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The Dawgs get crabs in Antigua.

Well, it’s Wednesday and we are about half through the week of events to welcome the Salty Dawg Fleet to Antigua.  I’ll admit that I am a bit tuckered out with all the festivities but I will still put on my dancing shoes for the arrival dinner at Boom this evening and there are still three more days of fun on the horizon for our fleet.

While all of our events have been great fun, I have to admit that the Crab Races at Andrew Dove’s North Sails loft last night was a standout.

Crab Races, you say?

Yes and I for one, have never seen or heard of such a thing.  Crab Races?  Hmm…

So, here’s how it goes.

As you’d expect from any sport.  The rules, as described by our host, Andrew, were soberly reviewed for all. And, we learned that there would be a number of “heats” of increasing difficulty.

Of course, as with any serious sport, we had our cheerleaders, one of the Dawgs brought along a mascot to egg on the contestants. First, the contestants were placed in the center of the “course” under a dome to keep them from running off before the starting gun was sounded.  We just could not condone any unfair behavior. Off they went.  If it doesn’t look exciting, you just had to be there.  The spectators went WILD!As the races progressed, heat after heat, Andrew dreamt up schemes, each more diabolical than the last, adding obstacles to slow down the leader.
Then he really got mean and forced the contestants to race blindfolded.
Not to be deterred…More obstructions were added to the course but none discouraged our racers, blindfolds or not. Who won?  I have no idea but it was a ton of fun.

And, now a word from our sponsor…So there, dear reader, is how the Dawgs got crabs in Antigua.

Thanks Andrew.  You, and your crabs were awesome!

I can’t wait to see what sort of crazy ideas he comes up with next year.

The gang’s all here, mostly

It’s Tuesday morning and we are well into our arrival events with nearly all of the Dawgs accounted for.

We have been really busy with events every night including a very special kickoff cocktail and dinner party put on by the National Park’s Authority on Saturday evening.   It was a lovely evening, totally over the top.  I have photos coming from their “official” photographer.

Earlier that evening we also were treated to a Dawg Jam session on the docks.  It was a nice way to kick off a very memorable evening. I mentioned in my last post that one of our boats, Cayuga, had lost the use of their engine when their engine water pump went bad and with the light winds that slowed down the entire fleet, they found themselves drifting slowly southward at a painfully slow pace for way longer than they wanted to.  Finally, they were within a reasonable distance of Antigua and Paul, who operates the Admiral’s Inn with his sister Astrid, offered to run the new water pump out, along with some antifreeze.

I had been texting the skipper for several days and then, with them finally only about 30 miles out, off we went, powering 30kts into seas, bouncing from wavetop to wavetop as we closed the distance.  Finally, we spotted them on the horizon and closed in.  Oh boy, did they look happy to see us.   After they confirmed that the pump was in fact the right one for their engine, we sped of for shore and left them to put on the new pump.  On our way back to English Harbor Paul gave us a bit of a tour of the island.  How about this yacht?  Anna, owned by a Russian, who else?  She is rumored to have cost $250,000,000.  Yikes!  It’s amazing what you can get for a 1/4 billion these days.  Anna is over 300′ long.  Huge.  Her owner is Dmitry Evgenevitch Rybolovlev.  Yes, that sounds about right.  I doubt that you will see Anna in US waters any time soon.   Want to learn a bit about this guy?  Click here for all the details.  He purchased a home in FL for $95,000,000 from none other than Donald Trump.  That totally fits…

Nice garage for his toys. And, I expect that this isn’t his only chopper. Along the way we passed Eric Clapton’s home, perched high on a ridge.  The good news is that Eric doesn’t use the place much and it’s for rent.   Check out some pix here to see if it’s up to your standards. Back to English Harbor and the fleet on the dock.   There’s Pandofra in the middle. Perhaps easier to see close up.   Looking good in her new colors. Ok, back to our parts delivery to Cayuga.

Later that afternoon Cayuga arrived and tied up in Nelson’s Dockyard looking really happy to be near dry land again after about two weeks on the high seas.  Not surprisingly, they were thrilled to accept a few cold beers from me. It was very gratifying to be there when they arrived knowing that there were many behind the scenes of the Rally that kept track of them and did everything possible to help them make their way safely to Antigua.

When I began organizing arrival events for the rally a few years ago, I realized that with most boats sailing so many miles to Antigua, their arrivals would be spread out over many days and to have an “arrival” dinner, a single event meant that some boats would be in port days or a week before some of the slower boats  arrived.  Somehow I didn’t think that it was fair to have the faster boats wait days and days for a single event.  And, at the same time, I didn’t want the slower boats to miss all the fun.

As a result, we decided to put on a full week of events to be sure that everyone has the opportunity to enjoy at least some of the arrival festivities.

One of my favorite events is the “Arrival Cocktail Party” at the Admiral’s Inn, located right in the dockyard.  It’s a beautiful place and authentic in every way, as part of the original dockyard that served the British Navy during the age of sail.  Of course, we always need a “class picture”, right?   This was our biggest group yet and what a fun event.   As most of the crew had already left to head back home, this group is nearly all skippers and family, still a large group by any measure. The first year that we decided to send the fleet to Antigua, following the devastation in the Virgin Islands, the destination for the rally for so many years, I only had a few weeks to organize events here in Antigua.  And, it was Astrid and her brother Paul, who run the Inn, that really stepped up to help me pull together a proper welcome to the fleet and now, several years later, they are still helping skippers and crew settle in after a long voyage.

