It takes a village. What’s that sucking sound?

After a decade of use and thousands of sea miles under her keel, it’s high time for Pandora’s rig to be checked out.  I had known that this was needed when I purchased the boat three years ago as I was pretty sure that her first owner had never removed the rig.  As evidence of this, I had to cut a new opening in the cabinetry to remove one of the fittings that held the mast in place as there was absolutely now way to get at it.   Based on that, I am pretty confident that the rig has been in the entire time since commissioning.   It’s time.

Pandora has rod rigging and it is recommended that it be replaced, or at least carefully checked after 30,000 miles, I think, so one way or the other, it’s high time.  Additionally, as Pandora’s heading into a paint shed this week for a new coat of paint on the hull, the rig needed to come out anyway, so out it came.

I spent hours taking the sails off and making sure that all the wires were labeled and removed in preparation for the job.

On Thursday afternoon Brenda hoisted me up the back stay to remove the SSB antenna wire.  I also loosened the shrouds so that when the crew boarded on Friday morning all would be ready for removal.

She looked pretty forlorn on the dock with the boom removed and sails off. It takes a village, or at least a small mob, to remove even the smallest mast and while Pandora is not a small boat, she’s not all that big.   Brian, the yard manager and default crane guy for the day was ready and looking, well, looking pretty bored, actually. Chris, the “up the mast guy” took his time to be sure that everything was perfect.  Up the mast to attach the bridle. I was very concerned that there was something missing from my prep efforts that would keep the mast from breaking away from the boat after a decade in place and that the crew would have to put the job on hold while I got the prep right.

But, after a few minutes of pulling with the crane, it suddenly lurched up, along with my heart, a foot from the step. The step itself looked terrible, with lots of corrosion.   All four bolts holding the step in place were badly corroded.  Looks expensive.  This one, in particular, also holds the ground wire.  What about using stainless guys, when you built the boat?  Hmm…Some of the hydraulic fittings were a mess.  What about using stainless here too?    There’s a number of these that are in very bad shape and I am told that the plated ones that were used are $10 and stainless, $100.  Oh, I get it…The tide was coming up fast and it looked for a while like we wouldn’t be able to get the mast high enough up to clear the deck.  But we did, barely.  If the mast looked big on board, it looked even bigger on land.  It’s remarkable how many guys it takes to pull a mast.   I can’t even imagine how much it would have cost if I had just said.  “Guys, I want to pull the mast.  Have at it.”  The hours it took me to label everything, pull the sails, run messengers for lines, remove electrical connectors etc…

So, off to Stratford on Monday morning, tomorrow, where Pandora will be hauled and put in a shed for the next five weeks.  I am looking forward to visiting  regularly to chronicle the process of getting her ready for her new paint job.

And, I’ll be able to put some new graphics on her hull and boom and get rid of the nasty ones that are there now.

It’s going to be odd to head down the river and Sound tomorrow with no mast.  Boy, I sure hope that nothing happens with the engine.   You never know…

As complicated as the process of pulling Pandora’s rig was, it’s nothing compared to the rig on a mega yacht.  Check out this short video of how complicated it can be when it’s the rig on a 180′ sloop.  They say that a boat is nothing more than a hole in the water that you pour money into and I’d say that it’s true.    At least I can be confident that my hole is a lot smaller than the owner of that boat.

Having said that, let’s hope that this process doesn’t prove to be any more painful than I expect.

“Wait, is that a sucking sound I hear?  Hey you, let go of my wallet.”

What’s it like to be at sea? Do you anchor each night?

When I talk to folks that have not made long runs offshore in a small boat, the most common question is “do you anchor at night”.  My answer, if I was a bit snarkier than I am, would be “Yes, we carry 15,000 feet of anchor chain and just let her rip.”   But no.  I don’t say that…

The point here is that it’s very difficult to explain what it’s like to be at sea in a small boat.  And yes, Pandora at nearly 50′ is small.  Especially when you are hundreds of miles from land.

To see a full moon rise at dusk with a single sail on the horizon…The growing glow on the eastern horizon as a raceboat crosses our bow.  
A Swan, with a hotshot delivery crew overtaking us on their way to Puerto Rico hundreds of miles south of Bermuda last fall. Hundreds of miles from, well, anything, and still, they came so close…A rainbow after a passing tropical shower.
Something as simple as a sunset is an event as it goes from blues and grays…To a fiery display…Sometimes there are others out with us to enjoy the majesty of it all.
More often, it’s just the broad ocean, as flat as glass.  “Bob, where are the ocean swells?”  Ok, no swells.  I’ll admit it wasn’t the ocean but I’m trying to make a point here so go with me on this…Sunsets at sea have no peer.Anyway, I won’t beat this to death “Bob, too late, you already have.” except to say that it’s hard to understand, unless you’ve been there.

To be at sea, day after day, alone.  Never sure what will come next.

Still don’t get it?  But wait, there’s hope…  This video, a time lapse movie of a month at sea on a container ship does a wonderful job of illustrating what life at sea is like.  Of course, minus the wave action on a small boat.

Sunlit days, making landfall and spectacular star filled nights…And no, they don’t anchor every night.

Life gets in the way.

It’s about this time every year that I being thinking in earnest about what our cruising plans will be like for the coming winter season.  In past years the question was easily answered as we had new areas to visit and a pretty clear idea of what the coming months would bring.

