When the Cavalry comes calling.

I can’t believe that it is nearly the end of May and Pandora sits with me focused on just about everything but getting her ready for cruising.  Actually, it’s not quite that bleak as I have been working on her afternoons for the last few days.  Unfortunately, I recently discovered a problem with the lower rudder bearing which aren’t looking too good with the rudder shaft appearing to have dropped down about 1/4″.  That doesn’t sound all that bad but any movement isn’t a good sign, 1/4″ or not.

I know what is involved with such a project as I replaced the bearings on my last boat, the SAGA 43 but this setup is completely different and it isn’t obvious what the procedure would be.  Someone from the yard will hopefully take a look next week and advise.   Perhaps they will understand the setup and as they are really booked out for weeks. Hopefully, to keep the process going, they will work with me so I can do some of the prep work to keep the process moving and still get Pandora into the water in late June, as planned.

Having said that, I think that it would probably be OK to take her to Maine as-is and have her hauled there for the work. I am thinking of Front Street Shipyard, as they are well regarded and could certainly solve the problem.  Additionally, they could address some of the scratches in the hull along with other items.

Even if I can work with the yard here on the rudder, I’d prefer not to tackle such a big job as it’s a bit overwhelming and frankly, “I’m not in the mood”.

One of the reasons for the delay is that I really love springtime here in CT and I’ll admit to being distracted by gardening and keeping the lawn looking great.  The lawn is actually the best that it has ever been and reminds me of a comment from a fellow cruiser wh0 visited us a few years ago, commenting “this doesn’t look like a cruiser’s lawn”.  If he came here now, he’d be even more impressed.

Sadly, Pandora is just about the only boat still covered at the marina, save a few that have for-sale signs.  On the hard or now, I’m actively plotting cruising plans for this summer and the next winter season.

I believe I mentioned in my last post that I’ll be heading to Maine as the leader of the Salty Dawg Down East Rally and from there, the Chesapeake and onto Hampton VA prior to heading south to Antigua in November.

There’s even a possibility that we will be heading to Greece, by plane, not by boat, to spend 10 days with friends Tom and Sarah on their Oyster.  We’ve been talking to them about taking Pandora to the Med and it would be fun to get a taste of what that area has to offer.  As that region has great personal interest for Brenda, it seems like a nice way to combine our interests, hers for history and mine for sailing.  Not to suggest that I am totally one-dimensional, I like history too.

The lawn isn’t the only reason that I am running behind on things as I also, rather abruptly, took on the role of (acting) Rally Director for the Salty Dawg Sailing Association, and that is in addition to my work organizing the arrival activities for the fall rally in Antigua as Port Officer.

The role of Rally Director rather suddenly became open about a month ago and I felt compelled to help out as the group was right in the middle of the spring rally home from the Caribbean and I wanted to do what I could to help the rest of the volunteers to keep everything running smoothly.

That rally, a run home to Hampton VA from St John USVI, had a fairly small number of boats, only about a dozen, much less than in “normal” years.  Unfortunately, the weather was very challenging with the fleet running into some very nasty weather south of Cape Hatteras.  A few slowed down to avoid the worst weather and others hove too just south of the front.  Unfortunately, one boat, that had a roller furling main suffered a broken furling block and their sail jammed, I think partially furled, and left them with too much sail up in deteriorating conditions.

After some back and forth with the Salty Dawg support team on shore and the US Coast Guard, they ended up accepting a tow from the Richard Snyder, a 154′ long Coast Guard cutter designed for offshore SAR work.  She’s an impressive ship, capable of launching a highspeed RIB (ships’ tender) while moving at speed and she’s very fast, able to make more than 30kts.   I’ll bet she’s quite a spectacle when the going gets rough.  The Richard Snyder rendezvoused with the stricken boat in some nasty conditions a few hundred miles south of Cape Hatteras, with waves of 20′ or so.  After taking the crew aboard and the boat in tow, they headed for Beaufort, NC.  This screen shot, not from that date of the rescue when conditions were much worse, shows where they took her in tow.  You can see where they drifted around for quite a while.  See the red arrow.  Unfortunately, the tow bridle broke and it was too rough to reattach so they stood by until things calmed down somewhat before reattaching the tow.   I recall following the process on the boat’s tracker and at one point showed that with the boat in tow, they were making nearly 10kts over the bottom against wind and the Gulf Stream current.  I can only imagine the strain on the tow.

They ended up bringing the boat to Beaufort Inlet where a local commercial towboat took the boat the rest of the way to a marina.   I don’t have much information about what sort of condition the boat is in but have heard that it sustained considerable damage from the stresses of the tow.

