Tuesday: Counting the Days…

It’s Tuesday morning and we continue to motor along.  It’s hard to believe that we have put so many hours on the engine and have still not entered the trade winds.

In past years we have been able to sail for much of the trip and this time, not so much.  As I write this we have been motoring for nearly 6 days in total.  That’s half of the way and pretty much what Chris Parker had warned us would be needed if we wanted to keep moving.

With such light winds, I know that some boats are surely having difficulty with fuel, some precariously close to running out and yet with days left to go before they arrive.      It’s a tough position to be in.

There are always gear failures along the way, which you’d expect with 80+ boats sailing such long distances.  One boat lost their headstay, so their jib ended up in the water and one of the lines wrapped tightly around their propeller.  They haven’t been able to free the line so they can’t get the engine out of gear or start it to charge this batteries.   Another boat came to their rescue and shared some fuel.  The crew on the stricken boat were able to stabilize the rig and are heading to St Thomas for repairs.  That is a long way off, hundreds of miles but at least it’s down wind.

Another boat lost their anchor when the swivel came loose and the anchor just fell into the water.  I wonder how long it took to reach the bottom, 15,000 feet below.  Not great to loose an anchor but better that way then when anchored in a tight anchorage.

Fortunately, the bulk of the fleet is doing well if anxiously nursing their fuel supply.  On this front, we are doing well as we are still on our second tank, having used a bit more than half of our fuel.  Hopefully, we will be sailing soon but who knows.

While we aren’t particularly concerned about running out of fuel, fresh food is getting a bit scarce.  I clearly did not buy quite enough bread for sandwiches. Having some more eggs would be good too.  And some more apples would be welcomed by all.

However, we still have some flour so I am baking for the third time, making Raisin Bran muffins.  They smell great and I am getting hungry.  Baking does really heat up the cabin.

To that point, with little wind last night and the engine running all the time, it was pretty hot and stuffy down below.

I mentioned that we had caught a Mahi-Mahi, and last night I baked it, seasoned with a bit of Old Bay.  That and new potatoes were a hit with all crew.

It’s not great to run the oven in the evenings but a hot meal is pretty important, I think.

Well, only two more days of meal planning before we are in Antigua.  That’s good as I am running out of ideas.

I guess that’s all I can report right now and the muffins smell like they are ready to come out of the oven.

Let’s hope that the wind fills in soon.  So sick of listening to the drone of the engine.   Don’t get me wrong, I would prefer to be sailing but the drone of our trusty engine is music compared to no engine or fuel to run it.  Fingers crossed that things continue to go well and perhaps soon the wind will fill in.  That would be nice.

With Antigua so close, we are all counting the days until we can dive off of Pandora and enjoy a swim in English Harbor.

I can see clearly now, I think….

It’s Sunday morning and we are finally less than 500 miles from Antigua.  The trade winds, still perhaps 200 miles south of us, are at least looking like something that we will encounter in this lifetime and we are looking forward to finishing up our run with a few days of easy trade wind sailing.

We could probably be sailing now but it would be SLOW SAILING and would prolong our trip by several days, something that would surely cause a mutiny with Pandora’s crew.    And even motoring as much as we are, the trip is going to be my longest, nearly two weeks.   Fortunately we sailed a lot in the early days so I am fairly confident that we will arrive in Antigua with fuel in at least one of our tanks.

While the wind is from the south, the conditions are light with about 5-8 knots that is allowing us to move along motor-sailing, close hauled.  That’s not ideal but fortunately, we think that we have plenty of fuel to continue pushing along to make it to the favorable trades.

There’s not much to report except that there is really nothing out here at all with the exception of an occasional ship that passes us.  Yesterday a freighter and a yacht transport ship passed us on their way to Ft Lauderdale.  In spite of the big ocean, I had to call the on the radio to confirm that they saw us.  The AIS tracker showed that both of them would pass us within about a mile.   One had to alter course a bit to avoid freaking me out by passing too close.

I can tell you that AIS is perhaps the most important piece of safety gear to get on a boat for passage making.  To be able to see a ship 15 miles away and calculate how close they will come to you, is very big deal.  It gives the name of the ship so you can hail them by name.  It wasn’t very many years ago when we had to look at running lights and try our best to understand where they were going and if they might be a threat.  And, without a ship name to call directly, they almost never responded.

