Monthly Archives: November 2019

Tuesday Morning, November 12

Steady as she goes.

The mood of the fleet, as evidenced by this morning checkin SSB net, has lightened quite a bit now that conditions are just easy reaching toward Antigua.  As of late evening yesterday, at around 23N, we began to pick up steady trade winds, the very thing that everyone has been waiting for since leaving Hampton.

After days of hunting for favorable winds and a painful amount of time heading more east than south, toward Antigua, it is a huge relief to be pointing directly toward our destination with a minimum of fuss.

The wind is solidly from the east now which puts us on a point of sail with the wind just forward of the beam, a great sailing angle for Pandora.   Wind speeds are consistent, moderate and running between 13 and 15kts, making for easy sailing.

We are still bucking a slight northerly current but we are going fast enough to see over the bottom speeds in the 7-8kt range.  It wasn’t more than a few days ago when we were motoring directly into light winds and current that we had to settle for speeds of about half that to make things worse, we weren’t even heading directly toward Antigua.

I like this much better and to be able to see that the mileage to Antigua is now under 300 miles warms my heart.  Actually, “warm” is the word of the day as it’s pretty hot and stuffy down below.  We can’t open up any hatches as the odd wave hits Pandora without warning, splashes over the deck and would surely find it’s way down below.

I can recall a time on my last run south when I had the small hatch over the galley open only to be shocked when gallons, and I mean gallons, of water surged in,  soaking me and the galley with an inch or more of water in a single shocking moment.  What a mess with salt water sloshing around on the counter and seeping into the fridge and behind cabinets, an experience that I don’t want to repeat.

So, hot and steamy is the word until we get to Antigua.     And, the answer to “when will we get there” seems to be in the wee hours of Thursday morning.

While we plan on tying up at the Dockyard in English Harbor for the next week with most of the other rally boats, we will first run next door into Falmouth harbor as the entrance is easier at night and there is enough space to get into calmer waters before we take down the main.  Recall that I am using my toping lift as a main halyard and taking that down means going up on deck to release the line, something that I don’t want to do in the chop outside of English Harbor, where the waves can be pretty large.

After a celebratory bit of rum after we drop anchor the crew will settle down for a nap and then move Pandora over to English Harbor in time to tie up at the dockyard when they open at 08:00.

After tying up in the dockyard we will clear in to customs and immigration, take the main off of the boom to send it out to the sailmaker for repairs which it is badly in need of.  I am hopeful that the repairs will be good for at least another season or two but I guess I’ll know more after the “diagnosis”.

However, the big event for me will be seeing Brenda as it’s been more than three weeks since I left home to begin preparing for the run and now making my way to Antigua.

For now I am so pleased to be making good time on the final leg to Antigua.  Steady as she goes about sums it up.

Down to the Home Stretch….Antigua on Thursday?

We are down to the last 420 miles or so until we arrive in Antigua.    It’s funny to say “last” as that’s still a very long way to sail but after over 1,200 miles under our keel, that doesn’t sound like all that much.   Now that we are finally headed directly for our destination, with predictable winds in the forecast, somehow it doesn’t seem all that far away anymore.

Overnight and today, Monday, have offered a welcome respite from the drama of the last few days and I am happy to report that we have not had any more broken gear and a lot less action in the squall department.  We did have a big squall with really heavy rain last night that followed us along for nearly 5 hours but there wasn’t much wind, not even enough for sailing actually.  However, it kept us busy and at the helm and ready just in case.

Today was a beautiful sunny day and we took advantage of the light winds and smooth conditions to transfer all of the fuel that I had in jugs, 22 gallons, into the port fuel tank as that tank and the mid tank under the floor had been run down to empty.  We kept running on each tank until the engine began to shudder as it sucked in air.  Even though we had more fuel in the third tank and in jugs, it is very disconcerting when the engine begins to shut down and you are over 400 miles from anything.

And, as I switched to my last tank, I couldn’t help but remember two years ago when I did just that and discovered that my tank had water in it which rendered the entire tank unusable.   The good news is that we switched and everything is good.  And, as I just put the fuel into the other tank from the jugs, I am confident that the remaining fuel in the other tank is clean too.

We are currently running on the starboard tank, the last full one, which we estimate to be about 30 gallons and then once we run that one out, if we do, we will switch back to the tank with the fuel I transferred today.

Antigua is still a long way from here and it’s a bit unsettling to know that if something were to go wrong we don’t have enough fuel to get there under power alone.  Losing the main halyard on the main the other evening is something that I don’t want to repeat.

However, the wind is beginning to fill in and we should be able to shut off the engine around midnight and sail most of the remaining distance to Antigua from here.

George spent several hours today working on a spreadsheet to keep track of our motoring time as well as to track our speed with the goal of estimating our arrival time and be sure that we don’t run out of fuel.

