Finally, back on the water but I’m a bit foggy.

I am back aboard Pandora for the first time this season, anchored in Newport RI and I’ll admit that I was quite confused when I woke up this morning, really early, as usual, and for a moment, wasn’t sure where I was.

Being confused about where I was shouldn’t come as a much of a surprise given how narrow our world has been for the last year, pandemic and all.   Sure, we Brenda and I, visited our son Rob and his family a few times but beyond them and our son Christopher and his partner Melody, who have been living with us since last September, our world has been quite small, mostly at home, dashing to the grocery for provisions.   Save our friend Craig, who’s with me in this trip, they were just about all the folks that we saw and

Now that we are all vaccinated and beginning to move about, it does feel a bit like we have been slowly emerging from a fog, which is exactly what greeted me when I woke up today.  A fog about where I was and a LOT of fog here in Newport Harbor.  I guess there is a certain symmetry on a number of levels of things being foggy.  Fog in the harbor and fog about where I was, but I guess that I am going to have to get used to that.

Beyond being confused about where I am, fog isn’t going to be my friend in Maine as my radar isn’t functioning for some reason.  I had tested it a few times over the last month to be sure that all was in order, and it was, but yesterday as I was going through systems, yet again, the radar turned on normally but then mysteriously shut off.

I restarted the plotter/radar a few times, hoping that it was just a glitch, but the same thing happened after a few moments, first it worked and then it didn’t.  Nothing has changed but it seems that after being on the hard and decommissioned for months, Pandora is having a bit of difficulty in waking up again as well.   I did have the plotter serviced to upgrade the backlighting so perhaps something is wrong with the settings.  I expect that is wishful thinking but one can always hope.  I guess I will call the manufacturer today and see what they have to say.

The good news is that most systems are working fine, well if you don’t include the thruster which is also on the fritz.  Sadly, the repair guy seems to be ignoring me and hasn’t been returning my calls.

However, given how complex Pandora is, I suppose that I should be thankful that at least she is “mostly” working.  Mostly might not seem like good enough when I find myself in pea soup fog when we are in Maine, or on a lee dock with the wind blowing and no functioning bow thruster.

As Rosanna Dana Dana, the late Gilda Radner’s character liked to say, “It’s always something!”.

Newport is my first stop of the season as I am joining up with the Salty Dawg Rally to Maine and as of today, most of the fleet is in Newport as well. There are a few stragglers still underway and there are also a number of other equipment “issues” in the fleet.

One boat ran out of fuel off of Pt Judith and needed to be towed in and another couldn’t get their engine started earlier in their run.  Fortunately, it seems that that problem was solved with a sharp rap on the engine solenoid that got things back in order.

Here’s a screen shot including most of the boats and their tracks as of this morning.   By way of orientation, Newport is up at the top of the image, where most boat tracks end. And, here is Pandora, in Newport Harbor, in the thick of it.  We will be here in Newport for a few days before heading to Cuttyhunk for a lobster dinner, on to Mattapoisett, through the Cape Cod Canal and on to Maine.

I have to say that it is good to be back aboard and I am looking forward to being in Maine, I think my 16th visit.  However, if I can’t figure out what is wrong with my radar, it’s going to be a bit more stressful as it will be my first sans-radar.

Hopefully in the next few days I won’t wake up in a fog, confused about where I am and nothing else on Pandora will stop working.   Given all of the systems aboard Pandora, I guess it’s safe to day that she’s at least at 90% and so am I.

I guess that’s about all for now from aboard Pandora in the fog.   Oh yeah, one more thing, it’s raining.

As they say, “into every life a bit of rain must fall”.  Let’s just hope that the heavens don’t decide to open up and dump on the fleet.

It’s good to be back aboard.

And one more thing, if you are interested in following the fleet as we make our way to Maine, check out this Predict Wind fleet tracking link.


Finally, heading Down East

It’s the waning hours of the July 4th weekend and I am busy with the many last minute details of getting Pandora ready to head to Maine as part of the Salty Dawg Down East Rally.

I plan to be in Newport this coming Saturday to join up with the fleet as of this coming weekend with about 2/3rds of the 30+ boats heading there from Hampton VA and Annapolis.  However, with the remnants of hurricane Elsa heading our way, they may be delayed a day so we will see how that develops.

Getting the fleet ready to go, in my role of rally director, has been very time consuming in spite of the fact that there are many other volunteers supporting the effort.  And, as this rally gets underway, our biggest rally, the Rally to the Caribbean, with perhaps as many as 100 boats, is really heating up, with requests for information and details to manage, almost every day.

Getting Pandora ready this year has proven to be quite an ordeal with many more details than I had anticipated cropping up.  It’s always amazing to see how much “breaks” when Pandora is laid up for the winter instead of being commissioned full time as she has for much of her life.  Somehow, when I shut her down for a few months, systems just stop working.

Aside from the problems with the rudder bearing (a big one), which is now fixed, other systems have developed problems, in particular the bow thruster, which worked fine last fall and now won’t run.  Getting parts for this unit is very difficult as Lewmar, the company that marketed the unit, is no longer supporting it.  New England Bow Thruster, the company that originally did the install, still has some parts but getting them to show up and do the work is a nightmare.  The owner Bill, is generally supportive but like everyone in the boat market these days, he is so busy that getting his attention is tough.  I am hopeful that we can get things solved this week before I leave.