On the home front, Brenda continues to get a lot of “atta girls’ for her new book and it is just so exciting that she has a hard copy of the “real thing” after all these years.  Yesterday she also taught a class on Zoom to the Rhode Island Handweavers’ Guild. The class was about a Japanese braiding technique that she has enjoyed doing over the years.  The technique is not very well known so whenever she teaches it, the response is great.

And, speaking of the book, all 5 pounds of it, you should check out her recent post to see first hand what a great book it is.  More than a decade of hard work and it finally arrived just a day before the second anniversary of the death of Archie, the co-author and subject of the book.  Heavy or not, I hope that Brenda brings a copy to Antigua so I can see if first hand.

Life at my Kitchen Table

If all goes well, Pandora will be in English Harbor and all tied up by sometime on November 11th so I can be there to greet Brenda when she arrives the next day.  We have booked a room at the Admiral’s Inn for four nights and it will be nice to spend some time on land after three weeks since setting sail from Essex.

It’s nice to be far enough along to be able to begin seeing clearly when our voyage will be over.  I am totally, totally ready.

Remember my post about leaving Pandora south for next summer?  The more I think about that, the more appealing the idea.   So much to look forward to over the winter aboard Pandora with Brenda and lots of fun on the horizon next summer in CT along with a trip to Europe next fall.  Besides, I haven’t been to Grenada or Trinidad, two likely spots to keep Pandora, where I can have some work done on her.

Busy, busy.  No rest for the weary retired..

Light at the end of the tunnel

It’s Saturday morning and as of this afternoon we will have been at sea for seven days.  It’s been somewhat frustrating as the winds have been relentlessly against us with no end in sight until we are perhaps 300 miles north of Antigua.

When will we get there? A question that has been on my lips since I was a young passenger in my parent’s car and is always top of mind when we are on passage.

The first week was full of uncertainty and now that we are about 575 miles from our destination, I am beginning to relax about running out of fuel.

In past years, I have found that we tended to put about 100 hours on the engine but this year it looks like the total will be 125 or more.  That’s more than 5 days with the engine running, around the clock, a lot of motoring.

Yesterday we ran one of our tanks dry after 59 hours of motoring, and with two more full tanks and an additional 30 gallons in jugs, it looks we will have plenty of fuel to complete the run.

We are hopeful that the forecast of enough wind to sail for the last 300 miles will pan out.  If not, I am cautiously optimistic that we will still have enough fuel but it might mean that we just squeak into port with fuel in the tanks.  Fingers crossed.

A big part of all this will hinge on having at least a light wind for the next few days, and that assumes it isn’t directly on the nose, as our speed motor sailing in light wind is about 5-6.5kts and yet in dead calm, only about 4.5 to 5kts.  Over several days even a single knot can cut a trip by a day or more.

When we left Hampton, it was quite chilly and I have heard that those who weren’t able to leave with the bulk of the fleet are still in port and have seen temperatures in the 30s.  Sadly, those that didn’t catch the window we made will be stuck in port until perhaps this coming Tuesday.

You have to wonder if some might just end up bagging the run for this season as getting crew to be with you long enough to make the run will begin feeling crowded by a need for them to be home for what is shaping up to be the first “post pandemic’ Thanksgiving.

I mention chilly in Hampton as that is in great contrast to what we are experiencing now.  As a rule, once you cross the Gulf Stream, it gets warmer pretty fast with water temperatures in the stream in the high 80s.    And while the water cools a bit south of the stream, it never really gets much colder than about 80.  This means that the air is warmer too.

Pandora’s engine is mid-ship, under the galley, so when it’s running and for hours after it stops, the cabin get’s quite hot.  Last night it was really too hot to sleep so I turned on the forward AC unit, which I had set up to run on the house DC/AC converter.  I can only run it when the engine is on but with the boat only heeling a bit, and the seas fairly calm, having the unit on helps a lot.  In anticipation of using the AC this way, I Installed a small vent that directs the cool air from the forward cabin to the main salon.  It makes a tremendous difference.

Anyway, things are going well and we are heading, more or less, toward our destination, Antigua.

