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Antigua’s going to the Dawgs. Totally!

On November 2nd more than 70 boats participating in the Salty Dawg Rally to the Caribbean will leave Hampton VA to begin their 1,500 mile voyage to Antigua in the eastern Caribbean.  After all of the damage wrought by hurricanes this season, it will be nice to visit an island that was spared any damage and to make the trip with so many friends.

While the nominal start date for the rally is November 2nd, each skipper will make their own decision on when to leave.    Once underway, we will communicate with each other several times a day via SSB long range radio.  Every boat will also be transmitting their location several times each day so that you can keep track of all the boats as they make their way to Antigua.  I’ll be posting this shared page as we get closer.

For me, staying in touch with others in the fleet is a special treat as I am one of those guys who can’t stand to be disconnected from others for more than a moment.  And, speaking of “connected”, you can track Pandora’s location all winter by clicking on “Where in the world is Pandora” on my home page.

When we learned that the BVIs, the traditional arrival point for the rally, was so devastated we had to find another spot to visit and as Brenda and as I had enjoyed Antigua last winter I put my hand up “Me! Me!, I’ll make arrangements for the fleet’s arrival in Antigua!”  What in &^%$ was I thinking ?   Oh well.  So, here I am, “the guy” who everyone will look to and say “So Bob, are you going to make it worth our while to sail that additional 90 miles, all the way to Antigua?”.   Yikes! The pressure is on but I can tell you with confidence that it’s going to be a wonderful time, and once we’re there the locals will wonder what happened and say in a loud voice and all together “Antigua is going to the Dawgs, totally!”.  Works for me…

There are a few groups that have really put out for us (me) in helping with planning.   In no particular order…

The Antigua Yacht Club in Falmouth Antigua, a wonderful, well protected harbor with loads of easy anchoring and great holding, has really rolled out the red carpet to make us feel welcomed and have invited us to many activities. It’s a very friendly club and they have even made their office manager Nesie available to be the “go to source” for our fleet in Antigua and she will answer any questions that our group might have. As an interesting anecdote, AYC is located near a megayacht marina owned by Carlo Falcone  a member of AYC, who has registered his yacht, Mariella in the rally.  As she’s home ported in Antigua, I don’t know if he’s planning to have her sail with us.  She’s a  classic Fife yacht from the 30s and in wonderful condition.  As the largest yacht registered in the rally, that would make her “queen of the Dawgs”.

This video of the race on day one in the Classic Yacht Regatta in Antigua last spring gives you a pretty good feel for what’s in store in Antigua on the water.   Who knows, perhaps I will be able to find my way on board Mariella.  She actually was the overall winner of the regatta in 2017.  That’s me, ever hopeful…Another group that has really put out is the Admiral’s Inn located in Nelson’s Dockyard, the traditional home of the British Navy in the day of Lord Nelson.  They will be hosting the “arrival dinner” for us by their infinity pool overlooking the dockyard.   It’s a wonderful spot to enjoy the sights. This is the view from where we will have our arrival dinner.  Across the harbor is their main facility and hotel.  Can you say “tropical paradise?  They have even arranged for us to get very attractive pricing for those who want to stay ashore and take a break from life afloat for a bit. Brenda and I visited the inn a number of times last winter.  The place looks wonderful after dark. The owners of the resort Astrid and her brother Paul have been tremendously helpful in helping me in putting together all the activities that we will enjoy when we arrive in Antigua.  I found this video that gives a very good feel for their beautiful place.The director of the National Park, that oversees the Nelson’s Dockyard, Ann Marie was also really helpful and is even giving each of boats a free night of dockage when we arrive.    She sent me this photo of the dockyard that as taken a few weeks ago. What would we do without drones?  This is what the dockyard looks like before everyone shows up for the season.However, it’s not vacant in “high season”.  This is how the dockyard looked when the Oyster World cruise visited a while back. And, I just learned that the dockyard hosts a blowout on New Year’s eve as well.  Brenda and I will totally be there.    We are looking forward to viewing fireworks in Antigua as we lounge on Pandora’s bow. I have to say that while it’s been a bit hectic putting together plans for everyone to enjoy their stay in Antigua. One of the best things about being on the font lines of planning for the rally is that I get to arrange the things that I want to do and being in Antigua is well, what I want to do.

Oh yeah, one more thing.  There’s still a few weeks until we depart for Antigua and it’s not to late to sign up.  I am confident that it will be the best $200 you even spent.  Besides, that’s only 1/5th of a boat dollar.  Such a deal!

For sure, it’s becoming clear that come mid November Antigua will be “going to the Dawgs”.  Totally, for sure!



It’s nice to be wanted, in Antigua.

It’s about two month’s until Pandora and other participants in the Salty Dawg Rally make landfall in Antigua, a 1,500 mile run from our departure point in Hampton VA.

Even since the rally board decided to change the destination from the BVIs that were so badly damaged by Irma, I have been hard at work, as the official “port captain” lucky me… contacting businesses in Antigua with the goal of making sure that the “Dawgs” feel at home in Antigua and will want to make the additional 95 miles and join us there in November.

Setting aside the wonderful island, Antigua also is at the top of what some say is the “beginning of the real Caribbean” with beautiful lush islands to the south that are close with each an easy day sail to the next.  That’s in contrast to the nearly 100 mile stretch from the BVIs to St Martin, directly into the wind.  From Antigua south it’s easy trade wind sailing.

Brenda and I just loved visiting there last year aboard Pandora for nearly a month and really got a great feel for all that Antigua has to offer.  We enjoyed our time there and look forward to returning this November.

