Where’s Pandora going? Try nowhere… Time to buy more sweaters.

It’s been nearly seven years since I retired and every winter Brenda and I have headed south in the fall for a winter of cruising in warmer climes.   We’ve done the ICW a number of times, Bahamas for a few years, two months in Cuba, and, for the last two seasons, the eastern Caribbean.  However, that unbroken run seems to be coming to an end.    Actually, it would be more accurate to say that it’s “taking a break”.  Well, I sure hope it’s only a break.

As I have written recently, Pandora was in the shop for painting and some engine work and, as planned, she splashed the day after Labor Day so that I could begin the long process of getting her ready for the run south with nearly two months to work my way through the long list of tasks and upgrades.

After several years of hard use, Pandora was surely in need of a face-lift.  Her paint was looking pretty shabby and the heat of the tropics had caused problems with some of the foam backed headliner in her cabin which has begun drooping and worse.   As I negotiated the projects to be done by the refit group, the cost of fixing the headliner was just too high so I decided to do it myself once she was re-launched in late summer.  Some of it has come down completely.   Note the “puffy” look to the right.  The foam backing on the vinyl has totally broken down from the tropical heat.

Nasty, right?
To fix the problem when the Pandora was painted, I was quoted at something like $5,000.  Way too rich for my blood so I opted to do it myself.  It’s going to be a nasty job and will involve removing hardware, molding and… Well, I don’t even want to think about all that.

So, back to the day after labor day and Pandora’s launching.  As planned, she went back in the water.  However, as I was checking to see that all was in working order I discovered that the engine work had not been completed.  Yes, the paint work was terrific but the  mechanical work was not done by the sub-contractor and it seemed that nobody noticed.  So, out of the water she went and after three more weeks, the work was finally completed.

The good news is that the contracted work is all done.  The bad news is that my two month window shrunk to less than a month and I am now seriously wondering if I can get the boat ready in time to head south.

A month sounds like a long time but the unknowns with the interior work was bad enough and then “the other shoe dropped”.   You know that, with a boat, it’s always something”.  And that particular something may have driven the last “nail in the coffin” for going south this season.

As I fired up the instruments when I left the dock, everything was in working order but after about an hour the screen on the primary chart plotter began to get dim and an hour later it went dark and failed entirely.   That was particularly bad news for me as there is no way that I would head offshore without everything in working order.

It’s worth noting that the plotter at the helm failed last year so the unit that is there now was a replacement, purchased from a dealer as “near new”.  It had been taken off of a race boat that had not been used for several years and I was told that it had very few hours on it.

Getting a plotter fixed or even replaced isn’t a big deal, well at least not compared to getting a boat painted,  except that Raymarine has discontinued that series and is no longer supplying parts or doing repairs.   I spoke with the tech people and the local dealer and learned that Raymarine  hasn’t supported that model for the last three years.

But wait, it gets worse.  To replace that, now obsolete plotter, will require that I replace the other plotter, the radar and the dozen individual instruments and repeaters that are scattered in the cockpit and down below.   We’re talking BIG DOLLARS, and that’s before we even think about all the work in running cables throughout the boat to connect all the stuff.   NOT HAPPENING and certainly not in less than a month.

All of this gave me, what my father used to say, “a cold rush of S**T to the heart”.   Not a good feeling.

What next?  “Let me Google that for you.”  Actually, if you are one of the three people on earth that doesn’t know about Google, this video will help you learn now.So, after refreshing myself on how to “Google that”,  I spent some time searching with phrases like “e-120 backlight repair”, “e-120 interface” and whatever else I could think of to avoid a complete instrument upgrade.

Good news!  Success!  On e-Bay there’s a guy, some sort of electronics geek, perhaps related to the LMGTFY guy, that takes these units apart and replaces the high voltage backlight, the part that I am told is usually the problem, and puts in a low voltage LED backlight.   I contacted him and he told me that he is able to repair the units he receives about 90% of the time.  So, I’ll be sending him the unit as well as the one that failed 18 months ago.  Yes, I saved the broken one as, EVERYONE knows that you really never know when a broken plotter will come in handy.   You knew that, right?

So, fingers crossed that one or both of these will be repaired and I’ll be looking at a repair of under $350 to $700 for the pair instead of, well, I don’t even want to think about what “new” would look like.

