I’m glad that Pandora is in Trinidad

Pandora has been in Trinidad for two months now and work is progressing well. I have been in touch with Amos, who is overseeing the projects, on a regular basis including weekly video briefs, reviewing the details of what has been done.

All and all, I have been impressed with the attention to detail that is going into the job.

Amos estimates that the jobs will be completed by late August or early September. The work was begun in May so that’s a lot of days and with so many communications, I am confident that they have been working hard to keep the job on track.

The transit of Beryl through the SE Caribbean, not far to the north of Trinidad, has been shocking as we have learned more details of the devastation wrought by the massive storm.

In my last post I wrote about some of the details and showed images of the destruction in the wake of the storm.

Cruisers have really stepped up and are delivering relief supplies to the stricken islands.

And at least one large yacht has also carried some of the bigger items such as generators.

Years ago when the BVI was trashed, it is rumored that much of the aid, particularly money, did not make it to the intended recipients, which was very unfortunate. It is also difficult to coordinate the arrival of aid from individuals verses more established organizations. I hope that this time things are handled correctly. Clearly, there are a lot of well intentioned people doing their best to help.

I can only imagine how long it will take for the islands so severely damaged to get back on their feet.

This video is by a local vet in Carriacou who has been posting videos regularly. His latest post illustrates that ten days after Beryl trashed the island, cleanup is well underway but that there is so much that will need to be done to get the islands back to some semblance of normal. As I look at the footage of the damaged boats, I can not imagine how there will be an infrastructure in place to repair them any time soon, much less get them back into the water.

I heard about a Salty Dawg member’s boat that “mostly” survived the storm but the hull was punctured by the jack stands that were holding it up. And, surrounded by s many destroyed boats, they have no idea how they will be able to get the boat back into the water any time soon.

A friend told me that after many years keeping his boat in the Caribbean, Trinidad actually, his policy was canceled and now he has a new policy that does not distinguish a “hurricane box”. This means that he can go wherever he wants at any time. The bad news is that there is no payout for damage from a named storm, regardless of location or timing and this even applies to a Nor’easter outside of the hurricane season. Simply stated, the insurance companies are happy to underwrite you but if the boat is lost in a storm, you are on your own.

He was told that he could get storm coverage for an extra fee but with coverage already so expensive, any additional fees are likely not practical.

This change, and I expect that it will be more common than not, will surely make storing boats in any area that has even a remote likelihood of being hit, a really bad idea. The fact that Trinidad has only limited storage options suggests that many who want to keep their boats south for the summer will have a tough choice given the history of storms damaging boats in Grenada, traditionally considered fairly safe.

I was curious about why Trinidad has generally been safe from storms and did some digging. The primary reason is the islands proximity to the equator and the inability of storms to develop in that area. While Trinidad is at 10 degrees north of the equator, intense storms do not generally form there. This short video provides some explanation of this effect.

And while Trinidad is rarely hit by hurricanes, there was one notable exception in 1933 when an unnamed hurricane devastated the island. This was an extremely rare event but with warming conditions, who knows. This report is an interesting look at the history of storms in Trinidad.

On the other hand, just 80 miles to the north, the Island of Grenada has been hit a number of times in recent memory, most recently when Ivan passed right over the island of Grenada in 2004 causing enormous damage. This link highlights some of the notable storms to damage the island. That was a long time ago and people forget.

Even though Ivan passed just to the south of the island of Grenada, the damage to Trinidad was not significant. In part, this was because to be hit by the south side of a hurricane is generally nowhere as damaging as the northern quadrant where the wind speed is added to the forward motion of the storm. On the southern quadrant of the storm, the wind speed is subtracted from the forward motion. This means that no matter how close to Trinidad a storm hits, it is not as likely to cause as much damage as it will in Grenada, even though it is less than 100 miles to the south. The physics of the Coriolis effect will not allow it to pass south of Trinidad. It’s just too close to the equator to allow a storm to be sustained that far south.

See this graphic of Ivan’s track when it devastated Grenada. And follow this link to a detailed look at Ivan and the destruction in his wake.

And this newscast clip, broadcast as Beryl approached the eastern Caribbean, is a good explanation of why such a strong storm formed so early in the season.

For those that might wish to keep their boats in a fairly safe place during the hurricane season, there is a question of available space. The fact is that the yards in Trinidad were basically full when I arrived in May and had been so for some time so when nearly 100 boats headed south from Grenada to escape the path of Beryl, there was no space left to be hauled, even if they wanted to. There is clearly an opportunity for someone to open a new yard in Trinidad but there really isn’t a lot of room in the area for expansion.

So, back to Pandora and how the work is progressing. The work is going very well and I am having video tours of what’s going on every week with Amos, who walks me through the details of what has been accomplished to date.

Since my last post the re-coring of the decks is done and the finish coats of epoxy are being applied after the area is fully leveled.

Once the surface was fully faired, a number of coats of primer are applied and then sanded with long boards to be sure that are no dips or raised areas. This is backbreaking work and takes many hours.

I have a video of him using the larger board, the one he is sitting on, but you get the feel for what I am talking about.

After all of the deck areas are fully leveled and match the areas that were not damaged, a layer of fabric and more epoxy will be applied and further faired. By applying another layer to the undamaged deck areas, this will insure that this problem will not recure. When the new decks are fully painted and the cabin top is sanded down and sealed, a non-skid surface will be applied and then sealed yet again with a layer of Awlgrip paint.

After months of work, the decks, cabin top and the entire cockpit and transom will be painted. And, that doesn’t even count all the work being done down below, varnishing and some work on the headliner. And, don’t forget that the entire hull, below the waterline, has been stripped and prepared for priming and two coats of bottom paint.

Oh yeah, and there is a spot on the cockpit floor that needs to be re-cored. All of this adds up to being a huge job and I feel pretty good about how it is going.

All and all, Pandora will emerge in better shape than when she was launched in 2007 and ready for many more years of service.

In the next few weeks I have to decide when I am going to head to Trinidad to inspect the work close up. I expect that this will happen in late August or early September.

When I think about what’s going on with Pandora and try to relate that to those who have lost their boats and the locals that lost their homes on islands where nearly every structure was destroyed, it drives home just how easy I have it.

I never seriously thought about leaving Pandora anywhere but Trinidad and seeing the path of destruction that Beryl slashed through most of the islands between Grenada and St Lucia, is a reminder of just how bad things can get.

Anyway, back to the US and what I am up to right now.

As I write this I am in Onset, MA on the western end of the Cape Cod Canal waiting for a weather window so we can make the overnight run to Rockland. Most of the other boats in the Down East Rally are here with us and waiting out a rainy day. We expect that we will be able to make the run beginning on the morning tide in the Canal and arrive in Rockland on Monday late Monday morning.

The fact that we are waiting for Beryl, or what is left of her to pass, is a sobering reminder of her power when she ripped a swath of destruction from the most eastern parts of the Caribbean, more than 2,000 miles south ten days ago, moving through the Gulf of Mexico, making landfall in Texas where millions remain without power an up to New England.

The wind that we faced for several days in the Gulf of Maine was not all that terrible, in spite of including gusts in excess of 30kts, as it is from the South West. If I was here with Pandora, designed for strong winds, we would likely be on our way. I did hear from a friend who was making the run a few days earlier on a boat somewhat larger than Pandora, who shared that conditions were breezy but manageable.

