Spared by Joaquin? Not so the Bahamas.

It’s Tuesday morning and hurricane Joaquin is only a distant memory.  Well, at least for those of us that were spared the brunt of the storm.  Here on the CT River the worst we were exposed to was higher than normal tides.

Others were not so lucky.  Some in the Bahamas, particularly on Rum Cay, a spot where we spend some time a few years back, really got slammed. I understand that the government pier, the only landing point of any consequence on the island, is gone.  This pier, and it was a fairly substantial one, is just match sticks now.   Here’s what it looked like when we were there.   That pier was the only link that they had to get supplies.  The water leading up to the pier was barely deep enough for the mail boat to power through, leaving huge plumes of swirling sand in their wake. When the mail boat came in during our visit, about everybody on the island showed up to enjoy the spectacle and pick up their supplies.   Check out this link to my post about the mail boat and this important lifeline.

Rum Cay is a beautiful place but I expect that this marina looks very different now, if you can get in at all. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFew hurricanes cause much damage in the Bahamas, partly because the residents don’t build right on the beach like we do here in the States.  However, as the islands are so low, most areas only a few feet above sea level, an occasional direct hit, like they got last week, causes great destruction.  It’s going to take a while for them to recover from this blow.

This video gives you an idea of the speed of the winds that battered the islands. This was taken from the second floor of a home and most of the islanders have only one story homes so the flooding hit them particularly hard.There aren’t many photos around of the aftermath but this shows typical out-island homes and illustrates what many are dealing with.  I have heard that in some areas, all of the homes are damaged or destroyed.  So, all of this does make my trials getting Pandora ready to head south pretty insignificant.

As it stands now, Pandora’s bow thruster issues are getting closer to resolution and I am optimistic that she will be in the water by later this week.  Hopefully, we will be able to head to Hampton VA over the weekend, where I will leave her until I return to prepare for the Salty Dawg Rally that gets underway in early November.

It’s sobering to think of what we might be facing here in CT if Joaquin had not veered off to sea after bowling through the Bahamas.   And, to add insult injury, with the loss of the government dock, getting building supplies to the island will be a huge undertaking and getting back to normal will take a long time.

We should certainly count our blessings.

A “storm” of a different sort.

It’s Sunday morning  and I should be on my way for Hampton VA by now, but I’m not…

In boating it’s always something.  In this case, it’s several somethings.  Of course, right now it would be easy to blame my delays on the weather with the powerful hurricane Joaquin, working his way up the coast.  However, it’s not just about the weather that’s keeping Pandora on the hard.   Unfortunately, it’s about a “storm” of a very different sort.

In my last post, I wrote about a problem with the bow thruster.   Well, it’s as bad as I had feared, perhaps worse.  It seems that those “floods” in the thruster compartment, the ones that happened prior to my owning the boat, have taken their toll on the unit.  And now, the “hinge” that allows the thruster to go up and down into the hull, is plenty corroded.  The plan WAS to pull the “pins” that the unit pivots on and clean them up so that the unit pivots more easily.  Ooops! Easier said than done!   When Ben Franklin said “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” he must have been thinking of a problem like this one.  I’d say that it’s going to take pounds to fix what ounces would have prevented.   Sucks for me…

So, after fussing with the problem for much of a day the “bow thruster guys”, and they ALWAYS travel in pairs, couldn’t make the pin budge, even a little bit.  So now, the plan is for me to lube them up a few times a day and hope that they free up by Monday when the “team” returns.  Boy, do I hope that it makes a difference.  I was really counting on this not being a huge job.  “Good luck with that Bob, it’s a boat.”

When they came to work on the now infamous hinge pin,  it looked like they were setting up shop for the long haul.  Love the tent.  Like a couple of kids building a fort.  However, these “kids” are getting paid plenty.  10-2-15a 029So, after a few days of my “lubing” very few hours, I am not very confident that the problem will be solved easily.  What am I saying is that “easy” has already left the room.   The next option will be to remove much of the unit and take it back to the shop and press the hinge pin out with a hydraulic press.  Sounds expensive?  You bet…

It gets worse.  The guys stayed late that evening trying to get at least the bilge pumps installed in the thruster compartment.  I guess that they were tired after a long day.  I sure was.    Well, when I arrived the next morning to inspect the work, I was horrified to see that they had installed the bilge pump outlet right in the middle of the side of the hull.   It looks like a Frigging ostomy hole, RIGHT IN THE SIDE OF THE HULL!!!  10-4-15a 001There were a number of other options he could have done and one that would have been INVISIBLE.  Ugh…

Fixing this is going to be complicated.  The designer and builder worked hard tol design things so that there are no thru-hulls on either side of the hull, only at the stern.  The rest go into vertical standpipes that are glassed into the inside of the boat.   I think that it’s got to be removed and the hole patched but matching the paint?  It’s not going to be easy, even though it’s a stock color.  I guess it’s best to wait till the job is further along and then I’ll readdress the “Ostomy Hole” with him. What was he thinking?

So, with Pandora on “hold” and the weather all sorts of nasty, I feel like Pandora’s embroiled in her own personal storm.  Let’s hope that things settle down aboard Pandora as quickly or at least as soon as the ocean swells subside from our buddy Joaquin.


It’s not easy being green.

These days it seems that being “green” is on everyone’s lips.  However, some do it better than others.  How about VW gaming the system with some fancy software in their diesel cars that somehow knows to run “green” when the car is being checked for emissions and yet still be plenty “brown” when running down the highway.  Anyway, it appears that VW isn’t so green after all.  Oops!