I can say for sure that if only one can be repaired I am going to purchase another used unit to keep on board as a spare, just in case.  New backlight or not, it will still be old and to be 500 miles out to sea and have the plotter crap out…  Well, let’s just say that  it doesn’t inspire confidence.

So, after six seasons south, so little time left until departure and a daunting list of stuff that still needs to be done…  Oh yeah, did I mention that I just found out that I need a new jib?  Well, I do.

Well, I guess it may just be time to put Pandora on the hard for the winter, just this once.   As a point of fact, she was launched in 2007 and this will be the first winter that she has not been in service.   And while that’s pretty amazing, it’s still pretty crappy news to me. 

So, what’s a CLOD (cruiser living on dirt) to do to keep warm during the cold winter nights?  Brenda’s got some ideas.  And I know that because it’s been discussed.  How about remodeling the third bathroom, the guest bath off of her studio?  I could do that.

I just finished the guest bath upstairs.  My third bath remodeling job.  It turned out pretty well, if you ask me. There’s even a tub with a curvy side. And, besides, I have been wanting to build an outdoor “beehive oven” for years so now I can, if I stay home.  I’d better hurry as it’s going to be getting really cold soon.    I got this idea from a place that Brenda and I visited in Maine back in 2011.  I wrote about the experience in this post.

We had a great time that day with a bunch of folks that we had never met.  Drawn together by pizza.  S0unds good to me.

Here’s an idea. I’ll go to Maine next summer and resume our southern travels next fall.

As The Little Engine That Could once said, “I think I can.  I think I can…”So, there you have it.   Me trying my best to make lemon aid out of lemons.

Oh yea, one more thing.   Remember our granddaughter Tori?  She’s growing up fast. I’ll get to see her more.And, the twins.   I’ll be able to take them off of their father’s hands, if only for a moment. Yes, that would be nice.  I guess that I’d better buy a few more sweaters.

Where in the world is Pandora and where is she going?

It’s only about six weeks until I am supposed to head south on Pandora, bound for Antigua and I am getting a little bit anxious about next steps.

The good news is that Pandora’s paint job is completed and her graphics applied and they turned out perfectly.   Pandora went in the water first thing on the Tuesday after Labor Day and I arrived in Stratford just in time to see her moved into a slip.  My plan was to motor her back to Deep River to re-unite her with her mast and get going on all the “to-do” items that are on the long list of chores.  She looked wonderful in her new finery.  For those of you who read the prior paragraph VERY carefully, you would have noticed that I used the phrase, “my plan WAS” about next steps.

That’s because as I went through my “pre-flight” check list, I noticed that the bearing on the back of the transmission, the “pillow bearing”, that was to be changed or rebuilt, hadn’t been touched.   That bearing had concerned me a lot on the way home from Antigua last spring and it needed to be addressed while Pandora was on the hard.  However, somehow the engine guys at Brewers who were to do the work somehow “didn’t get the memo”.   A work order had been issued weeks before but somehow that key task was missed.

Now for the bad news…  So, back out of the water she went and back on the train  for me.  I wasn’t happy because by the time I got home I had burned nearly the whole day.  Not to put too fine a point on it, but that little issue meant that I got up at 5:30 and spent the next 9.5 hours messing around on trains and buses but mostly just sitting around “waiting” for trains and buses.  It’s so much fun and Pandora was back on the “hard” all over again.  But wait, there’s more.  I just found out that the work won’t be completed and until next Friday, a nearly three week delay that eats up a huge amount of my prep time for getting ready to head south.

So, here I sit, with so much to still do to get ready to head south and the clock is ticking.   And wouldn’t you know it, the tides will be against me this week, if she’s even ready then,  for bringing her east in Long Island Sound.  Such are the best laid plans.

A few days ago I received an update and was told that they could not find a replacement bearing and that the old one would have to be rebuilt and that some parts were going to be “fabricated” in the machine shop.  I always get anxious when I hear the word “fabricate” in the same phrase as “mechanic”.    Oh great, they get to play with their awesome machines and I get to listen to the time clock tick loudly.

Oh well, that’s why everyone talks about “boat dollars”.  You know, the ones that are 1000/1 compared to regular dollars?

