Monthly Archives: December 2011

“Oh God thy sea is so great and my boat is so small”

Even for those who have never been out on a boat of any kind, thoughts of the open ocean conjure up thoughts of massive waves crashing up on distant, or perhaps worse, on familiar shores.

For boaters the phrase can sometimes bring to mind memories of personal adventures, nearly always exaggerated for effect when experiences are being shared, especially with non boating friends.  “You can’t imagine how big those waves in Plum Gut were last August.  They were breaking over the pilot house.  They had to be at least 6 feet.  Really, it was amazing.”

In October a good friend was taking his boat to the Caribbean and he ran into a late season storm about 500km south of Bermuda.   Yesterday I spoke to him on the phone and heard a bit about his experience.  He recounted that the waves were 25′ and very confused.  His crew were clipped on and yet were washed overboard only to stop short when they reached the end of their tethers.   The boat was laid flat several times and their storm anchor/drogue snapped it’s line.  Dick and his crew were successfully rescued by a passing freighter where they scrambled up a jacob’s ladder while his small 35′ sailboat Spring Moon, slammed against the ship while rising and falling 25′ with each passing wave.

Thankfully, Dick and his crew were saved, a better fate than the husband and wife who were separated in the same storm when she was washed overboard and lost.   It’s hard to imagine how it would be to experience such a loss.   Not something that we, who love the sea and sailing, want to think about.

This video is perhaps the best example of just how powerful the sea is and should certainly give those guys who brag about braving 6′ waves on Long Island Sound something to think about.  This is nature’s majesty in some of her greatest moments.

As is said in the famous Breton Fisherman’s prayer, “Oh God thy sea is so great and my boat is so small”  No truer words were ever spoken.

So, I am always asked “how big is your boat?” and my answer is, “that depends on how far I am from the dock.  Out on the ocean she seems mighty small.”


>My idea of a good Gulf Stream crossing? I think not!!!

>As I think forward to our trip to the Bahamas next winter I am very aware that our trip south had better be a great experience for Brenda.  I was encouraged when she suggested the other day that she wants to go to Cape May and Chesapeake City by boat.  On past trips to Annapolis, Brenda has always met me by car and I have used crew to make the run down the Jersey Coast.   Having her even suggest that she might join me for what is one of the longest outside runs is good news and I am clinging to it.

To the point of great experiences, I am pretty sure that if our trip next year isn’t fun for Brenda that there won’t be a second run south.   I am told that the Gulf Stream can be pretty nasty when the winds are up and from the wrong direction so we had better pick a good day.   Speaking of good, or bad, days…

This video of a run through the Southern Ocean in the last Volvo Ocean Race is exactly what I had better avoid. Is this a good run or bad?  You be the judge.

I am betting what we need to experience to make this fun for Brenda had better be excellent fodder for the most boring video footage ever.  For a dedicated knitter like Brenda, her idea of a really bad day is when she drops a stitch.  Hmm….

>Where’s Pandora or any boat for that matter?

>So, how do you keep track of where a boat is these days?  Or, perhaps better stated, how to you let your land-locked friends keep tabs on you when you are cruising?  Of course, the question of “why would anyone care” is perhaps relevant but let’s put that thought aside for now.  Besides, my Mom always wants to keep tabs on me.

As we plan for our first really big trip next fall to Florida and onto the Bahamas, I have been thinking about ways to keep my Mom, Dad and our friends up to date on where we are.  Yes, a phone call works well but having the boat show up on a map is just so much better.  So, I have been on the prowl, or should I say on a “voyage” to identify the best way to have Pandora show up on a map and track our progress along the way.

