Diesel in the bilge? Isn’t it always something?

There are a few things that particularly stress me out when I am underway and one is when fuel and that is exactly what happened on my way home from the NYYC cruise last week.

I had been noticing some time now, that occasionally noticed a small amount of diesel was somehow accumulating in the bilge.

In the “olden days”, it was said that “all roads lead to Rome” and in a boat, well, just about everything ultimately ends up in the bilge and that’s exactly what happened aboard Pandora last week.

The last two days of my participation in the New York Yacht Club cruise and run home meant motor-sailing into snotty conditions and Pandora did a good deal of pounding.   That was particularly the case when I headed into the wind on my way home on Sunday with waves that were pretty choppy with west wind opposing a flooding current.

That day I noticed, as I had the prior day, that there was an increasing amount of diesel in the bilge combined with a really strong fuel odor.

I sopped up the residue in the bottom of the bilge with some absorbent pads and spent time tearing up hatch lockers and areas where I could access the bilge, trying to locate the source of the leak.  After several hours I still could not find the source except that it was probably coming from somewhere aft.

By the time I got Pandora to a mooring at the Essex Yacht Club, where she would be staying for a week or two, there was what appeared to be a few cups of diesel in the bilge.   I again mopped up the fuel with some “diapers”, buttoned up the boat and went home.

The next morning I returned and was alarmed that there was quite a bit of fuel, more than a few inches that had accumulated.  What a mess.

The only thing that I could think of was that one of the three 50 gallon fuel tanks, most likely the one under the cabin sole, had somehow sprung a leak.  I decided that the only option was to take all the remaining fuel out of the tank, almost 30 gallons, and put it into temporary Jerry cans.

I also pumped out all the fuel from the bilge and was alarmed that there turned out to be more than I expected, nearly seven gallons, all having leaked into the bilge overnight.  I am so glad that it didn’t pump overboard via the bilge pump which it didn’t do because I had packed a number of absorbent pads in the bilge, which held down the float switch on the pump.

Pulling up the floor boards was simpler than I had expected, exposing the entire tank.  It looked huge to me.  I could not find any obvious source that would lead to the loss of all that fuel.  I wondered if it was a loose hose or perhaps that there was an abrasion in a fuel line that was hidden somewhere out of sight.  A loose hose clamp?  What about the inspection port with all those screws?  None of the above. So, out came the tank.  Removing it took several hours but it wasn’t all that difficult and all the hoses came off fairly easily, lubricated by fuel, I guess.

Here’s what I found under the tank.  Yuck!  Clearly there had been a leak for some time. There was a nasty corroded spot on the bottom of the tank, located directly over the mess of fuel and crud on the hull.  It seems that someone had left a stainless screw under the tank when the boat was built and after 12 years electrolysis did it’s work and “ate” a hole in the aluminum tank.   Stainless screws, being a “noble metal” always wins over aluminum which is less noble and easily corroded.  Something as simple as a dropped screw in 2007, when Pandora was built, was all that it took. That combined with the fact that the tank was resting directly on the hull itself caused the problem.   The proper installation of the tank would be to have it resting on neoprene strips or something else to isolate it from direct contact with the fiberglass hull.  This way it would have been isolated from any abrasion, salt or errant fastenings that might be left under the tank.

I called around and only found one company that would consider welding a repair to the hole in the tank and that would have required me doing exhaustive cleaning to remove every trace of fuel and vapors from the tank.   Welding and fuel vapors are a dangerous combination, as you might imagine.

Finally, I settled on a body shop that does a lot of work with special adhesives, in this case, an epoxy made by 3M that is used to glue aluminum auto components together, something that is becoming more common in car assembly.   This material/glue is made specifically for aluminum and is also fuel resistant.   I neglected to take a shot of the finished repair but it involved grinding the surface, removing all oxidation, fitting an aluminum patch and liberally attaching it with epoxy.   Let’s hope it holds.

After the new patch was secured, the fixer guy, and he was a really big Russian fixer guy had at it.  I’ll call him Ivan as he looks exactly like you might imagine an Ivan to look, fixed the leak and after the epoxy to set, pressure tested the tank to be sure that there weren’t any pinhole leaks that might get bigger over time.  Unfortunately, in the process of pressurizing the tank,  he put in so much pressure that the tank bulged in a way that made me wonder if it would even fit back in the bilge.  At least we can be sure that it doesn’t leak.

“No problem” replied Ivan, who clearly subscribed to the “if it doesn’t work, get a bigger hammer” approach to life.  He proceeded to get a 2×6 plank, lay it on the tank and pound on it alarmingly and repetitively with a huge cinder block.  The sound was deafening and the violence startling.  It was pretty clear that Ivan wasn’t someone you’d want to mess with and I’ll admit that I found myself wondering, seeing how easily he seemed to feel slamming the block on the tank,  if that block has ever come into play if someone tried to leave his shop without paying.

Massive crashing sounds aside, the tank was only bulging a little bit after Ivan was finished.  However, I decided that I needed to find a “kinder and gentler” way to reshape things and did so with some big clamps and boards at home.  After a while, the tank looked pretty flat so I was happy.

In order to be sure that there aren’t future corrosion problems with the tank laying directly on the hull, I ordered some neoprene strips from McMaster Carr, the industrial supply company, and installed four strips on the bottom of the tank as well as anywhere that the tank was going to touch something. After putting all the hoses back in place, I reinstalled the floor braces, fiberglass “I” beams across the tank.  These are pressed down on additional neoprene gaskets to ensure that the tank was not going to move around in rough conditions.

I reattached all the hoses and, well, all done. After putting the cabin sole back in place, I siphoned all the fuel back into the tank, less the 7 gallons, mixed with nasty bilge water, that I took from the bilge and voila, good as new.   Actually, I am hoping better than new.

I’ll admit that I am now wondering if a similar fate awaits the two other tanks, located under the port and starboard settees but I really hate the idea of pulling them out right now.  We will see if I live to regret that decision.  I expect that I will be thinking of possible leaks when I am 500 miles offshore on my way to Antigua in a few months.

So there you have it, disaster avoided.  Thank goodness that I wasn’t in the middle of nowhere and loosing a full tank of fuel.  That would not have been a good thing.

Next, the watermaker.  With parts coming in the next few days, I can tackle this and hopefully get it running again.

Diesel in the bilge, watermaker on the fritz.  Yes, when it comes to boats, it is indeed, always something.

The NYYC cruise, 163rd edition. Been there done that…

Well, it’s over, the 163rd cruise of the New York Yacht Club, my first, and I’m back home.  No, I haven’t joined the club as my involvement in the cruise was as a “hanger on” or tender to one of the race boats, Alix.  Here’s Alix before one of the races below.  Not much of an action shot, you say?  Perhaps not as I had to skedaddle to the next anchorage each day to be sure that I was able to get a good spot so they could tie up with me at the end of racing. Along with a good supply of,moral and anchoring support, I also supplied water for the crew to shower aboard Pandora, well, at least until my water-maker stopped functioning about midway through the week.  Of course, that was in addition to an occasional rum punch and Klondike ice cream bar for the crew however I expect that the showers trumped everything else.  Nothing like a shower for the crew after a day of racing on the water but having ice cream aboard Pandora seemed to be a close second.

The whole experience was a lot of fun but sometimes felt a bit like a “forced march” as the fleet made it’s way from harbor to harbor on a tight schedule and ALWAYS into the wind.  Isn’t that always the way, the wind on the nose?  To me, cruising on a tight schedule always feels like “you can’t get there from here”.

In only one week we covered a lot of ground, moving every day but one, beginning and ending at their clubhouse, Harbor Court in Newport, the NYYC “summer home” overlooking Newport Harbor.  It’s a spectacular venue.  Day one took us to Cuttyhunk Harbor, a place that holds a very special history for me as I have have visited it with every one of our boats, beginning way back in the early 80s on our 20′ catboat Tao.  It was also a spot I visited with my boys and dad a few years before he died. It was the last time he was aboard and a very special time for us all.  Here’s Dad,  Rob and Chris photographed with me at the highest point on the island.  This photo always makes me feel a bit teary.The crew of Pandora and Alix shared some of the famous Cuttyhunk oysters on in the harbor washed down by some “Pandora imported” Caribbean rum fueled rum punch. Our next stop was New Bedford, a somewhat gritty, but in a nice way, fishing port.  This is the view from the observation deck of the New Bedford Whaling Museum, where we had a terrific cocktail party. The food and drink flowed liberally.
As I entered the harbor earlier in the day, I was passed by Columbia, the reproduction of a Grand Banks fishing schooner built in Panama City FL.  I was aboard her for a tour in Antigua two winters ago.  She’s a wonderful yacht.  I wrote about her in this post. She’s even more impressive up close after her most recent refit. I particularly love this angle.  What beautiful lines. The next day, and yes, we were only there for one day, was to head to Edgartown on Martha’s Vineyard.  Happily, we spent two days there, our only “lay day”.