We took a moment to recognize them for all their support.  Of course, I also wanted to thank Paul publicly for taking the lead in getting the parts out to Cayuga.  Another tradition for the Dawgs is to present the “tail of the Dawg” award for the last boat to arrive prior to the welcome cocktail party, this year to the skipper and crew of Aleta, a bottle of wine donated by the local grocery Covent Gardens. A few days ago we were also hosted at the Antigua Yacht Club, another group that has been really supportive of the Rally.  As in past years, we were lucky to have the Minister Hernandez, the head of tourism on the island, address the group and he described how important the cruising community is to Antigua.

His goal, 200 boats.  I’ll have to get cracking as while we doubled that number from last year to 40 this year, we still have long way to go to reach his goal.   A success by any measure but also short of my 100 boat goal.  I presented a rally flag to the Minister with the help of the Commodore of the Yacht Club, Franklyn Braithwait, also very supportive of our efforts. So, that’s about it for now and we are only half way through our week of events with “crab racing” on tap this evening at the North Sails loft.  I’ll admit that I did check on the field of competitors when I visited the loft yesterday to see which might be the winning crab.  Hmm… 

My careful evaluation of the would-be competitors was inconclusive as they all appeared to be sleeping deeply, perhaps to save their strength for the competition.

All and all, we have been having a great time and I for one, am so pleased to see that the gang is all here.  Well, mostly all here as there are still a few boats making their way, perhaps arriving today.

I can’t wait to welcome them to Antigua.

 

Antigua or bust? Not very busted.

Well, we did it, we made it to Antigua, only a little bit worse for wear.

We arrived in Falmouth Harbor Thursday morning at 04:00 only to discover that my anchor windlass would not deploy so we picked up a mooring.  Fortunately, the problem was minor, a tripped circuit breaker so after throwing the switch it worked again.   After a swim, a beer and a bit of celebratory rum as the sun came up, we moved over to the dockyard, Pandora’s home for the next week.

So, 1,750 miles and 11 days later we arrived, a long way from Hampton.  This is us, in Hampton the evening before our departure, raring to go, me, Cliff and George, both veterans of past runs aboard Pandora.   Note the jackets.  It was chilly.  Cold didn’t last long aboard Pandora and after day one of the trip it was positively hot and sticky. The 11 day run was several days longer than anticipated and the miles a lot farther as well.  As the crow flies, the run to Antigua is about 1,450 miles, we ended up sailing over 1,750 miles due to the adverse Equatorial Current that runs north along most of the area we sailed through.  And, in addition, we spent a lot of time sailing east without actually getting closer to our destination, waiting for the southerly winds to shift to the east.   It was a real world example of “you can’t get there from here”, in the extreme.   But we eventually did get there…

Things ended out working well but early forecasts suggested that we might run out of fuel before we made it to Antigua due to light and adverse winds.  We spent a lot of time trying to calculate fuel consumption, how much we actually had on board and when it would run out.  The only way that I can know for certain how much “usable” fuel we have aboard is to run on a tank until the engine dies when it’s all gone and note how much it takes to fill it up again.    I have a pretty good feel for this but haven’t systematically run the fuel out as I did this time.

We ended up running two of our three tanks completely out and there were many anxious hours spent wondering what would happen when we were down to the final tank.  However, in the end  we had better wind than anticipated and arrived in Antigua with fuel to spare.  While some estimates suggested that we’d be running the engine as much as 150 hours we only ran it about 110 hours which I was comfortable as on my last run south I ran for 130 hours and still had fuel left which suggests that we actually had a cushion of at least 2o hours.

We had moments of frustration, like when the main halyard parted and the sail came crashing down on the deck, but there were moments of serene beauty like the stunning sunrises every morning. I found that I could watch the receding wake as our vane steered along tirelessly.George spent hours listening to music, sometimes loosing himself in the moment during night watches and singing WAY LOUDER than he realized.  Love those cool shades?  Totally hip?  You be the judge.Cliff just enjoying the view a few days after he recovered from early-on mal de mer.  With Pandora in cruising mode, it was pretty much a wreck down below, at least it seemed that way to me, the anal skipper with all the cushions covered with canvas sheets.   These covers really proved their worth as we discovered leaks we didn’t know we had.  Isn’t that always the way?While we had our share of squalls, we had many many hours of wonderful sailing, ably assisted by our newest crew member, our windvane steering unit, Lisa.  I understand that most crews so attached to their vanes that they give them names, unlike electronic pilots that often end up with names that are not altogether complimentary.  After years of sudden changes in course, Pandora’s electric pilot is “Crazy Ivan”.

So, what to name our new pilot?  The leading contender, suggested by George is “Lisa” as in Lisa Simpson, of “The Simpsons”.  The idea behind this, George’s idea, seconded by Brenda, is that Lisa is widely regarded as the smartest member of the Simpson family, or should I say “crew”.  I’ll admit that I am not totally on board with this so I won’t be having Lisa tattoo’ed on my arm quite yet.

