We are really, really far from land. No “land ho”

It’s Saturday morning and we are motoring in an oily flat calm, about 250 miles from the south wall of the Gulf Stream.  I say “wall” as that’s exactly what it’s like when you enter as within a very short distance you cross from the waters outside to inside of the stream.  You can tell because the temperature goes up about ten degrees, the water is more unsettled and the color changes to a more dramatic blue.  And, if conditions are settled, you can actually see the “wall” as you approach.  It’s pretty wild to see a break in the otherwise uniform waters, miles in every direction.   It’s remarkable that the transition is so sharp after the waters have traveled so far north from where it passes the southern tip of Florida, a thousand miles south.

To be so far from land and have absolutely flat water to the horizon in every direction when we are so far from land, 500 miles from Jacksonville FL and about 350 miles from Cape Hatteras and the Bahamas.  This is the point of our trip that has us furthest from land.  As the horizon is only 15 miles in any direction, I guess it really doesn’t matter how far out we are as we won’t see land until we approach either Sandy Hook or Montauk.  I don’t know yet which will be the best spot to head for until I better understand what the wind will be like after we leave the Gulf Stream on Monday evening.  As of now, it looks like the wind will be out of the south-west, which is a good direction for sailing but perhaps it will be a better wind angle to approach Sandy Hook and make our way through New York.

Jim has not been through NYC by water and I thought that it would be fun too as it’s been a few years for me.   Also, with very strong currents we will have to time our transit based on a flood tide.  I also like the idea of going through NYC as that will put us within cell range sooner, which is good.   Clearing customs should be easier too as the other times I have gone that way a simple phone call was all it took to clear us in.  I’d prefer to avoid having Customs and Immigration come to the boat, or worse, make us come to them, as that will just lengthen our trip.  Unfortunately, we would have to stay aboard once in port until we officials arrive and inspect the boat and crew.  Clearing by phone is clearly better.

We haven’t seen much in the way of ship traffic in several days with only one sighted in the early hours of today, a freighter that crossed our bow, probably less than a mile off.  It’s very hard to gauge distances at night and without radar or AIS, I have no idea as to how close it was except that it felt TOO CLOSE for comfort.

I had hoped to catch a fish but alas, no luck in spite of trolling a line for two days already.   And, while we have seen an occasional bird, no sightings of dolphins or anything else, for that matter.  That’s unless you count a few Portuguese Man-of-War jelly fish with their air filled “sail” floating along with the wind and current.

Because of the anticipated bad weather in the Gulf Stream, most of the Salty Dawg fleet decided to divert to Bermuda to participate in the upcoming America’s Cup festivities.  I would have loved to do that myself but I have so much to do at home and would have really complicated things with regards to crew.  I expect that a week long delay would have cost me both Cliff and Jim and then I would have had to scramble to find replacements for the trip home.  Finding crew who’d like to visit Bermuda for a few days prior to heading out would have been pretty easy but that would have necessitated my staying in Bermuda for perhaps two weeks between crew leaving and new ones arriving, a non-starter as I really don’t want to be away from Brenda for that long.

Interestingly, all of the participants in the rally check into both a morning and evening SSB radio net and it’s fun to hear who’s caught a fish, has gear problems (not so fun) and their location relative to Pandora.  It’s fun to connect and hear what’s up with the others making this trip and after so many miles and days at sea, the fleet is very spread out with none within sight of Pandora.

Well, that’s about it for now.  No wind for the next few days so I’ll be putting a pretty good dent in our diesel supply until we enter an area with some decent winds north of the Stream.  You can also be sure that I am watching my fuel consumption very carefully as we are totally dependant on our engine and that’s especially important as we just SO FAR from land, the furthest point of the trip.

Half Way Home and Making Good Time

It’s Friday morning and we are half way home to CT as we enter our 5th day underway.  We have traveled about 750 miles at an average speed of nearly 8kts.  That’s a pretty remarkable speed over such a long distance.  Actually, a good part of that speed was tweaked up last night when we were blasting along at around 10kts for about 10 hours, sometimes we even cracked 11kts for short periods, and it wasn’t all that windy with wind on the beam of about 20-23kts.  At those speeds you can put a lot of miles in the bank.  It was a wild ride with the crests of waves glowing with phosphorescence.

