Monthly Archives: July 2021

We made it to Maine. It’s good to be back.

It’s Sunday and the Down East Rally fleet has arrived in Rockland.  I was able to arrange for a special “event” with the city of Rockland that would allow us to take over the entire public pier for three days.  To see more than 20 of our boats tied up and happy to be in Rockland is rewarding to me as so much effort by me and so many other volunteers goes into each rally, it’s nice to see things come off with a minimum of mayhem.  Cruisers rarely pay for dock space when they are on the move as costs can add up and quickly overwhelm a cruising kitty.

Here in Rockland dockage normally, costs $2.50/ft/day, but for this “event” the total is only $125 per boat for the entire three days.  That’s a big discount and well worth the price.  To make this happen I had to apply for an special permit with both the harbor commission and city council.  It took several months to put everything in place.

The smallest boat in the fleet is Aquila at less than 30′ and she arrived after a very long crossing at nearly midnight last night.  I had been in touch with them once they were within cell range and had hoped that I’d be able to meet them at the dock and help tie them up.  However, as the night wore on, I suggested that they just pick up a mooring in the harbor and wait until light to move onto the dock.  Lori, one of two on board, is new to all this and she told me “we have stories to tell”.  I’ll bet.  They don’t have radar or AIS but they do have a good chart plotter so at least they can tell where they are going if not where others are going at the same time.   The ever-present issue that concerns all us in fog is how “two objects can not occupy the same space and time”.  Crunch…  Stressful.

We arrived in Rockland yesterday late morning with a number of other boats with the rest trickling in as the day progressed.    The 165 mile run from Mattapoisett began for most of us on Friday morning at 07:00 in the fog, which got progressively worse as we got closer to the canal where visibility was a little more than a few boat lengths.  Actually, from the moment that we left Newport on our way to Cuttyhunk and then on to Mattapoisett, we had three days of heavy fog.

Cuttyhunk Harbor was pretty thick.  Craig and I hiked up the the summit at the center of the island.   Seeing this picnic table brought back bitter sweet memories of a very special week of cruising years ago with my sons Rob and Christopher and my dad.  It was Dad’s last time aboard.
The scene on this trip was a lot more barren without the four of us.  I will admit that it made me a bit sad but what a wonderful memory. When we left Cuttyhunk, yep, more fog.  Not to be deterred, the crew of Gypsy Soul mugged for the camera. As we entered the canal the current was beginning to run in our favor which was a good thing as the current runs very hard, up to 5kts when it’s at full flood or ebb so there is no way that we could have gone through against it.

Fortunately, the current was a big help as we had timed our transit to coincide with the beginning of the flood.  However, the fog was so thick that we could only see about 75′ as we picked our way from buoy to buoy the last mile or so to the entrance.  It was nerve wracking.  At one point there were a number of small runabouts passing us and they were very had to see on radar and surely didn’t have AIS trackers.The most fun part was when a 100ft+ yacht finally loomed out of the fog.  I saw them on AIS and radar but they were actually beside us before we even saw them.

As the fog lifted, it was fun to see so many Dawg boats filing through the canal together. Brenda’s friend Karen, who lives on Cape, agreed to come down and wave to us as we passed by.  That was fun.  She took photos of nearly all the boats in the fleet as they came by including this one of Pandora.  Karen and George on the “quay”.  The fog persisted until we were nearly out into the Gulf of Maine.  Amazingly, the gulf side was completely clear and remained so all the way to Rockland.

There wasn’t much wind until we were about 25 miles into the gulf and it drove us along quite well until early evening when a squall line came through.  Someone on another boat sent me a photo.  I was so busy getting Pandora ready for the arrival of the squall that I didn’t have time to get a good photo.  I am told that this formation is called a roll cloud.   It looked pretty ominous bearing down on us.The rest of the trip was fairly benign and by the time we entered Penobscot Bay the seas were nearly glass calm.   As expected, there were loads of lobster pots to dodge.  Welcome to Maine.

You really get a feel for how remote some of these islands are.  Look at these houses lined up with low scrub as the only sign of vegetation.  I can only imagine what life here must be like in the winter.  Owls Head light is a beacon alerting us that Rockland was just a short distance away.   Seeing the light reminded me of so many other trips to Maine.  I think this may be my 16th in a series of three different boats.So, here we are all tied up, 21 boats, for three days in Rockland.Actually, I wasn’t able to fit all the boats in the frame.  Pandora and a few others are off to stage right.  The blue “boat” behind me is owned by the NY Developer Larry Silverstein.  You may remember that name as the guy who purchased the World Trade towers about two months before they were taken down in the 9/11 terrorist attack.  It took years to collect on the insurance from that disaster.  I guess he finally got his money. Today is rainy but the rest of the week promises to be pretty nice.  With a heat wave hitting the NY area, the high here today will be a chilly and rainy 65.

