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I’m off to welcome the Salty Dawg fleet to Antigua.

It’s Monday morning and I am heading to Antigua tomorrow to welcome the Salty Dawg Fleet to that beautiful island.  That’s the good news.  The bad news is that NOBODY has arrived yet and it’s still going to be a few days until the first members of the fleet will show up.

The problem is that weather in the Atlantic in November is generally not all that great.  As the summer SW prevailing winds begin to give way to the NW and NE winds of winter in the fall and early winter, things can be pretty unsettled.  As November is toward the end of the hurricane season and when insurance companies say that it’s OK to head south, that’s when most sailors move their boats to warmer climes to enjoy the winter season of sailing in the tropics.

Well, this year’s Salty Dawg Rally to the Caribbean has been pretty challenging with persistent SE winds making it tough for the fleet to make their way south to Antigua or the BVIs.   Additionally, it was a pretty rough crossing of the Gulf Stream due to strong NE winds the day before much of the fleet crossed, kicking up a pretty confused sea, and a number of boats had to stop in Bermuda to fix broken gear.  The winds after the GS were also fairly light and not from a favorable direction so many other boats had to make a stop in Bermuda as well for fuel before heading out again.

Add to all of this, a low forming north of Puerto Rico that will cross the likely track of the fleet, and it gets pretty interesting.   As a result of all this, the fleet is running behind and I am going to push back some of the events I have planned in Antigua to celebrate their arrival.

When I scheduled the first few events a few months ago I knew that there was some risk that we’d have to move it back and as of yesterday the full impact of delays to getting the fleet there in time, became clear.

So, off to Antigua I go tomorrow to wait.  However, my friends Bill and Maureen of Kalunamoo are already there, having sailed up from Trinidad last week so it will be fun to spend time with them.  My friend Craig will also be flying down on Thursday to enjoy the fun so I’ll be plenty busy.

Of course, staying at the Admiral’s Inn won’t be particularly tough duty.  It’s a really beautiful place.    What a spot to sit and work on a nice cool G&T.   No, make that a rum punch.  It’s the islands Mon!And, don’t forget about the infinity pool looking over historic Nelson’s Dockyard.  Yeah, I could do that too.  Now that I think of it, perhaps another totally excellent spot for a rum punch.  And speaking of rum.  How about hanging out a bit with my friends from the Tot club, better known as the Royal Naval Tot Club of Antigua and Barbuda .  As a relatively new member, there’s still lots of Royal British Navy history to explore, along with an appropriate, make that a responsible, measure of rum.

I remember, well I sort of remember, becoming a member last spring and have a photo to prove it.   I say “sort of remember” as some of the details are a bit fuzzy.  Of course, after all of those “tots” it’s hard to be clear about anything.  But, it was fun and I, sort of, learned a lot about British Naval history. That reminds me, I don’t want to forget my “official” Tot Club shirt.

Anyway, I’ll make the best of this trip, one way or the other.

So, back to the Rally fleet and their run south.   It’s always tough to make the run from the US coast to the Caribbean and this year is a proving to be somewhat more challenging than most.  So far, only a bit of discomfort and some adverse winds. “That’s easy for you to say Bob!  You aren’t out there.” 

That’s true.  So, let’s hope that things continue to go fairly well for the fleet and that everyone arrives safely and without incident.   If you’d like to follow the fleet’s progress, click here to see a map of the fleet as they make their way south.  Put SDR in the “group” section along with the date range.  The fleet began to head out on November 1st but you may find it easier to see what’s going on with a narrower date range.

This is the location of the fleet as of Monday morning.   The fleet is roughly split between Antigua and the BVIs.  I have notated “the” destination, Antigua so you can see how much farther they have to go.  Yes, it’s a long way off but only 90 miles farther than the BVIs.Conditions may get bit rough for the fleet with the low that is going to cross their path as they get closer to the islands.  It’s fast moving and while it may bring winds in excess of gale force if they get stuck in the middle of it, it’s not looking quite as organized as it was forecast to be just a day or so ago.    The low is the dark blue section to the right.   This screen shot is of about 06:00 EST today and is currently east of the fleet’s track. However, by Wednesday, when many boats will be at about the same latitude as the stronger winds, it is expected to cross their track.   Chris Parker, the weather router for the rally, suggests slowing down to let the low pass.   Good idea. As they say, when you are on the ocean in a small boat “it’s always something”.

And, speaking of waves, which I sort of was, I came upon this video of the largest wave ever surfed, a 95′ monster a few years ago in Nazare Portugal.    It’s huge, and yet, in this short video, predictably looks smaller than it really is, a frustrating reality for anyone that has been in heavy weather on the ocean and has tried to document the conditions to share with their friends.