Jim had not sailed at night prior to this trip so it’s a very new experience for him.  He was blown away by what it feels like to sail at those speeds.  For one thing, it’s pretty noisy.  After a while I put in a reef which slowed us down less than a knot but it seemed a lot less hairy.  Given the issues that we have had with the autopilot going “rogue” I was concerned about how fast things would go wrong at 10+kts.

As I mentioned in my last post, we have been anxious about getting through the Gulf Stream by mid day Monday because winds were forecast to go to near gale force after that and while the wind will be from the SW, a favorable angle, it would still be very rough with steep waves of about 10′ and with a very short period between waves.  The good news is that last night Chris Parker reported that the expected strength of the wind is being downgraded to the mid to high 20s from near 40 and that will make for a lot less excitement.  He also pushed back the arrival of those winds until Monday evening from an original noon estimate.  With the extra time and lighter winds, we should not have a problem getting past the Stream before it get’s “sporty” or, as Chris Parker likes to say “salty”.  That’s good as once those strong winds arrive, it will be as much as a week until we were able to cross the Stream again.   And to make matters worse, winds south of the stream will be considerably stronger than what we will experience north of that area, where we expect to be.

Of course, Monday is still a few days away and things can change but I am feeling more confident that we will be able to get home without having to bail out somewhere and wait for better weather.

The winds for today are supposed to be in the 15kt range from the east, although it’s a bit lighter than that right now, with tomorrow expected to be lighter and then on Sunday we expect very light wind in advance of the expected stronger winds late Monday.  I guess that we will be doing plenty of motoring to keep our speed up.  Such is passage making with a timeline.  The anticipated foul weather caused a good number of the Salty Dawg rally fleet to bail for Bermuda.  I’d have loved to visit there but loosing crew there and having to start all over again with new crew doesn’t appeal to me at all.

So, here we are, hundreds of miles from land and not a ship or another boat in sight for more than two days now.  I expect that we will see some activity as we get closer to the gulf stream and much more traffic as we pass the major shipping lanes along the MD, DL and NJ coasts.  Without AIS and Radar, that will surely keep us on our toes.

Well, that’s today’s report.  More to come Saturday.

Yes, it’s going well and I am happy to be able to report that we are half the way home.  Still, it’s a long time at sea, no matter how you slice it but we are making great time and things are going well.

I guess I’d better break as I have to make breakfast.  Perhaps it’s cooled down enough to make some biscuits.

To the Gulfstream, or not….

It’s Thursday morning and not much is going on aboard Pandora.  We had an uneventful night with the exception of a few unexpected course changes thanks to the balky autopilot.  I really don’t know what’s causing the pilot to slew off on a new course but it does remind me of a problem that I had on my last boat/pilot that did the exact same thing.  In that case, it had to do with settings on the computer that called for a gyrocompass even though the boat didn’t have one.  Once I changed the settings, that solved the problem. Based on that, I think that I know what will need to be done to fix this but don’t want to take any chances of messing things up further so I’ll wait until I get home and talk to the tech folks.

All things considered, things are going well out here in the “deep blue”.

There is one little thing that might cause problems though and that’s a forecast calling for near gale winds from the SW in the Gulf Stream near Cape Hatteras beginning on Monday afternoon.  Wind at that strength in the Gulf Stream will kick up some very nasty waves and I would prefer not to be there when it’s that windy, even if it’s from a “favorable” SW direction.  In the event that I am unable to make it through the GS by that time, I’ll have to bail to Beaufort and wait for better conditions to continue north.  However, while it’s too early to make that call, I think that we stand a good chance to make it through the stream before things get really nasty.

The big question is if that front is going to come through as expected, around mid day Monday or if the timing changes.  Our arrival time at the GS will also depend on when favorable trade winds return as we make better time when we are sailing verses motoring.  In order to conserve fuel, we are only able to motor at about 6-6.5kts and when we are sailing, we generally make a knot or more faster.  That may not sound like a lot but it’s pretty meaningful to go even a knot faster as over four days that can add up to an additional 100 miles toward the GS by the Monday “deadline”.

