Pandora is a pariah, but it could have been worse.

Pandora arrived in Deltaville VA this week after an 8 day run from St Thomas.  My crew, Craig, Alex and me were part of the Salty Dawg Homeward Bound Rally to the US, along with about 20 boats, most heading to Hampton VA.

The run was fairly uneventful, setting aside minor mechanical issues and a leaking heat exchanger on the engine.  All and all a, sort of, uneventful voyage.  We did have a very sporty last day before crossing the Gulf Stream when winds picked up to near 30kts for about 12 hours but other than that, we sailed much of the 1,350 miles.

Oddly, after those strong winds and as we approached the Gulf Stream, we had a 180 degree wind shift that took less than a half hour to unfold.  At first I thought that it was actually a result of a squall but then realized that the shift was not temporary.

By the time we got to the Gulf Stream, some hours later, the wind had diminished to less than 10kts and we crossed the Stream in near flat calm conditions.  It felt more like Long Island Sound in August than the mighty Gulf Stream.  It’s all about timing and with Chris Parker’s support, we hit it just right.

As we approached Deltaville, we decided to use the last of our supply of covid tests and learned that all three of us still tested positive.   As you can imagine, this was quite upsetting as it had been quite  along time since we had tested Alex and learned, a few days out from St Thomas, that he was positive.  We assumed that me and Craig were too although we didn’t check ourselves as we didn’t have enough tests on board.

When Craig and Alex first noticed symptoms, we were very upfront with the rally fleet, sending out an an announcement to all that we had been in contact with prior to departure.  We didn’t hear anything back so I am assuming that everyone else was ok.

Fortunately, our symptoms were limited to sore throats and a cough and as all of us had been vaccinated and had been twice boosted, the problem was fairly minor.

By the time we got to our destination we were faced with the question about what to say and do about our condition.  In my case, we were pretty certain that I was the first to get sick so I was probably no longer a threat to anyone.

I won’t go into any details about what happened next except to say that our arrival was akin to a group of lepers showing up at a garden party for hypochondriacs and it wasn’t pretty.  Given the response when word got to them.

I was unsure about how candid to be about our status and ultimately decided not to say anything because I had likely been positive weeks prior and, according to CDC guidelines, was no longer contagious.   However, news travels fast and the marina management found out anyway, along with everyone else in the marina.

To say that it was awkward doesn’t begin to describe what happened and it was clear that we were not welcome.

So, the question wasn’t really about if we were still contagious but that we had tested positive, something that I have learned isn’t necessarily a marker for being contagious after enough time has passed .    The current science, and CDC guidance, is that you are safe ten days following initial onset of symptoms but public opinion isn’t clear on that at all.

Testing negative isn’t necessarily the marker of safety as omicron, the now dominant variant, can continue to test positive up to 90 days past the initial infection.  Based on the reception that we received, good luck trying to explain that when everyone thinks that you can’t reenter society until you have had two days of negative test results.

In the interest of fair balance, I will acknowledge that there are two sides of the story and I should have been more upfront with everyone.  Having said that, there is so much emotion and misinformation out there, I doubt that things would have been much different if I’d said something upfront.   I guess I’ll never know.

Yup, really awkward.

So, we cleaned up Pandora and left as soon as we could.  No reason to hang around when we were clearly not wanted.

Pandora remains in Deltaville awaiting the installation of the lithium bank and some other work to be determined.

Enough of that for now.

Meanwhile… when I’m on passage, I always worry about a catastrophic failure of some sort.  Things always break but they are usually little things.   When it’s really “sporty” or “salty” as Chris Parker likes to say,  I listen to the sounds of the boat and always have in the back of my mind, a fear that the rig is going to fail in some way.

I say this knowing that my standing rigging was replaced two years ago by a very competent rigger but I still worry.   Given all the stresses on any boat in a seaway, I am always amazed that Pandora holds together in spite of everything we run into.