Ever wonder what those big rollers you see on the ocean look like when they reach shore?  Perhaps they look like this.  Ok, I said 95′ but who beyond the guys at Guinness care about such a fine detail.   It’s just a frigging big wave. And wonder what it’s like to get knocked down by such a wave as it crashes down on you?  No, me neither.  Anyway, this short piece shows what happens when a wave, again in Nazare crashes over a surfer and jet ski.  And so, you are saying that you do this for fun?Nazare, were these videos were taken, is of particular interest to me as Brenda and we were there, not by boat, a few years ago and were impressed by the size of the waves, even in the summer.   Interestingly, while there is a small well protected harbor nearby, many of the traditional boats that fish the coastal area are launched and retrieved from a ramp on the beach, pulled up by a tractor, in sync with the waves.   The boats have rub rails on their bilges to allow them to be dragged up by the tractor. And, as the videos showed, it gets pretty “sporty” in the winter so, to keep everything from washing away the breakwater is made up of huge concrete “jacks” that are more likely to stay put when those enormous waves come pounding down on them.I wrote about this beautiful village, waves and all, in a post when Brenda and I were there.

Still want more?  This post is mostly about the local fishing boats and what they catch.  I just love boats.  All sorts.  Perhaps this boat photo will tempt you to reconsider skipping my post and click on the link to read more.  So, there you have it, the Salty Dawg Rally fleet making their way south,  some wacko dudes surfing some of the world’s biggest waves and lovely Nazare Portugal during the “off season” when the waves aren’t all that big.

Well, that’s it for now.  Tomorrow I’m off to Antigua to welcome the fleet, when they finally get there.

Follow the Salty Dawg Rally to the Caribbean, NOW!

It’s Monday morning and it looks like the bulk of the 80+ boats that are participating in this year’s Salty Dawg Fall Rally to the Caribbean will soon be underway and heading out to see.

And, as each participating boat carries a unit to transmit their position, you, like me and others that are “armchair sailors” this winter or those who have access to the Internet, can follow the fleet, in real time, as they make their way south.

There are three destinations for the rally, and in alphabetical order, Antigua, Bahamas and the BVIs.   Of course, as fleet captain for Antigua, I am all about making that destination the best of the bunch.

One way or the other, through the support of Ocens Satelite Systems, you can log into the Salty Dawg Rally page (SDR) to see the location of every boat in the fleet.  As of now, there are only a hand full of boats underway but the current weather looks like the bulk of the fleet will be underway in the next day or so.

I encourage you to open the SDR tracking page in your browser and follow along. Below is a screen shot of the page you will pull up, taken this Monday morning.  As a point of reference, the “green” boat, Willow, left earlier than the most of the fleet and is now in a good position to carry pretty good winds all the way to Antigua.     Several other boats, Quetzal and Ariana also left earlier and have stopped in Bermuda.  I expect that they will head out again soon.

In order to see the fleet, put SDR in the “group” area, on the left side of the screen and put the date range that you wish to see below that.  You can also choose how speed is displayed by choosing “KN” for Knots, as an example.   You can also choose to see only one particular boat by selecting that under “name”.  Anyway, it’s fun, so check it out.   BTW, the page works best on a Tablet as it’s easier to “pinch” the screen to see the area that you are interested in.
In the next few days you will see many more boats, and the screen will get really crowded with tracks, as others head out.

Most of the fleet opted to wait a few days before heading out as the winds were not particularly favorable, especially for crossing the Gulf Stream.   As a result, some headed down the Intra Coastal Waterway to Beaufort to depart from there once the wind was from a more favorable direction.   Another benefit of being in Beaufort is that it is south of Cape Hatteras and also a lot closer to the Gulf Stream so they won’t have to go as far to cross it and be in calmer waters.

The GS is a particularly nasty place to be when the wind is out of the North East, which is what’s been going on.  This GRIB file shot shows the winds as of a few days ago.  Note that the wind “flags” show wind in the teens from the NE.   You do not want to be in the “stream” when the wind is from that direction.  It kicks up waves that can be at least unpleasant or dangerous.  Below is what the wind forecast looks like for today, a lot better than from the NE even though the wind is from the south and much stronger. Not ideal as they really want to be heading south themselves and east is out of the way.  However, going east before heading south is a good idea as the winds will likely be from the east as their trip progresses.

The plan for most, I’d assume, will be to head east until the wind shifts more to the east and then turn south.  Actually, that’s exactly what Willow has done, now that the winds where he is are from the east, as is shown on the Ocens chart that I put above.

So, back to Antigua and the destination for about half of the fleet.  As port captain for Antigua, I have worked hard to arrange a number of events to make the fleet’s arrival in Antigua fun for everyone and with the help of local businesses and particularly the Antigua Yacht Club, there’s a great lineup planned.

