We had an uneventful sail to Hampton and now I am securely on the dock at Blue Water Yachting Center, working hard to finish up the last minute details to get Pandora ready to go on November 2nd with the fleet in the Salty Dawg Rally. Regarding departure, I spoke with Chris Parker, our router, today and he told me that he doesn’t expect that there will be any significant weather to keep us from leaving as planned. That’s good news, especially given the drumbeat of bad weather news for the last few months. I expect that our run to Antigua will take about 9-11 days so stay tuned on that score.
It’s been a crazy few months of working on Pandora to get her into the best possible shape for out time afloat and after 2.5 years now, I feel like I have a pretty good handle on what she needs.
Of course, I spent a lot of time tracking down leaks. You know, if someone asks “so, does the boat have any leaks?”, the answer is ALWAYS an emphatic no. The same reaction you’d get if you asked someone if their sister slept around. Anyway, Pandora now only has one leak but it’s minor and I just don’t have the energy to tackle it right now. Perhaps there are others but it’s the only one that I know about that remains. I have re-bedded hatches, granny bars and other fittings that have been leaking for some time. I won’t say that they were large leaks, but the sort that always seem to crop up when you are pounding into seas. Of course, this never happens anyway, so “what leak?”. Anyway, leaks solved, mostly, for the moment, I think.
And, speaking of staying dry, a major leap for us was to order a full cockpit enclosure, something that we have never done on any of our boats. Good thing as they are pretty expensive. We hired Chad from Sunnyside Marine Upholstery in Chester CT to do the job for us as he has a terrific reputation and is known for a very solid attention to detail. I do have a sewing machine and know how to make stuff but I know my limits and a job of this magnitude was way beyond me. Just “templating” the job was something I could only dream about doing correctly. And magically, a few weeks later, a complete enclosure. It’s a little difficult to see it as the vinyl is so clear. Chad did really nice work with many thoughtful details to make it great. Wow, there’s a lot going on behind the dodger between the stainless, canvas and vinyl!We have never commissioned such a large canvas job but we decided that we needed an enclosure to keep the weather out on passage as it can get pretty wet at times especiallhy when we are in northern areas in the spring and fall. With my 6th winter in warmer climes, I have become pretty soft when it comes to cold.
Here’s some of the things that make the job a “cut above”. “Smile” zippers, with double pulls, on both sides, inside and outside, so we can get into and out of the cockpit easily. Chad made the side panels attached to the hard dodger a bit longer to keep the wind and water away from us when we are sitting underneath and out of the weather. Getting water on the back of the cockpit cushions has always been a problem. I am excited about this simple but important change. Interestingly, he also put a batten on the trailing edge of the panel to make it more solid and resistant to damage. A really nice touch.
He actually constructed those side extensions and the center window between the dodger and bimini as a single piece over ten feet long. I don’t know how he managed to get that template perfect the first time. It fit without any adjustment. Remarkable work. Notice the stainless bars holding everything rigid and they are covered with cloth sleeves for a finished look. The front glazing panels are fit into channels so no water can get underneath and into the cockpit. He also put in a special rigid glazing that is much clearer and resists UV better than straight vinyl. The stern panels look complicated and they are. There are zippers to make it easy get on and off of the boat and also has a “smile” in the big panel to port to allow for good flow-through of air, a nice touch. On most boats you have to roll up the entire panel to get a breeze but Chad broke things up nicely so we can open and close “windows” and yet not need to constantly roll the entire panels up and down. And speaking of airflow, yet another “smile” in the front of the dodger, also out of rigid plastic for good visibility. He even overlapped the zipper with a soft vinyl flap to keep water from leaking through the zipper in heavy weather.
And, the “smile” can be secured up and out of the way with easy release snaps. Brenda and I couldn’t e happier with how Chad’s work turned out and I am sure that this improvement will go a long way to making our winter afloat as comfortable as possible.
On top of that, there were lots of other projects, perhaps too numerous to mention. However, here’s a smattering of some of the more important ones.