However, sometimes things do break but fortunately, Pandora’s failures have been pretty minor.

Last fall one of our rally boats had a major failure when they lost their forestay in pretty rough conditions.  I won’t go into detail about this except to say that things turned out fine but several Salty Dawg boats came to the rescue and at one point the USCG came out in a chopper from Puerto Rico as someone on board set off their EPIRB emergency transponder, only to cancel the call by the time the chopper arrived.

Fast forward and that same boat was heading back to New York a few weeks ago and found themselves in pretty rough conditions off of Long Island, this time with terrible results.

I don’t know the specifics except to say that the captain reported to the USCG that they had been hit by a “rouge wave” and lost their entire rig.

The USCG send out a Jayhawk chopper and lifted all four crew to safety.   The Coast Guard records video of all operations and to see this footage is very sobering.Check out this link to a news report of the incident from a TV station in Boston.

So, there you have it.  Sure we had a good passage but the arrival, not so much.

All I can say is that it didn’t feel good to be greeted like lepers but at least we didn’t have to be rescued by the USCG.   Having said that, it’s nice to know that they will be there if we need them.

Let’s hope that’s never the case and I hope to never hear the words, “Good evening, I’ll be your USCG rescue swimmer today”.

Nope, I’d much prefer being a pariah as it could have been much worse.

 

 

 

 

Crossing the Gulf Stream

It’s been 8 days since we left St Thomas to make our way back to the US and, all and all, it’s been a fairly easy trip.

Last night, running into a line of nasty squalls, was the most difficult day of the trip.  We had a few minor gear issues that required two of us on deck at midnight to fix an errant reefing line that had to be rerun a few times until we finally got it right.  And there were myriad issues that needed attention but are too numerous to list here.

We were also treated to a full moon that lent a bit of additional drama as we surfed along at 10 kts in big seas and nearly 30 kts of wind. I understand that there was also a lunar eclipse but somehow we missed that, perhaps due to all the excitement and efforts at managing the boat under difficult conditions.

It was certainly our most challenging night of the trip but it’s actually been a pretty uneventful run.  It seemed like I had to go up on deck a dozen times last night to check lines or make minor tweaks and repairs to keep things running smoothly.  It’s been a long time since I had to reef and un-reef so many times in a single night.

It was tough on all of us and I don’t think that I had more than perhaps a cat nap for 10 minutes before things calmed down around dawn when I was finally able to lie down for a few hours.

We also had 180 degree wind shift that happened in about 15 minutes, and was totally unexpected in spite of our downloading current weather information.  It took me a while to understand that it was a shift and not some sort of squall that was changing wind direction temporarily.

As I write this we are about 2/3 of the way across the Gulf Stream, that conveyor belt of warm water that moves up from the Gulf of Mexico nearly to the Arctic and back down past Northern Europe, tempering the climate for millions.    The amount of water that is moved by the current, often at up to 5 kts, is the largest moving body of water on the planet and a huge amount of heat is circulated from the tropics to the Arctic year round.   Imagine a body of water a mile deep and 50 or more miles wide moving at 5 kts 24/7, day after day for millions of years.  That’s a lot of water.

The Gulf Stream also marks the end of the trip for us as the entrance to the Chesapeake is only about 100 miles beyond the western wall of the Stream.

We still have another night at sea and come morning we will enter the Chesapeake and then in another 30 or so miles we will arrive at our destination.

One night more or not, crossing the Gulf Stream is a big deal and signifies  that we have come a long way.

Here’s to being mostly there!

This Could Get Interesting. I Hope Not…

It’s Sunday afternoon and we are sailing along on a broad reach, about 440 miles from the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay

I still think that we will arrive in Deltaville, our destination, on Wednesday, probably in the afternoon.

There’s not a lot to report about the weather with pretty good conditions for much of the rest of the trip.