The standard when taking a boat in tow is to run the line from the bow and around the mast and not to just rely on the cleats to take the strain.  In this case, the huge forces of wind, sea and waves bent the mast, pulled out cleats and damaged the bow pulpit along with a number of stanchions.  There was also reportedly considerable water damage down below plus other issues.  Being out in rough conditions myself, I am always amazed that somehow water finds itself down below in spite of my constant diligence in keeping things tight.

It is a relief that the crew were unharmed and made it to shore safely but it’s sad that the boat was damaged.

You never know what can happen on when making long passages and while things tend to go well, most of the time, there is always the question of what can break and the best way to resolve the problem.

To that point, a few years ago I over-torqued my main halyard and pulled the headboard off of the top of the sail.  In conditions that were not terrible but plenty “sporty” I went up the mast and retrieved the halyard.  It was a terrifying experience that I’d prefer not to repeat.  Check out this post about what was involved in fixing the problem.

On a related subject, my friend Alex took delivery of a new catamaran in France a few weeks ago and while he was planning to spend time cruising the Med this summer, the restrictions brought on by Covid-19 lead him to change plans and run the boat home so he could spend the summer cruising New England before heading to Antigua in the fall with the rally.

He left France and sailed south to the Canary Islands, close to North Africa, before heading west across the Atlantic.  I have never done this run but understand that the North Atlantic, east to west isn’t all that easy with wind and current unfavorable for much of the way.

Because of unfavorable wind and current, most east-west runs are done further south, heading to the Caribbean in November, after the end of the hurricane season, making landfall in Antigua or St Lucia.   The ARC, Atlantic Rally for Cruisers, is the best known transatlantic rally, drawing some 200 boats each fall.  I understand that the run for this fall was fully sold out as of March.

Anyway, Alex decided to give up sailing in the Med this summer and is currently heading for Newport.  Their original landfall was going to be the Chesapeake but wind and currents end up making that an unrealistic option, so Newport it is.

He’s getting closer and now thinks that he may arrive in Newport on June 4th.  It would be fun to drive up there and give him and the crew a proper welcome.  Perhaps I will bring along a bottle of official rum from the Antigua and Barbuda Royal Navy Tot Club.

As of this writing, they will soon encounter yet another ridge/front but after that, hopefully they will have good conditions for the rest of their trip. As of today it’s looking like things may be improving for him but he still faces an adverse current.   The blue area has very little wind, less than 10kts and the red, more than 25.  The direction is noted by the white lines.  In this case, it’s a bit difficult to see but the wind in his area is from the southwest at about 20kts but that will change as they cross the ridge and become northeast.  You can see the live map by clicking here. Conditions haven’t been all that easy for Alex as the weather has been constantly changing, with wind direction shifting regularly in both strength and direction.    It is this changeable weather when compared to the run to the Caribbean in the fall that is known as offering much more predictable conditions that makes a run to the south, later in the season, much more appealing to cruisers.

As I have called up the tracking page each day, it is amazing to see how much the weather continually changes.  Note the difference in this verses yesterday’s weather map above.  The blue area, yet another ridge I guess, has no wind with area to the west strong NE winds and to the south, the opposite.I am not following the forecast as Alex surely is, and as of today he says that they are facing at least one more front between them an Newport which is, 690 miles away as the crow/seagull flies.  And, we all know that boat’s don’t fly and when things are unpleasant, it seems like they crawl.  And usually so slowly it’s like watching grass grow.

While Alex has seen his share of weather, and the sort of issues that you’d expect with a new boat, fresh from the factory, his trip has been pretty much what you’d expect after a few weeks at sea.

Whenever he arrives in Newport, I’d very much like to meet him at the dock when he arrives in Newport.

Perhaps I’ll bring along a bottle of official rum from the Royal Navy Tot Club of Antigua and Barbuda and offer a toast to their arrival.

After what happened to that unfortunate boat that was towed by the USCG Richard Snyder, I am glad that Alex is making good progress.  I am optimistic that he will continue to make progress over the next few days and make it to Newport as planned.

As I think of all that can go wrong on a blue water passage, I am glad to have discovered the problem with Pandora’s lower rudder bearing.   It would surely wreck my day if I had a rudder failure offshore and the idea of having to deal with a visit from the USCG “Cavalry” isn’t something that I want to think about, nor does Alex, I am certain.

Editor:   And a special thanks to my friend Tim for pointing out that Calvary is where Jesus was crucified and “Cavalry” is the horse, or USCG kind.   It’s fixed now.  Thanks Tim!



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *