The Windwards and Leewards, what is it really like? Armchair sailors unite!

It’s going to be a long winter with some saying that it’s going to be really, really cold here in the North East.

I for one, am not happy to be here in the North East when I should be sailing in warmer climes and after spending the last six winters in southern waters, it’s going to be a big deal for me.

As I have said in past posts, “live it once and tell the story for ever”.  And, to that point, I particularly enjoy giving talks about where we have been aboard Pandora and recently did two webinars for the Seven Seas Cruising Association, SSCA, one about our time cruising from the BVIs south to Dominica over the winter of 2017 and the other about cruising the waters of the southern Caribbean from Antigua to the Grenadines aboard Pandora in 2018.   Both presentations are free and you don’t have to be a member of the SSCA to view them.

Since I retired in 2012 Brenda and I have spent our winters cruising and have covered a lot of ground including the US Intra Coastal Waterway (ICW), the Bahamas, Cuba and most recently the eastern Caribbean.

Over the years I have given many talks, mostly live and I am often asked if they are available on the Web.  Until now, the message was sadly no, but these two presentations have been recorded so you can see them if you are so inclined.  And, better yet, aside from the time it takes to view them, they are free.

These are not just travelogues, those tortuous, “I went 6kts from this island to that and look at what I ate for dinner.”  On the contrary, I work hard to give you a good feel for what sorts of weather you should expect and how it feels to interact with the local residents.  Of course, I also try to share the wonder of what it’s like to visit these remarkable islands and to spend months at a time afloat.

Many of you have probably chartered in the BVIs and these talks will give a good feel for how different the islands to the south are from the bustling charter bases that you may be more familiar with.

Cruising the Leeward Islands, the BVIs south to Dominica.  There is no charge to view this recording although I am told that there will be a modest fee to SSCA after 120 days, so view it now. The Windward Islands:  Antigua and South, “where the REAL Caribbean begins”.  From Antigua to the Grenadines.   Yes, this one is free too. I enjoyed preparing for and giving these talks and would appreciate your feedback on what I might do to make them more interesting or perhaps other topics that you’d like to hear.

Oh yeah, one more thing.   If reading is more your style, check out these articles that I wrote for Blue Water Sailing Magazine.

Cruising Cuba, a First Timer’s Perspective from October 2016.  Brenda and I spent two months cruising Cuba and toured the south coast, around the NW point and to Havana before returning to the US.  Cruising the Windward Islands.   This article appeared in Blue Water Sailing magazine in August of 2018.   It’s a shorter version of the story I told at the SSCA webinar mentioned above. And finally, the cruise that introduced us to the eastern Caribbean in 2017.  Into the Leeward Isles, cruising from the BVIs south, the northern half of the eastern island chain.   This article was published in Blue Water Sailing Magazine in February of 2018.Yes, it’s going to be a long winter but at least I have lots of friends that can keep me posted on what they are doing, cruising in the beautiful waters of the Caribbean.

Yep, I too can be an “armchair sailor”.  Not perfect but it’ll do for one winter at least.


So, how much does a dink full of water weigh?

Well, that’s it.  Yesterday evening Pandora was hauled for the winter.  It’s over and we won’t be sailing again until next Summer.  It’s the first winter in her decade of service that she has been on the hard for winter and I am not happy about it.

With boats it always seems that “it’s always something” and the last week or so hasn’t disappointed.  In the aftermath of the huge hurricane, Florence, that slammed into the Carolinas, the much weakened storm headed up through our area and dumped a remarkable amount of rain as it passed through CT.

As is my custom, I had left our dink up in the davits on Pandora but on this occasion I neglected to pull the drain plug.  That turned out to be very bad oversight as the nearly 7″ of rain that fell overnight filled the dink, which, as you recall, was hung up in the davits, nearly to the point of overflowing.  Between the rain that landed directly into the dink, along with the rain that ran off from the big solar panel above it, there was hundreds of pounds of water sloshing around when I returned to Pandora the next morning.

The dink and motor alone weigh in at around 175lbs and add to that perhaps another 500lbs of water at 8.3lbs per gallon, and you can see how quickly the weight added up.   Our davits are pretty strong but that massive weight proved to be too much for them to bear and the starboard leg of the davits, the outboard motor side, bent down 3-4″.   Oh boy, was I sad when I saw that.

I knew from past inquiries, that there isn’t a mobile stainless guy anywhere so this repair was going to have to me done by MOI.  I thought about this for several days and finally settled on a plan.

A few years ago I had hired a yard in Ft Pierce FL to straighten the bow pulpit and having watched that process, I realized that it was going to take a tremendous amount of pressure to bend two 1.5″ stainless tubes several inches.

The bow pulpit process took a remarkable amount of pressure too and it was only 1″ tube.  I wrote about the process in this post.  So, back to my sagging davit.  I knew that it was going to take a lot of pressure, hundreds of pounds at least, to push the sagging stainless, 1 1/2″ tubing and a brace of the same diameter back into place.  And to get it to settle at a level point again would mean that I’d have to push it up way beyond level so that it would end up where it belonged when I released the pressure.

In addition, this would put a huge amount of upward pressure on the aft deck fitting and I was fearful that it would rip the arch right out of the deck or at least crack the deck as the base of the main davits was only about 2″ square, not counting pretty hefty below deck backup plates.   That’s not a lot of surface are to spread perhaps a thousand of pounds of upward pressure.

I thought about this for several days, and some sleepless moments at night I’ll admit, and settled on a plan.  I needed to offset the upward pressure on the davits I’d be applying by lashing a 50 gallon drum to the side of the radar arch and filling it with water, 50 gallons at 8.3lbs per gallon, over 400 pounds of downward pressure.   The theory was that while I was going to push up on the bent davit with many hundreds of pounds of pressure, this upward force would be somewhat offset by the pounds of water hanging on the side of the radar arch in the barrel.