Yesterday evening the wind began it’s shift from the East to the Southwest as the prevailing winds off the US East Coast began to kick in.  This meant that we had wind directly behind us for many hours and light until things finally filled in and allowed us to turn off the engine and begin sailing again.

We ran the engine most of the night and while I generally look into the engine compartment, under the galley sink, about once an hour, I didn’t notice that the engine coolant overflow, a white translucent reservoir that captures excess coolant from the engine when it expands with the heat of the engine, was overflowing.

Normally there is a subtle ebb and flow of coolant in and out of the reservoir as the engine heats up and cools after being shut down.   However, late last night I noticed that the reservoir had filled to overflowing and was spilling into the bilge.

This is not a good thing as it suggests that there is some sort of leak between the heat exchanger that circulates fresh water mixed with antifreeze within the engine and the seawater that circulates around the heat exchanger.
There should not ever be any mixing between the internal cooling system and the sea water (raw water) flow.   Clearly, something has happened to allow seawater to get into the internal cooling area and is forcing the coolant into the overflow.

And it appears to be happening at a fairly consistent rate of about a cup or so every 4 hours.   That doesn’t sound like a lot but it means that when the salt water gets into the engine it is diluting the antifreeze which might allow the hottest parts of the engine to make the water boil.  If that happens, it could cause problems with some portions of the engine not getting enough coolant or the engine cooling system might boil over.

I have estimated that for us to finish the trip we will have to run the engine at least another 24 hours so that suggests that the antifreeze will become dangerously diluted.  The good news is that I have about 1.5 gallons of new antifreeze but in order to make sure that what’s in the now diluted system, I will have to find a way to drain out some of the antifreeze and replace it with new fluid.

This isn’t a terribly complicated process except that it will have to be done on a hot engine, which isn’t great.

All and all, this is manageable but will take constant monitoring to be sure that things don’t get out of hand.

The good news is that we have mostly favorable winds and if needed, we can just go slower and avoid running the engine if the wind falls light.  However, some adverse winds will come up in the Gulf Stream early on Wednesday morning, say around 04:00, and we really have to be past that point by then, so going slow if the wind drops isn’t very practical.

I believe that we can manage things but it could become interesting.  Let’s hope not.

It’s funny, in a not so funny way, how making passage seems to be just a series of “issues” that have to be resolved.  I suppose that’s just like life except you can’t call a repair guy when you are 500 miles from land.

Such is life on the high seas.  Wish us luck

Following Seas and the Wind at our Backs

It’s Friday morning and we are moving along at decent pace, about 6 kts.  I’d like to be going faster but the wind is behind us and not as strong as it was for the first few days.

Our run over the last 24 hours was a bit under 150 miles giving us an average speed of about 6 kts, substantially less than the earlier part of the trip but still acceptable and what the weather forecast suggested would happen.  I expect that this will be the case for the next few days.

We are about half of the way and I still think that we are likely to arrive sometime next Wednesday, giving us a dock-to-dock time of 9 days, considerably less than the near 12 days for my run south last November.

This is not surprising as the run north takes better advantage of prevailing winds and is generally an easier run.   I expect that we may have some days of motoring and perhaps a few days of wind forward of the beam, but it should not be particularly challenging.

Everyone has settled in pretty well, now that the first few days are behind us, which is typical.  It won’t be long until we will have made it more than half way there which is always nice.  And, with the wind continuing to be behind us, it will begin to feel like it’s downhill from here.

Yes, with following seas and the wind at our backs, it’s a pretty good run.

Music to My Ears

Pandora has a way of telling you that she’s moving along nicely.  At just about 7 kts, she begins to hum, a sort of harmonic vibration that you can hear and feel throughout the boat.
I have no idea what the source of this noise is but it is very consistent and depends on the speed of the boat moving through the water, not the speed of the wind.

As 7+ kts is a very nice turn of speed for Pandora, the sound is very much “music to my ears.”

