Monthly Archives: May 2011

>Why a SAGA 43, revisited.

>As I sit here, it’s only a short time till Pandora is back in the water and, based on a post on the Yahoo, SAGA list serve, I thought it would be interesting to revisit the question of why we purchased a SAGA 43 several years ago.  One of my first posts, back in 2007 addressed that very issue and I have listed our original assumptions below as well as the post from 2007 to see how these thoughts have stood up over the years.

When I initially called a boat broker about upgrading from our Tartan 37, my wife Brenda and I had a few key characteristics that our new boat absolutely had to have.  Here they are.

  1. The design had to have a good pedigree, fairly fast and one that would perform well in a seaway.  
  2. It had to have a good, comfortable main stateroom with a berth that wasn’t “pointy”. 
  3. A shower that was fully enclosed and easy to dry off after a late afternoon or evening shower.  
  4. Two heads would be nice so Brenda had a place one to her own when we were in port or had guests on board.
  5. I wanted a boat that didn’t have even one little piece of exterior wood that I’d have to varnish.  I’d had plenty of that over the years with previous boats, including my Tartan 37 with her 90′ of teak toerail.
  6. An inverter that can handle a hairdryer like a champ.
  7. And, above all, the boat had to get where we needed to go in good style.
This is what I wrote in my post back in 2007 about why a SAGA 43.   I wrote…
As I mentioned previously, we decided that we needed a new boat when we were anchored in Gilkey Harbor, Isleboro Maine in August of 2006. We saw a nearly new Tartan 41 and I decided to introduce ourselves to the owners. They invited us aboard for a cocktail and told us about their Summer plans, to cruise for about two to three months in Maine. At that moment, I realized that was what I wanted to to someday. What better way to look toward the future than to get our ideal cruising boat now. By early September we were working with Pat Clark of Boat Works in Rowayton CT. She proved to be very knowledgeable about many designs and their characteristics and recommended a number of boat designs for us to consider. However, having looked at a large number of designs over the year I was immediately taken by the SAGA configuration when she introduced it to me. Bob Perry, the designer, also was the father of the Valiant 42, considered by many as one of the finest cruising boats ever built. So, I was fairly confident that we had found a design that would fit the bill. I did a fair amount of research and read all that I could find on the Web. One review in particular caught my eye from a publication called 48 North What I read there told me immediately that I had found the boat that I wanted.
The SAGA 43 was conceived as performance cruiser, just what I was looking for. I wanted a boat with good pedigree that was also fast and comfortable, with more creature comforts than we had with our Tartan 37. We looked in Annapolis at what would eventually become our boat within a month, and now just one year ago at the Annapolis Show. We decided immediately that we wanted to purchase “Spirit” and put in a bid the next week. With delays on the seller ‘s side it wasn’t until February of this year that we finally closed on the boat and got started on the upgrades we planned to do prior to launching. We upgraded the electronics to include a Raymarine e-series radar plotter, new canvas and some additional weight in the keel. We knew that many of the earlier SAGAs were quite tender, a combination of their narrow beam and a bit under weight in the keel in the shoal draft verson. We ordered a 1,200lb “shoe” from Mars Metals in Ontario and had it installed.  It went on perfectly and I looked like it was part of the original keel from the very beginning. Having that extra 1,200 lbs proved to be just the trick as Keith Reynolds (the patron saint of SAGAs) predicted. Now she is plenty stiff and able to carry sail as needed. Yes, she does heel over a bit but no more than our T37 did. With these modifications we were off and running as of mid April and ready for our summer “trials”.

So, how is it going as I sit here in May of 2011?  I put that question to Brenda (who doesn’t mince words about sailing and is very clear that she is happy in her role aboard Pandora as “the honored guest”) and here’s what she had to say.
“It’s not the Ritz Carlton, and there’s no room service but it’s way better than camping”.   Well, she did say that but also went on to say the following.
“It’s the most comfortable boat that we have ever had, (note that we began sailing together nearly 40 years ago and had a succession of boats beginning with a 20′ catboat and just prior to Pandora, a Tartan 37 ) sailing is a lot less tiring and we arrive with energy left for shore leave”.  The boat is still somewhat tender and even though we are healing the motion is easy and I am not holding on for dear life.  And, this is a major difference compared to our other boats, including our Tartan 37 where I was always exhausted after a long day on the water. “
I should note that since getting Pandora we have spent progressively more time aboard with a total of 6 weeks last summer and plans to top that by a few weeks this year.  This time aboard will include two months in Maine, a trip that we have made for over 15 summers.

So, is Pandora right for me, an avid sailor, and Brenda, a somewhat reluctant but nearly always willing “honored guest”?  It would seem that it is.

