Monthly Archives: November 2017

The Antigua Yacht Club goes to the Dawgs

It’s been a whirlwind week since the Salty Dawg Fleet began to arrive here in Falmouth Antigua.  As Port Captain for Antigua, I have been crazy busy setting up events to be sure that when the 55 boats in the rally arrive so I can be confident that “the Dawgs will like the Dawg Food”.  Of course, I’ll never know for sure that everyone is having a good time but I see plenty of evidence that things are going swimmingly.

There have been quite a few events already but last night’s reception at the Antigua Yacht Club hosted by the yacht club for all of us.  Oh hand for the festivities in the clubhouse was Antigua Tourism Minister Hernandez, as well as Franklyn Braithwaite, AYC Commodore.  From left to right,  Me, Brenda, Minister Hernandez, his wife Jill and Commodore Braithwaite.  As Port Captain I had the honor of presenting a rally flag to the Minister.  Hey wait, is that Forest Gump in the background?And a rally flag and club burgee to the AYC Commodore. 
We had a full house of SDSA rally skippers and crew along with Antigua Yacht Club members and everyone had a terrific time. It takes a lot of work to put on an event like this and we are indebted to the Minister, club and others who’s hard work are making us feel so welcomed here in Antigua.

One thing for sure, the Antigua Yacht Club is indeed, going to the Dawgs and it’s great fun being a part of it.

Tonight we have our “safe arrival dinner” at Boom, a beautiful venue overlooking historic Nelson’s Dockyard.  I can’t wait. Oh yeah…  I almost forgot.  Remember the “royal visit?”  Prince Charles did visit the dockyard yesterday but Brenda and I missed him.  Perhaps had I met Minister Hernandez a day earlier…

Who knows, there’s always next time.  You know me, “ever hopeful”.  Yes, indeed.

Sure, make that a tot for me too.

The other night I invited the Royal Naval Tot club of Antigua and Barbuda to address the Salty Dawg Rally group and share a bit of history of this very unique club.   Following that introduction at one of our earlier events, last night we were invited to join them for an introductory “tot” of rum.

This group gets together every night of the year to pay tribute to a since abandoned practice of issuing a ration of rum to every sailor in the British Navy.
Here’s what they have to say about the club on their website…

“Aims of the Royal Naval Tot Club of Antigua & Barbuda

To signal the nominal end of the working day at 1800 hours local time by a gathering of like-minded individuals who make up the membership.

To carry on the revered tradition, sadly ended in 1970, by consuming a half gill of the nearest equivalent to the rum which was issued to the Royal Navy (i.e. Pusser’s Blue Label).

To confirm daily allegiance to and/or respect for the Crown by proposing the Loyal Toast to Her Majesty, the Queen.

To provide Royal Navy warships with marine based leisure activities and organise entertainment for the crew in the Nelson’s Dockyard area.

To promote and foster friendship and goodwill in the English Harbour and Falmouth Harbour areas through entertainment and social services.”

I had first learned of the group last April when I attended one of their ceremonies and wrote about it in this post.

I was so intrigued by what I experienced, I thought it would be fun to share it with the rally fleet Dawgs.

So, last evening we assembled at 18:00 in Nelson’s Dockyard,  a perfect place to reflect on the history of Antigua, the British Navy and the Queen.

I introduced the Dawgs to the Tot Club.   That’s me in the white shirt and tan shorts. After the introductions were done, Tot Club leadership officiated and instructed us to “cleanse our palates” with a bit of water.
We raised our glasses, toasts were made and a final tribute to the Queen.  Then, everyone, well, nearly everyone, downed the “measure” of rum in a single gulp followed by a swallow of water to kill the burn. It was a very unique event and I think that the Dawgs really enjoyed themselves.  And, I can’t think of a spot where this custom would be more appropriate than in such a historic spot, in the midst of Nelson’s dockyard, the home of the British Navy here in the Caribbean in the age of sail.