The problem is that the little trawler that I am on isn’t really designed for “sporty” conditions and George, the owner, isn’t about to test it out. With that in mind, we plan to head north tomorrow when the winds have passed and the seas should be calm again. Not so perfect for a sailboat that needs wind but for us, perfect.

With all that is going on in the Caribbean I am certainly glad that I made the decision to leave Pandora in Trinidad or I might be worrying about what to do about a destroyed boat instead of dealing with more manageable projects to make here perfect.

For now, it’s nice to spend time in Onset, secure from the wind and waves. Not a bad view. I’ll take it.

Is your boat safe from a hurricane?

Over the years I have wondered about the wisdom of keeping a boat anywhere in the Caribbean during the hurricane season.

And, with Beryl breaking records for her intensity and how early in the season she developed, is also making many wonder what the future holds. This link reviews a number of factors that make Beryl an outlier.

To name a few: Beryl was…

  1. The strongest July Atlantic hurricane on record with maximum sustained winds of 165mph.
  2. The earliest category 5 Atlantic hurricane on record, two weeks sooner than any prior recorded storm.
  3. The strongest to ever hit the southern Windwards. Only two other category 4 hurricanes had ever been recorded to hit near Grenada, St Vincent and the Grenadines.
  4. Earliest 150-mph hurricane in any season and the farthest south ever recorded.
  5. First June category 4 hurricane. Beryl gained Category 4 intensity in the Atlantic basin. Only three other hurricanes gained Cat. 4 intensity prior to August.
  6. Easternmost “major” June hurricane on record as a Category 3 storm this early in the season, roughly 2,000 miles farther east than Alma in 1966.

All and all, this season is forecast to be intense, with many storms expected and to see the path of destruction of Beryl, especially in areas that are not normally struck so violently, is sobering.

So, back to summering in Trinidad. With so many of our friends singing the praises of Trinidad for years we opted to leave Pandora there to get some major work done. Seeing the destruction that Hurricane Beryl has brought to the area has certainly given me pause for thought.

We chose Trinidad as it is the island that has the lowest frequency of hurricanes of any in the Caribbean, with, I think, a single hit by a major storm in 100 years.

Many opt to stay in Antigua, St Lucia and other islands assuming that those areas are fine for a number of reasons like: “the boats are tied down with straps” or “the yard is protected by nearby hills”, or “the odds are that a hurricane will hit a particular island in any given year are low”, or “Well, my insurance company covers my boat during the hurricane season, even in the hurricane zone.” and what now seems like the best one “Well, Grenada hardly ever gets hit with a hurricane”. Sadly, Beryl proved that otherwise with extreme and widespread damage.

The problem with these arguments are that “you just don’t know” and in any given year a hurricane can strike just about anywhere in the eastern Caribbean with perhaps the notable exception of Trinidad but with warmer sea temperatures, it’s possible that this will change in the future.

One of my friends says “well, any given island may only get hit once in a decade so the odds are in your favor.” Not sure I buy this logic as I think about it this way. Imagine that you could cross a busy street without looking and that the likelihood was that you’d only be struck and killed on one out of ten crossings. I doubt that you would take that risk and yet cruisers leave their boats in yards that have a history of being hit by major storms assuming that the odds are in their favor.

Many cruisers choose to summer in Grenada in the water as it is a quick overnight run to Trinidad if things look iffy. This AIS screen shot taken the day before Beryl hit the island. I am told that upwards of 100 boats ran south in advance of Beryl and took shelter in Trinidad and most are still there with many loading up with donated supplies to take back to Grenada and the islands to the north that sustained the worse damage.

Some choose to roll the dice and stay put, assuming that they can keep their boat off the beach. I don’t know exactly where this photo was taken but a day like this would not be my first choice.

For those that stayed in Grenada, a place that many feel is safe from most hurricanes, and did not head south to Trinidad, and some didn’t fare so well.

And while many consider Grenada to be safe during the hurricane season, the northern part of the island sustained a lot of damage but noting quite compares to the hit that nearby Carriacou took. This video illustrates a level of destruction that is hard to imagine.

And, this is certainly not the first time that the eastern Caribbean has been faced damage of this magnitude. Let’s not forget how things ended up for the Moorings fleet in the BVI following Irma, in spite of being well prepared to weather a storm. When a major storm makes a direct hit there is really nothing that can be done to keep the infrastructure intact. Think sustained winds of nearly 200mph,

A common reason that cruisers feel safe in leaving their boat within the hurricane zone is that their boat will be tied down with heavy straps, designed to keep the boat upright. Here is a screen shot from the video above illustrating how little good strapping down a boat does when conditions are this severe.

In fact, the reason that the Salty Dawg Rally goes to Antigua was the result of the last major storm to hit the BVIs. I had campaigned to move the rally to Antigua as a better option for the rally as the island has more resources and entertainment options for the Dawgs than the BVIs but it wasn’t until the BVIs were so terribly damaged that the switch happened.

The following year the rally was split between Antigua and the BVIs but that was the last year and now Antigua is the destination and most everyone seems happy about that decision.

I do worry about what would happen if a major hurricane were to strike Antigua and the effect that it would have on the destination of the rally. It is sobering to see the destruction that has occurred on islands that have suffered direct hits over the years and how long it has taken to rebuild. Given the fact that Barbuda, only 25 miles from Antigua was flattened the same year that the BVIs were hit, I suppose that it is only a matter of time until something terrible happens in Antigua as well.

With rising sea temperatures, this year and into the future, it is likely that the region will see a greater number of more powerful storms.

With insurance premiums increasing so much over the last few years, I am also assuming that seeing such a powerful storm so early in the season will lead to further increases in what it costs to insure cruising boats.

In spite of the terrible destruction, the cruising community has really stepped up and many boats that took shelter in Trinidad will be heading north in the coming days to deliver supplies to those who have lost so much.

Many business in Trinidad have donated supplies.

Here are some of them, under cover, at Powerboats Marina in Trinidad, ready to load.

Unfortunately, there is ample evidence that the frequency and strength of storms will be increasing and it is safe to say that storing your boat on any island within the hurricane belt is a gamble, perhaps now more than ever.

For now, unless you live aboard and are able to make a run for it when a storm is heading your way, Trinidad seems like the best option and hopefully changing weather patterns will not rob us of what appears to be the last place for safe storage.

Is your boat safe from a hurricane? Time will tell but for sure it has a lot to do with “location, location, location”

Pandora’s refit. New decks

In my last post I reviewed how the problems with Pandora’s decks developed and talked about the plan to bring her back to new, or better.

A huge amount has been accomplished in a short time since leaving Pandora in Trinidad in May and I am excited about how things are going.

The guy who is leading the way on this project is Amos, of Perfect Finish and the work that they are doing is first rate.

Mid project, Pandora is a mess, as you’d expect. But, with four guys working every day, a lot is getting done.

In my last post I showed how the old deck had been removed and core cleaned out completely. It was hard to believe that this mess would ever be cleaned up.

After removing all the damp core and running high speed fans for days to be sure that everything is dry. They tested again with a moisture meter, just to be certain. After that a barrier coat of epoxy was applied with a spatula to fully seal the lower laminate.

A barrier coat is critical, and had the lower and upper laminates been properly sealed when Pandora was built, the problem of dampness would not have happened in the first place. After the exposed lower deck was fully sealed, all areas that were anything less than perfectly level and smooth were filled in with fabric and thickened resin and then sanded perfectly smooth.