I am also amused with articles that I have read recently about mega-yachts that are portrayed as “green” because they treat their waste prior to sending it over the side, or have LED bulbs.  Are you “green” enough to boast that you are burning ONLY 75 gallons of diesel an hour verses 150?  Hmm…

So what about Pandora?  For her, I’d say that “being green” can mean a lot of things.  Of course, the first one that comes to mind when you see her is that she is indeed “green” and a very dark green at that, with her forest green hull.  Yes, she is very green with the possible exception of those scratches and dings from, well, from her habit of making contact with anything that comes within ten feet of her.

The broker that sold the “old” Pandora for us told me that “there are two colors for boats, white and stupid”.  Well, given what a magnet for scratches “green” Pandora is, I have to agree.  However, with apologies to Billy Crystal, “Pandora, you look marvelous“, green or not.  Besides, with a little bit of touch-paint she looks nearly perfect when you apply the “ten foot rule”.    Alas, I digress…

Another way of being “green”, as VW apparently isn’t, is to be energy efficient and Pandora surely performs well by that measure.   Of course sailboats, by definition are “green”, however Yanmar diesel withstanding, Pandora really is pretty “green” by energy efficiency standards.   With her 600 watts of solar panels and the ability to run her systems indefinitely from that source alone, is great.  If it weren’t for the need to have hot water, we could happily go along hardly burning any fuel at all.  And being a bit “brown” is prudent as some girls (read: Brenda)  don’t like cold showers.

So, what’s the other way that Pandora’s green?  Right now the best example of how Pandora is showing her stuff and is particularly “green”, as this photo illustrates  is that there is a veritable crowd of “worker guys”, and their trucks, visiting Pandora regularly.  It’s pretty clear that having them hang around is causing plenty of “green” to leave my wallet.  Ouch!!!  FullSizeRender (3)Of course, at the head of the procession was the rigger who made up a new backstay with insulators to allow me to use it as the antenna for my SSB radio. Nice truck guys!  I also had them check out the rest of the rig to be sure that there were no weak spots that I should attend to.   Don’t they look like they are having fun?  So far, they have visited something like four times and no HUGE problems discovered.  Whew but “green” indeed!FullSizeRender (4)And, let’s not forget the “bow thruster fixit guys”.   I can’t believe that I even have one of these nifty gadgets, but Pandora’s is on the fritz.  I should also notice that these guys, like riggers, travel in pairs.  Thank goodness that Pandora sports not one but two two chain lockers so each guy gets his very own locker. How cozy. FullSizeRender (5)Of course, the thruster worked just fine when the survey was done in May.  Now, not so well.  It seems that there was a “flood”, perhaps more than one, in the bow compartment that houses the thruster motor and controls at some time prior to our taking delivery.  As a result, corrosion has taken it’s toll.   Don’t you just hate it when that happens?

As part of the permanent fix, I am also going to have two, count em, two, bilge pumps installed so that any water that finds it’s way into the thruster compartment won’t stay there for long.  And I won’t tell how much “green” this fix is going to cost.  Can you say “time and materials”?   Not to worry, the “thruster guys” say it with flair.

But wait, there’s more.  It seems that the engine has a, perhaps minor, oil leak that wasn’t obvious at the survey either.  Funny how that happens.  However, now it is.  Isn’t this getting more fun by the minute?   Next week there will be yet another mechanic climbing aboard Pandora to check things out.   I wonder if they travel in pairs too?  I guess I’ll have to wait and find out.

Yes indeed, Pandora is plenty “green” and in more ways than one.  And, if there was an Olympic competition for being “green” in the $$$ department I expect that she’d be a strong contender for “gold”.

Oh well, as my dad used to say “It’s only money”.  Some say that they want their last check (You know, the one you write on the day before you die?) to bounce and if that was my goal, then this round of “being green” gets me just a bit closer.

Well, nobody ever said that “being green” was going to be easy but perhaps there wasn’t anyone that ever said it better than everyone’s favorite frog, my old buddy, Kermit.

Yup, being green can be tough but I’m up for it so, to paraphrase Admiral Farragut, “dam the torpedos, full steam ahead”.  Ha!.  I’ll bet you didn’t think that I’d find a way to fit in yet another reference to submarines.

So, Caribbean here we come!  It’s going to be great and, if a liberal application of “green” helps us get there safely than I am all for that.  Besides, it’s a BOAT and as every one knows that means (B)ring (O)n (A)nother (T)housand.

So far, Pandora is being true to her “green” self in every way.

Out with the old and out (for a moment) with the new.

It’s been a busy week with a whirlwind trip from CT to New Bern and Oriental NC to prepare Pandora (the old one) for her survey and transfer to the new owner.

On Sunday,  VERY EARLY, I headed out to drive down to New Bern NC where Old Pandora had been docked at a broker’s office for the last five months since Brenda and I brought here there back in May in preparation to be sold.   The drive from CT was a long one and with a stop at a friend’s house along the way for lunch in Ocean City MD,  it took more than twelve hours.   It’s been years, perhaps never, since I drove for a dozen hours and I have to say that “I am too old for that”.

On Monday I cleaned the boat and moved her the 25 miles from New Bern to Oriental where she would be surveyed and hauled.   The survey took much of the day and fortunately went very well.  You never know what to expect in a survey, good care or not.  Besides, “you don’t know what you don’t know” and so often problems are crop up in a survey that were there an you didn’t even know about.