I’d very much like to join the club myself and hope to do so in the coming months.  I won’t go into what’s involved in this except to say that it involves  drinking a lot of “tots” and a good deal of memorization, two activities that don’t seem to be compatible.

However, I do enjoy the history of the area and hey, they have an awesome burgee.  And all that is motivation enough for me to stay the course.  I hope my liver holds out.

Preparing for the Royal Visit

Now, there’s a title that I never thought I’d be using in a post.  Let me explain.

As I prepared for the Salty Dawg Fleet to visit Antigua I reached out to many contacts here in Antigua about marina visits, special events and shopping.  Along the way I spoke with Ann-Marie Martin, the commissioner of parks.  She oversees, along with other areas here in Antigua, Nelson’s Dockyard, historic home to the British Navy,  now restored as a very popular spot for visiting yachts to tie up for a visit.

I had been trying to connect with her for several days since I arrived with Pandora but had not had any luck in setting up a time for us to meet.  Finally, after stopping at her office yesterday I received an e-mail from her apologizing for not being available as she was “really busy preparing for the Royal Visit”.  Royal visit, you say?   Indeed.

It seems that Prince Charles is arriving in Antigua today and will tour, among other sites, Barbuda and Dominica, two nearby islands that were devastated by last summer’s hurricanes.   I have been told by those in the know, that he will be touring the dockyard on Sunday afternoon.  We don’t know the exact time but it would be fun to catch a glimpse, that’s for sure.  I guess you’ll have to stay tuned to learn more.

The last few days since arriving have been really hectic for me, as well as those preparing for Charles.  However, things have come together nicely and we have already had a number of fun events and there’s something going on nearly every day through next Thursday, Thanksgiving, when Brenda and I fly back to the US for the holidays.

Our “official” venue has been the lawn at the Admiral’s Inn overlooking English Harbor and we have had wonderful evenings there already.  Here’s a group shot from last evening’s party.   It’s a pretty good group in spite of only half of the fleet having arrived.  Mike, from the Antigua and Barbuda Royal Navy Tot Club spoke to the group and has invited all of us to participate in one of their ceremonies, held tonight in the dockyard.  Stay tuned for more on that in a future post.   The Admiral’s Inn is in a lovely setting set among the ruins of an old sail loft.  Boats loaded with sails from warships were brought into this slip and the sails were raised up through a hole in the floor of the sail loft that once was on top of the columns.There are lovely views everywhere. 
I particularly enjoyed this small water garden. There is much to do in the Dockyard and that’s where Prince Charles will be visiting on Sunday afternoon.  Brenda and I are going to try and catch a glimpse.  Fortunately, we have some pretty well connected friends so perhaps we will get lucky.   “Charles, want to stop for a beer aboard Pandora?”

So, back in Falmouth harbor, Pandora’s on the dock for one more night before we move out to anchor with the rest of the fleet.  It will be nice to out in the breeze and surely way less expensive than slip and electric.    Here’s Pandora, front and center.Also, sharing space at the dock is a school of Tarpon, each over 4′ long.  I can only imagine what it costs to keep a boat like this 220′ sloop Anatta, launched in Holland in 2011, on the dock.  The scale of these yachts is amazing.   How big can a boom get?  Or the electric bill for this.   I was told by the marina manager that some boats use over $1,000 of electric every day.  Imagine?  I can hardly wait to get my bill.   I got fuel and learned that the largest order recently was for 100,00o liters.  It took several days to pump it all aboard. Up on the top deck are two… Elevators?  Popcorn makers?  Can’t figure it out. We saw this very unusual yacht, Adastra in St Martin last winter.  Looks like a Starship to me.  We met the captain and he’s agreed to let me come aboard later in the week to take some photos.  She’s a remarkable yacht built to very high standards. It seems that she will soon be available for charter so they are here for the charter show and he said that the owner is open to some publicity.  Will be interesting, that’s for sure.  So, here we are in Antigua and so is Prince Charles.  I guess I’d better wrap this up so I can get ready for a “royal sighting”.