Back to the rudder bearing for a moment.   The yard that did the work, Pilot’s Point, is a huge place with many skilled workers.  The service manager, Kip, did a very good job of keeping things moving, diagnosed the problem, ordered parts and got things back together in record time.  It took nearly two weeks to get everything under control but the job is done and she’s ready to go.  And having steering gear that works is important.

The bearing looks very simple in place but let me tell you, it was EXPENSIVE and came all the way from Denmark.  I won’t say how much but to say that it is “worth it’s weight in gold” would not be an exaggeration.   However, whatever it cost to avoid being offshore and loose steering is “priceless”.

It’s a complex assembly with a lot of tiny roller bearings in an assembly that is also gimbled so that it is self-aligning.   I guess that’s why it cost more than a few boat dollars, a lot more. Additionally, the bearing sleeve, epoxied to the carbon shaft, was also replaced as it was a bit scored.   Shiny and expensive?  Yes, it is and was…The lower bearing on the shaft and the rudder all cleaned up. Contrast that to the upper bearing sleeve that is in fine shape but not nearly as shiny. And, speaking of shiny, I had the whole hull to take out any small scratches.  They filled the bad ones, repainted and you absolutely can not see where the repairs were done.  I also replaced, myself, some of the letters on the logo that had become scratched and ripped.  It was actually easier than I expected to put them on JUST RIGHT.

I was pretty proud of myself when I put the letters on right the first time.  Some of the guys working nearby were suitably impressed and thought that I had done it many times.  Nope, first time… Shiny right?

It’s amazing how much still needs to be done with my new mainsail arriving on Tuesday, driven up from Annapolis by the good Salty Dawg friend, Dave Flynn of Quantum sails.  He’s very supportive of the group and especially me, it seems, driving up himself to put the sail on and be sure that it fits perfectly.

I do wish all the vendors that I work with were as attentive as Dave and Kip because it’s very stressful to have details hanging with no sense of when they will be resolved.  If you’ve followed this blog for a while you will recall that I replaced the headliner two years ago and that process was terribly frustrating with deadline after deadline missed.  Well, there are still some details on the headliner that need attention and getting them finished has been like pulling teeth.

Way back in November I gave the canvas shop a number of items that needed adjustment, cockpit enclosure panels, a dirty cushion that needed recovering and a several other pieces.  Here we are more than six months later and getting the final items back and finished has been terribly painful.  They even “lost” one of my salon cushions when someone took off the old fabric and stuck the foam under a bench.  “Oh, we were wondering who that cushion belonged to.”  Not at all helpful, thank you very much.

I am told that Tuesday he will come to finish things off, finally.  I wish that I felt more confident that it was going to work out.  I do understand that everyone is so busy these days but when a plan is made, it should be kept.  I guess we will have to see if he shows up as promised.

I am excited about being back on the water again and am looking forward to my run to Maine.  My friend Craig will be with me for the run and the short cruise with the fleet in Maine.  After that I am hopeful that Brenda and perhaps our son Christopher with his partner Melody will join us for a week of cruising before I head back to home waters.

Once I am back there will still be plenty to do to get Pandora ready for the run south and the summer is fast ticking away.

Let’s hope that the weather is nice and sailing down wind.   Soon I will finally be heading Down East.  That’s good!





Launch, haul, repeat…

It’s June 15th and Pandora is on the hard.   That’s no surprise as it’s what I had planned, working toward a late June launch.  I wasn’t expecting to use her much before I headed to Newport to hook up with the Salty Dawg, Down East Rally so what’s the rush?

However, all of a sudden getting her ready became a huge rush.    What changed is that I discovered, mostly by accident, that the lower rudder bearing was damaged and needed to be replaced.

I noticed the problem when I was cleaning up the running gear in preparation for painting the bottom a few weeks ago.  At first I wasn’t exactly sure what I was looking at but it became clear to me that things were not quite right.  In the past, the white plastic ring was snug against the bottom of the hull, keeping the bearings in place and now it wasn’t.

It’s hard to see what I am talking about as the problem was quite subtle. To give a feel for what that photo is illustrating, this is a photo of a similar bearing assembly, a structure that is affixed inside the “tube” that the rudder shaft goes through.   This assembly is secured inside a fiberglass sleeve and the rudder stock goes inside the bearing.  So there I was, a looming launch date, a bad bearing and nightmares of  being 500 miles from shore with no rudder.

Unfortunately, Pandora was in a yard that did not have the facilities to pull her rudder.  The only way to remove the rudder assembly is to lift the boat up high or suspend her over a pit so that the rudder could be dropped down below the boat and removed.  That’s a challenge as the rudder shaft is quite long and extends well up into the boat, all the way to the cockpit sole.  To get it out the rudder has to be dropped low enough to have the upper part of the shaft clear the bottoom of the boat.  This means that there has to be a 10′ depth from the ground to hull to drop everything low enough.

So, I had to move her to another marina for the work to be done.  Last Tuesday she was launched and I immediately headed over to Pilot’s point marina in Westbrook where she was hauled the next morning.  She was in the water for less than 24 hours before she was out again.

They pulled the rudder the very next day.

