So Far, So Good

It’s mid day Sunday and we are south of the Gulf Stream and moving along at a good clip, generally at about 7-9kts.

Over the last few hours, we have been hit by a few squalls to near 30kts but with just a single reef in the main and on a broad reach, Pandora is handling it well.

Our first 24 hours was about 185 miles, a respectable showing and while we did run the engine a fair amount, it was not because we had no wind, but to keep up our speed and keep in front of a nasty front exiting the coast later today.

As of now, I think that we will be ahead of the worst of it.

The weather files we have been downloading and the information from Chris Parker continues to suggest that this should be a fairly fast run, perhaps as little as nine or ten days, on the outside, and involve a good amount of sailing.

The biggest issue will be how far south and east we get when the easterly trades kick in.   If we are able to get far enough east before they fill in, we will have really fast sailing for the second half of the trip.  With a little luck, I will be able to sail in trade winds for longer than any prior run.

Tonite should get pretty sporty with wind in the mid 20s, but from a favorable angle.

So, I guess it’s safe to say that we are doing well and I am cautiously optimistic.

Fingers crossed but so far, so good.

Finally, off the dock. Destination Antigua!

I can’t believe it.  Finally, two weeks later than we had hoped, we are on our way to Antigua.  Ironically, November 12th, today was the day that we were scheduled to begin the planned series of more than a dozen events upon arrival in Antigua.

The last few days have been just a whirlwind of emotion as we were getting daily weather briefings and the fleet was getting more and more itchy to head out.

I won’t go through all the conflicting weather we were facing but I thought that Chris Parker, our weather router was a champ, finally sorting through the daily changes as we faced hurricanes and many cold fronts that complicated our plans over the last few weeks.

I had headed back to CT when the delays began at the end of October, but finally, two days ago, the coast was clear, mostly, to head back to Hampton.

My crew George, circumnavigator and fellow Salty Dawg board member booked a train from Newport and Bob, another experienced offshore sailor also arrived at the BWI Amtrak station yesterday afternoon.   I picked them up and we hightailed it to Pandora.

Our final pre-departure weather briefing was scheduled for 7:00 last night and we only arrived back at Pandora about 15 minutes before it began.

The good news is that Chris gave us a green light to head out this morning with the hope that we will be able to get across the Gulf Stream before things become too sporty on Monday.

Anyway, it’s good to be on our way, finally.  Hopefully, we will have a fast run and perhaps we will be in Antigua in about 10 days.

Thanks to fellow Dawg Brian, here’s a photo of Pandora leaving the dock this morning. All I can say is FINALLY.  Destination Antigua.

 

 

Is it finally time to head to Antigua?

The last two days of weather briefings have pointed toward a Saturday morning departure from Hampton, bound for Antigua.

With the bulk of the fleet still in Hampton hoping that a window would open up, this was good news.   The expectation that Saturday would be the day became clearer in the last few days.

That’s good  news after a delay of nearly two weeks.  It’s been very tough with many boats having to scramble to find crew to replace those who were not willing to possibly miss Thanksgiving at home with family.

The “hard stop” of crew needing to be home by Thanksgiving has been been in the back of everyone’s mind each year but this is the first rally in recent memory that brought that concern to the forefront.

It has also upended the nearly two weeks of arrival events planned in Antigua and while I am certain that we will be able to put most of them on, I expect that some will end up being held weeks after the fleet arrives.

I for one, need to be back in the US for Christmas and time leading up to that as we too want to be with family.  In past years Brenda has flown down to meet me when we arrived but with the long weather delay this year she won’t be coming down.

We both had flights scheduled and paid for months ago that would have us returning home on November 22nd and as I write this I am not sure that I will even have arrived by then.

Even if we have a fast trip and get there by the 22nd, I am torn if I should just fly out and leave the the rest of the fleet to fend for themselves and let someone else handle the the events as they unfold.

