So much to do, so little time…

Each summer I hope to have time to laze around and enjoy the hot long days but somehow it never seems to happen.  I am always busy balancing the needs of keeping a home up along with a boat and somehow both feel like “fixer uppers” in spite of putting tons of money into both each year.

And as summer draws to an end, it always feels like a scramble to get Pandora ready to head south and this year has been no different.  I’d be lying if I said that I am always happy with the pace of projects that need to be done and this year feels even worse.

While I am a card carrying member of the “cup is half full club”, I have found this year to be a bit overwhelming.   Perhaps it’s the sound of all those boat dollars pouring out of my cup.  My cup has not “runneth over”, it feels like the bottom just dropped out…

Arriving in CT with a damaged propeller coupling and then having to replace the entire mess, prop and all, didn’t set the tone for a lazy hazy summer.

I did get away with a friend for a week but otherwise, Pandora hasn’t left the river and yet I’ve been aboard, working on her most every day.

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind trying to get things settled including the installation of a new water heater.  The old one, recently out of warrantee, started to leak fluid back into the engine from the internal heat exchanger so I had c0ugh up nearly a whole “boat dollar” to set it straight.

Here’s where the heater lives, ready for the install. I had to move a huge amount of stuff to make room for it.  Here’s the finished install.  “Water heater?  I don’t see no stinkin waterheater. ”  Trust me, it’s somewhere back there. I also finished the upgrade to the solar array.   Last summer I learned that the old style panels, those that are more than a few years old, degrade at about 5% a year and the four original 80w panels that came with the boat when we purchased her were only putting out about half of their designed capacity.   Las summer I upgraded the  80s four 15ow panels, leaving me with a single 290w panel over the davits that I had added when we purchased the boat.

So, I did some research and learned that I could upgrade the 290w panel with three 150w panels and only increase the footprint by about 5″ in length, with three smaller panels taking the place of the one large 290w panel.  The newer designs put out a lot more power per square foot.

This photo is of the “new” 290w panel when I installed it in 2015.  It’s still huge.  Amazingly, I was able to put three 150w panels into the same space with only an extra 5″ of overhang aft of the original davit supports.  An amazing increase in capacity. These panels make the four 150w panels forward look small but it’s only a matter of perspective as you can see from this shot from forward.  In order to be sure that the three new panels are well secured to the davits, I had to fabricate a half dozen custom brackets made up of starboard and 1/4″ marine grade aluminum.  They were a lot more complex than they look to get in place with properly drilled holes.   This version on four corners. And these in two spots on the aft end to support the middle of the panels. In summary, this meant that by replacing all of the panels, between last summer and this, with seven 150w panels, I was able to bring the total wattage for the mix to 1,050w from 610w, a near doubling of the capacity of the array. 

And, all this, in addition to the wind generator and the lithium bank, I now have enough power to run everything on the boat directly from the batteries, all maintained by wind and sun.

Oh yeah, and Uncle Sam paid for 30% of the entire bill under the Inflation Reduction Act that covers green upgrades including boats if they are your primary or second home.  And yes, I checked with my accountant, a very straight shooter, and he said that I was good to go.  It saved me over $10,000 in direct tax reductions.

Among the items that I run directly from my inverter.  Note that we don’t even have a house generator.  A washer.  No, not the dryer but we don’t use that and let the relentless wind in the Caribbean dry things.  This unit doesn’t draw much power in wash mode anyway. Our Starlink, a pretty power hungry unit that I power from a small 600w plug in inverter. It is amazing how many appliances we have to plug in each day.  In the last few years I have added a number of USB ports in the nav station. And, I have gone out of my way to procure some low voltage lighting including this wonderful table lamp.  I saw it noted as the “must have” lighting in fancy dining places in NYC as written up in the NY Times a year or so ago.And, these nifty rechargeable lights that Brenda got for me.  They can be made to dim and change color.  I use them down below on passage for soft red night lighting in the galley.  We also hang them in the cockpit when we head ashore so it’s easier to see in the cockpit when we return later.    And, of course, rechargeable bluetooth speakers.  We use these to listen to music and also to extend the sound from our laptop if we watch movies in the cockpit.  We also run or watermaker every other day for a few hours to fill the tanks and run the waterheater each morning for about 30 minutes to heat hot water, all off of the batteries.

Prior to the upgrades to the batteries and solar, we had to supplement our electricity with a small portable Honda generator but now we are able to run everything, including our electric hookah compressor that I use to dive and clean the bottom of the boat, and never have to use our engine or generator to charge the batteries.

Of course, if we were to get cloudy weather for a week, that would be problematic but that is generally not a problem in the Caribbean where it is usually sunny and plenty windy to get power from the wind generator anyway.

So, this brings me to heading south and in the next few weeks I will bring Pandora to Hampton, VA where she will sit until I head back at the end of October to meet up with the nearly 90 boats that will be heading for points south, some for The Bahamas but mostly to Antigua.

Yes, things are plenty busy and I still haven’t settled on crew but hope too soon.

So much for those hazy lazy days of summer.

So much to do, so little time…


Jimmy Buffett, and the doors of summer slam shut.

It’s Labor Day weekend and it’s been chilly in the mornings, a clear message that fall is on the way.

I recall years ago, a friend Port (he was a sailor and yes, that really was his name) once remarked that on Labor Day, if you listened closely, you could hear the “doors” of summer slam shut.

For most this weekend marks the end of yet another summer season that went by way too fast.  “What happened to summer?  It seems like yesterday that it was Memorial day.”

Yes, summer is over in more ways than one with the passing of singer Jimmy Buffett, THE original summer guy, marking the end of decades of summers that he shared with millions around the world.

On Friday Jimmy Buffet died in his home in Sag Harbor at the age of 76.  It has been reported that he died of lymphoma, a complication of melanoma, in itself a sad reminder of the dangers of living an “endless summer”.  For a guy that embodied “summer” that was a particularly cruel end.

To be sure, Jimmy had a lot of fun over the years and inspired generations to kick back and enjoy life in a world where it seems that everyone is scrambling to climb to the top.  I expect that there are thousands that have taken stock of their lives, in no small part, inspired by the words of his songs.  Perhaps his passing will inspire more to head out for adventure before it is too late.