As you would expect, there are a number of options to choose from.  Some are fairly expensive and utilize the Iridium satellite system to display the location on a map while others utilize the AIS system.  
As an example of how this can work, I was fascinated to learn that there is a website that tracks every AIS equipped vessel in the world in real time.  To illustrate this feature, I looked on a list of sailing yachts and discovered a yacht that I had seen last summer in Maine.  Artemis, a beautiful sailing yacht caught my eye in Southwest Harbor as well as Frenchboro last August.  Here’s a shot that shows just how powerful and sleek she is.   And big, really big.  
In case you are in the market for a charter, here’s her particulars.  Besides, why settle for less when you can have an on-deck Jacuzzi and exercise room.  Not bad at all.  
So, after seeing her in Maine last August, thinking about my own “tracking” plans, I found myself wondering “where’s Artemis?”.   In case you are wondering too, she’s in Martinique where it’s a lot warmer than here in New Jersey.  I discovered this great site where you can look up any AIS equipped boat and see what she is up to right now.  Here’s Artemis.  Perhaps when you look she will have moved.  This is pretty neat but it only shows a current location or track if she is underway.  However, there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of historical information on track and distance by date. 
For that there is another, more expensive, option Yellow Brick (how great is that name?), out of England that shows the current location, speed and where they have been over a long period.  This example is pretty neat as it includes an integrated blog showing entries along the historical track.  The Iridium system us a group of satellites that will track an equipped boat, in real time, anywhere in the world.   
I am sure that there are plenty of options and I really want to put something onto Pandora as we head south.  For now, it’s great fun to follow others and I guess that Bob the Armchair sailor is a description that will have to suffice.  
Perhaps you went on a cruise and are wondering where “your boat” is right now.  Try the look-up feature and put in the name of the boat in the upper left box to find out where she is.

So, which system for Pandora?  For that I guess you will be the second to know.

More importantly, where’s Pandora?   For now you will have to take my word that she’s safe and sound but not anywhere interesting at all, for now, anyway.

>Pandora and Papeete, what’s the connection?

>Yes, it’s an odd title for a blog post.  Let me explain.   Two years ago Brenda and I were sailing in Maine aboard Pandora and had stopped for the night in Merchants Row on our way back to Rockland.  As I have mentioned in past posts, it is my habit to introduce myself to someone in most anchorages that we visit.  It’s amazing to me that most folks never stop over to say HI (at least us) but when I introduce myself, nearly everyone is very inviting.    That’s not to say that I end up chatting with everyone that I approach, but it’s clear from the first few moments if we will hit it off or not.  Besides, it’s so much fun to enjoy a “sundowner” with someone else to learn about their experiences along the way.

So, why am I bringing this up?  Or, put it another way  “BOB, GET TO THE POINT!”.

Ok, Ok, back to Maine two years ago.  I looked around for someone to say HI to and decided that the boat nearby flying a flag from Germany seemed like a good option and made the decision to stop by in the morning to introduce myself.  However, not to approach empty handed, I mixed up a batch of biscuits, and I do make great biscuits, to bring as an “ice breaker”.  Besides, with an offering in hand, who wouldn’t invite me aboard for coffee.  I would, for sure.

So with the biscuits about ready, I was about to jump into the dink and what should happen but the German boat pulled up their anchor and motored out of the harbor.  What to do?  Hmm…

All was not lost as I then noticed another boat that had been partially hidden by a big schooner and it too was flying a flag that I did not recognize.  Quickly I looked it up on Google and, what do you know, they were from Austria.    Now it was getting interesting so off I headed, biscuits in hand or should I say biscuits in mixing bowl, to say hello.

The couple, Josef and Eva aboard Sanuk II, told me that they were on a world cruise and that Maine and the Eastern Coast of the US was just the beginning with plans to transit the Panama Canal and cross the Pacific.   I hurried back to retrieve Brenda and the four of us had a great visit.  In the course of conversation we learned that they were headed to the Chesapeake and wanted advice on where to leave their boat for a few weeks while they headed back home to Vienna, Austria for a visit.   As we had kept Pandora in Annapolis a few times, I did know were they might be able to get a slip, made a few calls, and found a spot for them.

Well, it’s now two years later and, out of the blue, I get an e-mail yesterday from Josef with this photo of him and Eva in Hawaii.    Doesn’t he look like a sailor?  Perhaps a bit like a pirate actually.  Nice hat.

Josef reports that they are now in Papette, in the South Pacific.  Wow!  That’s a really long way from Maine and there they are.  No kidding.  Now, more than two years into their circumnavigation, they are about half way home.  Really impressive.  On top of that they look like they are actually getting regular showers.  Who knew?