This was where we had a reception, overlooking the harbor.  It seems that this “double lot” is owned by a NYYC member.  When Walter Cronkite was alive, he was his next door neighbor.   Nice digs. Really, really nice digs.   How about that double nice boat house?Pandora was on a mooring directly out in front of the place, tied up with Brilliant, another boat on the cruise.  Her owners also happen to be members of the Essex Yacht Club.   There family has deep ties to Edgartown, deep enough to snag a mooring in the most perfect spot imaginable it seems. We took a Edgartown Yacht Club launch to the reception.  There’s Pandora rafted with Brilliant on a mooring directly beyond the boathouse and to the right. Perfect location, right?It was a lovely summer evening and a perfect spot to survey the harbor.  Jacket and “Nantucket red” slacks required.   I now have both shorts and slacks in that particular color. The next day was a “lay day” so we could enjoy Edgartown, one of my favorite spots to visit before the “march” got underway again.  Interestingly, Pandora’s “sistership”, hull #2 of three, has a slip there for part of the summer.  She is owned by two attorneys from PA, one keeps a home in Edgartown and the other near three mile harbor, in the Hamptons.   She’s the same design as Pandora but different in many ways, including a much smaller hard dodger and none of the cruising gear that is so important on Pandora.  She is perfectly maintained.  I wish my decks were as perfect as hers.

I understand that she will be in 3 mile harbor later this season and I hope to raft up to her for an evening.  I expect that will be the very first time that two of the three boats will ever have been together.  I wonder if I can arrange for #1 to be there too?  That would be amazing.   Hmm…Craig and I took a walking tour of some of the historic homes in Edgartown, arranged through the Carnegie library, the headquarters of the Martha’s Vineyard Preservation Trust that oversees a number of historic sites on the island.  They do wonderful work.  The background of the Carnegie is quite interesting as the building was one of thousands of libraries funded by the philanthropists in the early 20th century.

We visited a number of spots on our 90 min walking tour.  I have always admired this particular one, once owned by a prominent physician and now part of the trust.   I can not think of any porch that I’d rather spend time on than this one.  I took a long walk around town on my own.  There are so many lovely homes and beautiful gardens to admire.How about this ivy covered garage.   The gardens at many of the homes make it clear that they are not managed by their owners, who probably get plenty of “exercise” writing checks. Our next stop was Tarpaulin Cove on the west side of Naushon.   This cove, more of an “indent” on the eastern side of the island, was once a popular spot for schooners to anchor and wait for the tides around West Chop, Martha’s Vineyard, a place where the tide runs hard.    It is very secluded and while it’s private, as part of the Forbes Family Trust that controls the island, you can enjoy the long sandy beaches that rim the cove for nearly a mile.

There is only one home visible from the cove, and it is a lovely one at that.
And, of course, a charming lighthouse. Many of the boats on the cruise stopped in the cove for the night.Some of the yachts on the cruise were remarkable including this lovely yawl, Bolero.  She was built at the Nevins Yard in City Island, launched in 1949 for the Brown family.  The same Brown University family and once owners of the NYYC clubhouse, Harbor Court, in Newport.  This is indeed a famous yacht.  I met her current owner Ed, at a cocktail party the night we were in Tarpaulin Cove aboard Enticer, this beautiful 1935 Trumpy.    We spoke about Bolero and he offered me a tour which I enjoyed when we returned to Newport.  I’ll write about that visit in a subsequent post.  Man, what a boat. Anyway, back to Enticer.  Notice that there is a boat rafted up to her.  That’s Onawa, one of six identical boats built at the Abeking & Rasmussen yard in Germany.  The design was the original model for the America’s Cup 12 meter rule for members of the NYYC.    Onawa was launched in 1928 for Cameron Forbes of Boston, once an owner of the island where we were anchored.  The island is still in the Forbes family.

Both of these boats, Enticer and Onawa, are part of a “timeshare” program that you can “buy” for $200,000 and use them for a prescribed amount of time each year.  Interested?  Check out this link and she could be yours, sort of.

I was aboard Enticer a few years ago at the Wooden Boat Show and wrote about her in this post.

So, cocktails aboard Enticer… What an experience and quite different than when I saw her at the Wooden Boat Show.   On this visit my tender was “valet parked” by one of her crew.  They held my painter when I pulled up to her boarding platform and then she was whisked away only to be returned when I was ready to depart.   “Welcome aboard Enticer, would you care for a drink?”  Indeed, what an experience. Some of the crew of Alix, including my friend Craig  David, the owner and skipper of Alix, David, to the left. Onawa, rafted alongside, was open for tours.  I met her captain Barb and we talked about the history of the yacht.   She was headed to Nantucket for a charter the next week and there was some discussion about my helping out as crew.  I would have loved that but my schedule was too tight.  Alas, the busy life of a retired guy.  So much for the lazy days of summer.   Had I been available, would I have been invited?  I guess I’ll never know.   I really hope to visit Onawa again and take some proper photos for a post.   Until then, follow this link for some background about this amazing boat.The next morning the sun rose, framing one of the beautiful carbon cats that were on the cruise.  This one had passed me a few days earlier doing nearly 20kts.
A short while later Bolero sailed majestically out of the harbor, headed back to Newport.  Now, that’s another boat I hope to sail on someday.  Her captain, Casey, told me that she will be in the Caribbean this winter.   I will too.   Hmm…
Unlike Bolero, my run back to Newport wasn’t all that great, motorsailing into the wind.  The wrap-up dinner for the cruise was held, as was the opening night, at Harbor Court.  A cocktail party followed by a lobster dinner with all the trimmings.  Dinner was brought out family style by a line of waiters holding platters dramatically high over their heads, marching along in a line.  It was quite a spectacle and plenty tasty. Of course, each place had a printed menu in the unlikely event that you did not know what you were eating or perhaps forgot why you were there.  The Key Lime Tartlet, complete with some sort of crunchy green thing on top, “how dey do dat?”  lived up to it’s name.  Unfortunately, I was limited to only one piece.  Never the less, yum!!!So, there you have it a blow by blow, or as my father used to say “perhaps more than you want to know about penguins”, of the 163rd edition of the New York Yacht Club cruise and I was there.  There of course, largely due to the generous support of my “sponsor” David, surely helped along by the fact that he and his crew needed a shower.   Happy to oblige David.  Thanks for having me along.

Oh, just so you don’t think that the week was all fun and games, as I made my way back to Newport one of my fuel tanks started to leak and ended up spilling nearly 10 gallons of diesel into the bilge.  After hours of searching I was able to trace the leak to my aft 50 gallon fuel tank ripped up much of the cabin sole and removed it a few days ago.    It seems that someone left a stainless screw loose under the aluminum tank when Pandora was built in 2007.  Well, over the years the stainless screw,  a more “nobel” metal than the aluminum tank it was touching, ate a small hole in the bottom of the tank as a result of electrolysis.

Well, the tank is now out for repair  and I’ll put it back in tomorrow followed by  all the fuel I siphoned out of the tank into jugs.  Hopefully, the tank will be ok and not leak.  I will say that I did notice a small amount of fuel in the bilge from time to time and never thought much of it but I guess that the bouncy ride back to Newport and home must have jostled the tank enough to shift the screw and open up the hole just enough to substantially increase the leak.   What a mess.  The good news is that I wasn’t 500 miles from shore when it happened.

More to come on that project.  Oh yeah, and the repair of the watermaker.  It’s always something.  As they say, BOAT.  Break Out Another Thousand.

So, to close on a more serene note, well more serene than 10 gallons of diesel in the bilge, here’s the evening scene that greeted me as I headed up the CT River and Essex, where Pandora will be for about a week until she heads to Stamford for some paint work.  Once moored, Brenda joined me for cocktails as we enjoyed the growing twilight over the marshes.

A good week, except, of course, 10 gallons of diesel…

Nope, all good.

Tender too…but not that tender.

I headed back to Newport on Saturday to participate in the week long New York Yacht Club cruise with some friends.   My friend Craig has been crewing for David aboard Alix on the cruise for a number of years and this year, knowing that Brenda was away this week at a workshop, suggested to David that I might come along and help out, perhaps as tender.

David’s boat is 40′ and pretty tight quarters for 5 guys racing every day and bunking together each night.  I doubt that they have a whole lot of water as David works hard to keep weight down so make that 5 sweaty, unwashed guys.

A benefit of having me along is that I can go ahead and secure a mooring or good anchoring spot so that he can just tie up to me as I’ll already be secured.   The first test of my value was yesterday when I arrived in Cuttyhunk early enough to get a mooring and all that David had to do was to catch my lines and tie up.  The mooring field in the inner harbor there is impossibly tight and picking up the mooring alone was a bit challenging.  Having a large audience ready to applaud any mistakes made it that much more fun.  Picking up the mooring proved to be as exciting as I had feared as the boats are moored very closer together and Pandora is on the larger size of boats in that area.  There isn’t much more than 15′ to port and perhaps 20 to starboard with only a boat length behind me.  Picking it up alone was  a real case of threading the needle.

When Alix and crew arrived a few hours later they were plenty happy to take showers, using some of my RO water.  Speaking of that, I had a major leak yesterday on the fresh water “product” side with perhaps 5 gallons or more spraying all over the workshop area, soaking the rug, tools and spare parts as well as filling some of the lockers with water.  I noticed it when  I realized that the tank wasn’t filling as expected.  I checked and was stunned by the mess.  Fortunately, the water was fresh and  I was able to put a lot of wet stuff on deck where the intense sun dried things up in a few hours.   That certainly made for a more sweaty run than I had expected.  No harm done and the tanks are full.

Anyway, it’s going to be interesting to be a part of a cruise with over 100 boats that has been held for over 160 years.