It’s a complex issue but I am certainly pleased that I have crew and while it’s going to be a rush to get ready to leave tomorrow, we should be able to get off of the dock by late morning, I hope.

My crew, George and Bob arrive at BWI via Amtrak early afternoon today and I will be picking up a car mid morning to meet them.  As I write this Brenda and I are in MD visiting family so I am only about an hour from BWI.

I wish that I could say more about what we will expect on the run but the key issue for us will be to get out between several bouts with nasty weather and a need to focus on getting as far south and east as possible before some really nasty weather pushes down from the north and strong easterly trade winds kick in later in the week.

Leaving tomorrow will be a bit like “threading the needle” as we will be heading out just as a low begins to move to the north.   See the arrow of where we will depart from mid morning tomorrow, I hope. A few days later, by Wednesday I hope, we will have to be far enough south and east to avoid strong winds from the south and on the nose.  I doubt that we will be able to avoid this entirely but time will tell and points to the importance of getting going in the morning.  If all goes well we should be able to sail a good amount of the trip and pick up the trades farther north than I have had in recent years.  All of this suggests a relatively fast trip.

Wish us luck.

If you’re interested in following along go to this link and you will see all of the boats in the fleet with their tracks as we head south.  Notice that most of the boats that were heading to the Bahamas are already there.

You can also follow Pandora alone, without the rest of the fleet by following this link as well. 

After we settle into our run I hope to put up a post most days by sending the text to Brenda who will put it up on the site.

I’ll admit that it is a bit anxiety producing to finally be about ready to head out after so many delays and a very tough summer of trying to put Pandora into the best shape for the run.

If dollars spent is any indication of how well things will progress, it should be a “perfect” trip.  We’ll see about that.   Fingers crossed.

Here’s to getting ready and to a good and fast trip.

 

 

How many Dawgies in the window?

With apologies to Bob Merrill and his 1952 hit song, “How much is that Doggie in the window”.  I find my self wondering when the next weather”window” for the Dawgs will open up so they can head out, and when it happens, how many “Dawgies will be in the window”, heading to Antigua.

When it became clear that we were likely to be at sea over Thanksgiving, I wondered how many would opt to roll the dice and hold off from leaving until late November because they, or their family, just could not bear the thought of them being away for the holiday.

Over the last week there has been much debate among the fleet about the plusses and minuses of waiting until after Thanksgiving or leaving at the first available window.

In his marathon weather briefing on Saturday, lasting 90 minutes, Chris made it pretty clear that waiting until late in November or worse, early December was a very iffy proposition, even for a run to the Bahamas.

Late fall conditions in the north Atlantic are challenging enough, with windy cold fronts exiting the East Coast every few days.  And, in the second half of November and into December, the frequency and intensity of those fronts gets even worse.

Someone in the fleet did an informal poll of skippers and of those who responded only two said that they were waiting and would skip any window that conflicted with Thanksgiving.

Given the increased risks of difficult conditions, I am very glad that those planning to delay are in the extreme minority.   The idea of having a large number of boats trying to “thread the needle”, leaving late in the season, is very concerning to me.

In the case of one of the boats planning to head out late that I have been communicating with, I advised him to skip the run to Antigua and instead, head to the Bahamas, a run that will also be much more difficult the later he leaves.  Later in November it is unlikely that he will be able to make the run the entire way without stopping along the way to wait for better weather.

Ironically, a later start to the Bahamas is likely to take 2 weeks, perhaps longer than a run to Antigua, in spite of it being about half the distance.

When we had our briefing on Saturday, Chris Parker, our weather router, said that he thought there was a decent chance that we’d be able to head at some point between November 13th to 16th, about a week from now.

Here is the forecast for tomorrow, Tuesday.  The arrow is Hampton, where we will be leaving from.  As you can see, the wind is quite strong and from the north.  There is no way that we’d want to be out in that, crossing the Gulf Stream.  As the Stream flows to the NE, having strong winds, 30-40kts, from the NE against the current would make for miserable conditions.   Nope, have to wait for better conditions. And, two days later not looking good at all, with strong onshore winds again, a total reversal as the low moves up the coast.    Of course, these assumptions are more than a week from now but just in case, we want to begin to think about being ready when the picture become clearer.