I also ran a line from the top of the drum through a snatch block on the arch and down to a winch so I could release it when I was done.   As it slowly filled the line running to the arch made some alarming squeaking sounds.  Interestingly, even with all that weight the starboard stern only settled about an inch.

I also needed to protect my shiny new paint job from being scratched by the drum so I put a soft moving blanket between it and the new paint.  Here’s the setup.   Additionally, I drilled two small holes in the base of the barrel and attached a messenger line to a cleat on the dock so that after I was done the water would slowly drain out and I’d be able to turn the barrel over and drain it.  My fear was that the barrel would be too heavy to deal with and I wouldn’t be able to retrieve it.

I also prepared a 4×4″ post that was cut to the right height and attached plywood shims on the top of the post to ensure that it would not slip off of the stainless tube that I would be pushing against.   If the post was to slip off of the tube, it would ram right through the solar panel and put a big hole in it.   That would really have made me sad.

I used a car jack, rated at 6,000 lbs and put that on some heavy timbers so that it wouldn’t be able to move as I pumped up the pressure.  The jack has wheels and I was afraid that it would slip out as I jacked it up so I chose a timber that would rest securely between the back wheels. The moment of truth.  I pumped the jack up and up, wincing with every pull on the lever, expecting to hear the cracking of the deck or perhaps a weld breaking.  I didn’t.  I should note that I removed the bolts holding the aft end of the solar panel in place out of fear that the movement would put too much stress on the aft end of the panel and break the bolts or, worse,  the panel. After several rounds of applying pressure with the jack and then releasing it, I the stepped back and viewed the davits from several vantage points to see if it was level again.   I took a spirit level to the swim platform and compared that to the davits.

I looked at the rig from on Pandora’s deck, from a nearby dock and every which way I could think of and was pretty convinced that it was level again.   As nothing is level on a floating boat, it was hard to be sure but it seemed to be about right.

Frankly, I still can’t believe that it worked but I guess it did.  Whew!  No, make that double whew.

Amazing, actually.

So, for the third time in so many months, Pandora is back on the hard again.  Big boat, big projects await.  My mother says I’m big.  Perhaps she’d feel differently if she saw Pandora. so how much does a dink full of water weigh?   A LOT….

And now I won’t worry so much when I climb into the dink when it’s strung up in the davits.  Now I know that it takes at least 40o lbs to bend the davits and as the photos above shows, compared to Pandora I’m a long way south of that figure.

And, speaking of south, Pandora will be a long way north of south for the winter.

Say it isn’t so.

In for the long (winter) haul.

I still can’t believe that I am writing these words but this coming Monday Pandora will be hauled for the winter.  FOR THE ENTIRE WINTER.  Once she’s on land, after less than two weeks in the water, I’ll be able to focus on a number of small, and some large, items that need attention after slightly more than a decade in continuing service.  Yes, I am working hard to put a positive spin on it.

Not to wallow in self pity, but this is the sort of view I am used to when it’s cold up north.  Pandora in Guadaloupe.  NOT.Hauled for the winter?  Yes, she’s been hauled each year but being winterized and put up for the entire winter, is a first and I can’t say that I am thrilled about it.

However, it will be good to focus, with lots of time to do it right, on all the little things like a persistent leak over the galley and a few drips, here and there, from portholes, that have been bugging me for as long as we have owned her.  These leaks, more like drips, can easily be solved by removing and re-bedding the traveler or replacing offending hatch gaskets.  Perhaps “easy” isn’t the right word  with regards to the traveler as much of the headliner will have to be taken down to access the bolts that hold it in place.  But wait!  The headliner will already be taken down to deal with the fallen portions and additional leaks from the bases of the granny bars near the mast.

When you buy a boat one of the inevitable questions is “are there leaks” to which the answer is always an enthusiastic “no, she’s as dry as a desert”.   Ok…

I’ll also be re-bedding the large windows in the hard dodger as the are showing signs of coming “unglued” in some of the corners.   I expect that it won’t be a terrible job once I understand how to get them out and what the best material will be to put them back in place.  Also, all of the side portholes will have to be removed to make it possible to replace the headliner on the sides of the cabin.   That’s going to be a pretty big job, and one that I won’t be able to tackle until the boat is fully covered to protect it from the elements.

Recently, I wrote about my desire to get a passerelle, a gangway to board Pandora from the stern when she is Med moored.  I was all set to order one of these from a company in the UK but held back as questions arose about our run south.  I am glad that I did as I wasn’t all the crazy about the design that I had chosen.  The problem is that in order to come up with a design that we could  afford, ie: in the neighborhood of one boat dollar, we were going to have to settle on an aluminum version.    That’ OK but a bit heavy and to lug it around the boat could be challenging as it wasn’t going to be all that light.

In case you are curious about just how to accomplish a Med moore, this video gives a good feel for the process.  Trust me though, it’s not as easy as they make it look.  Well, not for us, at least.

With the stern toward the dock, it’s a lot easier to board the boat with a promper ramp, so, with the extra time home this winter, I’ll have time to make my own.  However, before you think “loving hands at home”, I’ll be getting advice and support from an old friend, Peter, who has a company that does complex composite construction for the Navy.   Peter was enthusiastic about helping me and even offered me the opportunity to “pick through our scrap heap” to find some materials to make a really lightweight ramp.

Apparently, his shop has some high tech aluminum and epoxy honeycomb material that is very strong and super light.   Learning how to put these materials together will be pretty neat.   I have seen some examples of carbon fiber/composite units in Antigua but never thought that I’d be able to find a way to afford one for Pandora.