Saturday evening’s kickoff event was cocktails on the lawn at Harbor Court, the Newport clubhouse of the NYYC.   It’s quite a building, once the private home of the Brown family, founders of Brown University.   Not a bad spot to have a G&T on the lawn.  Sorry, no photos of the event.  I expect that the group would have frowned on  paparazzi.  I was surprised to find that I knew quite a few folks that were attending.  As an aside, I approached one woman that I knew pretty well from Essex Yacht Club and when she saw me, probably out of shock, said “what are you doing here?”, seeming to suggest that I had somehow just showed up and crashed the party, knowing that I was not a NYYC member.  Unfazed, I chirped “Pandora will be acting as tender to a club member’s boat”.  Not sure she was convinced.

I arranged for a mooring near the clubhouse from the Ida Lewis Yacht Club.  I’ve never stopped there and had heard very nice things about the club.  It’s very charming.  The club is named for a famous lighthouse keeper that manned a lighthouse on the same pile of rocks in Newport Harbor.  She was revered for her bravery in rescuing sailors that came to ill in the harbor.    She received many awards from the USCG including their highest honor.

In the upstairs of the clubhouse is a light in an alcove, I expect honoring her.  The clubhouse is approached via a long walkway from shore that seems endless.It is a charming clubhouse and perfectly maintained. Brenda would love this image and would probably agree that it would make a great subject for a tapestry. What a view of Newport from their deck. And what better place to watch all the action from.  This Trumpy is Enticer, sistership to the once presidential yacht Sequoia.  And, of course, a perfect view of Pandora, not far away from the Ida Lewis clubhouse. How about this beautiful S boat.  She’s perfect. On my way into the harbor I passed this classic 12 meter America’s Cup boat out on a day charter. And this super modern cat. As I left the Newport Harbor yesterday this monster arrived.  It’s only two years old and is over 250′ long.  She was built in Germany for Joe Lewis, not the boxer and cost $250,000,000.  And, she takes 25 crew to run her and take car of up to 16 guests.  This yacht is in addition to his private jet, chopper and a few homes, including a huge spread in Argentina.  I guess that’s what you can buy if you’ve amassed a fortune of nearly $6,000,000,000.

When I wrote my last post, Brenda and I had just returned from our cruise with our friends and left Pandora at a mooring in Wickford.  We rented a car and I did a whirlwind run home to cut the lawn, water the plants and provision for this week’s cruise.  It was a real rush as we didn’t arrive home until dinner time and I had to return the car before 4 the next day.

I spent Friday night back aboard in Wickford, perhaps one of my favorite spots anywhere.  Very friendly and homey. I expect that the Lab on this paddle board feels the same, probably thinking, “this is my BEST DAY EVER!”  Well, either that or “I wonder when I’ll get another cookie?  that would make today my BEST DAY EVER”This home at the entrance of  Wickford harbor is particularly charming.  Before I close, a bit of housekeeping.  Pandora sports a stainless steel anchor and a galvanized steel anchor chain.  The problem is that when stainless and galvanized chain are linked there is a tendency to have the first few chain links loose their galvanizing due to electrolysis because stainless is a much more “noble” metal.   Each year I have to cut off a few links to remove the ones that have become rusted.   It’s not hard to see that this isn’t a good thing.   What to do?I borrowed a bolt cutter from the yard and clipped them off.  It was alarmingly easy.  What a scary pair of scissors. So, an experiment.  I secured two small sacrificial zincs, designed to corrode easily and save the more important metals from damage.   It’s not a perfect solution but I hope it will help.  I’ll report back on that.
So, here I am getting ready to hang out with the “big boys”, and I wonder how many of them will look at me and say “what are you doing here?”.   Not to worry, I know, I am acting as tender and know my place.  Wish me luck.   Good thing my ego isn’t all that tender.

Not in Maine but not so bad.

We left Newport yesterday and are now in Wickford.  Yesterday morning we were greeted with our first fog of the season, perhaps more than anything, a reminder that we are NOT IN MAINE, as planned.  Yes, the headliner, the cause of our delay, is mostly done but not perfect yet.  Stay tuned for more on that ongoing saga.

So, back to the fog.   This was the view that greeted me yesterday morning just after sunrise.  The shore was a lot closer than this photo suggests.  The fog was short lived and burned off as the sun rose. We’ve been on the move for about a week now, with a short visit to Maine (by car) where I gave a talk at the Camden Yacht Club about cruising the southern Caribbean.  Our visit was brief, only two days, and we stayed with our cruising friends Tom and Jane of Bravo, who we first met in Bequia, the winter before last.  They were very gracious hosts and we loved staying in their charming home, snug in Camden village.

On our first morning, Tom and I braved the light rain, making the short walk to the waterfront to take in the sights.  With the Camden Classics being held that week, there were many beautiful boats in the harbor, with more on the way as the week progressed, promising some 80 beautiful “temples to sail” in attendance by the weekend.

This boat, Belle Adventure from London, built in 1929 and designed by the legendary Fife, is a lot older than she looks.  Note the canvas covering her bright work that will stay in place until the owner shows up.  It’s a lot more economical, relatively speaking, to build canvas covers than to renew the varnish.  Out of the UV of the sun, the varnish will keep fresh longer. She has lovely lines and is probably in better shape than when she was launched so many years ago.   I’m pretty sure I have seen her before, perhaps in Antigua. It was painful to know that I would miss all the action of the regatta as we had to head back home the next day.

This much varnish clearly makes the point “I can afford it!”.  You will never see a yacht with this much perfect varnish that isn’t maintained by an owner, ast least one that actually sails their boat.   Interestingly, this boat was built only a few years ago and is modern in every way.  This sort of boat, looking like a classic and yet sporting a modern under body and rig, is called “spirit of tradition”.  Camden harbor is perhaps my favorite harbor anywhere.  It’s terribly quaint.  Being here reminds me of so many fun cruises to Maine in years past.
There is a babbling brook at the head of the harbor, and it was babbling away as expected.  I can recall time years ago when we were in this harbor when we had a huge summer downpour and the babbling become a roar. All of the traffic that heads for points east has to wind itself through the impossibly quaint center of town.  The buildings evoke an earlier, simpler time.  Well, it probably wasn’t simpler but that’s what we all say.
This is the Camden Yacht Club.  They host a “summer speaker series” with guest speakers, sometimes twice a week, on all sorts of topics.  I was thrilled to be invited to speak here as we’ve been coming to this friendly club for many years.  Our host Tom, was my sponsor and invited me to speak.   I really enjoyed the evening.
This view from the club, of the aptly named “Camden Hills” is beautiful in the afternoon light. Over the winter I had also organized an event with another group that I am a member of, the Corinthians, their summer cruise wrap-up dinner at the ApprenticeShop in Rockland.  However, as I didn’t make it to Maine with Pandora, we weren’t able to stay and participate in the dinner.  Just to be sure that all was in proper order for the event, we visited the shop and met with my contact Liz and the caterer Jenn.  I was sad that I wouldn’t be a part of the event that weekend but wanted to be sure that all was set.   Reports were that it came off well.  No surprise there as Liz and Jenn seemed to be quite buttoned down.

Liz gave us a tour of the shop, where some lovely boats were being built.  The lines on this lapstrake rowing boat are sweet. We were told that this boat, once completed, will be shipped to Europe.  There are a number like this being built at different shops, some in the US and some in Europe, to the same design, and they will all race together when they are completed, I think in Scotland. The ApprenticeShop is a place where students can enroll to learn a trade in wooden boat building and they have been successful over the years, with many graduates moving on to full time work in the business.  I understand that it is possible for “mature” folks, like me, to take a two month intensive course as well and that sounds like a great idea for down the road.  It’s not an inexpensive endeavor but you do get to take home a small completed rowing or sailing boat, which would be fun.   Something to think about.

After our whirlwind Maine adventure, we headed back to CT and Pandora to get ready for the arrival of our friends Karyn and George who were joining us for a few days of of sailing.  Originally, the plan was to rendezvous in Rockland but after bagging that destination, we agreed to have them come to Essex and spend a few days exploring before winding up our adventure yesterday in Wickford.

Our first stop from Essex was a short distance to Fisher’s Island, west harbor.   Fisher’s is an exclusive and mostly private island but you can go ashore and do some exploring.  The Fisher’s Island Yacht Club is always welcoming and we tied up at their dock.  Interestingly, I had been introduced to the commodore of the club at the Essex Yacht Club the night before.  He and commodores of a number of other clubs were visiting with our own Commodore Klin for dinner.

As you’d expect, being late July and all, it was plenty hot in the afternoon and the girls went in for a dip.  They reported that it was bracing at first, and then quite pleasant.  I guess it was as they stayed in for a long time. The prevailing winds in the NE are generally from the SW in the summer but, as luck would have it, not, the wind was blowing directly from the SE and Block Island, our destination.   After a frustrating few hours tacking toward Block and waiting for the expected southerly shift, I gave up and turned on the motor.    We picked up the Essex Yacht Club mooring which was open.

Along the way, as we went through The Race, the narrow cut that marks the eastern end of Long Island Sound, we were passed by a ferry.  Knowing if approaching ships were on a collision course has always been a source of anxiety for us but as Pandora now sports an AIS transponder, we were able to see the name of the ferry, contact the captain who said he’d pass us to our stern.  AIS is one example of how technology can indeed make life better, and in this case, way less anxiety producing.  Snug in Great Salt Pond, we were treated to a perfect sunset.  The Essex Yacht Club maintains a few guest moorings in popular harbors and it is a real treat to go into the harbor and pick up a mooring for “free”.   I say that as the rental moorings in Block are always full and there is a mad scramble to get one when a boat leaves, with those waiting in the wings zooming up with their dinks to claim their prize.

