Monthly Archives: May 2017

You can’t get there from here…today.

Well, here I am, back in West End Tortola.  I arrived late morning today after leaving home at 0-dark-30 yesterday morning to head to the airport.    My flight to get me to Tortola was actually to St Thomas where I planned to catch a ferry yesterday to West End Tortola from downtown Charlotte Amalie.  Well, that’s at least how it was supposed to work.

However, as luck would have it, “no-can-do” ruled the day, with delay after delay.  The airport, Hartford, was a mess when I arrived.  Who’d expect so many people would be up at the tender hour of 05:00.  What a mob, a sea of humanity.

No problem, I made it through security with plenty of time left for my 06:30 flight and we left pretty much on time.  We landed in Charlotte and I had 3.5 hours to wait for my next flight to St Thomas, still with plenty of time to connect with my ferry .  However, when it came time for us to board in Charlotte, well, we didn’t.

After a long while we learned that catering, yes the folks that bring the little bags of pretzels, were AWOL and the crew had absolutely no idea of when they would be arriving.   We were on board, the plane was totally packed, and we were just sitting there, for a long time.  How long?  Not sure but it was long enough that the pilot came on a number of time to talk about the delay and finally said, “we’re leaving, catering or not.”  The problem was that while they had plenty of lovely snacks for the run down, they needed food for the run back but that now the plan was to fill up again in St Thomas.  We left the gate, finally.

After that we sat, and sat, and sat and finally the pilot came on to say that we had a mechanical problem and needed to talk to the repair guys.  Ok, I get that as it’s always a good idea to have a “happy landing” at the other end of the flight. However, by the time they crew sorted all of this out they decided we just had to head back to the gate and assess the situation.    We need a new plane! Awesome.

We “de-planed” and were sent to another gate…. at the total other end of the airport.   I was one of the first to arrive at the “new gate” only to learn that we had to be sent back to where we had “arrived” as they had “changed the changed gate again”.  Never mind.

Ok, so we got back to the gate and waited some more, much more.   To their credit, they did bring sandwiches and drinks.   A sort of “peace offering”, I guess.

So, fast forward several more hours and we finally left on another aircraft and arrived in St Thomas about 5 hours after our planned arrival time.   The problem for me is that the last ferry for Tortola had left hours earlier and I had to now find a hotel.  Lucky me.

I had decided to fly into St Thomas as it’s a lot less expensive than flying into Tortola.  Oops.  It didn’t look so inexpensive now.   Hotel at 21:00 hours?  No idea where to stay?  Don’t want to pay much?  Have fun Bob…

The information lady at the airport, who BTW was giving out samples of Cruzan Rum as we entered the terminal.  “Welcome to the Caribbean Mon!”.   Anyway, I asked for an “inexpensive” hotel and she recommended that I call Franko’s Guest House as it wasn’t very expensive.    However, she warned me that she had recommended it to a lady a few days ago and that lady didn’t even get out of the cab and went somewhere else.  Ok, sounds perfect, I’ll take it!

When I arrived, after a stop in the cab at a convenience store to get a toothbrush, Franko’s wife was waiting on the front porch for me.   “Welcome to Ranko’s.”  I thought it looked quaint. Besides, it wasn’t too expensive and anything was better than a nap on a bench at the airport. They have a cute little open air dining area. Believe it or not, he, Franko himself, even took me to the ferry terminal this morning.   Along the way he told me about how, when he was younger, he drank a LOT of rum but after his older brother “gave him a stern talking to” he shaped up and became a carpenter and later opened his B&B.   He does all of the work himself and is clearly very proud of his place.  “I make a little money and fix the place up a little bit ore.”  All and all, a simple place, Franko’s and a very charming experience.

So, I went down to the ferry terminal this morning and as I arrived I spied this terrific float plane.  I totally should have gone in that.   It looked awesome at the dock. Off she went.   I want one of these!I’ll bet that he has to wash things off really, really well every evening with all the salt spray. Yes, really salty. Yes, after all the shenanigans yesterday I should have treated myself to a trip on one of those.   And then he was gone and on his way. So, here I am and Pandora’s looking good and none the worse for two weeks alone.   A few chores and tomorrow I head over to nearby Nanny Cay to take a slip for a few days to participate in the run-up to the Salty Dawg Rally and to wait for my crew.