One of the most important events of the rally is the arrival dinner and I am thrilled to have worked out plans with The Admiral’s Inn restaurant and pool facility in English Harbor to have a barbecue at their poolside restaurant Boom.  The price is right and of course, specials on drinks for us are planned.

I can’t think of a better spot to celebrate with friends after arriving from a 1,500 mile voyage.Boom has an infinity pool overlooking the main building of the Admiral’s Inn. With a beautiful infinity pool. The main buildings really comes alive at night with beautiful lighting.   And speaking of night, the Inn is extending special discounted rooms for crew and skippers who might want a little shore time after the long trip south. We also will enjoy the hospitality of the Antigua Yacht Club in Falmouth Harbor. I have been in touch with them and they will be hosting a “meet and greet” with local marine businesses that can help solve any problems that our members may have encountered on the trip south.

They even have a fleet of small boats and they have offered to host a regatta for the group.  Perhaps we can have Salty Dawg Challenge race in the harbor.  That would be fun. The view of all the “big boys” in the nearby marina makes for a wonderful sight at night.   This is a remarkable place indeed. We also expect to have a wine tasting at a very nice local wine market overlooking the harbor.  Brenda and I participated in a lovely evening last winter and I am sure that our fleet will enjoy it too.  It will be hosted by Cork and Basket.

I am very excited about what’s in store for the fleet as they arrive.  And, it’s going to be a great group with about 70 boats signed up to make the run to Antigua.

Yes, Antigua beckons and they really want us to visit.  I’m excited to catch up again with all the other Dawgs and to join them for one of those not-so-rare happy hours.  Did someone say “special prices on rum punch”?Perhaps best of all, it’s nice to know that we will be welcomed in Antigua, as it’s been pretty easy to find businesses that really want to have us visit.

Oh yeah.  Want to join us?  It’s not too late. Just follow this link to sign up now.  I promise, it will be the best $200 you ever spent.

See you in Antigua?  I hope so.


Antigua’s “open for business” and we’re going.

It’s only about 6 weeks until the Salty Dawg Rally departs from Hampton VA for Antigua and I am scrambling to get Pandora ready for the run.   Actually, Brenda and I are in MD babysitting for our granddaughter Tori as I write this.  So much for rushing along with Pandora.

And, this morning I set out to do a blog post and it’s now nearly 7pm and it’s still not done.  This is why.  “Grandpy!  Out of the way, I want to do a blog post too.”

Editor:  After Tori finished “typing” away the computer crashed and it took about 5 restarts until the wifi worked again.  Whew!
Anyway, adorable helpful Tori aside, there’s still lots to do and I’ll admit that I am getting a bit anxious about finishing up so that Pandora can make the trip without too much “adventure”. Of course, there’s not much I can do about what Mother Nature might have in store for us but at least I can work hard to make sure that Pandora’s systems are all in order.

As part of the “preparation” for this season, Brenda and I opted to have a new bimini made and a full enclosure to keep out the weather.  It’s not going to be of much use in the islands as we don’t need to be “sheltered” from the weather there, recent hurricanes not withstanding, but for the ten day trip south it will make a big difference in keeping the wind, water and spray out of the cockpit.

This is a big step for us as the desire for a nice enclosure on our boats in the past has always lost out to a more pressing item.  Fortunately, not this year so fingers crossed that something really “pressing” doesn’t come up between now and launch time.  Actually, that won’t matter as we are committed.  Happy for that.  I still hope that nothing else comes up, never the less.

The local canvas shop that we hired to do the work is well regarded and I’ll report on how it goes.  In the meantime, all I can show regarding progress is the plastic in place when he completed the templating for the panels.  I have always found that part of any canvas job to be quite a mystery.   The sections on the front of the bimini and over the dodger will be done in a hard plastic, not vinyl which will hold up much better.    There will also be what the canvas guy calls “smiles”, U shaped zippered openings on each side of the cockpit enclosure that will make it easy to get out on deck in a hurry. In the aft part of the enclosure, there will be three panels so we can close things up while the weather is nasty or cold, something that doesn’t happen much in the islands, actually.  There will also be a “smile” back there too for ventilation.  I do know how to do some basic canvas work but a job of this scope is way beyond me.    Remember the seat covers that I made for down below?  The ones to keep salt off when I am on passage? Projects like that are more my speed. This is the last piece, the cover for the ottoman.   The top is tan because I ran out of grey canvas in spite of ordering 9.5 yards of 60″ wide material.  Lots of settees, I guess.Meanwhile, we are in MD and will return home on Friday.  I can’t even begin to list all the little “issues” on Pandora that need attention like minor leaks and such but somehow I’ll just have to get them done.

In my spare time, HA!, I have also become the default “port captain” for the Salty Dawg Rally, now going to Antigua because their usual destination, the BVIs was trashed by Irma.    As a result, I have spent countless hours on the phone and on email for the last week or so, contacting folks there about the eventual arrival of perhaps as many as 80 boats in mid November.

Even while they dodge multiple hurricanes my contacts have been very supportive in helping me work out the details of dockage for boats, welcome dinners and checking in pets aboard, including, I am told, a parrot.   I wonder how a parrot does in a seaway with his/her cage swinging wildly.  I guess just fine as pirates have always kept parrots aboard, or that’s what I have been told, at least.

So when I get home on Thursday evening I can turn my attention back to getting Pandora ready for blue water.  Well, once I cut the lawn, I guess.

I am very much looking forward to making this rally the best it can be as I just love Antigua and can’t wait to make it a “favorite place” for the Dawgs too.  No, I didn’t take this shot but I am hopeful that this what Nelson’s Dockyard will look like when the fleet arrives in mid November.  Wish me luck.  One thing is for sure, in spite of the hurricane damage in the Lesser Antilles this year, Antigua was spared and they are “open for business” and I for one, want to bring some too them in November with a healthy fleet of Dawgs.