And, speaking of boat dollars, we are thinking about adding a passerelle, actually, I am not sure I can even spell it correctly.  However, it’s a boarding ladder that goes on the stern for use when “Med Mooring” a boat.    Oddly, they don’t even make them in the US for small boats so if we want to get one, it will have to be fabricated in the UK and shipped to us.   I have been in touch with a company there and they assure me that with the proper application of “boat dollars”, that they can get one here in time.    The company makes all sorts of units but we are going to go with one of the aluminum ones, their most “pedestrian” style.  Here’s a link to the page that shows the unit.  It’s not terribly elegant but should make it easier to move on and off the boat when we are Med or stern moored at a marina.  I don’t have a photo of what the unit looks like when it’s deployed but this is a shot of a fancier unit on a much larger boat.  And, on a really, really large boat.  That unit telescopes into the hull from the stern.  We saw this boat, Kismet, a few years ago in Ft Lauderdale.  I  wrote about her and her well heeled owner a while back.   His passerelle is longer than all of Pandora.  So, there’s a lot left to do and not a lot of time to accomplish it.    Actually, and not to put too fine a point on it, I only have a month and that assumes that she is finally launched next Friday.  Not sure I can make it as I was not counting on the unexpected three week delay in getting Pandora back to my local marina.

However, as the title of this post suggests, Pandora’s going somewhere and that somewhere is supposed to be Antigua.   Well, I sure hope so as there is a lot to look forward to when we arrive with a week of festivities planned.   Click here to see what’s planned.   

It’s going to be great assuming that I can get everything done.

I’m stressing…

What’s in a name and all of the little things that I obsess about.

When people ask what our boat’s name is and I reply Pandora, my answer is often followed by another question.   “Do you own Pandora Jewelry?”  Another question is often “Do you work for Pandora Radio”, the Internet radio service.  Nope and nope.

However, more often than not, it’s a simple “why did you name your boat Pandora?”  So, since you asked…

Some ten years ago Brenda and I were on a summer vacation in Maine,  anchored in Gilkey Harbor, Penobscot Bay.  We met an older couple on a boat, another larger Tartan, who told us of their long summers aboard their boat each year.  After hearing their story, I said to Brenda “When I grow up, I want to be like them.”

At the time we owned Elektra, a Tartan 37, a great boat but one that did not have quite the “creature comforts” that Pandora affords and that I knew Brenda would require if I had any hope of her spending months at a time aboard.

So, Brenda and I agreed that our next boat would be one that was capable of long distance cruising and that we’d be able to do so in relative comfort.   Thank you Brenda.   When we finally acquired a boat that fit our bill for long distance cruising and it came time to consider various names, Brenda quipped…
“Wow, I am really opening Pandora’s Box by letting Bob get a bigger boat.”

So, Pandora became Pandora.

And, here we are so many years later with thousands of sea miles and countless nights aboard and I am still not sure if I should thank her or beg for forgiveness.  Actually, it’s probably both.

Thanks Brenda and I am really, really sorry about all this.  Well, not all that sorry, actually…

So, back to the newly painted Pandora all ready to hit the water in a few days.

As with most important decisions, and plenty of minor ones, such as what sort of tile to use in a bath remodel, or what color to paint Pandora, I tend to obsess over such things.  However, in my defense, after all the “what about this or that option?”, I generally feel like the outcome is worth the effort and Pandora’s new color was a decision that was worth obsessing over.

Recall all the time that I spent choosing a color for Pandora?   All those blog posts and Facebook posts about what color too choose?  Well, I think it was worth it as her new light grey suits her perfectly.

Folks had plenty to say about color choices ranging from “paint her the color of bird poop” to “exactly why are you asking total strangers what color to paint your boat?”  However, the final outcome was definitely better for all the input so thanks for the help.

In addition to the choice of color, which looks marvelous, I really wanted to get the logo perfect, both in design and in size.  And, thanks to the work by Mike from Stamford Signs in CT, it really looks terrific.  Mike was very patient and even offered to reprint the logo and make it bigger when we put the first printout on the hull a few days ago.   We both agreed that it wasn’t quite big enough.  Well, perhaps he was just humoring me but I appreciated his willingness to print out one that was about 1/3 larger, a whopping 7′ or perhaps longer.

I think it looks just awesome. On the starboard side he switched the stars to the other end of the logo so that they would trail aft in both cases.   My artist friend Chris had that idea and I think it was quite inspired. The process of actually applying the “sticker” was simpler than I would have expected.   Mike sprayed a solution of water, alcohol and a bit of soap to the surface so that he could lift the vinyl if he got a wrinkle.  No problem though, it went on perfectly, the first time. Nice work Mike.