So, as we begin our second week at sea, at least we are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

So, when will we get there?  I’m guessing sometime on the 11th.  However, with nearly 600 miles to go, well, who knows.

“See” you again tomorrow.  With us luck.

Far from anywhere

As of today we have reached, sort of, the part of the trip where we are just about the farthest from land that we will be for the entire run.  Not to put too fine a point on it but here goes…

Bermuda:  300nm
Bahamas: 500nm
Puerto Rico: 620nm
Hampton: 660nm
Antigua: 780nm

I’ll admit that writing nearly 800 miles as the distance to Antigua is a bit disconcerting but any least it’s not 1,500, a step in the right direction.

As of now we have motored 51 hours and I expect that soon the first of our three fuel tanks will run dry.  As a rule, I run each tank until the engine begins to stumble when the tank is fully depleted.  I can’t say that I am fully confident in how many gallons of fuel each tank holds as I rarely run them dry.  In most cases, as I get low, I switch to another tank to avoid running out at a critical time, like going up to a dock or perhaps in an area where I have little time to avoid an obstacle.   Not a lot to run into out here, hundreds of miles from anything and an ideal time to run a tank until the motor quits.

When will I run out of fuel, on this tank?  Hard to say but it could be most any time.  As there are only 3 Aerodyn 47s out there, I really don’t have anyone to asm for advice. Besides, my boat was built in Finland and the other two, hulls 1&2, in South Africa.  Who knows if the tanks were even made to the same specs.  The literature, such as there is, suggests that each of the three tanks is 50 gallons, which I doubt.  For the purposes of planning, I assume about 35 gallons of usable fuel in each tank.  I also carry 30 gallons in 5 gallon cans.

So, when will this tank run out?  I’ll let you know as soon as I know.

So, for now, as predicted, the wind is very light so we continue to motor south toward a waypoint that Chris Parker provided.  We are still about 36 hours from that goal but by getting there by Saturday should keep us south of the worse adverse winds associated with the nasty gale that is lashing the US East Coast.

Sadly, it doesn’t look like we will be seeing the easterly trades winds until we are about 3 days from Antigua.  In the meantime, we are anticipating stronger winds on the nose that will force us to head more to the east, perpendicular to our desired course, perhaps for a few days.

However, if all goes according to plan, and that’s a big if, being farther east should position us to take advantage of the trades when they finally fill in.

We are waiting to hear from Chris today with his recommendation on how to position ourselves best for the adverse winds, to head east or perhaps even to the southwest.

One more thing.  Yesterday we trolled a line and caught a small pompano but tossed it back.  We heard that another boat caught a 33lb tuna, a huge fish.  I plan on fishing again today but hope that whatever we catch is q LOT smaller than that tuna.

I guess I had better ring off for now and get fishing.  As my grandfather used to say “you can’t catch fish if your lure is not in the water”.

Will we catch something today?   Are there fish nearby?

Hard to say but one thing for sure is that we are a long way from just about anything.

A Little Better, and Closer, Every Day

It’s Wednesday morning, our fourth day at sea.   Yesterday wasn’t a great day as there wasn’t much wind at all.  No make that NO wind, so we had to motor all day.

And, the forecast wasn’t looking good either with  Chris suggesting that we won’t see many days of favorable winds for much of the trip.

As a result, I was becoming a bit preoccupied with the possibility of running out of fuel.   No, we haven’t put much of a dent in our fuel with less than 24 hours on the meter since leaving Hampton, but it’s impossible not to project out when the forecast suggests that we won’t reach consistent trade winds until a few hundred miles from Antigua.  Amazingly, Pandora carries enough fuel to motor over 1,000 miles but that’s still not enough to get us there if we have to motor a week or more.

One of the great things about my new Iridium Go unit is that I am able to download weather GRIBS every 12 hours that gives me a forecast out a week so between those and the written forecasts from Chris Parker, the weather router, we have a fairly good feel for what is in store.

However, with such a huge gale coming up the US east coast this week, the effect on the wind to the south is a bit hard to predict.  As I mentioned previously, when there is a big low in the North Atlantic, those lovely easterly trade winds are suppressed.  In this case, the easterlies become southerlies, keeping us from pointing in the direction that we need to go.