As island nations struggle to recover.

It’s been a long few weeks for those who were unfortunate enough to be in the path of Irma and before her Harvey as they blasted first through the Caribbean and then into the US, both Texas and Florida.   And, while much of our attention has been focused on the damage brought by these storms to the U.S. many who spend time in the Caribbean watched with horror as Irma devastated these island nations.

Perhaps the most remarkable fact about Irma, the most powerful hurricane to be recorded in the Atlantic since records have been kept, is how much damage she did in some areas and low little effect she had on other islands that were sometimes less than 50 miles away.

Most sailors that charter in the British Virgin Islands do so out of Road Town, Tortola, home of the areas largest charter fleets managed by The Moorings and Sunsail with literally thousands of boats in their fleet.  It was hard to go anywhere in the BVIs without seeing sometimes dozens of boats with their distinctive graphics.   This was what a single dock of their boats looked like in their home marina last January when I visited. Unfortunately, the British Virgin Islands were particularly hard hit by Irma with nearly every building destroyed or badly damaged.  And, as so many from the U.S. have vacationed there or chartered boats from this once mighty charter fleet out of Tortola, they could certainly relate to this “before and after” in a very personal way.   These two photos of the Moorings and Sunsail fleets have been widely circulated.   I understand that his first photo of the fleet preparing for a hurricane was actually taken several years ago. This is how the same spot looked a day after Irma passed.I ran into someone that works for one of the major insurers at the marina where Pandora’s hauled now and he told me that up until recently that hurricane preparations for the charter fleet included securing the boats to a 450,000 lb chain strung along the harbor floor.   Reportedly, there was a recent change to “sand screw” moorings and that one after the other, pulled out of the sand.   I guess sometimes relying on great mass to hold things in place is the only way to go.  Of course, all of this is second hand but this is what I was told.  Never the less, a lot of folks lost boats.

I’ve heard that these two companies, the largest in the islands, have lost virtually their entire fleets of boats and those who have booked charters early in the season are being directed to their operations in Marsh Harbor, Bahamas.  A friend of mine told me yesterday that someone he knows had just put a brand new boat into charter this spring in Tortola and that it’s now totaled.  It’s certainly going to be some time before they are able to clean up the mess, bring in new boats and put things back to normal.

When I arrived in Tortola last January we cleared in at West End, Soper’s Hole. It’s a small harbor that had a wonderful little waterfront area, including a Pusser’s Rum store and restaurant.   This is the spot where I enjoyed spending time at last winter. And Pusser’s restaurant and store was a dominant feature on shore. Here’s a shot, just past Pussers and what it looks like now.    There isn’t a leaf on anything up on the hill A view of the charming waterfront and shops, before. This is what the hill looked like before Irma with Pandora in the foreground. Many opt to leave their boats in the BVIs for the summer and although marinas there use huge concrete blocks to secure the boats firmly to the ground, this is the sort of scene that greeted owners after Irma in nearly every marina.  Another island that was hit hard by Irma was St Martin, an island that Brenda and I loved visiting last winter.  The French side was particularly charming.  This was the market that we enjoyed spending time at. This is the view from the top of the hill now. And, the cemetery downtown. This mall in town, before and after.  We walked in most of the stores while we visited. And a view from there to the downtown market in the background. We spent time in a little seaside village Grand Cass just up the coast.  We loved the beautiful umbrellas lining the beach. And the charming streets lined with little French restaurants. We had a wonderful Valentine’s dinner at this spot. Here’s that same street now. Total devastation. Irma was a massive storm.  This satellite shot shows how big Irma was as she carved a path of destruction on her way to the U.S.  It’s hard to imagine the massive force a storm like this brings.
And these waves were captured at a point that wasn’t even the height of the storm before the winds kicked in. It’s sobering to see so many loose so much and I am hopeful that these islands can get back on their feet soon and return as the tourist and sailing Meccas that they have been for generations.

Amazingly, while many islands suffered enormous damage others were spared including Antigua, where Brenda and I spent a lot of time last season.  We are looking forward to visiting there again in November with the SDSA rally which will make landfall there instead of the hurricane stricken BVIs.  If you’ve been tempted to visit Antigua yourself, click here to learn more about the 2017 Salty Dawg Rally to the Caribbean.

Meanwhile, the Salty Dawg Board has set up a fund to benefit the BVIs in particular and with your help they will recover soon.  Want to learn more?


It’s going to be a long time until these islands are brought back to the beautiful places that the once were but if history is any guide, it won’t take as long as you’d think.  These are resilient people and with help they will recover.

The power of nature.  Never forget.

As I write this we are flying home from a week in San Francisco and a visit with our son Christopher.  It has been a very long time since our last visit to the “other” coast and being there brought back many memories.

It’s been a week since my last post although there’s been plenty to write about.  However, with all the destruction caused by two back to back hurricanes in as many weeks, somehow putting up a post didn’t seem quite right.

So, here I go anyway as Irma continues to churn her way west toward Florida with an expected landfall in the US, perhaps in the Florida Keys on Saturday. The expected destruction in Florida will just be the latest installment in what is the unfolding catastrophe of Irma that has already brought untold havoc to the Eastern Caribbean, especially to St Martin and north through the British Virgin Islands.  The pictures that are beginning to surface of the very places that Brenda and I visited earlier this year are now unrecognizable and a sobering reminder of the power of nature, especially to those of us that make our home aboard for much of the year.