If the assumptions of a week from now are right, a window might begin to open up as early as next Sunday.  The arrow shows north wind out of the Chesapeake in the low teens, a broad reach with easy sailing conditions.   The model shows that the really nasty stuff has moved to the NE.  Even if these conditions played out, it’s likely that Chris would suggest waiting another day to give the seas an opportunity to calm down from the heaviest winds. What happens after that date as we make our way south?  In past years we have had to go a very long way to get to consistent “trade winds” out of the east.  This scenario seems to suggest that the trades would be building fairly far north and from the east.  In the past, we have been frustrated by relentless SE winds, making it very difficult to go south.  Several years ago we had to motorsail to the east for three days waiting for more favorable winds.   During those three days we never made a mile closer to Antigua.  It was very frustrating.

As I sit here on Monday, a week before all of this will unfold, who knows what the timing and conditions we will face will be like.

The good news is that both the European and US weather models seem pretty much aligned in their assumptions, which suggests that things might play out as described even if this is still a week out.

In a few days Brenda and I head to MD to spend some time with our grandchildren.   That might end up being a convenient half way stopping point as I plan my return to Pandora next weekend to get ready for the run.

I really hope that conditions will allow for a departure next week as one of my crew will have to bail if we can’t get to Antigua by the end of the month.

With Thanksgiving on the horizon and the prospect of being at sea for the holiday, it will be interesting to see just how many Dawgies will end up in the (next) window.

Yes, I get it, and know that I have tortured that about enough for now so I guess I’ll sign off.

Another update after our next briefing tomorrow evening.

Fingers crossed.

The plot thickens!

It’s only November 5th, less than a week after the rally was expected to leave. The bad news is that it is still not clear as to when we will be heading out.

One thing that is seeming pretty clear is that those boats that take the next “window” to head south may very well be at sea for Thanksgiving.

I have no idea how many boats in the fleet just can’t find a way to feel that this is OK, but for sure, this topic is on everyone’s mind.

Of course, it’s not just skippers that are facing this, it’s crew as well, so there is a good deal of shuffling, and hand-wringing going on.

Some boats, like mine, are sitting in marinas in the Hampton area, with skipper and crew having headed home.  Others are hanging out in Hampton, ready to go at a moment’s notice.

I have a number of calls from concerned skippers who just can’t, or their family can’t, get their head around the idea of being away for Thanksgiving.    I am sensitive to this but to me the overarching question is one of safety and the idea of trying to delay departure to the end of the month, the cutoff for boats that wish to be part of the rally is a bit like “threading the needle” as winter in the North Atlantic gets closer.    This trip is tough enough as it is and to add time restrictions into the mix is in serious conflict with the fact that the most dangerous thing on a boat is a calendar.

Even during the best passage things can quickly head south and I want to do whatever I can that maximizes the opportunity to have a comfortable and safe journey.

I suspect that some may feel that all this is driven by my desire to get everyone to Antigua, or wherever they are headed, but the fact is that I want everyone to have as good an experience as possible and arrive safely.  The sad truth is that the first big trip is often the last if things don’t go well.

Who knows, but hopefully tomorrow, following our discussion with Chris Parker this evening, I will have more to report.

One good thing about the delay is that I have been able to finish up with the fall leaf cleanup which saved me some money.   Sadly, that savings was more than offset by the cost of extra dockage, flights and car rentals.

Such is the life of a snowbird.   Yes, I know that it is a painful trut but I’ll take it.

The good news is that once I am in the Caribbean all of this will soon fade from memory.

Antigua is calling and I must go… but when?At least it’s a sunny day here in CT.

And yes, the plot thickens.   More to come, soon I hope, but in a good way.

I cling to that belief.

 

 

 

 

 

Oh boy, will we ever leave?