Anyway, I guess we will just have to wait another day or so to decide if we are going to bail to Beaufort or continue on to New England.  Of course, I’d prefer to continue on as I’ll likely loose my crew if we are delayed in Beaufort by more than a day or so.  Oh well, that’s how it goes and any time you try to make a blue water run that takes a week or longer, it’s hard to predict how the weather will evolve over that length of time.

I have to say though, that I am optimistic that we will be able to make our way through the GS in time.  Fingers crossed.

I guess that all I can say for now is that it’s “details to come” and the rest is just conjecture to predict if we are going to get through the GS before the going gets rough.  I’ll continue to talk to Chris Parker and get his thoughts on the timing of the arrival of the strong SW winds when he does his evening broadcast tonight.

Fingers crossed that we will get through the GS before things get nasty or if we will have to bail into Beaufort, south of the Cape.  Let’s hope not.

Settling into the Passage Home with Crazy Ivan

It’s the beginning of the third day of our passage from Tortola to New England and there’s not a lot to report except to say that there is still a very long way to go.  Yesterday we entered the convergence zone between two weather systems and the wind became a lot lighter.  This area also treated us to a large squall cell where the wind quickly shifted from the SE to NE.  That put an end to sailing and brought with it much choppier conditions and some rain.  It’s remarkable how different 20kts on the nose feels from that same amount of wind on the beam.  It’s the difference between uncomfortable and wet verses near perfect sailing.

As I write this it’s 07:00 and we are motor sailing and charging the batteries.  I am also taking advantage of the engine to run the watermaker.  We haven’t used much water since leaving but we all took showers in the cockpit yesterday and I also washed the cockpit down well this morning as there was a lot of spray going everywhere when we were in the squalls last night.  Yes, I am anal about salt but it’s just so much more pleasant when things aren’t salty. It’s also quite hot and sticky but noticeably cooler than it was in Tortola and during the first day out.

I mentioned yesterday, I think, that one of the two plotters stopped functioning and because of the way that the system is wired, we no longer have access to radar or our AIS.  We are still transmitting on AIS but we can’t see other boats on our plotter.  Fortunately, there hasn’t been much ship traffic to worry about but that will change as we get closer to the congested shipping lanes of Chesapeake Bay, the Delaware River and New York.

The autopilot is also acting up oddly as every so often, a few times a day, it just decides to head off in a totally different direction, pulling a sort of “crazy Ivan” maneuver, with no warning.  Experiencing a 180 degree crash turn, seemingly “just for fun” is really disarming and takes some of the relaxation out of the passage.  However, compared to other problems that we could have, it’s not too bad.  And, with the boom break in place to soften the blow of a “surprise” jibe, we aren’t at major risk of gear breakage from the autopilot maneuvers.  My last boat, with a very similar autopilot and plotter system, also had this problem and I was able to modify the settings on the computer to solve it.  I’ll call the tech support folks when I get home to sort this out.  Of course, the “dead” plotter will also have to go out for repair.  Let’s hope that they can fix the plotter as I don’t want to think about having to upgrade the entire system as they no longer make the particular model that we have.  Fingers crossed.

While I carry about 175 gallons of fuel, I don’t want to motor any more than we must as I want to be certain that we have plenty to use if we run into unfavorable winds later in the trip.  We continue to be in the convergence area between two weather systems, with little wind so we are motor-sailing but I am hopeful that we will get out of it later today and back into good sailing conditions.

In any event, the trip is coming together about as expected with some excitement but mostly, it’s been an easy run.  Not at all like my trip down in January and that’s good.

Well, I guess that’s about all I have to report for now.  There’s still plenty of miles left between us and home and we aren’t even half the way there.  The earliest that I expect to be home is likely not until about next Wednesday or Thursday.  Hard to say but that’s my best guess and a lot can happen between now and then, so fingers crossed that everything will continue to work out in our favor.

Yes, we are a long way from home, hundreds of miles from land but we are settling in to the passage.  So far, so good with a dead plotter, Crazy Ivan and all.

Glad to be underway and Heading Home

It’s Tuesday morning and we have been underway for nearly 24 hours.  The sailing has been good and Pandora’s reeling off the miles.