All done and now it’s time to put Pandora back in the water and bring her back to Deep River where her rig will be reinstalled, new rod rigging and all.  There’s still plenty to do before I head south to Antigua at the end of October.

And, speaking of graphics, I am now obsessing over what sort of decoration to put on my little truck.   Of course, “TT (tender too) Pandora” is a great option.  Or, perhaps “Pandora’s Box Truck”.  Too obvious?  Yeah, probably.

For now, it gives me something else to obsess about.  That’s good.  I think it’s a cute truck.  Brenda says it’s just stupid.    Don’t you just love the new “big” tires and wheels?Anyway, all this writing isn’t getting my other projects done and the plumber comes Tuesday to do the final hookups on the “new” bathroom that I have nearly finished.

Best of all, we are heading to MD in a few days to see our three grandchildren and their parents too, of course.   Our oldest Tori is getting older by the day.   I just love this “sassy” picture of her.   Yes, having grandchildren is wonderful and it’s the one little thing that I don’t obsess over.   I’ll leave that to their parents.


Pandora’s new suit

It’s about two months until the sailing season here in the North East ends and the fall migration south begins for those who don’t haul in the fall.  While most of the folks I know are out sailing around New England waters, Pandora’s in a shed being painted.

I have written about Pandora’s new paint job for a while now and yesterday I went to take a look at her, all shiny and nearly ready to launch.   I’d say that she’s really, really shiny although it’s a bit hard to see just how great she looks tucked inside a “small” shed.  As I mentioned, it’s hard to see how perfect the job looks.  This angle perhaps better, or not.   I think that the stainless rub rail really sets the grey hull off. It’s certainly a lot different than her way-dark green hull of yore. The next step, beyond a million little things that they will do to clean up any “boogers” in the paint job, will be to have the logo applied.  I loved the one done for “old Pandora” years ago and had the designer spruce it up a bit.   That version was done by Accent Graphics in Annapolis years ago and they were happy to update it a bit for “new” Pandora.   I think that they did a nice job.  We will be going with black lettering and a metallic outline.  The stars, probably black or even white.  Not sure quite yet.   A local shop will take the file, print it out and manage the installation on port and starboard quarters. The plan is also to put the logo, sans silver outline, on each side of Pandora’s boom as well.

A few engine related items to handle including the standing rigging that needs to be ugh, replaced.  Well nearly all of it needs to be replaced.   The rigger picked up the rod last week and has taken time to inspect each piece.  With 40,000 miles under her keel, it’s in not-so-great condition.   This is a photo of a head on one of the main shrouds.  I’m lucky that it didn’t come down already.   See that small crack just under the head.  Imagine that going all the way through and having the mast crash down in a heap.  That’s the head for one of the main shrouds.  The most important piece of the rig. Beyond bills to pay and it seems that they just keep getting bigger, there’s lots to do to get ready for our departure in late October but first I’ll have to finish the remodel job in our guest bath.  Yes, dealing with the honey-do list is important.  To fall short on that front, well, that would be a CLM (career limiting move), and we wouldn’t want that, would we?

Well, they always say that owning a boat is just having a hole in the water into which you pour money.   Unfortunately, with all the work done on Pandora this year, painting and pulling the rig, it seems that I have really “opened Pandora’s box”.

Well, I guess that’s about it for now.  Not happy but hey, she does look great.

I guess that I’d better sign off for now and get moving on the guest bath.  Yes, first things first.


What’s in store when you arrive in Antigua? Read on…

If you follow this blog you know that I am the Port Captain in Antigua for the Salty Dawg Fall Rally to the Caribbean this fall.  The rally has a number of destinations and I will admit that I am biased about where you should make landfall.

In particular, I think that you should make your destination Antigua.  And, it’s all about what happens once you arrive.  In spite of what some say, it’s not all about the journey and after an ocean run of over 1,000 miles, you will be ready for some R&R and have we got some great R&R in store for you.

I have gotten a number of questions about what is planned for those who do the rally or join us in Antigua, so here goes.  Some have also asked me if they could join in with the fun even if they don’t do the rally and the answer is YES!

We’d hope that you would decide to join the Salty Dawg Sailing Association but that’s up to you, so come to the party.  N0, make that “parties” as there are plenty of events coming your way in Antigua.

Better yet, if you are one of the many Dawgs that have been down in Grenada or Trinidad for the summer, sail north to Antigua in November and join us.  It’s not that far, really, and I promise we’ll make it worth the trip.