If perhaps you have been following the tracking map for the rally, you will have seen that Pandora is still in port and nope, I didn’t leave on Monday as planned.

Such is life and the best laid plans.   This is what the forecast for a few days from now looks like.  Red is REALLY WINDY.After the months and weeks leading up to the departure of the Caribbean Rally, we were all very disappointed to discover that there wasn’t even a hint of a good weather window to get to Antigua for the foreseeable future.

Over the weekend skippers and crew assembled to hear what Chris Parker, our weather router, had to say about conditions for heading out. We listened intently as he described conditions that I had never encountered as we saw really strong persistent southerly winds in the eastern Caribbean, a late season hurricane spooling up in the central Caribbean and a huge low crashing toward Bermuda, all at the same time.

As he described the conditions that we’d encounter if we attempted to go out within the next few days as a sort of “you can’t get there from here” and that perhaps the closest we might get to Antigua might be the Dominican Republic or the Bahamas, if we even got that far at all.

I left that meeting feeling a bit shell-shocked, trying hard to prepare myself for what looked like a tough trip and if I’d be able to leave at all.

The next morning I woke up, did my last post about leaving Monday, and set out to make coffee for me and my crew.   I hadn’t even put the water on to boil when I blurted out, “I’m not going”.   George, who has sailed around the world and publishes Blue Water Sailing Magazine, had also come to the same conclusion and when I called Rick Palm, another Circumnavigator, and fellow board member, told me he was about to call me, having come to the same conclusion.

With 100 boats getting ready to head out, we called a meeting and less than two hours later we had a packed house.

I announced, as president of the group, that I wasn’t leaving and then we talked about our thoughts with the group.

Within an hour nearly everyone in the room had decided to delay their departure.  A few ventured out anyway but that’s to be expected as some have a very tough time changing gears once they set their minds to something.  Of course, the philosophy of Salty Dawg is that every skipper and crew make their own decision on when and if to head out.

Of the 20 boats that were heading to Bermuda or the Caribbean, all but a handful decided to delay.

However, the window to head to The Bahamas, while not ideal, didn’t look terrible so most of those boats departed as planned.

As you can imagine, such a dramatic about face gave everyone a lot to think about and many are still trying to decide what to do next.

Many have lost their carefully selected crew, some are revaluating their destinations and a few have decided that they will have to skip the season entirely.

After months of planning, and in some cases years, it was a very difficult day while everyone wrestled with what to do next.   I for one, scrambled to find a more reasonably priced place to leave Pandora for the next week or two and booked a flight home where I will be standing by until a window begins to emerge and then I’ll hightail it back to Pandora and get ready to depart yet again.

As I write this, I’ll admit that I am not terribly optimistic that things will improve any time soon but one can always hope.  With Thanksgiving and Christmas on the horizon that complicates things even more.   I have no idea how this will turn out.

Even though we are now in a frustrating state of  limbo, the days leading up to “departure” were great fun with seminars, a pig roast and plenty of time to compare notes with one another.

A highlight of the week was a live Search And Rescue, SAR, demonstration by the US Coast Guard with a J Hawk helicopter.  If you have never seen something like this in action, it is amazing.

The chopper arrived and began to hover low over the water perhaps 100 yards from the dock.  As they dropped low to the water a stunning amount of salt spray was kicked up and soaked the crowd that had assembled to watch.  As the chopper came over my brand new Salty Dawg cap was blown from my head into the water, only to sink quickly out of sight.

The downdraft was incredible.   The chopper was so low you could easily see the faces of the crew.  They dropped down low near the water.  Salt spray was flying everywhere.   This picture doesn’t begin to do justice to the wind that they were kicking up.  Every boat in the marina was soon covered with salt.   I had to stop shooting several times to clean off the lens of my camera.  Soon the rescue swimmer was lowered to the water. Before he went down they tossed out a “rescue dummy”, something that they use to simulate a real person.  It is about the same size and weight of a person. After the swimmer secured the dummy, they showed how they would pull up someone in a wire litter.All and all, it was a totally awesome display.  It looked plenty hard to do on flat water and I can only imagine what it’s like to rescue someone in 40′ waves and hurricane force winds.  Not for the feint of heart.