Timing is important as he and Cliff have to catch the same flight on Thursday evening at 5:00 and they don’t want to miss their flight and have to buy another ticket.  They are both a bit bummed that they can’t spend even one day enjoying Antigua but the idea of paying for another ticket doesn’t sound appealing either.   Besides, I am sure that they are really excited to be heading north to the chilly North East.

Brenda emailed me today to say that there is a possibility of snow in CT on Wednesday.  What fun.

I feel badly for my crew having to leave immediately as this is a very long way to sail just jump off of the boat and into a taxi.

Hopefully we will have at least a few hours for them to get the lay of the land.  Besides, I do have to buy them a rum punch to toast their arrival before I see them off.

Brenda arrives on Wednesday afternoon and will be living in the lap of luxury, with the bed all to herself until I arrive at the beautiful Admiral’s Inn, located right inside the dockyard where Pandora will be berthed.

And when will we arrive, you ask?   We’ve been giving it our best guess for days now and now that we are entering more predictable winds, we are pretty sure that we will arrive sometime late morning on Thursday, with a few hours to spare before they head to the airport.

So, that’s it, we are down to the last stretch on a long run and I am getting pretty excited about seeing Brenda after several week away.

And speaking of excited,  I am sure that Andrew Dove at North Sails will be thrilled to see me with my damaged mainsail that is badly in need of repair.  I’ll also make he local rigger happy when he prepares my new main halyard and snakes it down the mast.

So, there you have it, after 11 days at sea, and I hope that’s all it turns out to be, Pandora will arrive in Nelson’s Dockyard, perhaps the most beautiful harbor just about anywhere,  in good style.

And, I’ll be arriving just in time as the first of our week of planned events is on Thursday evening to honor the Salty Dawg fleet and their successful passage to Antigua.

I know that a good number in the fleet won’t arrive until later in the week but that’s why we have a full week of event so fast or slow, everyone will be able to enjoy the fun and celebrate their successful passage.

Oh boy, I can’t wait to have a rum punch.
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Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019

November 10, 2019
Pandora’s bow is pointed toward Antigua, finally.

It’s Sunday evening and I am plenty happy to put the last 36 hours behind me.

Before I get into all that, and there’s plenty to write about, I’ll note that we are FINALLY HEADED IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION, toward Antigua.

Remember, we have been heading on a more easterly course for what seems like months now, waiting for the southerly winds to let up and shift east, to the more normal trade winds that are normal for this area.

Chris Parker, our weather router, predicted that the southerly winds and seas would begin to die down today and they finally did around sunset.   We waited a bit for the lumpy seas to begin to settle down and turned south, directly toward Antigua, now still about 550 miles south of our position.

We have mostly been on hold for several days now as we sailed east, while waiting for these southerly winds to die down knowing that we would likely be motoring into light winds for about 24 hours before we finally, and I do mean FINALLY, connect with the long awaited easterly trades.

I was checking my notes on the run home from Antigua two seasons ago, and recall we enjoyed trade wind sailing hundreds of miles to the north of where we are now.  On that trip, heading north, we did the entire run in about 8 days and not the 10 plus that we will likely spend clawing our way south to Antigua.

Brenda has been watching the shared page for the rally and tells me that we are ahead of most of the fleet.   Oh boy, I don’t feel like we are ahead of anything.

So, about my day.

At about 04:00 this morning we heard a noise and discovered that the mainsail was down on the deck.  I couldn’t frigging believe it.  The same thing happened on our way north two years ago when the headboard was pulled off of the sail and I had to go up the mast to retrieve, the most terrifying thing that I have ever experienced.

So, there I was, it was still pitch dark and the day was getting off to a terrible start.

Somehow the main sheet, the line that holds up the sail, had parted where it goes into the masthead and down the sail came in a lump.

George and I got started cleaning up the mess and getting the sail lashed to the boom while Cliff made sure that we didn’t get into any trouble and manned the helm.   What to do?

We talked it over and decided that the best option was to remove the topping lift line from the aft end of the boom and use that as a secondary halyard to pull up the main.  Then we took a spare halyard from the front of the mast and threaded it back to provide some support for the end of the boom.  It was a difficult lead as the line came out of the mast on the bow side so it had to be swung around the shrouds and lead aft.   That wasn’t a good lead and could easily lead to bad chafe.  However, I wanted to be sure that there was something to support the boom if we ran into problems again.

So, some hours later we were back in business with the mess cleaned up and flying the main again, although with one reef in to be sure that we didn’t put too much stress on that new line.

Problem solved and I headed to the galley to get some breakfast together.  I put a good healthy amount of raisin bran cereal in a bowl, reached into the fridge to get some milk and promptly dumped the entire bowl of cereal down into the fridge.  I couldn’t believe my luck.   Another mess to clean up.