So, here we are and after only two days in port, the hardships of passage are becoming a distant memory with Pandora safely tied up here in Nelson’s Dockyard along with many others in the fleet, all proudly flying their Dawg Colors.Is there any spot on earth prettier than this to tie up your yacht?And, while Pandora was the first to actually tie up in what was an empty dockyard, prior to our arrival.  She’s clearly not alone any more.  It is tremendously gratifying to me personally to have so many of the boats tie up here in the Dockyard with the rest of the fleet after so many months of planning.And…the parties have begun, the week of events that we have planned for the fleet.   There’s a lot on tap including, and you won’t believe this one, an evening of Crab Racing.  Yes, Crab Racing!  Stay tuned for news about that one.

Meanwhile, some boats are still working their way south, way short on fuel, working through their on-board gremlins, waiting for favorable winds or dealing with critical breakdowns.  For an area that normally has too much wind, we are not seeing that now with nearly flat calm conditions expected for the next few days.

While I didn’t feel lucky at certain points on the trip, Pandora actually had it easy compared to the trials of some who ran into all sorts of mayhem.  In hindsight, Pandora and her crew made it here with a minimum of fuss.

Some had real issues to contend with.  This story, scary in the extreme, shows what can happen when you are far from land.  Aboard one boat was a crew member who had a liver transplant years ago and accidentally lost his vital medication, only a few days into their voyage.  This harrowing story, fortunately with a happy ending, was described to me by Hank, Salty Dawg president.

Hank wrote: (with a tiny bit of editing by me, I’ll admit)

“One boat, just arriving now, had a serious issue offshore.  A member of the crew accidentally dropped his supply of anti-rejection pills down the head (boat lurched, lid left up and the pills flew out of the vial, of course, landing right in the head.  The pills were gone that had to be taken on schedule for life after a liver transplant in 2013.  Without his medication he would only survive for a few days, not enough time to get to Antigua.  After lots of phone calls at our end to an immunologist (my brother) and the crewman’s doctors in NY, we learned that Prednisone would work fine as alternative to his prescribed medication to suppress immune system and get him to Antigua.  In checking around the fleet, we found two boats 90 miles away that had Prednisone aboard.  And then a miracle, the skipper found they had a supply in their first aid kit.  Disaster averted!

Several days later, when contacted by United States Coast Guard about how things were going, the crewman said he preferred to have his regular medications.  The USCG said no problem, and would send a supply out to him.  So last Sunday the USCG did an airdrop from C-130 flying 3-1/2 hours out of Elizabeth City NC.   

The crew of the yacht were able to recover the medical pods that included the lifesaving drugs to keep his body from rejecting a transplanted liver.  The USCG C-130, after hours of flight arrived on the scene, flew overhead, tossed the package to them and flew back home.”

What an amazing and gratifying story of Dawgs helping other Dawgs along with an amazing feat by our own USCG.

Another boat was struck by lightening a few days into the trip and lost all of their electronics.  They diverted to Bermuda where the captain and crew are now working hard to finish the installation so that they can get underway.  They are doing the installation themselves as the local dealers in Bermuda are too busy to help.

How about a fouled prop in mid ocean?  While a crew member on that yacht was swimming to remove a piece of line that had tangled with their prop they were visited by a curious whale, just checking them out.

Another boat made the mistake of putting their dink in davits hanging out over the stern and when it got rough the dink broke loose and was swinging wildly.  While the skipper tried to subdue the bucking dink, his foot was badly hurt.  Ultimately, the dink was cut away and lost.

But wait, there’s more.  SV Cayuga, is still out there s-l-o-w-l-y sailing toward Antigua as they lost their engine water pump and, as a result, the use of their engine early into the trip.  Since then they have been a prisoner to really light winds for days as they slowly sail and drift along.  This trip has seen it’s share of really light winds and very tough timing indeed for them.

Their best guess is that they will be somewhere near Antigua on Sunday so I have arranged to have Paul, co-owner of the Admiral’s Inn, run out with his boat to tow them in.  The parts, currently on the other side of the island, will be sent here to the Dockyard so that repairs can be made.    So, for now, it’s up to the crew of Cayuga to make their way to Antigua.  Here’s to a speedy passage, if that’s not too much to ask.

Another boat lost all of their newly installed electronics and had to rely on their GPS transponder to figure out where they were and text information to others to keep them informed on progress.  Happily, they approached English Harbor during daylight hours on Thursday and had an easy run into the Dockyard.

Yes, Pandora had it easy and now we are here in Antigua enjoying the fun.  And, speaking of fun, the parties have begun and last evening a local art gallery, Rhythm and Blue, owned by artist Nancy Nicholson, had her season opener party, timed to allow the Dawgs to be a part of the fun.  With what seemed like an endless stream, or river, of rum punch and appetizers along with a terrific reggae band, the event was really a lot of fun. A great turnout.
And, the Dawgs were well represented.
This evening Ann-Marie Martin, the Commissioner of Parks, is throwing a free party for the Dawgs including food and drink, their way of saying thanks for us coming to Antigua.

And, there’s more, something each day to look forward to for those who joined in on this year’s Salty Dawg Rally to Antigua.

So there you have it, while it was Antigua or bust for Pandora, it seems we have a lot to be thankful for as we ended up being only a little bit busted and we had a much easier time than some.

However, everything is working out, late or not for all the Dawgs heading our way and there will still be parties in store for them when they arrive.

 

Tuesday Morning, November 12

Steady as she goes.

The mood of the fleet, as evidenced by this morning checkin SSB net, has lightened quite a bit now that conditions are just easy reaching toward Antigua.  As of late evening yesterday, at around 23N, we began to pick up steady trade winds, the very thing that everyone has been waiting for since leaving Hampton.