All I can say is that I really hope that I never witness something like this in the ocean and the idea of someone swimming up to Pandora and announcing “Hi, I’ll be your rescue swimmer today” is a bit frightening.

Having witnessed this demonstration first hand, and not for the first time, the thought of heading out aboard Pandora and questionable conditions just didn’t seem like a good idea.

As my friend Rick likes to say, “don’t rush, the islands will still be there if you don’t leave now”.

So, here I sit in CT, at home, with no idea of when I might return to begin the run to Antigua.   With Thanksgiving and Christmas bearing down on us, who knows what this will turn out like.

With all of this uncertainty and the fact that my crew won’t be willing to be at sea for Thanksgiving, I have to ask myself “will we ever leave?”.

I guess that I’ll just have to wait and see.

Looks like Monday is the day for departure.

It’s Sunday morning and Pandora is in Hampton with the rest of the fleet for the Salty Dawg Rally to the Caribbean, in my case, to Antigua.

I can’t believe that I am finally here and almost ready to go.  It’s been a wild summer beginning when I left Pandora in Deltaville, culminating with all the work that was done on Pandora in Annapolis.

It’s been a few crazy days here in Hampton after arriving on Wednesday with meetings every day with skippers and crew, departure dinners and other events keeping us busy.   The marina is filled to capacity and we had over 250 skippers and crew at our departure dinner on Thursday.

With an expected departure tomorrow, I wish that I was confident that the trip will be an easy one.  Normally, our goal is to get as far east as possible before turning south to catch the trade winds for Antigua.  however, this year it is very different with a system expected to develop to the east that will have strong south winds, basically on the nose that will make it impossible to head to Antigua for the second half of the trip.

Our strategy for the first half of the trip will be to head basically south toward the Dominican Republic or Puerto Rico, much farther west than normal, and continue on that course to see what develops later in the week.

The hope is that conditions will improve to allow us to head farther east but at this point it’s not looking great.   This means that we may be forced to either stop in the DR or to continue upwind from there to Antigua, an unappealing option to be sure.

It’s a bit too soon to really know what the wind will be as the weather patterns this year are very different than anything we have encountered in past passages so I guess we will just have to get out there and see what happens.

Brenda and Jane, wife of Peter, one of my crew, plan on flying to Antigua on November 17th and that now seems like it might be good timing as we really don’t know what our passage will be like and given all of the uncertainty, it is very hard to know when we will end up in Antigua and if we will have to stop somewhere else along the way.

We have another weather briefing later today from Chris Parker and I am hoping that things will become clearer.  For now, I guess that’s all I can report.

As in the past you can follow along on my Garmin page at this link.

There is also a fleet tracking page that shows the track for every boat in the fleet that you can see here.

For now, here’s Pandora in her slip in Hampton.   All systems are pretty much ready to go, provisioning is mostly done and we are anxiously waiting more information, hopefully good, on what to expect when we depart.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My boat is calling and I must go.

In less than a week Pandora will go back in the water to head to Hampton and the Salty Dawg Rally to Antigua.  I’ll admit that I am pretty excited about hanging out with what will be a capacity crowd including nearly 125 boats heading for points south.

Pandora is currently on the hard in Annapolis with a number of techs swarming over her dealing with paint issues, electrical and rigging details that need addressing.

Last weekend I headed down there for about 4 days to work on the many things that needed doing before she goes back in the water.  I am hoping that her splash date will be Monday October 24th but if weather is not looking good for the run to Hampton, I’ll have to stick with an earlier date.

One of the issues that I had to address was the instillation of the replacement for my corroded aluminum tank that sprung a leak last winter, dumping all 35 gallons of precious fuel into the bilge. I was able to save about 10 gallons but the rest went away.    I had the new tank constructed at Luther’s Welding in RI.   I have to say that they do really great work.