By comparison, a lightweight aluminum version weighs in at about 30lbs and one constructed from carbon fiber is less than half of that weight.  This is what the aluminum version looks like.  And composite.   I could never afford one of these as they run about 3 to 5 boat dollars.   However, if I can make one myself… Heck. I’d even be able to put yet another Pandora logo on one like this.   Pretty slick.  However, I have no allusion that I could make something so refined but I’ll bet that with Peter’s help, I’d be able to come up with something that is worthy of Pandora.  More to come on that. So, with what now seems like unlimited time on my hands, I’ll be able to tackle these jobs.

Perhaps one of the toughest things about my being a CLOD “cruiser living on dirt” for a time, will be coming up with ideas to put in posts.  It’s tough to come up with ideas for posts when I am not actually out there doing it.    However, I am committed to posting regularly, hopefully at least once a week so wish me luck.

In the short term, I’ll be focused on winterizing Pandora and with all her complex systems, it’s going to be a learning experience and will surely feel like a scavenger hunt as I sort through all of the details.

So, I promise that I’ll work hard to get Pandora in good shape so I can spend some time aboard next summer and then head off to Antigua next fall.  That will give me something to write about.

And, speaking of next summer, we have spent many summers in Maine over the years but none since I retired.   Along the way, I have wanted to visit the St John River, way up in the Bay of Fundy, famous for really high tides.    There is a bridge over the falls that is almost 80′ high at slack tide and I understand that you can only make the run during a brief 15 minute window at slack tide.  At low tide the river turns into a waterfall with raging rapids but you can get through at high tide during the very brief period that the water is slack and calm.

I am always nervous when going under a bridge, even when I am confident that we have adequate room.  This video of a large sailboat going under the bridge with a mast that’s actually higher than the bridge is tall is interesting.   They use a large waterbag to pull her over.  It’s a squeaker.
I guess that’s about it for now. However, before I break, I’ll share a brief passage that, for me, nicely sums up what cruising is all about. It’s excerpted from the book “The America, The Story of the World’s Most Famous Yacht”  It’s long out of print but you can get a used copy on Amazon.   It’s a fascinating book and well worth reading.  For example, the yacht for which the America’s Cup is named was sold in England immediately after she won that famous first race.  Later in her long life, she was owned by Union Navy and served as a blockade runner against the Confederates during the Civil War.

This quote is from a letter written by the then owner of the Yacht America, Ben Butler in 1878, while on a cruise in Nova Scotia and the Gulf of St Lawrence, with his son Paul.

“I suppose that you know the qualifications of a yachtsman… to wit, to be able to eat and drink unlimitedly, not to be seasick more than one-half the time and keep good natured under difficulties if any occur, especially in drizzly weather, and to be able to play any ordinary game of cards except Kino, which is strictly forbidden on the ground that it requires to much mathematics as to be inadmissible.  The outfit will need to be the thickest possible clothing and roughest clothing, a rubber overcoat and cap if you desire to be on deck when it rains and a reasonable supply of the latest novels in case the yacht library should not be sufficient.”

I guess things haven’t changed much as his thoughts sound about right 140 years later.

And, speaking of “being on deck when it rains”, the hot summer weather here in New England will soon be driven out by cold winter winds.    As a friend once said to me, “when you get to Labor Day you can almost hear the iron doors of summer slam shut.”

Indeed, but hey, it’s going to get better in May.   I’m in for the duration, the long haul, so to speak.   Spring will be here before we know it.

I’m counting on that.  Totally…



Where’s Pandora going? Try nowhere… Time to buy more sweaters.

It’s been nearly seven years since I retired and every winter Brenda and I have headed south in the fall for a winter of cruising in warmer climes.   We’ve done the ICW a number of times, Bahamas for a few years, two months in Cuba, and, for the last two seasons, the eastern Caribbean.  However, that unbroken run seems to be coming to an end.    Actually, it would be more accurate to say that it’s “taking a break”.  Well, I sure hope it’s only a break.

As I have written recently, Pandora was in the shop for painting and some engine work and, as planned, she splashed the day after Labor Day so that I could begin the long process of getting her ready for the run south with nearly two months to work my way through the long list of tasks and upgrades.

After several years of hard use, Pandora was surely in need of a face-lift.  Her paint was looking pretty shabby and the heat of the tropics had caused problems with some of the foam backed headliner in her cabin which has begun drooping and worse.   As I negotiated the projects to be done by the refit group, the cost of fixing the headliner was just too high so I decided to do it myself once she was re-launched in late summer.  Some of it has come down completely.   Note the “puffy” look to the right.  The foam backing on the vinyl has totally broken down from the tropical heat.

Nasty, right?
To fix the problem when the Pandora was painted, I was quoted at something like $5,000.  Way too rich for my blood so I opted to do it myself.  It’s going to be a nasty job and will involve removing hardware, molding and… Well, I don’t even want to think about all that.

So, back to the day after labor day and Pandora’s launching.  As planned, she went back in the water.  However, as I was checking to see that all was in working order I discovered that the engine work had not been completed.  Yes, the paint work was terrific but the  mechanical work was not done by the sub-contractor and it seemed that nobody noticed.  So, out of the water she went and after three more weeks, the work was finally completed.

The good news is that the contracted work is all done.  The bad news is that my two month window shrunk to less than a month and I am now seriously wondering if I can get the boat ready in time to head south.

A month sounds like a long time but the unknowns with the interior work was bad enough and then “the other shoe dropped”.   You know that, with a boat, it’s always something”.  And that particular something may have driven the last “nail in the coffin” for going south this season.

As I fired up the instruments when I left the dock, everything was in working order but after about an hour the screen on the primary chart plotter began to get dim and an hour later it went dark and failed entirely.   That was particularly bad news for me as there is no way that I would head offshore without everything in working order.

It’s worth noting that the plotter at the helm failed last year so the unit that is there now was a replacement, purchased from a dealer as “near new”.  It had been taken off of a race boat that had not been used for several years and I was told that it had very few hours on it.