After days of hunting for favorable winds and a painful amount of time heading more east than south, toward Antigua, it is a huge relief to be pointing directly toward our destination with a minimum of fuss.

The wind is solidly from the east now which puts us on a point of sail with the wind just forward of the beam, a great sailing angle for Pandora.   Wind speeds are consistent, moderate and running between 13 and 15kts, making for easy sailing.

We are still bucking a slight northerly current but we are going fast enough to see over the bottom speeds in the 7-8kt range.  It wasn’t more than a few days ago when we were motoring directly into light winds and current that we had to settle for speeds of about half that to make things worse, we weren’t even heading directly toward Antigua.

I like this much better and to be able to see that the mileage to Antigua is now under 300 miles warms my heart.  Actually, “warm” is the word of the day as it’s pretty hot and stuffy down below.  We can’t open up any hatches as the odd wave hits Pandora without warning, splashes over the deck and would surely find it’s way down below.

I can recall a time on my last run south when I had the small hatch over the galley open only to be shocked when gallons, and I mean gallons, of water surged in,  soaking me and the galley with an inch or more of water in a single shocking moment.  What a mess with salt water sloshing around on the counter and seeping into the fridge and behind cabinets, an experience that I don’t want to repeat.

So, hot and steamy is the word until we get to Antigua.     And, the answer to “when will we get there” seems to be in the wee hours of Thursday morning.

While we plan on tying up at the Dockyard in English Harbor for the next week with most of the other rally boats, we will first run next door into Falmouth harbor as the entrance is easier at night and there is enough space to get into calmer waters before we take down the main.  Recall that I am using my toping lift as a main halyard and taking that down means going up on deck to release the line, something that I don’t want to do in the chop outside of English Harbor, where the waves can be pretty large.

After a celebratory bit of rum after we drop anchor the crew will settle down for a nap and then move Pandora over to English Harbor in time to tie up at the dockyard when they open at 08:00.

After tying up in the dockyard we will clear in to customs and immigration, take the main off of the boom to send it out to the sailmaker for repairs which it is badly in need of.  I am hopeful that the repairs will be good for at least another season or two but I guess I’ll know more after the “diagnosis”.

However, the big event for me will be seeing Brenda as it’s been more than three weeks since I left home to begin preparing for the run and now making my way to Antigua.

For now I am so pleased to be making good time on the final leg to Antigua.  Steady as she goes about sums it up.

Down to the Home Stretch….Antigua on Thursday?

We are down to the last 420 miles or so until we arrive in Antigua.    It’s funny to say “last” as that’s still a very long way to sail but after over 1,200 miles under our keel, that doesn’t sound like all that much.   Now that we are finally headed directly for our destination, with predictable winds in the forecast, somehow it doesn’t seem all that far away anymore.

Overnight and today, Monday, have offered a welcome respite from the drama of the last few days and I am happy to report that we have not had any more broken gear and a lot less action in the squall department.  We did have a big squall with really heavy rain last night that followed us along for nearly 5 hours but there wasn’t much wind, not even enough for sailing actually.  However, it kept us busy and at the helm and ready just in case.

Today was a beautiful sunny day and we took advantage of the light winds and smooth conditions to transfer all of the fuel that I had in jugs, 22 gallons, into the port fuel tank as that tank and the mid tank under the floor had been run down to empty.  We kept running on each tank until the engine began to shudder as it sucked in air.  Even though we had more fuel in the third tank and in jugs, it is very disconcerting when the engine begins to shut down and you are over 400 miles from anything.

And, as I switched to my last tank, I couldn’t help but remember two years ago when I did just that and discovered that my tank had water in it which rendered the entire tank unusable.   The good news is that we switched and everything is good.  And, as I just put the fuel into the other tank from the jugs, I am confident that the remaining fuel in the other tank is clean too.

We are currently running on the starboard tank, the last full one, which we estimate to be about 30 gallons and then once we run that one out, if we do, we will switch back to the tank with the fuel I transferred today.

Antigua is still a long way from here and it’s a bit unsettling to know that if something were to go wrong we don’t have enough fuel to get there under power alone.  Losing the main halyard on the main the other evening is something that I don’t want to repeat.

However, the wind is beginning to fill in and we should be able to shut off the engine around midnight and sail most of the remaining distance to Antigua from here.

George spent several hours today working on a spreadsheet to keep track of our motoring time as well as to track our speed with the goal of estimating our arrival time and be sure that we don’t run out of fuel.

Timing is important as he and Cliff have to catch the same flight on Thursday evening at 5:00 and they don’t want to miss their flight and have to buy another ticket.  They are both a bit bummed that they can’t spend even one day enjoying Antigua but the idea of paying for another ticket doesn’t sound appealing either.   Besides, I am sure that they are really excited to be heading north to the chilly North East.

Brenda emailed me today to say that there is a possibility of snow in CT on Wednesday.  What fun.

I feel badly for my crew having to leave immediately as this is a very long way to sail just jump off of the boat and into a taxi.

Hopefully we will have at least a few hours for them to get the lay of the land.  Besides, I do have to buy them a rum punch to toast their arrival before I see them off.

Brenda arrives on Wednesday afternoon and will be living in the lap of luxury, with the bed all to herself until I arrive at the beautiful Admiral’s Inn, located right inside the dockyard where Pandora will be berthed.