This old Navy tug has been someone’s home for many years.   Legend has it that the owner, when he purchased the tug years ago, sold the thousands of gallons of fuel in the tanks, yielding almost as much as he paid for the boat.  True story?  Who knows, but it’s fun to tell. We were joined by our friends George and Bonnie and the six of us rented a van for the day and toured the island.  One of our stops was the North Light, a beautiful spot at the end of the most northern spot on the island.  In the distance, on a clear day,  you can see Point Judith. On the south east side, the now famous, and to some infamous, wind mills, the first of their kind in US waters.  I, for one, hope that they put out many more in the coming years.

These are huge, some 600′ tall from the seabed to the tip of their rotors.  Check out the sailboat on the right for scale.  We were told that the 5 generators in the “farm” put out enough power to serve some 17,000 homes.  Along the way we visited, as you’d expect given the fact that Brenda and Karyn are knitters, a fiber store near a farm with all sorts of exotic animals including camels, emus and, well, other animals, a few in bronze.  Brenda and Karyn have been friends for many years.  This coming week Brenda will travel to Cape Cod to spend a week with Karyn who’s hosting a workshop. Beginning with a visit to rural Fisher’s and then on to the summer hot-spot of Block what better next stop could there be than Newport, home to so many beautiful yachts.  We enjoyed a stroll downtown followed by dinner ashore and then a harbor tour on our way out of the harbor yesterday.  I am always blown away by the scale of some of these yachts.  Even more amazing is how much of their time they spend tied up at in a marina.  It’s a small world and I have seen this one before. A somewhat more diminutive but still big yacht.  We passed Harbor Court, the Newport home of the NY Yacht Club, once the summer home of the Brown family that founded Brown University.  The family made their money running opium to China in the clipper ship days.  I expect that the family doesn’t like to be reminded about that sordid little detail in polite company these days.  Somehow that little bit of history doesn’t seem to attract the same justly deserved animosity as the current problems facing the Sackler family, the makers of Oxycontin that has fueled the tragic opioid epidemic.  Forgive the starboard list as I was snapping shots while dodging moorings in a crowded harbor.   As a side note, Pandora will serve as “tender” to another boat on next week’s NYYC  Cruise next week and I’ll be attending the opening event of the week at Harbor Court next weekend.  Stay tuned for more on all that.

As we made our way through the harbor I was struck by this family swimming off of their classic motoryacht.  What fun and said “summer” to me. So here I sit, the sun is just peaking up over the horizon in scenic Wickford.  Not a bad view to begin the day.  Yes, I know, that starboard list again.  It was 05:00 and I hadn’t had my first cup of coffee yet. It’s nice to be aboard again and on the move.  Yes, it’s not Maine but it’s not so bad.

It’s going to be hot today.

Maine or bust. Busted, totally!

On Friday, we left the marina in Chester to head out and begin our long delayed trip to Maine aboard Pandora.  I say “long delayed” because THE CANVAS GUY ran the headliner project all the way to the hairy end, finishing up, mostly, at 20:00 hours on Thursday night.

While he made the “final” deadline, I swear that every time he set another deadline and promised he’d be done, he just blew past it only to set another “don’t worry, I’ll make that” one, soon to be broken.  Yes, I understand that he had committed to too many jobs but it was pure torture to work toward a deadline, only to learn at the 11th hour that the work had not progressed at all.  This happened time after time and was just exhausting.

Another issue is that Pandora is a complicated boat and after sitting on the hard for such a long time (my last log entry was a trip to Sag Harbor June 6th 1018, over a year ago) all sorts of Gremlins crept into the picture, having nothing to do with the delayed canvas work.  These problems were discovered as I methodically tested each system in preparation for heading to Maine.

So the time had finally come and we headed out of the marina on Friday morning all ready to go.  As we cleared the marina I decided to check, one more time, I thought, all of the electronics including the radar and surprise, no radar.

Now, before you say something like my friend Chris, who feels that since generations of mariners sailed around the world without radar, that I should not rely on all that “newfangled” stuff and just keep it simple, hear me out.   Yes, simple is good and, I’ll agree that having three electric pumps on each of our heads seems a bit overly complex, but having the ability to “see” in the fog in a place, Maine, that is nearly always foggy and strewn with big hard rocks, is a must.

Besides, the coast of Maine is littered with the remains of hundreds, no make that thousands of shipwrecks and I have no interest in supplying the next one.  So, no trip to Maine until the radar is fixed and we stopped as we passed the Essex Yacht Club and pulled up at the dock with the hope that the “electronics guy” could fit us in on short notice to solve the problem.

The electronics guy was kind enough to come to my aid on Friday afternoon and after about an hour declared that he thought that it was most likely a cable problem.  Why the cable decided to fail, just like that, is a mystery but that seems to be what happened.   However, it wouldn’t be possible to fix it till the following week.

A few days delay is generally not a problem but in this case I had delayed using Pandora as long as I possibly could to keep her available for the canvas guy to do his work.   So, with all the delays, last Friday was just about the last day that I could leave for Maine.  Sure, if it hadn’t been a Friday, perhaps the repairs would have happened the next day but with the weekend looming, a departure on Tuesday was just not possible so no Maine this year.

Not to be deterred, I talked to my crew about an alternative.  How about going cruising for a few days?  So, off we went, arriving at West Harbor, Fisher’s Island at dusk where we picked up a mooring.

The next day, off to Newport, mostly because that was the best option given the wind forecast.  As we approached the harbor we saw more than a dozen 12m sailboats, past defenders and challengers for the America’s Cup, all participating in the 12 Meter Worlds, the largest assemblage of class boats ever.  They were everywhere.   What a sight.

Everywhere you looked, these beauties were being towed out to the racecourse.  It was amazing to see all these iconic names and all out on the course at the same time. These are remarkable, powerful machines. And the spectator boats, none the less impressive.   I loved the lines of what is probably an old Huckins.   What an elegant, classic yacht. Of course, where there are big money yacht owners, there is a photo chopper, flying over the fleet documenting the excitement.  Later at the awards dinner they would be selling their work to excited owners and crew even more enthusiastic after a few drinks.As we approached the harbor we passed Brenton Point, the day’s site for a kite flying contest, it seems.  What a sight. As we passed, I was struck by some of the particularly large kites like this octopus and whale.  I wonder how hard it is to hold on to such a huge kite.Of course, what better spot to watch all the fun than from the lawn on one of the historic inns?  “Jeeves, I’ll have another gimlet, and make it snappy.  Muffy will have a third mimosa while you’re at it good man.”  There’s clearly no shortage of money in Newport where a “dink” has over 1,000 HP.  How about one with four outboards?The evening festivities for the regatta were to be held at the International Yacht Restoration School, known for rebuilding small boats all the while teaching a new generation of builders and restorers the art of wooden boat repair.   The most popular design for the school is the restoration of Beetle Cats, and there are plenty of tired hulls to choose from.  Buy an old boat, they will fix it up and sell it to you.  Easy!
So there you have it, a failed run to Maine but all is not lost.  I’ve already spoken to Brenda about moving plans around so that we can do a bit of cruising and enjoy what’s left of the summer before I head south in the fall.

As I write this me and my crew, none to the worse for wear, are enjoying time in Block Island.   This was our view from Pandora last evening while we watched the sun set.  Oh yeah, and about that headliner.  The canvas guy might think he’s done but oops, not quite as there more than a few details that seem to have escaped his guy’s attention when he finally stepped onto the dock from Pandora on Thursday evening.   I’ll be calling and I’ll be sailing.

In that order?  Hard to say but I WILL BE SAILING.

Busted or not, life isn’t all that bad.  No indeed.

 

Why do we work so *&%$#%$ hard to go sailing?

I can’t believe that it’s nearly mid July and I am still &^%$#@$ around getting Pandora ready to sail.  We are supposed to leave for Maine in two days and the headliner is still not completed.

Well, I say not ready as each time the canvas guy blows past yet another deadline, I have to pick and choose what I am doing myself to move other projects, beyond the headliner, ahead on my end.    I find myself below, looking around at the seemingly tiny bit of daily progress asking myself, “what can I do today?” and the answer is usually, not much.  However, somehow I still spend hours a day working on the Pandora.

Having said that, there is a bright side to all of this as I have been able to tackle some projects that I would have set aside for another year, like renewing cruddy old aluminum trim on the opening dodger window with some really nice plastic extrusion.   I ordered some really nice new plastic trim and installed it today. The window, while it looks square, is actually a trapezoid,  but only a few degrees off of 45 on each corner.  Getting the mitered corners perfect was very difficult, but I got it after a lot of trial and error. The new trim is a big improvement on the old corroded aluminum. The trim was never properly bedded so the stainless screws ate away at the metal. Now, it looks a lot better, better than ever. I also ordered new fender covers to protect my expensive new paint job.  They are a lovely grey with Pandora’s logo on each of them, six in all.  They are 10″ in diameter and pretty big fenders. Anyway, it’s mid July and I am still messing around and trying to get Pandora ready to head to Maine.  Every day it seems to be getting a bit hotter.  Did I mention that it’s going to be 90 today?  It’s hard to believe that when I started really working on Pandora on a nearly daily basis way back in March and recall wondering how I was going to be able to work comfortably aboard with such cold temperatures.  I purchased a portable propane heater and used it just about every day for weeks on end.  No need for that heater now.

So, here I am, nearly four months later, and I am still working to get her ready to head out.  Yes, she’s in the water but still not quite “ready”.  Despite looking lovely and seemingly ready for anything?  Don’t be fooled, there’s still more to do till we had off on Friday.  Without the headliner in place I can’t really put much aboard like cushions, bedding and clothing.  All the stuff that makes living on a boat fun and with two days till “liftoff”, this isn’t feeling even a little bit like “fun”.

It seems that this headliner job has turned out to be like a gas, filling the space available, with every step S-L-O-W-I-N-G down to fill the time left before the next deadline.

“We can’t work on the headliner because it’s too cold for the glue to cure.”  Didn’t happen and now it’s in the 90s.  I was taking Pandora to my event, weeks ago.  Deadline missed…  Had to leave the marina because the rates were going up terribly, nearly two weeks ago.  Deadline missed…and I am in a different marina. Heading to Maine?  I don’t want to think about that right now…

Of course, for anyone who follows my musings, there is simply only one reason that I am delayed and that’s the “canvas guy” blowing by deadline after deadline and it’s still not done. It feels like he is slowing down the process a bit more each day so that the job will get closer and closer to completion and yet NEVER BE DONE.  It’s odd.  You’d think that he’d want me out of his hair. Wouldn’t you?  How long can he stand hearing from me every day, day after day, week after week?

There’s also an emerging issue of some electronic gremlins that crept into the picture over the near year that she was out of commission.   Oddly, the near-new AIS stopped working.  The XM radio wasn’t working and a number of other details that needed ironing out.

Things break and there is nothing quite as deadly to a boat than not being used and in her year out of the water, that’s what happened.

Well, I am really ready to use her now and can’t wait to head out.  The good news is that the “electronics guy” said he’d be here on Monday, two days ago and he showed up as planned, surveyed the issues, came back the second day and I expect that things will be resolved in time.  Wasn’t that easy?  Fingers crossed…

Delays or not, I have been moving forward as fast as I am able with the plan of not putting stuff down below that will get in the way of the “headliner installation from Hell” project.    I did put back the newly varnished salon dining table a few days ago.  It looks great if you don’t look all that close.  Yes, it’s very shiny but there were a few drips along the way.Opened up it’s pretty impressive, “boogers” and all.   Actually, if I squint just a tiny bit, it looks pretty much perfect. I heartily recommend Epifanes varnish.   It’s wonderful stuff. I can’t believe that it took so many years for me to “discover” it. Part of the reason that I have tried to be understanding of the delays on the headliner is because I learned from the canvas guy that he had a few customers scheduled to leave on their vacations as of last Wednesday and he had to get their jobs done.

I understand that as these people probably have jobs and to delay a once in a year two week trip, well, that’s not acceptable if you’ve told the boss and are ready to head out and scheduled someone to come in and water the plants.  Yes, I get it.  They have less flexibility than I do but it’s still stressful to know that I have to get Pandora to Maine and me back in time to head to MD for the first birthday of the Twins.  Miss that event and Brenda will likely tell me “go ahead, toss those dock lines and NEVER COME BACK, EVER!”

The biggest problem is that while I am not scheduled to leave until Friday, two days from now, I have held off on moving all of the stuff back aboard.  But, I am simply running out of time so today is the day and I have to move things aboard this evening, headliner or not.

I mention all of this because right now, as with so many other times, I am wondering what it is about being aboard that makes me so willing to put in hundreds of hours into keeping Pandora in good shape, not even including all the money it costs to do just that.

I was reminded of the answer to this question last weekend when Brenda and I  visited the Wooden Boat Show at Mystic Seaport where there were some spectacular boats on display.    There was a Dyer regatta going on, run by my friend Liz, that was a fitting reminder of the draw of the water.It looked like such fun, to be on the water in a small boat.  Yachting is often described as a rich man’s sport, but it doesn’t take a big bank account to mess about in small boats.  Sure, sometimes sailing can be complicated and there were plenty of boats for the well healed.  This little beauty  may be small but she’s clearly designed for an owner with means.Every detail is exquisite, down to the partially balanced bronze rudder. Something as simple as a paddle can be a work of art.  This one is made out of my favorite wood, cherry.  The grain is fabulous.  Cherry is a pretty heavy wood for a paddle, but what a sight. The often say that “God is in the details”.  If that’s the case, this wheel is divine.This dink is as much a work of art as a means of transportation and to row her would be transporting indeed.A boat doesn’t need to be big to be fun.   At 24″ long, this remote control racer is  a replica of the famous Gold Cup racer, Miss America.  What about these passengers?  It must have been a rough ride. And speaking of a rough ride,  how about an ulralight racer with a huge motorcycle engine and handle bars to match?  Not Brenda’s first choice for a relaxing cruise on the river.  “Where’s my cup holder?”Boats have always been a part of our history.  The Mayflower, just finishing up from a multi-year restoration, will be launched in September.  Some have said that there is nothing that typifies art and design like a boat.  Look at the detail in her stern. So much detail in her construction. Unfortunately, we will be out of town when she splashes in September.

Forget the Pilgrims.  Evidence suggests that the Vikings arrived in the New World long before the better known European explorers.  Open boat crossing the Atlantic?   Not for me.  As I am told I once said, when I was “little”, “don’t get my wet!”   Those viking guys must have been tough.  I still don’t particularly like getting splashed with salty spray.  The Beetle Boat Company, with their wonderful little catboats, reminds me of all our years as catboat owners and our time on the board (steering committee), of the Catboat Association.   That seems like several lifetimes ago.   Beetle boats has been building this exact design out of wood, since 1921.These sweet little boats have a loyal following with owners passing their cherished Beetles down from generation to generation.   Beetle has a program, “mooring to mooring”, where owners call to tell that they are done for the season, Beetle comes to pick up the boat and returns it in the spring to the same mooring.   In that case, not a lot of effort to head out sailing but clearly makes the point that “Whatever it takes. Whatever it costs” is the answer to getting out on the water.

Perhaps nothing quite makes the point of how welcoming time aboard can be than a pineapple, the universal sign of “welcome”, in this case, Welcome Aboard. but don’t forget to take your shoes off.
Brenda sent me a link to a letter-to-the-editor that she read recently in the NY Times, a letter about the virtues of rowing a small boat, spending time aboard.    There are a few passages that stood out.

Being aboard can be clarifying…

“Nothing facilitates problem solving like being in a small boat, face to face with another person, the world and its upsets separated from you by water.”

Getting out on the water can often take determination…

“Learning to row a dinghy requires surrendering to the illogical: You need to first accept the seemingly counterproductive fact that to move the dinghy forward, you have to face backward, toward the stern, and so you can never see where you are going. But absurdity promotes ingenuity.”

Small boats can take you someplace better…

“In short, my past — even a past I was trying to forget, like the island that looked nice from a distance but when I disembarked sucked me up to my knees in mud — could help steer me to a better future.”

It can make you a better person, or at least better balanced…

“As an adult, I came to understand that dinghy rowing is not like dart throwing; the point is never only to hit the bull’s-eye. Instead, rowing provides an opportunity to regularly identify and assess my imbalances, many of them a result of years of unthinking behavior. “

Like so much in life, rowing may be tough to master.  I submit that if something is not easy, it’s often not worth doing and to master something can make you a better person…

“If you find rowing difficult to master, you are not accepting your inner imbalances, which are never going away, and so you must learn to always correct for them, as celestial navigators know to always correct when plotting their courses, because the North Pole and the North Star are not and never will be the same thing.”

And, Being on a small boat can solve problems..

“If you want a less solitary challenge, take a friend with marital troubles on a row around an island. Nothing facilitates problem solving like being in a small boat, face to face with another person, the world and its big and little upsets separated from you by water.”

But, and perhaps best of all, sometimes all you need is to be alone and to take the time to set things right…

“…try spending time with yourself. Let the troubled friend be you. Mornings are best, before the wind picks up, because the water is glassy and promotes reflection. You can ask yourself hard questions about everything as you watch your past recede, and use its gradual disappearance to steer by. What awaits you, you cannot see. With the help of a rock or a tree, however, you can take aim. You can reassure yourself: This is not your last chance to get it right.”

So here I am, two days before heading to Maine and while I am overwhelmed by all that has to happen before we can leave, I cling to the idea that it’s all worth doing in spite of all the “issues” that we encounter along the way.

Let’s hope I am right about all this…

It doesn’t need to be this hard.  Please tell me that’s true.

But, Pandora’s going to be AWESOME when she’s ready to go.  Friday?

 

 

Paying it forward and the layup from Hell…

Over the years, more times than I can count, cruisers have gone out of their way to help as Brenda and I ventured further afield, cruising new areas.  When we went “international” with visits to the Bahamas, Cuba and most recently, the eastern Caribbean, this help became more important than ever with fellow cruisers always willing to lend a hand or offer advice.

Our first real contact with the cruising community was at Gams, events, put on by the Seven Seas Cruising Association, SSCA,  in 2012 on our first trip down the  ICW.  Among the first of these events was at the SSCA Melbourne Gam in FL where we met many cruisers, some of whom remain fast friends to this day.Along the way we have been given great advice on how to prepare for for travels to far away places, lent cars, helped with laundry, shopping and were guests at their homes and yacht clubs.   Others spent months traveling with us, “buddy boating” along the way, as we learned the ways of living aboard for extended periods.