So, as I sit here, in my office, on the 4th of July, arguably one of the busiest boating weeks of the summer, I really have no clear idea of what’s coming this fall.

The problem is the classic problem of, “life gets in the way” with multiple “events” coming our way that will make it hard to know what’s in store.

The good news is that our son and his wife are expecting twins, perhaps at nearly any time now, and anyone who’s spent time cruising and had grandchildren, especially the “new” kind, know that their arrival on the scene can be really disruptive to the “cruising lifestyle”.

Additionally, Brenda’s been working on a book for some years now and feels that it’s “high time” that she get it off of her plate and off to the publisher.    The good news is that she has a publisher and knows what has to be done.  The bad news is that some of the materials that she really needs to complete it are not under her control so it’s tough to say exactly how long it will be until she can finally get what she needs and get the project done.

One thing for sure is that the publisher’s next deadline to receive the completed manuscript is this coming March.  So, if you do the math, you’ll see that this falls smack dab in the middle of the winter cruising season.

And, as I sit here on July 4th, it’s hard to say, what we will be doing this coming winter season.  I can say for sure that winter in freezing New England and winterizing Pandora leaves me “cold”, but I guess we will have to just wait and see how things develop.

In the mean time, after months of deliberation on when and where, I have arranged to have Pandora’s hull painted and she will be going into the paint shed by mid July.  I’ll be pulling her mast for a rigging inspection close to home in the next week or so and then will take her to a yard in Stratford CT for paint.

The most complex part of the job will be dealing with the rub rail which is wood and wasn’t ever properly prepared to hold a finish.  As a result, the paint on the rail has badly peeled, something that I am hoping to avoid going forward.  That part of the job, as minor as it appears is a big part of the overall cost.

The crew will also sand and paint the bottom, a treat for me as I have never hired anyone for this messy job and have always dealt with bottom paint since my very first boat back in the late 70s.   What a luxury.

Someone once told me that there are two colors for boats, “white and stupid”.  And, with Pandora’s dark hull, some think she’s black, she’s about as stupid as possible.  And, in spite of the fact that most boats are white, I don’t think that Pandora will look good at all with a white hull.  However, we do need to come up with an alternative as the dark hull color is tough to live with under the tropical sun and not only does it get hot down below, but the paint has not held up well since being painted less than five years ago.  Additionally, a dark hull shows every scuff and scratch, much more than a light hull and with a boat that’s used as much as Pandora is, she has plenty of “battle scars”.

Last winter, in Marigot St Lucia, we spied this lovely yacht Elfjie, owned by Wendy Schmidt, wife of Google’s chairman.   I mention this yacht as she’s painted a light grey, Columbia Grey, an unusual color for a yacht.  Most large sailing yachts tend to be painted dark blue or black so she really stands out.  Here’s a shot of her with Pandora in the background.  I wonder if in grey, Pandora would look like Elfjie in Columbia grey?  Probably not  but the color is  still nice. The key will be to choose a color that will be light enough to stay fairly cool and yet still provide enough of a contrast to Pandora’s white decks to retain her sleek look.   We are thinking that medium grey might work.

We’ll also want to revisit her name graphics which were designed for us years ago when we owned our last Pandora.   As this shot shows, or doesn’t, it’s hard to make out her name from any distance.  There’s just not enough contrast and it looks fussy to me in any event. On “old” Pandora we had a drop shadow on the name and I’m thinking that we should loose that affectation on the new color hull.  This is a number of options the designer suggested, shown on a grey background.  Which do you like?  None of the above?One of the problems with graphics location and scale on the hull, is that we have a hefty rub-rail.  That’s good for tangling with docks and pilings but not so great for fitting graphics.  I am also wondering if we should have the graphics sized so that the “tail” on the D goes above the rub-rail.  I also wonder about the “stars”.

One reality is that the aft portion of the hull curves under the transom so putting the logo down lower may not work as well as these treatments might suggest. Well, there’s lots to think about as I prepare Pandora to head into the paint shed.  The good news is that she will be there for about five weeks so there’s plenty of time to think about color and graphics.   As we think about the proper color of grey, I’d be interested in what color you’d choose.  From our way of thinking, the lighter the better.  We are also probably going to have them use a  product called Alexseal, it’s commonly used in large yachts as it is easier to fix scratches and dings than on a hull painted with Awlgrip.  The bad news is that it’s not quite as hard a finish as Awlgrip.    Here’s a link to the color chart.

I plan on photographing the prep and painting process over the time she’s being worked on and will be posting photos of the progress.  It will be nice to see the job progress without me doing the heavy lifting personally.

When she leaves the shed in late August the season here will be just about over so I sure hope that my next step won’t be to book winter storage in the northeast.

Well, as they say, “sometimes life gets in the way” and I guess all of that will just have to play out.

One way or the other, I’ll let you know…

P.S.  Almost forgot.  The reason that I am sitting around doing posts today and not working on that bath remodeling project is that yesterday when I was doing the demo and breaking up the cast iron tub with a sledge hammer, I was hit in the face by a good sized errant piece of cast iron, try 8″,  that flew up after I slammed the sledge hammer on it.  It struck me just under the right eye and gave me quite a cut, right down to the cheek bone.    Good news, the bone didn’t break.

After a few hours visiting my doctor and then off to a plastic surgeon I’m all stitched up but it will be a week until I can resume my project.  This delay, and it could have been a lot worse, will also keep me from dealing with Pandora’s mast removal.