But wait, there’s more.    A while later we were hit with a large squall, not one with lightening but there was plenty of strong wind up near 40kts and deluges of rain.  Ok, one more squall and it wasn’t our first on this trip.

I went down below and discovered salt water dribbling down from behind the headliner, all over the settee cushions, TV and down the bulkhead.   I had seen a tiny drip the day before and made a mental note to check on it when we reached Antigua.  Now, with much more water coming in, it became much more urgent.

My first thought was that the leak was coming from the fittings on the deck that house the hydraulic hoses for the boom and I spent about 30 minutes, all while being splashed by seawater coming over the starboard bow and caulked them with care.  And, let me tell you, it’s not easy to work with sticky black glue while being tossed about and splashed by passing waves.   And, to add to the picture, all this involved taking out tiny screws, saving them and reassembling a sticky glued up mess when I was done.

Mission accomplished and I headed back down below to clean up and put on some dry clothes.  Another squall passed and the leak, was worse, much worse.

Back into my wet clothes and up on deck again.  That’s when I discovered the “real” source of the leak.  On either side of the mast are stainless tube bars designed to lean against when working at the mast.  The are aptly called Granny Bars, for those that need a bit of extra support.  Anyway, these have three legs, each bolted to the deck.  It seems that one of the nuts on the thru-deck bold had some loose and the base was pulled up out of the deck exposing a 3/8″ hole in the deck.   I guess that we had dislodged it somehow while working on the mast.  Actually, I checked behind the headliner and discovered that there wasn’t a nut on the hold-down bolt.  It was plenty rusty and I expect that perhaps the problem was that when the boat was built a steel nut was used by accident and it had finally rotted away.

Fortunately, I was able to find a nut in my hardware supply that fit, no easy feat given the fact that it was metric.  I put a liberal amount of sealing compound under the fitting and tightened it down.  Problem solved?  I sure hope so as I have worked hard over the years to find leaks, track them down and dry things out, often a very difficult game of cat and mouse.

I guess that the leak is resolved as not 15 minutes after I had come back into the cockpit, the largest squall of the trip hit us with winds up to 40kts and a deluge of rain.  No leak, or at least none that I could detect but perhaps I was too busy.

So, there you have it, a day that proved once again, that “into every life a little rain must fall”.

No kidding, today was a real soaker on that account.

However, all is well as we are FINALLY pointed toward our destination, Antigua even though it is still over 500 miles away, the fact that we are going in the right direction, makes it feel like it’s right around the corner.

So, if we are able to keep up an average speed of 6.5kts and nothing important breaks, we should arrive in Antigua at some point on Thursday morning.

Oh yeah, one more thing.  During one of the squalls today, as we bucked from wavetop to wavetop, something crashed onto the top of the dodger and bounced into the water, our circular TV Antenna, which must have broken loose from all the wave action.   I haven’t yet checked but am now wondering if it hit one of the solar panels.  They are glass…

So, Pandora’s bow is finally pointed toward Antigua and tomorrow should be better.

We deserve it.

Are We There Yet?

Note:  This post was written on Saturday, but due to some events that kept Bob busy he did not send it until Sunday afternoon.  Sunday’s post will up in a moment or so.

Are we there yet?

Throughout the millennia countless passengers have asked the “captain” when they would be arriving at Grandmas, the cottage, the battle, well, you get the picture.

I expect that many a pirate, complete with peg leg and parrot on the shoulder, uttered these words “Captain, when will we be hitting port have some grog and visit the wenches?” a few moments before being tossed overboard for insubordination.

The British Navy issued a “gill” of rum daily to each sailor perhaps to keep them focused on something other than that oft uttered question.

And, so it goes for the crew of Pandora, from day one of our trip, now nearly a week ago, captain and crew have been wondering, calculating and praying, on this question,  “When will we get there!”

George, who I will say seems to have a thing for numbers and especially numbers scribbled on little scraps of paper, has been doing daily and sometimes nearly hourly calculations on fuel consumption with the hope of anticipating when the engine will sputter as the last drop of usable fuel is consumed.

However, as the days have rolled by, we have spent much less time motoring than anticipated and the question now is “when the wind dies, how fast can we motor and still not run out of fuel?”

As I write this we are well into our second day of fabulous sailing in what Brenda might define as “sporty”.  No, actually, she’s probably say “This is way too F*&^%&G Sporty for me! When will we get there?”, we are making wonderful time, if perhaps not quite directly to where we want to go.

After days of uncertainty the forecast now looks like we will continue our brisk sailing on a close reach,  running to the SE at 7.5 to sometimes 9kts for some time longer.  And, I have to say that this feels pretty good after all that motoring .   The wind, as predicted, is from the SSW and running between 14-17kts.  And that’s good as there is an impressive wind driven chop and we need a good amount of wind to keep moving, lurching from wave top to wave top, with a lot of drama as she launches herself over the top and crashes down in a drenching spray of foam.