As you can imagine, with the deck core and laminate removed, there needed to be additional support down below to keep the decks from loosing proper shape so they set up a series of carboard tubes to shore up the deck and keep it perfectly level. That was a nice touch and something that was not obvious to me as important.

Then the area of the decks that separated the cabin top from the deck and rail from the outboard section of the deck were sealed with thickened resin and fiberglass fabric before the loose areas above the joint were cut out and ground down flush with the deck. This ensures that there is now way that moisture could migrate from one area to the other.

This is a closeup of the finished deck, cabin, rail joint after the extra fabric is ground off. With that sort of positive barrier from one area to the next, there is no way that any moisture will ever migrate where it doesn’t belong.

Amos has told me that he expects that the project will be mostly complete by early August and I think that I will try and head to Trinidad for a few days to be sure that I am comfortable with the work.

As I mentioned some time ago, I was a bit anxious about having so much work done when I am so far away and now that we are less than two months into the job, I am so pleased with progress.

When I think back to the battery installation two years ago and how badly that went, the contrast is huge. To work with vendors that truly appreciate business it is refreshing and so different than getting work done at many places here in the US where it seems that vendors often treat you like they are doing you a favor.

My only regret is that I didn’t take Pandora there sooner.

My work with Salty Dawg has me hosting a number of webinars for our members and, based on my experience with the businesses in Trinidad, I am planning a “why Trinidad” webinar in a few weeks.

I have asked Amos to describe how he has approached the Pandora job as his attention to detail is worth sharing. I have also asked Jesse James, a self styled “cruiser’s guide to all things Trinidad” to talk about visiting the island.

The island and work that’s being done is so much better than I had expected and I am looking forward to sharing the story with others.

Of course, Pandora’s refit is not yet done but so far, I am impressed.

More to come.

Pandora’s big adventure (refit)

Last month I left Pandora in Trinidad to have a number of major projects done to prepare her for her next big adventure, the run next June to the Azores and onto Portugal.

While I have been spending plenty of “boat dollars” over the last 8+ years to keep her in good shape, the work that is being done this season sets a new high bar on upgrades and maintenance.

For years now, friends have been encouraging me to make the run south to Trinidad instead of bringing Pandora home but I just couldn’t bring myself to be without a boat for such a long time. To have her “on the hard” from May through October, thousands of miles from home, seemed terrible to me but after over a decade slogging south in the fall and north in the spring, burning nearly 3 months a year, thousands of ocean miles and wear an tear on the boat and me, it was time.

The list of work being done has grown to include the complete removal of all bottom paint, some major deck work, varnishing down below and other items to numerous to mention. The list is so long that the group doing the refit only has three jobs planned for the summer and is fully booked.

The first part of the process to prepare for the jobs was to install a proper cover as the sun is very intense and showers are common during during the summer rainy season. The details of the cover are impressive, far more intricate than what you generally see in the US. And, as it is very hot in Trinidad, good ventilation is critical. The entire structure is constructed of hoops of PVC pipe covered with shrink wrap and the sides are set up in such a way that the cover stands out from the sides of the boat, allowing for good ventilation.

The cover is done to a very high standard and is set up in a way that it leaves the solar panels open to the sun. Note the details at the stern with an awning over the transom and yet allows for easy access. And, having good ventilation is also key to keeping the AC unit operating efficiently.

I am impressed with the attention to detail in how the cover was constructed and the fact that the cover does not touch the paint in any area is a big plus. It also allows for any work on deck to be covered and yet still keep it from getting too hot. Well, “too hot” is a relative issue. It’s always hot…

The first part of the job was to remove the many layers of bottom paint that have built up over the years. It is the first time that all paint has been removed since the boat was commissioned in 2007. The paint was so thick that it was flaking off in all sorts of areas and impossible to keep smooth.

The first part of the job was to apply paint remover and give it all a good scraping.

Then the boat was tented and all remaining paint sanded completely off. I can only imagine how hot it must have been to do this job in full gear.

See the bottom, paint free. Then they turned their attention to the hull, polishing it to a high shine.

The next step is to coat the topsides with a thick coating of protective wax that will keep any contaminants or overspray from messing things up. It will be fully removed in the fall and any nicks and scratches repaired.

The biggest component of the refit will be to remove sections of deck that are wet. Fortunately, the damage is limited to the side decks and the rail, cabin top and dodger are completely dry. When I first discovered the problem last summer and took a moisture meter to the entire boat, inch by inch, I was relieved to discover that the problems were concentrated in areas that were fairly simple to repair. Don’t get me wrong, it is a huge job but when it is done all areas that could conceivably get wet will be replaced with foam core along with unaffected areas treated to ensure that no problems occur down the road.

In all honesty, after more than a decade running back and forth to points south, I should have taken Pandora to Trinidad two years ago. However, the decision was clear when I discovered the moisture problems last summer when I was planning to paint the decks myself.

Pandora, hull #3 of only three built of this design, might as well be a custom boat and when the side decks were laid up, the builder did not use a proper fairing to seal the decks and when the paint wore thin, water leaked into the core and made a huge mess.

The good news is that the moisture is limited to the open expanses of the side decks and virtually no hardware is affected so the repairs are fairly straight forward. The bad news is that it means ripping up about 40′ of deck. That sounds terrible but with labor rates in Trinidad relatively low, compared with US prices, it’s not nearly as bad as it would be in the US. Never the less, this will be the most expensive refit to date.

I hired a group aptly named “Perfect Finish” to do the job and over a period of about a month last summer, I shared details of the problem with them, did a number of video calls from aboard Pandora and we settled on pricing with a firm quote to do the job. Happily, now that the decks are all opened up and they now see the details first hand, they are standing by their quote.

The first step, beyond checking moisture levels was to carefully cut the perimeter of those areas that are to be replaced. Note that the portions of deck that have been removed do not invade the toe-rail or cabin sides which makes the fix much more straight forward.

The photo below shows the extent of the damage and it looks terrible. The plan will be to replace the soggy balsa core with foam and then replace the fiberglass before putting on a substantial epoxy barrier coating. After that Awlgrip and a non-skid surface. The problem, that lead to this, was that the fabric itself was not thick enough and there was not not a substantial enough epoxy barrier applied before painting the decks so when the deck paint became worn, water got in.

Opened up it looks plenty scary. The good news is that I know a number of boats that have had this sort of work done by this group and it worked out very well. And, the guy in charge of the job knows that I am a very fastidious owner.

After all the decks are repaired, the entire deck, cabin and cockpit will be barrier coated and repainted with non-skid in the mix along with the entire cockpit. Basically, every thing above the rail will be newly finished. As the topsides paint has been kept up every year, Pandora will look like a new boat.

Because of the deck moisture problem, the wainscoting in the forward cabin sustained water damage and it is all being stripped down to clean wood, bleached and coated with 10 coats of varnish.

The companionway has received a fair amount of spray over the years and was not finished to withstand conditions like that. As a result, it was quite water-stained. Again, sanded, bleached and ten coats of varnish, along with the steps which will have integrated non-skid applied.

Additionally, I have asked them to refresh the varnish on the dining and cockpit tables along with cleaning up a number of other worn varnished areas below along with a refresh on some of the cabin headliner.