When the surgeon asked me how it happened, and I told him, he said that I really needed to come up with a better story.  Well, I could call it “domestic violence”, and yet another part of life that gets in the way, I guess.   So, more time for blog posts, for now…

Any ideas?

It’s always about the weather

Last weekend I hosted an event, a Gam, for the Seven Seas Cruising Association (SSCA) for the 6th year.  The event took place over a two day period and was a success, even if attendance was down a bit.  It’s a big job to put on an event, big crowd or not and I have to say that as the date approached I thought “I am NEVER doing this again”.

However, as the “curtain went up” and I looked out over all the folks in the audience, my position softened a bit.  A 7th in 2019?  Hmm…

In the run-up to the event had made a big deal out of the planned USCG chopper search and rescue (SAR) demonstration that was to happen on the river and was sad to have it canceled at the very last minute because of bad weather.

In “real life” the USCG goes out in terrible weather but for what is in essence a training exercise, they are more circumspect on considering the risk.  I’ll admit that Saturday’s weather wasn’t ideal, with a lot of haze and a very low cloud ceiling.  Oh well, there’s always next year.  I think that the captain of the chopper felt as badly as I did as I was when she called me to share the bad news as she was keenly aware of how long I had worked on getting approval.  It had taken THREE YEARS.  At least I am persistent.   Next year, the fourth..  Wait!  I thought that “three was the charm”.  Oh well.

Fortunately, Ginger and Peter of SV Irene came to our rescue to fill in the agenda.  Ginger presented to us about their trip in the summer of 2016 through the North West Passage.  Thank God for global warming and their successful trip or I don’t know what I would have done to fill the void.  “Hey everybody, listen up, let me show you all the great shadow puppet characters I know.  This is a bat, watch it fly away…”

Anyway, chopper or not, they did bring a rescue boat and gave tours.  The crew even stayed for lunch, flack jackets and all.   It was fun and they made a big hit.  Folks lined up at the dock for a peek aboard. I’d be thrilled to be rescued by these guys but it wouldn’t be so great to be boarded if I had something to hide.  “Sir, just how much rum do you have aboard?” He looks like he’s all business.  “But officer, all of these cases are just ships stores and for personal consumption. Really!” “Yeah, sure, over the next 100 years. Can I see your documentation and passport please?”Every aspect of these boats are designed for tough conditions.  And, blasting along at 45kts in rough conditions, these seats would come in very handy.  “Pick me! I want to go for ride!  I’ll even post photos on Facebook and write a blog post about it.  I promise!On Friday night, for the “early birds” Brenda and I hosted a get-together aboard Pandora.  We had a fun crowd aboard.   They filled the cockpit and then some.Some sat down below.   There was plenty of food to go around. Many arrived in their “private launches”.    I guess they sent their crew home early except the poor guy who was hugging Pandora’s transom.   “Hey, you, crew guy, Stay in the launch.  Buffy and Charles aren’t ready to leave just yet.” I wonder if anyone noticed Brenda’s most recent addition to Pandora’s decor?  The rug pays homage to our roots as catboat sailors.    Alas, just like every boat we’ve ever had, nothing quite fits.   It’s lovely, never the less. So, the weekend was a big success and we had fun.  After it was over my event partner George was just happy to sit and relax.   Everybody loves George, especially his canine buddies.  “Can I have a cookie Dad!  Please?”  Does this guy look mellow or what?There you have it, the 6th annual Summer Solstice Gam has come and gone along with the weather that kept the USCG Calvary from showing us their SAR stuff.  Such is the boating life where somehow it’s always about the weather.  Better luck next year.  Yes, me and the dog, ever hopeful.  Perhaps 4 will be the charm.

And speaking of the 4th, it’s Saturday and the 4th of July is just around the corner.  Hey, here’s an idea?  Let’s go hang out on the river?

Yes, that’s the plan.  Just us hanging out with thousands of our closest friends.

“Thanks for the wake buddy!”

It is summer, after all.

The classic yacht, Marilee reenters our lives.

When Brenda and I purchased our very first boat, the 20′ Cape Cod catboat Tao in the late 80s, we kept her in Bridgeport CT and often sailed to Port Jefferson on Long Island and occasionally, destinations as far away as Nantucket and New Jersey.  And let me tell you, that’s a really long way in a 20′ boat with a 5hp diesel engine.

As all my photos of Tao are slides, and exist in a massive pile somewhere in the attic, I can’t show them here.  However, I do have a photo of a painting that my good friend and artist Chris Blossom did for me as a birthday present way back in 1984.  She was a beautiful, if tiny, boat and the closest that we ever got to owing a classic.  Built in the late 70s, she was classic in design but modern in construction.  I first spied the yacht Marilee, the subject of this post, in Port Jefferson in the early 80s, when we sailed Tao across Long Island Sound from her home port in  Bridgeport CT.  The ten mile sail seemed like a real journey back then with no dodger and only sitting headroom below.

We’d generally set out from Bridgeport on a Friday evening to make our way to Port Jefferson, or “PJ” as we called it at the time.   We’d rendezvous with friends and raft up with them for the weekend before heading back home on Sunday afternoon.  Some years later, when we all had young children and slightly larger boats, in our case, another catboat, a whopping 2′ longer, we’d designate one of the boats as the “kid boat” and the “adults”, such as we were, would sit on another, enjoying the relative solitude with the kids nearby but not underfoot.