It’s been a long time since I have been in a boatyard to see a boat that I owned being hauled and not have to pay the bill myself.  Here’s Pandora being hauled for the last time in my presence. 9-24-15a 003Part of the survey process is to take the boat out for a “sea trial” so that the buyer can get a feel for the boat under way and to see if all of the systems work as advertised.  That’s not a particularly big deal, as I have sailed her many thousands of miles, but I have to say that I was nervous as the wind was blowing nearly 30kts, well above the sort of wind that I’d classify as “fun”. Besides, it had been five months since I had done any sailing aboard “old” Pandora and I have to admit that I was a bit nervous knowing that much was on the line.  well, off we went, up with the sails and in with a double reef.  Still too much wind for my taste.

I was pretty sure that everything about the boat was fine but you never know what’s going to show up with a surveyor climbing over the boat for seven hours with a flashlight, peaking into every nook and cranny.  Fortunately, everything went well and she “passed the test”.

We took her back to the dock, the surveyor finished up his review of the boat and happily, the new owner accepted the boat.  Yahoo!  Amazingly, after months of having her on the market the buyer actually turned out to live nearby so all we had to do was to move her to a different marina in the same harbor as he and his wife live only about a 1/4 mile away.

I stayed a bit longer with the buyer to answer some more questions and then headed out to drive home.  The new owners, Dan and Leslie, plan on taking her south to the Bahamas in just a few years, which is good.  At least Pandora knows the way.

Well, the drive down was LONG but the drive back home on Tuesday afternoon, no make that Tuesday afternoon, Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, was even LOOOOOONGER.  I left Oriental at around 3:30pm and arrived home nearly twelve hours later with many quick stops along the way to “clear my head”.  I will say that the crowd that inhabits truck stops, in the wee hours, somehow seem different than the those you see on a Saturday afternoon in July.  Perhaps it’s the 1/2 gallon “sippy cups” of Red Bull.

Anyway, they say that the two happiest days in a boat owner’s life are when he buys a boat and when he sells her.  I’d say that’s true and sleeping aboard her for Sunday and Monday nights this week did bring back memories of the many years we owned her.  However, being the owner of not one but two vessels did temper the nostalgia a bit.

Well, it’s “out with the old” and I am back in CT now and ready to “get with the plan”, finishing up getting “new” Pandora ready for her run south.  There’s plenty left to do but I am getting there, bit by bit.  Hopefully, she’ll be back in the water next week with fresh bottom paint, all polished up and ready to travel.

What’s a blog post without two pictures of both my boats in slings at a boatyard. Here’s “new” Pandora in the slings when she was hauled recently.  She looks HUGE.   That’s me power-washing the bottom.  I look, well I don’t look so huge.  “Love the socks Bob, can you pull them up any higher?”  9-13-15a 010This keel is one of the reasons that she’s such a fast boat.  The fin is fiberglass reinforced with carbon and the bulb is lead.  That means that the weight, nearly half of the boat’s total, is concentrated way down low. 9-13-15a 012Yup, Pandora looks big when she is out of the water. 9-13-15a 014I replaced the prop with the Autoprop that the prior owner says “ate my transmission”.  I had the US distributor for Autoprop visit the boat and review the engine, transmission and prop and he thinks that I should be fine.  I sure hope that he’s right as the Caribbean is a very expensive place to do work that’s already expensive and, besides, I don’t want a new transmission.  I do like this prop and had one on “old” Pandora too.9-19-15a 003I also stretched out my 200′ of anchor chain and marked each 25′ section with red paint and some wire ties.  I don’t expect that the paint will hold up for all that long.  Shiny for now though. 9-19-15a 002So, here we are, a “one boat” family again.  However, with the constant onslaught of projects, I do sometimes find myself wondering what it would be like not to have a boat and think about what would I do with all those “boat dollars”  Hmm….  No, never mind.  Besides, with all that nervous energy swirling around with nowhere to go, I expect that I would “burst into flame” and that wouldn’t be good, not good at all, especially for Brenda.

So, for now, it’s out with the old and well, out of the water with the new, the “new” Pandora that is.  Still lot’s to do but at least I am down to only one Pandora and that’s plenty.   Is that the sound of “boat dollars” being sucked out of my bank account I hear?  Well, at least the sound is a little less deafening, for the moment, until something else breaks…

Take a picture (of a sub) get a hat…

It’s Saturday morning and just two weeks from my scheduled departure for Hampton VA where Pandora will be berthed until I leave in early November for the BVI and our winter of cruising in the Caribbean.

It’s hard to believe that the “iron doors of summer” have slammed shut, Labor Day weekend has come and gone and it’s already getting cooler at night.   With temperatures overnight recently in the 50s, change is certainly on the way.  I guess it’s time to head south for the winter.  Let the migration begin.

You may recall that, a few weeks ago, when I was bringing Pandora from RI, I had a chance encounter with a US Navy sub off of New London.  I posted about it here and on FaceBook.    I also, through comments on my FaceBook post, was able to identify the boat as the USS New Mexico.  So, I decided to send a note to the boat directly and put a note on the boat’s website.

Some on FaceBook suggested that I’d “be in big trouble” for posting pictures of a sub sighting so carelessly.   Well, it turned out that even folks on nuclear subs enjoy getting pictures of themselves and were pleased that I had taken time to write about their arrival.  And, by the way, “could you send us those pictures you took so we can post them on our site?”.    Sure!  And they didn’t ask me to destroy them so I guess that I wasn’t in trouble at all.  Whew!