I also arranged with a canvas guy to service all parts of the enclosure and replace most of the vinyl as well as the top of the sail cover which is sun damaged. All and all, all of the canvas and glazing in the enclosure and bimini etc. are getting a refresh.

And, as if all this is not enough, all of the tempered glass windows in the hard dodger are being removed and re-bedded. This image is from some time ago but there are two tempered glass windows on the front and really big ones on the side. All will be removed and replaced with new adhesive. And, the center section, that is showing age now, is getting new glazing.

As big a list as this is, there’s more and when Pandora emerges sometime later in the summer she will look like a new boat. I am quite excited and look forward to visiting in August to inspect the work.

After reviewing everything in August, I will return home and then go back in late October to put her back in the water and move her up to Antigua to welcome the Salty Dawg fleet in mid November.

Pandora has been well used and driven hard for thousands of miles since we purchased her in 2015 so it is time to take a hard look and address whatever is needed to keep her in good shape as we prepare Pandora for our next big adventure, crossing the Atlantic and time aboard in the Mediterranean, beginning next year.

It’s hard to imagine what the future holds but I can’t help but wonder what my Dad, now gone for ten years, would say if he was with us now. I can still remember when he said to me “Bob, wouldn’t it be great to take Pandora through the straights of Gibraltar?”

Yes Dad. That’s the plan.

Our next big adventure? Pinch me…

The dark side isn’t all that dark…

Today at 06:00 George and I pushed off from the dock in Chesapeake City to transit the Delaware River and head north to New York and onto Essex. Our next planned stop is perhaps Sandy Hook or perhaps somewhere in NY Bay. I guess we will have to see how the run goes. It was a simple departure compared to a sailboat where there are plenty of lines to pull and very different accommodations.

I, for one, have always imagined heading to a trawler at some point, although I am not above declaring those who have as having “gone to the dark side”.

The tides heading east through the Canal run fast and while the charts called for a strong tide against us this morning, that wasn’t the case. We had a fair tide and a bit of a push for the full transit.

Once we began heading down the Delaware River we began feeling a bit of foul tide, as expected but that should turn in our favor in a few hours. As George runs at a bit over 8kts, we do make a bit more progress than I’d be doing with Pandora under power when we move about 6kts. Not a big difference but that’s another 50 odd miles in a 24 hour run.

With 50 or so miles between the Canal and the mouth of the Delaware River, we should get there mid afternoon and then turn left and up the NJ coast for NY.

There’s not much to photograph along the way. How about the Salem nuclear plant.

In honor of the nuke, a photo of solar aboard. Both green? Tough to say but there is clearly a renewal of interest in nuclear as an option for carbon and global warming. Funny how the threat of everyone’s TVs turning off is changing some attitudes toward nuclear power and, I suppose, nuclear waste. As long as it’s NIMBY!

Salem has been in operation since 1076 and is certified to continue through 2036 and 2040 for units one and two respectively. That is a long time and given the growing concerns about carbon emissions, we are likely to see more plants being built in the coming years. More to come on all that, I guess.

It’s a busy day on the river with a number of small trawlers doing the run along with us. I expect that we will all arrive at the mouth of the river at about the same time.

George uses the Navionics charting program on his iPad and taught me something about that program that I had not known. It seems that the program will automatically chart a course for you adjusted for water depth and air draft, to pick the fastest route.

In the case of Pandora with a 63′ mast and gear, we’d be run down to the mouth of the river but with George’s boat set to a safety water depth of 10′ and a air draft, clearance, of 15′, the program routed us across some more shallow areas and through Cape May. I did not know that the program would do that. You learn something new every day.

Here’s the route, compliments of Navionics. It’s magic!

Departing from the dock this morning was a very simple affair. George fired up the engine, I tossed off the lines and off we went. Not a lot of fuss, no pulling up sails, and due to his shallow draft, 4.5′, no fear of running aground.

More to come I guess. One thing though, if the engine quits, no sails.

With apologies to Scarlett O’Hara: “I won’t think about that today, I’ll think about that tomorrow.”

Or, as Rhett Butler, sort of, said, “frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.” Well, not until something bad happens, at least…

Besides, if the engine were to die, sailboat or not, there’s no wind today. Flat calm.

I could get used to this. Perhaps the dark side isn’t all that dark after all.

Historic Chesapeake City: A trip down memory lane.

As I write this, I am on passage from Baltimore to Essex, helping to bring a friend’s, new to him, 36′ Nordic tug. Oddly, as a boat owner for decades, this is the first time that I have helped someone else move a boat any distance and my first time on a powerboat.

I could get used to this. Lots of room.

My friend, and often crew member, George and I drove down to Baltimore on Wednesday evening and, after a bit of provisioning this morning, headed off to Chesapeake City, one of my favorite spots. George has helped me on the Caribbean run a number of times and has been a longtime sailor.

This week was a big one for him as the day before he closed on the sale of his old boat and now we are bringing his new boat up to CT.

He seems pretty happy to be at the helm although some of the systems are still a bit of a mystery to him. We won’t dwell on our runup on a mudbank shortly after leaving the slip. No, we won’t talk about that. Spoiler: We got off and George is still smiling.

Chesapeake City, located on the C&D canal, connects the upper Chesapeake with the Delaware River, it is a great staging place for a run down the river, up the NJ coast to NYC and then down the Sound to Essex.

As the weather isn’t looking all that for another day, we decided to spend two nights in Chesapeake City before heading down the river. The run down the River and up the NJ coast will be an overnight. It has been years since I have been up past NYC, through the East River so that will be fun.

In fact, the last time I was through there was with Brenda on our first run south in 2012. It was quite an experience knowing that we were heading away from home for many months and that our trip would take us all the way south to FL and the Bahamas.

Our son Chris was a grad student at Columbia at the time and raced us down the East River, all the way to the Battery.

We beat him and waved to him as we pointed the bow to the lower harbor and a bit bitter-sweet to head toward Sandy Hook and begin a new chapter afloat. I wrote about the experience in this post, Brenda’s tears and all.

At the time I had no idea how far our travels would take us. Neither did Brenda… But that’s another story as we gear up to head to the Mediterranean next spring.

Anyway, I have now been to Chesapeake City a number of times over the years and it is nice to be here again, this time with George. However, nothing will quite compare to that first visit with Brenda so many years ago. Since you asked about that visit, here is a link to a post about that first visit in this post.

Last night we anchored in the basin, newly dredged by the Army Corps. Last time I was here I ran Pandora aground when we rounded the point to enter the basin with our 6’6″ draft. It’s a lot deeper now as the entire basin has been dredged this year.

This morning we pulled up to the free dock. Pretty nice spot.

The town was originally formed to support the canal, which was much more primitive at that time, only a few feet deep and the boats had to be towed through by mules who walked along on a path alongside the canal. It is much improved now. The downtown streets are lined with tiny homes, many with beautiful gardens.

I’ll bet that the owners of these homes had mixed emotions about the addition of this bridge that now looms over the canal. The good news is that the bridge opened up the town to many more visitors but it can’t be fun to have a huge bridge tower over your quaint little home, I’d think.

Tomorrow we will head out early and make our way, sadly against a foul tide, to the Delaware river for what will be our first overnight on George’s new boat. Our run will take us up to NYC and his first up the East River. George has crewed for me to the Caribbean a few times but always directly from Montauk south.

We visited the Canal Museum that tells the story of what is one of only two sea level canals, those without locks, in the US.