It was during that time that I first saw Marilee, anchored in Port Jefferson harbor with a big brown and yellow striped sun awning covering her decks.  I never saw her under sail and expect that she wasn’t in good enough shape to head out anyway as were so many of the aging classics in those days.

Brenda and I, some years later, became active as board members for The Catboat Association and were invited to a fundraising event in Tom’s River NJ, not far from our home at the time, also in New Jersey, as house guests of Peter Kellogg, the billionaire philanthropist and one of the supporters of Marilee’s restoration for the America’s Cup Jubilee celebration in Cowes England, home to the first race for what was to become the “America’s Cup”.

Peter, at that time, was involved in a fund raiser for the A Cat class in Toms River and, as representatives of the CBA board, Brenda and I were invited to attend the event as his guests and stay at Peter’s summer home.  Even though he was no longer an owner of Marilee at that time, it was clear that he was still very proud of her as we saw all sorts of memorabilia including a painting of her that he had commissioned during his years as a part owner.   So, once again, Marilee, sort of, came back into our lives.

My dream,at the time, was that I’d someday own a “real” classic but as the years passed, and while we once came precariously close to purchasing an old wooden Crosby catboat,  we became much more practical in our choice of boats which is certainly evident in current Pandora, which couldn’t be further afield from Tao.

To be completely candid, Brenda is of the view that if I was truly “balanced” I’d have a little electric launch on the CT river and “stop with all that toing and froing, already” (to the Caribbean).  But, that’s another story.

And, speaking of Pandora, I have posted a LOT of photos in the past but it still seems right to me to put her up yet again for comparison.Anyway, back to my story.  So, for the nearly 40 years since first seeing Marilee in Port Jefferson,  I have continued to have an eye for beautiful yachts and am particularly drawn to those that I encountered from the deck of Tao.  Now, many years later, some of these, and Marilee in particular, rejoin our world from time to time.

I have written about many classics over the twelve years that I have kept this blog, and especially during our last two seasons in the Caribbean.   With regards to Marilee, I was just “reintroduced” to her, now for a third time, the very same Marilee that I first saw from the deck of Tao so long ago.

Marilee, is a member of the NY 40 class, designed by the Nat Herreshoff, the iconic yacht designer and was launched in 1926.  She is one of the last two hulls launched of the 14 in the class, built for members of the NY Yacht Club by the Herreshoff company in Bristol RI.  In the photo below, she’s the one with the “fighting 40” boxer logo on her sail.  This was the informal name for the class when they were raced as one designs by members of the club.  I found this shot on her “official” site .  It’s an impressive shot and she’s clearly in good company. The NY40 class boats were raced by club members for a number of years but that was ultimately interrupted by the outbreak of WWI.   By the time racing was resumed, the boats were sold as their owners moved on to more modern designs.

Only four of these iconic yachts have survived and live on with owners who have  pockets deep enough to keep these beautiful classics in prime condition, no simple feat.

Marilee is one of these lucky yachts, perhaps the finest of her class in existence, and reentered my world, yet again, when I viewed a documentary film that chronicles her history and most recent restoration.

Those who follow this blog know that I make it a point to find my way aboard as many classic yachts as I can and while I have never been aboard Marilee, she has been in my mind as a very special yacht since our days of sailing our own “classic” Tao.

It wasn’t until the early 80s, around the time that John Wilson “launched” Wooden Boat Magazine, and, in part, catalyzed what has become a wave of restorations of many of the remaining classics worth preserving, like Marilee that she was brought back from near death.

She underwent her first major restoration in 2000, funded by a small group of New York Yacht Club members, including Peter Kellog, in preparation for the America’s Cup Jubilee in Cowes England.  She did well and won many races during that series.

Fast forward to this morning when I saw that wonderful video chronicling her most  recent restoration.    Yes, I know that most restoration videos, a sort of “we replaced 40% of her frames…” type can be boring, but this video is particularly well done and includes fascinating historical information along with some details of her restoration.  You should watch it.So, there you have it, a boat that I have never been aboard an yet still somehow feels like she has been a part of our lives for years.

These chance encounters with Marilee are a lot like the cruising lifestyle, where friends come and go with the seasons.   And while it may be months or years between those chance encounters, seeing them again brings back a wave of memories as we say “hello” yet again.

For me, Marilee is one of those memories of times past.  Our children are grown and have kids of their own and it’s nice to know that Marilee, that we first saw when we were newly married, is still out there and has a caring owner who is willing and able to put resources into keeping her in the condition she deserves.

I wonder when I’ll next “see” her again?  Time will tell…

Want to go for a ride in a helicopter little boy?

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t get a thrill when I saw a chopper flying overhead or spied one at an airshow.  My late father, who passed a few years ago, worked for a company that published a magazine for the commercial aircraft business and highlights of my childhood included visits to airshows as a, sort of VIP, with access to some awesome machines.

