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…