The most amazing thing about the canal is that it was originally dug by raw human labor including the most major work that was done during the depression when it was enlarged from a modest waterway to one that can handle many of the largest ships in the world today.

Before it was dug deep enough to avoid the need for locks, it required a way to pump in water to feed the locks and allow boats to be raised and lowered. The pump was steam powered and moved 1,000,000 gallons of water per hour. That’s amazing as the engines were only 125hp and each scoop of the wheel moved 20,000 gallons, enough to fill a swimming pool. A remarkable feat of Victorian engineering.

The pump no longer functions but is preserved in the museum.

The two engines and water wheel combined take up three rooms. This small model shows the two steam engines that power the water wheel. The photo above is the left pump.

Some of the specs for the engines that ran for over 80 years with only a single breakdown.

As you can imagine, it took a lot of people to service the canal, including dining and lodging, workers and visitors that were transiting the canal.

Many of the modest homes, Inns and shops are still here, lining the streets of the tiny downtown area.

One cuter than the next.

So, tomorrow at 06:00 we head out for our 65 mile run down to the mouth of the Delaware and the 110 miles up to the lower harbor of New York, at Sandy Hook.

That will be the first big trip for George and his new boat but this visit has been more of a trip down memory lane for me.

I like being here. A lot has happened since that visit…

Starlink: Two seasons in.

I still remember being docked in Nelson’s Dockyard two years ago when, for the first time, I saw a Starlink mobile antenna. A fellow Salty Dawg member had ordered a unit and had someone bring it down to Antigua where he set it up. He offered for me to use his password to see how well it worked. I fired up my computer and was hooked. I knew immediately that this would transform communications for the cruising set,. It was blazingly fast and I had to have one.

And I did, about two weeks later when a fellow Dawg agreed to take delivery and bring it down to Antigua from their home in Vermont.

After years of chasing dodgy wifi and slow cellular services while cruising, having speeds afloat of more than 100mbs was, and still is, astounding. To be fair, speeds over the last season winter did vary from 50mbs to a high of over 150mbs but it was always pretty fast. Fast is great and even the slowest speeds were faster than most cellular Wi-Fi plans. Here is is what my phone registered as speeds on the network when Pandora was on the hard in Trinidad before I flew home, leaving her for the summer and some big jobs. I won’t go into all that now but will cover the progress in future posts.

Speeds like that have never been possible afloat, especially for cruisers. To give context, our Comcast home cable service gave us speeds in the neighborhood of 90mbs and for that we paid nearly $100/month and it wasn’t all that stable. We now have T-mobile home internet service and while it is somewhat slower, at around 70mbs, is it more stable than Comcast, and a lot less expensive. For two cell plans, with unlimited international and domestic access, along with home wifi, costs about $130/month.

I wrote about the installation of Starlink in a post when I received my unit in Antigua. The setup was amazingly easy.

In those early months I just set the unit on deck and ran the cord down below. I was hesitant to install it permanently as I feared that Elon was going to do something to change the rules and make it unaffordable for the general cruising population. And true to his form, he did change the rules several times in the first year. Raising the price for mobile land use as well as instituting a mobile maritime plan at a much higher price and other destabilizing moves to make all of us think twice about how long this “great deal” would remain great. It is safe to say that “stable” isn’t something that may ever be the norm for Starlink but I hope that recent rumored changes won’t make the service uneconomical.

After a few months, feeling more confident that Elon was not going to cut us off from the service, or change his mind about the details of maritime use, I did a somewhat more permanent installation on the radar arch. But not without more than a bit of blood letting on my part. I wrote about the installation process. Two years in, I still haven’t run the antenna cable inside the arch as that would be a pretty big deal.

The verdict, 18 months later, two 1,500nm ocean passages, time at many different islands in the eastern Caribbean as well as use between islands, all the way south south to 10 degrees north, in Trinidad, my one word for how it works is “wow”.

The details of service in those early months was very confusing and it was particularly hard to understand what plan was needed to use the unit offshore. Until last spring, a year ago, you could use Starlink mobile anywhere without restriction, onshore or on passage.

As of last spring, they added a maritime plan for an additional $100/month, $250/month but that came with a catch as you only got 50gb/month and then had to pay $2/gb after that. That’s not a lot of data and the costs really add up. During those early months I needed clarity on all that and when I put in a number of service tickets with questions about what do to on the open ocean, I was told that the unit, my RV mobile dish, was designed to be used on land, as well as “lakes and rivers”. Unclear or not, it was clearly working in the harbors but it was unclear what would happen when I left the harbor. And, was a harbor in the Caribbean, a “lake or river?”

When I asked customer support for clarity on this point, for example, “when does the Hudson River become the ocean?” The answer, time and time again, was that my unit could be used “on lakes and rivers”. Huh?

On that first run north to CT in 2023, the dish seemed to take forever to connect to a satellite when we were moving, and while it still works better when we are sitting still, the connection seems to happen a lot faster now, although slower than at anchor. On that first run north last spring, we went for about 36 hours without being able to connect to the network. The wife of one of my crew members freaked out, wondering what had happened to us when we “went dark”. Were we dead, and would Brenda call Chris Parker to see if he’d heard from us?

Fortunately, Chris Parker, who we had talked to via SSB, said that we were alive and well. Eventually, we were able to long on, but it was challenging but at least we weren’t dead.

At that time, Starlink was releasing a new “high performance” dish, and offered to reimburse me for nearly the full cost of our first dish if we upgraded. It was tempting but the power consumption for the new dish was fully double that of our RV dish, and that’s bad enough, using as much or more power than our refrigeration. In spite of having over 1,000 watts of solar and a wind generator, the loads from Starlink, in addition to everything else, is nearly too much. To use the high performance dish you really have to have a house generator, which I don’t. I know others, like me, that have had to add more solar just because of Starlink.

For years now, there has been a sort of “arms race” of adding solar as electrical loads grow. It wasn’t that long ago when 500-600 watts of solar was adequate for most modest cruising boats. No more, in large part, as a result of Starlink. Nowadays, I’d say that upwards of 1,000 watts is probably needed to support a typical cruising boat. And that amount of solar is tough to cram onto a monohull and nearly impossible on a ketch.

I was back and forth about upgrading to the high performance dish, in spite of the large power requirements. However, I decided to keep using the old one, connectivity issues and all, with the hope that the service would improve as more satellites were launched. That decision turned out to be correct, as the service was much better on the way south last fall and was great for the runs between islands over the winter. Do I fully trust it now? No, but it is good enough and for the foreseeable future, I will be backing up Starlink with the Iridium Go, on long passages as that unit is much less energy intensive and works well, albeit at very slow data speeds.

In retrospect, I am very glad that I did not opt for the maritime dish. I am told that it works really well but at upwards of 200AH/in 24 hours, that is not sustainable without heavy reliance on a house generator. Even with 1,050 watts of solar, we turn Starlink off when we are not aboard and always overnight.

Another issue for all Starlink models is that they run on 110v. And that doesn’t take into account the draw of a house inverter, even without a load, which can be sizable. For use on a boat, Starlink recommends a small 500w portable inverter as adequate. In my case, I opted for 600w as that would give me additional support to plug in a laptop at the same time. I detailed that arrangement in this post, along with a discussion about upgrading our solar. Note that you will probably need to upgrade the wiring to that portable inverter as the draw will likely be more than your current wiring is capable of sustaining.