Here she is, rudderless.  Better without a rudder on land than 500 miles out to sea.   The metal plates below her cover the “pit”.  When the pit is uncovered the rudder can drop down low enough for the top of the rudder post to clear the hull.  I didn’t see the rudder which is now in the shop.  Photos to come. After hauling her they got right to work, removed the rudder, took measurements and ordered the new bearings the very next day.  Good thing they were quick about it as the parts come from Denmark and are machined and assembled to order.   

Not much left except a big hole while we await the shipment to arrive. This is all that is left inside with the shaft gone and steering quadrants removed.  Looking up you can clearly see the upper bearing which is still fine. Denmark is a long way from CT and it will take a few weeks to get the parts here.  I sure hope that the yard took VERY CAREFULL measurements and the new parts fit on the first try.  The tolerances are very critical.    To make matters worse, the parts were expected to arrive from Denmark on July 1st and due to the holiday, they won’t be able to install the parts until the 5th.  That’s only a few days before I have to leave for Newport.  No time for delays.

The service manager Kip is being very supportive and instructed the  manufacturer on how important it is to get the parts on time, saying that “money is no object” with regards to shipping.  Easy for him to say…

Well, it’s no object as it relates to a box that will only way a pound our two.  We will see how that works out.  When all is said and done, I expect that the shipping cost will end up being a rounding error on the job.

As of yesterday I learned that the bearing would ship sooner, perhaps today and be in hand by the end of the week.  That’s good news.   The bad news though is that I vastly underestimated the cost of the bearing.  I won’t say except that it had better be beautiful and easy to fit to the boat.  Silly me, I thought that the labor to handle the job was going to be the bulk of the cost.   NOT!  This is an expensive little bugger.

We have all heard horror stories about how hard it is to get work done on boats, especially recently with boating participation up sharply, and it’s nice to work with a yard that is so supportive.  It didn’t hurt that Brian, the GM at the yard in Deep River where I have kept the current Pandora and her predecessor for nearly a decade, contacted the GM at Pilot’s Point and asked them to be good to me.   Thanks Brian.

All of this is so carefully timed so there’s not much room for error or the whole plan caves in and 30 boats in Newport will wonder “where the Hell is Bob, our rally director?”

Yes, I do need to be there on the 10th, as planned but now it’s looking a bit more likely.  And, it’s also time to begin provisioning the boat for the run to Maine.  I’ll be purchasing all sorts of stuff to put on board when she is back in the water.  Will that be next week?  Wishful thinking?  Time will tell.

There are other projects in addition to the rudder, like painting the inside of the dodger that will have to wait until another time.  However, the hull will be polished and the scratches fixed so that her paintjob will again look brand new.

I have written about a number of “scrapes” that Pandora has endured over the last few years so it will be nice to have them fixed.  I had planned to do the work myself but decided that it made sense to just hire it out and ensure that it’s done right.

I guess that’s about it for now.  The big stuff is well underway and I too have plenty to do to get her ready for the season.   And that’s important as I don’t plan to have her hauled again, I HOPE, until sometime next summer for painting and perhaps time on shore while we get ready for our next adventure, whatever that is.

So there you have it,  launch, haul, launch repeat?  Oh, I sure hope not.

Of course, it is a boat, Break Out Another Thousand, so all of this is par for the course.  And, it’s beginning to look like the emphasis will be on “another” and I guess another, and another…


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!



What next for Pandora?

We are well into spring with the yard greening up and the daffodils faded.  Unfortunately, Pandora is still covered and will remain that way for some time as I have not begun working on her.

Actually, it’s not as bleak as it sounds as I have been “gainfully employed” in my continued quest to build a robust cache of “cruising credits” that I can redeem for time aboard Pandora this summer in Maine and next winter in the Caribbean.

And speaking of “credits”, one big project that I mentioned some time back, when I showed some rough lumber, is a new dining table.  The wood was so weathered after years in a neighbor’s shed that I couldn’t even tell that it was cherry, my favorite.  I thought walnut until I ran it through the planer.  So, now less than two months later, magic, a new kitchen table.   It took longer than I would have expected as I wasn’t working from plans and it involved some techniques that I didn’t know and some new power tools.  The table can also be extended with two 18″ leaves to make it really HUGE, over 90″.  For years, Brenda has been very focused on having a table that could be expanded to accommodate 10-12 diners although it’s hard to imagine a time when that will again be possible.  And after year of relative isolation, I’m not sure I still know that many people.  Friends or not, Brenda has her table.  Cruising credits in the bank.  Check!

With the table project behind me, we’ve also decided to have our front porch and walk, replaced with something new, field stone and blue stone, instead of the brick one that we inherited.  Sadly, as the mason dug into the project, we discovered that the bricks had near 18″ of concrete under it.  I guess that the porch was covered over at least twice before with subsequent layers of brick, concrete and cement.  What a mess.

Getting that out has proven to be as quite a job.  After the mason we hired messed with it for a day, we had to call in the big guns, this digger machine, the biggest one that they could realistically fit so close to the house.  In spite of being very powerful, we are now into the second day of the demo part.   It’s slow going as he had to be careful not to damage the foundation to the house as he wrenched it out.