Anyway, I sent the photos, thrilled to be asked for them.   Fast forward a few weeks and what should arrive in the mail but an “official” USS New Mexico sub cap.  How great is that?   “Brenda, does it make my head look fat?”   Nice hat, fat head or not.9-19-15a 019Well, it proves that the sword, or at least the keyboard, is mightier than the sword, or something like that.

But wait, there’s more…

I also received a “challenge coin”.  An official coin of the sub.   Front…9-19-15a 015 Back…9-19-15a 016Interestingly, this is the second coin I have received from a someone in the service, the first when Brenda and I had dinner with a friend’s son, a guard at the US Embassy in Nassau Bahamas but that’s yet another story.

Curious, I looked up the history of these coins, called “challenge coins” by “those who know”.    It seems that they have become very popular of late among those in the military where they are shared among service personnel and given as gifts on occasion.   This link to Wikipedia gives an interesting background to the tradition which is reported to have begun perhaps during WWI, although it has become much more popular in recent years.

According to a description in Wikipedia, many in the “service” carry the coin of their unit and are sometimes “challenged”…

The challenge, which can be made at any time, begins with the challenger drawing his/her coin, and slapping or placing the coin on the table or bar. In noisy environments, continuously rapping the challenge coin on a surface may initiate the challenge. (Accidentally dropping a challenge coin is considered to be a deliberate challenge to all present.) Everyone being challenged must immediately produce the coin for their organization and anyone failing to do so must buy a round of drinks for the challenger and everyone else who has their challenge coin. However, should everyone challenged be able to produce their coin, the challenger must buy a round of drinks for the group.”  (Wikipedia)

Sounds confusing…  Yup.  Not to worry, it doesn’t apply to those who have one but aren’t in the service.  One way or the other, I’ll keep my coins aboard Pandora, just in case and for good luck.

While I received my USS New Mexico Challenge Coin in the mail, I was given the Bahamas Embassy coin in the traditional way…

“Coins given as awards for accomplishments are normally given to the recipient during a handshake, passing from the right hand of the giver to the right hand of the awardee. It is also normal for the giver to offer a brief explanation of the reason for awarding the coin.”  (Wikipedia)

It seems that my “accomplishment”, in that case, was buying dinner.  Works for me.

One way or the other, it’s a wonderful tradition and one that I am trilled with being a part of, if only in a very small way.

Perhaps I’ll close with a few photos I “borrowed” from the USS New Mexico’s site.  This one is even better than mine.   It certainly suggests that the Virginia class of subs is what President Roosevelt mean when he famously said  “speak softly, and carry a big stick.”USS NM 1Sailors looking pretty natty.USS NM 2So, I guess that the moral to the story is that next time you see a sub, take a photo.  It might land you a cap.

You never know..


Cool boat sightings (revisited) and Pandora on the hard (soon)

It’s Wednesday morning and Pandora is in Deep River preparing to be hauled in a few days.  The run from Wickford last week was eventful, a combination of a wonderful sail and a chance encounter with the USS New Mexico.    I wrote a post about that moment, when she passed my bow off of New London.  If you missed it, you can click here to catch up.

I posted some photos on FaceBook and was amazed by the amount of response I got.  Some suggested that I had “sinned” by “blowing their cover” and had put the US Navy’s security at risk.  However, that turned out to be a bit of an overstatement as I put a note on the boat’s home page and within hours received an enthusiastic note from the Director of the Navy League in New Mexico thanking me for taking the photos and writing about the experience.  I was also thrilled that he wanted to use my photos on their site.  So much for the “cloak of secrecy” being blown.   I may even be able to find my way on board for a visit.  However, I won’t say that too loud as I may jinx it.  Mums the word.

Here’s what he had to say about my post.

“Hi Bob,

I am the Chairman of the Navy League Committee here in Albuquerque, New Mexico, that supports activities surrounding the USS NEW MEXICO (SSN-779).  It is our committee that runs the website where you posted your email about seeing the USS NEW MEXICO return to New London.  I forwarded your email immediately to the Commanding Officer, CDR Todd Moore, and the Chief of the Boat, Master Chief Steven Fritzler.  Thank you so much for sharing your photos from your blog and for your note of appreciation for a job well done to the crew of the USS NEW MEXICO.  With your permission, I would like to post some of the pictures from your blog at our website, .  Also, if you have any others that we could share, I would be glad to include those as well.  Just forward them and we will be sure to include credit for the origin of the photos.  We all loved your description at the chance meeting of a multi-billion dollar vessel at sea, and no matter who had the right of way, your sailboat needed to make way.

I look forward to hearing from you again, and checking out your blog from time to time for updates.  You included two of our favorite videos in your blog.


Well, as you can imagine, I was thrilled to get a response.   So, what do you do to top a photo of a sub taken while underway?  Not sure, perhaps I’ll someday have a chance to take a photo from on board a sub?  One can always dream.  How about a day sail?  Hmm…

I also recently wrote about a visit to the designer of Pandora Rodger Martin, and while I was there, at the Newport Shipyard, I spied an amazing cold molded sailboat and wrote about that too.   Well, Rodger, after reading that post, dropped me a note and mentioned that the boat, Foggy, was designed by Frers, styled by the famed architect Frank Ghery, famed designer of the Guggenheim museum in Spain. and built at Brooklin Boat Yard in Maine.  It seems that there was considerable secrecy surrounding the building of the yacht launched in July after two years of construction for an “unidentified client”.  You won’t find any information on Foggy on the yard’s site.   I did find a very interesting article about the yacht on, and it was clear that the author was very excited about the yacht.   You can see the entire article here.  It is indeed a remarkable vessel.