There is an option of converting Starlink to 12v but that involves purchasing some sort of converter setup from a third party and I haven’t done that yet. I understand that a 12v conversion will save about 25% of the energy needed to run the unit, a savings of about 1.5A at 12v. Not a lot but every little bit helps.

So, back to the question of “how far offshore does Starlink consider land becoming ocean?” answer to that question appears to be somewhere between 10-12 miles out and I have tested that thesis between a number of islands this winter. While Starlink will remain on-line, I get a message in the app saying that the unit being in an “unexpected location” and with the exception of the www.starlink.com, you will be blocked.

So, once you are too far from land you have to use “mobile priority” data which you can purchase for $2GB. At first, it seemed that the only way to get offshore data was to subscribe to the $250/month maritime mobile plan which includes 50GB and then you pay $2GB for usage after that. However, that’s not true as I learned that you can be on their “mobile regional” plan, the one I am on, at $150/month, which covers North America as well as the Caribbean. Go farther afield, but I am not clear on exactly what that means, and the cost goes up to $200/month. Once I go to the Med, I expect that I will have to change service areas, or go to the worldwide plan, but that’s not clear to me at this time. It may also be possible to change regions and still pay the $150/month, but that’s not clear to me.

When you are more than 10 miles offshore and must opt-in to maritime “priority data”. I found it difficult to find the “button” to get the offshore data but finally stumbled on it in my profile.

First you go to the home page in the app and click on the profile section in the upper right.

Then, adjust the slider to turn on mobile priority when you loose coverage and the app says “unexpected location”. Keep that toggled on until you are back within about 10 miles from shore and toggle it to the off position again. It takes about 15 minutes to activate “priority data” or turn it off.

Beware though, that if you have drop box or another cloud storage program on any of your devices the syncing of those devices while offshore can get pricy.

But, don’t worry if you use a ton of data while the priority data is turned off and you are “near shore” as you are allowed at least a terabyte each month, or unlimited data for practical purposes. Supposedly, a home with lots of online use and gaming is unlikely to use more than 3/4 of a terabyte in a month anyway.

This is where you can see how much you have used on both “mobile data”, the primary unlimited date that the plan allows, as well as the $2GB mobile priority plan. In this case, the prior month and my two offshore single night runs when I was heading to Trinidad.

I know a few crusiers that have opted for the high performance dish but from my perspective, the double digit power draw is just too much to sustain so I have stuck with my RV articulating antenna. Starlink no longer offers the articulating antennas and have transitioned to a fixed mount flat version. I am told that they will be introducing a “factory refurbished” option for older hardware but I have not seen a formal announcement. As of now, almost all of the units that I saw deployed in the Caribbean were the older version, RV one just like mine, even on many larger boats as they now work so well and draw half the power of the high performance dish.

I understand that they will be coming out with a new mini dish, ostensibly a smaller high performance dish, that will be perhaps a bit smaller than mine but that’s not official. I am not clear about how that will compare with their new smaller fixed dish and perhaps that one will be worth upgrading to.

So, how do we like Starlink? We love it even if it is a bit pricey. However, given the blazing speeds and the fact that it is so much better than anything else out there, I have to day that I LOVE it.

What will the future hold? It’s hard to say but with other competing services coming online in the next few years, I expect that Starlink monthly fees will drop, but only time will tell. Having said that, there are rumblings of price increases and with Elon, anything is possible and he does have a monopoly for the moment.

The uptake curve for Starlink in the cruising community has been breathtaking and I expect that it will be a rare cruiser, even those that mostly go out on weekends, that do not have this service aboard. The fact that only two boats in the Salty Dawg Caribbean rally fleet, 120 strong, in 2022, had Starlink and nearly all had it in 2023, speaks to how rapidly this is being adopted by the cruising community.

What will the future hold? Who knows but I’d say that you should not miss an opportunity to upgrade that solar. You will need it.

Of course, I am sure that there are some of you out there that know more than I do so fire away…

Getting to know Trinidad and it’s HOT!

It’s been less than a week since I arrived here in Trinidad and I have done a lot to get Pandora ready to stay on the hard until next October. She won’t be alone as there will be plenty of work being done to make her ready for another season of cruising next winter. I will admit that the idea of leaving Pandora here for 6 months at least, some 2,000 miles from home is a bit daunting, I’ll admit.

However, the attentiveness of the folks in the marina and the folks that will be working on various aspects of the boat makes me feel like it’s going to progress fairy well. Wish me luck…

On Sunday I spent the morning with Amos, who will be doing a good deal of work on Pandora. He was nice enough to take me on a bit of an island tour and it was nice to get to know him a bit.

And, with regards to the work that is planned, Amos and his partner Tony stopped by today to review the list, both “need to have” and “like to have”. We will see what sort of prices come back and if I’ll be able to do it all. The biggest part of the work needed is deck work where the laminate has failed and water has gotten into the core. I will also have a bit of varnish work down below done and some painting in the cockpit, along with a number of chips in the hull. And, I may have the bottom stripped as there is a bit of a buildup from all the years of paint and it’s now pealing in some areas. And, some of the windows in the dodger need to be re-bedded too.

Of course, there’s plenty more to do as some of the canvas work needs freshening and a bit of metal fabrication too.

Yikes, when I list it all, I am beginning to get a feel for the depth of the pool I have jumped into.

Before Steve flew out a few days ago, we rented a car to do some exploration of the island. One or our destinations is called the Bamboo Cathedral. The bamboo was impressive, draping over the path up the hill.

Above the path was a family of howler monkeys. I think that they howl in part, because it’s so hot during the day. Did I say that it’s hot? Unfortunately, I forgot my camera and had to use my phone so they are hard to see.

To give you a feel for the scale of the bamboo, upwards of 80′ tall, my friend Steve.

On the way to the airport with Steve, we stopped in the capital, Port of Spain. The national performing art center was amazing. Bummer that we could not go inside. Forgive the fingers…

A remarkable building, designed by John Gillespie, a prominent architect in Trinidad.

This photo of the center gives context to the scale of the building.

I mentioned that I was also taken on a tour of the island by Amos, who is working on Pandora this summer. He picked me up at 5:45AM at the boat and we headed up into the mountains. We left so early as it is a lot cooler during the early morning. Did I mention that it is hot?

He wanted to take me on a hike near the Bamboo forest but there was something going on and the police had blocked off the access.

Instead we went to the north side of the island. With the sun still low in the sky, it wasn’t nearly as hot as it gets mid day. What a view.

One view better than the last.

We then descended to the coast where we visited a beautiful beach. Even though it was still early, there were some impressive crowds forming for the day’s activities. It doesn’t show but there were a lot of people milling around, preparing for some sort of swimming race. I am told that this is one of the premier beaches in the country and that it is jammed on weekends.

At the far end of the beach, a small fishing village.

Walking ahead of me…Amos. After the beach we went out for a traditional Caribbean breakfast. It included a few different fish dishes, pickled herring, salt cod, blood pudding and some bread.. Not my preference but I was happy to try it. I think that I like croissants better, actually.

A few days before Steve left, we took the dink out for a harbor tour. We had heard that there was a ship graveyard nearby that seemed interesting. It was.

This is what happens to tugboats and smaller ships when they are no longer useful.

