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Following Seas and the Wind at our Backs

It’s Friday morning and we are moving along at decent pace, about 6 kts.  I’d like to be going faster but the wind is behind us and not as strong as it was for the first few days.

Our run over the last 24 hours was a bit under 150 miles giving us an average speed of about 6 kts, substantially less than the earlier part of the trip but still acceptable and what the weather forecast suggested would happen.  I expect that this will be the case for the next few days.

We are about half of the way and I still think that we are likely to arrive sometime next Wednesday, giving us a dock-to-dock time of 9 days, considerably less than the near 12 days for my run south last November.

This is not surprising as the run north takes better advantage of prevailing winds and is generally an easier run.   I expect that we may have some days of motoring and perhaps a few days of wind forward of the beam, but it should not be particularly challenging.

Everyone has settled in pretty well, now that the first few days are behind us, which is typical.  It won’t be long until we will have made it more than half way there which is always nice.  And, with the wind continuing to be behind us, it will begin to feel like it’s downhill from here.

Yes, with following seas and the wind at our backs, it’s a pretty good run.

Music to My Ears

Pandora has a way of telling you that she’s moving along nicely.  At just about 7 kts, she begins to hum, a sort of harmonic vibration that you can hear and feel throughout the boat.
I have no idea what the source of this noise is but it is very consistent and depends on the speed of the boat moving through the water, not the speed of the wind.

As 7+ kts is a very nice turn of speed for Pandora, the sound is very much “music to my ears.”

The perennial question that everyone has, including me, when we are on passage, is “when will we get there?”  Of course, as our speed is dependent on the strength and direction of the wind, asking that question is sort of like asking “how much does a car cost.”

Another key question, beyond how fast we are going, is “are we going toward our destination,” which is often not the case at all.

From when we left St Thomas, three days ago, we were basically sailing due north, with the goal of staying east of some nasty thunderstorms that were moving across our path for several days.  A course that wasn’t really toward our destination.

Going the wrong way isn’t great but it’s way better than being stuck in nasty thunderstorms for hours or days.   I will say that getting struck by lightening or being knocked down by 50 MPH winds, makes me very nervous and while a lightening strike is rare, the thought of having all of our electronics fried while far from shore is pretty scary.

Anyway, by heading north for the first few hundred miles, we were able to stay to the east of the storms.  After they passed, we turned a bit farther to the NW and toward our destination.

We still have a long way to go, nearly 1,000 miles, but it is nice to at least be heading in the mostly right direction.  And, we continue to be heading there at a good speed.  I mentioned that we made nearly 190 miles on our first day and I was surprised to see that yesterday’s run was nearly 180 miles.  Very respectable.

So, with about 25% of the run done, and good a good wind forecast for much of the remainder of the trip, it’s beginning to look like we could end up in Deltaville sometime next Wednesday.

Happily, nothing more has broken and the repair on the jib outhaul seems to be holding for now.  With us moving along on a broad reach, the pressures on the rig aren’t all that great, even though the wind speeds are in the low 20s much of the time.

All of this is good as a broad reach is a comfortable point of sail and with the wind in the low 20s, it’s strong enough to keep us moving along nicely.

I guess that the biggest issue for us right now is that we forgot to get cookies so the supply is pretty limited.  I do have a cake mix and as the temperatures seem to be dropping as we get farther north, perhaps I can whip up a cake or cupcakes in the next few days.

Pandora is happy, humming away and that, along with the possibility of cupcakes, is music to Pandora’s crew’s ears.

So far, so good and pointing in the right direction.

Stuff Breaks

One thing that we always worry about when we are offshore is stuff breaking.

Some years ago the headboard at the top of my main tore off, probably because the webbing that attached it to the top of the main decayed in the sun.   Sadly, I didn’t notice that it had any decay until it broke, taking the headboard to the top of the mast and the sail ending up on deck.

Getting that resolved was a harrowing experience that had me going up the mast while far offshort, not an experience that I want to repeat.   It was terrifying, to say the least.

Well, today we had yet another failure but in this case it wasn’t all that bad.  The jib is on a boom and to pull the sail out there is a line that runs from the aft end of the boom up to a block on the back of the jib and out to the end of the boom.   This line takes a tremendous amount of load so the line is a fairly high tech material with a special anti-chafe exterior to help it resist breaking.

Unfortunately, that line failed anyway leaving the jib flapping madly in the wind.

With help from Craig and Alex I was able to rerun the remaining line and tie it back onto the fitting on the boom and after about an hour we were back in business.
I will say that I am not confident that it will hold so I am going to watch the repair carefully.  So far, so good.

One reason that folks opt to leave their boats south for the summer is to avoid the wear and tear on crew and boat and it’s issues like this that are a good example of why that makes sense.

The forces at work as the boat moves through the water at 8-9 kts for days on end are pretty remarkable and it is no wonder that things break.