Getting a plotter fixed or even replaced isn’t a big deal, well at least not compared to getting a boat painted,  except that Raymarine has discontinued that series and is no longer supplying parts or doing repairs.   I spoke with the tech people and the local dealer and learned that Raymarine  hasn’t supported that model for the last three years.

But wait, it gets worse.  To replace that, now obsolete plotter, will require that I replace the other plotter, the radar and the dozen individual instruments and repeaters that are scattered in the cockpit and down below.   We’re talking BIG DOLLARS, and that’s before we even think about all the work in running cables throughout the boat to connect all the stuff.   NOT HAPPENING and certainly not in less than a month.

All of this gave me, what my father used to say, “a cold rush of S**T to the heart”.   Not a good feeling.

What next?  “Let me Google that for you.”  Actually, if you are one of the three people on earth that doesn’t know about Google, this video will help you learn now.So, after refreshing myself on how to “Google that”,  I spent some time searching with phrases like “e-120 backlight repair”, “e-120 interface” and whatever else I could think of to avoid a complete instrument upgrade.

Good news!  Success!  On e-Bay there’s a guy, some sort of electronics geek, perhaps related to the LMGTFY guy, that takes these units apart and replaces the high voltage backlight, the part that I am told is usually the problem, and puts in a low voltage LED backlight.   I contacted him and he told me that he is able to repair the units he receives about 90% of the time.  So, I’ll be sending him the unit as well as the one that failed 18 months ago.  Yes, I saved the broken one as, EVERYONE knows that you really never know when a broken plotter will come in handy.   You knew that, right?

So, fingers crossed that one or both of these will be repaired and I’ll be looking at a repair of under $350 to $700 for the pair instead of, well, I don’t even want to think about what “new” would look like.

I can say for sure that if only one can be repaired I am going to purchase another used unit to keep on board as a spare, just in case.  New backlight or not, it will still be old and to be 500 miles out to sea and have the plotter crap out…  Well, let’s just say that  it doesn’t inspire confidence.

So, after six seasons south, so little time left until departure and a daunting list of stuff that still needs to be done…  Oh yeah, did I mention that I just found out that I need a new jib?  Well, I do.

Well, I guess it may just be time to put Pandora on the hard for the winter, just this once.   As a point of fact, she was launched in 2007 and this will be the first winter that she has not been in service.   And while that’s pretty amazing, it’s still pretty crappy news to me. 

So, what’s a CLOD (cruiser living on dirt) to do to keep warm during the cold winter nights?  Brenda’s got some ideas.  And I know that because it’s been discussed.  How about remodeling the third bathroom, the guest bath off of her studio?  I could do that.

I just finished the guest bath upstairs.  My third bath remodeling job.  It turned out pretty well, if you ask me. There’s even a tub with a curvy side. And, besides, I have been wanting to build an outdoor “beehive oven” for years so now I can, if I stay home.  I’d better hurry as it’s going to be getting really cold soon.    I got this idea from a place that Brenda and I visited in Maine back in 2011.  I wrote about the experience in this post.

We had a great time that day with a bunch of folks that we had never met.  Drawn together by pizza.  S0unds good to me.

Here’s an idea. I’ll go to Maine next summer and resume our southern travels next fall.

As The Little Engine That Could once said, “I think I can.  I think I can…”So, there you have it.   Me trying my best to make lemon aid out of lemons.

Oh yea, one more thing.   Remember our granddaughter Tori?  She’s growing up fast. I’ll get to see her more.And, the twins.   I’ll be able to take them off of their father’s hands, if only for a moment. Yes, that would be nice.  I guess that I’d better buy a few more sweaters.

Where in the world is Pandora and where is she going?

It’s only about six weeks until I am supposed to head south on Pandora, bound for Antigua and I am getting a little bit anxious about next steps.

The good news is that Pandora’s paint job is completed and her graphics applied and they turned out perfectly.   Pandora went in the water first thing on the Tuesday after Labor Day and I arrived in Stratford just in time to see her moved into a slip.  My plan was to motor her back to Deep River to re-unite her with her mast and get going on all the “to-do” items that are on the long list of chores.  She looked wonderful in her new finery.  For those of you who read the prior paragraph VERY carefully, you would have noticed that I used the phrase, “my plan WAS” about next steps.

That’s because as I went through my “pre-flight” check list, I noticed that the bearing on the back of the transmission, the “pillow bearing”, that was to be changed or rebuilt, hadn’t been touched.   That bearing had concerned me a lot on the way home from Antigua last spring and it needed to be addressed while Pandora was on the hard.  However, somehow the engine guys at Brewers who were to do the work somehow “didn’t get the memo”.   A work order had been issued weeks before but somehow that key task was missed.

Now for the bad news…  So, back out of the water she went and back on the train  for me.  I wasn’t happy because by the time I got home I had burned nearly the whole day.  Not to put too fine a point on it, but that little issue meant that I got up at 5:30 and spent the next 9.5 hours messing around on trains and buses but mostly just sitting around “waiting” for trains and buses.  It’s so much fun and Pandora was back on the “hard” all over again.  But wait, there’s more.  I just found out that the work won’t be completed and until next Friday, a nearly three week delay that eats up a huge amount of my prep time for getting ready to head south.

So, here I sit, with so much to still do to get ready to head south and the clock is ticking.   And wouldn’t you know it, the tides will be against me this week, if she’s even ready then,  for bringing her east in Long Island Sound.  Such are the best laid plans.

A few days ago I received an update and was told that they could not find a replacement bearing and that the old one would have to be rebuilt and that some parts were going to be “fabricated” in the machine shop.  I always get anxious when I hear the word “fabricate” in the same phrase as “mechanic”.    Oh great, they get to play with their awesome machines and I get to listen to the time clock tick loudly.

Oh well, that’s why everyone talks about “boat dollars”.  You know, the ones that are 1000/1 compared to regular dollars?