This one had particularly nice lines. It looks US Navy like. I am told that this port is under a long term lease to the US and I’ll have to learn more but by the looks of this boat, it makes sense.

Still life with rust…

There is a small fishing village at the head of the harbor. Probably not a great spot to walk through late at night. I did pass through in the morning and I’ll say that there were some boats that looked like they had been there for years. And, more than a few very mangy dogs.

In the midst of such a “mixed” area, Powerboats Marina has very tight security. When I returned from driving Steve to the airport, I had to pass the security guard at the gate and then was stopped again inside the yard to confirm who I was and were I was going. That made me feel good about keeping Pandora safe.

Directly across the street from the marina is forest, complete with parrots.

Not sure exactly what sort they are. They are certainly green parrots! And they are very noisy when they return to their roosts in the evening. Green and very noisy. Yes, I am 100% confident of that.

I was able to change my flight to leave on Thursday and am working to get details in place for all the work that needs to be done before I depart. I have been systematically going through everything and cleaning out lockers, tossing stuff that won’t survive till fall.

There has been a parade of folks visiting the boat. Outboard in for service and storage. Sails to be cleaned and canvas work. Varnish and, well, lots of stuff to be done.

I even cleaned the bottom of the dink that had gotten quite nasty and brown. Not now.

I understand that they photograph all the boats each day to make sure that all is still right. Pandora’s dink is beside the boat and not locked yet.

At night the yard is well lit.

Today the sails were removed and the boat will soon get covered to keep out the rain while the decks are redone. For sure, when I return in October she will look as good as new. However, I expect that our checkbook will be a little worse for wear 🙁

With the hope of keeping things on track, the plan is to have weekly video calls to review all aspects of the work and how it’s progressing. I hope that I won’t have to make a trip mid-summer but we will see how it goes.

So far, so good and I do feel that everyone is paying attention.

It’s been an interesting time and I feel like I am getting to know a bit more about Trinidad.

Did I mention that it’s hot?

Trinidad, finally here, after all these years.

For years friends have sung the praises of keeping their boats in Trinidad for the summer season. Trinidad is the most accessible spot to the Eastern Caribbean that is outside of the hurricane belt at 10 degrees north of the Equator. And, nowadays that’s an even bigger deal with the coming hurricane season looking like it will be one of the busiest on record. While Grenada is also popular, technically, and even though it’s only about 80 miles farther north, many insurance companied do not recognize it as a safe place for the summer season and won’t cover boats there without all sorts of restrictions.

My late friend and fellow SDSA board member, Rick Palm, once told me that most cruisers do the north-south run from the US for a limited number of years, perhaps three, and then decide to keep the boat south, skip the Caribbean altogether or head elsewhere. With Pandora, I have been making the run south in the fall and back north in the spring for over a decade and I have to say that I am tired of it. While moving Pandora to Trinidad cost time, the north-south run adds something like three months aboard each year just moving around. That’s a huge commitment of time and doesn’t even address the wear and tear on boat and me for more than 3,000 miles of arduous ocean sailing.

So now, with all that and the need to have important work done on Pandora makes the decision to keep her here in Trinidad this summer an easy one.

As of yesterday morning Pandora was on a mooring in Chaguaramus, Trinidad, after an overnight sail from Bequia, one of the islands of St Vincent. As is often the case, I underestimated Pandora’s speed and we realized, shortly after departing Bequia for the 150 mile run, that we would make landfall well before dawn. The authorities in Trinidad do not like boats entering the country in the dark. And to come into a port where I had no personal experience was not a good idea. I filed a float plan prior to departure and to deviate from that wasn’t a good idea so we had to do something to slow down. I put two reefs in the mainsail and rolled up the jib most of the way. It didn’t slow us down much but finally, with the wind dying as we approached Trinidad, we only had to loaf around for about two hours waiting for daylight.

Before we headed out to Trinidad, Steve and I had a number of meals ashore in Bequia. It is a very pretty place with clear water and plenty of dining options. This view of the sunset the night before our departure was memorable.

The run was a total of 150 miles and we headed down the windward side of all the islands which made for more consistent wind, avoiding the “shadow” that you get when heading down in the lee of these mountainous islands.

As we hovered offshore waiting for sunrise, we were treated to a particularly memorable sunrise, making it worth waiting for to see the new day dawn.

The “cut” from the ocean, less than 2/10 of a mile wide, looked pretty daunting on the chart and to try it for the first time at night seemed like a bad idea.

However, in “the light of day”. Not so bad and it was over 100′ deep.

We had heard that the Trinidad Coast Guard was pretty touchy about arrivals and that our friends had been boarded a few days earlier in that same cut. However, nothing happened.

The cut, with it’s near vertical sides, looked like something out of Jurassic Park or Avitar, with trees clinging to sheer cliffs.

In the cut some homes that reminded me of our time in Cuba.

And a few that defied understanding. A home? Resort?

And one that looked like it would fit right into a high end Brooklyn neighborhood.

And, of course, the Trinidad Coast Guard. These cutters don’t look like they mess around.

Lots of evidence that the local economy is driven by petro-dollars.

Heavy hardware everywhere catering to oil and gas. This rig looks like it came from the set of “There will be blood”.

How about these piles of anchor chain? Each link is surely hundreds, more likely thousands, of pounds. I guess that they are used to anchor the oil rigs offshore as it is way to deep to have them sit on the ocean floor.

The harbor water is not clean, with a light light sheen of oil on it and the air has a faint smell of petrochemicals. I was told that in past years the pollution was much worse. However, I don’t want to paint a bad picture of all this as the people are incredibly friendly and eager to help and the landscape is quite dramatic. I am told that we can take an excursion to the rainforest and see an amazing array of wildlife. Perhaps I can fit something in like that before I depart.

I was struck by these boats and there are a lot of them moving around. It seems that they are fishing boats from Venezuela and that they come over to Trinidad to sell their wares. The reminded me of some of the government fishing boats that we saw in Cuba, but much nicer.

I guess that there is a fairly large middle class here if the number of small private fishing boats is any indication. And, there are a good number of quite nice late model cars in the lot.

This sort of rack storage is common in the US but not in most areas of the Caribbean.

I had no idea what our arrival was going to be like except that I had been told that clearing in was a lengthily process with lots of carbon paper. The experience did not disappoint, taking about two hours.

One of the required forms required six copies and as I interlayered carbon paper with the pre-printed forms, I felt like I was making a “clearance sandwich”. And, in spite of bearing down on my pen like a preschooler learning to print, the three lowest copies were mere smudges of blue.

The process was not particularly unpleasant and in each case, Immigration and Customs, the many forms were dutifully check and rechecked by officers that carefully recorded information on their computers. I have no idea what they were doing for all that time but it seemed very serious. As each sheet of paper was declared “done” an official stamp was applied with a loud, surely satisfying and very official “thump”. In Customs alone, our passports were checked three times, by two different people. Perhaps all that was to ensure that each carbon copy sheet was legible. Many surely were not but none were rejected. I guess the official count, the right number of pieces of paper, was the key.

In addition to all the forms, I had to testify that there was no disease aboard Pandora, or stowaways or dead bodies. Other than that, same old…

Oddly, after all that, more than two hours of shuffling papers, no fees of any sort.

Oh yeah, I was told that the process was much smoother because of the copies that were made for me in the Marina office and as a result of advance work by a guy, Jesse James, who acts as an informal liaison between cruisers and the government. More about the nuts and bolts of working with marinas and Jesse in future posts.