Speaking of 8-9 kts, we had quite a run for our first 24 hours, a total of just under 190 miles, an average speed of 7.9 kts, an impressive performance.

Chris Parker has had us moving more to the north for a few days to avoid a line of very strong thunderstorms but we should be able to begin heading for the Chesapeake, perhaps Thursday morning.

All and all, the wind should be mostly favorable and behind the beam most of the time.  I am hopeful that we will continue to sail with good wind and hopefully, won’t be hit with any major thunderstorms.

A squall isn’t all that bad but lightning can be a real trial, something that we want to avoid.

So, as of now things have been pretty standard, with the exception of that broken line.

Let’s hope that our luck holds out, along with the favorable winds.
And yes, it’s still hot and sticky.  The good news is as we get farther north things should cool down.

I guess that’s about it for now.  it’s nearly time to think about what to make for dinner.   Simple sounds good.

Underway at Last…Deltaville, Here We Come!

It’s Tuesday afternoon and we have been underway since 10:00 this morning.  After two days in a marina with the AC running, I have to say that it is hot.  Try 90 degrees down below.

As we have to keep Pandora buttoned up to avoid having the occasional wave find it’s way down below, it really doesn’t cool down much in the cabin.  As the engine is under the galley, all the heat from that mass of iron radiates into the cabin for hours after it’s turned off.

Eventually, it cools off a bit but then we have to run the engine again to charge the batteries and the cycle starts all over again.  Hopefully, once I have a new battery bank and a wind generator, I will not have to run the engine quite as much.  Of course, all this assumes that there is wind.

And there is, wind that is, about 15 kts on the beam.  A lovely point of sail. The sea state is reasonable and Pandora is tracking well at about 8 kts, a a respectable turn of speed.

I tried to set up the wind vane steering today and gave up after a while.  I guess I am out of practice.  Perhaps tomorrow.  It is a good way to cut down on electrical consumption compared to using the electronic autopilot, so I don’t have to recharge quite as often.

I am always amazed about how much has to be done to get ready to head offshore.  Moving from island to island means that we have to put everything away that might come loose and break or crash around down below.  However, at sea for days at a time, there are so many unknowns that we have to prepare for just about everything.   Big waves, rough conditions, high winds, you name it…

While I don’t put the dink on deck when we are moving between islands, offshore I deflate it and put it up on deck, securely lashed to the cabin top.  The engine is put in it’s holder on the stern pulpit and the sailcover is securely lashed out of the way to avoid any sort of chafing.

Between that, changing the engine oil and filters along with checking for loose fittings and belts that might be worn, and grocery shopping for two weeks of meals at sea, it takes a full two days to get everything in order.

And, of course, ultimately it’s about the weather. In preparation for the departure of the rally, about 20 boats strong, Chris Parker spent about an hour last night and Sunday going over what we should expect to encounter along the way.

I won’t go into a lot of detail except to say that we are currently heading due north and not directly to the Chesapeake to avoid a very nasty line of thunderstorms that are directly in our path.  By heading north for a few days and then bearing off to the northwest, we will hopefully avoid the front and then have a better angle of wind to head the rest of the way.

That isn’t much out of our way and I am hopeful that we will have a straight shot to the Chesapeake after perhaps Thursday.

With all of this in mind, and if the wind holds for most of the trip, we should arrive at the mouth of the Chesapeake sometime next Wednesday.

That would be a pretty good passage of about 1,400 miles.

So, all is well and soon I’ll begin getting dinner ready.  A rotisserie chicken, chilled, over greens.  A good first-day-at-sea dinner.

More tomorrow about how it’s going.

The best possible weather forecast, I hope…

The 120 mile overnight run from St Barts to St John was uneventful and we made good time.  Craig and I took a mooring in the national park, a really nice area, for a few days before Alex arrived.  The water was an amazing blue and there were turtles all over the place.  In preparation for our run north, beginning tomorrow, Tuesday,  we decided to head to a marina in Red Hook, on St Thomas.  It’s a lot easier to prepare, getting the dink up on deck and getting provisions from a marina.  The marina is part of the IGY family of marinas, the same company that runs the one in St Lucia that we stayed at in Rodney Bay.  Their rates tend to be a bit more reasonable than others.  Plenty of services nearby.  The view of nearby St John this morning as the sun came up, was pretty nice. Under the category of “it takes all types” how about this boat near us in the marina.  A great party platform, to be sure. Being in a marina for a few days was a good idea.  A bit of luxury, complete with AC, is a good way to begin a long journey.

So on to the passage north.

I have been wondering, and worrying, about what the weather will be like for our 1,300 mile run to Deltaville VA.  I am heading there instead of home as I will be having a new lithium battery bank installed along with a wind generator before taking her to New England and home.

We have been relying on Chris Parker for weather routing for a decade as do all of the Salty Dawg Rallies.  Chris has a good feel for what sorts of conditions cruisers “of a certain age” look for so he does what he can to help us avoid drama along the way.