Many photos and videos have surfaced, especially on Facebook and in spite of my best efforts, I was only able to identify one or two places that were recognizable as so many buildings have been completely destroyed.   This short video is of the Bitter End Yacht Club resort.It’s hard to believe that the images in the video are of the same place we visited last winter.   This is what it looked like when we were there.  Everything was in perfect order and a sobering reminder of just how fragile life can be.  These hillside bungalows are nearly gone. I hope that it won’t be long before cruisers and charterers will once again be able to enjoy sunsets from these beautiful beaches. It’s going to be a long time until these communities and countries will be back to normal and it may even get worse before recovery can begin as yet another storm, Jose, is headed their way and due to arrive in just a few days.

The Salty Dawg Sailing Association, SDSA, is just beginning to consider options on what to do in the wake of all this destruction.   Some of our members are anxious to get there to help in the recovery efforts and some may choose to sit this season out with them hope that things will be back to normal next season.

Others are considering different areas for possible landfall, perhaps in Puerto Rico, less effected than other areas, and some considering a run to destinations further south below Irma’s path such as Antigua.  As a side note, I spoke to the owner of the hotel, The Admiral’s Inn, in Nelson’s Dockyard Antigua and he told me that they were not really affected by the storm, a far different picture than just a few hundred miles west in the BVI’s

One way or the other, the pull to head south for the season is strong for many if the details remain a bit unclear.

Surely, in the next few weeks plans will firm up for many as surely as work progresses on their boats as they continue to plan for a winter afloat.

I do have my work cut out for myself as well as there is still plenty to do to get Pandora ready for a long trip south.

In the mean time, I’ll be speaking with my crew, both those who will help me bring Pandora to Hampton and those planning the run south to the islands to keep them informed on plans as they firm up.

However, there is one thing for sure, that the power of nature is awe inspiring and that those of us that venture to sea in small boats must never forget just how small we are.










Thou shalt knot.

It’s Sunday of Labor Day weekend and Brenda and I are visiting our son Christopher in CA.  As I write this I am sitting on a patio in the middle of the Anderson Valley, our favorite part of the wine country, north of San Francisco.

This is the view that greeted me today as I enjoyed my first cup of coffee and sat down to write begin this post.Brenda found this wonderful little cottage nestled in the woods on Airbnb.  Nicely done.  We are out here visiting our younger son Christopher for a week and remarkably, he’s even agreed to take a few days off from work to hang out with us.

Before I get to the story behind the title of this post, bear with me for a few more photos of what we have been up to.  We visited Golden Gate park near San Francisco a few days ago, prior to driving up here.  Brenda and I had a greenhouse for about 20 years so we continue to be drawn to tropical plants.  This greenhouse, in the park, was built from a kit in the late 1800s.  Nice kit. It’s loaded with tropical plants of all descriptions including these carnivorous “pitcher” plants. Nepenthes actually, not to put to fine a point on it.  We grew some of these but none as huge as this species.  Amazing. Of course, I should include a photo of Christopher and his mom. Ok, now that I have all of that out of the way I’ll get back to the real purpose of this post.

Perhaps I’ll close with a shot of the sunset from this deck last night.  Those of you who have followed my exploits, know how much I love sunsets.   Of course, we shared a bottle of wine together, locally sourced, of course,  as the sun set behind the mountains in the distance.  We won’t talk about the fact that the temperatures were, uncharacteristically, in the 90s.Last week when Brenda and I visited the USCG air station on Cape Cod, we stayed the night in New Bedford and visited the Whaling museum to take in a new exhibit about Clifford Ashley, the guy who brought us what is widely regarded as the all-time-go-to book on knots, the “Ashley book of knots” This book, more of an encyclopedia, includes drawings, descriptions and instructions, om the use and how-to-tie of some 3,800 knots.   Eleven years in development, the book was first published in 1944 and is still in print.  The show, put on with the help of Ashley’s daughter, offers highlights from the book and information about his life and a remarkable life it was.  Here’s Clifford himself.  Well, a photo of a painting of him, actually. This show, and the title of this post, is quite clever.   And very nice typography too.  The welcome graphic as you enter the gallery. Ashley, drew all of the illustrations in the book and was also an accomplished artist in his own rite.  He studied under Howard Pyle, known for establishing the “Brandywine School” and teaching many successful artists.  Some of Pyle’s best known works include his illustrations of pirates in this edition of “Howard Pyle’s Book of Pirates”.
Ashley too illustrated pirates including this piece.   You can certainly see Pyle’s influence on Ashley. This wonderful photo of Ashley in his studio.    Swashbuckling enough for you?  Break out the Dramamine, quick!If you love knots, or have some ongoing use for them, you should have this book. However, I will warn you, some of the “instructions” are a bit tough to follow.   However, the finished pieces, of some of the more complex knots, are wonderful like these samples from his collection. Sinister uses include this ceremonial dagger and a “cat-o-nine-tails” for whipping prisoners.  Of course, what exhibit of knots would be complete without a sailor’s knot board?Or a sail maker’s kit of tools?There were plenty of other knot examples of his work displayed wonderfully. A really elaborate becket or handle for a sailor’s kit chest.
Amazing detail. Of course, many knots have nothing to do with sailing but are wonderful anyway. Sometimes photos can be deceiving.   This knot is larger than it appears. A lot larger.And, some are downright creepy, to me anyway, like these woven from human hair of a deceased family member.  “This is my dead mother’s hair and I am never taking it off, never!”
Brenda loves doing bobbin lace and was drawn to these beautiful lace bobbins and samples of hand lace. Really intricate stuff. Unrelated to Ashley, I loved this model, but part of the museum’s collection, a classic Concordia Sloop, a design long associated with nearby Padanaram MA. Wonderful attention to detail. Down to the rail on the stern. And like the really big knot above, sometimes things are not as they appear as this “model” is actually 20′ tall.   It would be tough to fit this in most homes. Of course, it’s small compared to the model of the whaling ship Lagoda, reportedly the largest ship model in the world and the centerpiece of the museum. And, just to prove, with no question, that this is a blog about boats, how about I close with a view of the fishing fleet from the observation balcony at the museum.  Now, that’s nautical.  Yes indeed, it’s been a busy “bi-coastal” few weeks with lots of miles “under our keel”, with more to come.  But what a thrill to visit a wonderful exhibit at the Whaling Museum, a tour of the USCG station Cape Cod and cap it all off with a week long visit with our son Christopher.