He’s farther along than this photo would suggest but the progress is s-l-o-w.  So much for staying within budget for the new porch.  But, as I am a card carrying member of the “cup is half full” club, I’d prefer to look on the bright side of this.  I’m prepared to rationalize that the extra expense on the patio will be offset, I hope, for what we would have had to pay for our new kitchen table if I had not built it myself.

And, as a good amount of the wood I used was given to me by a friend who had it in her attic for years, materials for the whole project cost less than $500.  Well, that’s if you don’t count the new tools that I purchased to complete the project that cost more than the project itself.   But wait, the cost of buying tools doesn’t count as they can be used for other projects.   Besides, Brenda’s list still includes three bar stools.  Yup, I can rationalize with the best of them.

So, while Pandora sits on the hard, covered from the elements, I am plenty busy putting credits in the cruising bank.  Perhaps I’ll put together a scrapbook that I can pull out and review with Brenda come fall before we head to the Caribbean for the winter.   “Easy Bob, that might just piss her off.  Just keep working through her list. ”  Ok, I guess you’re right…

As I write this the “digger guys” are using a gas powered saw to cut into the remaining part of the slab so they can pull it out with the machine.  That’s the sound of money running full speed away from me.  But, I have to admit that it’s not as loud as the flushing of “boat dollars”.

Nope, for a number of reasons, I am not in much of a rush to put Pandora in the water.  With Memorial Day less than a month away, I can still remember the scramble in my “pre-retired” life, rushing to get our boat ready for the long weekend, the official beginning of the summer sailing season.  Now, as a retired guy in a pandemic, most days seem like every other day, so I guess there is less urgency.  Besides, I have little interest in being out with the Memorial Day hoards.  We will see how I feel about being “on the hard” when the weather is warm and Pandora is still sitting in the boatyard all by herself.

As I have mentioned many times, I am very active with the Salty Dawg Sailing Association and while I was planning to cut back on my time commitment somewhat, it seems that will not be happening anytime soon.

Recently, the Rally Director resigned and I agreed to take on that role as ACTING rally director, in addition to my work as Port Officer for Antigua.  I say ACTING as I haven’t committed to the position yet so there’s still time to escape.  Besides, I don’t have to worry about them finding someone to work for less as my total fee is just a few “at-a-boys”.   So far, so good, on that score.

I am enjoying this new role but the jury is still out on whether I want to continue to invest so much time in the group as it is a big job that has burned out a number of folks before me and I was pretty busy already.  I am somewhat optimistic that there is a way to simplify the position so it’s more manageable.  Time will tell.

For the moment being Rally Director isn’t all that tough as the fleet is small with about 8 boats leaving from the US Virgins, headed to Hampton VA.  After the balance of the boats depart in a few days I will not have much to do to support them as other volunteers take over at that point.  If you’re curious and want to follow along, check out this link to follow along with their tracks as they make their way north to the US.  It’s still early in the season so the weather is a bit unclear and might get rough as they reach the US coast.   However, everyone is working with Chris Parker, our weather router, to avoid just that.

The next rally is the Down East Rally to Maine coming up in July, so I will also handle that one.  I expect that rally will be about 20 boats and I am really looking forward to being a part of the group.   I’d love to have you along so how about signing up?  Follow this link to learn more.

As I add all of this up, I am wondering if I can see that continuing to be focused on my “cruising credit” effort may be a bit challenging.

For the moment, at least I can make a list of what I have to do on Pandora to get her ready to head to Maine.  Besides, I don’t plan to launch until late June so there’s still time.

So, what’s next for Pandora?  One thing for sure, I’m going sailing but not quite yet.

When she’s finally launched the next big step will be heading to Rockland and Penobscot Bay, one of my favorite cruising areas.  When I get there perhaps I’ll mix up a rum punch and watch a beautiful sunset like this one on Egamoggen Reach, not far from Rockland.
And after some time in Maine, on to Annapolis when I will again try and coax my son’s family aboard for some cruising in the Chesapeake.

And, then to Hampton VA and then to Antigua.  And I am really looking forward to a real Caribbean sunset there too. Maine of Antigua?  Which is better?  Hard to say but perhaps with one more visit to Maine and the Caribbean, I’ll be able to figure it out, with rum punch in hand, of course.

So there you have it, the answer to one of life’s most persistent questions.

What’s next for Pandora.

Now you know as much as I know.

Permission to board? Have you been vaccinated?

Brenda and I are now fully vaccinated and our boys, will soon be as well.  With the summer cruising season up0n us, thoughts turn to staying safe on the water and how one’s “status” will play out when it comes to socializing.

A big part of the cruising lifestyle is spending time together aboard and the ubiquitous “sundowners” at the end of the day with friends.  Sure, most of the time these encounters are outdoors in the cockpit but behind the dodger on Pandora, you might as well be indoors.   With the pandemic still in full swing, especially for those who have not been vaccinated, we will have to decide how we will handle the inevitable question of “have you been vaccinated?” when it comes to having someone come aboard.

Over the years we have hosted countless gatherings without thinking about anyone’s health but now?