And when will we arrive, you ask?   We’ve been giving it our best guess for days now and now that we are entering more predictable winds, we are pretty sure that we will arrive sometime late morning on Thursday, with a few hours to spare before they head to the airport.

So, that’s it, we are down to the last stretch on a long run and I am getting pretty excited about seeing Brenda after several week away.

And speaking of excited,  I am sure that Andrew Dove at North Sails will be thrilled to see me with my damaged mainsail that is badly in need of repair.  I’ll also make he local rigger happy when he prepares my new main halyard and snakes it down the mast.

So, there you have it, after 11 days at sea, and I hope that’s all it turns out to be, Pandora will arrive in Nelson’s Dockyard, perhaps the most beautiful harbor just about anywhere,  in good style.

And, I’ll be arriving just in time as the first of our week of planned events is on Thursday evening to honor the Salty Dawg fleet and their successful passage to Antigua.

I know that a good number in the fleet won’t arrive until later in the week but that’s why we have a full week of event so fast or slow, everyone will be able to enjoy the fun and celebrate their successful passage.

Oh boy, I can’t wait to have a rum punch.
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Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019

November 10, 2019
Pandora’s bow is pointed toward Antigua, finally.

It’s Sunday evening and I am plenty happy to put the last 36 hours behind me.

Before I get into all that, and there’s plenty to write about, I’ll note that we are FINALLY HEADED IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION, toward Antigua.

Remember, we have been heading on a more easterly course for what seems like months now, waiting for the southerly winds to let up and shift east, to the more normal trade winds that are normal for this area.

Chris Parker, our weather router, predicted that the southerly winds and seas would begin to die down today and they finally did around sunset.   We waited a bit for the lumpy seas to begin to settle down and turned south, directly toward Antigua, now still about 550 miles south of our position.

We have mostly been on hold for several days now as we sailed east, while waiting for these southerly winds to die down knowing that we would likely be motoring into light winds for about 24 hours before we finally, and I do mean FINALLY, connect with the long awaited easterly trades.

I was checking my notes on the run home from Antigua two seasons ago, and recall we enjoyed trade wind sailing hundreds of miles to the north of where we are now.  On that trip, heading north, we did the entire run in about 8 days and not the 10 plus that we will likely spend clawing our way south to Antigua.

Brenda has been watching the shared page for the rally and tells me that we are ahead of most of the fleet.   Oh boy, I don’t feel like we are ahead of anything.

So, about my day.

At about 04:00 this morning we heard a noise and discovered that the mainsail was down on the deck.  I couldn’t frigging believe it.  The same thing happened on our way north two years ago when the headboard was pulled off of the sail and I had to go up the mast to retrieve, the most terrifying thing that I have ever experienced.

So, there I was, it was still pitch dark and the day was getting off to a terrible start.

Somehow the main sheet, the line that holds up the sail, had parted where it goes into the masthead and down the sail came in a lump.

George and I got started cleaning up the mess and getting the sail lashed to the boom while Cliff made sure that we didn’t get into any trouble and manned the helm.   What to do?

We talked it over and decided that the best option was to remove the topping lift line from the aft end of the boom and use that as a secondary halyard to pull up the main.  Then we took a spare halyard from the front of the mast and threaded it back to provide some support for the end of the boom.  It was a difficult lead as the line came out of the mast on the bow side so it had to be swung around the shrouds and lead aft.   That wasn’t a good lead and could easily lead to bad chafe.  However, I wanted to be sure that there was something to support the boom if we ran into problems again.

So, some hours later we were back in business with the mess cleaned up and flying the main again, although with one reef in to be sure that we didn’t put too much stress on that new line.

Problem solved and I headed to the galley to get some breakfast together.  I put a good healthy amount of raisin bran cereal in a bowl, reached into the fridge to get some milk and promptly dumped the entire bowl of cereal down into the fridge.  I couldn’t believe my luck.   Another mess to clean up.

But wait, there’s more.    A while later we were hit with a large squall, not one with lightening but there was plenty of strong wind up near 40kts and deluges of rain.  Ok, one more squall and it wasn’t our first on this trip.

I went down below and discovered salt water dribbling down from behind the headliner, all over the settee cushions, TV and down the bulkhead.   I had seen a tiny drip the day before and made a mental note to check on it when we reached Antigua.  Now, with much more water coming in, it became much more urgent.

My first thought was that the leak was coming from the fittings on the deck that house the hydraulic hoses for the boom and I spent about 30 minutes, all while being splashed by seawater coming over the starboard bow and caulked them with care.  And, let me tell you, it’s not easy to work with sticky black glue while being tossed about and splashed by passing waves.   And, to add to the picture, all this involved taking out tiny screws, saving them and reassembling a sticky glued up mess when I was done.

Mission accomplished and I headed back down below to clean up and put on some dry clothes.  Another squall passed and the leak, was worse, much worse.

Back into my wet clothes and up on deck again.  That’s when I discovered the “real” source of the leak.  On either side of the mast are stainless tube bars designed to lean against when working at the mast.  The are aptly called Granny Bars, for those that need a bit of extra support.  Anyway, these have three legs, each bolted to the deck.  It seems that one of the nuts on the thru-deck bold had some loose and the base was pulled up out of the deck exposing a 3/8″ hole in the deck.   I guess that we had dislodged it somehow while working on the mast.  Actually, I checked behind the headliner and discovered that there wasn’t a nut on the hold-down bolt.  It was plenty rusty and I expect that perhaps the problem was that when the boat was built a steel nut was used by accident and it had finally rotted away.