With credit to Panbo,  here are a few photos of the boat rumored to be the personal yacht of Ghery himself.  It’s remarkable, to say the least. How about these sky lights and port holes?  Steve White, owner of BBY, speaks about this remarkable yacht and it’s impressive engineering in the following video.  Supposedly, there will also be some sort of dodger although it wasn’t installed when I saw her in Newport, and I am sure that it will be as awesome as the rest of the boat.  Rodger also told me that the additional detailing on the bowsprit was constructed with a 3-D printer of sintered titanium, whatever that is, it’s plenty cool.Well, that’s enough about other people’s boats for now, that would be OPB, so what’s happening to lowly Pandora?

Thanks for asking.  there are still tons of things to do and time is short.  Yesterday the rigger pulled the back stay and will be putting insulators in it so I can use it as an SSB radio antenna.  Of course, the stay itself is not “standard” having been built in Finland so I’ll need a new one.  Great… What else is new.

I also finally was able to install a new strainer for the water cooling for the freezer and fridge.  The old one, and a pint sized one it was, kept clogging up and starving the water flow to the compressor.  Not good and lead to a few overheat moments.   Double not good.   That would be for b0th the compressor and for me when I discovered the problem.  Here’s a photo of just how teeny tiny the old one was. And, let me tell you, a ton of water pumps through this each day, especially when it’s hot. The new setup is much more substantial.  I wanted to provide more volume of water and have strainer that was less prone to loading up with weed than the old one as I’ll be leaving Pandora in Tortola for over a month.  Yes, someone will be watching her and checking things regularly, but I really, really don’t want to have a freezer of food spoiled or worse, loose my fridge compressor.   The strainer to the right, in the photo below, is for the water maker and is about twice the size of the one that I replaced on the fridge.  Fingers crossed that this will perform as planned, or should I say “hoped”. And, as Gilda Radner once said, “it’s always something” and Pandora’s no different. The other day the unit that keeps track of the battery decided to crap out.  I understand that there are two fuses on the unit and I spent hours hunting for them, only finding one so far.   This little baby is critical as it tells me the state of the battery charge and having a unit that works every time is really important.   Before I spend another $300 on a new one, I’ll try and find the other fuse.  If not, UPS on the way.

Well, I guess that’s about it on boat sighting updates so I guess it’s time to hit the road and get to work on Pandora.  Time’s short.  Yikes!!!

It’s becoming clear that OPB or perhaps better said, OPS  (Other Peoples Submarines) sailing would be a lot easier than this.  Perhaps I can head out for a cruise on the USS New Mexico.  “In your dreams Bob. REALLY…”

Pandora visits New Mexico, if briefly…

On Friday, as I headed from Wickford RI toward the CT River, where Pandora will be hauled for the next few weeks prior to beginning my run south to the Caribbean for the winter, I was passing New London and heard something on the radio about a sub passing a tug in The Race.  Before I knew it, I saw this approaching me from port.   Or, was I approaching him?  Hmm…  In case you are wondering, he did show up on AIS, cruising at 9kts.   However, no info about size etc.   I guess the Navy doesn’t want their “silent service” guys to show up on everyone’s chart plotter.   It just wouldn’t do for a multi billion dollar sub to be spotted on a $400 AIS receiver, would it?Anyway, I turned to port and luffed to let him pass.   I surely didn’t want to head in front of him, pint size sailing boat right-of-way or not, and besides, the guys on the support boats looked plenty serious as they approached.  They weren’t smiling or waving HI as they passed, flack jackets, machine guns and all. I couldn’t believe how close they came to me, or was it me to them?   I would guess about 100 yards.  I am used to 1,000′ exclusion zone for military ships.   To get a shot of the whole boat I had to zoom my lens all the way out.  She was REALLY close. Just how close?  This close…I was wondering why a sub would sport a yellow “Q” or quarantine flag and when I posted some photos on Face Book I learned about that and more.  I got an amazing number of responses and someone noted that it was the state flag of New Mexico and that the sub, only the second warship in the history of the US Navy to be named so, was the USS New Mexico.  Someone else sent a link to the New London Day, with an announcement of the boat’s arrival.  Here’s a story and pictures of her arrival to an enthusiastic crowd.  She was just back from a tour of the North Atlantic covering 36,000 miles.  One of her “port” stops, about a year ago, on a previous tour, was at the North Pole.  They surfaced through the ice near where the Nautilus, the first atomic sub did so years ago.

This is a short video of her surfacing in March of 2014 at the North Pole.   The weather that day was a lot different than it was when she steamed by me on Friday off of her home port, New London.   With the North West Passage more open to shipping each year, compliments of global warming, I guess that the USA wanted to make it clear that we plan to be active in the Arctic.   While they were on the ice, they flew a New Mexico state flag that was later presented to the Medal of Honor Award recipient Hiroshi Miyamura, who received the recognition in 1951 for his valor in a battle during the Korean war. This moving description, which I have repeated below, of the actions that earned him the award is from the Congressional Medal of Honor Society website.