He wrote in his memoir “You know that Death will get you in the end. But if you are smart and have a sense of humor, you can thumb your nose at it for awhile.”

In a way, the timing of his passing, on Labor Day weekend, the official end of summer was sadly fitting.

Along with being a talented singer and song writer, he also wrote a number of books and when I turned 50, 18 years ago not to put too fine a point on it, a friend gave me copy of his book “A pirate looks at 50“.    You can order a copy from Amazon for about five bucks. It is a touching and amusing book about his life and a trip that he took to mark his half century, seen through the eyes of someone who was crossing the threshold from young to “old” or at least into the second half…

When I remarked to the friend that shared a copy, the message of the book resonated with me but my friend was quick to point out that “your turning 50 is NOTHING like Jimmy Buffett turning 50”.  Fair enough.

For me though, it was a timely read as we had sold our company and I knew that I’d be retiring within a few years, by my 55th birthday, my goal since I was in my early 20s.  It turned out, compliments of the “great recession” that I had to work an extra year and retired six years later at 56.  Not bad for a “newly sort of old guy” that I had become.

Like Jimmy, I too had no particular idea of where life would take me if I looked back when I was young.  The idea of heading to the Bahamas was the extent of it and that was a stretch, never imagining that I would end up in the Caribbean, sailing thousands of blue water miles and would now be leading a group that runs rallies there every year, Salty Dawg.  In many ways, my involvement in this group has come to define my “later years”.

I have been thinking of Buffett more lately as when I was in Sag Harbor a few weeks ago I saw Buffett’s boat.  In spite of being worth an estimated one billion, he still owned a small boat, his 49′ Pacific Seacraft built “Drifter” and it was there.  She is only a few feet longer than Pandora but probably cost 3x as much. Her accommodations are amazing. I’m guessing that a lot of Margaritas were served in her cockpit.

The coolest of his vehicles though, was his Grumman Albatross flying boat.  An awesome plane that I believe he flew on and piloted during the trip that inspired his book “A pirate looks at 50”. This is a walk-thru of a sister ship of Buffett’s plane.  It’s a remarkable “yacht” or “camper” as it’s described in the video.   Enjoy.This link will take you to the sale listing for the plane at the broker.   The listing is from 7 years ago and I doubt that it’s still on the market.  However, at the time, the asking price was $375,000.  For a machine of this complexity, I expect that the annual maintenance is plenty.  What a plane.  Land this baby on a lake somewhere and enjoy the moment. Makes me want a margarita.

And, speaking of margaritas, here’s the a video posted over the weekend by CNN, a short summary of “the man”, Margaritaville himself and all that flowed from his laid back island vibe.I guess he had plenty boats, planes etc, appropriate for a guy with a net worth of a billion.

When he built his sailboat, Drifter he had downsized from a Delta 125 which he sold ostensibly because he didn’t use it enough.  His last boat, built in 2019 was also blue, appropriately names Last Mango.  is blue as well, like his sailboat “Drifter:.  Here’s Last Mango, Jimmy Buffett’s last boat.I have no idea if Pandora will be our last boat but this coming season, as have noted in past posts, takes me and Brenda into our second decade of winter cruising.

I have booked a slip in Hampton, VA for the month of October to allow me to run Pandora down to VA before the weather gets too cold.  An easy trip might be wishful thinking as according to our weather router, Chris Parker, even late September may prove to be a bit challenging for southbound traffic as the  weather windows for southbound runs are already getting shorter.    Wish me luck on that as it’s only a few weeks until I begin to head south.

On October 26th, a month later, I will head around to downtown Hampton to join in the rally departure festivities, leading up to the start of our run to Antigua on November 1st, weather permitting.

I wonder how many have “cast off the docklines” and headed out to cruise the world, or at least the Bahamas and Caribbean over the years, inspired by Jimmy Buffett.

In my own small way, I hope that I too have done the same for at least a few others that have decided, over the years, after listening to may many webcasts on the Bahamas, Cuba and the Caribbean, to head south to warmer climes,

When it begins to get cold up in the north, Labor Day arrives and the “iron doors slam shut” another opens as the warm tropical waters beckon for yet another season afloat.

Soon enough it will be winter and those who are not lucky enough to head south to the mythical Margaritaville will have to take solace in listening to the laid back summertime ballads of Jimmy Buffett.

And yes, after all those lazy summers, it seems that his passing makes the iron gates of summer slam just a bit louder than normal.

Perhaps a good place to end is with this live recording of the Margaritavill man himself from a concert way back in 1993, no less relevant 30 years later.   This song always makes me smile as much as it did when I first heard it so long ago. Makes me feel old but I still like margaritas and they will always make me think about Jimmy Buffett.

A fine ending to a week long cruise. Newport Harbor.

Ken and I ended up our cruise with two days in Newport secure on a mooring at the New York Yacht Club.    This club, one of the most prestigious in the world, does not offer reciprocity with any but a very small number of yacht clubs, two I think.

For this reason, visiting the club requires you to do so in the company of a member.  Ken is a member so off we went to Newport.

The run from Cuttyhunk to Newport began very sportily, with east winds behind us beginning with a squall in the upper 20s.   As we rounded the point to head west to Newport we were treated to a rainbow.  Perhaps not the most perfect one but a rainbow, never the less. We sailed the entire way to the mouth of Narraganset bay when the wind shifted to the north and on the nose as we made our way the last few miles to Newport harbor.

The Castle Hill Light, still maintained by the USCG was completed in 1890.  It was the first sight that greeted us as we headed up the Bay.  It is always a treat to see the grand hotels that overlook the Bay. With all the investments going on with wind power, this brand new service ship is evidence of all the jobs that this emerging sector is bringing to the area.  And, in the background a house perched on a rock that’s been there since the early 1900s.   It’s called “Clingstone” as someone once remarked that it was “a peach of a house”.   This “cottage” is 10,000 square feet with 23 rooms.    Check out this link to learn more about this remarkable home.