While these events have been organized with rally participants in mind, I am happy to have other cruisers, that’s you, join us in the fun.  There’s no extra charge for “non-members” to come to our events this year so if you are planning to be in Antigua, please join us.   We’d love to get to know you.  I put an overview of what’s in store in an earlier post back in August.

Click here to see a full list of activities that we have planned.

There’s dinner events, happy hour mixers and even an opportunity to join in the fun with one of my favorite groups, The Antigua and Barbuda, Royal Navy Tot Club.  Just try saying that three times fast after a healthy “tot”, or two of fine rum.  Join us and you’ll see for yourself.

One way or the other, please stay in touch and follow the fleet.  Who knows, perhaps you’ll catch the bug and be one of us next year.  For sure, Pandora will be making the run south to Antigua with the Salty Dawg Rally to the Caribbean next fall.   I’d imagine that the registration for the 2019 rally will be opening in January.

Want to go to Antigua?  It’s not to early to begin planning for next year or to follow this year’s fleet.    And, if you go, you’ll see fabulous sunsets like this, nearly every night.  Perhaps you’ll even see the fabled “green flash”.  We have, more than once, actually.

Want to learn more?  Let me know, I’m all about Antigua.

Oh yeah, if you want to see what’s in store if you decide to cruise to Antigua and the islands south to Grenada, you can register here to see a free webcast that I did recently for the Seven Seas Cruising Association.

You’ll be glad you did, I hope.

If I were heading south…

If I was heading south this winter, I’d be in Hampton VA with the others that are participating in the Salty Dawg Rally to the Caribbean.  And, I’d be preparing Pandora for the 1,500 mile run, with the other boats, to head out around November 3rd, or at least as soon as there is a decent weather window.

A complicating factor in all of this is a late season hurricane Oscar that, until a few days ago, was heading right toward Bermuda and the east coast.  The forecast always had him veering to the NE but seeing a hurricane headed our way, temporarily or otherwise is always unnerving, to say the least.  Watching a storm that’s heading our way, even one with plenty of time to consider what will happen, does give one pause for thought.  Here’s Oscar’s track as of Tuesday morning.  Two days ago, the track was to the WNW.  However, that’s not my problem as I am not heading south.   Actually, while I am still unhappy about that, I am beginning to see that being home for the winter will help me focus on things that somehow haven’t gotten done here since moving to CT over six years ago.

Besides, with all this extra time on my hands, I will be able to work double time to figure out what to write about in this blog.  I also hope to be able to give a few more talks about our travels, something that I really enjoy, and that seems to be coming together too.

Additionally, I have put on a two to three day event in Essex for the last 6 years, in June and had decided to cancel that out of simple fatigue for 2019 but now that I am home for the winter (Did I mention that wasn’t heading south this season?) I have decided that perhaps we do need one more year of the event.

I’ll be doing that in June along with the Seven Seas Cruising Association and will also involve the Salty Dawg Sailing Association (I sit on the board) as well as the Ocean Cruising Club.  I joined that group last winter.

The “new” idea for the event, and it’s not my original idea, is to do a sort of “open boat” weekend, where folks from other local yacht clubs could sign up to visit boats that are set up for blue water sailing and are attending the event to see, first hand, what’s involved in getting a boat ready for blue water passages.

In addition, the publisher of Blue Water Sailing Magazine has agreed to run a round table discussion that day to explore the topic with “those who do it”.

Of course, I also plan on taking another run at arranging a search and rescue (SAR) demonstration in the river by the USCG, chopper and all.   For the last two years I have gotten approval for a demo but they were called off at the last minute by weather etc.   So, wish me luck, as I apply again.  Perhaps three will be the charm.

I did get them to show up with a cutter last spring and that was really interesting. When I was in Hampton VA two years ago, the USCG staged a SAR demo and it was totally awesome.   This particular chopper was their “100th anniversary edition”, yellow instead of the traditional white and orange. I wrote about that amazing experience in this post.  After that day I said “I want one of those” and begin petitioning the USCG to do an event like that at the Essex Yacht Club.   Wish me luck and mark your calendar, June 2019.  Exact date to come.

Of course, when you think about the USCG you may also think about terrible weather and folks getting into all sorts of trouble afloat.   Actually, it’s not the “big kids”, sailors like us that do what we can to be fully prepared when we head to sea, that take the bulk of the energy from the Coast Guard.  It’s the day-sailors and folks on paddle boards that are their “best customers”.   However, when I head out to sea I can’t help but think about what will happen if…

And, when I am more than 350 miles from shore I always take a deep breath as that’s the limit of how far a chopper can go to rescue you if things turn bad.  Of course, on a run south to Antigua, being 350 miles from shore is, well, it’s for most of the time.