For seven years I co-organized an event for cruisers at our local club.  Imagine that now?Jammed under Pandora’s hard dodger these days?  Not so sure about that.The arrival events in Antigua, sans mask?Or, a tot with my favorite club in Antigua, the Antigua and Barbuda Royal Tot Club.  Mask less?  Perhaps after a few stiff tots.  Life used to be so simple.A full house down below?  Perish the thought of sharing both food and viral particles…Even worse, how about Carnival?  Nope, can’t even imagine. I read in the NY Times today that there is a tendency for those who have been vaccinated to have an irrational fear of infection.  Presumably safe or not, they don’t want to even want to be around those who haven’t been vaccinated.  I can relate to that, especially because of the variants that have cropped up and threaten to bypass the work of the current vaccines.

In the EU there is talk about a “vaccine passport” in order to be admitted into the country or to events that will be crowded.  Imagine that in the “US of A, the land where “I can do what I want, when I want.”  Not likely…

To make matters worse, worldwide, the vaccination process is probably years from completion and recently there have been a record number of infections identified every day.   And with more infections there is a  greater likelihood that the virus will mutate in a way that will make it more infectious and more deadly.  Actually, that’s already happened and the “variants” are now the standard here in the US.   Normally, over time, viruses are expected to become less dangerous but COVID-19 seems to be bucking that trend which does not bode well for getting things under control anytime soon.

So, back to my question of the vaccinated spending time with the not-vaccinated.   I am a port officer for Essex for a number of sailing groups, including the Ocean Cruising Club and in an email exchange between other port officers over the weekend, the topic came up of what to do about this issue.

The universal reaction from those that commented was that they would ask about vaccination status and not invite anyone aboard who wasn’t up to date on their shots.  Awkward?  YOU BET!

“Permission to come aboard?”  “Have you been vaccinated?  Nope?  Permission denied.  Next…”

I’ll admit that I am firmly in the “permission denied” camp, partly out of fear but also because I have a problem with those who do not have what I expect of everyone and that is a “strong sense of community responsibility”

The politization of pandemic safety and COVID denial here in the US still annoys me and the idea that “refusenik” minority will somehow set policy for the majority, just pisses me off.

Don’t get me wrong, the idea of being in a situation where I have to ask the question of anyone that wants to visit about their vaccination status is not appealing, but I suppose that is what will have to be the norm for now.

One possible solution suggested by a fellow port officer was to fly a “V” or victor signal flag.

That’s a pretty appealing option but the actual meaning of the Victor flag is “I require assistance”, which is quite ironic, under the circumstances.

Another suggested a club flag “I’ve been vaccinated” as an option and a way for the club’s ships’ store to make some money.

So, want to board Pandora for a sundowner this summer?  That would be great.  No wait, have you been vaccinated?

Yes you say!  Permission to board.

How about a rum punch while we enjoy the sunset together?And in case you are wondering “what do you think about all this Bob?”.   Well, that’s what I really think.

Coaxing your reluctant partner aboard.

There are plenty of cruising couples where both are equally enthusiastic about spending extended time aboard.  If you are one of these lucky ones, good for you.

However, often and perhaps more often that not, one member is enthusiastic and the other, well, not so much.

Our boys, Rob and Chris, now adults, and witness to Brenda’s and my cruising together, like to say that my efforts to coax her aboard are best described as “40 years of Dad’s desperate moves trying to make Mom like sailing”.  I suppose that is a true statement but so far, it’s gone fairly well as we have been sailing together since the late 70s, well over 40 years now, logging more than 1,500 nights aboard together and months at a time since I retired in 2012.

I won’t say that I have been fully successful in my goal as there continues to be a big difference between the amount of time I want to spend aboard and what she’d prefer to do.

However, so far, so good but the quest continues.

Over the years I have observed that among cruising “wanabees”, more often than not, one partner is generally more enthusiastic than the other.  I’ll go further out on a limb to say that it’s the guys that are inclined to be more enthusiastic.  Ok, sure, there are plenty of the fairer sex that love to be aboard but the are mostly all called for and for us “mere mortal guys” it’s up to us to work hard to coax the reluctant partner aboard.

For the last few months, I have been involved in a series of weekly Zoom meetings with a half dozen couples to talk about the cruising lifestyle and most of them fit the pattern that I have laid out.

That’s not to say that this reluctance is insurmountable but it’s has been my experience, and I understand among many others, that to head out and spend months at a time aboard together, often takes some convincing.

Our Zoom discussions were wide ranging and over the months I kept track of what I was hearing and tried to distill those thoughts into a talk presented recently to a group of cruisers, as part of the Salty Dawg Sailing Association webinar series.

With this talk, about a half hour long, I try to get at the heart of some of the issues that cruising couples face where one partner isn’t as enthusiastic about spending extended time aboard.  Brenda’s and my cruising has taken us from Maine to the Florida Keys, Bahamas, Cuba and most recently the Lesser Antilles, in the eastern Caribbean where we plan to head again next winter.

I’d be interested in what you think.

They said a zombie apocalypse would unite mankind! They were wrong…

Aa few days ago earth had a “near miss” with an asteroid when FO32 passed within 2,000,000 kilometers of us.  At about 500 meters wide FO32 would have made quite a mess if it had crashed into earth at a speed of 15 miles a second, instead of passing harmlessly by.

Well, no harm done as we “dodged the bullet” and it won’t pass by us again until 2058. By then I’ll likely be long gone or 103 years old and if I am not, I won’t be aware of much anyway.  I guess my kids and grandkids can worry about that one.