Another thing that happens is that the winds tend to go away, so we have to spend a lot more time motoring.

Over the last 24 hours the forecast, now that we are south of Bermuda, is becoming somewhat more clear and suggests we will not encounter quite so much light air or wind on the nose.  And, the trades might also kick in a bit sooner.

All and all, things are looking brighter for a good run, well mostly good, from here on out.   Yes, we expect to be doing some sailing to the east, not good, but that might not be for as long as expected and then we should be able to turn south, perhaps over the weekend, and continue on our way to Antigua.

The biggest issue we face is a delay in our arrival and I’d really like to think that we can get to Antigua by the 10th or so and beat Brenda and Jane, Peter’s wife, who arrive on the 12th.

One way or the other, wind or not, favorable wind direction or not, we can sail and motor a good distance and we will eventually get there.

I am already looking forward to a “tot” of rum with my crew and tying up in the Dockyard in English Harbor.

So as we inch our way south and closer to Antigua, I think it’s safe to say that “it’s getting a little better every day”.  Let’s hope that the forecast continues to improve.

So that’s about it from Pandora as we sometimes motor sail, sometime sail on our way south.  It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood, the sky is blue and the seas are calm.  Not bad for a day on the water.

One more thing.  Peter has proposed a wager on our arrival time and the one that best guesses the time when we drop anchor in English Harbor gets, well nothing.  However, the one of us that is most off buys the first round of drinks.

I’m on it.

Antigua, you can’t get there from here…yet

It’s Tuesday morning and we are motoring along in conditions that are more like Long Island Sound on an August day than ocean sailing hundreds of miles from land.   The wind has become very light and is likely to stay that way for at least another day.

In the next day or so, we will reach a point during the trip when we are the farthest from land and in every direction land will be some 500 miles.  There’s not much out here except the occasional ship that passes on the horizon or dolphins that come up to check us out for a few moments before moving on.

Currently, we are nearly 300 miles from Bermuda and even farther from the US.  Perhaps more importantly, we are about 1/3 of the way to Antigua.  But not so fast, as some pretty impressive headwinds will be arriving in a few days so we will have to tack to the east and even northeast for perhaps several days while we wait for more favorable conditions.  Sadly, when we tack we will actually be heading away from our destination, and that will be very frustrating.

The big driver of the adverse winds that will blow from the SE and keep us from making headway toward Antigua, is a major storm off of the US east coast that is expected to form in the next few days.  That storm, or low, will suck wind in from thousands of miles in every direction and disrupt the easterly trade winds that we would normally encounter as we get closer to the Caribbean .

While a big storm off of the east coast brings nasty weather to the US and Bahamas, those same winds disrupt the trade winds and generally weaken the winds down south.

For now, we are motoring in very light winds, heading in the general direction of the Caribbean.  However, in a few days we will have to head on a course that will likely be perpendicular to our destination and while we will be moving along nicely, we will be in more of a holding pattern, waiting for the winds to shift and allow us to turn south again.

I really do hope we can avoid that multi day delay but we won’t know for sure by Thursday.

Another fear is that we will not have enough fuel to make the rest of the trip but I think that we will do well as we did a good amount of “easting”, under sail, over the first few days of the trip and resisted the temptation to head south.   I was pretty sure that a direct run south might not be in our best interest and I am glad that I took that approach as being a bit farther east than some in the fleet will allow us a better angle for sailing south.

As a general rule, you want to do as much easting as possible early in the trip so that when the easterly trades fill in, you have a comfortable point of sail.

Well, so far so good.

So, when will we get to Antigua?  I actually have no idea as it is likely that we will spend a few days sailing perpendicular to Antigua, and that will feel like “you can’t get there from here”, well, at least until the trades fill in again and we can make our way south for the remaining distance to Antigua.

All and all, I can see us arriving in Antigua, but when that is will remain a mystery for now.  Being at sea is a lot different than being in a car with a GPS that calculates the arrival time within minutes.  While roads can become congested, they generally don’t go away.  At sea, when the wind blows from where you want to go, there is just no way to get there until conditions improve.

So, for now when I wonder when we will arrive all I can say is that we will but who knows when.

One thing for certain is that for the part of the trip when the wind is on our nose, the phrase that will come to mind is more like “you can’t get there from here”.