The Volvo Ocean Race goes through some pretty nasty stuff as they slog their way around the world, especially as the make their way through the Southern Ocean.   I learned that each boat has a drone aboard.   Awesome!

This video is really amazing.  Perhaps even more amazing is that the drone can keep up with the boat in all that wind.   Listen at the “yahoo” from the crew at the beginning of this short two minute video and watch,at the end, as the helmsman catches the returning drone with his free hand while steering the boat.  These guys, and they are mostly guys, are nuts…  Oh yeah, they are way out of chopper range, for nearly all of the trip. You may subscribe to Scuttlebutt Sailing News.  They recently announced the winner of what I think they said was the “best sailing video”.  The winner was a one minute piece done by AzkoNobel, one of the teams in the Volvo race.  They cram A LOT into a one minute video.  It’s pretty good, actually.All that’s not my cup of tea, and surely not Brenda’s.  I am pretty sure that Brenda would prefer a day on the water that was more like this.  You may recall that when asked “Brenda, what is your favorite part of sailing?”, her answer is predictably, “being anchored”.    Too small a boat you say and yet you do like the umbrella deal?  Try this one instead.  Besides, aboard Pilar Rossi, which we spied in St Barths two years ago,  everbody gets their own spot in the shade. Yes, even I agree that easy sailing or being anchored in a beautiful spot suits me just fine.  Besides, when I was really small and splashed with water, my response, I am told was, “don’t get my wet”.

So, to close the loop on the title of this post, “If I were headed south”, I’d be waiting until the weather looked good.  As the saying goes “here’s to smooth sailing, with the wind on your back”.

Let’s hope that the folks in the Salty Dawg Rally have just that.  Bon Voyage…

See you in Antigua.

Blocking up is hard to do.

With apologies to Neil Sedaka, who’s name has not EVER appeared here in the decade plus that I have been keeping this blog, for torturing the title of his song, “Breaking up is hard to do” but somehow that song came to mind as I watched Pandora being hauled the other day, on her way to being “blocked” for the winter.

Out she came, looking much larger than she ever looks in the water.   Conversely, the farther she gets from “terra firma” the smaller she looks and feels.  Try 500 miles from land in big seas.  Pretty tiny.

Now, she’s all set and covered for the first time EVER.   Makes me sad.There will be a nifty zipper door installed in the stern so I can get into the boat easily and still, sort of, keep out the chill winter winds.  Good luck with that.  Note that the aft solar panel was kept exposed to be sure that the batteries are kept up all the time.  I even took some scrap material out of the dumpster and fashioned a cover for our dink.  I used an electric heat gun to shrink the material.  Pretty neat cover, if you ask me.Winterizing the boat’s water systems proved to be every bit as complex as I feared.  The last time I had to winterize a boat was seven years ago and that boat was WAY simpler.

I made a list of all of the systems aboard Pandora that have water in them and  needed to be attended to.  It was a LONG list.

Air Conditioning, aft
Air Conditioning, forward
Bilge pump automatic, primary
Bilge pump bilge, secondary
Bilge pump manual, cockpit
Bilge pump manual, shop
Bow thruster bilge pump, Arid Bilge
Bow thruster bilge pump, primary
Cockpit fresh water wash-down
Cockpit transom shower
Drink water filter in galley
Fridge and freezer cooling
Galley sink faucet
Head shower, forward
Head sink faucet, aft
Head sink, forward
Head, aft
Head, forward
Holding tank, aft
Holding tank, forward
Hot Water tank drained
Maserator pump, aft
Maserator pump, forward
Shower Sump, aft
Shower sump, forward
Washdown pump, saltwater
Water tank, port
Water Tank, starboard
Watermaker, product hose

Yikes, the list was overwhelming and if I forgot anything or didn’t get a good amount of antifreeze into every system, I’ll have major problems in the spring.

As an aside, Brenda and I visited the Custom’s House Museum in Groton CT a few days ago and happened upon a very charming tugboat exhibit.  As part of the collection was some original art from the classic children’s book Little Toot.

I was struck by how relevant these images are for us and our time afloat.

As the old axiom goes, Sailing:  “Hours of utter boredom periodically interrupted by moments of sheer terror.”   What goes up…Must come down.  You know the feeling.Of course, as “tough” as we may like to think we are.   Most of us prefer to see days that feel like this as there is indeed, and to quote Ratty from the classic “The wind in the willows.”

“Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”And, I will work hard to be sure that Pandora is ready for launch and a fun filled 2019 season of “messing about”.

But, for now, it’s making me sad as, blocking up Pandora is, indeed, very hard to do.