A direct hit?  If you find yourself wondering what a direct hit by a 500 meter piece of rock whizzing along at 15 miles per second, you aren’t alone.  Don’t forget that a big reason we, the billions and billions of people on earth, are here at all is probably because of that asteroid that struck earth and wiped out all those nasty, toothy dinosaurs millions of years ago.

This short, if slightly irreverent, piece suggests what it might be like when, and they do say “when”, the earth is next struck.

Or, more importantly, is there anything that we might do to stop it from wiping us out? I would like to think that if a catastrophe of this magnitude was in the offing, we would unite in finding a way to work together and save all of mankind.

If the worldwide reaction to the risk that Covid-19 is any indication, we are just  F*&%#$ if the worst happens.

As a result of the pandemic, we haven’t been able to enjoy our local yacht club since we returned to the US nearly a year ago.  As our membership begins to be vaccinated, and with the hope of making the club safe for visiting again, the board recently issued a directive that they were setting aside a room in the clubhouse for those who have been vaccinated.  They thought that their plan was reasonable and would allow those who decided to follow the CDC recommendations of being vaccinated to enjoy the club and let others, who took a different position on the subject, do so as well, but in a different area.   Simple right?

Wrong!  Within hours of that announcement, pandemonium erupted with some members threatening to resign “give me my money back!” and even a few calls from lawyers saying that wasn’t legal.

So much for a simple fix to keep everyone happy.   The tempest made me think of this scene from the movie “Oh Brother Where Art Thou”, a hysterical take, by the Cohen Brother’s, of “Homer’s Odyssey”.   I this video clip, think of George Clooney, up in the hay loft, as the board and the guys holding the torches, well, they were the ones that took a “dissenting view”.All of this controversy about how to handle the virus in the US and elsewhere in the world, is making me think about what cruising in the Caribbean will be like next winter.  At this point, we have no idea if proof of vaccination will be required for entry in each country or if that, in addition to a PCR test to prove that you are “clean”, will be required.

If you have been vaccinated, will that offer an opportunity to move to other islands without quarantine?  A required period of quarantine to move from island to island that will have a huge impact on cruising in the islands and I expect that many will opt to skip the season altogether.

So, what will cruising in the Caribbean be like next fall?   I think, and I will admit that I am speculating at this point on this, that it might look something like the following.

There is a good chance that the French islands, Guadeloupe, St Martin and Martinique may follow whatever restrictions are in place for travel within the EU, perhaps requiring “covid passports” for free travel.   The non-French islands, known as CARICOM, from Trinidad north to The Bahamas, tend to work together so as long as vaccination rates are high, easy travel might work out for those who can show that they are vaccinated and “safe”.

Recently, Gaston Brown, prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, petitioned the US Government on behalf of CARICOM to get vaccines to their residents.  It will be interesting to see how that goes.

One way or the other, there is little question that the Caribbean will be open for business next winter as the vast bulk of their economies rely on tourism, but the question is how restrictive arrival and travel between islands will be.

With regards to the Salty Dawg Rally to the Caribbean, we are encouraging our members to follow the advice of the CDC and get vaccinated but there is currently no requirement to do so in order to participate in the Rally.

It’s interesting to see how so many people here in the US are beginning to feel that things are back to normal as more and more vaccinations are available.  Last week the Governor of Texas said “Texas is 100% open for business”.  With only a fraction of the population currently vaccinated and virus variants moving into every part of the US, experts don’t agree that anything like “open” is reasonable quite yet and fear that risky behavior will lead to yet another spike in infections.

So, here we are, enjoying the freedom we have here in the US to say, “vaccination, no vaccination, I ain’t afraid a no virus” and something like 25% unwilling to, “take the jab”, it seems that, once again, the vocal minority can, can decide for the majority about what can and cannot be accomplished.

So much for “all for one, and one for all”.  In the US, sadly, it’s “all about me”.

What does our handling of COVID say about how we will do in the event of a Zombie apocalypse or a deadly meteor strike?  Not good I fear in the good old United States of America, where we are united in perhaps only one thing, that  “I”ll do what I want, when I want”.

I expect that there are plenty that, in the event of a Zombie attack would say “Heck, them zombies, they only hurt people that can’t take care of themselves.  Me, I’m safe.  To get to me and mine, they’ll have to get past my trusty Smith & Wesson.”

Or, perhaps a little less subtly.
And, if all else fails, and to close the loop…Yup, we have always been a nation of “do-it-yourselfers.”

Zombie apocalypse, meteor strike?   We’d better not face one any time soon.  If we do, it probably won’t turn out well.

Brenda and me?  We got the jab but we’re still not quite ready to face the Zombie horde., here in town or anywhere else for that matter.

One robin doesn’t make a spring…

After a long winter that seemed like it will never end, we are beginning to see the first signs of spring.  A few days ago, I was able to take a walk in the woods behind our home, without a jacket, hat or gloves.  It wasn’t warm enough for shorts but it was positively glorious to be outdoors “unbundled” after such a long winter.

And speaking of things that never end, after more than a year of viewing nearly every other human as a possible “contagion”, Brenda and I will receive our second vaccine “jab” tomorrow, surely a sign that our own long Covid winter will soon be over, or at least heading in the right direction.