Later today, off to the Farnsworth Museum, home to paintings by three generations of the Wyeth family, NC, Andrew and Jamie.  looking forward to that.  Perhaps there will be time to see the Maine Lighthouse Museum too.

And, don’t forget a visit to Hamilton Marine to find some must have items.

Tonight all the Dawgs descend on a local brew pub.  When I asked the manager yesterday if that was Ok, his reaction “I guess I had better get another bar tender”, delivered in a classic Maine understatement.

We made it to Maine.  Indeed, it’s good to be here.

More to come, including Brenda on Sunday I HOPE!

Finally, back on the water but I’m a bit foggy.

I am back aboard Pandora for the first time this season, anchored in Newport RI and I’ll admit that I was quite confused when I woke up this morning, really early, as usual, and for a moment, wasn’t sure where I was.

Being confused about where I was shouldn’t come as a much of a surprise given how narrow our world has been for the last year, pandemic and all.   Sure, we Brenda and I, visited our son Rob and his family a few times but beyond them and our son Christopher and his partner Melody, who have been living with us since last September, our world has been quite small, mostly at home, dashing to the grocery for provisions.   Save our friend Craig, who’s with me in this trip, they were just about all the folks that we saw and

Now that we are all vaccinated and beginning to move about, it does feel a bit like we have been slowly emerging from a fog, which is exactly what greeted me when I woke up today.  A fog about where I was and a LOT of fog here in Newport Harbor.  I guess there is a certain symmetry on a number of levels of things being foggy.  Fog in the harbor and fog about where I was, but I guess that I am going to have to get used to that.

Beyond being confused about where I am, fog isn’t going to be my friend in Maine as my radar isn’t functioning for some reason.  I had tested it a few times over the last month to be sure that all was in order, and it was, but yesterday as I was going through systems, yet again, the radar turned on normally but then mysteriously shut off.

I restarted the plotter/radar a few times, hoping that it was just a glitch, but the same thing happened after a few moments, first it worked and then it didn’t.  Nothing has changed but it seems that after being on the hard and decommissioned for months, Pandora is having a bit of difficulty in waking up again as well.   I did have the plotter serviced to upgrade the backlighting so perhaps something is wrong with the settings.  I expect that is wishful thinking but one can always hope.  I guess I will call the manufacturer today and see what they have to say.

The good news is that most systems are working fine, well if you don’t include the thruster which is also on the fritz.  Sadly, the repair guy seems to be ignoring me and hasn’t been returning my calls.

However, given how complex Pandora is, I suppose that I should be thankful that at least she is “mostly” working.  Mostly might not seem like good enough when I find myself in pea soup fog when we are in Maine, or on a lee dock with the wind blowing and no functioning bow thruster.

As Rosanna Dana Dana, the late Gilda Radner’s character liked to say, “It’s always something!”.

Newport is my first stop of the season as I am joining up with the Salty Dawg Rally to Maine and as of today, most of the fleet is in Newport as well. There are a few stragglers still underway and there are also a number of other equipment “issues” in the fleet.

One boat ran out of fuel off of Pt Judith and needed to be towed in and another couldn’t get their engine started earlier in their run.  Fortunately, it seems that that problem was solved with a sharp rap on the engine solenoid that got things back in order.

Here’s a screen shot including most of the boats and their tracks as of this morning.   By way of orientation, Newport is up at the top of the image, where most boat tracks end. And, here is Pandora, in Newport Harbor, in the thick of it.  We will be here in Newport for a few days before heading to Cuttyhunk for a lobster dinner, on to Mattapoisett, through the Cape Cod Canal and on to Maine.

I have to say that it is good to be back aboard and I am looking forward to being in Maine, I think my 16th visit.  However, if I can’t figure out what is wrong with my radar, it’s going to be a bit more stressful as it will be my first sans-radar.

Hopefully in the next few days I won’t wake up in a fog, confused about where I am and nothing else on Pandora will stop working.   Given all of the systems aboard Pandora, I guess it’s safe to day that she’s at least at 90% and so am I.

I guess that’s about all for now from aboard Pandora in the fog.   Oh yeah, one more thing, it’s raining.

As they say, “into every life a bit of rain must fall”.  Let’s just hope that the heavens don’t decide to open up and dump on the fleet.

It’s good to be back aboard.

And one more thing, if you are interested in following the fleet as we make our way to Maine, check out this Predict Wind fleet tracking link.


Finally, heading Down East

It’s the waning hours of the July 4th weekend and I am busy with the many last minute details of getting Pandora ready to head to Maine as part of the Salty Dawg Down East Rally.