Good news though, I have decided to fly to Antigua to welcome the Salty Dawg Rally fleet and enjoy the arrival activities that I worked so hard to put together.    In case you’ve forgotten about all that, click here to see what’s in store.

It’s going to be great!

How to get ashore? Just plan ahead.

Did I mention that we aren’t heading south this winter?


Yes, yes, I get it.  Anyway, I accept that but now I can spend the next few months stressing about all that has to be done to get Pandora ready, and I mean REALLY READY for next summer and our planned trip back to Antigua in the fall.    that means all of the little projects that somehow get pushed off into the future when deadlines are tight and time short.

Planning ahead has always been a focus of mine and having a list of all the little niddly (is that a word?) things that need to be done, like that tiny persistent leak over the galley makes me feel like I am heading in the right direction.  However,  even the simplest fix often becomes a big job.  For example, that galley leak is probably coming from a loose fastening on the traveler but fixing that will involve lots of disassembly down below as well as on deck.  Easier said than done.

Yes, I am a  planner.  And, speaking of “strengths?”, I once worked for someone who liked to remind me that a person’s greatest strength was also their greatest weakness.  And, surely, planning, for me, is both a blessing and a curse.  A blessing for me and a curse for poor Brenda who has to listen to me go on, and on, and on, about what I plan for Pandora and our time afloat.

Let’s just say that I have lots planned and before I know it, spring will be here.  OH, I am so counting on that being true.  We’ll see, but I’ll keep busy, of that I am certain.  And no matter what happens, I am PLANNING on the weather improving in May.  That I can plan for with confidence.

Enough of that for now.  For those that visit this site from time to time know that I am drawn to all sorts of boats and I ran into this video the other day of a really neat launch that surely costs more than more than a even a few boats like Pandora.

This carbon fiber wonder would look pretty slick in any harbor.    It clearly says, “I have arrived” even before it even gets to the dock.  Check this out.
I wonder if it comes with a tux or whatever?  Their website is appropriately Contrast the experience of a proper bespoke launch with Pandora’s dink, nice canvas chaps and all.  A bit different? However, it could be worse…  Of course, this begs the question “how much does it cost to live on a boat?”  For him, perhaps a bit less than others. How about this launch, better known as a “launch limo”.  We spied this one in St Barths, the playground of some pretty well heeled boaters. Hard to say what yacht that “dink” belonged to but it could have been Eclipse, what was at that time, the second largest yacht in the world,  owned, by Roman Abramovich.   His life seems to be made up of many superlatives and while he has the second largest yacht in the world, he recently reached a new milestone when he settled on what has been reported as the #1 most expensive divorce ever reported as being over $400 million that went to his ex.   And, that’s on top of an earlier divorce from his first wife who only received a measly $150 million.  I expect that Roman would agree with the song “breaking up is hard to do”.

Don’t feel too sorry for the now somewhat poorer Roman as he still has Eclipse and the bulk of is $7,000,000,000 fortune.  Is that the right number of zeros?  That’s Seven Billion.

Roman is still doing OK as he also has a home in St Barths where we saw Eclipse two years ago when we visited the island aboard Pandora.    St Barths is a pretty rarefied spot as this post describesOf course, if you have a nice dink,  it’s good to have a convenient spot to put it like this “garage” on the starboard side of this yacht we spied in Ft Lauderdale.  And, I am sure that Kismet has a pretty nifty launch too.  She’s certainly large enough to fit one, or perhaps several.  I wrote about her and her owner in this post. Well, there you have it.  So may ways to get ashore, some a bit flashier than others.   Me, I just want to get somewhere…

For me, it’s still all about planning ahead and for now, I’m ashore.

I wonder if someone wants me to drive their launch for them?  I know how to steer, ya know…

The Windwards and Leewards, what is it really like? Armchair sailors unite!

It’s going to be a long winter with some saying that it’s going to be really, really cold here in the North East.

I for one, am not happy to be here in the North East when I should be sailing in warmer climes and after spending the last six winters in southern waters, it’s going to be a big deal for me.

As I have said in past posts, “live it once and tell the story for ever”.  And, to that point, I particularly enjoy giving talks about where we have been aboard Pandora and recently did two webinars for the Seven Seas Cruising Association, SSCA, one about our time cruising from the BVIs south to Dominica over the winter of 2017 and the other about cruising the waters of the southern Caribbean from Antigua to the Grenadines aboard Pandora in 2018.   Both presentations are free and you don’t have to be a member of the SSCA to view them.

Since I retired in 2012 Brenda and I have spent our winters cruising and have covered a lot of ground including the US Intra Coastal Waterway (ICW), the Bahamas, Cuba and most recently the eastern Caribbean.