Let’s hope that part of the trip is short.

Day Two–We are plugging along

This is our second full day out and we have gone about 300 miles, not a lot.  This first 24 hours was pretty sporty but now we are moving along at a more leisurely pace of between 5-7kts in basically an easterly direction.

Whenever you head to sea you can only really know what to expect for the first 3-5 days and after that, it’s hard to know as the forecasts just aren’t accurate that far into the future.

We expect to head into an area of very light wind that will likely persist for a few days and after that, perhaps winds that will be pretty much on the nose.  Hopefully those SE winds won’t be too strong and we really don’t know what we will encounter after that.

Normally, the prevailing winds in the northern Caribbean are from the east, sometimes from the ENE and others, the ESE but mostly from the east.  But, given the expectation that we will be doing a good deal of motoring, we have to conserve fuel as best as we can now, even if that means moving along more slowly than we’d like.

Last night was frustrating as the wind dropped a good deal and then veered from the south to the north with a good amount of time directly behind us.  running before relatively light winds in a confused sea was frustrating.  Fortunately, things have improved.

With conditions more settled now but with light winds, I decided to try and use the Hydrovane wind vane stearing unit, and that’s going pretty well.  I haven’t had a great deal of luck with it in the past but now it’s going better.

I am waiting to get an updated weather forecast and will have a better feel for where I should head next.   For the moment, I am trying to make as much easting as I can to take advantage of the easterly trade winds when they finally fill in.

I guess that’s about it for now.

Wish us luck as we continue to plug along.

First Day Underway to Antigua

It’s Sunday morning and we have entered the Gulf Stream, about 100 miles from Hampton.

Peter and George arrived at 3:00 yesterday, not a moment too soon, as I had barely finished my preparations for departure.   I took a few minutes to shower and we headed out by 3:30.   This gave us a few hours to get settled before it got dark.

Aside for motoring out of the harbor and into open water, we have been sailing at a brisk pace since our departure, which is great.  So far, we’ve gone nearly 150 miles, about 1/10th of the trip.  It’s good to have some miles “in the bank”.  Being able to sail early in the trip instead of burning precious fuel is good as we really have no idea of what the rest of the run will be like.

The forecast is quite good for the next few days with the wind gradually veering from the SW to NW and becoming lighter.   This suggests that we will be spending a lot of time motoring and we have been advised not to motor much in the early part of the trip to avoid running out of fuel.

Fortunately, Pandora does very well motor sailing in light wind so I can drop the RPM and conserve fuel.  If needed, I should be able to motor for about a week, 24 hours a day before I run out of fuel.

It is possible that 6 days of motoring could be required but it’s hard to say and while we have a pretty good feel for what the next few days will bring, 5 days out is just too far to have any confidence in the forecast.

The window to depart was from Saturday morning through Sunday night but getting out sooner was better for sailing so out we went.

There are a good number of boats still in Hampton, some leaving today and others that just weren’t ready to go.   In some cases, it was crew, who hadn’t arrived in time, and others, mechanical issues.

We have settled in a bit but there is still along way to go, 1,300 miles, until we arrive in Antigua.

Near or far, it’s good to be underway and I guess we can hope to arrive in Antigua by November 10th or so.

Oh yeah, this post went to Brenda via my Iridium Go, a really neat piece of electronics.  I can send messages, email and also make phone calls that sound as good a local cellular.  I can also download files that look just like the tracking page that you can view on my blog under “where in the world is Pandora”.

That link will show my current track as well as that of all the other boats in the fleet.

I’m still getting the hang of the whole thing but the technology is just amazing.

It’s that time. Leaving Saturday.

Well, it looks like we will be heading out on Saturday evening to begin our run to Antigua.

As of last evening, Chris Parker, our weather router, said that the “window” for departing Hampton will be Saturday and Sunday, a shorter window than he saw even one day before.

As I write this it’s raining and very windy with totally nasty weather offshore.  However, as that system moves out conditions will substantially improve, for at least a few days before another front exits the East Coast, bringing with it gales yet again.  Such is late fall weather in the north Atlantic.

My crew for this run, Peter and George are coming in Saturday afternoon so as soon as they step aboard, we’re off and on our way.  I had hoped to spend the night and let them settle in before we headed out but there isn’t time so we’re leaving.  Sorry guys.