The perennial question that everyone has, including me, when we are on passage, is “when will we get there?”  Of course, as our speed is dependent on the strength and direction of the wind, asking that question is sort of like asking “how much does a car cost.”

Another key question, beyond how fast we are going, is “are we going toward our destination,” which is often not the case at all.

From when we left St Thomas, three days ago, we were basically sailing due north, with the goal of staying east of some nasty thunderstorms that were moving across our path for several days.  A course that wasn’t really toward our destination.

Going the wrong way isn’t great but it’s way better than being stuck in nasty thunderstorms for hours or days.   I will say that getting struck by lightening or being knocked down by 50 MPH winds, makes me very nervous and while a lightening strike is rare, the thought of having all of our electronics fried while far from shore is pretty scary.

Anyway, by heading north for the first few hundred miles, we were able to stay to the east of the storms.  After they passed, we turned a bit farther to the NW and toward our destination.

We still have a long way to go, nearly 1,000 miles, but it is nice to at least be heading in the mostly right direction.  And, we continue to be heading there at a good speed.  I mentioned that we made nearly 190 miles on our first day and I was surprised to see that yesterday’s run was nearly 180 miles.  Very respectable.

So, with about 25% of the run done, and good a good wind forecast for much of the remainder of the trip, it’s beginning to look like we could end up in Deltaville sometime next Wednesday.

Happily, nothing more has broken and the repair on the jib outhaul seems to be holding for now.  With us moving along on a broad reach, the pressures on the rig aren’t all that great, even though the wind speeds are in the low 20s much of the time.

All of this is good as a broad reach is a comfortable point of sail and with the wind in the low 20s, it’s strong enough to keep us moving along nicely.

I guess that the biggest issue for us right now is that we forgot to get cookies so the supply is pretty limited.  I do have a cake mix and as the temperatures seem to be dropping as we get farther north, perhaps I can whip up a cake or cupcakes in the next few days.

Pandora is happy, humming away and that, along with the possibility of cupcakes, is music to Pandora’s crew’s ears.

So far, so good and pointing in the right direction.

Stuff Breaks

One thing that we always worry about when we are offshore is stuff breaking.

Some years ago the headboard at the top of my main tore off, probably because the webbing that attached it to the top of the main decayed in the sun.   Sadly, I didn’t notice that it had any decay until it broke, taking the headboard to the top of the mast and the sail ending up on deck.

Getting that resolved was a harrowing experience that had me going up the mast while far offshort, not an experience that I want to repeat.   It was terrifying, to say the least.

Well, today we had yet another failure but in this case it wasn’t all that bad.  The jib is on a boom and to pull the sail out there is a line that runs from the aft end of the boom up to a block on the back of the jib and out to the end of the boom.   This line takes a tremendous amount of load so the line is a fairly high tech material with a special anti-chafe exterior to help it resist breaking.

Unfortunately, that line failed anyway leaving the jib flapping madly in the wind.

With help from Craig and Alex I was able to rerun the remaining line and tie it back onto the fitting on the boom and after about an hour we were back in business.
I will say that I am not confident that it will hold so I am going to watch the repair carefully.  So far, so good.

One reason that folks opt to leave their boats south for the summer is to avoid the wear and tear on crew and boat and it’s issues like this that are a good example of why that makes sense.

The forces at work as the boat moves through the water at 8-9 kts for days on end are pretty remarkable and it is no wonder that things break.

Speaking of 8-9 kts, we had quite a run for our first 24 hours, a total of just under 190 miles, an average speed of 7.9 kts, an impressive performance.

Chris Parker has had us moving more to the north for a few days to avoid a line of very strong thunderstorms but we should be able to begin heading for the Chesapeake, perhaps Thursday morning.

All and all, the wind should be mostly favorable and behind the beam most of the time.  I am hopeful that we will continue to sail with good wind and hopefully, won’t be hit with any major thunderstorms.

A squall isn’t all that bad but lightning can be a real trial, something that we want to avoid.