Over the years I have given many talks, mostly live and I am often asked if they are available on the Web.  Until now, the message was sadly no, but these two presentations have been recorded so you can see them if you are so inclined.  And, better yet, aside from the time it takes to view them, they are free.

These are not just travelogues, those tortuous, “I went 6kts from this island to that and look at what I ate for dinner.”  On the contrary, I work hard to give you a good feel for what sorts of weather you should expect and how it feels to interact with the local residents.  Of course, I also try to share the wonder of what it’s like to visit these remarkable islands and to spend months at a time afloat.

Many of you have probably chartered in the BVIs and these talks will give a good feel for how different the islands to the south are from the bustling charter bases that you may be more familiar with.

Cruising the Leeward Islands, the BVIs south to Dominica.  There is no charge to view this recording although I am told that there will be a modest fee to SSCA after 120 days, so view it now. The Windward Islands:  Antigua and South, “where the REAL Caribbean begins”.  From Antigua to the Grenadines.   Yes, this one is free too. I enjoyed preparing for and giving these talks and would appreciate your feedback on what I might do to make them more interesting or perhaps other topics that you’d like to hear.

Oh yeah, one more thing.   If reading is more your style, check out these articles that I wrote for Blue Water Sailing Magazine.

Cruising Cuba, a First Timer’s Perspective from October 2016.  Brenda and I spent two months cruising Cuba and toured the south coast, around the NW point and to Havana before returning to the US.  Cruising the Windward Islands.   This article appeared in Blue Water Sailing magazine in August of 2018.   It’s a shorter version of the story I told at the SSCA webinar mentioned above. And finally, the cruise that introduced us to the eastern Caribbean in 2017.  Into the Leeward Isles, cruising from the BVIs south, the northern half of the eastern island chain.   This article was published in Blue Water Sailing Magazine in February of 2018.Yes, it’s going to be a long winter but at least I have lots of friends that can keep me posted on what they are doing, cruising in the beautiful waters of the Caribbean.

Yep, I too can be an “armchair sailor”.  Not perfect but it’ll do for one winter at least.


So, how much does a dink full of water weigh?

Well, that’s it.  Yesterday evening Pandora was hauled for the winter.  It’s over and we won’t be sailing again until next Summer.  It’s the first winter in her decade of service that she has been on the hard for winter and I am not happy about it.

With boats it always seems that “it’s always something” and the last week or so hasn’t disappointed.  In the aftermath of the huge hurricane, Florence, that slammed into the Carolinas, the much weakened storm headed up through our area and dumped a remarkable amount of rain as it passed through CT.

As is my custom, I had left our dink up in the davits on Pandora but on this occasion I neglected to pull the drain plug.  That turned out to be very bad oversight as the nearly 7″ of rain that fell overnight filled the dink, which, as you recall, was hung up in the davits, nearly to the point of overflowing.  Between the rain that landed directly into the dink, along with the rain that ran off from the big solar panel above it, there was hundreds of pounds of water sloshing around when I returned to Pandora the next morning.

The dink and motor alone weigh in at around 175lbs and add to that perhaps another 500lbs of water at 8.3lbs per gallon, and you can see how quickly the weight added up.   Our davits are pretty strong but that massive weight proved to be too much for them to bear and the starboard leg of the davits, the outboard motor side, bent down 3-4″.   Oh boy, was I sad when I saw that.

I knew from past inquiries, that there isn’t a mobile stainless guy anywhere so this repair was going to have to me done by MOI.  I thought about this for several days and finally settled on a plan.

A few years ago I had hired a yard in Ft Pierce FL to straighten the bow pulpit and having watched that process, I realized that it was going to take a tremendous amount of pressure to bend two 1.5″ stainless tubes several inches.

The bow pulpit process took a remarkable amount of pressure too and it was only 1″ tube.  I wrote about the process in this post.  So, back to my sagging davit.  I knew that it was going to take a lot of pressure, hundreds of pounds at least, to push the sagging stainless, 1 1/2″ tubing and a brace of the same diameter back into place.  And to get it to settle at a level point again would mean that I’d have to push it up way beyond level so that it would end up where it belonged when I released the pressure.

In addition, this would put a huge amount of upward pressure on the aft deck fitting and I was fearful that it would rip the arch right out of the deck or at least crack the deck as the base of the main davits was only about 2″ square, not counting pretty hefty below deck backup plates.   That’s not a lot of surface are to spread perhaps a thousand of pounds of upward pressure.