We are moving to the SE toward the trade winds, which, as I have mentioned, have been recently suppressed by a large high pressure system that has been over us and caused such light winds.   Normally, and passage making on a small boat is almost never “normal”, we would have hit the trades already and would be driving south to Antigua on a beam reach.

We expect to continue moving along on a close reach until we approach a sort of “convergence zone” between the SW winds and easterly trades probably tomorrow morning, when there will be an area of about 24 hours with virtually no wind at all.  When this happens, sometime over the next 12 hours, we will use the engine to point Pandora directly toward Antigua approximately due south for another 550 miles directly to the south until we hit the trades.

Chris Parker, our weather router, says that the trades should rebuild after our 24 hours of motoring,  first from ESE and then will quickly shifting to the east, more typical, and build to about 15+kts.

So, I’m back to that age old question “when will we get there?”.  And, that brings us to George, his scraps of paper and scribbles.   “So, George, when will we get there?”  “Well, captain”, and I love it when they call me captain… actually, I don’t care but it makes for good copy, “My calculations suggest that if we…uhh, uhh…we will uhh…we will arrive in Antigua somewhere between 18:00 on Wednesday and 01:00 on Thursday, but I’m not sure yet.”

So there you have it, that age old question and the answer is perhaps late Wednesday or sometime on Thursday, not to put too fine a point on it.  Or, as my father used to say over is shoulder in the family Country Squire, “we’ll be there when we get there and stop hitting your sister!”

And yes, I have certainly come a long way from my days passenger in the backseat of my parent’s station wagon but the question remains, “when will we get there?”

Is George right?  Does he have any idea when we will arrive?  You’ll be the first to know, beyond us of course, so I’ll just leave it at that for the moment.

And yes, stay tuned.  I can’t wait to get a shower and meet up with Brenda, but not necessarily in that order.   However, Brenda, after more than 40 years of marriage, may have her own thoughts on that.

“Bob, stand down and please take a shower!”

November 8, 2019

Now for some real sailing, for the moment.

It’s noon on Friday and we are booming along on a close reach in 13-15kts of wind and making between 7-8.5 kts.  It’s exhilarating but at the same time, as the hours roll on, the seas are getting choppy, with Pandora crashing into wave after wave, sending spray everywhere.  This is not a casual holiday sail.

However, it seems that each day brings with it an entirely different experience, sometimes exhilarating like now and sometimes depressing as we inch along making virtually no headway against current and wind.  In the ocean even the smallest amount of breeze on the nose can slow you down to a crawl.

Last night was perhaps our most frustrating yet, as the wind shifted south to around 6-11kts, directly on the nose, and that combined with a slight northerly current, slowed our progress to a glacial 4.5kts.  Given the fact that we are still something like 800 miles from Antigua, that was painfully slow progress.

Even with the engine running and sails up, we were lucky to make even 5kts and usually less.  Of course, Pandora can go a lot faster under power but as we continue our laser focus on the amount of fuel left and the amount of time we will be motoring, I have been running the engine at a very low RPM.  As the speed of the engine increases even a little bit, the fuel consumption per hour goes up a lot but not in proportion to the increased speed, substantially reducing the number of hours and distance traveled that we can continue under power.

On my last trip south, two years ago, I ran the engine for a total of 130 hours, arriving in Antigua with fuel to spare, and as of today we have a long way to go to beat that.  That’s good but it’s hard to say what will happen given the fact that the wind shifts around the compass so often.

When I spoke to Chris Parker today his forecast suggested that we would likely enjoy sailing for the next day and then the wind would just about go away when and we will face another 24-30 hours under power before we reach the more predictable trade winds.

By comparison, as we beat our way south into SW winds, two years ago I had a spectacular multi day run with solid easterly trade winds, in this exact same area.  There is a large high pressure zone over us that has basically killed the northern parts of the trade winds, pushing them hundreds of miles south, reversing the wind direction or killing the wind altogether.   Fortunately, for now at least, we have wind and can sail in more or less our intended direction.  When it comes to long distance passage making, it’s better to keep moving than to go where you intend.  And, on top of that, it feels better.

I expect that you may be following my travels on the tracker, my own or on the joint Rally page that I shared and know a lot more about where we are verses the other boats in the fleet.   I know that there are some boats behind us and plenty in front, but I understand that there are a many in the fleet within a radius of perhaps 75-100 miles of our position.  Given the fact that we’ve been at sea for nearly a week, it’s unusual to have so many boats in a relatively tight area.