The arrival activities are slated to begin when the bulk of the boats in the rally arrive in Antigua so for planning purposes, they are slated to kick off on November 13th and run for nearly 10 days.

Let’s call it “A Week of Celebration, Antigua style”

The goal is to tap into the best of what Antigua has to offer and to do so in a way that won’t break the bank.

So, with that in mind, we will be hosting a series of fun events to celebrate your arrival in Antigua, wherever you come from.

It’s all centered on Nelson’s dockyard, arguably the most spectacular destination in the Caribbean.   I am working with the National Parks commissioner to arrange for discounted dockage, probably somewhere in the $.50US/ft/day, a bargain in a spot as beautiful as this.Nelson’s Dockyard:  The plan is for all “Dawgs” to tie up along the dock for a week of fun.  This historic dockyard is one of the most beautiful and well-protected harbors in the Caribbean.  Nelson’s Dockyard, the only operating Georgian Dockyard in the world, was once home to the British Royal Navy.   You will be in the heart of the Salty Dawg Arrival activities when you join the fleet here.

You can also anchor in Falmouth or even in English Harbor but wherever you are, these events await…

Tuesday, November 13th it all begins…

Antigua Sailing Center Happy Hour:  Overlooking beautiful Falmouth Harbor, the sailing center is active for local sailors.  Join us for drinks and appetizers at special happy hour prices.   $5 US payable at the door and cash bar.

Thursday, November 15th

Rhum, Reggae and Art:  Join us for an evening of fun to celebrate the season opening of Rhythm of Blue Art Gallery, located between Falmouth and English Harbor.  There will be a local Reggae band on hand to set the mood along with complimentary light snacks, rum drinks as well as beer and wine for sale at very reasonable “happy hour” prices.  Who knows, you might win a prize.

Friday, November 16th

The Royal Navy Tot Club of Antigua and Barbuda:   An evening with this group was one of our most popular events last fall.   The “Tot Club” grows out of the  discontinued tradition of issuing a “tot” of rum to all officers and seamen in the Royal Navy.  Learn about local British navy history and raise a glass with fellow Dawgs and Tot Club members all for $3 US, such a deal, payable at the door.  Includes a “tot” of fine rum in a fabulous historic location.  Drinks at happy hour prices are also available.

Saturday, November 17th

Fleet Welcome Happy Hour at Admiral’s Inn:  This venue, in the heart of Nelson’s dockyard, is arguably the most scenic venue in the area.   Our fleet will be treated to drinks at happy hour drink prices as well as supplied light hors d’oeurves.  $10 cover charge, per person, payable at the door.

It’s a spectacular venue. Our arriving skippers and crew last fall. 

Sunday, November 18

Antigua Yacht Club Member/Guest Welcome Reception:   Enjoy appetizers and even a welcome rum drink, compliments of the Yacht Club.  This event is a must as we meet local members of this wonderful club overlooking beautiful Falmouth Harbor.  Government dignitaries will be invited as well as members of the Marine Trades Association so you can meet businesses that can solve any problems you might have with your boat.   Cash bar.

Monday, November 19th

North Sails Open House at the Loft:  Complimentary beer, wine and snacks at the North Sails Loft, English Harbor along with fun door prizes.  You can’t beat free!

Tuesday, November 20th

Safe Arrival Welcome Dinner, Admiral’s Inn:  Held poolside at Boom restaurant, at the Admiral’s Inn with a breathtaking view of English Harbor, this enormously popular event celebrating our arrival, will feature a barbecue dinner overlooking beautiful historic Nelson’s Dockyard in English Harbor. (reasonable fee)

Thursday, November 22nd

Thanksgiving Dinner at the Antigua Yacht Club:  To be held at the Antigua Yacht Club and managed by Angie in “the Clubhouse.”  This event with a popular local band will carry a modest fee and will also be open to all Antigua Yacht Club members.And, if you and your crew need some shore-time, the Admiral’s Inn is offering rooms for arriving crew and skippers at very attractive “dawg rates” starting at around $150 per night.  Contact The Admiral’s Inn for more information.  Mention that you are with SDSA for these rates.And, of course, on the “off nights” there will be informal pot luck dinners and cocktails behind our boats in Nelson’s Dockyard.