Fortunately, I was able to find a nut in my hardware supply that fit, no easy feat given the fact that it was metric.  I put a liberal amount of sealing compound under the fitting and tightened it down.  Problem solved?  I sure hope so as I have worked hard over the years to find leaks, track them down and dry things out, often a very difficult game of cat and mouse.

I guess that the leak is resolved as not 15 minutes after I had come back into the cockpit, the largest squall of the trip hit us with winds up to 40kts and a deluge of rain.  No leak, or at least none that I could detect but perhaps I was too busy.

So, there you have it, a day that proved once again, that “into every life a little rain must fall”.

No kidding, today was a real soaker on that account.

However, all is well as we are FINALLY pointed toward our destination, Antigua even though it is still over 500 miles away, the fact that we are going in the right direction, makes it feel like it’s right around the corner.

So, if we are able to keep up an average speed of 6.5kts and nothing important breaks, we should arrive in Antigua at some point on Thursday morning.

Oh yeah, one more thing.  During one of the squalls today, as we bucked from wavetop to wavetop, something crashed onto the top of the dodger and bounced into the water, our circular TV Antenna, which must have broken loose from all the wave action.   I haven’t yet checked but am now wondering if it hit one of the solar panels.  They are glass…

So, Pandora’s bow is finally pointed toward Antigua and tomorrow should be better.

We deserve it.

Are We There Yet?

Note:  This post was written on Saturday, but due to some events that kept Bob busy he did not send it until Sunday afternoon.  Sunday’s post will up in a moment or so.

Are we there yet?

Throughout the millennia countless passengers have asked the “captain” when they would be arriving at Grandmas, the cottage, the battle, well, you get the picture.

I expect that many a pirate, complete with peg leg and parrot on the shoulder, uttered these words “Captain, when will we be hitting port have some grog and visit the wenches?” a few moments before being tossed overboard for insubordination.

The British Navy issued a “gill” of rum daily to each sailor perhaps to keep them focused on something other than that oft uttered question.

And, so it goes for the crew of Pandora, from day one of our trip, now nearly a week ago, captain and crew have been wondering, calculating and praying, on this question,  “When will we get there!”

George, who I will say seems to have a thing for numbers and especially numbers scribbled on little scraps of paper, has been doing daily and sometimes nearly hourly calculations on fuel consumption with the hope of anticipating when the engine will sputter as the last drop of usable fuel is consumed.

However, as the days have rolled by, we have spent much less time motoring than anticipated and the question now is “when the wind dies, how fast can we motor and still not run out of fuel?”

As I write this we are well into our second day of fabulous sailing in what Brenda might define as “sporty”.  No, actually, she’s probably say “This is way too F*&^%&G Sporty for me! When will we get there?”, we are making wonderful time, if perhaps not quite directly to where we want to go.

After days of uncertainty the forecast now looks like we will continue our brisk sailing on a close reach,  running to the SE at 7.5 to sometimes 9kts for some time longer.  And, I have to say that this feels pretty good after all that motoring .   The wind, as predicted, is from the SSW and running between 14-17kts.  And that’s good as there is an impressive wind driven chop and we need a good amount of wind to keep moving, lurching from wave top to wave top, with a lot of drama as she launches herself over the top and crashes down in a drenching spray of foam.

We are moving to the SE toward the trade winds, which, as I have mentioned, have been recently suppressed by a large high pressure system that has been over us and caused such light winds.   Normally, and passage making on a small boat is almost never “normal”, we would have hit the trades already and would be driving south to Antigua on a beam reach.

We expect to continue moving along on a close reach until we approach a sort of “convergence zone” between the SW winds and easterly trades probably tomorrow morning, when there will be an area of about 24 hours with virtually no wind at all.  When this happens, sometime over the next 12 hours, we will use the engine to point Pandora directly toward Antigua approximately due south for another 550 miles directly to the south until we hit the trades.

Chris Parker, our weather router, says that the trades should rebuild after our 24 hours of motoring,  first from ESE and then will quickly shifting to the east, more typical, and build to about 15+kts.

So, I’m back to that age old question “when will we get there?”.  And, that brings us to George, his scraps of paper and scribbles.   “So, George, when will we get there?”  “Well, captain”, and I love it when they call me captain… actually, I don’t care but it makes for good copy, “My calculations suggest that if we…uhh, uhh…we will uhh…we will arrive in Antigua somewhere between 18:00 on Wednesday and 01:00 on Thursday, but I’m not sure yet.”

So there you have it, that age old question and the answer is perhaps late Wednesday or sometime on Thursday, not to put too fine a point on it.  Or, as my father used to say over is shoulder in the family Country Squire, “we’ll be there when we get there and stop hitting your sister!”

And yes, I have certainly come a long way from my days passenger in the backseat of my parent’s station wagon but the question remains, “when will we get there?”

Is George right?  Does he have any idea when we will arrive?  You’ll be the first to know, beyond us of course, so I’ll just leave it at that for the moment.

And yes, stay tuned.  I can’t wait to get a shower and meet up with Brenda, but not necessarily in that order.   However, Brenda, after more than 40 years of marriage, may have her own thoughts on that.

“Bob, stand down and please take a shower!”

November 8, 2019

Now for some real sailing, for the moment.