Twice a day I am in communication with about two dozen boats that are equipped with SSB long range radios and it’s fun to hear what they are up to.   Most of the boats are doing fine but a few days ago one boat was struck by lightening and had to divert to Bermuda because their electronics were nearly all ruined.  On my last run south, two years ago, another boat lost their electronics and two others experienced structural damage.

The constant movement and large loads on equipment means that things can break, and they do.   That reality explains why I tend to spend so much time and energy, not to mention dollars, on keeping Pandora in top shape.   Broken stuff can surely ruin your whole day, especially when you are over 600 miles from the closest land, as we are now.  Come to think of it, it’s the farthest from land I have ever been, if you don’t count flying on a passenger jet.  Trust me, this is different and a lot more sweaty.

I have written about the recent addition of a Hydrovane wind vane steering system last month and have been largely silent on the subject since leaving.   My silence was because it wasn’t working particularly well and I found myself wondering if it was a waste of money and a big effort for nothing.

However, after tinkering with it for several days, I am happy to report that it steers remarkably well and given the fact that it has only a few moving parts, no electronics and uses no power, I have to say that it (she?) is proving to be the most reliable crew member yet.

It’s pretty amazing how easy it is to set and modify a course and as the wind direction changes, even slightly, she adjusts and keeps us moving along without a complaint.   I am told that just about everyone that has one of these ends up giving “her” a name and given my history with Brenda, she will have to decide what our new crew member should be called.

So, here we are, having the best day of sailing yet under a sparkling clear tropical sky and near perfect conditions that follows the worst night yet on this trip.   As the say, “what a difference a day makes”.  Here’s hoping that I haven’t jinxed the good sailing.

Brenda arrives in Antigua on Wednesday evening and I am beginning to accept the fact that I won’t be there to greet her as I doubt that I will arrive before Thursdsay.  At the very least, I have alerted Astrid at the Admiral’s Inn to expect her to arrive unannounced and to have a room ready for her.  I also asked her not to treat Brenda too well as I’ll never be able to pry her loose and move aboard Pandora.

So, the question remains, when will we arrive in Antigua and given the ups and downs of the last few days, I guess the answer is “I have no idea.”  However, for the moment, things are going well.
Let’s hope that things keep going well.  That’s what’s supposed to happen when it’s good?  Right?

Will There Be Wind??

Will there be wind?

As I write this it is mid afternoon on Wednesday and we are sailing along at nearly 8kts on a broad reach.  Yes, sailing

I am particularly impressed as we spent much of the morning trying to figure out, really figure out, just how far we can motor and exactly how much fuel the three built in tanks hold as the wind was impossibly light and expected to stay that way for the foreseeable future.

The “brochure” for the boat says that we carry 150, or 50 gallons in each of our three tanks, but when you are talking about a design where only three boats were built, it’s hard to say exactly what’s what about anything.   In the past I have described working on Pandora as a sort of “scavenger hunt” to find out what wire does what and exactly how to fix anything.

After considering the weather predictions of no wind for much of the trip I felt compelled to check, once again, my assumptions for how many hours we could motor.

We had to begin motoring again as of about 02:00 today and after listening to the motor drone on and on for hours and speaking with folks on other boats, I found my anxiety about running out of fuel to be on the rise.

So, George and I decided, actually I decided, that we’d take measurements of the three tanks and try to calculate the volume in cubic inches, feet and ultimately gallons.  Of course, I didn’t know how many cubic inches a gallon of fuel is but did some rough calculations using a gallon engine oil container.  Then we took measurements of the tank that was the closest to being square, the one under the floorboards in the galley.  I had been told that the tank was 50 gallons but as near as I can tell, it’s more like 40.  Bummer about that.  After thinking about that for a while longer, Cliff remembered that on our trip back from the BVIs a few years ago, we had run that tank dry, so I looked in my log to see how much fuel it took to fill the tank up again when I got home.  Magic, 40 gallons.  Ok, so now I know that what is perhaps my largest tank is about 40 gallons, or at least has 40 gallons of usable fuel.

We then took measurements of the other two tanks, the ones under the settees port and starboard and after a number of rough calculations of these really oddly shaped tanks, we estimated that each of them holds something like 35 gallon which suggests that between the three tanks we might have more like 110 gallons, not the 150 that I had assumed.  However, in the past I have always assumed that some amount of fuel remained in the tanks when they were “dry”, so my “”new number isn’t all that much different.

Anyway, we spent a lot of time on this and came out a belief that, unless the wind were to pick up, that we’d be in pretty tough shape by the time we reached the more predictable trade winds.

It is human nature, well at least my nature, to assume that whatever is going on at that exact moment will continue.  If there is good wind, of course, it’s going to continue to be good.  Motoring?  Well, you get the idea.  Ask Brenda, she will back this up.  What a great day!  Tomorrow will be great too.  What a terrible day…

So, the motoring continued until about 13:00 and then the wind picked up to near 18kts and we are now moving along really nicely on a broad reach at around 7 to 8 knots.   Who knew?