“Cpl. Miyamura, a member of Company H, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy. On the night of 24 April, Company H was occupying a defensive position when the enemy fanatically attacked threatening to overrun the position. Cpl. Miyamura, a machine gun squad leader, aware of the imminent danger to his men unhesitatingly jumped from his shelter wielding his bayonet in close hand-to-hand combat killing approximately 10 of the enemy. Returning to his position, he administered first aid to the wounded and directed their evacuation. As another savage assault hit the line, he manned his machine gun and delivered withering fire until his ammunition was expended. He ordered the squad to withdraw while he stayed behind to render the gun inoperative. He then bayoneted his way through infiltrated enemy soldiers to a second gun emplacement and assisted in its operation. When the intensity of the attack necessitated the withdrawal of the company Cpl. Miyamura ordered his men to fall back while he remained to cover their movement. He killed more than 50 of the enemy before his ammunition was depleted and he was severely wounded. He maintained his magnificent stand despite his painful wounds, continuing to repel the attack until his position was overrun. When last seen he was fighting ferociously against an overwhelming number of enemy soldiers. Cpl. Miyamura’s indomitable heroism and consummate devotion to duty reflect the utmost glory on himself and uphold the illustrious traditions on the military service.”

Amazingly, Miyamura survived that day and was presented the award by President Eisenhower.   It was fitting that the flag, flown in the frigid North Pole winter be presented to Miyamura as he had endured a harsh winter as a POW, following his capture.  He survives to this day and is in his 90s.  I am sure that there are other MOH recipients who’s story is as compelling as this one but to see the New Mexico steam across Pandora’s bow, and to learn of this story, only improved what was a moving moment.

The USS New Mexico was commissioned in Newport News and is said to be the most advanced member of the Virginia Class of subs.  This is an interesting time lapse video of her being brought out of the shed and launched in Newport News.
One of the best parts of spending time on the water is seeing things that are totally unexpected and my “encounter” with the USS New Mexico certainly tops the list.  It was a treat for me and Pandora, thanks to some serious looking but tolerant guys with machine guns and flak jackets in fast black boats,  to spend some “quality time” with such a remarkable vessel.  For inquiring minds, like yours. Here’s  link to the “official” USS New Mexico site. 

It won’t be long until Pandora heads into Hampton Roads, near where the sub was built as I join up with other Dawgs preparing to run in the Salty Dawg Rally to Virgin Gorda in early November.

As I write this I realize just how short the time until Pandora begins her 2015-2016 “tour” so I’d better sign off and get to work.

Is the season beginning or ending?

It’s Friday morning and Pandora is heading from Wickford to Deep River to be hauled for a few weeks while I work on her to get ready to make the trip south. While most folks are just about ready to haul their boats for the winter, now that the iron doors of summer are about to close (this weekend is Labor Day), I am trying to get everything ready for our run south and a winter of sailing.

My list, and it’s a long one, includes painting her bottom and finishing up a lot of little details like adding more LED lights as well as trying to settle on the proper propeller.  The one that is on the boat is very nice if a bit over pitched for the engine.  That means that I can’t get a lot of RPM out of it when I am in a pinch.  Yes, it makes for good speed and fuel economy but I can’t get extra HP out of her when I need to.  Anyway, the boat once had an Autoprop but the previous owner took it off because he says that it damaged not one but two transmissions.  I put one on my last boat and was really happy with it so I’ll have to see what I can do.   Fortunately, the owner still has the Autoprop and agreed to send it to me.  Of course, I don’t want to risk a wrecked transmission but it’s something that needs to look into.   I should have the other prop soon and will consider what to do next.  The good news is that I can always take the Autoprop off and put the old one back on, if I decide that I don’t want it, even when the boat is in the water.  It’s not simple but can be done.  More to come on that.

I am also having the backstay split with isolators so that the stay can serve as an antenna for the SSB radio.  I am really looking forward to having the SSB back in service.  I miss hearing the weather router Chris Parker and also participating in the morning nets.

As I write this I am approaching PT Judith and will soon turn west toward the CT River and home.  The wind is from the NNE and blowing between 15-20kts so it will be behind me for the whole run and I should make good time.   The current at Watch Hill won’t be with me when I arrive there but at least I’ll be going fast and should still make decent time and get home today in time for dinner.

We are really making time and moving along at better than 8kts with just about 10kts apparent wind on a dead run, wing and wing with the main and jib, a good speed by any measure.   And that’s with a slimy bottom as things foul up pretty fast in August in Wickford with warm still water.

Yesterday I visited Rodger Martin, the designer of Pandora, at his office at Newport Shipyard and enjoyed hearing about some of his current projects.   He’s a very nice guy and clearly loves talking about boats.   I particularly loved hearing his South African accent. I was interested to learn that he designed the newest Outward Bound open boats that we have seen up in Maine.  They are open boats and clearly not comfortable like Pandora.  However, they serve the program well give the “find yourself” and “getting back to nature” focus of the Outward Bound programs.    It was fun to see a computer rendering of one of the boats on the wall in Rodger’s office.We talked a bit about the process of designing the Aerodne 47 and I was surprised to learn that it has the smallest sail to displacement ratio of any boat that he has designed.  In spite of having a modest sail plan, the boat is very fast and stable.  That’s good and particularly appealing to Brenda.

This launch has a gas turbine which weighs about 1/3 of a diesel of similar power.   That, combined with carbon fiber construction, makes for a very fast launch.  The bad news is that it sucks gas at a horrifying rate.  Well, if you have to ask, you can’t afford it.  And, as the launch is a tender to a big yacht, he’s probably not asking. Rodger has a passion for fast sailboats and has a long history of designing ocean crossing racing yachts.  This prototype, designed to show proof of concept for a larger version to challenge the clipper ship record from New York to San Francisco, sure looks like it can make tracks.  Look at the keel canted out to weather.  I wonder what happens if the wind suddenly shifts or dies?   With all that weight out on the end of that long keel, the result would surely get your attention.After my time with Rodger I couldn’t resist walking the docks at the shipyard to enjoy the view.    Bolero, the iconic ocean racer, is always a head turner.  What nice lines.  Pandora has at least one thing in common with her.  They both have inflatable dinks.
I asked Rodger why he felt that folks were moving away from sailing and into power boats.  His answer was interesting as he thinks that the designs today have moved away from boats that can sail well in light air so most find themselves motoring everywhere.  That’s an interesting perspective and I expect that there is some truth to that.  It’s clear that Pandora doesn’t suffer from that problem.   NIce design Rodger!