Of course, weather is what weather is on a trip of over 3-4 days but he tries to “read the tea leaves” with regards to long range considerations.  This is important for a run like ours, that will take perhaps 8-10 days.  While the weather for early days of the run are pretty clear, after 5 days it is possible that we will encounter conditions that look a lot different than what it looks like when we head out.

As an additional tool to monitor the weather, I also subscribe to Predict Wind and am able to download weather GRIBS twice a day via the Iridium Go satellite unit.  It’s an expensive bit of gear but well worth it for the long passages.  By seeing graphically on my screen what I am hearing from Chris Parker’s forecast, I am able to better visualize what he is talking about.

While the confidence of what the forecast is saying is a lot less certain after the first few days, Chris monitors the weather in Canada and the upper atmosphere thousands of miles away to try and get a feel for what is coming our way perhaps a week from now.

I say this as nearly every time I make a long run, Chris’s comments are always something like “well, that’s a long way off and a lot can change” when it comes to the conditions we may face.   Also, there just about always seems to be something nasty ahead of us to make the run a bit more arduous.

However, when we had our weather briefing yesterday, Chris was uncharacteristically upbeat with how he described the conditions that we were likely to face on our run north.  His comment was something like “I can’t imagine a better forecast”.  That’s good, very good.

Without going into too much detail, this is what the current conditions look like for our departure tomorrow.  It does look quite alarming up north where there are currently gales.  However, by the time we get there the system will have moved out of the area.  You can see the various tracks that the computer has recommended based on a number of different weather models.  See the boat icon, Pandora, at the bottom of the image.

It’s a bit hard to see but the green areas are wind in the mid teens and we will be on a broad reach.  Not ideal, as I’d like a bit more wind when it’s behind us, but pretty good.  As we make our way north, conditions continue to be good with favorable winds, and you can see that the nasty low has moved out of the area.  We will continue to have wind aft of the beam, and hopefully it will be strong enough to keep us moving at a good speed. Finally, as we approach the US east coast, there is a bit of uncertainty with a weak low forecasted to exit the coast.  Again, Chris feels a high degree of confidence that it will not amount to much.   Fingers crossed that it will be long gone by the time we cross the gulf stream off of Cape Hatteras and arrive at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. All and all, it looks like the wind will be favorable for the entire trip if perhaps a bit light at times.  Light wind isn’t a huge problem as I have plenty of fuel, so bring it on.

Over the years of working with Chris and getting his forecasts, there always seems to have been something on the horizon that is particularly worrisome but this time I am encouraged by Chris’s upbeat assessment of what lies ahead.

Just for fun, if you want to follow the fleet for the run home, check out this link to the Salty Dawg Homeward Bound rally page and see where we are relative to the rest of the fleet.   There is a list of the participating boats to the right and you can click on Pandora to see where we are at any given time.  If you don’t see the list of boats on that page follow this link to my own dedicated predict wind page. which is a bit easier to use but leaves out the other boats.  The tracker will update our position every few hours as we make our way north.

Let’s hope that when we arrive in Deltaville that we will look back and say “that was the best forecast ever!”

I’m counting on it, I hope…

 

 

 

On our way to St John today, from St Barts.

It’s a beautiful morning here in St Barts, home to the landed, glitterati, i.e.:  Rich and beautiful or at least doing their best to act and look that way.

This afternoon we will leave to make the 120 mile overnight run to St John where we will be meeting up with the 20 or so boats that will be making their way home as part of the Salty Dawg Homeward Bound rally.  The plan is for us to leave on or about May 10th for points north.  You should check out the fleet tracking page at this link.    Better yet, follow the link to Pandora’s Predict Wind tracking page to see where we are and the weather that’s in the area.  You can see the entire season of our movement way back from when Pandora headed south last November.   nd click on “Pandora  SV”, the link to Pandora alone.

If you don’t like that one, try my Garmin Pandora only tracking page to see where we are at any time.   However, the fleet page is more interesting and shows the current weather that we are experiencing, along with my speed.

Brenda and I visited St Barts on our way south our first time cruising the Caribbean in 2018 and we have not been back.   The major reason, beyond the fact that we have been cruising the southern islands, is that it is very roily out in the anchorage so being here can be uncomfortable.

Craig and I did a run from Antigua to St Barts a few days ago, leaving at dawn to make the 80 mile run.  The view of the sunrise to our stern was really breathtaking. On this trip I decided to ask what it would cost to tie up on the dock in the inner harbor.  I was shocked to learn that it was surprisingly cheap, something like $30/day.  Perhaps it’s because it is late in the season as I know that it’s impossible to get in here during the holidays.

The two negatives are that they don’t have electric on the docks,  and I guess that they assume that all those mega yachts have their own generators.  And, the harbor itself has a bit of surge so Pandora is pulling on it’s dock lines most of the time as the water goes up and down a few inches. It took me more than a day to finally work out a way to calm the motion, but I finally did.

