshore.  And, depending on the evolving weather forecast, we will head offshore on Friday or Saturday to begin our run north.   With a cold front due to arrive later next week, it’s at best a guess as to when we will round Montauk and enter Long Island Sound.   I’d guess around a week or perhaps a bit less and we should be there.

So, don’t forget that you can follow along to keep track of our progress by clicking  here or “where in the world is Pandora” on the home page.  We post our position every four hours while we are underway.

Wish us luck.  Details to come, as always.