It’s noon on Friday and we are booming along on a close reach in 13-15kts of wind and making between 7-8.5 kts.  It’s exhilarating but at the same time, as the hours roll on, the seas are getting choppy, with Pandora crashing into wave after wave, sending spray everywhere.  This is not a casual holiday sail.

However, it seems that each day brings with it an entirely different experience, sometimes exhilarating like now and sometimes depressing as we inch along making virtually no headway against current and wind.  In the ocean even the smallest amount of breeze on the nose can slow you down to a crawl.

Last night was perhaps our most frustrating yet, as the wind shifted south to around 6-11kts, directly on the nose, and that combined with a slight northerly current, slowed our progress to a glacial 4.5kts.  Given the fact that we are still something like 800 miles from Antigua, that was painfully slow progress.

Even with the engine running and sails up, we were lucky to make even 5kts and usually less.  Of course, Pandora can go a lot faster under power but as we continue our laser focus on the amount of fuel left and the amount of time we will be motoring, I have been running the engine at a very low RPM.  As the speed of the engine increases even a little bit, the fuel consumption per hour goes up a lot but not in proportion to the increased speed, substantially reducing the number of hours and distance traveled that we can continue under power.

On my last trip south, two years ago, I ran the engine for a total of 130 hours, arriving in Antigua with fuel to spare, and as of today we have a long way to go to beat that.  That’s good but it’s hard to say what will happen given the fact that the wind shifts around the compass so often.

When I spoke to Chris Parker today his forecast suggested that we would likely enjoy sailing for the next day and then the wind would just about go away when and we will face another 24-30 hours under power before we reach the more predictable trade winds.

By comparison, as we beat our way south into SW winds, two years ago I had a spectacular multi day run with solid easterly trade winds, in this exact same area.  There is a large high pressure zone over us that has basically killed the northern parts of the trade winds, pushing them hundreds of miles south, reversing the wind direction or killing the wind altogether.   Fortunately, for now at least, we have wind and can sail in more or less our intended direction.  When it comes to long distance passage making, it’s better to keep moving than to go where you intend.  And, on top of that, it feels better.

I expect that you may be following my travels on the tracker, my own or on the joint Rally page that I shared and know a lot more about where we are verses the other boats in the fleet.   I know that there are some boats behind us and plenty in front, but I understand that there are a many in the fleet within a radius of perhaps 75-100 miles of our position.  Given the fact that we’ve been at sea for nearly a week, it’s unusual to have so many boats in a relatively tight area.

Twice a day I am in communication with about two dozen boats that are equipped with SSB long range radios and it’s fun to hear what they are up to.   Most of the boats are doing fine but a few days ago one boat was struck by lightening and had to divert to Bermuda because their electronics were nearly all ruined.  On my last run south, two years ago, another boat lost their electronics and two others experienced structural damage.

The constant movement and large loads on equipment means that things can break, and they do.   That reality explains why I tend to spend so much time and energy, not to mention dollars, on keeping Pandora in top shape.   Broken stuff can surely ruin your whole day, especially when you are over 600 miles from the closest land, as we are now.  Come to think of it, it’s the farthest from land I have ever been, if you don’t count flying on a passenger jet.  Trust me, this is different and a lot more sweaty.

I have written about the recent addition of a Hydrovane wind vane steering system last month and have been largely silent on the subject since leaving.   My silence was because it wasn’t working particularly well and I found myself wondering if it was a waste of money and a big effort for nothing.

However, after tinkering with it for several days, I am happy to report that it steers remarkably well and given the fact that it has only a few moving parts, no electronics and uses no power, I have to say that it (she?) is proving to be the most reliable crew member yet.

It’s pretty amazing how easy it is to set and modify a course and as the wind direction changes, even slightly, she adjusts and keeps us moving along without a complaint.   I am told that just about everyone that has one of these ends up giving “her” a name and given my history with Brenda, she will have to decide what our new crew member should be called.

So, here we are, having the best day of sailing yet under a sparkling clear tropical sky and near perfect conditions that follows the worst night yet on this trip.   As the say, “what a difference a day makes”.  Here’s hoping that I haven’t jinxed the good sailing.

Brenda arrives in Antigua on Wednesday evening and I am beginning to accept the fact that I won’t be there to greet her as I doubt that I will arrive before Thursdsay.  At the very least, I have alerted Astrid at the Admiral’s Inn to expect her to arrive unannounced and to have a room ready for her.  I also asked her not to treat Brenda too well as I’ll never be able to pry her loose and move aboard Pandora.

So, the question remains, when will we arrive in Antigua and given the ups and downs of the last few days, I guess the answer is “I have no idea.”  However, for the moment, things are going well.
Let’s hope that things keep going well.  That’s what’s supposed to happen when it’s good?  Right?

Will There Be Wind??

Will there be wind?

As I write this it is mid afternoon on Wednesday and we are sailing along at nearly 8kts on a broad reach.  Yes, sailing

I am particularly impressed as we spent much of the morning trying to figure out, really figure out, just how far we can motor and exactly how much fuel the three built in tanks hold as the wind was impossibly light and expected to stay that way for the foreseeable future.

The “brochure” for the boat says that we carry 150, or 50 gallons in each of our three tanks, but when you are talking about a design where only three boats were built, it’s hard to say exactly what’s what about anything.   In the past I have described working on Pandora as a sort of “scavenger hunt” to find out what wire does what and exactly how to fix anything.