For us, after 40 years of sailing together, Pandora is about the perfect boat and I can’t imagine another boat that would fit the bill better for us.
And, as a friend of mine once said, “that’s my report and I’m sticking to it”. 

Oh, I almost forgot, I hate to do a post without a photo so I guess that I will have to sign off with a shot of Pandora secure on a mooring in Muscongus Bay Maine back in 2008.

>Ten days till Pandora splashes, again. Yahoo!

>It’s Sunday morning and it’s pouring cats and dogs.  It’s a good thing that I was able to put in a full day working on Pandora yesterday as it’s coming down to the home stretch and there is still a good amount to finish to be sure that she’s ready to go back in the water for the Summer.  When I think about the amount of time that I put into Pandora over this winter it’s quite amazing.

What brought it into perspective for me yesterday, I worked from 7:45 till 5:00 yesterday (with a bit of time out to have lunch with my Mom and Dad) was when a guy working on the boat next to me, a Cal 23, remarked about my work “so, trying to get it all done in single day?”.  He was referring to the fact that he had seen me working on the boat all day, sanding and painting the bottom and cleaning the topsides and assumed that I was rushing to get all the prep work needed to launch done in a single day.  I had never laid eyes on this guy before so I expect that it was his first day down to see his boat this Spring.  The look on his face was priceless when my reply was “actually, I have been working on the boat nearly every weekend since the second week of January”.  That’s actually painfully true with very few exceptions.  I can recall a few weekends when I had to wade through 3′ drifts to get to the boat and climb aboard.  In the interest of full disclosure, I rarely worked aboard more than one day each weekend.

The number of projects that I did over the winter, painstakingly detailed in previous posts, is my most ambitious to date.

Here’s the list., not counting the little projects.

  1. Holding tanks:  Ripped up the floor so I could measure for, build and install two gelcoat lined fiberglass holding tanks,   These babies are so nice I can’ believe what we are going to be putting into them.
  2. Radar arch:  While I didn’t make the arch, just installing it was a tall order.  It’s great and will make a big difference in our enjoyment of the boat.  Hey, now I can climb right into the dink even if it’s hanging from the davits.  Not sure why I would do such a thing but it’s nice to know that I could if I wanted to.  I also fished the wires for the GPS antenna, aft running light and moved radar from the backstay to it’s new home on the arch.  
  3. Freezer:   Now, I can have ice cream on board, actually, make that GREEN ice cream.  No, not the kind from a Dr. Seuss book, Sam I am, but the kind powered by my solar array.  We sailors are all about being green and off the grid, right? I separated a section of the fridge and made a  freezer compartment with a dedicated cold plate and new compressor. 
  4. Spice rack:  Behind the fridge in the galley I constructed a new spice rack.  I went to great pains to match the design so that it blended with the other details in the galley.
  5. Salon and cockpit cushions.   I ordered new cabin cushions for the main salon and cockpit.  That wasn’t too hard as I just had to write a check.  Brenda picked the fabric and she choose well.  
  6. Curtains in the salon:  Actually, they are pleated shades and really give the boat a more tailored look.  
  7. AIS/VHF radio combo with a remote cockpit mike:  I installed the system but had some help from my electronics guy wiring it up and making sure that it will work as advertised.
  8. Raised waterline:  With all this new “stuff” aboard, in addition to the 1,200lb keel shoe that I had installed when I took delivery of Pandora, I needed to raise the waterline by two inches.  This entailed sanding the boot top, putting on three coats of Awlgrip primer and then sanding all of it again. 

And, all of that in addition to the usual washing, cleaning, bottom painting etc.  You know, the normal sort of getting-ready-to-go-in-the-water sorts of things that happen after a long cold winter.

Speaking of cold winters.  Thank goodness that I put in an Espar heater a few years ago.  Without it, I wouldn’t have been able to reply with such enthusiasm about my work on Pandora from January on.  I do enjoy working on the boat but have to say that it was nice to just write a check and have those cushions show up magically.  Alas, I may be busy but I always seem to have more time than money.  Hmm…

Back to yesterday (Did I mention that I had lunch with my Mother?)  Yea, I thought so.   Well, I did get a lot done and Pandora is looking great.

One of my favorite parts of getting a boat ready to launch is painting the bottom.    So, you are asking yourself  “is he nuts?”.   Actually, it’s not so much the painting but the sense of accomplishment that I feel when I take off the masking tape, stand back and take a look at Pandora, so near to being launch ready.