Yes, that would surely be a bit different, wouldn’t it?


Let the fun begin.

It’s Wednesday morning here in Falmouth Antigua and more boats from the Salty Dawg Rally are arriving each day.  We have lots of special events planned including some happy hour gatherings and our “famous” arrival dinner scheduled for Monday.   It will be held at Boom, part of the Admiral’s Inn right in the historic Nelson’s Dockyard.    It’s a remarkable venue and co-owners Astrid and her brother Paul have gone out of their way to make us feel right at home. You can’t beat this spot, with a front row seat to the history of the British Navy in Lord Nelson’s time.  And, a view of historic ruins of the dockyard’s sail loft.  I challenge you to find a more iconic vista anywhere else in the Caribbean.  English harbor and the Dockyard from nearby Shirley Heights. Yes, it’s been a lot of work pulling all of this together on such short notice but things have come together very nicely.  We won’t have the entire fleet with us on Monday when we have our arrival dinner but I feel pretty good that the bulk of the boats will be able to make it.

A number of the Dawgs have opted to tie up at the Antigua Yacht Club Marina in Falmouth, along with Pandora. Here’s the view that greeted me today while I sat in the cockpit with my morning coffee. Speaking of coffee, I’m out of decaf so watch out.  Caffeine and me?  Not a great combination.    However with all that’s going on, perhaps I’ll need a bit of a boost to keep up.

All I can say is it’s great to be here  with all the other Dawgs.  Let the fun begin!

We made it. Antigua, here we are…

It’s been a busy few days since arriving here in Antigua first thing Sunday morning, after a 1,500+ mile run that took 9 days and 23 hours, not to put too fine a point on it.    It’s actually pretty amazing that we made it in ten days, my original prediction, considering that there was very , very light winds and plenty of weather “obstacles” conspiring to keep us from following the rum line.

My able crew, Chris and Jim. hard at work along the way.  I won’t bore you with the  “we motored this many hours, burned # gallons of fuel and sailed X % of they way except to say that navigating the fickle winds, currents and squalls, perhaps 20 or more of them actually.   However, I think it’s  sufficient to say that we had just about every weather option you can think of from flat calm with no wind to sporty sailing on a really close reach and had to go way east to get around a persistent ridge that plagued the fleet for days on end.

“No Bob, we really want to know.  Just how many hours did you motor?”  Ok, if you insist and because you asked so nicely…   We motored 129 hours and were underway for a total of 239 hours.  I guess that  means that we sailed just over half of the way.

In miles of sailing, it was more than that as we spent plenty of hours moving along at 8-9 kts, and sometime with top speeds in the low double digits.  Perhaps that explains how we were only the second boat to arrive here in Falmouth.  And, on that subject, that the boat that got here a few hours earlier may have left the day before we did.  Pandora’s a pretty fast boat.

As we left Hampton, along with many others in the 76 boat fleet, there was a full moon.  It was beautiful.As the entire fleet was headed to a specific way point south of the Gulf Stream,  to try and get on the right side of a large eddy, we were in sight of a number of boats for several days.  It was pretty impressive to see magnificent clouds over the boats in the distance.   As there were A LOT of squalls and plenty of rainbows.  And some terrific sunrises.  I always took the 04:00 to 08:00 watch, my favorite.  Well, my favorite after I get over the shock of being awakened with “Bob, it’s 04:00.  You’re on…”At the halfway point we found ourselves 500 miles from anything in every direction and days went by without us seeing any other boat.  However, this 60’+ Swan came up out of the distance and passed us doing 10+kts, but not all that fast as Pandora herself was moving along in the 9kt range.
Pretty good turn of speed for Pandora as she is a lot smaller than that Swan.  And with a crew of 6 and a bunch of hotshot sailors, they passed by less than a boat length, just to say HI and, I expect to say “mine is bigger than yours”.  And on they went..As the sun rose on Sunday morning, spirits were high as we watched the lush green mountains of Antigua  rise before us. So, here we are, on the dock for the first night all by ourselves.  Did I mention that we had just about the fastest time to Falmouth?  Thought so…  Not a lot of boats were here in the marina when we arrived, but this 220′ sailboat was nearby.  Huge.  I heard that they had a party catered at one of the local spots and spent plenty including a cool $1,000 on a special cheese platter.  The owner of the dining establishment told me that they also drank lots of expensive wine and the bill?  Well, let’s just say “if you have to ask, you can’t afford it.”  Nope, not Pandora’s crew.  Less than half of the rally fleet has arrived and many more should arrive over the next few days as for many it’s been a very slow passage.   Nearly 20 of the 55 boats that are headed to Antigua had to divert to Bermuda to get more fuel so that they could make it all the way in the light winds and not run out of fuel. 