Among the most memorable for us are Harry and Melinda of Sea Schell and Bill and Maureen of Kalunamoo.  Both couples stayed close as we made our first trip down the ICW, crossed the Gulf Stream and explored the Bahamas in 2012 and 2013.  Here’s Brenda on a beach, shortly after our arrival in the Bahamas, near Nassau with Harry and Bill.Before crossing to the Bahamas, where we cruised with both couples for much of that first season, while we were waiting in Ft Lauderdale for a weather window to cross to the Bahamas, they treated Brenda to a much needed celebration on her birthday.  She was feeling more than a bit homesick and it really cheered her up.  With all the help and nurturing that we have received over the years from the cruising community, I have felt compelled to do what I can to “pay it forward”.  The idea of “doing to others as they have done to you” is nothing new, but in many ways, it is perhaps one of the things that what makes the community of people who live on small boats so special as so many that we have met over the years clearly feel the same way.   In the SSCA, this is called “leaving a clean wake”.  

When Brenda and I headed south back in 2012 for our first “big kid” trip down the ICW and on to the Bahamas, we were very touched by all of the help we received as we came in contact with some of the most generous people we had ever met.

Based on this experience I decided, more than seven years ago, that I would host, with the hope of my fellow SSCA member George, what became an annual Gam in Essex CT for cruisers at the Essex Yacht Club.  I also decided to sign up as an SSCA Cruising Station Host and more recently, port officer for the Ocean Cruising Club, again to help members of those two groups when they visited Essex.

A few years ago I also joined the board of the Salty Dawg Sailing Association and worked out all the details for an annual arrival of the rally fleet in Antigua.  I now serve as Port Captain for the fleet’s arrival every November when perhaps more than 60 cruising boats will make landfall at the island.

I have also spent considerable time giving talks and writing for various publications, all with the hope that I can inspire those who might be thinking of “casting off the dock lines” to do just that and head out.  In my way I continue to try and help others as others have inspired us over the years, to try and pay it forward.

Fast forward the seven years since our first Gam in Essex and last weekend George and I hosted our Open Blue Water Boat weekend, the biggest yet.  This year’s event was a bit different as we decided to include, in addition to SSCA, members of the Ocean Cruising Club and Salty Dawg Sailing Association.    We also narrowed our focus to blue water sailing with a bit of “where to go” thrown in to round out the mix.

We had nearly 100,  a capacity crowd.  It was great.  Sailors came from all over by land and sea, with about 20 boats and crew arriving by boat.  I thought it would be fun to display a selection of “well traveled boats” so that attendees could see, first hand, the types of boats that make long ocean treks.  I selected six representative, well traveled, boats to be on the docks, open for tours and it turned out to be a great idea.  Unfortunately Pandora, also a great cruising and blue water boat, wasn’t on display as the canvas guy, after months of promises, had still not installed the headliner, to my extreme distress.

However, we had some great boats on display including Misto, arriving in Essex less than a month after completing a 2 1/2 year circumnavigation beginning and ending in St Lucia.  She’s a great example of a modern catamaran, so popular with the cruising set these days. I was particularly intrigued with this lovely Joshua 40, painted in the red signature color of the original Joshua that Bernard Moitessier made famous for being perhaps the fastest boat in the Golden Globe around the world alone, non-stop race back in 1968.  I say “probably” the fastest as he decided, when he neared the end of the race, to drop out and just go around again.   Many boats of the “Joshua” design were launched along the way and this one, Petronella, is  particularly well kept and likely more fully fitted out with all sorts of modern equipment than Bernard’s Joshua.This catamaran, Angel Louise, owned by the current president of SSCA, has a lot of blue water miles under her keel and some unique accomplishments having completed the “great loop” on the waterways of both the US and Western Europe.  The US great loop is an interesting inland trip and there is a group, the America’s Great Loop Cruiser’s Association, dedicated to this effort, once again proving that if you are not a member of at least one association, you are not trying hard enough.  They call themselves, fittingly, Loopers.  While very little of this voyage qualifies as blue water, it is impressive, never the less. I had never heard of the western Europe loop.  It’s too, is quite a trek, with a good deal of blue water sailing thrown in. With modern cruising boats growing in scale every year, I was thrilled to have this little gem, Entr’acte, on the dock for tours.  Her owners have cruised far and wide, with thousands of blue water miles to show for their nearly 20 years aboard.  She’s beautifully fitted out for long distance cruising and there’s even an aft cabin for some privacy, something that is in short supply on a 25′ boat. Co-owner Ed, looks like he’s enjoying all the attention and there was a great deal of interest in his charming and beautifully outfitted yacht indeed. As has been the case for several years now, weather router Chris Parker made the trip up from FL, presenting on both Saturday and Sunday.  He was, as always, a great speaker, making the complex topic of weather understandable with careful explanations.  I particularly liked his presentation, “how to think like a weather router” and was glad to have him with us again. And when I say “with us” that’s also because he stayed at our home and did his Monday morning broadcast from my home office.  After hearing him on the radio so many times over the years,  I was tickled to have him stay with us again.  And, I “ain’t lyin”, as there’s proof, a photo of me and Brenda on our wedding day up on the shelf to prove that he was there.We were also thrilled to have the USCG with us including a helicopter rescue pilot Lt, Kate Dacimo, who shared some fascinating stories of rescues that she has participated in.  We were also treated to a visit by a 29′ rescue boat and crew that offered tours.    They seemed much less anxious about us boarding them than we are about them greeting us with “permission to come aboard”.   And, we learned that they NEVER take off their boots.

As an interesting side note, this little 29′ cutter cost a cool $4,000,000.  I wonder how much their toilet seat cost?It was great to hear about their experiences, first hand. I wonder how often the have to break out the gun that goes on that stand in the bow. We had plenty of sessions over the two days, and I won’t try to recap them all but there was lots of give and take with “experts” from the audience sharing their years of knowledge.  We were even treated to a live Winslow life-raft deployment demo.  One of the boats at our event came complete with their growing family who willingly volunteered to be “rescued”.  It was so much fun to watch the three of them pull the cord and “pop” the raft on the lawn.   Love the shades.
While all three sponsoring associations were well represented, OCC wins the prize with the largest burgee.  I had to stand on our deck for Brenda to properly photograph it.   Yesterday I put it in the mail to it’s next stop, the OCC New England Cruise.  As of the end of the season, the “great flag” will have been on display at nearly a dozen events with Essex just number two on the list.
All and all, the weekend was a terrific success and I now find myself wondering what to do about next year as George and I are pretty pooped and don’t think that we really want to do the whole thing over again, all by ourselves.  Wana run an event?  We’ll tell you how it’s done.

In past years, I only gave myself one week or so after the event before I started to look for speakers for the next year.   Not this time.  I’m going to focus on getting Pandora completed and ready to cruise.

Unfortunately, due to the endless delays from the canvas guy who is supposed to be renewing the headliner, I was not able to put Pandora on display at the event and it pained me to have so many at the meeting ask where she was.   With all the delays, it was only last week that she finally splashed, sans headliner and far from complete.

My friend Gerry, when hearing about my travails, made this observation,  “…it appears the “Layup from Hell” may be ending soon, I feel your pain.”

So, there you have it, one more installment of me working hard to “pay it forward” and now that Pandora is back in the water I can focus on paying the bills.

Yesterday the canvas guy finally showed up to begin the install.   Wish me luck, I’ll need it.

Maine beckons and none too soon.

 

 

When spring commissioning becomes a refit…

Well, It’s getting close to launch time for Pandora and what a long road and winding road to the water it has been.  Perhaps she’ll go in tomorrow or Wednesday.   Fingers crossed.   I sure hope so, as I want to bring her to my event at the Essex Yacht Club this weekend, the Open Blue Water Boat Weekend.    It’s going to be a great event with a capacity crowd of 100, our biggest event yet in seven years.

Here’s her cover coming off last week. There have been so many projects and new “stuff” since she was last in the water.  The mast and new standing rigging (last fall) is all set up and ready to step when she splashes.  As the owner of the mast to the right from a J30 said to me, “that’s a mast and a half, you’ve got there.”   I agree.Her cushions and area rugs are clean and ready.  I was grossed out to see the nasty dirt that was sucked out of them and equally amazed with how bright and new they look. It took a surprising amount of time to do this seemingly simple job.  That’s a lot of parts.  The unbelievably frustrating and painful mast step fix is done and back in place.  That’s if a lowly step can be beautiful, this one is.  Well, it’s beautiful to me given the months of sweat that went into the effort of summoning the nerve to do it, removing the screws, cleaning up and refinishing and putting it back in place. Look simple?  Lest you forget, dear reader, this is what I started with.  All the old halogen and fluorescent fixtures are gone, panels recovered with new vinyl and fixtures replaced with LED lights and lovely LED white/red dome lighting.  I expect that these lights will be somewhat brighter.  That little detail should be a big hit with Brenda who has long suffered with poor lighting while attempting to do delicate hand work in the evenings. Below, two of the nearly 20 new lights.We will be warm and toasty while we are under power, on those evening passages in the fall and while we are in Maine this summer, compliments of our new engine driven heater.  Brenda will love her potty again with her shiny new evacuation pump, one of the three pumps that it takes to run her potty.  Who would have guessed that a potty needs three motors?Dining aboard will be just a bit more civilized with our newly varnished dining table. And there should be fewer, I hope none, drips below as I have pulled and re-bedded just about everything that went “drip in the night” and a few that didn’t, just to be sure. And, speaking of drips, the newly installed drip-less prop shaft seal, all blue and shiny and newly “restored” CV joint, to the right.  That CV joint was a big job, let me tell you.  And that’s saying something as my contribution in getting it done was limited to writing a check, ditto for the seal. I really tried to address every little detail to make Pandora ready to be her best, down to polishing the plexi hatch panels.  If it’s possible to see beauty in a flat piece of plastic, these are worthy now.
And even the tiny details of putting plastic shims under the ends of the solar panels to be sure that they are perfectly level did not escape my attention.  No more aft drooping solar panels for Pandora.  Yes, I know, her stainless needs polishing.  I’ll get to it soon, I promise.And, of course, who could forget newly renewed caulk on the dodger windows.  And that took several years for me to even build up the nerve to tackle.  It wasn’t easy but less daunting than I had feared. And, I even found a way to re-use the old dimmer switch holders, the only way I was able to fit a “round peg (dimmer) into a square hole”, in the bulkhead.  Pretty nifty, if you ask me.  They took a lot longer to do than their humble looks, would suggest.   And, they even have a lovely colored ring around the button, green, blue or orange, depending on which state the lights are in, on, off or dimmed.   So, exciting?  To me they are.New chaps, engine cover and seat, in matching grey, of course. And, speaking of matching, who can forget Pandora’s new “clothes”, a lovely grey paint job.  If you follow this blog, you will recall that I really beat the “color thing” to death, with renderings of her in multiple colors.  Just to be sure.  I even had small panels painted “just to be sure”.  I even have new fender covers on order, monogrammed of course, and in grey to compliment and protect that expensive paint.