So, as of now things have been pretty standard, with the exception of that broken line.

Let’s hope that our luck holds out, along with the favorable winds.
And yes, it’s still hot and sticky.  The good news is as we get farther north things should cool down.

I guess that’s about it for now.  it’s nearly time to think about what to make for dinner.   Simple sounds good.

Underway at Last…Deltaville, Here We Come!

It’s Tuesday afternoon and we have been underway since 10:00 this morning.  After two days in a marina with the AC running, I have to say that it is hot.  Try 90 degrees down below.

As we have to keep Pandora buttoned up to avoid having the occasional wave find it’s way down below, it really doesn’t cool down much in the cabin.  As the engine is under the galley, all the heat from that mass of iron radiates into the cabin for hours after it’s turned off.

Eventually, it cools off a bit but then we have to run the engine again to charge the batteries and the cycle starts all over again.  Hopefully, once I have a new battery bank and a wind generator, I will not have to run the engine quite as much.  Of course, all this assumes that there is wind.

And there is, wind that is, about 15 kts on the beam.  A lovely point of sail. The sea state is reasonable and Pandora is tracking well at about 8 kts, a a respectable turn of speed.

I tried to set up the wind vane steering today and gave up after a while.  I guess I am out of practice.  Perhaps tomorrow.  It is a good way to cut down on electrical consumption compared to using the electronic autopilot, so I don’t have to recharge quite as often.

I am always amazed about how much has to be done to get ready to head offshore.  Moving from island to island means that we have to put everything away that might come loose and break or crash around down below.  However, at sea for days at a time, there are so many unknowns that we have to prepare for just about everything.   Big waves, rough conditions, high winds, you name it…

While I don’t put the dink on deck when we are moving between islands, offshore I deflate it and put it up on deck, securely lashed to the cabin top.  The engine is put in it’s holder on the stern pulpit and the sailcover is securely lashed out of the way to avoid any sort of chafing.

Between that, changing the engine oil and filters along with checking for loose fittings and belts that might be worn, and grocery shopping for two weeks of meals at sea, it takes a full two days to get everything in order.

And, of course, ultimately it’s about the weather. In preparation for the departure of the rally, about 20 boats strong, Chris Parker spent about an hour last night and Sunday going over what we should expect to encounter along the way.

I won’t go into a lot of detail except to say that we are currently heading due north and not directly to the Chesapeake to avoid a very nasty line of thunderstorms that are directly in our path.  By heading north for a few days and then bearing off to the northwest, we will hopefully avoid the front and then have a better angle of wind to head the rest of the way.

That isn’t much out of our way and I am hopeful that we will have a straight shot to the Chesapeake after perhaps Thursday.

With all of this in mind, and if the wind holds for most of the trip, we should arrive at the mouth of the Chesapeake sometime next Wednesday.

That would be a pretty good passage of about 1,400 miles.

So, all is well and soon I’ll begin getting dinner ready.  A rotisserie chicken, chilled, over greens.  A good first-day-at-sea dinner.

More tomorrow about how it’s going.

The best possible weather forecast, I hope…

The 120 mile overnight run from St Barts to St John was uneventful and we made good time.  Craig and I took a mooring in the national park, a really nice area, for a few days before Alex arrived.  The water was an amazing blue and there were turtles all over the place.  In preparation for our run north, beginning tomorrow, Tuesday,  we decided to head to a marina in Red Hook, on St Thomas.  It’s a lot easier to prepare, getting the dink up on deck and getting provisions from a marina.  The marina is part of the IGY family of marinas, the same company that runs the one in St Lucia that we stayed at in Rodney Bay.  Their rates tend to be a bit more reasonable than others.  Plenty of services nearby.  The view of nearby St John this morning as the sun came up, was pretty nice. Under the category of “it takes all types” how about this boat near us in the marina.  A great party platform, to be sure. Being in a marina for a few days was a good idea.  A bit of luxury, complete with AC, is a good way to begin a long journey.