Sadly, there seems to be many here in the US that are resistant to getting the vaccine and growing evidence that we may face another wave of infection in the Fall, due to the mutating virus, vaccine or not.  It is unsettling to hear recent poll suggesting that a third of Republicans are hesitant to get the vaccine which will only make matters worse.  Who would have ever imagined that staying safe and healthy would become such a political issue?  This does not bode well for the future, or as Lincoln once said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

Vaccination or not, the lack of clarity regarding asymptomatic secondary transmission of the virus suggests that we will have to continue to isolate at least until our son Christopher and his partner Melody, who we asked to move in with us last fall, are fully vaccinated, hopefully by mid May.

And speaking of vaccines, from my perspective, it is a miracle that less than a year after the pandemic struck, there is a way out for anyone that chooses to, as Dr Fauci says, get the vaccine, “follow the science” and find their way to safety.

Springtime or not, vaccinated or not, we are not quite out of the woods, or the house quite yet. 

However, spring is showing early signs of coming our way.  The snow is gone save a few piles here and there and some early flower bulbs are beginning to show signs of life in the garden.

Here in the Connecticut I am getting excited about the coming season and hardly a moment goes by without my thoughts turning to my upcoming trip to Maine this summer and run to Antigua in the fall.

And speaking of future plans when life is back to normal, we have been talking to our friends Tom and Sarah, who sailed around the world as part of the Oyster Round the World Rally.  After “seeing the world” they have decided to spend their cruising time for the next few years in the eastern Mediterranean.  They have spent the last three seasons working their way west and have encouraged us to give it a try.

I’ll admit that doing an Atlantic crossing has been a dream of mine for decades but I had not realistically expected that Brenda would ever go for the idea.   I can still remember when my late father said to me “imagine going through Gibraltar aboard Pandora.  Wouldn’t that be wonderful?”  Yes, Dad, it would be awesome and maybe, perhaps maybe, it might happen.

Brenda does love that part of the world and during college, she majored in Greek and Latin and spent semesters in both Italy and Greece.   After our discussions with Tom and Sarah, she seems at least somewhat open to spending some time there aboard Pandora.  Wouldn’t that be awesome?

Will it happen?  I have no idea but at least we are talking about it and that alone is super awesome.

And, not to put the cart before the horse, or as my father would put it “say that another way”, putting the dink before the boat.

The itinerary might look a bit like this.   Head to Antigua this fall and come May, instead of heading back to New England, make a run for the Azores and then on to the Med.  That would be a long trip, nearly 3,500 miles from the Caribbean to Gibraltar and then another 2,000 miles from Gibraltar to Turkey, the most eastern part of the Med.   Of course, we wouldn’t go all the way, as we’d want to spend time in the Western Med.

Heading there directly from the Caribbean makes sense as the best time to cross the Atlantic is between May and June before the hurricane season kicks in.  At least the prevailing winds would be in our favor crossing east.

It’s a big commitment and would require us to cruise the Med for at least several seasons given the complexity and expense of all this, so we will just have to see how it all works out.

Along with everything else, I’d have to learn a whole new set of navigation marks.  So much for “red right returning”. I’ll give credit where it’s due.  I scanned the two images above out of the Imray Mediterranean Cruising Handbook.

Well, a lot to think about but first I have to get Pandora ready to go into the water.  I’ve been spending a lot of time on Salty Dawg rally details, the Down East Rally and the fall Rally to the Caribbean and Antigua recently so now it’s time to begin turning my attention toward her.

Oh yeah, and speaking of “her”, I am making good progress on Brenda’s new dining table.  The table top, leaves and legs are mostly done and I’ve ordered a few tools to finish the job.   I also have to get bids to do some renovation on our kitchen so we can get some much needed, especially by Brenda, upgrades done.

Yes, I’m pretty busy but at least I’m not bored.

Yes, springtime is getting closer every day.  But, as they say, the first warm day, a second vaccination or a single robin, doesn’t make a spring.


Only 18 days till spring… Yahoo!

It’s been a long COVID winter but as I sit here watching the snow, that has been carpeting the ground for the last month, finally melt, I am encouraged that we have left January and February in the rear view mirror.  With multiple snowfalls, my snow blower has had more use this winter than it has for many years.  I am very hopeful that it will be along in “cold storage” for all next winter, snow or not…Next winter I am looking forward to tropical sun warmed “white”, the type you get on a sandy beach.  That’s our friend Maureen enjoying the warm weather in Antigua back in January, a big contrast to our frozen time up north. Here, a glimmer of hope as the spring flower catalogues have begun piling up in our mailbox, knowing that we are all desperate to see something new and green poking up from the ground, bringing the promise of warmer weather.

Brenda and I received our first Moderna vaccination two weeks ago and will soon return for our second.  Hopefully, after that, we will be able to begin resuming something resembling a normal life.  Fingers crossed that research will show that we won’t be at risk of asymptomatically passing the virus to Chris and Melody before they get their vaccinations in mid April.

Once the “coast is clear” we are totally going out for dinner.  I can not wait for that and to hear the words “Welcome.  What can I get you this evening?”

Yes, it’s been a long winter but having our son Christopher and his partner Melody with us, along with their Husky Mila, has done a lot to keep us from going completely stir crazy.   As of this week, they have been with us for 6 months and I can not imagine this winter would have been like without them in our “bubble”.