I picked up the new tank at their shop.  The new one looks a lot better, that’s for sure. I have now learned a lot about corrosion and what can happen when aluminum lays in the bilge.  In such a dank area salt sitting on the metal will raise hell with it over time.  The “new” leak was pretty apparent.   No wonder that it didn’t take long for all that fuel to leak out.  Nasty… The replacement tank was constructed to be about 1/8″ smaller, in each direction, than the old one, just to be sure that it would fit, and it does. 

In order to avoid another failure down the road, it was recommended that I support the new tank with some 2″ square plastic spacers bedded with 3M 5200 to keep the tank from being in direct contact with the hull and any salt that might accumulate under it.   Sadly, I neglected to purchase “fast cure” so the glue stayed wet and the spacers slipped and slid all over the place while I tried to put the tank in place.  After a few false starts, I was able to secure it and get the floor joists installed as well. I was also having difficulty with the boom gooseneck that was working the fittings loose and needed some love.  It is generally a bad thing if the boom works itself loose while underway.  They removed the boom, did some surgery, and now it’s back in place.  It was a pretty big job in spite of there being only a few new screws showing for their efforts.  Better now. I also had small but persistent leak around the deck joint for the mast.  I had no idea how they would address it but they did.  It looks pretty elegant.  So much, I hope for the SLOB, Slow Leak Over Bunk.  And under the “so simple, even a child, or Bob, can do it”, I installed two new faucets in the heads.  The old ones were pretty corroded.  I don’t expect that these will last decades but then, nothing does in the marine environment.  I am also having the underside of the hard dodger repainted as the old finish was peeling and looked terrible.  It’s turning out to be a very difficult job with some adhesion issues that have come up and I am anxious about what the bill will be like and how it will turn out.

For that matter I am DOUBLY ANXIOUS about how big the bill will be overall.  It was certainly a good plan on my part to also focus on the kitchen and guest bath so I can say to Brenda, “well, we spent a LOT on BOTH the house and boat.” I cling to the belief that this gives approach will give me at least a bit of cover.  Probably not, but I am sticking to my story.

Oh yeah, remember that nasty cold that I caught from my adorable little granddaughter?  It turns out that when I headed to Annapolis for four days of work on Pandora, well I had bronchial pneumonia.    Fortunately, I was on a heavy duty antibiotic which helped, well helped a little as I hacked my way through three days of work on Pandora.

I can tell you that sanding the bottom of Pandora, all 47′ of her while, suffering from pneumonia is no fun, but at least that’s done.  Really glad that I had a brand new full face respirator.    After sanding the entire boat, I can now see that it’s time for to get the bottom soda blasted to remove years of too much bottom paint off and begin anew.

Well, Pandora is getting closer to launching and she sure has gotten her pound of flesh, and phlegm, out of me this year.   I am beginning to think that I may be getting too old to do all of this stuff myself.

However, I am getting excited about heading to Antigua.  Lots of fun to come.

Perhaps I’ll close with this photo of Brenda.  Truer words were never put on a pillow.

Getting close to liftoff

It’s hard to believe that Pandora is nearly ready to go head south to Antigua with the Salty Dawg Rally, leaving from Hampton VA on or about November 1st.  With a capacity crowd of 125 boats, it’s going to be a blast.  And, with 100 heading to Antigua, I can say that everyone I know in Antigua are thrilled to be on the receiving end of the rally.

It’s always a struggle to get Pandora, or any boat for that matter, ready with so many issues that need addressing, new or updated equipment and any projects that I have in the works to make Pandora a better home on the water.

Much of my time has been consumed this summer by remodeling the kitchen and the third of our bathrooms.  While I did only parts of the kitchen, it was still a big job and that combined with doing the full bath remodel, it was a very busy summer.