So on to the passage north.

I have been wondering, and worrying, about what the weather will be like for our 1,300 mile run to Deltaville VA.  I am heading there instead of home as I will be having a new lithium battery bank installed along with a wind generator before taking her to New England and home.

We have been relying on Chris Parker for weather routing for a decade as do all of the Salty Dawg Rallies.  Chris has a good feel for what sorts of conditions cruisers “of a certain age” look for so he does what he can to help us avoid drama along the way.

Of course, weather is what weather is on a trip of over 3-4 days but he tries to “read the tea leaves” with regards to long range considerations.  This is important for a run like ours, that will take perhaps 8-10 days.  While the weather for early days of the run are pretty clear, after 5 days it is possible that we will encounter conditions that look a lot different than what it looks like when we head out.

As an additional tool to monitor the weather, I also subscribe to Predict Wind and am able to download weather GRIBS twice a day via the Iridium Go satellite unit.  It’s an expensive bit of gear but well worth it for the long passages.  By seeing graphically on my screen what I am hearing from Chris Parker’s forecast, I am able to better visualize what he is talking about.

While the confidence of what the forecast is saying is a lot less certain after the first few days, Chris monitors the weather in Canada and the upper atmosphere thousands of miles away to try and get a feel for what is coming our way perhaps a week from now.

I say this as nearly every time I make a long run, Chris’s comments are always something like “well, that’s a long way off and a lot can change” when it comes to the conditions we may face.   Also, there just about always seems to be something nasty ahead of us to make the run a bit more arduous.

However, when we had our weather briefing yesterday, Chris was uncharacteristically upbeat with how he described the conditions that we were likely to face on our run north.  His comment was something like “I can’t imagine a better forecast”.  That’s good, very good.

Without going into too much detail, this is what the current conditions look like for our departure tomorrow.  It does look quite alarming up north where there are currently gales.  However, by the time we get there the system will have moved out of the area.  You can see the various tracks that the computer has recommended based on a number of different weather models.  See the boat icon, Pandora, at the bottom of the image.

It’s a bit hard to see but the green areas are wind in the mid teens and we will be on a broad reach.  Not ideal, as I’d like a bit more wind when it’s behind us, but pretty good.  As we make our way north, conditions continue to be good with favorable winds, and you can see that the nasty low has moved out of the area.  We will continue to have wind aft of the beam, and hopefully it will be strong enough to keep us moving at a good speed. Finally, as we approach the US east coast, there is a bit of uncertainty with a weak low forecasted to exit the coast.  Again, Chris feels a high degree of confidence that it will not amount to much.   Fingers crossed that it will be long gone by the time we cross the gulf stream off of Cape Hatteras and arrive at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. All and all, it looks like the wind will be favorable for the entire trip if perhaps a bit light at times.  Light wind isn’t a huge problem as I have plenty of fuel, so bring it on.

Over the years of working with Chris and getting his forecasts, there always seems to have been something on the horizon that is particularly worrisome but this time I am encouraged by Chris’s upbeat assessment of what lies ahead.

Just for fun, if you want to follow the fleet for the run home, check out this link to the Salty Dawg Homeward Bound rally page and see where we are relative to the rest of the fleet.   There is a list of the participating boats to the right and you can click on Pandora to see where we are at any given time.  If you don’t see the list of boats on that page follow this link to my own dedicated predict wind page. which is a bit easier to use but leaves out the other boats.  The tracker will update our position every few hours as we make our way north.

Let’s hope that when we arrive in Deltaville that we will look back and say “that was the best forecast ever!”

I’m counting on it, I hope…

 

 

 

On our way to St John today, from St Barts.

It’s a beautiful morning here in St Barts, home to the landed, glitterati, i.e.:  Rich and beautiful or at least doing their best to act and look that way.