Brenda sometimes feels that I am running her ragged and I’d guess that’s true.  I For me, I’d say that, “thou shalt knot let grass grow under our feet”.

Besides, there are plenty of wineries still to explore and San Francisco awaits…

USCG air station Cape Cod. AWESOME!

When I put on my event each June for The Seven Seas Cruising Association, I invite someone from the Coast Guard to present so that cruisers can be better prepared to stay out of trouble and if the worst happens, how to be prepared.

Lt. Simmons drove down from The Cape to present to us in June and while she was visiting and we were posing together for a photo op, I asked her if perhaps I could have a tour of the airbase.  Happily, she said yes.  So, this Monday Brenda and I visited and were given a tour of the air station on the Cape.   It was awesome.

This seems particularly timely as we all watch the events unfold in Texas, thanks to hurricane Harvey.  I mention this because our contact, Lt Wood, who I had been assigned to, wasn’t there as she had been deployed to Texas to assist in the rescue efforts.  Happily, Lt. Podmore pitched in and showed us around.

The facility is huge covering many square miles.  This is an aerial shot of the base.   We visited the two largest buildings to the right. The first thing you encounter as you drive onto the base is a static display of a decommissioned airplane. I’d love to go for a ride in something that flies and also can also land on the water.  Sadly, the USCG doesn’t fly these any more. The ones that they fly today are very different.   This is a EADS HC-144 Ocean SentryOur first stop was air traffic control.  It’s not the place that receives EPIRB and mayday calls though.  That’s somewhere else and then the calls are relayed to here or the appropriate sector.   Very official. Then we went into the hanger and were greeted buy this, a Sikorsky MH-60 Jayhawk chopper.  So awesome.  Check more about the specs here.  I wanted to go for a ride although I couldn’t even afford the gas.    According to Wikipedia, these babies cost $17 million a copy and that’s before you fire up the twin jet engines.
They can be flown on a SAR mission up to 300 miles offshore, stay on station for about 45 min, pick up six survivors and have enough fuel to make it back to base. There are 42 of these in the USCG service, with three stationed at the Cape Cod station.   When we were there, two of them had been dispatched to Texas to help with the rescue efforts.  Our Lt. Wood and I guess Lt. Simmons too were sent to help with those.

Viewed head on it looks like the serious machine it is.  The bulb in the front is radar.  And, given the nasty conditions that these pilots fly in I’ll bet it’s needed ALL THE TIME.    The bulb below that is a high resolution FLIR (forward looking infrared) camera.  Everything about this aircraft is “supersized”.   How about a search light that’s so bright it will burn anything that is put in front of it in an instant.  Lt.  Podmore told us that the beam is so strong that if he was to put his boot in front of it for a moment it would start to smoke.  I was wearing sandals and decided to forgo the demonstration. The interior is all business but I’ll bet that ending up aboard after a rescue would feel as cozy as a living room by contrast.  After each flight the entire aircraft, inside and out, is meticulously cleaned.  And for every hour in the air, many hours are spent on maintenance.
The rotor assembly looks impossibly complex.  Lt. Podmore said “want to sit in the seat?”.  Somehow I didn’t.   Stupid me.
Brenda was fascinated with the tour.  Every week the crews practice SAR activities.   This SAR “dummy” looks like he’s been rescued many times.   Actually, he loks like he could use some rescuing now.  “Hey guys, It’s really stuffy down here. Can you roll me over?  I’m feeling a little crampy.”Hey, this guy could be me as I am really interested in trying to work out a way to be trained to be a “rescue dummy” myself and have talked about applying to receive training to do just that.  So far, nobody has said “no way Bob, fugetaboutit” yet but we will have to see what happens.  One way or the other, “I’m on it” and won’t be deterred.  Well, not until somebody says “no way”.

Seriously, I’d really love to be picked up from the water as a part of a SAR training run.  It would be awesome to write about my experiences so others would know “what to expect when the Calvary shows up” and someone swims up to you and says “Good afternoon, I’m Lt. (someone I’d be really happy to see) and I’ll be your rescue swimmer today.”

So, on with the tour.  Next, into the fixed wing aircraft hanger that also doubles as a workout room.  There were some totally buff guys lifting weights.  And speaking of buff, or not buff.  Even the USCG has mini trucks.  This one is electric and similar to my own “truck”.Remember mine?  Looks pretty tiny against Pandora.   I wish mine was electric.  Anyway, that was a digression so back to the USCG.   Past the truck two HC-144, their medium range SAR aircraft.  Now, I really, really wanted to climb inside and sit up front, spraying spit all over the windshield as I made loud motor noises. However, there were guys working on it and I didn’t have the nerve to ask. Remarkably, these are manufactured in Spain.  Who knew?  We’ll see what Donald has to say about that.