And, speaking of boat dollars, we are thinking about adding a passerelle, actually, I am not sure I can even spell it correctly.  However, it’s a boarding ladder that goes on the stern for use when “Med Mooring” a boat.    Oddly, they don’t even make them in the US for small boats so if we want to get one, it will have to be fabricated in the UK and shipped to us.   I have been in touch with a company there and they assure me that with the proper application of “boat dollars”, that they can get one here in time.    The company makes all sorts of units but we are going to go with one of the aluminum ones, their most “pedestrian” style.  Here’s a link to the page that shows the unit.  It’s not terribly elegant but should make it easier to move on and off the boat when we are Med or stern moored at a marina.  I don’t have a photo of what the unit looks like when it’s deployed but this is a shot of a fancier unit on a much larger boat.  And, on a really, really large boat.  That unit telescopes into the hull from the stern.  We saw this boat, Kismet, a few years ago in Ft Lauderdale.  I  wrote about her and her well heeled owner a while back.   His passerelle is longer than all of Pandora.  So, there’s a lot left to do and not a lot of time to accomplish it.    Actually, and not to put too fine a point on it, I only have a month and that assumes that she is finally launched next Friday.  Not sure I can make it as I was not counting on the unexpected three week delay in getting Pandora back to my local marina.

However, as the title of this post suggests, Pandora’s going somewhere and that somewhere is supposed to be Antigua.   Well, I sure hope so as there is a lot to look forward to when we arrive with a week of festivities planned.   Click here to see what’s planned.   

It’s going to be great assuming that I can get everything done.

I’m stressing…

What’s in a name and all of the little things that I obsess about.

When people ask what our boat’s name is and I reply Pandora, my answer is often followed by another question.   “Do you own Pandora Jewelry?”  Another question is often “Do you work for Pandora Radio”, the Internet radio service.  Nope and nope.

However, more often than not, it’s a simple “why did you name your boat Pandora?”  So, since you asked…

Some ten years ago Brenda and I were on a summer vacation in Maine,  anchored in Gilkey Harbor, Penobscot Bay.  We met an older couple on a boat, another larger Tartan, who told us of their long summers aboard their boat each year.  After hearing their story, I said to Brenda “When I grow up, I want to be like them.”

At the time we owned Elektra, a Tartan 37, a great boat but one that did not have quite the “creature comforts” that Pandora affords and that I knew Brenda would require if I had any hope of her spending months at a time aboard.

So, Brenda and I agreed that our next boat would be one that was capable of long distance cruising and that we’d be able to do so in relative comfort.   Thank you Brenda.   When we finally acquired a boat that fit our bill for long distance cruising and it came time to consider various names, Brenda quipped…
“Wow, I am really opening Pandora’s Box by letting Bob get a bigger boat.”

So, Pandora became Pandora.

And, here we are so many years later with thousands of sea miles and countless nights aboard and I am still not sure if I should thank her or beg for forgiveness.  Actually, it’s probably both.

Thanks Brenda and I am really, really sorry about all this.  Well, not all that sorry, actually…

So, back to the newly painted Pandora all ready to hit the water in a few days.

As with most important decisions, and plenty of minor ones, such as what sort of tile to use in a bath remodel, or what color to paint Pandora, I tend to obsess over such things.  However, in my defense, after all the “what about this or that option?”, I generally feel like the outcome is worth the effort and Pandora’s new color was a decision that was worth obsessing over.

Recall all the time that I spent choosing a color for Pandora?   All those blog posts and Facebook posts about what color too choose?  Well, I think it was worth it as her new light grey suits her perfectly.

Folks had plenty to say about color choices ranging from “paint her the color of bird poop” to “exactly why are you asking total strangers what color to paint your boat?”  However, the final outcome was definitely better for all the input so thanks for the help.

In addition to the choice of color, which looks marvelous, I really wanted to get the logo perfect, both in design and in size.  And, thanks to the work by Mike from Stamford Signs in CT, it really looks terrific.  Mike was very patient and even offered to reprint the logo and make it bigger when we put the first printout on the hull a few days ago.   We both agreed that it wasn’t quite big enough.  Well, perhaps he was just humoring me but I appreciated his willingness to print out one that was about 1/3 larger, a whopping 7′ or perhaps longer.

I think it looks just awesome. On the starboard side he switched the stars to the other end of the logo so that they would trail aft in both cases.   My artist friend Chris had that idea and I think it was quite inspired. The process of actually applying the “sticker” was simpler than I would have expected.   Mike sprayed a solution of water, alcohol and a bit of soap to the surface so that he could lift the vinyl if he got a wrinkle.  No problem though, it went on perfectly, the first time. Nice work Mike.

All done and now it’s time to put Pandora back in the water and bring her back to Deep River where her rig will be reinstalled, new rod rigging and all.  There’s still plenty to do before I head south to Antigua at the end of October.

And, speaking of graphics, I am now obsessing over what sort of decoration to put on my little truck.   Of course, “TT (tender too) Pandora” is a great option.  Or, perhaps “Pandora’s Box Truck”.  Too obvious?  Yeah, probably.

For now, it gives me something else to obsess about.  That’s good.  I think it’s a cute truck.  Brenda says it’s just stupid.    Don’t you just love the new “big” tires and wheels?Anyway, all this writing isn’t getting my other projects done and the plumber comes Tuesday to do the final hookups on the “new” bathroom that I have nearly finished.

Best of all, we are heading to MD in a few days to see our three grandchildren and their parents too, of course.   Our oldest Tori is getting older by the day.   I just love this “sassy” picture of her.   Yes, having grandchildren is wonderful and it’s the one little thing that I don’t obsess over.   I’ll leave that to their parents.