This afternoon we will leave to make the 120 mile overnight run to St John where we will be meeting up with the 20 or so boats that will be making their way home as part of the Salty Dawg Homeward Bound rally.  The plan is for us to leave on or about May 10th for points north.  You should check out the fleet tracking page at this link.    Better yet, follow the link to Pandora’s Predict Wind tracking page to see where we are and the weather that’s in the area.  You can see the entire season of our movement way back from when Pandora headed south last November.   nd click on “Pandora  SV”, the link to Pandora alone.

If you don’t like that one, try my Garmin Pandora only tracking page to see where we are at any time.   However, the fleet page is more interesting and shows the current weather that we are experiencing, along with my speed.

Brenda and I visited St Barts on our way south our first time cruising the Caribbean in 2018 and we have not been back.   The major reason, beyond the fact that we have been cruising the southern islands, is that it is very roily out in the anchorage so being here can be uncomfortable.

Craig and I did a run from Antigua to St Barts a few days ago, leaving at dawn to make the 80 mile run.  The view of the sunrise to our stern was really breathtaking. On this trip I decided to ask what it would cost to tie up on the dock in the inner harbor.  I was shocked to learn that it was surprisingly cheap, something like $30/day.  Perhaps it’s because it is late in the season as I know that it’s impossible to get in here during the holidays.

The two negatives are that they don’t have electric on the docks,  and I guess that they assume that all those mega yachts have their own generators.  And, the harbor itself has a bit of surge so Pandora is pulling on it’s dock lines most of the time as the water goes up and down a few inches. It took me more than a day to finally work out a way to calm the motion, but I finally did.

This is the view of the lighthouse up on the hill overlooking town from our cockpit.  We walked up there yesterday but that story is a bit later in this post. Anyway, she’s riding well now. To say that we are close to “town” doesn’t begin to describe it. Just behind the dock is main street Gustavia, lined with every imaginable high end boutiques.   French cheeses and wines are abundant and fairly reasonably priced.   The fresh produce in the market, literally 20 steps from our transom, is amazing.  And an endless number of high end restaurants, along with a few for those of us that “have to ask what it costs”, like me.

We hiked up, actually walked, up the road to the lighthouse that is visible from the town.  The view of the harbor was really impressive.  Pandora is on the dock to the left portion of the photo.   Here’s a closeup of where she is, the last boat on the string, near all the dinks. We also spied the St Barts Yellow Submarine, a glass bottom boat that you can go out on to view the local reefs.  I wonder where it was made.  It looks like fun.   Check out their webpageOnce we were up at the lighthouse, we could look down toward the island airport and watch the crazy approach that planes have to make to land on what appears to be a remarkably short runway. They zip overhead, so close you feel like you could reach up and touch them. After clearing the ridge, or mountain, at the western end of the runway, they dive down the other side to land.   The planes fly at treetop level over the ridge and then go into a steep dive.  Yes, it’s that steep.   Actually worse than this photo suggests.  And then, in seconds, are on the ground.From up on the hill you can peek into the amazing homes that ring the harbor. How about this spot, with “his and hers” pools. I looked in a real-estate office and, as expected, homes were listed for tens of millions.   As you can imagine, the Russian Oligarchs are well represented here, or were before they had to flee due to sanctions.

This place is just dripping with money and in spite of the fact that the island is only 5 miles long, is packed with luxury cars of every description.  The car rental agencies feature tricked out Mini Cooper convertibles, no economy cars for this crowd.   I am particularly taken by the Moks, a sort of cross of a jeep and golf cart. They are everywhere. Being here for a few days, tied up on the dock, so close to town and all the sights, has been a real treat.  Hope that Brenda and I will be able to visit here sometime in the future.

I guess I’d better break now as it’s time for a croissant and to get ready to head out on our overnight this afternoon.  The winds appear to be favorable and I hope we will have a good run.

We should arrive in St John around mid day tomorrow.

Wish us luck.

So, how are you getting home from the Caribbean, Bob?