We were originally planning to head out on Wednesday but after hearing the long range weather forecast we decided to head out on Monday with the rest of the fleet.  Our plan to leave later was based on George’s schedule as he had business and family commitments that would not allow him to arrive until late on Tuesday.  However, after hearing Chris Parker’s forecast on Saturday that called for a cold front with strong north winds to exit the east coast around the 24th, I realized that we could not afford to wait past Monday. Besides, Cliff and Jim arrived on Sunday afternoon so we could leave sooner if needed.  And, as is so often the case, it was “needed” so we did.

I feel badly that we had to bolt and leave George but if we had waited we might very well have ended up in Bermuda to wait out the adverse winds or worse, been caught in some really nasty conditions later in the trip.

This is my first Salty Dawg Rally and it’s fun to be making the run north with about 25 boats.  Some are headed to the Chesapeake, others to Bermuda and some to New England like Pandora.  Each morning and evening there are SSB radio nets that allow us to call in and talk to other boats in the fleet.  The others share stories of how things are going, fish caught and gear that doesn’t work.

One boat in particular is stopping in Bermuda as their autopilot stopped working and they are now hand steering, which is very tiring.   I heard that a hatch was left open and a big wave splashed in and flooded part of the autopilot equipment.  Salt water getting into the boat is a constant worry and that’s why we keep Pandora pretty well buttoned up while offshore, regardless of how hot it might be down below.  I have had my share of gear issues this winter and I really don’t want to tempt fate. Losing the autopilot is the thing that I worry about the most as hand steering is not something that we take lightly.  Years ago I was on a boat from Nassau to CT and the autopilot crapped out. We had to steer for about a week with no break.  The crew of four was taxed by that experience.

Speaking of “gear issues”, we do have one issue that came up yesterday shortly after leaving Tortola.  Pandora has two chart plotters, one at the helm and another up under the dodger.  The one at the helm is the “master” with feeds from AIS and radar and the other plotter is a “slave” to that one.  The problem is that the helm plotter stopped working yesterday, it just went dark, so now we don’t have access to AIS or radar on the remaining plotter.  The good news is that the AIS is still transmitting, we just can’t see it on the plotter.   At least other ships can see us, assuming that they are watching.  I just can’t see them.

I had thought about swapping the two units as they are the same but I am concerned that I might somehow make things worse so have decided to just go without AIS and radar for the duration.  I guess it will be just like the “olden days” but with autopilot and refrigeration.  Oh yeah and a watermaker.  No,I guess it’s not really like the olden days, just less than perfect.

At least it will sharpen our lookout skills.

So, that’s about it and we only have about 1,200 miles to go.  Yikes, that’s a long way. At this rate we should be done with the trip in about 8 more days.

Beyond that, nothing much to report.  However, the trip is young and I am expecting some “sporty” conditions later in the week.  Until then, sailing and perhaps a few days of motoring as we cross a ridge, a sort of “convergence zone” between two weather systems, just west of Bermuda, where there will be little or no wind.

Stay tuned for more details and don’t forget to check out the tracking on my blog to see exactly where we are, well at lest within the last two hours as that’s how often we send out position reports.  Also check for a recent post, a few days ago, to see a link to view Pandora and the rest of the fleet.

I plan to write again tomorrow and hope that post will be boring too.  Excitement aboard Pandora when we are hundreds of miles from shore is something that I’d like to avoid, if possible.

Until next time.

On our way Monday. Pandora’s homeward bound.

After all the weeks of planning we are going to head out from Tortola on Monday for home.   It’s been a whirlwind of activity over the last few days with chores to get Pandora ready and having crew arrive but it’s time to head home.

My original plan was to head out on the 17th but the weather is very iffy for then so I have opted to leave a few days earlier with the fleet.

The big problem is that if I were to wait a few more days I’d run into heavy squalls on our second or third days out, hit a much longer windless patch of perhaps two or more days of motoring near Bermuda and run the risk of being clobbered by a front that is expected to head off of the NE coast around the 26th as we approached CT.  All of which sounds like more work than fun.

Unfortunately, because of this change, moving our departure up by two days, one of my crew George, won’t be here in time to leave with us. It’s a total bummer but I guess that weather and safety trumps just about everything else when it comes to passage making.