It’s bugged me from day one that the swim ladder didn’t deploy perfectly vertically so when you step on it the ladder tipped slightly under the hull. Minor perhaps but it just didn’t feel secure to me. So, I machined some shims out of Starboard to fit snugly on the tubes. Deciding on the proper thickness and taper so that the ladder would be vertical wasn’t as easy as you’d think. In place and vertical. Happy me. Also, a new galley faucet. The old one was pretty short and a lot of water ended up on the counter instead of in the sink. This one is a few inches longer and now centers over the middle of the sink. Getting the old one out was a chore as it as badly corroded and I had to be sure and be gentle so as to avoid cracking the marble counter. Brenda’s happy to have a really nice faucet now. Actually, I’m happy as I do nearly all of the dishes. I wouldn’t want Brenda to waste her energy on cleanup when it can be better spent on “creation”. Another persistent problem was water filling up the aft self-draining lockers where fuel and propane are stored. The clam shell vents on either side of the swim platform allowed water in on the leeward side when we are sailing hard. Water egress through those vents ended up leaking through some areas where wires went through the bulkheads and cost me some sensitive electronics, nearly causing a fire on my first rough offshore run two years ago. Fixing this has been a priority but it took some time to settle on these one-way scuppers. I am pretty happy with the solution and feel that any errant propane will still be able to seep out through the flaps. So far so good. I’ll report back on how they work when the going gets rough. And, under the “this is going to cost a lot” category, I finally bit the bullet and had the heat exchanger replaced on my engine. There was a persistent leak on the end of the unit that was there when I purchased the boat and in spite of a number of “repairs” the solution was a total replacement. This one cost several boat dollars, unfortunately.
Of course, the replacement of that lead to other “issues” like a cracked exhaust hose, just to mention one thing that turned up during the job. Instead of replacing the entire run we opted for a new piece and a splice into the old, still good, hose. You may recall that very shortly after purchasing Pandora we had to have the bow thruster repaired because the front locker where it’s housed had flooded several times over the years. The corrosion was progressive but didn’t finally kill things until a while after. (Isn’t that always the way?) Part of the “fix”, including two bilge pumps, was to put desiccant in the locker, along with re-bedding the internal “watertight” hatch. This has worked well and I have a special rack in place to hold two trays. I replace the calcium chloride every few weeks or so. Corrosion problem solved. And, speaking of bilge pumps in that area, the main pump failed earlier this season and it took me hours, two days actually, to finally find the root of the problem. It was a failed pressure switch, something that’s not even needed on a bilge pump but after ruling out every other possible cause, I pulled the pump and put it on a bench, bypassing the pressure switch. Problem solved. I could go on all day listing all of the projects that I completed aboard Pandora this summer but perhaps the one that I am most proud of was end-for-ending the anchor chain and re-splicing the twelve strand line onto the chain. Let me tell you, I can hardly count to twelve much less splice line with that many leads.
I was going to have the rigger do it but when they told me that it would likely take them as long as 2.5+ hours (at $90/hr:) I decided that I was going to give it a try myself. After many viewings of videos on YouTube and not even being able to find instructions for 12 strand, I gave it a try. Remarkably, I got it right the first time. The almost completed splice. And yes, it did take about 2.5 hours. A beautiful “inaugural splice” if you ask me. Note: If you don’t like it and see flaws… keep it to yourself please. Of course, all of this is in preparation for my 1,500 mile run to Antigua with the Salty Dawg Rally. So, perhaps it’s fitting to close this post with a shot of burgees flying on Pandora. In order of appearance. The Salty Dawg Sailing Association rally flag, SDSA burgee, Seven Seas Cruising Association Commodore burgee and finally the Antigua Yacht Club, our hosts in Falmouth Antigua.Well, that’s about it for now but I should mention that Chris Parker told me yesterday that it’s going to be quite chilly next week when we depart so I am going to LOVE being protected by our new “hermetically sealed cockpit enclosure”. He also said that he expects that we should be able to get out on time on the 2nd. We’ll see about that.
Want to follow me and the other 70 boats headed to Antigua? Of course, I always post my position on my blog. Click on “where in the world is Pandora on the home page to follow our progress. And, for tracking the entire fleet click here. Be sure to put in “SDR” as the group and select the date range that you want to see a position report for. As far as Pandora is concerned, I’ll be putting up position reports every two hours and blog posts most days. On the shared fleet page each boat is required to post at 08:00 and 16:00 daily.
Lots to do so I’d better sign off for now.