The goal is to get as far south as possible by later in the week when all this nasty weather repeats itself near the coast.

In past years, we have been plagued by persistent SE winds onthis run and that made for a frustrating trip but this year is looking like it’s going to be mostly light air and wind behind the beam.  If anything, we are unlikely to have enough wind and Chris feels that we may have to motor for half the trip.

With that in mind, we will have to manage our fuel until we hit the easterly trade winds as we get closer to Antigua.  Motoring a lot on this run is nothing new as I usually put about 100 hours on the engine when I head south.

I won’t go into lots of explanation on the whole fuel management issue as there will be time for that later in the trip.

As in the past, I plan on writing posts as often as I can, every day perhaps, and I may even be able to send a small photo now and again.  The new Iridium satellite unit we have is pretty neat and makes all this stuff much easier than in the past.  I’ll send the files to Brenda and she can put them up on this blog.  I always enjoy sharing our journey with everyone so stand by.

And, as in past years, every boat in the fleet, and there are nearly 80 boats, will show up on a tracking map, complete with wind information.  It’s pretty cool, actually.

Just follow this link to see where everyone is.   This screen shot from today shows just how nasty it is out there right now.  And yes, red isn’t good.  It means really windy.   You can see the fleet clustered in Hampton. Beginning on Saturday you will see the boats move out and begin to head south.  The bulk of the fleet is heading to Antigua and some to the Bahamas.

Still lots of little things to get done before leaving but I’m on it.

After so many months of planning I am really happy that it’s finally time…

In Hampton, bound for Antigua

I can’t believe that I am finally here in Hampton and nearly ready to head out to Antigua.   It seems like forever that I have been thinking “sometime I will go back” but here I am, with departure only a few days away.

The original plan was to depart on Monday the 1st and that date has been engrained in my head for months now, counting down the days and wondering what else I have to do to get Pandora ready to go.

When I left CT last Friday, the goal was to head directly to Hampton, a trip that was supposed to take about two nights and three days, a rum that I have done many times.   It’s not a particularly long distance, certainly a lot less than the 1,500 miles that lie between me and Antigua.

In working with Chris Parker, our weather router, he wasn’t sure when I would get a decent “window” to make the trip and for the week leading up to my departure last week, every day the weather seemed to be somewhat more uncertain than the last.  Finally, after a week of back and forth, bugging Chris on a near daily basis, he told me to head out on Friday afternoon and plan on rounding Montauk point at midnight.  No, don’t round Montauk, at 23:00 on Friday or 01:00 on Monday, but midnight as that would allow the adverse winds that had plagued the run to shift to the northwest and the seas to settle down before I was out in open waters.

As we rounded the point, indeed, the seas were still pretty choppy but after a few hours they laid down and for the next 24 hours we were able to sail along nicely less a few hours of motoring.

Unfortunately, Chris felt that we would not be able to make it much farther than the Delaware river before the wind would really pipe up, perhaps to gale force, albeit a gale from a favorable angle.  With that in mind, we opted to head up the DL river, through the Chesapeake and Delaware canal and then back down the Chesapeake to Hampton.

We were to sail more than 100 miles out of our way to avoid the last stretch of water off of the DelMarVa peninsula and that decision was going to cost us a few more days.

So, up the river we went.  It was fine and while things were snotty out on the ocean, we enjoyed an easy motor up the river, stopping in Chesapeake City for the night before continuing down the Chesapeake Bay the following day.

I enjoyed showing Steve, my crew for the run, around Chesapeake City, one of my favorite stops along the way.   We were able to snag a spot on the free town dock.  Pandora was tied up immediately adjacent to the lovely town green. We hiked up the tall bridge that looms over the tiny city.  The view of the harbor and Pandora in the foreground on the dock, was impressive. It was a nice break but when we left the following morning we ran hard aground, or should I say “soft aground” in the sticky mud near the city dock, a spot that we were able to get into at the high tide when we arrived.  We left the dock but only got 200 feet when we “smooched” to a soft landing.

Fortunately a friendly boater, Alex from Boston, heading south with his family, stopped by with his dink and offered to help.  He took a line from us and tied it to a piling on the dock.  We wrapped it around our anchor winch and between the pull of our powerful winch and the engine, we were able to ease our way along and back to the dock where the water was deep enough to float us.