Oh, so many things to obsess about, my specialty.

And, under the category of “how did I break that?”, I was working on my binnacle compass the other day and dropped it.  Broken you say?  Not a problem as I was able to purchase repair parts.  However, when I looked for the compass to fit the new parts to, I was UNABLE TO FIND IT, in spite of tearing every conceivable area on board and at home apart, no compass.

I ultimately had to purchase a new shiny compass.  Here it is in place.  Looks grand.  However, if you look closely, you’ll see that the sun cover doesn’t fully retract as it hits the instrument cluster above it.  No problem, all I have to do is to move that cluster up 1/2″.   Isn’t it ALWAYS SOMETHING?   Today’s project.  Well, solving that problem is just one of today’s projects.Alas, all is not lost as Pandora looks great.  Isn’t she shiny?  You can even see my little truck reflected in her so shiny paint.Ok,  I’ve admitted it, I have done plenty of obsessing about getting Pandora just right” and with nearly a year to think about what needed to be done, there was  ample time to obsess about every little thing.  While “obsessing” perhaps overstates the point, I have also found myself wondering, for the past few months, no make that the past year, as Pandora’s “to do” list continued to grow, is when does spring commissioning becomes a refit.

The company that painted Pandora last summer promoted themselves as a “refit company” prepared to do whatever repairs or upgrades would be needed.    This term, “refit” is often used to describe what happens when a superyacht is put into a yard for months of upgrades.  Somehow, that just sounds more impressive than “ashore to fix broken stuff”.

So, the question is that as Pandora about to be commissioned, and it had better be in the next two days, after being out of the water for the better part of a year, is it spring commissioning our was it a refit?

Now that I look back on all that I accomplished over the winter, on our home, Pandora and for Brenda, especially those projects for Brenda as that gains me “Time aboard Pandora points”,  I realize that I was able to catch up on a great deal of “deferred maintenance” both at home and aboard Pandora, perhaps the term “spring commissioning” really doesn’t apply.

So, what about all that happened with Pandora while she’s been “on the hard”, was it a refit or commissioning?  In including the mix of items I detailed above, here’s a mostly complete list of what was done to Pandora, in the last year and especially since last spring when I returned from Antigua.

The list, in no particular order…

The stuff I hired out.

  • Topside painting, changed from hunter green to light grey.  She looks awesome!  A clear number one on the “boat dollar” scale.
  • Standing rod rigging replaced, also consuming an alarming number of boat dollars.
  • Zipper sail cover (new in Antigua, Spring, 2018)
  • Dripless seal on the propeller shaft
  • Rebuilt CV shaft bearing on prop shaft.  Replacement not available. but that would have been way cheaper.
  • Shaft warp cutter repaired and upgraded.  Spurs Unit.
  • Pandora logo on boom along with larger graphics on hull
  • Full cockpit enclosure (new in 2018)
  • Main and jib serviced, twice actually.  New Jib to come this fall.  Brenda’s thrilled about that.
  • Canvas chaps, for dink, engine cover and seat with pocket (Bequia, May 2018)
  • Refurbished plotters, Raymarine E-120 with new LED back-lighting
  • Rebuilt bilge pump for bow thruster compartment.   I removed and re-installed.
  • New hydraulic fittings on lines going to the boom.

The stuff I did myself.

  • Lazyjacks, new line.and several hundred feet of it, no less.
  • Engine driven cabin heater, in addition to a diesel heater that was there already.
  • Upgraded battery box and two new AGM batteries for bow thruster
  • New AGM starter battery.
  • Most of interior head liner renewed.  I did a huge amount of prep work on this but the headliner materials will be installed by Chad, the guy who did my great enclosure.  This was a huge job, still not done but it’s supposed to be done tomorrow, none too soon.
  • All halogen puck lights replaced with dimable LED.  This involved a good deal of new wiring.  Sound simple?  It wasn’t.
  • New LED compatible dimmers for three sets of puck lights.
  • All overhead fluorescent lights replaced with white/red led domes.  With all those red lights, down below at night will look like an outtake from “Hunt for Red October”.
  • Interior trim kits for all opening Lewmar ports.  This upgrade sounded like it would be easy but is turning out to require a great deal of careful fitting, and there are 8 of them to fit.
  • Resealing of three tempered glass windows in hard dodger.
  • Upgraded supports for solar panels on radar arch.  Small change using a very tall ladder, but looks much better to me.  They were not perfectly level.  Bugged me to no end.
  • Polished all plexiglass on hatchway
  • Rebuilt electric head.  Yes, they are electric.  Who knew?
  • Re-tapped screws in binnacle compass, removed it, dropped it, purchased new parts, lost the compass (I have no idea where it is now) and had to purchase a brand new replacement and it doesn’t quite fit.  Details, details…
  • re-varnished cockpit dining table
  • re-varnished main dining table in cabin.
  • Shampooed all interior cushions and carpet
  • Removed and reset mast step.  That was a particularly painful job.

Whew!  It’s exhausting just to write the list.

So, when does commissioning become a refit?  I present that what I have done to Pandora over the last year is best described as a refit and oh boy, has it taken a lot of boat dollars and “me hours” to accomplish.

Yes, it’s been quite a slog to get Pandora ready but it’s almost time to splash and begin some cruising.  In a day or two?  Details to come.

As far as getting Pandora into the water, she was supposed to go in last week, then today so perhaps tomorrow.

Details to come is all I can say.

So, commissioning or refit?  I don’t know what you think but it sure seems to me that the work has securely tipped into the “refit” category.

And, all the while I have been working on my Blue Water Weekend at the Essex Yacht Club that’s happening this weekend with many details to deal with and a sold out crowd of 100.

So,spring commissioning or refit?  What do you think?

90% preparation, 10% execution and showing up.

It is often said that most projects in life are 90% preparation and 10% execution, not to mention that some suggest that 80% of success is often just showing up.  Combined, this suggests that a lot of work goes into a project just preparing for the job.

So, as I think back on all of the projects that I’ve done on Pandora, it does indeed take a REALLY LONG TIME to prepare for just about any project.

First, as there were only three of these boats built and the company folded up shop shortly after commissioning Pandora, hull #3, there is nobody to call and ask about what is attached to what or how the boat was put together.  This means that I often have no idea of what I am getting into and what “lies behind the curtain.”   In every way, and I’ve said this before, working on Pandora is a scavenger hunt.

Last fall I showed the rigger the corroded heads on the bolts that held the mast step in place and after only a moment he said “They don’t look to good Bob, you’d better pull one and check it”,  Ok, got it but that proved to be way easier said than done.   For the first order of business I spent months sweating about exactly how I was going to do that as the space where the step is housed is impossibly tight with wires and hoses snaking every which way and all very close to the bolts that needed to come out.

Obviously, the first thing to do was to put a wrench on the bolt and try to back it out.  No good, as the heads were pretty well corroded and the wrench just turned and turned.  No movement at all. So what to do?  Finally, after several months of “thinking” but not “doing” along with a good deal of applications of  various products designed to release corroded bolts, I decided to drill into the head of one a bolt and tried to pull it out with a screw remover, a sort of reverse screw that you thread into a hole drilled in a stuck bolt, used to “extract” the bolt.

I know that I have gone over much of this already in prior posts and you might be asking yourself “Why Bob, why go over this all again now?”

Because, of all the projects that I have done on Pandora this was one of the toughest and surely the most frustrating I  have done.  More than once, over the winter, I left the boat after hours of frustrating work, without making much progress, feeling like Pandora was “executing” me.   How many times I said to myself and anyone who would listen that “I wish I had never tried to get those bolts out” they were so well secured it was clear that they would NEVER come out on their own, a fear that motivated me to tackle this “fix” in the first place.

However, I kept going as the idea of the base of the mast coming loose and banging around down below was a terrifying thought.