The passage offered a wide variety of wind and sailing/motoring options and I have covered a lot of this in prior posts.   We did a bit of fishing along the way and landed one Mahi Mahi and I won’t talk about other various “ones that got away” including one that somehow broke the heavy line clean off of winch we had it tied to and took the entire rig “hook, line and sinker”, as the say.  That put an end to our fishing    Well, here we are in Antigua and since arriving I have been swamped with details for all the events as we have something planned just about every other day between now an Thanksgiving, including our first “official Happy Hour” tonight.

I’ll be reporting breathlessly, of course, on all the goings on over the next week or so before Brenda and I fly out to visit our kids and the christening of our granddaughter Tori the Sunday after Thanksgiving.

For now, all I can say is thank goodness that the local folks here in Antigua have been so supportive to help pull all of this together.   In particular, the Antigua Yacht Club has “lent” us Nesie, the office manager, to help with all the details including assembling some lovely pink “skipper bags” with all sorts of nifty stuff, even a sample of Antigua rum, to help the Dawgs enjoy their visit to Antigua just a little bit better. Oh yeah, Brenda arrives tomorrow. I CAN NOT WAIT!!!!

Well, there you have it.  We made it.  Back to Antigua for the second season this year.  I love Antigua.

Nearly there, and I’m getting really excited!

Well that’s it, with nearly 1,500 miles under Pandora’s keel, we are nearly to Antigua with less than 150 miles to go until we enter Falmouth Harbor, probably around dawn on Sunday.

It’s surely been a challenging trip a good deal of “variety” including just about everything from flat calms to days with a squall every few hours to make me wonder if it will ever end.

Over the last ten days I have to admit that I found myself wondering if it’s worth it, being away from Brenda for so long and the day after day of playing “cat and mouse” with ridges and winds that seem to be doing everything possible to keep us from making our way south.

Back when I was first thinking of a direct run to Antigua, I estimated that it would take perhaps ten days to make the 1,500 mile trip.  Of course, it’s never a straight line but one way or the other, I made the assumption that we’d be able to cover about 150 miles in the “right direction”, on average, each day.  That we now expect to complete the trip in almost exactly ten days, is fairly remarkable.

I know that there were days when we made way less than 150 miles toward our goal and some when we did better than that, but overall, my ten day assumption turned out to be about right.   Of course, we “aren’t there until we are there”, however I now  expect that we will arrive in Falmouth tomorrowSunday, shortly before dawn which will make out total run a few hours less than ten days from Hampton.

So, will I do this trip again?  Probably, but I am  not sure if I’ll take Pandora home to CT this summer and may instead opt to leave her in Grenada or Trinidad, below the hurricane belt.  I have been hesitant to leave her for an extended period because there was always so much to do to bring her into proper trim for extended ocean sailing but most of those projects are now done so perhaps it’s time to just do the short run south from Antigua to her “summer home” after the northbound rally leaves in May.

Brenda and I had planned to do an extended trip to Europe every other year or so after I retired but with so much work on Pandora as well as the time it takes to get her from here to there, our travel plans have been delayed.  Yes, there were other reasons beyond “the boat” but all of this “schlepping” has clearly gotten in the way.  We really want to do a trip this fall so perhaps this year it does make sense to not do the long run north.