I love visiting Newport for all the wonderful boats and all it’s history.  For decades Newport was the playground of the ultra rich in the days before income tax.  Today, well, it’s still for the very well heeled.  And, the center of all that is, arguably, Harbor Court, the Newport “clubhouse” for the New York Yacht Club, once the summer home of the Brown family, founders of Brown University.

The home was purchased in the 80s by the club and renovated to serve members as it does today. The club is very focused on all things sailing with a huge and active member racing fleet.  This video is highlights of the 2022 Rolex race week.  It gives a good feel for the true international reach of the club.The number of “tenders” is evidence of how much goes on during the summer. In the evenings members line up on the bluff overlooking the bay for an “adult beverage”.   A spectacular “bespoke” view, just like the clothing that they sport when they are “out to be seen”.    It’s quite a spot.  Here, a view of the back of the clubhouse from the formal gardens.
Imagine having a pond of lotus behind your home.    It’s always hard for me to understand how something that looks so tropical is hardy in our winters. Each of these flowers is the size of a grapefruit. And beautiful architecture isn’t limited to the huge mansions.   As you walk on side streets one home is more beautiful than the next. And what New England city is complete without a church with a white steeple.
Or a home with a turret that evokes the style of a lighthouse?  I’d be curious of who owns this place but can’t find any reference. Touristy of not, Ken and I enjoyed a lovely lunch overlooking the harbor in Bannister’s wharf, downtown.    It was a busy place, even on a weekday.And off to the side, Rumrunner II, built back in 1929 for some NJ mobsters to smuggle, well rum, among other illicit liquors.  Now she is an elegant day boat that gives tours of the harbor.  Your group is large?  No problem, she can manage a group of dozens for a tour of the harbor and bay.  Tennis anyone?   If you follow the sport I am sure that you have visited the Tennis Hall of Fame.  It’s an elegant place and a throwback to earlier times. Makes me want a mint julip, whatever that is.   Nice gardens. Well, it’s nice to be home again but I have to admit that I am already thinking about when we can get back aboard Pandora.  Still lots to do to prepare for her run to Antigua in November. 

Not a lot of time left as I have a reservation at a marina in Hampton in late September for a month before our departure.

For now, all I can say is that visiting Newport and the NYYC was a fine ending to a wonderful week afloat with my old friend, and we are all getting old it seems, Ken.


A cruise down memory lane.

Yesterday we had a very long run from Sag Harbor to well, guess where we are?If you squinted really hard you probably figured it out.  Cuttyhunk…

The run from SAg Harbor took almost exactly 11 hours with perhaps about half to 2/3rds motoring the 70 miles.  A long day but easy sailing.

We anchored in the outer harbor last night as it was getting dark and I saw no  reason to come into the harbor so late and pay $55 for a mooring.    As we rounded the point there was a very nasty line of thunderstorms to the north.  Fortunately, they passed north and east of us.  It looked very forbidding, never the less.   A sort of “roll cloud” that often accompanies a line of thunderstorms. To the west, quite a show.   This sort of display makes one feel insignificant.   A good reminder for so many that think that they are very significant.  However, I expect that most of them would miss the symbolism anyway.   You know the type…Once snuggly anchored, we had a lovely evening and the stars were amazing.  Alas, no shooting stars spotted in spite of the meteor shower that was predicted.  Probably because I didn’t stay up much past “cruisers midnight”,  That’s 9:00 for you landlubbers.

The good thing about going to bed with the birds is that you wake up with them too.  This sunrise greeted me this morning at O-dark-30.   What a view.  This morning we walked up the road to the highest point on the island.  The road is impressive, the best on the island.  It was built by someone years ago to provide easy access to a planned mansion that was never built.   The road remains and was recently repaved.
The view of the harbor where Pandora sits, snug on a mooring. Just to prove that she’s there.  A closeup. A short time later this charming Marshall Catboat showed up.  I mention this as Brenda used to come here on our own boat of the same design.  I can’t believe that we came all this way with two little guys on such a small boat.  It was on one of those trips, and it was a rainy and nasty trip, that I left the three of them once we were anchored, all in various states of distress and suffering from severe cabin fever, and rowed up to a nearby 38′ yawl and said to the owner “would you be interested in selling your boat?”  The answer, a curt “no” but I gave him my number anyway.  The following spring she was ours.   It proves that everything is for sale.

Anyway, fast forward, many, many summers forward and here I am again, four boats later and 47′, up from 22′, and aboard Pandora.  Life marches on.

And, speaking of change, it seems like yesterday that my dad, gone for so long now, came here with my two boys, Rob and Chris on my last Pandora in 2009 when we went out on a week long cruise.  It remains one of my most cherished memories.  This photo, taken at the top of the hill I visited this morning, of the four of us. The same picnic table view today   A bit sad, I’ll admit.It was nice to show Ken around the island.  We walked a long way to the western end of the island.  There are many well groomed, well mostly well groomed trails to choose from.  Interestingly, there are a number of gun emplacements and viewing platforms from WWII when they were used to keep an eye out for U Boats . In the distance is where the Cuttyhunk Oyster Company does their magic.   In the distance you can also see the Bartholomew Gosnold monument, marking the first European settlement on the island, perhaps in all of New England.  On that exposed point, the settlers didn’t stay long.  Check out this link to learn more about Cuttyhunk.  If you looked very closely, you could see the floats for the cages that hold oysters.   This shows it better.  All those floats.  While we were there, one of the locals was harvesting some of their stock.  In the evenings, about in time for “sundowners” they tour the harbor selling their oysters, shucked to order.  Can you say “fresh”?  We are planning to check some out this evening.  I’ll bet they will be good with a G&T.The island is dotted with lovely ponds.
I particularly liked this one.   A well planted garden in itself. Of course, what New England shoreside is complete without beach roses?  Perhaps the last of the summer blooms.One thing that has changed after all these years is the addition of a solar farm.  This is one of 4 rows of panels in undulating rows, tucked in a low spot so as not to spoil the view. I was struck by the voltage that the array is rated for.    Try 480V AC.  “Warning, electrical shock hazard”  No kidding!In spite of this impressive setup, their diesel generators were still humming away near the village.   I guess all those cappuccino makers draw a lot of power.