There’s a drop down ramp in the back so they can shove out stuff.   I wonder what it feels like to hoist a gas powered de-watering pump out of the water onto a boat in a storm once it’s pitched out of the back of one of these?  I sure hope that the “payload specialist” has good aim.  “Ok, we’re going to make a slow pass to drop that 200 lb pump down to you in a minute so put your hands over your head and close your eyes, really, really tight.  Don’t worry, we’ve done this once successfully.”Just like the Jayhawk, these say “all business”.   And, to make sure that all the SAR stuff that they lower and toss to those in distress is working well, you can count on Lt.  Kroll to be sure that it’s all in perfect working order.  He runs a department that goes over everything with a fine toothed comb to be sure that it’s in good working order.  I am hopeful that he’ll be fitting me with my own personal SAR “dummy” outfit sometime soon. One can always hope.
The USCG has been flying around helping folks for 100 years so they know what they are doing and do it really well.
I guess that’s about it for now as the day’s getting away from me and I have to get to work on Pandora or she won’t be ready any time soon for my run south.

Besides, as Lt. Podmore told me, and forgive me as I paraphrase, “The folks that are prepared are generally not the ones that we need to rescue.”  Yes, I need to be prepared so I’d better get to work.

In closing.  “that was the most awesome tour ever”.    Thanks Lt. Podmore!   Can I call you Steven?

And Lt.  Wood.  I hope that things go well for you in Texas.

Getting ready for winter

It’s almost Labor Day week and Pandora’s still on the hard.  That was the plan all along as we’ve been pretty busy with travel and other “land chores” to use her so out she goes.  However, that’s not to say that I haven’t still been focused on Pandora and all the little and large things that need to be done to get her into shape for the winter afloat.

You may recall that I had a problem with the quadrant linkage to the autopilot last January on my way from North Carolina to Tortola when a critical part broke.  Fortunately, I found a spare in my “stash” and was able to get us back in shape again with a minimum of trauma.  However, because we feared that we’d have a problem again, we were forced to sit behind the wheel for the rest of the trip just in case something happened again.

The next day, as we surfed down 20′ waves mid way through 4.5 days of gales.   I wrote about how things were going in this post  and the prior owner, who must have been following my trip, left a comment with these words of reassurance…

“Glad you made it! Better you than me. That autopilot bolt is a poorly engineered and machined piece of junk. I have broken several even in dead calm under engine power. Hence the spares on board. Replace the spare you used as soon as you can. Have Brenda bring it down. It would be a good idea to replace it before a significant passage. Enjoy the BVI!”

Yeah, good suggestion.  Well, it seemed to me that I had to find a way to solve the problem, “bad design” or not.

You see, the leverage, with tiny washers filling in a gap, just weren’t spreading the load broadly enough so after a while the pin, working back and forth, loosened up and, well, just snapped off, again and again.    See the washers stacked up on the right?  Those just didn’t spread the load enough so, as the pressure worked back in forth, the pin fatigued and broke just above the washers.  I know what I am describing might not be obvious without seeing the part in place.  So, the next photo shows the new pin attached to the autopilot and quadrant with larger washers that I  hoped would keep things more steady.

Note that the fender washers I put in place of the ones that were there are larger than the widest part of the fitting that broke.  As the arm for the autopilot arm to the right, pulls back and forth, the new larger washers should spread the load more broadly and minimize the shear pressure on the pin.  That proved to do the trick for the rest of the winter and the trip back to CT in the spring. No breakage and the part stayed tight and in place for the whole trip.  Problem solved?I still wasn’t confident that I could count on things holding together so I worked with Paul at the local machine shop near the marina where Pandora is on the hard and described what I had in mind. The concept was to support the pin more securely and spread the load as broadly across the quadrant arm.   Properly done, the pin should hold up indefinitely.  The new “collar/washer” is on the right.  I had Paul bore a hole for the pin and “counter-bore” an area to nestle the “hip” of the wider part of the pin for further support. Here’s the pin inserted in the new “washer”.  Note that part of the widest area on the pin is itself nestled inside the counter-bore.  You can imagine that this will spread the shear loads more broadly across the quadrant arm. And, the pin in place on the quadrant.  See how much broader the support is now and with the widest part of the pin secured inside the “washer”?  It should be very secure now as the shear load is spread across the full width of the quadrant arm verses a spread of less than an inch in the old design that failed again and again.

I guess that we will just have to see how it goes.  Just in case, I now carry three spare pins.  That alone, like carrying an umbrella on a sunny day, should guarantee that things hold together.   I’ll report back on how it goes. An area of concern for just about anyone who spends a lot of time aboard is getting salt down below.  Yes, I know that there are certain folks  who are prone to certain anal retentive tendencies might be more concerned than most about such things.  “Sounds like you Bob.”  You got it! That’s me.

However, eEVERYONE KNOWS that once below, salt is very difficult to get rid of, especially when it’s on cloth covered settees.  Can you say clammy?   In the past my solution has been to drape sheets over anything cloth while we were on passage but now I have installed lovely sunbrella covers.  They are simple and just attach with snaps and turn nuts so that they won’t slip off and can still be removed easily.  Aren’t they just lovely?  Lovely or not, they can rinsed off. Oops.  Forgot to make one for the ottoman.  I’ll get to that soon too it’s a popular resting spot for salty feet too.