Anyway, we still have a few chores to do in the morning but should be underway by noon.  I’ll be sending out position reports to this site which you can access at this link.  You can also right click on any particular position report and see how fast we were going when the tracker sent out the “ping” to the server.

I expect that our trip should be relatively uneventful with the exception of the squalls and will probably involve a day or more of motoring when the wind gets light.  But hey, that’s a lot more appealing than the gales that we experienced on the way down in January.

So, you can track us a number of ways but I am not certain that the rally page will have us on it as I have had difficulty in getting that set up with all the last minute changes in our plans.  Anyway, I wrote about the tracking options in a prior post.  You can check it out at this link.

Underway on Monday.  Finally!  Wish us luck.

I’ll be writing more about how things are going most days while we are underway.

Yes, we are leaving and it’s going to be good to be homeward bound.

Details to come.  Yes, that’s true.

You can’t get there from here…today.

Well, here I am, back in West End Tortola.  I arrived late morning today after leaving home at 0-dark-30 yesterday morning to head to the airport.    My flight to get me to Tortola was actually to St Thomas where I planned to catch a ferry yesterday to West End Tortola from downtown Charlotte Amalie.  Well, that’s at least how it was supposed to work.

However, as luck would have it, “no-can-do” ruled the day, with delay after delay.  The airport, Hartford, was a mess when I arrived.  Who’d expect so many people would be up at the tender hour of 05:00.  What a mob, a sea of humanity.

No problem, I made it through security with plenty of time left for my 06:30 flight and we left pretty much on time.  We landed in Charlotte and I had 3.5 hours to wait for my next flight to St Thomas, still with plenty of time to connect with my ferry .  However, when it came time for us to board in Charlotte, well, we didn’t.

After a long while we learned that catering, yes the folks that bring the little bags of pretzels, were AWOL and the crew had absolutely no idea of when they would be arriving.   We were on board, the plane was totally packed, and we were just sitting there, for a long time.  How long?  Not sure but it was long enough that the pilot came on a number of time to talk about the delay and finally said, “we’re leaving, catering or not.”  The problem was that while they had plenty of lovely snacks for the run down, they needed food for the run back but that now the plan was to fill up again in St Thomas.  We left the gate, finally.

After that we sat, and sat, and sat and finally the pilot came on to say that we had a mechanical problem and needed to talk to the repair guys.  Ok, I get that as it’s always a good idea to have a “happy landing” at the other end of the flight. However, by the time they crew sorted all of this out they decided we just had to head back to the gate and assess the situation.    We need a new plane! Awesome.

We “de-planed” and were sent to another gate…. at the total other end of the airport.   I was one of the first to arrive at the “new gate” only to learn that we had to be sent back to where we had “arrived” as they had “changed the changed gate again”.  Never mind.

Ok, so we got back to the gate and waited some more, much more.   To their credit, they did bring sandwiches and drinks.   A sort of “peace offering”, I guess.

So, fast forward several more hours and we finally left on another aircraft and arrived in St Thomas about 5 hours after our planned arrival time.   The problem for me is that the last ferry for Tortola had left hours earlier and I had to now find a hotel.  Lucky me.

I had decided to fly into St Thomas as it’s a lot less expensive than flying into Tortola.  Oops.  It didn’t look so inexpensive now.   Hotel at 21:00 hours?  No idea where to stay?  Don’t want to pay much?  Have fun Bob…

The information lady at the airport, who BTW was giving out samples of Cruzan Rum as we entered the terminal.  “Welcome to the Caribbean Mon!”.   Anyway, I asked for an “inexpensive” hotel and she recommended that I call Franko’s Guest House as it wasn’t very expensive.    However, she warned me that she had recommended it to a lady a few days ago and that lady didn’t even get out of the cab and went somewhere else.  Ok, sounds perfect, I’ll take it!

When I arrived, after a stop in the cab at a convenience store to get a toothbrush, Franko’s wife was waiting on the front porch for me.   “Welcome to Ranko’s.”  I thought it looked quaint. Besides, it wasn’t too expensive and anything was better than a nap on a bench at the airport. They have a cute little open air dining area. Believe it or not, he, Franko himself, even took me to the ferry terminal this morning.   Along the way he told me about how, when he was younger, he drank a LOT of rum but after his older brother “gave him a stern talking to” he shaped up and became a carpenter and later opened his B&B.   He does all of the work himself and is clearly very proud of his place.  “I make a little money and fix the place up a little bit ore.”  All and all, a simple place, Franko’s and a very charming experience.