Finally, can’t decide where you want to cruise this winter?  Antigua is ideally situated for cruising farther south as well as making your way, on a civilized broad reach of course, toward the Virgins, Puerto Rico and the Bahamas later in the season.

Oh yeah, one more thing.  If you hang out in Antigua for New Year’s Eve, you’ll see spectacular fireworks in the Dockyard.  It’s not to be missed. But best of all, all season long, you’ll see sunsets like this.  So, there you have it and there’s lots in store when you join us in Antigua.

Still not convinced?  Need more information?  Contact me, Antigua Port Captain, Bob Osborn, bob@saltydawgsailing.org





Painting Pandora to dazzle.

I have written lately about the of choosing a color for Pandora’s new paint job and it has turned out to be quite the process.

Most owners and certainly builders, trying to keep it simple,  just say “paint it white” and it seems that even that can be complicated.   White isn’t always white.  Awlgrip has about 25 colors that can loosely be described as “white” and that doesn’t even get into the colors that stray into the greys and tans.

White is so pervasive among boats that the line of Island Packet cruising boats and their distinctive tan (Or is it biscuit?) off-white always stand out in a harbor.

So, here I am complicating things further painting Pandora grey.  My biggest concern has been that if I go too light there would not be enough contrast with the cabin and deck and she’s look like a marshmallow and if too dark she’d look like a micro-battle ship.   One comment on my blog suggested “Bob, just pick a color that’s the same as bird poop”.  Thanks Mary-Marie, that helps a lot.

The yard, Cooley Marine in Stratford CT, that’s handling the refit was recommended by one of the managers at the yard where I normally haul Pandora each year for work.    The owner, Andrew Cooley has been very helpful in assisting me with color selection and somehow took a photo of Pandora and overlaid various color options which I chronicled in nauseating detail, in case you missed it, in this post.  He has two facilities, one in Stratford CT at the Brewer’s yard and another in Stamford at the Hinkley yard.  I understand that Hinkley has a terrific paint shed but the yard fees were a bit too rich for my blood (There’s a reason that Hinkley describes their boats as having “million dollar paint jobs”) so we settled on the Stratford yard.  Cooley has done some big as well as little jobs and handles complex refits as well as straight up paint work.

Pandora’s job was a bit complicated because of a wooden rub rail that protects the hull.  Unfortunately, it was never properly prepared when the boat was built and therefore it has had a habit of peeling badly over the years.  Cooley has taken some special preparation steps that we hope will minimize the problem going forward but only time will tell.   This is me and Andrew checking out the “bad news” regarding the toe-rail before she was prepped for paint.  Notice that his smile is bigger than mine?  Just why is that, exactly?We settled on Alexseal paint, as I have mentioned in past posts as it’s easier to repair and with all the distance I cover with Pandora, things do go “bump in the night” so repairs are inevitable.

“So, Bob, Bob, what color are you going to paint Pandora.  You’ve been torturing us for weeks on this already.  JUST DECIDE!”

Ok, you win.  We chose “Light Grey”.   A color, and to paraphrase the fairy tale
The Princess and the Pea, that we hope isn’t too light or two dark.

This is what the mockup of Pandora is like with that color.  However, I expect that it will look a bit darker, or will it be lighter, when it’s all done?  Who knows.I visited her in the shop the other day after she was primed, a sort of, light grey.  Yep, looks a little like a micro-battle ship.  So, what will Light Grey really look like , really?  I have only the vaguest idea when you come right down to it.

Or, to put it another way, she may look a lot like this 18″ square piece of aluminium that the yard painted Light Grey.  That, of course, would be if she was 18″ long and happened to have the woods, red flowers and hummingbird feeders as a backdrop.   Confused?  Me too.  But wait.  When all is said and done, I expect that this whole “choose a color” exercise will be a bit like choosing perfume.  After the first 3 or 4, they all start to smell the same anyway so just pick one and be done with it.

One way or the other, it’s all about the execution and I am sure that she will look just smashing when she comes out of the shop.  No wait, smashing?, not the best choice of words.   No, I am sure that she will look beautiful in her new colors.

Before I break, here’s another idea.  How about drawing inspiration from the Navy in WWI when the British artist Norman Wilkinson, came up with the idea of painting ships with a mix of geometric patterns to make it more difficult for German U boats to get a good bearing and distance.   Besides, it’s a timely question as a nod to the 100th anniversary of the end of WWI this November, an artist, as reported in the NY Times, has painted the now retired NYC fireboat, the John J. Harvey in a modified “dazzle” paint job.   Actually, it’s a very interesting article.  Check it out here. Oh, never mind.  I’ll just stick with grey.  Whatever the color, I am sure that she will come out of the shed in a few weeks, ready to dazzle.