On Wednesday I’ll be heading back to Antigua to begin the process of bringing Pandora back to the US.   My friend Craig is joining me for the run to the USVIs where we will join up with my friend Alex and the Salty Dawg Homeward Bound Rally back to the US.  Alex and Craig will do the run to the US with me.

I’ve already written about all the plans for upgrades to Pandora and at home, so I won’t repeat them except to say that from Antigua we plan a week cruising, stopping in St Barths and St Martin before meeting up with the Salty Dawg Homeward Bound Rally fleet in St John.  When I head to the US, around the 10th of May, I plan on heading to Deltaville VA where I am having some work done on Pandora before taking her home to New England in June.

As I look at the current weather forecast I can see why Chris Parker suggests that we wait until mid May at the earliest to head north as the weather north of the Caribbean and Bahamas is positively terrible, a sort of “you can’t get there from here” mix of gales and wind from the north.

This is the weather map last week, for Wednesday April 20th, conditions that are typical for April and early May.   It’s not bad down in the Caribbean but any farther north than the DR, and there is no easy way to head north.   The best we could do would be to head to perhaps the Abacos, northern Bahamas and then on to the SE US coastline, perhaps Charleston, NC.   Fast forward a week and it’s still unpleasant with a major low heading east off of the coast.  It is this sort of pattern that is the norm until things settle down in the late spring, think late May, early June.   Sure, the wind direction NE of the Bahamas isn’t all that strong but it’s right out of the north.  Not good at all for heading to the Chesapeake. Sure, these two snapshots of the coming weather don’t tell the whole story but it’s clear that it’s way to early to try to “get there from here”.

I mention this as I have been fielding calls recently from folks that have deadlines or other reasons that make them want to leave to head to the US sooner than the rally.  Early spring weather, as in nasty, is why we planned the departure for the rally no earlier than May 10th.  I think that I convinced most of them to wait a bit.

I have a friend that flew down to Puerto Rico a few weeks ago, in the first half of April, to help bring a boat back to the US.   This qualifies as a  “You don’t know what you don’t know” sort of move, and it is clear that they left too early.   Their trip, made more difficult as the boat is only a 34′ lightly built costal cruiser, took weeks and I believe that they ended up making landfall in the US in Charleston instead of the Chesapeake, their planned destination, as they battled persistently strong northerlies.

Chris Parker did a very interesting webinar recently that characterized the weather that cruisers should expect on a springtime run to New England and the Mid Atlantic.  It’s worth looking at.

Chris breaks the run into three distinct legs as you make your run north, regardless of the specific weather that you might encounter on any given run.

The first half is his presentation and the second half, a Q&A session. The fact that questions took up another half hour, after his review, suggests that there is considerable uncertainty in the cruising community about the whole topic.  This is a must see for anyone considering such a run.In my discussions with skippers that are planning to make a run either north of south from the Caribbean for the first time, I try to stress that it is critical that they plan in a way that has the best possible opportunity for a fun trip or they may make one run and decide that there will not be a second trip.

I still recall someone we met on our first season heading south to the Bahamas, on the ICW just north of Charleston.  His advice to me, after hearing Brenda’s anxiety about the trip, was to caution me that I needed to do what I could to make the run good for her or there would likely not be a second trip, something that he had seen time and time again, over the years.

That was good advice and is a big reason why she flies and meets me in the Caribbean.  A decade later I am still grateful for him taking the time to “caution” me about stressing Brenda too much.

It’s hard to say how our trip will turn out but hopefully, my coming home for a few weeks and leaving a bit later than I would have liked, will make for a more pleasant run.

If you are interested in following along check out “where in the world is Pandora” or by clicking on this link.

Better yet, go to Salty Dawg Homeward Bound Rally page to following the entire fleet.  The link will be posted soon, or at least by the 10th, when the rally is scheduled to depart, as a button on this page.

Wish me luck.