One thing for sure though, if we do decide to bring Pandora north this spring and back down next fall, I won’t be stopping in Hampton as it just adds too much time to the trip.  And to add insult to injury, it just takes forever and a day to get enough easting from Hampton to reach the trade winds.  It just seems to me that it would be easier to leave from CT and head south, passing near Bermuda on our way south and just skip all the “in and out” of going to Hampton which in itself makes the total run to Antigua about 200 miles longer than a direct run.

Besides, not stopping in Hampton would cut my time away from Brenda by about half as I wouldn’t be hanging out in Hampton for a week or two prior to heading south.

However, as Chris Parker would say, “that’s a long way out and things could change” but that’s what I am thinking now.  Well, for at least today.
All that aside, what I’m really thinking of is that I can’t wait to see Brenda and go out for a nice dinner so we can catch up as I haven’t seen her since I slipped the lines in CT, some three weeks ago.

Did I mention that she’s flying in on Wednesday afternoon?

Thought so.  And I’m really, really excited.

For sure, Pandora will be all cleaned up, in cruising trim and ready for Brenda.

We’re nearly there. ONLY 478 miles to go.

Yes, that’s still a long way but now that we have finally reached the consistent trade winds, the sailing is so much easier and what a treat to sail for hour after hour, and day after day, and know that the wind will stay just about the same, somewhere between 13 and 19 or so knots, on a close reach with wind comfortably forward of the beam.   And, with 1,000 miles under our keel, it’s really the first time on this trip when we could count on the wind being consistent and from a decent angle for more than a half day or so.

It’s remarkable how moods change when we are pointing toward our destination and moving along smartly in consistent winds.   Having said that, it seems that the guys have been in pretty good spirits in spite of the relentless need to head east, wind on the nose or not.

Up until now I had trouble remembering why I do these trips but if life could always be a beam reach, it would be hard for me to get enough of this kind of sailing.  I expect that most of the sailors that I know up in New England don’t get as much sailing with the wind on their beam in an entire season than we will enjoy over the next few days.  Somehow I am now way more relaxed knowing that I will probably not need to adjust the sails or our course more than a “smidge” at any point for the next 500 miles.

It’s pretty clear that Pandora likes it too as she “hums her tune” galloping over the waves.

And, speaking of “galloping”, I made the mistake of leaving the coffee pot, full of dry grounds, unsecured for a moment, or at least a moment too long, this morning and it gleefully leapt onto the floor, spraying dried grounds everywhere in an instant.    It took me forever to clean up the mess.  As it was about 05:00 and the guys were both asleep, I didn’t have the heart to break out the vacuum cleaner, so a damp sponge had to do the job.  Yuck.  Don’t worry Brenda, I didn’t use the kitchen sponge.  After 46 years of hanging around you, I am nearly housebroken.    Well, sort of housebroken, at least when it comes to cleaning up coffee grounds aboard Pandora.   Ok, at least this morning and I admit that I still have a long way to go to be properly “restrained”.    :

So, here we are FINALLY moving in the direction that we want to go and it feels terrific.   On the one hand, we are still 500 miles from Antigua and that’s likely to take us somewhere around three days to cover the distance, suggesting that we will arrive in Falmouth sometime on Sunday.

I plan on going into a marina for a few days to get Pandora cleaned up and back into cruising mode.  With Brenda arriving on Wednesday I’ll have to decide if I am going to move out to the anchorage before she arrives.  I guess I’ll have to ask her what she’d prefer.

Yes indeed, it’s sure a lot more pleasant to be actually pointing where I want to go with consistent and, more importantly, “predicable” trade winds that we can count on make the remaining 500 miles seem more like a “day sail” than major ocean passage.  What, no changing waypoints Chris?

Oh yeah, one more thing.  It’s nearly 500 miles in every direction to land.   Nope, nobody around, just us and the flying fish.

Yes, it’s nice to be sailing, the easy way.   I can practically see Antigua in the distance.  Not… But it feels like I just might.