So, I went down to the ferry terminal this morning and as I arrived I spied this terrific float plane.  I totally should have gone in that.   It looked awesome at the dock. Off she went.   I want one of these!I’ll bet that he has to wash things off really, really well every evening with all the salt spray. Yes, really salty. Yes, after all the shenanigans yesterday I should have treated myself to a trip on one of those.   And then he was gone and on his way. So, here I am and Pandora’s looking good and none the worse for two weeks alone.   A few chores and tomorrow I head over to nearby Nanny Cay to take a slip for a few days to participate in the run-up to the Salty Dawg Rally and to wait for my crew.

Yes, I’m here but it’s pretty clear that sometimes you just can’t get there from here.  Or, at least you have to take more than one day.

Finally though, I’m here, back aboard Pandora, and it’s a beautiful day.

Dawg days on the horizon. Pandora’s heading home.

It’s Wednesday afternoon and I am just about ready to head back to Pandora in the BVIs tomorrow morning.

She’s been on a mooring in Soper’s Hole, West End, for the last two weeks while I traveled home to visit family and get our home and gardens in order for the coming summer.  After a winter all sealed up, our home was in good shape if a bit overrun with mice.  Fortunately, because I set a lot of traps, most of the mice we returned to were, shall we say, not a threat any longer.   I won’t dwell on that except to say that we seem to be a very popular winter spot for the local mice community.

Anyway, things are pretty well under control and I’ll be flying to St Thomas in the morning and then will catch a ferry to Tortola.  It’s going to be a long day.

This is Pandora on her mooring in West End.  It’s a very pretty spot. In the last few years I have become more involved in the Salty Dawg Sailing Association and will be participating in their spring rally north from Tortola. My plan is to participate in some of the events over the next few days leading up to a planned departure on or about May 15th.  A really neat feature of this event is that you can track the fleet as they make their way north on a dedicated page for the rally.

This link will take you to a shared page that will show all participants.  To see the group, as they make their way north, all you need to do is to put “SDR” in the group section on the left (see below) and then select the days that you want to see the positions for.   Once we leave, you can put in a range of 05/15/2017 to the current day and then see the track of the fleet for the entire rally period to date or just the dates that you want to track the fleet for.  You can also focus on a single vessel on the right and look at that track only.   This is what the page looks like.  I think it’s pretty neat. Anyway, it’s a nice feature and a fun event.  I’ll be leaving Tortola on our about May 17th, after my crew arrives so you’ll be able to follow Pandora on that map too.   The boats in the fleet are going to a number of areas such as Bermuda, Hampton VA, as well as areas in New England so they will be quite spread out.

I also have a dedicated page on my blog “where in the world is Pandora” that will allow you to track our progress with a new position report every two hours while I am underway. Or, you can go right to the shared page/map for Pandora herself by clicking here.  This page includes the track that Brenda and I took over the winter so you can see that we covered a lot of ground.  Here’s a screenshot of what that page looks like, actually. It’s neat that you can also zoom-in and right click on any individual position report and see the actual speed for us at that point.  We may not have much wind, unlike the gales that carried Pandora south in January, according to the long range forecast so we might be going pretty slow.  Of course, as Chris Parker, our weather router would say, “that’s a long way out, so conditions may (probably) change”.

So, that’s the plan and if you check back as we get closer to departure, I’ll report more on our plans.   As always, you can sign up on the home page to get a message when I post so you’ll have the latest.

I also plan on posting to my blog via the SSB radio most days while we are underway so you’ll be able to “be there” with us, minus the motion sickness, and follow how we are doing.

If you are ever considering a trip south to the Caribbean for the first time, or are an “old timer” and do the trip regularly, I really encourage you to join the Salty Dawg Rally to Tortola from Hampton VA.  It’s a great event and the trip itself follows a near week of seminars in Hampton prior to departure.  How about doing it in November of this year?  Join in the fun.   I’ll be there.