Here’s my buddy Mila with her own new baby husky.  After a few days of “love” the “baby” is headless and somewhat worse for wear.   “What are you looking at?  I didn’t do anything, nothing…  If you’d only take me for a walk.  Now?”And speaking of afternoon walks, Mila always seeks me out around 3:00 knowing that it’s time to head into the woods for a walk.

Yes, it’s been great to have the three of them with us so the next order of business will be to convince them not to return to San Francisco any time soon.    Hopefully, they will decide to set up house, not that we are trying to get rid of them, somewhere within a reasonable distance.  “I hear that you need to have someone watch Mila.   We’re on it…”

Just how isolated have we been?  Today, I cleaned out old receipts from my wallet and discovered a few from my trip back to Florida in June to bring Pandora north.  With these forlorn slips of paper, I was able to follow my progress up the East Coast, Fort Pierce Florid, a stop in Hampton VA, and on to Annapolis.

Aside from trips to the grocery, and an endless number of Amazon charges on our card, there have been precious few trips out since the weather turned cold.  Totally depressing.  And, I expect that the few $20 bills accompanying those old receipts are probably from an ATM months ago.  Remember cash?  How quaint.

I’ll admit that I am really f0cused on next summer and the coming cruising season and am praying that we will be able to go out in public without too many restrictions.  There’s been a lot of discussion about how masks are here to say that I am not all that unhappy about that possibility as I have become quite used to wearing one.   In particular, with masks, the wildly coughing people on planes and other public places will seem a lot less intimidating.    Remember the flu?  That seems like such a long time ago.

And, speaking of summer cruising, I’ll be leading a rally to Maine from Newport in July for the Salty Dawgs, which should be fun.  This summer will mark by 16th trip “Down East” and I am really looking forward to the trip.  I really don’t need a rally for the one day over-night to Maine but really want to support those who are doing their very first run in the dark.

My friend Bill recently quipped “sailing at night is exactly like sailing during the day except that you can’t see anything”.   Yes Bill, that’s correct but to many it  sounds a lot like “So Mrs. Lincoln, other than that, what did you think of the play?”

It is widely recognized that anxiety about doing “overnights” is one of the top issues with first timers.  Personally, I can attest to that as I vividly recall the first time I headed out of the Cape Cod Canal for my first overnight run to Maine.   It was about 20:00 and I thought “I have no right to be out here in the dark”.   But I made it and over the years I have spent countless nights at sea.

Our friends Tom and Sarah, who sailed around the world as part of the Oyster Around the World Rally, shared that when Sarah first began sailing with Tom said that she WOULD NOT sail overnight and yet went on to sail some 25,000 miles, including many-many overnights.  You never know until you give it a try.

Anyway, sailing in the dark isn’t for everyone but it’s a hurdle that must be overcome in order to do anything other than short local hops.   I am hopeful that we will have good participation in the Maine rally this summer so more can take the important step from coastal to extended cruising.

And, speaking of learning new skills, I have been hosting a series of nearly weekly Zoom meetings since January with some cruisers who want to head out and away, mostly this fall, probably down the ICW and onto the Bahamas.

Brenda and I have enjoyed these sessions and it will be fun to have Tom and Sara as special guests tomorrow evening to provide insight from their own experiences, about what it takes to “cast off the docklines”.

While most of our sessions have been more of a Q&A format, I did a presentation recently about crossing from FL to the Bahamas, strategies for crossing the Stream and the Banks along with some highlights of Bahamas cruising.    Check out the recording here.I am also kicking around the idea of preparing a recorded talk about the plans for the Down East Rally and if that works, I’ll do the same about planned highlights for the upcoming Caribbean Rally to Antigua, yet another opportunity to take advantage of what Zoom Culture has brought to us.  The ability to easily share stories and “see” others, when we can’t, is one positive to come out of the Pandemic.

It is bringing me some solace to be able to think about the coming cruising season but it’s still too cold to begin projects on Pandora to get her ready and in proper cruising shape.

In the meantime, I am trying to build good will with Brenda by building a new kitchen table out of cherry.  I still have a long way to go but I am confident that a new table that will replace the one we purchased when we were first married over 40 years ago, will be a welcome addition to our home.

I began with rough lumber and yesterday joined the boards together for the top.  They were really rough and you can see that much will have to happen to make them “ready for prime time”. ‘

Partially planed rough boards.  They were completely grey when I received them, compliments of a friend who had them in her garden shed for years.  I thought that they were walnut but was thrilled to learn that they were cherry, my favorite, when they emerged from the planer. Some of the board were fairly irregular so it took a number of passes through the planer and I ended up with tons of shavings.   This is only half…Meanwhile, Brenda is weaving away.  This project, her first on a 16 harness loom that we purchased recently, is very complicated and involves 1,000 threads in the warp,  a major undertaking to set up.   Now that all the bugs are worked out, and there was a “bug swarm”, she’s a very happy camper/weaver.So, that’s about it.  Our world has been pretty narrow for the last 6 months, made better with our “brood” here with us.

Soon, very soon, we will be able to once again sit outside and enjoy the springtime weather.

“Did I hear someone say OUTSIDE?  Is it TIME FOR A WALK?”, says Mila.

Oh boy, I sure hope so, and without a jacket…

So much to look forward to and only 18 days till spring.  Yahoo! Yahoo!