Along the way, this this beautiful old John Alden designed Malabar schooner built in, I believe, the 1920s.   She is beautiful.
And don’t forget the sort-of new Pandora but with the same timeless view from her bow. So, here I am, Back in Cuttyhunk and a bittersweet cruise down memory lane.

Off to Newport tomorrow for the grand finale of our week, a visit to the NY Yacht Club, Harbor Court.

I do miss Dad…

Sag Harbor. Where the glitterati go to, well, glitter.

My friend Ken joined me on Thursday and we headed over to Sag Harbor on Friday morning with the goal of snagging one of the two Essex Yacht Club moorings in the harbor.  Those moorings are perhaps the best deal going as if you must rent one, if there is one available, will set you back several dollars a foot.

We spent Thursday night on the EYC dock so I could get provisions aboard and clean her up before heading out.  The morning was clear and dry, a big change from the humidity and heat of late.  That’s Pandora on the face dock to the left, the one with the double headstay.   It was the first time I have left the River, and only the second time I’ve been off of the mooring since bringing Pandora back from the Caribbean in May.

Aside from a a short run up to nearby Hamburg cove for a raft up with some Salty Dawgs,  this run is my first opportunity to try out the new propeller.  It seems that my speed in calm conditions is a bit slower than before but I do like the the fact that there are two settings, with a lower one for greater thrust if needed.

And, speaking of the Salty Dawg group, I arranged for the Down East Rally to Maine to stop in Essex as their first landfall after leaving Hampton.  The skippers and crew, along with a number of other boats that came to enjoy the visit, stopped at EYC for a few days.

We had a very nice lunch and dinner supplied by Chef at the club and spent the afternoon talking about issues that matter to the cruising set, a good back and forth between those with a lot of experience and those eager to learn more on their first big adventure.

Ted and Barbara of Raven provided after-dinner entertainment, sharing their experience of spending time cruising the Med.  Brenda and I got to know them a few years ago when they too were cruising the Caribbean.   We will see them again this coming winter, which will be fun.  The audience enjoyed the “show” and seemed to like the back and forth questions and shared experiences.  The next day a number of boats headed up to Hamburg Cove for a raftup.  Most cruisers never raft, or tie up together, as most harbors are just not settled enough so this was a novel experience.  When we were young and new to boating, Brenda and I rafted with friends nearly every weekend.  Because of the great width of the two cats, the raft was nearly 100′ from end to end and required two moorings to hold the group.  Smile for the camera!  So, back to Ken and our first stop on our week out.

Not to digress, but after seeing the Barbie movie with Brenda, I will never think of “Ken” the same way.  If you haven’t seen Barbie, the movie, love or hate Barbie, this is a very fun movie.  The promo for the movie said “if you love Barbie, see this movie” and “if you hate Barbie, see this movie”.  So true.  But I will never think of “Ken” the same way again.  Perhaps this has ruined Ken for me as Jaws did for swimming in the ocean. Anyway, back to our adventure.

The wind was out of the west and we had a very nice ride, arriving in Sag mid afternoon.  The harbor master guards the moorings with great gusto and we hadn’t pulled up the mooring lines for more than about 5 minutes before he pulled up along side to shoo us off.  I explained that I had not yet put up my EYC burgee so he left.

The sort of “saved seat” mentality is so typical of the North East and the lack of same is so refreshing in the Caribbean.  Well, at least in the Caribbean south of the BVIs where mooring use is vigorously policed.

Setting that aside, Sag Harbor is a beautiful spot and where else can you spend $40lb on cheese?   Oh yeah, Ken and I had a nice glass of wine yesterday at a bar and it set each of us back about $25/glass.  As the say, “If you have to ask, you can’t afford it.”

I am always interested in the local free magazines and Sag is loaded with more than most options than any other place we visit.  And there appear to be just a few categories of advertising that dominate them, beginning with plastic surgery.  Some are generalist and some focus on, well you can imagine what they focus on.  I think Ken and I saw a number of “enhancements” as we strolled along main street.  Actually, kind of like Barbie, now that I think of it.

Not a lot of old clunkers here in the Hamptons and those that are old are well preserved.  Sort of like their owners, I expect.   Love this Porche.  And speaking of well preserved “old stuff”, and I don’t just mean women of a certain age.  The homes are amazing.  I’ll bet that a paintjob on this home cost more than our car, no make that all the cars we have ever owned, combined. In spite of all this, I do enjoy visiting here if for no other reason than people watching, each more put together than the last.

The club mooring is right in the middle of the action.  And, here on Saturday, there is a lot of action.   Sad that this boat only has three outboards. However, he’s not alone with boat that is a “severe” design.   If Darth Vador went boat shopping, this one would surely catch his attention.Well, at least before he looked 100′ back and saw another trailing in it’s wake. Or, perhaps if he wanted to change his image.  Perhaps white…Don’t like edgy design?  Perhaps this classic John Alden schooner. Of this lovely Friendship sloop, the brand of that name made in New Zealand. Goldfinch is aptly named as you’d have to have a few gold coins to purchase such a lovely “gentleman’s daysailor.

Or, perhaps this lovely Morris, made in Maine. And speaking of coin.  This chart from the Wall Street Journal today. I’m thinkin that a measly $5M wouldn’t even keep someone out of the red for more than a week in these parts.    Here the .1% is more like .001% and that might be understating things a lot.

And, if you have coin to spend, Sag is a hotspot for art.  Ken and I toured a number of galleries yesterday, along with one that had a show dedicated to a boxing theme.   Not sure why I photographed this one in particular.  Actually I do know as I was publisher of a gynecology magazine for many years.

What does it mean? Perhaps, something about “punch me I’m a woman”.  Perhaps more PC, “I’m a woman.  Mess with me and I’ll punch your (neon) lights out.”  And speaking of things spiraling out of control, how about this staircase in the Sag Harbor Whaling museum?Ok, I mentioned Salty Dawg earlier in this post and one of the primary reasons that I decided to head over to Sag this weekend is because there is a benefit going on co-sponsored by the Antigua Tourist Bureau and I thought that it would be good to meet up with some of the folks visiting that I know from my time on the Island.

The Minister of tourism Max Fernandez, will be here along with his wife Jill and others and it would be nice to catch up with them.  There is a race today and after the sailors get back ashore there will be a reception on the town green.    Earlier today we toured some of the booths that were set up. Including one from the Department of Tourism.  Well, I guess that about covers it for now as I have to get ready and put on my Antigua Yacht Club shirt and head to the fun ashore.

So, there you have it, a rendezvous in Essex, cruise with my new propeller, how the .001% live and a touch of gynecology.    Oh yeah, a bit of Barbie too.

All the basic food groups in a single post.

Off to Cuttyhunk tomorrow, bright an early.  But not before we enjoy a lovely scone.

No question, Sag Harbor is the place where the glitterati go to glitter in the summer.

Don’t forget your sunglasses.  If you do, you will be the only one.




Thanks Uncle Sam!

I can’t believe that it has been more than a month since my last post.  I’ve  been crazy busy with Pandora along with Salty Dawg stuff.

And, to make matters worse, I have not had Pandora off of her mooring at all since she went back in the water following the installation of the new prop +++, save a single run on the river a day or so after she was re-launched.  The good news, at least a little bit of it, is that I am heading out for a week beginning tomorrow, Thursday, with my friend Ken, who I haven’t sailed with for many years.

I don’t know where we will head but just about anywhere south of The Cape seems doable to me given the fact that I am used to sailing thousands of miles.  And, with most anywhere we might go less than 100 miles, it’s just a day sail anyway  Right?

Actually, that is ironic as it seems like just yesterday when we had a 20′ Cape Cod Catboat and a 15 mile run seemed like a very long way.  Not so much nowadays.

Along with the above mentioned distractions, I’ve spent a lot of time working on the gardens and lawn.  I have also spent a lot of time helping Brenda with some of her weaving projects and doing chores to help her prepare for some teaching in the fall.  If it looks complicated, that’s because it is.  Over 1000 threads and that’s why Brenda was watching me to be certain that I didn’t mess things up.  And, with that in mind, she wasn’t always smiling. And, of course, working hard to be sure that there is a way for her to bring meaningful projects aboard Pandora for the winter.

It’s hard to believe that it’s only a short time until I bring Pandora to VA to prepare for the run to the Caribbean.  I have made a reservation near Hampton for the month leading up to our departure events that will happen the last week of September as well.   As we get close to departure, I will move Pandora over to Hampton proper.

Fortunately, I booked space in Hampton, VA back in March for the fall rally departure, as that most of the marinas are nearly booked solid for the week leading up to departure.

There are a number of projects that still need attention like a new waterheater and re-bedding some hatches as I think that some of the leaks in the forward bunk are probably coming from under the hatch frames themselves.  I still remember when I was negotiating the purchase of Pandora the owner pointed out a spot on the end of a window and proudly said “that is the only leak on the boat”.  HA!!!  That’s like someone saying “I never get seasick”.

I have also been working on a project to upgrade my large 290w solar panel over the davits.  Last summer I replaced the four 80w panels over the bimini that were on the boat when I took delivery, increasing the capacity of that part of the bank from 320 watts to 600 watts, nearly doubling the output on that portion of the array.

I have also decided to replace the 290w aft panel with three 150w panels.  Amazingly, combined they only are a few inches larger than the current panel and yet will increase output to 450, an increase of over 50%.   Over the last few years manufacturers have figured out a way to shove greater output into the same footprint.  I had no idea and this suggests that anyone with solar panels that are more than a few years old should replace them.   And the cost of panels today is so much less than even a few years ago.

Overall, the combined capacity of the array went from 610 watts to over 1,000 watts and all that in only a slightly larger footprint.   And, to make this even more appealing, these new panels are only about $1/watt, a huge decrease in cost verses just a few years ago.

All of the upgrades to lithium, panels and wind generator along with the labor to put it all together was hugely expensive and as I was preparing to do my taxes this year, I explored the option of declaring the upgrades and see if I could get a rebate on my taxes.

As Pandora is classified as a second home, I discovered that I could indeed declare all of these expenses under the Inflation Reduction Act and get 30% back as a cash credit.   As I wrote in earlier posts, the cost of the entire project really spiraled out of control so we are talking a substantial amount of money.

My accountant is a straight arrow and even he, after protesting at first, checked into the details of the program and agreed that I was right and was able to factor in the deduction.

So, this realization has saved me more than a few boat dollars.  And, that’s good as the whole installation probably cost about double what it should have.  Well, if that’s correct, with a 30% rebate, perhaps I only paid an extra 20%.  Not buying the logic?  Me neither but I’m goin with that anyway.

Here’s the current array and the one big panel to the back will soon be made up of three, mostly same, 150 watt panels like the four shown here.   The one in the back is actually almost the same size as three of the 150s in the foreground, combined. The new panels just came today and when installed will be oriented fore and aft. The total width of the three panels will be about 4″ wider and the length, just under 6″ longer.   With the new panels the array is huge relative to the space available when compared to what was possible just a few years ago.  And with the overall increase in capacity, plus the output of the wind generator, it’s an amazing upgrade.

And, to make it even sweeter, Uncle Sam paid for 30% of the entire job.  Yahoo!

Thanks Unk!  Hope to do business again with you soon.

There must be a spot for more panels?  Hmmm…

So Bob, how big is your boat?

It’s interesting that one of the first questions that people ask, generally not by those in boating set, when they hear that I have a boat is “how big is it?”.

Funny, as this question is just about as common as “do you anchor in the ocean at night to sleep?” or “do you sleep on your boat EVERY night when you are in the Caribbean?”.   It’s not just me as this is a running joke among cruisers who admit that these questions seem to be very common their non-boating friends,  who just don’t understand WHY anyone would willingly choose to spend so time with anyone in such a confined space as a boat.

My answer, when asked about how big?” is to say, “well, it depends on how close to the dock you are”.   Near a dock or something “hard”, the boat is enormous.  At sea, particularly when it’s rough, pretty tiny…

I had to do some work on my dink the other day and as I loaded it into my truck to take it home, I was reminded that while the dink feels really little when we are crammed into it with all our groceries, it can be “big” when compared to my truck that generally elicits a reaction that is more like “my truck would eat your truck as a snack”.  Which is not a very nice thing to say…And pretty small compared to my dink, which is also small… Yup, my truck is clearly “horizontally challenged”.  As an additional insult, Brenda refers to it, delivered with a sneer, as “your LITTLE truck”.

Double not nice… Little trucks have feelings too.

You may be wondering why I would have brought my dink home at all.  It’s not a matter of it being lonely when with Pandora.  Actually, I had to do some work on a cover for the fuel tank so home it came. There’s a comfortably wide Aluminum Gangplank at the dock, so I decided to bring it home instead of working on it there since it wasn’t too much trouble to do so.

The problem is that the old fuel tank, after years in the sun, had decayed and I was concerned that it might begin leaking.  So I purchased a new one.  And, along with needing to protect the new tank from the sun, Brenda often prefers to enter the dink from the bow and with the tank in the bow that is tough.  “Brenda, don’t step on the fuel tank!”Here’s an idea!  I’ll cover the tank…

So, I built a custom cover.  It was a pretty fiddly project but fun.  I discovered that the dink is not actually symmetrical.  Looks simple?  Well, it wasn’t and took nearly an entire day in the shop with hundreds of measurements and trips up and down the stairs from the garage to the shop and back again to get it right.

It’s done.  Magic!  Aft view.Forward view.If the shots suggest that the front and back are not symmetrical, that’s because they aren’t.

Anyway, back to Pandora with the dink after two days in the garage.

So, if you are wondering, “how big is my boat?”

A LOT bigger than my dink, and sad but true, my truck…Pandora is on the hard for new running gear, prop, shaft, cutlass bearing, etc.  She should be back in the water later this week, just in time for my Salty Dawg rally at the Essex Yacht Club next weekend. 

Again, and with feeling, “Bob, how big is your boat?”

Answer:  Well, Pandora is bigger than my dink which is bigger than my truck.

And, remember, “Big” is a relative term and let me tell you that when I was aboard Pandora, thrashing around in the middle of the Gulf Stream, hundreds of miles from home, in 40kts of wind, she seemed really little.

Perhaps even smaller than my “little truck”.

So, when you next ask someone about how “big theirs is”, remember, it’s all relative.

So, by for now… with my dink in my little truck.





Sunrise at sea. What it’s all about.

I have to say that I am not particularly a fan of passage making.   Perhaps if Brenda was with me, I’d be happier to be offshore for days at a time and after more than a decade of long north and south runs, I can’t say that I look forward to yet another 1,500 run south to Antigua in November.

However, I do like the “being there” part of things and so look forward to reconnecting with friends, both in the Salty Dawg Rally and in Antigua, our destination.

When on passage, we keep watch 24/7, with someone always on deck.  With three of us and the autopilot humming away, I have found that to be a good number of crew.  However, if we were to have a failure of the electric autopilot, that would surely put a strain on everyone.

With that in mind, I also have a mechanical wind vane, which I will admit that I have not used much as the Raymarine steering unit is just so easy to set and manage.

I always let the crew decide how they want to handle the watch schedule and the plan generally means that during the day it’s loose but there is always someone on deck.  Beginning at 20:00 hrs, the first formal watch begins and runs for 3-4 hours depending on crew preferences.  Once we settle on the length of the watches, that is the plan for the duration of the run.

Personally, I prefer a 4 hour watch and always choose the 04:00 to 08:00.  I think that this watch is sometimes referred to as the “dog watch”.  Most hate it but as I am generally up off and on earlier in the night and yet can sleep pretty well for a few hours after midnight, getting up at 03:00 or 04:00 to begin watch works well for me.

I particularly enjoy watching the stars and then the eastern sky as it begins to brighten for sunrise.   It is quite common for me to race below to get my camera to record the changing sky as the sun begins to peak over the horizon.

Getting that perfect shot is the goal but even more important is that I am a member of a very unique group, the Cloud Appreciation Society, out of the UK, a group that celebrates clouds.  The society sends out a “cloud-a-day” every day to all it’s members, and there are tens of thousands of members.

Any member can submit a cloud image and hope that theirs will be chosen to be shared.  I have been “all about that” and have submitted many photos over the several years that I have been a member.  I don’t keep an exact count of those chosen by them from my submissions but it’s something like 5 or 6 with the most recent published last week.

While being chosen is exciting enough, it’s even better to see what they have to say about my photo.

So, on passage, I sometimes get a particularly memorable shot like this one when I was on passage in May as we made our way from St Thomas to Essex CT and home and submitted it for consideration.

I was thrilled when I heard that they had chosen it to be one of their “cloud a day”.    The message that came into my mailbox simply stated “Your Cloud-a-Day has been scheduled!” YAHOO!

Here it is…And, here is what the Cloud Appreciation Society had to say about “my cloud”.

“While sailing in his sloop, Pandora, from Saint Thomas in the US Virgin Islands to his home in Connecticut, Bob Osborn (Member 54,749) admired an Altocumulus at sunrise near the island of Bermuda. This was the stratiformis species of Altocumulus, which is when the cloud layer extends across the majority of the sky. Bob said it was a beautiful day at sea, homeward bound after a winter aboard in the Caribbean.”

So, there you have it, seeing a perfect sunrise at sea is where it’s at.  And, getting one of my photos published by those who share my love of clouds makes those long passages worth it.

Now all I have to do is to find another great shot.  I can do that, but it’s up to the editors of the Cloud Appreciation Society to decide.

As Brenda likes to say, “Bob and the dog, ever hopeful!”

Yup, that’s me.  I’m on it…

Coming full circle. The second decade…

Pandora was hauled a few days ago to repair a damaged prop shaft.  It pains me to be in this position as it’s one of those “invisible” upgrades that are essential, cost a lot, but don’t show to the casual eye.   And, to make matters worse, as is always the case, it now appears that the project is bigger than expected.

I’ll need a new shaft, cutlass bearing, prop and repairs to the linkage that failed to hold the shaft as well.  Oh yeah, after 16 years, my Autoprop is also in need of some serious love.   Sadly, after a careful evaluation, in spite of years of happy service, I have decided to go with another brand, a new prop.  More about that in a later post.