Stay tuned as, Yes indeed, there are Dawg Days on the horizon for Pandora.   It should be a fun trip.


Building ships fast and other random thoughts.

It’s Monday morning and I am here in MD at our son Rob and DIL, Kandice’s home for a few days.   As I begin this post it’s around 06:00 and I am sitting here with my granddaughter Tori, she lives here too, and she’s none too happy to share me with my post.

Hours later…  Tori distractions and all…

It’s sort of jarring, in a good way, to be in such a different environment after months aboard Pandora with a near constant eye toward the weather.  I got up with Tori our new granddaughter who’s also currently blissfully oblivious to the weather at around 06:00.  Now it’s after 09:00 and I am just turning back to this post.  Somehow I don’t recall the utter inability to get anything done when Rob and his brother Christopher were this young but that’s probably because I realized that it was hopeless and didn’t even try to focus on anything other than them.

I guess I can’t totally blame Tori for not letting me get any writing done as she is quite cute, if distracting.  I was finally able to get this “happy” shot of her by using burst mode on the camera.  With 5 frames a second I got it.  That’s good as in that one second her emotions ranged from absolute happiness to a near meltdown.

Get the picture?  I finally did too.Of course, the reason that I am now writing this post is that her father is up and watching her.

Over the weekend we went to the birthday party of one Rob and Kandice’s friend’s one year old.  It turns out that Katie’s (the mom) father Denny (the grandfather), is involved with a WWII Liberty Ship, the John W. Brown, one of only two operational ships of it’s class left in the world.   There were 2,711 of these ships built for the war effort and an amazing number, 1,554 of them, were lost to enemy fire, the highest percentage losses of any branch of the service. Because of these tremendous losses, there was an urgent need to build these ships faster than the German U Boats were able to sink them.

As a result of these very heavy losses and the need to move troops and materiel to Europe during the war, it was very important to find a way to make these ships, and they were over 400′ long, finished and ready for sea as quickly as possible.  As a result, the building process was streamlined and while it took an average of 11 months to build a similar ship during WWI, using prefabricated parts, these ships were built in less than one month, a remarkable increase in efficiency.

These ships were built at a number of shipyards on both the east and west coasts with the first ship of this class launched, the Oliver Perry, in 100 days in Richmond CA.  This video talks about being able to construct a ship in less than a month.  Later on, there was competition between yards with a record set of launching in 7 days, 14 hours and 32 minutes from the laying of the keel to launch.   The ship was the Oliver Perry.  It’s an interesting story and worth reading.

And, speaking of Oliver Perry, he was a pretty important guy and there is a totally modern sailing ship bearing his name, beyond the first Liberty ship and others, that sails out of Newport RI.   She’s an educational vessel and a real beauty.This brief newsreel from the 40s talks about the process of building the Liberty ships, the first class of ships ever built in a modular way.  On the other hand, and not to be too random but this guy spent 8 years building his own boat. Eight days?  Eight years?  Random?  Yes indeed but sort of neat and he did that in Philadelphia and it’s even near Baltimore where the Brown was built.   Besides, this site is SAILpandora, isn’t it?  So there should be “sailboats” too.  Right?To get things built fast, it helps to have Uncle Sam behind you and the proverbial “ax to grind” with a powerful enemy in Hitler to help speed things up.

So, here we are 75 years later and the Liberty ship John W. Brown is now berthed in Baltimore and is still able to go to sea and goes out on a few cruises a year, mostly locally, for special occasions.  That would be an awesome way to see the Baltimore waterfront.

This is a great tour of her, the best video I found. They also have a simple website for her. . With so much great video footage available, I’d put up a “resource center” to catalog the “best of class” documents and video from the Web on the site but who am I to say.

Anyway, here I am in MD, Pandora’s down in the BVI and I’ll be getting together with my crew this week to talk about our run north.  I sure hope that the run up to CT is easier than the run south was back in January, gales and all.

This video, shot on that run, doesn’t begin to show what it was like and how big the waves were.  As is so often the case, “you had to be there” to appreciate it.Well, once is enough in the “gale department” so I hope that this trip is easier.

I guess that’s about it for now and it’s nearly 10:30 so I’d better get on with my day.  Rob needs help in the yard and Brenda is watching Tori.