I thought about this for several days, and some sleepless moments at night I’ll admit, and settled on a plan.  I needed to offset the upward pressure on the davits I’d be applying by lashing a 50 gallon drum to the side of the radar arch and filling it with water, 50 gallons at 8.3lbs per gallon, over 400 pounds of downward pressure.   The theory was that while I was going to push up on the bent davit with many hundreds of pounds of pressure, this upward force would be somewhat offset by the pounds of water hanging on the side of the radar arch in the barrel.

I also ran a line from the top of the drum through a snatch block on the arch and down to a winch so I could release it when I was done.   As it slowly filled the line running to the arch made some alarming squeaking sounds.  Interestingly, even with all that weight the starboard stern only settled about an inch.

I also needed to protect my shiny new paint job from being scratched by the drum so I put a soft moving blanket between it and the new paint.  Here’s the setup.   Additionally, I drilled two small holes in the base of the barrel and attached a messenger line to a cleat on the dock so that after I was done the water would slowly drain out and I’d be able to turn the barrel over and drain it.  My fear was that the barrel would be too heavy to deal with and I wouldn’t be able to retrieve it.

I also prepared a 4×4″ post that was cut to the right height and attached plywood shims on the top of the post to ensure that it would not slip off of the stainless tube that I would be pushing against.   If the post was to slip off of the tube, it would ram right through the solar panel and put a big hole in it.   That would really have made me sad.

I used a car jack, rated at 6,000 lbs and put that on some heavy timbers so that it wouldn’t be able to move as I pumped up the pressure.  The jack has wheels and I was afraid that it would slip out as I jacked it up so I chose a timber that would rest securely between the back wheels. The moment of truth.  I pumped the jack up and up, wincing with every pull on the lever, expecting to hear the cracking of the deck or perhaps a weld breaking.  I didn’t.  I should note that I removed the bolts holding the aft end of the solar panel in place out of fear that the movement would put too much stress on the aft end of the panel and break the bolts or, worse,  the panel. After several rounds of applying pressure with the jack and then releasing it, I the stepped back and viewed the davits from several vantage points to see if it was level again.   I took a spirit level to the swim platform and compared that to the davits.

I looked at the rig from on Pandora’s deck, from a nearby dock and every which way I could think of and was pretty convinced that it was level again.   As nothing is level on a floating boat, it was hard to be sure but it seemed to be about right.

Frankly, I still can’t believe that it worked but I guess it did.  Whew!  No, make that double whew.

Amazing, actually.

So, for the third time in so many months, Pandora is back on the hard again.  Big boat, big projects await.  My mother says I’m big.  Perhaps she’d feel differently if she saw Pandora. so how much does a dink full of water weigh?   A LOT….

And now I won’t worry so much when I climb into the dink when it’s strung up in the davits.  Now I know that it takes at least 40o lbs to bend the davits and as the photos above shows, compared to Pandora I’m a long way south of that figure.

And, speaking of south, Pandora will be a long way north of south for the winter.

Say it isn’t so.

In for the long (winter) haul.

I still can’t believe that I am writing these words but this coming Monday Pandora will be hauled for the winter.  FOR THE ENTIRE WINTER.  Once she’s on land, after less than two weeks in the water, I’ll be able to focus on a number of small, and some large, items that need attention after slightly more than a decade in continuing service.  Yes, I am working hard to put a positive spin on it.

Not to wallow in self pity, but this is the sort of view I am used to when it’s cold up north.  Pandora in Guadaloupe.  NOT.Hauled for the winter?  Yes, she’s been hauled each year but being winterized and put up for the entire winter, is a first and I can’t say that I am thrilled about it.

However, it will be good to focus, with lots of time to do it right, on all the little things like a persistent leak over the galley and a few drips, here and there, from portholes, that have been bugging me for as long as we have owned her.  These leaks, more like drips, can easily be solved by removing and re-bedding the traveler or replacing offending hatch gaskets.  Perhaps “easy” isn’t the right word  with regards to the traveler as much of the headliner will have to be taken down to access the bolts that hold it in place.  But wait!  The headliner will already be taken down to deal with the fallen portions and additional leaks from the bases of the granny bars near the mast.

When you buy a boat one of the inevitable questions is “are there leaks” to which the answer is always an enthusiastic “no, she’s as dry as a desert”.   Ok…

I’ll also be re-bedding the large windows in the hard dodger as the are showing signs of coming “unglued” in some of the corners.   I expect that it won’t be a terrible job once I understand how to get them out and what the best material will be to put them back in place.  Also, all of the side portholes will have to be removed to make it possible to replace the headliner on the sides of the cabin.   That’s going to be a pretty big job, and one that I won’t be able to tackle until the boat is fully covered to protect it from the elements.