Speaking of fast, this sleek cold molded ocean racer, quite a contrast to Bolero, looks like it’s screaming along, even while she’s tied to the dock.  The carbon mast and boom are a deep burgundy.  Take a gander at the port holes cut out in patterns.  It’s like a floating piece of art.   However, Brenda would notice right away that there isn’t a dodger, a non-starter for her, self described “sailing cream puff” that she is. Love the open transom. I saw Crossbow sailing off of Newport the other day. This isn’t a boat for a casual afternoon sail.   I wonder where she will be headed when they finish fitting her out. Don’t loose your balance or you’ll slip right out of the open transom.The carbon bow sprit seems to be adjustable.  What a piece of engineering.A lot of hardware for the 1% folks moored here.To cap off a great day in Newport a friend treated me to lunch at the NYYC Harbor Court.  This was the long time home of the Brown family, of Brown University fame.

There are amazing gardens out back.  Love the lotus growing in the pond.   The flowers are as large as a basket ball. These water lilies have leaves that are about 2’-3’ across. Love the view from the reflecting pond to the club house.  Can you imagine living here when it was a private home?As I finish up this post, I have rounded Pt Judith, with 15-20kts on my beam and am moving along really well, at almost 10kts.  It’s pretty amazing and I don’t even have a reef in and the heel is only about 10 degrees.    At this rate, I should be to Watch Hill Passage in less than two hours.   Amazing.

Anyway, things are going to get very busy with Pandora on the hard for the next few weeks.  With the summer sailing season drawing to a close and winter just around the corner, there’s lots to do.

End of  the season or the beginning?  Sunny Caribbean, here I come.  Well, that’s if I can get everything done.

I think I can, I think I can…

Newport, Pandora’s kind of town.

It’s Tuesday morning and Pandora is all alone up in Wickford.  I’ll be rejoining her later this week for a run back to Deep River where she will be hauled for a few weeks.  I’ll be getting her ready for the run to Annapolis then to Hampton VA and ultimately on to Virgin Gorda and our winter of sailing in the Caribbean.  I am getting excited about the coming months but have to say that all the details of getting ready to go and prepare a “new” boat for such a run is a bit daunting.

Crew is lined up already so there will be four of us running Pandora south from Hampton in early November.  So, how would you like to be near Cape Hatteras in early winter?  Hmm…

Anyway, it’s too early to be talking much about warmer climes when it’s still plenty warm here in New England.

Since Brenda and I returned from our week long run up to Nantucket we have been aboard again for a weekend with my old college friend Tom and his wife Lisa. We just spent only a short time together but it was a lot of fun and nice to catch up again.

I also hosted some folks aboard Pandora for an afternoon sail around Newport recently as part of a fund raiser for the CT River Museum.  I have been volunteering there for the last year and am enjoying it a great deal.  Here is a shot of my friend Rodney, able crew, at the wheel as well as our guests for the day.  We had a great time.  I have mentioned that Pandora has AIS, both a receiver and transponder, and I am still getting used to knowing that she shows up on other folks plotters as other AIS equipped boats do on mine.  It’s a nice feature and a great way to increase safety.

It’s nice to be seen.  As an added feature, you can see me on any service that tracks AIS, even on your smart phone.  I chose to install “Marine Traffic” on my iphone and.  So, as I write this post, this is a screen shot of Pandora in Wickford Harbor. Pretty neat.
If that’s not cool enough, how about the track from my day of sailing with Rodney and the gang.  It’s the first time that I have ever “day-sailed” out of Newport.  We had perfect wind and covered a lot of ground, over 40 miles in an afternoon.The program has some nice features including “my fleet” where you can choose to track specific vessels anywhere they are, world wide.  Pandora is in my “fleet” and I signed up to get an email message when she leaves or arrives in a harbor.  As we sailed around Newport my phone was buzzing “Pandora has arrived” and “Pandora has departed” all day long.  Anyway, I thought it was pretty neat.