Yes, I’m here but it’s pretty clear that sometimes you just can’t get there from here.  Or, at least you have to take more than one day.

Finally though, I’m here, back aboard Pandora, and it’s a beautiful day.

Dawg days on the horizon. Pandora’s heading home.

It’s Wednesday afternoon and I am just about ready to head back to Pandora in the BVIs tomorrow morning.

She’s been on a mooring in Soper’s Hole, West End, for the last two weeks while I traveled home to visit family and get our home and gardens in order for the coming summer.  After a winter all sealed up, our home was in good shape if a bit overrun with mice.  Fortunately, because I set a lot of traps, most of the mice we returned to were, shall we say, not a threat any longer.   I won’t dwell on that except to say that we seem to be a very popular winter spot for the local mice community.

Anyway, things are pretty well under control and I’ll be flying to St Thomas in the morning and then will catch a ferry to Tortola.  It’s going to be a long day.

This is Pandora on her mooring in West End.  It’s a very pretty spot. In the last few years I have become more involved in the Salty Dawg Sailing Association and will be participating in their spring rally north from Tortola. My plan is to participate in some of the events over the next few days leading up to a planned departure on or about May 15th.  A really neat feature of this event is that you can track the fleet as they make their way north on a dedicated page for the rally.

This link will take you to a shared page that will show all participants.  To see the group, as they make their way north, all you need to do is to put “SDR” in the group section on the left (see below) and then select the days that you want to see the positions for.   Once we leave, you can put in a range of 05/15/2017 to the current day and then see the track of the fleet for the entire rally period to date or just the dates that you want to track the fleet for.  You can also focus on a single vessel on the right and look at that track only.   This is what the page looks like.  I think it’s pretty neat. Anyway, it’s a nice feature and a fun event.  I’ll be leaving Tortola on our about May 17th, after my crew arrives so you’ll be able to follow Pandora on that map too.   The boats in the fleet are going to a number of areas such as Bermuda, Hampton VA, as well as areas in New England so they will be quite spread out.

I also have a dedicated page on my blog “where in the world is Pandora” that will allow you to track our progress with a new position report every two hours while I am underway. Or, you can go right to the shared page/map for Pandora herself by clicking here.  This page includes the track that Brenda and I took over the winter so you can see that we covered a lot of ground.  Here’s a screenshot of what that page looks like, actually. It’s neat that you can also zoom-in and right click on any individual position report and see the actual speed for us at that point.  We may not have much wind, unlike the gales that carried Pandora south in January, according to the long range forecast so we might be going pretty slow.  Of course, as Chris Parker, our weather router would say, “that’s a long way out, so conditions may (probably) change”.

So, that’s the plan and if you check back as we get closer to departure, I’ll report more on our plans.   As always, you can sign up on the home page to get a message when I post so you’ll have the latest.

I also plan on posting to my blog via the SSB radio most days while we are underway so you’ll be able to “be there” with us, minus the motion sickness, and follow how we are doing.

If you are ever considering a trip south to the Caribbean for the first time, or are an “old timer” and do the trip regularly, I really encourage you to join the Salty Dawg Rally to Tortola from Hampton VA.  It’s a great event and the trip itself follows a near week of seminars in Hampton prior to departure.  How about doing it in November of this year?  Join in the fun.   I’ll be there.

Stay tuned as, Yes indeed, there are Dawg Days on the horizon for Pandora.   It should be a fun trip.


Building ships fast and other random thoughts.

It’s Monday morning and I am here in MD at our son Rob and DIL, Kandice’s home for a few days.   As I begin this post it’s around 06:00 and I am sitting here with my granddaughter Tori, she lives here too, and she’s none too happy to share me with my post.