Recently, I wrote about my desire to get a passerelle, a gangway to board Pandora from the stern when she is Med moored.  I was all set to order one of these from a company in the UK but held back as questions arose about our run south.  I am glad that I did as I wasn’t all the crazy about the design that I had chosen.  The problem is that in order to come up with a design that we could  afford, ie: in the neighborhood of one boat dollar, we were going to have to settle on an aluminum version.    That’ OK but a bit heavy and to lug it around the boat could be challenging as it wasn’t going to be all that light.

In case you are curious about just how to accomplish a Med moore, this video gives a good feel for the process.  Trust me though, it’s not as easy as they make it look.  Well, not for us, at least.

With the stern toward the dock, it’s a lot easier to board the boat with a promper ramp, so, with the extra time home this winter, I’ll have time to make my own.  However, before you think “loving hands at home”, I’ll be getting advice and support from an old friend, Peter, who has a company that does complex composite construction for the Navy.   Peter was enthusiastic about helping me and even offered me the opportunity to “pick through our scrap heap” to find some materials to make a really lightweight ramp.

Apparently, his shop has some high tech aluminum and epoxy honeycomb material that is very strong and super light.   Learning how to put these materials together will be pretty neat.   I have seen some examples of carbon fiber/composite units in Antigua but never thought that I’d be able to find a way to afford one for Pandora.

By comparison, a lightweight aluminum version weighs in at about 30lbs and one constructed from carbon fiber is less than half of that weight.  This is what the aluminum version looks like.  And composite.   I could never afford one of these as they run about 3 to 5 boat dollars.   However, if I can make one myself… Heck. I’d even be able to put yet another Pandora logo on one like this.   Pretty slick.  However, I have no allusion that I could make something so refined but I’ll bet that with Peter’s help, I’d be able to come up with something that is worthy of Pandora.  More to come on that. So, with what now seems like unlimited time on my hands, I’ll be able to tackle these jobs.

Perhaps one of the toughest things about my being a CLOD “cruiser living on dirt” for a time, will be coming up with ideas to put in posts.  It’s tough to come up with ideas for posts when I am not actually out there doing it.    However, I am committed to posting regularly, hopefully at least once a week so wish me luck.

In the short term, I’ll be focused on winterizing Pandora and with all her complex systems, it’s going to be a learning experience and will surely feel like a scavenger hunt as I sort through all of the details.

So, I promise that I’ll work hard to get Pandora in good shape so I can spend some time aboard next summer and then head off to Antigua next fall.  That will give me something to write about.

And, speaking of next summer, we have spent many summers in Maine over the years but none since I retired.   Along the way, I have wanted to visit the St John River, way up in the Bay of Fundy, famous for really high tides.    There is a bridge over the falls that is almost 80′ high at slack tide and I understand that you can only make the run during a brief 15 minute window at slack tide.  At low tide the river turns into a waterfall with raging rapids but you can get through at high tide during the very brief period that the water is slack and calm.

I am always nervous when going under a bridge, even when I am confident that we have adequate room.  This video of a large sailboat going under the bridge with a mast that’s actually higher than the bridge is tall is interesting.   They use a large waterbag to pull her over.  It’s a squeaker.
I guess that’s about it for now. However, before I break, I’ll share a brief passage that, for me, nicely sums up what cruising is all about. It’s excerpted from the book “The America, The Story of the World’s Most Famous Yacht”  It’s long out of print but you can get a used copy on Amazon.   It’s a fascinating book and well worth reading.  For example, the yacht for which the America’s Cup is named was sold in England immediately after she won that famous first race.  Later in her long life, she was owned by Union Navy and served as a blockade runner against the Confederates during the Civil War.

This quote is from a letter written by the then owner of the Yacht America, Ben Butler in 1878, while on a cruise in Nova Scotia and the Gulf of St Lawrence, with his son Paul.

“I suppose that you know the qualifications of a yachtsman… to wit, to be able to eat and drink unlimitedly, not to be seasick more than one-half the time and keep good natured under difficulties if any occur, especially in drizzly weather, and to be able to play any ordinary game of cards except Kino, which is strictly forbidden on the ground that it requires to much mathematics as to be inadmissible.  The outfit will need to be the thickest possible clothing and roughest clothing, a rubber overcoat and cap if you desire to be on deck when it rains and a reasonable supply of the latest novels in case the yacht library should not be sufficient.”

I guess things haven’t changed much as his thoughts sound about right 140 years later.

And, speaking of “being on deck when it rains”, the hot summer weather here in New England will soon be driven out by cold winter winds.    As a friend once said to me, “when you get to Labor Day you can almost hear the iron doors of summer slam shut.”

Indeed, but hey, it’s going to get better in May.   I’m in for the duration, the long haul, so to speak.   Spring will be here before we know it.

I’m counting on that.  Totally…



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m stressing…