Why you should do the Salty Dawg Rally to Antigua this fall.

It’s only a few months until the Salty Dawg Sailing Association fall rally to the Caribbean arrives in Antigua and, as port captain for Antigua, I have been busy putting together a terrific mix of arrival events.   The Antigua Yacht Club, local business, national park service and government have been very supportive and has made my job a lot easier as I work to put things in place to make it worthwhile for you to make the run south with us.

The plan, upon arrival, is for the fleet to tie up in Nelson’s Dockyard for at least the week of festivities and we anticipate a very special rate as low as $.50 US/ft per day.  We plan to kick off our events on November 13th or when the bulk of the fleet has arrived safely.   The Dockyard is the only working Georgian dockyard in the world, once the center of the British Navy in the Caribbean.  What a beautiful place to make landfall after a long ocean voyage with the Dawgs. It’s a feast for the eyes wherever you turn, including ruins of a British Navy sail loft and the current home of the aptly named Pillars restaurant, part of the beautiful and so historic, Admiral’s Inn. We will again have our welcome cocktail party at Pillars.  Rally participants at last season’s reception. Our arrival dinner will be held at Boom, poolside, overlooking the dockyard.  And, it’s quite a spot. Imagine yourself with an icy rum punch with all of your Dawg friends in this setting.  Oh yeah…  Want some shore time after a long voyage south or perhaps a spot for your crew and family to hang out for a few days.  There are very special “Dawg Rates” at the Admiral’s Inn, starting at about $150/night US.   Join the rally, contact them and identify yourself as a Rally participant to get these rates.

And, don’t forget that all of this is right in the dockyard, where you’ll be snugly tied up.  This is a shot of the Oyster round the world rally when they stopped in Antigua. The harbor is a feast for the eyes with spectacular yachts from all over the world. The Antigua Yacht Club will be our host and they are there to help you.  Each boat will receive a skippers bag upon arrival with valuable discounts from many local business as well as information on what to do during your time in Antigua.

Just stop and see Nesie, who will help you with anything she can to make your visit to Antigua a great time. The clubhouse is located in Falmouth Harbor, a five minute walk from English Harbor.   Club members plan on throwing a welcome party for us, a special member guest event.   They will even provide in some free food and drink to make us feel welcome. Last year we were greeted by the Minister of tourism as well as the club commodore.  The event was very well attended by the Dawgs who had a great time. There will even be a special AYC member/guest Thanksgiving feast if you choose to be on-island for the holiday.   Angie, who runs the clubhouse restaurant, plans a wonderful event with all the turkey and fixings at a very reasonable price.  There will even be a band for dancing.   This might have been the most popular event last fall.  I even got a peck on the cheek when I presented Angie with a rally flag.  That flag, is now flying proudly in the clubhouse. Here’s one of the staff, they love the Dawgs, sporting one of our “Ts”.  But wait, there’s more, a total of ten special Dawg events, planned just for you.    I highlighted these events in another post so click here to learn all the details.  And let me tell you, there are lots of details.  There will be a free open house, complete with wine, beer and snacks at the North Sails loft in English Harbor.  Other events include a local art gallery who’s throwing a “season opener” party to welcome us to the island.  There will even be a reggae band on hand as well as free rum drinks and dancing.

The Royal British Navy Tot Club of Antigua and Barbuda, (and yes, this proves that there is a club for just about anything you can imagine), will host a very special event in our honor at the beautiful Copper and Lumber in the Dockyard.

The Tot Club was founded in the 90s by a small group devoted to preserving the naval history of Antigua,  including Mike, a colorful keeper of British Navy history on the island.   Want to know what happened in British naval history on February 21st, 1885?  Mike surely knows the answer.  Join the group, and it’s not as easy as it seems, but if you do, you too can get one of the official “Tot club” shirts.  I became a member this spring and wrote about the experience, that included a lot of rum tots in some remarkable places including a 150′ schooner, in this post.