In order to get a decent purchase on the bolt with a wrench, I drilled into the bolt heads and pulled with an extractor, drilled bigger holes and put in larger extractors and pulled some more.  I tried everything I could, abrasive cutters, cobalt drill bits, all broken and still the bolts wouldn’t move.  There was simply nothing that I could do would loosen them. and it wasn’t until I just gave up and ground the heads off of all four bolts, with a carbide burr run by an air compressor, that I was able to lift the step up and cut off the remainder of the bolts flush with the step.

Finally, FINALLY, I was able to get the step out of the boat but the old bolts were still there, if ground down flush and I still had to somehow reinstall the step.  This meant that I now had to drill new holes immediately adjacent to the old bolts and do that in a very tight location.  First I took the aluminum step to a welder who filled the old holes.  Then I ground them flush.  They didn’t look pretty at all and there was some electrolysis from the stainless bolts that had not been properly bedded against the aluminum. As I could not get the old bolts out, I had no idea about how thick the mast step was.  First I marked the step to be sure that I could drill the new holes as close to the old bolts as possible and yet not too close to the edge of the step casting.

The rigger predicted that the fiberglass step would be at least 2″ thick, perhaps more.  I drilled and he was right, 2.5″.   With that in mind, I used 2.5″ lag bolts.  I marked the spots where the old bolts were and drilled as close to them as I dared and “dry fitted” the bolts in place.   Everything fit.  Good to go…One of the problems with the old stainless bolts and why they corroded so badly, is that they had not been properly bedded to insulate them from the aluminum in the step.   Stainless is a more “noble” metal, and when you attach two different types of metal, the one that is “less noble” looses.  In this case, the stainless bolts won and the aluminum corroded badly.  That is caused by a mild electric current that flows between two dissimilar metals.  The result of this is a process of “electrolysis” that causes a lot of corrosion to both metals, especially with aluminum, which it did.

There are products that can be used to “isolate” dissimilar metals and keep them from corroding and I lubed up the bolts carefully before snugging them in place.

All done.  Note the electrical cable in the upper right.  That’s to direct power to the sea, from the mast, in the event of a lightning strike, something that I don’t want to think about.

Anyway, the step is back in place and it took less than an hour. Wasn’t that easy?

No, not really, and a perfect example of how many things in life are indeed 90% preparation…

I guess that goes double for boats and with Pandora add the fact that I have nobody to call for advice so I have to just stumble my way around.  Well, at least I can take satisfaction in knowing that the job is done and I did it myself.   Yea, I cling to that.

Next project.  The lists is long and time is short.   Less than two weeks till launch.

Sure hope that the canvas guy shows up on Tuesday.    Talk about 90% prep.  I don’t even want to think about how many hours it took to prep for the replacement of the headliner.

As I’ll be paying him to put it all back together, let’s hope that it’s only 10% of my prep time.

Fingers crossed…

It’s becoming clearer now, sort of…

It’s the long Memorial Day weekend, the traditional start of summer on the water, and Pandora is still on the hard.  Land locked or not, as the days tick by, plans for the summer are, sort of, coming into focus.

There’s a lot of activities in the pipeline for Pandora in the coming months beginning with my event, the Open Blue Water Boat Weekend, June 21st to 23rd in Essex.

As we have, for the past six years, my friend George and I will be hosting cruisers from all over at the Essex Yacht Club for 2+ days of events, kicking off with a rendezvous in Hamburg Cove, about a mile up the river from the club.

In past years we have done this event with the Seven Seas Cruising Association, a group that I credit with helping me and Brenda gain the experience and nerve to head out on our first long trip down the ICW and on to the Bahamas way back in 2012.  Since then we have cruised further afield, to Cuba and for the last few years, the eastern Caribbean.

I mention this as it was because of the wonderful support that we received from members of SSCA that I decided to do an event with the intent of “paying it forward” to help cruisers as others have helped me and Brenda for so many years.

For this years event, George and I decided that we’d also extend an invitation to members of the Ocean Cruising Club and Salty Dawg Sailing Association.  That proved to be a very good decision as the response has been just terrific and we reached capacity six weeks before the event.  I have to say that we are very disappointed to be turning people away and while we decided to rent a small tent we still had to start a waiting list.   One person, who missed signing up, said he’s coming anyway with the hope that there is at least one last minute no-show.

Unfortunately, to expand attendance beyond about 100, it would complicate things a lot and require renting a tent for thousands of dollars as well as getting police and fire departments involved.   That would be just too much for us to handle given our “committee of two” handling all of the logistics, promotion, speakers.

So, here I am, with only a few weeks until the event begins, working hard, in between gardening, home projects etc, to get Pandora ready to go in the water.

Now that I was finally able to get the mast step out of the boat, I am now in a good position to put it back with new bolts.  After so many hours of grinding it doesn’t look like much, just a bare area of fiberglass.On Wednesday I will take the step to to a welder to have the old holes filled.  After that, I’ll drill new holes adjacent to the old bolts that have been cut flush with the step.  Even though the remains of the old bolts are still in place, the rigger says that this is a perfectly fine approach as the bulk of the pressure is downward and only a small amount of shear force.  I’ll be sure to install the new bolts with some sort of release agent or caulking like Life Seal, which is what the rigger recommends if I want the step to be removable in the future.  Additionally, I’ll spray a thick lubricant/sealer on the heads to keep them from becoming corroded.  Frankly, I doubt that I will own Pandora when it’s time to deal with corroded bolts again.

There’s one thing for sure, I don’t want to ever have to tackle this project again.    You wouldn’t think that something so simple could take so long. I’ll post photos of the step installation as I put it in, probably in my next post.

The big project that continues to hold things up is the installation of the new head liner, and I have been having trouble getting the canvas guy to commit to a date to take care of it.  It looks terrible, like some sort of derelict boat.  I am optimistic that he will be able to do it this coming week when the all important Memorial Day Weekend will be history.  For now, Pandora’s salon looks like a construction zone.  Or should I say storage container? I am also renewing the caulk around the large tempered glass windows in the dodger.   I was able to dig the old caulk out with a tool that I made from an old metal file.  I heated up the narrow end with a torch, bent it 90 degrees and ground it to a sharp edge.  It worked well to remove the old caulking but it still looks messy.  And, with something like 30′ of caulk to renew, it’s a big project.  It took hours for me to clean out all the old caulk.  I should have actually taken the windows out completely but I didn’t have the nerve so I’ll just renew the exposed caulk for now and try something more severe when things decay further, down the road. As far as what to use to replace the caulk, I spoke to someone who specializes in renewing hatches on boats and he recommended Sika 295 caulking along with a special primer and a cleaner to prepare the surface.  The primer was nearly $100 for a one pint can.  I hope it works.   The caulk is made for industrial use, specifically for glazing and sticks much better when it is put on a surface that is well prepared.  Or, so I am told…

I also decided that “while I’m at it” I’d do some varnishing and removed the salon dining table.  It was done in a mat finish and I thought it would look better with a high gloss.  It’s been tough to get a good finish as it had been sprayed with furniture polish so many times over the years that the varnish kept flattening out and developing “fish eyes” in the finish.  I would lay on a perfect coat of varnish and then some spots would would develop and look terrible.  I sanded the entire top again and again, three times, before I got it right.  This photo doesn’t show the problem all that well but the white smudge to the left of the long white reflection is one of the flat spots.   The long white streak is a reflection. However, it looks pretty good now and I am going to call it done, even though there are a few dust specs here and there.  I  used gloss Epifanes, varnish, the best you can buy.  Great stuff and quite a shine, if you ask me. So, there’s a lot left to do but I am making progress, slowly but surely and am finally feeling like I can make it toward launching on a timeline assuming that the canvas guy finishes the headliner.

Speaking of timelines, I hope to launch on or about June 14th and then spend a week getting her ready and the mast back in and stepped.  Remember that I had new standing rigging put on her last fall.

Following the launch, I’ll take her to the Essex Yacht Club and our event where she will be on display as one of the “blue water equipped boats” for the event attendees to tour.

Then,  off to Bridgeport to have her waterline “adjusted” to better reflect the actual trim of Pandora fully loaded with the dink in the davits.  I am told that it will take a week for the paint work and then back to Essex for a few days of provisioning and on to Maine for much of the summer.  I also will be giving a talk at the Camden Yacht Club as part of their summer speakers series, on July 23rd.

After spending some time in Maine, I’ll either take Pandora to Annapolis for the fall boat show, where I am also giving a talk as part of Cruiser’s University, or directly to Hampton VA where Pandora will stay until I head to Antigua in November.

Other than that, not much going on, just sitting around eating bon bons.

All of this has to be done according to a strict timetable as we have the first birthday for our twin grandchildren in July.  Off to MD for a party.  That will be fun.  Aren’t they cute?Well, there’s lots to do and that doesn’t even get me to the point of preparing for the run to Antigua in November.

Oh yeah, one more thing.  Remember the work I was having done on my little red car with the cracked head and rebuilt transmission?  Well, it’s all done and she runs much better with her rebuilt transmission, fixed head, valve job, rebuilt radiator, distributor and the list goes on and on.  I’m happy to have the car back and she cost, well let’s say it was more than I had expected. Isn’t that always the way it?  Doesn’t she look great up against Pandora in spite of still having her winter cover?  Big boat, little car. I am not sure if everything is clear but at least things are beginning to come into focus.  Let’s hope that the canvas guy can fit me in or all this will seem more like wishful thinking than a plan.