Pandora’s new suit

It’s about two months until the sailing season here in the North East ends and the fall migration south begins for those who don’t haul in the fall.  While most of the folks I know are out sailing around New England waters, Pandora’s in a shed being painted.

I have written about Pandora’s new paint job for a while now and yesterday I went to take a look at her, all shiny and nearly ready to launch.   I’d say that she’s really, really shiny although it’s a bit hard to see just how great she looks tucked inside a “small” shed.  As I mentioned, it’s hard to see how perfect the job looks.  This angle perhaps better, or not.   I think that the stainless rub rail really sets the grey hull off. It’s certainly a lot different than her way-dark green hull of yore. The next step, beyond a million little things that they will do to clean up any “boogers” in the paint job, will be to have the logo applied.  I loved the one done for “old Pandora” years ago and had the designer spruce it up a bit.   That version was done by Accent Graphics in Annapolis years ago and they were happy to update it a bit for “new” Pandora.   I think that they did a nice job.  We will be going with black lettering and a metallic outline.  The stars, probably black or even white.  Not sure quite yet.   A local shop will take the file, print it out and manage the installation on port and starboard quarters. The plan is also to put the logo, sans silver outline, on each side of Pandora’s boom as well.

A few engine related items to handle including the standing rigging that needs to be ugh, replaced.  Well nearly all of it needs to be replaced.   The rigger picked up the rod last week and has taken time to inspect each piece.  With 40,000 miles under her keel, it’s in not-so-great condition.   This is a photo of a head on one of the main shrouds.  I’m lucky that it didn’t come down already.   See that small crack just under the head.  Imagine that going all the way through and having the mast crash down in a heap.  That’s the head for one of the main shrouds.  The most important piece of the rig. Beyond bills to pay and it seems that they just keep getting bigger, there’s lots to do to get ready for our departure in late October but first I’ll have to finish the remodel job in our guest bath.  Yes, dealing with the honey-do list is important.  To fall short on that front, well, that would be a CLM (career limiting move), and we wouldn’t want that, would we?

Well, they always say that owning a boat is just having a hole in the water into which you pour money.   Unfortunately, with all the work done on Pandora this year, painting and pulling the rig, it seems that I have really “opened Pandora’s box”.

Well, I guess that’s about it for now.  Not happy but hey, she does look great.

I guess that I’d better sign off for now and get moving on the guest bath.  Yes, first things first.


What’s in store when you arrive in Antigua? Read on…

If you follow this blog you know that I am the Port Captain in Antigua for the Salty Dawg Fall Rally to the Caribbean this fall.  The rally has a number of destinations and I will admit that I am biased about where you should make landfall.

In particular, I think that you should make your destination Antigua.  And, it’s all about what happens once you arrive.  In spite of what some say, it’s not all about the journey and after an ocean run of over 1,000 miles, you will be ready for some R&R and have we got some great R&R in store for you.

I have gotten a number of questions about what is planned for those who do the rally or join us in Antigua, so here goes.  Some have also asked me if they could join in with the fun even if they don’t do the rally and the answer is YES!

We’d hope that you would decide to join the Salty Dawg Sailing Association but that’s up to you, so come to the party.  N0, make that “parties” as there are plenty of events coming your way in Antigua.

Better yet, if you are one of the many Dawgs that have been down in Grenada or Trinidad for the summer, sail north to Antigua in November and join us.  It’s not that far, really, and I promise we’ll make it worth the trip.

The arrival activities are slated to begin when the bulk of the boats in the rally arrive in Antigua so for planning purposes, they are slated to kick off on November 13th and run for nearly 10 days.

Let’s call it “A Week of Celebration, Antigua style”

The goal is to tap into the best of what Antigua has to offer and to do so in a way that won’t break the bank.

So, with that in mind, we will be hosting a series of fun events to celebrate your arrival in Antigua, wherever you come from.

It’s all centered on Nelson’s dockyard, arguably the most spectacular destination in the Caribbean.   I am working with the National Parks commissioner to arrange for discounted dockage, probably somewhere in the $.50US/ft/day, a bargain in a spot as beautiful as this.Nelson’s Dockyard:  The plan is for all “Dawgs” to tie up along the dock for a week of fun.  This historic dockyard is one of the most beautiful and well-protected harbors in the Caribbean.  Nelson’s Dockyard, the only operating Georgian Dockyard in the world, was once home to the British Royal Navy.   You will be in the heart of the Salty Dawg Arrival activities when you join the fleet here.

You can also anchor in Falmouth or even in English Harbor but wherever you are, these events await…

Tuesday, November 13th it all begins…

Antigua Sailing Center Happy Hour:  Overlooking beautiful Falmouth Harbor, the sailing center is active for local sailors.  Join us for drinks and appetizers at special happy hour prices.   $5 US payable at the door and cash bar.

Thursday, November 15th

Rhum, Reggae and Art:  Join us for an evening of fun to celebrate the season opening of Rhythm of Blue Art Gallery, located between Falmouth and English Harbor.  There will be a local Reggae band on hand to set the mood along with complimentary light snacks, rum drinks as well as beer and wine for sale at very reasonable “happy hour” prices.  Who knows, you might win a prize.

Friday, November 16th

The Royal Navy Tot Club of Antigua and Barbuda:   An evening with this group was one of our most popular events last fall.   The “Tot Club” grows out of the  discontinued tradition of issuing a “tot” of rum to all officers and seamen in the Royal Navy.  Learn about local British navy history and raise a glass with fellow Dawgs and Tot Club members all for $3 US, such a deal, payable at the door.  Includes a “tot” of fine rum in a fabulous historic location.  Drinks at happy hour prices are also available.

Saturday, November 17th

Fleet Welcome Happy Hour at Admiral’s Inn:  This venue, in the heart of Nelson’s dockyard, is arguably the most scenic venue in the area.   Our fleet will be treated to drinks at happy hour drink prices as well as supplied light hors d’oeurves.  $10 cover charge, per person, payable at the door.