I am involved with a group that does sailboat rallies to the Caribbean, the Salty Dawg Sailing Association, and every other year in Hampton VA, prior to the departure of the fleet, the USCG does a SAR demonstration near the docks.  I was there for the demo two years ago and to see the chopper hover and the crew doing their “rescue” was amazing.     As a point of interest, this yellow chopper, all the others are orange and white, was commissioned to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Service.  As they hovered over the harbor, they kicked up massive amounts of spray which carried over the marina.  They also brought in a great little Response Boat to be sure that nobody strayed into the “drop zone”.  Perhaps my fascination with flying, and with helicopters in particular, was fueled by Dad’s love of airplanes and especially WWII aircraft.   Back in June of 2013, a few years before he passed, I happened upon some information about a super yacht owner who also owned a number of WWII aircraft and wrote a post about him, his yacht Marie and all those wonderful airplanes.   In reality, it was a post for my Dad and to this day and nearly 1,000 posts, it’s still my favorite.  If that hasn’t inspired you to click on that link, there are some awesome professional video clips of his planes putting on an airshow in St Barths a few years ago.

That post led to Brenda and I being invited to visit Ed’s (the owner of those awesome planes) island in the Bahamas, twice, and sailing on his 200′ sailboat, Marie for three days.  That proves, for sure, that you never know what life will lead to.

Anyway, I digress…  I mention all of this as three years ago I decided that I just had to try and arrange “my own” USCG “show” in Essex with one of their helicopters.  I contacted the Coast Guard and asked about the process which turned out to be the same as if I was putting on a full scale airshow and wanted a military hardware to show up, which is to say complicated.

I made calls, filled out the paperwork, wrote an essay about my planned Seven Seas Cruising Association SSCA Essex Summer Solstice Gam, (say that three times fast) which I put on with a friend in Essex each June, and made my application.   It was rejected…

Undeterred, I applied again the following year and it was approved…and canceled.  Sigh…  Ok, one more try.  So, last October I applied for a third time. and again… declined because of safety concerns in busy Essex Harbor.

However, as Brenda always says, “Bob and the dog, ever hopeful” and I appealed, sent a detailed annotated chart of harbor and drop area and submitted it yet a fourth time.   This is the chart I sent to the public affairs office showing the mooring field in brown and the “drop area” in orange.    See, this can work.  Right?  Perfectly safe!I guess somebody with clout agreed and it seems that four times is the charm as yesterday I got word that the operation, chopper, 45′ Response Boat Medium, I prefer “cutter” and lots of Coasties, was approved for a Search and Rescue Demonstration.  Yahoo!

I mention all of this because this means that if you join us at our SSCA meeting on June 22nd to 24th at the Essex Yacht Club in Essex CT you will have a front row seat at this wonderful event.  I have even arranged to have the 45′ “cutter” and her crew at the club dock and expect that the crew will join us for lunch and talk about what they do every day to keep us safe on the water.

Here’s a photo of the boat that will be at the Essex Yacht Club dock for the event.  And, this shot was taken at the mouth of the CT River.  Perfect!  I wonder if they will take me for a ride?  Oh wait, I’ll be too busy.  Perhaps a rain check. Unfortunately, the club grounds aren’t big enough to land the chopper though so we won’t meet the crew of the chopper.  Don’t believe that I didn’t try to get that approved.   You know me, ‘EVER HOPEFUL”.

And, speaking of approvals, one of my USCG contacts told me that in his five years on the job, my event is the ONLY civilian SAR demo that he has seen approved.   All of them were a part of a big event like an airshow.  Go me!  No… go SSCA!

Well, the fact is that it’s all about my Dad who always told me “the worse that can happen is that they will say no”.    Actually, sometimes just asking has gotten me into plenty of hot water but I won’t talk about that right now.

And besides, he loved anything that flies and so do I.

For sure, he would have been thrilled.   And me? I’m still the little boy who wants to go for a ride in a helicopter or at least see one… 

One more thing.  Don’t forget to sign up.  You’ll be glad you did.  Besides, there’s much more fun to be had.  Click here to see the full agenda.  You’ll be glad you did.

Don’t want to miss out?  You won’t if you sign up here.

Oh, to be born a classic…

Anyone who follows this blog knows that I am a sucker for beautiful yachts and to spend the winters in the Caribbean, especially in Antigua, puts me right in the heart of “classic yacht spotting” as many of the most fabulous sailing yachts in the world spend their winters there.

It’s great that  so many owners still gravitate toward the classic look in spite of an endless number of modern designs available to them.  And, let’s face it, if you have endless funding, you can get just about anything that you might want.

There is just nothing quite as beautiful as a classic schooner with a sweeping deck and towering masts.  My good friend Christopher Blossom has painted images of many schooners over the years and while the age of fishing under sail is all but gone, images of these iconic yachts endure.  This is one of many pieces that Chris has done, the fishing schooner Monitor. While there are a good number of modern interpretations of the classic schooners being built today, few are as close to their historic counterparts as the Columbia.  While she’s built of steel and her interior is thoroughly modern, (no smelly fish holds on her) from the outside she’s a faithful replica of her namesake, built in Massachusetts in the early 20th century.  I have written about Columbia before and spent time aboard her in English Harbor Antigua this spring.  Follow this link to my post about that visit if you missed it.

I love learning the history of special yachts and it’s unusual to find a video of their construction.   As Columbia was built in a commercial ship yard and, in this case, for the owner of that yard, this video is particularly personal.    It’s worth watching.