Everyone knows that it’s a bad idea to paint running gear as the metals in the anti-fouling paints can react badly with the bronze and stainless gear and cause severe electrolysis.  However, this means that the unprotected prop and shaft is very prone to fouling and keeping the gear clean is a constant battle.  I have heard of anti-fouling paints that are supposed to solve this problem but I have never tried them.   The primary problem is that as the prop spins, the paint, I have been told, wears off.    With this in mind, I am trying Petit prop paint this year.  I’ll let you know how it goes. Finally, over the last few years we have visited quite few places aboard Pandora and I thought it would be fun to display the courtesy flags in my office.  To do this I put up a wire between two walls with a turnbuckle to tighten thing up nicely.  From Left to right the flags are…  Dominica, British Virgin Islands, Bahamas, Cuba, France which would be St Martin, St Barths, Guadalupe, Antigua and then various clubs, Antigua Yacht Club, Seven Seas Cruising Association, Salty Dawg Sailing Association and the Corinthians.   Finally, just under the clock, the Essex Yacht Club.    I’ll be using a number of these again this winter and will snag them when I head south but until then, it seems such a shame to leave them tucked away in a locker aboard.  So, for now, I can enjoy them at home too.

That’s it for now.  Tons to do and it’s a beautiful day to hang out at the boatyard.

Tata for now!e

Steam and smoke! From the hands of man.

Yesterday I made yet another run to Mystic Seaport and this time it was for the 26th annual Antique Marine Engine show.  It’s on this weekend, every year, that enthusiasts from all over the US converge to show off their antique and model engines, many of which are steam powered.

Normally I take photos of everything and leave it at that but there is nothing quite like all those well oiled parts spinning and pumping away that calls for videos too.

There were hundreds, dare I say thousands (lest I sound like Trump and his perspective of the inauguration crowd) of engines on display, many spinning away happily for the eager crowds.  There were plenty to oogle at and I did with breathless anticipation of what was coming next.  I hope you will feel that way too as you scroll down the page.

The seaport had set up an elaborate steam generating plant,  6 or 8′ in diameter and housed in a large portable shed on wheels, and had put up hundreds of feet of black pipe and valves running to dozens of steam engines happily chuffing away. The first engines that you come across are the big ones owned by the Seaport, only on display for this one weekend each year.  For the rest of the time they are tucked away in a warehouse.   Some are quite large like this vertical steam engine manufactured in 1915.  It’s still working like a champ after all those years.  Want to know the HP of this one?  Sorry, even they don’t know.  There was plenty of spent steam swirling around in spite of temperatures in the mid 80s. While they say that a “picture is worth a thousand words”, when it comes to steam engines, a picture is nothing like a “moving picture”.This one is a beauty.  It’s a pump steam engine, circa 1903 and was built by Christian Brothers in Paducah, Kentucky.  While I couldn’t find any any information on the company, long gone, I did find out that there is a huge show held each year there that features 800 antique engines and equipment of all kinds.  Want to go?  Check it out here.  It’s held in September each year.Now, this one looks very complicated.  It’s a US Navy 50 hp engine circa 1918.  I doubt that the Navy doesn’t have a single engine in it’s inventory these days with so little HP. It was hard to get a good video of this one running as people kept stepping in front of me.   However, here you go.  It’s a wonderful engine.  I could watch all day.A particularly interesting engine is this steering engine driven by steam.   It doesn’t look like much but when the operator turns the “wheel” watch the engine adjust and then stop.  Pretty ingenious. While most of the engines on display were on land, a few were tucked into the bilges of boats on the waterfront.   This one was built by it’s owner and is of fairly recent construction.  I wonder if the engine and boat were built by the same guy.  That would be quite a feat. The engine is a remarkable piece of work.  Along side was another launch with a lovely little gas engine. I’d hate to tangle with this fly wheel while it’s whirring around. This beauty, while not in the water, is home to a naptha engine.  Very civilized.  That’s if you ignore that a naptha engine is powered by boiling gasoline.  That doesn’t sound safe at all.  “Wait a bit Mildred till you come aboard, I am waiting to bring the gas to a rolling boil.  Honey, honey, MILDRED! come back, it’s safe, I promise.”  Perhaps you’d like to learn more about this type of engine?  Click here.The engine is a beauty all polished and bright.   Me, I’d sit way up in the front and stay as far away as possible from all that boiling fuel.  Very pretty. Sort of like a solar flare. Beautiful but don’t get too close or you’ll surely burn to death.  And, speaking of all spit and polished.  How about this wonderful little gem.  It’s a single cylinder gas engine.
There were loads of wonderful little miniature model engines chuffing away.   Actually, some were downright frantic like this crazy looking one. The builder of this engine had a number on display, all of them spinning in various states of franticness.  It was exhausting to watch them. Loved this vertical steam engine model and at the end of the line in the last video.  Really a nice piece.  Only about 12″ tall.  Some of the models were enormously complex.  The description stated that it had taken some 2,000 hours of labor to build.  I’ll bet.  And to keep it polished…And, just to prove that beauty isn’t just skin deep, it works and works fabulously.  Completely silent.  It’s not hard to imagine a full size edition of this triple expansion steam engine, all 10″ of it, powering a majestic steamer across an ocean.  Amazing, in every little detail, down to the insulation on the steam pipes.  It’s a remarkable piece. How about this as an exquisite example in the “less is more” category?  Check out the really tiny handle on the valve to the left. It was fun to watch it whirl around for no other reason in the world except to entertain.  And it did, for me at least.This one was really exquisite, and beautiful in all it’s details, down to the little metal rail at it’s base.  I guess that’s to keep the “little people” safe. Watching this makes me weak in the knees.  Especially the whirling thingy on the top.  Not sure what it’s called, but perhaps that’s not the point.  It’s just fun to watch. I loved this tiny walking beam steam engine.   Dare I continue to overuse the word “exquisite” to describe it too?  Complete with it’s own tiny boiler.  However, for the show, it was powered by the nearby giant steam generator.  Watch her happily whir away.  Just love, love the walking beam.   How about a single engine powering two screws?  Totally cool.  “How dey do dat?”While there were lots of steam engines to enjoy, there were many, many gas powered lovelies too.  Antique outboards your fancy?  There were plenty.I loved this one, all polished up.   Can a lowly outboard engine be grand?“Johnny, keep your hands away from the flywheel”.   A wonderful piece of industrial art. Complete with it’s original sales brochure.  Makes me want to buy one.Not into stinky gas outboards?  How about electric?  Looks like a blender to me. Better yet, how about an example of the very first commercially available electric outboard engine, from the 1890s?  And you thought Tesla thought all this up.  To me, it just looks alarming. Complicated enough for you?  And, it was built in Newark NJ in 1915.   A whopping 3hp.  Want to fire it up?  I have absolutely no idea how.
If you want to see more wonderful antique outboards you should visit The Boathouse restaurant in Orlando FL.  We went there a few weeks ago and I wrote about it in this post.