I replaced the shaft in our last Pandora, a SAGA 43.  That was a pretty big deal and more than a few boat dollars.  In that particular case, some fishing line, wrapped around the shaft and migrated into the cutlass bearing and created some grooves in the SS shaft.  Hard to believe that nylon line could wear stainless but it did.

The good news is that all the plans for the shaft, prop and the rest of the gear in that general neighborhood is in place so I expect that Pandora will be back in the water in about 10 days.  To keep myself sane when facing thousands of dollars in repairs, I like to think “happy thoughts”, like what we will do next season.

And, speaking of  “next season”, setting aside that we are technically in season  for most here in the North East, this year our “off season” will be more “on” than in the last few years as I am hosting an event here in Essex for the Salty Dawgs and Ocean Cruising Club.  And, I am also planning a “mini cruise” with some of these folks in early July.  More trips out I expect during the summer before I get serious about getting ready to head to Antigua.

Sure, we are now “post” Memorial Day and there are a lot more boats in the harbor.  I am always amazed to see how many boats are not in the water by Memorial Day, the “sacred weekend” a deadline that always loomed large when I was part of the working world.  In all of my “pre-retired” years of sailing I believe that I only missed two memorial day weekends, rain or shine, on the water and those were not for a lack of trying.

So, back to the title of this post and the question of what we are planning for next season.  It’s particularly timely as we are now into our second decade as “snowbirds” and as much as Brenda would like to think otherwise, there is no obvious end in sight.  So far, so good.

After our arrival in Antigua in November, I expect that we will head north, perhaps south first to Guadeloupe for some rum, but then begin our run north, heading to St Martin and onto the Virgins.

I am in discussions with the Nanny Cay resort in the British Virgins about doing a rendezvous there in early March.  The BVI got a bad rep after treating cruisers badly during the pandemic, impounding boats for the most trivial of transgressions and most cruisers have abandoned them for the much more friendly USVI which are only a few miles away.

Hoping to put things right, the manager of Nanny Cay Marina contacted me and wants to see what he can do to bring the cruising community back.   I do think that it would be great if we could put a rendezvous together.  The last time I was there was in the spring of 2017 when I participated in my first Homeward Bound Rally with the Salty Dawg Sailing Association.

The facility was trashed in a hurricane a number of years ago and has been completely restored.  It will be interesting to see what it’s like.  It was pretty nice years ago.  This is a post I did after that visit.

From there perhaps we will spend some time in the USVI, the Spanish Virgins, Puerto Rico, The Dominican Republic and then up through the Bahamas.  At the end of the season I expect we will make a run to the US, perhaps for a time in Charleston before I run Pandora back to CT.

All of that would bring us full circle.

Back in 2012, and our first run south, we visited the Bahamas and continued to do so each season until 2016 when we headed to Cuba and then, in recent years, to the Caribbean.

We really enjoyed the Bahamas which are blessed with some of the clearest waters in the world.

The Bahamas are very shallow with an average depth of about 6′ and with a tidal range of 18″, and with all that water flowing in and out twice a day nearly half of the water in the entire country is replenished every day.  And, as the waters adjacent to all that shallow water is thousands of feet deep, the water coming into the shallows is very clear.

I was blown away when I first encountered water that clear.   After sailing in Long Island Sound, where two to three foot visibility is the norm, I didn’t quite know what to make of seeing upwards of 100′ underwater.

Imagine hanging off of the back of your boat and seeing the anchor in the sand…We sailed over 1,000 miles in the Bahamas that first year.  That was partly because every few days a cold front would come crashing down from the north bringing unfavorable winds so we had to move somewhere else and scramble for cover as there is very little in the way of 360 degree shelter in the Bahamas.

We met many characters along the way like this guy who was cruising with friends.  He was a nice young man but would have been my worse nightmare if I had a daughter.   “Daddy, this is my new friend Jason.  He has a sailboat and has invited me to cruise with him.  You like boats, right?”ShBrenda is still creative aboard and completes projects afloat every season.  </p

And I can still fit into this wetsuit, a decade later."<br

On our first run south in 2012 we met Bill and Maureen aboard Kalunamoo and still hang out with them every season more than a decade later.]</pNot sure about this shot but it seemed like a good idea at the time.We also got to know the owners of Ariel, now our Pandora.  After years of arriving in port hours after them we now own her and beat most other boats to anchor.   She’s now a lovely grey color but still the same great boat.The biggest problem with cruising the Bahamas is that when a cold front exits the US it comes crashing to the south, bringing with it clocking winds that force everyone to run for cover lest they find themselves on a lee shore.  There are very few places in the Bahamas that have protection from the west winds that follow a cold front.

It’s also a very rural area with minimal infrastructure so there aren’t many places to eat out.  And, if you can’t take a lot of sun, like Brenda post melanoma, there’s not a lot to do.  There are beautiful beaches and the water is great but not so great for the sun adverse.

However, it’s a beautiful place and there will be a certain symmetry in heading back to the islands that began our winter cruising more than a decade ago when we headed south to begin our first big voyage.

A lot of water has gone under the keel since we first ran down the coast of New Jersey to begin or lives as snowbirds and what a ride it’s been.

And as we posed for this picture on our first stop in 2012 at the Fayerweather Yacht Club in Bridgeport CT.  In it’s own way, that was a full circle too as that’s where we kept our very first boat, our 20′ Cape Cod Catboat back in the early 80s. I only regret is that I am now 68 which seems pretty old to me.  Or, at least a lot older than when we used to go sailing on Tao, our 20′ catboat.

Or, as one of our boys said to Brenda on her birthday so long ago, “Happy Birthday Mom, you are really old now”.  He meant that as a compliment from at the time as from his perspective older was better, the way the very young look at the process of aging.

Out of the mouths of babes, no truer words were ever spoken.

I may be old but grass isn’t growing under our feet any time soon.

Poor Brenda, being dragged all over Hell’s half acre and a plan to head back to the Bahamas one more time, bringing things full circle after all these years.