To see a classic design built using modern modular construction techniques is fascinating.  No doubt, those who built the original “classics” would have employed these same techniques if they could. It’s fascinating to see a classic yacht that looks like she’s might have been launched 100 years ago and yet is nearly new.   Adix was already a classic when she was launched in 1984.  I have seen her in Nelson’s Dockyard in English Harbor for the last two seasons.  She’s a remarkable yacht at over 200′ long, sporting three masts.  These yachts are big in every way.  I watched as several crew worked to get one of her sails on deck.  The process was very carefully choreographed.   Pandora’s mainsail is a bit much for me to manage and it’s nothing like the sails on a boat like Adix. Actually, not everything aboard is huge.  Her charming sailing gig is delicate and beautiful.  I’d love to get aboard someday.  Unfortunately, I haven’t found a way, yet…

This video, about Adix, is worth looking at.  While she has classic beauty above the waterline, she’s a modern yacht below.   Interestingly, in 1995 she was cut in two and an additional 15′ was grafted to her midsection.  Sounds complicated. The video also includes a plug for bottom paint but it’s worth watching as it tells the story of a very unique yacht. While it’s months away, I am already getting excited about heading back south for next winter.  I’ll admit that I don’t particularly enjoy the long passages but once I am there and Pandora’s anchored in Falmouth harbor, amid all those beautiful classics, the discomfort of the run south fades away.

There’s lots to do between now and then including the remodeling of our guest bathroom.  I wonder if the owners of Adix or Columbia concern themselves with such mundane stuff?  Probably not.

Knowing how much work goes into keeping Pandora looking her best I can only imagine what it takes when you own a yacht that was already a classic when she hit the water for the very first time.

Oh, to be born a classic…  If you don’t know what it’s like, you can’t afford it.


Rich and famous? Sag Harbor is the place to be…

It’s a beautiful day here in Sag Harbor and as if that’s not enough, it’s my birthday.   Actually, I am not sure that will make the day better unless I somehow ignore that I have turned 63, only a year away from that sobering threshold immortalized in the Beatles song, When I am 64.  You know, something like “will you still love me…”

As Scarlett O’hara said “I won’t think about that today, I’ll think about that tomorrow.”

Ok, Ok, I’m all better now…

Anyway, here we are in the heart of the Hamptons, the summer playground of the rich and famous.  Sag Harbor, the “harbor” and town are up and running for the season but are still have an “off-season” feel because school isn’t out.  When it is in a few weeks, watch out.

Brenda and I went out for drinks last night and the bartender commented “it hasn’t gotten crazy yet” and said that the place would be jammed in a few weeks when school is out and everybody heads east for the  summer.    As it’s still early in the season, we are happy to enjoy a more laid back Sag Harbor.

If you look at just about any promotional information for this area it will include an image of the town windmill, a modern reproduction of what was once a regular sight on Long Island before the advent of electricity.  In “days of old” windmills were used to grind grain, pump water and many other uses.   It’s nice to know that wind power and more broadly, renewable energy is making a comeback.  Pandora has lots of solar power aboard, enough to satisfy just about all of our power needs, even heating water for showers and making fresh water with our RO system.  Tree lined and shady, Main street is about as pretty a place as you will find, especially before the summer hordes arrive.At the head of Main is a tiny charming park.  Forgive the shot of the statue’s backside, but I just like this angle best. Shopkeepers can afford to put their best foot forward as their clientele are willing to pay extra to support a beautiful shopping experience.   In one shop we found a small armchair that we loved.   However, we didn’t love the price, $2,500.  The shopkeeper was quick to point out that for a modest fee, they could ship it to us and we’d save the entire sales tax.  Here’s a better idea, don’t buy the chair and save $2,500.    Charming architecture is everywhere.   Note:  It’s not the house that’s leaning…For us, no trip to Sag Harbor is complete without a visit to Sag Harbor Florist,  from our viewpoint, one of the most beautiful florists you’ll find anywhere.  Housed in a charming period brick building across from the waterfront park, it’s a perfect setting.  Trust me when I say “you have to be there”.  Their website doesn’t do the place justice.  When you enter the shop, and there are multiple rooms to enjoy, the aroma is intoxicating.  Imagine the scale of the home that can do justice to an arrangement like this.     “Jeeves, be sure that the table in the entrance hall is dusted. The’ll be refreshing the flowers today.”Imagine spending a day arranging flowers in this space?  There is so much going on here every day that they often spill out onto the side yard as they prepare flowers for a big party, wedding or charity benefit.  There just aren’t that many places in the country that have a clientele with the resources to support such high end business.   To that point, Billy Joel, “Piano Man” and aging rocker keeps his boats here.  I always make a point of checking  out what’s on his docks.   His taste in boats tends toward the look of a classic runabout and Rogue certainly fits that bill.  I understand that right across the street from his dock is a building that houses his extensive collection of motorcycles.   I  didn’t have the nerve to try and peer into the windows.

Well, I’d better get going and finish this post so we can head ashore.  Besides, it’s my birthday and the clock is ticking and there’s still lots to do.   Time ticking away?  Hmm… I won’t think about that today…

Oh yeah.  One more thing.  We visited our son and family last week.  Our granddaughter is really growing up.  I haven’t posted a picture of her in a while so here goes.  Cute or what?Anyway, time is short and we need to enjoy the place before the hordes arrive and as this is THE place to be, they’ll be here soon enough.