Question:  Have you ever noticed that perfectly mature adults always talk to babies in a high pitched voice?   Why is that?

Perhaps I’ll explore that in a future post.  Perhaps not…

Besides, that would be a completely random segue in a post that has already pushed “random segues” to the limit.

Land ho! Actually, home ho! Tomorrow!

It’s Wednesday morning and I am snug on a mooring in West End, Soper’s Hole, Tortola, where Pandora will stay for two weeks until I return.  Yes, I am heading home to CT, but first to MD where I will visit our son Rob, his wife Kandice and, of course, little Tori, our granddaughter.  Actually, Tori isn’t quite so little any more, well at least not as little as she was when I saw her more than two months ago, prior to heading out for the winter aboard Pandora with Brenda.

“Grampy is coming to see me?  Who’s Grampy?”“Whatever.  I’ll get dressed up anyway, just in case he’s nice.  Do these pigtails make me look older?”My friend Craig headed back to work after a week aboard as we ran from Antigua to the BVIs and I have been alone since Saturday although I’ll admit that it feels like weeks. I don’t do “alone” well.  Actually, I haven’t been alone, just without Brenda, which is about the same thing.  “Bob, Bob, you are such a sap!  Pathetic, you’re an adult!”  Yes, I know but it’s my story and I’m sticking with it.

After Craig left on Saturday I decided to head over to St Thomas, Charlotte Amali, the largest harbor in the American Virgin Islands, so that I’d have access to my phone for “local” calls since I was going to be alone for a few days.  As luck would have it, my friends Maureen and Bill of Kalunamoo were there to so I followed them around for a few days.  That was a good distraction and it was fun to see the sights through the eyes of someone who’d “been there”.

The harbor was a riot of activity as there was some sort of week-long festival going on.    There was a nasty wrap-around swell coming into the harbor that made it pretty uncomfortable to be on board with Pandora rocking one way and the other all night long.   During the day there was loads of boat traffic that added to the confused waters in the harbor.

There was a powerboat race one afternoon and the crowds lined up on the waterfront to watch the action.This guy did a lot more “tooing and frooing” (sp?) than was really necessary as he showed off his boat.  Not sure how he did it, but he somehow found a way to make his outboard way louder than normal.   He did look pretty pleased with himself.   I guess if that was my boat, I’d do the exact same thing.  I am positive that my son Rob would be that way also, the “motor-head” that he is.

On shore there was plenty going on with stalls selling drinks and food along with blaring music pumped out of oversize speakers, each louder than the last.  There were also a number of steel drum orchestras, if that’s what you call them, including this “mobile” version with it’s own custom trailer.   I guess that this saves them a lot of packing up time when they need to get on the road.I enjoyed watching this group of kids playing their hearts out.This girl was clearly absorbed in the music.  Love the hair style.  I wonder it hurts to comb it out.If there was any doubt that I was back in U.S. waters with all the racing powerboats, the tricked out cars lining the road made it perfectly clear.   This line of VWs on display was terrific.No, this Bug is not “factory original” but awesome.  I wonder how many sets of tires he, and the owner must be a “he”, goes through in a year, or month?The waterfront is lined with historic warehouses with lovely alleyways lined with restaurants to explore.   A very popular pastime for visitors is to climb the “99 steps”, actually 103 but who’s counting.   They end at “Blackbeard’s Castle” although it’s now the site of an inn and restaurant.  The view of the harbor from up top was beautiful.With gardens and wonderfully restored buildings.
There’s Pandora out in the harbor, dwarfed by the nearby cruise ship.  The water looks smoother than it was.  Did I mention that it was bumpy? I loved this sculpture of three women who led a slave revolt in 1878.  Beautifully done.So, after a few days enjoying the sights in St. Thomas I headed back over to Tortola were I’ll be leaving Pandora while I head home.   Happily, Bill and Linda of Sapphire are here and will keep an eye on Pandora to be sure that all is well until I return.

The plan is for crew to join me here for the run north to CT in mid May.

I am looking forward to being home and then my return to Pandora.  I sure hope that the run north is smoother than our run was to get here in January, gales and all.

But, that’s another story and one that I am not looking to repeat any time soon.

Home Ho! Totally ready.