Heck, we’re nearly there with only 480 miles to go…

Day after Day, Where’s the Wind?

It’s the beginning of our 7th day at sea.  Perhaps it’s just me but it seems that going south is a lot more complex than heading north.  In the spring you sort of point the boat north and can generally hold a fairly direct course most of the way.  I guess that makes sense as the prevailing winds are from the east offshore and from the SW onshore which is about right for the run north.

So, what about fall?  With the cold fronts coming off of the coast in the fall and winter months, you’d expect that the northerlies would help us along heading south.  However, that’s not the case because those northerlies are driven by a succession of lows that roll off of the east coast, one after another.

Of course, between those lows the winds go all over the place so heading south becomes a cat and mouse game with shifting winds.   I am beginning to see why many folks opt to keep their boats in Trinidad or Grenada and avoid the 1500 mile slog each spring and fall.   Think I have had enough?  Actually, I really enjoy the trip when we are sailing but day after day of motoring and hoping that we can pick up a little bit more wind to sail, can get somewhat wearing.   (As I finish up this post, we are sailing again, for the moment at least)

Twice each day I listen to Chris Parker, in the morning and evening, to see what the latest “new”, “flavor of the day”, waypoint will be.   What is today’s best guess as to where we will finally reach the trade winds and be able to turn south toward Antigua?  As I write this we are, as the crow flies, and Pandora isn’t flying right now,  about 600 miles from Antigua.  However, we still have to continue to head to the SE, not directly to Antigua, to get enough easting to catch favorable winds for the rest of the run.  Well, that’s at least what Chris said this morning…

Unfortunately, we are currently to the north of a ridge that is suppressing the wind to 10kts or less in our area.   As Pandora needs about 12kts to sail comfortably on a close reach, the winds just aren’t strong or consistent enough to sail.  While I might be able to sail easily in light winds in say, the protected waters of Long Island Sound, in the more choppy conditions of the ocean, it takes a few knots more wind to keep our speed up.
Generally, it’s pretty comfortable moving along right now but I’d feel a lot better if the engine weren’t on most of the time.  We have plenty of fuel, I think, to make the run assuming that my consumption per hour assumptions are right and that the remaining two tanks have at least 40 gallons, each, of usable fuel.  The builder’s specs call for three tanks of 50 gallons each for a total of 150 gallons.  However, we have used up the first tank and based on historical usage per hour, I estimate that the useable fuel in that tank was about 40 gallons, not 50.   If that is correct and the other tanks are similar, then I have ten gallons less per tank than I thought and that translates to something like 40 to 45 hours less fuel under power, nearly two days.

However, in spite of all that, I calculated this morning that I should have somewhere around 5.5 days more motoring with the fuel that I have left.   So, with perhaps 650 miles to go and an assumed average speed of 6.5kts,  I would need a maximum of four days of motoring if I were to use the engine 100% of the time, which isn’t likely to happen.

Well, I say “not likely” with the belief that the rest of the trip will be better than the first half and I remain hopeful, that once we hit the trades we will be able to turn off the engine and once again enjoy the sounds of the wind and water rushing past Pandora as we close in on Antigua.  Ever hopeful you say?  Yes, that’s me and the dog, ever hopeful?  Can I have a cookie?

Actually, I’d like some of the banana, squash, raisin bread that just came out of the oven and that’s way better than a cookie.   As good as it smells, and it does smell great, I’d trade it for favorable winds in a minute.

Yes, I’m plenty hopeful but the wind, such as it is, is what it is, so I’ll just eat that banana, yellow squash, raisin bread and take what the sea tosses our way.
And later I’ll call Chris Parker and see if he can tell me, for sure and exactly where some favorable winds are anyway.

Oh yeah, about that banana, yellow squash, raisin bread, it was awesome and I didn’t even use a recipe or mix.  Besides, who would combine that weird mix if they weren’t on a boat and didn’t have to anyway?