At least she is smiling.  That’s my girl…


My very own guardian Angel.

Pandora’s been back in CT for about a week following an unceremonial tow for the last mile of our 1,750 nm run from St Thomas.

I’ll say that it is a bit strange to have her here in Essex and yet not be able to move her at all given the fact that her prop shaft is not attached to the transmission.  When we were heading up the river, waiting at the railroad bridge, the prop shaft pulled out from the transmission coupling so we had to take a tow for the “last mile” on our trip.

Remarkably, the shaft did not pull out over the 11 days that we were underway, it happened when we were nearly all the way to our destination.   Some might say that the timing was perfect.  Accident?  I doubt it.

For much of my life I have felt blessed with my very own guardian Angel sitting on my shoulder, helping me out of trouble when things get rough.

I can think of many instances when things could have gone terribly wrong and yet somehow I got a “nudge” that kept me from being in the wrong place at the wrong time, helping me step aside from the proverbial “speeding train”.

It’s hard to imagine that there is enough luck to go around to favor me with a mechanical breakdown just a mile from my destination in Essex after an 11 day run.   A simple “wow, that was lucky” doesn’t seem to explain how that sort of thing has happened so many times over the years.

After getting Pandora towed to the mooring my next thought was to try and see if I could fix the problem so a few days later I spent hours taking the coupling apart and putting it back together.

I contacted the Yanmar distributor in NJ for advice and the tech sent me a parts diagram for the coupler.  Taking it apart took hours and I spilt more than a little blood and sweat.   But, I got it back together.

Not a lot of parts. The back end of the transmission.  It seems that the end of the prop shaft, that inserts into the coupling, had slipped a lot and was quite chewed up.  I took a few more hours to put everything back together, satisfied that I had done the best job that I could,  I put the engine in reverse and revved it up to see if my work held…

It didn’t and the prop pulled the shaft right out of the coupling again.  Ugh…

I called the tech back and he told me that the scoring on the shaft meant that there was a lot less surface area left for the coupling to compress and it just wouldn’t hold.

Ok, ok, got it.  Time to haul Pandora and have the whole shebang replaced, shaft and all.  Ouch…

I’ll bet this is going to cost a few boat dollars.   Such is life, I guess.

As is always the case, there are a lot of items that need to be addressed aboard Pandora, some interior cabinetry modifications, re-bedding some fittings and a couple of hatches as well as myriad other projects to numerous to outline here.

Ok, enough of that for now.

Another thing that’s been on my mind since returning home is Starlink.  It’s been a bit of a head spinner over the last few months with the “rules” changing on a weekly and monthly basis.

When I first became aware of this service, I ordered a dish and had someone bring it to Antigua.  I was blown away by how easy it was to use and how FAST.   After a few “golden” months things have become a lot more complicated and confusing.   See my post about that wonderous moment when we first signed on to the service.

For the first few glorious months, we were able to use Starlink to access unlimited amounts of high speed data for a low price, about $130/month.  Then rumors flew that we would not be able to use it outside of North America and would have to go on a maritime plan for about double that amount.

Finally, a few months ago, I received a nastygram from Starlink explaining that according to the “fine print” in my terms-of-service, I could no longer use Starlink on the low cost plan except on land, lakes and rivers and perhaps not even outside of North America.   Lakes and Rivers?  Closer to home in the US? When does the Hudson River become the Atlantic Ocean and what about Raritan Bay.  Ocean, river?  Something else.  It’s unclear.

I contacted Starlink customer service several times and never got a complete answer.

Meanwhile I knew plenty of cruisers who ignored that email and stayed on the lower priced plan.  And yes, the service still worked in harbors even if they were not technically “lakes and rivers”.   One couple, also on the lower cost “land” plan, told me that the unit continued to work fine in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico until they went offshore to the Bahamas when it stopped working only to immediately resume when they were in the Bahamas.  And, in that case, it worked everywhere, even between islands.  They are now in the US, traversing the ICW and again, it’s working fine on the lower cost plan.

Being the good little rule follower that I (sometimes, every now and again, well at least occasionally) am, when I was told to switch to a maritime plan, I did so.  That plan, at $250/month only allows for 50GB/ month, which I used up in a little  more than a week, then I had to pay $2gb for data over that amount.   By the end of the month an additional $100, running my first bill to $350 for a single month, an unsustainable level.

To complicate matters further, Starlink offered me an opportunity to upgrade to the high performance dish for $1,900, albeit at a $600 discount off of the normal price.  And they said that I could keep the old dish and sell it if I wished.  That’s a pretty good deal.

However, once again, a number of details remain unclear.   I had heard that they would be coming out with an updated dish that is about the same size as the current dish but that it was going to be much more powerful, and I expect, more energy efficient.

The small dish that I have now is pretty power hungry and the offered upgrade uses twice the power, probably an unstainable amount aboard Pandora as we don’t have a house generator and rely on solar and wind to charge the batteries.   I have put in a support ticket on this subject and have not heard back anything except that my new dish will ship in a week or two.

Should I cancel the order?  Wait for the new one?   Who knows.

That’s a problem as I really don’t want the new dish if an upgrade will be out shortly that should use about the same amount of power as my current system.   One thing for sure is that my current dish, the RV, did not work well on passage when the going got rough.  Perhaps that was unique to service where I was at the time, within a few hundred miles of Bermuda.  Alas, yet another ticket looking for answers.  So far, radio silence…

So, the existential question is if I should cancel my order for the upgraded dish and risk having to pay an additional $600 to get one down the road.  Will the new dish be smaller and if so, cheaper?  Who knows.

One thing for sure is that Starlink is an awesome product and like everything else that Musk is involved in, fraught with challenges.  But, Elon does deserve to be rich as his products are truly groundbreaking.

When I ordered the new unit it was with a simple click of a button and I sure wish that getting good actionable answers to simple questions was as easy.

I guess I’ll just hold my breath for a few more days, with the hope of hearing from them.  If not, and I receive the new dish, that it will be easier to return it than it’s been to get answers from their support folks.

Well at least Pandora didn’t break down in the middle of the ocean, thanks to my personal Guardian Angel.