Well, back to reality, here I sit here in New Jersey, it’s raining and 45 degrees.  Not exactly like the weather that our Viennese friends are enjoying.  However, there’s always next summer and our trip to the Bahamas to look forward to.

I guess that the moral of the story is to always make a point to say HI.  You never know who you will meet and where it might lead you.  I hope that Brenda and I have an opportunity to meet up with Josef and Eva again soon.  Perhaps in Austria.  Wait, that’s a landlocked country.  Never mind.

So, Pandora and Papeete, what’s the connection?   Glad you asked, I guess you could say that the connection is only a biscuit apart.

>We need more water!

>In early October I headed to Annapolis for the boat show to begin the final stages of preparing Pandora  for more extended cruising.  The big item on this year’s list was a water maker.  Actually, more correctly a reverse osmosis unit.  While water is readily available in the States, it’s tough to come by outside of the US and is often of questionable quality.  In the Bahamas, where we will spend next winter, water isn’t free and it can cost upwards of $.40 a gallon.  It will also be considerably easier to manage water usage when we can make our own.   Interestingly, we only use about 15 gallons a day without doing much conservation so that’s not a lot to make.

We generally don’t go to docks very much.  I have to say that Brenda isn’t all that fond of approaching a dock although she has become quite adept at managing the 25,000+ bulk of Pandora in confined spaces.  It’s amazing just how big Pandora seems when you are near a dock and yet how small she seems far from shore in rough conditions.  As far as dock-going last summer, we only went to a dock a single time between July 2nd and September 2nd, two months, and that was to get water, not fuel.   During that time we only used about 35 gallons of fuel and yet I was filling Pandora’s water tanks on a regular basis via 5 gallon plastic jugs.  I have to say that the idea of making our own water instead of the laborious “water runs” in the dink is really appealing.

There are a few problems with these units.  First, they are really expensive and run in the range of several thousand to ten grand or more.  Other factors include water volume output, energy consumption per gallon of pure water and complexity of maintenance.

After looking at perhaps a dozen different units at the show, I settled on a unit that is widely used by cruisers and it is also quite energy efficient.  While I don’t want to think about the cost per gallon of water produced, I feel very comfortable with my choice.  The unit that I purchased is considered to be fairly bullet proof and is actually the same model that is used on the Volvo Ocean Racers.  The brand name “Cape Horn Xtreme“, certainly suggests that it is tough.  It sure looks complicated.  I am not sure if they choose the model because of it durability or just because they wanted to get one of the most expensive units.

This video clearly demonstrates that my new watermaker is probably about the only thing that Pandora has in common with the Volvo boats. Well, Pandora does have a plumb bow. I guess that I had better not go out in weather like these guys seem to enjoy if I expect Brenda to continue sailing with me.

Perhaps I should hire a video production company to do a promotional video for Pandora.  Perhaps not as it would likely take my entire year long cruising budget and that still wouldn’t be enough.

I expect that the VOR boats have this unit on board also because it’s very energy efficient.  Energy efficiency is very important on a boat like Pandora as the making and using of electricity has to be very carefully managed to be sure that we aren’t making less than we are using.  I have written a lot about Pandora’s solar panels and small portable generator so I won’t repeat myself.  It’s sufficient to say that this unit should be great and only uses about 1/3 of the power of most others on the market.  Water makers are actually very popular today and are based on a fairly simple concept.  Perhaps more than you want to know about penguins but this article is a good primer on the subject.

There’s lots more to do to Pandora this winter to get her (and us) ready for your big trip south next fall and I will be writing more about it in the coming weeks.  For now, I have to get through Christmas and into the new year.  2012 will be a very interesting year with lots of exciting experiences aboard Pandora with sailing in New England waters this summer followed by a trip down the Inter coastal Waterway to Florida  and the Bahamas beginning next Fall.

It is indeed a bummer that Pandora is on the hard again but at least I can look forward to next winter when she will be heading south and won’t need to be winterized.  However, I don’t want to get ahead of myself so that’s enough for now.   More about that in a future post.

For now, I will have to satisfy myself with planning and reading the blog of our friends Roger and Ilene aboard their SAGA 43 “Ilene” who are headed back to New York over the next 7 months from the island Grenada.