Add to that the interminable delays with Pandora in Deltaville and the frustration of working with a completely non-communicative project manager.  To say that this was frustrating and expensive doesn’t begin to do justice to the details of what made the whole process so repugnant.

I was successful in moving Pandora to yet another spot where an electrician finished up the work and installed the wind generator.

After a few weeks with the new tech,  I was able to move Pandora up to Annapolis where she is now having a number of rigging issues addressed including some new running rigging and other important upgrades needed to make her safe to make passage on to Antigua.

Here she is about to be hauled at Jabin’s yard in Annapolis.  They pulled her out a day early and by early the next morning M Yachts was aboard beginning the work they needed to get done in the few short weeks available.  That’s the sort of support you expect from a quality vendor, so different than the first few months this summer.  I also installed some new solar panels, four 150 watt units replacing the 80 watt panels that were in the boat when I purchased her.  This increase in wattage, combined with the fact that the old panels had lost a lot of efficiency has nearly doubled my output.  I am not enough of an expert to wire them up and put in the new regulator so M Yachts is doing that.   They do look pretty impressive. And contrast that to the old panels in the photo below.  The new ones do not hang over to the sides of the supports at all and only overhang the front of the supports from the old panels by about 6″.    Of course, a big change is that they are each 150 watt, more fully utilize the space available and at $150 each, were a mere “rounding error” in the grand scope of the job. And the wind generator.   I have no idea how that’s going to work out but based on what I have heard from others that have the same unit, I am optimistic.  This photo shows the unit with a slight port list but I will be adding some plastic shims under the mount to deal with that.   It’s because the arch itself is sloped outboard and the installer didn’t have shims on hand.  Combine the upgraded solar, the wind generator and a lithium bank and we have more than doubled our charging ability, I hope, and usable power storage for Pandora.

I don’t want to even think about the cost of making all of this happen.  All I can say is that next year better be a light one for “boat dollars” as this year has broken a number of records on that front.  If not, I’ll be facing serious marital distress from Brenda and we don’t want that to happen, do we?  Good thing that we did the house upgrades this summer and didn’t put those off as it balances things a bit, if not completely.   Fair is fair?  Oh boy, I guess you’ll have to ask Brenda on that font.   

Anyway. even though I have to drive half a day to get to her, at least Pandora is nearing completion and I should be able to have her mostly ready to go after a few more days of work.     With Brenda away visiting some friends on The Cape this weekend, I’m planning to head to Annapolis with all my stuff to begin a dash to get ready for the run south.

Perhaps along the way I’ll be able to stop and see our son Rob and our three adorable grandchildren.

This one, Emme, is one of the two younger twins.  Here I am “Tipi”, what they call me, walking with her to the bus stop to meet her older sister.  Scary as it is, tell me you don’t see an 18 year old trapped in that little girl.  I am so glad that I am not her father.  Scary stuff to come. It seems that alive and well in that adorable little body is a tremendous selection of cold viruses, something that she gives me and I bring home with me after nearly every visit.  As I write this I am hacking away more than a week since my last visit.

With only a few weeks till “lift off” time for taking Pandora to Antigua is flying by.  Wish me luck.  Now, if I can only get over this cold.  Thanks Emme!

 

Everyone wants to get out of Dodge, and they are.

Ok, ok, perhaps the headline for this post is a bit of an exaggeration but the Salty Dawg Rally to the Caribbean is gaining unprecedented interest.

In a “normal” year, as in “pre-pandemic” the rally generally had about 80-90 boats participating and even during the Covid years, in spite of all the restrictions, we still had 50 boats, pre-vaccination, and 80 last year in spite of boats facing pretty steep restrictions and a lot of unknowns in the islands.

This year however, is a LOT different with over 130 boats applying to join the rally.  And, what’s even more interesting is the number of folks joining us that have never done a rally before, about half.   Additionally, catamarans make up  nearly half of the fleet, the largest percentage yet.

I’ll admit that if I was just moving into cruising now I would buy a cat and not a monohull as they are just so much more comfortable.  I do worry about them in difficult weather as while they are indeed stable, once they start to go over, there is no stopping them and they don’t come upright again.