Doesn’t she have a great bottom?  The last step in finishing the new waterline will be the installation of a 1″ white vinyl boot top, which will separate the bottom paint from the blue section.  I am a bit skeptical of this approach but he yard assures me that it will stick well.  We will see as if it doesn’t, it will be there problem to replace it next Winter.   Anyway, it will look great.

And the shine on that hull?  Not to shabby either.

Actually, that photo was taken before I sanded where I had primed the, now raised by two inches, waterline.

Down below is looking pretty snazzy too with the new cushions. I am particularly happy with the ottoman which I made out of 3/8″cherry marine plywood and oak reinforcements in the corners.  The canvas shop put a cover on it.  Now I have a place to store bulky items and a place to put up my feet.

And it fits nice and snug between the port settee and the table when it’s not in use.  Here’s what it looked like when it was “in the raw”.

Think of us over the Memorial Day weekend as we head out of Norwalk and off to Mattituck, on the North Fork of Long Island, one of our favorite places to visit to begin our much anticipated Summer aboard Pandora.  And, no I will be sure not to forget the ice cream.   Let’s hope that the sun shines plenty this summer to power all of the equipment that I have installed over the years.

That’s all for now.

>Not so early spring any more

>It’s hard to believe that it’s been several weeks (yes, I know that it’s actually been longer, so don’t rub it in) since my last post.  However, nearly every extra minute has been spent on trying to do the whole life-work balance thing and continue to get Pandora ready for the season of sailing.   While some of my friends are wrapping up their season in the South and heading home, us poor soles in more temperate zones are just now getting ready to head out.  As I have mentioned in past posts, we are going to keep Pandora in Mystic for part of June after launching the week prior to Memorial Day and then will head to Maine for July and August.  For a while I was uncertain if work would allow me to stay away for two months, while working remotely from the boat, but it is now looking like a visit to Maine for both months will only be interrupted by a quick trip to Las Vegas for business in late July.   It’s actually ironic to imagine leaving Maine to head to a location of such great contrast but, hey, I still have to make a living, for now, I guess.

Well, back to getting Pandora ready.   After being fabricated in Canada, Pandora’s new radar came down a few weeks ago on a truck.  To save on shipping (always looking for a way to save where I can) I arranged to meet the driver at an exit off of the NYS thruway and we made the switch.  I constructed special brackets on the roof racks to hold the arch.  It just dwarfed the car.  I was fearful that I would hit something as I drove home and later to CT where Pandora is stored, but nope, no damage.

With a little help from my friends and a lot of pushing and pulling, the arch was installed.  Beyond that I had to run wires for the radar, GPS and aft running light.  It proved to be somewhat easier than I had expected and it’s all completed now and the radar is in place.  No photo of that yet but will come soon.  In this photo the radar is still on the back stay but has now been moved to the center of the arch.   It’s now fully out of the way and securely in it’s new home.

I also put the two new holding tanks in place along with a bit of elbow skin as I pushed and pulled them into position.  In spite of the very complex looking shot of the forward tank, that one was actually the easiest to fit in place.    

While the forward tank was more straight forward, the aft tank was a bear to squeeze into it’s new home.  Hard to imagine so much work to hold a mess of S… aboard while I look for a place to pump out.

I challenge anyone to have a more solidly constructed holding tank on their boat.  However, my ulterior motive in learning to do this sort of work is to make a hard dodger for Pandora based on Bob Perry’s plans next winter.  Now, that’s a project.  And the design, that I don’t have a photo of unfortunately, really gives a muscular look to the boat.  Really impressive.   For much of the winter the boat was really torn up with all the work that I was doing was being completed.   At some points, I have to confess that I didn’t expect to ever be finished.  Take a look at this shot and you will probably agree.  What a trash heap.

Alas, as they say on the nation’s highways when the roads are all torn up, “the inconvenience is temporary, but the repairs are permanent”.  Well, it’s sort of true, as with the roads, boat projects aren’t very permanent either.  But, it does look a lot better now.   Check out the new Ultrasuede cushions.  No, I didn’t sew them.  There’s a limit to what I am willing, or should I say able to take on.  They look really great.  In 30 years of boating, no make that 40, we have never had new cushions that I didn’t make.  That’s to say, really nice ones.

With Pandora nearly ready to launch I have just a few more weeks to finish up these projects and get ready to head out for a week aboard.   We have never splashed her and immediately headed out for a week so we will have to see how that goes.  

Finally, now that we are nearly into the commissioned season, I expect to begin getting into a more or less weekly blog post.

Before I sign off, how about a sunset shot?  No, perhaps I should call it a sunrise shot.  In fact, I took this years ago when we visited St. John in the BVI.  It’s my hope that in a few short years I will see this same view, if a bit closer to the water, from aboard Pandora.  Now, that’s something to look forward to.