Bye for now…

To be a Little Vigilant…

For several months last winter, Brenda and I cruised aboard Pandora through the Windward Islands, in the south east Caribbean.  Along the way happened upon a lovely steel trawler in Le Marin, Martinique, Little Vigilant.  I mentioned that sighting in a prior post but my only information was a brief glimpse and a quick photo as she motored by.  I was bummed to only get a quick shot of her as she glided by and hoped that our paths would cross again.As luck would have it, we did see her again, a number of times actually.  When we spied her in Bequia, I was able to get aboard for a tour by captain Earl MacKenzie, who was running her for the winter.  He knows her particularly well as he had recently been the project manager for the first stage of her refit at Front Street Shipyard in Belfast Maine in 2017 and was clearly proud to show her off.

Little Vigilant has an interesting history.  This is what her Facebook page, has to say about her.  It’s pretty interesting.   It seems that she was originally conceived by her first owner, Drayton Cochran of Oyster Bay, NY in the late 1940’s.   She is named after a much larger 110′ Vigilant, built in the 1930s, a sailboat I think, that he cruised widely.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find out much about Little Vigilant’s big sister but it seems that Cochran decided to downsize and  commissioned Walter McGinnis of Boston, MA to design a trawler for summer use on the European waterways.

She was built and launched by Abeking & Rasmussen in Bremerhaven, Germany in 1950, and used by Mr Cochran extensively during the next ten years.  As an interesting footnote, Cochran is described by some as the “father of the Concordia yawl” as he was the one that approached A&R about building these lovely little yachts that remain so popular today.

Clearly, he had a very close relationship with yard as he launched both Little Vigilant and his own Concordia yawl, both built by A&R in the same year,  Shelia, now Duende, Concordia yawl hull #5.   This photo is of one of her sisterships of this iconic design. Little Vigilant was sold in the early ’60s to her second owner, a wealthy British businessman and sat in a storage shed, I am tempted to say “barn find”, until 2004 when she was discovered by the present owner. She has a lot of work done on her since that time both in 2005 and again last year, the first stage of a multiyear refit.

She presently hails from South Darthmouth, MA, which is doubly interesting as that’s where all the Concordia yawls were launched between the late 30s and 50s.   As an aside, the history of the much loved Concordia Yawls has been very well documented by marine historian Waldow Holand, son of the founder of Concordia Boat Company in Padanaram, MA.  There’s even a wonderful book about the class that’s worth reading.However, I digress.  So, back to Little Vigilant, also a product of the same builder that produced the Concordia yawls.  This video about her most recent refit, is worth seeing.  If this video seems a bit familiar, that’s because I used it in a post where I referred to Little Vigilant back in mid February.  I guess I’ll just say if it’s worth posting once, it’s worth posting again as this is one pretty boat. I found these plans for Low Tide, penned by Geerd N. JHendal (1903-1998), a yacht designer from Camden, Maine.   The author of the post about Low Tide notes the similarity to Little Vigilant.  The drawings were published in The Rudder Magazine in April, 1948 and the author who wrote about Low Tide suggests that this design was an early proposal to Drayton Cochran for Little Vigilant (launched in 1950 to a Walter McInnis design).

The link says this about the design:  “Geerd was a well known yacht designer at the time but I have a feeling that his heart was not quite in this one. McInnis used a commercial herring carrier hull that is far prettier with lot’s of shape in the ends. This one is 69′ x 16′9″ with 7′6″ draft. Construction was to be wood, that single big fuel tank seems unlikely, and all the topside ports raise questions about framing.”Take a look at the below deck plans and note the interesting “get home engine” helpful on a single engine cruiser.   It’s described as…”Power is a single 6-71 with an auxiliary 2-71 turning the main shaft via a big belt.”

As I mentioned, I was lucky enough to have captain Earl give me a tour of her when we were in Bequia.    She looked just wonderful sitting on her mooring on a beautiful “winter” day, sweet sheer and all.  Just love the proper boarding platform/stairway.On the day I visited to introduce myself to Earl and his wife Bonnie, several of the owner’s family were visiting, all sitting around this table on deck, a very civilized spot to wile away the hours.   The classic, Wind in the Willows would be a prefect read while sipping an iced tea at this table, I would think.  Bonnie sewed the awning so they’d be out of the sun and wind.  As there are brief showers and plenty of sun most days in the Caribbean, a cover like this would come in very handy.   Note the vinyl section forward.  It’s designed to be raised or lowered to keep out the rain or adjust the amount of breeze to adjusts to the perfect “zepher” when at anchor.  How civilized.  This is a pretty neat anchor lift that I believe Earl designed.  It doesn’t take the strain at anchor, just holds it up and secure when stowed.   The fire hose threaded on the chain near the anchor is a nice touch to keep the topsides from being marred.  This is a serious windlass, original to the boat but rebuilt. The view aft looks like a great spot to spend time with a rod and line or just a nice spot to watch the world recede into the distance.  Inside the aft deck cabin, open to the stern, is a cozy spot to lounge while underway too.   I didn’t take a picture of the deck cabin space as it was all torn up for the day as Earl was working in the area.   You’ll just have to trust me that it is a nice place to watch the world go by.  When she called the canals of northern Europe her home this salon would have been very cozy with a coal fire burning in her stove.    Forgive the port list.  Must be the photographer…These days she is also fully climate controlled with AC.   Note the rivets in the cabin top.  As is the case on any proper yacht, she has a framed set of plans displayed in the bridge.A very nice galley adjacent to the salon. She has a serious engine room and with very good sound insulation, something that Pandora needs but doesn’t have.
I don’t expect that this steering chain will break any time soon.  It’s as rugged as the rest of her gear. Little Vigilant is a charming yacht and with additional refits planned.  I expect that she will be even more lovely when our paths cross again, which I hope is soon.