Well, I guess that’s about it for now.   If this post has been overwhelming to you, imagine what it was like for me to have to put it all together?

Anyway, it was a really fun show so perhaps I’ll close with this teeny, tiny engine that seems to say “I’m in a huge hurry, have no idea of where I am going but I’m having a wonderful time”.   I guess that sort of sums it all up and if you were there I am sure that you’d agree that it was quite a show.  From the hands of man, wonderful things that spin and whir and belch clouds of steam and smoke.

Sometimes it’s about the journey… and what a ride it was.  The Antique Marine Engine show at Mystic Seaport.  Put it on your list.

Editor:  OMG!  That post took F-O-R-E-V-E-R to do.  Hope you like it.

A tradition begins anew.

Shortly after Brenda and I were married over 4o years ago.  Did I mention that we met in High school?  “Yes Bob, only 100 times so get on with it.”  Anyway,  we joined Mystic Seaport shortly after we were MARRIED OVER 40 YEARS AGO and one way that we celebrated special occasions during all those years was to go for a “cruise” aboard the Sabino at Mystic Seaport.   We were poor, she was wonderful and it didn’t cost much.

Our routine has been to arrive with wine and cheese and join her for her two hour “cocktail cruise” down the Mystic River.   It’s always a lovely excursion and one of the highlights of summer for us.  Unfortunately, for many years we missed these outings while we lived in NJ as it was just too far for us to visit regularly. However, as we had many cruises to the Mystic area on our own boat, we always did our best to visit Mystic and enjoy evening cruises aboard the Sabino when we were able.

When we moved to CT about five years ago we were thrilled to be “back in the game”.   Unfortunately, as luck would have it, the seaport put the Sabino on the hard for a 2.5 year refit so while we were only a short drive from her, the classic “so near and yet so far” was an unfortunate reality.   Now all that’s behind us the Sabino “rides again” and she is just grand.

A few weeks ago Brenda and I were treated to a tour before she was really “ready for prime time” by her chief engineer, Jason.   In spite of it being a busy day, as he was working hard to get the Sabino ready for her debut, Jason invited us aboard for a look around.  It was wonderful to see her back in the water again although her decks and engine room were strewn with tools and workers that day.

But now her work is completed and all the time and money that’s been lavished on her really shows. She’s beautiful with her fresh paint and varnish.   This short video, narrated by her Captain David Childs is worth looking at.
Captain Dave is a very nice guy and I loved it when he was true to his word and invited children to the pilot house as we left the dock.  Unfortunately, his invitation didn’t include those of us that are is touch with their “inner child” so unless I move the decimal place on my age to 6.2, I can’t qualify.  Besides, I should qualify that as Brenda says I don’t act my age.  Not certain that she means this in a positive way.

Pilot house visit or not, back on the upper deck Brenda and our friends were all ready to set out our food and drinks.  I wonder what the crew would have thought if I had brought along a folding table to hold everything and I didn’t push my luck.   Notice the beautifully finished benches and the white rope lashings on the seats in the lower left of this photo.   Everything was just perfect. What a lovely view forward with her pennant waving in the breeze. On the lower forward deck others were enjoying the view. I spent some time watching the wake, a favorite pastime of mine, as we steamed our way toward the Sound. Of course, the “soul” of the Sabino is her wonderful little steam engine, the very same one that powered her along the Maine coast as a coastal ferry for so many years. Her new coal fired boiler glowing.
Every little detail down to the lacing on the steam pipe insulation is perfect. Nice job Jason. Brightly polished brass gauges keeping track of her “vitals”. As we finished up our cruise, Sabino made a final pass along the Seaport waterfront.  The Morgan, surely one of the most photographed ship in the US was positively glowing in the evening light. And this wonderful ships gig on the Seaports training vessel,  the Joseph Conrad. But perhaps the sight that brought back the most memories for me was the Cape Cod catboat, Breck Marshall.  This sweet boat is named after the man who perhaps had more to do with renewing interest in catboats when he founded Marshall Marine back in the 70s when he began making these iconic vessels in fiberglass, insuring that this classic design would endure.  The Breck Marshall is wood and honors the man that did so much to keep catboats alive.  When Brenda and I purchased our first boat together back in the late 70s , it was a 20′ catboat so these wonderful little boats will always be special to us. We had a wonderful time aboard the Sabino, the weather was perfect and we were cooled with a light SW breeze as we made our way down the river.  As we left the Sabino after our cruise, Captain Dave was gracious enough to pose outside of the bridge, complete with the ever present smile of a guy telegraphing that he too loves this little ship.  In the beginning twilight signifying the end to a wonderful evening.   I couldn’t resist one more look at the Sabino as we headed home. Brenda and I were thrilled to renew our tradition of cruising aboard the Sabino now that she’s back and back she is.  Indeed the Sabino is lucky to be at Mystic Seaport and the seaport is lucky to have her.

Dying to cruise aboard this little ship yourself?  Follow this link to learn more.