Monthly Archives: July 2019

Maine or bust. Busted, totally!

On Friday, we left the marina in Chester to head out and begin our long delayed trip to Maine aboard Pandora.  I say “long delayed” because THE CANVAS GUY ran the headliner project all the way to the hairy end, finishing up, mostly, at 20:00 hours on Thursday night.

While he made the “final” deadline, I swear that every time he set another deadline and promised he’d be done, he just blew past it only to set another “don’t worry, I’ll make that” one, soon to be broken.  Yes, I understand that he had committed to too many jobs but it was pure torture to work toward a deadline, only to learn at the 11th hour that the work had not progressed at all.  This happened time after time and was just exhausting.

Another issue is that Pandora is a complicated boat and after sitting on the hard for such a long time (my last log entry was a trip to Sag Harbor June 6th 1018, over a year ago) all sorts of Gremlins crept into the picture, having nothing to do with the delayed canvas work.  These problems were discovered as I methodically tested each system in preparation for heading to Maine.

So the time had finally come and we headed out of the marina on Friday morning all ready to go.  As we cleared the marina I decided to check, one more time, I thought, all of the electronics including the radar and surprise, no radar.

Now, before you say something like my friend Chris, who feels that since generations of mariners sailed around the world without radar, that I should not rely on all that “newfangled” stuff and just keep it simple, hear me out.   Yes, simple is good and, I’ll agree that having three electric pumps on each of our heads seems a bit overly complex, but having the ability to “see” in the fog in a place, Maine, that is nearly always foggy and strewn with big hard rocks, is a must.

Besides, the coast of Maine is littered with the remains of hundreds, no make that thousands of shipwrecks and I have no interest in supplying the next one.  So, no trip to Maine until the radar is fixed and we stopped as we passed the Essex Yacht Club and pulled up at the dock with the hope that the “electronics guy” could fit us in on short notice to solve the problem.

The electronics guy was kind enough to come to my aid on Friday afternoon and after about an hour declared that he thought that it was most likely a cable problem.  Why the cable decided to fail, just like that, is a mystery but that seems to be what happened.   However, it wouldn’t be possible to fix it till the following week.

A few days delay is generally not a problem but in this case I had delayed using Pandora as long as I possibly could to keep her available for the canvas guy to do his work.   So, with all the delays, last Friday was just about the last day that I could leave for Maine.  Sure, if it hadn’t been a Friday, perhaps the repairs would have happened the next day but with the weekend looming, a departure on Tuesday was just not possible so no Maine this year.

Not to be deterred, I talked to my crew about an alternative.  How about going cruising for a few days?  So, off we went, arriving at West Harbor, Fisher’s Island at dusk where we picked up a mooring.

The next day, off to Newport, mostly because that was the best option given the wind forecast.  As we approached the harbor we saw more than a dozen 12m sailboats, past defenders and challengers for the America’s Cup, all participating in the 12 Meter Worlds, the largest assemblage of class boats ever.  They were everywhere.   What a sight.

Everywhere you looked, these beauties were being towed out to the racecourse.  It was amazing to see all these iconic names and all out on the course at the same time. These are remarkable, powerful machines. And the spectator boats, none the less impressive.   I loved the lines of what is probably an old Huckins.   What an elegant, classic yacht. Of course, where there are big money yacht owners, there is a photo chopper, flying over the fleet documenting the excitement.  Later at the awards dinner they would be selling their work to excited owners and crew even more enthusiastic after a few drinks.As we approached the harbor we passed Brenton Point, the day’s site for a kite flying contest, it seems.  What a sight. As we passed, I was struck by some of the particularly large kites like this octopus and whale.  I wonder how hard it is to hold on to such a huge kite.Of course, what better spot to watch all the fun than from the lawn on one of the historic inns?  “Jeeves, I’ll have another gimlet, and make it snappy.  Muffy will have a third mimosa while you’re at it good man.”  There’s clearly no shortage of money in Newport where a “dink” has over 1,000 HP.  How about one with four outboards?The evening festivities for the regatta were to be held at the International Yacht Restoration School, known for rebuilding small boats all the while teaching a new generation of builders and restorers the art of wooden boat repair.   The most popular design for the school is the restoration of Beetle Cats, and there are plenty of tired hulls to choose from.  Buy an old boat, they will fix it up and sell it to you.  Easy!
So there you have it, a failed run to Maine but all is not lost.  I’ve already spoken to Brenda about moving plans around so that we can do a bit of cruising and enjoy what’s left of the summer before I head south in the fall.

As I write this me and my crew, none to the worse for wear, are enjoying time in Block Island.   This was our view from Pandora last evening while we watched the sun set.  Oh yeah, and about that headliner.  The canvas guy might think he’s done but oops, not quite as there more than a few details that seem to have escaped his guy’s attention when he finally stepped onto the dock from Pandora on Thursday evening.   I’ll be calling and I’ll be sailing.

In that order?  Hard to say but I WILL BE SAILING.

Busted or not, life isn’t all that bad.  No indeed.


Why do we work so *&%$#%$ hard to go sailing?

I can’t believe that it’s nearly mid July and I am still &^%$#@$ around getting Pandora ready to sail.  We are supposed to leave for Maine in two days and the headliner is still not completed.

Well, I say not ready as each time the canvas guy blows past yet another deadline, I have to pick and choose what I am doing myself to move other projects, beyond the headliner, ahead on my end.    I find myself below, looking around at the seemingly tiny bit of daily progress asking myself, “what can I do today?” and the answer is usually, not much.  However, somehow I still spend hours a day working on the Pandora.

Having said that, there is a bright side to all of this as I have been able to tackle some projects that I would have set aside for another year, like renewing cruddy old aluminum trim on the opening dodger window with some really nice plastic extrusion.   I ordered some really nice new plastic trim and installed it today. The window, while it looks square, is actually a trapezoid,  but only a few degrees off of 45 on each corner.  Getting the mitered corners perfect was very difficult, but I got it after a lot of trial and error. The new trim is a big improvement on the old corroded aluminum. The trim was never properly bedded so the stainless screws ate away at the metal. Now, it looks a lot better, better than ever. I also ordered new fender covers to protect my expensive new paint job.  They are a lovely grey with Pandora’s logo on each of them, six in all.  They are 10″ in diameter and pretty big fenders. Anyway, it’s mid July and I am still messing around and trying to get Pandora ready to head to Maine.  Every day it seems to be getting a bit hotter.  Did I mention that it’s going to be 90 today?  It’s hard to believe that when I started really working on Pandora on a nearly daily basis way back in March and recall wondering how I was going to be able to work comfortably aboard with such cold temperatures.  I purchased a portable propane heater and used it just about every day for weeks on end.  No need for that heater now.

So, here I am, nearly four months later, and I am still working to get her ready to head out.  Yes, she’s in the water but still not quite “ready”.  Despite looking lovely and seemingly ready for anything?  Don’t be fooled, there’s still more to do till we had off on Friday.  Without the headliner in place I can’t really put much aboard like cushions, bedding and clothing.  All the stuff that makes living on a boat fun and with two days till “liftoff”, this isn’t feeling even a little bit like “fun”.

It seems that this headliner job has turned out to be like a gas, filling the space available, with every step S-L-O-W-I-N-G down to fill the time left before the next deadline.

“We can’t work on the headliner because it’s too cold for the glue to cure.”  Didn’t happen and now it’s in the 90s.  I was taking Pandora to my event, weeks ago.  Deadline missed…  Had to leave the marina because the rates were going up terribly, nearly two weeks ago.  Deadline missed…and I am in a different marina. Heading to Maine?  I don’t want to think about that right now…

Of course, for anyone who follows my musings, there is simply only one reason that I am delayed and that’s the “canvas guy” blowing by deadline after deadline and it’s still not done. It feels like he is slowing down the process a bit more each day so that the job will get closer and closer to completion and yet NEVER BE DONE.  It’s odd.  You’d think that he’d want me out of his hair. Wouldn’t you?  How long can he stand hearing from me every day, day after day, week after week?

There’s also an emerging issue of some electronic gremlins that crept into the picture over the near year that she was out of commission.   Oddly, the near-new AIS stopped working.  The XM radio wasn’t working and a number of other details that needed ironing out.

Things break and there is nothing quite as deadly to a boat than not being used and in her year out of the water, that’s what happened.

Well, I am really ready to use her now and can’t wait to head out.  The good news is that the “electronics guy” said he’d be here on Monday, two days ago and he showed up as planned, surveyed the issues, came back the second day and I expect that things will be resolved in time.  Wasn’t that easy?  Fingers crossed…

Delays or not, I have been moving forward as fast as I am able with the plan of not putting stuff down below that will get in the way of the “headliner installation from Hell” project.    I did put back the newly varnished salon dining table a few days ago.  It looks great if you don’t look all that close.  Yes, it’s very shiny but there were a few drips along the way.Opened up it’s pretty impressive, “boogers” and all.   Actually, if I squint just a tiny bit, it looks pretty much perfect. I heartily recommend Epifanes varnish.   It’s wonderful stuff. I can’t believe that it took so many years for me to “discover” it. Part of the reason that I have tried to be understanding of the delays on the headliner is because I learned from the canvas guy that he had a few customers scheduled to leave on their vacations as of last Wednesday and he had to get their jobs done.

I understand that as these people probably have jobs and to delay a once in a year two week trip, well, that’s not acceptable if you’ve told the boss and are ready to head out and scheduled someone to come in and water the plants.  Yes, I get it.  They have less flexibility than I do but it’s still stressful to know that I have to get Pandora to Maine and me back in time to head to MD for the first birthday of the Twins.  Miss that event and Brenda will likely tell me “go ahead, toss those dock lines and NEVER COME BACK, EVER!”

The biggest problem is that while I am not scheduled to leave until Friday, two days from now, I have held off on moving all of the stuff back aboard.  But, I am simply running out of time so today is the day and I have to move things aboard this evening, headliner or not.

I mention all of this because right now, as with so many other times, I am wondering what it is about being aboard that makes me so willing to put in hundreds of hours into keeping Pandora in good shape, not even including all the money it costs to do just that.