Hours later…  Tori distractions and all…

It’s sort of jarring, in a good way, to be in such a different environment after months aboard Pandora with a near constant eye toward the weather.  I got up with Tori our new granddaughter who’s also currently blissfully oblivious to the weather at around 06:00.  Now it’s after 09:00 and I am just turning back to this post.  Somehow I don’t recall the utter inability to get anything done when Rob and his brother Christopher were this young but that’s probably because I realized that it was hopeless and didn’t even try to focus on anything other than them.

I guess I can’t totally blame Tori for not letting me get any writing done as she is quite cute, if distracting.  I was finally able to get this “happy” shot of her by using burst mode on the camera.  With 5 frames a second I got it.  That’s good as in that one second her emotions ranged from absolute happiness to a near meltdown.

Get the picture?  I finally did too.Of course, the reason that I am now writing this post is that her father is up and watching her.

Over the weekend we went to the birthday party of one Rob and Kandice’s friend’s one year old.  It turns out that Katie’s (the mom) father Denny (the grandfather), is involved with a WWII Liberty Ship, the John W. Brown, one of only two operational ships of it’s class left in the world.   There were 2,711 of these ships built for the war effort and an amazing number, 1,554 of them, were lost to enemy fire, the highest percentage losses of any branch of the service. Because of these tremendous losses, there was an urgent need to build these ships faster than the German U Boats were able to sink them.

As a result of these very heavy losses and the need to move troops and materiel to Europe during the war, it was very important to find a way to make these ships, and they were over 400′ long, finished and ready for sea as quickly as possible.  As a result, the building process was streamlined and while it took an average of 11 months to build a similar ship during WWI, using prefabricated parts, these ships were built in less than one month, a remarkable increase in efficiency.

These ships were built at a number of shipyards on both the east and west coasts with the first ship of this class launched, the Oliver Perry, in 100 days in Richmond CA.  This video talks about being able to construct a ship in less than a month.  Later on, there was competition between yards with a record set of launching in 7 days, 14 hours and 32 minutes from the laying of the keel to launch.   The ship was the Oliver Perry.  It’s an interesting story and worth reading.

And, speaking of Oliver Perry, he was a pretty important guy and there is a totally modern sailing ship bearing his name, beyond the first Liberty ship and others, that sails out of Newport RI.   She’s an educational vessel and a real beauty.This brief newsreel from the 40s talks about the process of building the Liberty ships, the first class of ships ever built in a modular way.  On the other hand, and not to be too random but this guy spent 8 years building his own boat. Eight days?  Eight years?  Random?  Yes indeed but sort of neat and he did that in Philadelphia and it’s even near Baltimore where the Brown was built.   Besides, this site is SAILpandora, isn’t it?  So there should be “sailboats” too.  Right?To get things built fast, it helps to have Uncle Sam behind you and the proverbial “ax to grind” with a powerful enemy in Hitler to help speed things up.

So, here we are 75 years later and the Liberty ship John W. Brown is now berthed in Baltimore and is still able to go to sea and goes out on a few cruises a year, mostly locally, for special occasions.  That would be an awesome way to see the Baltimore waterfront.

This is a great tour of her, the best video I found. They also have a simple website for her. . With so much great video footage available, I’d put up a “resource center” to catalog the “best of class” documents and video from the Web on the site but who am I to say.

Anyway, here I am in MD, Pandora’s down in the BVI and I’ll be getting together with my crew this week to talk about our run north.  I sure hope that the run up to CT is easier than the run south was back in January, gales and all.

This video, shot on that run, doesn’t begin to show what it was like and how big the waves were.  As is so often the case, “you had to be there” to appreciate it.Well, once is enough in the “gale department” so I hope that this trip is easier.

I guess that’s about it for now and it’s nearly 10:30 so I’d better get on with my day.  Rob needs help in the yard and Brenda is watching Tori.

Question:  Have you ever noticed that perfectly mature adults always talk to babies in a high pitched voice?   Why is that?

Perhaps I’ll explore that in a future post.  Perhaps not…

Besides, that would be a completely random segue in a post that has already pushed “random segues” to the limit.