An evening with the Tot club was one of our most popular arrival events.  Each day at 18:00, year round, the Tot Club meets to celebrate British Navy history, toast the end of the working day and the Queen, of course.   It’s a wonderful way to honor the history and tradition of the British Navy in a wonderful setting.  You really won’t want to miss this. Some say that the “real Caribbean” begins in Antigua and Falmouth Harbor Antigua is a great spot to begin your winter season and journey south toward Grenada.

There’s lots more in store for you if you make the jump to Antigua with the Salty Dawg Rally in November.  Departures are planned from Hampton VA and Essex CT.  It’s a wonderful group and you will surely make great friends along the way.

One more thing.  This post is only the tip of the iceberg as there are ten, count em, ten days of arrival events planned that you won’t want to miss.

Want to learn more?  Visit the “official Dawg” site and apply today.   And, if that’s not enough, the rally is very inexpensive.   In addition, there are days if pre-departure activities including blue water seminars, dinners and weather routing by Chris Parker of Marine Weather Center, for the entire trip south.

If you take the trip to Antigua, this view could be yours, rum punch in hand as the sun sets below the western horizon.  Antigua is wonderfully situated so that wherever you decide to go later in the season, south to Grenada or Trinidad or north to the Virgins to begin your run north in the spring, it’s always an easy reach.

Join us, you’ll be glad you did.  Click here to sign up now.

Don’t miss out.

What color would you paint Pandora?

This post is up for one reason and that is to get feedback on which color to paint Pandora, our Aerodyne 47 sloop.  She’s been a very dark green Awlgrip since being launched in 2007 and has already been painted again, just a few years ago.

Someone once said to me that “there are only two colors to paint a yacht, white and stupid”.  I will protest this position as a yacht painted a dark color makes a dramatic statement but for sure, dark hull colors don’t hold up for nearly as long as white.    As good as a dark hull looks, it does cost a lot more to keep it looking good so lighter does seem to make sense.

So, while I may like the dark color hull the best, we have found, after 6 tropical winters, that a big downside of a dark colored hull is that it gets really hot, especially in the afternoon when the sun is low and beating on the starboard side of the hull.  And, it’s nearly always shining on that side as the prevailing winds are just about always blowing from an easterly direction.   Additionally, as we don’t have crew (just me) to wash her down each day, salt builds up along with minerals that are really hard to remove and give the hull a messy look, especially near the waterline.

Additionally, the paint and the top clear coat have peeled in some areas from the intense sun and that doesn’t even begin to describe the wave of heat that billows out when we open some of the lockers.

So, here we are, deciding on the color for yet another paint job, her third since being launched in 2007.  The shed pre-arrival.  Pretty big space.  Not so big now.  She fills it right up.  So, here she is being prepped and now is a good time to think of what’s next.  That’s where you come in.  Ok, so the plan is to nix the dark color and go to something lighter, perhaps a LOT lighter.  Easier to keep looking clean and a lot cooler.   Here’s Pandora in her current color scheme. The shop doing the refit offered to modify the photo of Pandora to show different Alexseal color options as well as boot tops and cove stripes for comparison.   As a note, we are going with that brand of paint as opposed to Alwgrip, as it’s a bit softer paint and somewhat more resilient to dings as well as easier to repair.  I understand that many of the really big yachts, that are always being touched up, have gone to Alexseal.

Here’s the darkest option we are considering, “Kingston Grey”.   This rendering includes a dark green boot top and cove stripe for contrast.  Having said that, it doesn’t have to be green.  However, her upholstery down below, for what it’s worth, is dark green so the color is a nod to that. And, the same color without the boot top and cove stripe.  From my vantage point, she looks a bit bulbous without the contrasting stripes.
Now, for some lighter colors. “Light Grey”, a good deal lighter than the prior option.“Whisper Grey”, even lighter, but still with the striping. A bit lighter still.  “Pearl Grey.”So, the question is really dark or light grey?  The issue of the color of the boot top will also need to be addressed.  Her bottom is black now and will likely have to be black, blue or perhaps red as those are the most common colors for ablative paints.   The renderings that they did show a white contrasting bottom paint below the boot top, which isn’t correct.

I understand that they will be done sanding and will apply a light grey primer on Tuesday so I’ll be able to see what she looks like “grey” then.

So, what do you think?

Oh yeah, one more thing.   It’s been a while since I have posted a shot of our Grandaughter Tori.  We thought that she was still pretty little but she doesn’t look so quite so little since the arrival of the twins, fresh from the hospital last week.  Meet her sister Emme and brother Rhett.  



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.