Little Vigilant is a charming little yacht with an interesting history and an owner who’s decided that it pays to be more than a little vigilant in keeping her in Bristol fashion for many years to come.



Oh no, not another tot!

Now that I have been home for nearly two weeks, Antigua seems like such a long way away.  Actually, it is when you travel home aboard Pandora, try 9+ days at sea and 1,600 miles.

Anyway, after only visiting Antigua for two seasons, I feel like the island has become a part of me.  One major contributor to this has been my involvement in the “Tot Club” short for The Royal Naval Tot Club of Antigua and Barbuda, a group that I became a member of just before heading out to return home to CT a few weeks ago.

I first became aware of the group when Brenda and I were tied up in Nelson’s Dockyard, English Harbor last April. There was this mysterious group lined up in a circle.  What were they?  Druids?  I was intrigued. The group has met each day since july 31st, 1991 to carry on the tradition, ended on July 31st, 1970, of the British Navy of issuing a “tot” of rum each day and making one of seven proscribed daily toasts along with a toast to the Queen.

One thing lead to another and when I arrived in Antigua the following November, and was looking for interesting things to do with fellow participants in the Salty Dawg Rally, 55 boats worth, I thought it would be fun to have them participate in one of the evening toasts.

Mike and Ann, two of the senior members of the club, agreed and invited our group to participate in one of their meetings.   While the club meets in various different locations around the English Harbor and Falmouth areas, we thought that the most fitting would be at Copper and Lumber, a wonderful historic building located in the Dockyard.

We assembled, some 40 of us, and easily outnumbered the Tot Club members in the inner courtyard at Copper and Lumber.   It was a wonderful event and when I later did a survey of rally participants, it was one of the most popular events that we did.Of course, I was really taken by the club, the tradition and the great folks that are members and just had to join.   The problem is that in order to join you have to commit to taking seven tots over a 14 day period and, on top of that, have to memorize all sorts of facts about Lord Nelson and his battles.   Yes, I am repeating myself as I have written about all this in a number of past posts but bear with me on this.   If you feel compelled to read ALL of these posts, go to the search window and type in “Tot Club”.  It’s that easy…

So, earlier in the spring, Brenda flew out of St Lucia and I returned to Antigua to prepare for my run north.  I had nearly two weeks in Antigua to work on becoming a member.  I began “totting” on a near daily basis.  You might say “Bob, how hard can that be, taking a tot of rum each day?”  Actually, I am not a big guy and don’t have a lot of “reserve buoyancy” to absorb that much rum.

At one point, when I called Brenda before I headed back to Pandora in the evenings, following yet another tot on my journey to become a member, “Bob, I can’t wait until you call me and your voice isn’t slurred.”

I’ll admit that there was more than one morning when I woke up, shall we say,  not feeling my best. The problem is that an “aspiring member” must take a “full measure”, a solid two ounces, of rum in a “single go”, each evening.   For me, that’s a lot of rum.  Fortunately, once you are a full member you can pour your own, and don’t have to take a full two ounces, so it’s more manageable.   I should note that on your first night, and the night you become a member, you have to take two tots.   Those were not my best nights, according to Brenda.  Me, I’m not sure I recall…

The Club is well known in Antigua and has members or guests with some pretty nice boats or homes who offer to host meetings of the club.  One such event was held and sponsored by an aspiring member aboard Ashanti, a 115′ schooner.  What a boat.  I wrote about that event in this post.  She’s spectacular and after leaving Antigua has begun a round the world journey via the Panama Canal. The club was also hosted, twice, aboard an 80′ Oyster by a member, another spectacular venue.  And, another event at a home overlooking Falmouth Harbor.  What a view. So, after 8 days and more tots than I can count, or remember, I took my test and passed.  And, let me tell you, I would not have passed if it weren’t for the help of Simon, a member that took nearly a half day to tutor me on the finer points of club and British Navy history along with facts about the various battles that Lord Nelson was involved in.

But, I passed, by the skin of my teeth, I expect.  Here’s me and Simon on the night of my “induction” following my exhaustive oral testing by an official club “examiner”. As well as Ann, my sponsor, and her husband and one of the founders of the club, Mike.  If it weren’t for them I would not be a member.    I am looking forward to the arrival of the Salty Dawg Rally to Antigua next November and, as “Antigua Port Captain, the opportunity to introduce rally participants to The Royal British Navy Tot Club of Antigua and Barbuda.  Just try saying that three times fast after a ” full measure”.  And, believe me, that’s way easier than memorizing all that Nelson lore.

So, now I am a proud member of the club and am happy to have the “white ensign” hanging in my office here at home.  I’ll be sure to have it aboard Pandora when I return to Antigua in November.

It was a long and hazy journey but I became an official Tot Club member and I  look forward to returning to Antigua in the fall.

Oh yeah, a tradition of the club is for members returning to the island to bring something to share that is emblematic of the returning members home country.  So, what food is uniquely American?  American cheese?  Hmmm…

I’ll have to think about that for a bit.  Perhaps after another tot it will become clear.   Uniquely American, uniquely American?

Oh no, that’s going to take a lot of tots.