That’s it, plans set. Sort of…

It’s Saturday night and I am sitting in the boarding area for my flight to CT.   Jim and I left Pandora in Ft Pierce today and flew home out of West Palm Beach.   I had expected that flights would be too expensive and would require us to drive the 24 hours back to CT to avoid expensive flights.  Alas, we checked with the airlines as we came within cell range off of Cape Canaveral and were thrilled to learn that we could get $141 flights home from West Palm Beach.  That as less expensive than renting car and a LOT less time consuming.

We arrived in Ft Pierce at midnight last night and anchored just inside the inlet.  After a celebratory “adult beverage” we crashed into a DEEP sleep after not getting more than a few hours of sleep per night since leaving Beaufort NC on Tuesday afternoon.  In spite of a 24 hour period of slow progress on Thursday, into the wind, we had a pretty good run and covered the nearly 500 mile run in reasonable style.

I didn’t keep track but believe that we sailed nearly half of the time and enjoyed a 100 mile 12 hour run in the first day of our trip, meaning that we sustained more than 7.5kts, a very respectable speed.   Actually, we left Beaufort with a number of other boats and passed them all, sometimes sailing at better than 9kts on a close reach.  Pretty great, actually.

However, when the wind shifted against us, we struggled to make 4.5kts against the wind for an entire day.    The problem is that Pandora is “over propped”, something that I was aware of when I purchased her in May.  This means that the propeller is too large for the engine and it can’t attain rated RPM and while this is fine in flat conditions, we aren’t able to punch into waves when the going gets rough.  I believe that by adjusting the propeller we can likely improve things but it’s unclear if this is the only problem.  I am keeping my fingers crossed that there isn’t something more sinister at work, like some sort of compression or other engine problem contributing.  More to come on that point.

Also, the refrigeration problem continues to be quite vexing and if you have been following this you know that I abandoned my BVI run due to overheating from the refrigeration.  It turns out that the compressor doesn’t work well when we are moving fast as it can’t get adequate water flow, overheats and shuts down.  You will have to review a recent post to get more info on this problem.   Again, details to come.

So, based on these issues, I decided to haul Pandora and have the prop issue sorted out and have proper thru-hulls installed on the fridge and watermaker.  You know, the type with a “scoop” on the outside to be sure that adequate pressure is available to force water into the pump and counteract the vacuum that happens when water passes over a hull opening when we are going at speed.

If you’ve been paying very careful attention to past posts, you must be wondering “what have you done with all that frozen food Bob?”   Good question, good question indeed…

As is often said, “it takes a village” and I am very fortunate to have my friend and past fellow SAGA 43 owner Carl who agreed to store my 30lbs of frozen food in his freezer until Brenda and I return to Ft Pierce after Christmas.  Of course, with Pandora out of the water, the fridge doesn’t function.  Carl says that I can pick up the food when I return in late December.  That’s of course, unless he decides that it looks “good enough to eat”.  Hmm…

As it turns out, my 1,000 run from CT to FL was much more of a “shakedown cruise” and I can say that I have been indeed “shaken down” plenty by this experience but hopefully, most of the kinks have been worked out and we can again enjoy Pandora as the beauty that she is.  It’s pretty certain that there aren’t many boats that can take the pounding that we did in the Gulf Stream with 25kts opposing the current and continue to romp along in such great style.  It was a wet but terrific ride indeed.

I haven’t mentioned yet, but on our first night out we were peripherally involved in an Air-Sea-Rescue by the US Coast Guard, in the Gulf Stream.  Fellow crew Ken wrote about this in an e-mail today that I thought I would excerpt here.

And Ken wrote…

“Some of you asked about the SAR case we observed on our way south from the Chesapeake to Virgin Gorda on Bob Osborn’s boat Pandora.

So… the story was that a sailboat in our area at about 74.5 West off Hatteras transmitted a distress signal at about 2 AM on 4 Nov and then went dark.  This is a potentially nasty piece of water with 25 to 30 Kts against the Gulfstream, which meant it was a lumpy night with rain.  The boat was at the edge of the USCG’s VHF coverage so the Coast Guard asked those of us in the area to see if we could raise a boat named “Trouble” on our radios.  “Trouble” had sent a distress call that they were taking on water.  Three of the boats in our Rally and a cargo ship turned around to search the area.  The radio traffic turned into a Abbott and Costello routine of ; “are you trouble?.. your in trouble? No your trouble,  I’m not in trouble … third base”   A USCG helicopter soon joined them.  We were over the horizon to the east but we could see the “night sun” spotlight shining down from the helicopter.  There were a lot of false sightings of flares and debris all night but finally the helo headed back via the closest logical port that a distressed boat would head for.  It was on that track line that the boat was found, with its radio off.  Apparently they turned on a hand held radio when the helicopter was hovering over the boat.  We heard the Coast Guard side of the conversation, which was very cordial.  “Is this the S/V Trouble? How many people on board? Do you need assistance? Are you no longer asking for assistance?  (This last question was repeated a few times). 

We can only speculate on what happened.  The USCG will never discourage or scold a boater from asking for assistance, although I am sure they were frustrated.  The ship that turned around undoubtedly cost its owner one hell of a lot of money, but the SOLAS convention gives them no choice.  One of the three sailboats that responded ripped his mainsail in half while maneuvering in that sloppy sea and had to abandon his transit to Virgin Gorda. 

We aborted our trip the next day when smoke filled the aft locker due to an electrical short.  The 47-foot Aerodyne was a pleasure in high winds and sloppy seas.  We only had one boarding wave swamp the cockpit.  The starboard aft locker (on the leeward side) held the propane tanks and was therefore open to the sea and filled with water, as designed.  The problem occurred when we jibed and the water filled locker slopped over and through a hole for a wire that was not sufficiently watertight.  Just that little bit of water ruined our day.  We were never in danger but Bob made the right call on the side of caution.  There was no reason to risk a fire that far from land so he turned off the refrigeration.  This meant some food would have gone bad and no one wanted to eat peanut butter and jelly for a few days at the end of the trip.

We were all disappointed that we could not continue but it turned out that a Low that was north of Haiti turned into a full blown tropical storm so we may have avoided a few more sloppy days before making landfall.

As an aside, it was warm enough in the Gulfstream for me to take a shower on deck by just standing in the rain while avoiding the salt spray over the bow. “

It was an interesting night at sea and while I hated to divert and scrub my run to the BVI for this season, I am confident that I did the right thing.  Of course, with hindsight, it seems that the main reason we had to abort, a refrigeration problem, could have been avoided if I had better understood the limitations of the refrigeration installation and had a minor modification done prior to leaving CT.  Of course, with Pandora on the hard AGAIN, this problem should soon be history, I hope.

So, back to our arrival in Ft Pierce in today’s wee hours, Jim and I were happy to drop the hook and get a good night sleep.   When I dragged myself out of a deep sleep at 07:30 today I was greeted by a lovely breeze, palm trees and balmy temperatures. 11-14-15aWhat a lovely warm dawn it was and it’s good to know that Pandora had a successful if  somewhat more “interesting” run south to her winter home.

So there you have it.  My plans for the winter?  Well, at least for now.

Hopefully Pandora won’t “shake me down” any more for a while.  But wait, she’s a boat and that’s what boats do.

I’d better run to catch my flight though…


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