Far, Far Away….from Everything

It’s Tuesday morning and we are at, well at a point that’s about as far from land as we will get for the entire trip.   We have traveled more than 750 miles since leaving Hampton and are 250 miles from Bermuda and 500 or more from just about everywhere tera-firma. (did I spell that right?).   For those with a map and care about such things, our coordinates are 28.28N and 66.47W.

I am happy to say that after more than a day, several days actually, of winds, better described as zephyrs, in the single digits, we are now sailing along in winds of about 10-13kts on a close reach, doing 7-8kts through the water.  Oddly, we have been bucking a 1kt adverse current for several days now so our progress isn’t as good as the speedo suggests.

It’s funny how complete one’s focus becomes on the wind speed and direction and with every increase of a few knots of wind, hope that perhaps it will hold and signal that we are approaching the area where the easterly trade winds will begin to strengthen.  While we are still over 100 miles from the coordinates, 27N and 65W where Chris Parker suggests that stronger trades will set in, we are hopeful that a lighter and faster boat like Pandora will continue to find wind strong enough to continue sailing.

As  Pandora’s speed approaches 7kts, she begins to emit a gentle hum, a sure sign that she’s come alive and is happy to be moving again.
After hours and days of motoring, it’s wonderful to hear nothing but the gentle hum of Pandora moving through the water and the sound of the ocean whooshing along the hull.  As an added benefit, she is able to attain a good turn of speed  at 10 degrees or less of heel.   With some luck, our wind will hold and allow us to sail much of the remaining distance to the “Chris Parker, OFFICIAL, well at least for today, the official area where we will be solidly under the influence of the trades.   One can always hope…

After a constant parade of ships for the first few days after we departed Hampton, we have only seen one or two show up on the AIS tracker for several days now and only one small boat, another member of the Salty Dawg Rally fleet, within the VHF hailing distance of about 15 miles, the normal limit of a VHF signal.

I’m tempted to say that it’s weird to look out to the horizon and see absolutely nothing, day after day.  However, on every one of my offshore runs, after getting more than a hundred or so miles from shore, this is normal.   So, here we are in the deep blue sea,  hour after hour, day after day, and all that passes by Pandora is indigo ocean waters and puffy white clouds marching their way across the sky.

With the full moon a few days ago, the nighttime sky has been brilliantly bright, casting sharp shadows on the boat and beaming into the portholes, tricking you into believing that someone is shining a flashlight as you try to sleep.

All and all, the moon and stars have made for night watches that pass easily.  Oh yeah, and the new cockpit enclosure has been terrific, keeping out the nighttime dew and salt.   With all the motoring we have also been liberal with the use of the watermaker and I have to tell you that a warm nighttime shower in the cockpit, while not quite as wonderful as a teenage skinny dip, it’s pretty close.

I have to admit that all of this does seem even better as we now know that we are likely to sail much of the way on the second half of the trip, pushed along by the more predicable trades than the fickle winds nearer to shore that have caused so much frustration for the first half of our trip.

Oh yeah, one more thing.  Just before I left I activated Sirius radio so while I do my chores each day and prepare meals aboard Pandora I have been listening to BBC World Radio.  How civilized.  Yes, indeed.

Today I spoke to Brenda again, compliments of Glenn on KPK radio.  Now, that was a treat…

Perhaps again tomorrow. .. Yes, that would be nice.

Yes, we are pretty far from just about everything but I can still (sort of) talk to Brenda.  “static, crackle, pop… Good morning Brenda…  static, crackle, pop…..Over…?

And, while it was hard to hear exactly what she was saying, it made me feel, even though I am so far from everything, just a little closer to her.

Ok,I’ll admit that I am blushing as I proof this but it’s how I feel. So there…

It’s Always a ‘Little’ Something

In keeping with the “little thing” theme of yesterday’s post, we had a “little thing” fail last night aboard Pandora.

In this case, it was the fitting that holds the luff tack cringle of the mainsail to the goose neck on the bow end of the boom.   This fitting was a loop with a pin that went through the bottom front “corner” of the mainsail luff.  In spite of the fact that this fitting was, and I say “was” deliberately, designed to take the load of the luff for the entire mainsail, it broke off.  The boom outhaul, with as much as 2,000 lbs of pressure on it as well as the head of the sail both pull against this fitting with great tension.  It’s a very critical fitting.

About 00:00 hours (midnight), Jim came down below to wake me as the fitting had failed.

Fortunately, it was very light wind and we were motoring, more or less, directly into the wind.   When this fitting failed, the bottom of the sail became slack and suddenly much of the tension of the rest of the mainsail was focused on the first sail slide about 4′ up the luff of the sail. This slide and that part of the sail are not designed to take any major loads so had we been sailing in a strong breeze, I expect that the sail would have ripped its’ entire length beginning at that point.

Fortunately, due to Jim’s attention and quick action, a major failure was averted.    With nearly 1,000 miles to go until we reach Antigua, losing the main would have ruined our day and many more after, that’s for sure.

While we expect to reach an area where we can sail in a few days, for now we are motoring and that would have put us at risk of running out of fuel before reaching Antigua without a working mainsail to move us along.

So, what was the solution?  Fortunately, I keep a good supply of Dyneema line for just this sort of problem and was able to put together a bridle to hold the tack of the sail to the boom and mast.  This line is super strong.   I doubled each piece with several wraps through the mainsail cringle, just in case the line chafes.  However, Dyneema is really tough stuff and quite chafe resistant, so I doubt that we will have any major chafe issues.

I guess it took about an hour for me and Jim, with Chris at the wheel, just in case, to get everything tied securely into place.  Thanks to Jim for his quick action as it likely saved the main.

So, today we are motorsailing ESE, close hauled, with the expectation that the wind will shift north of east at some point in the next day or so.  While it is expected to remain light, around 10-12kts, we may be able to sail with the big Code O headsail once the wind shifts north, as its’ forecast to do.  Eventually, perhaps late Tuesday or Wednesday we should find the easterly trade winds and then be able to sail the rest of the way to Antigua.

I still expect t to arrive in Antigua around the 12th, perhaps one of the first boats in the fleet to do so.   With Brenda flying in on the 15th, that will give me time to see Jim and Chris off and get Pandora into cruising mode.  Of course, that also will involve getting that broken tack fitting repaired.   More to come on that, with photos, when I get to Antigua.

Fortunately, so far, this has been the only, potentially major, failure.   In the “minor failure” category, my masthead tricolor running light stopped working so now I only have the deck level running lights which I usually reserve for when I am running under power.   No biggie but I’ll want to get that fixed as well.  It’s probably corrosion in the fixture at the top of the mast as it’s an LED bulb and those rarely fail.

In the “I don’t want to run out of fuel” department, I made a decision to continue on my middle fuel tank until it ran dry and the engine stopped to confirm exactly how much usable fuel it contained.   Well, this morning, after 61 hours of running time, the engine abruptly died.  At an assumed average consumption of about .65/hr fuel burn at low RPM, this suggests that I actually have 40 usable gallons in what is reported to be a 50 gallon tank.  That’s few gallons less than I had expected and it will be interesting to see how much fuel that tank takes when I fill up in Antigua.  Based on that I will be better able to estimate my maximum run time going forward.  That will be good to know when I am calculating fuel consumption for especially long periods of motoring, like on this trip.

So, here we are, motoring along in very light winds with the hope that the wind will fill in a bit and back more to the NE so we can sail sooner rather than later.

I guess that’s all for now and in the meantime, let’s hope that nothing else “little” comes up and if it does, I sure hope that it, like last nights’ breakage indeed stays a “little something”.

Oh yeah, I sautéed the last of the Mahi Mahi for dinner last evening along with some yellow squash.  Both were great and flavored with Old Bay seasoning, the fish got rave reviews from Pandora’s entire crew.

Perhaps it’s time to fish again.  Hmm…