After considering the weather predictions of no wind for much of the trip I felt compelled to check, once again, my assumptions for how many hours we could motor.

We had to begin motoring again as of about 02:00 today and after listening to the motor drone on and on for hours and speaking with folks on other boats, I found my anxiety about running out of fuel to be on the rise.

So, George and I decided, actually I decided, that we’d take measurements of the three tanks and try to calculate the volume in cubic inches, feet and ultimately gallons.  Of course, I didn’t know how many cubic inches a gallon of fuel is but did some rough calculations using a gallon engine oil container.  Then we took measurements of the tank that was the closest to being square, the one under the floorboards in the galley.  I had been told that the tank was 50 gallons but as near as I can tell, it’s more like 40.  Bummer about that.  After thinking about that for a while longer, Cliff remembered that on our trip back from the BVIs a few years ago, we had run that tank dry, so I looked in my log to see how much fuel it took to fill the tank up again when I got home.  Magic, 40 gallons.  Ok, so now I know that what is perhaps my largest tank is about 40 gallons, or at least has 40 gallons of usable fuel.

We then took measurements of the other two tanks, the ones under the settees port and starboard and after a number of rough calculations of these really oddly shaped tanks, we estimated that each of them holds something like 35 gallon which suggests that between the three tanks we might have more like 110 gallons, not the 150 that I had assumed.  However, in the past I have always assumed that some amount of fuel remained in the tanks when they were “dry”, so my “”new number isn’t all that much different.

Anyway, we spent a lot of time on this and came out a belief that, unless the wind were to pick up, that we’d be in pretty tough shape by the time we reached the more predictable trade winds.

It is human nature, well at least my nature, to assume that whatever is going on at that exact moment will continue.  If there is good wind, of course, it’s going to continue to be good.  Motoring?  Well, you get the idea.  Ask Brenda, she will back this up.  What a great day!  Tomorrow will be great too.  What a terrible day…

So, the motoring continued until about 13:00 and then the wind picked up to near 18kts and we are now moving along really nicely on a broad reach at around 7 to 8 knots.   Who knew?

Will the wind go away again?  For sure.  Will it come back?  Well, ask me later when the wind is light…

I guess all this leaves me with the questions of if our voyage will end before the fuel is gone.  I guess we’ll be the first to know.  All I know for now is that for every hour we sail we will burn less fuel and that’s good.

Right now, we are sailing so I guess it’s going to be OK.   Well, at least I’ll feel that way until the wind dies.

Day 5

Less fuel, more wind.

It’s Thursday morning and we are again sailing along on a beam reach, flying the big code zero sail in wind of about 10-15kts which gives us about 7-8kts, which is good.

In spite of our fears of light wind, and the worse has yet to come, I am told, we have run the motor for a total of 44 hours since leaving Hampton VA on November 3rd at 07:00 hrs.  While we have been underway for nearly 100 hours, we have only run the engine for a total of 54 hours, less than half of the time.  Well, slightly less…  That’s good.

However, from here on in, as soon as our good fortune runs out, perhaps in a few hours, we will soon be motoring and may be looking at as much as an additional 100 hours of motoring, something like four days straight.  Yes, that sounds like a lot and it is but even with our reduced fuel capacity assumptions, we should be able to manage things well.

It’s been a bit stressful to think about how far we can motor and not be delayed too much but this morning I began to put everything together and realized that even if we use the motor often, we are likely to end up motoring somewhere in vicinity of 140 to 150 hours in total for the trip.  The good news is that on my last run south I ran under power for a total of 130 hours and had plenty of fuel left over once I arrived in Antigua.   Of course that’s old news but I’m goin with that.

But wait, more good news.  We have recalculated the amount of fuel we had when we started out from Hampton and are fairly confident that we have 140 gallons of usable fuel which translates into  somewhere in the vicinity of 200 hours of motoring, assuming that we keep the RPMs low and operate as efficiently as possible.   Heck, that’s two more days than my best guess.   No problem.  “Ha, we’ll see about that Bob as you are still a long way from Antigua.”

One of the issues we face is that the trades have been suppressed recently so the reliable easterly winds we are looking for won’t kick in until further south than is normal for this time of year, perhaps around the same Latitude of the southern Bahamas.  This means that once we reach good wind we will be able to sail at last the 400 miles to Antigua.

One thing that particularly stresses sailors is the fear of being struck by lightening and I have to say that I share that fear given the fact that I have several friends whose boats have been hit.

Well, last night many in the fleet sailed through some nasty squalls, including us, and one of the boats was struck.  In nearly all cases of lightning strikes, there isn’t any risk to crew as the rigging on the boat forms a natural shield.  However, sensitive electronics, such a big part of sailing today, doesn’t fare very well.  In this case, their electronics were all fried.  Fortunately, their engine wasn’t damaged and they were fairly close to Bermuda so that’s where they are headed.  If I recall, someone was struck on the last run I did two years ago, with similar results.

So, where does all this leave us with regards to getting into Antigua?    I am mindful that we have less fuel than we thought but we’ve been lucky so far and had more wind.  I hope that our luck continues to hold.

I am also mindful of the fact that Brenda will arrive in Antigua on Wednesday afternoon and it would be really nice to meet her when she arrives.   However, a lot has to happen between now and then so…

However, given what I know about the upcoming weather, I expect that we will be arriving around that time so let’s be optimistic and say Wednesday.

Wish us well.