All and all, our arrival in Trinidad has been very interesting and I will surely write more about it in the coming days.

Oh yeah, one more thing. Having no idea what to expect when I arrived, I had pushed out my haul date for several days, assuming that getting Pandora ready would take time. However, once I got here and saw how hot it was out in the harbor, which is sheltered from the prevailing winds by high hills, I decided that I wanted to be hauled AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. Amazingly, the office fit me in at the end of the day and now Pandora is on the hard.

And, the air-conditioner is installed and pumping cold air down below. So much for “island time” so far. I arrived in the morning, checked in, arranged to have Pandora hauled with AC was installed before the end of the day. Setting aside the clearance process, this place is pretty efficient.

The AC unit is quite creatively designed with a unique, clearly custom made, fiberglass plenum that fits over an open hatch.

After that a widow AC unit is slid into place and a LOT of duct tape is applied to make it weatherproof. It doesn’t look particularly pretty but is very functional. Down below, a remote control gets things going. And go it does…

Today I will begin my meetings with some of the vendors who will be working on Pandora in the coming months. Some of the big jobs have already been quoted so I am hopeful that I won’t have any surprises. As far as getting the work done, let’s hope that their view of “island time” is like the boat yard and not like the clearing in process as I plan to move Pandora back to Antigua in early November to greet the Salty Dawg Caribbean Rally fleet when they arrive.

Today Steve and I will begin the process of getting Pandora cleaned up and then pull down the sails so they can be cleaned and stored. The dink motor will also go out for service. For now, I decided to keep it in the water for a few more days so I can explore the harbor a bit. That will be fun as I am here for another week before flying home.

Now that I am here I realize that I could have booked an earlier flight but until now I had no idea that I was going to be able to get things done so fast. Sadly, to change the flight now would be quite expensive so I will make the best of it. At least I have Starlink to talk to Brenda any time I want. Not quite the same as being there but surely better than email.

So, here I am, in Trinidad, after more than a decade thinking, “perhaps I should leave Pandora in Trinidad.” Now she is here…

We will see how it goes. So far, I’m optimistic.

The Antigua Classics aboard Eros. Amazing!

First of all, forgive me for having such a gap in my posting as it’s been crazy busy since I returned home on April 1st to get the house open for the summer and to visit family. What a whirlwind. A short two weeks later, on Tax Day to be specific, I returned to Antigua and remarkable week of sailing on some amazing beautiful yachts for the Classic Yacht Regatta.

As luck would have it, I was able to get aboard Eros with two other Salty Dawg members, my crew Steve and friend Mark, for the full series, four days sailing on this amazing schooner. I wrote about her in my last post so I won’t repeat it here.

The series, with more boats than any year since 2017 saw more than 60 boats competing. Their size ranged from lengths in the teens up to those well over 100′, with Eros one of the largest.

This short regatta summary video gives a feel for the range of boats in the regatta. It was a wonderful experience to be aboard such a magnificent yacht.

Eros has huge sails and fortunately, we had light wind for the first two days so we were able to learn more about sailing her when the loads were less. The most challenging part of sailing Eros is setting the “fish”, or what the fisherman sail is referred to, a large sail that is hoisted between the two masts. It is quite a handful and to get it hoisted smartly, takes 6-10 crew all working together. To watch Colin, the skipper, call out orders along with waving arms, reminded me of a conductor in an orchestra. I had sailed with him two years ago aboard Columbia when he was #2 on that boat.

What a beautiful yacht. This photo, taken a few years ago by Beverly Factor, a professional photographer, is, I am told, owner Cameron’s favorite shot and the graphics on crew shirts are based on this photo.

She is a remarkable boat with a caring owner. Cameron, told me that he has a partner in the boat and that it actively chartered. I was struck by how warmly he welcomed those who had volunteered to race her. Colin, the skipper interviewed most if not all to be sure that they would perform well and be fun to have on board.

Colin greeted the crew each day to be sure that everyone knew what was expected and the importance of staying safe. It was clearly a caring family environment. This photo of the briefing doesn’t show how many were on board, upwards of 30+ each day. Busy boat but the loads were tremendous and timing for adjusting lines had to be done in a carefully orchestrated way to keep from breaking stuff, including body parts. And, speaking of “body damage” on that first day I didn’t manage a line quite properly and it slipped through my fingers, taking some skin along with it. It could have been a lot worse and I never made that same mistake again. Of course, as always, my “guardian angel” kept watch over me. All better now…

The crew…

Some of the younger crew for Eros came from Alvei, an old steel ship. Their only way to get aboard was to walk up one of the dock lines. Looks precarious, and it was, with at least one member ending up in the water. They were amazingly hard working and great to have aboard.

The “boss” of Eros, Cameron, on the left, took turns with Colin for time at the helm but most of the time Colin was more than occupied keeping the crew in line. Photo by Anna Boulton.

When it came time to back into the dock, it was always Colin at the helm and to watch him call out commands to the crew and “boat wranglers”, dinks that volunteered to push the bow as needed to line things up, was a sight to behold. And, if Colin was freaking out inside, it never showed.

With the exception of a small permanent crew, all of us were new to the boat and it was a big boat with huge loads. A lot could have gone wrong in a moment so careful oversight was vital. By the fourth day we pretty well knew our jobs or at least tried hard to do things right.

There were a number of photographers aboard for the trip and at least one chartered a chopper to take aerial photos.

This young lady was a lot of fun. Her socks “for (fox) sake” brought a smile to us all. She was relentlessly cheerful and a lot of fun to have on board. My jib partner and marine artist, Anna Boulton took this great photo.

The youngest crew during a quiet moment. Her dad is a regular on the big boat racing circuit.

Cameron is clearly passionate about Eros and the community of sailors that she fosters. At the end of the series he called out a number of crew for their dedication and hard work in a way that made it clear that he really cares about the boat and the experiences that it offers those who sail on her.

Read about Cameron’s family history and what lead to his choosing Eros nearly a decade ago. Eros has a busy charter season coming up summer in New England. Check out her site for some great background.

After the last day or racing, there was an awards ceremony in Nelson’s Dockyard, a spectacular venue. Big crowds.

It was fun to be up on the stage with the crew. Thanks to Tony, fellow crew member, for taking this shot.

The prize to Eros, second in her class, was a “keg” of rum. Colin was quick to share it with the crew. Me too… As you can imagine, it got a bit rowdy but in a good way. Rum tends to do that to people. My apologies as I don’t know who took this photo. Perhaps it was the rum…

It was an amazing few days and perhaps down the road I’ll be able to crew again. You never know. She is home-based in Newport this summer. Hmm…

Before I break, this shot of Bolero. What a gem. I did sail on her for a very memorable practice day before the Classics began but that’s a post for another day.

So, here I sit in Bequia, near St Vincent, for a few days before doing an overnight to Trinidad with Steve. We expect to arrive there on May 1st and then I will be crazy busy getting Pandora ready to haul for the summer. Lots of work needed before I head north to Antigua in early November. I have to say that after more than a decade of north and south each season, it will be nice to avoid the 3,000 mile round trip run.

After an overnight run from Guadeloupe, we arrived here yesterday. We had some really good fish tacos before a much needed good night sleep. The view of the sunset from dinner. What a spot.

It has indeed been a remarkable few weeks. Next stop, Trinidad.