It’s a spectacular venue. Our arriving skippers and crew last fall. 

Sunday, November 18

Antigua Yacht Club Member/Guest Welcome Reception:   Enjoy appetizers and even a welcome rum drink, compliments of the Yacht Club.  This event is a must as we meet local members of this wonderful club overlooking beautiful Falmouth Harbor.  Government dignitaries will be invited as well as members of the Marine Trades Association so you can meet businesses that can solve any problems you might have with your boat.   Cash bar.

Monday, November 19th

North Sails Open House at the Loft:  Complimentary beer, wine and snacks at the North Sails Loft, English Harbor along with fun door prizes.  You can’t beat free!

Tuesday, November 20th

Safe Arrival Welcome Dinner, Admiral’s Inn:  Held poolside at Boom restaurant, at the Admiral’s Inn with a breathtaking view of English Harbor, this enormously popular event celebrating our arrival, will feature a barbecue dinner overlooking beautiful historic Nelson’s Dockyard in English Harbor. (reasonable fee)

Thursday, November 22nd

Thanksgiving Dinner at the Antigua Yacht Club:  To be held at the Antigua Yacht Club and managed by Angie in “the Clubhouse.”  This event with a popular local band will carry a modest fee and will also be open to all Antigua Yacht Club members.And, if you and your crew need some shore-time, the Admiral’s Inn is offering rooms for arriving crew and skippers at very attractive “dawg rates” starting at around $150 per night.  Contact The Admiral’s Inn for more information.  Mention that you are with SDSA for these rates.And, of course, on the “off nights” there will be informal pot luck dinners and cocktails behind our boats in Nelson’s Dockyard.

Finally, can’t decide where you want to cruise this winter?  Antigua is ideally situated for cruising farther south as well as making your way, on a civilized broad reach of course, toward the Virgins, Puerto Rico and the Bahamas later in the season.

Oh yeah, one more thing.  If you hang out in Antigua for New Year’s Eve, you’ll see spectacular fireworks in the Dockyard.  It’s not to be missed. But best of all, all season long, you’ll see sunsets like this.  So, there you have it and there’s lots in store when you join us in Antigua.

Still not convinced?  Need more information?  Contact me, Antigua Port Captain, Bob Osborn,





Painting Pandora to dazzle.

I have written lately about the of choosing a color for Pandora’s new paint job and it has turned out to be quite the process.

Most owners and certainly builders, trying to keep it simple,  just say “paint it white” and it seems that even that can be complicated.   White isn’t always white.  Awlgrip has about 25 colors that can loosely be described as “white” and that doesn’t even get into the colors that stray into the greys and tans.

White is so pervasive among boats that the line of Island Packet cruising boats and their distinctive tan (Or is it biscuit?) off-white always stand out in a harbor.

So, here I am complicating things further painting Pandora grey.  My biggest concern has been that if I go too light there would not be enough contrast with the cabin and deck and she’s look like a marshmallow and if too dark she’d look like a micro-battle ship.   One comment on my blog suggested “Bob, just pick a color that’s the same as bird poop”.  Thanks Mary-Marie, that helps a lot.

The yard, Cooley Marine in Stratford CT, that’s handling the refit was recommended by one of the managers at the yard where I normally haul Pandora each year for work.    The owner, Andrew Cooley has been very helpful in assisting me with color selection and somehow took a photo of Pandora and overlaid various color options which I chronicled in nauseating detail, in case you missed it, in this post.  He has two facilities, one in Stratford CT at the Brewer’s yard and another in Stamford at the Hinkley yard.  I understand that Hinkley has a terrific paint shed but the yard fees were a bit too rich for my blood (There’s a reason that Hinkley describes their boats as having “million dollar paint jobs”) so we settled on the Stratford yard.  Cooley has done some big as well as little jobs and handles complex refits as well as straight up paint work.

Pandora’s job was a bit complicated because of a wooden rub rail that protects the hull.  Unfortunately, it was never properly prepared when the boat was built and therefore it has had a habit of peeling badly over the years.  Cooley has taken some special preparation steps that we hope will minimize the problem going forward but only time will tell.   This is me and Andrew checking out the “bad news” regarding the toe-rail before she was prepped for paint.  Notice that his smile is bigger than mine?  Just why is that, exactly?We settled on Alexseal paint, as I have mentioned in past posts as it’s easier to repair and with all the distance I cover with Pandora, things do go “bump in the night” so repairs are inevitable.

“So, Bob, Bob, what color are you going to paint Pandora.  You’ve been torturing us for weeks on this already.  JUST DECIDE!”

Ok, you win.  We chose “Light Grey”.   A color, and to paraphrase the fairy tale
The Princess and the Pea, that we hope isn’t too light or two dark.

This is what the mockup of Pandora is like with that color.  However, I expect that it will look a bit darker, or will it be lighter, when it’s all done?  Who knows.I visited her in the shop the other day after she was primed, a sort of, light grey.  Yep, looks a little like a micro-battle ship.  So, what will Light Grey really look like , really?  I have only the vaguest idea when you come right down to it.

Or, to put it another way, she may look a lot like this 18″ square piece of aluminium that the yard painted Light Grey.  That, of course, would be if she was 18″ long and happened to have the woods, red flowers and hummingbird feeders as a backdrop.   Confused?  Me too.  But wait.  When all is said and done, I expect that this whole “choose a color” exercise will be a bit like choosing perfume.  After the first 3 or 4, they all start to smell the same anyway so just pick one and be done with it.

One way or the other, it’s all about the execution and I am sure that she will look just smashing when she comes out of the shop.  No wait, smashing?, not the best choice of words.   No, I am sure that she will look beautiful in her new colors.

