Are we there yet?? I sure hope so!

As I write this we are “enjoying,” NOT, our third day of gale force winds.  A gale is at least 35kts of wind.  If you think that sounds unpleasant,and it is, the 40+ gusts that we have been contending with for the last three days have been even more fun.  Oh yeah, and I won’t even mention our “own little squall” that trailed us for about 8 hours last night.  Somehow it stayed on top of us nearly all night.  And, all of this kicks up some remarkable waves in the 15′ to 20′ range that blast along and under us from behind every 10 seconds or so keeping us clipping along in the 7.5kt range.

You’d think it would be faster but 7.5 knots is an average that takes into account that the boat slows considerably as she “climbs” up the backside of a wave where her speed is quickly slowed to perhaps 4.5 to 5kts.  However, on the face of the wave Pandora surges ahead in a thundering rush usually topping out in the mid teens.  At a few points we saw speeds of 17+kts on the GPS.  To have the boat go from a crawl up the back of a wave and blast down the other side in a surge, all in perhaps about one minute, feels a bit like a free fall and is a remarkable experience.  To do this for three days without a break gets pretty old. Jerry, one of my crew, remarked to me today that this experience in the dark of night with heavy rain falling and waves surging against the boat feels like being on a runaway freight train in a dark tunnel.  Good description.

As you can imagine, the pressures on the boat are tremendous and we have had our share of breakages and leaks.  Fortunately, most are fairly minor but when the autopilot failed two days ago, we all thought that we were in for a horrible few days.  Pandora tracks well in rough conditions but steering under those circumstances is very challenging and can quickly tire even the most enthusiastic crew.  So, as we were powering down a wave late Sunday afternoon, Pandora all of sudden veered off course and rounded up into a huge wave.  Fortunately, someone was at the helm in case something went wrong so two of us were able to wrestle her back on course within a few minutes.

I pride myself, as Pandora’s previous owner did, in having spares on board for a lot of systems and there are literally thousands of dollars of spares tucked away.  However, I didn’t know if the broken specialized bolt that linked the autopilot ram to the steering quadrant was somewhere in all the hardware that I have tucked away.  Amazingly, after searching for nearly two hours, I finally found the precious piece and had it installed in less than ten minutes.  I just KNEW I had seen it somewhere!  YES!  Let me tell you, Dave, Jim and Gerry were ecstatic too.  Remarkably, I ultimately found a second spare.  I had seen these in the past but had no idea what they were.  Now I do.

Since Pandora has been banging around constantly I try to do a careful review of all systems several times a day to be sure that nothing looks like it’s about to break.  Today I found some critical bolts on the steering quadrant that had worked themselves loose and was also alarmed (an understatement) to find the watermaker lurching from side to side.  The screws that held the base to the workbench had pulled loose.  I was shocked to see how tiny they were.  Fortunately, I was able to put in some new larger ones with some help from Jim — a major mess averted.

The last few days have been very difficult, and if this trip is what might be called “typical” then I am not sure I’d want to do it again.  However, I should note that when we were making a decision on a weather window to leave Beaufort, Chris Parker, the weather router, did mention this front and said that it would be important to stay in front of it to stay in good weather.  Naturally, the front moved in faster than predicted, so we missed that window by about 12 hours.  Had that not happened, our trip would have been much easier.

I think that the moral of the story is that if things look iffy, perhaps it’s better to hold off and try later.  I guess that’s often the case in life. Or, to put it another way “pick your battles.”  Yes, it’s been a very tough ride but my crew has been terrific and everyone is getting along well.

As I finish this up we are about 100 miles from Tortola and should arrive there around dawn on Wednesday.  I have to say that there have been a number of times in the last few days when I would have been happy to be just about anywhere than aboard Pandora.  However, if we arrive in Tortola and the sun is out and I am holding some sort of tropical drink with a little umbrella, I expect that all will be forgotten.

All and all, we have done well and nobody even got sick.  That’s good too.

Well, I am looking forward to spending time in the BVI with my crew but more than anything else, I can’t wait to see Brenda again.  I have missed her terribly and on top of that, I am looking forward to seeing our new granddaughter Tori again.  Oh yeah, it will be fun to see her parents Rob and Kandice too.

Yes, I am glad that this trip is almost over.  And in spite of the fact that Pandora has proved herself to be a wonderful blue water boat, I can’t stop from thinking “are we there yet?”. Boy, I sure hope so.

Hello Brenda!!!  I REALLY, REALLY can’t wait to see you. XXXOOO to come…

19 responses to “Are we there yet?? I sure hope so!

  1. Thanks for the update! Monitoring your speed and elevation wasn’t painting a pretty picture. Glad to hear that nothing broke that could not be repaired. We will all be relieved when you are sitting in a bar having a drink. All is well on the home front. Just a little snow.

    • Susan: Yes, and about “breakage” we repaired everything but plenty broke. Good to be here, umbrella drink and all. Actually, a Carib. No, make that a few.

  2. George. Hallenbeck

    Keep it up.
    Your descriptions really make one
    Think one was there.

  3. We had someone trying to relay to you on Doo-dah net the other day… don’t know if you got the message! We were listening in on you!


    Hi Bob, I calculated your position
    an hour ago from the Inreach lat long, thanks for explainingredients how to find it. You apparently were on the eastern edge of the heavy air according my grib b files. If you get this before you make your landfall, Sopers Hole is the easiest to clear in. Safe home. Mel

  5. Congrats on making it to the BVI!

  6. Glad to see you made it safely, even if it was a very rough voyage. Have a great winter!

  7. Sounds like one heck of a voyage. Congratulations Bob and crew! Now you can get some well deserved rest and maybe a rum drink or two. 😉

    Now the beauty of the Virgin Islands for you and Brenda!

  8. Mary Minard "Quest"

    I have been following you with admiration and horror! Looking ay your position and then fishweather….that maroon blob was always on top of you!
    You deserve the sunshine and the umbrella drink.

  9. Wow. What an adventure Bob. You will be able to tell Tori many stories from the seas for her entire life. So glad you and your crew are safe and I don’t have to follow the blue dots anymore. Enjoy your umbrella drink and a shower.

  10. Very happy to see you here safe. Was concerned when your regular pinging stopped. Liz and I are on the north coast of Puerto Rico now and are seeing that weather come ashore here.

    John & Liz

  11. Happy to see that “Where in the World is Pandora” shows you in Sopers Hole as of 10:22 a.m., though you probably arrived sooner. Glad to see you made it safely.
    Im sure we will get more details later. Rest up for now.

  12. Miles Cherkasky

    Glad you made it! Better you than me. That autopilot bolt is a poorly engineered and machined piece of junk. I have broken several even in dead calm under engine power. Hence the spares on board. Replace the spare you used as soon as you can. Have Brenda bring it down. It would be a good idea to replace it before a significant passage. Enjoy the BVI!

  13. Hah! I forgot that quote. You have earned it. My…have you earned it.
    Looks like you are settling in just fine. Stay away from the Colorado salad or you’ll end up in the dink like that guy. Love the pics!

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