This is the view of the lighthouse up on the hill overlooking town from our cockpit.  We walked up there yesterday but that story is a bit later in this post. Anyway, she’s riding well now. To say that we are close to “town” doesn’t begin to describe it. Just behind the dock is main street Gustavia, lined with every imaginable high end boutiques.   French cheeses and wines are abundant and fairly reasonably priced.   The fresh produce in the market, literally 20 steps from our transom, is amazing.  And an endless number of high end restaurants, along with a few for those of us that “have to ask what it costs”, like me.

We hiked up, actually walked, up the road to the lighthouse that is visible from the town.  The view of the harbor was really impressive.  Pandora is on the dock to the left portion of the photo.   Here’s a closeup of where she is, the last boat on the string, near all the dinks. We also spied the St Barts Yellow Submarine, a glass bottom boat that you can go out on to view the local reefs.  I wonder where it was made.  It looks like fun.   Check out their webpageOnce we were up at the lighthouse, we could look down toward the island airport and watch the crazy approach that planes have to make to land on what appears to be a remarkably short runway. They zip overhead, so close you feel like you could reach up and touch them. After clearing the ridge, or mountain, at the western end of the runway, they dive down the other side to land.   The planes fly at treetop level over the ridge and then go into a steep dive.  Yes, it’s that steep.   Actually worse than this photo suggests.  And then, in seconds, are on the ground.From up on the hill you can peek into the amazing homes that ring the harbor. How about this spot, with “his and hers” pools. I looked in a real-estate office and, as expected, homes were listed for tens of millions.   As you can imagine, the Russian Oligarchs are well represented here, or were before they had to flee due to sanctions.

This place is just dripping with money and in spite of the fact that the island is only 5 miles long, is packed with luxury cars of every description.  The car rental agencies feature tricked out Mini Cooper convertibles, no economy cars for this crowd.   I am particularly taken by the Moks, a sort of cross of a jeep and golf cart. They are everywhere. Being here for a few days, tied up on the dock, so close to town and all the sights, has been a real treat.  Hope that Brenda and I will be able to visit here sometime in the future.

I guess I’d better break now as it’s time for a croissant and to get ready to head out on our overnight this afternoon.  The winds appear to be favorable and I hope we will have a good run.

We should arrive in St John around mid day tomorrow.

Wish us luck.

So, how are you getting home from the Caribbean, Bob?

On Wednesday I’ll be heading back to Antigua to begin the process of bringing Pandora back to the US.   My friend Craig is joining me for the run to the USVIs where we will join up with my friend Alex and the Salty Dawg Homeward Bound Rally back to the US.  Alex and Craig will do the run to the US with me.

I’ve already written about all the plans for upgrades to Pandora and at home, so I won’t repeat them except to say that from Antigua we plan a week cruising, stopping in St Barths and St Martin before meeting up with the Salty Dawg Homeward Bound Rally fleet in St John.  When I head to the US, around the 10th of May, I plan on heading to Deltaville VA where I am having some work done on Pandora before taking her home to New England in June.

As I look at the current weather forecast I can see why Chris Parker suggests that we wait until mid May at the earliest to head north as the weather north of the Caribbean and Bahamas is positively terrible, a sort of “you can’t get there from here” mix of gales and wind from the north.

This is the weather map last week, for Wednesday April 20th, conditions that are typical for April and early May.   It’s not bad down in the Caribbean but any farther north than the DR, and there is no easy way to head north.   The best we could do would be to head to perhaps the Abacos, northern Bahamas and then on to the SE US coastline, perhaps Charleston, NC.   Fast forward a week and it’s still unpleasant with a major low heading east off of the coast.  It is this sort of pattern that is the norm until things settle down in the late spring, think late May, early June.   Sure, the wind direction NE of the Bahamas isn’t all that strong but it’s right out of the north.  Not good at all for heading to the Chesapeake. Sure, these two snapshots of the coming weather don’t tell the whole story but it’s clear that it’s way to early to try to “get there from here”.

I mention this as I have been fielding calls recently from folks that have deadlines or other reasons that make them want to leave to head to the US sooner than the rally.  Early spring weather, as in nasty, is why we planned the departure for the rally no earlier than May 10th.  I think that I convinced most of them to wait a bit.

I have a friend that flew down to Puerto Rico a few weeks ago, in the first half of April, to help bring a boat back to the US.   This qualifies as a  “You don’t know what you don’t know” sort of move, and it is clear that they left too early.   Their trip, made more difficult as the boat is only a 34′ lightly built costal cruiser, took weeks and I believe that they ended up making landfall in the US in Charleston instead of the Chesapeake, their planned destination, as they battled persistently strong northerlies.

Chris Parker did a very interesting webinar recently that characterized the weather that cruisers should expect on a springtime run to New England and the Mid Atlantic.  It’s worth looking at.

Chris breaks the run into three distinct legs as you make your run north, regardless of the specific weather that you might encounter on any given run.

The first half is his presentation and the second half, a Q&A session. The fact that questions took up another half hour, after his review, suggests that there is considerable uncertainty in the cruising community about the whole topic.  This is a must see for anyone considering such a run.In my discussions with skippers that are planning to make a run either north of south from the Caribbean for the first time, I try to stress that it is critical that they plan in a way that has the best possible opportunity for a fun trip or they may make one run and decide that there will not be a second trip.

I still recall someone we met on our first season heading south to the Bahamas, on the ICW just north of Charleston.  His advice to me, after hearing Brenda’s anxiety about the trip, was to caution me that I needed to do what I could to make the run good for her or there would likely not be a second trip, something that he had seen time and time again, over the years.

That was good advice and is a big reason why she flies and meets me in the Caribbean.  A decade later I am still grateful for him taking the time to “caution” me about stressing Brenda too much.

It’s hard to say how our trip will turn out but hopefully, my coming home for a few weeks and leaving a bit later than I would have liked, will make for a more pleasant run.

If you are interested in following along check out “where in the world is Pandora” or by clicking on this link.

Better yet, go to Salty Dawg Homeward Bound Rally page to following the entire fleet.  The link will be posted soon, or at least by the 10th, when the rally is scheduled to depart, as a button on this page.

Wish me luck.

 

 

Hail Columbia!

It’s been more than a week since Brenda and I left St Lucia, and returned to Antigua and we will be flying out on Sunday.

Normally, I would stay behind and wait for crew to arrive but this year I decided to make the trip back to the US to help Brenda prepare for the remodeling of our kitchen, a job that is expected to take several months.  However, it’s not looking great for a timely start for the job as our tile guy just bowed out of the job due to some sort of family issue.  That’s a real setback so it’s doubly important for me to spend a few weeks trying to get things back on track.

One of the reasons that we hustled back to Antigua was with the hope that I’d be able to get aboard Columbia a reproduction of a classic fishing schooner for the Classic Yacht Regatta, an event that brings beautiful yachts from all over.  There are plenty of great boats that would be racing but she was the one that I wanted to be aboard.

My friend Franklyn had spent a lot of time aboard Columbia and put in a good word for me with the captain, Seth.   At first it didn’t seem too promising but when I showed up on the first day of racing as directed by the Captain, he waved me aboard.    After we all went below and signed in and were issued shirts, we assembled on deck for a briefing.

Captain Seth is very focused on safety and while he wants to win and expects a lot from his crew, he made a point that we were supposed to have fun and, of course, stay aboard Columbia.   At the end of his daily briefing, he led the crew in a rousing chant of “hail Columbia”, a great way to begin a day of racing.  It was awesome to be aboard such a spectacular yacht for three days of racing.   The wind was forecast to be breezy and that’s exactly what we got.  

Even getting her underway from the dock is a sight to behold. Each day we had different colored shirts, including those donated by Carib beer.  I love that brand and to have a bright yellow shirt and hat to match was great fun. What a thrill to be aboard and underway.  The “crew” from Carib beer.The crew thought nothing of climbing, no make that scampering, up the mast to untangle whatever.  To sail on Columbia in “sporty” conditions is nothing short of spectacular!  Blasting along in 25-30kts of wind made for a pretty wet ride.  At the end of this short video, watch someone be swept down the deck by a boarding wave. My primary job was to tail the port foremast runner.   Split second timing was needed to secure the line during a tack.  It took three of us to manage the lines.   The next three images compliments of Ed Gifford, a great guy, who was onboard as one of the photographers. This is what happens if you get the timing off, heading to the leeward rail too early.  When we were preparing to tack, the three of us would get into position just before the tack.  The captain would bear off a bit to gain speed and nd blue water piled up over the rail.  I was swept off of my feet once before I learned better.  Sometimes, it wasn’t possible to stay out of the maelstrom.One of the other visiting crew was swept down the side of the boat and while he stayed aboard, his pants came down, underwear and all, to his ankles.  Good thing that he was able to keep them from being swept over the side.   I doubt that he had a spare pair of shorts handy.  “Excuse me, do you have a spare pair of drawers? Mine went over the side.  I’d really rather you didn’t stare, or laugh, thankyou very much.”

The amount of water that swept aboard was remarkable.  What a view of Ashanti IV, a 110′ schooner that we were racing against.  When I saw these waves sweep the decks, I could only imagine what it must have been like to be in the North Atlantic in the winter fishing for cod when boats like Columbia were the norm.   These waves were pretty big and it was just a lovely day for sailing.   Imagine a storm…

Captain Seth was recognized by the race committee with the overall prize of a beautiful new Locman watch from Italy.  They were an official sponsor of the race.  With my birthday coming up soon, Brenda insisted that I get one too.   This photo is probably the coolest that I will ever look.   As much as I try, I am just not a particularly cool guy.  It is a really spectacular piece. The regatta was put on by the Antigua Yacht Club.  They are very supportive of the Salty Dawg Rally and are the center of the sailing community in Antigua.
Of course, where there is Carib beer, there are Carib girls.And a lot of spectacular yachts including Aquijo.   She is huge, at nearly 300′ long and billed as the world’s largest performance sailing yacht.   Check out her specs and photos.   To get a feel for her scale, notice the kayak on the water just behind the forward mast.Columbia is less than half of her length and is still a really huge yacht herself.  Yes, I realize it’s tough to see so here’s a closeup. Everything about her is enormous.  Note the size of the main boom with a member of the crew walking along the topAnd, she is as shiny as she is huge. Of course, what would a visit to Antigua be without spending time with our friends at the Antigua and Barbuda Royal Naval Tot Club, and we did just that. Of course, we had some “Tots” on the lawn in Nelson’s Dockyard.  And even a Tot aboard the lovely 110′ schooner Aschanti IV. Members of the Tot Club, including the owner of Ashanti IV, can fly the official burgee of the club, the White Pennant.  I have been saying for years that Antigua is the best place to begin and end the cruising season and being back here, our last stop before I begin running Pandora north and home.   We decided to treat ourselves to a few days on the docks in Nelson’s Dockyard, a wonderful end to a great season of sailing in the Caribbean.So, here I am, finishing up on what is likely my last post before heading home to the US until I return in a few weeks to begin my run home.

It’s been a wonderful season, and a lot different than we expected back in the fall when Covid was raging around the world.

All I can say is “Hail Columbia”, and Antigua.  It’s been a great season and I can’t wait until next fall to come back again.

Back in Antigua, it feels like home again.

Brenda and I did an overnight run from St Lucia to Antigua, arriving here yesterday, Tuesday.  We had a very fast passage, making the nearly 200 miles in just over 24 hours at a speed of just under 8kts, respectable by any measure for a fully loaded cruising boat in wind under 20kts.

After leaving St Lucia we passed Martinique, then Dominica and finally, Guadeloupe, a passage that took a single day after spending two months heading the other way.  Not a lot to show from the passage except that it was nice to see the islands as we sailed by.As Pandora cuts through the waves, we scare up a lot of flying fish and the seabirds have learned to fly over the waves just in front of our bow to catch the fish that jump out of the water, as they scurry out of our way.  This is a brown booby, an impressive bird that lives just about all of it’s life offshore, only going to land to lay eggs.  This may be another shot of a booby but I am not sure.  I could not find a photo that matched but I think it’s another species. We also passed a large school of very enthusiastic dolphins that leapt from the water, but they are notoriously difficult to photograph.  Sorry, no images.

I’ve mentioned that I am upgrading our house battery bank to lithium in May when I take Pandora to a boatyard in Deltaville VA.  At that time I am also going to have an attachment point welded to the radar arch so that I can add a wind generator, something that I have wanted to do for years as a way to boost our charging options.

While our solar array works great on a sunny day, the sun doesn’t shine at night and the batteries take a big hit from the large refrigeration load along with all the instruments when we are on passage.  With a wind generator, we can take advantage of stronger winds that happen at night and also on cloudy, less settled days to help boost the batteries.

I am also told that lithium batteries also take a charge faster than more traditional lead-acid batteries so details to come on that front.

It’s nice to be back in Antigua after being away for a few months.  Yesterday afternoon, when I went to check in with customs and immigration, I saw several folks that stopped to say hi.  It is nice to feel welcome.

I’ll be focused on setting up events for the arrival of the Salty Dawg Rally fleet next fall and hope to have all of the events scheduled before I leave the island for the season.

Later this week one of the biggest events of the season, the Classic Yacht Regatta, begins here in Antigua, with several days of racing that brings out out a large selection of classic sailing yachts of all sizes.

My favorite of all is Columbia, a reproduction of a classic fishing boat.  Columbia was built a few years ago in FL.  I was fortunate to get aboard for a tour a few years ago and wrote about her in this post.

I have been focused on getting aboard her for some racing for the last few years and today I was introduced to her captain by my friend Franklyn, the commodore of the Antigua Yacht Club.  Seth, the captain, was very nice but said that he wouldn’t know for sure until later tomorrow if there is a slot for me.  Fingers crossed.  it would be awesome to be aboard for three days of racing on such a spectacular yacht. And, speaking of schooners.  Ashanti, at over 100′ long, is a beauty and I was aboard her as well back in 2018 for a Tot club event which I wrote about in this post.   The owner is a Tot Club member and has offered to again host the group for a Tot on Saturday and Brenda and I are planning to attend, totally!  We are also going to the Tot this evening and it will be fun to reconnect with my Tot Club friends.  It is rare to see so many wonderful boats in one place and the Classics is one that draws them.  I walked the docks today for a gander.