Before I break, here’s another idea.  How about drawing inspiration from the Navy in WWI when the British artist Norman Wilkinson, came up with the idea of painting ships with a mix of geometric patterns to make it more difficult for German U boats to get a good bearing and distance.   Besides, it’s a timely question as a nod to the 100th anniversary of the end of WWI this November, an artist, as reported in the NY Times, has painted the now retired NYC fireboat, the John J. Harvey in a modified “dazzle” paint job.   Actually, it’s a very interesting article.  Check it out here. Oh, never mind.  I’ll just stick with grey.  Whatever the color, I am sure that she will come out of the shed in a few weeks, ready to dazzle.


Why you should do the Salty Dawg Rally to Antigua this fall.

It’s only a few months until the Salty Dawg Sailing Association fall rally to the Caribbean arrives in Antigua and, as port captain for Antigua, I have been busy putting together a terrific mix of arrival events.   The Antigua Yacht Club, local business, national park service and government have been very supportive and has made my job a lot easier as I work to put things in place to make it worthwhile for you to make the run south with us.

The plan, upon arrival, is for the fleet to tie up in Nelson’s Dockyard for at least the week of festivities and we anticipate a very special rate as low as $.50 US/ft per day.  We plan to kick off our events on November 13th or when the bulk of the fleet has arrived safely.   The Dockyard is the only working Georgian dockyard in the world, once the center of the British Navy in the Caribbean.  What a beautiful place to make landfall after a long ocean voyage with the Dawgs. It’s a feast for the eyes wherever you turn, including ruins of a British Navy sail loft and the current home of the aptly named Pillars restaurant, part of the beautiful and so historic, Admiral’s Inn. We will again have our welcome cocktail party at Pillars.  Rally participants at last season’s reception. Our arrival dinner will be held at Boom, poolside, overlooking the dockyard.  And, it’s quite a spot. Imagine yourself with an icy rum punch with all of your Dawg friends in this setting.  Oh yeah…  Want some shore time after a long voyage south or perhaps a spot for your crew and family to hang out for a few days.  There are very special “Dawg Rates” at the Admiral’s Inn, starting at about $150/night US.   Join the rally, contact them and identify yourself as a Rally participant to get these rates.

And, don’t forget that all of this is right in the dockyard, where you’ll be snugly tied up.  This is a shot of the Oyster round the world rally when they stopped in Antigua. The harbor is a feast for the eyes with spectacular yachts from all over the world. The Antigua Yacht Club will be our host and they are there to help you.  Each boat will receive a skippers bag upon arrival with valuable discounts from many local business as well as information on what to do during your time in Antigua.

Just stop and see Nesie, who will help you with anything she can to make your visit to Antigua a great time. The clubhouse is located in Falmouth Harbor, a five minute walk from English Harbor.   Club members plan on throwing a welcome party for us, a special member guest event.   They will even provide in some free food and drink to make us feel welcome. Last year we were greeted by the Minister of tourism as well as the club commodore.  The event was very well attended by the Dawgs who had a great time. There will even be a special AYC member/guest Thanksgiving feast if you choose to be on-island for the holiday.   Angie, who runs the clubhouse restaurant, plans a wonderful event with all the turkey and fixings at a very reasonable price.  There will even be a band for dancing.   This might have been the most popular event last fall.  I even got a peck on the cheek when I presented Angie with a rally flag.  That flag, is now flying proudly in the clubhouse. Here’s one of the staff, they love the Dawgs, sporting one of our “Ts”.  But wait, there’s more, a total of ten special Dawg events, planned just for you.    I highlighted these events in another post so click here to learn all the details.  And let me tell you, there are lots of details.  There will be a free open house, complete with wine, beer and snacks at the North Sails loft in English Harbor.  Other events include a local art gallery who’s throwing a “season opener” party to welcome us to the island.  There will even be a reggae band on hand as well as free rum drinks and dancing.

The Royal British Navy Tot Club of Antigua and Barbuda, (and yes, this proves that there is a club for just about anything you can imagine), will host a very special event in our honor at the beautiful Copper and Lumber in the Dockyard.

The Tot Club was founded in the 90s by a small group devoted to preserving the naval history of Antigua,  including Mike, a colorful keeper of British Navy history on the island.   Want to know what happened in British naval history on February 21st, 1885?  Mike surely knows the answer.  Join the group, and it’s not as easy as it seems, but if you do, you too can get one of the official “Tot club” shirts.  I became a member this spring and wrote about the experience, that included a lot of rum tots in some remarkable places including a 150′ schooner, in this post.

An evening with the Tot club was one of our most popular arrival events.  Each day at 18:00, year round, the Tot Club meets to celebrate British Navy history, toast the end of the working day and the Queen, of course.   It’s a wonderful way to honor the history and tradition of the British Navy in a wonderful setting.  You really won’t want to miss this. Some say that the “real Caribbean” begins in Antigua and Falmouth Harbor Antigua is a great spot to begin your winter season and journey south toward Grenada.

There’s lots more in store for you if you make the jump to Antigua with the Salty Dawg Rally in November.  Departures are planned from Hampton VA and Essex CT.  It’s a wonderful group and you will surely make great friends along the way.

One more thing.  This post is only the tip of the iceberg as there are ten, count em, ten days of arrival events planned that you won’t want to miss.

Want to learn more?  Visit the “official Dawg” site and apply today.   And, if that’s not enough, the rally is very inexpensive.   In addition, there are days if pre-departure activities including blue water seminars, dinners and weather routing by Chris Parker of Marine Weather Center, for the entire trip south.

If you take the trip to Antigua, this view could be yours, rum punch in hand as the sun sets below the western horizon.  Antigua is wonderfully situated so that wherever you decide to go later in the season, south to Grenada or Trinidad or north to the Virgins to begin your run north in the spring, it’s always an easy reach.

Join us, you’ll be glad you did.  Click here to sign up now.

Don’t miss out.