I plan to be in Newport this coming Saturday to join up with the fleet as of this coming weekend with about 2/3rds of the 30+ boats heading there from Hampton VA and Annapolis.  However, with the remnants of hurricane Elsa heading our way, they may be delayed a day so we will see how that develops.

Getting the fleet ready to go, in my role of rally director, has been very time consuming in spite of the fact that there are many other volunteers supporting the effort.  And, as this rally gets underway, our biggest rally, the Rally to the Caribbean, with perhaps as many as 100 boats, is really heating up, with requests for information and details to manage, almost every day.

Getting Pandora ready this year has proven to be quite an ordeal with many more details than I had anticipated cropping up.  It’s always amazing to see how much “breaks” when Pandora is laid up for the winter instead of being commissioned full time as she has for much of her life.  Somehow, when I shut her down for a few months, systems just stop working.

Aside from the problems with the rudder bearing (a big one), which is now fixed, other systems have developed problems, in particular the bow thruster, which worked fine last fall and now won’t run.  Getting parts for this unit is very difficult as Lewmar, the company that marketed the unit, is no longer supporting it.  New England Bow Thruster, the company that originally did the install, still has some parts but getting them to show up and do the work is a nightmare.  The owner Bill, is generally supportive but like everyone in the boat market these days, he is so busy that getting his attention is tough.  I am hopeful that we can get things solved this week before I leave.

Back to the rudder bearing for a moment.   The yard that did the work, Pilot’s Point, is a huge place with many skilled workers.  The service manager, Kip, did a very good job of keeping things moving, diagnosed the problem, ordered parts and got things back together in record time.  It took nearly two weeks to get everything under control but the job is done and she’s ready to go.  And having steering gear that works is important.

The bearing looks very simple in place but let me tell you, it was EXPENSIVE and came all the way from Denmark.  I won’t say how much but to say that it is “worth it’s weight in gold” would not be an exaggeration.   However, whatever it cost to avoid being offshore and loose steering is “priceless”.

It’s a complex assembly with a lot of tiny roller bearings in an assembly that is also gimbled so that it is self-aligning.   I guess that’s why it cost more than a few boat dollars, a lot more. Additionally, the bearing sleeve, epoxied to the carbon shaft, was also replaced as it was a bit scored.   Shiny and expensive?  Yes, it is and was…The lower bearing on the shaft and the rudder all cleaned up. Contrast that to the upper bearing sleeve that is in fine shape but not nearly as shiny. And, speaking of shiny, I had the whole hull to take out any small scratches.  They filled the bad ones, repainted and you absolutely can not see where the repairs were done.  I also replaced, myself, some of the letters on the logo that had become scratched and ripped.  It was actually easier than I expected to put them on JUST RIGHT.

I was pretty proud of myself when I put the letters on right the first time.  Some of the guys working nearby were suitably impressed and thought that I had done it many times.  Nope, first time… Shiny right?

It’s amazing how much still needs to be done with my new mainsail arriving on Tuesday, driven up from Annapolis by the good Salty Dawg friend, Dave Flynn of Quantum sails.  He’s very supportive of the group and especially me, it seems, driving up himself to put the sail on and be sure that it fits perfectly.

I do wish all the vendors that I work with were as attentive as Dave and Kip because it’s very stressful to have details hanging with no sense of when they will be resolved.  If you’ve followed this blog for a while you will recall that I replaced the headliner two years ago and that process was terribly frustrating with deadline after deadline missed.  Well, there are still some details on the headliner that need attention and getting them finished has been like pulling teeth.

Way back in November I gave the canvas shop a number of items that needed adjustment, cockpit enclosure panels, a dirty cushion that needed recovering and a several other pieces.  Here we are more than six months later and getting the final items back and finished has been terribly painful.  They even “lost” one of my salon cushions when someone took off the old fabric and stuck the foam under a bench.  “Oh, we were wondering who that cushion belonged to.”  Not at all helpful, thank you very much.

I am told that Tuesday he will come to finish things off, finally.  I wish that I felt more confident that it was going to work out.  I do understand that everyone is so busy these days but when a plan is made, it should be kept.  I guess we will have to see if he shows up as promised.

I am excited about being back on the water again and am looking forward to my run to Maine.  My friend Craig will be with me for the run and the short cruise with the fleet in Maine.  After that I am hopeful that Brenda and perhaps our son Christopher with his partner Melody will join us for a week of cruising before I head back to home waters.

Once I am back there will still be plenty to do to get Pandora ready for the run south and the summer is fast ticking away.

Let’s hope that the weather is nice and sailing down wind.   Soon I will finally be heading Down East.  That’s good!