The schooner on the left is one that I have toured and written about in the past.  Her name is Mary Rose, the last schooner built by the great designer and yacht builder, Nat Herreshoff, known as the “wizard of Bristol”. The yachts that pack the marina are certainly not all classics and there are quite a few that are so huge that they dwarf even the biggest sailboats.    One of the largest is the Mayan Queen at 306′ long.  Her “beach club”, as the sunning area on the stern of yachts is referred to, gives a good feel for her scale.  Imagine how large the interior space is?It is fitting that this one is called Alpha Nero, as the is “alpha” in every way and no slouch at 270′.  She is reported to belong to a Russian.  Not surprisingly, nearly all of the yachts owned by Russians have fled the area as of weeks ago as sanctions have been levied on many of them in reprisal for the invasion of Ukraine.  An anchor and chain is a huge weight on a boat and one way to address this is to store your yacht’s anchor on a tender.  This boat is designed to carry the anchor for a maxi race boat.   They deploy the anchor and pass the chain to the “mother ship”.  And, they won’t have to wait long for the anchor to be delivered with over 1,000 hp.   Yup, another Russian owns this boat.  The boat that they tender is Scorpios, a 125′ racing yacht, one of the fastest in the world, launched in 2021.  Impressive graphics.And, speaking of tenders, how about Garson, a 21o’ long yacht designed to carry around “toys” that you don’t want cluttering up your “mother ship”.   I’ve seen her before. And, any yacht worth it’s station in life needs to have a proper tender.  This sort is referred to as a “limousine tender” for good reason. She belongs to Limitless, which is what your bank account would need to look like if you owned a yacht like this.   She is 315′ long, again, huge.   Her owner is Leslie Wexner, the founder of The Limited.  He acquired a number of other iconic brands including Abercrombie and Fitch and Victoria’s Secret.   Note the open area on the starboard quarter.  That is the “garage” for the tender pictured above. A huge amount of work goes into keeping a yacht in, well, “yachting trim”.  These guys were washing the side of a huge sailing yacht today.   This tender carries it’s own water supply, kept full from the dock by a large hose. I guess that by carrying their own water they can have an adequate supply even if the pressure from shore isn’t enough to spray high on the hull.  Why didn’t I think of that?And, with a large yacht, you need large fenders, and lots of them.  Notice the ones laying sideways on the dock.  A rigger is working on one of their forestays and roller furler that is really, really long.  Most of the yachts here have been built fairly recently but not this beauty, Talitha, 271′ long, built in 1930 for the founder of Packard Cars.   She is currently owned Mark Getty, the son of JP Getty.   Interestingly, Mark Getty founded Getty Images, a clearinghouse for professional photographs used worldwide. It is clear that Mark has fabulous taste.   Boy, would I love to get aboard her for a tour. Ok, one more photo of a sailing yacht that is a big contrast to all the ladies that are in town for the Classic Yacht Regatta.  She is the maxi racer named “Controlling The Animal, L4”, a mouthful of a name, launched in 2021.  She is one of the fastest racing yachts in the world and she really looks the part. It’s great to be back in Antigua again, where I made landfall back in November.  There is no shortage of magnificent yachts to look at, that’s for sure.
Tonight Brenda and I will be attending a meeting of the Tot Club and it will be fun to reconnect with friends.  Perhaps I can get a replacement membership card to put in my new wallet, when I finally get it.  Remember that lost wallet, the one I lost when I was in Martinique?  So far, nobody has tried to use any of the credit cards that I lost.   Fingers crossed that they won’t…

Over the last few months we have been to some amazing places and it’s hard to believe that our time in the Caribbean this season is just about over.  One thing for sure is that the Classic Yacht Regatta will be great fun and it’s good to be back in Antigua again, our Caribbean “home” away from home.

Starboard tack from now on…

Well, after sending two weeks in Marigot, St Lucia, it was time to begin our run north to Antigua.   It was a real treat to spend time at the lovely resort attached to the marina and to enjoy the views of Pandora with the ocean in the distance.  I took this phot from the bow of Che, the huge cat that I have mentioned in past posts.  It was wonderful to watch the fiery sunsets every evening.  And see the colors change with the minutes.  It’s amazing how quickly it gets dark every night. Yesterday, Brenda and I sailed less than ten miles north from Marigot to Rodney Bay where we went into yet another marina to spend two days with our friends Bill and Maureen of Kalunamoo, marking the beginning of our run north and the beginning of the end of our season in the Caribbean.  The marina staff was nice enough to put us next to each other on the dock. You may recall that Bill and Maureen were our mentors back in 2012 when we made our first trip down the ICW on our way to the Bahamas.   They proceeded us in the Caribbean by a few years, but ultimately we followed them again, so here we are.

We will begin our near 200 mile run north on Monday with  an overnight to Antigua beginning tomorrow morning, Monday.As the wind is nearly always from the east, we have spent the entire season as we have headed south on a port tack and now that we are turning to the north, we will be on a starboard tack.  This will also be the case for the 200 mile from Antigua to the USVI where I will join the Homeward Bound Rally in May.