Speaking of Newport, Brenda and I visited Newport Shipyard,  THE home for megayachts in Newport, on our last visit and walked around the yard enjoying the sights.  I particularly enjoyed seeing Vendetta, Billy Joel’s 57′ commuter yacht.   She’s a beauty with her barrel back stern.  She’s been for sale for a number of years and is listed at a cool $1,295,000.  Pocket change…  Speaking of singers. I’d like to listen to the VHF radio and hear “Elvis has left the room” no make that the harbor.  I wonder what the owner was thinking when he or she decided to name their cat “Elvis”.  She’s a regular fixture in the marina as we have seen her here before. There’s no end to the beautiful yachts in Newport.  Most are huge but some, like this small Carriacou sloop, are just beautiful, if not big.  These sloops, most not nearly as yachty as this one, are natives to the island in the Caribbean near Grenada.  Perhaps we’ll see some of these boats over the winter. Brenda and I also visited this wonderful little print shop in a residential area of Newport, “The Third & Elm Press.  The owner, who’s been there a really long time, makes prints and cards the old fashioned way using equipment that’s well over 100 years old.  There is nothing “modern” about this place.   I don’t think that she takes “Apple Pay”.You don’t see printing presses like this every day.  Not a great picture but you, well, you get the picture…I have walked past this spot hundreds of times over the years but never entered.  The Seamen’s Church Institute.  This place has a long history of helping seafarers in Newport.  These days “help” is in the form of showers and a spot to sit and reflect or at least relax away from the bustle of downtown Newport.   I understand that they also have rooms for rent.  Neat spot. They have a wonderful area to sit and enjoy a cup of coffee. And a really nice library. There’s even a modest collection of ship models.  All of vessels associated with Newport.  How about this torpedo boat?  I always like cut-away models. 9-2-15a 046Even though I have been to Newport many times over the years, I never tire of seeing the sights.  I won’t be back to Newport by boat again till next summer but I will surely enjoy yet another visit soon as it’s surely Pandora’s kind of town.

Speaking of soon, soon will come soon enough as I am visiting with Rodger Martin at his office in Newport later this week.  Rodger designed Pandora so it will be fun to to learn more about his work and hopefully get some good info for a post.  Stay tuned.

Well, time’s up and the day is not getting any younger.  Time to wrap this up.

More to come…


Brenda and me in Nantucket.  A proper arrival.

It’s Thursday morning and Pandora is anchored, for my second visit this summer, here in Nantucket.  Brenda and I arrived on Monday after a two day run from Stonington CT with a stop in Cuttyhunk.   As I mentioned in a recent post, Brenda and I have not been to Nantucket together by boat for many years so it’s good to be back. On our first visit, back when we were, shall I say “less mature” and boat was oh-so-much-smaller, our only way to get ashore was in a pathetic inflatable canoe we not-so-affectionately called “the green bean”.    Now, with our Caribe dink and powerful outboard, we can make it all the way to town without getting wet.  That’s a big improvement over our first visit here so many years ago.

Speaking of wind, there wasn’t quite enough wind for our run from Stonington to Cuttyhunk and the bottom was pretty nasty after two months of inattention, so under power Pandora was pretty sluggish and acted more like a heavy SLOW cruising boat than what I am getting used to.

We anchored in the bight outside of the harbor in Cuttyhunk and spent time with friends with them on their boat nearby.  It was a lot of fun.  I was particularly amused by this sight of “two men in a tub”, a very small and LOW TO THE WATER dink that went by.  They were getting soaked and the guy in the bow was pulling furiously on the painter with the hope of keeping some of the water out. Brenda wouldn’t have liked that at all.    It reminded us both of our “green bean”, only ours was even worse. Anyway, Pandora’s slimy bottom was calling, so I bit the bullet on Monday at Cuttyhunk and went for a swim to clean the bottom.  WOW!  What a mess.  It’s hard to say exactly how much slime there was but I’d say that there she was sporting an 1/8” to ¼” of “nasty” over her entire bottom.  The first layer was fresh water slime from her short visit in the CT River and after a few weeks in Wickford, salt water slime grew on the now dead FW slime.  Yuck…

I normally use a coarse Scotch Brite Pad to clean but that didn’t work as it just loaded up and pushed around the slime without actually taking if off.  I ended up using a scraper and then the pad, for two hours.  I was bushed.  Thanks to the hooka compressor, I was able to do the entire job without stopping.

Anyway, after that cleaning, even though it wasn’t a perfect job, we caught the tide past Martha’s Vineyard and on to Nantucket.  We carried the flood most of the way to Nantucket but were bucking about a knot of tide by the end.  However, with nice 15 kt breeze on a close reach, against the tide, we were still doing better than 8kts, over the bottom, for much of the trip.  It as a great ride.  And, as this was the first long run that Brenda’s done with me, she was very happy that Pandora’s heel was a comfortable 12-15 degrees.

As we approached Nantucket in the afternoon, some lovely old wooden boats and a few old 12 meter America’s Cup boats passed us heading west after participating in the Opera House Cup, a race for wooden and classic boats, that previous weekend.  I particularly liked seeing this Herreshoff NY30, a classic designed as a one-design class for the NYYC back in the 30s, I think.There is a lovely Friendship Sloop that gives rides in the harbor, several times a day. We enjoyed watching her sail by in the evenings.I particularly enjoyed this beautiful expedition yacht anchored nearby.  What lovely lines. We walked around town PLENTY on this visit.  At the end of the day my “dogs were aching”.  It was fun to see the sights.  I enjoyed watching this gentleman painting on Main Street.  We also visited the “oldest house”.  How old? Well, it was really old and to live in it would have been as rough as heading across the harbor in our old green bean dink.  Pretty though.  On a mooring nearby was Linx, a lovely schooner from Portsmouth NH.  She fired off an impressive cannon at sunset.  Quite a sound and lots of white smoke.  Fun. Speaking of sunsets.  We were treated to several wonderful ones while we were here.  After so many years of sailing New England waters, it is fun to be back in Nantucket.  And, with their hugely expensive mooring fees, we can now anchor and make it ashore dry and comfortable with our good dink and 15hp engine.  It’s nice to have “arrived” with at least a dink that can get us there without getting soaked along the way.

Today we will head to Edgartown for a day and then begin in earnest our run to Wickford by the weekend.  Happily, the winds remain favorable for the run back with SE forecasted for the next few days.

I guess that I’d better wrap this up or we won’t make it to Edgartown in time to enjoy the sights today.