I was reminded of the answer to this question last weekend when Brenda and I  visited the Wooden Boat Show at Mystic Seaport where there were some spectacular boats on display.    There was a Dyer regatta going on, run by my friend Liz, that was a fitting reminder of the draw of the water.It looked like such fun, to be on the water in a small boat.  Yachting is often described as a rich man’s sport, but it doesn’t take a big bank account to mess about in small boats.  Sure, sometimes sailing can be complicated and there were plenty of boats for the well healed.  This little beauty  may be small but she’s clearly designed for an owner with means.Every detail is exquisite, down to the partially balanced bronze rudder. Something as simple as a paddle can be a work of art.  This one is made out of my favorite wood, cherry.  The grain is fabulous.  Cherry is a pretty heavy wood for a paddle, but what a sight. The often say that “God is in the details”.  If that’s the case, this wheel is divine.This dink is as much a work of art as a means of transportation and to row her would be transporting indeed.A boat doesn’t need to be big to be fun.   At 24″ long, this remote control racer is  a replica of the famous Gold Cup racer, Miss America.  What about these passengers?  It must have been a rough ride. And speaking of a rough ride,  how about an ulralight racer with a huge motorcycle engine and handle bars to match?  Not Brenda’s first choice for a relaxing cruise on the river.  “Where’s my cup holder?”Boats have always been a part of our history.  The Mayflower, just finishing up from a multi-year restoration, will be launched in September.  Some have said that there is nothing that typifies art and design like a boat.  Look at the detail in her stern. So much detail in her construction. Unfortunately, we will be out of town when she splashes in September.

Forget the Pilgrims.  Evidence suggests that the Vikings arrived in the New World long before the better known European explorers.  Open boat crossing the Atlantic?   Not for me.  As I am told I once said, when I was “little”, “don’t get my wet!”   Those viking guys must have been tough.  I still don’t particularly like getting splashed with salty spray.  The Beetle Boat Company, with their wonderful little catboats, reminds me of all our years as catboat owners and our time on the board (steering committee), of the Catboat Association.   That seems like several lifetimes ago.   Beetle boats has been building this exact design out of wood, since 1921.These sweet little boats have a loyal following with owners passing their cherished Beetles down from generation to generation.   Beetle has a program, “mooring to mooring”, where owners call to tell that they are done for the season, Beetle comes to pick up the boat and returns it in the spring to the same mooring.   In that case, not a lot of effort to head out sailing but clearly makes the point that “Whatever it takes. Whatever it costs” is the answer to getting out on the water.

Perhaps nothing quite makes the point of how welcoming time aboard can be than a pineapple, the universal sign of “welcome”, in this case, Welcome Aboard. but don’t forget to take your shoes off.
Brenda sent me a link to a letter-to-the-editor that she read recently in the NY Times, a letter about the virtues of rowing a small boat, spending time aboard.    There are a few passages that stood out.

Being aboard can be clarifying…

“Nothing facilitates problem solving like being in a small boat, face to face with another person, the world and its upsets separated from you by water.”

Getting out on the water can often take determination…

“Learning to row a dinghy requires surrendering to the illogical: You need to first accept the seemingly counterproductive fact that to move the dinghy forward, you have to face backward, toward the stern, and so you can never see where you are going. But absurdity promotes ingenuity.”

Small boats can take you someplace better…

“In short, my past — even a past I was trying to forget, like the island that looked nice from a distance but when I disembarked sucked me up to my knees in mud — could help steer me to a better future.”

It can make you a better person, or at least better balanced…

“As an adult, I came to understand that dinghy rowing is not like dart throwing; the point is never only to hit the bull’s-eye. Instead, rowing provides an opportunity to regularly identify and assess my imbalances, many of them a result of years of unthinking behavior. “

Like so much in life, rowing may be tough to master.  I submit that if something is not easy, it’s often not worth doing and to master something can make you a better person…

“If you find rowing difficult to master, you are not accepting your inner imbalances, which are never going away, and so you must learn to always correct for them, as celestial navigators know to always correct when plotting their courses, because the North Pole and the North Star are not and never will be the same thing.”

And, Being on a small boat can solve problems..

“If you want a less solitary challenge, take a friend with marital troubles on a row around an island. Nothing facilitates problem solving like being in a small boat, face to face with another person, the world and its big and little upsets separated from you by water.”

But, and perhaps best of all, sometimes all you need is to be alone and to take the time to set things right…

“…try spending time with yourself. Let the troubled friend be you. Mornings are best, before the wind picks up, because the water is glassy and promotes reflection. You can ask yourself hard questions about everything as you watch your past recede, and use its gradual disappearance to steer by. What awaits you, you cannot see. With the help of a rock or a tree, however, you can take aim. You can reassure yourself: This is not your last chance to get it right.”

So here I am, two days before heading to Maine and while I am overwhelmed by all that has to happen before we can leave, I cling to the idea that it’s all worth doing in spite of all the “issues” that we encounter along the way.

Let’s hope I am right about all this…

It doesn’t need to be this hard.  Please tell me that’s true.

But, Pandora’s going to be AWESOME when she’s ready to go.  Friday?