I expect that we will continue on a starboard tack much of the way until Pandora is north of the Bahamas on our passage to the US.  As Pandora moves farther north we will encounter the SW prevailing winds on the US East Coast that are dominant.

We’d prefer to move to Antigua doing short 70 or so mile jumps over a three or four day period, but the wind will shift back to a more NE direction on Tuesday and we really want to avoid being hard on the wind for the nearly 200 mile run to Antigua.  Sure, we could wait but that means being here for perhaps another week and that’s too long.

This time of year the trades begin to shift to a slightly more ESE direction so it’s generally easier to head north than south, unlike earlier in the season when ENE was the norm, favoring southbound runs.

The wind won’t be particularly strong, at about 15kts with gusts to 20, so we should have a decent run and I am guessing that it will take about 26-31 hours to go the 185 miles.  Along the way we will pass Martinique, Dominica and Guadeloupe so if we decide that we want to stop, there are plenty of options.

I will, as always, have my tracker transmitting our position so feel free to follow along.  See the link “where in the world is Pandora” on the top of this page.

We really enjoyed our time at the Marigot Bay Resort and I am looking forward to organizing a rendezvous next March with the Dawgs as spending a week or two there is a nice way to break up the season.

In addition to the lovely pool that is the centerpiece of the resort, there is a very nice spa where Brenda spent some time.   The entrance to the spa area is, I guess, best described as Zen with a plunge pool near the entrance.  I did wonder if anyone had ever sat in the two white chairs.  If you prefer a small plunge pool with a water feature, this is for you.They also have a steam room so you can get all hot and then jump into the nearby pool.  And, all of this is available to folks on the docks and moorings.  Such a deal.

The day before we headed out to Rodney Bay, we rented a car with Stephanie and Jim to tour the island.  To say that driving on the left on those narrow and winding roads was challenging, doesn’t begin to do justice to driving in St Lucia.  It’s a bit hair-raising.

Along with a number of the other islands in the eastern Caribbean, St Lucia has an active volcano.  Most of the evidence of what’s happening down deep in the earth is the presence of hot springs and steam vents.   This spot looks really nasty and nothing can grow.   The smell is a strong odor of sulfur.  Not a place I’d want to have a picnic. I understand that the venting steam is a near permanent fixture of the area. The island has been volcanically active for millions of years.  In past millenniums, violently so as evidenced by the pitons, the cones of long extinct volcanos.  These formations are all that is left after the softer outer parts of the structure weathered away and left the hard igneous rock.  This view from an overlook along the winding, switchback road.  Of course, what’s an overlook without a couples photo?We visited a chocolate factory and store.  What a variety, including chocolate infused gin.  And Brenda, being a gin girl, had to get a bottle. The product displays were in very cleverly modified steel shipping containers.    Below, in their restaurant, we had coffee and a snack. Later, we had lunch at Ladera, a spot overlooking the Pitons.  It is perhaps the best view of any place we have ever had a meal.    A lovely open air spot, high above the water. The view of the few yachts on moorings, in more than 100′ of water, far below.  Zoom in on the one big yacht and you can see that it is Excellence, owned by an American, Herb Chambers.  He owns a slew of automobile dealerships in the North East, US.  She is a spectacular yacht, one of two that he owns.  This one was built in Germany a few years ago.  She can be yours for a week for about $100k.

Of course, if you split the charter with another couple, like the group in this video, it’s half price, a mere $50k plus expenses and tip.   I can tell you, if I had the coin, this boat would be on my list. The owner lives on the CT River not far from our club in Essex.  However, this boat never comes up the river, spending it’s time in the Caribbean and likely the Med in the summer.  His smaller one, a mere 150′ long, is also named Excellence.  Not bad Herb. Well done.

After lunch we visited one of the many beautiful waterfalls on the island.  This one, diamond falls, is not far from the sulphur vents so the water spilling over the falls is warm and mineral laden.   The water stained the rocks and was a dark grey.   We were told that the color of the water changes day to day as the leaching of water from the vents evolves.
Brenda and Stephanie enjoy each other’s company.  Just down stream from the falls are a series of mineral bath pools.  We all donned bathing suits and enjoyed time soaking.  It was nice to be there alone as the crowds in past visits were pretty large.  Interestingly, the water in the pool was clear during this visit and last time, a coco brown.  So ends the southbound journey of Pandora for this season.   Even though we are thousands of miles from home, it still feels like the end.

Perhaps I’ll close with a photo of Pandora, under sail, taken for us by a friend.  Of course, you know that we were sailing south, because we were on a port tack. So much for that, it’s starboard tack from now on.  Well, mostly…

Oh yea, a special thanks to my friend Maureen, yes that Maureen, to point out that I really messed up the whole port and starboard tack thing.  I fixed it…I think…

Yes, I know that there are still a few typos.    Such is life…