With so many more cats out cruising the ocean now, I expect that we will begin hearing more about them flipping, especially in the hands of cruisers that don’t have a lot of big boat experience.   So many of the boats in the rally are owned by folks that moved up into much bigger upon retiring from their careers.

In the “old days” the transition to “big” was to purchase a boat, sail it for a few years and then sell it and get a somewhat bigger boat.  Now it’s more like sail a small boat and when you retire, get a 40-50′ cat, and head out.  This means that there are more boats out on the water with owners that haven’t had a lot of practical experience on the ocean, especially on big powerful boats.

I expect that this is contributing to a greater interest in Salty Dawg, an opportunity to have additional education and support at a very low price.

Where else can you get dozens of targeted webinars, 24/7 shoreside side support during the passage and a near instant community of cruisers to hang out with for about $300, the cost of the rally and SDSA membership combined?

I did an Antigua and eastern Caribbean webinar the other evening and we had about 200 attending.   Additionally, as many more signed up than were able to watch the program when it was live, I expect that many more will look at the recording.

All of this is very rewarding to me as I have been “beating the drum” for years now to get folks to head to Antigua and now they are going.  It feels great.  Who wouldn’t want to make landfall at a place like this with dozens of your closest friends?I think that while a big part of all this is that many have emerged from the pandemic with a renewed belief that life is short and they want to use their remaining time wisely .   And, as Salty Dawg has shifted to almost totally online presentations, the material is accessible to many more than could every participate at an occasional live event.

In many ways Salty Dawg has been helped by the pandemic and I’ll admit that it feels pretty good to be working with a group that is growing.

There weren’t many years in my career that saw things on the up and up for several years so this is a nice change of pace.   I am under no illusion that the good times will continue for ever but it does feel like the renewed interest in cruising isn’t going to fizzle too soon.

The other night I did a presentation at our local yacht club and was astonished that nearly 70 showed up.   It was a particular thrill to me as I had not given a presentation “in person” for several years and it was a treat to see “real” people.

Along with the talk about cruising the islands of the Eastern Caribbean, I hosted a “tot” featuring “official” rum from the Antigua and Barbuda Royal Naval Tot Club, of which I am a member.

The rum…The setup…The toast, following a reading of some brief passages from a book covering happenings  on “this day in British Navy History”.   Interestingly, that night, October was the anniversary of the opening of Nelson’s dockyard in 1725, the destination of the Salty Dawg Rally each year.I supplied the rum for the tot, brought to the US aboard Pandora, of course.  And in spite of more than 60 taking part, it didn’t put much of a dent in my supply.  I will admit that this is an alarming cache of rum by any standards.   Don’t worry, I a plan to give a lot, well some, away. It was a wonderful evening and I do wish that I had taped the program as it’s the first one that I have done in a few years that hasn’t been “archived” for others to see.

No recent post would be complete without an update on the work being done on Pandora.  The short update is that the work is mostly done, well all of the battery work and the installation of the wind generator are done, as of yesterday, nearly 17 weeks after being dropped in Deltaville in May.

That’s ridiculous, I admit but finally…

Today Brenda and I head to MD to see our son Rob’s family including our three wonderful grandchillen.   I can’t wait.

On Monday I head to VA to bring Pandora up to Annapolis where there will be additional work done including some scratch repair on the hull, compliments of some small boys in Guadeloupe last winter and some work on the boom.

I’ll also be installing four new solar panels that should bring my solar capacity to a full 1,000 watts an increase from about 600 now.  That combined with my newly installed wind generator will hopefully be able to feed my new lithium bank all winter.

Doesn’t this look great?  I’m excited.  And yes, I too am looking forward to “getting out of Dodge”.  And I will, I hope.

For sure, I won’t be alone in Hampton with hundreds of my closest cruising friends.  Annapolis first…

Fingers crossed… Wish me luck.