However, the shallow area that we had landed on extended way farther than I had expected and we ran aground yet again.   Not to worry, as I have a hand held depth finder so I handed it to Alex who used it to “chart” a path for us to pick our way out and get us on our way.Cruisers helping Cruisers, it’s the way of the world, well at least the way of the cruising world, with folks that spend time voyaging in small boats always willing to help out.  Having Alex show up at a critical time made all the difference.  Thanks Alex, I owe you.  They are heading to the Bahamas for their first visit.  I hope that they call me for some free advice.  After 4 seasons cruising there, I have plenty of fun memories to share. Our run down the bay was uneventful with about half of the trip motorsailing hard on the wind until we reached Annapolis where we encountered a pretty impressive line of rain and squalls that stayed with us for hours.   Once that cleared out it ushered in a very nice fresh westerly wind to carry us the rest of the way to Hampton on a beam reach.

So, after heading out of our way by a full two days, we were happy to finish up the run on a very comfortable point of sail, often moving along at more than 9kts.

Oh yeah, almost forgot.  That bow thruster that didn’t work all season and was finally fixed just before leaving CT.   It turns out that a nut on one of the cables on the battery had become loose and when I used the thruster to dock in Chesapeake City, the lead lug began to arc over that loose connection.  One of the lead terminals on the battery burned, along with the plastic boot that covers it.

Later in the day in Chesapeake City, I had gone forward to use the forward head and smelled a nasty odor.  When I opened up the area where the batteries are held, I was horrified to see that everything was coated with a fine black soot.

Well, I won’t go into much detail except to say that it could have been worse, much worse.  The thruster draws hundreds of amps when it runs and when I used the unit, the battery with the loose lug “sparked” badly and in the process melted the lead as well as part of the plastic body of he battery.  It looked and smelled, terrible.

The fact that the entire boat did not burn was just another example of the fact that God is looking after me.  Well, someone is, and while getting the place cleaned up and new batteries purchased and in place wasn’t a picnic, it could have been a LOT worse.

And to make a bad situation way better, Steve is a strapping guy and offered to install the new batteries.   What a savior.  Thanks Steve.

So, we are back in business and I was happy to use the thruster to move Pandora into a slip yesterday after anchoring out in the harbor for the night while we installed the batteries, or should I say Steve installed the batteries, while I cleaned up all the items that had been nearby and were coated with black soot.  The entire process took several hours and we had to launch the dink so we could ferry the new batteries out to Pandora and lug the old ones back to the dock.

Fortunately, the marina was able to order the exact size we needed.  And, as they are a “full service yard”, true to form, they charged me a very “full price” for those precious batteries.

So, here we are in Hampton, none the worse for wear, mostly, after a run that took an extra two days, five instead of three, to get here.

Next steps, final provisioning, some weather briefings a few happy hours  with fellow Dawgs and hopefully, we will be on our way over the weekend.

Chris says that the best window to depart will be between Saturday morning through Monday morning, a pretty wide window by historical standards.

Of course, he had to add, “and you want to be as far away from shore as possible by Thursday evening as it will really get nasty if you aren’t”.  Oh fun…

More to come as we have a weather briefing this evening to see if that window holds.

Today off for a PCR covid test that I need to show the folks in Antigua when I arrive, some last minute provisioning and I wait.  Peter and George, my crew, arrive Saturday afternoon and hopefully we can depart first light Sunday.

Before I break, one more thing.  We all talk about how different sailors are from power boaters.  You know the “stinkpoters” verses the “blow boats”?  Well, this sportfishing boat named “Reel Tails” sort of says it all.   Subtle right?  Wonder what sort of a guy this owner is?  I’ll bet that if he fell in the water the weight of his gold chains would pull him to the bottom.  And, that would probably be a good thing…Last evening we had an impromptu gathering around the marina pool.   A nice turnout given the fact that I only gave them an hour notice.   A very nice group and it was fun to see some of the same folks I spent time with in Maine. Flags flying proudly aboard Pandora here in her slip. So, after months of preparation, I’m finally in Hampton and soon… bound for Antigua.  :}