Will the wind go away again?  For sure.  Will it come back?  Well, ask me later when the wind is light…

I guess all this leaves me with the questions of if our voyage will end before the fuel is gone.  I guess we’ll be the first to know.  All I know for now is that for every hour we sail we will burn less fuel and that’s good.

Right now, we are sailing so I guess it’s going to be OK.   Well, at least I’ll feel that way until the wind dies.

Day 5

Less fuel, more wind.

It’s Thursday morning and we are again sailing along on a beam reach, flying the big code zero sail in wind of about 10-15kts which gives us about 7-8kts, which is good.

In spite of our fears of light wind, and the worse has yet to come, I am told, we have run the motor for a total of 44 hours since leaving Hampton VA on November 3rd at 07:00 hrs.  While we have been underway for nearly 100 hours, we have only run the engine for a total of 54 hours, less than half of the time.  Well, slightly less…  That’s good.

However, from here on in, as soon as our good fortune runs out, perhaps in a few hours, we will soon be motoring and may be looking at as much as an additional 100 hours of motoring, something like four days straight.  Yes, that sounds like a lot and it is but even with our reduced fuel capacity assumptions, we should be able to manage things well.

It’s been a bit stressful to think about how far we can motor and not be delayed too much but this morning I began to put everything together and realized that even if we use the motor often, we are likely to end up motoring somewhere in vicinity of 140 to 150 hours in total for the trip.  The good news is that on my last run south I ran under power for a total of 130 hours and had plenty of fuel left over once I arrived in Antigua.   Of course that’s old news but I’m goin with that.

But wait, more good news.  We have recalculated the amount of fuel we had when we started out from Hampton and are fairly confident that we have 140 gallons of usable fuel which translates into  somewhere in the vicinity of 200 hours of motoring, assuming that we keep the RPMs low and operate as efficiently as possible.   Heck, that’s two more days than my best guess.   No problem.  “Ha, we’ll see about that Bob as you are still a long way from Antigua.”

One of the issues we face is that the trades have been suppressed recently so the reliable easterly winds we are looking for won’t kick in until further south than is normal for this time of year, perhaps around the same Latitude of the southern Bahamas.  This means that once we reach good wind we will be able to sail at last the 400 miles to Antigua.

One thing that particularly stresses sailors is the fear of being struck by lightening and I have to say that I share that fear given the fact that I have several friends whose boats have been hit.

Well, last night many in the fleet sailed through some nasty squalls, including us, and one of the boats was struck.  In nearly all cases of lightning strikes, there isn’t any risk to crew as the rigging on the boat forms a natural shield.  However, sensitive electronics, such a big part of sailing today, doesn’t fare very well.  In this case, their electronics were all fried.  Fortunately, their engine wasn’t damaged and they were fairly close to Bermuda so that’s where they are headed.  If I recall, someone was struck on the last run I did two years ago, with similar results.

So, where does all this leave us with regards to getting into Antigua?    I am mindful that we have less fuel than we thought but we’ve been lucky so far and had more wind.  I hope that our luck continues to hold.

I am also mindful of the fact that Brenda will arrive in Antigua on Wednesday afternoon and it would be really nice to meet her when she arrives.   However, a lot has to happen between now and then so…

However, given what I know about the upcoming weather, I expect that we will be arriving around that time so let’s be optimistic and say Wednesday.

Wish us well.

How Far Can Pandora Go under Power?

How far can Pandora go under power?

As I write this, it’s Tuesday afternoon and we are about 1/4 of the way to Antigua.

We knew before we left Hampton that we were looking at a light wind trip, something that looks pretty appealing on the face of it.

Having done a “heavy wind” trip a few years ago with gales behind me for nearly five days, the idea of more “moderate” conditions sounded appealing.  I also recall a “light air” trip two years ago when I put 130 hours on the engine.   It is with all this in mind that I tend to heavy up on fuel, bringing along an additional six five gallon jugs of diesel to supplement Pandora’s three 50 gallon built in tanks.

For a boat of Pandora’s size, to carry a nominal 175 gallons of fuel isn’t all that common and it generally gives me a good amount of confidence that I can “power my way” out of most everything.

However, I wasn’t prepared for the news that Chris Parker, the weather router, delivered last night on the evening SSB net that we may be looking at nearly the entire 1,600 mile trip with little or no wind.

Pandora is a pretty good light air boat and she can generally keep up with boats that are considerably larger than she is.  However, I have never motored more than about 800 miles in a single trip and the thought of perhaps having to run the engine for 1,000 or more miles was pretty daunting, as I don’t carry that much fuel.

When Chris delivered the news, we were motor sailing along in around 5-8kts of wind, not nearly enough to sail, and it was distressing to hear him say that we were facing light conditions for much of the rest of the run.

He did suggest that we might run into about 36 hours of motoring if we were to slow way down and wait to run into a ridge with wind come about Tuesday.  The problem with that idea is that we were already quite close to that area and the idea of “drifting” around for several days to get 36 hours of sailing left me feeling pretty uneasy.

Oddly, a few hours after his forecast, the wind filled in at around 10-15kts from the east, although it was quite variable and required us to constantly adjust our sails and direction.  Eventually the wind settled in so we could sail on a reasonable close reach, able to make a decent turn of speed toward our destination.

As I write this, around noon on Tuesday we have been sailing for 12 hour since the wind came up and while we haven’t covered a lot of distance, as conditions are light, we have traveled about 60 miles which translates to a 120 mile day.  Not a lot given our normal days in the 170-190 range.  I was also heartened to learn, during our SSB radio net this morning, that other boats, some 150 miles ahead of us, had similar conditions with decent wind for sailing which give us hope that we may be able to sail for some hours longer before the wind dies.

As they say, “past performance isn’t a guarantee of future results” but every mile that we put under our keel without burning precious fuel, is a mile I the bank on our way to Antigua.

So, where does all this leave us?

We have already covered about 325 miles out of a total of more than 1,200 and Chris says that even if we don’t have much more sailing before the wind gets very light again, we are only about 750-800 miles from picking up the easterly Trade Winds, which are fairly predictable and should make the last 400 miles fairly easy sailing.

All of this suggests that even if we loose the wind soon, and it does appear to be getting lighter over the last few hours, we can still make it to the trades with the amount of fuel that we have left.

Since leaving Hampton with something like 175 gallons in three 50 gallon tanks and 5 jugs, totaling 25 gallons, we have run the engine for 29 hours, consuming about 19 gallons which suggests that we have perhaps 130 gallons of usable fuel left.   I say “perhaps” as I have not actually calculated the volume of usable fuel in each tank as there is always something left when the tank level gets low enough that the engine can no longer draw fuel.

I find that at low RPM I burn about .65/gph so if I have to motor an additional 800 miles I’ll burn approximately 80 gallons in addition to the 20 gallons that I have already used.  If that’s all true, I should end up in Antigua with some fuel left over.

Of course, all of this depends on many variables that will come into play over the next few days.

Bottom line, if all goes according to “plan” we should arrive in Antigua sometime between late Monday and late Tuesday.  And then I’ll know a bit more about just how far Pandora can go under power, or not.

As they say “we’ll see about that!”.

Antigua…Day One Done

Antigua here we come. Day one done…

It’s mid-day on Monday and we have been at sea for a little more than 24 hours. I don’t have a lot to report beyond that it’s been mostly uneventful.

We picked up our anchor at 07:00 on Sunday and headed out to sea along with quite a few other boats in the rally. It seems that a good number of them left about 12 hours earlier than we did and when I spoke to a few of them on the SSB radio this morning they reported that they had been sailing most of the way since leaving Hampton.

I wish that was the case for me as we have found ourselves motoring much of the way in little wind, about half of the time, more than I’d like.
Chris Parker, the weather router advising us on this trip, has said that the winds this year are likely to be pretty light for much of the trip. That’s unfortunate, as we will have to balance the need to keep moving in light conditions with a need to conserve fuel. In spite of the fact that I carry a nominal 170 gallons, I doubt that I can actually use much more than 130-150 gallons, with the rest stuck below the fuel pickup in the tanks.

I keep careful track of hourly consumption throughout the year and am pretty confident that I can move along at a decent clip under power, using about .65gal/hour. That’s not bad and I can likely stretch things even more if I run even slower.

I can generally motor/sail at about 6.5 to 7kts at that consumption level as long as there is some wind to fill the sails and am not motoring directly. This translates into somewhere between 1,000 and 1,500 miles. As Antigua is around 1,600 miles from Hampton, I can afford to motor quite a bit of the way.

However, I’d much prefer to sail as it’s a lot more pleasant and for every gallon of fuel that I burn early in the trip, I have a lot less flexibility when I am close to my destination.

The conditions in the often dreaded Gulf Stream have turned out to be pretty benign with a bit of a chop, as expected, but not much more to report. That’s a lot different than they were a few days ago when there were gales pushing up huge waves, something that we really need to avoid.

While conditions are pretty calm, the one thing that has proven to be a bit bothersome is the watermaker which isn’t working properly. I had some problems with it earlier in the season when the computer that monitors it malfunctioned and I thought that I had it fixed. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to properly test the unit until I was out in clean water yesterday morning. A few hours out of Hampton I fired it up and it seemed to be working fine but after about an hour it went into a backflush mode, out of the blue, and dumped nearly half of my fresh water overboard. After messing around with it to see if I could figure out what the problem is, I decided to just shut it down and wait until today to resume my diagnostic efforts.

I am afraid that nothing has changed and as soon as I turned it on it again began pumping my water tanks dry. Not good.

Fortunately, over the summer when problems first cropped up, I installed some backup plumbing so I could run it in manual mode, just in case I had a problem like this with the computer again. I am really happy that I did as we would have been down to about fifty gallons to last us for the entire trip which would have made for a real hardship.

I have no idea what is causing the problem with the computer and I guess all I can do is to pull it out and take it back to the US when I return for the holidays. Perhaps they can tell me what’s wrong.

The good news is that I can run the unit in manual mode, which I did today, so now our tanks are full again.

So, there you have it, another day and another problem to be sorted out. It’s surely always something with a boat, especially one as complex as Pandora.

Oh yeah, am also trying to get a handle on my new Hydrovane self steering system, and I have to say that’s turning out to be a steeper learning curve than expected.

So, here we are about 200 miles into our trip and things are going pretty well.

I guess that’s about all I have to report.

Wish us luck.

This is it. We’re on our way to Antigua. Sunday morning?

It’s been a long time waiting, having arrived here in Hampton VA a week ago, but it now looks like we will head out for Antigua on Sunday morning at first light.   I am still a bit up in the air on this but unless Chris’s forecast this afternoon is different Sunday first thing is probably best.

The timing of all this is very important as the conditions in the Gulf Stream will be very nasty if we arrive there too early and bad again if we don’t exit soon enough.  When the NE current in the Stream is against the wind life can be miserable, or worse, with steep waves with a very short period, the distance between crests of only a few seconds.  Miserable!

So, it will be very important for us to cross the stream when conditions are more settled, a sort of meteroligical “threading of the needle” to arrive and depart when conditions are good.  All this suggests a departure sometime early tomorrow morning.  Later this afternoon we will hear another briefing from Chris and then I will sit down with George and Cliff to settle on our plan.

It’s been a great week of events here in Hampton along with the skippers and crew of the nearly 80 boats that are participating in this year’s Salty Dawg Rally to the Caribbean.  Nearly half of the boats are headed to Antigua with the rest split between the Bahamas and various other ports to the south.

As port officer for Antigua, I have enjoyed telling everyone about the week of events that we have planned for their arrival along with sharing some of my favorite places to visit at other islands to the south and around Antigua.   We had visits from the USCG, someone to tell us how to fish off of our boats and there was even a fun afternoon of trick-or-treating by the kids on the trip.  They were just adorable. Just about every seminar was terrific but certainly the most photogenic was the life raft deployment in the marina pool.  We even had one of our members jump in, wearing a “gumby” survival suit, to show us how to climb into the raft, once it’s deployed.  These suits are made of neoprene and are insulated to keep you warm in cold conditions.  Pandora doesn’t carry these so we will just have avoid the whole “abandon ship” thing on this trip.  Wish us luck on that.

All of the boats in the rally carry a variety of safety gear to ensure that we are safe if things go badly.  Perhaps the most important item that we all hope we will never use, is the life raft.  The good news is that most sailors, even those who sail around the world, never have to climb into theirs.

The demo raft was one of the type that is stored on deck.  This one was donated by one of our members.  I guess that they had decided to get a better one.  We tossed it into the pool. Gave the attached cord a hard yank, harder than you’d expect, actually.   And it started to inflate.It didn’t take more than a few seconds before it resembled a real raft.Then the upper part, to protect you from waves and weather, popped up.  And, in went “gumby”.  As a participant in Iron Man competitions, she made climbing into the raft look easy.  Trust me, it’s not, especially as it’s almost never needed in calm conditions.   She was a very good sport about the whole thing. The week included lots of social events, happy hours and a “departure pig roast” with over 220 attending.   Everyone made many shopping runs to pick up supplies.  For me, even though I had already packed Pandora with lots of stuff, I still had three trips to the local grocery.  As we will be at sea for perhaps ten days, that’s a lot of meals.

One unfortunate thing that happened this week was that I now have a really nasty nasty scratch on Pandora’s new paint job when she rubbed badly against a piling during a particularly nasty thunderstorm the other night.  It didn’t need to happen but when I tied her up in the slip an important spring line was not secured properly.  My mistake and now I have a nasty scratch in my brand new paint job to have fixed, perhaps in Antigua.  Made me sad, I’ll admit.

So, we are on our way very soon, probably early tomorrow morning, so please follow along with the fleet.  As I mentioned this in my last post click here to see how to follow the fleet or Pandora alone.

For now Pandora’s all snug, if a little worse for wear, here in her slip, crew ready and raring to go.    And, of course, I’ll be keeping you up to date with frequent posts, I hope.

It’s looking like Sunday morning so stay tuned.